A photo of a mosaic in one of the underground train stations in Paris.
So, a couple of weekends ago I took a quick trip by train through a tunnel that went through a small body of water known at the English Channel. Yes, 5 of my flat-mates and I decided to go to Paris for the weekend. It was our first weekend adventure. We left on Friday night after class, and made it back Monday morning just in time for my 9am class.
The train ride was fast, but not as fast as it would have been if I were smart enough to bring a book or iPod or anything to entertain me. But, I didn’t, so I did my best to peek past the guy next to me and through the little crack between the seat in front of him and the wall to watch the sunset. When the train ride started, the train announcers spoke English first, then French, but when we crossed the channel and were official in France, that changed and even the English sounded like French, they talked so fast. I knew I better learn some French…and fast. I took out my phone and typed a few essential words into Google Translator like please, thank you, hello, one, two three, etc. After my ten minute crash course, I was ready to take on Paris…hopefully.
We had about a 3km walk to the Timhotel, which wasn’t that bad, except none of us were really sure we were going in the right direction. After stopping at a few different maps and making sure we were walking in the general direction of the Champs Elyses, we finally made it! Since the hotel room was only meant for two people, we figured we better not all file in, so Kim and I grabbed everybody’s bags and went in and sorted everything out. Walking up to the counter was probably the most awkward experience ever…ok probably not, but it felt like it then. I greeted the guy with a nice “Bonjour” then realized I didn’t really know anything else to say and shyly digressed to “I’d like to check in please?” hoping he didn’t give me a blank stare. Luckily he spoke English. Apparently he likes to write his 4’s just like most people write their 5’s, though, because when we went up to get into room 705 and were repeatedly denied, a tired and unhappy looking girl opened the door and asked us why we were trying to enter her room.
Since none of us had eaten dinner, we decided to go out and find something. Long story short, the only place we could find that was open and spoke English was McDonalds…and that was because you could order using a touch-screen machine. Probably the worst way to start any trip, but that meant it could only get better.
After a good nights sleep with three of us on the bed, one on the floor, and one in the bath tub (ok he only lasted like 15 minutes in there), we all slept through the alarms we set and were out around 10:30 to head to the least original place to start a Paris vacation…the Eiffel tower! We got some Croque Monsieru, which is a grilled cheese with ham in it. Luckily the people selling that spoke great English. We were all pushing each other up to the front of the line like shy little school girls when the man behind the counter said, “Hello, how are you?” I wonder how he knew we weren’t French!
Our first glimpses of Paris the next morning.
Climbing the stairs of the Eiffel tower was easier than expected after all of that practice living on the 5th floor. Great views from up there, but I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
Some views from the top of the Eiffel Tower
By that time, we were all starving so we found a restaurant and took a break. I’ve never seen an entire table completely clean their plates before down to the last French fry, but that’s what we did. We were refreshed, and continued on to Notre Dame.
Our first great meal in Paris. We didn’t realized the French eat burgers and fries with a knife and fork until after we were done. Oops.
Notre Dame was the coolest church I’ve ever seen, and we happened to show up for the tail end of an ordination. As we’ve been describing it, there were “hella Bishops” up on the alter and the massive cathedral was packed the brim. Once the service was over and the congregation processed out, I could escape the little tourist area on the side and see the church even better. Definitely a good idea to go there.
Notre Dame was the most amazing church I had ever seen. The stained glass, lighting, and architecture were all straight out of a fairy tale.
We continued our walk for hours all along the river until we decided to stop off at the Apple store to check email, then go back to the hotel…until we found out we were a 5 minute walk from…wait for it…Chipotle! Yes, we have all officially eaten Chipotle in 3 different countries now. The person working there even taught us how to order in French.
The last place we went Saturday night was the Arc de Triomphe. The most interesting part of this structure there are about a dozen streets running into it and the circle surrounding the arc is a CRAZY traffic mess. We saw so many near-accidents, but nobody actually hit anything. It reminded me of European Vacation when the Griswald family gets stuck in the roundabout for hours.
A taste of the traffic surrounding the Arc de Triomphe.
Sunday morning, we went to the Lourve museum, after I had an amazing little raspberry tartlet for breakfast. I was really unprepared for this trip. I didn’t bring my FIE student ID so I had to pay 11 Euros when everybody else got in for free. The ceilings were just as intricate and artistic as many of the paintings. We saw the Mona Lisa, of course. It’s smaller than you’d expect.
One of my favorite parts of the trip was just walking around the back alleys afterwards looking for food. I got a little box of croissant-wrapped hot dog slices at a little market/grocery store. I also had the best gelato EVER. I got a cone with black cherry (with real black cherries in it) and chocolate and it was put together like a flower. I really want to go back there.
Next, we all went exploring a bit, I went on a boat ride, and we all met up on top of the Arc de Triomphe at 6pm. It was a great view, probably better than the Eiffel Tower.
The whole day, however, we knew we had to get back to the Eiffel Tower by 8pm because that was when it was going to sparkle for the first time that night. (It sparkles every hour for 5 minutes).
View from the Arc de Triomphe
The Eiffel Tower sparkled at 8pm sharp for 5 minutes, then every hour for the rest of the night.
That night Nikki joined us to make 6 people in a 2 person hotel room. We didn’t sleep much, though, because we woke up at 4:30 to shower and head to the train station. We made it back to London at 8am and I even made it back to Gloucester Road in time for my 9am class!
If you actually read this whole post, Merci!! Also, thank you if you just enjoyed looking at the photos and skipping around. I’m kind of getting buried in things to write about since as I post this, I have also been to Bath, Stonehenge, Germany, and now Ireland. I better get to work! In the mean time, thank you for keeping in touch!