I first visited Paris as a teenager and it was great. A lot of giggling around nude sculptures in museums, winking at cute French men, cheeky late night wine tasting in the hostel run by nuns. And learning, of course, the visit being a school field trip.
I went back at a mature age of 20, together with a housemate. We planned to breathe in as much culture as possible, have intellectual chats over croissants in bohemian cafes and well, do the touristy stuff.
At the same time we were still just poor students so it had to be tight budget-friendly. We got a fantastic deal on coach tickets: 30 quid for nine hours of a journey; what could go wrong? In preparation for such a long trip we stocked up on snacks and my lovely friend, left in charge of packing the food, felt obliged to let the world know our social status by manifesting proudly a huge Farmfoods bag all the way from Southampton to Paris.
The journey itself wasn’t as bad as we had expected. Nine hours went by quite fast as we watched French Kiss, and munched on Starburst and scotch eggs, ever so classy.
One of our priorities was to have a movie-like Paris moment featuring wine and the Eiffel Tower, and so on the first day, after hours of sightseeing, we rewarded ourselves with a picnic. We purchased some very smelly cheese and very fruity wine (both within our student budget of 5€) and sat down to enjoy the sun right in front of the monument.
As it turned out, we were poorly prepared. It was a hot day and the cheese melted quickly, which, as we forgot to bring cutlery, did not present a graceful look as we ate. Not discouraged in the slightest, we then reached for the wine: drinking rose while watching the sun set in Paris – can you imagine anything better?
Apart from we forgot that even cheap French wines have corks and we didn’t bring a corkscrew. After 10 minutes of poking the cork, my pen gave in and, quite embarrassed, we had to interrupt a French couple nearby their own romantic moment.
Finally set up, we watched the sun set and awaited the Tour Eiffel sparkle. That would be the ultimate magical Paris moment. And since we were on a holiday and eager to support small local business, we bought an overpriced bottle of champagne from a very entrepreneurial ‘vendor’ walking around. Only took us a split second after making the purchase to realise none of us really had much experience opening champagne bottles, because, well, what we usually tend to drink is locked with a metal cap. For an easy task we sure had to mess it up, and the victim of our cheap drinking habits was a poor French guy sitting with a group of friends nearby. It was his loud ‘ouch!’ that made us realise the cork got out of hand slightly. The good news? For tipsy tourists we had pretty good aim as the cork hit the poor bloke right in the head.
All considered, the evening was worth the struggle; the sparkling Eiffel tower was gorgeous and the whole thing was magical. A real movie-like Paris moment.