Oh Paris, cité de l’amour! I have visited this city once before as an oblivious twelve year old on a school trip, with no idea of what was going on. Subsequently, I think the regret of not appreciating my visit more is the cause of my ridiculous fascination with the Eiffel Tower. My apartment is a shrine to the attraction, and currently hosts a clock, canvas photograph, picture frame, ornament, and several cushions. Naturally, Paris was first on my European agenda.
However, as Jess and I were travelling on a major budget, Paris did not live up to my high expectations. Our hostel Love & Peace was unfortunately in a rough area so we drew a lot of unwanted attention to ourselves by simply walking around. Furthermore, we encountered trouble on our first evening there, once we had walked to Le Sacre Coeur, which is a popular Roman Catholic Church, and is the highest point in the city. This is an absolutely beautiful place, and the combined sunset made it all the more incredible.
As we enjoyed the view while eating our crackers and cheese, two French men with no sense of personal space approached us, and would not stop hassling us. My French isn’t fluent so I was fairly sheltered from what they were saying, but poor Jess could understand every word, and from her reaction, I could see it wasn’t an appropriate conversation. After they continuously followed us for forty minutes, we decided to join a group of Londoners that we had earlier overheard. Our cunning plan worked well! The group took us in, and chatted with us until the men got bored and left. It’s a shame because although this scenario is by no means a representation of the French population, I can’t stop the negative connotations of feeling uncomfortable influencing my opinion of Paris, which to this day has tarnished my dream city.
Of course, I have many positive memories from my visit too! The following morning, we woke up stupidly early to go for a run alongside the river. It was reinvigorating though, and we were able to see parts of Paris we wouldn’t have otherwise. Next, we met up with an old friend of mine, who was in Paris working as a model. Fortunately for us, Georgie had been there long enough to know the hidden gems so she kindly took us to the famous tea house Angelina where she treated us to the best hot chocolate of my life; like melted Belgium chocolate in a cup!
We then spent the rest of the day visiting all the usual tourist spots, leaving the best until last. The Eiffel Tower isn’t even attractive is it? Just a mass of ugly looking iron, yet I was still drawn to it with excitement. After we climbed all 1710 steps, we earned ourselves croissants and wine to aid us in soaking in the experience. I was perfectly content looking at the view, but Jess is a social butterfly and caught us into a conversation with a couple of American guys. They were pleasant and humorous though, until they invited us out for dinner to KFC… apparently European chicken is the best! We passed.
Instead, we got spectacularly lost walking back to the hostel, but singing Bruno Mars’ Billionaire kept us going. ‘A DIFFERENT CITY EVERY NIGHT ‘ – we got a bit too excited when we got to that line. As soon as we got back to Love and Peace, we headed to the bar where we met a great group of Mexican lads, one of which is a very good football player in training over there, and so I’m going to be his PR agent for the 2014 World Cup. Somewhere in the midst of drinking games, we somehow agreed to visit the Palace of Versailles with them the following day.
After a MacDonald’s breakfast (?) we were on our way! Annoyingly, I found out that if I had taken my European passport with me, I could have entered for a third of the price. The lads thought they were being clever though and stated that they were Spanish in a bid to get in cheaper. However, this later backfired during security where they were passport checked and made to return to the back of the queue which was a whole hour back. Unlucky! So Jess and I had a great time walking around the palace while they were waiting in the intense heat. They later caught up with us though, and over the afternoon, we wandered around the Versailles Gardens which was exhausting in the sun.
Back at the hostel, we became horribly aware of how much we had already blown our food budget, so we resorted to eating our left over sushi from the night before. While forcing it down, a group on the next table slowly got out their spread. They had bread, pasta, salad, A WHOLE CHICKEN, and more! It looked amazing. I was seriously tempted to make friends with them in the hope that they might ask us to join them. Instead, we sucked it up and watched the football.
I hope to visit Paris again one day, though a little differently. I will stay at a luxurious hotel; dine at lavish restaurants, explore backstreet bookstores, and people watch from petite coffee shops.