We hit the ground running after we traveled by bus from Beauvais-Tillé Airport in to the heart of Paris. We snapped our pictures under the sparkling Eiffel Tower that stood proudly against the starry sky, seen all that Disneyland Paris had to offer, saw Parisian guards in a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe, walked through the paths at Place des Vosges and Palais du Luxembourg, and gazed up at the gargoyles and beautiful stain glass window in Notre Dame Cathedral.
Between all the running around the group that I was traveling with, we had went from being completely confused by the Parisian metro, to mastering the city that resided underneath the surface. We were submerged in a crash course lesson of everything French. I didn’t know the language before traveling to France, but after what were most likely hours spent riding the metro; we had listened to the voice overhead announcing the stops to the point where we memorized the order of some of the places, and were taught how to pronounce them perfectly. However, for a few of us (including myself), learning how to navigate our way through the metro didn’t translate as well to the above ground city of Paris.
One night a few of us from the group decided to walk around the city. We laughed and joked while passing street vendors selling all sorts of food and trinkets, performers in the streets, and tourists walking everywhere. We snapped photos of some of the attractions we visited during the day as they were illuminated by the beautiful lights against the night sky, and walked further and further away from the metro access point where we came from.
It was somewhere around Boulevard St. Germain where we were stopped by the sparkling lights of the Eiffel Tower. We watched and snapped more pictures as it dazzled and gleamed over the water nearby. When the light show had ended, we decided to head back to our hotel and call it a night. We walked for a few minutes until we realized that we weren’t quite sure where we were going.
I remembered hearing the words, “Saint-Germain-des-Prés,” being announced in the metro, but I wasn’t for sure in what direction above ground on Boulevard St. Germain that we had to walk down to get back to where the metro was. At that point is was late, the streets were dark, and the city looked so different. It took a while of wandering around further away from anywhere we had walked during the day before we acknowledged the fact that we were, in fact, lost.
By the time we started to think about asking someone for directions, the streets were nearly empty. We had wandered further away from the tourist-y area of Paris and couldn’t find our map. The only rude person that I had encountered in Paris, who was closing up shop at a restaurant that night, had given us false information that the metro had closed since it was now after 2 A.M. It was then that we started to worry about being stuck out on the street.
One of the people walking with me in the group turned to another girl and asked, “Do you think you can access Wi-Fi from here and order an Uber?”
The girl took her phone out of her pocket and started tapping on her device. “I don’t know. Let me try.” The majority of us traveled with our cellular data turned off, and we used Wi-Fi when it was publically available. “Okay, he said he should be about 10 to 15 minutes.”
I had heard about Uber when I was in the US, but I had no idea how it worked or that it was available in other countries. “So, this is just a random guy picking us up?” I asked.
The other travelers in the group told me about the ridesharing service, how it uses a smartphone app to connect passengers with drivers for hire, and how app users can request rides and track their reserved vehicle’s location.
The girl looked down at her phone again. “Oh, it says he’s coming down the street.”
When the car arrived we piled ourselves in and the driver took off into the direction of our hotel. We peered out the window studying the path in which we would have walked without the Uber. As we got closer to the hotel we realized exactly where we were, and directed the driver to drop us off at the front door. There was no exchange of cash, as the driver was being paid with the payment from the credit card that was linked to the girl’s account, until we made it safely into the hotel and pulled out several Euros to give to the girl with the Uber account.
We managed to plop down exhaustedly on the couches in the lobby next to a few people in the rest of our traveling group who were searching for Wi-Fi.
One of the girls sitting on the couch looked up from behind her phone. “Where did you guys go?”
The group had traveled to Paris not really knowing what we were in for. We had all gotten lost in this new foreign city, and by doing so, we had learned so much more about it.