Paris, Oh Oui Je T’aime

Ah, what else can I say about Paris that hasn’t been said before? It’s got to be the most romanticized city in the world, and now it’s another city I can cross off my list of places I’ve been.
Our hotel rooms in Paris were more like apartments; equipped with a bedroom, living room, kitchenette, and a small balcony. 
For our first night in Paris we took a cruise down the Seine River and it was magnificent! Paris at night is so beautiful, especially along the river, with the lights reflecting in the water. The sidewalks along the river were lined with people picnicking and watching and waving at the boats passing by. We got to cruise by some major Parisian attractions like the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, and the Louvre. 

The next day we got up early and took a sightseeing tour around the city. We saw other major Paris sights such as Champs-Élysées and the Arc de Triomphe. After the tour, many of us went on the optional excursion to the Palace of  Versailles. I couldn’t wait to finally see it in person! When I first learned about Versailles in high school, I knew I had to see it one day. I also read a biography about Marie Antoinette (Marie Antoinette: The Journey), so I also had a heightened interest in seeing Versailles because of that.
The sheer luxury you experience when you are in the presence of this wonderment is hard to explain, or justify with pictures. We got to get lunch and eat it in the gardens before heading into the palace, and I could have spent an entire day exploring the gardens alone. So beautiful, intricate, immaculate, and vast! Everywhere you looked it seemed there was an endless stretch of more beautiful gardens.

After exploring the gardens, we were able to go into the palace, I kept having to touch the walls and the marble, because I think it’s always so neat whenever I’m at a place that has so much history, knowing that I’m at a place that I’ve learned and read about for years.
The palace itself is intense. It is HUGE. Our guide said during its time, thousands of people llived there, and no one knows how much it cost to build it. For measure, I remember my professor in college told us that if Steve Jobs and Bill Gates got together to try and rebuild it, they would both go bankrupt. 

I’m so grateful I was able to see this amazing palace in person; it was so fun to imagine the halls filled with royals and servants alike from centuries ago, instead of all the tourists.
Later that night, Darren organized a dinner for everyone at a nice restaurant in the Latin Quarter. For €45, we got a three course meal, a glass of champagne, and unlimited beer and wine. There was also two men playing live music and singing. They played a few songs from one of my favorite movies, Amelie, so that was really nice! They also played a song called Aux Champs-Élysées, and all the locals were singing along to it, so I felt special that I knew the song and got to sing along as well.
Our table decided to get a bunch of appetizers and share them. I was most interested in the frog legs and escargot. And they were both really good! Frog legs had a similar texture to fish, and the escargot was similar to clams or mussels. I also got some duck and a peach dessert, all really good. It was such a fun evening, the restaurant was really small so the atmosphere was really intimate, everyone was singing, clapping, and dancing to the live music. The ride home was also a good time, two of my roommates and myself caught a cab with Darren, and I think I remember singing a not-so-sober rendition of Michael Jackson… 

The next day, my roommate Ashlee and I set out to the Musee d’Orsay. The museum was huge, the first floor was loaded with amazing sculptures and paintings, but we were most interested in the top floor which was filled with paintings with artists like Van Gogh, Monet, and Pissaro. So many paintings to feast your eyes on, many that I’ve never seen before! There was also a terrace at the top, with stunning views of Paris.

After the museum, we stopped at a cafe for some lunch and then walked along the Seine on our way to Notre Dame. There were many stands selling souvenirs and other neat trinkets along the way, and I bought some really neat posters and prints. When we got to Notre Dame, the bells were going off just as we arrived, so that was cool!
Later in the evening, we met up with a few other people from our group and had a picnic right outside the Eiffel Tower. We had crepes and wine, we all felt so Parisian (okay, and also kind of touristy, let’s be honest…). Eventually, Darren and other people from our group found us and we all just sat and chatted and drank wine and had a great time. Every now and then I had to remind myself that I was sitting in front of the freakin’ Eiffel Tower. So amazing. Then it was time to go up!
The views were amazing, and it was really windy. Again, I made sure to touch posts and rods just to remind myself that I was on the Eiffel Tower! Sometimes you get so caught up in the chaos and excitement of it all that you really forget what you’re doing and where you are.

The next day, Darren took those who were interested to Pere Lachaise to see Jim Morrison’s and Oscar Wilde’s graves. The cemetery itself is very massive and very beautiful. Jim Morrison’s grave had barriers around it because people used to party and have sex by it (although as Darren aptly pointed out, that’s probably something Jim Morrison would have loved). Despite the barricades, his grave was still loaded with pictures, notes, and other mementos left by fans who had jumped the barrier.
We also visited Oscar Wilde’s grave, which had a glass protectant surrounding it because women would kiss his grave and leave lipstick marks. But even with the addition of the glass, women still left their mark on the glass and there were also a bunch of mementos left.

After the cemetery, we head out to a perfumerie to learn how perfume is made, how to properly apply perfume, and what the different notes are. I was tempted to buy a bottle, but I can’t stray from my Coco Mademoiselle!
After that, I stopped by a cafe near our hotel to get lunch. I don’t think our hotel is located in a very touristy area, so I think most diners were local. Our waiter didn’t speak English to us very much, and the menu was entirely in French. I enjoyed the challenge, I think that’s the fun of visiting a foreign country. We were also convinced the people around us were annoyed with our lack of French speaking skills, but one young women sitting next to us smiled sweetly at us as she was leaving at said, “Bon Appetit!” which we thought was really nice of her.
After lunch, we all went back to the hotel to shower and pack because it was our last night in Paris. For dinner, a lot of us got some wine, bread, and cheese and sat along the Seine to people watch. It was a great end to our Paris adventure.

Paris was so exciting and beautiful, but it was also really HOT (have you noticed that’s an ongoing theme in every place I’ve been?) and tiresome. Some people in my group were turned off by Paris because of the language barrier and the French being the least willing to speak English to us (opposed Amsterdam). But that’s part of the fun of traveling, and I do wish Americans had a stronger grasp of foreign languages. I honestly didn’t come across too many rude people, maybe some who were a bit short, but they still accommodated me by speaking in English. It was also a fun challenge to see how many interactions I could have with people with barely any words spoken at all; just facial expressions, body language and gestures.

All in all, Paris was amazing, but I know I barely scratched the surface of everything it has to offer. Just more incentive to keep traveling so I can return.  Paris was definitely exhausting though, and it look a lot out of me. Luckily, we were heading to serene Switzerland next.
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