To Africa and Back
The Eiffel Tower train was nothing like my train from the airport. Despite the train being underground, I jumped at the opportunity to ride at the top of a double decker. Although the seats were dabbled with people, not even enough to fill up half the train, I couldn’t help but think about how busy it must be
if the city thought it was necessary to have a double decker subway.
The ride wasn’t a long one, but it didn’t stop too close to the tower. Which was a good thing. I was happy to stroll along the street and take in the beautiful views. I stopped to call my dad and let him know I had made it to Paris OK.
“Hello? I’m sitting here in front of the Eiffel Tower. Yes, it’s right behind me; I can turn around and see it peeking through the trees.”
Hearing the French-speaking citizens pass me by, I felt a little silly sounding like such a tourist, but it was a weird feeling. The real tower was so enormous, and I felt so small. It was a weird place to be by myself, so I needed to share the experience with someone. Even if I risked sounding like a tourist.
As I walked up to the tower, I was not prepared for what I saw: a line snaking it’s way back to the edge of the street. The line was to buy tickets for the elevator. I looked over to the line to buy tickets for the stairs, and it wasn’t much better. I stood and stared up to the top. I’d been to the top of the Sears Tower and the Empire State Building; it was never any more impressive than from the ground. Instead, I walked around the building taking pictures of the tower and the park behind.
I came to the decision when I asked myself whether I would regret the decision to not go to the top. Not at all. Do I feel any regret now? Absolutely not. I made the right decision. I did not come to Paris for the tourists, I came to experience a city so very different than our own. So I decided to get lost in the city.
I walked for what seemed like forever. I can’t tell you the monuments I found completely by accident because I never got close enough to identify them. I took some pictures from afar, but any building with a mass of people out front was reason enough for me to turn the other way. I strolled down beautiful streets lined with beautifully trimmed trees, overflowing the walkers and cyclists. I passed a boat carrying flowers and a special passenger: a black cat trying to find his way on and off the roof of the boat. I passed through a strange underground tunnel to get from one side of the street to the other, a lovely escape from the occasional rain. And as I walked down the stairs, I found myself walking through a photo shoot that just happened to be in front of the shattered mirror passageway that Ellen Page creates in Inception. It was more rewarding than any elevator ride to the top of the Eiffel Tower.
All that walking had made me hungry, so I began searching for a restaurant. The funny thing is, despite its reputation for fine food, cafes and restaurants don’t simply line every street of Paris the way you might think. In fact, I walked quite a few blocks only to find a single restaurant. I read what I could of the menu and decided to move on. Something told me there was promising prospects at the top of the enormous stone staircase to my right.
I was right.
After what seemed like an eternity huffing and puffing up the stairs, I reached a tiny street that was exactly what I was looking for. Lined with boutiques, shops and cafes, I took my time peeking in at the different restaurants. At the end of the block, I came to a Y in the road, so I went left. I walked several blocks, crossed the street and turned around. It wasn’t that I didn’t find anything; I simply wanted to see what else I could find.
So lucky I did.
I walked up the street (to the right of the Y,) and I found antiques, scooters and an adorable corner bistro. I looked at the menu and peeked inside. La Petit Tour.
I walked past the restaurant passing three more stores, but I kept thinking about the menu at La Petit Tour. Unashamed, I made a U-Turn and went straight back. I’d found my French food experience, and I wasn’t about to pass it up.