Watching the scintillating Eiffel Tower from the top of the Arc de Triomphe

Paris: the city of lights, one of the most romantic locations, a center of arts and culture. Though surprisingly not my favorite part of France, in my four trips to this belle ville, I began to love it more each time. Especially on the two occasions when I wandered the streets all alone—j’étais toute seule avec les lumières de Paris.

I first went to Paris with friends from Loyola University Maryland who were also studying abroad in Europe at the time. It was a weekend trip, so we packed in a lot of the touristy moments: drank champagne next to the Eiffel Tower at dusk, not knowing it would begin to sparkle, then climbed to the top of Montmartre to watch the next night; walked from Cathédrale Notre Dame to the Louvre, through the Jardin des Tuileries, across Place de Concord, along the Champs Elysées to the Arc de Triomphe, then cut over to the Eiffel Tower again to see it from Trocadero.

Le Louvre et le Tour Eiffel

Heading home, my train left from Gare de Lyon. I arrived there early, so I took a walk along the Seine to catch another view of Notre Dame, and then I cut over to see Place de la Bastille.

The beautiful exterior of Gare de Lyon

The next time I met the city of lights was à la Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris—in the rain! I was traveling completely alone, with only one night booked at the hostel and a train ticket to Saint Malo, but no hostel booked there. I was as morose as the low, gray clouds heaving their tears toward me. But I realized I actually love Paris in the rain, how things seem to settle, the streets have an extra shine and, of course, because it accompanied my solitude.

Montmartre, Le Sacre-Coeur

My hostel was located at the base of Montmartre, so I grabbed my umbrella and hiked to the top. I circled the Sacre-Coeur and stumbled upon my favorite place in all of Paris: Place du Tertre. A square nestled by restaurants and cafés and filled will artists’ easels.

Scenes from Place du Tertre in Montmartre

When I returned from Saint Malo, I had another 24 hours alone in Paris before meeting my parents at Charles de Gaulle airport. I went to the Musée d’Orsay to see some of my favorite works of art, including Petite Danseuse de 14 ans and some paintings by Monet. My favorite piece of art was the gilded clock, which was once the center piece of this old train station. I watched the sunset and the scintillating Eiffel Tower from the top of the Arc de Triomphe.

L’horloge du musée d’Orsay

I woke up the next morning to a panoramic view of the sunrise over Paris from my hostel in Montparnasse. The next time I would visit Paris, I would no longer be alone.

Sunrise over Paris from Montparnasse