It’s a weird feeling coming back to a place you’ve recently been. Things are familiar, yet strange; memories and expectations are not quite reality.
A few differences between my last Paris arrival and this one: 1) I landed in the morning instead of late at night, in a different airport, 2) I was already tired from a week’s worth of traveling instead of being fresh-faced and ready for adventure, and 3) my shoes were finally broken in.
As per usual (two for two, Paris), it was raining when I arrived. I thankfully made the bus to a stop near the hostel, and waited to meet up with the rest of the group there. The bus ride was pretty interesting- the thing was packed- but it was kind of funny to see everyone clutching their belongings as if waiting for a pickpocket. Maybe it’s reflex, or maybe it’s the warnings for pickpockets that were scaring the tourists.
When I got to the hostel, I was pretty nervous when the security guard only spoke in French to me, but I was pleased to find that I could understand things pretty well. But honestly, I thought he was kind of rude? I spoke to him in French (maybe that was my mistake?) and I think he was frustrated that I didn’t know exactly what my booking was under/ how many people were there/ why the rest of the group wasn’t with me/ etc. Anyway, it could have just been my nerves, I guess.
After finally meeting the rest of the group, we had time to enjoy wifi in the common area and then had lunch in the cafeteria. To be honest, I was kind of disappointed with my first meal back in France. I had some beef and vegetable gratin, which were objectively not terrible, but also not the pinnacle of French food. Bottom line, I wouldn’t pay for it.
After lunch, we went out to see the Eiffel Tower! It is really an impressive sight. I think the most amazing part was the detail in architecture and engineering. While the shape is really amazing, it’s awesome to see the detail of each bar supporting the structure. Something that surprised me were the vendors selling selfie sticks and Eiffel Tower miniatures. I expected them to be very in-your-face and aggressive, but they just seemed to voice their product and prices and leave people alone. I also thought it was ironic that there were signs that warned against purchasing things from street vendors.
After seeing the Eiffel Tower, we took a walk around the neighborhood (7th, 15th, and 16th arr). We saw a miniature Statue of Liberty that was built to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the gifting of the Statue of Liberty from France to the US. There was also a statue on the Pont de Bir-Hakeim, which incidentally was also the bridge in Inception.
The Allée des Cygnes (Alley of Swans) was also a pretty cool walk, and I especially enjoyed the exercise park under the bridge. It’s funny to see those in a place outside of S. Korea, but I guess they’re popular outside the US. The alley used to be full of swans, but I guess they’re not there anymore because I didn’t spot a single swan.
A long walk deserves a long sit-down, so we had drinks before dinner at a café near the Tour Eiffel. I thought it might be a bit overpriced and not that good, because it was so near a tourist attraction, so I was wary of going inside. I ordered just a glass of champagne, and it wasn’t bad, but it definitely wasn’t the best champagne I’ve had. I think next time I might stick to some wine—though the serving sizes there were huge! Most people ended up ordering half-bottle of wine by (mostly) mistake. One strange thing was that they measure the amounts of alcohol in centiliters, which isn’t commonly seen in the states. Anyway, everyone had probably a little too much wine, and we headed back to the hostel for dinner.
We had dinner at the hostel, because there was a bit of a mix-up in communication, and we had already paid for two dinners in lieu of receiving two lunches. It’s bit of a faff, but it is what it is. The dinner was, again, not the worst, not the best. I had a hamburger (like, literally the piece of meat), but the mustard was good and hot and cut through the fattiness of the burger.
After dinner, we were all beat, so we went back to our rooms, washed up, and fell asleep. I think we all went to bed before ten. I guess I didn’t think about how much travel wears you down, but man oh man… We were some tired kids—not to mention that we had to get up and out of the hostel by 7:30 (and if you know me, you know that’s a challenge).
But it was all worth it!