I was expecting some sort of security screening when my flight from Barcelona landed in Paris, but this was not the case. The only additional difficulty I had was that the rail line from Charles De Gaulle Airport to Gare du Nord having maintenance work being done on it, so I had to take a bus to a train station further down the line and then wait for a train to Gare du Nord. My hostel for my second time in Paris was nearby Sacre Coeur and about a fifteen minute walk from Gare du Nord. That night was the quietest I have ever seen Paris. Hardly anyone was walking around outside and, except for the sound of passing cars, it was eerily quiet. With the terror attacks having occurred about 24 hours prior, I could understand no one wanting to go out on a Saturday night. As for myself, I had a few plans for what I would do during the last few days while I was in Paris before returning to America, but all of those had been thrown out the window. I would just have to be adaptive and roll with it.
On Sunday people were again out and about, but nearly all sights were closed. I was walking along the Seine River and came to the area around the Eiffel Tower. With the tower closed, the usual long lines for going up the lift or stairs were nowhere to be seen. There were, however, a lot of news crews from around the world in that area, so I’m pretty sure I showed up in the background of at least one news report somewhere. I remember there was a BBC crew, an American crew, a German crew, and several others. After examining the scene around the tower, I crossed the Seine to the Tracadero Esplanade and from there I walked north to the Arc De Triomphe. There were extra flower wreathes around the eternal flame, and as I walked around Paris I saw a number of makeshift memorials that people had set up. I made my way down the Champs Elysees, detouring for a final fast food meal, and eventually making my way down to where the Egyptian obelisk is. There was a Ferris Wheel that was being set up nearby, along with a lot of stalls that appeared to be Christmas related. The park leading up to the Louvre was closed, so I had to go around it. When I got to the Louvre it was really weird to not see a long line of people coming out of the glass pyramid entrance. I decided to just keep going and followed Rue Rivoli, a street that runs in the same direction the Champs Elysees would run if it kept going in a straight line. That took me past the St Jacque tower and the St Paul church and all the way to the Bastille column. It was nighttime by then, and I turned towards the Seine and walked first to Ile St Louis, cut through the center of the island, and then onto Ile de la Cite. There was a line of TV reporters on one of the bridges there, so I may have made another background appearance as I passed behind them. I crossed to the south side of the Seine but only got a short distance before I started hearing people shouting. Several police officers were telling people to move back and I could hear sirens moving in. While I was curious, I also knew it was time to leave. I went back to the north side of the Seine and circled around to come back to Notre Dame Cathedral to use the nearby metro station, but the police were setting up barricades and I couldn’t get close. So, I found the next nearest metro station and took it back to the area by my hostel. Later that night I would learn that it was a false alarm and nothing actually happened, but understandably the police were not taking any chances. Before going to bed I hiked up the steps to Sacre Coeur and took in the sight of Paris at night. It looked the same as the last time I had been there, but I knew it wasn’t.
The next morning I went back up to Sacre Coeur to go into the church itself. A few soldiers were standing around. Not too many individual tourists were up there, however, the Chinese tour groups, who seem to be incapable of being intimidated, were out doing their thing. Missing from the stairs leading up to the church was the normal gauntlet of salespeople, an absence I didn’t miss. Inside Sacre Coeur the people enforcing the no-photo policy hadn’t show up for work yet, so I was able to get a few proper photos. When I finished up there I came down the hill and then took the metro to he south side of the Seine near Notre Dame. Whatever happened the night before had been cleared up and traffic was moving along as usual. I walked around a bit before crossing onto Ile de la Cite and then I did a loop around the cathedral before going in. There was a mass wrapping up as I entered and I spent some time inside the cathedral before leaving and heading over to the west end of Ile la Cite and then on to the Tulleries Gardens near the Louvre. While there I visited the Orangerie Museum. I had always passed by it on the way to the Louvre, so it was finally time that I went in. The Orangerie isn’t a big museum, but it does have Monet’s famous water lily paintings. The paintings (eight total) are in two oval shaped rooms and curve around the rooms to give you the impression of being in the middle of Monet’s garden and having a 360 degree view. There are also some other paintings, but most people come for the water lilies (kind of like how there’s other stuff in the Academia, but everyone really comes for David). Back outside the museum I saw that the Ferris Wheel was not open yet, but it appeared the crew setting it up were testing it. The metro brought me back to the hostel, where I ate dinner and used the internet. That night I took a walk, starting at the military academy and then moving to the Eiffel Tower. One side of the tower was lit up with the colors of the French flag. When I got up to the Trocadero esplanade, I felt the rain starting to come down, and with that, my umbrella from Istanbul finally got its first usage. I took the metro to the Arc de Triomph and then did a final night walk along the Champs Elysees to the end of the commercial zone before returning to the hostel.
On my final full day in Paris I spent a lot of time walking and standing around. If it hadn’t been for the terrorist attacks I would have done a massive sightseeing blitz, but instead I checked off a few low priority items that I hadn’t done during previous times in Paris. I slept in that morning and then made a quick stop at the Petit Palais before going over to the area around the Army Museum. The Rue Cler neighborhood is near there and the morning market was still out when I arrived. Afterwards, because the military academy was close by, I walked over there, to the end of the park that leads up to the Eiffel Tower. I was spending a few minutes just looking around, but then got interrupted by one of those people collecting signatures for something. With my moment of serenity shattered, I went back towards the Army Museum, and nearby saw some small sheep that were grazing in a park. Then I walked to the Rodin Museum and toured the gardens. Back in 2012 I visited both the gardens and the museum, but I remembered that most of the good stuff was in the gardens, so I skipped the museum this time. While there I was able to recreate a photo I took from 2012, of my shoes while sitting on a reclining chair. After the gardens I took a long, scenic route to Ile de la Cite and came to the Concierge, a former royal administration building that doubled as a prison. I had always skipped over the Concierge because it didn’t seem interesting from the descriptions, but it was time to find out for sure. My suspicions were confirmed, and though it wasn’t the best use of my time, at least I knew for future reference. For the last part of the day I took the metro out to the La Defense financial district. The sun was setting and all the skyscraper lights were coming on. Next to La Grand Arch some sort of Christmas venue was being set up. I walked the length of the esplanade, from the arch to the next metro station on the line, trying to take it all in one last time. Then, it was a final ride back to the hostel. There would be no night walk, since I had to get up early for my flight back to America.
I got up at 6:30am the next day and left the hostel around 7:20am to walk to Gare du Nord to catch the train to the airport. The ride costed ten euro and I had managed to spent all but a ten euro bill from my wallet, so I thought that I would be leaving Europe having managed not bring back any extra funds. The ticket machine for the train took only coins. At the airport there was a convenient change machine next to the ticket machine, so it seemed reasonable to expect the same setup would be at Gare du Nord, but this turned out to be a false assumption on my part, and I ended up paying by credit card. I therefore have a ten euro bill still with me to this day, but I am putting a positive spin on it and thinking of it as an incentive to go back one day. At the airport I got my backpack inspected after passing through immigration, but otherwise nothing notable happened. My first flight took me from Paris to Minneapolis and was only half full, so after takeoff everyone spread out and I had the seat next to me open. I watched a few movies and stand-up comedy routines on the flight to pass the time. Nine hours after departure, I landed in Minneapolis, where I had to go through immigration and then a second security check, because I guess the one in Europe wasn’t good enough for TSA. While standing around in the immigration line I was talking to this girl from England who was actually supposed to be on the same flight as me to Denver, though she had to go through extra screening because she had brought food in her backpack and I never saw her again after she walked over to the line for declaring food. When I cleared security and immigration I only had a few minutes before the scheduled departure of my flight to Denver. I hurried to the gate, but when I got there I saw that the flight was delayed by fifty minutes. With nothing to do, I just sat it out and waited. The flight to Denver was about two hours and when I arrived a friend of mine picked me up from the airport and took me back to my home in Boulder. The journey was over. It felt really weird the next day, after three months of traveling across Europe, to wake up in my own bed. I think it was then that it fully sank in that I was home.
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