Paris: The Gain of Losing a Day
One Day Lost...
My two-week trip to France began with losing a day. I woke up at 7 AM, was at my school at 8, and my flight left Atlanta around 2 PM. When we landed in France it was 6 AM (the next day), so how better to begin our excursion than visiting Notre Dame? We took the Parisian metro (which, in itself, is a complete adventure) to a stop located directly beneath Fontaine Saint Michel (a famous 19th century fountain in Paris), then walked to the Cathedral at Notre Dame. The first glimpse of “Our Lady” was absolutely awe-inspiring. The sun was masked behind layers of thick clouds and the sky itself seemed gloomy with the impending onset of rain. The cathedral was veiled by shrouds of light mist and for a moment what I was seeing felt simply surreal. Perhaps it was just the jet lag! I stood and stared for about a minute only to be brought crashing back to reality with my friend pulling me across the busy Parisian street. The face of the building itself was simply immaculate. We all took turns snapping pictures of the structure and standing on “Point Zéro”, or “Kilomètre Zéro”, as the French call it, which marks the center of the entire city. Every monument and structure was originally spaced from the exact mark on which we stood, and it is rumored that if you stand on this particular mark, you are bound to return to “city of lights” again!
The next few days consisted of visiting all of the major monuments and museums in France. La Louvre, Château de Versailles, The Eiffel Tower, La Basilique du Sacré Cœur, and so on. But for me, many memories consist of simply swaying back and forth on the metro while a man with an accordion played traditional French music, or stopping in the middle of a crowded sidewalk to see 5 men perform street magic, or in one particular instance watching the Eiffel Tower light up in an array of flashing lights at 10PM. The memories I made in Paris were not just from the places you see in movies; they were comprised of laughing with friends while eating a hot sandwich, dodging busy Frenchmen on their way to work, and waiting for what seemed like hours in freezing rain waiting for our travel guide to remember where we were supposed to go next. Every single moment in Paris simply seemed to be a dream. Part of me felt like I had been in Paris my entire life, and all of me never wanted to leave. After learning advanced French at my school for 3 years I was more than capable of not only speaking the language but also interacting with it before my very eyes. I felt such a strong connection in Paris that no other place on Earth has ever given me, and my time there will not easily be forgotten.
La Basilique du Sacre Cœur
City of Lights
If any moment of my stay in Paris could be remotely qualified as "the best", it would be when I finally understood the city's widely acclaimed nickname: the "City of Lights". My travel group, toward the middle of the first week, ventured into the heart of the city to explore La Louvre, Chateau Versailes, and The Eiffel Tower. Most of us enjoyed the splendor of the "Castle" at Versailles, and again at La Louvre, but after a full day of walking the Parisian streets, the end of the day couldn't come fast enough. As the train slowed for our last stop at the Eiffel Tower, we reluctantly abandoned our comfy metro seats, and began the trudge up the stairs to the exit. Cold air pierced our lungs as we made it out of the metro tunnel, and each of our eyes shot open at the glimpse of the beautiful, dimly lit metal structure ahead: The Eiffel Tower. Just as we took our first steps toward it, while our eyes were glued to the magical tower, the entire structure erupted in a display of shimmering strobe lights that sent each jaw in the group to the floor. The tower lights gave meaning to the city's nickname, and provided a beautifully crafted memory that remains in my heart and mind to this day.
The Shimmering Tower
The Eiffel Tower
Gaining a Lifetime of Memories
Every moment in Paris is now a saved snapshot in my mind and in my heart. Every monument, every face, every name, and every building is forever engrained in my memory and I often catch myself daydreaming about my morning meal of chocolate croissants and double espressos, or the freezing rain bearing down on our travel group at 6 AM. I can still smell the hot baked Paninis that warmed my hands as we walked to the next incredible, Parisian feature. Each memory in Paris is such a treasure in my mind. The only way to truly appreciate every possible moment there was to consciously savor each sight, each smell, each sound I heard, and each person I met. What began as losing a day in America ended as gaining a lifetime of memories unimaginable just the week before.