With two full days in Paris and two half days— and on one of those days, I wouldn’t even be in Paris but instead trotting along the coast of Normandy—we really had one day to “do Paris.” One rather cold, windy, rainy day smack dab in the middle of summer. But we were nothing if not determined.
We woke up bright and early to leave our hostel at 8 am. And when I say that we woke up bright and early, the struggle was real. My eyes hardly wanted to open. I wanted to huddle in my bed forever. Outside looked grim at best, scaring at worst. I threw on what I hastily referred to as my Paris Dress, a dress I purchased ten years before as a high schooler in the city. Made from cotton with an open back that haltered around my neck, it was completely inappropriate for the day. I wore it anyway and threw a jacket over it.
A steady drizzle greeted us when we reached the Arc de Triomphe at 8:20 am. A steady drizzle and no one in the area, so a win some, lose some. A few cars whipped around the roundabout surrounding the tall war memorial, enough to warn people not to cross the street. After a few shots across the street with umbrella whipping through the air, a Chinese tour group of no less than fifty people surrounded us.
“Let’s go before they cross the street,” I said to Reese. Beat the crowd, is what I always say.
We passed through the underground tunnel and walked up the stairs to the center of the roundabout. Only a few police officers stood in the center. The wind continued to pick up and I tightened my zipper as I gazed 90 degrees in the air to look at the intricate detailing of the Arc. Napolean must have had some cash to commission this piece at the time. There’s something strange about the giant Roman-inspired structure surrounded by the emptiness of the roundabout and the modernity of the restaurants and shopping just beyond.
Across the street, we saw the Chinese tour group begin to disappear into the underground pass. Quickly, we snapped pictures of each other among the arches, trying our best to look natural as the wind whipped our clothing and hair around in uncomfortable ways and droplets of cold rain hit our skin.
As soon as the first of the tour came up, we dashed back under to the safety of the tunnel and decided to walk down the Champs-Elysees. We made it about five minutes down the street, sometimes veering down side streets to take pictures of interesting architecture before heading back to the subway station and finding our way to the Eiffel Tower.
By the time we arrived, the drizzle became sparse enough that the use of an umbrella became questionable. We managed to get there a bit early, so we waited in line for the 9:30 elevator booths to open. They moved us quickly through, putting us on a packed elevator and shooting us up one of the legs of the tower.
We arrived at the top, were ushered off onto the first platform and scrambled to the railways.
“I’m going up,” I realized, motioning towards the stairs leading to the next deck. A cool breeze made me shutter.
“Okay,” my friend said as she drew closer to the anti-falling fencing to take pictures.
I shuffled past a couple awkwardly on the stairs, got my camera ready, and was promptly blown back by a sudden gust of wind and rain whomping me in the face. “Argh!” I cried and struggled to open my umbrella in one hand while holding my camera in the other.
I didn’t want to miss a single moment, clearly.
Heavy rain fell. Wind tour through my thin cotton dress. I stumbled down the stairs to find Reese. No luck. Among the miserable, soaked tourists, she was gone. I dashed around the first platform, then the second.
A strike of bad luck hit me on the stairs—a sudden gust of wind tore my skirts up. I yelped and attempted to push them down whilst still carrying my umbrella against the wind and my camera in the other hand. I stumbled down the steps still yelling and trying to get my skirts under control only to turn back and see a young family of five staring at me open-mouthed.
“Ahh,” I said smartly before attempting to disappear into the crowds.
Good luck with my white dress.
Another horror of the oncoming rain.
After twenty minutes of searching, I decided to make my way to the top to find her. No luck. One last time checking the beginning platform, and I gave up and headed down to the ground level.
I hastily wiped off a bench near one of the concession stands and sat down at a perfect angle to see between the two working elevators. If she came out, I would find her.
Ten minutes passed. Then twenty. Then thirty.
Every crowd that came out made a rise of hope bubble in my chest then promptly squashed it. I suddenly couldn’t remember what she was wearing. What if she came out, but I missed her?
With a breath of relief, I saw her come out of one of the elevators and rose to meet her.
“I looked for you everywhere!” she said.
“I looked for you too,” I said.
I think it struck both of us at the same time that we couldn’t argue over who looked harder. The rain had stopped, the wind wasn’t quite so fearsome as it was from three stories up. We both seemed to decide that exploring some of the streets around us was the next best option, and took our time trying to find the perfect place to get the Eiffel Tower in the background.
At one point, while we were messing around trying to get crossing-the-street pictures, I called out, “Did you get it?”
“No, she didn’t,” an older French gentleman yelled back. “You better walk again.”
He made me walk another four times without even seeing what the camera pictures looked like. After, he explained to us that particular street was used in many movies over the years. We thanked him and walked away. On to the next adventure.