Sunday, November 13, 2011

Fall Break: Part II-Paris

And my adventures continue on...

Tuesday morning (at 5:30 a.m.), Alyssa and I (along with Isabel who came along for a surprise visit to Paris) took the Chunnel from King’s Cross Station in London to Paris.  If there is any way to travel between these two beautiful cities, it definitely has to be on an underwater train!  Meredith met me at the train station and I ran into her arms.  It felt so great to be back together again! Isabel came along for a surprise and Mere nearly fell over with excitement!  I realized how much I missed the girls J

Once I saw Paris, like London, I immediately fell in love.  It was a different first impression, though.  I had studied French for such a long part of my schooling that I had seen so many pictures of the monuments and the city and I already knew so much about the culture, that I felt like I had been to Paris before.  I felt very at home, very comfortable.  

Right off the bat, I started what would be three days of exquisite eating and dining.  I had my first authentic chocolat pain (chocolate croissant)-it tasted like perfection!  The four of us went to Meredith’s apartment first where she showed us the view from the terrace of her building.  In the distance you could see the Eiffel Tower, so clear and erect over the entire city.  The symbol of Paris, something I have wanted to see my whole life, ever since Sister Maria first taught me how to say “Bonjour” in 1st grade.  I was antsy to get up close and personal with it.  I didn’t have to wait long in since Meredith took me to the Eiffel Tower as our first order of business.  I stood in awe of the trademark of Paris.  The closer I got to it, the smaller I felt and I couldn’t believe that I was standing under the Tower.  It was incredible! I also had my first crêpe from Paris from this wonderful little stand right near the Tower.  What could be better? A banana/Nutella crêpe sitting with the Eiffel Tower as a backdrop- absolutely sinful!

Over the three full days that I had to tour the city and experience Parisian culture, I saw all the major places: the Eiffel Tower, L’Arc de Triomphe, strolled down Champs-Élysées, Notre Dame, the Seine, the Louvre, Centre Pompidou, passed by Place de la Concorde as well as the Musee d’Orsay, walked through the Luxembourg Gardens and the Tuileries. 
On Wednesday, Alyssa and I decided that we would take a trip to the Louvre in attempt to see the Mona Lisa (Italian: La Gioconda, French: La Joconde).  Once we made it into the main courtyard we saw that the line was wrapped around the entire courtyard and then behind the building extending into a different courtyard.  I didn’t care-it was a mild day and I wanted to get inside what appeared to be such a beautiful, grandiose museum.  An hour later, I was making my way down the escalators inside the famous glass pyramid.  We got our tickets and were on our way to the Italian paintings wing (Note: we didn’t have to pay for because we were students of the European Union, which was great.  However, I didn’t bring my passport with me and only had my Umbra student ID that didn’t make it very clear that I live in Italy.  I had some issues, but eventually talked my way into getting a free ticket J).  We finally made our way down to the room with Mona Lisa.  My art history professor warned my class (I am taking a Leonardo da Vinci class this semester) that the Mona Lisa was much smaller than people think.  In such a large room with other oversized paintings, the Mona Lisa, so small, stood in the middle of the room protected by a glass case.  It was pretty impressive, however, to see something that I am studying in class in real life.  The Mona Lisa is replicated all over the world for different uses, whether it be art or satire, so to see the actually painting itself, live, in Paris, was incredible.  Later on that day, Alyssa and I met up with one of her friends from home who took us into Notre Dame and through the Tuileries (the gardens abutting the Louvre).  We got a little shopping done as well, which never hurts!

Thursday was my day just with Meredith!  She planned out the day and wanted to take me to all her favorite places and spend a day frolicking in Paris avec moi.  It was such a great day.  I got to see Paris through the eyes of a now true Parisian student.  Since the Luxembourg Gardens are pretty much her backyard, we took a stroll through the Gardens, which were very picturesque.  We also picked up some sandwiches from Meredith’s favorite boulangerie.  Mere took me to see her school, which was nice to see and picture her in her element in Paris.  I got to see the outside of the Centre Pompidou.  We didn’t have time go inside, but I had seen pictures of just how neat and artsy the outside of the museum was decorated.  We went through some markets located close to the Eiffel Tower and picked up a few additions to our lunch and shopped some.  Finally, we made it to the Eiffel Tower, where we had a picnic lunch on the Champs de Mars (the big green lawn in front on the Tower).  Our sandwiches were classic French food: a baguette with lettuce and chèvre (goat cheese).  It was one of the tastiest things I have ever eaten-even in Europe!  We got some olives from the market to go with our sandwich, but nothing could compare to the crispy bread and soft, savory cheese. Yum! After lunch, we went to the top of the Eiffel Tower.  Both Meredith and I always wanted to go to the top so it was incredibly special to share the experience with her.  We stopped at the second level up the Tower and got out, took pictures, took in the landscape, but once we made it to the tip top of the Eiffel Tower, my world was forever changed!  I could see for miles and miles.  It was extraordinary how much of Paris you can see from there.  You could see the layout of the city and all the major monuments/tourist attractions were clearly spotted amidst the miles of city.  I even spotted the Sacre Coeur way off just sitting on the horizon.  It’s hard to put into words just exactly what I was feeling and seeing, but some words that come to mind are the following: euphoric, romantic, nostalgic, blissful. The view was breathtaking!

One more thing, I stayed at my friend Isabel’s dad apartment in Paris, which I am fortunate enough to have had that really cool opportunity.  I got to pretend that I lived in Paris.  I slept in her older sister’s bedroom, with a view of the top of the Eiffel Tower.  The very last night I was there, I finally saw the Eiffel Tower sparkle! At night, the Tower lights up and every hour it sparkles.  However, at around 1a.m. the Tower goes completely black and just sparkles-it was so beautiful and exquisite! Meredith and I sat on the bed and just watched in awe of this fabulous sight.  That definitely made my trip complete.  I was staying in this beautiful apartment with some of my great friends, frolicking around Paris!  It was like I was living a dream! 

King's Cross Station (home to the Chunnel) preparing for the Olympics

Me, Meredith, & Isabel on the terrace of Mere's building

Bonjour! C'est moi!

Roomies reunited in Paris!

Just being our goofy selves...:)


Isabel was getting artsy...

Out of nowhere, it started pouring rain!

Had the most delicious mini-macaroons @ Ladurée 

L'Arc de Triomphe

Mere & I

The Louvre

From inside the glass pyramid

There she is!

Mona Lisa-up close and personal

The Tuileries

Locks of love on the Seine


Alyssa & I outside Notre Dame

Beautiful stained-glass windows

Behind the altar

Alyssa & I on the Seine

Sunrise in Paris--View from my bedroom at the apt.

Luxembourg Gardens

Luxembourg Palace @ Luxembourg Gardens

Back of Notre Dame...View from a boardwalk on the Seine

Centre Pompidou-back

Centre Pompidou-front

View from Champs de Mars-So picturesque!

Directly below the Eiffel Tower

View from inside the Tower

At the second level of the Eiffel Tower

View from second level 

Bateaux Mouches!

View from the very top of the Eiffel Tower

Mere & I at the very top!

Next stop: Milan & Venice with Meredith!!