Paris! The land of romance, croissants, and wine. I succeeded in experiencing two and a half of the quintessential French traditions. On my flight from Amman to Paris, I managed to sleep for several hours which is surprising as I am usually picky about my sleeping conditions. However, for breakfast, AirFrance gave us croissants and fruit. Perhaps this doesn’t entirely count since I didn’t eat it in France, but I did have other French food!
My flight was interesting. I booked my flight and chose my seat in October, far before I knew any of my fellow students, but somehow, I was in the same row as two of them! CIEE always manages to stick together. Also, when I was boarding the flight, the gate agent said “Hmm, Collins… is that like in Twilight?!” I guess he got confused with Cullen.
My adventure started when I was forced to figure out the metro system. My flight landed around 5:30am, so the airport was deserted. There is an RER train that goes from the airport into downtown Paris. I checked two of my bags (they were supposed to cost $75 but the Arabs always try to woo me by giving me free things… something I will definitely miss) and planned to store my large carry on tote bag with my laptop in a locker in the train station. I had looked online and someone had written a blog post about taking the RER and said there were lockers available. However, there were not. I was forced to carry around my extremely heavy bag all day.
I caught the train into Paris for 9.5 Euros and arrived in 40 minutes. Even Paris was empty at 6:15am! I saw the Notre Dame and Bastille almost in solitude! I got quite lost walking from the Bastille to the Louvre, so by the time I arrived at the familiar glass pyramid, it was 9am and there was a long line to buy tickets. As much as I’d love to see the Mona Lisa, I didn’t feel like waiting in line. I continued on my way to see the famous Avenue des Champs-Elysees, which was slightly disappointing. I expected to see Louis Vuitton and Burberry stores like the famous shopping district in Chicago has, but this street had stores like H&M and Quicksilver. The people watching was fantastic, though! So many men in business suits and women in dresses and heels.
At the end of this street was the Arc de Triumph and it was breathtaking. I didn’t expect it to be so huge! Of course it was surrounded by tourists snapping photos, but I shamelessly joined in. I think this was my favorite sight in all of Paris! You could pay to go up in the very top, but I am frugal and didn’t want to spend my precious Euros on a sight that is more magnificent from the outside.
Next, I went to the Eiffel Tower! I thought it would be visible from anywhere in the city, but you can really only see it when you are within a few blocks of it. Since I was ahead of the schedule I set for myself and didn’t get to go inside the Louvre, I decided to pay to go to the top of the Eiffel. The ticket process was extremely quick and there was hardly a line! The entire queue took about 10 minutes. However, it was waiting for the elevators that took a lifetime! The view was definitely worth it!
A little known fact that I found extremely interesting was that the builder of the Eiffel Tower left room for an apartment for him and his family at the top. Could you imagine having that extraordinary of a view every day?
I had planned to see Napoleon’s Tomb and the Luxemborg Gardens, but I was so tired and my feet were sore, so I decided to grab lunch and then walk back to the Notre Dame to catch the RER. I wandered around until I found a little bakery where I ordered a croque monsieur and a beignet. I’ll admit I didn’t really know what either of these were, but they looked good on display and I’ve heard of each in a French context before. The sandwich was just okay. I’m not a huge fan of cheese and this sandwich was basically a huge slab of it. But the beignet was incredible! The dough was so fluffy and the sugar was the kind that feels cold on your tongue. I opted for the crème filled instead of chocolate or apple, and I’m glad I did. I’ll probably never eat another beignet from this bakery, but the memory of its deliciousness will live on forever!
My walk back to the RER was torturous. I walked along the Seine and, while it was beautiful, I was exhausted. I am still running on 32 hours with only 2 hours of sleep. It culminated when I couldn’t figure out which terminal to enter! I found the RER sign near the Notre Dame, but that entrance required you to have already bought a ticket in order to enter. I had to ask a French lady where I could buy a completely new ticket. Luckily she directed me, along with several other lost tourists, to the nearest ticket booth. The man at the ticket booth told me to go to platform 11, so I did. I arrived just as the doors were closing, so I squeezed in.
After several stops, I realized I was on the B5 train instead of the B3 train. Both follow a similar route, but eventually fork and end up a different locations! I exited at a stop before the fork and thought I was okay, but then I learned that the train I needed bypassed that stop! I ended up having to ride all the way back to the Notre Dame stop in order to switch trains. I didn’t have to pay anything more, but I did lose an entire hour and a half! Why don’t trains stop at every location that is listed on their route?! How am I supposed to know that the B3 train stops at some different but some the same locations as the B5 train when nothing is posted? Luckily I remembered “some” French from my middle school education to read the most basic of signs, but my speaking got me no where.
I ended up arriving at the airport at 3:00 for my 4:00 flight that began boarding at 3:15. Luckily I already had my boarding pass and the security line only took 10 minutes, so I wasn’t late. I still had time to buy French wine (since my first flight didn’t serve any!!!!) and macaroons for my mom.
I will be arriving in Atlanta around 9pm tonight and then in Cincinnati around midnight. I’m not necessarily excited to go home, but I am looking forward to finally relaxing from the past two weeks of constant travel!
Of course this blog post didn’t encompass my entire adventure around Paris, so to see more pictures, click here!