Paris is always a good idea….until your wallet gets stolen.
Okay, I’m half lying. I wasn’t really the one who was victimized by the thief. My friend was. But this is still half true because my money was inside her wallet that was stolen and a stolen money is not something you can easily forget about.
Yup, there are thieves everywhere, even in a city as beautiful as Paris. You probably think that, from google images and Instagram, Paris is too posh, stylish and elegant of a city for something bad to happen to you. You’re wrong. Paris is actually quite popular when it comes to thieves. Last year, when I first told my colleagues at work that I was going to Paris, the first comment was “Oh, take extra care of your belongings because thieves are everywhere.” My friend also warned me about the same thing because his bag was almost stolen in broad daylight. This is the reason why it is always important to research about the Place where you are going to. I always read about travel blogs, recommendations, suggestions not only for tours and attractions but also for precautions. This is not to stop me or discourage you from traveling. It just makes us a well informed traveler.
So, if we already knew there are pick pockets and purse snatchers in Paris then how come this still happened to us?
I really don’t know how to answer this. I think we were just too complacent especially coming from london and living in borough with low crime rates. We probably underestimated the thieves, thinking that we’d notice them anyway if they start opening our bags. I was probably lucky that I was standing in between the bus seats and that there was no one standing behind me. My friend, however, was standing near the entrance of the bus where people are highly likely to crowd and stay. We took the bus from Tour Eiffel to Champ Elysees and these are both tourist attractions. Hence, the were a lot of people coming in and out at every bus stop. My friend only realized her bag was open when we stepped out of the bus as she was about to put her travel card back inside her bag. To her surprise, she noticed her bag was half open and immediately searched for her wallet. It was gone. And so is our money (because I asked her to put my euros in her wallet because I didn’t bring mine), her debit and credit cards and, the most important of all her documents, her Biometric Residence Permit (BRP). Without this card, it would be impossible for her to come back to London. This horrible event happened during our first day in Paris and we haven’t done any tour whatsoever.
From then on, we did nothing but accompany our poor friend to go to the UK embassy, consulate and visa application center to process her documents and get hold of another UK visa in order to enter the UK. This is what we did for the next two days. We were only staying in Paris for 4 days and, basically, there’s no more time to see museums, visit Versailles, or go to Disneyland. Our spirits were definitely on all time low because reality ruined our expectations of the trip. We also had to take care of my friend whose wallet was stolen because she was extremely traumatized to the point that she didn’t eat or drink for the next three days. We kept on telling her to look at the positive side of the situation like – she’s lucky to be a foreigner stuck in Paris than in …. a city in the middle of a war. We were trying to enumerate things she could do while waiting for her visa such as visiting all the museums, practice photography, learn french, drink wine etc. but she just wasn’t listening. We’ve exhausted all our efforts to keep her happy but to no effect – she was in a catatonic state.
Although there was nothing really to miss out for me because I’ve been to Paris last year, I thought it would still be nice to enjoy the city because, well…it’s Paris. There’s still so many things to celebrate and see in this city. Every corner is literally picture perfect. So, if ever something like this happens to you, don’t just sulk and wait for magic to happen. I always try to keep in mind to live in the present and to feel and embrace every moment. I still encouraged my friends to go around the city after the office hours of the visa center so as not to waste the “holiday”. Plus, it’s summer! Sunset’s at 10pm!
Here are some of the few places we still managed to visit:
Honestly, I am more in love with the architecture and design of the museum itself rather than what it contains inside. You can leave me here for hours and I’d still probably be caught taking pictures of the pyramids and the building. The sculptures engraved in the buildings are too perfect and just purely unbelievable.
Notre Dame Cathedral
It’s my second time here and I still didn’t get the chance to go to the top. The queue is so loooong but the view is beautiful they said! But if you don’t have much time like us, you can still go inside the cathedral. Entrance is free. It’s always worth appreciating the art and history of the cathedral which you can read about in the exhibit inside. In our case, we just went inside and prayed.
Listen to musicians while staring at the Eiffel Tower.
We sat here in Champ de Mars where we had beautiful view of the Eiffel tower while listening to musicians and feeling the summer breeze brush through our skins. I don’t remember how long we stayed here but I can remember that we were tired. The heat, the frustration, the sadness and the fear that we can’t trust anyone anymore are just all mixing up in our heads and draining us out. I think this was the day where my friend spent the entire day filling out an application form outside the door of the visa center then finding out in the end that it was the wrong application form to begin with. It was another day gone to waste.
I’m not sure if my friends felt the same thing but I enjoyed watching the Eiffel tower. It seemed like it was singing a lullaby and trying to calm and uplift my broken spirit. It was one of those moments where I try to relax and watch what other people are doing and try to read through their minds. I know you’ve somehow been through the same moment before – when you’re filled with deep thoughts and you suddenly see someone and you just ask yourself “I wonder what’s she’s thinking?” It’s always a puzzle what other people are going through.
Shop (or window shop) at Champs Elysees until you reach Arc de Triomphe
Champs Elysees is recognized as the most beautiful avenue in the world so its worth strolling around its massive sidewalks. When we were there, Neymar Jr. was inside the PSG store! We didn’t see him but you’ll never know who you can bump into 😉 You can also try the restaurants but I don’t really recommend them unless you’re really hungry. We ate at three restaurants in Champ Elysees but none of them gave justice to the price we were paying.
Arc de triomphe is powerful. The neoclassical design and the sculptures celebrating military victories just leave me in total awe. It is a must-see in Paris! Again, we didn’t have time to go inside so all we could do is take pictures.
Have a stroll in the Luxembourg gardens.
Appreciate Haussmannian Buildings.
One thing I failed to appreciate the last time I went to Paris was the urban Planning set by Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann. Thanks to him, Paris is now one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
“Commissioned by Napoleon III, the ambitious program of works started in 1853 and continued to the end of the century. It aimed to improve public hygiene and wipe out epidemics by creating a clean water and sewage system; ease traffic congestion; and contain possible rioting. Paris was divided into the 20 arrondissements (districts) that exist today. Haussmann established a standard ratio between the height of the buildings and the width of the streets. He decreed that buildings should not be more than five stories high and roofs should have a 45 degree pitch to allow daylight to reach the sidewalks. His regulations also standardized how the façades should look.’ – link
(If only they can do the same in manila 🙁 )
Hop on Hop off tour
On our last day in Paris, we took the hop on hop off tour so we could see the famous landmarks in Paris. It’s a two hour ride if you decide not to “hop off” which is what we did because we only had until 2pm to do this. This is probably the wisest thing we could do given our situation. Here are some of the photos I took while on board the bus tour.
Nothing much happened during our four day stay in Paris but I’m still happy that I got to visit this place again. I mean, how many people in the world are dying to see this city? How many people have not ticked this off their bucket list? Even if things didn’t go as planned, I’m just thankful for the fact that we’re safe. That my friend, who had to stay in Paris for 22 days to wait for her UK visa, is now back in London and is eating again (haha!). Really, worse things could’ve happened to us!
Friends and colleagues at work asked me if it’s still worth visiting Paris and if I would still come back to this place after what happened.
The answer is always YES. Paris is the first city I visited in Europe (outside the UK). The city is a constant reminder that my travel dreams are real.
And before I end this blog post, here is a quote from Anthony bourdain: