Danny Whitebread, former BSU student and SU Activities VP, introduces us to the mesmerising city of Paris, allowing us to catch a glimpse of all that the beautifully chic and artistic city has to offer for those who can only spend a fleeting moment of time there.
As the world’s most visited city; the French capital provides something for everyone. The sheer size and density of the city means travellers have difficulty knowing what to restrict themselves from seeing. My forty-eight hours in Paris allowed me to sample a pocket-sized portion of the seductive city. I travelled to Paris with my boyfriend on a Students’ Union trip; however, we managed to break away from the crowd in order to see everything in the time we had.
If I were to find a problem with Paris, it would be that the city has a tendency to keep the best bits hidden to itself. The greatest means to explore the city is by wandering away from other tourists and getting lost. Nonetheless, if you visit the city on a whistle-stop tour, the best way is to plan ahead.
I wanted to visit the tourist hotspots such as the Arc de Triomphe, The Louvre and Notre-Dame de Paris. However, I also wished to meander down the winding streets full of Paris’ famous architecture of sophisticated symmetry. I wanted to discover all things considered quintessentially Parisian.
I decided to navigate the city using the metro system and by my own two feet. I began my journey in Disneyland Paris, where I spent a nostalgic day reliving my childhood. The last time I visited a Disney park was when I was nine years old back in 2005, and this visit brought back memories of seeing Disney for the first time.
The characters looked exactly the same as I remembered them. Surprisingly the park was mostly visited by people of a similar age to me or older, emphasising that Disney will remain forever timeless.
The following day I hopped on the train and headed for the capital. Paris is overflowing with artistic flair, even on the short journey, our ears were greeted by a man playing the violin on the crowded train, his expressive face perfectly twisting to the rhythm of the bow as he stroked the strings.
As I exited the train, I was welcomed by the divine construction of the Arc de Triomphe at the top of the cobbled steps. The arch towered over everything around it and its reflection in the puddles on the street made it seem even larger. The image sank below the surface in a mirror-like state.
Since it was still early I decided to walk to the Eiffel Tower to beat the queues. The walk allowed me to see the large tourist hotspots but also do a little exploring. The glamour and grandeur of the city are emphasised by the stylish Parisians who inhabit it. Paris is known as the fashion capital of the world and when surrounded by the buildings, the delicate lanterns that line the streets, the clothes and of course the many designer boutiques – you cannot help but feel a part of it.
I passed Yves Saint Laurent with a queue leading down the street full of people who looked as if they had just stepped off a runway. I saw husbands treating their wives to pairs of Christian Louboutin’s whilst sipping champagne. Shortly after this, I arrived at the Eiffel Tower. The low hum of hundreds of tourists surrounded me as people checked tickets and raised umbrellas while it started to rain. One of my favourite things about visiting capital cities is how multicultural they are. You only have to stand in one spot for a minute to hear a cocktail of languages.
I purchased my ticket, went through security and was finally at the base of the elevator. The first elevator travels to the centre of the tower which stands at 149 metres above ground, offering an outstanding view of the skyline. For those who wish to travel higher, there is a second elevator which takes guests up to the third viewing platform which is at about 300 metres and offers breathtaking views and a champagne bar.
With my feet back on the ground, I was on my way to the Louvre. Several minutes later I was wandering around the site that combined old French architecture with modern streamlined glass. Unfortunately, time constraints prevented me from wandering inside to get a glimpse of da Vinci’s masterpiece. Instead, I went for lunch in one of many quiet side streets and sat on a woven café chair, ordered a large glass of Malbec and watched the scenery.
As the sun began to set, I remembered that I wanted to see Notre-Dame de Paris before I had to leave. I had read that when the sun sets, the beautiful French Gothic building lights up with a golden glow that accentuates the intricate craftsmanship and detail in the stone. I finished off my day by devouring a crêpe filled with fresh fruit and Nutella in the shadow of Notre Dame, watching riverboats sail down the canal.
The city somehow managed to find the balance between tranquillity of beautiful sights in the background and bustling streets of a capital city in the foreground. As I wiped Nutella from the corner of my mouth, I thought ‘I know I’ll be back.’
Words by Danny Whitebread