Monday, 1 December 2014

Paris, the city of lights and stairs

November 27-30

Elise and I climbed at least 1253 stairs to get to see the sights...I was slightly sore every morning, including Monday morning after all that, but it was definitely, definitely worth it.

Day 1:

This consisted of 8 hours of train travel. The first train was fine up until 15 minutes away from London, when we stopped behind a train with technical problems, and eventually had to go backwards to the closest track change. That took an hour and 20 minutes extra, which barely gave us enough time to go to another station, check in, go through security and border control, and get on the Eurostar train to Paris. Whew!! I did get another stamp in my passport though! We arrived at the hotel (thanks to Elise's dad's free hotel nights) with no more problems. Especially at the big train stations there's a lot of English on the signs, and we just hopped on the metro to get to the hotel.

Day 2:

The first thing we saw was the Eiffel Tower. We did our research and got off at an alternative stop on the metro, rather than just the closest, and I'm so glad we did. The tower is hidden by a building, and all of a sudden, you just see it. 
I think my heart skipped a beat
Breakfast by the tower

We got lucky with weather again, because it ended up being really cloudy on Sunday, which is when we first planned to visit. We waited in the line for the stairs- we were going to take 669 stairs up to the second floor. (It was the cheaper option).

The lines, especially for the elevator, were pretty long even before opening. There was the building that originally blocked the view of the tower. 
Climbing up!

First level
There was a glass floor. Even on the first level it was so high up. My palms are sweating just thinking about it again.

Second level! Yes I am sweating because those stairs are killer.
Elise and I have come to the conclusion that Paris in general has a lot of haze all the time.
View of the top
Plus me

Onto the Luxembourg Gardens, or Jardin du Luxembourg. I'm sure it's even better in the spring and summer with lots of flowers, but we were still impressed by the vastness, and even more, the completely straight rows of trees, which we came to see was the norm in Paris.
Not only are the trees planted straight, but they're cut straight too!!

A couple people were sailing those small boats :)

Medici Fountain, which someone was sketching on the side. I always like to watch people sketch!
Then we took a lunch break at a cafe with a nice English speaking waiter! Afterwards, we went to the Pantheon, which is a monument kind of thing, and where a bunch of famous people are buried. Elise is an Irish citizen, which is in the EU, and there are lots of attractions in Paris that give free admission to EU citizens under 26 sooooo she got in for free and basically she saved tons of money. But I actually have stamps in my passport, and she doesn't because at border control they literally just glance at her passport and let her through.

Anyway, the Pantheon has gorgeous ceiling- it felt like I was constantly looking up during this trip and being in awe. Distinguished citizens are buried here, including Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, and Marie Curie. (Just looked it up, and Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize! This was for her work on radioactivity). Oh and Hugo wrote Les Miserables and Hunchback of Notre Dame.

As we walked toward Notre Dame, we also saw the outside of the Sorbonne! There were security guards outside of the doors, and students were showing IDs to get in, so we figured we couldn't go in, but we admired from the outside.

Notre Dame was, surprisingly, where we saw the most tourists! Here was another place where we were in awe of the ceiling, and especially this absolutely gorgeous stained glass.

Again, all that detail!!

Happy my camera actually got a good picture of it! It's huge!

There was an option to walk up to the top, but we were still tired from this morning's stairs, so we decided to do a little souvenir shopping...whoops.

We went to another small garden, and got some macarons. This shop employee spoke English too, and overall a lot of employees spoke English, which made it a lot easier!

These were seriously the best macarons I've had, by FAR
Every Friday, students get into the Louvre for FREE from 6-9pm. As you can tell, of course we went. (Elise already gets in for free all day everyday with EU...sigh). We had unpurposefully perfect timing again, I haven't changed lighting or anything on these photos!!!

The red electric light is a new installation to the pyramid

There she is! Surprisingly, there wasn't a long wait to the front of the small crowd. And people say they expect it to be bigger, but for me it, it was around the size I expected.

After seeing that, "Winged Victory", "Venus de Milo", a couple other famous pieces, and making fun of the naked sculptures (we can only be mature and cultured for so long apparently) we walked back to the hotel, got dinner, and finally got to rest our feet and sleep!

Day 2: Versailles!

We navigated the metro and trains to get to Versailles, which is 40 minutes away from the center of Paris. It was built by Louis thirteenth through the sixteenth. The appropriate word for Versaille is VAST. I wasn't expecting the palace and gardens to be that big. (Oh and if you go, and you're a study abroad student, BRING YOUR PASSPORT WITH VISA STAMP. You get in for free if you can prove you're studying in the EU for 6 months. I'm pretty sure that is nowhere on the website, but I found that out when I was there, and of course didn't have my passport on me).

There was so much shiny gold everywhere

Their chapel

The Hall of Mirrors

It's crazy they actually lived in this
More gold
The palace from the back

The gardens
 So because it was low season, it was relatively quiet, which was pretty nice and relaxing. I'm sure it gets crazy in the summer! The downside though, was that the fountains were off, the sculptures on the walkways were covered, and there was a lot of construction. But we decided to rent bikes to bike around the Grand Canal and to the other buildings. I really like the peacefulness of it!
Elise lovesss her bikes

Look ma, no hands

 So in addition to the main palace, there's also the Grand Trianon, which is this pink marble building below, which is where the royals would go to escape court life that happened in the palace.
I really liked the pink marble.

Gardens of the Grand Trianon
 And then there was also the Petit Trianon, another house/mansion. AND an English cottage and farm kind of area, that was called Marie-Antoinette's Estate. It was so much!!

They even had cows
Then it was back to Paris, where we ate grec royal at the Christmas market. It was shaved pork in a crunchy bun with French fries on top! It was soooo good, and we split it because it was so big! Then we had to get cotton candy, which is called candy floss in the uk, and barbe a papa in French. I just looked it up, and apparently it mean's father's beard!! We got a large size, and it was as long as our torso.

Then to finish off our last night in Paris, we walked up the Champs Elysees, which was lit up for Christmas, toward the Arc de Triomphe.
Okay it looks dangerous, but we were right next to the middle of the street concrete thing, not actually in the middle of traffic.

Another one of those really detailed ceilings so high up
We got our tickets to walk up (more) stairs to the top, where we were greeted by the lights of Paris!

There are 12 avenues leading to the Arc De Triomphe

Which means traffic is crazy. It's a roundabout, but there's not actual lanes. Lots of honking
Day 4: Still have half a day!

We had this day planned out really nicely: Musee d' Orsay, Pont Alexandre III, and Sacred Heart (Sacre Coeur), but it got a little back tracked with storing our luggage...

First we went to Musee d' Orsay, which has a lot more modern paintings than Louvre. (It's the #1 attraction in Paris on tripadvisor, fyi). It's also housed in an old train station- I loved the building. We also weren't allowed to take pictures of the art this time, so I have a lot of the building.

It had a lot of Impresionist works, which Elise and I both liked. There was Van Gogh and lots of Monet. I really liked Monet's works. I was also really happy to see Degas' ballerinas; the paintings and the sculptures were both there!

I got a print of Danseuses bleues.
I also dropped 10 euros after I bought this from the gift shop...oh well. I was more careful after that for sure.

Then we walked to the Pont Alexandre III, which is a bridge! More gold, but it was very pretty!

Then, as planned, we took the metro to Gard du Nord, the train station we were going to leave our luggage in the lockers at, so we could then walk to Sacred Heart. Turns out the luggage lockers were full, and they weren't sure if the ones at the next station were full or not. We decided to just take our luggage (small rolling suitcases) to Sacred Heart, even up the stairs. So we lugged them behind us, up all those stairs. My shoulders were sore from that today.

All those stairs, but also that green grass!
View from the top, it was still quite hazy

How we felt about carrying our suitcases up the stairs
I did appreciate the outside and the architecture, although the street vendors were distracting. There's no photos inside, but it was, again, really pretty. There was gold mosaics on the walls and the ceilings of the domes. You could walk up to the top floor, but we opted out, because it was hazy but mostly because our suitcases... So there were these street vendors that would try to "show you something" by basically putting a friendship bracelet on your arm to try to force you to buy it after. They were very persistent, and would actually grab your arm to try to get you to do it, which was not okay. Not fun.

By this time we were exhausted again, so we stopped for lunch, and made our way to the train station. There were no problems with the trains this time. We had time in London to visit Platform 9 3/4 for cool pictures, and to get 5 pounds back for returning our Oyster card!

Hedwig is in my hood :)

And that was Elise's and my Paris trip! Congrats if you actually made it through this post, even I was tired by the end of writing it. Merci, Paris, for a great time.