I think I say this each time I take a trip, but this was absolutely my best weekend abroad so far.
For starters, there was a first class section on the plane ride to France (!!!!!!) It wasn’t a sketchy airline but a real one! They also gave out free drinks (!!!!!), rather than charging a million dollars for a glass of water. I felt like I was in an alternate universe after all my RyanAir and EasyJet flights full of $10 sodas and absurd acts like the flight attendants selling perfume and other goods to the customers. I still don’t understand that. Has anyone ever got on a flight and thought, “Yeah, I totally need some perfume! Let’s buy it on my RyanAir flight!” Regardless, I read my book, took a little nap, drank my free tea and before I knew it, we had landed at Charles De Gaulle airport in PARIS!!!!! I found my way to the exit, bought my train ticket into the city and began the trek! It was about a 40-minute train ride to Cite Université, where I transferred to a tram to go to Porte de Choisy.
Since Kaitlin is staying in a homestay this semester, she is unable to have guests stay with her, so I booked an airbnb to stay in. My host told me that there is a McDonalds right near the tram stop I would get off at. The McDonalds was supposed to have free wifi that I could use to message my host when I got there, so I headed there after I got off the train. Unfortunately, my phone refused to connect to their wifi. I started to panic. What if I could not connect anywhere? How would I contact the host to let me into the apartment? How would I contact Kaitlin?!
Good thing my phone with the international sim card that I was too cheap to add any money to was sitting in my room in Copenhagen!!!!!
I took some deep breaths and tried to come up with a new plan. Maybe I could find the apartment on my own! I had the address saved in the notes on my phone, so I decided to give it a go (very optimistic on my part). I walked out of McDonalds and approached an unintimidating-looking French girl. I showed her my phone screen and asked if she knew where that address was. She, in broken English, said she didn’t but she’d look it up for me. She plugged it into Google maps and showed me the way! I thanked her profusely and was on my way. I was relieved that she had been so helpful but still not completely at ease. It was dark, I had seen some guy punch another guy near the McDonalds, I had no cell service whatsoever and my train showed up an hour later than I thought it would. I eventually found the building and went inside the lobby. “Now what?” I wondered.
There was a security desk, so I took another deep breath to avoid crying (stressful situations sometimes make me cry) and walked over to it. I asked the guys if they had wifi and they said no, though they asked if I needed to use a phone. I nodded and showed them the number for my airbnb host. One of the men dialed the number and talked to the guy on the phone. “He will be here in five minutes,” the man said. I thanked him profusely and breathed a sigh of relief.
I waited for a little bit and then a man walked in and said, “Winnie?” I was so excited to see him! “Yes!! That’s me!” I followed him to the building next-door, finally able to breathe normally. He showed me to his apartment, introduced me to his wife, Desy, who was the kindest person I have ever met and showed me my room. I dropped my stuff in there, breathed another sigh of relief and asked for the wifi password so I could contact Kaitlin and tell her I was alive and starving.
“What? We don’t have wifi. It said that on the website.”
Panic surged through me. I know that it shouldn’t matter if I have wifi or not. I knew I would be fine without it, but I just wanted to be able to contact Kaitz and tell her where I was. I struggled to compose myself. I hated that the “no wifi” was the final straw, but I couldn’t hold it together anymore and started to cry. Of course, Desy happened to walk by right as this happened. “What’s wrong?” she asked in her endearing French accent. “Why are you crying?” she asked. I tried to explain to her, in between apologies, that I was just overwhelmed and had no way to contact my friend. She gave me a hug and told me it would be all right and let me use her phone to Facebook message Kaitlin! I was so grateful. Then she made me a cup of coffee and told me again that it would be ok. Thankfully, Kaitlin responded right away, and we decided to meet ten minutes later at the Porte d’Ivry metro stop. They told me how to get there (simply walk out the door and turn right). It would only take me about one minute to get there. Kaitlin’s house was about the same distance to the stop, so that was relieving as well. I thanked them a hundred times, they gave me my keys and I went back out into the night. As I was walking to the stop, I realized I hadn’t eaten since 2:00 p.m., and it was now about 9:30 p.m. I was starving.
I got to the metro stop, took more deep breaths and waited for a minute or so until I saw Kaitlin. She waved at me from across the street, and I ran into her arms. She asked what was wrong, and I told her all about my (looking back now, not bad at all) stressful evening. We hugged again and then got on the metro to go get dinner. She had found a crepe place that served gluten free crepes, so we went there. It was this cute, tiny place full of candles and cool French people.
The crepes were delicious!! We got them with ham, cheese, eggs, asparagus and this creamy sauce. I was in heaven. For dessert we split another with chocolate sauce and mint chip ice cream on top. It was heavenly.
Afterwards, we were both super tired, so we headed home. We planned to meet at 9:00 the next morning to begin our jam-packed day, so bed sounded like the best thing in the world at that moment. When I got back to the apartment, Sam and Desy asked about my dinner and said good night. I showered quickly and hopped into bed.
This was the view from my bedroom window. This picture does not do it justice – you could see the light from the top of the Eiffel Tower and so much more.
I fell asleep instantly, but I was excited when my alarm went off at 8:15 the next morning. I read my book for about 10 minutes, then got ready and stealthily left the apartment without making a sound. We met at the metro station again, and got on the tram to get breakfast. We were going to go to another crepe place, but the one Kaitlin wanted to go to was closed. We went to a little cafe instead and got coffee and eggs and then walked around the area a little bit, through a little farmer’s market.
It was a beautiful sunny day in Paris! Absolutely perfect weather.
After breakfast we headed to the Louvre! I was so excited to relive the Da Vinci Code and see the Mona Lisa. We got back on the metro and when we got off we were already inside the museum.
This was so Da Vinci code for me. I was ecstatic!!!!!!
Next we headed to the Mona Lisa. What was cool about the Louvre was that because I am studying in the European Union, I got in for free (so did Kaitlin, obviously) so we didn’t feel guilty that we didn’t stay that long. The museum itself was beautiful. It used to be a castle that Philip II built and became a museum in 1793. Later, Napoleon took it over and named it the Musée Napoleon. It later became the Louvre again (not sure when) and gained hundreds of thousands of historical pieces of artwork. It is truly beautiful because it used to be a palace, which is cool because usually the artwork in a museum is the cool part and the museum is simply a showcase of this art.
A ceiling in one of the rooms. The ceiling itself is art!!
When we got to the Mona Lisa, it was awesome, but a lot smaller than I had expected it to be. I still felt very Da Vinci Code when I saw it though, so that was obviously very cool. There is a lot of hype surrounding this painting though, I must admit.
Then we went outside to see the pyramids.
Next we headed to the Tuileries Gardens, which are next door to the Louvre. They are huge and sprawling and so, so beautiful. We walked through the gardens to get to the Champs-Elysees, which is a famous shopping street in Paris. We went in a few shops and didn’t get anything (including the Paris Abercrombie and Fitch – I think our 7th grade selves were freaking out on the inside) (Side note: Kaitlin and I met in seventh grade when Abercrombie was all the rage. The first time we met, she was wearing a pink Abercrombie t-shirt that said “seriously?” on it. I will never forget it!) The store was actually beautifully decorated, and there was a ton of cute stuff. We were a little appalled that we liked clothes from Abercrombie but let it go as we didn’t buy anything. Next we went to Ladurée, the famous macaroon shop.
I had been to the one in New York before, but obviously never the Paris one. It was so beautiful inside and the macaroons were delicious. The best flavors are all brown, so they don’t lend themselves to the prettiest pictures. I was not willing to sacrifice my salted caramel, coffee or maple syrup flavors for the sake of a good picture.
Kaitlin prides herself on her ability to create a great 24-hour tour of Paris… and for good reason! We did not stop moving the entire day! After Laduree, we got lunch at a little cafe (omelette for me, croque monsieur for her) and (not free) water. Then, we continued walking down Champs-Elysees, at the end of which is the Arc du Triomphe!
Kaitlin explained to me all the history of the Arc, which I don’t completely remember, but I do know that Napoleon built it after the French Revolution to celebrate France’s victory as well as honor all the fallen soldiers. Underneath the arc, there is the Tomb to the Unknown Soldier, which serves as a monument to all these soldiers who died in battle but whose names were unknown. We climbed to the top (very tiring) and the view was spectacular!
We stayed up at the top for a while, looking out at the city and taking it all in. Paris is truly beautiful! Next, we headed to Notre Dame, which is one of the most well known cathedrals in the world.
One cool thing about it you probably wouldn’t notice is that the towers at the top are just a tiny bit different in size compared to one another. This is because at the time it was being built, people thought that if you made something absolutely exactly perfect, you thought you were better than God. In order to prove that they didn’t think they were better than God, the builders and architects of the church made the towers different sizes!
This area of Paris was my favorite area. To me, it looked the most similar to the area that Ratatouille took place and just had a really happy energy to it. We walked around a little and went into Shakespeare and Company, the oldest English bookstore in Paris. It was really cool on the inside.
We stopped a little cafe nearby to get a glass of wine. Just sitting there, at a cafe in Paris with my best friend, was one of the happiest moments of the trip for me. Throughout the whole weekend, I kept thinking to myself “is this really my life??!?” But at that moment, I was almost in shock. I am so lucky and blessed to have this opportunity. How many people get to say that they got a glass of wine with their best friend in the middle of Paris on a Saturday afternoon? At that moment, I was just overcome with a sense of love and happiness. It was such a wonderful moment. We sat there for a while, people watching and laughing and just having a great time.
Next, we went to see what replaced the Pont des Artes, which was the bridge where people put their Love Locks onto the railing. Earlier this year, it was taken down because it was too heavy. I’m not sure if they took the locks and moved them to a new location, or if what we saw was entirely new locks, but we were able to see the new lock area, the François Mitterand Quay.
Next, we went to find this gluten free bakery I found online, but when we got there it was closed down and moved to a new location. We went to the new location, but they only had one thing left because it was so late in the day. There were chocolate dipped almond cookies, and they did not disappoint! We grabbed those, paid and left, making our way to this fancy shopping area similar to Harrods in London. It was decorated for Christmas and was simply beautiful with all the lights and ornaments and everything! I loved it.
Next we grabbed picnic supplies at a grocery store and headed to the Eiffel Tower for our picnic!!! I had another one of those “is this really my life” moments when we sat down on the lawn in front of the tower and popped open a bottle of champagne.
After our long day, we were exhausted. We headed back to Kaitlin’s so I could see her house and then I went home and passed out. In the morning we met at 9:00 again and headed to a breakfast place that Kaitz had only “heard rumors about.” It was called Breakfast in America, and was an American style brunch place. We were ecstatic!
The food was AMAZING and the water was free!!! We chowed down and then headed back to the Tuileries Gardens to read for a bit. It was another beautiful day. After a little while, we just walked around, saw the Cathedral de Madeleine and walked through this really fancy shopping area. Eventually, it was time for me to head to the airport. We went to get my bag from Kaitlin’s house and after an almost-teary hug I hopped on the metro to make my way back.
Paris was beautiful and amazing and warm. It was everything I ever expected it to be and more. Having an extremely knowledgeable tour guide definitely helped make the experience great, and the fact that she is my best friend was also awesome! I had one of the best weekends of my life, and I am so incredibly grateful for it. While I love Europe and everywhere I have been, I know that it is making me appreciate home so much more. Seeing Kaitlin made me unbelievably happy but also a little homesick just because she is someone from home. Regardless, Paris is wonderful and if you can see it with someone you love, that makes it even better!