Tomorrow morning my husband and I are driving to the Marco Polo airport in Venice and flying into Paris. Not only is it his birthday tomorrow (!!!), but it’s also Veterans Day, which means he gets a three-day weekend. Someone pinch me, please!
I was thinking about my past experiences with Paris and remembered I wrote about one of them, but it was while I was studying abroad. I used to send out emails to my family and friends, it was basically how I blogged before blogging.
You guys, what you’re about to read is from 2005; February 19, 2005, to be exact. (Crazy side note: at this point in time I had already met my soon-to-be husband two months before, but didn’t see him again for another ten months, and I wrote this one day and five years before we got married.) Fair warning: it’s pretty long, so kudos to you if you read the whole thing.
Paris. That word alone evokes so many thoughts for so many different people. Since I consider myself a romantic, Paris always seemed like the most romantic place on earth; a place where you could find glamour around the corner, and love in any café you step into.
I was in Paris a few years ago and I didn’t enjoy it. I was jet lagged, had culture shock and was in a fight with my best friend. Simply put, Paris just didn’t do it for me, but when I found out I had a week off in school, I decided I would give it another chance, this time on my own.
While I was sitting on the 45 minute plane ride from London, I went through all my little nervous habits again, wondering what the hell I was doing visiting a foreign country that I know absolutely nothing about (except for the fact that Bastille Day is on July 14 and they really don’t like Americans). Great. Good. This will be fantastic!
I made it to the Peace and Love hostel, without getting too terribly lost. “You’ll be in room 18;” the Australian told me when I checked into my room, and as I walked through the door clearly labeled ROOMS in English, she shouted “TAKE YOUR TIME!!” That’s weird, I thought.
No. Not weird at all. Room 18, as it turns out, is on the seventh floor…the very last floor…125 steps up…with no lift. It was during the trek up to my room that I made a mental note of exactly how I will pack for any trip I take after this one. My suitcase and I eventually made it too our new home for the next three nights. But wait, it’s not over yet…the three other people staying in my room had already checked in and kindly left me with the top bunk – super!
Clearly I didn’t travel to Paris to sit in my seventh floor hostel room, so I made my way down the winding staircase and headed outside into the bitter cold. I got on a metro that seemed to be going into the center of town and got off at a stop that looked fairly busy. The stop turned out to be in the Latin Quarter, right by Notre Dame. I wandered around for a good three hours or so listening to music and breathing it all in.
The next two days consisted of me strolling the streets of Paris; getting on and off at random metros and finding my way around, using landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Place de la Concorde and my keen sense of direction to guide me. I walked more than using transportation, which let me take the little side streets you can’t get to when you’re on the metro or you just look at when you’re on a bus. I ate paninis and crepes and drank more coffee than I should have. I saw everything I could.
Stepping inside the Denon wing at the Louvre was the highlight of my trip. In 2001 when I was there the first time I remember telling myself that I would be back some day, and there I was, standing in this gigantic hall (wide enough for two trains to fit in) full of Renaissance art – it was perfect. After spending the morning at the Louvre (a place that would take six days to see the entire thing) I decided I wanted to see more art.
The museum pass I bought entitled me entry to most museums in Paris for a day and one day only, so I made the most of it. The one worth mentioning is the Pablo Picasso museum. Modern art isn’t my favourite, so I was a little hesitant to go there, but I’m glad I did. Picasso is really amazing; he took simple everyday scenes and turned them into amazing pieces of art. It was awesome to look at, and I think it opened my eyes to more modern art. Next on my list is to go see Salvidor Dali’s gallery in Spain – that must be incredible!
Paris, overall, just isn’t my cup of tea. I don’t like the way it smells or the sneer you get if they find out you’re from America; the way they’ll stop speaking English the second they ear your accent and revert back to French. The homeless men with their dogs living on the sidewalk with a beer in their hand in the middle of the day really upset me; it tainted the image Paris is supposed to have. I won’t miss the smell of urine in the metro or the French men who followed me, constantly wanting to “draw my beautiful eyes.”
I didn’t go to Paris this time to go up the Eiffel Tower or to buy a beret, been there, done that. I went because I found myself getting too comfortable again. I needed to get out of my comfort zone and try something new. Paris forced me to communicate with people who don’t speak my language and it taught me not be afraid when I got lost. When I was going to the Picasso gallery, I had no idea where I was so I asked for directions. After the man gave them to me I started walking and had this huge feeling he told me to go the wrong way – just to get a laugh out of it. Turns out, he steered me in the right direction.
I did so much in the two and a half days I was in France that it feels like a week went by. Even though I’m not the biggest fan of the city, I’m glad I went alone because I learned a lot about confidence and independence and how to trust myself. Spending time at museums was amazing and some of the architecture in Paris is truly breathtaking.
I’m only 21 and I’ve been to Paris twice, I consider myself lucky, but I can safely and honestly say that Paris is not a place I will be going on my honeymoon years to come. Paris is a tourist city, it’s the place where 75% of British travelers go on holiday, and Asians first stop before they hit up Disneyland – it’s full of tourists!
I will highly recommend the hostel I stayed at, I met so many people while I was there – it was great – even though I was sleeping in the nosebleed section. Everyone who stayed there was traveling on their own and it was really inspiring and fun to sit down over a beer after a long day of touring and listen to everyone’s stories. I’m now motivated to travel more, even if it’s on my own. With that said…I need to go plan my next trip…
Now, as a 27-year-old married woman, I’m even more excited to see how I’ll react to “The City of Light” this weekend!