These Minnesota college students get an A+ for adventure. Follow along as they explore the world while studying abroad.
After years of French class, a weeklong vegetable fast in preparation for the disgusting amount of baguettes I was planning to eat, and hours spent in the pages of Rick Steves Takes Paris, I was ready.
Everyone dreams of Paris, and it’s one of the only cities I’ve ever visited that could actually live up to the uber-high expectations that the rest of the world had set for me! Our friends joked that throughout the whole visit, the word “fabulous” must have been used at least 70,000 times. While lacking the extraordinary amount of green space found in London or the friendly, welcoming people in Vienna, Paris has a kind of magic to it that’s altogether unique and completely Parisian. Not to mention that if you look at any random person on the street, there is 100% chance that they will be chic, long-legged, well-dressed, and drop dead gorgeous! I’m serious- I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.
With a minimal amount of high-school and college French, we were able to get around pretty easily- Paris is most definitely used to excessive amounts of tourists filling their streets constantly. While this means that the vast majority of people speak English, they are also used to churning people in and out without any particular desire to speak to you or get to know you. We didn’t interact with any ‘mean’ people, but they definitely weren’t quite as friendly as people in Austria or Vienna (especially after hearing our obnoxious American accents). The metro system was also easy to navigate and a two-day metro pass was not nearly as expensive as we were expecting, which was fantastic! For museums, what we did (and what I highly recommend) was purchasing the two-day museum pass, which then lets you in to pretty much any museum you would care to see, including Versailles. And best of all, it was only thirty-five euros! Pretty good, considering that most museum prices were somewhere around thirteen euro. We managed to make it to several of the museums we wanted to see, but due to time constraints we missed out on a few of my must-sees including L’Orangerie and the Rodin Museum.
We stayed in Perfect Hostel, which was probably the best bet for our money at only twenty-six euros a night (HOSTELS IN PARIS ARE EXPENSIVE. I practically choked on my coffee while we were looking at prices, but it turned out just fine!). We were a short metro ride away from most of the major attractions, so early in the morning on day one, we hopped on the metro and began our sightseeing immediately! We popped up at St. Germain and walked along the beautiful Seine until we reached the Musee D’Orsay, our first museum of the trip. What I really loved about the museums in Paris is that the buildings themselves were remarkable, without even considering the world-class art they contained! Musee D’Orsay originated as a train station, with an amazing high ceiling and a layout that was very easy to navigate and wander through. It was even a bit more manageable than the Louvre, since the Louvre is just so massive that it can sometimes be a little overwhelming- aesthetic overload is absolutely a real thing!
After leaving the Orsay, we strolled through the Tuileries and down the Champs-Elysees, which had about a mile of Christmas booths selling meats, cheeses and scarves- and let me tell you, there is NOTHING I like better than a European Christmas market! We metro-ed over to the Grand Opera house, and just sat and people-watched for a while- people-watching is absolutely incredible in Paris. And last but not least: the Eiffel Tower. Just like Big Ben and the Trevi Fountain, it’s just one of those things that can’t be captured accurately on camera. When you’re standing underneath it, it’s a rather surreal experience! We unfortunately didn’t go to the top, as it was twenty euros, but it was a magical thing to see all on its own.
Some of our other favorites were Versailles: hands down one of the coolest, most interesting buildings I’ve ever been to in my life. The grandeur and splendor of every single room was breathtaking and over the top. One of my favorite things to do when I’m in old buildings is to imagine what it would have been like at the peak of it’s existence- thinking about everything the walls of Versailles have seen was fascinating. Also, I would most definitely recommend going to the top of the Arc de Triomphe: even though it’s a climb, the view from the second-highest viewing terrace in Paris was phenomenal. Seeing the Eiffel Tower as part of the skyline and being in the center of that massive roundabout was absolutely gorgeous, and it was free with our museum pass too!
This goes without saying, but the Louvre was incredible. I’m a little sad that we didn’t get to it until the end of our trip, because at that point our feet were ready to fall off our legs and we were just a little weary. And let me tell you, the Louvre is NOT a good place to be weary! I managed to see the Mona Lisa and some other great Renaissance art as well as the Greek and Egyptian art wings, all of which were amazing. I will definitely have to return fresh-faced and ready to spend a day in some comfortable shoes walking through the miles and miles of halls of awesome art.
And last but not least, the Latin Quarter! We visited Notre Dame, which as a Catholic, felt like a little peaceful slice of home in the middle of a crowded and crazy city. We also found some very cool bookshops there, such as the Abbey Bookshop and Shakespeare and Company! The towering stacks of books made for a very magical bookshop experience. After rounding out our Paris experience with a banana and nutella crepe (YUM, that’s all to be said), we hopped on the metro back to Charles de Gaulle for our two-hour flight home to the green grass of Ireland.
As I previously mentioned, there’s so much to do and see and visit and explore in Paris that it’s rather difficult to condense into a 2.5 day trip, much less an easy-to-read blog post! I cannot wait to return to see everything that we didn’t have time for, because I’m sure that we could have easily filled another week, probably even a month! That city is truly full of endless magic and opportunity.
Sorry for being a bit behind on posting, but we just returned from Rome! Stay tuned for posts on the Dingle Peninsula, Rome, Barcelona, Berlin, Amsterdam and more!
P.S. Many of the pictures in this particular post were taken by Bridget McQuillan, a good friend on the trip and a fantastic photographer!
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