My flight landed at Charles de Gaulle Airport almost an hour early, a little after 7:30am. As the captain announced our approach, he told us that the temperature in Paris was +13C. Three days earlier I had been dealing with temperatures of -23. This swing in the weather was appreciated.
A wave of relief washed over me as I disembarked from the plane. Relief that I was back in Europe, where the relaxed urban lifestyle I enjoy so much is commonplace. Relief that the plan hadn’t gone down in the freezing Atlantic Ocean (irrational fear). I breezed through customs and found my bag already waiting for me on the carousel. I must have spent no more than 10 minutes in the airport.
I boarded the RER train and made my way to my airbnb apartment, which was easy to find. After dropping off my bags, I explored my local neighbourhood. I ended up in a pedestrian zone, Rue Montorgueil, where I stopped at a café called Drôle d’endroit pour une rencontre and enjoyed a croissant and espresso for two euros. “Je suis Charlie” was written on one of the chalk board displayed in front of the café. I wanted to take a photo but didn’t want to come off as a cliché tourist. I regret not taking one.
I headed back to my room and took a nap and then showered. I decided I should head to Place de la Republique, where Parisians have been gathering since the terrorist attacks on Charlie Hebdo.
A few hundred people were at the Place de La Republique, along with media trucks from around the world. I saw NBC, RT, Tagesschau and others I didn’t recognize.‚ I was hungry so I walked a block east and found a bakery where I ordered a baguette. I walked back to the Place as night was falling. I took some photos and then headed to a Mcdonalds, to take shelter from the rain, sip on a coffee and plan my next stop.
I took the Metro to Chatelet, where I walked past the Hotel de Ville, which had a temporary skating rink set up in front. The ice surface was watery from the warm temperatures.
From there I headed to Notre Dame de Paris. I hadn’t been inside the cathedral in many years. Usually the crowds are too much for me to handle, but tonight it was quiet so I walked in and spent a half hour admiring the architecture and the history.
I crossed the Seine and made my way to Boulevard Saint Germain, walking westward until I reached Odeon. I then hung a right and made it to the bridge of locks, once again crossing the Seine and finding myself facing the Louvre. I passed the pyramid and then continued North, negotiating the winding streets until I found my way back at my apartment.
Sunday morning I woke up a little after 4am and couldn’t get back to sleep. The sun doesn’t rise until almost 9am during the winter months in Paris. It was dark until 8:30, so I passed the time doing some reading. Once I got outside, I found a deserted city. The sprawling square outside the Bourse building was empty.
The only sound was the batting wings of a pigeon. I walked around the neighbourhood, stopping at a cafe for a small espresso at a place called‚ Le Gymnase.
After returning to my apartment to collect my things, I descended underground into the metro where entry was free for the day, in anticipation of the huge march set to take place that afternoon. Unfortunately, I had a plane to catch and was unable to attend. I got to the airport on time and my quick layover visit to Paris was complete.
I’ve been to Paris several times these past few years, but I’ve never really liked it all that much. This recent visit was my most enjoyable. Visiting the city in winter is a completely different experience. The throngs of tourists that are everywhere in summer vanish in winter. Instead, you find a normal city, bustling during regular hours, but quiet during off-peak hours. Experiencing +13 temperatures in January didn’t hurt my outlook either.