Le Louvre, Notre-Dame, the canals, the literary cafés, Shakespeare’s books, Le Tour de Eiffel. I sat in the top bunk of Generator Paris, my first hostel in Europe, for an hour, browsing that screen, before finally throwing myself off the metal ledge, and into the streets. With the cathedral in my maps, a 3.7 km walk away, just five minutes in, I found myself entirely overwhelmed with the scene. Wobbly cobblestone roads, cavernous alleyways, white facades that took my breath away, and that glorious sky between. “French Blue” it occurred to me.
Past sidewalk cafes, and flamboyant displays. Through clouds of cigarette smoke, which wisped through the shadows. Through mopeds. Over waterways. Another turn. Another magnificent sight. I would have believed it were infinite, if I hadn’t just come from the countryside.
I tried listening to music. Nothing fit. I took the buds out. Another layer of the city flooded in. Passionate conversations, as if everyone were debating, but civilly, at a table, over coffee, at seemingly every café. The bikes, some buzzed, some chimed. The rustling leaves that clung to the trees, in the warm afternoon breeze. Into a love affair with France, I began to fall.
The cathedral was nice, but amongst the rich and vibrant life, which radiated from the streets, it was merely another site. I was there maybe ten minutes, before going back outside.
But then, the heat set in. I’d walked over six miles, and I’d barely eaten all day. With very little water, and a growing exhaustion, I looked for a place to rest. I took a photo of some colorful banners which hung between the buildings.
An angry Parisian attempted to scold me. Suddenly, a negativity. It’s a city.
At a café, overlooking a massive mural, I sat and replenished with a salad and water. After which, I felt quite a lot better.
Nearly 4pm. Time to decide. “Go back to the hostel and rest, or stay until the Louvre becomes free (6pm)? I thought it over from the streets. Shakespeare’s books, then no direction. I purchased a collection of short stories by Fitzgerald, but more importantly, I shared some English with the British employees. An incline in the streets.
At Pantheon, I watched a group of kids play soccer. At GAP, I bought a striped T. I was empty. I stopped at another café. It was finally 6, but I had no more to give. Over eleven miles walked. “I’ll go toward the Louvre, and then decide”.
Across the Seine, I caught my first glimpse of the Tower. In the distance, it summoned. Commence the half hour metro ride.
Out of the station, I turned left, and behind, there it was, dominating the horizon. Through a marble courtyard, packed with crowds, I worked my way toward the iron beast. Although slightly off center, I found a quiet view, through a gap in those ancient trees.
On the lawn I sat. The sun began to sink. I took a photo, then my curiosity shifted, to that smoke in the corner, which drifted into frame. About ten feet in front of me, a blonde and a brunette, sat chatting. I watched them purchase beers from the vendor, and an idea came to mind.
I signaled the guy. I approached them with a bottle of champagne. “Bonsoir” I said. “Do you mind if I join?” “I’ll need help with this bottle”. They smiled and welcomed me.
We watched the sun set together. Kim and Louisa, from Germany made pleasant company. Our conversation didn’t last long. I didn’t bother to ask for their information. But, having interactions, and putting yourself out there, is always time well spent.
Before the lights began to sparkle, I made my way back to the station. An hour later, I arrived at my hostel. I wanted to call it, but that desire to explore the rooftop deck persisted.
In my 10-bed room, co-ed, several others had already turned in for the night. It was silent. I was surprised. But then, a friendly Egyptian man entered, offering me a bottle of water, a banana, and his hand. “I’m Ehab” he said. “I’ll be your friend”.
Not a smoker or a drinker, at the bar, Ehab and I shared only conversation. However, I will still tipsy from the wine. And of course, there was that view, so intoxicating. Rows and rows of lights. The tower with its rotating strobe.
38, with a wife, and two kids, Ehab wasn’t who I expected to meet. He works in IT, and travels so frequently, that he carries to passports to fit his visas. He told me to visit him if I’m ever in Egypt.
After a game of foosball downstairs, he left for bed. Halfway to the elevator, after deciding to do the same, I said goodbye to Ehab, and moved toward an interesting pair instead.
Ash, a cute blonde, and Kayla, her plump friend. “Do you mind if I wait here, for the line to die down?” I said. My face was probably red. Another pleasant chat. They told me about their week-long visit from Australia. I returned to my room a half hour later. No regrets. What a day.
A soft orange sun struggled against the white facades, as I made my way out of the hostel, and began another day. Across the street, I entered a cafe. “A cafe sil-vous-plait”. I love that phrase. From a table in the window, I opened my notebook and recapped the events. I returned to the hostel, packed my bag, and set off for the train. Thus, concluding, my 24th hour in Paris.
Off to Lyon, to meet Marie.