Saturday, May 02, 2009

Ready, set - allez!

I have mentioned a few times on this blog that we are planning a post-bar exam trip to London and Paris this year. I couldn't be more excited than to travel with two of my best friends, Diane and Rob, and I really couldn't be more excited to announce that, as of today, we have the entire trip set!

We have shared the booking responsibilities, which has been nice and is one of the perks of traveling with multiple people. First, Diane booked the plane tickets. Then, she booked the London hotel, which is truly gorgeous. She is using her Hilton and United points to get lots of free perks on this trip - and a free hotel in London's Trafalgar Square is certainly a perk! (I could get used to traveling with these two...)

Then, Dave booked the Chunnel tickets this week, which I was excited about because I've never been on the Chunnel. You have to book them in advance because it's one of those super-fast Eurostar trains. Two hours from London to Paris, and under the English Channel for 30 minutes of it!

Today, though, was my crowning achievement - booking two rooms at the Hotel Henri IV by telephone, in French.

I chose our Paris hotel from the Let's Go Paris guidebook, which has been a big help in planning this trip (along with Let's Go London, of course). I have relied on Let's Go books since my travel abroad in 2003 and our honeymoon in 2005, so I knew they'd be the perfect books to help us with this journey.

The Hotel Henri IV is highly recommended by Let's Go Paris as one of the cheapest and best-located hotels in the city of Paris. And how can you argue - it's located on the Ile de la Cite, right in the heart of the city. I decided it would be the perfect base for our Parisian adventure, and its status as a budget hotel would give us an authentic European travel experience - not that there's anything wrong with getting pampered at a gorgeous London hotel.

The only issue is that the Hotel Henri IV is a little behind the times; even though they have a website, they only accept reservations by telephone. I've never called abroad, and I haven't practiced my French with a real French person for years, so I was nervous, but kind of excited, to try to call.

I made an attempt yesterday - several attempts, actually, as it took me a while to figure out how exactly to dial the number through my calling card. When you add in the international code and the country code to the phone number, it's almost 15 digits long, but I figured it out. However, by this time, the hotel was closed for the day and I got an answering machine message. My shaky hands hung up the phone and I figured I would try again today.

So, today, I got all my papers and credit card ready, I picked up my calling card, and I tried again. This time someone answered, and I began, "Bonjour, je voudrais deux chambres pour septembre..." And before you knew it, I was conversing in French, giving him my credit card number, and asking about payment. Awesome! I even managed to sort out a miscommunication about our date of departure.

We only had to break into English once or twice, which was good - sometimes the French will "English" you, even if you are making an attempt to speak in French. He was patient, kind, and even complimented me on my good French!

After I hung up, I got up and did a little dance, which I'm sure Dave found quite amusing. Seriously, I felt really good about myself. Even though I'm sure I made tons of mistakes, it was really nice to use my French, and it was a confidence booster of how I'll be able to get around with my friends in September.

So with that, we're pretty much set! I even got my passport renewed already, with my new stupid picture. (I decided not to smile, because if my face ends up on Interpol for some reason, I didn't want all of Europe to see me sporting some shitty grin.)

Just a few more housekeeping items to do, one of which is getting Dave's found passport turned in so that he loses his "lost passport" status. Also, getting Dave and Rob some international driving permits so they are able to drive in England if we decide to see Stonehenge that way. We might do a tour, but Rob seemed really interested in driving on the wrong side of the road.

It is good to have all this set before finals, and certainly before the bar. Nothing much left to do except practice my French and look forward to all our fun activities. Allons-y!

1 comment:

Dave Musser said...

I'm pretty proud (not to mention grateful) that we have such a good French-speaker with us.

Not that I'd know (with my exceptionally poor French), but I was there when she made that call, and let me tell you: I didn't understand a word. It MUST have been French.