Aux Champs Elysees (ba-da-da-da-da)
So I just got back from Paris yesterday and it was every bit as amazing as I always thought it would be. But I'll start at the beginning of the weekend. My friend Grace flew into Montpellier on Saturday night and so my host mother and I went to pick her up from the airport. We all had dinner at my house and then Grace and I went to bed early because our train left the station at 7:20 the next morning.
So we had to be out of the house by 6 am and I was very impressed to find Grace bright-eyed and bushy tailed instead of exhausted like I thought she would be. So we got to the train station and got on our train and a short 3 hours later, we were in Paris!! The first thing I noticed when I stepped of the train in Paris was that it was COLD. I'm so used to the Montpellier climate now, that anytime I go farther north its like I'm stepping into a freezer! But anyway, the hardest part once we got to Paris was actually finding the metro station, and then finding somewhere to buy the metro tickets. Once we figured that out, we were on our way to our Bed and Breakfast aka another host family! It turned out it wasn't a bed and breakfast at all, but just a woman who rented out a room in her apartment to people who needed a place to stay! She was an older woman who lived alone, but we only had to pay 136 euros for 3 nights AND because we booked through an agency, we got a 2 day museum pass that got us into all of the biggest museums in Paris! So we got pretty lucky as far as the living situation goes! Our apartment was a 10 minute walk from the Eiffel tower and a 25 minute walk from the Champs Elysees. You can't do much better than that for 136 euros for 3 nights!
We got into Paris right around noon, so after we dropped our stuff off at the room, we went exploring. The first place we went was the Eiffel Tower of course! If you have known me for a while, you know that I've been collecting little Eiffel Tower posters and pictures and that my room at home is covered with pictures of Paris, so when I actually saw it with my own eyes, I felt like I was dreaming. I don't know why but I seriously felt like I was in a movie when I saw it at first! So naturally, Grace and I took about a million pictures from every angle possible. It was pouring down rain and freezing, but it wasn't bothering us too badly yet at that point.
After the Eiffel Tower, we took the metro to Notre Dame. First of all, It is not as big as Disney makes it look and also, there are no steps out front. HOWEVER, it was absolutely goregous. When we went inside, mass was going on, and so we got to sit and listen to the choir sing. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever heard.
When we went back outside, we payed our 5 euros to climb the 10 million steps to the top of the towers. And we got really lucky, because just as we got to the top, the bells started ringing. They really are loud!! What's really remarkable about Notre Dame is all of the gargoyles that are carved around the top. Each one is a little different, and while most of them are ugly and scary, there are a few that seem like they don't quite belong. For example, there is a tiny elephant carved in one corner of the balcony. Its a cute little elephant! Next to a demonic looking monster! I would love to have been able to see all of them all around the outside, but it was freezing and you were only allowed at the top for a short amount of time, due to the long line of people waiting to climb to the top. When we got back down to the ground, we were completely frozen and decided it was time for a cup of tea. So we went to a cafe and thawed for a bit. At this point, Grace's jetlag was starting to catch up with her, so we went back to the room for a little before heading back out for dinner. We made Sunday an early night so that we could get up early to make it to the Louvre on Monday!
So Monday we got up and we were served a traditional Parisian breakfast of warm croissants and toasted baguettes. Grace couldn't get over how much better the croissants are in France than they are in the United States. Yet another thing I'll miss when its time for me to go home. So then it was off to the Louvre. And no, we did not run straight to the Mona Lisa. We wander around a bit and saw sooo much more than I could describe to you here. I knew that the Louvre used to be the Palace for the kings before Versailles was built, but I had NO idea how huge it actually was!! So many rooms and floors, and all of them filled with art from wall to wall. There is no possible way that you could see everything in the Louvre in one day, or even two. And so, by lunch time Grace and I were already exhausted. We ate lunch at a cafe somewhere in the Louvre (don't ask me where, I don't think I could ever find it again) and then went to find the Mona Lisa. So once we saw that, we allowed ourselves to take a break and go look for the Arc de Triomphe. For future reference: The Arc de Triomphe is ALOT farther away from the Louvre than it looks. But during our walk, we walked through the "ville de Noel" (christmas village) that was set up on the Champs Elysees. Basically it was a bunch of street venders selling everything from scarves to hot spiced wine. So after our 25 minute walk, we got to the Arc de Triomphe and climbed the 10 million stairs there to get to the top for another panoramic view of Paris.
Next, we wanted to go see the Musee D'Orsay, but after riding the subway and walking another 15 minutes, we discovered it was closed :( So once again we decided it was time for a cup of tea and so we thawed out again in a different cafe. We went back to the room after tea so that Grace could rest up a little more, and then we went to see the Eiffel Tower light up and sparkle (which it does every hour, on the hour) It was worth standing in the freezing cold for 30 minutes!! We went and found dinner at a cafe, where Grace had her first taste of French wine (she didn't like it) but we had a very kind waiter that gave her an English menu, so it was a good choice of restaurant in the end. By the time we finished dinner, it was late and cold, so we headed back to the apartment to get some sleep.
Tuesday we decided to go check out the Palace of Versailles. We had to get a train that was not part of the metro system, but by that time we pretty much had the metro figured out, so finding this other train wasn't too difficult. When we got to the palace I was once again completely amazed. We got in free with our museum pass and got to skip all the lines waiting to get in as well. (Those museum passes were AWESOME). Unfortunetely, it was a bit overcrowded, but I got to see everything I wanted to anyway! When we had toured the main palace, we wandered around the gardens until we couldn't feel our hands anymore because of the cold, and then we got a little train back to the petit trianon ( Marie Antoinette's little residence built for her by her husband Louis XVI) I think the petit trianon was my favorite part. It was still beautiful and grand, but not quite to the extent of the actual palace of Versailles.(this picture is in front of the main gate of the palace)
By the time we finished at Versailles, it was the middle of the afternoon, and we still wanted to see some things in Paris, so we got the train back, and headed to the quartier called Montmartre, where the Sacre Coeur is located. The Sacre Coeur is a huge basilica that sits on the top of a hill over looking Paris. Unfortunetly, we were not allowed to take pictures on the inside, which made me incredibly sad, because it was the most beautiful church I have ever seen. We sat in awe of the art and carvings until it started to get dark and then we went searching for the Moulin Rouge (just so we could take a picture). After we got our picture, we decided it was time to get dinner. The night before we left Montpellier I had read online about a cheap bistro called Chartier and I circled where it was located on our map. It looked close to the Moulin Rouge on the map. But really its not. We walked for about 35 minutes before we finally found it, and Grace was about ready to kill me by the time we got there, but it was so worth it. The food was wonderful and it was cheap. Also, it was a restaurant where you had to share your table with people you didn't know. At first Grace and I were not happy with this whole idea, but then they sat a man from Canada at our table that spoke perfect English. He also worked for an advertising agency which is what Grace wants to do once she finishes college. So she gained a buisness contact, and a great french dinner! After dinner, we went on the hunt for sorbet for Grace, but couldn't find anything cheaper than 8 euros, and so (I am soooo ashamed to admit it) we ended up at McDonalds. Afterwards we crashed into bed.
Wednesday we woke up early because we wanted to do some shopping before we got our train back to Montpellier. So we said goodbye to our host mom, did our shopping and got the train. Not a very exciting day, but we were exhausted after doing so much the previous 3 days that a nice relaxing day was welcomed.
Now we are back in Montpellier and I had classes all day today while poor Grace had to sit and wait for me to come home. She did walk into town and buy herself a panini. I was very proud of her! She is staying with me until Sunday at which point she will fly back to the US to finish up her semester, and at which point I will have 3 tiny weeks left before I come home. I'm still not sure how I feel about that...Excited? A little... Sad? A lot
(hopefully the videos I put in here work...if they don't check back later and I'll put the links to youtube in intead)