In my time here, I’ve eaten the finest Spanish cuisine, mingled with the natives, taken a ride on the London Eye, t0ured the Guinness Factory, and taken a scenic train ride through Palma, Mallorca, among other things. In the first few months alone, I saw more and experienced more than I had ever planned, both in and outside of Spain. So what else could I possibly add to this dream come true? Paris, of course. Last weekend, I finally made it to the city that I always promised myself I would see would see, and it was incredible. As of now, it has officially topped the list as one of my favorite cities and is tied with, if not better than Madrid (Yes, I’m slightly biased because I live do live in Madrid).
We started our trip last Thursday by spending the night at the airport. Our flight left at 7:20 a.m., so to avoid confusion with the metros and buses, we just went the night before. We brought a soccer ball and some food and camped out on the floor, mixed among numerous other people. It kind of looked like a homeless community in a way with everyone clinging tightly to their luggage, trying to steal a few hours of shut-eye before the day broke. Needless to say, Hali and I only got about an hour of sleep. I guess that’s what you get when you are struggling college student trying to travel the world. That’s always where the best memories come from, though<3
By the time we actually got on our flight, we were exhausted and passed out the whole way to Paris. Ryanair flies into a place just outside of Paris called Paris Beauvais. It was a little over an hour away and the airport is in the middle of nowhere and looks like a warehouse. A few random machines and bathrooms were literally just thrown inside of a building and we had to take a tour bus to the actual center of Paris. Again, we slept the entire way, fitting in as much sleep as we could; beds are a thing of the past, anyway. At the bus stop, we took a metro to Joinville Le-Pont, where our hostal was located. Despite my attempt at being very well-organized and prepared, we got a bit lost and relied on others to point us in the right direction. We arrived at Hostel Hipotel Paris Hippodrome and were exhausted from the traveling. For a hostel, our room wasn’t terrible, but it was small and the air conditioning didn’t work. For the price we paid, however, they had an elevator and a TV in each room, so I’d say it was worth it. Hali, unfortunately, had to sleep on a pull-out mattress that was insanely small and came out from under the double bed I slept on. It reminded me of a motorcycle with a caboose. Hali just looked so small!
To recharge, we took a quick nap before heading out to see the sites of Paris. Our first stop was a restaurant for some food because we were literally starving to death! Needless to say, communicating was interesting. All we knew how to say was “Bonjour” and “Merci,” so to actually order, we put on our best smiles and pointed to the pictures on the menu. Thankfully the waiter got the jist of what we wanted. We smiled again and said, “Merci,” in the best French accents we could. Sadly though, my accent was awful. I think we’ll stick to speaking Spanish. Our food arrived, and true to the stereotype, it was delicious. Paninis, crepes, the whole sha-bang was perfect, and It wasn’t just because we were hungry.
From there, we made our way to the Louvre, or the famous museum in Paris that is considered to be the most highly visited. The architecture was beautiful and adorned with statues, fine trimming and fountains. We learned on the walking tour that we took later that weekend that for a while the royal family used to live at the Lourve and when they moved to Versailles, they converted it into a museum, as they do with most things that pass their expiration date. The Louvre has a grande entrance way that leads to a small plaza, and then you pass another entrance way to make it to the main Plaza. There, there are three glass pyramids that contrasted directly with the old-style architecture and make the area more unique than most places I’ve seen. We took our tourist-style pictures and went inside for free. Oh the joys of being a student in the European Union! The Louvre is home to one of the most famous paintings in the world: The Mona Lisa, and though it was a lot smaller in size than I thought it would be, it looked exactly like the pictures. We had to battle crowds of tourist to get through to see it for a few seconds. There were also some pretty cool Egyptian displays with mummies and artwork which also caught my attention. The museum was so big though, that we couldn’t possibly see it all. After a few hours, we headed out to our next destination: El Torre Eiffel (whoops, the Eiffel Tower).
The second we caught a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, it felt like Paris or everything I’ve ever known about Paris. In the distance, it looked small, but up close, it was anything but small. After about an hour of walking toward it, it kept getting bigger and bigger, until it soared above us. We got there at exactly the right time, because we took our pictures before it lit up and took more just as they were turning the lights on. Everyone gathers around for that and the plaza was filled, and a wave of “awws” overcame everyone the second they hit the switch. It was a site to see, and at one point, the lights even blinked. Hali, Rory, and I were all in shock at the fact that we were actually standing under something that we’ve spent our lives hearing about. Paris: the city of romance. That’s certainly the truth.
Feeling brave, we decided to climb the Eiffel Tower. The line was long to take the lift, so for the low, low price of 9 euros, we climbed the stairs half way up, then took a lift to the highest point. We did this all despite Rory’s overwhelming fear of heights, and Hali and I were so proud of him for doing it! We climbed the stairs for about twenty minutes; it was quite a hike, and some people even stopped on the landings to catch their breath. I was taken back by how many older people were taking the hike, though they took their sweet time. New goal set for me: to be that adventurous when I’m old and gray. Anyway, even from half way up the monument, you could see all of Paris. It was night, so everything was lit up and contrasted with the night sky.The scenery was truly beautiful but even better from the top. You could see the Triumphal Arch, which saw close-up later, and the River Seine, which were both mixed into the Paris landscape. It was crazy to think we were actually that high up, on top of a monument in the middle of Paris.
The next day, we took a free walking tour with Sandeman’s New European Tours. They are honestly some of the best tours I’ve ever been on in my life, and I’ve followed them religiously in every major city I’ve gone to. So far, I’ve been on their tours in Sevilla, Madrid, Dublin, and now, Paris. All the guides are “free lance,” and they basically give these tours on their own time for tips only, but I haven’t had one negative experience with them. Our guide in Paris was Naomi, a university student from Scottland who came to France to better learn the language, a story with a strangely familiar ring to it. She had a fiesty sense of humor and knew a lot about French history. We walked all around Paris for three and a half hours, listening to everything she had to say, and though we were exhausted at the end, we learned a lot. We passed the River Seine again and crossed over some of the famous bridges, lined with locks that people put on them. Apparently couples who come to Paris buy locks and write their names on them. Then they go to the bridges, lock them onto a certain spot and toss the key into the river. This is suppose to symbolize their love lasting forever…well or at least till the end of the trip 😉 All jokes aside, though, Paris truly is the city of romance.
That night, the three of us were blessed enough by my aunt and uncle to take a dinner cruise down the River Seine, and it was so amazing. We departed from under the Eiffel Tower, aboard a glass-encased boat. We were dressed in our finest clothing, ready to eat the finest cuisine, and the atmosphere was so elegant. Our waiter seated us all and brought us all wine, water and bread to tide us over before the cruise began. He also stopped back every now and then to explain some of the sites that we were passing and gave us some background about the city. I was very surprised to learn that there is another Statue of Liberty in France, and though it is a bit smaller than the one back home, it definitely reminded me of New York. Our first course arrived, and it was Asparagus and shrimp soup, followed by mashed potates, then duck. I was so proud of myself for trying different foods and am happy to report that it was all delicious. It was all the better because we topped it off with coffee and desert, a chocolate creme cake. As we ate everything, though, we got to take in the beautiful sites at night, see everything lit up, and even listen to a live band that was playing some amazing songs. It was truly incredible, and to end the night, we left the ship and layed under the Eiffel Tower, just relaxing after our meal. The whole thing was perfect, and I cannot thank Aunt Karen and Uncle M enough for their amazing gift! Thank you guys for making Paris a dream come true 🙂
On our last day in Paris, we got up early and checked out our hotel. We had a nice breakfast and went inside of Notre Dame Cathedral. The inside was beautiful and mass was going on when we were there, so we got to see how big of a celebration it was. The stain-glass windows and statues showed an acute attention to detail, and it was a nice way to wrap up our trip. We had a little time after that, so we got some Starbucks and sat by the Louvre before our journey back to Madrid. Though it was only for a weekend, I feel like we definitely fit a lot into our time there. My only wish was that we had enough time to go the Palace of Versaille, where the royal family used to live. It is suppose to boast some of the most beautiful gardens in the world. I can’t complain too much, though, because it was definitely everything I wanted and so much more! ❤