Warning: this is a rather long post! My blog is a mixture of writing to my audience as well as for my own sake. That being said, I won’t be offended if you only look at the pictures! However, if you’re going to Paris anytime soon, I’ve tried to include some tips!
The last weekend in February I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Paris with Austin and Katherine (two other amazing Fulbrighters living in Mainz). We were lucky enough to find train tickets for about 50€ (around $65) and this was for both ways. We all felt like we had to take advantage of this amazing deal. We were originally going for my birthday, but because of some other events decided to wait till the end of February. Also, February is the least busy time of year for Paris, so we were excited about that too.
Katherine and I departed earlier than Austin because of a fiasco with buying the discounted tickets. We left Frankfurt around 7pm and arrived in Paris about 11pm. Since it was rather late and i was a bit sick, we just headed to the Peace and Love Hostel, where we stayed for the night. It sounds sketchy but was actually pretty nice for a hostel plus we has a pretty chill roommate. He was just beginning his adventure of back packing around Europe for a couple of months at the mere age of 18. He had been working to pay for it and was excited about the adventures, despite doing it on his own because eating just isn’t as fun by yourself. We told him that we would have dinner with him before he flew back home out of Frankfurt so he wouldn’t have to eat by himself.
The view outside the Peace and Love Hostel in the morning
The real party started when we picked up Austin at the train station and headed to St Michel for the Sandeman’s Free Walking Tour. This was our first experience and was a great way to get familiar with the city. These tours are in several major cities in Europe. I would highly recommend them to anyone traveling on a budget. Our tour guide was great and engaging!!
Right before the tour and the beginning of many selfies throughout the trip!
The New Bridge, also has the original drunken Facebook photos in the form of statues.
The Louvre by day
By far one of my favorite jumping pictures
The Eiffel Tower
After our amazing tour, we headed to the apartment we had rented on AirBNB, which sounds expensive but was actually much cheaper for the three of us. Plus, it was much more relaxed and worry free. We didn’t have to worry about our belongings being stolen. The apartment was nice and in a decent location, probably about a 15 min metro ride to the city.
One of the rooms!
The stairs to our apartment!
Once we were settled in, we headed back into the city for a quick dinner at cute Italian place. After our delicious dinner and wine, we made our way to the Louvre. Since we are technically European Residents and under the age of 26, we were able to get into the Louvre for free (apparently on Friday nights its open later and its free for people under 26)…and this was only the beginning of several museums we were able to visit without paying anything!! The Louvre was overwhelming with the amount of art work that filled its rooms. However, the Mona Lisa wasn’t what it’s all cracked up to be, sorry to disappoint. It’s rather tiny for such a famous painting. The best part…it’s across from this amazing painting that takes up the entire wall, yet I feel like it gets ignored and doesn’t get the attention it deserves. However, I am thankful for the opportunity to have seen all the amazing pieces of art inside the Louvre, even the crazy weird interpretive dance exhibition that was happening while we were there.
The Seine at night
The famous Mona Lisa
The weird interpretive dance exhibition
The Louvre at night
After two hours of gawking at all kinds of art, we made our way to the Eiffel Tower to see the light show at night. Since we arrived a bit early, we decided to indulge in delicious crepes! Despite the unbearable wind, watching the light show with two of my closest friends was an incredible experience. It reminded me that I’m living the dream!
The Eiffel Tower
The cool light show!
We woke up a bit early so we could take full advantage of the day. We headed into the city and decided to get out the Charles de Gaulle metro stop to look for breakfast. Unbeknownst to us, it was the metro stop for the Arc de Triomphe. We found a cafe to grab a croissant and some coffee. Since we were already close and had been planning to see it later in the day, we decided to go ahead and check out the magnificent Arc. Surprise! We were able to go to the top for free!
Arc de Triomphe
The amazing view at the top
I really enjoyed the view, so breathtaking.
After taking lots of pictures on top and around the Arc de Triomphe, we made our way to the Catacombs. Once we got there, we saw the line going down the block and thought it wasn’t worth it to wait in line. In reality, it wasn’t that long of a line and wouldn’t have been too bad to wait in but the cold persuaded us otherwise. First thing Monday, we would try the catacombs again. We walked through the Montparnasse cemetery on our way to find something else to do. In the end, we just walked around trying to find a place to eat lunch.
Once our tummies were full, we continued exploring the magical city. We headed to the Musee d’Orsay to check out the amazing artwork there. What do you know, we were able to get in for free there too! The Musee d’Orsay used to be an old train station that has been converted into a museum filled with amazing pieces of artwork. We all split up because we all had different interests. I enjoyed exploring all the different exhibits on my own. This is a must see museum, especially for people who enjoy art! After we had our fill of art, we made our way to Notre Dame. There were a ton of people, so we looked around for a bit inside, but didn’t go up the towers. It didn’t seem worth it because the weather was horrible.
The clock inside the Musse d’Orsay
Austin trying to plank with Musee d’Orsay sign
Inside Notre Dame
By this point in the day, I was starting to feel pretty horrible due to my cough and what not. However, I pushed through because I didn’t want to be lame. We decided to see if we could see the opera, but it didn’t work out because it was closed. We then found the Galeries Lafayette, which is the high end department store french equivalent of Harrods in London. It was amazing inside, just bustling with shoppers. It has this beautiful ceiling that is a must see. Once we finished adoring the architecture, we decided to find a grocery store, buy some dinner, wine and dessert. On our way home, we stopped at the corner shop to buy a roasted chicken, which was delicious! We stayed home for the evening, which was exactly what I needed, some chill and relax time.
Inside the Galeries La Fayette
The amazing ceiling!
Summary of the day!
How we spent our evening!
We woke up early to start our journey to Versailles, the most famous castle in the world. To no avail, the weather was still cold, snowy and windy. At least the snow made it a little more magical. After an hour-ish train ride, we arrived at magical palace. At first, we were a bit confused because there were no lines and we weren’t sure where to go. Plus, we also didn’t have to pay again! It was such a lovely surprise! One of the greatest things was the audio guides provided. It enhanced the experience so much more because I was able to learn about what I was looking at and learn the background about. We spent about 2-3 hours exploring the different rooms in the palace. We tried to brave the cold weather to explore the gardens, but it was just too miserable. The wind and the snow was just unbearable, plus the gardens didn’t look very alive. Oh well, just another reason to return!
Chateau de Versailles
In front of the gates!
Chateau de Versailles
Jumping across Europe!
My globe-trotting face according to Austin.
We arrived back in Paris around 2pm or so. We decided to check out Sainte-Chapelle, one of the most gorgeous chapels I have ever seen. Something like 75% of the chapel is made of stained glass. I had thought I could maybe light a candle for my Granny there, but it wasn’t possible so we headed back to Notre Dame so I could light a candle in her memory. It was a special moment for me because I wasn’t going to be able to attend her funeral, so this was my way of celebrating her life.
In Loving Memory of Mary Lou Berry
Of course, a trip to Paris isn’t complete without a trip to Montmartre and luckily the weather started to improve a little bit, as in it wasn’t snowing anymore. We climbed our way to the top of the stairs to enjoy the view and the Basilica of the Sacre Coeur. We had to watch out because there were tons of pick-pockets in the area. There is usually a group of them. One of them tries to distract you and they all surround you and then one of them grabs your wallet out of your pocket while you’re not paying attention. Be careful and just ignore them and continue walking past them. Despite the annoying pick-pockets, we were able to enjoy the amazing views.
Montmartre and the Basilica Sacre Coeur
For dinner, we decided to head to the Jewish quarter and have some delicious falafel. We ate at this delicious place called, L’AS du Fallafel and it was amazing! I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a delicious falafel. With satisfied tummies, we decided to do a bit of exploring in the Jewish quarter, plus we were also in search of grocery store for some dessert and wine for the evening. However, it was unsuccessful and just headed home. Luckily, there was a small shop that was open next to our place and were able to get some goodies for the evening.
Summary of our Sunday
Originally, we had planned to do the catacombs, but like many museums and attractions, its closed on Mondays. So we had to scratch that, but just gives me one more reason to return. We packed up our stuff, took it the luggage lockers at the train station and found a place for breakfast. We had the most enjoyable and affordable breakfast ever. It was 9 Euros and included: baguette, croissant, egg, orange juice and coffee. It doesn’t sound like much, but it was amazing. After enjoying a relaxing breakfast, we headed to the Eiffel Tower to make our way to the top. We walked through the gardens and took some pictures. Of course, the weather was even worse than the day before because it was super cloudy and still snowing. Just our luck, the very top of the Eiffel Tower is closed due to snow and ice, so we weren’t even able to go all the way to the top. It was a sad day, but were able to file for a refund because we had bought tickets online. We were still able to go to the second floor, so at least we had some sort of view. It was just extremely cold and windy up there, which was a theme of our trip.
Our delicious breakfast!
The dreary day
Of course we took jumping pictures!
One of my favorite pictures from the trip!
Galeries La Fayette
The rest of the day was spent walking around and doing a little bit of shopping before we headed back to the train station. We arrived at the train station with plenty of time to collect our luggage and look for our train platform. For some reason in France, they don’t tell you the platform ahead of time. You don’t know it till about 20 mins before departure time, which is a bit frustrating. We looked at the screen for our train, but there wasn’t a platform number and there was a french word in yellow. We thought it looked positive, but decided to check with information just in case something was wrong. Good thing we checked because our train was just cancelled and we had to wait 2 hours for the next train. It was so frustrating because we already had our luggage and the weather was still crappy. We decided our best bet was to find a cafe, grab a coffee or something. We found one not too far from the train station and ordered crepes and hot chocolate. However, it didn’t pass as much time as we had hoped, so we headed back to the train station to wait for the platform to be announced. Finally, the platform was announced and we made our to find seats. Luckily, we found seats with a table for the three of us together which made the ride much more comfortable. The worst part about the whole ordeal was that I was unable to make it all the way home, so I had to spend the night with Austin. However, we arrived in Mainz around 130am and I had to be up early to make it to school on time the next day. It wasn’t the best way to end the trip, but I still had an amazing time.
Passing the time with Crepes!
Angry at Deutsch Bahn for canceling our train!
Summary of our last day!
Overall, the trip to Paris was amazing and I can’t wait to return someday soon! I fell in love with the amazing city!! Katherine and Austin were wonderful traveling companions! I’m glad I was able to experience it with them!