31 December... continued
The Grande Roue provided me with a spectacular view of Paris... but the plexiglas windows were so smudged and nasty that I had to fight with the cracks in the door to get any decent pictures. I know now why Paris is called the City of Lights, and on New Year's Eve... it was lit up in a truly spectacular fashion. The Eiffel Tower. The Champs-Élysées. All of it glittered below as I rose higher and higher over it all.
I have always known I am not a great judge of time or distance, and my experiences in Paris proved that in so many ways. Looking at the picture above I figured the Eiffel Tower couldn't be THAT far from where I was at the Concorde. Map says it's 1.5 miles. I walk that regularly.
But for some reason as I made my way from point A to point B I found myself frustrated. I could SEE the damn tower right there... why wasn't I there yet?? I hadn't realized quite how enormous it was. And how deceiving the size made the distance seem. It wasn't until I came to see the tower that the impact of its size finally hit me.
I'd seen the Eiffel Tower in movies. In pictures. I've read descriptions of it in books and on the internet. But never did I imagine it could be that enormous. The engineering of it was just incredible. The way it glowed in the dark through the clouds.
I walked around and took pictures from every angle, just amazed by its beauty. And then, out of the blue the tower began glittering and sparkling... a light show that went on for 10 minutes. I stopped everything and just watched from the bridge, awestruck that I was actually here... in Paris... seeing all of this for myself.
When finally I made the decision to leave, I still didn't know what I wanted to do to "celebrate" New Year's Eve at midnight. I did know though that I needed to find dinner. But yeah... New Year's Eve... restaurants near the tower were jam packed. If I had thought about it before, I would have made reservations at a really nice restaurant... treating myself to something extraordinary. But I ended up wanting something familiar.
So at 10pm I caught the metro and went back to Montmartre. I went back to the restaurant I had discovered that first day in Paris.
Le Relais Gascon
13, rue Joseph de Maistre
I very slowly relished the onion soup. The leg of lamb. And oh god... the crème brulée! Every part of the meal was perfect. And not once did I feel alone or lonely that I was spending New Year's Eve by myself in a strange city. I decided to indulge and ordered a bottle of wine. A delicious chardonnay that complemented my meal perfectly.
The staff at the restaurant were friendly. I had a great and lively conversation of mixed bad English and bad French with the table of old people sitting near me. And just before midnight, the manager handed out glasses of champagne to everyone there, and when the clock turned to midnight we all cheered and called out "BONNE ANNEE!" We wandered from table to table, mingling and kissing cheeks and clinking glasses.
Smiling broadly, I felt like a part of something. I didn't need crowds. I didn't need parties or clubs or anything loud or crazy. This was a Paris experience I hadn't planned on, but that felt exactly right.
I finally wandered back to my hostel at around 1:30 in the morning. Pleasantly drunk. Full of wonderful food. And content with life. 2011 was here, and I was starting it out just right.