Today was another long day, despite visiting fewer places. I feel like I’ve travelled just as much as yesterday, mainly because the places I went were spread out. It wasn’t another early morning today, having only gone to bed about 3.30. I had set my alarm for 7.30, thinking I might manage on four hours’ sleep. I didn’t end up getting up for it, so I got out of bed at 9 o’clock instead. A lovely lie-in though it was, I had to be up and out pretty quickly if I wanted to get stuff done today.
I started off with the Arc de Triomphe, since it was pretty easy to get to. The thing about the Paris monuments is that it’s not like climbing a mountain and getting a full shot of the beautiful view. You come out of the Métro station or look up coming down the path, and it’s there before you expect it. I don’t know if it’s because the monuments are so well known that I kind of already know what they look like, but I feel they seem to blend into their surroundings when you’re at ground level, then you get up close and it’s real. Anyway, I took a few photos before I got in people’s way and went on the hunt for some breakfast. Any student who’s done an all-nighter knows that the best place to get breakfast nice and quick without breaking the bank is McDonalds. So after a lovely cup of Darjeeling tea (not what I ordered), a croissant (also not what I ordered) and a ‘Croque McDo’ (kind of what I ordered, except it seemed to be back to front. You get what you pay for, I suppose), I went outside to snap a few more photos and had a quick look in a souvenir stand. I came out with the epitome of stereotypical French culture: a black beret. I’m probably never going to wear it, but I just had to buy one.
Once I had seen my fill of the Arc de Triomphe, I went down yet another set of stairs to take the Metro to go to the Jardin des Plantes. Upon checking my maps, I noticed that the Grande Mosquée de Paris is directly opposite. I had heard of the Grande Mosquée, so I thought it might be nice to see on my way. While I didn’t go inside, I did see the outside structure, with the beautiful Middle-Eastern-styling on the roof and the shaped doors and windows. I never ended up spending much time in the Jardin des Plantes, as I didn’t want a repeat of the Louvre. After only five minutes within the walls, I decided to move on. As it so happened, the Notre-Dame was quite close by. Too far to walk, I took the train a few stops to get closer. I popped into a local U-Express to pick up a baguette and some ham for my lunch. Making use of the Ofo bikes again, I cycled along the river to the cathedral. I walked up to the square in front with a small tub of overpriced ice cream in hand and took a seat. While I didn’t go inside, it was fun watching tourists stand on benches and take pictures of each other in front of the cathedral.
On the subject of tourists, you can spot them a mile off in a city like Paris. Parisians, from what I’ve seen, tend to dress quite trendy, only carry a small-ish bag with them, and walk like they know where they’re going. Tourists, on the other hand, tend to dress either for a heatwave, or a hike in the mountains. If it’s not balding dads with their massive backpacks and cargo shorts, it’s people in t-shirts and hats emblazoned with the words ‘Paris’ ‘Eiffel Tower’ ‘J’adore Paris’ and a huge DLSR camera hanging from their neck. While I’m all for dressing comfortably, if you want to avoid pickpockets, fake ticket sellers and people saying ‘Do you speak English? Yes? Please sign here to donate for…’. When visiting tourist hotspots, try to not look like a tourist, and always stay vigilant.
Following my observations at the Notre-Dame, I headed off to my next monument: The Montparnasse Tower. The thing about visiting the main attraction in Paris, the Eiffel Tower, is when you’re up there, you can’t see it. Take a picture of the city, and it could be anywhere in France. That’s where the Montparnasse Tower comes in. It’s just shorter than the Eiffel Tower, but you can take a proper photo of the latter in all it’s glory. You can even go to the roof for a full 360-degree panoramic view of the city.
By this point, I hadn’t really done any shopping, and that’s one of the things Paris is known for! I knew that the Champs-Élysées was a good place to have a look round, so I went in and out of a few shops, never buying anything. Whether it was because it was on the Champs-Élysées or simply because they like charging prices off the scale, but one shop had a pair of trousers for €25, a hat for €12.75, and a weird sock/shoe combination for just over €50. While this might not seem much to those who have money, it seemed like a small fortune to me. So, I gave up and headed back home to rest my weary ankles.
When I got back to the front door, I noticed that there were voices. Meaning someone was home. Up to this point, I had only met my host’s boyfriend the once, then it seemed I had the place to myself. I had been wondering when I was going to see my hosts again. When we finally met, she made sure that everything was okay for me. Which it was, of course.
For my last night in Paris, I didn’t feel like sitting alone in a restaurant. So instead, I went back to the Eiffel Tower, knowing full well it would be full of people. I was right: there was a row of restaurants and bars along the riverside and a lot of tourists and Parisians galore. In one of the bars, there was a jazz band playing some catchy music up on a stage, and a large group of people swing-dancing. It’s a shame I’ve been alone, otherwise I could have joined in. Oh well, there’s always another time!
Well, that’s the end of posting for today! Tomorrow’s my last day in Paris, so I’ll be blogging from home in the evening. À demain!