Taking a chance in France: One Viewpoints reporter’s journey across the pond

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By Daesha Gear

Traveling out of the United States amidst the pandemic was a risk that I was reluctant to take at first.

However, touring the diverse arrondissements, or districts, of Paris, France, made me realize the various aspects of life I distanced myself from: going on vacation.

Like any other compacted city filled with tourists, the city of Paris is busy and it is overcrowded with pedestrians willingly crossing into ongoing traffic and some impatient drivers. 

Throughout my visit in Paris, there was never a need to rely on vehicles as a form of transportation because parking spaces were rare and the streets were narrow. However, I didn’t mind traveling on foot because it gave me an authentic perspective of Paris that I don’t believe I would have gained if I had been in a vehicle.

After strenuous walks when touring the city, it was rejuvenating to view the monumental attractions that unveiled the history of France.

The Luxembourg Garden was commissioned in the 17th century by Queen Marie de’ Medici, wife of King Henry IV. It was created to replicate Medici’s birthplace of Florence, Italy. The garden is located in the sixth arrondissement of Paris and is free to visit. 

 The Statue of Liberty in New York was a gift from France to solidify its relationship with the United States. A replica of the Statue of Liberty, created by the French artist Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, can be found in the Luxembourg Gardens.

The Louvre Museum, found in the first arrondissement of Paris, was one of my favorite landmarks to visit. It is known for its history of France and global artwork featuring the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper and more. 

The Louvre Museum was initially created as a medieval fortress to defend against King Philip II and his English army in the 13th century. Now, it is one of the most visited museums worldwide, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the World Economic Forum.

Over 35,000 pieces of artwork are showcased in the Louvre Museum and, according to Condé Nast, it will take a visitor about 200 days to admire each work for just 30 seconds. It was mesmerizing just to view the ceiling art itself and it further instilled the appreciation of every artist and architect who established the Louvre Museum to what it is today. 

It was also enlightening to learn about the religious aspect of France. France grants its citizens freedom of religion, but most French people practice Catholicism.

The Saint-Germain-des-Prés, located in the sixth arrondissement, is the oldest church in Paris that I was fortunate to visit. Founded by Childebert I in the sixth century, Saint-Germain-des-Prés continues to undergo restoration to be preserved for future tourists due to outlasting fires and neglect. 

It was a treasure to explore the frequently visited Parisian landmarks, but what captivated my Paris experience was touring Goutte d’Or, a working-class neighborhood located in the 18th arrondissement.

The Goutte d’Or neighborhood is notoriously associated with terrorism, sex trafficking and prostitution. Consequently, it was declared a “no-go zone” for tourists and journalists. I, however, had to make those observations myself, and I have no regrets.

During my short visit to the Goutte d’Or neighborhood, I met Jacqueline Ngo Mpii, a French entrepreneur and founder of Little Africa, an agency that focuses on broadening African culture in Paris. 

Ngo Mpii wants to break the misconceptions and prejudices surrounding Goutte d’Or by guiding tourists through a different lens of the mistaken neighborhood. 

Little Africa Village is a concept store in the Goutte d’Or neighborhood that features clothing, artwork and more inspired by African culture. 

I would never have had the opportunity to discover and learn about another country’s unique history, cuisine and noteworthy attractions if I did not break away from my paranoia about COVID-19. 

It is imperative to be mindful of the unprecedented times we are experiencing as a society. But at the same time, it is also crucial not to allow these unprecedented times to compromise one’s enjoyment of experiencing once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that require you to leave your house.

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