During my freshman year study abroad experience, my friend and I decided it would be fun to travel to Paris for a weekend. Being broke college students, we found a bus that would take us from London to Paris for just 14 pounds (about $18)! The catch was the bus ride was 14 hours … but we figured it was worth it as the bus planned to travel throughout the night.
We arrived in Paris at 5 a.m. to realize that we couldn’t check in our backpacks until 2 p.m. Neither of us had ever gone to Paris and we definitely didn’t know any French, and because we wanted to be “spontaneous” travelers, we didn’t plan anything in advance. We had no idea where to go or what to do. Although this seems like we were set up for disaster, our unplanned morning in Paris ended up being my favorite travel experience.
No tourists were up until about 9 a.m., so we had a good four hours to experience Paris in its natural, honest nature. Picking any direction to go in, we first walked past a street where all the vendors were setting up. They were all extremely friendly and helped give us directions so we could explore the city in the early hours of the day.
Once we realized we were on the opposite side of the city from the Eiffel Tower, we decided to try out the city’s transportation system since we had time to spare. Using the metro, we hopped on a train and crossed our fingers that we picked the right direction.
By the time we got off the metro, the sun was peeking out and the warmth felt so nice upon our cold faces. We grabbed coffee and breadsticks from a nearby coffee shop and made our way over to the Eiffel Tower. Gigantic compared to what I imagined, the structure stood at a shocking 1063 feet! With the metal frame alone weighing 7,300 tons, this landmark is truly a spectacular sight to see.
We watched the sunrise from the grass in front of the Eiffel Tower, talking about life, our fears, our adventures and more. There was a sense of magic in the air as if the dew on the grass was sparkling for us and the leaves on the trees were making a soft background noise that felt calming. I couldn’t help but feel content about my place in the world and the beauty that surrounded me.
First in line for the Eiffel Tower at 9 a.m., we were part of the first group to go up that day! It wasn’t crowded at all and with a clear sky, from the top of the tower, we could see for miles. Cars as tiny as ants, buildings that I could crush with my fingers and people walking who were almost invisible to see without squinting — it reminded me of how precious life is, and how we are so small in the massive world that surrounds us.
Whenever people travel to Paris, they complain of the snotty Parisians who glare at them from the coffee shops. I had quite the opposite experience. Everyone I passed nodded and smiled. The old men all carried a slight smile as they went to grab the morning newspaper, and all the young couples who woke up early for a morning run carried a sense of determination and readiness to conquer the day.
Mornings in Paris are an ideal time to simply walk around. My friend and I had so much fun watching cafes set up, smelling bakeries as they opened and seeing different types of architecture on each street we passed. Overall, I’m glad we decided to be spontaneous, as it allowed me see things I would’ve never seen otherwise.
I encourage you to foster a mindset of spontaneity the next time you travel, as my morning in Paris was an experience I will never forget.