Monday, March 18, 2013

The long-overdue Paris Post

¡Hola mi buena gente!

Two weeks ago I had pleasure of traveling to Paris with my good friend, Becca.  Straight after classes on Wednesday we took our separate trains from Cádiz and Sevilla, and met up at the Madrid train station where our greeting looked something like this.

Turned out I didn't know the Madrid metro system quite as well as I thought, so it took a few transfers and some backtracking to get to the airport.  A long security line ended with me getting my first pat-down, and Becca and I subsequently experiencing our first time running through an airport to catch our plane 12 minutes before the gate closed.

Upon our arrival to Charles de Gaulle, we learned that the last train into the city had already left, so we would have to buy bus tickets to another train station.  Tired and a bit overwhelmed at the ticket office, we ran into an American living in Paris who offered us his help.  With directions from that friendly lad (who really enjoyed showing us photos of his newly-potty-trained kitten,) we took a bus, then a train, then a metro to the international district where our hostel was located.  After a bit of midnight wandering we got directions (in Spanish!) at a bar, arrived at the hostel (The Loft, which I highly recommend) and promptly passed out.

Without much of a plan, we headed into the city center on Thursday morning.  We came up out of the metro and turned a corner, and saw Notre Dame popping up from among the rooftops across the Seine.

We figured that was as good a place as any to start our Paris experience, so we spent an hour or so there, attended daily mass and took plenty of photos.  Like much of the trip would be, it was such a surreal experience, I kept asking myself, "Is this real life right now?"

The stained glass at Notre Dame is undeniably beautiful and so intricate, absolutely exquisite.

The remainder of Thursday was spent shopping, walking arm-in-arm around the city (in an attempt to conserve warmth in the freezing temperatures), and eating crepes and creme brulee.  We even managed to find the bridge where lovers attach their padlocks and throw the keys into the river...

Locks on locks on locks
Friday, day two, started off with a bang--our combination to the locker in our room wasn't working.  Hooray! The nice young French lad at the front desk helped us unlock it, and then gave us some great metro directions to the Eiffel Tower.  He will henceforth be referred to as 'eyebrow boy', due to the fact that he was rocking an eyebrow piercing.  With our belongings safely locked away, we hopped on the metro--next stop, Eiffel Tower!

This was the view that greeted us right off of the metro, not bad.  I have to admit, I was skeptical about the Eiffel Tower, but let me tell you, it lived up to the hype.  It was definitely another one of those "Is this real life?" moments.

What a beauty.

Trying to keep warm.
If it was freezing on the ground, then it was downright frigid at the top.  As the biting wind whipped at our cheeks, we took in the incredible view of Paris from 324 meters above the city.

The wheels that pull the elevator, in action.
A bust of Eiffel. Nice work, buddy.
We warmed up in a restaurant during lunch, then strolled over to a bakery and picked up some baguettes so we could take this photo, straight out of the Mary-Kate and Ashley movie, Passport to Paris.  I'd been waiting for that baguette duel since I was ten years old--childhood dream fulfilled.

We finished off day two with l'Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre....

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, underneath l'Arc.
My host mom told me to get photo-proof of
me touching all the monuments, here it is!

View from the top.

We had a little photoshoot at the top.
Somebody call Tyra, because we've got
America's Next Top Model right here.

Mona Lisa was.....small.
Inside looking out.


Papyrus. Personal favorite.
The marble was unbelievably carved.

Louvre by night.
The majority of our last full day was dedicated to the pièce de résistance that is Versailles.  Once again, eyebrow-boy provided us with some superb directions, and we were on our way.  Versailles was amazing, pretty unreal.  I was basically mind-blown the entire time, trying to imagine French royalty walking through the corridors and sleeping in the opulent bedrooms we saw, or the anger the Parisian mob must have felt at the extravagance they encountered as they stormed the palace.

Marie Antoinette's Hamlet
After the palace tour we walked the grounds for an hour or two.  Something about walking through the trees in a quiet (and cold!) European countryside made us feel as though we had been transported directly into a Jane Austen novel.  So glad that we had the chance to take that little day trip, it was a nice respite from bustling city life--I can definitely see why the royalty liked it!

When we got back into the city, we wandered around for a while.  My favorite part was through the Jardin des Tuileries; from the center you can see the Louvre, the Musée d'Orsay, the Eiffel Tower, and the Arc de Triomphe.

Becca wasn't a huge fan of all the birds at the Jardin des Tuileries.
Our walk ended at the Eiffel Tower, just as it was lighting up for the night.  We grabbed some dinner at a nearby restaurant, where I tried escargot (oily, but delicious!) and duck breast (obviously wonderful), accompanied by some Côtes du Rhône.  To top off a great dinner and a fantastic trip, we bought some crepes underneath the Eiffel Tower.  Not only were they incredibly tasty, but also gloriously warm, straight off the griddle, so our hands were warm and our tummies were full.

We turned around for one last peek at the Eiffel Tower by night, then descended into the metro, by then we were metro-experts.  The day must've been a bit much for Becca, because she fell up the stairs on our way out of the Belleville station.  We laughed all the way back to the hostel, where a very persistent British guy at the front desk tried to get us to go out for drinks, but all we wanted was directions to the airport.  Had it been eyebrow-boy, I might be telling you a different story, but alas it was not, so Becca and I finally convinced him (in both Spanish and English) that we were wiped out and going straight to bed so we could get up for our flight in the morning.

And that was that, a metro, train, and bus ride later, we were on a plane back home (to Spain, that is.)  I have to confess that I wasn't sure I was going to like Paris, but it was SUCH a great trip, I can't think of a single part that left me disappointed.  I feel so fortunate that I had the opportunity to have this experience, and especially to share it with a wonderful friend.  I have definitely fallen in love with Paris, and all I have to say is this:

Audrey Hepburn knew what was up when she said, "Paris is always a good idea."

So here's to Paris!