For an average young Namibian, a routine vacation would be going to the farm, visiting family or going to the coast because that is where everyone is headed by the way. The idea of crossing the border and experience the actual desktop experience is just as foreign as making the decision. Many attribute the lack of will to travel as a financial problem but for a few, this is just a bridge that can be crossed with good preparation.
The Lounge caught up with young Michael Mulunga who recently took a vacation to Paris, a decision many think of as abnormal and only for the rich. Michael shared his story from the days he started saving up, his experience in the city of love, and how young people from any background can have a decent vacation outside the Namibian borders.
“After 6 months of hard planning, saving and the difficulty in getting my Visa it was time for me to jet off to my holiday destination, Paris the city of Love. I still don’t know why exactly I chose Paris as my holiday destination. But I guess I just wanted to proof myself that an African and young person can to go to Europe and enjoy a good holiday, just like the Europeans come to Namibia.
The exciting day arrived finally and I was 100% guaranteed that I had everything in place for a smooth transit. Up until I got to the checkpoint just to find out that the lady at the counter needed a 3 months bank statement and proof of my reservation where I was going to stay in France. The lady at the check-in counter referred me to her supervisor who seemed very helpful. I had to convenience her that I was a genuine young man who had everything planned to which she agreed and let me go.
Unlike usual, my flight to Doha was as calm and smooth as the snow-white clouds below us. The Hamad International Airport blew me away with its modern architecture that surely provides a friendly environment to shop, dine and relax.
After being in the air for 7 hours, I finally arrived in Paris. I was seated on the aisle hoping to see the city from the air but the cloudy and foggy weather just spoiled it. As expected, I got a lot of questions at immigration as I told the customs officer that I was in Paris for vacation. I could see the worried expression on his face. I guess it’s because not many Africans come to Paris for holiday.
Here I was in Paris, excited but afraid to get lost. The instructions with all directions to my backpackers were clearly written on a piece of paper I had printed before I left Namibia. Take the PER B metro towards Saint Remy Les Chevreuse, get off at Gare du Nord, take Metro line 5 towards Bobigny-Pablo-Picasso, then get off at Laumiere station. Then Exit 1, walk straight for 3 minutes until you cross the bridge over the canal, here you will find St. Christophers Inn. Yoh, that was one hell of a list of instructions. I have been in an underground train before so that gave me some confidence that I will not get lost. Even if I got lost I could always ask around for directions. One problem though was my competence in French was non-existent apart from Bonjour. After getting lost about 5 times going back and forth, I finally made it to St. Christopher’s Inn one of the famous backpackers in Paris. I was traveling on a low budget and this was one of the ways to meet new people from different parts of the world.
The first activity I decided to do was a hop-on-hop-off tour, which was the perfect introduction to the romantic city. The tour offered an opportunity to view all the iconic sights, and I could hop off the bus whenever I wanted so I could explore the different sights and satisfy my adventurous dreams. My first stop was at the Famous ‘Palais Garnier Opera House,’ build in the late 1800. The Opera has 2000 seats. I was really overwhelmed by the beautiful marble decorations and the gilt decorations inside the building.
What fascinated me most was just how building of the 1800s are still perfectly standing and well maintained. My next stop was Arc De Triumph which pays tribute to 1.3 million French soldiers who died in the World War I. For 12 Euros I got myself a ticket to the top of the arch, at this stage I had stop converting the prices to Namibian dollars.
To get to the top one had to climb 284 staircases from the base of the Arch. My first impression at the top was ‘Wow, this view was really worth the climb.’ I could see the Parisians avenues and had the perfect view of the famous Eiffel tower. I hopped back onto the bus for my final destination, The Eiffel tower. By the time I got there the sun was setting and they had just switched on the lights. My eyes have never seen something so beautiful. I bought myself a ticket to take a lift to the top floor. I don’t think I have the right words to describe the night view at the top of the Eiffel tower. No wonder it’s called the city of Romance. After the tower, it was time to call it a day, by now I had mastered finding my way around, so it was not difficult to find my way back to the backpacker.
On my second day, I had scheduled a meeting down South of Paris in a small city called Bordeaux. My meeting went well and I got some time to do some city seeing on my own. All went well and I returned back to Paris to continue with my holiday. On the fourth day I had booked myself for a free walking tour where I met other tourists. Off we went from our backpack to a square in the center of town. We then met with a lot of other tourists who came for the same tour. The walking tour was fantastic, although we could not visit all the historical sights, we managed to visit the famous ones. We passed by the oldest bridge in Paris constructed in 1607, and currently host a ‘Love Padlock’ ( this is a padlock which sweethearts lock to a bridge, fence, gate, or similar public fixture to symbolize their love. Typically the sweethearts’ names or initials are inscribed on the padlock, and its key is thrown away to symbolize unbreakable love).
I still had plenty of time on hand so I decided to go and explore the city more. I visited the Louvre Museum, home to over 380 000 pieces of artwork, however only 35 000 of them are on display. One can confidently conclude that this is the world’s greatest art museum. I was specifically interested in seeing the famous painting of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. The price tag for this endeavor went for 15 Euros, not even that price is worth seeing the Mona Lisa painting. The museum is filled with ancient Greek and Roman royal paintings, sculptures and archeological findings which I only saw in movies back home.
On my last day of my trip, I made one more stop at the Eiffel tower, this time to ice skate on the ice skating ring which was located on the 1st floor. It was an awesome experience, ice skating on a rig overlooking the city of Paris. I then booked myself a ticket for the boat cruise, which once again provided me with a great experience to view the city from another angle.
I stayed in Paris for 8 days and I have to say that I had a fantastic time. I was astonished by the various buildings and monuments that I visited, but most importantly I was proud of myself for making my stay in Paris memorable. Although it was hard for me to get a VISA, the difficulty in passing through the airports and always having to justify my trip and proof beyond reasonable doubt that I was going to return home, this was the best trip ever.
It is my wish that many young people get an opportunity to explore the world – there is so much to see outside Namibia. One thing for sure is you come back with a new perspective of life. If you can save up some of those extra coins, one can surely afford a decent holiday to any destination in the world.”