Charles de Gaulle Airport, Terminal 1, Paris – there were only 2 luggages left in the moving carousel, and neither of which are mine. I calmly walked over to the missing luggage counter and reported my situation, the clerk was friendly and accommodating, she help me filled up a form, get my contact information and assures me they will trace the whereabouts of my beloved luggage.
It’s now pass lunch time, I’m still sitting in the almost empty arrival area of the airport, munching on the 3-layered peanut butter and jelly sandwich that I have prepared from Iceland last night, deep in-thought, trying to digest not the sandwich but the fact that I may not see my luggage again, making mental notes of the items inside and what am I to do for the remaining days of my trip.
In my backpack, apart from the clothes I was wearing, I only have a couple of newly bought tees from Iceland, an extra jacket, one washed underwear, and my dental kit. A profound sadness was about to set in, but at the same time, another thought came to mind… wouldn’t it be a great call-to-fame if you could survive Paris and onward without your luggage? Fortunately, the adventure spirit took the better side as I finished the sandwich, took a sip of water from my bottle and walked proudly out the airport.
Located at the Terminal 2 of CDG are the main metro lines as well as the many buses that service the city; I usually preferred a city’s metro to the buses especially if it was my very first time to set food in a location. The ticket vendor asked where I was headed and if I intent to travel around on the following day, I said yes and she recommended a 2-day pass which I paid using a credit card. Armed with the route information from the hostel, I proceeded to find my way, transferring from line to line, tunnel to tunnel and a bit of walking around several blocks, I finally arrived at my place of accommodation. It was warm in Paris; I was sweating from all the walking and was actually somewhat glad that I have one less luggage to drag around!
The Paranjib Guest House I was staying are being run by a Korean family, they speak very little English but can converse well in Mandarin, very warm people which help me settled down after I told them of my missing luggage situation. I spent the rest of the day making follow-up calls to the airport as well as planning and booking my stay and transportations onward to UK. Meals are normally not included in the hostel’s rate, but for this guest house, dinner and breakfast are gladly provided, so for the duration of my stay, I was having Korean dishes every time with endless servings of kimchi, rice, and soup with accompanying viands, a welcome respite really from the mainly bread and butter of Iceland.
The following day, despite no updates from the airline, I took off on my own to explore the sights of Paris. With a map of the city and an App of the metro, going around Paris was not difficult at all, besides, weather that day was exceptional, temperature was in the twenties and a clear blue sky stretches from horizon to horizon.
First stop was the iconic Eiffel Tower, it was a mixed of emotions seeing it for the first time, the sheer size of this steel structure really boggles the imagination and the line of people waiting to gain entry snakes around the entire length of the base. I was really planning to climb the tower using the stairs all the way to the top, but having no change of pants, the 1700+ steps will not be easy on a thick pair of jeans!
For first time visitors of Paris, we were often cautioned about pickpockets and told to be aware of one’s surroundings. But with the many mesmerizing sights, getting lost in thoughts can often happen. My only bag was the camera bag, and in it goes my wallet at the very bottom with my water bottle on top. Passport always on the front pocket and mobile phone safely tucked inside the shirt with the strap of the bag serving as extra barrier and whenever I was shooting, I made sure to stay a respective distance away from the crowd.
Beside the Eiffel Tower, I dropped by the Quai Branly Museum where a Philippine exhibit called An Archipelago of Exchange was currently on-display.
From the museum, I walked along the path of the River Seine, crossing the Debilly Bridge en route to Champs Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe monument. From across the street, the Arc is already an imposing structure; access to it is via an underground passage tunnel and an elevator that can carry you to the top. The monument honors those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. Beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.
Lunch was a baguette meal from McDonalds not far from the monument.
From McDonalds, I continue my walk down the eastern-end of Champs Elysees into Place de la Concorde, one of the major public squares of Paris. At the center of the square stands a giant Egyptian obelisk decorated with hieroglyphics exalting the reign of the pharaoh Ramesses II. It is one of two the Egyptian government gave to the French in the 19th century. The other one stayed in Egypt, too difficult and heavy to move to France with the technology at that time.
The obelisk once marked the entrance to the Luxor Temple. The Ottoman viceroy of Egypt, Mehmet Ali, offered the 3,300-year-old Luxor Obelisk to France in 1829. It arrived in Paris on 21 December 1833. Three years later, on 25 October 1836, King Louis Philippe had it placed in the center of Place de la Concorde, where a guillotine used to stand during the Revolution.
Beside the Luxor obelisk are two fountains built during the time of Louis-Philippe, and came to symbolize the fountains in Paris. The north fountain was devoted to the Rivers, with allegorical figures representing the Rhone and the Rhine, the arts of the harvesting of flowers and fruits, harvesting and grape growing; and the geniuses of river navigation, industry, and agriculture.
The south fountain, closer to the Seine, represented the seas, with figures representing the Atlantic and the Mediterranean; harvesting coral; harvesting fish; collecting shellfish; collecting pearls; and the geniuses of astronomy, navigation and commerce. Both fountains had the same form: a stone basin; six figures of tritons or naiads holding fish spouting water.
Incidentary, in the Star Trek universe, the Place de la Concorde is the location of the offices of the President of the United Federation of Planets.
With the midday sun high up in the sky, it was becoming hotter and I can already feel sweat slowly dripping inside my shirt. The trains of the Paris Metro are not air-conditioned, so you get the same warm and humid feeling as you step into one, but I guess you can certainly appreciate them especially during the cold winter months.
Montmartre is a hill at the northern outskirts of Paris, it is 130 meters high and gives its name to the surrounding district, a part of the Right Bank, Montmartre is primarily known for the white-domed Basilica of the Sacré Cœur on its summit and as a nightclub district. If you don’t want to spend on the escalators, you can do as I did, take the 300 plus panting-steps to the top, the view was quite rewarding! There was no entrance fee to the basilica, but photography is prohibited inside.
From Montmartre, it was 5 stations and 2 exchanges away to the Notre Dame, the cathedral is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture and among the largest and most well-known church buildings in the world. It is currently celebrating her 850 founding anniversary this year, and as such, entrance to the church is free of charge, but access to the top and the catacombs still requires a fee. Photography without flash is allowed inside.
Near the entrance of Notre Dame is a monument to Charlemagne, also known as Charles the Great, was the great Frankish king during the 8th century who helped define the Western Europe. Another interesting little feature can be found in the pavement in front of the cathedral – a circular marking, saying “Point Zéro – des routes des France” meaning “Point Zero – the roads of France”, which is the equivalent of our Kilometer Zero marker and denotes the geographical center of Paris and all distances are measured.
My last stop for the day is none other than The Louvre, the world’s largest museum and central landmark of Paris, it houses nearly 35,000 objects from prehistory to the 21st century and with over 8 million visitors a year, it is the most visited museum in the world. In the skies above the Louvre, you can see how aerial traffic is like in Paris with the many crisscrossing contrails from the passing airplanes.
I went back to the hostel just in time for dinner, but still, no news whatsoever about my luggage.
The next morning, this was to be my last day in Paris, I finally went out and bought a new pair of pants (the old one is really becoming itchy), when I returned was told that the airline called, they found my luggage and will be delivering it within the day, finally, welcome news indeed!
I stayed in the hostel for the rest of the day, making last minute confirmation and arrangements for my ride to London and from there, onward to Plymouth. By 9PM, the luggage hasn’t arrived yet, I made one last call before I sleep, hoping it would reach me in time before my early morning departure tomorrow… alas, this was the most stressful sleep throughout my entire trip.
All 360s taken handheld. Portions of text from wikipedia.org