I was pretty proud of the speed with which I picked up the Paris metro system. It reminded me of New York’s Subway (though slightly more sophisticated). So It wasn’t long after we arrived and settled in that we were ready to head out and “see” some of Paris. The Eiffel Tower was part of my giant super organized and well planned week in the city.
We got on and transferred from one line to the next with ease, working our way from the 14e arrondissement North towards the more tourist driven city centre. It was while standing up on the metro that I was surprised when it went above ground and natural light began to shine through the windows. Then I saw some water. I was shocked, but quickly realized we were crossing the Seine! While looking out at the river as we crossed, I noticed a subsection of metal. I turned to Ray to comment on what appeared to be “serious construction happening.” No sooner that I make my comment that I realized that what I thought was construction, was really the base of the Eiffel Tower. I quickly crouched down so that I could try and see the whole thing as once out the window. It was for only a second before the metro dove back underground and I was left shell shocked. Following this brief pause, I had a series of internal monologues, interupted by moments of laughing at myself and complete shock as I realized that I was IN Paris. I wasn’t prepared for this. Then again, no amount of research can truly replace the experience of seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time.
When exiting the metro, we headed towards the Trocadero. It was here that I was able to warm up my camera with an obscene number of shots, followed by warming my belly with my first French Crepe. We sat in the grass and watched the fountains play while watching the peddler’s try to sell the tourists Eiffel Tower keychains, water and beer. There was a family from Indiana who were rocking socks with sandals next to us, another family from South Carolina (and 7 children) who turned the stone of the Trocadero into a slide, and a couple to my right who I’m pretty sure were on their honeymoon. As the sun slowly began to disappear, the heat gave way just enough and a slight breeze allowed me to move freely and enjoy the smell of summer. It may have been possible for me to sit in this place for hours watching the cross-section of the world that were buzzing around. Had it not been for my desire to take more photos.
So we wandered closer to the tower. Then under it and around it. Simultaneously the sun set, the rain began and the tower lit up and sparkled. I didn’t see it happen. I turned myself to protect my camera from the rain, spoke a few words to Ray and by the time I turned back little blue lights were twinkling and everyone just stopped. Not literally stopped I’m sure, but it felt like a stop given the general rate of movement around us compared to the buzz of excitement moments before. The Champs de Mars cleared as observers didn’t love the increasing rain, but those of us from Vancouver had no quams about standing out in the rain. Especially when it was still 25 degrees out. My camera had to be put away though – but I had a reasonable number of photos, so I had no reason to complain.
Realizing that the lines were too long for us to get tickets, and more importantly, that I was too tired to enjoy it as I’d like, we headed back to our “home” away from home for the week. By this point Ray needed to be fed, so we settled on a little Italian place right around the corner from the hotel. Though it was almost 11:00pm, there were still 3 cafes open on the same corner, with many patrons enjoying food and drinks. The owner of the Italian place was hilarious, joking with me and Ray all meal long. His humour and good nature put me at ease – which was necessary in light of the fact that I was feeling very overwhelmed by this beautiful, enchanting and unknown city. It seemed no matter how much I read about Paris and how hard I tried to prepare to take the city by storm, the city was going to swallow me up instead. And so over the most exquisite bowl of chocolate mousse imaginable, I decided to let Paris have the power. We threw out the plans and the itinerary and and decided to let Paris have its way with us. Come what may.