Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Croissants, Wine, and French Music.. Paris

The city of love, the city of light. In Paris there was romance around every corner you turned. It seemed like everyone there was in love (and probably even more so because we were there Valentine’s Day weekend).

We arrived in Paris on Thursday night and checked into Oops Hostel. After dropping our bags on our bunk beds of room 107, we put on a clean outfit and fresh face of make up and headed out into the Parisian night in search of some fine French dining. We found an adorable restaurant right down the street from Oops that was intimate, candlelit, and what we pictured to be classic Parisian. None of us could decipher the menu—saying my four years of French paid off would be a lie—and the waiter wasn’t much help, so I played it safe and ordered un hamburger. We each ordered an exotic mixed drink and split a few bottles of wine. After a long relaxing dinner, which after a whirlwind week was exactly what we all needed, the next stop HAD to be the Eiffel Tower by night! We quickly learned another city’s train system, had a few mix ups, but got off of at the last stop of the green line JUST before midnight. We stepped out of the train station and back into the night just in time to see the Eiffel Tower, already lit up in white lights, start to sparkle blue at the stroke of midnight. It was beautiful! The Eiffel Tower is such a landmark, everyone knows what the Eiffel Tower looks like, and to be standing in front of it was overwhelming. And to see it dancing in front of our eyes like it was greeting us as we stepped off of our platform was even more amazing. Being the overexcited and probably obnoxious Americans we are, naturally upon first sight of the Eiffel we started screaming and jumping up and down. And we were in Paris, so of course we were mocked by the Parisians passing by. We stayed at the Eiffel Tower until the last train home left. Then we went back to Oops, tucked ourselves into our sleep sacks, and slept tight.

On Friday morning we woke up early to catch the 11:00 walking tour that met in the city. It was a beautiful sunny day and we were ready to take on the Paris. We started at the Notre Dame, saw a beautiful and actually hilarious bridge called Pont Neuf (it had the faces of an old king’s drunk friends on it), walked past the Louvre, through gardens, heard stories behind the Acr de Triomphe, saw the Eiffel Tower by day from a distance, and passed Musee d’Orsay and the National Assembly. We walked around the Seine River, over different bridges, and got lots of history lessons on many places in Paris. The warm sun was such a welcomed break from the cold we’ve become used to. After the tour ended, MK and I laid in the open grassy lawns of esplanade des invalides (French for “really green fields”) in front of another majestic, Parisian building. Tired, a little delirious, and still so happy to be where we were. We went back to the gardens we had walked through earlier in the day and got crepes that all of our friends had been raving about. They were warm, chocolatey, and delicious… no carbs left behind on this Eurotrip, that’s for sure. We took a ferris wheel ride just at sunset and saw all the way to Montmare. Then just as the Parisians were doing, we pulled a lawn chair up to the fountain in the middle of the park and sat in the warm sun with our feet up. Closed our eyes, felt the sun warm our skin, and breathed fresh air. It was so relaxing. The Parisians seemed to really slow down and just enjoy their time together. Packing even more into our day, we went to the Louvre at six when it was free entry for students. We saw our girl Mona and hundreds upon hundreds of more paintings, sculptures, and impressive pieces of art. After an evening at the Louvre, we trained back to our hostel to catch our breath for a minute. We got a quick dinner at the one and only good old American Subway, took quick showers, and decided we wanted to go back to the Eiffel Tower. We missed the last elevator up, so we got another crepe across the street instead. We left the Eiffel Tower to meet up with our friends at a bar called Charlie Bird. Once we finally got there our friends had left so we stuck around for a little while to take in the scene but decided to catch the last train home instead of having to call a cab. A successful day in the most romantic city in the world.

On Saturday we weren’t blessed with the same weather as Friday but we got up and took another train back to the city. We didn’t get a chance to go into the Notre Dame the day before so that was our first stop. It was a beautiful church, with tall ceilings, colorful stained glass windows, and dark gothic chandeliers. We then just made our way around the city at a slower pace, stopping at different bridges to take in different views of the city. We stopped at a little pizza place for lunch and then we went on to find Musee D’Orsay. I loved Van Gough’s work, Monet’s work, and we saw lots of beautiful pieces from many different artists. We stayed there until it closed and then Michelle and I were off to find the Théâtre de la Main d'Or Paris where we had tickets to a show called “How to Become Parisian in an Hour”. It was in a narrow little back alley way—we were lucky we even found it—and the theatre was the most authentic taste of Paris we got while we were there. It was such an artsy place, with red and black walls and the theatre itself was small and intimate with red cushions on benches for our seats. The show was HILARIOUS—a highlight of Paris and a highlight of our ten-day trip overall. It was a one-man show (in English!) and he was a native Parisian. The whole show was basically mocking how snobby Parisians are and how annoying tourists come across to them. It was SO funny. He asked the audience if anyone was from America, and Michelle and I were the only ones to raise our hands. He asked where in America and I said “Washington DC”. He repeated this, making fun of my “accent” and picked on us for the rest of the night. The crowd at his show was from everywhere—Australia, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Spain, France.. it was quite the eclectic group. After the show there was still one thing on our list of things to do while in Paris, and that was actually go UP the Eiffel Tower. So, for our third night in a row, we got on a train back to the Eiffel Tower and this time made it there in time to go to the top. We made it to the top, and it was spectacular! The City of Light was sparkling below us and a map at the top told us we were just 6,175km from home in DC. We could see everything and everywhere. I couldn’t believe I was at the top of the Eiffel Tower—definitely a big check off of my Bucket List.

Paris was croissants, French music, baguettes, gardens, a few snobs, romance, art, wine, a beautiful sparkling Eiffel Tower, and a place full of romance…an atmosphere to fall in love.

I can’t believe it, but we’re off on our second ten-day trip on Friday. Leaving at 5am for Berlin, then going to Prague, and the last two days in Budapest. I’m so excited for this trip! Such bohemian, vivacious places. Just have to get through a marketing research final exam first (yes, we do sometimes have school here). Speaking of which, time to go study.

Until next time, lots of love—everyone in Blacksburg have fun on your crazy spring breaks this week. XOXO

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