The French capital has had a tough year but I can confirm that its shine has not been dulled by hatred and its landmarks are more beautiful than ever. I spent 4 days hanging out in the centre of Paris with some awesome people and I’ve written all about it here…
Sadly, my flight to Paris was almost empty, I was receiving text messages from friends updating me about threats in the area and tourist hotspots were nowhere near as they should have been for a pre-Christmas weekend.
I arrived exactly 2 weeks after the November terror attacks occurred, which also happened to be the weekend of the World Climate Meeting. Leaders from across the globe, including Obama and Cameron were in Paris to discuss how to prevent climate change, so of course the terror threat was high and security levels were through the roof. There was a total ban on protests or gatherings and because protestors couldn’t physically be present, they decided to leave their shoes in Republique square as a symbol of solidarity. It was an amazing sight, and re-affirmed that united we are stronger.
It sounds crazy, though, but I felt safer in Paris than ever – airport regulations were twice as strict, there were soldiers on every corner of every street, my bag was searched and I was frisked whenever I entered a major building, public transport was free of charge all weekend because the roads were closed and so it was heavily patrolled. It’s horrible that these sorts of measures have to be taken – we certainly shouldn’t have to live in such fear – but at the same time, it put my mind at ease to know there was so much protection.
Honestly, if you want to support Paris then, please, go ahead and visit and if you want to say ‘fuck you’ to terrorism then don’t let the fear stop you from living your life. If only there was a way to avoid hatred and discrimination, to stop my own country from retaliating with air strikes, to wake up in the morning and read the news with no mention of terror or injustice anywhere in the world… but sadly, there isn’t. I could write forever about this topic, it makes me deeply sad for the human race and I just can’t get my head around why some people do what they do but then I remind myself that there IS more hope than fear and that there IS more love than hate. That’s the reason why I decided to stick to my trip plans even after the attacks and I’m so glad that I did. It turned out to be an amazing few days and I’m excited to share my adventure with you! What better way than to start with a montage of Eiffel Tower pictures, hey?
Although staying with friends is great and I’m always incredibly grateful for the hospitality, I do love the solo-travel side of it all, so I decided to book into a dorm for my first night.
I stayed very close to the Eiffel tower in a party hostel called ‘3 ducks’ and within a few seconds of walking through the door I had already made some new friends in the shape of an American girl studying in Europe, a 30something year old English guy who was getting away from his office job and a guy who’d had an argument with his girlfriend and needed a place to sleep for the night. It always amazes me how many different kinds of people you can meet under one roof! It was late, we were all hungry and as much as I hate to admit it there is no better way to consolidate a friendship than over McDonalds (perhaps they should be called friend fries or friendchips. Is that a really bad joke? Of course it’s a bad joke, it’s me, I love bad jokes) So yeah, we went to McDonalds and you can all stop judging me right now. No-one actually eats frogs legs and snails, you know…
-Watch as travel blogger desperately tries and fails to justify eating processed American junk food in a European food capital-
Ah, well. The next day, my new hostel recruits and I made up for being totally uncultured by waking up early to explore. Now, Paris is a pretty big city – it takes a long time to get from place to place without the metro but somehow we managed to see a lot of the major sights on foot! It was kind of exhausting but I really would recommend giving it a try. Sure, public transport is efficient but it stops you from getting lost in the backstreets and discovering hidden gems. We went to the Eiffel Tower and climbed the many steps of the Arc de Triomphe, we browsed the shops, we admired all the bridges along the Seine and stopped for a break in some gorgeous little parks. It was the perfect morning and I remembered how easy it was to fall in love with this city and it’s charm
In the afternoon, I said goodbye to the cool people I’d met and went in search of some familiar faces. My friend Jenni, in the year below at Bath, is currently on her year abroad in Paris (it’s hard not to be really jealous when I type that, I miss being a 3rd year) so I made sure to pay her a visit. We spent our time admiring an Andy Warhol exhibition at the Modern Art museum, watching (and then somehow participating in) a street show by the Eiffel and, finally, by eating all of the falafel we could get our hands on/drinking a ton of red wine in the comfort of her quaint little Parisian apartment.
I love how life works out sometimes. I mean, I only know Jenni because we were on the same competition dance team 2 years ago but to be able to really get to know each other in a city like Paris was the icing on the cake.
Finally, let’s get to the official reason I came to visit the French capital: to reunite with some of my old Madrid flatmates.
At the beginning of the year when I’d just moved to Spain, I met Anthony; the coolest of cool French guys to ever exist and even though he thinks I’m crazy and doesn’t really understand my English accent, he’s the one person who got me to start singing again (I’d kind of given up on the music front when academics slowly, but surely, took over my life). We were a pretty sweet duo, always playing mini shows for our flatmates (and then annoying them when they would try to revise and we’d still be singing). Some of my fondest memories of last semester include skiving university to go bike riding, staying up all night to finish assignments we’d left until last minute, learning the art of kosher food (aka TUNA SALADS), singing together and most importantly ‘la flemme’ing together. La flemme is French for ‘can’t be bothered to do anything and would rather just lie on the floor and do nothing all day’. A good one for the vocabulary, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Seeing Anthony again in Paris was the best. We went to Montmartre to see the Sacre Coeur, tested our hoverboard skills at a local gadget shop and spent a lot of time eating Nutella and learning Justin Bieber songs on guitar. If you ask me, that’s pure best friendship. Eeeek, I can’t resist the urge to make yet another pun: pure best FRENCHship. Oh God, am I taking it too far? Please don’t unfollow me, I love you.
Of course, I got to see my favourite French girls too; Stella and Alex and then I met Sam and Raphael who completed the gang. I loved seeing Paris from a non-tourist perspective, cruising the streets in a Fiat 500, seeing where my friends live and go to school and meeting their families. There were plenty of coffee breaks, sushi stops and edgy bars on our journey, including a place where you can play Space Invaders while you drink… nerdy but brilliant. It was actually such a great feeling to see everyone again, hear all their new stories and get excited about potential future reunions in London.
I’m a strong believer that Paris is one of the most perfect cities to spend the build-up to Christmas. I’m not the biggest December 25th fan, but I do love all the festivities beforehand. There’s something a little bit magic about the weeks before the big day: when it’s frosty outside, the wooly jumpers are on, Michael Bublé Christmas album is blaring through every loudspeaker, hot drinks are in hand and everything is covered in tinsel and glitter. It’s my favourite part of the year and a time when I actually want to link arms and snuggle up to my friends instead of my usual ‘don’t touch me, get away’ vibes.
The Galeries Lafayette is beautiful no matter what time of year but at Christmas it SPARKLES. Even though we couldn’t afford anything inside the shopping centre we still had to go and enjoy the lavish decorations and intricate window displays.
I also spent far too much time at the Christmas markets on the Champs D’Elyssess. Not really doing anything other than eating. In fact, in 4 days I managed to consume 12 crepes. That’s 3 crepes per day. That’s also 48 euros in total. So, to conclude, I’m 21 years old and my idea of budgeting includes spending double my age in euros on dessert. When does my ‘adult’ function start working?
Anthony, Sam and Raphael were kind enough to play tourist and let me spend my very last evening at the markets. As well as plenty of crepe-eating, we decided to pay for the ferris wheel because none of the boys had actually done it before, so it was exciting for everyone. Maybe a little toooooo exciting for me as somehow or another I ended up falling underneath the wheel after failing to step safely inside of our pod. Clearly, instead of evitez-ing the gap, I just allez-ed and the security guards had to stop the ride and hoist me out from below causing a ton of concerned shouts from onlookers. Was it embarrassing? Yes. Was it funny? Also, yes. I came out relatively unscathed minus a cut on my leg but I consider the scar to be more of a ‘souvenir’ – positivity, right?
Once the boys had stopped laughing (10 hours later), we could finally enjoy our ferris wheel ride. You can see the whole of the Champs-Elysees covered in fairy lights and the Arc de Triomphe lit up gold at the end of the road. Unfortunately, the Eiffel Tower wasn’t shining that night but it didn’t matter; I don’t think I could have been happier (well, maybe my leg could have been bleeding less, but beggars can’t be choosers).
This trip was a very spontaneous one – I left university straight after a Spanish exam on Friday afternoon and just about made my 8am lecture on Tuesday. Although I looked like a lunatic running around campus with a travellers backpack (pretty sure people thought I was hoarding library books or something…) and I had to make sure all my assignments were finished before I left, I’d say it was totally worth it. There’s always time to travel if you prioritise and with £85 return flights there’s always a way to make ends meet. I am eternally grateful for my international friends around the globe, for the memories and for the laughs – thanks for being so good to me.
AU REVOIR for now, Paris! 🇫🇷 May 2016 bring you peace.