Tuesday, April 1, 2014


Ah, Paris. The city of fine art, fondue, and yes, love. What better place to go for a quick girl’s weekend?  That’s just what Jackie, Roshni, and I thought we should do for our last trip together before Roshni (and the rest of our American study abroad pals) headed back to the states at the end of term for Christmas (yes, that’s how behind I am on updating the blog, oops!). Roshni, Kunal, and Anthony: we miss you!

One amazing thing about being in London is the ease with which you can just pop over to another country in less time it would take me to drive from Minnesota to Wisconsin. Using the Eurostar, we were able to get from London to Paris in just two hours, even going under the English Channel. 

For this trip, rather than staying in a crowded Parisian hostel, we decided to try out airbnb: a website where people put up listings for travelers to stay in part or all of their home. It’s a great alternative to hotels and hostels as it can end up being cheaper, and you also get the added bonus of being able to ask your host about the local area. We stayed with a nice French couple in the 12th arrondissement in their one bedroom apartment with a living room turned into a guest room.

First stop for any trip to Paris: Le Tour Eiffel! After getting a few snaps of us in front of the Eiffel Tower we wandered around and found a cute little array of Christmas Markets to check out. Even better, at the end of all the market stalls there was an ice rink! Jackie and I strapped on some skates and glided around the ice for a while. Of course, I’m not the most graceful person on solid ground, so on ice I had my fair share of tumbles. At the edge of the rink was a man with a professional camera filming some stock footage of people ice skating. After my first fall he made sure that his camera was fixed on me at all times! While I did fall a few more times, he didn’t manage to catch any on camera, although many other onlookers did. One French woman shouted ‘supérwoman!! supérwoman!!!’ as I managed to make one of my falls look like a cool, planned body slide on the ice. Finally a little too cold and bruised, Jackie and I decided it was time to enjoy the rest of Paris, off ice. We were stopped for a few minutes though, as the French cameraman wanted to interview us sitting on a fake ski lift about the ice rink to add to his other footage for the French National Institute of Audiovisuals. I’ve never been able to find the footage since, but maybe it’s better that way…
After the Eiffel Tower we took a trip on the metro (which really makes you appreciate the tube in London) to Les Champs-Élysée. We wandered up and down this famous street, stopping in stores to check out the goods, including the largest Sephora I have ever seen, as well as two McDonalds within 100 yards of each other (and people say there’s lots of McDonald’s in the states!). One of the best stops along the road was Ladurée, the famous macaron bakery. It was beautifully decorated inside, but our eyes were glued to the delicious sweets in front of us. Macarons in hand, we headed off towards L’arc de Triomphe through an underground tunnel that kept us from having to risk our lives running across the huge round about that circles it. At the end of Les Champs-Élysées we found yet another Christmas market, but this one was huge, and we only just scratched the surface of it. Jackie and Roshni enjoyed the mulled wine there while I had the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had: literally just a big spoonful of straight up chocolate in a cup with some hot milk. Deadly, but delicious.

After sunset, on the top of every hour the Eiffel Tower has lights that make it sparkle, so we rushed on over to catch this sight. My camera conveniently died seconds before the tower sparkled, but it was beautiful. We got there a little early and saw that there was an Egyptian demonstration breaking up, which was of interest to me since my mother’s side of the family is from Egypt. I didn’t get a chance to fully see what their demonstration was for, but it was a nice little scene to catch in an unexpected place.

This was just a week after the passing of Nelson Mandela, and the Eiffel Tower (as well as other places we saw in Paris) had a banner paying respect to him. The week prior, we were all on the bus on our way to Amsterdam when the bus driver got on the speaker and told us that they had just announced Mandela’s death on the radio, filling the bus with gasps and chatter. 

The next day we set out for the Louvre, giving ourselves plenty of time to explore as much as we could. Even so, the Louvre is famous for being huge and we only scratched the surface of what it had to offer.

After the Louvre, we headed over to the nearby ‘Love Lock Bridge’ where thousands of couples have put locks with their names or initials on them onto the sides of the bridge.

We kept the day of art and culture moving forward with Jackie and Roshni heading off to Notre Dame, which I’d already seen on my two previous trips to Paris, while I went to perhaps my favorite museum in the world, Le Centre Pompidou, which has a stunning view of Paris.

We all met up outside the museum a few hours later and headed straight to a French pharmacy to load up on French beauty products. We’re all well on our way to having glowing Parisian skin. 

The only low point of our trip was witnessing a motorcycle crash outside the pharmacy when we left. Some man on a bike lost control and hit a woman and her daughter. No one seemed too seriously injured, although an ambulance was called for the daughter as she had a leg injury. It was definitely a scary moment, but we continued on, determined to enjoy the rest of our last night in Paris, which obviously meant crepes had to be eaten! Right around the corner from our crepe stand there was a piercing studio, and Roshni mentioned to us how she’d always wanted to get her nose pierced. Twenty minutes later, after LOTS of convincing, we were in the basement of a piercing studio waiting for Roshni to get her nose pierced. Big ups to Roshni for getting a piercing in a different country by a guy who spoke little English and had to have me translate the French after-care instructions for her. A very memorable night!

Look at that bling!

The next morning we said goodbye to the little apartment we called home and set off for the train station, but not before dropping by the little local bakery that had fueled us with croissants and pain au chocolate for the past few mornings, and had encouraged me to step up my French game as the baker was very interested in chatting with us. It was really nice to talk to a local and find that my French skills were still quite in tact! 

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