This past weekend Annika and I visited Paris and, although we have both been to Paris before, we were still just as stunned by everything the city had to offer. We had a long itinerary of things we wanted to accomplish so we booked a very early-morning flight out of Madrid on Friday morning. Unfortunately, we realized after booking the tickets that the train/metro system wouldn’t open early enough for us to make it from Toledo the morning of, so we had to spend the night in the Madrid airport. It was not an ideal situation but an experience nonetheless.
After about 4 hours of on and off sleep on the cold airport floor and a 2-hour plane ride, we landed in Paris around 9am and headed straight to our Airbnb to freshen up. We quickly headed to Notre Dame. The line was pretty long for the tour so we just strolled through the main floor of the church and headed towards the Louvre. We wanted to see the Louvre in the daylight so we could walk through the Tuileries gardens just outside of it but we were going to wait until that evening to go inside. After admiring the sculptures in the garden, we ended up walking the Champs Élysées, a long road of shops and high-end stores that leads directly from the Louvre to the Arc de Triomphe. It was very cold and windy that day so I was not entirely sold on the idea of going to the top but Annika convinced me that it would be worth it and she was right. (Also, because we are technically residents of the European Union, we got to go in for free!) After a very very long spiral staircase, we reached the top and saw the incredible view. It got even more incredible when we walked to the other side and the Eiffel Tower came into view.
After the view from the top of the Arc, we couldn’t help but make our way to the Eiffel Tower next. Unfortunately, they weren’t allowing anyone up to the top of the tower because of the strong winds, which ended up being okay because we were able to make it back to the Louvre with (what we assumed would be) plenty of time to see everything we wanted to.
We made ourselves a list of the top 13 things we wanted to see inside the museum because otherwise we would have probably wasted the entire night in one room admiring and analyzing everything in it. For a couple of art nerds like us, we felt like kids in a candy shop. There’s no way to describe the feeling of being face to face with artwork by the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Paolo Veronese just to name a few. We stayed in the museum until it closed, and we were, quite literally, asked to leave. We checked all but 2 of the things off our list.
We ended night one in Paris with a nice dinner of quiche and of course we had to try escargot. Surprisingly I actually really loved it and would gladly order it again in a heartbeat. After we had finished our food and were just chatting at the table, I noticed a bit of movement on the floor under the empty tables next to us. When I looked over, sure enough, there was a mouse in this restaurant. After just a couple more minutes of keeping an eye out for them, we saw multiple mice dart out into visibility and then quickly back into the shadows of the tables. So basically, we were experiencing a real-life “Ratatouille” moment. I couldn’t help but laugh at the situation.
On Saturday, we had another jam-packed day planned so we got up early to head to Montmartre, an area of Paris known for the street artists who offer (with quite persistence) to sketch you right there in the street. Last time I was in Paris I really regretted not getting a portrait done while I was at Montmartre so I was determined this time around. We strolled past all of the artists to scope out our options and see which ones looked like they would be able to do the most realistic portrait. Naturally, we stopped at a crepe shop to think it all over before committing to an artist. Finally, we saw one who was just finishing up a beautiful portrait of someone else so we watched and waited. Finally, it was my turn and I think the best part about sitting in the model’s seat is watching the faces of everyone else walking by, in awe of the artist’s work. A few even threw me the thumbs up to tell me that he was doing a good job since I was behind the easel and couldn’t see the progress. I will say, however, that I don’t think the finished product looks exactly like me but still a very cool experience either way.
With our new portraits in hand, we made the short trip to the infamous area of Paris that is home to the Moulin Rouge, which is the cabaret that inspired the movie “Moulin Rouge!” I have never seen the movie, nor did I really know what it even was, but I assure you, it was a site to see. The entire walk to the theatre itself was lined with sex shops, gentlemen’s clubs, and lingerie stores.
Next on our list of things to do was to go to Versailles, the palace that was once home to all of the French royalty. Neither of us had visited the palace last time we were in Paris so we were very excited. (And once again, shout out to our Spanish Visas because our EU residency got us in for free!!) The palace itself was incredible and full of original furniture, all adorned in gold. We were both mostly excited to see the gardens, which span for ages and ages, full of sculptures and fountains, and usually lush greenery. Unfortunately, at this time of the year, nothing in Paris is very green or lush so the gardens were slightly disappointing. We agreed it just gives us a reason to come back to Paris again in warmer weather.
Versailles closed at 5:30 and by then our schedule had tightened up a bit because we still wanted to get to the Catacombs. We had to run to avoid waiting another 30 minutes for the next train back into Paris. We barely made it on the train in time (as in, the door literally almost clipped my foot as I got on). We made it to the line at the Catacombs right around 6:30pm which felt like perfect timing because they close at 8:30pm. After an hour in line we were finally right towards the front with about 6-8 people ahead of us. Then, at 7:30, the security announced that the museum was closed and they would not let anyone else inside. This honestly broke my heart because the Catacombs were another site I had not seen last time I was in Paris and have ALWAYS wanted to visit. Once again we had to remind ourselves that it is just another reason to have to come back. Next time, the Catacombs will be my first stop.
After the disappointment of not getting to see the Catacombs, we decided that going back to the Eiffel Tower might cheer us up. The tower also twinkles every hour, on the hour so we had just enough time to get there and see it at 8. We found the perfect spot by the River Seine with a perfect view of the tower and waited for 8 o’clock to roll around. Incredible and breathtaking. That moment, staring at the twinkling Eiffel Tower, was my first really big Wow,-I’m-really-doing-this moment of this semester. I am beyond grateful to have this opportunity to see the world and experience all the crazy, cool, different, beautiful things it has to offer.
And, with that, we headed back to our Airbnb to get some good sleep before our flight back to Spain. Oh, and did I mention that we navigated this entire weekend exclusively by paper maps because neither of our phones worked once we got to France? (Mom, I hope you’re proud) So, anyway, once again here are a bunch of photos for you to enjoy!