I finally got to return to Paris last weekend and wow was it a beautiful trip!
Friday was quite the early start, as I had to be at King's Cross by 7:15 in the morning, but I didn't mind an early wakeup at all. Almost immediately when I got to King's Cross and was looking for the group, I met two girls, Marie and Sarah, who looked like they were "in the same boat" and we became instant friends! They're studying at Kingston University which is in the suburbs so they had had a much much longer journey than me. We met our guide who gave us our tickets and showed us through security, and then it was onto the Eurostar! I finally got to travel the Chunnel Tunnel underneath the ocean and, though it made my ears pop, it was still exciting :) We arrived in Paris around noon local time and headed to our coach which was waiting for us. From there, we were taken on a panoramic tour of the city! We went around the Arc de Triomphe, the Royal Opera, Musee d'Orsay, Grand Palais and of course, the Eiffel Tower!
We checked into our hotel, dropped our bags, and then it was time to get on the Metro to head to the Louvre! Paris is a great city for students since any EU student with an ID can get into most museums for free! We were set loose in the Louvre for the night and free to do whatever we wished after that, so Marie and Sarah and I saw all the major pieces we had wanted to see and did some exploring of the Greek and Roman statues, as well:
We were starving after that, so we found a nice brasserie near the museum and had soup and fries ("frites") and rested our feet. I had been dying for a crepe, so we stopped outside and I was reunited with my true love of banana and nutella in a crepe and was in pure bliss. We ate our crepes outside the Louvre and saw the most beautiful sights of Paris and the Eiffel Tower and it was perfect way to end the night.
On Saturday we had breakfast in the hotel and then headed into the Latin Quarter for a tour of Notre Dame and the surrounding area. Notre Dame is so beyond words and is incredible. The stained glass and reliefs and art in it are breathtaking and I lit a few candles when I was inside as well.
From there, we strolled through a few streets and parks in the Latin Quarter and I saw one of the oldest trees in Paris which was planted in 1622! It's still living and is older than the US so that was quite the experience. We then went on a boat cruise on the Seine so we could get a glimpse of the whole city and relax on the water and it was gorgeous! The weather was pristine all weekend - it felt like true fall there and was nice and warm which was definitely a change from London! After our boat tour, we had the rest of the days to ourselves, so Marie and Sarah and I went to the Cathedral of Saint Chappelle which is right near Notre Dame. It has the most extensive collection of stained glass in the world and I was speechless as I was looking up around me. I think the entire biblical story is printed in the windows which, after reading about how stained glass is made, is quite impressive! From there, I had wanted to go to Shakespeare and Co. so we strolled along the river a bit until we were there. The Latin Quarter is the old artist's and writer's district so writers like Hemngway and Gertrude Stein used to go to this bookstore. It's tiny and books are stacked in every corner and crack and is the bookstore of my dreams :)
We then took the Metro down to the Eiffel Tower and had fun taking artsy pictures and gazing up at the tower. When I went in June, the workers had gone on strike (in a typical French fashion!) that morning so it had been closed, but now my chance had finally come to go up to the top! We had dinner first (escargot for me and Marie and French onion soup for Sarah) and then mentally prepared ourselves to wait in line. The line wasn't that bad at all and before we knew it, we were climbing the stairs to the second floor, where we boarded an elevator to the top. Oh…my…god…so…many….stairs!!! Seeing the entire city laid out in front of us and feeling the breeze and and hearing everything going on below made it so worth it and I will never forget it. At the top of every hour, at night, the tower sparkles with hundreds of lights in addition to its usual lighting and it was absolutely magical.
Needless to say, we were exhausted when we finally came back down, took the Metro back to the hotel, and walked into the lobby. I laid on my bed for a solid hour before I was able to move but it was a perfect day.
Sunday was what I called my "Parisian Day" since we had the whole morning to ourselves and I had wanted a bit of quiet time. I got up a little early, checked in my bags and had breakfast, and took the Metro back to Notre Dame. I was early for mass so I had one of the best cappuccinos of my life in this cafe called "Le Quasimodo" (which you have to say in a classic French accent to get the entire effect haha)
I sat and read my book for a little while before I headed to mass. I didn't understand a word of what was being said but it was still lovely to sit and listen and take in the atmosphere. From there, I strolled around a bit before I found the perfect place in the Latin Quarter to try moules et frites which had been on my list. I got to sit outside and people-watch a bit and the owner liked my smile and that I was America, so he gave me a glass of Rose which paired beautifully with the garlic white wine sauce:
I had time for one last poke in Shakespeare and Co. before I had to head to the Metro to meet my group in Montmartre for another walking tour. This is another artists' district and is where the Moulin Rouge was born so it's a fun place now. It's the hilliest part of Paris so it was a bit like I imagine San Francisco is: up one hill and down another! It's beautiful with cobblestone streets and little cafes and patisseries and is so charming. We finally got the the highest point in Paris, the Sacre Coeur, and it was there that I could turn around and see Paris spread out in front of me:
I was utter awe at how beautiful it was. We had some more free time so Marie and Sarah and I walked around a bit more and checked out artists paining and had one final crepe before it was time to head back to the hotel, check out, and make our way back to the train station to return to London. I seriously considered just staying in Paris because I couldn't bear to leave! I'm definitely coming back next term, though, because Paris really is one of my favourite cities :)
Inspired to be,