I have so much to write about Paris, I don’t even know where to begin! I’m going to spread it out over a couple of posts, because to cram it all into one would just be too much (for both you and me).
I left for Paris last Tuesday afternoon. I flew down on Ryanair, the same company I flew with to London. Things went a little smoother this time, since I knew which train station to go to to catch the train to the airport. The flight landed at an airport about an hour outside of central Paris, so I caught a bus into the city. Since it was dark as the bus was driving into the city, there wasn’t much to see, so I closed my eyes. Something woke me up and I caught my first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower all lit up. It quickly disappeared from view, though. Can’t believe I almost missed it! After I got off the bus, I took the Metro to the hostel. That was a bit of an adventure. I went the wrong way for one stop, but I managed to figure it out and made it to the hostel without any big problems. Flying alone to Paris was a little scary but exciting too. I felt very accomplished/confident when I finally made it to the hostel.
At the hostel, I checked in and met up with my second cousin Lily. Even though we are about the same age, we had never met before. At Grandma Katie’s 90th Birthday Party/Amberg Family Reunion this summer, her dad Jay told me that she would be teaching in Strasbourg, France and suggested that we meet up. It just so happened that our breaks coincided, so we decided to meet up in Paris. Anyway, it was pretty late by the time I checked in, so Lily and I just went out for a quick drink and then headed to bed.
The next day, Wednesday, was my 22nd birthday! We started off the day with a visit to the Opera House. We didn’t go in or anything, just walked around the outside, but it was still pretty neat. Next, we walked past the Louvre, through the Tuileries, down the Champs-Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe. That was pretty surreal, since I had heard so much about all of those things in my French classes. The Champs-Elysees was much more commercial than I’d pictured it. It was lined with big brand name stores and packed with tourists. On the Arc de Triomphe, Lily showed me the Amberg family name inscribed about halfway up one of the ‘legs’ of the Arc. That was pretty neat. I have no idea if I am actually related to those Ambergs, but I can pretend right?
After the Arc, we made our way over to the Eiffel Tower. It was much bigger than I expected. I mean, obviously I knew it was big, but I guess it’s just one of those things that you have to see in person. There were lots of tourists there, which made me glad I came in October and not the middle of July. I can’t even imagine how crazy that place must get in the summer. We got some sandwiches du jambon (baguettes with ham and butter) and sat on the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower to eat our lunch. It was a perfect fall day, the sun was shining and it was just the right temperature for wandering around outside.
After the Eiffel Tower we hopped on the Metro back past the Tuileries to a cafe called Angelina. Lily said her grandfather claimed this cafe had the best chocolat chaud (hot chocolate). I was a bit skeptical, I mean hot chocolate is hot chocolate right? How great can it be? But of course, any excursion involving chocolate is good in my book, so I was willing to try it. The line at the cafe was a bit long, but it moved quickly. We found a seat and Lily ordered two hot chocolates for us (she was nice enough to do most of the ordering for me, since my French is pretty terrible).
The hot chocolate arrived in a little pitcher with two teacups, two glasses of water, and a container of fresh whipped cream. I was a little confused about the water at first, but after seeing how thick the hot chocolate was, it made sense. The Angelina’s hot chocolate was much more like melted chocolate than the thin hot chocolate I am used to. It was so thick, in fact, that the drip on the lip of the pitcher only made it about two inches down before solidifying. And let me tell you, it was the best hot chocolate I have ever tasted. Really. If you ever get the chance to go to Paris, you must go try the Angelina’s hot chocolate.
We were almost through with our hot chocolate when a waitress came over and asked us to move to another table so that they could seat a larger group. Of course, we didn’t mind moving, but as a thank you they gave us some free macarons. I was sugared-out from the hot chocolate, but who can resist free macarons? I had to try them. I think I managed to eat one and a half (which really isn’t that much since they are small) and they, too, were delicious! I didn’t end up having any cake on my birthday, but the sweets at Angelina’s definitely made up for it. So thanks for suggesting that Lily!
After Angelina’s we went to see Notre Dame on the Ile de Cite, one of the islands in the middle of the Seine (where Paris originated). Tourists swarmed around the outside, taking pictures, watching street performers, and feeding the pigeons. Again, I was surprised by how many people there were. I mean, it was a Wednesday at the end of October! Notre Dame was quite pretty, both on the outside and the inside. It was fun to see the flying buttresses and the gargoyles.
After that we wandered over through the Latin Quarter to the Jardin de Luxembourg and rested a bit, watching the sun go down. Next, on Claire’s recommendation, we decided to take a boat tour. Only we didn’t know exactly where to go, so we stopped at an information kiosk to ask for directions. In response to Lily’s question, the man gave what might be the least helpful advice I have ever heard, “It’s that way, on the river.” Wait a second, you’re telling me that the boat tour is on the river? Wow! Thanks! I never would have thought of that!
Anyway, after wandering around for awhile, we saw a boat pass by on the river that had the name of the place we were supposed to go printed on the side. So we found our way to the dock and managed to catch the boat. The tour was nice. It lasted about an hour and we got to see many famous landmarks and such. It was a bit chilly though, and it started raining about halfway through. So that wasn’t ideal. But all in all, it was a good time.
After that, we found some dinner. I had a croque madame, which was good but still not as good as the one I had at that restaurant John used to work at in St. Louis (I’m forgetting the name now, but it went out of business anyway). After dinner, we headed back to the hostel and went to bed.
And that was just the first day.
I think I will stop there for now. No worries, though, I’ll write more later. I still have four more days to write about. Thanks for reading! Until next time…