A quick trip through the Chunnel, and I was set for my first weekend in Paris. We successfully avoided our first set of gypsies with clipboards in the train station, and then hopped on a coach for a panoramic tour of the city.
We finished the bus tour, checked into our hotel and headed to the Louvre. After successfully avoiding all of the men selling “5 for 1” mini Eiffel Towers and an extensive photo shoot, we actually went inside the museum to take advantage of its free entry for EU students. I brought my Louisiana drivers’ license, Mizzou ID, international student ID and my CAPA student card, but nothing could have prepared me to deal with the woman checking our identification. All five of the other girls went through a different lane without any problems and got to watch this insanity unfold. The worker said none of my four forms of identification proved I lived or worked in the UK, and no amount of explanation would convince her. She stood up out of her chair, began shouting about needing my passport or visa (which I had taken out of my purse so it didn’t get pickpocketed) and finished by yelling in my face that she wasn’t American. After exhausting her stint as the heroine of EU students, she saw me desperately looking at the other girls and let me through in a huff. I proceeded to walk through the museum completely rattled and shut down, but the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo were exciting to see.
The evening completely turned around after we left the museum. We decided to head toward the Eiffel Tower and find dinner somewhere along the way. It’s totally different from London where there are skyscrapers and modern buildings mixed in with its old history. Since Paris wasn’t bombed during the war, the whole city still has an old, magical feel, and it was actually plausible to follow the top of the tower until we ran into it. Just as we were crossing the river, the Eiffel Tower started glittering. Magic. We finally found a brasserie that looked reasonably priced, and had an absolutely fabulous meal. And it was happy hour. We walked around the block and practically ran into the Eiffel Tower. It was just so much bigger than I ever imagined and so wonderful all lit up. The crazy Louvre lady’s atrocity was eventually overruled by three really nice gentlemen that helped us understand how to get home on the metro. One at a crepe stand that told us where the closest stations was, one worker at the metro station that mapped out, circled and wrote the number of each train we needed to take on a metro map and one older gentleman who nearly hopped off of his train to point us in the direction of our line when we got turned around switching trains. When we finally got on the right one, we were treated to two guys playing guitar and singing as we rode home.
We kicked off our 12 hour Saturday with a tour of Notre Dame and a walk through the Latin Quarter. The church was absolutely beautiful, and I was glad we had a guide to explain the details of the detailed façade. The Latin Quarter is definitely the younger area of the city and was filled with restaurants. We then headed to the Seine for our boat tour of the city. The day was gray, damp and windy, which made being on water particularly chilly. It was cool to see the city from such a different perspective even if we were taking pictures in between shivers. Frozen and hungry, we walked back to the Latin Quarter for lunch, and after warming up, headed for the lock bridge. We spent some time wandering up and down the bridge reading locks and people watching, and finally bought our own locks to put on the bridge. We wrote on the locks, threw the keys in the river and set out to spend the afternoon shopping. We started out around the Louvre and eventually took the metro to make our way to the Champs- Elysees. We took a break from our exhaustive shopping to get macarons from Laduree. My life is so hard. It was both a store and a restaurant, and all of the pastries were so intricate they looked fake.
We took our six macarons and headed up the street to take pictures of the Arc de Triomphe all lit up. After braving both the other tourists and French drivers to take a couple of pictures in the middle of the street, we were ready for dinner. A couple of the girls we were with had seen a set menu at a restaurant in the Latin Quarter that had three courses for 10 euros. We found the restaurant actually pretty easily, and ate probably the best meal I’ve had abroad so far. I started with onion soup, had beef bourguignon for an entrée and finished with chocolate mousse. The small restaurant had another group of six waiting, so we were politely ushered out after finishing out meal and paying. We made it back to the hotel at about 10:30 pm and collapsed onto our beds to relax. Three of us ended up hanging out, talking and laughing in our room until almost 1 before I finally got into the shower and went to bed.
Sunday we braved the crowds at the Eiffel Tower and made it all the way to the third and top floor. Only one of the four legs had working elevators because the others were under construction. We briefly contemplated walking up to the second floor and catching the elevator to the top from there, but that seemed too daunting for us. The views were absolutely worth the long wait. We walked down the stairs, grabbed a quick sandwich and met our guides for a walking tour of Montemarte that ended at the Sacre Coeur. This was my favorite part of the trip because I think it’s what I imagined Paris would look like. Shops, cafes, restaurants and houses dotted the road as we climbed the hill to the artists’ square and the church. It was crowded and had tourist shops, but still seemed almost like it wasn’t real. An espresso macchiato, a crepe and a millions pictures later, we went back to pick up our bags from the hotel and catch the Eurostar. While it was less eventful than our Amsterdam experience, UK Border Agency took their sweet time checking our passports, and Ciera and I ended up almost running down the platform to get on our train in time. I think we had about 10 minutes to spare after we were finally settled into our seats.