Last week I was traveling abroad. Now that I have returned and recovered from a serious case of jet lag, I am ready to reenter the real world - quite reluctantly I might add. I had the good fortune to travel with my family to Paris, Rome and Florence. Despite loving every single minute of the trip, I found some strange things, some things that make Dorothy right on: there's no place like home.
1) Pay toilets. Or "toilettes" or "bagno's". Imagine my surprise when I went into a restaurant to the "toilette" and I couldn't open the door. I realized that I needed to put a 50 cent euro coin in the slot to get in. I thought okay, they want to keep the bathrooms for clientele, I get it. But then I went to one of the largest department stores anywhere, Printemps. I bought a pair of shoes, then had to pee. When I reached the bathroom there was a receptionist. You WERE NOT GETTING PAST HER without paying. I thought that since I had made a purchase I could have the 1.50 euro fee waived. Nope.
We also went on a bike tour and met with the guide at a large train station. Again, a receptionist. All four of us had to go. At the current exchange rate we paid $5.52. To pee. I can't discuss any other bodily functions at this time but suffice it to say, we tried hard to get our money's worth.
We thought it was only in Paris but realized upon arrival in Florence that we were wrong, very wrong. Another five bucks.
2) Hotels in Paris are for really, really little people. Thinking that we were being punk'd, we had to send our luggage up one piece at a time in the elevator. Which was tough because it was hard to fit in there with it. So it took us a half a day to get our luggage upstairs. Then the room had no dresser or drawers. Or really room for the bags at all.
And the bathroom. Oh that bathroom. The two by two shower with no shelf for soap. Bend over to pick it up? Scald your ass when you hit the faucet! And the breakfast. 10 euros per person. It's one thing if that includes fluffy omelets and bacon and sausage and well, you get it. But for juice, coffee and a croissant, McDonalds never looked so good.
3) Dog poop. Yep, dog poop. Everywhere. Apparently in Europe or at least in Rome, there are no pick up your dog crap rules.
4) The Paris cup and ball scam. I consider myself a fairly intelligent person that wouldn't fall for a scam. WRONG. Guess which cup the ball is under said the leader of the game. Seems simple enough, right? Other people are winning, some are losing. But it seemed like a pretty level playing field. Only trouble is, the winners are actually part of the scam. As we discovered only too late, anyone that wins is in on it. They occasionally lose to really suck you in.
After meeting another couple that also got conned, we stood and watched for awhile and figured it out. NO ONE who is not part of their gang wins. EVER. Once they knew we were on to them, they packed up their stuff, flipped us off and moved to another area of unsuspecting tourists. Don't mess with these people though - they have lots and lots of friends that will hurt you. For realz.
5) Restaurants that only serve one item. NO MENU, ONE ITEM. We were tired and starving. It was 10:30 and we stumbled into a restaurant that looked really cute - cozy. Great decor which for anyone that's been to my house knows how much I obsess over all things French. We order wine. We ask for a menu. There is no menu they say - we only serve "steak and pommes frites, all you can eat".
We don't eat a lot of meat if any so we were taken aback. That's it?? Yep, that's it, take it or leave it. Since we were well into our bottle of wine we took it, forgetting to ask the price. Another big mistake. We ate our first round and although it was tasty we were done. Before we knew it they were shoveling another pile of meat and fries on our plates. Now I've never really been one to talk about the starving kids in Africa when my kids didn't eat but seriously, they were just going to throw all this food away.
The check came and we fainted. $USD 36 per plate. We looked around at the families with small children, the average looking people in jeans and tee shirts. We figured it out. We paid the silly, gullible tourist price, the resident of Paris price is probably much less.
No matter all the oddities, I'd still go back. Only thing is I'll always have Paris, next time I just won't let it have me.
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