Today is a gorgeous day here in Northern New Jersey. Still a bit of a chill in the breeze, but bright sunshine warms the atmosphere. Spring is in full swing for sure, and it is stirring up wonderful memories of a spring weekend I spent somewhere far away.
I had been wanting to visit Paris since my first high school French class. My teacher taught us all about the landmarks of France right along with the conversational jargon of Français, and I knew that someday I was going to see them. If I was lucky enough to go there, to practice the words on my flash cards and see the buildings in my textbook, my teacher told me, remember to seek out a new perspective. To let myself think in French rather than reciting what I had memorized. To get caught up in the tide of a conversation instead of fighting my way back to practiced dialogue. Finally, I am starting to see what she was talking about. She had told me that learning a new language is all about communicating in a new way, but what she let me learn on my own is that travel is all about seeing things in a new way.
The first place I did that in Paris was at the iconic Eiffel Tower. Say what you want about it, but I’m a big fan. A little tidbit I picked up in French class that was confirmed by a few internet sources: writer Guy de Maupassant hated the Eiffel Tower so much that he supposedly ate lunch in its restaurant every single day because it was the only place in the city where you couldn’t see the tower. While I find the tower rather interesting to look at, Guy might have been on to something. The views from it are spectacular. I have always loved the look of a city from high above, and that’s exactly how we started our time touring Paris. The skies were gray, but our spirits were high. And we felt like we were on the top of the world.
Later on, we wanted to visit the famous Louvre. According to Let’s Go, a budget guidebook my sister had given me, entry into the Louvre is free for anyone under the age of 26 on all Friday evenings after 6pm. We definitely fit the bill, so we took advantage of the offer. I took dozens of photos around the Louvre, from the glass pyramids in the courtyard to the priceless art inside. I framed these photos so carefully, making sure I had perfect focus and the perfect angle. Funny how my favorite photo of the Louvre from this trip is one that I snapped haphazardly while stopping for barely two seconds to peek out a window.
On our second day, we slept a bit late. It may have had something to do with a riveting poker game going on at our hostel’s bar. At any rate, we headed off to Notre Dame as quickly as we could. I was so looking forward to meeting the gargoyles and seeing the city from another new up high perspective, but our late start meant that the line to go up to the bell towers was incredibly long. My companions were not willing to wait or pay the entrance fee and preferred to join a free walking tour that was leaving from our hostel. I was the minority, so I conceded. Initially this was disappointing, but the tour actually turned out to be pretty okay. Our guide was friendly and enthusiastic as he walked us around the city to see all different landmarks while giving their histories and legends. I imagine that if we’d had a week to spend in Paris, this tour would have been a perfect first day activity to give us the lay of the land. As it were, this was the afternoon of our second and final full day, and we were spending it walking around looking at thing we had already seen. I made the best of it in a way that my French teacher would be proud of- by trying to see them differently. I made sure I took photos from different angles and stopped worrying about trying to get the perfect one. Instead I decided that every photo I took was perfect in some way, because it represented a point of view I’d had for at least that one moment.
My very wise and wonderful French teacher always told us something else about Paris too. She said you should visit three times- once when you are young, once when you are in love, and once when you have money. This trip clearly checked the first box, and when Chris and I visited together in 2013 we took care of the second box. We’ll have to make sure to return when we win the lottery!