Actual Date: March 17th, 2012
Despite a going to bed at four in the morning the previous night, we were determined not to sleep in. We vowed not to waste a single second in the beautiful city of Paris. We pulled ourselves out of bed around 9:30, grabbed a couple of croissants from the hotel, then set off for some craved shopping fix.
We got on the metro and headed for the Lafayette area, a place internationally known for its goods and also recommended by the local tour guide from yesterday. We just hoped for some cheap unique clothes, which can be a needle in a haystack.
It took us awhile to dig out the cheap boutiques after brushing through the cost-more-than-my-life name brands, but we eventually stumbled upon small store run by a Chinese couple with cloths like nothing we’ve ever seen before, and all at around 10€. I found a mustard-yellow dress that looked like it came straight out of the seventies, and boots that fit like a glove.
Around one o’clock, we grabbed a quick bite to eat at a local sandwich shop to avoid the typical two hours of time seemingly required at every restaurant in Paris then headed back to the hotel for the guided walking tour scheduled for two o’clock. It was a typical subway ride, until the unexpected occurred at an escalator as we transferred from one line to the other. An old man with a cane and a brown cap suddenly fell over on the escalator, falling within inches of my feet. Thinking he had just fallen over perhaps due to being disabled, I immediately went to try to help him up, pulling him up by the armpits. Soon I realized he was not trying to get back up. His gray-blue eyes were open, yet he was completely unconscious. His cane had started to roll all the way down the escalator and his hat fell behind me. Somebody thankfully finally pushed the emergency stop button. There I crouched, with the man in my arm and incapable to moving him anywhere. Soon other people came over to help, including a man with dreadlocks to. Was able to pull him to the top and lay him down on the floor. I picked up his cap and followed, expecting him to wake up at any minute to receive it. A woman came up to him, muttered a lot of French and felt his pulse. There was still no life in his eyes. Confused and flustered, I left his cap by his arm and we decided to leave. We felt useless being there, and Rachel could comprehend out of the French being exchanged that the woman was a doctor. Feeling like he was in good hands, we left and continued our way back home.
We couldn’t stop constantly replaying the scene in our heads. I felt disgusted carrying around my shopping bags, having been obsessed with such insignificant materialism. We could not hold back our tears and must’ve made a foolish scene as we sat in the metro, still gasping for air. We just wanted to get back to the hotel and hide in our blankets.
For the rest of the day thoughts kept screaming in my head and I was incapable of focusing. I remembered the old man letting out a deep breath when he fell in front of me. Had I witnessed his last breath? Was I one of the last people to see this man alive? Should I have stayed longer to see if he was OK? What will his family think when they find out how he died, alone in the subway falling down an escalator?
There was a dark cloud above our heads for the rest of the day as I kept trying to convince myself not to be bothered so severely by it. The man was elderly, he had lived a long life and his heart simply timed out. It might not have been the best imaginable circumstances, but that is just how life goes. It actually made me think of Ernie Pyle, and how war correspondents must’ve felt when they saw the dead bodies of young soldiers for the first time. What I saw is nothing compared to trauma they witnessed. It strangely comforted me to remind me of this. It was our last day in Paris, I had to move on and try to enjoy it.
We met up in the hotel and set off for a walking tour of Paris. We were released for a little bit on a bridge that was gated off from cars. A young man modern-danced in the middle of the street with accordions in the background. It was quite a beautiful scene and I could not help but stare. He had a case open to collect money but I felt he looked genuinely content with dancing barefoot in the cold. He looked like he might’ve been a dance student as his techniques were very ballet-oriented and classical.
Unlike all the other tour guides we’ve had, this one was an American who spoke perfect frat-boy American English. It was quite a contrast to the rest we’ve had. He guided us to walk through the most historic sites of Paris, where remnants of the Nazi occupation is still seen and holes from bullets still remain on the walls. The sky began to drizzle and it got fairly cold, very unfortunate for our last day in Paris.
We were released as the rain was just starting to get worse. We sought refuge in a restaurant by Notre Dame and had our last dinner in Paris. We had fairly ordinary food like keish, fries and pasta.
We returned to the hotel afterwards to refresh ourselves for the night. For the last night in Paris, I was determined to spend every second of it with the city, not just huddled in my hotel room. “Sleep is for Bloomington!”
The tour guide had circled a whole area on my map for me to visit as a part of my last adventure in Paris, so there we set off. It was late at night, and the only shops we passed by that were open were fruit stands. We bought bananas just for fun. We walked into the closest bar we encountered, and had a great conversation with a group of Romanians. They introduced themselves by saying “We are not gypsies!” and later elaborated on how much they hated the gypsies because they steal and beg from Paris but in reality are wealthy people in Romania because they also receive tax cuts. It definitely added Romania to the next place I want to visit.
As determined, we did not waste a single second sleeping and had one of the best nights I’ve ever had. Visiting Paris again for a longer period of time has made itself unto my bucket list.