Often, I come across a must-see-this, must-do-this attitude about travelling. If you travelled somewhere and did not do a particular thing you are made to feel extreme FOMO. We all fall victim to this at some point or the other. You are either “just a tourist” or a “traveller.” Why can’t one be both? Why can’t travel be something where you enjoy it the way it works for you? The point isn’t that you must or mustn’t do something but to keep yourself open for any and all kinds of experiences.
The reason for this rant basically stemmed from when I visited the Eiffel Tower. There it stood in all its glory, but basking in that glory were a ton of people. If there’s one thing that popular monuments draw like flies to honey, it’s the crowds. And this makes me both happy and unhappy about being there.
Every-time I’m in an overcrowded place, the introvert in me wishes to be distanced from it. I hope not to be misunderstood here – I’m not saying I’m above anybody else. I simply feel lost and uncomfortable in crowds. So I try my level best to avoid them and keep looking for experiences that could be my own. Something unique, something special.
And it so happened that I visited the Eiffel Tower at night. On a night that it disappeared.
It all happened thanks to my friend, Mel. She has lived in Paris for a long time and we were chitchatting about her experiences. She told me about an unforgettable experience that she had and that planted the seed. I had to try it out – see the Eiffel Tower when the chance of vast crowds engulfing me was zero to none.
With this thought, I eagerly stepped out at 1:30 AM, bundled up to keep myself warm and cosy in the cold, winter night. It was a pleasant night with a crisp, cold breeze and I decided to foot it. I wasn’t staying too far from the tower and walking kept me warm. I was loving the peace and quiet. With hardly anybody around I felt like I owned the place. As I got closer and closer to my destination, I was fully and thoroughly excited.
When I neared the park though, I was unable to see the Eiffel Tower. I panicked, for just a fraction of a heartbeat before I realized what was different – the lights were out!
Drawing closer, I could make out the silhouette of the unlit tower against a dark, cloudy sky. The night was cold and there was nobody else about. It felt like a special place, meant only for my eyes. I walked along the empty picnic benches, frosted grass crunching beneath my boots. As I hugged myself for warmth, I felt something cold touch my nose. I looked up, watching my breath frost as I let out an inaudible gasp. I was looking at the first snowfall of the season. I was spellbound. If there was anything that could make this experience more magical, it was this.
The serenity, the solitude, the cold, the snow. All mine. It was an experience no amount of words could do justice to. To me, travelling isn’t just a checklist of things to see and do; scurrying from one place to the other so you don’t miss out on anything. Sometimes it is about simple experiences unrivalled by anything else.
Traveller precaution: This is a recap of an incident from a long time ago. Given the current situation in Paris, it is highly recommended not to try this as it can be quite unsafe.
Read more about Paris here.