It has been a dream of mine to visit France and I finally had the opportunity to see it late last year. The country was everything I imagined it to be and more! The people I met, the food and the places I visited were all so great. Travelling on my own was a little daunting but I was ready to explore and see the wide world.
I landed in Paris where my trip in Europe began and my first night was spent walking through the streets of Montmartre near the hostel to get a feel for the area. It was already dark and cold, as I had expected, but I wanted to get out and walk after the long flight. I wasn’t out for long, the lack of sleep eventually caught up so I went back to the hostel to rest and get ready for the next day.
Sacré Coeur was the first place I visited the next day and the climb to the top revealed a view of Paris I didn’t expect. It was breathtaking. It was sometime around 8 o’clock and the sun was just rising above the horizon. Visiting in winter made the days short so getting up early was a good way of making most of the day.
The air was crisp and still. There weren’t a lot of people around yet and so I had the place mostly to myself. It felt magical, almost as if I were in a dream but I really had flown half way across the world to be able to stand there. Even so, the experience was somewhat unbelievable.
I walked around for some time to explore the rest of the area before eventually heading to Gare du Nord station to buy a pass that would let me take the metro as many times as I wanted. The next stop was Paris Notre Dame. Another impressive sight.
The inside was just as beautiful as the outside. There was a long line of tourists waiting their turn to see it, luckily the line moved quickly and after a bag check I found myself staring at the famous stain glass windows and stone statues decorating the iconic building.
It smelled of incense and burning candles. Inside there were nativity scenes and moving models depicting everyday life from some 100 years ago. There was a sombre, spiritual feel to the place and a reverence that belongs only to churches. The crowd moved through the church and I followed the flow, taking in as much as I could, knowing I wasn’t likely going to come back for a while.
I found a boulangerie on a small street in the surrounding area and tried my first croissant and pain au chocolat, the real deal. There’s nothing like trying food in the place that it originated from and my expectations were fulfilled.
The last and most significant of the places I visited that day was the Louvre, which I happened to stumble upon after my wandering around the Latin quarter in Saint-Michel. The moment I realised I was at the Louvre and saw the Eiffel Tower for the first time from Jarden des Tuileries was striking. I was hit with the sudden realisation that I was in Paris and I had travelled there all on my own. I was amazed at the surrounding scenery and also by the fact that I was really there.
Pictures can’t capture the mix of emotions I felt during those moments but they do make for good memories. I only hope I can visit again soon.
Until next time!