Paris. It was a city I’d dreamt of visiting my entire life, and as I stepped of the TGV onto the platform of Gare du Nord, I felt a shiver of excitement. I was here at last. Dad rounded everyone up, and reminded us once again to be mindful of our belongings, and we were off through the winding metro system that would deliver us within a few blocks of our hotel. All I can say about that, is I’m glad Dad knew where we were going! To anyone planning a visit to Paris, do your homework and research the metro in advance!
We rose from the metro station onto a busy sidewalk, far from the only ones dragging luggage behind us as we walked. I couldn’t help but gawk at the buildings rising up on either side of the street, and made a mental note to come back later and photograph some of the more interesting storefronts and balconies.
After a brief walk, we arrived at our hotel for the next two nights: the Hotel L’Orset Opera. The staff there were very kind and polite, and even humored us with a little English while checking us into the hotel. We took the elevator up to our rooms, which were absolutely gorgeous – you can certainly expect a full review post at some point! Many of the rooms looked out over the street, allowing many opportunities to people watch or just plain take in the beauty of the area. The room I shared with Michelle had a lovely view of…the wall across the way. We laughed, but couldn’t be too upset by this development. After all, the room itself was beautiful, and moreover, we were in Paris! There could be no complaining. After settling in, we strolled to a nearby creperie for lunch, then went for a quick walk around the area.
The closest attraction to us was the Opera Garnier. We didn’t have enough time to take a tour, although I would have loved to see the inside of this beautiful building. Tourists clustered on the steps, cameras in hand, and musicians played along the sidewalk, collecting applause and donations for their art.
After the Opera, we visited our first Parisian cathedral: l’Église de la Sainte-Trinité
On our way back to the hotel, we wandered in and out of various boutiques, struggling to keep in mind the conversion rate between dollars and euros. At this point in time, the euro was equal to approximately $1.33, so the 100 euro camel-toned leather jacket I fell in love with would have taken up most of my remaining spending money! We did stop at a nearby liquor store to pick up some souvenirs, and somehow walked out with a bottle of wine each. At 3 euros a pop, how could we refuse!?
Back at the hotel, we donned the fluffy white robes hung in our closets, and retreated to Jennifer and Jared’s room to toast to our first day in Paris. Night fell as we finished one, two, then all three bottles of wine. Feeling pleasantly buzzed and completely delighted to be together in this beautiful city, the three of us set us for a quick stroll around the neighborhood. Just a quick walk…just to clear our heads before resting up for the following day.
We couldn’t have walked too far. After thirty or so minutes of aimless walking, we arrived at the Jardin des Tuileries, complete with sparkling amusement park attractions. We walked past the rides and into the garden, admiring the statues and the neatly trimmed grass, until I saw something that made me shriek in delight and disbelief.
The Eiffel Tower was right there, winking at us from a distance. Despite our wine-heavy bladders, we resolved right then to walk to the Eiffel Tower. I had waited my whole life to see it in person, and I couldn’t wait even one day longer. Thus began one of my favorite memories from the entire trip.
It turns out that the Eiffel Tower only looked like it was nearby. In reality, it was a little over two miles from the gardens, and it felt much further away as we strolled along with no guide but the glittering tower itself. We had absolutely no sense of direction, but trusted that we would get there all the same. Our walk took us alongside the Seine, over the Pont Alexandre III, and through an endless maze of postcard-worthy Parisian neighborhoods. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
It was amazing to finally see the Eiffel Tower in person. Under the tower itself, street vendors roamed around hawking cheap souvenirs for upwards of one euro. We waved them off and debated going up to the top of the Eiffel Tower right at that moment. Jennifer’s pinky was really starting to ache, however, and we still had a long walk back to the hotel ahead of us. I purchased a single postcard from the gift shop, and we made our way back through the neighborhood in search of our hotel. Not that we knew where we were going. At one point we did stop to consult a cell phone, which was of very little help, and eventually found the place on our own.
It may not have been the brightest idea to go for a lengthy midnight stroll the evening before two days of nonstop sightseeing, especially in a city where we knew neither the layout nor the entirety of the language. Still, it remains one of my most cherished memories of the trip, and it is one of the few moments when we really got to explore an area, taking in its neighborhoods rather than the major sights alone. I have so many wonderful little stories from this adventure, but most of them are hardly appropriate for general audiences! Suffice it to say this is an adventure that I will never forget!