Updated: Nov 4
PARIS! My third international city of the year, and one of the most divisive locations I've ever visited. A simple read of this article will introduce you to the unwelcome torment and (yet) solemn charm Paris had to offer me as a solo traveler.
The city of love was hardly on my list of locations to visit before 2019. Well, I say that, but when I was in a relationship, ofcourse my girlfriend wanted to visit Paris as a couple. It's cliché, and the pressure of her expecting a succesfully romantic holiday put me off, with me knowing how Paris has a false reputation (depending on where you read). She was into expected romance, whereas I was into the adventure. Walking anywhere, random finds and interesting stories to tell have always been my goal. Paris delivered. Oh, it delivered.
After jumping on the RoissyBus (from Charles De Gaulle Airport), it was a short journey to the 1st Arrondissement of Paris, where the Louvre Museum is located, and I was free to roam anywhere I wanted. At this point, I practically enter "photo mode" immediately after arriving at these international locations, no matter how tired and hungry I am. Time can't be wasted and I have to make the most of every minute I get on these adventures. I mean, 60% of the reason is because I'm bloody cheap and don't plan to stay in different countries too long, while the remaining 40% is a beautiful excuse to witness as much of every location as possible, even if it has the potential to be utter shit. The Tuileries Garden is (however) not shit, and actually admittedly divine.
I was about 20 minutes into my time in Paris here and I just happened to wonder into the gardens, not really knowing what to expect. In fact, I didn't know a whole lot about Paris, since my only regrettable knowledge of Paris is from whatever I learned/ explored in Assassin's Creed: Unity. Ah yes, yet another adventure influenced by an Assassin's Creed game. I promise, there's not too many more to go. The gardens are seriously lackluster in the game compared to reality, since I spent a decent amount of time walking around here, enjoying the blissful sun and elated atmosphere felt around me. Such aura I am not used to in Britain. Art students studying each speckless marble statue to see, tourists basking in the sunlight who sat in the free chairs circling the octagonal (and disc) shaped basins, and everlasting queues to the famous Louvre Museum.
Straight after a walk around the gardens, my mission to reach my hotel had begun. I was very tempted to hire a cycle tuk-tuk thingy, but the woman I saw riding one did NOT look too happy. I'm awkward enough as it is, and chose to follow my initial desire to walk to most places, which also included my hotel. The metro would have made things too easy on the first day, so I walked from the gardens to the south of the tourist entrance to the Catacombs, pretty much the south side of Paris. A near 2 hour walk, but it was definitely worth it to soak in atmosphere of Paris. On my walk, I'd see an array of different people, from typical tourists, stylishly dressed individuals, energetic YouTubers, quaint elderlies, erratic delivery men, and a few women who actually smiled at me walking by! Some great first impressions of the city, if I must say.
I wish I did take pictures of this first hotel I stayed in, since it is the most unique I've had the pleasure to stay at. The Villa Royale Montsouris is a Moroccan themed hotel to the south of the city centre and is thankfully located near some choice metro stations, a helpful Lidl and the Catacombs themselves. However, the Catacombs would have to wait until a different day. The first day was near it's end and all I wanted to do was pig out on snacks, watch the classic Planet of the Apes film and get some shut eye. So I did! :D
Here are some pictures of the place, taken from Booking.com.
After waking up to the tender French sunlight on my face, as I slept in the sweet Moroccan themed bed, with curtains as colourfully varied as the mosaic patterned walls the en suite bathroom offered, I decided to leave earlier than scheduled to figure out how the metro worked, since I was a nervous wreck about using it for the first time. Turns out, it was really easy, and I was able to arrive to my guided tour of the Eiffel Tower on time. Little did I know, this 'tour' would lead to dissapointment. It was not advertised anywhere the summit to the tower was closed. The tour itself didn't advertise it and nowhere in Paris was it advertised. One reason I eventually found out was possibly due to COVID-19 and the lack of self distancing up there, but that mad eno sense, since I was allowed access to the other floors and they had no social distancing of any sort. The other reason was down to the refurbishing of the city in preparation for the upcoming 2024 summer Olympics. The tower was being painted during my visit after all.
The views of the city from the second floor of the tower are awesome. Simply awesome. On a sunny day, the lush, green trees really contrast elegantly with the pure, aqua blue water of the River Seine. That all gets thrown down the gutter when you walk to the other side of the tower. Specifically the side facing away from the river, since the photo above displays a less colourful representation of the city. While the Champ De Mars looks attractive in size, the grey buildings surrounding it ruin the taste of possible beauty. On the other hand, I was able to watch a free football game!
Statues Of Liberty
I always knew there was a version of the original Statue Of Liberty hidden somewhere in Paris, but I never knew there was one THIS big! I mean, it's nowhere near as big as the one in New York, but I was expecting to see a much smaller statue. On the other hand, I'd see the much smaller statue the next day (little did I know).
Originally, the reason I wanted to stroll over to L'île aux Cygnes was to admire the Inception filming location and the island itself, which in itself is a park that leads to an outdoor gym and the statue itself. The view of the River Seine was also amazing. The crystal sheen of the river allows Paris to look magnificent from a lower angle.
Another version can be found in the Luxembourg Gardens, much further away. This one is less impressive, yet somewhat feels more illusively special. It's hidden a bit and seems to garner more respect from the locals. I saw students studying it and tour guides hovering around it. There seemed to be more interest in this smaller statue, in comparison to the giant one. W- What a bunch of weirdos. I prefer the giant one.
A Peaceful Walk Along The River Seine
At this point, my confidence was pretty high. I was really enjoying Paris! I wanted to walk alongside the famous river for a bit while the sun was right above me. Honestly, the weather was absolutely perfect that day, and I didn't want to get distracted by my camera, so I turned off my addiction to photography (temporarily) to enjoy the upbeat atmosphere around the lively waterfront. A satisfying 30 minute walk was all I needed to take it all in. Plus, I bought myself a much needed ice-cold Coca-Cola from a nearby stall. Life was bliss in that half hour.
However, I still had to pick my next destination, which I kinda desired it to be another place to fuel my dopamine. The search was on!
A Peaceful Sunday!
... Until The Lightning Arrived.
Okay, so this day was more about the outer circle of Paris itself to see what was around. I didn't plan anything for this day, since a bit of danger is always fun. Y'know, who would say no to following in the same philosophy of the ol' Bald And Bankrupt's Benjamin? Turns out, this was definitely a day of pure excitement... and unfiltered misery. I thought the temporary closure of the Eiffel Tower's summit was disappointing, but I had no idea what today had for me.
Montmatre Sacré-Cœur Basilica
Otherwise known as "The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris", this domed church is found atop a fairly steep, and curvy, hill. A simple metro line took me to a stop just outside the Moulin Rouge Theatre, to which I chose to visit properly later.
Walking up to the church was blissful. At this point I was learning how peaceful and quiet mornings can be in various parts of the French city. This area, the 18th Arrondisement of Paris, was particularly peaceful to stroll through. Admiring the street art was a part of the charm of this district, adding to the positive vibes which kept me motivated to reaching the top, where the church was. I felt like I was playing a game like Skyrim; seeing a distant destination and figuring out how the heck I get there.
As expected, the inside to the church is magnifficent. Of course it is, every single church I've visited this year has been incredible, and this one will always be memorable to me for being placed on a giant hill, offering some unique views of Paris.
What I found incredible was the poorly advertised panoramic view available to see from the top of the church (for a small fee). Honestly, the only reason I knew about this was because a random sign was in the corner of my vision when I was leaving. My senses were keen to me this day! In fact, I'm rather happy it was poorly advertised (and hidden), since that menat it was less likely to get busy up top.
With an impressive 360 degree view, the top of the church is (in my opinion) THE best place to get almost perfect views of Paris. Why is it so good? Well, dear friend/ dear comrade/ dear brother/ dear sister/ sweet prince *COUGH*... You can see the bloody Eiffel Tower from this view! Y'see, that's the issue with those fools who paid to visit the summit of the famous tower, since they would have been unable to see the main attraction of Paris from above it. Pfft, bunch of orcs. My innitiative brought me to salvation this day, and the church redeemed the adventure. Everything was coming up Milhouse and I was on a high. I even spent some time with a lovely Portuguese girl up there and captured a cool picture of the water tower, among many more views of the city. I think she wanted to hang out with me, but alas, adventure awaited me. Y'know, the common excuse if you've read my other stuff.
As much as I dislike the overall colouring of the city, I have to admit I rather admire the look of the buildings more from a closer perspective. Thanks to my super cool camera, I was able to zoom closer to spectate the city better. Oh, how I remember watching Ally Law's parkour video when he visited Paris, and how I'd play Assassin's Creed: Unity (performing the same criminally fun acts). I mean, just look at how every rooftop looks like a path. I love it. Paris definitely looks unique in that aspect, at least. I was spying on the guy in the blue jacket for a while. He looked shady, and was passing items to the gentlement to his left, as if he thought he was invisible in doing so. HA. I saw you, buddy. Drugs, lol.
Place du Tertre
Nearby was a lovely, charming and bustling square full of talented artists and lively buskers. It was so busy here, I couldn't get many good shots. Cafés surrounded the area like the Amazonians guarding the Mother Box.
Paris Duck Store
When I was first walking up to the church, I walked by this shop and wanted to enter, but it was too early, and wasn't open. So I vowed to return on the way back down.
When inside, I spent some time looking aorund. I was determined to find the right duck for me. A spanish family was being served. They had a lot of ducks. A lot. It was adding up to €200 maybe, and the cashier made a mistake with the transaction. 45 minutes I waited to buy my duck. I just wanted my duck. It was only a smaller keyring duck, but I wanted it. I could have walked out, and the only 2 staff members there wouldn't have even noticed, since they were so focussed on fixing their mistakes with the SPanish family. The weird thing is, the cashier was very British, the manager sounded Italian and I just felt so awkward witness such conflict in accents. They couldn't understand each other for the whole time.
Eventually, I was granted my time to purchase the duck. "Would you like a receipt?" the cashier asked. "Yes" I responded reluctantly. When I left, I was fumbling about for a pocket to shove the recepit into, after observing it to see if the price was correct. If she was smooth with the Spanish family, I'd have never bothered with the receipt. During my fumbling, I opened the camera bag, to find a pocket, and my precious, luxorious camer dropped to the concrete pavement, smashing into pieces. It was brash, it was sudden and one thing was for sure... I was pissed.
A group of girls witnessed this tragedy and were so kind to help me pick everything up, but I was so emotional inside, I couldn't respond to them with words. I just kept mumbling swear words. They definitely sensed I was beyond pissed, and yet were so willing to help. Why did I let my anger take over? To this day, almost every day, I still regret just walking away in a mood. Yes, I just destroyed the main instrument to perform my mission of taking photos of Paris. My reason for adventure was shattered, just like me soul at that point. Well earned money was down the drain, and I wouldn't have been able to accomplish what I visited Paris for without my camera. My schedule was quickly disintegrating.
I quickly walked away, visibly full of anger, and found a bench to sit on, with the hope to fix my camera there and then. I'm a tech wiz, I thought it'd be worth a go. The lense wasn't damaged, thankfully, but the cap was broken away, and the barrel was dented. Other cosmetic pieces were missing, making the destruction look more devastating than it actually was. Now, I was able to turn the camera on still... But only for a few seconds, before the screen would show LSD inspired colours and it'd shut down again. At this point, I just wanted to go back to the hotel and cry. The elderly saxaphone playing busker opposite me wasn't helping when we made eye contact. So what did I actually do next? I didn't go back to cry. Instead, I just got on with the day and used my phone for the remaining photos. The quality is still good, but using the battery up meant I'd have less time to venture to places, as I'd need it for Google Maps too. My mission wasn't over.
The Journey To Prairie du Cercle Nord
Thank the Lord I decided not to be a snot-squirting baby man. The point of me beginning these adventures was to grow as a person. In the past, I'd have given up easily. I wouldn't have cried, but I'd have acted too emotionally and not thought about the bigger picture. I'm in a different country, and every interesting story has an Empire Strikes Back themed middle act to it in order to make it interesting in the first place.
Anyway, the reason I'm thanking the Lord is because I encounted so many awesome locations on my journey. I'd encounter amazingly charming local galleries, quirky looking restaurants, fantastic street art and... more embarressment :)
The Wall Of Love
The words "I Love You" written in different languages all over this large, outdoor wall. Very popular with couples (for some strange reason).