Trip Start Jan 08, 2013
Trip End May 05, 2013

Flag of France  , Île-de-France,
Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Sooo much to say about Paris this blog post might be a bit obnoxious. Thursday night was a travel night, and we arrived at our hostel at about 1 am so we all wanted to go to bed to rest up for the busy days to come! We traveled in a bigger group this time. There was seven of us. Allison, Megan, Sarah, Amy, Matt, and Walked. Our hostel was called St. Christopher's which is very well known for housing thousands of young world travelers like ourselves. We had three other people in our room, and they were pretty friendly so it worked out well. Allison and I had our first taste of French culture when two guys in the bar of our hotel tried to convince us that we only need 2-3 hours per week and we should check out the bars and clubs in Paris. No go, and we went to sleep soundly. There were curtains on each bed, so it was like a little sleep pod!

Day One: We woke up around 8:30 to get to the Louvre early before all of the crowds. We had free breakfast at the hotel which consisted of cereal and baguettes. Since the food in Paris is kinda pricey, we thought it would be a good idea to pack some baguettes for the road, so we put about 8 in Matt and Walkers backpacks. I jokingly called them the mules because they were so willing to carry all of our stuff in their handy backpacks. We went to the metro station close by, and easily found our way to the Louvre. The metro system in Paris was really easy. The city was much bigger than I had expected, but it wasn't a problem because we could just jump on and off the metro to get to anywhere that we wanted to go to. The first famous Paris sight that I saw was the famous glass pyramid of the Louvre. It was much smaller than I imagined, but just so cool with everything around it. The Louvre was ENORMOUS! probably the size of all of the Virginia Manor houses put together. We needed to use a map to find our way around the place. We nicknamed Matt "tour guide map" because he was always looking at a map and directing us through the city. This made the trip but more relaxing for me, as I am usually always trying to figure out directions. The Mona Lisa was very underwhelming in my opinion. I thought it was interesting that the painting on the opposite wall was much more impressive, yet everyone was crowded around Mona. It is true that it looks like her eyes are looking directly at you from every angle.

After the Louvre we went to the Arc D'Triomphe and walked down the Champs de Elysses (spelling?) which is a really nice and well known shopping district. From this street we could see the Eiffel Tower, so we slowly made our way in that direction. We were looking for the Longchamp store, but we were having a lot of trouble finding it. We eventually found ourselves outside of Harry Winston, Dior, Versace, Fendi, and any other luxury brand you could imagine. We were within walking distance to the Eiffel Tower, so we just walked to the river to take a look. At this time I was not overly impressed, but the next day would change my opinion. We walked towards Concorde Plazza on the river trail, and really just soaked in as much of the city as possible. From this path, we could see all of the famous Paris monuments and it was quite surreal. We finally made it to the Longchamp store thanks to tour guide Matt. Walker tried to convince me to buy this bright blue one that was beautiful, but I bought a brown one for my mom instead. We were planning on going to Notre Dame, but it was already late and dark so we decided to go back to the hotel and then regroup.

For dinner, we went to this place called Refuge Des Fondue that was recommended to us by someone in our hotel. It was a small place it's wooden benches all along the walls. While we were waiting to get inside, I started whistling because that what I tend to do a lot. The song of choice was We Wish You A Merry Christmas, and the owner (who only spoke French) kept whistling along. I'm not sure if he was making fun of me or just being funny, but I thought it was funny. Regardless, we got a table pretty quickly and were immediated flooded with amazing food. This restaurant is known for serving wine in baby bottles. I'm not really sure why, but I enjoyed some vino rosso out of a baby bottle. We had meat fondue and cheese fondue. The whole restaurant was loud with people from all over the world. We had Italian women next to us, and some rowdy Spanish men at the other end that kept chanting something. I think it was someone's birthday. Anyways we were all very happy, full, and tired once the meal was over. Successful first day in Paris, and I slept like a baby.

Day Two: Up and at it early again, who wants to sleep when you're only in Paris for a weekend? Our first stop was the Eiffel Tower. Our original plan was to climb it early before it got too busy, but the weather was really not nice at all. We decided to change our plans and go to the Musee D'Orsay. This museum was more modern and had more impressionist paintings, I found it much more interesting than the Louvre. I am trying to find an appreciation of art, but I find that while everyone is looking at the paintings, I am looking at the building that we are in. The architecture is just really really cool, elaborate ceilings, large elaborate clocks, and detailed arches. From there we went to Notre Dame and sat outside and just looked at it for a while. It was an extremely beautiful building, but more importantly a great area. We got lunch at a Greek pita place that was delicious as well.

Finally, we were heading toward the Eiffel Tower. The sky was cleaning up as we had hoped, and there was a hint of a blue sky coming our way, We took pictures and then began our climb up to the top. When I visioned climbing the Eiffel Tower I pictured being inside and just climbing up normal stairs, but that was not the case. It was outside and it was freaky! It was windy and the stairs were metal grates and you could see everything below your feet. I'm pretty sure that I could easy fall off the stairs and down down down if I wasn't careful. Once we got to the first floor it was SO SCARY, it was windy and I kept thinking about how it would feel if the tower would start swaying. It was so windy and we could look down and feel like we just climbed up a fence way too far! No turning back, so we kept going. Finally we made it to the elevator which was halfway up. Getting in the elevator was a relief, but my stomach was definitely uneasy thinking about how high up in the air we were about to go! When we got to the top it was inside originally, and they had a picture that showed how high we were in relation to all other famous sky scrapers in the world. The only one higher was in Dubai. There was another staircase, so we decided to see where it went. It went OUTSIDE. On top of the Eiffel Tower. And it was BLIZZARDING. We were expecting to see this amazing view from the top, but instead all we could see was white! Probably one of the most amazing experiences of my life, but I can't really capture it in words. We have videos though :) We returned to the bottom just in time for it to get dark and for the Eiffel Tower to light up, and the light show began. Now I understand what the hype is about. It was one of the most beautiful monuments I could imagine seeing in person. In the moment we had to get crepes. I got Nutella and bananas, and we ate them with the Eiffel Tower right in front of our eyes. Oh I forgot to mention of course did not dress for the weather and was absolutely frozen by this point!

On our last day, we woke up extra early, grabbed some baguettes, and heading towards the regional train that would take us to the lovely Palace of Versailles. When the train arrived at the station, the whole mob of people seemed to be walking towards the same place. Every building we passed we looked for evidence that it was indeed the palace. Well turned out we looked really dumb, because we turned a corner and this enormously large palace with an equally as breathtaking gold fence was standing about 200 yards down a stone road. And yes, the whole herd was headed in that direction. We jokingly tried to walk fast and beat everyone, but keep in mind we all had our big bags with us as we were headed directly to the airport after our visit. We definitely got some funny looks, but I am used to that at this point. It's very hard to fit in in Europe as an American student. Anyways, we entered the palace and began walking from room to room to room to room and so on. It seemed like it would never end. It was said that at one point it housed 10,000 residents. I can't really put it into words, but I am trying my best. My favorite part was when we went outside to the garden. It was just so proper and sophisticated. Sometimes I caught myself convinced that I was Marie Antoinette and I in fact lived in this palace. Whoops. It was just a long weekend. The gardens went all the way out to the horizon, and they were just gorgeous.

I tried to sum up the whole trip as quickly as possible, but I'm sure that this was only half of it. It was a great trip with great people. Paris was a definite success! Now back home for a week of school and then Venice Carnivale!
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