I struggled a lot this week thinking about what to write. I have a lot of ideas running around in my head, but nothing seemed good enough. I tried writing something about the election after it happened, but I couldn’t properly express my feelings about it (and being abroad gives the whole situation a very weird perspective). So here we are, what shall I write about today?
As you can probably guess from the title, I’m going to write about Paris. I spent most of my reading week in the City of Lights (don’t worry, I got all my work done before I left), falling back in love with it. From London, there are multiple ways to travel to Paris. You can get there via plane, bus, or train. I used the latter. The Eurostar is quick, and efficient. You leave from the center of London (St. Pancras Station) and end up in the center of Paris (Gare du Nord). The ride takes around 2 hours and 15 minutes, and plus, you get to say that you’ve traveled under The Channel!
My time in Paris was the first time I’ve ever traveled alone, and at first, I was very nervous. I forgot how big Paris is, and I now will never complain about London being confusing (Paris makes London look like a walk in the park). However, there is something liberating about wandering around on your own, and even though I’ve been before, I felt like I was seeing Paris through new eyes. I do have to say though, that I wasn’t alone the entire time. I was able to meet up with some friends from Scripps, a friend I hadn’t seen in a couple of years (what a coincidence to both be traveling to the same place, at the same time), as well as make some new acquaintances. Walking along the Seine with my iPod in, I could pretend for a moment that all was right with the world, and sometimes, I think everyone needs just that.
Even though I was there five days, I barely scratched the surface of everything you can do in Paris. Regardless, I’m going to recount some of the highlights of what I did (and maybe, someone can suggest something new for the next time I visit)? My first day, I took the metro up to Notre Dame, and did some exploration of the Latin Quarter. I wandered throughout the day along the Seine, all the way down to the Eiffel Tower. It’s a superb sight in the daylight, but I think it’s best visited at night, when it’s all lit up, and sparking. I arrived into Paris on Wednesday, 9 November (the day after the US election), and seeing the lights of the Eiffel Tower felt symbolically like a little light in the darkness.
I spent my Thursday at Versailles, walking around the gardens, and exploring the massive palace. The sheer size of the place is astonishing, and it’s hard to believe that royalty actually lived there at one point.Side note: if you, as a student, have proof of residence in the EU/UK, such as a visa, you can get in for free! This applies to museums as well, and basically my wallet was massively happy as a result. The gardens were a peaceful escape from the tourist-filled palace, and, like the child that I am, I longed to have someone to play hide-and-seek with me through all the maze-like formations of trees.
Museums. Paris, like London, is filled with an absurd amount of museums for literally everything -there’s even a tour of the Parisian sewers, so trust me when I say everything. Obviously, there’s the Louvre, where the Mona Lisa is housed. It’s important to remember, however, that the Louvre is a massive museum (I got lost, multiple times) and there is SO much more to see. You can definitely spend a full day there. I also visited L’Orangerie (where Monet’s lilies are beautifully housed), and the Musee D’Orsay (which is in an old train station- that within itself is worth the trip). I’m not the biggest museum buff, but when it’s cold outside, it’s always nice to have somewhere to duck into for some warmth and something cool to see.
Since Thanksgiving is an American holiday, Halloween marks the beginning of the Christmas season here. I got to walk through a Christmas market on the Champs Elysees, and eating a sugared waffle while roaming up to the Arc de Triomphe somehow felt right. Everyone seemed to be getting in the Christmas spirit, and while being serenaded by “Santa Baby” in early November would usually drive me up a wall, I found that I didn’t mind because I was in Paris. I’m a hard stickler to the whole “Christmas starts after Thanksgiving concept,” so forgive my Scrooge like tendencies. I would also like to point out that I was wandering around in bright pink rain boots, and I think it’s impossible to be in a down mood when you’re wearing them. Also, that day, my meals had consisted only of Nutella crepes and hot chocolate so basically… my happiness was invincible.
I could write several paragraphs about food in Paris, but we’ve all got places to be, so I’ll just say this much: eat all the crepes. Always buy fresh patisseries, and never skimp on the opportunity to have some Nutella -I’m a massive fan, so if I see it on the menu, chances are, I will be eating it.
Lastly, I figure I should add some useful things I learned while over there, to pass on to any fellow travelers wanting to explore the amazing city that is Paris. I personally think the metro system is more confusing than in London, and the tickets are proper paper tickets. For students though, you can buy a “ticket jeune” from Friday to Sunday, which is an all day pass, at a lower cost. (The tickets are super small, so make sure you put them somewhere you’ll remember)! Thankfully though, Citymapper works in Paris, so you’ll not be too lost, hopefully.
As much as I love London, sometimes it’s nice to get out of the city for a bit. This was my first time leaving the country since arriving here, and a change of pace is sometimes exactly what you need. That being said though, my visit to Paris cemented in my mind how much I love London, and how much I feel like I could make my life here. I told someone staying at my hostel that I was from London (which is, unfortunately, very much not true), and even as I corrected myself, it hadn’t felt odd to call London my home. Either way, I know I’ll be back to Paris at some point before I leave the UK, and I know that I’ll be just as happy returning as I was during reading week. Merci, Paris!