Life has been crazy. This blog post should have been written over a week ago, but too many things just got in the way! Between insane schoolwork, making future travel plans, and more traveling, blogging seems to always get pushed to the back.
But, I have a few minutes now. So…
Paris was one of the most complicated and confusing trips to try to figure out logistically for a number of reasons. A) Literally everyone who did not go to Ireland on the first break went to Paris, leaving only ten of us to work with. B) A good number of those ten had either already been to Paris before or had no interest in going. C) We were running out of travel breaks.
So what seven of us (KaSarah, Jodi, Ziggy, Chase, Austin, Andrew, and I) came up with was to cram all of Paris into a fun-filled (and we mean filled) weekend. So after rushing to finish last-minute homework on Thursday, we jetted to the airport early early in the morning on the 23rd and arrived in Paris by lunchtime.
While Paris was an icebox just a few weeks ago when the rest of our study abroad group visited (Nicole even said it was the coldest she’s ever been in her life), we arrived to a warm, beautiful, sunny city. KaSarah, Ziggy, and I climbed to the second level of the tower in nothing but cardigans and got to see the Paris skyline in gorgeous weather. It was absolutely stunning and a fun experience to get to walk all those steps up this huge landmark that we had only ever seen in pictures and movies. It was crazy to us that we were actually there, and we ended up taking about 500 pictures of just the tower itself (that’s only a slight exaggeration).
Thanks to our wonderful, knowledgeable friends who went before us, we were told to visit the Louvre on Friday night when students get in for free. So after eating some delicious crepes (I ended up having one each day…oops), we journeyed to the massive palace. I really loved the Louvre for the astounding art but also for the architecture, detail, and sheer beauty of the building itself. I found myself staring at the high ceilings, paneling, and marvelous golden frames…all of which were there to help display the things most people come to see!
Coming into the Louvre, I had a fairly pessimistic view of the Mona Lisa. People had told me it was overrated, and honestly, I couldn’t understand what could be so cool about a painting. But when I pushed through the crowd of staring people and saw it for myself, I understood the hype somehow. Without sounding like I’m trying to be transcendental or annoyingly philosophical, the beauty of the Mona Lisa just made sense when I was looking at it. Somehow it really does look different in person than it does in pictures. And I can’t fully explain it, but I know I was just transfixed by the painting for a time…it truly is a masterpiece.
Fat Tire Bike Tour
Everything we did in Paris was wonderful in its own way, but the bike tour was definitely one of the most fun. The tour took about half a day, and we got to see all the highlights of the city while also receiving information about them from our guide. The company we did this through hosts bike tours in London, Berlin, and Barcelona also, and a few of us have made it our goal to complete all four FTB tours this semester. We’ll see how it goes!
We went to Notre Dame on the perfect day. For most sights you want it to be pretty and sunny outside, but for Notre Dame, cold, gray, and a little drizzly really sets the mood of the cathedral…and that’s the weather we had for our visit! This image of the huge gothic church being set in front of a gloomy sky mayyy have been slightly put into my head by Disney. But whatever. I embraced it and truly loved my experience there.
I’ve visited so many churches that I’m beginning to lose track of them all, but I think it’s safe to say Notre Dame is at the top end of my list. It was HUGE and ornate, but dark at the same time. The Hunchback movie really portrays it well, even down to the gargoyles on the outer walls. A church service was going on inside, and it blew my mind to think that people call Notre Dame their home church…this place that receives thousands of tourists and so much fame.
On Saturday night, we went on a boat cruise down the river and had the time of our lives. We took pictures, talked, and laughed as the beautiful Paris-at-nighttime rolled by, and we got to see the Eiffel Tower sparkle as it does each hour. This was one of the most unique, movie-like experiences we had and one I’m so thankful for.
War Museum/Napoleon’s Tomb
The war museum, though not my favorite part of Paris, was very interesting to see. The museum holds war memorabilia from the time of ancient warriors wearing armor and carrying swords all the way to WWII. It was crazy to see the progression of fighting techniques and the advancement of technology over the decades.
Connected to the museum is Napoleon’s tomb–a huge building that holds many caskets of famous, powerful rulers and people. The ornate detail of the paintings, stonework, and designs in the old church–now graveyard were marvelous. It was absolutely beautiful. Napoleon’s is in the center and lowered into the ground so visitors are forced to bow down to him in order to see his grave. Pretty clever, right?
Palace of Versailles
Lastly, we were able to slip in a trip to Versailles, a place I had really been wanting to go and am so glad I got to see. The palace was home to King Louis, who had it built because the Louvre was too small and Paris smelled too bad for his liking. And boy, did he not spare any expense on his second home! I mean, this place was seriously ridiculous! We were only able to go through one wing of the house because it was so massive. I found myself getting shuffled from gorgeous room to gorgeous room, losing track of where I had been. Huge paintings, fireplaces that stretched above my head, decorative wallpaper, gold, statues, rich textures and fabrics, and the smell of wealth covered each living room, bedroom, political room, and ballroom we passed through. I cannot even imagine how much money it cost or time it took to complete the palace.
And the gardens outside were just as lovely. Though not lit up in color and life as they are in the springtime, the ponds, hedges, fields, and trees that make up the palace grounds were so beautiful. I could have spent hours out there just walking, thinking, eating, swimming, reading, or even napping…it was like a resort. And by the time we left Versailles, I was convinced that no one has ever lived in so beautiful a place as King Louis.
Well, that’s Paris in a weekend! I left out the details of seeing the Arc de Triomphe at night, Place de la Concorde, and the Pont Alexandre Bridge just to save time. But everything was wonderful, and I touched on the main events that really stuck out to me. Paris is a magical city and one I plan to return to…hopefully multiple times!