We had one full day in Paris, France. So much to see with so little time. “Will you two be able to keep up with me?”
“Yes” they said…
This is my third opportunity to visit Paris, whereas the first two times were a miss. The first time in August 2012, I didn’t feel like sitting on a long flight from Tanzania to France, so I just skipped that one. The second time during Christmas of that same year, the rail from London into France was out of order. This time, Mieke, Hanneke, and I found a relatively cheap overnight bus from Arnhem to Paris. Let’s do it!
Paris was never really high on the ranks on my never-ending list of places to visit. It seems a little too foo foo for me. Blame the movies. I’ll just go see the Eiffel Tower and get the heck up out of there. However, I had another purpose for this visit: to hang a lock on one of the many bridges of Notre Dame. What’s this all about? In Paris, there are a few bridges along the canal near Notre Dame where people, usually couples, would hang a key lock along the railings and throw the key into the river, symbolizing their love is locked forever in the city of love. My friend Lisa, is a frequent visitor of Paris. If you recall, I met up with her last October in Rabat, Morocco. I thought it would be neat if I put a lock with her initials on a bridge for her to find whenever she visited again. But instead of throwing my key into the river, she would keep it to unlock the lock once she finds it.
Once I was done painting Lisa’s lock, that night we took an eight hour bus from Holland, through Belgium, and eventually we arrived in Paris. The bus dropped us off right near the base of the Eiffel Tower, which was as tall as I imagined. But before we made our way to the top, we needed breakfast and I did the stereotypically french thing and had a croissant among others at a cafe restaurant called Le Beaujolais.
Upon leaving, I accidentally knocked over three empty wine glasses, shattering them on the floor. “Sorry, sorry!” What’s the french word for “sorry”? The waiter in French told me it was okay. I picked up the big pieces and put them on his glass tray he was holding out. Looking back, me breaking the three wine glasses apart could have been forshadowing what was about to happen next.
We went straight to the base of the Eiffel tower where we stood in a long winding line to buy our tickets to climb the stairs up to the first level. Since we were on sort of a time limit, I wanted to get to the top as fast as possible to get some good shots. However, there were so many steps just to get to the middle of the tower, it wore the girls out! Once we made it to the second level, I instantly went towards the staircase for the first level. Mind you, the first level is not the very top of the tower; it’s just the middle section, the highest you can get by climbing the stairs. Once you get to the first level, you have to wait in line to ride the elevator to the very top. I went up to the first level assuming the girls were behind me. I walked around to gather pictures and still they were no where in sight. I figured if I stood in line, that eventually they would find me.
A few minutes turned into a half hour. A half hour became an hour. Still no sign of them. I got out of line and did laps around the first level of the tower and then went back down to the second and did more laps there. I even went back down the stairs to the ground floor and stood around hoping they would see me standing on this stoop. They seemingly vanished. My phone doesn’t work outside of the States so there was no way to contact them unless I had a Wi-Fi connection. It was three in the afternoon and useless to continue searching for them. Instead I’ll explore Paris and hopefully find some Wi-Fi to contact them!
I remembered the lock I had. That’s the first thing I oughta do since I have no idea where those famous bridges were, it could take some time to find. I walked to a nearby map and decided those lock bridges had to be over the main canal in the city. I strolled through the park making my way there. I could go left or right. I could see bridges in both directions. I chose left and boy was I wrong! I walked forever until I eventually succumbed to asking a taxi driver for help. Of course he spoke no English and I can’t speak any French, so I had to resort to showing him a picture on my phone of the lock I had painted hoping he would know to take me to one of the lock bridges. He knew! “Oh Notre Dame!” he said. “Yeah sure!” I didn’t know but whatever! On the way to Notre Dame, I spotted a bridge with thousands of golden locks attached to it. “Oh, there is good!” I proclaimed. He pointed further in the distance. “Notre Dame is not here” he told me. “It’s okay.” I was just glad to find a bridge.
There I was, on this bridge. It’s been two years in the making since I told Lisa I would do this, so it was a pretty high priority for me. I walked to the middle of the bridge and took out the lock, which was delicately painted in red, white, and blue with the initials of L.Q.
My lock was pretty big and couldn’t fit around the gate of the bridge, but I was able to lock it around another person’s lock. There are two keys for it. I already gave Lisa one before I left on this trip and I’m keeping the other just in case she loses it.
along this backdrop…
near Thomas Jefferson…
There are three potential problems though. One, I’m not sure how weather-resistant this paint is so it’s possible the rain could ruin it. Two, the French government will occasionally cut off some of locks when there are too many, so there’s that. Lastly, there’s a slim chance that anyone reading this blog could go to Paris and find this lock before you do and out of complete douchebaggery, sabotage the lock or even cut it off. But other than that, it’s there for you!
Once that was done, it was time to explore the city and the best way to do that was just to wander. Wander until eventually, I wound up a little lost. I was so busy trying to connect to Wi-Fi with every passing hotel and cafe with no luck, that I lost track of where I was. I ended up in some alleyways in some area with tall regal buildings. No worries though because I enjoy being lost in foreign countries! The only downside was I didn’t have a companion to take pictures…so here come the selfies!
I guess I’ll look for Notre Dame. I walked around, going in any which direction looked the most pleasing to me when eventually I saw a taxi-bike thing with a driver in it. He noticed me looking around and said to me “Where are your friends?” Ah, he speaks English! Finding someone who speaks English around here was tricky. His name is Gabriel and I explained to him that I’m separated at the moment but for now I wanted to get to Notre Dame. He gave me a price and I hopped into his motorized taxi-bike.
About 15 minutes drive, we arrived at the Notre Dame Cathedral. It was gigantic just like I imagined and had gargoyles at the very top lurking down at us. Since I was alone, I had to be careful with what stranger I would give my camera to, to take pictures. France is littered with pick-pockets and petty theives. There were signs everywhere for it. In this circumstance, I used gut-profiling. Find someone I can outrun, who looks nice, and not an old person. Old people cannot take a good picture for the life of me. I know from many past experiences. Younger people are more tech savy. Find a young couple or someone with an expensive camera, and have one of them take it. They are usually your best bet!
I walked inside the cathedral (which is free) and was hit with a whiff of everything holy. You know that church smell? This place had it. Also, I thought this would be the perfect cathedral to redo task #12 on my ATLAS, Sneak Through The Catacombs of a Cathedral. Notre Dame was old and big. There had to be hidden passages and entrances all over! I walked around the large halls, past crowds of people, gazing through every arch and display. Then I remembered, it’s probably best not to get into any trouble, after all I am an illegal alien in this continent. The government could lock me away with Quasimodo in some dungeon for all I know. Plus, there was way too many people around; more than any other cathedral I have ever been in. I’ll redo this task at a different cathedral.
After Notre Dame, I grew really hungry. I walked around wherever the heck I was and found a cafe that specialized in homemade french onion soup. Sold! When it takes twenty minutes for your soup to come out, you know it’s gonna be good! Also, this place had Wi-Fi so I was finally able to send a message to Mieke and Hanneke letting them know I was alright and I would meet back at the Eiffel Tower by 19:30. Their phones don’t work in this country so by lack of response, I don’t think they received the message.
Where to next? I saw signs of a place called Arc de Triomphe, a huge arch that stands in one of the main roads of the city. I heard there’s a great view of Paris from up top. I’ll go there. I found a map and walked towards to where I thought the arch would be. I didnt realize how far I had walked and how far the arch actually was away, it would take me hours! All of a sudden, Gabriel rolls up to me out of nowhere and says “Hey, still didn’t find your friends?” I didn’t expect to see this guy again; out of all the people. “No, but it’s okay. I’ll find them later.” “Do you want to see some more sights?” he asked me. “Actually yeah! I’m looking for this place…”. I pointed to the name of the arch because I couldn’t pronounce it properly. “I know that. I’ll show you some more places along the way buddy. No extra charge. Hop in.”
Gabriel was kind enough to take me all around the city. He took me to a statue of some flames, a museum, and a few monuments scattered all around the area before finally taking me to the entrance tunnel to Arc de Triophe. Thanks man! “There’s many places around here with free Wi-Fi if you need to contact your friends”, he said to me before departing. What a nice guy! In order to get to the arch, you have to take the tunnel underneath the street and then climb a long spiral staircase to the top!
From the top of the arch, you get a clean view of Paris including a backdrop of the Eiffel Tower from afar.
The arch itself was something pretty spectacular; ever so proudly standing.
The Arc de Triomphe is a famous monument honoring those who fought and died during the France Revolutionary War. Underneath the arch lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a tribute to all of the unknown and unidentified soldiers who fought during World War I. There were flames burning over the soldiers’ tomb. It was a pretty neat tribute to see as the sun began to set. Mieke told me at the beginning that we would have to be by the buses at 22:00. It was about 20:00 and I was growing hungry. I saw ads for a McDonalds everywhere I looked but I didn’t see any Mickey D’s in sight. I even walked along the outskirts of Paris, into some dodgy territory to find there was no sign of life anywhere. It’s like Paris suddenly changed from charming to grungy in just a few blocks. Time to turn around! I managed to make it back all the way to the Eiffel Tower by foot by random luck. As a reward to myself, I bought a big ham sandwich and walked towards the end of the park when I suddenly heard a “Daaaannnnnn!”. It was Mieke and Hanneke sitting on the grass waiting for me.
They both informed be they have been searching for me but realized that it was going to be impossible. But they knew I would be okay, because it is me after all. I’m a pretty resourceful guy. Plus, it’s just France. It’s not like I was in Timbuktu or something.
The night crept upon and the tower started to twinkle around 22:00. It looked something like this…
The girls felt a little guilty that we accidentally spent most of the day split up, but I was completely content on my own too.
Soon after, we took the overnight bus back to Holland, and back home to Ede. I’ve been messaging friends all around Europe for weeks now, trying to figure out where I’m going and what I’m doing next. Based on conversations with certain individuals scattered across Europe, it sounds like my liver is in for the workout of its life!