Over the past two months, I’ve realised that I would be the worst person to travel with. Not only can I not sleep in when there’s stuff to be done – because “I could have see nine monuments in the time you have been asleep, so get up,” – but I also don’t speak up and suggest what I’m interested in doing. It’s bizarre to think that someone so bossy and controlling could so easily follow the crowd, but that’s exactly what happened.
I really, desperately wanted to go to the catacombs, the Eiffel Tower and the interior of the Notre Dame that day, but I didn’t say anything. Instead, I let my three companions (Vallerie’s kids and one of their friends) drag me out on a little tour of Paris again.
We first lunched at the Place de la Bastille (I’d mentioned it a few days prior, purely for my sister’s benefit, and one of them remembered) which ended up being a bit of a disappointment for me. I think there was a part of me that hoped the original guillotine would be there, the blade still coated in blue blood, even though Louis XVI was beheaded at the Place de la Concorde.
Still kinda pretty, though. Right?
Afterwards, we went for a walk to the Louvre, because the outside is absolutely gorgeous. As I gazed upon the incredible sculpted walls of the building, I thought that maybe it wasn’t so bad having company after all. I probably would never have bothered looking so carefully at the outside of the famous museum had I not been directed there, and I wouldn’t have appreciated the incredible façade with its many sculptures of famous thinkers, scientists, artists, writers, and more. I didn’t know any of them except for Lavoisier (the guy who named oxygen) and Descartes, but it was still very cool. In classic Heather style, I wandered off while thinking and scared the hejeebers out of the group.
We all then strolled through the beautiful Jardin des Tuileries (which I still can’t pronounce) to the Place de la Concorde. I stuck with Clem – who’s super cool – and chattered about who-knows-what. It’s a very pretty place, which is unsurprising considering that the Louvre was previously a royal palace.
It was then that I became a little irritated, because my guides turned to me and asked what I wanted to do. I was surprised – I thought they had an afternoon of things planned for me to see – and a bit annoyed at the time. The obsessive, planning side of me was scared that in the five days I was in Paris, I wouldn’t see anything, and had marked up a detailed itinerary to pack as much into my short stay as possible. I felt as though I could have used the day so much better, I guess.
I was still determined to see everything in Paris (although I knew the catacombs were out of the question) but had already meticulously planned out my activities for Tuesday and Wednesday. So, with three pairs of imploring French eyes turned towards me, I meekly suggested the two most touristy spots in all of Paris: the Eiffel Tower and the Notre-Dame Cathedral. I was horrified to find that I could only choose one of the two, because I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to see some of the most “important,” things in Paris. I chose the Eiffel Tower, thinking we could spend the afternoon climbing it.
Damn my hopeful mind.
Long story short (why are you guys still reading my horrid rambling?) we went to the tower and stood in line for about twenty to thirty minutes before I felt incredibly guilty for dragging my French guides to somewhere so busy and touristy. I suggested I’d go another day, even though I was well aware my schedule wouldn’t allow that, so we left without seeing the top. I got some good photos, though.
It felt very much like a wasted day, then, and I was feeling bitter. After stopping at a nearby café, however, it was decided that the group should split up, so Clem came with me while the other two went home. I was determined to use the rest of my evening, so I managed to suggest we head to the Basilique de Sacré Cœur.
We ended up getting lost (of course) and there was a time there that I was really worried we wouldn’t see it before it closed at 10:30pm (of course) but it was still really nice wandering the back alleys of Paris with my new French friend. Somehow, we made it to the right place, but couldn’t find the funicular and ended up walking hundreds of steps to Montmartre. My poor thighs.
It was then, seeing the incredible domes of the basilica rise into view, that all my worries melted away. I know that sounds cheesy as hell, but it really is a spectacular church.
I was lucky enough to visit while Mass was being held, complete with a choir of nuns and a red-robed priest. It was beautifully peaceful, and the experience of examining the golden ceilings and gorgeous stained windows was incredible.
I just loved the calm atmosphere of the place; despite being surrounded by hundreds of people, I felt alone, and I loved it.
Clem was great fun – she’d point out interesting features of the basilica and suck into the mass even when I was 99% sure we weren’t supposed to. We must have been there for half an hour, just exploring the grand church.
After making the unanimous agreement that food was in order to satiate our loudly grumbling stomachs, we bought piping hot crêpes from a grumpy lady and wandered back down the mountain. With an invincible smile on my face and sticky Nutella coating my hands, I realised that I was content.
That day, I learned something important – sometimes, I need to step back and let the day just run its course. I can’t always be in control, and sometimes, the most enjoyable things in life are the ones that spring upon you from above. I have discovered this a lot later than most people, but it doesn’t make any less true or important to me.
I never did get to climb the Eiffel Tower, but even now that I’m going back to Paris, I’m thinking about going to Tour Montparnasse instead. It’s a butt-ugly building, and it would be nice to have some photos of Paris without it looming in the background.
I will still continue to write up my ridiculous itineraries, of course, but I’m going to try and stop being so controlling. It might lead to a happier Heather.
Featured photo is (obvious, but I feel the need to explain anyway) of the Eiffel Tower.