“A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of Life.”
― Thomas Jefferson
During my few days in Paris, I found this founding father’s quote to ring true to my own life as well. Paris is such a richly historical and beautiful city that engulfed me with it’s past and culture. It was hard not to reflect on life and history while I was there! Here is my diary of what happened while visiting Paris:
Ahhh…the beauty of spring break while in Europe. It’s so easy and cheap to travel to all sorts of beautiful countries, the decision was so hard! Well, not really. Paris was on the top of my list, despite my minimum French-speaking capabilities. So for the first half ofl the 10 days, I opted for the lovely Paris! Oui!
So majestic and yet, almost industrial-looking. How do they do it?
For the week or so leading up to our departure, I learned, aka CRAMMED some French into my brain, thanks to the Babbel app. I would highly recommend this app, because it goes through and pronounces the words, grading your own pronunciation as it goes along too. There are spelling and matching activities, as well as plenty of reinforcement. I caught on in no time, reverting to Spanish pronunciations now and then—but hey, “E” for effort!
This experience actually gave me a fresh perspective on learning a new language. It was all so…foreign (to put it frankly)! I could understand my students’ frustrations while they are trying to learn Spanish and where their incorrect pronunciation and spelling comes from. This helped to put me in their shoes, which was good for me. Often times I think so myself, “why are they not getting this? Spanish is SO easy!” Learning some French reminded me that it’s hard at the beginning. I think it’s easy because of years of practice. For my level 1’s and 2’s, it’s a different story.
Anyway, our voyage started out a little rough, after we discovered as we were boarding that only one piece of baggage was permitted—altogether. No purse, no backpack, nothing else! We were desperately cramming our items into our bags when the attendant just checked our bags for us. When we arrived, we managed to catch the last train to our hostel which was super lucky, because we arrived in the wee hours of the morning (3am)! Otherwise, we would have gotten ripped off by a taxi.
We got to our hostel, the Young & Happy on Rue Moufetard. Well….it’s a hostel. Since all of the hostels in Paris pretty much stink altogether (by what I’ve heard), this one was as good as it was going to get. There were thin, uneven spiral staircase to the top floor (my room), no lockers in the rooms, no wi-fi in the rooms, scarce amount of showers, dark atmosphere, insufficient chargers in the rooms. On the plus side, the staff was EXCELLENT—always very helpful and friendly! Also, there was a free breakfast. The location wasn’t too bad either. The price was as cheap as it was going to get in Paris at about 20 euro/night. So altogether, I would give it a 3/5 stars. This is not a hostel for picky and pampered travelers!
So the next day, after some rest we visited Notre Dame which had free admission! Flowers were blooming and it was a bright, sunny day.
The North Rose Window
On the way to Notre Dame, was crossed the Lover’s Bridge—you know, the one with all of the locks on it!
I actually think there may be TOO many locks on the bridge. It’s looking kind of gaudy now.
Granted, there were some pretty locks on it! Those cheesy, hopeless romantics….I snickered at the thought of how many of these relationships had come to an end since the couples secured their locks and tossed the keys.
After the Notre Dame, an authentic French meal was in order. We went to a place that had cheaper paninis and crepes.
I got a 7 fromage (cheese) Panini, which was delicious!
My friend got an AMAZING looking omelet. Man, I should’ve ordered that!
We needed the energy for the walk ahead. In fact, that day we ended up walking across all of Paris to get to the Sacre Coeur. But we’ll get to that!
We stopped at the Royal Gardens on the way and relaxed at a fountain, enjoying the floral aromas and sunshine embracing our skin.
I got a coffee at one place one the way, and realized the a café au lait is rather expensive—€4,30! Please excuse me while I get a bandage for my injured wallet.
Of course, a pit stop at Moulin Rouge was on the agenda.
Finally, we arrived at the Sacre Coeur, a basilica at the top of Montmartre, the highest point in the city. It was finished in 1914, pretty recently by today’s standards. The dome is simply breathtaking, with a stunningly detailed mosaic of the holy trinity gazing down upon you while a perfectly synchronized, glorious nun choir fills the air with a holy ambiance.
Me and the Sacre Coeur
We sat on the hillside for a while afterward and then took the metro back to our hostel—well worth the €1,30!
The following day, we split up to do our own thing before meeting for lunch. My one friend and I got a couple souvenirs and visited the Shakespeare & Company bookstore.
I had to leave before I bought any books and we all met for lunch. We stumbled upon a bistro with a €12 special of the day, which included two entrees, dessert and unlimited bread. The choice was clear! I ordered a salmon-topped salad, lamb and crème bruleé for dessert.
Creme brulee….Are you hungry yet?
I also tried my first macaron! They are light and crispy on the outside, extremely delicate, and with a jelly-like consistency in the middle holding the top and bottom together. Culinary bliss, is what it really is.
As planned, we had a picnic at the Eiffel Tower. But first, we needed to get some fresh bread!
I feel so French!
We also pitched in for some wine, cheese and apricot jelly. The combination of all of these was delightful
Before visiting the Eiffel Tower, we headed over to the Arc de Triomphe. The construction of this monument was ordered by Napoleon himself in 1806 after the victory at the battle of Austerlitz, to honor the Grand Armee. However, it wasn’t finished until 1836, a couple years after his death. The names of 128 battles of the first French Republic and Napoleon’s Empire are written on the white walls under the vault along with the names of the generals who took part in them.
At 164 feet high by 148 feet wide, it’s the second-largest triumphal arch standing today. It held the top spot until 1982 when North Korea built one a little bit larger on purpose, just to show them up. Really, North Korea? You couldn’t let Paris have this?
It was incredible seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time ever—almost surreal. I had always seen it in movies, books, tv shows, cartoons, drawings, photographs—you name it. But standing there in front of it is a completely different experience. Just…wow!
We watched the lovely, rosy sunset in awe as the tower slowly began to light up. Suddenly, it began to sparkle! I had to keep pinching myself to prove I wasn’t dreaming.
Day three, it was time to visit the Palace of Versailles! I am SO glad I am a student, because I had free admission to pretty much every part with my student visa, minus the gardens. Even then, I got in at a discounted price of 7 euro.
As I expected, Versailles is the overly extravagant and excessive palace I recall from my textbooks. It was built in the late 17th century for Louis XIV, the “sun-king”. In today’s money, it cost $2 billion to construct, containing over 700 rooms, over 60 staircases and over 1,200 fireplaces. Although the French government was comfortably nestled here in 1682, that ended with the French Revolution in 1789.
That doesn’t even include the gardens! They cover over 30,000 acres and feature a mile long canal, 400 sculptures and 1,400 fountains.
The property also contains two smaller palaces, both sumptuously decorated and furnished. The Petit Trianon was a refuge for Marie Antoinette to escape from the hectic palace lifestyle. As if living in a palace is so hectic. Pfft.
The funny thing is, it was once furnished with about 6,000 paintings and 5,000 pieces of furniture, but once the king realized the country was in a huge amount of debt from the wars, they had to sell it all.
Behold, the Hall of Mirrors.
And some more beautiful rooms!
Originally lit with, 3,000 candles, the Treaty of Versailles was signed in this room in 1919!
We got back to our hostel in time for some food crepes for dinner. We had been noticing this one Greek-style place that ALWAYS had a line, so it must be good, right?
And it was!
The prices were great, too! I got a chicken, egg and cheese crepe. They didn’t skimp on the cheese either. Man, how rich and amazing!
After waking from my food coma the next day, we congregated to the Louvre, the most famous museum in Paris. I personally prefer the Musee d’Orsay, and I’ll tell you why soon.
The Louvre is famous for the Mona Lisa, the biggest selling point of the whole place. Luckily, we got in at a decent time and we didn’t have to pay for tickets either, thanks to our student visas again!
Student: 2 General Public: 0
Other important works include Venus and Hammurabi’s Code as well.
Honestly, the Mona Lisa took me by surprise. I was scanning around the hall looking for it when all of a sudden I see her serene, steady gaze in a side room. I practically screamed and ran toward it.
The one thing I like about the Louvre is that you are allowed to take pictures. I’ve had so much bad luck with museum sticklers in Italy and Spain not letting you take pictures of the art. Here, they didn’t care.
The Louvre, on the outside
Lunch was some Chipotle, a little taste of home. This Chipotle is the only one in all of mainland Europe, so of course we went! Granted, it was a bit expensive at €9,30 per burrito. Then again, I’m already getting used to this whole “everything is super mega expensive in Paris” thing.
The following day was the Museé d’Orsay’s turn to be visited. An audacious old lady skipping the line kept our spirits light for the hour or so that we waited in the ticket line.
Remember how I said that I like this museum better? The reason is subjective: I like the art better. I am a big fan of impressionist paintings, and I find myself staring at them for quite a while, thinking , pondering, admiring—that’s a sign that they really mean something to me. I fell in love with Monet’s works, among many other artists such as Pissarro, Plá, and so on. The style really speaks to me, and they had a lot of it there! Maybe my judgment is a little biased, since the Louvre is so big that they probably had an Impressionist section that I didn’t get a chance to see.
This museum used to be a train station!
Before I go, here are some more pictures from the trip that I particularly liked!
A chocolate shop!
That, in a nutshell, is my 4.5 day experience in Paris! I would definitely like to learn more French so I can return there as well as visit other cities in France someday!
Next time, I will tell you all about the second part of my spring break, spent in the lovely Seville, Spain!
Hasta entonces y gracias por leer! 🙂