A Moveable Feast

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Europe » France » Île-de-France » Paris
March 28th 2010
Published: May 12th 2011
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Very convenient location close to the centre

I cannot think of a better title for this narrative except the one taken from Hemingway’s book. Certainly, being in this city is a genuine feast. I spent only two and half days in Paris. Of course, one might spend the whole life exploring this city and its life, but I only wanted to have a glimpse of Paris for the time being.

After having a most pleasant walk in Warszawa in the first half of the day, I flew to Paris. I arrived at about 5 o’clock in the afternoon. In the Charles de Gaulle Airport I asked for information in poor French, ‘comment va-t-il a la centre?’ or words to that effect. The woman at the information desk explained everything to me in great detail, though I seemed to grasp only the main idea (she spoke in French, of course). She gave me a map and a ticket for the RER train on which I would be able to reach the city. Fortunately, I had no troubles in finding the train.

I had to change the metro line at Gare du Nord, where I got completely lost and puzzled because it was the meeting point of some six or even seven lines and at first I mixed up the colours of the signs and went to a different line. However, then I re-checked and made sure that my line had a slightly different colour. I could not but notice so many African people. Finally, I have found the necessary line and the necessary station, and soon was at the Volontaires where I took out the map to find the hostel.

I saw a schematic map at the reception desk showing the vicinity – and there was the Tour d’Eiffel, so close! – I immediately decided to leave my things and go to see it; time was already some 8 o’clock in the evening. When one travels, time is of the essence. The receptionist explained to me the way to the tower. In the hostel, I shared the room with two girls from USA, but, as ever, I did not communicate much, just asked two or three casual questions and immersed into my own thoughts. Just how wonderful the institution of hostels is! I remember, when I was a student of the second year, we studied the topic of travelling and also touched upon the topic of youth hostels. I think it’s a perfect type of accommodation for an active traveler who is not in search of expensive lodgings, but, at the same time, hostels are comfortable and have everything one needs. Gee, who am I explaining this to. Everybody (almost) knows it.

It was absolute magic to see the Eiffel Tower all in lights. Paris is not a city which will fail to capture your mind unless you are some awful grumbler. It pains me to hear when someone says they did not like Paris. But why on earth would a person dislike Paris? I cannot understand it. They say, tastes differ, but, certainly, at least from a tourist’s point of view, Paris is a treat not to be missed.

I was trying to take good pictures of the tower and later found most of them to be awful. I need to buy a tripod for the camera. As I got closer to the Tower, I felt happier and happier, like a small child entering the Wonderland, and could not help smiling with joy.

I saw a huge queue – people waiting to go up the Tower to see the city from above. I joined the queue and soon the lift was taking me there. When I saw Paris from above it was like nothing else I’ve seen, so splendid, splendid, splendid! I went several times round the viewpoint, taking a lot of pictures (as before, most of them turned out to be, to put it mildly, horrible). I took hundreds of pictures from every possible point at the tower. Only a couple of them were rather enjoyable. It is never too late to learn, is it? It would be definitely an offence to make bad pictures of Paris, I guess.

After the tower I went straight to the hostel, because it was already late evening, and fell asleep with a firm intention to have a most exciting walk the next day. I got lost while returning to the hostel because at a certain crossroad I took a wrong turn. It upset me. By consulting the map and noticing the street names on buildings, I finally managed to reach the needed crossroad and find the hostel.


Before I started the day’s excursion, I experienced rather a unique situation. Just a couple of steps from the hostel, I saw a building with washing machines (self-service) where one could, most certainly, wash their clothes. I immediately made up my mind to try this. There were washing machines of various sizes, and I chose the smaller one, because I had only a couple of minor items to wash. I tried for a long time to learn how to use the appliance, but somehow I did not manage; however, I managed to start the biggest washing machine... I paid six euros and for an hour or so sat there watching the drum rotate and people coming and going with heaps of their clothes. I felt a little shy and uncomfortable because I used the largest machine to wash only a couple of socks, some underwear, and T-shirts. Shame on me. Definitely, however, the machine did its task well and the clothes became clean.

My plan was to see the main sights in the centre that day. As you might guess, I first went again to the Tour d’Eiffel. There were long queues of people waiting at the tower and I was glad I visited it on the previous evening, because the crowds were several times larger this time. My route was as follows: Place du Trocadero – Avenue Kleber – Place de Charles de Gaulle – Les Champs-Elysées. If you proceed this way (taking into account the next destinations as well), you can efficiently see many of the sights on one day. No one cares about being tired and exhausted – any walk in this city will reward you a thousand times.

It is very easy to guess that my spirits during the ‘excursion’ were as high as they could possibly be. When a student, I could only dream of seeing, say, L’Arc de Triomphe with my own – my own! – eyes, and walk on Champs-Elysées with my own feet...

On the way from Tour d’Eiffel I saw a great many African people selling various souvenirs. I almost never buy any souvenirs. My best souvenirs are the memories, the emotions, and the photographs. Soon, videos will me among them. It’s worth noticing the very peculiar metro entrances – I read about their style and the architect somewhere.

Walking on Champs-Elysées, after seeing them in films, in books… Dreams do come true sometimes. Especially those dreams, the realization of which requires only the financing and the wish. Other dreams, like peace and friendship on the planet, are utopian and no money or simple wish can help make them come true. Or meeting one’s true and only love. How does one distinguish the true love? This question is a rhetorical one.

Nothing peculiar happened to me during the wandering in the centre. Actually, I might condense the story in a couple of words, like ‘I saw this and that and was so happy’. Pont Alexandre, Place de la Concorde, Jardin des Tuileries, Louvre…

I decided not to go inside Louvre because my time was very limited, and, what might be more important, because I first wanted only the external appearance of the city, and I visited no museums at all during the trip.

It was so pleasant to be called monsieur in one of the shops. I wish I was not so lazy studying French. If you ever saw the ‘Friends’ movie, you can remember one of the main characters, Joey Triviani (my favourite, the same as Phoebe), trying to learn French – and he’s most awfully funny at that. So, when I heard French speech, I remembered that scene and it made me smile. I hope the way I pronounce French words does not make them laugh.

After casting a glance at Louvre, I reached a park and had a rest and a bite (some very tasty carbonated water and cookies). I had to take off my jacket because the air became so warm. Then, I endeavoured on rather a long search for Centre Georges Pompidou, long because sometimes I can be so ‘map-challenged’, if you understand what I mean.

I saw an African man near the Pompidou making some very interesting statues of wire. It is wonderful to be talented and creative. Hotel de Ville is one of the most impressive buildings I saw in Paris. Notre Dame de Paris – most breathtaking! I also went inside it. This is case when one does not need any words, but needs emotions and impressions.

The three final destinations were the Pantheon and the Sorbonne, and the Jardin and Palace de Luxembourg. From there, I went to the metro station and returned back to the hostel. My story might seem so superficial and shallow, but we’ve already agreed that I do not provide any information of factual character and almost no practical advice.

After having a short rest in the hostel, I went for an evening walk. I must say Paris looks a bit different in the evening, when lit by a billion lights, definitely, even more romantic. Like a fairytale, you know. That’s what I felt. Mine was a romantic mood during the evening excursion. There were not many people in the streets. An African man with his girlfriend approached and asked me ‘Ou sont les Champs Elysees?’ and I replied, emphasizing each word, ‘Les Champs Elysees sont la’ and waved my hand in the corresponding direction, and when he asked whether I was sure I said I was absolutely sure.


The previous evening I made some plans what to visit next – with what to conclude the extremely short stay. I chose Sacre-Coeur, Chateau de Vincennes, and Versailles. As regards the first and the third item, they spring to one’s mind quite naturally, and the Chateau I saw among the many sights shown in the map. That was a most active day with lots of movement across the city.

The Sacre-Coeur stands high on a hill providing a splendid panorama of the city. I was walking on Monmartre streets and remembering Hemingway’s book ‘A Moveable Feast’ where he also writes about Paris. Chateau de Vincennes is perhaps the one and only medieval sites I’ve seen. I mean in Europe. The walk round the chateau and inside it was a brief one, because Versailles waited for me.

When the train arrived to Versailles and I got out, at first I was a bit lost, but then saw some signs showing the direction. I did not get inside the palace, I just walked in the park. It was raining heavily for some time. The rain drops fell on the camera lens and that was a major disappointment for me. They compare Versailles with Peterhof, but I perceived Versailles as less gorgeous than the latter. Maybe I am mistaken. Leaving all comparisons aside, I will state that Versailles came up to my expectations. But, the rain, you know, made it all a bit gloomier.

I had a pizza in one of the small cafes. They did not let me sit in the café for no apparent reason (at least I could not figure it out), so I ate it under the rain on a bench.

It is not easy to remain calm and stay inside the hostel room in this treasury of a city. Having just come back from Versailles, I headed for another evening walk beginning in the area of Sorbonne to the Notre Dame de Paris and finishing at Place de la Concorde.

As I have already mentioned, the evening views of Paris are astounding and romantic and what not. Hotel de Ville is adorable, with fountains making such a perfect foreground for this queen of a building.

As I entered the metro, I faced the problem of having no change for metro tokens, and, there being no persons selling them, asked a policeman for help to which the reply was, Go and get some coins. I agreed that it was the best course of actions to be taken in the circumstances and went to a shop, bought a drink and procured the coins.

Early next morning, I started off to Gallieni metro station where the Eurolines bus took me to Amsterdam in mere eight hours of pleasant dozing. At the bus station, a man asked me whether I would be so kind as to answer a tourist-oriented questionnaire to which I most cordially agreed.

I’ll be coming back.

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