After being ferried over the Adriatic from Greece, I jumped on a series of trains up to Paris. Arriving in the middle of the night at a hostel in Montmartre, a district of Paris known to me only as the location of the Moulin Rouge, I secured my bags and walked around the neighborhood before I attempted to get some writing done in the lobby. While trying to be productive, I noticed a tall, skinny guy with a giant beard pacing the lobby and mumbling to himself; he was somewhat unnerving.
I doubt I got much work done (probably ended up on Facebook) before I eventually tried to settle in for the night. I couldn’t sleep, though; the room smelled like ass. More accurately, it smelled like you’d expect it to smell with five sweaty men trying to sleep in relatively close-quarters with a window opened only a crack (couldn’t let too much of the Winter air in).
Not a fan of man-stink, I went into the front desk and asked if it was possible to switch rooms. The guy up front, who I’d spoken to briefly while I was writing, was nice. However, the hostel was booked up. There was a guest who hadn’t shown up to check in yet, though. Seeing as how it was after midnight, it was possible the guy wouldn’t show at all. Neither of us felt comfortable stealing the guy’s bed right away. So, I sat and waited for a while before we began to look into alternatives.
The front desk guy said, if I didn’t mind, I could sleep in the common area or the laundry/storage room. The problem with the common area was that it was filled with people’s bags, guests would be coming in early all morning to get their stuff, and there was no way to turn the lights off. That seemed somewhat acceptable, but he also took me into the back to show me the laundry/storage room.
When the hostel guy put the key into the laundry room door and turned, there was a snap. The key broke and he and I worked for a bit to finagle it out of there before we could get inside. The laundry room itself was fairly large, and he could get me some kind of mattress to sleep on in the corner. However, he then also informed me that hostel employees would come in early in the morning to wash sheets and what-not. By this time, it was about three in the AM and he and we decided that I should just steal the no-show’s bed. So, I slept in a non-smelly room. Evidently, unlike the other five men, my new roommates had heard of showering. The only caveat was the creepy, pacing beard guy was on the bunk above mine and he didn’t seem like he slept all night.
The next morning, having not been murdered in my sleep, I checked my bags and joined a tour. It was another free Sandeman walking tour (you tip the tour guide at the end). The group met in front of the Fontaine Saint-Michel—
The tour brought us down the Seine, past museums and toward some park where you could see the Eiffel Tower in the distance. On the way, we came to the Pont des Arts, a bridge on which the rails were covered with “love locks”—padlocks couples put onto the bridge before throwing the key into the water as some sort of symbol of their unending love. The government decided to destroy these people’s love by ripping the railings down (the cumulative weight of the locks was getting hefty and posed somewhat of a danger, plus the locks looked rather ugly from afar—like a dump site full of scrap metal).
After getting our somewhat distant glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, everyone tipped the guide and the tour disbanded. There was an attractive young woman on the tour alone who, naturally, gravitated toward me. I don’t recall how we started talking; she probably asked me where I was from. While the others dispersed, we decided to continue being touristy in a group of two.
We walked back through the parks toward the museums and spent whatever hours in the Louvre looking at stuff for which I have almost no appreciation. That night, we walked down to the Eiffel Tower, after the bulk of the crowds had cleared.
For my second and third nights in Paris, I stayed in a hotel. No more locker-room-smelling 6-person dorms for me. On night two, I probably had the best meal of the trip: duck confit and pate.
The next morning, I had a light breakfast at the Cafe des Deux Moulins, i.e., the cafe from the movie Amelie. Then, I met up with some random folks to go on a self-guided tour of Montmartre. One member of the group was a local and took it upon himself to give us a spiel about all the landmarks as we went uphill toward the Sacre-Coeur Basilica. We had some mulled wine and before some of us went into the church for a look before. We ate at some expensive cafe and split up before some of us met again in the evening.
A bunch of us rendezvoused in front of Notre Dame before walking off on a poorly planned search for dinner on New Year’s Eve. We wound up eating at some couscous place. While I wasn’t a fan of the food, the wine was perfectly serviceable and, afterward, we went to some dude’s apartment and everyone downed a bottle of his or her own and, probably more. The rest of the evening was a haze (chunks of which are blacked out from my memory). I vaguely recall seeing the light show at the Eiffel Tower.
On the first day of the new year, I withdrew from group activities. I walked down the Champs Elysee, saw the Arc de Triomphe, and ate at McDonald’s. Thanks to Pulp Fiction, I was compelled to eat a Royale with Cheese. I ended the night writing at a Starbucks.
I flew back to London from Paris on the 2nd of January. The day after that, I went back to the States, ending my time abroad (until the Fall, anyway).