I visited Paris, France last weekend with my exchange program and had a set schedule for just about everything we did. Unfortunately though, the ‘most romantic city on earth’ didn’t quite live up to its standards. I didn’t fall deeply in love with a handsome beret wearing, sweet-talking, baguette buttering, wine sipping Frenchman with a mustache curled at both ends. What a disappointment.
It was 6pm on a Friday when my strict itinerary began. I took a tour boat excursion down the Seine River with 20 Americans, mostly females.
We slowly propelled along the river while the loudspeaker revealed French icons on either side of the banks. The glow of the moon played with the fixed lights that shone on the outside of each building. This, along with the one-euro bottle of merlot that my friend Evan and I had smuggled onto the boat, fueled the romantic spark.
First we passed the Gothic Cathedral, Notre Dame and The Musée du Louvre; one of the most famous art galleries in the world. On the opposite side were the Louis IX’s chapel and the Hôtel des Invalide. The Hôtel was built in the 1670s under Louis XIV. It was used as a sanctuary for injured and elderly soldiers. The beautiful golden-domed building is now the quarters for the national war museum and is also where the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte lies.
The day after, the tour bus stopped at each one of these places, giving us the opportunity to go inside if we pleased. I walked in silence through Notre Dame, mesmerized by the stained glass windows that stretch along the interior of the building. Candles were available for 2-euro, and are traditionally lit in honor of a loved one that has passed; I lit one for my mom.
Next, we wandered to the top of the butte Montmartre; there lies the Sacré-Cœur, a Roman Catholic Church dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. There was an outside escalator that climbed to the top of the hill, although I chose to walk up the long flight of stairs. Two fancy French doors welcomed me inside the church. On the ceiling was a beautifully painted Catholic mural. Outside of the church was a breathtaking panoramic view that towered over the city.
The entrance fee for The Musée du Louvre was expensive, so I chose to explore around the outside instead. The Louvre lies in the center of the city and was once a palace, home to the Sun King, Louis XIV. The glass pyramid museum is in the center of the palace’s courtyard. Bright lights stream through the glass at night, highlighting the modern architecture of the building.
Our last stop of the day was at the Eiffel Tower, where most students waited in a two-hour line to go to the top. I have the patience of a 5-year-old, so I decided to wait until dark hoping the crowds would disperse. Having some time to kill, three friends and I walked a mile along the Seine River and had dinner at a traditional French restaurant. We sipped on red wine, enjoyed complimentary French bread, olives and tried escargot; snails. Snails are delicious! I assure you the flavor doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that they smother them in butter and pesto.
After dinner the four of us walked back to the Eiffel Tower and there was no line. Standing underneath the dazzling tower, I had no perception of how far the highest level was. Every time I thought we had reached the top, the elevator would quickly continue climbing. At the top there was an open aired fence outlining an outside circular lookout, which includes a champagne bar and all. Embracing the moment, I reached my head through the fence and let out a loud scream. An aerial view of Paris lit up before me and I felt like I was on the top of the world.
by Eliza Demarest