Thursday, June 27, 2013

Parisian Adventures

The only way I can begin to describe this trip would be two words: amazing, and exhausting, but worth every single step taken, metro conquered, and French menu deciphered. The idea of a trip to Paris came along when our teacher gave us a free weekend from classes on Friday and Monday. Naturally, we decided to take advantage of the opportunity and decided on Paris. I mean, how can you be this close to Paris and not go?? I'll admit, I had my doubts because the only descriptions of Paris I had heard were that it was "dirty, stinky, and the people are very rude, especially to Americans." All I have to say about those stigmas are that they are just that. We never came across one rude French person, and I found them very helpful, especially when it came to deciphering the French menus and getting directions to places.

So to begin our adventure, we woke up at 3:45 a.m. Friday morning (I know right??), hopped on a bus to Heathrow at 5:00, arrived at Heathrow at about 6:15 and our flight left at 7:25. We were in Paris by 9:30 (one hour time difference)! Next up was navigating Charles de Gaulle, a MASSIVE airport. We had to walk the entire length of it to get to the RER which is the train that takes people from the airport to the center of paris and then on to the airport on the other side of Paris, Orly. After wandering aimlessly in the train terminal, finally figuring out what metro pass to buy, surrounded by French military men carrying machine guns, we hopped on to the right train. The train proceeded to fly by the first stop that we "thought" it took. And then the next. And then the next. We began to get a little concerned as what we thought was our destination stop was approaching. I was wracking my brain trying to figure out the puzzle of the station when I finally realized that the train we were on only stops at places that had the RER designation. After this, we were able to change trains and proceed to our neighborhood, Alesia. It was the most glorious breath of fresh air when we finally stepped out from the underground into the shining sun. We were basically walking zombies at this point, and it was only about 12 noon. Here's the map we were trying to decipher:

Not gonna lie, Steven and I were pretty proud when we finally conquered the metro system.

About an hour later we finally found the entrance to our home for the weekend! By the way, I highly suggest using the Airbnb app if you're planning on travelling for cheap in the UK or Europe. We had an awesome experience! Our neighborhood was very homey and not too terribly far from the center of Paris.



Of course we didn't stop a beat, what with only having 2 and a half days to conquer Paris. We were so excited to start our adventure!

First we decided to make the trek out to the Montmarte district on the other side of Paris. My sister had told me visiting this area was an absolute MUST and I'm so glad we decided to go! From what I gathered, Montmartres is kind of equivalent to Fondren in Jackson. It's at the peak of Paris on a GIANT hill we had to climb up. At the top is the astounding structure, is Le Sacre Coeur. See that hill with the Arabian looking castle on top? Yep, that's where we were.
Shot of Le Sacre Coeur.

Crepe shops are everywhere, as well as this amazing gelato shop. 

Painters, sculpters, and all sorts of artists were set up in a little craft center right in the middle. If I had all the money in the world I would have bought every single one of those paintings, each was so unique and exquisite!


I loved this little woman who was an awesome street performer. She whistled fun classic Parisian tunes while playing an accordion. It may have been a cheesy tourist attraction, but it definitely completed the atmosphere of a true afternoon in Paris. 

One of my favorite parts of the day was going out to the overlook in front of Le Sacre Coeur. The view of Paris is breathtaking. It feels like you can see all the way from one side of Paris to the next. We stood there for probably about 45 minutes, just taking it all in. We also did alot people watching from afar, and let me just say there is one stigma about Paris is true. They are definitely the city of looooovveeee. I can't tell you how much PDA we witnessed. 

After we wandered down from the top of the hill we decided to set out on the next adventure to find the Eiffel Tower. It was so funny because we were able to find it because it's visible throughout much of Paris. As we got closer and it got bigger we had a hard time keeping track of it though, as ironic as it seems. Then, we were walking down a street, turned a corner, and there it stood in all of its glory. 


 One of Jade's bucket list bullets was to climb the stairs of the Eiffel Tower, so after having woken up at 2:30, travelling to Paris, walking to Montmartres, and then walking to the tower, we naturally decided to use what was left of our energy to climb the stairs.

Waiting in line. Such class. 

Step 1.

Still excited about it. Steps 5-12.

Not so excited about it anymore. Step 1840484946352530047443857958. 

Straight thuggin. Started from the bottom now my whole team here. 

Unfortunately the very tip top was closed off, but we were able to go all the way up to the top two tiers. There is no way I can possibly put into words or pictures the view, but here are some that will hopefully do it justice.



We spent an hour or so up there before we headed back down the steps. By then it was probably about 9:30 at night, but still light outside! We found a small baguette shop and bought some wine, then headed out to the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower to watch the sunset. At about 10:00 it started changing colors and at 11:00 it twinkled brighter and more beautiful than any view of Cinderella's castle I've ever seen (and trust me, I've seen a lot). That night was definitely one of my favorite memories from Paris, if not my absolute favorite. We literally had no cares in the world in that moment except for eating and enjoying the view and each other's company. We even met a nice couple from Tennessee and enjoyed talking to them and exchanging stories of all of our experiences. Just in case you were questioning if we were really having fun or not, here's a few pictures to prove it to you. Of course Clayton had us all rolling laughing. Just thinking back on it brings a huge smile to my face. 

A little vid of the twinkling! 
video

In case you wondered if I was being serious about Clayton having us ROLLING laughing.

This pic about sums up how much fun this trip was. 
It's safe to say we were beyond exhausted from such an eventful day, but I wouldn't have changed one thing. After all, who has time for sleep when you're going to Versailles the next day!

We woke up fairly early to travel on the train to Versailles, about a 30 minute ride. Safe to say Jenni was more than excited considering she had been trying to convince us to go to Versailles since the previous week. The palace was absolutely astounding, I can't really even put it into words. After waiting in line for about an hour to get in, we took an audio guided tour (we were pros with those things at this point) around all of the various rooms of the home of Louis the XVI.


 Here are some pics of the most beautiful rooms in my opinion.


The chandeliers were breathtaking.


This is the hall of mirrors! It's a hall, filled with mirrors......it's really cool and surprisingly was only used as a passageway from one room to another back in the day, not really much other significance to it. 

King Louis' bed.

Marie Antoinette's room

The inside of the palace was all fine and dandy, but let's be real, we were really there to see the gardens! I was expecting lots of bright colors and beautiful flowers but came to find that it was more of a greenery type landscape, with lots of grooming involved. And then there were all of these random statues or tree things scattered around the gardens. Here's one example. It was basically a tree being held up by the bark of two other trees. 


Weaving through the maze of gardens always turned up fun little passageways and fountains left and right!






Right after this picture was taken, I had a garden soldier blow a shrill whistle at me for touching the plants. They're quite particular about their greenery...

This was one of the coolest fountains we saw. I'm sure it would have been even cooler if the fountains were on, but sadly they didn't come on until 3:00. We had been there for about 4 hours at this point and our legs were beginning to grow a little shaky (especially after that flight up the Eiffel Tower the night before). Anyway, this fountain depicts the fall of the Titans as they were trying to overthrow Mount Olympus. Jupiter started raining down rocks on the giants, and this is one of the giants plummeting to his grave. 

After wandering around the gardens for about 30 more minutes (more greenery, more statues, more awesomeness) we headed back to Paris. 



That night we were able to travel around the 4th Arrondissement along the River Seine. We saw Notre Dame from the outside. It was really beautiful and I'm glad we saw it! But nothing compares to Westminster Abbey.





 I'm so thankful that we have Steven on this trip. I don't think we would have made it without him in Paris! He and I both worked and conquered the Subway station. Thus, we were given the titles "Mom and Dad" with Jade as the older rebellious sister (that goes on dates with British men that we all stalk), Jenni and Clayton as the youngest twins (never paying attention and always talking in their own little language to each other), and last but not least, Mary Lowry as Grannugget. She's our sweet little grandmother that lags behind and reads alot, but we love her anyway :).

 This was the Pompidou (spelling?) building, which is apparently mocking the industrial age. I don't really get it, ask Jenni about it, she'll be MORE than happy to explain it to you.

That night we had one of the most amazing meals of my life at Le Trumilou. We sat outside like all the cool Parisians do and we ate like kings. The sweet owners were nice enough to come translate the entire menu to us, as well as answer any of our other typical "American" questions we had. My dinner was duck marinated in an incredible prune sauce. And this was like an entire duck on my plate. Not to mention the turkey platter of french fries to go along with it. I ended with a classic flan dish that Clayton so kindly reminded me looked like a boiled egg with every bite. 



The last stop on the adventure that night was visiting the Arch de Triumph at sundown while watching the Eiffel Tower in the distance. Here's a family pic! So thankful for each one of these guys. 


Had to throw in a pic of the Louis Vuitton store. 

After we stuffed our mouths with even more food from a classic creperie it was time to head back to the flat. When we got onto the subway, I proceeded to stuff my mouth with something else: my foot. So here's what happened: People often will get on to the subway, perform a little singing or musical act, then ask for spare change as a reward. I will very gladly give change to something I think worth giving. Earlier that day, I had given 50 pence to some men playing the accordion. Well, as soon as we got on the train we heard the sounds of mexican music come over the speakers. We look to the front of the subway and there is a creepy little puppet show going on. This man was basically swinging his puppet back and forth to the tunes of the song. After he finished he asked for change, no one gave him any, and he was really mad about it. As soon as he got off I said something along the lines of "I'm sorry but I'm just not giving change for that, that takes absolutely NO talent." I looked up to see Mary Lowry and Jade with their eyes bugged out giving me a look of "shut up! shut up! shut up!" Little did I know, the man had gotten off the train, seen that the doors were closing, and got back onto the train behind me right before the doors slammed shut, right as I was making my little comment. Apparently I had the eyes of Satan boring into the back of my head as I said these things, and I have never had a more awkward, long train ride as the one between those two stations. FOOT IN MOUTH. 

The next morning we somehow drug ourselves out of bed, cleaned up the apartment, and packed our little backpacks. We were off to the Louvre as our last stop on the Paris tour. Jade had been talking about the famous Lock bridge for most of the trip and to our surprise we stumbled onto it on the way to the Louvre! It was such a fun little memory to have of that day, and the bridge really is breathtakingly beautiful with all of the glimmer from the locks. 


How to throw a key into the River Seine:
Write on lock, lock it to the bridge (duh) and give it a kiss.
Rear back and...
Give her a throw!

Basically, the idea of going to see the Louvre was really cool but what with all of the travelling and walking we had been doing the past two days, it's safe to say we were pooped. I feel like we spent most of the time actually trying to navigate the Louvre rather than looking at all of the amazing artifacts. 

Speaking of which, there's Mona. 


And Aphrodite. Just when I thought I had a clear shot of Aphrodite, I looked down to find the ultimate photobomb. 



All in all, the trip to Paris was one I will never forget and truly one of my favorite memories of this trip. We were exhausted beyond belief, I literally didn't know if I was going to wake up in the morning, but it was completely worth it and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I'm so thankful for this trip and the chance to grow even closer with these amazing people I call my friends. 

~Avoir France, we'll never forget you~





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