A walk in Paris
A week in France
Our perspectives in life are shaped by what we see and do. We for the most part are creatures of habit based on our upbringing and what we have grown accustomed to. If I could have a slight change every now and then from what I am used to I think it would be very healthy and a great learning experience. It does not matter when we do it. It just matters that we have the opportunity to do it and we seize that opportunity. Life is about learning and experiencing new things. For most of us life is about routines and responsibility which certainly helps define us and helps us in understanding who we are and who we become and teaches us to understand the big picture.
If I could teach my son something about life I would tell him that we will have days that seem typical and not that meaningful but we must enjoy each and every day and for the days that are truly special we should enjoy them as much as we can because we never know when we will have another opportunity to have such a wonderful time and experience. Sometimes we have to create our own opportunities and we have to never lose sight of the true meaning of our lives and what we are here for which we will learn as we grow and mature. In living, doing and being we must always try to bring out our very best from inside and never get discouraged.
This week has been like a dream for me as it was my first opportunity to go on a business trip to France, my very first visit to France and it was my first time to also have some personal time in France and Paris. When I was asked to visit my colleagues in France and to help support them in their accounting needs I was very excited. I also was asked if it was ok to have the weekend in Paris for sight seeing and I exclaimed with a resounding "Yes"!
The week was a great learning experience for me and it went very well. I was very fortunate to work with wonderful people who not only were professional but also very accomodating. I felt very welcome and was taken care of immediately once I arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport. My colleague met me right at arrivals as planned and he drove me to my hotel to drop my luggage off and gave me time to settle in before picking me up to introduce me to the France office. The drive was a good 45 minutes to an hour from the airport to the hotel and I was fascinated watching as we drove on the European highways and bridges in France.
I learned 3 years of high school French but sadly never really had the opportunity to speak it as I never travelled to Europe or any French speaking countries. There was one time I went to Montreal and Quebec and tried to speak a little French but realized that I relied more on English. My colleague speaks fluent French, English and Greek so I was in good hands and he served as my translator. I tried to speak some French and although I spoke some common words I wished I had a better command of the language. I would find it extremely exciting to be able to relearn my French and have the opportunity to travel back to France and Paris with my family and speak the language and feel confident in doing so.
When you rely on someone to help you in all situations you really get to learn the person and get to appreciate them. I was well taken care of here in France for my business and personal needs and I am very grateful. I will remember this week as a special one and I will look back fondly on the opportunity of working together, dining together and being invited to spend time with my work colleague's family and travelling and seeing the sites together.
Once the work week ended I was driven to Paris by my colleague and he showed me some of the memorable tourist sites by car and we also did a little walking and picture taking before we had dinner. The dinner was nice as well as the conversation. We dined at one of those sidewalk type restaurants with crowds of people around us which was very enjoyable as we talked and heard cross conversations. We then walked through the narrow streets to the car and did a little more driving in Paris. I saw the L'Arc de Triomphe, the Champs Elysee, the Bastille and the Eiffel tower all from the passenger side. It was remarkable and memorable. After driving through the city we passed the tunnel underpass where Princess Diana sadly was killed. We drove over the Pont Neuf bridge which is truly historic having been made from stone. Once we arrived at my hotel we parted ways as my friend and work colleague shook my hand and wished me well and to have a wonderful weekend in Paris. I thanked him as best I could for all he did and I told him I was very grateful.
Now I was alone in a new place not really knowing how to get around. I promised myself though as I got back to my hotel room that I would make the most of my experience here in Paris for Saturday as I had the whole day to do whatever I wanted to do. I decided I would wake up early and just walk in the direction of all the main attractions that bring many people here to this great city. I headed to the Bastille from my hotel not really knowing distance to all the major sites. I tried to make mental notes of landmarks from my hotel so I would not get lost on my journey because I knew I had to come back the same way and as a backup I carried enough money in euros if I needed a taxi or the Metro which I still need to learn. As I headed in the direction of Bastille I made about 4 mental notes to help me get back to the hotel and one was a McDonalds which seems to be everywhere. I also came upon some people who seemed to have fallen on hard luck and for whatever reason I seem to be a magnet that draws people to me asking for some help. I believe in my heart the right thing to do is to try to help those in need as best you can but sadly it seems we can not help everybody. I seemed to see so many street people and it really saddens me to see it. I see it in New York too and it really pains me but i can not solve their problems and no matter how much I give them it will not change their plight.
I found myself resting at times trying to study the map of Paris as I eagerly looked forward to visiting as many sites as I possibly could in a day. I also knew I could only walk straight for maybe 8 or 9 hours roundtrip. Therefore I really only had 4 hours to walk continuously before I had to turn back for I did not want to walk around at night in a place I am not that knowledgable of. I did have the good fortune though of learning the sites from my friend on his drive into Paris on Friday night. As I walked in the city of Paris I felt very excited as I was experiencing something new and I was completely enjoying it even though I was alone. I even had to pinch myself to actually believe I was actually here in Paris, France. I wish I had a personal walking GPS and I wonder if they even exist for walking excursions. I never seen anyone with one so I believe it would certainly be helpful to have one. I believe people can do it from their Apple phones nowadays. I'll have to get my hands on one of those. My friend in the NY office has one and he has so many apps for all sorts of things, directions too!
As I sat admiring the Bastille monument which represents French Independence I knew I had to forge on so I could take in some of the sites. I made a mental note of the Bastille and started heading in the direction of Notre Dame which is preparing to celebrate its 850 year anniversary in 2013 which seems incredible. I walked down a beautiful avenue with such beautiful sites and many people milling about and sidewalk cafes where others were enjoying their lunch as they looked out onto the avenue. I had my camera in tow taking as many pictures as I could to capture what I was experiencing and to have the opportunity to share with my family and friends hoping my battery would last the day. I may not always capture perfect pictures but to me pictures are personal and a way of remembering special occasions and this certainly was one of those special occasions.
As I was walking I was thinking of my family wishing I could have shared this experience with them and hoping that one day we can. I was also thinking of my French teacher back in the 9th grade who taught me the language and the many memorable sites. As I stopped to visit a site I thought about her as she exposed me to the beautiful language and the culture of France and the cosmopolitan city of Paris. As I walked I was struck by the people and how they are just like us though they speak a foreign language to me but their native tongue. I tried to soak it all up and hold the experience near to my heart. I saw young mothers with their babies. I saw parents walking with their school age children. I saw Jewish people walking fully dressed observing their sabbath. I was very happy experiencing the beauty of Paris and its people. I wanted this day to never end because it was so much fun for me.
Another memorable part of my walk was seeing all the street merchants and artists showcasing their works. I saw so many paintings, lithographs, pictures and books of the Eiffel tower, The Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, the Notre Dame, the Jardin des Tuilleres, and the Champs Elysee among other beautiful sites of Paris. I am so impressed with the life like portrayals in the artworks and find that it really strikes a chord with me because my dad was an artist in his spare time and he too put a lot into his works and he was so very creative. I appreciate that creativity and would always encourage it.
As I came upon Notre Dame I felt very happy to finally arrive. It was so beautiful as I looked and admired the architecture and the beauty of this historic church which dates back to 1163. I was amazed and delighted. I took so many pictures there trying to capture the beauty and the splendor of it. I waited in the long line to gain entry into the church to finally see what my French teacher taught us about as young high school students. It was beautiful inside and I felt very close to the lord as I walked inside admiring the stained glass windows and the many beautiful monuments of Mary and the baby Jesus. I sat and prayed and felt at peace amongst all the visitors to this beautiful and historic church which is such a vital part of the country of France and the city of Paris and its glorious history.
I stayed at Notre Dame for a while but knew I had to move on if I wanted to see some of the other beautiful sites of Paris. My next glimpse into the wonders of Paris was the bridges that cross the Seine and the city. I could not get enough pictures as I tried to capture it in my mind as well as in a photograph. Sadly it is fleeting in my mind but the memories will be there and the pictures will tell the story. There are so many bridges that intersect the city and I am reminded by my French teacher that they are referred to as Pont in the French language.
As I continued my walking journey in Paris wishing I would have more time I came upon the Louvre which is home to the most famous art works in the world including the Mona Lisa. I did not have time to actually go inside but I did have the chance to admire the museum from outside and it is so impressive as it stretches for quite a distance and is unique in its own architecture and style. I then walked to the Place de la Concorde which stands tall and is not to distant from the many fountains and the most beautiful gardens. The famous jardin de Tuillieres is quite beautiful and breathtaking. I enjoyed taking many pictures there and remembering my French teacher talking about these beautiful gardens. As I looked into the distance I could see rows of trees lined up on the Avenue straight ahead and to my left in the distance the Eiffel tower.
As I continued down this avenue I wound up on the most popular avenues of the world, The Champs Elysee which is quite a delight. Lined up are sidewalk cafes, stores, eateries and popular fasion boutiques. It is easily one of the most sought out places to be in Paris. It was exciting walking on the avenue in the heart of Paris for the very first time. In the distance I could see the Arc de Triomphe which is one of the many popular symbols of Paris. Once I approached the Arc de Triomphe I knew I was going to take lots of pictures and as I circled it I wound up back on the famous avenue and I decided it was time to go back. I wanted to see the Eifel tower but I was so tired from all the walking that I felt it was time to start heading back and retracing my steps back to my hotel.
I had a lot of passion in making this walk because it was all new to me and though I was tired I was enjoying every step of the way as I took in all the beautiful sights and sounds of this very beautiful city. Paris is all that people say it is. You will fall in love with Paris and wish to go back to experience it again and to experience more. I was very happy to have had this wonderful opportunity and I believe I did as much as I could have in a day. I walked for about 8-9 hours roundtrip with little rest and I felt tired but also refreshed having experienced its beauty and splendor. I was also happy I was able to retrace my steps to the hotel without getting lost. Since I was alone I stopped to eat at a Parisian McDonalds and I felt very happy to see this McDonalds because I knew I was approaching the hotel after my long and extremely interesting walk. I never thought I would get so excited about a McDonalds but this meant I was nearing completion of my walk for the day and also addressing my thirst and hunger needs as well.
I also stopped at the ATM to prepare for my trip home on Sunday and a market to fill up on refreshing citrus drinks for the night to help satisfy my thirst. As I approached my hotel I felt relieved and happy and I settled in for the rest of the night thinking about this special walk I did today. I told my wife and son about it and I will share it with them in pictures and hopefully one day all together on a Paris vacation.
Edward D. Iannielli III