How the Paris Metro Has Helped My Sense of Direction

Bonjour: part 2! This time, I write to you from a breathtaking city of love and light, history and heart, laughter and life- le magnifique Paris

My last week in the small but charming city of Tours passed quickly. My depart was bittersweet; I adored the way of life that I had just begun to become accustomed to, and I didn’t want to leave behind my caring host family, those unforgettable nights enjoying the cool breeze at the Loire River, and of course, my favorite crêperie. Yet I soon found myself thrust into the big city life as I stepped out of my TGV train into the bustling, overcrowded, and somewhat smelly Gare Montparnasse. 

Initially, I was nothing but stressed. I had heard altogether too many stories about pick-pocketing on Paris metros, and I could not figure out for the longest if I was even on the right train. Is this line 8 train traveling toward Balard or Creteil? Actually, am I even supposed to be taking line 8? Do I exit at the Invalides station? Or is Tour-Maubourg a closer walk? What if the doors close while I’m still hauling my suitcase?! Oh no, I have to hold on tighter to my purse! Wait, how do you use a metro ticket… 

Prior to Paris, my sense of direction left much to be desired. It is astonishing to me that over the course of just a few weeks here, I feel more comfortable with navigation than I ever have in my life. Of course, I have a few initial horror stories- forgetting to get off at the stop I needed to, or accidentally taking an RER train to the suburbs- but overall, I feel more independent. I feel confident in my ability to navigate my way through unfamiliar situations and environments, as well as my ability to problem-solve on the fly. It was surprising to realize that something as simple as the public transportation system here could teach me so much. 

Beyond the metro, though, my most memorable experience has definitely been the fête nationale (or in English, Bastille Day), which took place on Sunday, July 14, 2019. I was able to attend the parade in the morning, and I was lucky enough to find a spot to watch the concert and fireworks show at the Eiffel Tower that night. Traversing the throngs of people who were crowded in the streets, proudly waving their French flags and singing La Marseillaise (the French national anthem), I truly felt the national spirit in the air. Bastille Day gave me a look into the pride and patriotism of the French, something that I had never been able to see or consider before. It was an amazing experience, and I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity to appreciate the national holiday of France, at the heart of the country’s capital. 

Bastille Day Concert.

I am incredibly eager for my last week in this city, which stores wonders in each of its arrondissements (neighborhoods). I can say without a doubt that I will cherish every last second here, à Paris. Au revoir for now!

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