France was quite the adventure. In 2009, I took a plane up to Paris after my few weeks in Spain, it was hard to figure out what it would be like. Spain was so wonderful to me so it was tough to leave Barcelona after an excellent 5 or more days there with my Catalan friends that I was staying with. But the adventure continued.
I arrived in the airport with nothing but my backpack and duffel bag and of course my old Europe guide book that I've been using, successfully so far, to determine which hostels / areas to stay in. I flipped through it on the plane but the ride was short. So I found the hostel and area I wanted to stay in, not far from Monmartre, and made my way to the Parisian subway. After reviewing the subway map and determining which train goes that hostel, I lugged my stuff to the kiosk to purchase the train pass. Luckily, most of Europe has an english version with these type of kiosks and having lived in NY since 1994, and being an avid subway user, I was on my way in no time.
Having finally arrived at the stop and walking over to the hostel, which had a very comfortable cafe, I happily dropped my bags down and cheerfully asked the host behind the more if I can get a hostel bed for a few days. She looked at me and asked if I have a reservation. Since I was truly backpacking and had made just a few reservation throughout the trip, as my marker points, I shook my head no. She was a little shocked and explained that they were all booked. After confirming that all the places would be booked at this time, she must have taken pity on my disappointed and concerned look that she said she could recommend something for me. Her friend or someone she knew ran a hostel out of her living room as a way to make some extra money. Just $30 Euros a night and it seemed like a godsend. An hour and a much needed cappuccino later, an young male Irish Au Pair, came by to pick me up. Not sure what I was getting myself into, I tentatively let him take my duffel bag as we walked over to an apartment building, into an elevator, and into a real local french apartment.
I later came to know the women hosting, had a 16 year old and a 6 year old in the apartment and supplemented her income by using the living room as an overrun for the hostel. Later, I met David Banks, the previous Au Pair, and coincidently a fellow American and not to mention Tyra Banks Cousin. Two fun Aussie guys stopping by on the way to San Sebastian where they planned on working living and traveling until they run out and then working some more to continue their adventure... and my dear friend JF, a.k.a Tiloup or the "wolf". We kept in touch and I went to visit him in Montreal a few years later. I stayed 5 days, 4 of which I spent exploring Paris with JF.