Originally published June 2015
This past weekend, I visited the city most associated with France: Paris. The weekend overall was great, and I was able to see amazing landmarks I had always seen pictures of, but I can honestly say that the city was not my favorite. Maybe it was because I had built it up over the years as this magical wonderland, maybe it was just some of the incidents that occurred, but while some of my friends have found their dream city (Lauren/Rome, Remmi/Paris), I’m still searching.
Taking the TGV
We woke up super early Saturday morning, and headed to the TGV. I was running on about four hours of sleep because I brilliantly decided that the prime time to plan the day’s activities was very late Friday night. Thankfully, I was able to fall asleep quickly on the TGV, and woke up as we were entering Paris. As soon as we entered the city we wanted to start exploring, so we wanted to quickly drop our stuff off at our AirBNB and head out. Unfortunately our AirBNB was not the best experience I’ve had. We called the woman who we booked from, and she had forgotten that we were staying that night. Thankfully it wasn’t a problem, but it caused a minor panic. We were able to drop our stuff off at the AirBNB relatively fast and then we headed out on our way. I was not the most impressed with where we were staying, the room was very rundown (to the point that I grabbed the doorknob and it came off in my hand!) and far from the attractions we wanted to see. It was cheap though, so there is merit in the saying that you get what you pay for…
Shakespeare and Company
We then headed over to Shakespeare and Company for my friend Shannon, as she loves Ernest Hemingway and wanted to see where he spent his time. It was very interesting to look around, especially for a book lover like me. I’m a big fan of the Fitzgeralds, especially Zelda Fitzgerald’s life, so I was excited to poke around as well. We weren’t allowed to take pictures of the interior, but there are two floors, with the second having older books, a personal favorite of mine. We decided to come back later in the trip so I managed to hold off buying something, but it was a struggle.
Right next to Shakespeare and Company is Notre Dame, and it was beautiful. When my dad visited Paris in his early twenties he said that Notre Dame was one of his favorite places, and I can see why. The church is beautiful, very gothic. I was surprised by how big it felt when inside, as it didn’t look as large from the outside. The stained glass was very intricate which I liked, which made me consider how I would compare it to the Sangrada Familia in Barcelona. Although both were churches with stained glass, they were extremely different. The Sangranda focused mainly on colors – the stained glass was a similar design, but the colors varied throughout the room. On the flip side, Notre Dame was less bright, but the stained glass was much more detailed. I found it interesting to be able to see how different time periods and cultures impact how churches were designed.
The Beautiful Sainte-Chapelle
After Notre Dame I went with my friend Lauren to visit Sainte-Chapelle. I had read about it online, and had seen a few photos, so I was ready for a church filled with stained glass (I’m a fan of stained glass in case it has not become obvious yet). I was expecting it to be from floor to ceiling, and to be absolutely stunning. So when I walked into Sainte-Chapelle and did not see this, I was stunned. I looked around the room and was wondering where in the world I had gone wrong – all around the room there were just tiny windows of stained glass. It was nice, but nothing close to what I was expecting. I noticed that some people were going to an upstairs section so I followed them, not expecting anything much at this point. I just did not want to leave because I had paid my six euros and wanted to get as much out of it as I could, as disappointed as I was. As I walked up the spiral staircase, I was turned slightly behind to talk to Lauren. When we got to the top I turned and came to a screeching halt, stopping mid-conversation. What I was looking at was potentially one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen in my life. The entire room was covered in stained glass. It was colorful, it was intricate, and it was gorgeous. The sun was shining on the right side, causing the entire room to sparkle. I took a million pictures I was so amazed by the beauty of this room. By far this was potentially my favorite sight in Europe on this trip (and in previous ones).
Tea Party at Laduree
Lauren’s mom had given her a list of places to visit food wise, and Laduree was on the list. We had heard that it had some good macaroons, but were completely unprepared for the experience we had. We entered a beautiful dining room, and sat at a table with plushy chairs. We ordered tea, desserts, and macaroons. I had a green tea with caramel flavoring, and it was potentially the best tea I have ever had. I also had a chocolate eclair, and my first macaroon, a caramel flavored one that was absolutely delicious. When looking up the tea room later it turns out that Laduree is one of the best known macaroon makers in the world, so I figure I started off pretty strong with quality of macaroons. It was a very relaxing break overall, and it was something that made me feel as though I was experiencing the French lifestyle.
I was very pleased because one of my best friends, Fiona, was visiting Paris this past weekend as part of a trip she is taking with her boyfriend Rich. I was able to meet up with her and our mutual friend Eline, who lives in Paris, for dinner. We ate at some nice restaurant, where I had duck pate and Spanish ham with an endless supply of bread. Overall it was delicious, and not too heavy (as I was still full from the tea party earlier).
One of the more stressful parts of the Paris trip was using the metro. We had been buying individual tickets, as we didn’t have enough trips in one day to warrant a metro pass. The five of us decided to buy books of ten tickets, as it was cheaper, but we were concerned that we would mix up which ones we had already used. So we, thinking us brilliant, decided that after we used our ticket to enter the station we would throw them out so that we didn’t get mixed up. Let me stress this now, KEEP YOUR METRO TICKET FOR THE ENTIRETY OF YOUR TRIP. Lauren and I didn’t know this, and as we were leaving the station with Eline, Fiona and Rich were stopped by police officers who were checking to see if everyone had their ticket. Lauren and I didn’t, and were trying to explain why, but the police only spoke French and we didn’t know what was going on. Thankfully Eline stepped in and communicated with them, but we were told we had to pay a fifty euro fine each, or hand over our passports so they could report our information back to the embassy. Eline was brilliant and graciously talked them down to only thirty-three euro each, because of the lack of understanding, but it was very stressful, especially since I didn’t know what I had done wrong. So, just to reiterate, in France (and everywhere else you are unsure about) KEEP YOUR TICKET THROUGHOUT.
Arc of Triumph and Glittering Eiffel
We were a little shaken up, but managed to get to the Arc of Triumph. We had hoped we were still able to climb the stairs to the top, but we arrived to late. Nonetheless it was beautiful at night. My three friends that split up from us at dinner met up with us for a bit, so it was nice to reconvene, although they left to go eat soon after. Because we were unable to climb up the Arc, Eline suggested that we walk ten minutes to see the Eiffel Tower across the river. It was almost eleven, and she said that the Eiffel Tower sparkled every hour for five minutes. We made it with time to spare, and it was absolutely beautiful. I hadn’t seen the Eiffel Tower all day, and it finally felt as though I was in Paris.
A View to Remember
Because we were so close to the Eiffel Tower I asked if Eline could take us to it, so we walked to the base of the tower. Lauren and I decided that we would want to go to the top, so we asked one of the ticket counters if we could purchase tickets for the next day, as we knew the wait could be up to three hours. Because we had heard the wait was so long, we were completely surprised when the woman said we could just buy a ticket then, and go up at night. So instead of waiting during the day, we went right up and were able to see the view of the city at night. We stayed for a bit, until midnight so we can see it sparkling from inside too. It was beautiful, and there was the extra benefit of having Eline be able to point out which buildings were which, and some fun facts about them.
Back for the Night
After midnight we headed towards the metro. I had to say goodbye, which was depressing. Eline has graduated from Northeastern and lives in Paris, and Fiona is doing her co-op at VMWare in California, so it will be a long time until I see either of them. On top of having to deal with the fact I’m not going to see my friends for months, we were stopped twice more on the metro ride home for our metro passes (although we held onto them this time, we learned our lesson!) I was very tired by the end of the day, and while I was glad I was able to see so much, I was completely exhausted and felt burnt out.
Modeling at Musee Rodin
The first thing we hit day two was the Musee Rodin, as I was very excited to go the day before, but we were about three minutes too late to be let in. The weather was terrible, it was raining profusely, but it was still wonderful to see. The Thinker is here, along with many other statues, and a garden filled with roses and a fountain. We had fun imitating the statues and walking around. I had fun, it was quicker than other stops due to the poor weather, but it was definitely worth visiting, and something that I would want to visit again when there was better weather.
Looking Outside the Louvre
We headed over to the Louvre after the Musee Rodin. We had initially wanted to go in to see the Mona Lisa (even though it’s apparently a disappointment, it would be cool to see), but the line was very long and we didn’t think it was worth it to wait for so long when we had other places to hit before we left later in the evening. We did, however, take super touristy pictures with us pretending to pinch and poke the pyramid, so I would consider it time well spent.
The Lawn of the Eiffel
Lauren and Dan were meeting their friend at the base of the Eiffel Tower, so before hand we went to the lawn to take more photos. It was fun, we took more ‘pushing the Eiffel Tower’ and ‘watch us touch the top’ pictures, and while it is so stereotypical and marked us as tourists, I can’t deny how fun it was. We met up with their friend Andrew, and headed back to the Arc of Triumph because we still wanted to go up. We were again unable to do so though, as we had our backpacks with us, and we would have to leave them to go up. Due to the fact that all my belongings were in my backpack I was unwilling to part with it, so we decided to skip the Arc this trip.
Book Nerds Attack (Again!)
After the Arc of Triumph we decided to go back and pick up some books at Shakespeare and Company. Shannon (the one that was so excited to go to the bookstore) purchased a book by Joyce and another copy of ‘A Movable Feast,’ Lauren bought ‘Hamlet’ for her friend, and I purchased ‘This Side of Paradise,’ as Fitzgerald did spend time in Paris in the 1920s, and a collection of Oscar Wilde’s essays because I love him as an author. We were able to have our books stamped too, which was very cool for us book nerds. Equally awesome was that one of my friends Olivia was able to play the piano in the bookstore, which was a treat because she is absolutely amazing to listen to.
We went to a crepes place nearby the bookstore, and I got a crepe with Nutella (my new favorite food, I don’t know why I never ate this stuff in the United States, it is a gift to the world). Although I love pancakes, waffles, and Nutella, the crepes I had weren’t for me. I’ve tried them in Lyon at a restaurant near my school, and I’ve tried them now in Paris, and they just aren’t my favorite. I feel bad because they are so stereotypical French, and I’ve actually been surprised by some foods I didn’t think I was going to like but do (snails for example), but even though it’s pure sugar I just don’t like the taste.
A Last Look at Love Locks
We had about an hour to spare before we had to head to the train station, so Lauren, Shannon, and I headed off to see Pont des Arts, the famous bridge with the locks on it. I thought it was cool, I had heard so much about it, and while it wasn’t my top sight to see, it was certainly interesting. What I found out later that made my time there even more special was that Monday they started to remove the locks, less than 24 hours after I was there. I’m very glad we were able to see it, especially now that it is being taken away. I do understand why it is being removed though, because while interesting to look at, it shouldn’t continue being in existence if it’s a safety concern.
Back to Lyon
We finally headed to the train station to go home. It was fine, but then Olivia’s bag got stolen. She said it was at her feet the entire time, which makes it scary to think how easily someone can steal all of your belongings. She lost her wallet, credit cards, metro cards, ATM cards, cash, and keys. Thankfully she was able to have her keys replaced, but it was a very stressful time. I have a pull out mattress underneath by bed in Lyon, so luckily I was able to have her stay the night. I felt so bad knowing her trip was ending poorly, especially since she is one of the sweetest people I have ever met. We crashed around one am, pretty late considering we had class the day after. It was a poor end to an overall good weekend, but it still can’t diminish how nice Paris was. While Paris wasn’t my favorite city in the world, I definitely enjoyed my time, and would recommend a visit if able.