A red bike lock is shaped into a heart and surrounded by other Love Padlocks on the Pont D'Arts bridge in Paris, France

I was making my way from the Louvre to Notre Dame in Paris when I came by a curious little bridge. There were all these padlocks attached to the railings and even more strange, was that the padlocks had writing all over them.

Little did I know that I had ended up on the Pont Des Arts, a bridge where couples come to attach padlocks with their names written on them, perpetuating the tradition of the “Love Padlocks.”

These locks are symbols of the couples’ everlasting love- quite literally “locking” down their love for all eternity. Locks ranged from simple with Sharpie’d writing to extravagant locks with engraving. It’s a really sweet gesture, especially when you read the things that the couples have written on them. This one made me smile: 

A Love Padlock in Paris, France that has "Susan and Steve Tanner 40 years" written on it in black sharpie

There are bridges all throughout Europe where locks like these can be found (I saw ones in Rome, Italy and Berlin, Germany). There’s even one found along a hiking trail in Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada.

Passing by this bridge definitely puts a smile on my face though as it reminded me that millions of people out there still believe in true love. 

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Let me start by saying that if you have more than one day to spend in Paris, don’t do what we did. Seriously, DON’T. This was an incredibly unplanned, on the fly kind of day for us and while it was fun, it really doesn’t give you the best experience in Paris. Also, it was absolutely exhausting.

Kaylah, Kayla, Rhia and I decided to explore together since we were all pretty chill about where we wanted to go and when we wanted to see it. None of us felt like lining up for any museums either, which meant we’d be able to see a lot more sights, and we had a Seine River Boat Cruise later that day together, so it worked out perfectly. We grabbed a map from the lobby and decided on this plan of attack:

  1. Louvre
  2. Notre Dame
  3. Napoleon’s Tomb
  4. Champs-Élysées
  5. Arc De Triomphe
  6. Trocadero
  7. Eiffel Tower

It all looked very doable based on the map. Nothing looked too far apart and I reckoned we’d even have time to go up the Eiffel Tower before dinner at 7pm. But see the thing we didn’t realize, and as you’ll soon read, is that things on the map aren’t exactly as close together as they seem. Pia and Sarah (my Paris roomates with Rhia) and Brett also decided to come along on our adventure.

 

We got through the Louvre and Notre Dame quite easily. The real trouble began with the gold-topped Napoleon’s Tomb.

I wouldn’t exactly call myself a map expert. I use Google Maps all the time at home, but let’s be honest, it really does all the work of figuring out routes for you. From the physical map I held in my hands, it looked like it was about 10-12 blocks away. No problem, right? WRONG.

Streets in Paris are remarkably long in real life. So long that we didn’t get there in 15 minutes at a leisurely pace like I’d hoped- instead it took an hour. We practically crashed on to the steps when we got there since we were so exhausted. At this point, we didn’t even want to go in anymore. I managed to sneak a peek through the door and while it looked spectacular, it wasn’t worth standing in a line for and wasting time in. 

We were hungry now, so we tried to make our way out of the gardens, but found our way blocked by a 20-foot drop into a pit. It took us over 20 minutes to get find the way out (luckily there was a Tourist Information booth beside Napoleon’s Tomb). Our frustrations started to mount and in our hurry to get away we almost didn’t realize that we had ended up in the nearby Hotel Des Invalides, which was like a war museum. This ended up being great because it gave us a direct route over the spectacular Pont Alexandre.

After a short stop for lunch and a quick picture at “Canada Place,” we hopped on our Bateaux Mouches Seine River tour of Paris. This ended up being a nice 1.5 hour rest for us and thankfully the weather was gorgeous, but not a very interesting cruise as we’d already seen everything up close and personal. 

We made our way to the shop-lined Champs-Elysees afterwards, which led us directly to the mighty Arc De Triomphe. The thing about the Arc is that while it is an amazing sight, the fact that it is in the middle of one of the busiest and largest roundabouts in Paris, makes you look more at the traffic than at the actual attraction before you. We probably stood there for a good 10 minutes, just watching people try to get out of this seemingly dangerous piece of land. A taxi driver even almost caused an accident when he blocked two lanes of traffic in an attempt to get out of the madness. We were mesmerized as we watched 2 police officers yell at him for being a traffic hazard.

There is an underground pedestrian crossing that takes you to the Arc, but we only had less than an hour left to get to the Eiffel Tower and take pictures before our picnic dinner.

So as you can see, we saw a lot of sights based on what we did, but we also missed out on a lot of things. I didn’t get to see Trocadero or go up the Eiffel Tower, but it’s definitely incentive to come back to Paris someday with a better gameplan…and maybe a Metro ticket.

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Karra standing atop the Gloriette in Vienna Austria with Schonbrunn Palace in the background

That’s me standing in front of Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria, on the first trip I’ve ever taken by myself.

I have never travelled by myself. By that I also mean, I’ve never travelled to a place where I didn’t end up staying with relatives or packing myself into a hotel room with friends. I’ve always wanted to do it, but I never had the motivation to really go for it (that and I have Filipino mother who worries about me constantly).

But then, like all great adventures, it started with a significant, heartbreaking event, and all of a sudden the next path in my life was clear.

I was going to go to Europe for one month, from September 18-October 18. And I was going to go there by myself.

Okay, well not completely by myself. While I was there I stayed with relatives in London and North Brussels, joined a 14-day group tour, travelled with a friend in Berlin, and stayed with a friend in Mattighofen, Austria. But I did stay for two days in Vienna by myself, spent a few hours in Salzburg with my lonesome, and explored most of London alone.

And I have to say that those times when I was alone were blissful.

I could wake up whenever I wanted, eat wherever I wanted and walk as fast or as slow as I wanted. I only had my time, my needs and my wants to deal with. I absolutely loved getting to explore a new city with no one to care about but myself.

Of course there are times I wish I had a friend to share moments with, especially when I found a really cool monument or sight that I wanted to take a picture with but didn’t trust any of the shady characters around me with my camera. (Funny, yes, but true story). 

As this is my ode, an open love letter to solo travel, if you will, I only have one more thing to say and that is, if you’ve never travelled alone, even just to a city over your border for one night, do it.

Don’t wait for something heartbreaking to happen or for that “right moment.” There is no right moment. There’s only the gift of the present. It’s cheesy, but it’s true. It’s when there’s no one else to talk to but yourself that you really discover who you are and what you’re made of.

And that’s worth the price of a plane ticket alone.

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From William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech, collected in The Portable Faulkner

I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last dingdong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking.

I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.

Image sourced from here.

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