What an awesome weekend.
Earlier in the week, our British Studies class took a trip to Southwell Workhouse in Nottinghamshire which was about 45 minutes away. We got to see where all the poor went to work and live when they had no other options. The facility was built in the mid-1800s to encourage people to get jobs in the real world. It was definitely an interesting thing to see firsthand.
Our weekend in Paris got an early start by beginning on Wednesday night. Kyle, Alex, Sarah, Clay and I took a cab to St. Pancras, a train station in London. We arrived in the middle of the night and warmed up with some coffee at Costa and checked in for our Eurostar journey. The train ride, which goes under the ocean to France, was about two and a half hours. I can't say it was much different from any other train ride, but I'm glad I can say I've ridden it! We arrived in Paris at about 8 in the morning and were immediately accosted by a "Bosnian" woman, claiming to be poor and begging for money. We saw these women all over the city. We spent the next bit of time trying to figure out where in the world we were supposed to go--and figure it out all in French. This was the first place where language was really a barrier most of the time, but it was a learning experience!
We went to our hostel that was in the heart of the city (not to mention it was by far the nicest hostel we've been to yet), but it was too early to check in so we put our luggage in the luggage room and headed to the Louvre. What a beautiful place! It building itself was gorgeous and of course the pyramid outside is breathtaking. It was very odd to see such a modern piece of art in the middle of the Louvre, but it was neat nonetheless. We bought tickets for 9.50 euros into the museum and began exploring. The Louvre was actually built around a castle completed in 1202 AD whose remains are preserved inside so that was crazy to see. We got to see the famous statue of Athena by an unknown artist and Winged Victory of Samothrace which honors the goddess Nike. I was excited to find an original painting of Edward VII! I was blown away by the intricate decorations of the rooms mingled with all the incredible artwork. And of course, we saw the Mona Lisa. I was not surprised by its size; in fact, I expected it to be even smaller! It was amazing to see something with your own eyes that you've seen a hundred times in books and in class. It's insane how famous that image is.
We continued checking out the Louvre, but were all so tired going on a few hours of sleep or less, we really weren't taking anything in. After seeing all the main pieces, we decided to dip, but not before seeing where the two triangles meet inside the building. If you've seen the da Vinci Code you know that this is very significant! We made it outside and it felt absolutely amazing--the Louvre was actually a heating building so we were all sweating in our layers and coats. So when we walked outside into the Parisian sun and saw the courtyard, it was impossible not to sit down and soak it all in. Here I had my first sighting of the Eiffel Tower in the distance and the arc that lines up with the famous Acr de Triumphe. We took the Underground back to our hostel and crashed for about three hours. I woke up feeling refreshed and ready for the evening!
We attempted to locate tickets for the midnight premiere of Alice in Wonderland, only to discover its release date is much later in France. We continued walking along the river that reflected all the city lights and created a picturesque image. We decided on an Italian restaurant--but the menu was completely in French. Luckily, Kyle, Alex and Sarah all took French in high school so we were able to manage. My pizza was wonderful and everyone ordered several scoops of ice cream and tried each other's--DELICIOUS. My favorites were the mint chocolate chip, the extra chocolaty chocolate, and some kind of cookie dough-ish scoop that was indescribable. We went back to our hostel and enjoyed the night together in addition with our roommate, Yang, who sawed logs all night long.
The next morning we journeyed to our new location, a set of apartments called City Residence about 20 minutes outside the city. This is where I once again proved my talent for being the victim of unlucky events. We were riding along when we realized we were heading in the wrong direction. The train was stopped and Kyle said, "We need to get off here!" The train's buzzer went off, meaning only a few seconds were left until the doors closed. So I took it upon myself to fly off the train with my luggage and wait for everyone else. However, I turned around to find myself facing a set of closing tram doors. Kyle and I locked eyes and a million things ran through my head--Oh no, I'm going to be left in this tram station in France all alone, I don't speak French, I have no idea where we're going, oh no oh no--when Kyle Hulked up and ripped the tram doors open out of sheer adrenaline. I threw my luggage on the train and slid through the doors as the train took off again. Epic.
Once we arrived, we met up with five other friends from school, EHo, Susan, Cassie, Kimber and Andy. We made lunch out of food we brought with us, and headed back into the city. We saw Notre Dame, a Roman cathedral that means "Our Lady" in French. The best part about this stop was Sarah, Clay and I met what I suppose you would call a Bird Man, who provided us with birdseed, and a few seconds later we were covered in pigeons! They were literally all over my arms, hands and even my head. It was such a thrill!
Next up was the Eiffel Tower. It was strange because I didn't find it to be that beautiful of a structure, but its architecture and intricacy made it amazing. The sun was shining on the steel, making for a lot of beautiful photos. We took pictures all around the area with the Tower, and then headed to see the Arc de Triomphe, which honors those who fought for France during the Napoleonic Wars. It was a very bold sight. Ironically enough, we ran into our friends Chelsea and Jeremy who came in from Amsterdam that evening. They stayed with us at the apartment too. What are the odds we would see them in Paris?!
We made it back to our apartments and held an ABC Party, which turned out to be quite interesting yet fun. The next morning we got up early in order to have a lovely picnic under the Eiffel Tower. Unfortunately, that picnic turned into sitting on a bench with a shaking sandwich in my hands because it was so cold. But no worries. We went up in the Tower next, which was my favorite part of the trip! We climbed up allllllll the stairs and I definitely felt it the next day. We walked to the first and second levels, and then took the lift to the very tip top. It was an incredible view of the city, which is so huge! The buildings seem to go on for miles and miles and miles. On one side of the Tower the wind was absolutely brutal, but we discovered the other side was wind-free and quite comfortable. We spent a good amount of time just looking out in amazement.
Once we got out of the tower we spent literally over an hour haggling with the thousand men trying to tell Eiffel Tower keychains, mini Eiffel Towers, medium Eiffel Towers, large Eiffel Towers, and extra large Eiffel Towers. Once you act interested, you become surrounded by 10 people all trying to sell you the same thing. It was funny and I got a few things I wanted, but after a while I was so over bargaining. Finally we got back on the underground and saw the famous sight of Moulin Rouge, which stands for the red windmill. It was neat to see! Then we walked up 18,000 (not really but it seemed like it) more stairs to the Sacre Coeur, a Roman cathedral that is located at the highest point of the city. From here we had an amazing view of the sunset over Paris, including the Eiffel Tower in the distance. Inside, nuns were singing in French. We sat down and took in the huge ceilings and amazing architecture which was very peaceful.
We found ourselves on a tight schedule for the evening: we headed back to our apartment to scarf down a few frozen pizzas (that we cooked in the microwave, safe) and change clothes. The train rides to and from the city took quite a while after transferring and sometimes waiting for them to arrive. Dressed to the nines, Sarah, Clay, Susan, Alex, Kyle and I got off the train station at George V, and went to Lido where we saw a cabaret. The costumes were definitely my favorite part! They were so elaborate and intense. My favorite performance was the ice skating--mesmerizing! Our waiter for the evening was very friendly, and it was just a neat experience. Since the trains were no longer running as our show began at 11:30, we were forced to take a taxi back to our apartments. It was an incredibly cold 10 minutes of life in heels, tights and a dress, the wind whipping about. The inside of the cab was such a relief and we made it home safely.
Sunday morning, Kyle, Clay, Alex, Sarah and I headed to our train station where our Eurostar would leave from. Kyle and Alex did some shopping while Sarah, Clay and I enjoyed a spectacular breakfast of ham and cheese omelets and croissants in a French cafe. It was delectable. Our train was to leave at 12:13, so we began checking in at about noon and found ourselves absolutely sprinting to get on our train, but luckily we made it in time. A two hour nap ensued on the way back to St. Pancras, where we transferred to King's Cross and made our journey back to Grantham and called Street Cars, who took us back to the manor for a whole 6 pounds.
All in all, an amazing weekend! J'adore Paris!