I traveled many places while studying abroad, but one that really stuck out was the beautiful city of Paris. In my lit class, we read Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell, so I was really excited to see the comparison between London and Paris. I was there from a Thursday to Sunday, and it was absolutely amazing. This was the first time I went to the continental Europe—when I traveled to Europe after graduating high school I only visited the British Isles. So naturally, I was excited to add a stamp to my passport and visit one of the most famous cities in the world.
I went to Paris with three other friends. We had decided to fly: our first big mistake. There is a train that travels from London to Paris, but it was more expensive than flying. We soon realized why that was—flying into Paris was absolutely awful. We had to pay a lot of money for bus tickets to the airport, train tickets from the airport in Paris, and then for a taxi to the hostel. It took a while and was very frustrating, but now we know: if there is a train, take it.
We arrived at our hostel at around 7:30 (19:30) on Thursday. Our hostel was in the northern part of the city, so there wasn’t too much we could do that night. We found a place to eat, where I had an amazing crepe filled with cheese, ham, and potatoes. Another thing about Paris—the food is amazing. It centers on bread and cheese, so how couldn’t it be! We drank some wine, talked for a while, and then headed to bed so we could get up early the next morning to start exploring Paris.
The first thing we did Friday morning (after free breakfast at the hostel which consisted of baguettes and chocolate spread, yum!) was head straight for the Eiffel Tower. Walking up to the Eiffel Tower had to be one of the coolest things I have ever done—seeing in person one of the most famous monuments in the world was incredible. The scary part was when we decided to take the elevator up to the top. Not going to lie, I was a little freaked out when we first started the ascent—same reason I hate going down spiral staircases, I need to see the ground under me—but got over it quickly when I saw the stunning view. Even with all the fog, it was incredible and really the only way to start off a trip to Paris.
This took a decent part of the morning, and by the time we got down, we were absolutely freezing, so decided to run into a café to warm up and eat lunch. I got French Onion soup, which of course was incredible. Bread and cheese, it’s a great way of life. We then headed to the Musée d’Orsay, which has one of the most beautiful art collections I have ever seen, specifically impressionist and post-impressionist paintings. It was incredible to see works of art by artists I have learned about, such as Monet and Van Gogh. The building itself is stunning. My favorite pieces were in the neo-impressionist section.
After walking around for a while, we headed out and on the passerelle de Solférino, a famous bridge linking Musée d’Orsay and the Jardin des Tuileries, which is famous for the hundreds love padlocks attached to it. Couples come from around the world to write their names on the padlock, put it on the bridge, and throw the key into the Seine (the river that runs through Paris). It was amazing to see, and reaffirms that Paris really is the most romantic place in the world.
We crossed the bridge to Jardin des Tuileries, a public garden created in 1564 by Catherine de Medicis. As it is March, the trees were bare and there was no sunlight, yet the garden was still absolutely stunning. We walked around for a while until we came upon a large tent with a ton of clothes. Naturally, we tried to go in, but were immediately turned away: apparently its there for Paris Fashion Week. The glimpse I had inside had thousands of clothes and accessories, it was really cool to see.
On Saturday, we woke up early again and headed to Notre Dame, which is easily the most beautiful building I have ever been in. The outside is full of incredible detail and I wish I could do it justice here—the pictures will have to do. We went inside, which was if possible even more stunning. The stained glass windows were the most incredible I have ever seen. We then walked along the Seine to go to the Louvre. Walking down the river was one of my favorite parts of the trip. It gave me a chance to really appreciate how beautiful Paris is. The Thames in London is a lot wider, and not nearly as beautiful. The Seine works so perfectly with the buildings surrounding it, and I absolutely loved taking it all in.
Eventually, we made it to the Louvre, which I had learned about in European History and was extremely eager to see. The museum is in the Louvre Palace, which is a huge fortress that is, like all other buildings in Paris, absolutely stunning. The entrance is covered by a huge glass pyramid, which combined with the classic architecture around it, is so incredible to look at. We went in, and explored a lot of the rooms. The Louvre itself is amazing, with gorgeous artwork all over the ceilings. The paintings displayed are incredibly stunning, and humbling to see. Some highlights include the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and the Raft of Medusa. Having learned about these paintings and the artists, it was an indescribable feeling to see them in person. This was the point where I felt the most how lucky I am to have this experience.
After the Louvre, we walked down the Champs-Élysées, a street that holds the Place de la Concorde and the Arc de Triomphe. There were tons of amazing shops lining the streets, and even street performers. The Arc de Triomphe was built in celebration of Napoleon’s victories, and was amazing to see—it is huge. To continue my Paris food chronicles, my friend and I split a nutella and banana crepe that was fantastic.
My favorite part of the trip came next. I headed over to the 7th district, a very high-end area, to meet up with my cousins who live in the suburbs of Paris. They took me on a driving night tour of Paris. I thought the Eiffel Tower was stunning in the day, but seeing it lit up at night completely blew me away. Every hour for about 5 minutes, lights flash along it, and I managed to see a couple minutes of it (I was too in awe to remember to take out my camera). We then drove around all of Paris, with my cousin telling me about all the buildings, streets, and monuments around us. It was absolutely incredible, and was amazing because I learned so much more about the places then I would have seeing them alone. My favorite parts were seeing the Louvre (which is completely different at night), the Opera House, and getting to Place des Vosges, the oldest planned square in Paris that is completely symmetrical. On this trip, I didn’t have time to go to Versailles, which is high on my list for places to go while abroad. I’m hoping I will be able to visit at some point in the spring, and see everybody again! (and if you guys are reading this, thank you SO MUCH for the amazing time!)
Eventually, we made it back to London. As much as I loved my time in Paris, I really loved being back in London. It really felt like a home, and I was so excited to get back on the tube and hear English—in Paris, the metro blares noise when the doors open; in London, a polite lady with an accent says “Mind the Gap Please”.
Paris is one of the most stunningly beautiful places I have ever been. The entire city is filled with buildings with incredible architecture, all in similar colors, and all extremely elegant. The detail on the buildings is absolutely amazing, and gardens and statues are all over the city, as they have been as early as the 18th century. Paris, more than any place I have seen, has shown me a place that has been able to withstand the changes of time. London’s history is in it’s streets: you see different buildings from when the Great Fire burned down the city, the changing architecture as political and social times changed, dents and damage from the second world war. London is still beautiful, but not like Paris. Paris centers around its beauty—you can easily picture the area unchanged from centuries before. While London reflects its history and culture, Paris reflects is pride in the arts and romanticism. Everything, from the Seine running through the streets to the amazing art museums to the stunning monuments, seems to speak of romanticism and individuality. The cities are very different, and I know this is a classic, cliché thing to say, but as much as I loved Paris, I really am so happy I chose to study in London. It definitely felt like coming home.
Au revoir, and Cheers!