I spent a few days in Paris & I think it’s fair to say that I saw quiiiite a lot of the city. I went to the Louvre, the Orsay, the Arc de Triomphe, Montmartre, Notre Dame, Sainte-Chapelle, the Latin Quarter, the Jewish Quarter, the Left Bank, Ile du Italie, the Champs-Elysees, Montadero, and of course, The Eiffel Tower.
Here’s what’s awesome about France: Almost everything is free to get into as an EU student. And since I had my student visa… the only thing I paid for was 5 euros to get into Sainte-Chapelle. And if it’s not free just to students… it’s something that is free ALL the time – mostly the cathedrals.
Here’s what’s not awesome about France: Everyone spoke french to me. Yes, I fit in with Europeans fairly well since I don’t dress like a typical American college student (tshirts/hoodies/american logos etc). Unfortunately I only eeever took French 101, and I barely remembered anything. Fortunately, once you are bilingual (or close enough).. figuring out a third language is super easy. So I could read most things in French, but speaking or understanding – next to nothing.
The best example of this was when I wanted to ask one of the people who worked in the hostel if I could leave my bag there the next morning before my flight. I first asked her if she spoke english – no. Spanish? No. Then I said one of the few phrases I learned, “Pardon, je ne parle pas francais.” (Sorry, I don’t speak french) Her reaction? In french: No! You speak wonderful french! I think it was a miracle that I understood that, but I had no idea what to say because guess what… i had already used all the french phrases I knew. So the next minute I stood their awkwardly and finally came up with this, “check out? manana? a la trois? baggage? aqui?” The worst mix of french, english, and spanish ever.
Fortunately, she was the sweetest old lady ever and she figured out what I wanted and told me I was more than welcome to leave my backpack with her.
As for Paris, I had a lot of friends this semester that came back from Ireland and said that while they liked Spain, they loved Ireland. I sort of felt that way about Paris. Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely love, love Spain, and Málaga especially… but I loved Paris. Especially when I went to the top of the Eiffel Tower. The view of the city – it’s gorgeous white, renaissance architecture & wrought iron gates, beautiful cathedrals, and multitudes of green flowering parks… I just love it.
Saturday I did a Rick Steves’ “historical Paris” walking tour, and it’s safe to say that it was my favorite thing. It was a beautiful Spring day, and made waiting in lines and dealing with rude tourists bearable. It included some of the oldest buildings, as well as little interesting snippets of Parisian culture and some of the neighborhoods on the Left Bank of the Seine.
I absolutely loved, loved Notre Dame. At least, I loved the architecture of the building. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the Mallorca Cathedral (my favorite), but it’s easily a close second. The interior wasn’t that great to me. It was very dark, and unfortunately not the most religious place because of the masses of tourists. As I was leaving, a mass was starting and I couldn’t believe how disrespectful people were – talking loudly, taking pictures. I also couldn’t believe that they allowed tourists in the cathedral during mass.
This is Sainte-Chapelle. It was built to house the infamous Crown of Thorns (yes, the relic), and the exterior of the building is ugly and functional. But the interior with floor to ceiling stained glass? Gorgeous! It was unfortunate that someone decided to build a building riiiight up against the left side of the building, so it rarely gets sun shining through it’s glass. (Who authorized that one??!) There was also a lot of restoration going on, so it wasn’t the most enjoyable visit, but I did remember studying it in Civ Arts, so it was awesome to visit.
The Left Bank booksellers have an 8 year waiting list to get one of these green boxes attached to the wall of the Seine. It’s a huuuge part of the culture of Paris, and they are required to have something like 2/3 books and can only have 1/3 other touristy items (although these are the main sellers). It’s a cute little part of history.
There were at least two bridges like this that I saw. Couples buy locks, write their names & the date on them and lock them to the wall of the bridge. It’s a symbol of unbreakable love, although I only saw ones with dates from 2011 and 2012, and I’m faairly certain it’s not a new tradition, so they must have to take them off every few years to make room for new ones. So I’m not sure what that says about their love… In any case, some people got desperate and used bike locks, hair ties, random strings and stuff. I like the lock idea, but the other stuff was just ehhh.
This was part of an outdoor market that I found. It was mainly based on gardens and plants. Parisians rarely have backyards or anything other than a balcony, so potted plants are a really popular hostess gift and a big industry here. But these other things were really cute too. I resisted my inner shopaholic though. RyanAir Baggage Fees were enough to keep me from buying anything and having to pay 60 euros to check it.
My favorite thing about Paris was how old it was – there were soooooooo many roads and sidewalks that were made from stone like this. And there were so many trees and flowers and little gardens in the city. I was really impressed with how much Parisians care about their city & take care of it.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Western PA, and I love my little town & I love Pittsburgh too. But you just can’t find a city like Paris in the US. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to visit.