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By the time I’d asked the bus driver how much the fare was to Pont de Rungis…
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Excusez-moi, monsieur. Combien?*

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…and bought two RER C tickets to the 7th arrondissement…
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Bonjour madam! Champ de Mars, deux billet.

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I felt like my entire supply of French had run out. For months I had tried to commit to heart those French phrases that I was likely to need, but nothing — not the haphazard attempts to learn the language, not the overzealous research on what to see and where to go — quite prepared me for the reality, for the unrealness, of being in Paris.
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Arrival at Orly Airport
October 2011. Arrival at Orly Airport. Parang Mactan lang.

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There was never, as far as I can recall, a moment in my life when I promised myself: “Someday, I’m going to see the Eiffel Tower.” I say traveling is my addiction, and it is, but my wanderlust had as yet limited itself to the proximate (Southeast Asia) and the ultimate (Antarctica, when I retire). Europe, I thought, was for the rich — and I wasn’t — so I didn’t even bother pining for it.

And then, one afternoon, my sister called up with interesting news: a low-cost airline had just launched its Paris flights**, and return tickets were on sale for as low as PHP 15,000. Did I want to go?

We rapidly went through the facts: I had just gotten married and spent most of my savings on the wedding. Her project had just ended, which meant a significant drop in her income. Paris was one of the most expensive cities in the world. We didn’t have a travel fund.

“What the heck,” we said. “Let’s do it.”
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When you're cooped up in an airplane for hours on end, you do silly things like take photos of logos.
When you’re cooped up in an airplane for hours on end, you do silly things like take photos of logos.

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And so we found ourselves, that October morning, in a place we had never even dared to dream of visiting.

Paris isn’t all sparkling lights and beautiful buildings. The train from Orly passed through deserted areas, slightly dilapidated houses, and open-air stations that seemed in the middle of nowhere. We went underground as we entered the heart of Paris and gradually saw stations with familiar names — St Michel-Notre Dame, Musée d’Orsay. And then: Champ de Mars. We alighted and broke down in nervous giggles when we had trouble getting through the turnstile because of our luggage. Finally, we ascended a flight of stairs to street level…and were greeted by the sight of the stunning Eiffel Tower.
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Eiffel Tower
First sight of the Eiffel Tower. Okay, it doesn’t look too stunning here, with just its upper half visible, but, trust me, it was stunning.

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OMG! We were in Paris! We were actually in Paris!

To our left was the River Seine, bluish gray and beautiful. The bridges and buildings were gorgeous and unmistakably European. Even the walkway by the river bank, with its shrubs and flowers and classic park benches, was just breathtakingly lovely. It was love at first sight, and as we gazed around in awe and wonder, my sister and I had the same feeling: we could live here.

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* I’m not even sure this was the right way to say it!
** Now discontinued, unfortunately.

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Love at First Sight: Paris© Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved.
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34 Responses

  1. I’ll never forget the first time I caught a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower in the cab from the airport. Now that you’ve survived the cramped cabins of AirAsia (I swear those seats’ neutral position slightly leans forward..) enjoy your trip!

  2. I lived in Paris for six years and I still found it magical when I would walk the Eiffel Tower on the way to work. I didn’t know Air Asia flew to Paris!! Amazing!! Have a fantastic time in the City of Lights (head to the Dindon en Laisse 18 Rue Beautreillis near the metro St Paul for a fantastic French dinner in the cutest little restaurant),

    1. There really is something magical about the Eiffel Tower, right? I envy you your 6 years! 🙂 Air Asia had KL-Paris flights for about a year and then they stopped. Too bad, really; it’s difficult to find [relatively] cheap flights from Southeast Asia to Europe. Thanks for that restaurant tip. I’m going back to Paris (I swear I will; I just don’t know how or when, but I will! Lol.) and that will come in handy. All the best to you! 🙂

      1. Some of my friends who visited for a few days didn’t like London because it was too dirty, touristy etc but once you stay for a while you fall in love with it 🙂

  3. Hey, girl. I love your blog. I was researching about getting a cheap Europe tour and suddenly I saw your blog. I’m planning to go to London next year, but I was shocked when I found out that round-trip plane ticket cost PHP50,000+! I read this blog post and you mention about how you get a cheap plane tickets to Paris. Too bad the promo is over. Anyway, thanks for this info. It gives me hope to go to London because of this post. God bless.

    1. Hi!

      I know. 🙁 It’s the airfare that’s really heavy on the pocket if people from the Philippines want to go to Europe. PAL has flights to London, though, and they sometimes go on sale. I think the lowest sale fare I saw was 839 USD, still expensive but substantially lower than regular fare, so maybe you can keep a look out for PAL sales.

      Singapore Airlines also sometimes has promos for London fares. And China Eastern tends to have cheaper regular fares to Europe.

      Also, I’ve found that Paris fares tend to be lower than London fares, in general, so you can maybe watch out for seat sales to Paris and take a Eurostar to London.

      I hope that helps. Your Euro trip will happen, I’m sure of it! Good luck!

      1. I saw the latest promo from PAL, but still very expensive. Anyway, thanks for the info. I’ll better check out the China Eastern. 😀

  4. I’m in love with your blog and travel stories. Because of you I started dreaming of traveling to Europe and when that day comes I know I could count on your blog to show me the way. But first I have to save up! 🙂

      1. Hello, i just want to ask a question? I was planning to get the visa to paris, my sponsor will be my husband, and i need to get the affidavit of support Is it posible to get a example copy from you? Thanks

  5. Hi, Gaya! I might be going this July to Paris. Any chance I can get your itinerary and the hostel where you stayed? thanks – olive

    1. Hi Olive! Wow! Pwede sumama? ^_^ Just sent an itinerary to your email, it’s not my exact itinerary, pero similar lang. Enjoy Paris!

  6. Good day!

    Tanong ko lang about sa requirements of a person applying for a schengen visa with the following conditions:

    A government employee for more than 8 years
    No bank account
    Monthly salary paid by cash
    Travel sponsored by cousin but his cousin is based in USA

    Thank you.

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