Paris didn't let me down. It was absolutely gorgeous! What I didn't realize was how huge the city was. Two days is definately not enough time so see everything. I'm surprised we ("we" as in my group of Sussex friends I went with) were able to pack so much into the short time we were there. Its funny because its as if you lose track of time when you're visiting another country, everything is just so breathtaking...BUT because time is so lost easily in the excitement, you do have to keep a close eye on the clock and do some efficient planning if you want to see all the sites this beautiful city has to offer. Besides the different sites, here's some observations about the French I did notice:
- How laid back the French are. From what I noticed no one is stressed or high strung or rushing to work. People just eat and drink wine in the streets. Life is so simple. I also didn't realize just HOW capitalistic America is until I lived outside of the country. My friends and I were having a conversation about how instead of trying to obtain what you CAN'T have, it seems like the French just live life by enjoying what they DO have.
- The people that we asked directions from (Thank you Rosie and Nicole for your high school French skills) were very kind and polite. Although I had no idea where they were telling us to go, they smiled and generally pointed in the right direction and we just followed their fingers. On the other hand, when our group of American and Canadian students (2 of my friends were from Vancouver) some French people looked at us annoyingly. I guess I would understand, because I actually got annoyed at this group of American girls that were in the subway. I didn't notice it within my group of friends because I'm with them most of the time, but once you hear French and British accents, American accents just seem so boring.
- I'm very proud of myself for figuring out this European transportation system. I have British buses and the French underground metro down. Since the city is so huge and the Eiffel Tower and Louvre were on the opposite side of our hostel, we pretty much had to navigate which metro to take and where to get off and where to transfer to and were to walk to get to our destination. Surprisingly it wasn't that difficult- all you need is the name or address of the place you want to go to and the metro line it runs on....which all can be found on the helpful maps the hostel provided us with. It was much more simplier than the regular maps because there were less streets and had pictures of the main attractions with the metro stations near by. That's really all you need, not a billion different street names. I'm also really glad I went with people who knew a little bit of French. My conversations consisted of "bonjour" and "merci", sometimes I added the the "merci beaucoup" to be extra nice :)
- The fashion is also more laid back, lots of leather jackets and boots but more netural colors like khaki, brown, blacks or gray. Fashion colors in England vary from black to purple to bright blue sometimes.
- Although the underground metro is easy and convenient, it is also dirty and smells like pee. My friend Kolby had to pee and was pissed there were no bathrooms anywhere, started swearing and peed somewhere within the metro station...which is probably why it smells so bad. We also saw a rat crawling around in there!
- French guys are way cuter that English guys. My gay friend Clark and I were checking them out on the metro. I don't know what it is exactly, they have narrower faces, more defined jaw bones and for some reason their cheeks are also a rosy pink, maybe they blush really easily?
- Watch out for those scammers that ask you to sign a petition and then make you give them money. Oh Clark, I hope he learned his lesson. Oh, and I would suggest getting a purse that's attached to your body at all times because I witnessed a purse been snatched at the Eiffel Tower. He got away!
On Friday night, we took a train out to Central London and was planning to hang out at a pub until our coach left for Luton Airport but apparently all the pubs close at 12:3o which surprised me because it was a Friday night...and it's London! So we ended up eating at McDonalds until they closed at 2am and took an early coach to the airport, where our flight was delayed an hour. When we arrived in Paris, we walked which seemed like miles to find the train into the city and transferred onto a bus to get to our hostel. The train ride view into Paris from the airport was not pretty...lots of trash and grafitti in what looked a dirty industrial district surrounding the city. Its funny how ghetto the outside of one of the most beautiful cities in the world is, but there were actually some intercity parts I saw walking to Montmartre, which is a huge district in Paris and our first stop after checking into the hostel. We also had baggetes for lunch, basically crispy bread which was delicious. My favorite were the crepes and crossiants though, they tasted like heaven! On the way to Montmartre we saw Socre-Coeur (a church) with a lot of people singing in front the stairs [below] , a breathtaking view of the city, some break dancers, some people selling artwork, souvenir shops, and a windmill thing.
After wandering around a bit we found the metro to the Eiffel Tower just as it was getting dark and took pictures of the famous monument. Every hour for 10 min the tower lights up with all these bulbs, I mean literally sparkles and its the most gorgeous site I've ever seen! [see YouTube video below] That's when you're looking at it, not while you're on top of it which is another experience which I will get to in a bit. We had dinner at the French restaurant nearby and I got an omlette with french fries (haha French fries when I'm in France!) and creme broulet but I also tasted escargot for the first time, a french delicacy aka snails cooked in garlic and butter [below].
I pulled the sucker out from it shell, took one look at at and couldn't do it until my friends told me to close my eyes and just put it in my mouth and try it. Maybe its just me, but I can't stand the chewiness- I'm usually like that with squid too. Anyways, that was my first and last time eating snail, but hey, what an experience in France. After dinner we split up. Cameron, Kolby and Sean went to find some beer at a nearby bar while Clark, Rosie, Nicole and I headed to the top of Eiffel Tower. If you know me I'm scared shitless of heights, especially going up on really high towers. But this is Paris and this the Eiffel Tower so I wasn't going to let my fear ruin my fun. So I went up and was shaking, anxious and nervous the whole time up...especially in those lifts (aka elevators) that have the whole view while going up, I clung on to Clark's arm the whole time and made sure I was in the middle. Once we got to the second floor I was freaking out and kept thinking to myself, oh god we still have to take another lift to the top!? But, once I got to the top I was all right and let my excitement take over the fear. The view was beautiful and the whole city lit up at night. And then those sparkly bulbs came on while we were on top and it didn't help my anxiousness so I was done. We were the very last group that went up for the night. Even though you can see more during the day, the wait is longer. Plus I think I would have been more freaked out if I had gone during they daytime. Clark and I made a pact that we would come back to the tower in the future with our own lovers we could make out with since there were some couples there kissing, in fact I think I was in the background of one of their pictures...oops.
The next morning the girls and guys split up and Rosie, Nicole and I went to the Louvre, which is the biggest museum I've ever been to besides the Smithsonian but that's multiple buildings. This is actually all connected....and you could easily get lost. Even with a map we wandered off course and ended up in some exhibit we weren't looking for. You really have to plan out what you want to see because unless you plan staying a whole day there, you can't see everything. My absolute favorite was the Venus de Milo [left], I've seen that image so many times! We all picked something we really wanted to see: I liked the Greek and Roman sculptures, Nicole wanted to see the Egyptian exhibit and Rosie wanted to see the French paintings. Of course we saw the Mona Lisa which hung in this glass cass on its own huge wall with a crowd in front of it hold up their cameras. It wasn't as spectacular as I thought it would be, maybe because we weren't allowed to really go up to it up close and observe its beauty. I kept thinking about Dan Brown's The Davinci Code while I was there...
After the Louvre we walked down by the Seine River [below] and visited the gargolyes and stained glass windows at Notre Dame then headed towards Latin Quarter (named after the students who studied Latin at the University there) for lunch. I had a pizza type thing on a baggete and had a bite of Nicole's crepe with bananas and nutella. The nutella or hazelnut spread here is so delicious! We had some for breakfast too, and I took a whole bunch of packets back to eat with bread or crossaints. We walked off the food and headed towards the Pantheon which was an old church and now the burial place of "Great French Men". We went into the krypts and saw the tombs of Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Marie Curie, the guy who invented Braille and the guy who wrote the 3 Musketeers. The best thing about these the museums in Paris was that it was all free! Yep, free entrance every first Sunday of the month. We got lucky! After a stroll through Luxemourg Gardens we took the metro to the Arc de Triumph [left], in the center of the city. Including all these sites plus travel time walking everywhere (and trust me my feet were KILLING me by the end of both days) and taking and waiting for the metro, we were beat and crashed at the hostel. Even little naps helped, and we needed it to have the energy to meet up the boys for dinner at La Opera Bastille. We were going to find a club but it was too complicated and the metro wasn't running anymore so we hit up an exotic looking hookah bar complete with a separate room with lots of comfy pillows and couches. That was VERY relaxing. The night ended with free Heinekens which we drank by the river near our hostel. It was awesome just sitting by the water, talking and chatting- a good way to end our last night in Paris :) After a day of traveling on foot, by metro, train, bus, coach and plane I'm absolutely exhausted. And I have to do it again this weekend for Rome!