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From the top of the Arc de Triomphe.

Bonjour, mes amis!

The next day after a long, but satisfying day trip to Le Mont Saint-Michel, I decided to head to Paris for another day trip with the German and British assistantes again. They were planning to visit the Louvre museum for the afternoon while I had plans to meet up with a friend who lived there. Considering that I’d originally wanted to spend the long weekend in Paris, spending at least the day there was good enough for me.

Even though I was still quite tired from the visit to le Mont Saint-Michel the previous day, I nevertheless went with the assistantes over to la gare to catch the train at noon to Paris. Thankfully, we don’t live too far from the French capital, so day trips are easily accessible for us. We arrived in Paris about 30 to 40 minutes later and from there I split off from the assistantes to do my thing for the afternoon. They took the metro over to the Louvre while I walked over to l’Arc de Triomphe, since I had plans to climb it and such.

The walk was pretty straightforward from la gare, about half an hour on foot. Along the way, I came across a small museum, le musée Jacquemart-André, located along Boulevard Haussmann in the eighth arrondissement. I saw that it had a massive, temporary art exhibition of Rembrandt’s works (an artist whom I respect) and decided to see if it was possible to get in free either with my pass éducation or with my university student ID (I’m no longer a student, but luckily my card doesn’t have expiration dates so I’ve been able to get away with getting in at reduced prices or for free so far in France. Sneaky sneaky!).

Unfortunately, my pass éducation wouldn’t have worked when I spoke to the ticket lady, and although I could’ve gotten in at a reduced price with my university ID, it would’ve still been quite pricey at 10,50 euros. That said, I decided to forgo the visit. But I still would like to return later, hopefully before the Rembrandt exhibition finishes in January. I also read that the museum also has a nice Italian art collection, along with some really elegant architecture inside.

I continued walking along Boulevard Haussmann, finally arriving at l’Arc de Triomphe about 15 to 20 minutes later. If you know anything about the structure of the neighborhood in which the arch is, then you’ll know that it’s located on a massive roundabout, with tons of cars and trucks constantly zooming around it, traffic and all.

To get to the arch, well, it was a challenge; I ended up crossing through what it seemed like a dozen crosswalks around the roundabout, just to reach the arch itself. Personally, roundabouts are irritating for pedestrians because there’s no direct way to cross over easily, without risking getting hit by cars! Call me very American, but roundabouts are the bane of my existence. Walking around them, that is.

Any case, I found an underground passage leading to l’Arc de Triomphe. Passed under it and found the line to purchase tickets to get to the top of the monument. It was long, but it moved quickly; I showed my pass éducation to the ticket lady, got my *free* ticket, and proceeded to climb the dizzying spiral stair case up to the top of the arch. Even though I consider myself pretty fit (I got used to climbing stairs more so in Europe), I admit those stairs felt *slightly* never-ending. It wasn’t the worse I’ve done, but I could still feel the burn in my calves…

Eventually, I made it to the top and was rewarded with what I consider the best view of Paris that I’ve done so far. Forget the Eiffel Tower’s with its obstructive wire bars; the open, panoramic view from l’Arc de Triomphe beats it any day! From the top, I could see pretty much all of the main sights of the city: the Eiffel Tower, le Sacré Coeur, the Montparnasse Tower, and of course, les Champs Élysées from below. It was windy and chilly as heck from the top, but that didn’t stop me from taking photo after photo of the views, along with a couple (*erm twenty) selfies with the Eiffel Tower in the distance. I tell you, the climb was absolutely worth it.

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City views for days…
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Le Sacré Coeur in the distance.

Although I would’ve loved to stay up there indefinitely, I still had to meet up with my friend, so I climbed down the arch and around 14h30 met up with him in front of the arch. We proceeded to take a walk down les Champs Élysées, in search of a café to sit down, rest, and chat with each other.

A bit of backstory: we have known each other for almost a year-and-a-half, but never met each other in person until that day! We met each other online through MyLanguageExchange.comconsidering that we were looking for virtual “pen pals” to practice our target language with (mine being French, his being English). Through the site, we became friends and over time started practicing via Skype sessions, as well as writing each other regularly through Facebook. Very friendly guy, originally from the Centre-Val de Loire region (just below Paris) and currently living in the city for his medical internship (“stage”), as he’s studying to become a doctor. Busy man, but since it was the long weekend then, he wasn’t working so he had time to meet up with me for the afternoon.

Considering that things are overpriced on les Champs Élysées, we headed behind it and popped into the first café that we saw to get something to eat. It was very nippy outside and starting to drizzle, so we thought that it was a good idea to find a place inside away from the rain. Surprisingly, he actually treated me, which I found a very kind gesture, and we spent some time there drinking our drinks (I ordered a chai tea latte- haven’t had it since leaving the States and I’d been missing it) and eating our pastries (gluten-free brownies; funny enough, we both share a love for desserts!).

We headed out afterwards, and my friend was fine with us going to Montmartre, since I had told him that was my plan after visiting l’Arc de Triomphe. It was still raining, although not too badly. Headed down to the nearest metro station where I purchased my tickets and we took it over to the Anvers station, where people get off to climb the hill up to the Sacré Coeur (or take the cable car, whichever way).

Although it was rainy, the place was still packed with tourists. Then again, it was the long weekend, so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that the city would be swarming from visitors all over. It wasn’t too bad, though, as we headed up the incline to the top, pausing from time to time to take photos of the famous basilica.

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Le Sacré Coeur.

We waited in the line to get inside the basilica and from there did a short tour around the dimly-lit, but lovely interior of the nave and whatnot. Although I’ve been there twice already, it remains one of my favorite places to visit.

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Inside the basilica.

We went outside and checked out the view as well of the city. Not as spectacular as the one from l’Arc de Triomphe, but not bad either. I could also see the hoards of tourists climbing up to the Sacré Coeur, small like ants.

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View from the top.

Afterwards, we walked back down to the touristy part of Montmartre, stopping inside of another café to rest and get warm from the otherwise chilly, rainy weather. Once more, my friend treated me to food and drinks, and I wasn’t complaining! We spent some time in there talking some more while enjoying our pastries and drinks (I got a croissant aux amandes and peppermint tea).

My friend had plans around 18h00, so around 17h00, we decided to take the metro. I decided just to head back to la gare to take the train back home while he had to transfer over to another line to get back to his neighborhood (he lives in the suburbs of Paris). We said goodbye on the metro, as I got off before him, and proceed to head to la gare where I actually met up with the assistantes who had just finished their day at the Louvre. Together, we took the evening train back home.

While it was a short trip to Paris, it was very much worth it. Not only did I get out of the house, but also I got to *finally* meet my friend in-person. Although conversation was a bit slow at first (since we were still warming up to each other), we really hit it off and by the end of our time together, we were pretty much comfortable with each other. It’s interesting how this came to be, this meet-up, since technology makes things so much easier to be friendly, even joking, with each other in this day and age. However, when it comes to social interaction, I have to remind myself that it can be a very different experience, whether good, bad, or neutral. That day turned out to be a very good one, and we will probably continue to visit each other in Paris in the future. Friendship goals, ftw!

Even though I’ve been to Paris numerous times, I always discover something new and lovely every time I properly visit (“properly” meaning that I’m not just passing through to get to another destination in France or in Europe). L’Arc de Triomphe was definitely worth the trip over, and again perhaps I’ll check out le musée Jacquemart-André next time I visit. After all, why not?

…because in the end, Paris is always a good idea.

 

— Rebecca

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