So when my school offered a special trip that took senior students back and
forth to Paris in 24 hours, I was stunned. I knew about the trip, since the
school offered it to last year’s class as well, but it made me realize again how
close Paris actually is to my home in the Netherlands.
Of course, I knew Paris is a six to seven hour drive from where I live, but that
doesn’t really mean anything. Living in a small and quiet town in the
Netherlands, it’s hard to believe this world famous romantic city is actually
that nearby. It normally seems like Paris is worlds away. But it really isn’t.
At five o’clock in the morning, the seniors of the Christelijk College Nassau-Veluwe
in Harderwijk – and some sophomores who were lucky enough to fill in the places
that were left over – gathered in front of the school. It was dark and gloomy,
and it was pretty hard to imagine that we’d arrive in Paris in just a matter of
The drive took us about six and a half hours and as we were driving into Paris,
we noticed the weather was great, which is always a good start.
After we had worked our way through streets crowded with tourists from all over
the world, we were standing, still a bit dazed, in front of the Sacré-Cœur, with
a nice view over the city. Here, we were given a dayticket for public transport
and we were off, an entire day of Paris stretching out in front of us.
After a quick look inside the stunning Sacré-Cœur basilica, my friends and I
headed for the Cimetière de Montmarte, a big cemetery in the Montmarte district.
It was a nice walk, through cute, cobbled streets that look like they come
straight from a movie set. Every street corner seems like the perfect setting
for an unfolding love story.
Slightly less romantic is the penetrating smell that intensifies from time to
time, to a point where you can barely breathe. Paris certainly isn’t going to
win an award for being the cleanest city.
As crammed as the streets with their souvenir shops around the Sacré-Cœur are,
at the Cimetière de Montmartre, an intense and almost unworldly silence fills
The atmosphere there is serene and lugubrious at the same time and I think we
were all happy it wasn’t about to get dark. It’s absolutely fascinating to walk
past the rows of graves. Some of them are so old and dilapidated, they look like
they haven’t been touched by human hands in years.
The Seine River.
These old graves do have a certain charm, but it’s a little sad as well.
Everyone who could have remembered the people who were buried there is probably
long gone as well.
After this, we decided to try a more lively part of town. If you’re ever
traveling to Paris, you should definitely go see the Galeries Lafayette. Not
only does this expensive department store have a stunning glass and steel dome,
its roof terrace also provides a magnificent view over Paris. It’s definitely a
place to snap some pictures.
Taking a look at stuff you’ll probably never be able to buy anyway is always fun
as well, but finding the restrooms might prove to be a bit difficult in Galeries
Following the signs, at least to the point where the signs suddenly stopped, led
us to a lot of places, but not the restrooms. This is a problem we encountered
more than once during the day. In Paris, they somehow seem to think that people
will miraculously know how to continue after following one or two signs in the
right direction. We got lost more than once.
After hours of figuring out subway maps, asking for directions in French and
lots and lots of walking, we’d seen most of the city’s highlights.
We took pictures at the famous Louvre museum and its glass pyramids and walked
along the Seine, with a thousand little shimmers lighting up from the peacefully
rippling water. Eventually we even got to the Notre-Dame. We were getting really
tired, but before heading to the Champs-Élysées we had one more place to go: the
The Eiffel Tower
Keep in mind that we had been walking for hours and we were pretty hungry. After
taking a look at the Eiffel Tower, it pretty hard not to look at it when you’re
within less than a 30-meter distance, but we decided we’d go look for a place to
Most of us, intrepid world travelers as we are, wanted to go to McDonald’s. In
these globalized times, you’d think that couldn’t be difficult in a metropolis
like Paris. Yes, that’s what you’d think. But apparently, there’s no McDonald’s
Restaurant anywhere within walking distance of the Eiffel Tower. Some people
even looked a bit puzzled when we asked them, like it was the last place on
earth anyone would think of establishing a fast food restaurant.
Cara Nelissen and Marjon Viester, 17 on the roof terrace of