I’m sorry, I really can’t help myself with these alliterative titles, it’s just too tempting. After a slower week in London last week recovering from spring break, I headed to Paris with Devan early Saturday morning. We left London first thing Saturday on the train and went through the chunnel. I have to admit, I didn’t think I would like Paris that much. I thought it would just be another big European city, and I had heard a lot about the Parisians being really rude. But I was really pleasantly surprised and loved it! It was beautiful (of course!), surprisingly managable, and after being in Italy, the Parisians (mostly) seemed very pleasant.
After dropping our bags at the hostel, Devan and I (both on very little sleep) headed out to see everything we could! It was recommended to us that we start at the Arc de Triomphe and go up to the top to see the 12 boulevards that branch off it. As Rick said, it’s one of the most exhilarating traffic circles in the world, ha. Instead of going up the Eiffel Tower, we went up the arch so that we could see the Eiffel Tower and get a feel for the whole city. From there, we walked to the Eiffel Tower and found a really cute local Saturday market on the way. We indulged in some amazing fresh pastries and a nutella crepe there. So good!! We enjoyed our pastries at the foot of the Eiffel Tower and then walked around the base and took approximately a million pictures (lots up on flickr). There were some people rappelling down it from the first platform area, ridiculous! We watched a few, most went slowly, but I looked back to see one guy almost in a free fall who then caught himself right before the ground. He was having a good laugh, but most people on the ground were a little nervous! From the base we headed up to the Trocadero to get the classic view of the Eiffel Tower (where the picture above was taken).
We then headed down the river toward Notre Dame and, much like being in Rome, we saw a lot of sights that looked really familiar but we weren’t entirely sure what they were. Don’t worry though, Rick was with us and he helped us out when we needed it. After making our way to ND, we enjoyed our wonderful raspberry tarts we got at the market before we went in. As an art history major, Devan took a history class on a bunch of the architecture of Notre Dame, so I got tidbits of info from her as she went around recognizing the different aspects she learned about. As she looked around at ND and later in San Chapelle, she commented, “I’m in art history heaven!” From Notre Dame, we wandered over to San Chapelle, the small church which is virtually all stained glass windows, something like 1300 Biblical scenes, unbelievable. Continuing on our whirlwind tour we wandered over to the Latin Quarter (tourist central) where we got some dinner and, most importantly, had chocolate fondue for dessert!! With the switch to daylight time and France being an hour ahead of London, it stayed light until about 8:30. When we walked out of dinner, we caught the last bit of sunshine as we crossed the river. Sunsets on bridges overlooking beautiful European cities is perhaps one of my new favorite things, second only to watching the sunset behind beautiful mountains 🙂
We crossed the river and wandered over to the Louvre (closed obviously) and nearby park for more photo opportunities. After the sunset, we stopped by the redlight district, avoided all the sex shops, quickly took a picture of the Moulin Rouge and then ran back into the Metropolitan station. Not quite the same as the Nicole Kidman movie. . . and though I was looking for Ewan McGregor while we were there, believe it or not, I didn’t see him. Of course, then we had to go see the Eiffel Tower at night, because it is MUCH prettier. At midnight the whole thing sparkled with crazy flashing lights up and down it for ten minutes. We weren’t really sure why, but it sure was pretty!
I think that just about covers all of Saturday, and our arrival that day and the amount of walking we did all over the place left us pretty tired on Sunday. But it was the first Sunday of the month so the Louvre and the Musee d’ Orsay were both free. We managed to get in both without too much trouble. Unfortunately, Devan and I didn’t feel very well for much of the day, but we managed to see the Mona Lisa. The Louvre was so overwhelming with so many people we didn’t spend a lot of time there. We decided you could live in Paris for a month and go to the Louvre every day and then maybe you could see everything. I knew it was big, I just didn’t know it was that big!
We moved on to the Musee d’Orsay after another crossiant of course! Saw the impressionist paintings which I liked a lot. I honestly think I’ve been to more museums in the last two months than in the whole rest of my life. I’ve seen some cool (and very famous) stuff. Hopefully I can remember it all and keep it all straight when I’m back! After the Musee d’Orsay we hit up another tourist area at the Basilique du Sacré Coeur. It was another pretty church in a cute area, and there was a cool Spanish guitarist playing on the steps who gathered a crowd. Feeling pretty tired, we headed back to the hostel to grab our stuff and headed to the train station just as the rain/snow mix started to come down.
I’m sure it’s made international news that the Olympic torch came through London this weekend (with plenty of demonstrations here), and we just happened to be at the train station last night when it arrived in Paris on the train from London. As we stood in line lots of people with Tibet flags were wandering around and the police were standing there in preparation. Just as we went upstairs to the departure area, the train from London arrived and we had a perfect view to watch the crowd go nuts. Poor people just trying to get off the train were practically trampled and the ‘flame’ was actually a flashing light. A little lame, but I guess I understand, might be a bit of a fire hazard to have a flame going through the chunnel. Plus I just heard on the BBC tonight that the flame has been put out something like three times since being in Paris. . . oh geez. Anyway, our weekend in Paris truly was eventful to the very end, our train was a little delayed because of the demonstrations, but overall it was a pretty flawless trip. Beautiful city, really glad to have seen it and had such a good time. I’ll probably make it back some day and do the museums a little more thoroughly, and who knows, maybe I’ll even make it to Disneyland Paris, haha!
I don’t have any more trips outside the UK planned for the semester. The next four weeks I have some excursions arranged with school on the weekends. This Friday I finally get to go to Bath, which I’ve heard so much about and also Stonehenge, which I’ve been to before, but who doesn’t want to see big rocks again? Last week I realized my time here is quickly slipping away, so I sat down and made my ‘London List’ of all the things I still have to do in the city. Feeling motivated after seeing how long it was, I headed to the British Library and the National Portrait Gallery after class last Thursday so I could begin to cross a few things off. And actually it was quite cool as both places had things that related perfectly to the things I’m studying (imagine that!). It was fun to see Virgina Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway” notebook at the British Library after I had literally just been reading it for class on the tube ride there. And then to go to the National Portrait Gallery and see all the portraits of the members of the Bloomsbury Group that I just learned about in my British Novel class. Funny how these things all come together!! I honestly can’t believe how soon I’ll be back and I feel like I’m just really starting to get into a rhythm with life here. Even today on the tube during rush hour I told a woman how to get where she wanted to go. I felt really satisfied understanding a part of the city and knowing the different tube stops!
My friend Katherine is in London for her spring break from St. Andrews so we’ll be doing a few things around the city this week. As tacky as it may be I’ve been wanting to go to Madame Tussaud’s, the wax museum and take funny pictures with all the celebrities. Ha, I think I talked Katherine into it, so I’ll be able to cross that off after this week. More plays to come for class and lots going on in London this week and next, so no more ‘big’ trips, but still plenty to keep me busy! Thanks to all who are still reading and sending emails! Hope to catch up with everyone soon!