The Eiffel Tower in Paris lights up.
The Eiffel Tower in Paris lights up. Liana Turner

Paris still thrives but past and present issues are plain to see

THE city is buzzing with activity, but all goes quiet as the lights of the Eiffel Tower flicker and change.

France has won the latest match in the Euro 2016, it seems. Each night, the famous landmark dons the colours of the winning nation's flag.

As much as I appreciate great sporting feats, however, this isn't what's brought me here.

Nor has the reputation of Paris as a romance hub.

To some, the City of Light (known as such both in a literal sense, due to the introduction of gas street lamps in the 1860s, as well as the city's part in the Age of Enlightenment), might seem to be an odd city for the lone traveller.

Montmartre, Paris, June 2016.
Montmartre, Paris, June 2016. Liana Turner

While loved-up couples are ever-present around Paris's iconic landmarks, there are plenty of opportunities for all kinds of travellers to enjoy this stunning part of the world.

From many parts of Europe, Paris is accessible within a blink-of-the-eye flight.

Coming from Amsterdam, it felt like the plane barely left the tarmac when we began our descent into the Parisian skies above Orly airport.

A warm "bienvenue” greets visitors at the arrival gates.

The airport's map of the metro train system, while thorough, may seem like a daunting colour-coded mess to the weary traveller, so it's worthwhile researching this transport system before your arrival.

After pitiful attempts to ask a handful of strangers for directions in what little French I had picked up, seemingly unending stretches of cobblestones, street art, and the smell of crepes, gave way to that vaguely familiar sight I'd checked out on Google Street View.

One thing my research hadn't prepared me for was the camp of refugees, from Africa, outside the front doors of my hostel.

In contrast of this, perhaps because of this, the hostel itself was nearly vacant. In the height of summer, on a beautiful weekend, my six-bed dorm was empty. The difference between the full streets and the empty beds created a sobering reality.

While ongoing refugee debates in Australia largely revolve around rhetoric, it's a matter which, in many European countries, is unavoidably real, and very much in your face.

While those many faces had been fleeing their own conflicts abroad, a nearby shrine to terror victims of Charlie Hebdo, and the then-recent Orlando nightclub shootings, posed a stark reminder this vibrant, beautiful city had so recently been shaken by fear.

Many people had laid tributes for the Orlando nightclub shootings. These tributes are in Paris, June 2016.
Many people had laid tributes for the Orlando nightclub shootings. These tributes are in Paris, June 2016. Liana Turner

Right next to this monument, a street party was taking place. The sun was still shining but they had a carefree sense about them. In the wake of so much pain, the city was continuing to live.

This remained evident throughout the rest of the city.

From the art-filled pathways of Montmatre to the bustling city centre, bursting with attractions, prime vantage points and luscious patisseries, Paris is a city full of opportunity.

After some time spent becoming acquainted with the initially daunting metro system, I found myself at The Louvre.

Home to such famous works as the Mona Lisa, this museum is a trove of many hundreds of years of art history.

If you don't have the time - or perseverance - to visit all of its many wings, plan your must-see masterpieces and grab a guide to beeline towards the highlights.

If you tire of walking the endless, stunning halls of the gallery, there are plenty of other creative hubs in the city.

You'll likely find art-filled market stalls in many parts of the city, including along the River Seine, close to Notre Dame.

From the Sacré-Cœur Basilica (The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris) to its streets of shopping souvenirs and cafes, Montmatre is a beautiful place to explore, without the same chaos of the city centre.

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