While it’s true that I’ve been to Paris a million times while living, studying, or working in France, I’ve only ever properly visited it four times so far. Most of the time, I’m using it as my “transfer” to head off to other parts of France, let alone Europe. With so many other places to explore on the continent, Paris just seemed like an overrated destination that I was tired of long ago.
However, it was back in March that I had spent a day wandering the streets of the city that I slowly started to fall in love with it again. Before, I was cynical of the place, but that day spent renewed my interest as one that, while full of the cliché’d Eiffel Tower and tourist-trap restaurants, also had unexpected gems that you could only get when going off the beaten path.
In any case, I made another day trip to Paris a couple of weekends ago, the day following my visit to le Mont Saint-Michel. Again, I went with the German and British teaching assistants, since they wanted to go visit the Louvre and I had plans to meet up with a friend to spend the afternoon with.
We took the train over, and split off from there for the day. I walked over to the Arc of Triumph, as I had plans to climb it, something of which I had never done before. It was tricky to get there, since it’s situated on a large roundabout and so there’s no direct way to cross over from the street, except to cross a million crosswalks around it before stumbling upon an underground passageway leading to it (yup, I did all of that).
There was a rather long line for tickets to go up, but it moved fast and, just like with le Mont Saint-Michel, I used my education pass to get in for free (again, loving this privilege!). Proceeded to enter the arc and begin the dizzying climb up to the top. Although I consider myself pretty fit when it comes to physical activities like stair-climbing, I have to admit that the spiraling staircases were a bit much. I’ve done worse, but still, it was quite the workout!
Eventually, I made it to the top and was rewarding with what I believe is the most beautiful view of the city itself. I’ve been up the Eiffel Tower, but with its obstructive bars and not-very-far-reaching views, I wouldn’t say it’s worth it. However, with the Arc of Triumph’s, I was in love: you get pretty much a panoramic view of everything, from the Eiffel Tower to the Sacré Coeur to the Champs Élysées. It’s absolutely breathtaking. ~
Although it was chilly and windy as heck from the top, it didn’t stop me from taking photo after photo of the city, along with several selfies with the famous Eiffel Tower herself. Of course, I had to go down eventually, since I was to meet my friend at 14h30. Went down the dizzying spiral staircase and met him in front of the monument.
Now, prior to that day, we hadn’t met each other in-person. In fact, we first met each other online through a language exchange website, since both of us wanted to practice our target languages (mine being French, his being English). We later became friends, chatting on Facebook and Skype. I admit, I was a bit nervous meeting him for the first time in-person, since I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, but we actually hit it off that day- I’m glad! 🙂
Any case, we decided to go find a cafe to sit down in and chat (as well as get away from the touristy scene and the soon-to-come rain!). We walked down the Champs-Élysées before going off the tourist path into the quieter part of the neighborhood. We popped ourselves into the first cafe we saw, ordered our drinks and pastries, then sat down to eat and slowly get to know each other (outside of the Internet, that is). He was really nice to have paid for my food and drinks, which surprised me, but I ain’t complainin’!
We finished our food and drinks, then went out again to see more of the city. I wanted to check on Montmartre again, and he was cool with it, so we headed to the nearest metro station where I purchased my tickets and from there we rode it over to the place. While it would have been possible to walk all the way over, the weather was definitely not optimal (aka raining) and it would’ve been over a hour’s journey on foot from where we were.
Arrived at the base of Montmartre and proceeded to make our way up the hill to the Sacré Coeur basilica. Despite the gloomy weather, tourists were still everywhere as we weaved our way through the crowd to get to the top. Granted, it was the long weekend, so that explains the numbers. We also stopped briefly from time to time during our ascent to take some photos of the iconic basilica. Even though I’ve already been there twice, its unconventional beauty never ceases to impress me.
We entered the basilica, just taking a short walk through the nave and pausing to look at the ornate altars and statues along the sides.
We exited the basilica shortly thereafter, heading to check out the view from the top. While it was not as spectacular as that on the Arc of Triumph, the city views from the Sacré Coeur weren’t too shabby.
Afterwards, we descended the hill, popping into another cafe along the way for another snack break (and also to get out of the dismal, rainy weather). Again, he treated me, which was a really kind gesture, and we spent the time talking some more about random topics.
He had an appointment at 18h00, so around 17h00 we headed out to take the metro; I decided to just head back to the station to take the train back home. We said goodbye on the metro, promising to meet up some other time whenever I was in town. I got off before him, headed to the train station where the German and British teaching assistants were also happening to take the same train back, and together we took it back home in the evening.
Altogether, it was a short, but pleasant day in Paris. Not only did I get to fulfill my wishes of climbing the Arc of Triumph, but I also got to finally meet my online friend in-person. Even better, the views were amazing and we hit it off, respectively! There are definitely more hidden gems that I’ve yet to discover, given the chance that I visit the city again. And perhaps I’ll do so with my friend, since he lives there. Who knows? 🙂
Thanks for reading!
— The Finicky Cynic
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