Bridge over Seine River. Couples buy a padlock, write their names on it, lock it to the bridge, and dramatically throw the key away into the river.
After four weeks of living in Barcelona I spent the weekend in Paris with my roommates and three guys who are in the same study abroad program and live next door. It was a lovely 60 degrees in Barcelona when we set off on Thursday afternoon and surprisingly not too much colder when we landed in Paris, or near Paris. We flew into Beauvais, which is a little over an hour outside of Paris, because we could get very cheap tickets on Ryanair to that airport. It was dark on the bus ride into the city, but as we got closer we could see the light show on the Eiffel Tower in the distance. The first thing that struck me about Paris was how 'American' it is. They mostly drive cars instead of mopeds and scooters, the outskirts of the city look very familiar, complete with box stores, and the variety of cultures and people in Paris was different than Barcelona. Going to Paris made me realize how different it is in Barcelona from home and how much I must have adjusted to this new place in the last month.
In order to get to our hostel we took the
Two of my roommates and I over the Seine.
metro and made a few transfers. The Paris metro really made me appreciate the one in Barcelona. It was so much more complicated and a slight bit dirtier. The group of us walking through the metro tunnels with our backpacks were a bit auspicious and unfortunately drew some unwanted attention. A man came running up behind us yelling and as I was walking down a flight of stairs he shoved me from behind. I stayed on my feet somehow and panicked for just a moment because I thought he was probably trying to rob me, but he ran ahead of us turned around and repeatedly started screaming at us if we were Americans or not. He proceeded to start punching the walls and running ahead of us and around us and drew the attention of the entire crowd waiting for the next metro. The whole ordeal lasted probably a minute; it didn't bother me as much as I thought it might have, mostly because I'm pretty sure the guy wasn't all there.
The man screaming at us in the metro was in no way indicative of the rest of the trip. Overall, I thought the French were friendlier and
happier to speak English and 'deal' with American's than I've found the Spanish to be here. It's not that people are rude in Barcelona, but I certainly receive that look once in a while. I know absolutely no French so the extent of my communication was "Bonjour... do you speak English?" I didn't encounter anyone who didn't speak English or seemed annoyed that I couldn't speak French with them. It was a nice surprise as I was prepared for a bit of the stereotypical snotty French attitude. Paris was a bit of a comedy for us English speakers without any French background who have been living in Spain for a month. I am so used to trying to speak in Spanish to every single person I encounter and I couldn't break the habit in Paris. Entering a shop or ordering a meal usually consisted of some broken Sprench: "Hola... er, Bonjour!... Gracias.. er, merci!.. si, umm i meant wi!... Cafe con leche, ummm I meant cafe au lait!" We got quite a few strange looks and questions like "So are you American or Spanish? Why are you trying to speak in Spanish?"
Our hostel was awesome. It had a
bar, restaurant, club, and sauna and it was literally on the banks of the Seine River. It was part of a British hostel chain around Europe and everyone working there spoke English with a lovely British accent. We arrived late at night and were checking in at the same time as a rugby team of 30 Scottish guys all wearing kilts. I slept in a room with three of my roommates at six random people. They beds were actually better than my bed in my apartment, which isn't hard to beat, and they had a curtain to draw back for some privacy.
We did quite a few things on the trip for free. We went to the Louvre on Friday night, when its free for everyone under 26. The museum at night was beautiful, and the glass pyramids outside were all lit up. I hardly know how to describe the Louvre - every single piece of art was incredible, but unfortunately after 3 hours of looking its hard to absorb any more. I did see the Mona Lisa - wasn't too impressed compared to the rest of the art, but I also wasn't expecting to be so that was
All the girls.
fine. On Saturday we went to Versailles and by showing our student visa's in our passport's we got free admission there, too. Versailles must be the most amazing man-made thing I have ever seen or can ever imagine. Every ceiling is covered in murals, gold, mirrors, and chandeliers. The gardens outside were great too, but I wish I could have seen them in the summer. I saw Marie Antoinette's bedroom and the tiny door behind her bed that she escaped through when the rioters broke into the palace.
We rode the train back to Paris after Versailles and got off at the Eiffel Tower. It was dusk and the light show began just as we walked under it. I always thought it would be cool to see the Eiffel, but to be honest I didn't expect it to that impressive, I mean it is just a tower... but wow, it really was awesome. We were going to take the elevator halfway up, but we didn't realize it stopped running at night. As we were leaving, four of the gypsies surrounded me and started talking all at once - I'm pretty sure now they were trying to pickpocket me, but
too bad for them - I had my purse across my waist and definitely wasn't giving them a chance.
French cuisine. Yum. French onion soup and crepes galore - it surpassed any expectations I had. I can hardly imagine better food, although Barcelona is a close contender and I'm pretty sure that Rome may come out the winner after this weekend. My roommates and I have been joking that Paris was the warm up round for our stomachs, and Italy will put them to the true test.
The bus back to to Beauvais airport was great because it was still light out and we could see the French countryside. I wanted so bad to get off the bus and wander around the little towns and rolling green hills. I feel like an Alaska girl all kept up in the city. I loved Paris and I love living in Barcelona but it has brought me to realize how much I crave open spaces, mountains, etc. I guess that's what growing up in Homer will do for ya.
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