Oh to be in Paris, walking the streets with some of your best friends, feeling like you’re in a movie, drinking in the sight of the Eiffel Tower…
These were the visions occupying my mind as I boarded the EuroStar train, hot chocolate in hand Wednesday night. We settled into our seats for the short chunnel ride (which really isn’t quite as cool of an experience as everyone makes it out to be, especially at night when you can’t see anything), and two hours later, we arrived in Paris!
We made it safely to our apartment building, but the guy who was supposed to meet us to check us in wasn’t there! He was the son of the owner, and none of us was sure whether he was 12 or 40… luckily, he arrived pretty quickly, in his 20s, and just as attractive as you would expect a young Frenchman to be (yay!).
He showed us around our amazing two-story apartment, which was very Parisian (picture a European apartment in your head- that’s about what it looked like), and included a balcony where, if I sat down to journal and leaned a bit to the left, I could see the Eiffel Tower!
The five of us went to bed that night, absolutely giddy, and ready for the next day! When it arrived, we ate a quick breakfast of fruit and Nutella before heading off to our Fat Tire Bike Tour. Our guide was friendly young American man who did a great job telling us the highlights of the history of Paris, taking us to some of the prettiest and best sights of the city. We began at the School of Military which was founded by Madame de Pompadour during the reign of King Louis the 15th who was too lazy to do anything for his people. This school was the beginning of social mobility in Paris, and is where Napoleon ended up studying a few decades later. Speaking of Napoleon, we also got to see The Dome Church where he was buried 40 years after he died. The fact that they let him be buried there despite having been exiled twice is quite impressive. After these stops, we headed over Place de la Concorde where over 1000 people, including King Louis the 16th and Marie Antoinette, were executed during the French Revolution. Now however, there is a lovely oblique in the square which is mentioned in one of my favorite series, The Kane Chronicles!
Minds full of history, we stopped for lunch at a cafe in what formerly was the palace gardens. I had a ham and cheese buckwheat crepe (yay for naturally gluten-free Parisian pastries!) which was HEAVENLY, and worth the steep price I paid for it. Once we were done relaxing, we hopped back on our bikes and headed for the Louvre, which has a view all the way down the Champs Elysees, about a two mile stretch where the Louvre, place de la Concord, and Arc de Triomphe line up.
Our last stop of the tour was, of course, the Eiffel Tower where we took a million pictures before heading back to the Fat Tire Bike Tour offices to meet our friends. We were tired but still wanted to more before the day ended, so we headed over to Notre Dame to bask in it’s glory and visit the Love Lock Bridge. After accomplishing this and buying a few souvenirs to commemorate the trip, we headed over to a small cafe for dinner. I enjoyed a French omelette (it’s the same as an American omelette, but you eat it in France), and then headed back to our apartment to rest. What do a group of college girls do at the end of a long day spent learning about French history and the Revolution? Watch Les Mis!!! So that’s exactly what we did.
The next morning we celebrated the day with a HUGE breakfast of scrambled eggs and the thickest bacon you have ever seen. It was the greatest feeling in the world to start the day off with such delicious food and in such great company, and I enjoyed every minute of it
Once our tummies were properly satisfied, we headed out to tour the inside of Notre Dame. It is such a beautiful cathedral, all the gothic arches and stained glass windows, and there was even a mass happening while we were there, so we got the full experience the church could give!
HannaKate and I then fulfilled a dream of ours and left a lock on the Love Lock Bridge together! We may fight sometimes, and want to rip each other’s throats out when we’re in bad moods, but as we watched our keys plummet into the Seine, I had no doubt that our friendship will continue for the rest of our lives.
By now it was time for lunch, so we stopped at a bench beside the river and pulled out or baguettes (okay, I had rice cakes) and feasted. When the food was gone, we continued on our way to the Louvre, which we got into for free because we’re studying in Oxford!! Excitedly, we rushed under the iconic pyramid and into the most famous wing, beginning our tour looking at the Greek statues. They were so beautiful, and fun to experience. It was fun seeing all the representations of the gods and goddesses, as well as the newly installed Winged Victory! But of course, the main attraction of the day was the lovely Mona Lisa. Did you know she’s only as famous as she is because she was stolen from the Louvre a while back? No one knew who she was until they saw her her their newspapers everyday. Regardless, she’s very beautiful to look at, but personally, I was not a fan of the enormous crowd surrounding her. Actually, that whole wing of the Louvre was over-crowded, so after seeing Mona, I headed into the still beautiful, but must less tourist-y wing of Renaissance art and Napoleon’s apartments. I had a much better time enjoying the art with out the massive crowds, and Napoleon really knew how to decorate his apartments! Not nearly as great as Buckingham Palace, but comparable 🙂
After an hour or so, we met back up at the gift shop and headed to dinner. We ate at the same cafe we had stopped at during the Fat Tire Bike tour because it was DELICIOUS, then continued walking down the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe. It’s a lovely night, especially all lit up at night, but of course, I still prefer the Eiffel Tower which we went to next! We arrived right as it was sparkling on the hour, and stopped to stare. in that moment, I knew I would never see another sight that could even come close to being as beautiful as this. (That’s a personal opinion, but I REALLY LOVE the Eiffel Tower.)
Our final day was dedicated to art museums, so we began our day at The National Museum of Modern Art (not the Paris Museum of Modern Art which we had accidentally gone to the day before) so HannaKate could see works by her favorite artist Frida Kahlo. We had a great time looking at all the funky Post-Modernism, alongside the Piccassos and the like, but unfortunately, Frieda was not on display at the moment. 😦
Once we had made it through the exhibits, we headed across town to a gluten-free bakery off the beaten road. EVERYTHING in the shop was sans-gluten, so I bought about a million pastries because I can’t get them anywhere else, and they were SO DELICIOUS OH MY GOSH. I even left with a loaf of fresh gluten-free bead to eat for dinner and breakfast!
Happy tummies full of carbs, we headed off the the Musee de l’Orangerie to see the room of Monet’s Waterlilies. We had to take a lovely (*ahem* confusing) detour to get there because our Metro Station was closed, but once we arrived at the Museum and walked into that room of art, all the walked was worth it. I literally caught my breath, and all of us sat down a little while to absorb the phenomenal artwork presented before our eyes.
We ended the day with a trip to the Monument of Bastille, formerly a fortress where weapons were kept, but which was stormed, robbed, and destroyed during the French Revolution. It’s a really cool looking monument, and while we were looking at it, we saw a sign for Victor Hugo’s home! It took a little bit of walking and searching to find it, but it was cool to see the place where the famous author lived!
The trip ended with Alyssa finally getting her birthday cheesecake (her birthday was the first day we were there, but with all of our tourist-ing we hadn’t quite gotten a chance to celebrate), and the five of us enjoying each other’s company whilst watching Les Mis. I learned so much about the French culture and myself during the trip. I learned that I tend to focus a little (or a lot) too much on scheduling every part of a trip, and seeing everything I possibly can, instead of taking time to stop and smell the roses, and just soak some of the culture in. It doesn’t matter if you see everything, only that you enjoy what you do see. If you see a million things but are stressed the whole time, the trip is barely worth it.
Overall though, I fell completely in love with Paris. It was everything I ever dreamed it would be and even more. I loved every moment I spent there, bonding with the other girls, and immersing myself in the French land. It’s a trip I will remember for the rest of my life, and honestly, a complete dream come true. I keep pinching myself, making sure it actually happened! I can’t believe how lucky I am to be in such a beautiful part of the world, living out all my dreams.
Vive la France!