My Life as a Traveler

From Solitude to the Teeming Masses

Sunday! Finally, a day to sleep in. The kids and I were up til after 1am last night, and we have nowhere to go until 9:30am for breakfast. We were all looking forward to a morning without an alarm to wake us up. However, it was not to be. That great view of the abbey above us also means that we are close to the huge bells in the cathedral. The bells go off at 7am. I don’t know how many there are up there, but it sounds like they are all ringing in our room. OK, we’re up, even Morgan and Anna.

Morgan has an adventure planned, so the kids take off. George and I take a stroll around the base of the island on the edge of the mud flats that surround it. I think we’re all glad we woke up now. The place seems deserted and we have it all to ourselves.

But, the adventure continues and after breakfast we roll back down the hill and out of the city to our car for our last big drive to Paris, City of Light.

Eventually, we find the place to return the car at the Montparnasse train station and hop on the metro toward our apartment near the Invalides, Napoleon’s tomb. Our landlord meets us there and is the nicest guy you can imagine, speaking good English. His great-great-great grandfather built the building in the 1800’s and he owns several rooms/apartments on the top (6th) floor. We get the 2 bedroom facing the street. When we look out one window, we see the Eiffel Tower, another, the Invalides, another, Sacre Coeur on Montmartre.

What to do first thing in Paris?? Anna has two wishes, to see the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. Since we can walk to the Eiffel Tower, we head that way. But yikes! It’s Sunday afternoon, gorgeous (if a little warm) weather, and high tourist season, a lethal combination. Everybody in the world is there. There is not a free spot of grass on the Champs de Mars, the lines to go up the tower are massive, and beggars and trinket salesmen are out in force. It is Tourist Hell, complete with sweat.

We walk up to the Trocadero to get a good photo op with the tower, then down to the Seine River where it is a little less populated. Walking back toward the apartment, we stop at the café recommended by our landlord for dinner. Space is tight, there are tons of people even on this pedestrian-only street, and the stress level is high. Italian food is good (always better in Europe than at home), but my peeps just want to get back to the peace and quiet of our home-away-from-home. Actually, I think some of them want to go all the way back to the solitude of Mont Saint Michel, but that won’t happen.

Because so many people live within the city limits, the population density of Paris is far higher than other cities where people who work there commute from suburban areas. For us Americans, who value our space, it is very uncomfortable to be in such close proximity to so many strangers. All you can see are people, people, people violating our sense of personal space and overrunning the area like an infestation of ants in your kitchen.

Yet, in a way, it is energizing. For me, I feel more like a citizen of the world, of the planet, when I share the stage with so many players. Yeah, some are nasty, annoying at the least, but most are just like me, even in some small regard, and it’s nice to know that I’m not alone.

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