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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

City of Lights



Il n’y a que deux endroits au monde où l’on puisse vivre heureux: chez soi et à Paris

-Ernest Hemingway
Translation: There are only two places in the world we can live happy: at home and in Paris.


I'm officially in love with Paris..  Three days were simply not enough but we definitely crammed as much as we could into every minute of every day. Get ready for a lengthy post with a bit of a crazy story to top it all off.

After a couple down days to re-coop, Kelsey and I packed our bags and headed on our next adventure... Paris! We took a quick Ryanair flight (which is not as bad as everyone says) and arrived in Paris around 10 pm. After an hour bus ride, and 2 metro rides we finally got to our hostel around midnight. We checked in and found out that the hostel had upgraded us to a private room! We were really excited that we wouldn't have to worry about locking our things up or carrying them with us while we were there. We grabbed some crackers and cheese at a convenience store for dinner and hit the sack. 


These are the stairs leading up to our
room with these hilariously odd sayings.

Day One

Our first day in Paris was started off with a bike tour. We used the company Bike about Tours and I would totally recommend them to anyone who is thinking about doing a bike tour in Paris! Rather than focusing on the main really touristy attractions they explored some of the non-touristy, beautiful back neighborhoods of Paris. I personally would have never seen these back parts of Paris without the tour, which is one of the reasons I liked this company so much. Our guide was really great at incorporating history as well as present day facts. One thing that he introduced us to was a local modern artist who graffiti's buildings with space invader characters. He has never been caught and has become so popular that the buildings that his graffiti appears on increases the value of the building by 15,000 Euro... Crazy right? Here is his website if you would like to check out any more of his works Space Invaders
This is one of the few space invader pieces we saw
Wall within the Jewish quarter that has names of French citizens
that helped to hide and save Jews, mainly children, during WWII.
Originally built for the queen, these buildings are now
apartments the last one sold went for 29 million Euro. 
Our animated bike tour guide!
Backside of the Notre Dame
Lovers bridge where couples can "lock" their love and throw
the key in the river. 
The Louvre!

After the bike tour we wandered back to the Louvre and did what we thought was a very brief overview of the museum and still spent over 3 hours. It is incredible how HUGE this museum is. My favorite part of the museum was not the Mona Lisa, which I really appreciated but fighting the other tourists to get a good look at it definitely took away from the beauty of it. My favorite part of the museum was Napoleon's bedchambers, I really enjoyed seeing how lush the infamous Napoleon lived. This portion of the museum also included the crown jewels adorned with endless diamonds, pearls, rubies, and emeralds. 


Michaelangelo's "Dying Captive"
Statue of Ramesses II
Finally Napoleon's Bedchambers! The pictures really don't
capture the intricacies of everything.
Indoor gardens outside of the bedchambers.
 By the end of the 3+ hour museum visit we were exhausted and starving. We jumped on the nearest metro, grabbed a take out sandwich, saw the Arc de Triomphe and then made our way to the Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel is impressive... but you haven't seen it until you've seen it at night. 
The "Norwegian" Salmon, tomato, lettuce and a
cream cheese spread. YUM.  

 Starting at 8 pm the Eiffel sparkles for 5 minutes on the hour every hour. We had about 45 minutes to kill before 8 so we wandered around the neighborhood surrounding the Eiffel in search of some desert. We found a nice french street vendor selling crepes and indulged on some nutella crepes. We made it back a couple of minutes before it actually started sparkling, when it lit up Kelsey and I both gasped (pretty loudly too) because we weren't expecting it to be that dazzling! Cheesy I know.. but it's true. Definitely one of my favorite memories so far during my time abroad. 


 I couldn't really get a good picture to capture the sparkling but here is a video although I couldn't get it to rotate. But.. You get the point. 

video

We headed  back to our hostel.. quickly figured out how to get to Versailles, bought tickets to the circus and fell into bed. 

 Day 2

After a whirlwind day before of seeing so much of Paris is one day we took our next day a little more leisurely. We took a short train and made our way out to Versailles. The weather wasn't as bad as we were expecting so we decided to view the gardens first and then see the palace last on our way back. Although the gardens weren't in bloom and many of the fountains weren't going, I could tell that this would be incredible during the spring. Although I don't regret making the trip to Versailles I would definitely recommend seeing it later in the year. 
Petite Trianon
Part of Marie Antoinettes Estate, all english style gardens.
Reminds me of Belle's house from beauty and the beast!
Just a little frozen.
We did a quick tour of the Palace with the audio tour which was actually quite interesting and I felt as though I skipped quite a few things that I'm hoping, someday, i'll be able to go back. Maybe next time I will time it well enough to be there on a nice warm summer day so I can actually enjoy the gardens. 
Cathedral located within the Palace
Top floor of the cathedral

We left Versailles made a quick stop at our hostel to change and then prepared for a night out at the Cirque d'Hiver (French Circus). The way that our tour guide explained it, it sounded like it would be more like Cirque du Soleil. We got there along with the hoards of children to find out that it was a circus targeted for kids. Some of the dancers were really bad, and Kelsey had to stifle some laughs during some of the performances. Overall the acrobats and contortionists were very entertaining along with a very buff pole dancer. It was definitely a night I won't forget but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone looking for a good show. 


After the Circus we hit up a delicious french restaurant where I ordered: rib-eye steak, chicken & a lamb chop with fries for only 15 euros! Yum, I was in heaven. Kelsey ordered a huge steak which also looked delicious. We headed home happy and full. 

Kelsey's Dinner
The lamb chop was fabulous!

Day 3

Our last day we packed up all of our stuff and put our things into the baggage check. Our first stop was the Sacro Cuore which is a cathedral located in the top of the Monte Marte neighborhood near to where we stayed. It had some really great views of Paris but it was windy and threatening to rain so we didn't linger long. We then proceeded to do some souvenir shopping, rode the metro to the latin quarter for lunch and stocked up on pastries! The best pastry shop we came across was called Carton, everything that I tried was to die for, that I even had to send some macaroons home to my family. From there we made our way to the largest underground shopping center in the world, which we were definitely sad we didn't have more time to spend in. We were running a bit behind schedule but still we decided to quickly squeeze in a visit to an oyster bar that had a cheap happy hour.
Pantheon
Church from the movie Midnight in Paris
Sat on the same steps as Owen did for the filming on Midnight in Paris!
Yummy Oysters!
And here is where the real story begins.... 

I already told you that we were running a bit late when we got the oyster place, well although the oysters were delicious, it took longer than we expected. So after dinner we literally ran to the metro station to get back to our hostel to get our bags. We grabbed our bags and then proceeded to run to the metro to get to the bus that would take us to the airport. We get to the bus stop and the bus is just barely pulling out. We ran up to the bus and started pounding on the windows for the driver to let us in. We have already purchased our tickets and there is a total of about 3 people on the bus, so there is plenty of room. The bus driver proceeds to ignore us and drive away. We then find out that the next bus we thought was coming won't be there for another 45 minutes, and we would never make our flight. This guy who seems nice enough helps us talk to a taxi driver who says that the fare will be in between 120-130 to get to the airport. We get into the cab, decide to keep our bags with us up front just to be safe and we're off on a very expensive cab ride to the airport. 

As we are driving the cab drivers phone keeps ringing and every time she looks down she swerves around on the road, giving us minor panic attacks in the back. We finally pull up to the airport about over an hour later and start getting ready to get out of the cab. The meter reads about 140. She pulls up into a sketchy back lot of the airport and starts demanding 175 euros from us. I ask her why she is charging us so much when we had already established the cost before we got in the cab. SHE FREAKS OUT, and starts yelling at us in french and showing us random figures on her Iphone about Disneyland Paris. Okayyy? We didn't know what is going on or what to do so we sat there and let her yell at us for a little while, until she started driving off with us still in the car... That's when it got too sketchy. I throw open my door pull out 150 euro throw it in the front seat and Kelsey and I both jump out of the cab, while it's still moving, James Bond style. We are running down a snow covered hill to get away from this crazy taxi driver and the whole time she's in the car screaming POLIZIA, POLIZIA at us. Just a normal day in Paris, it's fine.

We get into the airport and I tell the guy at the desk what has just happened. He explains that we probably took an underground cab, they run lots of scams at bus stations, and that she shouldn't have even charged us that much. But, he says if he sees the police coming he will tell them we went to other way and we'll be fine once we get through security. We were in shock, and really glad that nothing happened to us more than just a crazy cab ride... I definitely learned a big lesson of promptness, and how to use my James Bond moves. Living and learning here in Europe. 

Now I only have one more midterm left, and then i'm on my way to Spain for spring break! I can hardly wait for tapas and some warm weather! crossing my fingers for the weather!

Arrividerc for now!


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