I just returned from Paris. I got a decent night’s sleep last night and I’m attempting to get this weekend down before I go out this morning to enjoy my first day of Fallas…I know I have alluded to Fallas several times but I will not explain it until the next entry as I have still not experienced it enough to do it justice. Today I’m writing about my time in Paris.
I absolutely LOVED Paris and we only had a small taste. Amytza kept saying that she felt like we were just taking a shot of Paris. I think that is a good way to think of it because we really packed a lot in a small space of time. We arrived in Paris on Friday and the whole flight and shuttle service from Paris Beauvais went really smoothly. Next time I might push for a slightly more expensive flight to CDG Airport if possible because the metro goes there, but it really was not a problem to get into Beauvais and the Ryanair flight was extremely cheap. Ryanair is a fun airline. They are extremely cursi which means “cheesy” in Spanish, but it puts a very light and fun atmosphere onto flying, which for some people is a very stressful experience. The most stress Amytza and I experienced I think was arriving at the metro terminal after we got off the bus and could not find Melanie, who was supposed to meet us there. We were reluctant to hang out waiting in the parking lot of the bus terminal as everyone else left so we just followed the crowd trying to keep an eye out for Mel and Alex as we went. It turns out that Mel and Alex were watching the crowd walking away and didn’t see us, so they just went to the metro station after everyone had gone and they found us just as we were trying to figure out how to tell the non-English, non-Spanish-speaking metro window attendant that we wanted one trip. Mel bounced up and saved the day and I felt really relieved. It suddenly hit me how much easier it would have been in Spain because, although I’m not fluent in Spanish, I know enough to explain to anyone in almost any context what it is that I need/want.
Everything worked out though, we checked into our hotel, which was Hotel de Belfort near the Bastille area. I recommend this hotel to anyone and everyone who will be staying in Paris. The staff was friendly, and flexible, breakfast was included and delicious, the rooms were extremely comfortable, and it is situated in an interesting and beautiful area right near the 9 on the metro. It wasn’t even that expensive for Amytza and I to share a room. Overall I was impressed and I found out later that it was Brenna’s physics professor that helped her find the hotel. Kudos! On that first Friday night, Alex and Melanie took us to eat dinner at the great restaurant called L’industrie or something like that in the Bastille area where we had an excellent dinner. We ended up going back to this cafe each night we were in Paris in search of Ile Flottante, which is a “floating island” of meringue in a cream sauce. They ran out on Saturday night and then they whipped up one especially for us on Sunday night since it was our last chance and I think they may have recognized us from the two nights before.
Brenna, Kait and Karen arrived on Saturday afternoon, so in the morning Alex, Mel, Amytza and I went up to the Montmartre region and visited the Sacré Coeur and the Moulin Rouge. We had crêpes from a stand in that area and the three cheese crêpe that I got was extremely delicious. Sacré Coeur was beautiful and the view of the city was breathtaking even though it was overcast. The Montmartre area is full of strip clubs and is home to Paris’s Erotic Museum which had an interesting collection on display in the window. We did not enter, but left to the imagination what lay beyond its doors…something that the facades of the other shop fronts and strip clubs did not do. There are apparently not a lot of regulations about the degree of exposure on the strip clubs’ advertisements. Right in the middle of it all sat the Moulin Rouge in all its glory. Not quite the 1900 Moulin Rouge displayed in the film and shows are apparently extremely expensive, but we had been warned of it being underwhelming, so I had appropriate expectations. It was still there and exciting to see. I spent a great deal of time getting a shot of Amytza in front of it. Meanwhile we returned later in the weekend and my night shots came out fantastically. This surprised me because at some point during the trip, the flash on my camera stopped working.
We met up with Brenna, Kait and Karen and sat in the room catching up a bit. These pictures were terrible due to my broken flash, but after that we went to the Bastille Memorial and to Notre Dame where they were doing the Passion of the Christ. It was pretty cool to see all the people wandering around Notre Dame while the mass was going on. I don’t think I took in Notre Dame that much, but the truth is that I have never thought too much about it. We read about it and it turns out that someone just decided one day that Paris needed its own Cathedral. The architecture is pretty stunning though. It started to downpour when we left Notre Dame and so we headed straight for dinner where we tried escargot and a bunch of other “typically French” things. I have discovered that I seem to have a talent for extracting snails from their shells. I don’t know if it is a marketable skill, but it certainly came in handy when the girls ran into trouble at dinner that night. Snails are delicious and have a surprising taste and texture. It was nothing like what I expected. The other girls were exhausted after dinner, so Amytza and I sallied forth on our own on the first attempt to locate ile flottante. We ended up with fromage blanc instead which turns out to be Greek yogurt and was satisfying. The next day was going to be a big one so Amytza and I passed on the going out to a bar or anything, planned out the walking route for the next day and went to bed…and it’s a good thing too.
We all met up for breakfast and headed out for a long Sunday of sightseeing. We began by a stressful search for the Catacombs which are hard to find and turned out to be closed for maintenance or something nonsensical like that. I was disappointed but after a quick photo of my sad face we didn’t linger. We pressed right on with our all-day metro passes in hand to our next stop–the Tour Montparnasse. This tower is an impressively tall eye-sore in the middle of the city, but its height is its redeeming quality. It provides a quite fabulous view of the city which are made even more beautiful by virtue of the fact that the tower is not in it. The best place to take pictures of the city. We got lucky because Paris gave us a little sunshine while we were on the tower, so the pictures came out well. From the Montparnasse we went to the Eiffle Tower, which was a fast stop but obligatory. Then we took the metro to the Arc de Triomphe and walked along the Champs-Élysées all the way through the gardens to the Louvre. We did not go in the Louvre and by this time we were all very tired. We had to be at Notre Dame by four to go to a free organ concert and it had started to rain by the time we got the Louvre anyway so we booked it to the cathedral. We even beat Mel and Alex there, which didn’t matter because there wasn’t a free organ concert after all since it was Palm Sunday. The timing was awkward since we didn’t have dinner reservations until eight, so we walked around the Latin Quarter a little bit and chilled (literally) in the Luxembourg Gardens before deciding to head over to Montmartre to loiter and wait for our dinner reservations. Alex and Mel got us macarons (a little cookie, sandwich kind of thing) which were supposedly the best in Paris and we nibbled on them to take the edge off our hunger. We met some of Alex’s friends from when he was in Paris the year before who were really nice. They had made reservations at this restaurant that was small, cute and had great food. We went around Montmartre again in the dark and this time with the other girls which was fun. We then went up to Sacré Coeur again to see Paris at night. We met a group of Colombians and hung out talking to them while we waited for the Eiffle tower to light up at 11pm. It was really foggy so we couldn’t really see well, but at least I can say I saw it. I feel like Sunday in Paris can be summed up that way. We didn’t linger anywhere, but for better or worse, at least I can say I saw it. After Monmartre Part II we went back for try number three at getting ile flottante and this time we were successful. Melanie and Alex had to catch the metro back so it was just the girls at the restaurant. We had a great night, turned in kind of late, but it was worth it because we ended the night really well.
Monday Amytza and I got up extremely early to wander around Paris a little before meeting the girls and Alex in the Latin Quarter for lunch. We liked the look of the place the night before, so that’s what we decided to do, plus Amytza encountered another food she wanted to try– raclette–and we saw it in the Latin Quarter. The other girls wanted to catch up on some sleep since they were worn out the day before, so our dynamic duo hit the other side of the Eiffle Tower early Monday morning with the peace monument. It was pretty overcast and cold but it was lovely to walk around. We walked to the Seine and walked along it trying to find the Liberty Flame. On the way we met a very nice maintenance guy named Toni. It was fun to talk to him in a mix of Spanish, French, English and gestures and he was genuinely a nice guy. The liberty flame was a mini statue of liberty symbolizing the friendship between France and the US. It was weird to see a shrunken replica randomly sitting in a dirty, business-looking district of Paris. The Latin Quarter was as cute and Greenwich Village-like as the night before, and the restaurant we picked had great food but grumpy service. The raclette that Amytza had her heart set on was delicious. It was like fondue but different: you are given a little tray that is heated from the bottom and you’re supposed to melt the cheese on the tray and then put the gooey mess over potato and bread. It was really fun actually and after lunch we walked around a little bit more and Karen accidentally ran into her friend from Rutgers that was visiting his girlfriend for vacation. It is a small world indeed.
Amytza and I had to say goodbye to the crew in the Latin Quarter in order to collect our stuff and make it back to the bus stop to catch the shuttle again to Beauvais. We both felt we had an exciting and fulfilling trip to Paris, even if it was only a small taste. I definitely want to go back and I really want to learn French, and this trip has motivated me to brush up on my Italian before I head to Italy on the 24th. I think Spanish will prove more useful in Italy than it did in France…at least that is what Chiara said, but I am going to download some Italian podcasts anyway. Pictures of Paris will come soon as will an explanation of Las Fallas. Stay tuned!
Days until Mom and Dad come to Valencia: 3
Days until I leave for Italy: 6