Indiana University
Journalism Ernie Pyle

Author Archive

March 14, 2008
Photo by Tim Street
The class in front of the Eiffel Tower.

The City of Lights. That’s what they call it. It’s Paris, France, and it may be the most beautiful place I have ever seen.

It was dubbed the city of lights during the nineteenth century, when the entire city was told to put little candles in their windows, to make the city look more beautiful. It was Napoleon’s idea to beautify Paris. He thought it would attract people that wanted to spend more money.

The window candles are long gone, but the bright twinkling lights remain. Now the light comes in various shades of yellow and neon, sparkling above the doorways of the hotels, shops, and cafes that dot the city streets.

Every time I leave the hotel, I seem to notice something a little more beautiful than what I saw before. This morning we went to meet with a former picture editor for Time Life magazine and Lady’s Home Journal. He had spent time with Ernie Pyle and was a good friend of Robert Capa, the famous photographer.

As we walked to the tube station, little nuances caught my eye—the overflowing window baskets, the ornate street lamps – it even seems like the people here are prettier.

After our meeting, we had a chance to do some sightseeing and grab lunch before taking a bus tour of the city. There were designer shops on every corner, intermixed with little cafes and quaint little parks.

After lunch we headed off for the bus tour. Our guide narrated as we passed the innumerable amount of monuments and historic sites. His thick French accent dripped off of every word he said; the end of each word was slowly drawn out. Instead of "Paris," it was "Pareesss." Instead of "Arc de Triomph," it was "Arcuh de Triomphuh." It was really quite funny, and to be honest, I don’t think the tour would have been the same without it.

As the bus squeezed its way through the narrow city streets, it seemed to take me back in time. We saw castles and churches dating back as far as 1,000 years. The other buildings all have similar features. Almost all are limestone, and most have black, wrought iron balconies looking over the streets. This continuity was also the work of Napoleon. The designer he hired to beautify the city knocked most of it down, then rebuilt it so that the buildings just kind of melt together.

As our guide took us through the city, he would describe the various areas we were driving through. Some were residential, some were commercial, others were only for eating and shopping. Most of Paris seems to be very exclusive (or “exclooseevuh," as our guide would say). Very few of the streets are without at least one designer shop. Some streets are overflowing with them. Around the Ritz Hotel were some of the most beautiful jewelry stores in the world—Cartier, Tiffany’s, Swarovski—all of the jewelry combined would probably be worth billions.

Photo by Tim Street
A Parisian panorama from the second deck of the Eiffel Tower.

As if we hadn’t seen enough, we ended our day with a trip to the Eiffel Tower. I think everyone was pretty excited to see the city’s most recognizable monument. We took the lift up to the second level and stepped off to see the whole city buzzing all around us. “The people look like ants,” Andra shouted as we peered over the edge.

She was right; it was pretty impressive how much a city could shrink in the time in took the elevator to get to the second level. The small shops are no longer distinguishable, and the city just becomes an endless see of beautiful buildings and tiny little ants.