Charlotte, Haylee and I were on an escalator heading up and out of a Metro station. We’d arrived in Paris the night before and were spending the next couple days exploring. Our first stop was the Arc de Triomphe. As we came to the top of the escalator I basically screamed in delight. There it was. This glorious arc in the middle of a roundabout that I’d been dreaming of seeing since my teens. Then I nearly shit my pants because there were two clowns waiting at the top of the escalator trying to get their pictures taken with tourists.
In case you haven’t met me, hi, my name is Rachael Bowser and I’m terrified of clowns.
Haylee and Charlotte walked right passed the clowns while I cut a wide circle around them and did my best to ignore the demented circus beings. I wasn’t about to let my irrational fear of freaky painted party poopers ruin my childhood dream of seeing Paris and loving every second of it.
If I had been alone I probably would have cried seeing the Arc de Triomphe. Except I wasn’t alone, so I looked at this giant monument with absolute awe. I’d started reading about this monument and looking at pictures before I hit puberty and finally being able to actually see it was a dream come true for me. It was a lot bigger than I imagined. It looks huge in the pictures I saw of it, but I didn’t fully realize exactly how big it was until I was standing across the roundabout from it. It’s 50 metres tall. Now, I’ve sprinted 50 metres before so in my mind, the monument couldn’t be as large as the pictures led me to believe.
Well it is and it’s awesome.
The Arc sits in the middle of a roundabout that branches off in a sun shape to other parts of Paris. Haylee, Charlotte and I decided to walk around it and naturally I spent a good 5 minutes trying to convince them that we should play in traffic to try and get across to the Arc. We could have taken the underground tunnels and paid to see it, but we decided to go for a walk instead. I still think we should have made like that arcade game “Frogger” and tried to cross the very busy street.
Simply seeing the Arc was enough to make my week and leave me content with my travels abroad.
Except we went to the Eiffel Tower next. If you thought I was excited for the Arc de Triomphe, I nearly peed myself several times on the way to the Eiffel Tower. The moment I saw it appear on the skyline my heart started to race. I felt breathless. Then I took a picture of my lawn gnome, Charles Gnomewin, with it. Once again, a childhood dream was coming true for me. I can remember being in my grade 12 French class and working on an assignment where we had to plan a weekend trip to Paris. One of the things that I had planned to do on that trip was take the stairs up the Eiffel Tower.
AND I DID IT!
There are 669 stairs up to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower (the highest that you can take the stairs) and at first I was a little daunted by the task. While my fitness levels have slowly climbed since moving to Wales, I didn’t think I was anywhere near in shape enough to make the 669 step climb to the second floor. Then Haylee and I bought our tickets and started to go up. And up. And up. And up. On the way up we saw a lady carrying a baby up the stairs. Then we saw another lady going up in HIGH HEELS, of all things. We made it all the way up to the second floor and the view was amazing. Paris is beautiful from the ground, but from that height, it is absolutely amazing.
My thighs were shaking by the time Haylee and I finally made our way down off the Tower and our day wasn’t even half over yet. Soon we were on a train to go see Notre Dame. Unfortunately the line to go in was really long, but simply seeing the outside structure left me in awe. The thing that blows my mind away about something like Notre Dame is that it existed before my country was even a country. It’s been standing while new worlds were discovered and history happened around it. Just the idea of a structure being that old is mind boggling for me. I can barely build a Lego house that will stay standing, so the idea of that this building has survived hundreds of years completely blows me away.
After Notre Dame we spent the day seeing the bridges with love locks attached to them. The idea is that couples put a lock on the bridge together to symbolize their eternal love. There are literally hundreds of locks attached to these bridges. The lock bridges were a stopping point on our way to the Louvre. There were actually a few stopping points on the Louvre because we got a tad lost. Well, not really lost, but we were a little turned around and only vaguely had an idea of where we were going.
I wound up being able to stand in the Seine River and we discovered these awesome green box thingies that merchants sold their books and other shenanigans out of. I could have spent hours at these box thingies looking at all of the books while trying to pick out one or two that I wanted to drag back home to Canada. Haylee knows me well though and kept me moving on our way to the Louvre.
This is where I had the chance to use my very limited French knowledge and talk to one of the merchants.
Me (Speaking French): Excuse me, sir? Where is the Louvre?
Him (Also speaking French): Straight that way.
Me (Still speaking French): Thank you very much! Have a good night!
Sadly the Louvre is closed on Tuesday’s (the day we were there) and we weren’t able to go in. However, we were able to explore the outside courtyards and they were astounding. Even though I didn’t get to go in, I was still giddy at actually having found the Louvre and seen it. The day had been filled with doing all of the things that I’d been dreaming about doing since childhood and I couldn’t have wished for a better day. My only complaint is that not peeing myself in glee left me with a full bladder and we wound up having to hustle back to our hostel at the end of the day so I could go.
Our second day in Paris found Haylee, Charlotte and I leaving our hostel and walking to the Sacre Coeur Cathedral. There are no words in my vocabulary that will let me accurately describe the inside of this place. Talking about the beauty of it would be an understatement. I felt overwhelmed in the most peaceful of ways as soon as we walked in. That sounds weird and silly, but there is literally no way for me to describe what I saw. Even though I hadn’t been overly excited to see the cathedral like I was to see the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur was my favourite stop on our travels through Paris.
Which is saying something considering the fact that the three of us went to see the Moulin Rouge (only the outside because there were crazy long lines and it was kind of late when we went there) and I saw all of the sex shops, strip clubs and all kinds of shops dedicated to the type of debauchery and shenaniganery that I adore. I loved this street and I wish I had had more time to explore it. This was another place I could have spent hours going in and out of shops. In fact, the next time I am in Paris I full intend on going to the Erotic Museum and spending more time in Sacre Coeur.
That night Charlotte left us to go back to the UK and Haylee and I had a relaxing night in our hostel eating baguettes and pain au chocolat to round off our Paris experience. I decided to shower that night as well, but instead of paying to rent towels I used one of my bed sheets and a t-shirt as towels. Haylee howled in laughter when I walked into our room and she saw me with a bright yellow t-shirt wrapped around my head.
Whatever, I was clean and the shirt was doing a fab job as a towel.
After two full and amazing days and Paris, I’d realized a lifetime of dreams, but my travels with Haylee weren’t over yet. Even though I was beyond giddy and thankful for the experiences I’d had in Paris, we still had to go and explore Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and London.