As someone who always thought of Paris as a cliché, I entered the hotel room, which was as I was expecting but not fully prepared for, tiny. I dropped my bag and then took the metro to the Louvre. The metro system in Paris is like another city underground with 14 metro lines each having 35-40 stops.
I walked through the Tuileries Gardens outside the Louvre. To my surprise I saw the Eiffel Tower peaking over the trees in distance. I kept walking in a straight line down to the Champs-Elysees, with trees lining either side of the wide boulevard, where ten or more people could walk abreast. I sat down at one of the many patios for a coffee and watched people go by along the most amazing pedestrian street I’ve seen.
The Eiffel Tower is brown! In all the photos I’ve seen, the tower looks charcoal grey or black. I stood in the long lineup for about 45 minutes before I could enter the tower. The view from the second floor was the most breathtaking because you can see the details of the buildings and still get an idea of the city’s grandness. As I stood in the elevator, I wasn’t sure where to look as it went up and up. At the top, it felt like being inside of a fish tank with people slide past each other to get a glimpse of Paris from each direction. I think it’s the least romantic place to get engaged. The man on his knee getting hit in the head with a girl’s purse and his soon-to-be fiancé dazed by the flash from someone’s camera. I preferred to look at the tower from outside than to look out from it.
That night I took a boat down La Seine River. It was raining and Paris was smears of faint yellow light on the shiny black canvas. The most beautiful for me was not the Notre Dame church ablaze with light, but the original street lamps and metro station entrances that are dark green and highly decorative.
I had dinner in the Latin Quarter of Paris. I enjoyed a three-course dinner at La Marathon. The French onion soup with toast and cheese floating on top was welcomed after a day of walking in the rain. I had chicken, which was cooked outside on the rotisserie displayed on the street with potatoes and salad. The glass of smooth red wine was lighter than I was expecting and for desert: crème brulee.
On my final day, I went to Montmartre where the artists were gathered and the people were staying on the patios. It was very busy, in a nice way: full of happy people drinking and eating. The Parisian artists were sketching portraits and caricatures. I sat on the steps of Sacre Coeur and listened to a guitarist sing, entertaining all the tourists in English. The weather was sunny and warm for my last impression of the city as I gazed out at the white buildings. It was the perfect, lively, yet somehow relaxing, finish for my visit to Paris.