Due to the nature of my life over here (traveling way too much) I end up traveling again before I’ve had a chance to post about the last trip, and then wanting to make posts while I’m on another trip, and then I go back and start talking about the last trip again. I know it gets pretty out of order and perhaps confusing, but I while Becky is getting ready I want to take the opportunity to make an update on our Paris experience 🙂
So, last weekend, Becky and I caught the train to Paris on Saturday afternoon. When we arrived at Gare du Nord, I really wished Alexander was there because he was so good with the Metro system. Becky and I stared at the map for awhile and I thought I had it figured it and then I still put us on the wrong train. Also, from the map it looked like the area where I’d booked our hotel (La Defense) was a lot further out than I had anticipated so I was worried. However, we finally made it to our hotel and it turned out to be an excellent choice. While it was a bit far out (like 12 stops out from the city center), the area was very clean and felt safe, and looked a lot like the Pearl District in Portland actually. Then, the best part: we got to our room on the 14th floor and we had a view of all of Paris!
It was hard to get pictures that did it any justice through the dusty window, but straight down was the river Seine and there was a little island (see the tree in the bottom lefthand corner). If you looked to the left of this picture, you could see everything else. It was such a great view!
We were really hungry so we quickly headed back out to the metro and went to Place St. Michel which is where they have the cafe with my favorite crepe. It turned out to be a little obnoxious because Becky accidentally ordered a plate of bread with thin slices of some kind of meat (not enough for a meal!), and the man next to me was literally smoking into my arm. In Paris at the cafes, all the tables are super close together and people smoke like it’s going out of style (oh wait… it already did…), I kept glaring at the guy and also thinking of this scene from a movie where Canadians get in a brawl with Colin Farrel for smoking so close to them in a restaurant. Luckily, there was no brawl, just a lot of disgust on my part.
Next, we walked around the corner and saw the Notre Dame at night (the picture from my previous post about Paris!). Becky and I walked around it taking photos and then we could kind of see the Eiffel tower and thought it was pretty close and decided to walk. It felt like we were walking for EVER and we finally consulted the map and we weren’t even half way there. So we gave up, looked at a metro map and I managed to remember that the place with the great view of the Eiffel Tower is Trocadero. So Becky and I went there so she could see the Eiffel Tower twinkling at night (one of my favorite things ever!)
After that, I tried to take Becky to Cafe de L’Homme which I’d went to with Alexander (inside the museum right there, great view of the tower). However, I forgot that when Alexander and I went we were dressed up, and it wasn’t very busy. Becky and I walked in in our super casual clothes (I was wearing a puff vest), and we pushed the curtain to the side and stepped in and were completely overwhelmed by the scene: it was super busy, full of people, everyone was dressed to the nines. It only took us about half a second to realize we were completely out of place and we turned around and left. Instead, we had dessert and coffee at a sidewalk cafe across the street which was delicious, and we headed home.
The next morning, we had the “city breakfast” at our hotel cafe for 7 euros which included coffee, orange juice, “as many croissants as you can eat”, and apple slices. It was delicious! From there we headed to Notre Dame because I really wanted to go to the top. Just like the day before, it was a BEAUTIFUL sunny day. We waited in line to go up the Eiffel Tower in front of a pair of Russian men who were playing middle eastern music on their cell phone as we waited in line. Very interesting ambiance 😉
It was about 5 euros, and 400 winding steps to get to the top but it was beautiful up there. We also went in the bell tower and I could BARELY manuever my way through the door. How small was the bell ringer anyway?? (what you can’t see in the following picture is that the top of the doorway actually comes to below my shoulders, I just stuck the upper half of my body out.) So weird!
From there, we walked around to find a cafe to get crepes, and then got some amazing gelato (basically, we were eating all day long) and then we began a crazy amount of walking. Becky wanted to walk on Pont Neuf (the famous bridge) so we did that, but from there it wasn’t too far to the Louvre so we walked over there. Becky said she almost cried when she saw it. It is just such an amazing spot! We also walked around Palais Royal, and then it looked like the Opera area, where there is a lot of great shopping, wasn’t too far so we walked over there and it turned out everything was closed since it was Sunday. Bummer! By then we were really exhausted from all the walking so we caught the Metro back to Trocadero to find a place to eat, and ultimately ended up walking all the way down to the Eiffel tower.
But of course, before we began walking down to the tower we purchased chocolate crepes:
We had contemplated NOT going to the top of the Eiffel Tower, but once we were down there anyway we decided we had to do it. (When I went with Alexander the first time, the lines were way too long and I hate lines so I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I’m lame that way, I know.) I can’t remember now but I think it costs about 12 euro to go to the very top deck. You ride one elevator up to the second deck and then you have to go get in line for another elevator to go up to the third. We were so glad we decided to do it because it was so beautiful up there. Before, I was sold on the Tour Montparnasse’s advertising that if you go to the top of the Tour Eiffel you won’t see the most key part of the Paris skyline–the Tour Eiffel itself (but you can see the Tour Eiffel from Tour Montparnasse’s 52nd floor viewing deck… which Alexander and I went to last time). So I thought we’d feel like something was missing up at the top of the Eiffel Tower, but it was actually the best spot to view all of Paris because it’s so high up. Plus, the sun was starting to set while we were up there which cast a shadow of the tower over the buildings below which was really cool.
Also, Becky and I were very pleased to learn that there were FREE bathrooms at the very top, and there wasn’t a line or anything to get in. Woohoo! All the waiting in lines to get up to the top in the cold made us really need to use the restroom, and had there not been one available up there we most likely would have rushed through our time there so we could get back down and use the toilette.
From there, we headed out to find a place to have dinner. Becky wanted to try european-style pizza, and I was craving pizza, so we found a place down a random street that turned out to not be very good. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t the “omg this is so delicious” feeling you tend to get from most things you try in Paris (crepes, bread, cheese, coffee, etc.). After dinner, we were exhausted but we did a little souvenir shopping and headed back to the hotel to go to bed.
Monday, our last day in Paris, we didn’t have to be at the train station until around 6 so we had breakfast at our hotel and then walked around La Defense. A woman told us there were lots of shops but at first we were walking around and didn’t see anything. Then, we saw this big glass building with “Castorama” and the letters looked kind of like IKEA. We went in and the store was basically a lot like IKEA. As we wandered through the top floor home goods, suddenly we saw an opening to the secret garden: Castorama had an entrance opening into a mall. As it turned out, the mall was enormous because we got lost in it for the rest of the day. I was so proud of myself for not spending too much in Paris and I planned on saving my left-over euros for the following weekend’s trip to Barcelona but instead I spent every last euro I had in that mall. I even had to dig out 8 euros in change at a store where I spent 33 euros but only had 25 left in bills. I do love all my purchases though… although I’m really starting to wonder how I’m going to get everything home when the time comes.
In the above picture of La Defense, that glass structure in the background with the TV screen on it is the mall we went to. I realize that it may seem like a “waste of time” to go to a mall when you’re in a foreign city and could be out seeing the sights. However, we had already been out seeing the sights for two solid days, and you can’t underestimate the cultural experience of doing one of your favorite things (shopping) in a foreign country. Also, I now have a few holiday dresses from PARIS! 🙂 After the mall we had to hurry back to our hotel, pick up our bags, and get to the train station to catch our train back to London. When we got back Becky had to pack her bags for Wales, and I had to read for my classes the next day so it was a very late night!