One word to describe Paris: Breathtaking.
Landing in Paris felt unreal. I had looked forward to this moment since I was a kid taking French classes. I never thought I would be under the Eiffel Tower. After arriving at the airport we were transported to our hotel and got to unpack our things. Hotel rooms in Paris are much smaller than American hotel rooms, but as our professor told us, we were lucky, because our rooms were larger than most. The first thing to do when in Paris is take a metro. These became very much needed throughout the trip. While at first intimidating, they soon became like second nature, and we became proud of our fast boarding skills and map reading. We took the first metro of the trip to see The Eiffel Tower. It was so much bigger than I had imagined, and couldn’t get over how many people were there, to see this huge monument. You could hear accents and languages from all over the world. I think I must have taken a thousand pictures. We got to walk around and sit at a local café that sold the best French onion soup I have ever eaten. It was relaxing to live a Parisian lifestyle and watch Parisians walk by. You certainly can tell a Parisian from a tourist by their thin physique and exceptional dress. It is true that fashion is everywhere in Paris. We went back to the Eiffel at night to slowly see the different stages of lighting. At the top of the hour, we were all surprised to see it twinkle. The tower looked so beautiful sparkling in the dark. It took a few minutes to pry us away from the sparkling tower. Our next nighttime sight to see was the Notre Dame. After a “short” walk we came upon the lit cathedrals. The lighting was perfect for showing off the Notre Dame’s intense detailed carvings. Around the side the gargoyles looked like they were peering right at you and cased shadows on the rest of the architecture. People gathered all around to see the Cathedral lit up at night.
The next day we traveled to the Louvre Museum. I was so excited to see the Mona Lisa and other famous works of art such as the Venus De Milo, which was my favorite. Luckily, it wasn’t too crowded and we were able to travel our way though the maze, (the hallways of the Louvre) until we got to The Mona Lisa. Surprisingly the painting was smaller than expected, and more dull. In fact, I was more impressed with the ceilings of the Louvre itself, than the Mona Lisa. The ceilings were gorgeously detailed with gold accents and huge murals. At the Winged Venus, my roommates and I took a fun picture impersonating the statue. Of course we probably looked silly as ever, but we were having a good time. We got lost in circles a few time before finding the entrance. Through the window we were able to get a good view of the triangular glass pyramids and people outside by the fountain. The weather was fantastic and put everyone in a good mood as we left the museum. We walked past the fountains and rows of newly blossomed flowers, bought a crepe and enjoyed the scenery of people relaxing over a cup of coffee. It truly felt like a picture perfect day in France as we headed toward the Arc D’ Triumph. After walking past designer stores such as Dior, Gucci and Louis Vuitton that made us wish we weren’t college students, we finally landed at the circular roadway in front of the Arc. We went to the top and enjoyed the windy breeze and sight of the Eiffel Tower in the distance. The circular stairs on the way down made me dizzy, and I figured it was probably good we took this baby step before our next experience, the top of the Eiffel Tower. We went our separate way from the rest of the group and hopped on the metro to head toward the giant Eiffel Tower. The wait wasn’t too bad and we were soon buying our tickets to the top. Once on the elevator we started getting nervous. On the second level, the view was amazing and you could see the other main tourist sites such as the Sacre Coeur and Arc D’ Triumph, the Louvre and others. The elevator to go up way more nerve racking than actually being outside, and as we rose to the top, the people on the ground were barely visible. Cars looked like play toys from the top and the clouds casted huge shadows on the tiny model-house looking buildings. You could see all of Paris with the river Seine running through it.
That night we got ready for a wonderful group dinner with everyone. We went to a restaurant that specializes in groups, which made it easier to order. The setting was nice and there were musicians for entertainment. I decided to try duck for the first time, as well as escargots! It was all surprisingly good. While I normally do not try many new foods, I figured, your only in Paris once! After everyone had a few glasses of wine, he dancing began. Yes- we were dancing in the restaurant with the help of the musicians that worked there. Dr. Hosey started us off with dancing queen, and even Feargal jumped in! Later the chicken dance and the Macarena were performed by many of us, and Joe surprised us with his own guitar performance. Everyone had a great time together celebrating Paris.
The next day, we headed for the Muse D’Orsay. Here we got to see paintings from Degas, Monet, Renoir and others. I especially loved the Degas dancer paintings and statues. After, we headed toward the town of Montmartre. This was by far my favorite place in Paris. Even better than the Eiffel Tower, or the fancy shops. Here, the uphill winding roads were lined with street artists, painters, and dancers. Music filled the streets, and pastries and ice cream were all over. I knew instantly that if I lived in Paris, this is where it would be. Cai and I bought some pastries from a little bakery and enjoyed them as we walked about the streets. The beautiful sunny weather created the perfect day! Spring flowers, like hyacinths filled the air with a good smell. Finally at the top of the hill, we reached the Sacre Coeur! This was the most beautiful Cathedral I have ever seen. While the white outer part resembled something similar to the palace in Aladdin, the inside was almost more breathtaking. The inside had a beautiful mural in front and an opening that let some light in at the top. The windows were of course beautiful stained glass. The sixe was impressive and after sitting there for a moment I felt a chill of silence. I truly wanted to cry at such a special place. It took time to pry myself away from the beautiful sights, but we slowly made our way down the hill to Moulin Rouge! While the exact opposite in character, we all laughed as we passed the “exotic shops” leading to the Moulin Rouge. Finally, in front of the famous windmill, my roommates and I tried to take a picture of a kick line without falling over.
Napoleon’s Tomb was the next place for us to see. A group of us headed off to Les Invalides to see his burial site. It was amazing to see such a huge masterpiece devoted to the death of such a physically small man. Clearly from the decoration and statues, his ego made up for it! It was impressive to see how much work must have gone into his tomb. He had a statue representing him as the emperor of king of different lands. This still shows what his personality was even today. After, we broke up, and decided to end the day with a boat ride. We took some time to walk the streets and pick up a few scarves from vendors. We looked about for postcards, and slowly made our way back toward the Eifel Tower where the boat takes off. Our group opted for the pasta cruise, and we got to enjoy some pasta and wine as we realized on the Seine River. We chose to go t night just after dusk, which provided a different lit up view of Paris. It was very nice, and made us feel like we had a full day. Although it was a tour boat, there’s something about Paris that gives you a romantic feel no matter who you’re with. To end the night, we were able to see the tower twinkle one last time. I will never forget that sight.
The next day was full again. At this point our feet were starting to hurt, but we were still eager to see all of the sights. The group planned to go the Picasso museum before heading to the Pompidou, however, our plans were changed when we found out that the Picasso museum had been closed for over two years! Instead we improvised by looking around a smaller museum. I enjoyed the court yard the most and took some time to take pictures of the orange poppies and new budding flowers. Soon we were outside the Pompidou which was a huge change from the medieval and renaissance style museum we had just left. Inside, the art here was drastically radical on the first floor. For most of us, the art was a bit too radical for our liking. One reminded my roommates and me of our apartment after a long weekend. The exhibit showed papers and plates all over a “room”. But, I guess art is in the eye of the beholder. The second level was more familiar to us. I enjoyed the works or Dali, Matisse, and Kandinsky. Outside there were street artists. The one I enjoyed the most was the chalk artist. He was very talented and had created a huge mural of Jesus. The colorful and creative fountain decorated the outside yard. After, we took a short lunch (baguette) break in a little park and prepared to hop back on the metro toward the Notre Dame. Although we say it at night, it is different to see the inside during the day. Inside, the stained glass windows were incredible. They were the biggest bits of color I have seen on a window. The circular ones on each side of the alter let in a shining purple color, while the red ones behind contrasted. Quiet church music played in the background as we slowly walked viewing the beauty of each window and station. Outside the Cathedral looked different than at night. We walked across the bridge to an ice cream stand. According to everyone, it is the best ice-cream in France! I got mocha flavored, and we each sat on the bridge savoring the flavor. As we sat there an older man came up to us blabbering away in French. We sat there confused until finally he asked if we spoke French. I responded with no, and asked if he spoke any English. “Parlez Vous Anglais?” Suddenly he broke out in almost perfect English, and stood there talking to us the entire length of our ice-cream. It was interesting to hear what he had to say about America. Interestingly, we couldn’t believe how everyone we talk t says that Americans should feel un-safe, and that we are far more paranoid. It was a different look at our own culture. That night we headed back early. We laughed about the experiences we had, and the funny characters we had met.
The final stop in our trip was Versailles! We figured we’d save one of the best for last. Despite a train strike, we were able to take the RER to Versailles. A small group of us went with Feargal. Once there I couldn’t get over how magnificent it was! The gold gate surrounding the courtyard was incredible. Inside we had a self guided audio tour that discussed the history. The place was huge and so elaborately decorated! I loved the detail in the murals and paintings. The beds had feathers on the tops, and gold trim. My favorite room inside was the Hall of Mirrors. The chandeliers sparkled and you simply felt elegant in the room. However it was very crowded and we were happy to get outside and explore. There, the fountains had beautiful sculptures within them. The grasses were perfectly trimmed along with the bushes. It was easy to imagine Marie Antoinette being carried about the yards. Gee- life must have been hard! No wonder she had so many affairs! Every turn you made, could get you lost. In fact, a few of us did get lost on the way back, but after passing a few sheep, horses and swans, we found ourselves back where we started! I found it funny that they still keep the sheep there. Apparently, Marie loved the sheep, but expected them to be cleaned every day. By the end of Versailles, we were ready to go home. It had been a long a full week and our feet were tired. That night I went out with a group of girls to a small Italian restaurant with best pizza! We each got a different ne and tried each others. Although it wasn’t Parisian food, it was filling and amazingly tasty.
Coming back, many of us battled colds or the flu. Paris had taken it all out of us, but we each left part of our hearts there. We didn’t want to leave, but it was time to go. I know where the parts of my heart are there- the Eiffel Tower, the river Seine, the bowl of French onion soup, and of course the artistic city of Montmartre!