Maddie and I woke up at 5:30am to make sure we got to the St. Pancras International train station by 6:50 for our Eurostar train to Paris. It was snowing in London (which is a rare occurrence even in winter) as we made the walk to the station. There was talk of the weather delaying the train, because some of the trains running before and after had been cancelled or delayed. Luckily, ours had no problem other than driving a little slower than usual. We made it to the station on time and our train took off on time. I don’t completely understand the logistics, but the Eurostar runs directly to Paris, so we traveled under the English Channel, through the French countryside, through the “Chunnel” making it to Paris in just about 3 hours.
After making it to the station, we got to navigate the metro with our tour group. I’ve finally gotten a solid hang on the Tube system in London, but I think there are slight differences in public transportation in every city, so there was still a bit of a learning curve for this. We dropped luggage off at the hotel, which was located about a 10-minute walk from the Bastille. We had to wait a couple hours to check-in, so lunch was free time on our own. Maddie and I both struggle at making decisions when it comes to anything, but after establishing that we were both feeling sandwiches we discovered the Grilled Cheese Factory, where I got a Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese (which was perfect, because I’ve been craving both mac & cheese, and grilled cheese since getting to Europe!), and I had my first major realization that I don’t speak any French. Most folks do speak English, so language isn’t a huge barrier, but I know that I immediately identified as an American tourist when ordering. After that, we made a quick coffee stop at Starbucks (where the menus were also in French and everyone else was ordering in French, so I gave it a go to order my latte with au lait avoine, oat milk). Starbucks always has those memes about misspelled names, but this time Maddie & I were deemed Silvianna & Nadia, our new French alter egos.
After finally checking into the hotel, we began our first day of sightseeing. We started off at the Arc de Triomphe.
Next, we took a leisurely walk down the Champe-Élysées, ending the walk and the night at the Louvre, where students could enter for free after 6:00pm. By this time, Maddie and I were exhausted so we made our way to the Mona Lisa (after getting lost- the Louvre is absolutely enormous) and made our way out. She’s a lot smaller than I expected and we also had to stand a ways back, so my picture isn’t very ~quality~.
Jamie also went to Paris for the weekend, so we made plans to meet up with her and her friend Christina. It was also Maddie’s birthday, so we had to celebrate! It was pouring this night, and Maddie and I did not dress for the weather. We got absolutely drenched and it was about 40 degrees, and in the damp cold, we were freezing and miserable. However, our dinner was worth the misery. We went to this adorable restaurant called BigLove, where I got a pasta dish called Crazy San Marzano, which consisted of tomatoes datterino, sauce de tomates San Marzano, coeur de burrata, & délicieu pesto de basilic.
Saturday began with a walking tour through central Paris – of the Beaubourg area with the Georges Pompidou Centre, to Hotel De Ville, Ile de La cite and Notre Dame. We had the chance to walk through Notre Dame and had some free time around the area. Maddie and I went to Shakespeare & Company, which I regretfully followed the “no pictures please” signs, so I don’t have any pictures to share. However, there were books from the floor to the ceiling in every room and references to different famous writers all around the building. It was stunning. We stopped at the cafe next door for coffee before meeting our guide for a boat tour down the Seine, where I got the tiniest flat white you’ve ever seen for 5 euros lol. Also, I might have accidentally stolen some photos from the boat tour.
After the boat tour, Maddie and I went on the optional tour to Versailles, which was ABSOLUTELY stunning. Versailles was the royal residence of France from 1682 under Louis XIV, until the French Revolution in 1789. Our guide explained to us how before the revolution, the royal and the wealthy flaunted their grandiosity, so the architecture is very elaborate and very gold. We walked through the art exhibits, the royals’ rooms, and the gardens. We left at 3:30 and realized we hadn’t had lunch, so we stopped at a McDonald’s – which like Starbucks was actually surprisingly challenging to navigate ordering in French, who woulda thought?
We met Jamie and Christina for dinner again. Maddie and I met Jamie at her Airbnb, which was located next to the République metro stop, which had been the location of a major yellow vest riot earlier that day, which Maddie and I had been watching coverage of on BBC earlier that morning. There was graffiti all over and broken windows. It was completely calm and cleared out when we walked through, but a little wild to see the aftermath.
We went to Trocadéro for a beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower at night and for dinner at this Italian restaurant called Mokus I’Écureuil, where I got a super yummy pizza. We were exhausted after such a busy day and called it a night right after dinner.
Sunday was our last day in the city of love! We started the morning with a walking tour of Montmartre. Our guide told us how when an urban planner was working on cleaning up Paris, Montmartre was created when a lot of the undesirables were moved out of the inner-city, including artists, sex workers, & the like. We climbed our way up the big hill, but got to see some cool things on the way, including Moulin Rouge, homes of Van Gogh & Picasso, and the Wall of Love. Before making our way up, we ran into another yellow vest protest.
When we got to the top, we found ourselves in a little artists’ square, where painters were doing their thing. We then looped around the corner to see an absolutely stunning view of the Sacré-Couer at the top of the hill, and an absolutely stunning view of the entire city.
Maddie and I met up with some other people in our study abroad program and grabbed lunch with them. We went to this cute cafe right at the bottom of the hill. I got a Croque-Madame, which was incredible, and a café creme. The friends that Maddie and I met had really hyped up the Croque-Madame, so I had to try. It was essentially a ham sandwich with cheese grilled on top, topped with a fried egg. Really good and really filling. We wrapped up Montmartre with a little touristy souvenir shopping.
We ended the day by walking along the Seine (and laughing in the rain – jk we actually finally got some sunshine today!!) and stopped for crepes & drinks. I got a crepe with chocolate sauce & tiramisu gelato.
We took the Eurostar home, back through the French countryside & English Channel, making it back around 10pm! I’m absolutely exhausted moving into this next week, but I’m glad I got to see as much as I did in the city! I had this wild feeling on the Tube ride back, where it felt like coming home! London feels comfortable and familiar. Until next time, Paris! ?
In other news, Regan is coming to visit on WEDNESDAY (06/02) through Monday (11/02) morning! I’m so excited to show my best friend around my new home. And we’ll be taking a weekend trip to Dublin, so stay tuned for another post about our adventures!