I have a confession to make. While travelling, I try to avoid the metro and stay above ground as much as possible. Being underground in an unfamiliar place gives me anxiety, all stemming back to a trip to Versailles 10 years ago where the line we needed to take was shut down for maintenance.
Allow me to set the scene; Châtelet-les-Halles (which I believe is the largest underground station in the world, correct me if I’m wrong), morning rush hour, what felt like millions of rushed commuters whizzing by, and not one English speaker around to help us figure out an alternative route.
Panic and claustrophobia set in and, like a scene from a very bad movie, I stood right in the way of everyone hyperventilating while big fat rolly-polly years slid down my face. It wasn’t my finest moment, and the memory still makes me break out in hives.
Fast forward to this morning. We decided to take the metro to Arc de Triomphe. We got lost and confused in the first station. Should we abort our plan and head back above ground? We decided to persevere. More wrong turns, entering and exiting incorrect platforms, trying to read maps that swam before our eyes. We finally made it onto the right train.
Big sighs of relief.
It wasn’t over yet though. We still had to transfer trains at (deep breath) Châtelet-les-Halles.
Of course we couldn’t find where we needed to go. Of course everywhere we turned seemed to take us further away from where we needed to be. And of course I started to hyperventilate, and wanted to sit down exactly where I was and wait for the nightmare to end.
An helpful staffer ended up directing us back down the elevator we had just taken up (naturally). A train arrived into the station. We jumped on, only to realise that it wasn’t.our.train. We jumped off before the doors shut and waited for the next.
IT WAS OUR TRAIN AND WE WERE FINALLY HEADED TO ARC DE TRIOMPHE !
Here I am feeling relief, accomplished, and more than a little dizzy from all of the hyperventilating.
And now to the Arc de Triomphe itself..
And the ever important Tomb of the Unknown Soldier..
On November 11, 1920 the body of an unknown soldier was buried beneath the vault of the Arc de Triomphe, as a symbol of all the soldiers who fell in the course of the First World War. Since November 11, 1923 the flame of remembrance on top of the tomb has been rekindled every day at 6:30pm during a memorial ceremony.