I got off the metro not knowing where to go. The Concierge at the hotel told me to get off of Châtelet because that is the middle of everywhere in the city. There were about thousands of people at the metro station when I got off. As I went up the escalator it was a complete maze. Everything stated in French. It almost reminded me of Penn Station in NYC, but at least I understood what the signs meant. Thanks to my senior year in high school, I visited Montreal with my Student Government group and I remember “Sortie” which means exit. So I followed the “Sortie” signs and the sign that looks like a guy running eager to get out (coincidence). As I looked lost, a beautiful young African girl with a french accent asked me if I needed help. And I asked her “where do I go?” She pointed in a direction and said “continuer” which meant “keep moving.” So I went that direction and was turning left, turning right, going up the stairs, and down an escalator, I finally saw daylight. The smell of fresh air and cigarette smoke was very appealing to me compared to the common urine smell inside any typical metro or train station.
By the time I got outdoors, I had no idea where to go. I was still lost. it was like any typical city. I’ve been to a lot of the major cities in the U.S. and grew up in San Francisco, so walking out of the metro station was typical for me compared to walking out of the BART station on Embarcadero when I used to work for the radio station. But it’s different when everything is in a different language other than english, and especially when you do not know where you are. Back at the hotel, the Concierge offered to hand me a map, but I declined only because I wanted to figure my way around. Same thing happened in Madrid, I did not want a map, and I got lost there which was great. I prefer to walk around in a city I have never been to and get lost because I know I can figure my way around, and eventually get back to where I started. Because at that starting point, you know that you were never lost after all. Especially in a beautiful city like Madrid.
So I continued my way around the city, and my goal was to reach that famous landmark everyone keeps talking about. I figured all I need to do was look up and I could see what I wanted to see in a distance. It was stated that it was the tallest landmark in the world until 1930 when the Chrysler Building in New York City was built. I continued walking a couple of blocks but I really couldn’t see much with taller buildings and overcast skies with temperatures about 12 degrees Celsius, I was hoping that clouds and fog would not cover it but there weren’t that many sky scrapers to tell if tall buildings were covered by fog. About 10 minutes later I finally saw it, so I headed that direction in a rapid movement.
The Eiffel Tower didn’t look like it was that far, so I figure I walk it. But what a beautiful walk it was. The first thing I saw was the Pont Des Arts. And it was true, they were already taking half of the locks down. But it didn’t stop locals and tourists around to add more locks onto the bridge. With how beautiful the city and people are so drawn to falling in love or being in love, the lock and the key represents “Love is the key to the heart,” which is true. I believed it more when I came to this city.
A couple of blocks down was the Home of Napoleon and across the street the Palais Garnier. After seeing these popular city tourist sights, I was already overwhelmed and it was only the beginning of the trip, and maybe because I was still jet lagged. But it really hit me when I finally reached the Pont Alexandre III, especially with a crepe guy at the corner cooking crepes on his bicycle stand. I would see a lot of Pont Alexandre photos in magazines, engagement pictures, many times on the travel channel, since it is probably one of the attractions people tend to think of when they think of this city.
So I continued the walk. Dusk was approaching and street lights were turning on. It then started to sprinkle a bit, and I had no umbrella. So i started to walk faster. I reached a point where I had no idea where to go. I turned into a street and literally got lost. As I looked up I couldn’t see the tower anymore, thinking I went the wrong direction. I just started walking towards the ways I remember seeing the tower which I felt was north so I unknowingly went that route. Turning right, turning left, I started to see flash of lights blinking. In about 10 minutes after getting lost, there it was. The sparkling with its lights twinkling blinking TOUR EIFFEL.
Over the past couple of months I had to just figure out a lot of things. Certain people knew what I was going through and it took a toll out on me because over the past couple of years I faced a lot of challenges that I never would thought occur. Family member becoming sick, losing close friends over stupid bullshit, but then I realized that it’s a part of life. I felt like I’ve lost and I felt alone. These trips I took the past couple of months I have learned SO MUCH, especially when you go solo. But what this trip to Paris has taught me is that I’ve pretty much have done everything I could. Meaning, being there for family when they need it and trying to save friendships. It all just worn me out. So I had to go my own way, and going down that one road was definitely not for me. So I went the other way. And trying to find my way out of that metro station or figuring out how get to the Eiffel Tower is no matter the journey I’m taking it will strengthen me as I go along. Whether I’m just trying to deal with a family member being sick, losing friends, or even having a hard day at work, it will make me a stronger person. You learn from it as time comes and have to figure it out. You have to remember, I never used a map to try to find my way around Paris. It’s almost as comparison to buying a book on “How to Save A Friendship” or “How To Heal A Family Member” or “Why Did I Get Yelled at For Canceling a Trip Because My Sister Was Ill” you just have to figure it all out on your own, and when you move towards that direction, you’ll eventually understand why.
No matter the direction you take, whether you’re going left, going right, up the stairs, or even decide to take the elevator, or if you think you’re taking the wrong way trying to reach that destination, you’ll definitely see that light at the end. And when you see that light or reached it, you know you’ve overcame that obstacle. Like what the beautiful African French girl or Mademoiselle said, you have to keep moving. Like I said it’s a part of life. You will never get lost. You’ll eventually find your way back.
When I got to the Eiffel Tower the lights started flashing, like the lights you see in Vegas or Time Square. I knew I was going to be ok. Before I left my trip to Paris, a good friend of mine sent me a text, but it was a picture text that states “Those who fly solo has the strongest wings.” Traveling by myself this year made me a strong person. I still fight my battles, but I’m definitely stronger than I was before.