Our trip to Paris began in St. Pancras station. We boarded the Eurostar train and sped away from London. In barely an hour we were already underwater.
The train passed through the ‘Channel-Tunnel’ and we arrived to the beautiful fields of northern France. The green fields flew by at 300km/h and dad told me about the battles of World War 1.
We arrived in Paris’ Gare du Nord a mere two and a half hours from when we left London. After disembarking the train and walking through the huge station, I was suddenly shocked. The stench of urine, cigarette smoke, graffiti and homelessness all surprised me.
I quickly realised how densely inhabited the city really was. Greater Paris has long been the largest city in Europe, yet the city proper is remarkably small. I like big cities, but the concrete, noise and mass of humanity
We walked towards the Montmartre district (Arrondissement) and around northern Paris before arriving at our hotel. I was once again surprised by the smells, the noise and the graffiti. I felt slightly sad because it is a city I want to love – I lived here when I was two!
After dropping off our bags at our so-called 4-star hotel we walked closer to the centre of the city and closer to the touristic attractions. We strolled our way down and out of Montmartre towards Opera – Paris became cleaner and more beautiful. We continued our walk, trying to squeeze in some of the highlights of Paris. We walked to Madeline, Place de la Concorde, Les Champs Elysees, L’arc de Triomphe and finally an amazing view of the Eiffel Tower from Trocadero.
The river Seine was a highlight. The many bakeries, cafes and impressive colonial buildings did make me feel as though I really was in Paris. We also detoured to the canal (10th District) to see the apartment where I had lived 10 years before. The baguette sandwich from our old ‘boulangerie’ was delicious!
From Opera to the Champs Elysees was significantly cleaner and more beautiful. We walked in beautiful sunlight around the monuments. I also treated my self to a French crepe (sugar and lemon)! I remained surprised by the amount of homelessness and the noise, even in the more posh areas.
The other thing that bothered me was the fact that EVERYONE SMOKED (or at least it seemed that way). I was very unhappy with the smell of tobacco and the number of cigarette butts on the ground. This was definitely a drawback from the restaurant experience as well, considering that many people smoked while eating or drinking outside.
Once the day fell and the evening began, we met up with my father’s cousin Isabel and enjoyed an excellent French meal. I enjoyed a steak with potatoes in a southwestern French style. My father and cousin both had duck confit, a very classic French dish. For dessert, we shared a Crème Brule and a Coeur Coulant (lava cake). Both were delicious. I must say, I do enjoy French cuisine.
After dinner, we wandered around the city for a while before finding a lovely café. Paris was much nicer at night. The lights around us were beautiful and the overall atmosphere of the city changed. I do very much understand why it is nicknamed the “City of Lights”.
Overall, my trip to Paris was an intense, fun and interesting experience. I was glad to have seen it again and to also have a more educated standpoint on the city. The capital definitely had its lows but it also has its highs – there is something called ‘Paris Syndrome’ (common among Japanese visitors) – it would seem some people are shocked by Paris as it actually is! 🙂
Nevertheless, I am so glad and honoured that I returned to Paris, even for a night.