Paris was one of the most beautiful and magical places I have ever been. Yeah, it’s super touristy. And this fact could turn everything into a giant cliche, but somehow it didn’t feel that way. In Paris, every moment it feels as if something is just about to happen. Nothing can compare to Paris. (oh no… 2 days there and already I’m a snob!)
Our trip started with a train into Amsterdam. I was traveling with two friends, Cerise and Kai, both of whom I only just met at the castle. We’ve gotten to know each other relatively well and it was exciting to travel with them. In Amsterdam, we hung out and browsed the stores and restaurants, which was entertaining (but really really cold!)
The bus from Amsterdam to Paris departed at 10 pm, so we had to sleep on the bus. I was expecting to get no sleep and have a terrible morning, but when we arrived at 6 am, I felt rested and ready to go. We figured out the Paris metro system, and then headed straight for the center of the city.
Stepping out of the metro station, the very first part of Paris we saw was the Arc de Triomphe. What a view! It was still only around 6:30 am and cloudy, so it was dark and empty, but it was also spectacular. We walked around and looked at the statues and the tomb of the unknown soldier. The Arc de Triomphe sits at the center of all Parisian traffic, but at this hour it was a breeze to get around. So we headed down the Champs Elysees and looked in the windows of all the fancy shops.
Since we were out so early, we had the advantage of getting to the Eiffel Tower just as it opened. We still had to wait half an hour to go up the tower, but it was a much shorter line than average. Seeing the tower in real life was like walking in a dream- it’s so iconic! But going up the tower was awesome. From the top you can see everything, even on the cloudy day we had. I loved being able to read all the history placards that were everywhere, too. By 11 am, we were able to find our apartment and drop off our bags (which by that point was a huge relief.)
The apartment we stayed in was wonderful. The woman who owns it was very friendly and showed us everything we needed to know. She had a great taste in decorations, and a huge music collection. Cerise took control of the music, Kai browsed maps of Paris and I took a cat nap on the bed 🙂
Saturday afternoon was wonderful. We headed from the apartment off to Notre Dame, and stopped for lunch on the way. For under 10 euro, I had a great sandwich and a salad and the three of us had a bottle of wine. Way to go Paris! When we walked to the Notre Dame, there were enormous crowds of people surrounding the famous church. It turns out we were just in time for the inauguration of the new bells. The Notre Dame is 850 years old, but now it has brand new bells to ring in Easter. It was fun to see all the dignitaries speak, even if I couldn’t understand what they were saying.
In the evening we fulfilled Cerise’s dream of going thrift shopping in Paris. She bought a fur hat, and I picked up a souvenir for someone back home. Success! Then we went back to the apartment for a good ol’ snooze.
Sunday was my favorite day. We had breakfast in an outdoor market and headed back to the Notre Dame. We had to wait in line to get in, but it was amazing. The cathedral is really all it’s chalked up to be. And since it was Palm Sunday, we stayed for mass and were blessed with Holy Water. I got a palm leaf (or a leaf of some sort anyway) and sang along in French. Isn’t that the coolest?
Then we walked to Saint Chapelle, a church I’d never heard of before but that Kai said was a must see. I followed along obediently, but I was really expecting just another European church. It was once the chapel for the king of France, and I can see why. The lower part was neat, but really nothing to write home about. The upstairs is three walls, all with three stories worth of stained glass windows. When I first step foot in the chapel, I lost my breath. I teared up, it was that beautiful. If you are ever in Paris, put Saint Chapelle at the top of your list, you won’t regret it.
From Saint Chapelle, we walked quite a bit into the city to see the Louvre. I really enjoyed just seeing the outside of the building, it was once the royal palace. In the center of the enormous building is the famous glass pyramids, which made me think of The Da Vinci Code. In the Louvre we saw a few famous works including Winged Victory, the Mona Lisa, and Venus de Milo. It’s definitely and impressive collection of art.
I wanted to see the Musee d’Orsay next, but it was closed. So we walked through the Luxembourg Gardens to see the obelisk given to France by Egypt, which is in the same spot where King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette lost their heads during the French Revolution. As we continued down the Champs Elysees, we ran into an anti-gay rights protest. The French senate is set to pass a bill that grants marriage equality to same sex couples, and some people in France are very upset. There was a protest of more than a million people in Paris that day, and we got caught up in the news worthy part.
We were standing around, watching the protest and asking some of them questions when we herded away by police. Being in a foreign country, we were extra careful to stay out of trouble, so we took a few big steps away. Within the next few minutes everyone was covering their mouths and hurrying off when police let off tear gas to disperse the protesters. I didn’t understand what was going on and didn’t cover my nose and mouth quickly enough. My nose and throat were burning, and my eyes were watering. I wasn’t even all that close to the gas, but it was painful!
The gas was enough to send us back to the apartment for the evening. We stopped for dinner and then up to our cute little one bedroom. Our host was home and had a friend over. We had a few hours to kill, so we hung out with the two of them. Our host, Fatou and her friend Lucie told us about their lives and we told them about ours. They are both professional dancers in the ballet! How amazing is that?! I was completely awe struck, and asked a zillion questions. Real French ballerinas!
Another night bus took us back to Amsterdam, and again I slept really well. It took a few buses and trains, but Cerise and I made it back to the castle just 20 minutes before our 10 am class. Perfect!