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arc de triomphe paris traffic nightI think Jacques the taxi driver knew what my problem was. What my problem still is, really. I’m a big coward. Adventures are fun — I like them — but in the beginning of a trip I just want to get where I’m going, have something to eat, perhaps have a shower. After that, exploring is fine.

Jacques knew this because we’d chosen to get into his taxi instead of using the Metro like the other one billion people in Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport. That would have cost us about seven euros, taken 20 minutes and been way too easy.

Jacques knew that the only reason we got into his taxi was that we thought it was going to be easier.

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His was the first taxi in line outside the airport. He looked just like Lou Reed, so we decided that we could probably trust him. He leaped out from behind the wheel and helped us with our bags.

After driving for about 10 minutes, joining a busy flyover of traffic, it occurred to me to tell him where we were actually going. “Sure!” he said, winding down his window to indicate with his hand. “We’ll go there now.”

We got to talking. This was a good thing.

“All this on the left,” he said, pointing out of the window, “is the old town. This motorway is like a big wall. Everything inside it is old Paris, historical Paris, and everything outside it is new. Most of the people live outside the motorway. That’s how it is.”

He pointed out of the other side of the car at a formation of shiny skyscrapers. They looked as if they were in need of a clean. “See those?” he said. “The rock climber Alain Robert climbed up those in the 90′s. He did it with his bare hands and no ropes or anything.”

I looked at the buildings. They were outside the motorway.

“And when he finished,” the taxi driver grumbled, “they took him down off the roof and drove him straight to court.” He shook his head.

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Farther into town, Jacques (as we’d learned was his name) decided to drive around the Arc de Triomphe five times to show us how easily he could do it. “I don’t understand why people are so afraid!” he shouted over his shoulder as the tires squealed and the meter clicked up a couple of digits.

We passed a swish-looking hotel on the Place de la Concorde. It had balconies and footmen and little potted plants. Jacques took a moment to tell us that this was where the President of France had spent his first night after being elected.

“With,” he growled accusingly, turning around in his seat to look at us, “a woman that was not his wife…”

After unnecessarily prolonging our route even further so that he could shout at the Eiffel Tower — “Go on! Try it! It’s good luck! In Paris, we call her the fat lady!” — we arrived at our hotel. The fare was enormous — the price of a nice meal for two.

“That’s what it is,” Jacques shrugged when I expressed my surprise. He looked even more like Lou Reed than he had at the airport.

Have you ever argued with a Lou Reed look-alike taxi driver over a colossal fare obviously inflated by a ridiculously lengthened route that included backtracking, deviations, extra tangents and oddly recurring streets, not to mention five times round the Arc de Triomphe?

Neither have I. Jacques had me down from the start. I am a coward.

It was a great way to see the city, no doubt. I actually enjoyed it far more than I would have enjoyed the Metro. But, I realized after shelling out nearly all of the notes in my wallet, it was definitely one of the more expensive guided tours I’ve ever been on.

Have you ever been taken for a ride while traveling?

– written by Josh Thomas

2 Responses to “The Most Expensive Guided Tour in Paris”

  1. Lin says:

    We were taken for a ride in Washington D.C. Our first time in that city and arriving after dark we took subway to the proper exit got up to the street level and saw there was no one around. We waited several minutes for car traffic and finally a taxi stopped for us. We gave the address and he drove around many blocks before depositing us at our hotel. The next day when we started to walk around we saw how close we really were to the hotel, less than two blocks. Had a very good trip anyway.

  2. elisse says:

    At least you had some fun!!! I’m from NYC so I don’t say this lightly, but last year my hubs and I got a Fabulous, death-defying “tour” of just about all of Queens, NY in the pitch dark, in a terrible storm, from a cabbie who didn’t speak English and apparently thought he was in another country, & had not a Clue as to where our hotel was, but wouldn’t Look at my written directions or address, ask for directions Anywhere, or listen to Anything. We drove/skidded in idiot circles in black of a storm from hell up and down the expressway for what seemed like hours- on the meter. A True nightmare on wheels- literally. Idiots that we are, we paid him & did not file a complaint, simply because a) I was ill, and b) we felt lucky to be alive and finally arrive at our destination in one piece. The P.C. NYC TLC that hires anything vertical and breathing is the PITS for licensing drivers like this. I always remember the London cabbies who knew where EVERYTHING was with fondness… they actually have to pass a TEST…

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