Paris in a day
My first impression of Paris was made fresh off the train, at the sight of two young people passionately making out on the river banks. On a Tuesday. At nine in the morning.
A female jogger in a perfectly coordinated athletic ensemble passed by us.
“Also, very French,” Andrew said, pointing to the scarf around her neck.
Not even 15 minutes into my arrival, Paris was already fulfilling every expectation.
From haggling with street artists in Montmartre, to awe-struck wandering through hushed cathedrals, every experience felt like a day scene in a Jean-Luc Godard film. I didn’t even mind being snubbed by a waiter, who ignored my entire existence after I committed the unforgivable act of accidentally blocking a doorway. His stereotypical snootiness was almost charming.
In total, I had only thirty hours to spend in Paris before leaving. Mindful of limited time and budget, I sought a quick lunch. Andrew said the cheapest café he could think of nearby was at the Galeries Lafayette, a department store. We walked inside to icy, marble floors and gilded arches rising ten stories under a glass dome. Not a bad spot for soup and coffee.
Next, we headed along the Left Bank, deciding to visit the Musée d’Orsay. Weaving our way through the crowds, we leisurely perused an exhibition of Pre-Raphaelites, when a guard informed us the museum was closing in fifteen minutes. Not yet having seen any of the Orsay’s permanent collections, we sped through galleries of Degas, Cézanne, and Manet… colors spinning into a vivid blur, which actually proved to be an effective means of viewing Impressionist art.
Dusk found us at the Pont des Arts pedestrian bridge, where thousands of padlocks clung to iron railing links. Lover’s locks, as they’re called, decorated with initials and hearts, capture all the romance—and urges to vandalize public property—that comes with young love.
Tour boats drifted by under the bridge; Andrew made a game of waving wildly to them, seeing how many tourists we could get to wave back. His friend, Frère David, joined us then, bringing with him a thirteen-year-old bottle of merlot from his monastery.
From there the night dissolved. We drank in the cement plaza facing the Centre Pompidou, watching kids go by with dogs and skateboards. We walked through blocks of brothels, dusty cars, and boarded up store fronts. We came across the end of an outdoor music festival, where a fight broke out as swiftly as a match ignites. Armed police arrived out of nowhere (I like to think they were all hiding in trees, or behind newspapers with eyeholes cut out of them), and we made a dash for the nearest Metro station, catching the last train of the night.
In the morning, I had just enough time to see the Eiffel Tower, luggage in tow, pausing only to take a few snapshots. Then, after running through the crowds, clamoring down the stairs to the Metro, nail biting on the train, and rushing through more hallways and terminals, I made it to my bus just in time.
Suddenly, the day before and even that morning seemed like a separate world, a snow globe of a memory.
I hadn’t visited the Louvre, or strolled the Champs-Elysées, or circled the Arc de Triomphe, or found any iconic gravesites. I know my inner 15-year-old was disappointed not to see Jim Morrison’s tomb and I’d missed out on the Eiffel Tower’s glittering nightly display.
But, I can’t imagine a more exciting introduction to Paris than having only one day to see it.
What would you do if you could only see Paris in a day?Image Credits
1. Young love by the seine by Cristofalo73, on Flickr
2, 3, 4. © Molly Schoen