What is there to say about Paris?? Basically its all those things you think it is and more. I’ve heard people say they didn’t like the city but for me, the opposite couldn’t be more true. Another weekend of whirlwind traveling, using every form of public transportation possible, more walking, and seeing some of the most beautiful things in the world. Here’s the rundown:
It all started Thursday evening with a bus ride to the airport, a short flight from Sevilla to Barcelona, sleeping…yes, sleeping, in the Barcelona-Gerona airport, another short flight bright and early to a random little airport outside Paris, another bus ride into Paris, and a metro ride to our hostel. Budget traveling is exhausting but why not do it when you’re young and able? We arrived at our hostel by 11 am to check in but our room wasn’t ready. We set out to find some sort of alarm clock which turned into an hour long adventure. Both of us turned our phones off for the flights not remembering that we needed our PIN #s to turn them back on. I remembered mine after a few tries but then the battery died. We had no way to tell time and no alarm clock, thus the search. We found our way back to the hostel & met our chatty Australian roommate. Headed out for Sacré Coeur, about a 10 min. walk from the hostel. The basilica was gorgeous and the views of Paris from the hill it sits on were even better. We wandered through Paris toward the Louvre, stopping along the way to enjoy a baguette in a park. We found the Plaza where Chanel and Christian Dior have their salons which was very cool to see…very Parisian. The Louvre is…well the Louvre. It’s completely massive and overwhelming and totally bursting at its seams with art. We saw the highlights, the Mona Lisa of course (which is very small), the Code of Hammurabi, and some lovely sculptures. There’s absolutely no way to see everything so prioritizing is a must. Outside the Louvre was gorgeous, it looks out onto the Jardin des Tuileries and the Arc de Triomphe is in the distant background. We caught the metro back to our neighborhood which turned out to be the Red Light District. Clearly we should research better before our next hostel booking. It wasn’t a bad area though, lots of people around, and the famous Moulin Rouge was minutes away. We stopped in a little cafe for dinner and I tried escargot. It was amazing! I wasn’t quite sure how to use the utensils but I figured it out.
La Basilique du Sacré Coeur
Jardin des Tuileries
Saturday we hit the train early for Versailles. We had no idea where we were going so we ended up getting on and off the train about 3 times thinking we were headed the wrong way. We finally decided to get off and then realized we were on the right train all along. 30 minutes later, we got on the right train and another 30 minutes later we were at the train station in Versailles. Another completely massive, overwhelming, beautiful place that you can’t believe really exists. Luckily our student cards got us in for free. 18Euro not spent! We started with the main palace, room after room of over-the-top extravagance. The Hall of Mirrors makes your mouth drop and its hard to imagine someone calling such a place their home. We enjoyed more baguettes and fruit on the steps of the palace and then set out exploring the gardens. I think the gardens are the best part of Versailles. They stretch for what seems like forever and come right out of fairy tale pictures. There are fountains, hidden pathways, trees, a canal, and loveliness every where you look. It really is one of those places you can’t capture on film. We walked and wandered and walked and wandered some more. We made our way down to the smaller palaces where Marie Antoinette once lived. More beauty and extravagance and unbelievable things to see. We walked and wandered some more, stopped to chat and eat a few bites, and tried to soak everything in. We hopped the train back to Paris, got off at a random metro stop, found the Notre Dame, happened upon a movie awards show (we barely missed the celebs on the red carpet!), and found another little cafe to eat in. There’s something about Paris at night that makes you want to stay there forever. The lights, the people, the atmosphere is something I wish I could experience everyday.
Marie Antoinette’s Domain
Grand Trianon at Versailles
Sunday morning, we headed for the Musée d’Orsay. I actually enjoyed this one more than the Louvre. Its full of more modern art and very famous pieces by Monet and Van Gogh. I got to see some of the pieces from my Art Appreciation class and I actually remembered a few things. Van Gogh’s Self-Portrait was amazing. We actually conquered the museum and I think we walked away seeing most everything. From there we headed for the Catacombs but got there too late. Instead we found the Centre Pompidou, the famous inside-out building. Its houses a modern art museum that we didn’t have time to go in but we had Nutella Beignets outside. They were delish! Everything comes with nutella which is fine by me. We wandered some more toward the Champs-Élysées and made our way up to the Arc de Triomphe. We had Eiffel Tower tickets for 8 pm so didn’t hang around too long. The Eiffel Tower was way further than we thought so luckily we had plenty of time. And of course, the Eiffel Tower, the most touristy thing you could possibly do in Paris but it really is spectacular to see. One of those things to check off the bucket list. I couldn’t stop taking pictures and I was wishing everyone I cared about in the world could be there at the same time. We sat on the mall down below for a bit, enjoying the lights, then headed up the elevator to the 2nd deck. I think I could live up there, the views were something I’ll never forget. It was a bit chilly and rainy but worth it. We stayed for a bit, soaking it all in. Found a metro nearby and headed back to our “home” to search for dinner. We settled on a little hole-in-the-wall kebab place, had some delicious cous cous and doner kebabs, then headed back to get some sleep.
Monday, bright and early once again. Checked out of the hostel, left our bags, and headed for Le Pantheon. We got there a bit before it opened so we walked around the neighborhood. That area was definitely my favorite in Paris, if I could live there, that’s where it’d be. There were lots of universities around and the streets were quiet and quaint. Definitely had a big city feel but not completely overwhelming. We also found the Jardin du Luxembourg which was AMAZING! The weather was perfect too which made it all the better. We sat and chatted…I didn’t want to leave. We toured Le Pantheon, saw the graves of Pierre and Marie Curie, and Louis Braille. We were actually able to read a bit of the French which I thought was exciting. Its amazing how close Spanish and French are. We headed for Notre Dame, did the tour…another beautiful place. They were having some sort of prayer service while we were inside which was cool to experience. We walked down a tiny little street full of ethnic restaurants and satisfied our craving for chinese food. It was delish and the bathroom was really cute! We headed back toward the Louvre area and decided to try to tour the Opera House. I think its the one the Phantom of the Opera is based off but I’m not sure. It was amazing of course and I took a ridiculous amount of pictures. We knew we had to get crêpes before we left so we hopped the metro back and stopped at a little place near our hostel. We had nutella once again and sat in the park attempting to eat them without making a total mess…FAILURE! The chocolate was melting everywhere, we had it on our fingers, faces, laps, ground, everywhere. Pretty sure the man sitting near was cracking a smile watching us. We couldn’t stop laughing. We grabbed our bags, another metro ride to the bus, bus ride to the airport, flight to Barcelona-Gerona, bus from Gerona to train station, taxi from train station to train station, waiting outside for 3 hrs in the middle of the night (the train station was closed), bus to other Barcelona airport, flight from Barcelona to Sevilla Tuesday morning, and a city bus to downtown Sevilla. We got off the city bus at 8:50 and I had 10 minutes to get to my 9 am class. I made it.
Palais Garnier (Opera House)
We got on the Paris metro after arriving downtown, as soon as the doors closed in the car, before we had even moved, an older lady yelled in the next car down and the lady next to us pulled the emergency lever to stop the train and open the doors. She runs to the next car down, gets in, asks the lady who yelled what happened, and 2 guys pull 2 teenage girls off the train and basically pin them against the wall in the metro station. Everything was in French so we didn’t really know what happened but we’re thinking the 2 girls were accused of taking the lady’s purse or wallet or something. We’ll never know but that was our introduction to the Paris metro.
2nd night at dinner, we’re paying the waiter, and we’re trying to communicate to him to keep the change for the tip. Erin blurts out without thinking “está bien” (“it’s ok” in Spanish). The guy gave us a look and then responded in Spanish. We’re so used to speaking Spanish it just comes out now. How ridiculous…Americans speaking Spanish in France…and the French waiter spoke Spanish back!
One of our roommates in the hostel was Australian and just moved to Paris for the year. She’s living in the hostel until she finds a room to rent. She doesn’t have a job yet and is still working on her French, and there she is living in a hostel with only 2 suitcases of things for the year. What a crazy adventure. Our other roommate was Brasilian and lives in Copenhagen. She’s studying Danish and hopes to work there in the future. She didn’t know any English before she moved there and thanks to the presence of English in Denmark, she’s learned a lot. We definitely couldn’t tell that she had just learned English. A Brasilian, living in Denmark and learning more English than Danish…very cool. Both of them were so interesting to talk to. Meeting people is one of the coolest things about traveling.