Paris leaves its mark on study abroad students
After partying until 5:30 a.m. in Angers, France and a long day of touring the Louvre and Paris’ other historic sites, the sight of the MIJE hostel’s rooms was welcome to our group of study abroad students.
Though we were tired, it was Saturday night in Paris, and it was our first and only night there: we had to enjoy it. However, the MIJE’s rules are that everyone must return by midnight or they would have to dwell on the streets of Paris until it reopened at 7 a.m. Luckily, there was one exception: if granted special permission by the doorman, we could return at 2 a.m. sharp. So my MIJE roommate James Cox and I negotiated in French with the doorman and arranged a 2 a.m. return. After a crafty exit of the MIJE that involved some espionage and evasion, Cox and I went to the Metro to grab a train that would take us closer to the center of Paris.
The Metro system in Paris is nothing short of brilliant. In just a matter of minutes, a person can navigate from one area of the city to another thanks to the various routes, which have a number and name for each direction. The routes are also connected several ways, so there is more than one way to get to the same destination. There were several Metro maps in Paris, but it was the heavily detailed map that associate professor of French Claudine Giacchetti gave each of us that was most helpful: it was the only map that showed Paris’ landmarks – we couldn’t leave the hostel without it.
After taking the six on the northbound Nation route, Cox and I arrived at our stop: Champ de Mars Tour Eiffel. We ascended the Metro steps and exited onto the heavily populated streets. I walked for a little while, and then I saw the Tour Eiffel for the first time at night. It was shining with thousands of lights, and before this moment I did not know that the Eiffel lights up for a few minutes every hour. The timing was perfect: my first time seeing the tower was right as it lit up. It was a moment in my life that I will never forget.
As Cox and I walked closer to the Eiffel, I noticed that the area we walked in was bustling, even at midnight. Besides our fellow visitors, there were many vendors offering souvenirs, such as miniature Eiffel Towers. One in particular was relentless: after I turned down his 20 Euro offer for a glass Eiffel tour that lit up, he offered it for 10, which I turned down again. Finally, he asked for 5 Euros, and I bought it. Aside from the rampant capitalism, the most memorable thing about this area’s ambience was the live music playing continuously.
After taking the requisite pictures of the Eiffel, Cox and I called a Houston friend, Stephanie Chiquillo, on Cox’s trusty French cellphone. Soon we met up with Chiquillo and other friends, Cassandra Richards and Aaron D’Souza, in the garden area near the Eiffel. On the way there, I had a chance to walk under the Eiffel – the view was incredible.
It wasn’t 2 a.m. yet, so the night was still young as far as we were concerned. Cox, D’Souza and I headed to a caf’eacute; with patio seats that gave us a view of the tip of the Eiffel Tower. We waited for the waiter to bring the crepes and red wine to our table and noted that the crepes were more expensive than the ones we ate often in Angers, but we knew this was because we were also paying for the great locale under the Eiffel.
We sat, basking in the Eiffel’s splendor until it lit up at 1 a.m.
At that point, we knew that we’d have to leave soon because the last Metro train ran at 1:30 a.m. We began hastily heading to the nearest Metro, which was about 2 and a half miles away. Cox and I began running, but D’Souza, feeling the effects of one too many drinks, walked in no hurry. After running past Napoleon’s Tomb, under the Eiffel, crossing a traffic-filled street and climbing 10 flights of stairs, we finally reached the Metro: only to find out we were at the wrong platform. We then saw the last train arriving at the correct platform across from us, and despite giving up hope, we nonetheless ran up the stairs to try to reach the other train.
Would the Houston crew make it to the last train or spend the night on Paris’ streets? Stay tuned to find out.