THURSDAY, MARCH 11
Molly and I woke up in our shared double bed (Colleen and Tara were upstairs in their own) at this gorgeous hotel, which had just recently become a hostel. So there were fresh towels, a private bathroom and even a balcony. We were in heaven.
We started out our trip to Paris the same way I started my French class trip in high school: by going to Notre Dame. Tara went off to explore a bit while Colleen, Molly and I went up inside the towers. My favorite parts were the famous gargoyles.
We also saw the famous big bell.
As soon as we got back down to the street, it was crepe time. There are stands on almost every block and we found one that made delicious sugar and butter crepes.
We decided to take advantage of the sunny day and walk to the Eiffel Tower. It ended up being a bit farther and far colder than we had anticipated. But we enjoyed walking along the Seine, and we stopped for tea and coffee along the way.
And then, after what seemed like forever, there it was. We waited for a while in line before heading up to see the breathtaking views of the city.
Oh, yeah, did I mention it was ridiculously windy?
We even found a sign that pointed us toward our two homes.
We were starving at this point, so we headed down to get lunch. But certainly not before stopping to pose in front of the Eiffel Tower.
Ok, so back to lunch. When I came to Paris in high school, I had a Croque Monsieur or a Croque Madame for lunch every day and fell in love. A Croque Monsieur is an open faced ham and cheese sandwich, and a Croque Madame is that with an egg on top. While they were skeptical at first, I convinced the girls to order one for lunch. Needless to say, they were not disappointed.
We also ordered a Nutella crepe for dessert, but I couldn't manage to get a picture before it had already been mauled by the pack of hungry tourists.
Everything really came back to me as we were walking around. I remembered how to get to major landmarks from my trip almost four years ago, so I was quite proud of myself. I was able to show my friends around and speak French. I was surprised at how much I actually knew. The past three years at BU have sufficiently knocked my foreign language self-esteem down a peg or two, but I could actually communicate well in Paris. It was quite exciting.
We headed towards the Arc de Triomphe at sunset, which was unfortunately closed for a military service so we could not go to the top.
So we strolled down the Champs Élysées, peeking into windows and popping into designer stores, pretending we could afford €300 scarves. Then we found a shop called Laduée, where Tara knew they had the most delicious macaroons. The decorations and colors look right out of Alice in Wonderland, which of course is my cup of tea. I got chocolate and vanilla and they were SO yummy.
We headed back to our hostel, mistakenly taking the longest possible Metro ride to our hostel. By the time we got back, we all squeezed onto one double bed to read French Vogue and Elle. The constant traveling had finally caught up with us. We were giddy and exhausted. But we didn't want to waste a night, so we walked about 10 minutes down the street to get some crepes (banana and Nutella!) and see the famous Moulin Rouge.
The walk to and from Moulin Rouge was one filled with all sorts of characters lurking in the shadows and on the corners. Fortunately, we weren't exactly their target audience, so they didn't bother us at all. We all got quite a few giggles, though.
FRIDAY, MARCH 12
We woke up, got a fresh baguette and headed to the Louvre, where we got free admission to the museum with the help of our Irish Garda ID cards. Sweet!
What happened next was probably the lowest point of the trip. We got lost, so very very lost. Not only had we not caught up on sleep, but the physical toll of walking nonstop for the past week had surfaced, as our backs and feet and legs ached in pain. And we could not for the life of us find our way out of this museum. It's huge. Elevators may only go between a few floors, stairs end suddenly and closed exhibitions meant that some hallways were inaccessible. Finally, we found our way out with the help of several different guards' directions.
If we were going to make it through the next day and a half in one piece, we would have to slow down and listen to our bodies. And what did they want? Falafel. We found Le Marais, which is a Jewish neighborhood in Paris, and had some delicious lunch. Tara convinced us all to try falafel for the first time and I'm so glad she did.
Then we met up with Marion, who grew up in France and was there visiting family over break. We went to an Adidas, where Molly designed her own shirt and Marion bought some Star Wars kicks.
And we couldn't let Marion leave us without sharing a few crepes and getting lost on the streets of Paris.
In looking for the Metro, we came across a merry-go-round, which Marion said are absolutely everywhere in France. We couldn't resist taking a ride...it had two floors!
We said au revoir to Marion and made our way back to the Arc de Triomphe so that we could climb the 284 steps to the top. It was in high school, and still is, my favorite view of the city. The arch sits at the center of a starburst formation of roads, so no matter what direction you're looking, you can see down a street or two.
We then spent the rest of the evening drinking kir (a lovely mixture of white wine and raspberry liquor) and enjoying each other's company.
Then after another dinner of Croque Madame, and more kir, we headed over to the Eiffel Tower to watch it sparkle, as it does for five minutes every hour after 10 p.m. We missed the first one, so we had an hour to kill and I suggested taking the Seine riverboat cruise that I went on in high school. Talk about memories. I actually sat in the same seat I did four years ago. We were guided along the Seine River as we listened to French music and gazed at the gorgeously romantic architecture. Then, a few minutes after docking at the end of the tour, the tower began to sparkle.
SATURDAY, MARCH 13
Our flight home to Dublin was not until late Saturday night, so we had all day to enjoy Paris for one last time. We started out heading to Montmartre, a quaint area of cafes and shops. We climbed the steps of Sacre Coeur, and Molly even bumped into a few friends.
We stopped for lunch (Croque Madam and Orangina, anyone?) and ate one last delicious French meal.
Followed of course by one last Nutella and banana crepe.
We did some shopping and I picked up a few coasters, posters and salt and pepper shakers for my apartment next year. As we were leaving the area, we started watching a group of guys dancing and entertaining the crowd. They were hilarious.
Then we headed to the Centre Pompidou, the modern art museum in Paris. It's apparent how cool it is before you even walk inside. Yes, those are the stairs on the outside of the building.
The main exhibit was one that showcased female artists and works of art involving women. It was definitely out there. I'm a big fan of contemporary art, but some of it is hard to understand. Molly and Colleen had a case of the giggles for a while since some of the artwork was a bit...unconventional. Don't worry, I only took pictures of the family friendly pieces.
On our way back to the hostel to pick up our things and take the Metro to the bus station, we loaded up on carbs: a baguette, a crepe and a choquette (a little puff pastry of dough and sugar). And that was just for me.
Because the Metro took longer than expected, we were very close to missing our hour long bus ride to the airport, but we just made it. With all the new souvenirs, I didn't even try to make my bag smaller, I just checked it. Then we went through the most lax security checkpoint I've ever seen (no worries about shoes, jackets or liquids) and hopped on a plane back to Dublin.
We felt so relieved to be home. Nine days of traveling through Europe was equally amazing and exhausting. We accomplished so much, not only in terms of our sightseeing, but in that we traveled for over a week and came back with our minds still relatively sane. If someone had told me a year ago that I would be planning a trip around Italy and France for nine days, I wouldn't have believed them. We have all become so travel savvy and independent.
We arrived in Dublin with a sense of accomplishment and heavy eyelids. I still don't feel caught up on sleep. But it was well worth every second of cramming in sight after sight, and of wearing looser fitting clothes for a week or so to detox from the amount of food we ate along the way.
It was an amazing experience with some pretty awesome girls...and probably the best spring break I will ever have. I'm so lucky.