Welcome to the City of Lights...And Snow!?
There we were, nine Americans walking down the streets of Paris, not far from the Eiffel Tower, in the cold and snow. We must have looked more like vagabonds or gypsies than actual tourists. It was my parents' first trip to Europe, and I could tell by the grimace on my mom's face that she was not impressed.
To be fair, we prepared for April rain, but snow and the sudden cold front sweeping into the country were a bit of a surprise. In fact, as we got off the plane in Paris, the attendant looked at our little family with sympathy. She handed my wife, who was carrying our youngest on her lap, one of the thin plane blankets and told her to keep it.
Then, as if she had any control over it, she apologized, "Sorry you had to come and visit us when it's snowing. It isn't usually like this."
C'est la vie.
Despite the snow, I was feeling pretty optimistic about things. We were traveling towards the tail end of the pandemic - I guess that could be debatable depending on where you lived, the precautions still in place, and your own personal perspective - but it felt like it was winding down around us. However, when we left for France, I was still expecting to wear masks everywhere and to need the EU proof of vaccination card. Yet, the day we arrived was the day that much of that ended. We no longer had to rush to a pharmacy for the vaccination card and best of all, we could remove our masks in the airport while we figured things out. This was great since my kids had just had them on for more than 11 hours of flight time and probably would have staged a coupe if they'd had to keep them on in the terminal. We did however find out very quickly that they were still required on public transportation, which is how we were planning on getting around.
Something you might not know about the way Martina and I like to travel is that we love to try and travel like locals. We feel it gives us a better sense of the city and its people. There are a few practical reasons too. First, it can be difficult to find transportation for the wheelchair. It folds down to some extent, but cars and vans, especially outside the United States, tend to run smaller and are less capable of transporting a wheelchair. So Uber/Lyft are not always our go-to. Secondly, with the trouble we have getting a ride that fits the wheelchair, imagine trying to shove a whole family of 6-9 people in a vehicle or even two. Logistically, it can be a struggle. There have been times we have relied on Uber/Lyft, shuttle vans, etc. but those seem to be far from the norm for us. Lastly, while renting has proven to be a great option, it is not my favorite to drive in big cities; the traffic, looking for parking, and paying for parking are a few reasons I loathe renting cars in big cities.
Fortunately, the Paris bus system is accessible and easy to maneuver (more on that in another post). The Paris Metro situation is different. Only one line (14) is actually accessible, while the rest have loads of stairs and escalators.
Which is why we were trekking through frigid Parisian streets. We found a metro station not far from our hotel but no elevator. Thus, had you been in the station at the time you would've seen me taking Martina up an escalator (I'm a trained professional, do not attempt unless under proper supervision or you're absolutely desperate) and my dad and sister lugging up all our baggage. We were a sight to behold.
So with a little stair ingenuity, and in spite of snow and cold wind, we made it to our hotel, which had the most incredible view of the Eiffel Tower! All in all, it had been worth the trouble. At least for me and Martina. My mom on the other hand was still unsure of what she had signed up for by letting her son drag her through a freezing foreign country. But she was in for a treat.