Don't get me wrong. It's a really cool city but it's cool in the same way that London is cool. It's massive and there is a lot to see and do. There's always a concert going on or a show playing. The architecture is similar to London's and there's a lot of history there. It's pretty but not nearly as gorgeous as Prague or Amsterdam.
We arrived at about 5pm on Thursday. I was still feeling sick and a little dehydrated so we took it easy and just took a stroll to the Eiffel Tower to see it lit up. It was gorgeous and definitely one of those surreal "look at where I am!" moments.
When we went back during the day, it was even more beautiful. It's a tourist feeding ground but, if you can get past the sketchy guys everywhere harassing you with cheap eiffel tower keychains, it's totally worth it. We didn't walk up the tower because the lines are ridiculously long and it's hella expensive. Seeing the tower was awesome enough for me.
This is the famous street that leads up to the arc du triomphe. It's definitely one of the most mispronounced street names in the history of the planet so say it with me: SHAWZ EH-LEE-ZAYZ (one thing I really love about the Italians is that they pronounce words EXACTLY how they're spelled, lol).
So, we walked all the way up the road (which is far longer than it appears!), past shops like H&M and Louis Vitton, to the Arc. The Arc is surrounded my a roundabout approximately 5 cars deep with no street lines. It's estimated that an accident happens here every 20 minutes.
First of all, like most attractions in Paris, the line for the Louvre is CRAZY LONG. It takes at least an hour to get through it. Fortunately, our tour guide told us of a lesser known entrance through a metro station and we got right in. Score!
Secondly, the Louvre is HUGE! There are over 35,000 works of art and we were told that, to see everything, you would need at least a week. We picked 4 art pieces we wanted to see and it took us about an hour and a half to see them. It's an impossible place to navigate.
|Kate and I at the Louvre|
|Eyebrowless and creepy in all her glory.|
We also found Napoleon's coronation piece. In case you don't know, when the pope was crowning him, Napoleon took the crown from his hands and placed it on his own head. He didn't want anyone to say they helped him rise to power. He wanted all the glory for himself.
We saw the church in the morning during our walking tour but we didn't get to go inside.
Kate and I went back to it in the evening to check it out. We didn't climb to the tower so no hunchbacks were spotted but we did get a different surprise. While we were inside Notre Dame walking around, mass started! I'm obviously not Catholic but I still think it's pretty cool that I inadvertently attended a mass in Notre Dame.
|In 9 years of being Catholic, I never remember seeing a giant|
bowl of smoke. The French know how to do mass.
We were told that if we wanted to see the "real Paris" (aka, the Paris that everyone thinks is Paris), we needed to go up to Sacre Coeur, a church on a hill overlooking the city. It was still extremely touristy but it was much more beautiful than anything we saw in the city's center. And, apparently, 90% of the film Amelie was filmed there (that's one of my favorite movies. If you haven't seen it, you should!).
The view was amazing and the church was really gorgeous.
|If you've seen Amelie, you should recognize this.|
This was my favorite part of my time in Paris...and it isn't even in the city. The Palace of Versailles was built by King Louis XIV in the 1600s and housed Marie Antoinette, Napoleon, and other famous rulers in the French monarchy. And it was the biggest, most beautiful building I have ever seen.
The gate, entryway, and molding of the palace is gold. I have no idea if it is real but it's shiny. The rooms are massive and the frescoes on the ceilings and art on the walls rival the Sistine Chapel. Countless crystal chandeliers fill each room and every apartment is extravagantly decorated. King Louis was not messing around.
|The famous Hall of Mirrors|
|Marie Antoinette's Bedroom|
Cathy, one of my best friends from back home, is a French major and in love with French culture. Naturally, I was wishing she was with me the whole time. I would have loved to experience Paris with her.
|If you can't read it, the sign says. "Wish|
you were here, Cathy!"
Also, when we were enjoying our croissants, a parade of men leading goats and children came marching in front of us. It was the most random thing EVER!
I tried to have no expectations regarding French people before arriving so that I would not be inclined to find them rude. But there seemed to be a consensus among us: French people are rude. In Amsterdam, everyone was so helpful and laid back. In Paris, people just didn't seem to care (much like NYC). Also, most Parisians speak English but won't use it. If you try to speak French with them, they get even more mad at you because you butcher their language. It's really best just to keep your mouth shut in Paris.
I did meet one nice Frenchman at a cute hand painted porcelain shop near Sacre Coeur. He was adorable and took €2 off my purchase because it was raining and I forgot my umbrella.
Is it French or Italian?
Many things that we consider to be French culture actual came directly from Italy through the marriage of Caterina de' Medici to King Henry.
Food: She brought over her pastry chefs who introduced the French to puff pastry (so, thank the Italians for croissants and pain au chocolat) and other types of cakes (like macaroons). She brought the frittata, which led to the omelette.
Fashion: Caterina influenced fashion and introduced the concept of the 16 inch waist via the corset and was the first to wear high heels (maybe we shouldn't thank her for those two!)
-We visited the Moulin Rouge! We didn't go inside but it was cool to see. I love that movie! Haha.
-We were entertained by a clarinet and saxophone player on the metro. I thought that they were there for my enjoyment but, when I tried to take a picture of them, they wanted money. An important concept I learned over spring break: It's all about the benjamins. Lesson learned.
-I had recovered enough by the last night of our trip to somewhat enjoy some of a crepe at a creperie near Sacre Coeur. I ordered Crepes Gourmande: Crepes filled with nutella and pineapple and topped with chantilly and toasted coconut. It was still a bit much for my stomach but I think I did okay with it!
And now, I'm home sweet home in Florence, Italy! As much as I loved the trip, Firenze feels so good and I was ready to get back. We drove 15 hours in the bus from Paris! (I made sure I was heavily medicated)
|I spent a total of about 50 hours on this thing!|
|If you think planes don't have legroom, try riding on this bus!|
Over the course of 10 days, I travelled 4500 kilometers by bus with 100+ college students through 7 European countries, stopping in 4 major cities: Prague, Berlin, Amsterdam, and Paris. My favorite city was Prague, followed by Amsterdam, Berlin, and Paris. I'm going to have a tough time topping this spring break!
Talk to you all soon!