Up until this point I had done a pretty good job of being a traveler first and a tourist second, but the moment we hit the ground in Paris my inner tourist came out. While we tried to stumble upon things naturally in Barcelona and Provence, Paris was all about crossing things off our list. There’s a reason why Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world, and is on most people’s wish lists, these sites are what people want to see. Our train got in pretty late our first day, so we decided to explore the areas around our hostel that first night. Luckily our hostel was located in Montmartre, an artsy region to the north of the city that is famous for the Sacre Couer church which towers over the area. We took the countless steps and hills up to the top and snagged a few pics before heading into the main square to the right of the church, Place du Tetre. The area was bustling even at midnight with hundreds of artists and vendors looking to make some money by painting your portrait, or drawing your caricature. We ended the evening with a nice cold coke at one of the many café’s surrounding the hostel.
The next morning we set out to see the city, choosing to start at the Notre Dame metro stop and walking as long as we could. Notre Dame was one of the few places I did not get to see when in Paris during my last trip, so it was at the top of my list. I learned quickly that it’s a definite must see, and was amazed by the amount of detail and lavishness that a church built 850 years could have. It didn’t hurt that the line into the church moved quickly, so we were able to get in and out before the big throngs of people made it in. From the Notre Dame we followed the Seine in the direction of the Eiffel Tower, stopping at the Louvre. Having a strict no museum policy on this trip (this is strictly self-imposed, not sure if Leer knows about it either,) we bypassed the Louvre and continued down towards the gardens and out to the Place de la Concorde. Gelato in hand, we continued walking towards the Champs Elysees.
We stopped into a few shops on the famed street, but were mostly impressed by the various car dealerships that lined both sides. These were not car dealerships in the American sense, but instead showed off the company’s new concept car or car of the future. I felt like a paid photographer for Car Monthly magazine, the way I was snapping pictures from all angles. So if you’re thinking about buying a Renault in the near future, take it from me you should wait for what they’ve got coming down the line. After our little foray into car culture, we were back on the path towards the Eiffel Tower. Hands down the best place to see the Eiffel Tower is from the Trocadero gardens which are located just across the river. The best part about seeing the tower from this spot is that it’s hidden behind big buildings till you turn the corner and end up getting smacked in the face by its magic. There’s just something about the Eiffel Tower that is so mesmerizing that when you see it up close can’t be described.
The lines were too long to descend the Eiffel Tower the first day so we decided to come back early the next morning to make our way up. Despite my fear of heights I made it up to the second level of the tower, and was even able to take some photos without the crushing weight of fear flooding over me. I had gone up to the second level the first time I was in Paris but spent most of my time trying to keep my knees from buckling. I guess after hiking Park Montujic and Guell, heights were no longer a big issue for me. The views were definitely breathtaking, and aside from Leer not being able to go to the top of the tower, our morning went off without a hitch.
From the Eiffel Tower we took the metro to Pere Lachaise cemetery after having a few people recommend it to us. As someone who enjoys taking pictures in cemeteries, (creepy I know,) I felt right in my element. Like most tourists we were looking to find the only two graves we knew were located here, Jim Morrison’s, and Oscar Wilde’s. Both were located pretty far from the entrance, so we set off trying to find both landmarks, sneaking into tour groups, hoping they would know where to go. With so many ornate graves and mausoleums throughout the cemetery, it was interesting to stumble upon both famous sites. If there had been no gate around Oscar Wilde’s grave we would have never known it was his. There it was however, covered with kisses and notes from admiring fans, some directly on the grave, while others were on the plate glass that now surrounds his resting place. Jim Morrison’s grave was even less conspicuous, but we were able to find that as well by following a group of people that just looked like they were doors fans. Pere Lachaise was definitely one of the more interesting places we visited, and I couldn’t help but think how strange it would be to be buried in a cemetery that is visited by thousands every year.
We decided to end our trip in Paris like any good tourist would, with an evening cruise down the Seine. We had the privilege of sharing the boat with two hundred of our closest Korean and Chinese friends. If there was ever a greater microcosm of the decline of the US and the rise of Asia, this would be it. We also had the pleasure of running to grab a good seat because the moment the guard lifted the gate to get on, the Koreans made a break for it. For a split second I thought I saw my life flash before my eyes with visions of getting trampled on the way to this boat by hundreds of happy Asian children. We also got to meet their adorable tour leader who I managed to snap a few pictures of. This man was all business and wore a white suit, while barking instructions to his tour members. The highlight of the night was watching him round up his entire group, and run up the hill towards the bus. But enough about our friends, let’s talk about the boat cruise. To me, there is no better way to see Paris. We had the whole city illuminated as we slowly made our way down the river and back towards the shimmering Eiffel Tower. It didn’t hurt that I got to listen to the sweet sounds of the German language as well as Korean. This was a tourist boat after all, and no trip is complete without someone narrating in eight different languages.
Having put a nice ending to our time in Paris, we were ready to go to Interlaken, Switzerland. We managed to grab the short end of the straw and ended up with a train that left at six in the morning. Aside from lack of sleep there was only one other problem, the subway didn’t start running till 5:30. Let’s just say someone was looking out for us, because we made it to our train with minutes to spare before it took off. That’s it for now, stay tuned for the highlights of Interlaken.