So, let me begin with things to see in Paris. The first memory of my first journey to France in 2003 is related to the unusual heat.
Sure, it was August, but that part of Europe was actually hit by a tropical wave that made the weather – unbearable.
That could not slow me down, of course, and I was ready every day early in the morning, supplied with a few bottles of water, light clothes, and sandals, and went into another adventure. (I remember that water was sold on almost every corner. It had to be available because of the heat. Also, streets were often empty.)
Things to see in Paris
To tell you the truth, when I think about it today, I often wonder how I coped with those conditions. I was walking all day long, along the Seine river, climbing up the Triumphal Arch, spending a whole day in Versailles, and rushing from one museum to the next. In the evenings, when my “batteries” finally dried out, I was listening to the news and couldn’t believe my ears. Hundreds of people asked for help every day because they couldn’t bear such high temperatures.
Those were the moments I was… Let’s say – a bit concerned.
But then again, as soon as the new day broke out, I was once again – ready to go.
“Yes, the heat was unbearable, but there was no time to waste or to wait for better weather conditions. I just took a lot of water and went for a walk – as early as I could.”
This is what I wrote in the article that was published in September 2003. It’s still so vivid.
Easy to navigate
One of the first impressions I had when arriving in the city is that it was really easy to navigate. Everything was nicely marked, all the modes of transport were reliable, and Paris traffic wasn’t complicated.
Not long before my trip to Paris, a new law was adopted saying that only public transportation vehicles (buses and taxis) were allowed to drive along the yellow lane. Can you imagine! Nowadays, that is something a lot of cities wouldn’t be able to imagine their existence without, it’s just an ordinary regulation we are so used to. But it was a novelty back then.
“If you want to take the subway, there is a 14 Euro ticket that lasts for two weeks, and you will get the map of all the subway and bus lines. There is another map at every station, so it would be quite hard to get lost. If you would rather go by bus, pas de problème! More maps, info at the station on when to expect the next bus or when the bus will stop if being inside the vehicle.”
Because the public transport was so well organized, even the rush hour wasn’t that bad, at least above the ground. Below, it was like in a bee hive. Given the weather conditions, it was nice to hop on the bus from time to time to cool down, since all the vehicles were air-conditioned.
Traveling with expats
And then it came to me. I was traveling to Paris by bus since the bus ticket was really cheap compared to flights back then. What I didn’t know is that this line was mostly used by Serbian expats who were either going back to France after their vacation or were on their way to visit family in Paris.
During that long trip (it took more than 20 hours), I couldn’t help but overhear stories about how “easy Paris is to navigate even if you don’t speak the language”.
People were talking to each other, proudly telling their expats’ stories, seemingly all successful. But then again, I was forced to watch some old low-budget TV series that was popular when they were young, and listen to folk music that all of us back home have long forgotten about. All of us – yes, but they didn’t. It was like they skipped a few decades. What an interesting journey.
Pont Neuf, despite all
“No matter how much time you are planning on spending in the city, let me tell you – it’s not nearly enough. Where ever you turn, expecting the Eiffel Tower or any other of the things to see in Paris to appear before you, you will come across yet another important building or a historic sight. This is where the skill of a Japanese tourist might come in handy – you come, see, snap-snap, and move on, there’s not enough time.”
We all know about the famous things to see in Paris, right, so I am not going to list them. Let me just share an interesting conclusion that I have drawn out of the historical anecdotes regarding a few popular locations.
For example, a lot of us have enjoyed a nice cruise along the Seine River by the so-called bateau mush. So, do you know the story behind the Pont Neuf (the New Bridge) that you go by while cruising?
Here is how it goes.
It is actually the oldest standing bridge on the river despite the name, and it was built by Henry IV who ordered that it should be decorated by the so-called mascarons of his ministers and advisers. They were against the construction, saying “it will not hold”.
After long and serious arguments, Henry IV ordered their faces to be carved in stone and put on the bridge “for future generations to laugh at, since the bridge is going to last”. And so it did.
Against the will of Parisians
“It seems that the most popular sights in Paris have always been built against the will of Parisians.
When the Eiffel Tower sprung up for the World Exhibition in 1889, all tall and made of iron, citizens demanded it should be knocked down at once since it was damaging the beauty of the city, they said. Today, it is the most recognizable Paris landmark.
Also, it took 45 years for the church to be built on top of the small hill of Montmartre since the soil was moist and unsteady for such an immense construction.
The church of Sacre-Coeur was built in the end, completed in 1914, but with an anomaly – there was some kind of deviation of the material it was constructed with since it turned more white when it rained. Hence, Parisians were not happy, they didn’t want a defective church. So, they wanted to knock it down as well,” I wrote back then.
Funny, isn’t it? So, remember that when you stroll around and visit all those things to see in Paris such as Notre Dame and Centre George Pompidou, when you stand in front of the Comedie Francaise building, Palais Garnier (Opera House), or the Pantheon.
And if you want to go to the L’Arc de Triomphe terrace, climbing up the steep narrow stairs, try not to think about Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Joking aside, there is a great view waiting for you up there, right on the top.
Next: GOING AFTER BAUDELAIRE
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