Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Paris, France

I've fallen behind on updating my blog. Since I've last posted I've been on two trips (Budapest and Paris), and have been busy in Prague with both school work, midterm, friends visiting, and other fun activities. I keep putting off writing about these trips because I want to remember it perfectly, but I've realized I need to just get some jumbled thoughts on paper the blog and fix it up later. On that note, I'm going to skip over my Budapest trip for now and go straight to Paris.

To put simply, Easter in Paris was one of the best trips of my life. Having Monday off (plus giving myself a Tuesday off as well) made the weekend so much longer and sight seeing much more relaxed. It was so nice to spend 4 nights and 3 full days in a city, and not being stressed about having enough time to see even the most basic monuments. Maybe it was because I was in the city of love with Scott (sorry for the corniness, Mom and Dad!) and I was still spending Easter with someone I loved, but Paris was truly the one place I keep dreaming about. Usually, I'm so excited to come back to Prague after trips, but I could have easily stayed another week or two in Paris.

A quick rundown of my weekend!
My Easter weekend started on Friday, when Scott and I took our 6:45 flight to Paris. I finally managed to stay awake for a full plane ride, but by the time we checked into the apartment we were renting for the next few days it was around 11 at night. We decided to save our exploring for the next few days, and just settled in. The apartment was super cute and in an adorable neighborhood, and was probably one of the best decisions we could have made. Not only was it cheaper than a hostel (or at least priced the same), it had a fully stocked kitchen and came with shampoo and towels. Did I mention it was adorable and cozy?

Saturday, was our big day to head to Versailles. I was really excited to go because it's been on my travel to do list ever since I first heard the infamous "Let them eat cake." Even though Marie Antoinette never actually said this, my interest stayed strong. Versailles was the start to a very "Disneyland" type of trip. I kept telling Scott that Paris was like Disneyland--there were long lines for the main attractions, but you never cared because you were with your friends (boyfriend) and everything was guaranteed to be awesome and fairy tale like. On that note, we had to wait in a very long time to buy our tickets to get into the museum. Since we wanted to get as much in as we could, we bought the full tickets to get into the Versailles museum, the gardens, and Marie Antoinette's chalet. Once we bought the tickets, we waited in another line with hundreds of people. Lucky for us the line was moving fast and we brought packed lunches which we assembled and ate in line.

Once we got behind the gold gates, we went straight to the gardens to avoid more lines. The sheer size of all the gardens and the lake shocked me. We ended up walking around a little before heading towards Marie Antoinette's little getaway. The chalet was very cute and interesting,  but her gardens were definitely the best part. We walked to the Temple of Love before heading to her cottage area. She built herself a little cottage and there were still remains of a small bakery and other shops surrounding the little pond. It was interesting to see someone who is clearly so wealthy pretending to be living the simple life.

We finally headed back to check out Versailles itself--and after a little confusion and realizing we were supposed to go there first--we made it into the palace to look around. It was all beautiful and crowded, but the Hall of Mirrors and the bedroom of Marie Antoinette definitely lived up to my expectations.

After Versailles, we headed to the Eiffel tower. It was kind of surreal seeing it in person, and after taking lots of pictures we went out in search of something to eat. I was starving and ready to eat at any place, but luckily Scott was a little pickier so we settled on a restaurant a few blocks away from the Eiffel tower. I ordered the half breast of duck with honey balsamic sauce and it was the BEST meal I've had in a very long time if not my time in Europe. The sweet wine I ordered on the other hand which was 7 euros was absolutely disgusting and like syrup. Scott and I had to take turns sipping it in order to finish the whole thing (because you might as well when you paid that much). Luckily the beers we ordered immediately after and the amazing meal more than made up for it.

Sunday, was Easter! We had big plans to go to 11:30 mass at the Notre Dame. We took the metro and picked up some croissants on the way over which were of course delicious. The crowd at Notre Dame gave me another Disneyland flashback (so would the Louvre--apparently it was my theme for the weekend), but we managed to push our way into the crowded church. Almost all of the service was in French and it was really crowded so halfway through we pulled to the side to light a candle, and headed out a little early.

We ended up walking a block and finding a great bakery. It had all types of pastries, macaroons, and sandwiches. Scott and I got a sandwich and he got a heart shaped dough pastry and I bought 3 french macaroons. The sandwich was unbelievably good with fresh bread and some mix between chicken and egg salad with lettuce and tomatoes. The sandwiches were huge so we both saved our pastry later for the Louvre. We walked along the river and bought a small lock before stopping at the love lock bridge to leave our mark (whee Paris romance!).

Our next stop was at the Louvre. We waited in two more really long lines to get in, but were excited when we realized we didn't need tickets--the perks of traveling as a student of an EU university. We ended up staying and walking around the Louvre for several hours. We saw all the really famous works, and as expected the Mona Lisa was overrated while the Cupid and Psyche and the Winged Victory were my favorite. I'm always drawn to Greek art and sculpture in museums, so I had a great time exploring all those exhibits. My second favorite was also the wing featuring Napoleon's apartment.  While it didn't compare to Versailles from the day before, it was interesting to look around (plus I saw more crown jewels which always makes me happy).

Our only plan after the Louvre, was to walk to the Arc de Triomphe. We slightly underestimated how far away the two places were, but it was nice to walk around Paris on our way over. We walked through several parks and then along the river. We found a flea market which was really fun to look through. While there were a few things I was interested in, namely a French perfume bottle and a compass, they were both really expensive so I passed. The whole market was very Parisian (none of the vendors could speak english so they would right down or hold up fingers to explain the prices), and I part of me wishes I was able to find something to bring home.

We popped back onto the street to walk along a ritzy street with expensive stores. It was really pretty and nice to see how close we were getting to the Arc de Triomphe. Once we got there, we took some pictures and headed to the metro to get back to the apartment. Part of the reason we rented an apartment through Airbnb was so we could have a kitchen and save some money. We found a grocery store less than a two minutes from our place, and stocked up for Easter dinner and snacks for movie/TV night. It may look fancy in the photos but it was salad with tomatoes and bacon and frozen pizza. Either way it was delicious, relaxing, and the perfect Easter abroad.

Sunday, we started our day with breakfast of eggs and bacon at the apartment. Our plan was to go to Montmartre for the early afternoon, and I was beyond excited since it was 50 degrees out and sunny. That meant no winter coat for me and a sunburn later that day--who am I? We slowly headed up to the Sacre Coeur, glanced inside quickly, and headed back out to the sunshine. We walked around all the artists and painters and explored the area for a little. I picked up my one and only crepe of the weekend as well, and it was shockingly ham and cheese instead of something filled with sugar. I also grabbed the obligatory postcard and a small canvas painting. We walked down the hill in search of a bakery we read about online in the area. On the way, I stopped in a really cool thrift store, but didn't try anything on since I got self conscious about the employees shock that I could only speak english. We stopped by Le Grenier a Pain. I picked up an eclair and was so so happy with it. Utter deliciousness.

France v. LA

Next we took the metro over to the Eiffel tower to climb to the top. After waiting in the ticket line, we bought our ticket to get to the second story by the stairs. It was really cool to be up so high and get the full view of France, especially when we noticed how far we had walked from the Notre Dame to the Arc de Triomphe. I decided that I wanted to go to the very top of of the Effiel tower. There was a 40 minute line, but we eventually got our turn to pack in to the extremely crowded glass elevator. I hadn't really thought to much about the ride up, but once we started going I began to get really freaked out. It was scary seeing how far up we are and being so packed in, and my stomach was in knots until the moment we stepped out of that elevator. I took another picture or two, and then Scott and I practically ran back to the exit. I also made sure not to look out the glass on the way down.

Our last plan for the day was to find a French cafe in the Latin Quarter to eat dinner at. We also had big plans to go to a bar after, but surprisingly a lot of restaurants and shops were closed that Monday because of Easter. Luckily, we found a cute little cafe to eat. We started the meal off with an appetizer escargot to be adventurous (...when in France). They were actually delicious--and drowning in butter, garlic, and pesto--and tasted just like calamari. For dinner, Scott got a hamburger and I got a salad with lots and lots of goat cheese. It was our last time eating out in Paris, and we left feeling very happy.

Tuesday ended our visit, and since we had to start heading to the airport at noon, we made breakfast, picked up, packed, and watched the season premiere of Game of Thrones. I grabbed one last pastry at the airport (I miss French food so much), and I was off to Prague. Paris is the one city I felt I could have spent several more weeks at, and I keep looking though all the pictures I took and get nostalgic. Scott was the perfect travel partner (and navigator/metro expert), and it was a trip I will remember forever. Hopefully, the trips I have coming up will live up to it!

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