Going on vacation (or on leave), is the best thing ever. Taking a break and totally disconnecting from the world is highly recommended.
I took my annual vacation in June which coincided with the Rotary International Conference that was being held in Toronto, Canada. It was my first time to go to Canada. I have very close Canadian friends who have made Kenya their first home and visiting them seemed like a very good idea. Every year, they go to Canada during the summer and the Christmas holidays. Every year, for the last 10 years, they have always brought me a piece of Canada. So naturally, I put visiting Canada on my bucket list.
In Europe, America and North America, June is summer time and in Kenya, June is winter time. This year has been really cold and I was really looking forward to running away from the Kenyan cold weather. While I was away, I ticked off a few items on my bucket list. Among them was visiting Paris, the City of love.
I needed to get a Schengen Visa to visit France. Fortunately, the application process was fairly simple and the Visa officer in Kenya was very prompt when I emailed and asked for an appointment. I went in, submitted my papers after being asked a few questions. In three days, I had my Visa!
The service on Air France was very nice. During the 8 hour flight, they served good food and drinks. At one point we were served Biriani that was very well cooked – not too spicy. I also managed to watch three movies (two featuring Lupita Nyongo and one about two brothers who did not have guts to grow their family business), read a few chapters of a book and had a long snooze.
When I landed at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, I looked for my luggage only to learn from Air France that my luggage was checked in express to Toronto Pearson airport! The lady gave me a toilet bag and wished me well. I did not even get a chance to plead.
So there I was in beautiful Paris, with an Air France toilet bag and my hand luggage that only had a set of changing clothes, my phone charger and a pair of sandals. It was hilarious! Even my dancing shoes were in my suitcase that was headed to Toronto. How was I going to go for dinner in sneakers?
I took a train and then a bus to the hotel, I checked in and was given a room that was not what I had booked on Booking.com. Grrrrr!!! After complaining at the reception and trying to convince a French man who could barely speak good English, I finally got an upgrade. Can you image he told me that the photo on booking.com is not what I should expect? What!!!
I was also in for a surprise. Unlike Kenyan hotels, my new room was very small (shoe box size). However, it had a nice view and a big TV screen. I was happy.
Since it was summer, the sun sets at around 10pm. I decided to go sightseeing. I grabbed a map and off I went to the mall. Actually, I wanted to buy some changing clothes and have dinner.
Unlike Nairobi streets that are dusty and dirty, Paris has very clean pedestrian friendly walk paths. Motorists obey traffic lights and stop for you at zebra crossings.
Shopping was a breeze. Attendants spoke very good English with a slight French accent and they were very helpful. The mall was massive and had very good Wi-Fi connection. While I set out to visit most shops, my poor legs could not allow me. Plus, I had to walk back to my hotel – a distance of 5kms.
For dinner, I went to a steakhouse and ordered Angus beef, cooked rare. I was lucky to find a waitress who confessed that English was not her first language. She asked her colleague to serve me. She was England and she told me her fiancé was from Africa (read Ivory Coast). She highly recommended the Angus steak that had been aged for 21 days.
I do not like my food bloody but I was in Paris and I was in a mood to experiment. After a few bites, I was eating like a pro! I even ordered for a second serving.
I walked back to the hotel before it got dark. I was a bit worried about security but I found a lot of people also walking home, plus traffic was heavy. Since the sun sets late in the night, people tend to work late. I was in good company.
I was happy with my first night in Paris. I had a new swanky set of clothes and had made several new friends. I will certainly go back and finally visit the Eiffel tower.