I’ve travelled quite a bit in my lifetime. Most of this is due to my competitive skating career, which has taken me literally to the other side of the world (Japan, China, Taipei), though I have also travelled quite a bit for fun as well. Therefore, I’m going to try to introduce a weekly posting about a different city I have visited and will call it ‘Travel Tuesday!’
So let’s start with Paris, France!
Paris is known as “the City of Light,” or “La Ville-Lumière” for those of you who speak French. And it truly is absolutely full of lights! The most striking beacon of light in the entire city, though, is (you guessed it) the Eiffel Tower.
I highly recommend visiting the Eiffel Tower if it’s your first time to Paris. This structure is absolutely incredible, though I have to admit that my first thought upon seeing it was “Why did they ruin such an architecturally and historically gorgeous city with such a huge metal stack of bars?” Plus, the wait in line to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower is atrocious and can really put a damper on your mood. So be prepared to wait. In the meantime, you can take pictures and people-watch!
The first time I visited Paris and saw the Eiffel Tower was for a skating competition called Trophée Eric Bompard. I went in October of 2009, and remember that my skating partner, Evan Bates, and I could not wait for competition to be finished so we could go see this infamous landmark. I distinctly remember Evan’s dad advising us to wait to go to the bathroom until we were at the top of the Eiffel Tower, that way when we shared our stories from the trip we could say, “I peed on the Eiffel Tower” (which, of course, made me laugh and did not help my fairly full bladder!) (And yes, we all waited until we were at the top.)
This photo was taken the most recent time I visited Paris. I went on a study abroad trip that travelled around Europe called Forum Nexus, and it was an absolutely incredible experience! We went to nine different cities across Europe in a three week period; I loved it and highly recommend this trip. One of the cities we stopped in was Paris, where we were able to celebrate New Year’s Eve.
On New Year’s Eve, so the 31st of December 2010, we had a group dinner on the Champs Elysees, but soon everyone became restless and decided they wanted to be underneath the Eiffel Tower for midnight. So off we went, walking through the streets of Paris with local Parisians streaming from their houses as we all danced and skipped our way to the beacon of light that is the Eiffel Tower. Once I arrived there, I was struck by the difference in the landmark this time compared to my first encounter with it. Before, it was teeming with tourists, in the middle of the day, and felt very commercialized. Here, however, we were surrounded by mostly-drunk locals in the middle of the night, with the entire Tower shining above us.
It is at that moment that I took this picture.
Glancing up at the magnitude of this structure, I finally was able to appreciate what everyone else always said was so glorious about it. Perhaps it was the atmosphere, perhaps it was the locals singing in French around us, but there was a magic underneath the Eiffel Tower at midnight on New Year’s Eve that struck my heart.
So, while this post ended up being mostly about the Eiffel Tower, let me conclude by saying that there are many other amazing things to see and do in Paris as well, such as walking through the Louvre, eating incredible pastries at the numerous cafes, and just soaking in the beautiful architecture and history of the city. The lessons I learned from contrasting my two Eiffel Tower experiences, though, are these:
- Seek out the less touristy locations if at all possible.
- Surround yourself with the locals.
- Search for the mom-and-pop, hole-in-the-wall places.
- Really take in your surroundings.
- Don’t let the commercialism get to you, rather try to look past it (while still vising the major sights).
And, most of all, take advantage of every unique situation that comes your way, such as walking miles to spend midnight on New Year’s Eve underneath the Eiffel Tower.