Wednesday, February 26, 2014

In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines...

Babe Ruth once said, "Paris ain't much of a town."

Well Babe, I'm not sure if you were being sarcastic but I certainly disagree. Paris stole my heart.

This past weekend I flew to the city of lights with three of my friends, Megan, Anna and Matt. We took off from Heathrow super early on Friday morning and got back late Monday night. We did a lot in those four days and I can't possibly sum it all up and describe how gorgeous the city is in one blog post. I suppose I'll break it down and write about the highlights of each day.

Friday, February 21

The Notre-Dame Cathedral was the first sight I saw in Paris!

4:45AM: Woke up (ouch).
6AM: Met the others at the Green Park tube station to head to Heathrow on the Piccadilly line.
8:20AM: Took off for Paris!
10:50AM: Landed safely after enjoying a smooth flight and some complimentary croissants.

I'm not really sure what time we left the airport or arrived at Notre-Dame, but we took a train right from the airport and I think it took around 45 minutes.

The lock bridge was really pretty!
As we exited the metro and ascended towards the exit, the light shone brightly in our eyes. I emerged into the plaza right in front of Notre-Dame, and what I saw in front of me was breathtaking. The cathedral was stunning and magnificent and when paired with the bright blue sky, warm sun and chirping birds it felt like something out of a storybook. We walked around the inside of the cathedral and it was just as beautiful on the inside as the outside. 

After we left Notre-Dame, we walked outside along the river and found a lock bridge. Lovers and friends place locks on the bridge and throw the keys into the river to symbolize their love and commitment. It was amazing to see all of the old and new locks. Some were colorful and shiny, while others were rusted and old. Some of them had messages on them and many had names and dates written in Sharpie across their surfaces.

We roamed the streets and peered into shop windows filled with cheese, bread, pastries and macaroons. We passed an accordion player and followed behind a couple holding hands as they strolled along the waterfront. Vespas and motorcycles lined the sidewalks and the smell of the fresh air mixed with baked goods.

The Shakespeare and Company book store was so cute!
Lunch was fantastic. I can't recall the name of the place we ate at but it was near Notre-Dame and I ordered chicken, salad, and potatoes with a rosé wine. I hadn't had such a good meal since arriving in Europe and it was the perfect little restaurant to relax in for an hour or so.

After lunch we stopped by the famous Shakespeare and Company book store. It was really quaint and charming. The shelves were piled with books and the rooms were really small and narrow. It was hard to navigate them with my huge backpack on. I didn't make it upstairs but Anna and Matt said that a cat was napping in an arm chair in one of the rooms. I was so tempted to buy the French version of The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince) but alas I am a broke college student.

4:30/5PM: Checked in at Oops! Hostel.
First impression: Besides the hilarious name, it was in a great area for a hostel to be located in. It was surrounded by shops and very close to a few metro stations. The exterior and interior of the hostel were modern and clean. Our room had two bunk beds and a private bathroom. It was more like a hotel than a hostel, but our beds were not all that comfortable. That didn't matter too much at the end of each day. We were exhausted!

After a quick nap we headed out to see the Louvre Museum. When we arrived it was night time and the entire place was glowing. I couldn't believe how gorgeous it was from the outside. The fountains were going and the stars were out. On top of the beauty of the Louvre's structure itself, it houses the Mona Lisa and other great artwork. We got in line and entered really quickly. We got in for free since we're students and we headed straight for the Mona Lisa. Most people wait hours in line to see it and we breezed right through until we stumbled upon the famous painting. It's really small in person and it felt completely surreal to see it. There was a small crowd gathered in front of it.

Walking through the Louvre was the perfect way to spend our first night. The weather had been perfect and the sights we saw during the day invited us to fall deeply in love with France from the moment we stepped foot in that plaza near Notre-Dame.

Saturday, February 22

8:30AM: Woke up.
9:00AM: Complimentary breakfast at the hostel (baguettes, croissants, juice, cereal, coffee, etc.)
9:30AM: Back to the room to get ready for the day.
The Arc de Triomphe is right at the end of the Champs-Élysées.

Once we were all dressed and groomed we headed out to the Musée d'Orsay. The rainy weather didn't make me feel any less elated to be in Paris because it still looked beautiful through the clouds.

of the Musée d'Orsay: Seeing Monet and van Gogh's paintings in person, discovering my love for Édouard Manet's paintings, the huge clock in the cafe upstairs and getting in for free.

Worst part: Going through the quick security check entering the museum and having to take off my camera which was tangled up with my scarf. I pulled it off so hastily that it hit my forehead so hard. It's been four days and it's still really tender. Go me.

After the museum, we walked across another lock bridge where we saw medics taking a man with a bloody hand away. I wonder if he got his hand caught in a lock...

We wandered around and eventually stumbled on a beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower in the distance. We stopped for crepes right near a bridge overlooking the tower and I ordered a chocolate one. It was so yummy! The weather had improved a lot as well so it was a perfect little spot to stand and enjoy the views and the food.

We walked down the Champs-Élysées and saw so many interesting things! I noticed how elaborate the stores and hotels were, including Abercrombie and Fitch, which was guarded by two tall iron and gold fences and two very attractive models. We passed Tiffany's and many other high end stores like Dior. There were street performers dancing with kids and we stopped to watch them for a little while.

At the end of the Champs-Élysées sits the Arc de Triomphe. We took pictures and marveled at it's beauty and I couldn't help but wonder what it looked like once upon a time when there were little to no cars and less stores nearby. They were doing some work on the top of it so the scaffolding made it in to our photos. I didn't mind though. It was just really surreal to be there. 

The Crepe cart we went to had a great view.
We walked under the road through the underpass and emerged on the other side of the Arc. We saw a man and a group of his friends who were about to help him propose to someone, but after waiting around for about ten minutes we gave up and mentally wished him the best in his endeavor.

After that we walked. And walked. And walked.

We finally arrived at the Eiffel Tower and my feet felt a little like they were going to fall off.

Seeing one of the most famous structures in the entire world rejuvenated us a bit though and I will admit, it's worth all of the hype it gets. Did you know that it was built as the entrance to the World's Fair in 1889? It's the tallest structure in Paris and over 6.98 million people climbed to the top in 2011. That's a whole lot of people. Although I didn't climb to the top, I still felt amazed by the tower and all of the people who come to see it every day.

We took a ton of pictures and I got some French fries at a concession stand nearby. They were delicious and the perfect treat to have while in France! The whole area smelled like fair food and kids were walking around with pink cotton candy the size of my head. There were a ton of street vendors with big rings filled with mini Eiffel Towers. They jingle them in your face and there are so many of them all over. I couldn't help but wonder how much money they make and what kind of lives they live on that income. I don't know if I feel sorry for them or if I'm just amazed at their persistence and free-as-a-bird lifestyles.

5PM: Dinner at the hostel (pasta, bread, cheese, crackers, wine, grapes)

After dinner we went up to our room and played games. It was so much fun getting to know Anna, Megan and Matt better and we laughed so much that my head was pounding from the earlier blow to it from my camera.

Sunday, February 23

Montmartre was the best part of my weekend in Paris, without a doubt!

9:30AM: Woke up, got ready, ate breakfast (baguettes that were leftover from the complementary breakfast earlier that morning and apples we had purchased at the grocery store).

These little Disney-inspired drawings were all over.
We headed straight to Montmartre which is literally the most gorgeous place I have ever visited. I will admit, the stairs to the top were intimidating to me. I felt a little lightheaded and I was really sore from the days before so I had to take my time hiking up towards the top. When I reached it I grabbed a bottle of water and walked towards the view. It was so stunning to see all of Paris under such a blue sky. The breeze felt good and the sun provided a good, warm balance to the chill in the air. People were lounging on the stairs that led up to the Basilique du Sacré Cœur and many people were dressed in light jackets and sunglasses. This made me crave the spring more than ever!

We walked around inside of the
Basilique du Sacré Cœur and it was really nice to be able to light a candle in memory of people who I have lost. I thought of Grampy, Peggy, Uncle Michael, and Mrs. G especially and I wished they could have seen the beautiful places that I was seeing along with me.

When we left the church, we roamed around the winding, cobblestone roads through a small market area filled with tourists. We heard a great group of musicians and Megan stopped to play with some music boxes she found. When we left the area of shops, we kept walking down the cobblestone roads past random cafes and cute houses. The view was still amazing as we caught glimpses of it through the houses. There were less tourists on each street so it was a really peaceful, Sunday morning stroll. The air smelled like wood burning fires with hints of freshly baked bread. The birds were chirping and everything we saw had an element of beauty and age that I have never experienced before in my life. Being in Europe has given me the opportunity to see history in a way that I have never seen it before and France was definitely even more ancient and picturesque-feeling than London has been.

We finally reached the bottom of the hill after a nice walk and we headed away from Montmartre to find the Moulin Rouge. On our way we stopped in the
Cimetière de Montmartre and I wandered through ancient and more recent graves covered in mold and flowers. It was so interesting to photograph there and my video actually stopped recording at one point unexpectedly. I'm pretty skeptical but I didn't feel uncomfortable at all. It was a really nice day so it was almost strange to think there were real graves surrounding me.

We found the Moulin Rouge which had a large queue in front of it and we almost walked right by it. It's crammed between other theatres and really easy to miss if you're focused on where you're walking. I wasn't overly impressed by it since I haven't seen the movie, but Anna loves it and highly recommends it. I definitely need to watch it as soon as we get back from Ireland this weekend.

We stopped for lunch in a nice cafe and I ordered a hamburger and french fries. It came with a little salad and I also had a Coke. It was so good! Yeah, it wasn't really French or daring to order a hamburger, but it was honestly one of the best things I've tasted abroad. I also tried some of Anna's French Onion soup which was really good as well.

We stopped at Paul and bought some macaroons and it was my first time trying them. I got a caramel one and it was to die for. I can't believe I got to try my first one in Paris! I'm definitely a fan.

We decided it would be fun to see the Eiffel Tower at night so we went to a cafe nearby and ordered some hot drinks and waited until it got dark. My hot chocolate came with homemade chantilly (cream) and when I put it in it melted and my cup overflowed. I didn't even notice until Matt was filming it!

We arrived at the Eiffel Tower around 6:45PM and it was that wonderful time right after twilight when the sky isn't exactly black yet but not light either. The tower was lit up and glowed a warm, gold color. We laughed and took pictures and waited for 7PM to see if it would glitter like they said it's supposed to every hour for five or ten minutes. When it finally did I gasped because there is really no way to prepare yourself for how beautiful it is. I mean, it's really just a huge structure lighting up and it might not sound as amazing as I'm making it out to be, but let me tell you- it is. If I were to recommend seeing anything I've seen in my life to you all it would be Paris in general and the Eiffel Tower when it glitters on a clear, beautiful night. I felt so blessed to be able to see it again on such a perfect day and I will honestly never forget the feeling in my stomach the moment I saw the lights begin to sparkle.

8PM: Snacks and wine at the hostel and more getting to know each other.

We went to bed by 12:30AM/1AM.

^*This was my favorite day of the trip.

Monday, February 24

Shadows from left to right: Megan, me, Anna and Matt. This was right after we checked out of our hostel.

10AM: Woke up, showered, packed, checked out of hostel, ate baguettes and apples in the kitchen.
11:45/12AM: Took metro to an area near Bastille, walked around a bit, strolled along the waterfront and saw all of the houseboats.

We stopped at a pizza place for some wine and we sat outside because it was really nice out. We just needed to rest and set our bags down because we were all really sore and tired. We ordered various little appetizers and a small pizza and split the bill.

We walked from the pizza place to a Fruit Bar near the Bastille metro station. We ordered desserts and I got "Nougatella" which is an ice cream Sundae with Nutella and brownie chunks. It was divine. I was really impressed with all of the food we had while in Paris because it was relatively cheap and really delicious. Especially that sundae.

We said our goodbyes to Paris and descended into the tunnels of the metro. We got on a train to the airport, arrived around 5/6PM, went through security and sat in comfy leather chairs until our flight began to board at 7:55PM.

The flight between Paris and London is so short that by the time the plane fully ascends into the air we are hearing announcements from the pilot that we are beginning our descent. I really like flying. I never feel anxious despite my nervous personality. Anna on the other hand, is extremely nervous about flying. I sat next to her both ways and it was amazing to see her overcome her fear to fly to somewhere new and experience all that we did. She was really terrified but she didn't let it hold her back. I wish I could have helped her cope better but after reading some articles online about helping people with flight anxiety I could only really ramble on in attempts to distract her. The way there was super smooth but when we were going back to London we hit more turbulence and there was a man sitting in front of us with heart problems. He needed medical attention as soon as we landed and it was definitely raising Anna's anxiety as we approached London.

We landed safely, the man seemed to be doing okay, and we got through border control without a hitch. We boarded the tube and headed back to central London. I was so tired that it was hard not to laugh at the fact that the voice-over kept announcing that "this is an all stations train to cockfosters." I know, I'm twenty-one. I shouldn't laugh at that but hey, who needs maturity after 10PM on a Monday after a weekend in Paris?

It was comforting to sit on the Mike-and-Ike patterned, comfy cushions of the tube and listen to the voice-over telling us to "please mind the gap." I like the thought of returning to my own bed and my shower and all of my things on the sixteenth floor of Marylebone Hall. For once London didn't seem like my home away from home, it felt like my home.

I hope I didn't bore you all with my adventures in Paris because next week I'll be blogging about my trip to Ireland this weekend. It's supposed to rain but I'm really looking forward to seeing Dublin and Galway. What I'm not looking forward to is getting up at 3AM on Friday to make my flight out of Stanstead. Oh the sacrifices a girl will make to see the world...

Have a lovely weekend everyone! Until we meet again.
xx Sheila

(P.S: Listen to "Lay Me Down" (preferably acoustic on Youtube) by Sam Smith. I've been playing it on repeat all day. It's a lovely ballad that reminds me of an Adele tune. He's got a lot of soul. Let me know what you think!)

*The title of this blog post references the poem at the beginning of each episode of "Madeline" which was a childhood favorite of mine. I still have a music box that plays the theme song.

1 comment:

  1. Impressive & interesting Blog Sheila, can't wait for next weeks recap.

    Uncle T