Experiences like my five days in Paris make me realise how very lucky I am.
Truthfully – and this will come as a shock to many – I prefer Lyon to the “city of love.” It’s prettier, less touristy and just more me, I guess. However, my time in Paris was ridiculously fun, and I’m super excited to go back up for ten days in July.
The family drove up Vallerie (my homestay aunt)’s place for the long weekend and I stayed for a little bit longer before hopping over to London.
I decided to upload the account of the trip in five separate parts, rather than make one huge article, so this post will cover the first day (Saturday) in Paris, the next will cover Sunday, etc. There was a lot to cover, because Paris was fabulous.
The Arc de Triomphe, Champs Élysées, Pont des Cadenas and the exterior of the Notre-Dame
My time in Paris was a little different to my usual travelling, because, unlike usual, I wasn’t wandering around doing what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it. Instead, Vallerie’s two lovely children, Lucien and Clémentine, decided to take Alice and I on a tour of Paris. It ended up being absolutely fantastic – not only did I see things I probably wouldn’t have bothered visiting, but I had great company.
Our first stop was the Arc de Triomphe. Admittedly, when images of Paris had crossed my mind, the grand arch (let’s see how many synonyms for “Arc de Triomphe,” Heather has at her disposal) was never featured, which is shocking because it is truly magnificent. It was the first part of central Paris that I got to see at all – we emerged directly from the dim métro tunnels after a long journey from a Parisian suburb to greet the imposing structure – which has perhaps coloured my view of it a little, but there is no doubt in my mind that it is fairly impressive.
[Documentarian voice] The fabulous Arc de Triomphe is an incredible monument found in the middle of the Champs-Elysées. It was commissioned by Napoleon to celebrate the victory at Austerlitz (thank you, Lonely Planet). It’s got some seriously cool carvings and lots of names…and hopefully I’ll be better at cutting open people than I am at presenting.
There was definitely a moment there where I freaked out upon seeing the arch with the pointy spire of the Eiffel Tower looming in the background, and went: “I am in Paris. I. Am. In. Paris. I AM IN PARIS, THE PLACE I HAVE DREAMED OF VISITING SINCE I WAS TWELVE YEARS OLD.” My French companions just grinned knowingly at each other and rolled their eyes at the weird Australian, but I did not care one bit.
We then climbed up its 284 steps to some of the best views in Paris. I mean, you could always climb the Eiffel Tower, but as Guy de Maupassant so famously noted, “the Eiffel Tower is the only place you can’t see the Eiffel Tower,” (highly paraphrased) so what’s the point?
Here’s a nice photo of the Champs-Elysées leading to Paris’ other Arc de Triomphe. I also took a customary picture of myself with the tower in the background, but I felt like I wasn’t ready to scare anyone just yet.
When we finally descended the monument – with me taking the steps two at a time, of course – the group dragged me along the Champs-Élysées. At first, I didn’t really see the point, but walking along the boulevard and poking our heads into the various ridiculously-expensive and over-the-top shops ended up being incredible fun. I especially liked the massive Abercrombie and Fitch store with its giant murals of half-clothed men. From an artist’s perspective, of course, dad.
We stopped at the busiest Starbucks in the world (I don’t know which bright spark thought we should get a drink at the Champs-Élysées of all places, but I blame Lucien) before wandering along the Seine to the Pont des Cadenas and Pont Neuf. The Seine may be brown, but it’s still lovely to walk along – the banks are crowded with artists and merchants of every variety, which give them an incredibly vibrant, lovely air.
For those who don’t know, Pont des Cadenas or “bridge of locks,” (the original name is somewhere in my guidebook but no one uses that) was a happy, plain-looking bridge until an annoyingly in-love couple decided to attach a lock to it and throw away the key to symbolise eternal love or something similarly gross. After that, a horde of lovestruck couples (or maybe just those desperately trying to save their relationships) decided to do the same, until the Pont des Cadenas stated sinking from the additional weight. A while back, the Parisian mayor ordered a massive cleanup of the bridge and banned people from adding on locks, but still, the couples continued. Poor damn bridge.
I must admit, though, it’s rather pretty.
We ended the day at the Notre-Dame Cathedral, but didn’t go inside because the queue was ridiculously long. The church was absolutely spectacular on the outside, though, and it was really nice just being able to appreciate its external glory. Seeing it in the flesh reminded me of that assignment I did way back in year 9 – which no one but my mother remembers, I’m sure – and makes me itch to try drawing its gorgeous façade again.
It was also here that I took my favourite ever photo of Alice posing with a rather creepy-looking statue of some religious figure (I think it might have been a pope) but I feel like a ten-year-old shouldn’t be on the internet just yet. Here, have this nice picture instead.
Featured photo is of Paris, as seen from the Arc de Triomphe.