I couldn't stay under the Eiffel Tower, that was for sure. (Once back in class my French teacher Frédéric was alarmed when I told him what I'd done, given the now-obvious fact that it wasn't the safest area.) I decided to move on but still had several hours to go before sunup. The lawn adjacent to the Eiffel Tower was full of assorted backpacker types attempting to sleep. Suddenly the sprinklers came on, which led to a flurry of activity as everyone scrambled to get out of the spray.
Eventually I made may over to Montmartre. A long funicular railway winds its way up to the church, but the line was of course closed for the night. I had a long walk up the stairs to the top. When I got there, the sun was coming up and this place, the best vantage point in Paris, was deserted.
Apparently a great amusement of Parisian youth is to get staggeringly drunk in front of the church and then smash their beer bottles. The ground was covered with broken glass from the night before. I have never seen so much - it was literally everywhere. I'm not certain what the previous night entailed, but it was probably for the best that I didn't venture there earlier. The only other person with me was an unfortunate city sweeper whose job it was to clean up the mess. So I sat on the steps of the church and watched the city, just me and the sweeper, listening to the sound of broken glass scraping along the stone and watching the sun filling out the spectacular panoramic view with light. I don't remember us acknowledging the other's presence; instead we were silent, both of us fully immersed in the task at hand.
From my perch I could see most of the city spread out before me. The sun came up from the left and made a surprisingly quick ascent through the sky. The whole experience was heightened by the minimal sleep and stupor and the general randomness of the night before, and the knowledge that this was one of the places that people dream of visiting.
I headed back down into the city, which was quiet and cool and still. As I wound my way through the streets on the way to the train station I spied two boys attempting to break into a payphone. When they saw me they temporarily paused their jimmying but quickly resumed, unconcerned by my presence.
I hadn't planned much, I was bone-tired, I had barely spent a day in the city. But sometimes the silliness and impulsiveness is all worth it. On that one random morning, in a completely-clichéd-but-nonetheless-still-true kind of way, Paris was mine.
|Back at Sacré Cœur at night, 9 years later|