Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Reunited: Part II


It needs to be discussed on here! Over a month ago, API took all of us on our international excursion to the City of Lights. It was a whirlwind weekend trip so the details are a bit hazy (this makes me regret not blogging about it earlier). Let me whip out my travel journal to jog my memory.

We took an early plane from Cork to Paris with API Limerick and met API Dublin there. I love plane rides so that was fun. The Charles de Gaulle airport is really strange... there are these slanted walkways (they have one here in Cork in the Dunnes grocery store) that form tunnels and make you feel like you're a hamster in a tube. Immigration was easy-peasy, and I loved getting a new stamp in my passport.

The crepe place we were supposed to have a late lunch at was closed so we went to this cafe that took forever to make the food. It was a large group of people, but our orders were all concise -- and we were starving! They ran out of fries (France should never run out of French fries!) so we basically just ate bread with a slice of meat on it. But hey, it was free, and beggars can't be choosers. After dinner, we took the hop on/hop off bus to the Louvre, which was incredible. If I go back to Paris one day, I'll spend my entire time in there. It's a gorgeous bunch of buildings, and what's inside is just brilliant. I've always loved art museums, but being able to stand three feet from the Mona Lisa, The Wedding Feast at Cana, and Aphrodite was unreal. Check out these pics:

Three of my close friends from SMC joined me in Paris, coming from Bath, England; Maynooth, near Dublin; and Madrid. Our plan was to meet at the Mona Lisa at a given time, but I was running late, per usual, and snuck up on them instead. We made a little bit of a scene in that gallery -- they screamed when they saw me, and a bunch of people turned around. It was so great to see them, to hug them, to just be in their presence. In the middle of a bright, bustling city, I felt at home. I expected tears, but I was too excited for that.  We spent some time walking around the Louvre together, which -- even a month later, as I write this -- seems unbelievable. We may never have the opportunity to be at such an international landmark together again. The picture below is of all of us, and I couldn't tell you the name of the statue of which we're standing in front. Maybe this is disrespectful to the artist (and cliche), but we didn't really care where we were -- it was just great being together again.

After the Louvre, we walked around for a while trying to find a place to eat. Surprisingly, at ten at night, much of Paris (or at least the district we were in) was closed! We found a place near the Eiffel Tour and ate over-priced food. Our waiter was a little snobby too. In my experience, the stereotype about stuck-up Frenchmen and -women is true. If you don't speak French well, you're not as welcome in the city. None of us speak more than two words of French.

After our little dinner, we wove through the (empty, oddly enough) streets of Paris for a while until we got really lost and took a cab back to my hotel. We parted for the night, and my friend Kaitlin and I chatted in our room for a bit and fell asleep quickly.

The next morning, we got up at a decent hour and planned out our day. It was really rainy and dreary, which made for a gloomy start to the day, but all in all the morning was OK. Most of my API Cork group walked into the city with me, but we stopped at a flea market on the way to the Eiffel Tower, where Kaitlin and I were going to meet my friends. The flea market was neat (and huge), but I wasn't really in the market (pun intended) for anything. I do regret not looking at the dozens of little antique spoons a lot of vendors had because I've been wanting to make a spoon ring. But my priority was meeting my friends on time. Luckily, they were running late too. My group took a few pictures at the Eiffel Tower and some of my friends decided to go up. We parted ways, and Kaitlin and I met my friends at a souvenir shop down the street.

We were all getting hungry so we went to this cute place on a corner near the Tower. This was something we'd been talking about doing since we decided to go abroad -- it was a well-planned, much-thought-about lunch! I got some soup (I eat veggie soup when out here in Ireland, too -- it's usually cheap and it's so yummy) and lots of bread (of course; if you know me, you know I love my carbs). Lunch was a great time to catch up and introduce Kaitlin to my friends (it's always fun to bridge new friends with old ones). I honestly don't even remember what we talked about, but I know there was a good deal of 'remember when...' going on. After lunch, we braved the spitting rain and walked back toward the Tower to get some pictures. The green in front of it, which reminded me of the Mall in D.C., yielded some good ones. We planned on going to the top of the Tower at night, if at all, since the sky was so overcast. Not wasting any time, we jumped on the hop on/hop off bus (which was packed and mad slow!) to begin sightseeing. Basically, we just stood outside every monument and took a few pictures. We marvelled at the architecture and talked about how America has nothing that comes close to Parisian landmarks. Maybe that's not entirely true, but if you've ever been to Paris, you have to admit that they have a heck of a lot more pretty buildings (for lack of a more sophisticated phrase) than we do in the good ole U.S. of A. Here's the run-down of what we saw, brought to you in pictures:

First stop: Notre Dame. We didn't go in because the line looked nuts, but we did meet a lovely Canadian couple that took pictures of us and teased us for spending our study abroad not studying but traveling. I won't lie - I didn't really come to Europe to have my nose in a book (and trust me, my nose has been nowhere near any textbooks). Even one of the API directors agreed that the best kind of learning as an American in Europe is outside of the classroom.

St. Michel was next. Obviously, we SMC kids are partial to this lovely fountain. I wish I could give you some brief history lesson, but I know nothing off the top of my head about this landmark. The district around it had a lot of great little shops that we went into. I bought one of my best friends a birthday present (which was left at the hotel and couldn't be found!) and we ate some awesome pastries from a Lonely Planet-recommended place. I was tempted to get an eclair, but I've been so good with my nearly-no-dairy diet, that I couldn't break down! My chocolate-filled pastry was delicious. Check out the picture of the dessert case. Everything looked incredible.

We made our way down Champs Elysees (no picture of that because it wasn't anything's just a bunch of stores none of us could afford even setting foot in). To avoid the rain and find a bathroom, we bought a bunch of postcards in a shop in one of the gallerias there (the shop across from the souvenir shop we went into had a $1,000 shoe on sale -- ridiculous.) The real attraction was Arc de Triomphe at the end of the road. Apparently it costs something like 9 Euro to stand under the darn arch. We tried to act like clueless tourists and started for the underground exit that led up to the arch, but the people in front of us (who also had that idea) were reamed out by a guard so we decided against playing the ignorance card. Taking pictures in the pouring rain was enough for us.

Finding the metro station after that proved to be nearly impossible. So incredibly frustrating. We walked around the Arc trying to find it for a while...the only up-side to this was the opportunity to take pictures of the expensive-to-enter-under Arc from every single stinkin' angle. After asking a few people in broken French, we finally found the unmarked metro stop. And then we got stuck in the station. Our cards wouldn't scan properly so we spent a good 10 minutes running around the station freaking out. Don't worry -- we made it out. But that's the last time I use public transportation in Paris.

This is where things get fuzzy...I don't remember where we were headed, but I know we got a great view of the Eiffel Tower as the subway came out from underground. I think we were trying to find something to eat, actually. This creperie near my hotel had been recommended to us, and we wanted to try it out. Unfortunately, we were running out of time so Anna and Becca, two of my friends from home (yes, the Becca who visited me earlier, and, as you'll see if I can get my act together and write another post soon, the Becca who came to visit me -- with Anna -- for my birthday), ate there (I think?) while Sunny, Kaitlin, and I went with an API girl to the top of the Eiffel Tour.

It was cloudy and chilly, but I didn't even care. Being at the top made me unbelievably giddy. It's one of those bucket list things that I'm so lucky to have experienced. The hourly lights show (when it sparkles) went off while we were on the first tier, and that was pretty cool. That's an understatement -- honestly, I almost cried...that's how in-awe I was. The pictures here are from one of the tiers, not the top. It was really foggy at the top -- basically just a lot of bright yellow clouds. I like these pictures, though, because they illustrate Paris as the City of Lights. It was great to be at the Tower at night just to see the city lit up.

If you want to see the complete album of my Paris pictures, all 434 of them, you can follow the link here. A good 200 of them are of the Eiffel Tower alone. Be prepared for ones that look pretty similar. Maybe I don't need the same shot twelve times, but I wanted to make sure I got plenty of decent ones!

So that's Paris in a nutshell. Not my favorite trip thus far, but certainly a good weekend all in all!

1 comment:

  1. I'm sure this post took you forever to write, but it's a good one. Looks like a fun weekend, I'm jealous. Nice job on the D.C. reference :)