Once I finished with classes on Thursday afternoon, I rushed home to finish my packing and made my way over to the airport, where I met up with Alex. While waiting for our flight to leave, we finalized our plans for the weekend and practiced the required French phrases. Soon enough, we made it to Paris and headed over to our hostel, which turned out to be the best hostel experience I've had so far this year. It's owned by a Korean woman and her family helps run it, and they were all incredibly friendly and welcoming. The hostel is the most expensive I've stayed at, at 28 euros a night, but that was about normal for Paris. Plus, they had free breakfast and free dinner for their guests, which definitely helped keep our costs down! After paying, we went to our room, where we met three Canadians, one of whom is originally from Germany and who was excited to hear we were studying in Berlin.
The next morning, we got up bright and early to head out. After having breakfast with most of the others in the hostel and seeing a few learn how to use chopsticks, Alex and I made our way to the city per our plan from the night before. Our first stop was the Musée du Louvre in order to beat the crowds. Once we got past security, we went to pay for our tickets. But since we're both European residents, we got to go in for free! Neither of us are huge art fans, but the Louvre was still rather fantastic. Our first stop was to see the Mona Lisa, which was... to be honest, a little underwhelming. First of all, it was a little smaller than we expected, plus, even though this was the original, anybody who hasn't been living under a rock has seen it before. Also in the Louvre is the giant painting of the Wedding at Cana, the statue of Psyche and Cupid, the Venus de Milo, and so many other famous pieces of art. We didn't see everything, and we didn't spend time analyzing any pieces, and it still took us over four hours to get through the museum. After eating lunch at a cafe inside the building and seeing the inverted pyramid (and the Apple store next to it!), we headed out again.
We walked along the river over to Notre Dame, mostly to say that we've seen it, before turning around and walking the other way toward Les Invalides and Champs Élysées before ending up at the Arch de Triomphe. Outside, there was some memorial service for French veterans, although we didn't stay around too long to find out what it was for. Instead, we decided to go up the tower, rather than go up the Eiffel Tower. There were a few reasons for this decision: it was half the price of going up the Eiffel, there was almost no line to go up, and this way we actually got to see the Eiffel Tower! After taking quite a few pictures above the city of Paris, we headed back to the hostel so we could take advantage of the free Korean dinner waiting for us! We decided to go out drinking with some of the others in the hostel that night, but we never did manage to leave. I think everybody, Alex and myself included, was exhausted from a full day of being tourists. Instead, we just sat in the main room, had some beer, and discussed political differences between Canada and the US.
Saturday, we were up bright and early once again, ready to tackle the city a second time. This time, we took the metro over to Musée d'Orsay, another art museum. Unfortunately, we didn't quite get there early enough, and we had to wait outside for about half an hour in order to get in. But once we did get through, we were able to enjoy the museum, again for free! The Orsay is not nearly as big as the Louvre is, so we didn't need to spend quite so much time inside. There were a lot of paintings from Claude Monet and a few from van Gogh. From there, we took the metro over to the Catacombs and proceeded to wait in line for almost two hours! I was a little nervous when a father with his two kids wound up in line right behind us, but they were incredibly well behaved and entertained themselves and the people around them. Being around all the bones when we got inside was a bit creepy, but eerily awesome at the same time.
Our feet needed a little rest at that point, so we found a small restaurant that actually served escargot! To be honest, of all the things in Paris, that was was I was looking forward to the most, and it didn't disappoint. I made sure Alex tried one, but sadly he wasn't a fan. After our mid-afternoon meal, we went over to take pictures with the Eiffel Tower and at Moulin Rouge, before ending our day climbing up to the top of the Montmartre, the highest natural point in the city, and seeing the Sacré Coeur. On our way back to the hostel, we stopped by a grocery store and picked up sandwiches and a bottle of wine for dinner. We were exhausted from all the walking and standing, and our flight left early the next morning, so we fell asleep quite quickly.
Overall, it was a wonderful trip. I was a little worried about going to Paris without speaking any French, especially from what I've heard from others about the Parisians and their unwillingness to speak English. Those fears were unwarranted, though, for a few reasons. For one, I have actually learned more French in my life than I ever realized, including how much I have picked up just from learning German. Also, maybe it was because we ended up staying around touristy areas when we spoke with people, but everyone we talked to had at least a basic grasp of English and could help us when we needed it. Alex was a great travel partner as well, which made the weekend all the more enjoyable.
Je t'aime, Paris.