When I was a university student, I went to Paris for the weekend with three of my friends.
A trip to Paris might be expensive for many people, but when France is your neighboring country, it can be quite cheap. We stayed in a hostel and travelled via the Eurostar train from London, which goes right under the sea and comes up in France. This made it an affordable trip, even for students.
Usually, you have to share a room with strangers at a hostel, which makes me nervous, but since there were four of us, we ended up with a room to ourselves. We were staying in Montmartre, which is known as an arts district with lots of street performers. On the first night we went out to explore, without any real plans. From the top of a stone staircase leading down into winding, lamplit streets, we got a great view of the city, with the Eiffel Tower in the distance. While enjoying the cityscape we noticed a spotlight moving on the low clouds. We could see the light was coming from the city, but it was hard to tell where exactly it was coming from, so we said, “let’s go find out”.
We ended up on a really long walk, because the spotlight was much further away than it had first appeared. We walked for so long we managed to see a lot of Paris’s tourist attractions all in that first night. We walked right past the Moulin Rouge and the Arc De Triomphe, stopping regularly to buy snacks and beers on our way. We stopped at a unique shop in the red-light district and marveled at all the strange contents of items on sale. We stopped to buy beers and hung out for a while with a drunk shopkeeper, who demonstrated his unique ability to open beers with a baking tray. It was an eventful night.
It was long past midnight when we finally realized where the giant spotlight was coming from- the Eiffel Tower itself. From so far away we hadn’t been able to trace the light to its obvious source. When we finally arrived at the tower, it was 4AM and we were exhausted.
Most people visit the Eiffel Tower in the day. We saw a different side of it. We learned the Tower’s dark secret: it is infested with rats. I have never seen so many rats in one place in my entire life, not even in the alleys around Shinjuku’s Kabukicho. Still, we stayed and enjoyed the sight of the Tower, trying to communicate with other drunk tourists, before taking the Metro subway back to the hostel.
We crammed a lot of sightseeing into a single weekend. We made friends with a Dutch guy and American girl staying in the same hostel and went out for drinks. We went to the Louvre, saw Notre Dame cathedral and ate at some restaurants in Montmartre. Mostly we just walked around and enjoyed the atmosphere, which cost us nothing.
winding (adjective) – following a twisting or spiral course
lamplit (adjective) – illuminated by one or many lamps
marvel (verb) – to feel a sense of wonder, adoration, amazement or astonishment
infested (adjective) – [with insects or animals] to be present in great numbers, especially when causing damage or disease
cram (verb) – to fill completely to the point of overflowing