Published: July 27th 2012July 24th 2012
Friday morning at the crack of dawn
before the sun was even up, I was hastily beginning to pack my suitcase. I have this problem where I'm not motivated to pack at all until the last second, and then I have to quickly throw everything into a bag and usually end up forgetting something--this time it was my PJs since that was what I was wearing when I was packing my suitcase. The group of Babson students met in the lobby at 5:45 AM to walk to the Underground station where we were all picked up via bus, and on our way off to Paris!
There are many ways you can get to Paris. You can fly, you can take the EuroStar, etc. You can usually get to Paris under two and a half hours, tops. Not wanting to make it too easy for us to get there, we were taken the slowest way possible (other than swimming across the channel). We took a bus from London to Dover, where we got off the bus to go through customs (I got a nice stamp added to my passport) and then hopped on a ferry. After landing on the other side
of the English channel, we took a 3.5 hour bus ride into Paris. We left London at 6 AM and got to Paris a little after 4 PM. I'm so glad we took the slowest and most expensive route there. Really.
As soon as we stepped off the bus on the Seine River to begin our river cruise, we were greeted by a crowd of gypsies. My mom had mentioned her experience briefly with gypsies but I didn't really understand exactly what she was saying/stopped paying attention halfway through. My only other knowledge of gypsies comes from the Disney movie The Hunchback of Notre Dame
in which Esmeralda is a gypsy. Gypsies are definitely not as friendly as they are portrayed in the Disney movie. They pretend to be deaf and they hold these clipboards in their hands and try to get you to sign a "petition". While you are busy listening to them talk, the others come up behind you and steal all of your money. The bus driver warned us of this on our way into Paris, but I thought it was just something that happens occasionally. People talk about pickpockets all the time, but I've never
The French don't do french fries all that well
seen one, so I assumed gypsies were the same. FALSE. Gypsies are everywhere. You can't go more than two blocks without seeing them. I can't even begin to describe how shocked I was at the number of gypies, and even more surprised at how many tourists fell into their trap. The best part is after they've stolen your money, they all get together and start talking and laughing, which is weird coming from people who are supposedly deaf.
Another one we were told to watch out for are "ring goblins". They drop a gold ring right in front of you as you walk by. They pretend to find it and put on a huge show of trying to put it on their fingers. When it doesn't fit them, they offer it to you for a mere 10 euros. 10 euros for a gold ring? Pretty sweet. Until the next day when it turns your finger green because of the material it is made from. Luckily none of us fell for that one.
We were also warned about "string goblins". These people try and tie a string on you, and then demand 20 euros for a piece of string.
The bus driver told us to ignore them, not even to engage because if you lose your attention for just three seconds, you've been pickpocketed. Will had a string golbin group try and do that to him, and he walked on, trying to ignore them. Their ring leader actually grabbed him by the arms and shook him! I was so shocked by how aggressive all of these theifs were!
Most of Friday was wasted on travel, so Saturday morning we again woke up at the crack of dawn to begin the day. We went to Sacred Heart Cathedral, Notre Dame, and Moulin Rouge, all before lunch time. Sacred Heart had the best view of all of Paris. It was 300 "marches" (aka stairs) to the top, plus it was on a hill. We were able to see the Eiffel Tower amongst many other landmarks. Afterwards, we went to see the Moulin Rouge. The only reason I knew about it was because Obi Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) stars in the movie. Still pretty cool though. Next, we went to Notre Dame. I really wanted to go to the top and see the bell towers because I only vaguely remember the
movie, but it was 9 euro and a two hour wait, so Will and I settled for just going through the free part of the cathedral. Starting to get hungry after walking around all morning, we stopped just long enough to pick up a couple of baguettes before we continued walking towards the Eiffel Tower. I have no idea what was in my sandwich because everything was in French, but whatever I ate tasted great.
When we finally arrived at the Eiffel Tower, I was exhausted. However, since the motto of the trip has been "YOLO" we decided to take the stairs to the top rather than the elevator
lift. 700 stairs later, we got to the second floor of the tower, and from there you can only take the lift up. The view from the top of the tower was breathtaking. You can see all of the main city of Paris from the top. I felt like I was in an airplane, as the view from the top of the tower is pretty much the same view you get when you are getting ready to land on a plane.
After hiking back down, we decided to keep
Fun fact: Obi Wan Kenobi is in this movie
going throughout the city. We accidentally met up with a couple of other Babson kids and we went to a nice restaurant for dinner. I thought London was expensive, but Paris was way worse. Lucky thing I got tap water, becaues those that ordered Coca-Cola were charged 6.20 euro each! Mind you, soda outside of the United States is not bottomless, so they paid the equivalent of $7.50 for a bottle of coke. CRAZY. I knew going into Paris that wine was cheaper than soda, and now I know why--because soda is the price of a cheap bottle of wine, not the other way around.
We watched the sunset behind the Eiffel Tower while eating crepes on the lawn. It felt so good to not be walking for once, and it was so relaxing just watching the Eiffel Tower light up as the sun went down behind it. Every hour, starting at 10 PM (the sky is still light at 10 PM there!) the Eiffel Tower does this extreme light show where the entire tower blinks for five straight minutes. And when I say blink, I mean it will give you a seizure if you are prone to that
kind of stuff. Not wanting to waste our valuable time, Will and I headed over to La Defense after the Eiffel Tower, which is near the more business part of Paris. There was supposed to be a light show, but by the time we got there, I think it was too late. However, we did find people dancing in the middle of the courtyard to some high quality Bruno Mars.
Just five hours after I had shut my eyes, my alarm went off. A five minute battle took place where my brain tried to get my legs to get out of bed and into the shower but my legs refused to move. Anyways, after breakfast Will and I went our separate ways--he went to the Lourve and I went to the Opera house.
I guess I need to pause for a second and talk about how in France, they speak French. A novel idea, I know, but I guess I didn't really understand how French France was. Whereas London's main tourists are Americans and other foreigners, Paris's main tourists are French citizens that live outside of Paris. Thus, a lot of times there are no English signs or
anyone near you that speaks English. Will took 6 years of French, and up until this point I had been with him so he was able to get us by. However, we split up and I was alone in a country where I didn't speak the language and had no idea where I was going. It was actually kind of fun until I got stuck in the metro.
If you read my other blogs, you'll know that I have already gotten myself stuck in the tube doors when they unexpectedly closed on me. Turns out I am actually pretty good at getting stuck in public transportation. This time, I was able to get out of the mtro itself, but when I was trying to exit the metro station to get out onto the street, I found thse really tall doors. There were pictures and directions in French, but I couldn't figure out the diagrams and these French words were too different from English to decifer. As it was only 8 AM on a Sunday, and the French are somewhat slow moving in the morning, there was no one around. I tried pushing, pulling, and a combination of the two,
but I could not figure it out. I had to wait about five minutes for the next metro, in which I ran downstairs and stalked a random French man back up the escalator and watched as he easily just swung the door open. At least he held it open for me so I could get out.
After finally escaping the metro, I was at the Opera house. This was by far my favorite part of my entire Paris trip (Will thinks I'm crazy because we did a lot of other really cool things in Paris like the Eiffel Tower). The Opera house is beautiful, but more importantly it is the Opera house in which the Phantom of the Opera
takes place. Years ago, the chandelier really did fall during a performance, injurying 14 people and killing one, which inspired the novel The Phantom of the Opera
, which was eventually crafted into my favorite musical. Because I am an ignorant American who does not know all that much about Paris, it was a nice change to be in front of something that I did know a lot about (I read the novel and have two copies of the movie and
Sign in the Eiffel Tower
Let's just talk about this picture.
obviously watched all of the special features/the making of the movie). I made it even more obvious that I was a tourist by pulling out my iPhone and blasting music from the musical in front of the opera house because I couldn't find my headphones. People looked at me kind of funny, but it was really cool to picture the musical while standing in front of this brilliant opera house.
While getting to the Opera house was challenging, getting someone to take a picture of me was even worse. There were a lot of tourists around the opera house, but they were all speaking French. I mean all of them. Like zero English. I was just about to give up hope when I heard someone counting to three in Mandarin. Deciding that I probably had a better shot with my useless high school Chinese than my French that comes from one of the Disney Little Mermaid
songs where the chef chases Sebastian around the kitchen, I went up to the woman and asked her to take a picture of me in Mandarin. At this point, I would like to point out that it's been 3 solid years of me
not speaking Chinese, so I could only remember how to say "picture". When she looked at me funny, I said "ni gei wo zhaopian?" to which she started speaking the fastest Mandarin I have ever heard in my life. I then had to yell "wo bu shuo zhongwen! wo shuo yingwen! yingwen!" At least I ended up getting the picture in the end.
Over the 48 hours that I was in Paris, I learned two very important things about myself. Number 1, I am so excited to go to China and be immersed in the culture and most importantly a foreign language. I got a small taste of what it will be like, not being able to read street signs or ask for directions, in Paris whic really excited me. Number 2, I learned how much I love London and am going to be incredibly sad when I have to leave in just two and a half weeks.
We spent the rest of our short time in Paris visiting two other museums. Let me just tell you, if I never have to go back into a museum for the rest of my life, I can't say that I'd
be too sad. I am the most uncultured of the Babson kids here. Before this trip, I was the only one in the group who had never been off of the North American continent. I'm also pretty sure that every single person had already been to Europe. When people find out I haven't really done too much international travel, they always say "oh I'm so sorry, that really blows". But actually, I don't think it does. In addition to the fact that I would not have appreciated any of the famous historical artifacts all around Europe before about age 18, I've had the opportunity to go on a lot of cool adventures in my first 20 years of life. I've been to over half of the states. I've gone surfing in Florida, Mexico, and Hawaii, went parasailing in the Caribbeans, I've seen the Grand Canyon, I've done a helicopter ride over Hawaii's volcanos, and my favorite--caught a five foot mahi mahi. I wasn't raised to have a vast knowledge of art and European history, but to enjoy being in the outdoors--especially wakeboarding. Being artistically challenged, art (both creating and studying it) really stresses me out. I couldn't tell you the
The Phantom of the Opera is there, inside your mind!
difference between a Van Gogh and Monet, besides the fact that I think one of the artists is missing an ear. I also couldn't tell you the difference between any of the thousands of sculptures in all of the museums (although I can tell you that most of them are missing limbs). Maybe one day I will develop a taste for that kind of culture and I'll come back to France to see Versailles, the top of the Notre Dame bell tower, and actually go inside the Lourve. But for now I'm perfectly content being back in London, always looking out for the next adventure.