It was somewhat spontaneous, somewhat always subconsciously in my plans, but it finally arrived: a trip to Paris…. for New Year’s!
I found another international student, Paco, who was not going home for the holidays, and two Swiss friends, Nico and Christian, who were keen on doing something a little different to celebrate the New Year. And after a quick week of booking the last available (cheap) hotel in Paris and securing a few spots on the train, we were planned to be there for 3 nights. With exams, final papers, and Christmas parties!, we didn’t have much time to make a serious itinerary about where we wanted to go, or what we wanted to see, but it all worked out in the end as we explored the big tourist spots, a few funky neighbourhoods and warmed up in many cafes.
At least we had our guide books… in English, German and French.
We first tried to get into the famous Louvre on December 31st- we tried as well as hundreds of others- but decided to walk through the Tuileries gardens to Les Champs Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe instead of enduring the 2+ hour line-up in the cold. We did eventually make it to the Louvre on our last day and thoroughly enjoyed the amazing marble statues in the centre indoor courtyard, became more interested than we thought in the Mona Lisa, and discovered the ostentatious apartments of Napoleon Bonaparte and some of the royal monarch jewels.
The weather was not the best as it rained sporadically and was rather cold. However, this set the stage for walking around Montmartre, the artisan neighbourhood below and through one of the many famous cemeteries in the city.
We were very keen to explore and thrilled with everything we saw at first. The crowds (other than the tourists) were diverse and all seemed to have somewhere to go and something to do, which at times was overwhelming but we soon found quiet back streets with architecture that spoke of a time long ago and each building seemed to have a story to tell. Such a great contrast to the very conservative buildings in Zürich and most of Switzerland; Paris just felt more alive.
Christian brought us to a cemetery he had visited before. It was slightly sunken below the street level and full of old french family names, dark leafless trees and black cats (of course). In combination with the weather, it had a chilling effect.
After the days of exploring, we planned to go to the Eiffel tower for New Year’s eve. We hadn’t been close to it yet, and the weather had been so foggy that we hadn’t seen the top of it either. So when we finally walked up to it, all lit up in time with music blasting from the base, it was spectacular.
We joined the crowd of thousands and waited and watched the light show before midnight. Many were dancing to the Eiffel tower music mix of country, rock, pop, and classical French, others were already popping their champagne bottles, and many groups were setting off fireworks in the crowd. All this only intensified with the countdown, and we certainly joined in with cheers around our bottle of champagne!
As the party started to disperse from the tower we walked with the thousands of others (not excluding many of the visible police force) to the Champs Elysees for more celebrations, then off to a friend of Christian’s house for the final moments before dawn. We crashed eventually but had an incredibly memorable night.
The following days were spent recovering and relaxing and exploring a few last places in the city.
We all agreed it was an unforgettable trip and there are definitely good intentions to go back when the weather is better!