Making up my mind to go to Paris
Paris the city of love, the city of lights, the city of tourists ha ha ha. Kidding but, honestly, I was reluctant about going to Paris it wasn’t a destination on my Europe travel bucket list. Some of you might think I’m crazy but here’s the thing I had my reasons. They will be systematically listed below to make my point:
- I heard that Paris is a crowded city full of tourists which dampen the experience of visiting the city.
- Parisians were sick of all the tourists flocking to their city.
- I was also repeatedly told that the city is far too expensive for a student traveller.
- My roommate at the time (Gwen) who lived with me in Germany happens to be French. She lives in the North of France, my friend (Juliette) who I met through her lives in the West. Both of them told me that Paris doesn’t truly represent France given that it is the capital city and that it is so cosmopolitan it feels very much like an international city as opposed to a French city.
So why did I decide you go to Paris?
The date of the day trip was my sister’s (Charlene’s) birthday the 30th of April. I would be spending her birthday in Paris. She has always wanted to go to Paris since she’s a budding artist and what artist doesn’t want to go to the Louvre. She also speaks some French and loves the language. Going to Paris would allow me to buy her small gifts from there and I would be able to share my photos with my big sis.
I spoke to my classmate Maheen, and she told me Paris is worth seeing even if I was going only for one day. My friend Maria whose boyfriend lives in Paris said the same thing she said I would love it even and that I should take the opportunity to go.
The cost of the trip was €45 at the time it was roughly R645. I booked with am to pm student travels, a student travel bus operator in Germany. I got on to the bus at Düsseldorf and the trip included a bus tour of Paris, a postcard and a snack for breakfast. The bus would also drop me back at Düsseldorf’s train station. I checked the bus and train prices and this trip was much cheaper than any other offer.
I was only going to spend one day in the city so if Parisians were truly mean it wouldn’t matter. And I also made friend with a few Parisians, friends of my roommate and they were lovely. I wanted to judge for myself instead of buying into stereotypes.
Cape Town, my hometown is also deemed an international city but, it does provide a true reflection of South Africa. The city is also cosmopolitan but, it does still maintain a local feel. I wanted to see if Paris has the same vibe.
But, the idea of calling my sister from Paris to wish her happy birthday is what resonated with me the most; I couldn’t have her physically there, but I was going because she couldn’t and me going would be like a part of her go the chance to visit Paris.
Getting there & arrival
It was another long bus ride from Germany to Paris. I got on the bus in Düsseldorf at 23:00 and arrived in Paris at 6:00am. My Paris trip was another solo trip. I honestly didn’t even ask around much to get a travel friend to join. Since the weather forecast showed that it was going to be cold and rainy, not light rain pouring showers of rain. I sat next to a girl who was travelling with a friend and her boyfriend. Cathy and I spoke a bit on the bus and I asked if I could join their group. And we all clicked really well. In the end, I think it worked out great because Cathy didn’t have to be the third wheel in the group. Her friends could take their kissing selfies without having to worry about keeping us company.
It was winter weather and very gloomy when we arrived in Paris. I have one picture where it looks a bit sunny the rest of my photos are all grey. From the time I arrived, I felt happy though. The architecture in Paris captivated me. I couldn’t keep my eyes off the buildings even the apartment facades looked like museums. My bus tour of Paris lasted roughly 2 hours and it passed by key tourist attractions the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Opera Garnier, Petit et Grand Palais, Place de la Concorde, the Bastille and the Eiffel Tower to name but, a few. Throughout the tour the tour guide provided us with interesting facts, I learnt that the apartment owners and homeowners need to apply to the city before they can renovate or paint their homes. This is because the city council tries to keep everything looking similar and aim to keep the historical architectural designs in place thereby, preserving Paris’s history. It was raining throughout the bus tour I even have rainy photos which I took inside the bus to prove it. The bus trip allowed all of us to gain our bearings and see where the key attractions were located. Luckily the rain stopped by the time we exited the bus. We were dropped off near the Eiffel tower and I took photos of Cathy whilst she took photos of me in front of the Eiffel tower.
The first stop
We decided to go up the Eiffel Tower since we were there already. So up we went and as cold as it was I barely noticed the cold. Admittedly I was wearing a woollen jersey, a scarf, a warm hat, thick winter socks and boots. I borrowed my gloves to Cathy who was getting cold, after insisting she uses them. I hate getting cold and even more so I hate being unprepared so I came prepared. When we stepped out of the lift the view was startling, you might be thinking to yourself Nikki you are over exaggerating. I was genuinely surprised though by how pretty the city was, clean and the clouds added something extra. They looked so close and I wasn’t bothered about them being grey. After taking selfies, group selfies and multiple photos of the city below from every perspective we went down via the steps. We explored and found a room displaying a video with different clips of the Eiffel Tower. We browsed through the gift shop. Passed the restaurant and walked across the see-through walkway section. I don’t fear heights so I thought it was innovative to allow people to see through the floor.
Walking around Paris
From the Eiffel Tower, we walked along the Seine River. We also planned to take a long brisk walk to the Louvre. I love long walks my shoes were fairly comfortable and walking in a city allows you to see much more of the city. We passed by a lot of sights including Alexander III Bridge, a beautiful bridge which was built in the Russian style and the flame of liberty which is now a memorial site to Princess Diana as well. And the love lock bridge we walked past several statues. We also passed several trees, I love trees. I randomly take photos of trees and send them to my loved ones to share the beauty that I see in them. My friends and family have to deal with my strangeness. In Paris, there are trees with hearts and initials carved into the bark along the riverside, a sign of lovers declaring their love. For me, as a South African, I was extremely touched by seeing a photo of Nelson Mandela in front of an art gallery in Paris. I took a photo of it and reflected on how Nelson Mandela is admired by the world and his enduring legacy even after his passing.
Eventually, we got to the Louvre and waited for about ten minutes to get inside. I’m told that I was extremely lucky since it can take hours to get inside the Louvre. I’m an art lover I admire visual art, paintings, sculptures and light installations etc. for me it’s beautiful and inspiring. I can sing, dance, act, write poetry, cook, and bake and write a killer academic essay. But, I cannot draw, paint or sculpt to save my life. The painting and drawing skills skipped me and went to Charlene. Seriously my big sister has taught herself how to sketch and paint and only recently took an art class, but this is a blog post for another time. Getting back on track I got to see Venus de Milo, The underground section of the Louvre, The Egyptology sculptures and vases, various other Italian sculptures and the Italian paintings. Including the Italian painting the leading lady Mona Lisa herself. It was so crowded and the other tourists were kind of rude pushing in order to take photos of Mona Lisa. I wished that the Louvre had a better system for taking photos I’m tiny so I ducked and dove and got my photo though. Our time in the Louvre was rushed. I hope to one day go back to Paris to spend a few hours exploring the museum, there are so many pieces of art it is overwhelming actually and impossible to see everything in a short period of time. I recommend going inside though it’s worth it especially if you admire art.
The Lourve is connected to a shopping mall and we walked through it. Passed pricey stores, which we skipped, constrained by our student budgets. Instead, we went to MacDonald’s to eat. I usually try local cuisine when travelling, my travel companions wanted MacDonald’s though, so I went ahead and ordered la cheese royale. A cheeseburger and was fascinated that macrons were on the menu of the MacDonald’s. After eating we left the shopping complex and walked past street stalls selling postcards, magnets and different works of art. I bought a few different postcards for my sister, my boyfriend and myself. We also passed Institut de France an iconic building which is now a language school. I snapped a shot of a street sign “Quai de Marche’ Neuf”, why because Marche’ is my cousins’ name. She was so excited when I posted the sign on my Facebook page.
Notre Dame Cathedral
We then arrived at Notre Dame Cathedral. We had to stand in line again, and this time it took about 15 minutes to get inside. Once inside I noticed the artistry of the stained glass windows immediately the candles illuminating the interior and the congregants getting ready for mass. I really disliked the disrespect of some of the visitors, I’m not Catholic but I was offended. Inside the cathedral, you aren’t supposed to take flash photography photos and there are multiple signs asking visitors to keep the noise level down. Unfortunately, people were loud and I saw camera flashes going off many times. The priest had to ask people to quiet down as mass would be starting soon. My travel buddies and I decided to sit and listen to the hymns being sung and we sat through a portion of the service right at the back so that we could leave after a bit. The hymns were all in French and I enjoyed listening to them although I didn’t understand a word of what was being sung.
Walking up hundreds of stairs
We decided that our next stop would be The Arch of Victory, Arc de Triomphe. The arch commemorates the fallen French soldiers who gave their lives defending France. We asked a lot of questions at the metro station. We had to take the metro to get to the Arch since it was quite far away. I find Paris’s metro system confusing so here’s a tip ask questions. Ask at the station and ask the attendant to write down instructions. Follow the instructions and read the signs and ask locals if you ask nicely someone will help you. We stuck to the instructions and we didn’t get lost. We walked down the Champs Elyeese. Here we stopped to look at makeup, not my choice and when you are travelling with a group you have to be accommodating. Then we went to have French cake that I absolutely wanted to do with every fibre of my being. Cathy had macaroons I had a chocolate torte and she gave me a macaroon to try and I gave her a piece of my cake. I wasn’t disappointed I love chocolate and this cake was delectable. It had a caramel-like chocolate filling. And the guy working at the bakery thought I was Parisian, he immediately spoke to me in French and I need to learn the language someday. It would have been great to speak to him in French. After our cakes, we walked around in the shopping complex and browsed through H&M. We left and walked passed Louis Vuitton’s head office. And I had Cathy take a few photos of me standing in front of the Arc de Triomphe.
Another line to purchase tickets to go up the Arch and after that another one to actually go up the Arch. You have to be prepared to climb the stairs. It’s a lot of stairs there is no elevator up, 284 steps to be exact. By the time we reached the top, we were a bit tired. We had walked the whole day through the rain and the Arch of Victory was our last stop. What a view though. From the Arch, you can see the Eiffel Tower my camera decided to die at this point I didn’t have my power bank yet at this time. I had Cathy take a photo of me on top of the Arch with her phone. She was kind enough to send me the photo after via Facebook. I was exhausted by this point; I think it even shows on my photos. We headed down the stairs, had a bathroom break. Looked at the armour inside the building and exited. My group was hungry so we went to MacDonald’s again I skipped supper though I wasn’t hungry just tired, wet, with swollen feet and my jeans were soaking wet I started to feel the cold.
It was getting late and we needed to take the metro back to get to our bus. It was a rush to get back in time and I remember calling the tour guide to say that we were running late, from my tablet. I always buy a roaming package when travelling since being able to make phone calls is important for me. And I hate relying on free WiFi which can be unreliable.
We got to the bus which was parked close to the Eiffel Tower. I got to see the Eiffel Tower all lit up and sparkling. I really was blessed on this trip since I had completely forgotten about the flashing lights of the Eiffel Tower which I was told to look out for every hour after sunset. My photos of the Eiffel Tower at night were rushed and taken with my tablet, not the best quality but, I managed to get my camera to work for one good photo. The trip was definitely a lucky one. We arrived at the bus exactly at 11pm. The bus was scheduled to leave at 11pm, but we waited for a few people who had gotten lost. On the bus trip back I slept soundly.
I ended up enjoying my short time in the city its beauty stems mainly from buildings, sculptures, and manicured gardens. The Seine River, however, provides that natural touch and I don’t regret taking the trip at all. I never even dreamed of visiting Paris, although I always wanted to go to Disney Paris I didn’t think the Eiffel Tower would be great. I’m glad that I decided to forget about the stereotypes and see it for myself. Because, I felt this enormous wave of gratitude sweep over me as soon as I stood in front of the Eiffel tower, marvelling at the human innovation and engineering that combined to build the symbol of Paris. And reflecting on how blessed I was to be able to see sights which so many people dream of seeing. In 2016 I visited Paris four times. I got to make my childhood dream come true by going to Disneyland Paris. And I stopped over in Paris, on my way to visit my friend Juliette whose parents live in the West of France. On my way back from Juliette I was in Paris again. I never tired of Paris and that says it all. There’s still so much I’d love to see in Paris and hopefully, my lucky city will welcome me back with another dose of luck.
Have you been to Paris or do you wish to go? Tell me about your experiences what was your favourite thing to do or see? If you wish to go why do you want to go to Paris? What draws you to the city?
Wishing you happy travels through the journey of life!
xxx Nikki xxx
P.S I’d really love to read your feedback on this post. If you want to chat or give me general feedback, please feel free to. I highly appreciate your visit to my blog. I’m still very new at this so any tips and feedback will be great.