arc du triomphe

Welcome to Paris: First Steps To Feeling Like A Parisian

By: Caroline Clarke

After landing in Paris the best way to avoid jet lag is to power through the day. I donned my trench coat, and grabbed my pocket map of the metro system, and headed towards Opera. I emerged from the subway and heard live music playing from the steps of the Opera house. The energy was contagious as Parisians and tourists stood by and clapped along.

Just around the corner from the Opera house is Galeries Lafayette. It is a large department store with everything from scarves to tea sets and an in-house macaron shop. After picking up a few sweet treats, I went towards the escalators and took them all the way to the 7th floor. I found myself on a rooftop terrace looking out over the city. The panorama is breathtaking and one of the best ways to begin a trip in Paris by getting a lay of the land with a bird’s-eye-view.

After Galeries Lafayette I wandered through the streets and happened upon an area called the Marais. This area caters to a younger crowd with stores like Autour du Monde, Bensimon, Karl Lagerfeld, and more.  There is a great park called Place de Voges, that was full of Parisians enjoying the sunshine in the heart of the Marais area.

 place de voges

(Place de Voges)

Strolling throughout Paris is the best way to learn the city; however the most efficient way to get around the city is by Metro. If your stay is one week or more, I highly recommend investing in a Navigo. This is the ticket to any metro station and you have unlimited swipes into the stations. It didn’t take long to get the hang of using the metro and I quickly copied the Parisians by putting on my headphones and taking out a novel for the metro ride.

Throughout the first week, I worked on getting accustomed to the city, and understanding my class schedule.  One day after class I met up with some other students from the States on the Champs Elysees. We then walked toward the Arc du Triomphe; which seemed like the French equivalent to Rodeo Drive. After a short wait, we were able to get tickets to climb over 280 steps to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. The monument was constructed by Napoleon Bonaparte and commemorates the triumphs of Paris.

act du triomphe

(view from the Arc du Triomphe)

arc du triomphe

(The Arc du Triomphe)

For example, the Tour de France finishes at that point, Bastille Day is celebrated underneath the Arc, and it is the gate to the Champs Elysees from the outer areas of Paris. As I stood on top of the structure and looked across the Paris skyline at the Eiffel tower, I felt like I was finally becoming an independent Parisian and was conquering the city, one metro stop and destination at a time.

It is easy to get caught up in doing the “local” thing and finding tourist attractions overrated. However, I talked about the Eiffel Tower with my host mother, asking her if Parisians looked at the iconic structure the same way tourists did. She replied saying, “Every time I pass the Eiffel Tower when it sparkles at night I feel like it’s magic.”

Taking the time to see the sights around Paris never gets old, whether you are a Parisian on your way to work everyday or a tourist on your first trip overseas, walking around Paris leaves you spellbound and eager to explore the rich history.

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