Leaving Bordeaux was never going to be easy. I overfilled my poor suitcase once more, managed to get it closed (losing only one zip in the process) and then said goodbye to my lovely little hostel family.
An eight-hour coach would then take me to Paris for a couple of days’ sightseeing and friend-meeting.
Despite being sat next to the toilet, my couscous spilling inside my bag, and the guy in front of me fully reclining his seat onto me, I actually thoroughly enjoyed the eight hour journey. I got to see the French countryside under a wicked sunset, and we travelled through cities such as Poitiers and Tours which were both beautiful, albeit not as charming as the wonderful Bordeaux.
The Airbnb I’d booked turned out to be in a rather questionable quarter of Paris; it’s fair to say I felt less than safe heading there in the dark. The little studio itself was cosy though, even if I did feel ridiculously lonely after four weeks living in an eight-bed dormitory.
The first day of exploring commenced, and after I’d spent far too long trying to figure out the metro system, I was finally on my way to Bastille. I wanted to find an elevated walkway and garden I’d heard was pretty cool. Upon further inspection, it was pretty cool…
Lunch was spent sat on a bench at Sacré Cœur, people watching and enjoying an overpriced purchase from a Parisian boulangerie. Solo sightseeing was completely new to me, but I loved the freedom and tranquility of it. I planned my day as I went along, trying my best to steer clear of the main tourist attractions I’d already done; I didn’t even spy the Eiffel Tower until late afternoon!
That being said, I couldn’t resist a quick stroll around Montmartre, a quirky little artist neighbourhood well-known to many. I know the whole thing is a tourism construct, but it was comforting to be in a place that at least had an air of French authenticity about it compared to the rest of the city, and it reminded me vaguely of the old quarters of Bordeaux I’ve come to know and love.
From there I ventured on to the Louvre for a quick culture fix. The pyramids never look as impressive on the photos, but I snapped a few anyway. It turns out students can get in for free with EU citizenship which made me very happy, and I strolled around a few of the main exhibits using the French version of the map – kudos to me.
The Louvre is a must-see in Paris. However, this being my second visit, I found it a little overwhelming and seemed to be staring vacantly at a lot of marble statues and not much else. I was also trying desperately to avoid the crowds surging in the direction of the Mona Lisa, as this is sadly the main reason why so many flock to the museum. The tiny, cordoned-off portrait was somewhat of a bemusing let-down the last time I saw it, so I respectfully gave it a miss this time.
I emerged from the pyramid into the late afternoon sunshine and began a slow stroll down the Seine in the direction of the Eiffel Tower, where I would be meeting a few friends. En route, I paid a visit to a supermarché to pick up a baguette, hummus and wine (of course).
Once Kate and I had finally managed to find each other on the Champ de Mars, the evening was spent catching up and overindulging in excellent picnic food. We were joined by Liv and Lauren as the tower began to sparkle (which I’d never seen before!) and the four of us chatted for a long time about tout et n’importe quoi.
We were then approached by a group of four guys who asked if they could sit with us, and before we knew it our party of four had become eight. It was another foot massage situation; I’ve come to realise that not all strangers are strange, and once you actually start talking to people and getting to know them, it can be incredibly eye-opening and refreshing.
At midnight, we parted ways with our new friends, and with each other. Kate and I arranged to meet for lunch the next day at Jardins du Luxembourg which was stunning, and a lovely send off to my next chapter in France.
All in all, Paris treated me very well for the short time I was there. I was able to wind down after a busy but beautiful four weeks living in the hostel, as well as meet with friends and hear their own stories from the past month. I left there feeling slightly more prepared for the world of work (if not a little anxious and bewildered), but mostly I felt nothing but utter contentment at how amazing the first month of this adventure has been.