Taken… by Paris

BTW before we start, click here for the Paris soundtrack and enjoy the selection 🙂

Finally time to start with the European tales… at that point in life (2012), I had travelled comfortably alone in the UK because I knew the language, same happened when I went to New York. But going to Paris was a totally different story, for I had learnt French only for a few months and it was pretty basic.

Yet I was there on the train from Geneva to Paris, a little sleepy and jet lagged. But all that sleepiness went away as soon as I got out at Gare de Lyon train station. That sense of being somewhere I haven’t been before, suddenly a rush of adrenaline boosting my adventure bug.

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After successfully buying the Métropolitain (Underground of Paris) ticket I was on my way to the hotel, somewhere close to Jardin des Tuileries, I was excited until I realized I missed to print the exact address, and without chances to get wifi I had only one thing left to do, trust my intuition and find it. One might say why I didn’t ask to people on the street? I have no answer for that…

I confidently got out of the station to Rue de Rivoli, crossed the road and ended up in Rue Saint-Honoré, as if guided by some magnet attracting me I looked at a pretty narrow street and decided to explore further, to my delight I found my hotel right there, it took me only about 10 minutes to do it! So success, or good luck, you decide.

The location couldn’t be any better, and the hotel room was very comfortable, despite being really small for my liking. Anyway I had only two days in Paris,, which meant I would only use the room to sleep for a few hours each night.

I found a Tourist Information Centre a couple of streets away where I bought a special ticket to enter the Louvre and other museums. The Louvre was less than 5 minutes away so I went there first thing, with my ticket I used the fast track entry, no queue whatsoever, so if you plan to go to Paris mind this piece of information.

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Entrance to the Louvre

Inside the Louvre people fight their way to see the Mona Lisa, the Venus of Milo and the Winged Victory of Samothrace. But really it deserves time to be explored, for each piece of art is marvelous. However, my top moment was to find the Greek sculptures exhibition, because I am fascinated by Greek culture.

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Venus of Milo looking at people, or the other way round?

The day took me to the Notre Dame Cathedral, which is easily reached by walking along the Seine, and it is free to visit, unless you want to go to the roof tour which is highly recommended to see the gargoyles, but mind you, this needs to be done in the morning when there’s no queue.

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On the way to Notre Dame Cathedral

At night I went to the Eiffel Tower, got some really impressive views over Paris, and stayed there for a while, just contemplating, it is a feeling of power if you know what I mean. Where being so high above buildings, people and cars, you can just stop there and watch life happen, millions of thoughts and feelings moving, could you sense them if you pay enough attention?

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Rarely I appear in pictures 🙂 – View from The Eiffel Tower

The next day was unique for two reasons:

  1. I walked all day until I could do no more, and probably went up to more than a thousand stairs, and the same amount down.
  2. I met a handsome Parisian who pretended not to be from the city just to chat, or so I thought.

Now on to the first one. I found out how determined I can be to explore as much as possible if I have little time. That day after an early second visit to the Louvre I walked up the Notre Dame roof to see the gargoyles.

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Gargoyle at Notre Dame Cathedral

Then I walked up to the top of the Arc de Triumph which is by far one of my favorite spot for views over Paris, where you get to see twelve avenues converging there, pay attention from one side following Avenue des Champs Elyseés all the way to the beautiful Place de la Concorde, and to the other side following Avenue de la Grande-Armeé all the way till the modern La Defense.

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View from Arc de Triumph

Not happy with it I went to the Sacre Coeur Cathedral, for which I took the Métropolitain till Abbesses station, this station is famous for being the deepest one in Paris and just out from there you can see the also well known Mure des Je t’aime. This area is Montmartre, beautiful and with a bohemian kind of atmosphere, a few more stairs until reaching the cathedral and also up its roof. Trust me, it’s worth the effort!

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Outside Abbesses Métropolitain Station
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Mure des  Je t’aime
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View from Sacre Coeur Cathedral

On the way down from the cathedral you can visit the Square Louise Michel and see the carrousel that appears in the film Amelie. From there you can walk to the Molain Rouge which is not far, or so it seemed to me.

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Learning very well a few phrases to ask for directions and order meals is very useful to have the Frenchs smiling, just by making the effort to talk to them in their language you earn their effort to speak slower so that you can understand everything they say.

After that long day, I felt exhausted, so I rewarded myself with some very nice deserts which I bought after dinner to indulge myself at the hotel room. That was probably the night when I remember sleeping out of tiredness more than any other time in my life.

Let’s get now on to the second reason for which that day was ‘unique’. It was something I recall with mixed feelings, nice ones because this guy who walked with me for about 10 minutes was good looking and he seemed nice until he started to get on my nerves and I had to be clear about wanting to be on my own. Scary feelings because right after that trip I saw the film Taken where two girls disappear in Paris after talking to “a handsome guy”, and lucky to be able to recall that situation as an anecdote and nothing else.

Truth is he was not the only one trying to talk to me using the same story of “I am french but not from Paris…” that day, so it might as well be a way of some men to meet women, who knows… What I know is that traveling solo is not easy, but trusting my gut feelings has worked out well for me.

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Where to go? What to do? 😉

Anyway, my last morning was delightful as I had time enough to make a final walk to Les Invalides, across Pont Alexandre III, and walk along the Seine on my way back to the hotel, passing for the tenth time through the beautiful Place de la Concorde. And if now you are wondering if I really know this names by memory, yes I do, my memory is incredibly strong when it comes to remember names of places and directions, I told you I am a human GPS.

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Pont Alexandre III & Les Invalides

Before going back to the train station I had time to get off every single station on the yellow line, seeing people go on and off the train, some people hurrying up to get on time for a meeting, some slowly walking and enjoying their visit to the city of blinding lights.

I keep in my memory the sense of happiness and excitement walking on the streets of Paris, unique architecture, so characteristic of the city, showing of its personality. Remembering the guy who had an umbrella that said “I love London” displayed in the heart of La Bastille, or my delight enjoying a coffee at a Petit café in Le Marais Quartier… the incredible views over the city which I enjoyed after literally hike up every stair of famous buildings.

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Place de la Concorde

But definitely the feeling of knowing I will some day go back with my partner, when I have one, just like in the picture below, holding hands and walking along the Seine at sunset, rediscovering together the city, getting lost and found, happily looking over the roofs of Paris, sitting at the gardens, or enjoying great food and wine, ah L’amour!

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along the Seine

Okay, that was too much of romance for my own liking! Well, there are only two cities that inspire those feelings and thoughts in me, one is Paris and the other is… (to be continued)

In the meantime…Hasta pronto! See you soon! Auf Wiedersehen! A presto! Au revoir!