Apart from Iceland, I basically consider Paris to be the first stop on my journey. It was my most dreamed of destination– I’d been studying the French language for four years at high school and despite my inability to hold a conversation in the foreign tongue, what 18 year old girl doesn’t dream of wandering the Parisienne streets, her hopes of romance at their peak level as she gazes the rooftops, sipping on a fruity glass of red wine.
Claudia and I arrived at Charles de Gualle airport bright and early, ready to see two of our greatest companions who had been subsequently absent from our lives as we lived in the states for three months. After consuming a pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant) and un café creme, we found one of our missing halves (Miss Tenaya Wright) and spent the next hour or two, with the severe struggle of language barriers, waiting at the gate for Olivia Russell (Ol, Olive, Olly, Livo- as you will). Fairly excited with our success, we packed into a large Taxi van (Take us to Paris!) and pretty much failed at suppressing nervous and excited giggles the whole way there. We’ll arrive, shower and nap and then go exploring– that’s the agenda for today, gals. After a rather heated argument with the taxi driver about where the address of our apartment was located (“C’est impossible! It does not exist, mademoiselle”), we had arrived. An adorable apartment literally directly across from the Sacre Coeur on top of Montmartre– it was the most idyllic scene I could’ve hoped for. Our hostess greeted us with four croissants (haven’t been able to consume one quite as delicious since) and great information about the local area, “to the uh, left?, it is very, you know, hipster (minus the H) with a lot of, coooole barz”.
Scrubbed up and in an over sized t shirt (keep in mind that pants are one of my least favourite things, just for future reference), I snoozed for a solid two and half hours, awaking to a cry from Tenaya “Annikaaaaaah, wut the hull? Get your elbow outta my back.” After that it became an ongoing “shot not sleeping with Annika” for the rest of the trip- Come on you guys, I’m not that bad.
We went for a walk in the cobbled stone streets that wrapped around our central apartment. Scouring shop signs, that had no resonance to us, looking for something authentic and delicious to munch on. We found both a bakery and well, I’m not really sure what you call a cheese and salami shop- a deli, I suppose? But that’s what we found. Purchasing two warm baguettes, an unnecessarily large amount of brie cheese and a rather tall stack of sliced salami, we headed back for an indoor apartment picnic. Drunk off bottles beyond bottles of 4 euro wine (aren’t you supposed to be classy in Paris and drink the good stuff?), we settled back into our slumber, high hopes for the next big days of travel.
The next few days blur into one, as they tend to after the weeks pass when you’re doing something different each day, but altogether the same notion. We got tickets to a hop-on hop-off bus tour that was unlimited for two days and something I can’t recommend enough. It was a perfect way to get around the city. Paris is great in the fact that it’s metro system is completely straight forward and simple to understand– the only downfall was figuring out which metro station was the closest to the desired tourist attraction. So, for that dilemma, you should choose the bus tour, learning new interesting facts about the city all the while. We made our way via metro to get to the Opéra building and hitch a ride on the first stop of the tour. The fact that we got super lost within our first day of sight seeing just proved how necessary the bus tour was. Having the most knowledge of the french language among the group, I was always pushed into asking for directions. My ultimate problem was trying to figure out which Parisienne looked the most helpful. After settling on a girl in her mid twenties on a cigarette break, I finally got the courage to ask, “Ou est le Opéra?” to which she looked terrifyingly confused… “Um what?… I speak english”. That happened.
Now, to avoid rambling, I’m just gonna list the sort of major events in Paris that struck a chord with me.
Numero Uno (Nah, I’m not gonna speak in French on my post about Paris): The very first moment we saw the Eiffel Tower. We rounded a corner, off the Champs Elysees and past the Arc De Triomphe (also a fairly iconic moment) and there it was; statuous and not nearly as tall as I imagined, but it’s magnificence still as radiant as ever. You picture Paris to be something that it pretty much isn’t- mimes, stripe-shirted men wearing berets, holding baguettes and playing the accordion on a cobble stoned street. It really isn’t any of those things but the site of the Tour de Eiffel makes you think that it could be– you begin to hear that music in your head and the fact that you truly are within one of the world’s most famous cities actually begins to sink in and completely flood every pore of your body.
Numero Dos: The catacombs. I kind of didn’t even really know of their existence until a family friend told me that it was an absolute must-see when in Paris– definitely glad we took her advice on that one. It’s something you have to do fairly early, as to be sure to get entry (they only allow 200 people enter at a time) and not throw off your entire day. When I say that you see human bones and remains down there, I need to clarify that you don’t just witness a number of skeletons; there are millions. Not normally freaked out by that kind of thing– I totally held my cool– I felt rather weary for a while after. Those bones were once a person, who held thoughts, and loved somebody and had somebody love them and they had a life- whether it was lousy or not, it was real and true; those thoughts kinda sat in my stomach for a while.
Numero Tres: The Louvre. Not the inside of it. Sure, that was pretty, however the Mona Lisa is the most underwhelming painting in the world- don’t even bother, you’ve seen a better print of it atop of your take away pizza box back home. The outside of it, however, was utterly gorgeous. The building never seems to end, wrapped around the giant glass pyramid with the expanding fountains. We spent more time outside of the Louvre as opposed to the internal, and I could have stared at the architectural mouldings for days. Buildings really resonate with me when traveling for some reason. Not entirely sure why, maybe it has something to do with watching my brother build that house that we now live in. It’s just an art that requires such talent and focus. New age, modern buildings don’t hold the emotion that the mouldings of European buildings give off. It was an impression that continued to blow me away.
Paris was short, but long lived. I wanna stop talking about it now though because it’s taken me far too long to etch this piece out. Plus, as I’m about to publish this, my former travel buddy and present bestest pal is having her last night’s sleep in her own bed as she heads back to Europe tomorrow morning for the next three and a half months. Safe to say I’m not coping so well with the jealousy and the thought of her absence from my life for an extended period of time.