Baguettes & Berets

Trip Start Aug 19, 2013
Trip End Dec 13, 2013

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Flag of France  , Île-de-France,
Thursday, August 22, 2013

I am currently sitting in my bed in my apartment (hotel) in my pajamas, exhausted. My feet are literally throbbing. But...that's a sign of a good day, right?!
My days in Paris have been unbelievable! It is a beautiful city full of art, history, and let's not forget that romance! To be honest, I came here with quite high expectations. I am proud to say that my expectations were exceeded!!!! As I stroll the streets of Paris (please, it's Pair-ee) I feel glamorous and grand. The cobblestone streets are full of mo-peds and tiny European cars. The sides of the streets have 8 story apartments. My favorite, though, are those with intricate balconies and overflowing flower baskets. 

One of the things that surprised me about Paris is how many things that look so "Parisian" to me. Striped shirts, berets, baguettes, flowers, crepes, the Eiffel tower...the more I think about it, the more I feel I have to "do" to get the full experience. Throughout my short time here though I've accomplished everything I neeeeed to do, which is quite a satisfying feeling. I'm really proud of the group of girls I'm with. We have overcome challenges and grown as a group, learning so much along the way. We also get along great, even though we didn't know each other before study abroad orientations.

Day 1: Katelyn flew into Paris by herself, arriving at 9:30am. I had to wait hours at the airport for the other girls to arrive from London. Once we had finally met up I found out that one of the girls had lost her wallet on the train to Paris. What a start! We ended up staying at the airport for more hours--until 5pm--trying to figure out how to get it back. It's still a lost wallet....
We then had to get all of us from the airport to our hotel, through the crazy metro stations. Metro stations are a big part of our trip here in Paris. They are smelly, hot, and crowded, but quite convenient....once you know what you're doing! It took us hours to get from the airport to our hotel after transferring multiple times and hauling our heavy 4-months-worth packed bags through manyyy stairs. Not to mention that Katelyn had jet lag :p
At 8pm we finally got to our hotel. It is beautiful....right on the river and high-class (according to European standards). The girls informed me that their previous hostels were not even comparable. All we wanted at the hotel was privacy and a home-base. It has been a pleasant stay :) After we showered and re-grouped, we went out for a very late dinner at a local pizza restaurant, all with smiles on our faces. We are in France!!

Day 2: The first thing on our agenda was to go get tickets to the Louvre. Like anything involving the metro, it was a struggle, but we got them. We then headed to a walking tour of Paris. It was wonderful!! We met at the statue of Sainte Michel, which is a big touristy place and very beautiful. I loved being in the tour group. We learned about the city and helpful tips along with other Americans. It was nice to have someone who knew what they were doing leading us around for a change :) We went to Notre Dame, the Love-lock bridge, incredible statues, the Louvre, jardin de toulleries, and much more! I wish I could go into detail on the tour but I'll have to another time! It was excellent. We then grabbed a sandwich on baguette and sat on the lawn by the Louvre to have a mini picnic. Many Parisians sit on the grass with friends drinking a bottle of wine!
After resting a bit, we went into the Louvre! It was beautiful and incredible. The Louvre was originally built as a palace, but then the royalty got greedy and moved on to bigger things. What better way to showcase a "castle" then put famous artwork inside (especially since a lot was already there)?  I have seen the Mona Lisa. Wooo! It is smaller than you would imagine, but really is a beautiful painting. I have a new appreciation for it for sure! The Louvre was extremely crowded though. It receives 15,000 visitors per day. Per DAY. Another statistic (from the tour) is that there are 35,000 pieces of artwork in the Louvre. If you gazed at each of them for an average of 30 seconds you would be there for over a month. Quite overwhelming...I remember overhearing a woman say that most of the artwork was religious too. You got that right!!
After the Louvre, we went to the Siene river for a late night boat tour! With the city lit up, it was the perfect time of night. It was my first glimpse of the sparkling Eiffel tower...and my, was it incredible! Being 5'1", the Eiffel tower is hard to find in Paris. It's magnetic and just an indescribable feeling. It was perhaps this time of night that I fell head over heels in love with Paris :)

Day 3: Today the group split in two. Unintentionally, really. Half wanted to sleep, and half wanted to get up and see more Paris ASAP. We planned to meet up at Notre Dame, but meeting in Paris can be quite difficult...My roommates Paige and Kayla were with me all day. We first went over to the Eiffel tower and got some great pics :) We sat in the garden and admired...and drooled. After that we took the metro over to Notre Dame to meet up with the girls. Unfortunately we had switched onto the wrong metro at one point so were in the wrong area of town. We decided it would be better to get our bearings above ground. Unfortunately it was not easier up there and we ended up circling around a bit. We eventually figured it out of course. But were late to meet with the girls, and since wifi is hard to come by, we decided to move on without them. We toured the gothic, ancient (850 year old) Notre Dame. It was very cool, but easy to breeze through. After that, we stopped for lunch at a nearby cafe. I had a crepe!! Then we metro-ed over to a neighborhood called Montmartre, very artsy and residential. The Basilica de sacre-couer (Basilica of Sacred Heart) was huge and beautiful, so we walked through that! To be honest, we liked it better than Notre Dame. We even saw a wedding couple get photographed. From this neighborhood there was a panoramic view of Paris, which is so cool!! We hung out for a while listening to a street musician and taking a break from walking. After Montmartre we went to the Arc de Triomphe, which is huge! I wasn't expecting much, but was pleasantly surprised. Underneath the Arc is a tomb for the "Unknown Soldier" with an eternal flame. Our tour guide told us that it's been put out only twice since it's been lit. Once with some Australian tourists, who were backpacking on a budget. They bought some sausages and decided to "roast" them over the fire. Of course they used string to hold the sausages and so the sausages fell off and put out the flame. The second time is after the Brazil vs. French soccer game, when Brazil lost. A Mexican, apparently upset that his neighboring country was humiliated, got drunk and peed on the eternal flame. These people were obviously deported immediately, never to return to France.
Nearby the Arc de Triomphe was a recommended resturant from our tour guide. It was a spendy steak place which served a 3 course meal. It was fabulous!!! Not only did we have delicious food, we had wonderful conversation and really got to know another better. After dinner, we used the toilet, which I mention because it was an interesting experience. It's a public toilet on the street which washes (and flushes) itself after you use it. Yes, the entire bathroom is sprayed with water between users. Okay, not that great of a story...but you just had to be there...and a Parisian taxi driver was quite entertained by our lack of understanding. :)
After dinner we decided to head back to our hotel and get cocktails around our neighborhood. We found that the neighborhood is quite sleepy, which makes us sleepy. Hence the reason I'm in bed right now.

So, as you can tell, we have had a blast in Paris!!! Overall the city is incredible and a must see! I wouldn't live here, but I would definitely visit again! For a week tops...:) Tomorrow we leave for our next city, Barcelona! AHHHH! Good night, my friends!

P.S. My blogs in the future will hopefully be more reflective and less itinerary based...but this is pre-travel so it's kinda crazy so I'm kinda crazy.
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