Paris, Day 2: Bad With Maps


Paris with my 11-year-old daughter, Lily. Our second morning, jetlagged and confused, but figuring things out.

We are back in our room after leaving at 6 am to take a tour of castles in the French countryside. We didn’t make it. We missed our bus by 5 minutes even though we left an hour and 15 minutes early.

I just couldn’t figure out the subway and got lost too many times to get there in time. So we will do castles tomorrow. Lily was great while I had my tearful meltdown. It is raining and cold, and this kind of day is better suited to museums and hot chocolate anyway, she said.

She is smarter than me, which I suppose in some ways speaks well of me. Or of her father.

In either way, I feel sometimes that I have bitten off more than I can chew. Like I am a pampered suburbanite from the South who really doesn’t know how to hang in the world and – worse – thinks she does. So there is some self loathing there.

And then I think there must be something wrong with me if so many other people I know – including other pampered suburbanites from the South – can handle foreign places – especially Paris, which is a fairy tale and used to tourists – without constantly being lost and confused and not thinking to write down the name of the street their hotel is on or to circle their subway stop on the map or to even ACQUIRE a map in the first place until after being lost a couple of frustrating, jetlagged hours immediately upon arrival. (That was yesterday, after we climbed the Eiffel Tower and I then got us lost walking back to our hotel.)

Then I think, well, those other people usually have a partner (and by partner I mean spouse) to help fill in their deficiencies. And if they are alone, even that is probably easier than having a child along to feel pressured to entertain and protect.

So then I think a little better of myself, like maybe I’m alright despite my truly obvious failures at logistics and directions and pronouncing words in French (oh my god, I am the WORST! I don’t know if it’s my Southern accent or the fact that I never took French in school but LORD DAMN I SUCK), because eventually I do find my way.

Most of all, I hope I’m setting some sort of how-not-to-do-it example for Lily so that when she is 36, she’ll do better.

What people see of travel experiences comes in the form of beautiful Facebook posts and Instagram photos and blogs and coffee table books, and there is truth in all that. And I will add that part of my truth, too.

But there also is insecurity and loneliness in plopping yourself down in someone else’s way of life, especially when you do not speak their language. Surely I am not the only one who has these experiences, even in beautiful Paris, where the waiter in the restaurant across from the castle tour place hands you a handkerchief when he sees you crying in your crepe.

These are some of the things I am thinking right now. It’s only the second day, though. Plenty of time to fall in love now that I know how the subway works.

Oh, and also, the image above is one of the flower stands I found yesterday when I got lost (on purpose this time) while Lily was napping. There’s a difference between wandering aimlessly among pretty things and trying to get somewhere by a certain time but not knowing how the hell to do it.


9 thoughts on “Paris, Day 2: Bad With Maps

  1. Pingback: How to do Paris with your tween | Knight Stivender's life in full

  2. If it makes you feel any better, I can’t find my way out of a paper bag, but…I have discovered that being lost usually ends up being a pretty good adventure! Keep on adventuring!

  3. I love Paris. I’ve been there lots. Some people even ask for my advice when they’re making a trip there (and sometimes I offer it, regardless of whether they ask). But I still get miserably lost and turned around. And still feel so clumsy and awkward and un-French at many junctures (and want to scream, “I f-ing love your city, people! So, could you be a little more understanding of the fact that I am doing the best I can and my feet hurt?!?”).

    Of course, I never Instagram those moments. In the end, it all works out. But it’s not easy to travel in a country where everything isn’t what you know — and a place as mythologized as Paris can easily make you think it’s just going to be one dreamy scene after another. But true travel is never that.

    And Lily? Ah…she’s so proud of you. You don’t even know. And she’s going to remember this forever. Especially the getting lost parts. She doesn’t want to see Paris with a tour guide. She wants to see it with you. Especially the lost parts.

    • p.s. See this little itty-bitty profile pix? It’s me, at a corner in Paris, after a very long walk. Longer than expected, because I got lost.

  4. I agree with Beth. Don’t be so hard on yourself, and try to make all these little hiccups into an adventure. Enjoy Paris!

  5. So proud of you for taking your daughter on such an amazing adventure! I’ve been doing that w/ mine since she was in middle school & 11 years later we still end up having scary, crazy wonderful times getting lost. When we were in Paris, we ran into people from Franklin, TN on a Seine cruise! Love your posts – safe travels!

  6. You have traveled with your 11-year-old to India and Europe and I don’t even know where else. That’s brave, and brave can’t be taught. There can’t be a better example for Lilly than showing her that she can go anywhere and do anything. I give you an “A,” castles or no castles.

  7. one of my favorite travel tricks is to immediately snag a page of hotel stationary (or a matchbook) which has the hotel address printed on it. that way, if I get lost, I have the address handy & can present to a cab driver to find my way “home”.

    hang in there – & cut yourself some slack.

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