an american in Paris.....

Paris Travel Blog

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steps leading to sacre couer
This is the first chapter in the story of my solo trek to Europe in fall, 2006:

Having closed my front door and loaded my bags into Rob's truck, I slid into the passenger seat full of anxious tension. I was headed to the airport, about to fly to Paris, France and I didn't even know where I was going to stay or where I was going to go. I had ideas of places I wanted to visit, one definite destination, but no real plan. And I had to deal with the immediacy of my upcoming flight, and I hate to fly. One of the great ironies of my life, considering I love to travel. It's just the flying there I wish I could skip. But anyway, it's a means to an end, and I was on my way to Paris and some as yet unknown adventures.
eiffel tower...duh (dunno who the random chick is though)


So Rob dropped me off at curbside, I made it on the plane, and approximately 10 hours later I was walking through the terminals at Charles de Gaulle. I caught a shuttle bus to the center of Paris, conjuring up my long lost college french skills. Dropped off at the Arc de Triomphe with my daypack on my shoulders and my rolling backpack skating behind me, I marveled at my location. Holy shit - I was in Paris! I made my way to the Arc and took it in, all the while aware that maybe I should save the sightseeing for later and use the morning for finding a bed to sleep in later on. But in hindsight, I'm glad I took the time to really look at the Arc, since I never did find my way back there.

So from there, I attempted to find my way to a metro stop.
inside the pyramid
With help from a couple of American college kids, I soon found myself on the Paris metro, hurtling towards the area called Montemarte. I still didn't know where I was going to stay, but my Rough Guide to europe listed a couple cheap places in Montemarte, and besides - the movie Amelie was filmed there, so it couldn't be half bad, could it?

Deposited into the streets of Montemarte, I passed the actual Moulin Rouge and various tawdry sex shops and finally arrived in a quaint, very stereotypically french neighborhood. Narrow streets, cobbled sidewalks, flower pots outside many windows, and dogs everywhere. Little bistros with sidewalk seating, wine and cheese shops on every corner. The smell of bread rising up each time I passed one of the many bakeries lining the streets.
the louvre
People everywhere dressed in that unmistakable french way, with this unaffected cool and the ubiquitous scarf knotted around the neck.

After stopping in various hotels listed in my guide book and being disappointed with the prices, I chanced upon a hostel that had a patio view of the Sacre Couer. A done deal. So I left my bags and proceeded to explore my new home base for the next couple of days. I wandered the streets of Montemarte, picking up pastries and coffee in a shop, soaking in the ambience. I wound my way up the steep hill leading to Sacre Couer, admiring the view of all of Paris from the top. Apparently the steps leading to Sacre Coeur are a bit of a hang out for both tourists and locals alike - throngs of people lined the steps, eating, drinking, taking pictures.
grounds of the louvre
It was a very festive atmosphere, and it made me feel just really glad that I was there. Disappointingly, the streets up the hill past Sacre Couer apparently were the tourist areas. I found myself in this mass of tourists, buying miniature eiffel towers and sitting at inauthentic parisian cafes, drinking overpriced coffee. I quickly left that area and followed the streets as they continued their steep downward slopes to the seemingly more "real" Paris of where I was staying.

After heading back to the hostel and moving my bags to my room that I would be sharing with 6 strangers, I decided to head out into the night alone and see what the area was all about after dark. Turns out that my little neighborhood was very happening once the sun set - dozens of cafes and bars bustled with light, music, laughter, and wine. People spilled onto the streets, rosy and loud from drink. Since I hadn't really met anyone yet on this trip, I decided to suck it up and claim an outside table of my own at this little cafe across the street from this lively bar with a small band playing, windows and doors open to the evening air. I had my first glass of bordeaux in France, along with the first of many pain au fromage (bread with cheese). Sitting alone, I felt a little conspicuous, but I forced myself to stay and soak up the surroundings. When would I find myself in this exact moment again?

Once back at the hostel, I found the place had also become a more livelier version of itself. People were everywhere, eating and drinking. As I made my way back to my room, I passed 3 people sitting outside on the patio, drinking wine and taking pictures. I asked if they wanted me to take a picture of them together, and they in turn invited me to sit down and share a glass. So I did. Several hours later, I had acquired 3 new friends from Slovakia, Turkey, and Japan. They had just spent a month in the French countryside restoring some old chateau, and were now winding down their trip with a stay in Paris. We made arrangements to meet in the morning for breakfast before going our seperate ways. After meeting a few of my 6 roommates for the the next couple of days, I fell asleep thinking how great hostels are, how easy it is to meet fellow travelers from all over the world, and how it was sometimes beneficial to travel by yourself. I have traveled a lot with boyfriends or friends, but have never met so many people as when I've traveled by myself. As I drifted off, I thought to myself that this was the beginning of some unwritten adventure; I still didn't know what other countries I was going to see or how I was going to get there, but I knew this was the start to what would turn out to be an amazing 2 weeks.

To be continued...



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steps leading to sacre couer
steps leading to sacre couer
eiffel tower...duh (dunno who the …
eiffel tower...duh (dunno who the…
inside the pyramid
inside the pyramid
the louvre
the louvre
grounds of the louvre
grounds of the louvre
Paris
photo by: Sweetski