Croissants, Crepes, Culture: Week 11

26 Nov

So, I have made it to Week 11. The time is flying and I cannot believe that it is the middle of November already. On the bright side, there is only 5 weeks until Christmas! Time to start making those lists for Santa!

This week was a busy one, with lots of work and preparing for my trip to Paris. Traveling multiple weekends in a row is quite tiring, because of how quick the turnaround is. For instance, last Sunday I was sitting in a bus station thinking that in 4 days, I would be in the same spot on my way to take another trip. It is essentially a cycle of unpacking and repacking, because I spend 3 days traveling and then 4 days in Granada, and then 3 more days traveling. Needless to say, with all of the travel, my room has gotten a bit messy. I am actually looking forward to being in Granada this Sunday to clean my room. How sad is that?

I also did the volunteering in the schools this week. I learned that they play the Jersey Shore in Spain, because when I told the students that I lived near the Jersey Shore, you should have seen the looks on their faces. It was a look of incredulity, as if they couldn’t believe that I lived near that madness. Of course, I had to clarify that while I go to the Jersey Shore, I do not, in any way, participate in the activities that they see on the TV. It sure is nice to know what the whole world thinks of the state of New Jersey.

After my mundane school week, it was off to Paris. Because there were no buses to the airport in the morning, I took a night bus and had to spend the night in the airport. What a terribly uncomfortable adventure. Believe me when I say that lots of strange people congregate in the airport at night. There was a man talking to himself, smoking, and singing an uncomfortable song about girls. Needless to say, we all moved away from him. I then had the distinct pleasure of sleeping while hunched over a table at Starbucks. It was a strange night and I was finally glad when security opened and we were able to move through toward the gates. Luckily, I had plenty of time to sleep on the airplane so I was not in a grumpy mood all day! I had a layover in Madrid and it was strange to think that in 5 weeks I would be sitting in the same airport on my way back to the US. I know I mention time a lot, but it is moments like that when you realize how fast time is flying. It feels like I just left the US and in five weeks I will be back already.

So, I touched down in Paris in cold temperatures and cloudy skies. No surprises there. My initial impression of Paris was one of intimidation. Believe me when I say I quickly learned that my fourth grade French was not going to get me far. Sure, I can count to 10 and say my name, but that was of no use to me when trying to figure out the Metro system. I guess prior to coming to France I thought that most people would know English. Boy, was I wrong. They speak French and I don’t. Houston, we have a problem. Luckily, the lady at the Metro station was very nice and used Google Translate so that we could read in English what she wanted to say in French. With her help we were able to get our Parisian journey started.

So, where was the first place I went in Paris? Of course, the Eiffel Tower. It is an incredibly impressive tower. As for a nerdy tour guide fact: did you know that the Eiffel Tower was originally going to be torn down after the World Fair that it was built for? I thought it was a fun fact, so I figured I would share. To be able to look up and see the Tower towering over you is a feeling like no other. I really enjoyed visiting it and I spent plenty of time making sure I got a good selfie with it.

Selfie with the Eiffel Tower

Selfie with the Eiffel Tower

Then, I went to the top of the Tower. Don’t worry, I didn’t walk because it would have taken far too much effort; the tower is really tall. In fact, it is so tall that my ears were popping on my way up in the elevator. At the top, there were spectacular views. Although I know that my pictures do not do it justice, it was incredible to see Paris from the top as night was falling and the lights were being turned on. Granted, there were gale force winds at the top and I was seriously concerned about falling over the edge. Falling from the Eiffel Tower would seriously be a terrible way to die. Although I could not feel my hands or feet after the experience, it was definitely worth it!

Along the lines of how cold it was, if I look a little tubby in some of these pictures, no it is not from eating too much bread! It was so cold that I was wearing a ton of layers (sweater, cardigan, sweatshirt, scarf, Northface). So please, don’t judge me for looking like a Teletubby!

After the cold Tower adventure, I headed to dinner. I know, you don’t care about every part of my day, but I figured I would express the Frenchness of my dinner. I consumed a very healthy dinner of French Fries and a chocolate crepe. It is good to know that as a 20 year old I am making healthy eating decisions. But, it was totally worth it. Dinner was delicious, although I do not want to know how many calories I consumed that night. The restaurant happened to be in the Moulin Rouge section of Paris. Let’s just say that I have never seen so many sex shops and strip clubs in my life. Not really my style, to say the least!

I also visited the Sacre Coeur (a church). Yes, the cool kids spend Friday nights in Paris at churches. It was very pretty and the Pope visited there in the past year. So in addition to standing in the same spot as Kate Middleton, I have also walked in the same place as the Pope. Talk about being near to someone famous. Outside of the church I got hit on my some French men. Granted, I had no idea what they were saying because I do not speak French, but they wanted to take a picture with me for some reason. So yes, I got hit on, but these guys were pretty creepy. But as my ever-supportive mother pointed out, everyone has to start somewhere!

Saturday was a full day of sight-seeing around the city. After a delicious French breakfast of croissants, I headed out to the Chateau of Versailles. Once again, I nailed public transportation. Give me a map and I can find my way around the city. I wonder which parent I get that from? (Thanks Dad for those good genes)

The Chateau of Versailles is absolutely impressive. It is the most ornate and sprawling building that I have ever seen. One could easily get lost in that place. I could not imagine living there; you could go weeks without seeing your family members! After visiting this palace, I have come to the conclusion that the French royalty had strange traditions. First, every night the King and Queen would eat dinner in front of an audience. Yes, there was an entire room at the palace dedicated to this spectacle, where every night people would come to watch the royalty eat. How embarrassing would it be if you spilled something? Thank goodness I am not royalty. Also, the public used to be able to watch the Queen give birth to the royal babies. Once again, strange. But, I did see the bed where Marie Antoinette had some of her children, and I must admit that it was cool to see. And, in order to be French royalty, you must have a good body image. Because, there were mirrors all over the place. Seriously, so halls (the Hall of Mirrors) and other rooms had mirrors covering the walls. To stare at themselves all day, these royals must have had a lot of self-confidence!

Chateau Versailles

Chateau Versailles

More of the Chateau!

More of the Chateau!

 

So. Many. Mirrors.

So. Many. Mirrors.

After the palace, I visited the Louvre Museum. After all, I could not go to Paris and leave without visiting the Mona Lisa. And, although I am not a huge art fan, this was one of my favorite parts of the trip. The Mona Lisa is small, but it was worth the trip because it is really awesome to see it in person. And, as reluctant as I am to admit it, I was thankful for my AP European History class, because I was able to recognize and appreciate some of the art more. I also set off an alarm in the Louvre. Oops. Apparently there are motion detectors in the walls that go off when someone gets too close to a painting. And, as I was getting my picture taken with a painting, I got too close and set off an alarm. So, some guards had to come over and tell me to “Step away from the painting!” A slightly scary moment, but it makes for a great story!

Just casually chilling with Mona

Just casually chilling with Mona

After the Louvre was a nice night bike tour. Once again, me paying for exercise (who have I become?). Let me tell you, a night bike tour of Paris in November is great, but incredibly cold. At points, I could not feel my fingers or toes. You know it was extremely cold when I refused to have ice cream because of how cold I was. But it was very fun to get to see Paris at night, because I would never walk it by myself (too dangerous). The 9 mile bike ride was definitely worth it to see the City of Lights at night in a safe and healthy manner. Plus, I got to wear a stylish neon yellow reflective vest. Who could ask for more?

The Tower at night

The Tower at night

Try not to be too jealous of my rocking vest...

Try not to be too jealous of my rocking vest…

And Sunday, what an interesting day. First, I started off my morning by getting locked in a bathroom in the hostel. The deadbolt simply would not unlock and there was no one around. I had to yell and pound on the door until some man used a knife to turn the lock. And, to make the situation even better, everyone eating breakfast heard me yelling and knocking. Not an embarrassing experience at all…. And then, I almost had my purse stolen in a Metro station. Some guy decided it would be a good idea to walk the wrong way through the turn-style as I was going through it, and attempt to grab my purse. Little did he know who he was dealing with! I forcefully elbowed and pushed him off of me. as there was no chance I was letting him abscond with essentially everything of value: my IPhone, wallet, passport. But, it was still a nerve-wracking experience.

After my eventful morning, I spent the rest of the day walking the city and visiting sites such as the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, the tunnel where Princess Diana was killed, the memorial site of the guillotine from the French revolution, Christmas markets, and many other historical bridges/buildings. It was a very productive and tiring day! I was glad that I was able to see all of the sites that Paris is known for as well as enjoying the vibe of the city.

A few things I must say about Paris:

-There is a serious pigeon obesity problem in Paris. Never in my life have I seen such fat birds. Somebody needs to put them on a diet.

-Parisians have mastered the art of the blank stare. Everywhere I looked (especially on the Metro) was another Parisian just staring off into the distance as if they have never been so unimpressed in their lives. So, if you ever want to blend in while in Paris, just wear a lot of black, don’t talk, and stare blankly into the great beyond.

-There were no crosswalks to get to the Arc de Triomphe, which is situated on a little island in the middle of a giant traffic circle. So yes, I had to sprint across 4 lanes of fast, unforgiving traffic to get there. Seems a little unsafe to me. Talk about a lawsuit waiting to happen!

Arc de Triomphe!

Arc de Triomphe!

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

The long day was followed by a long journey back to Granada (a train, a bus, a plane, a bus, another bus, and another bus). Lots of traveling! But, the trip was definitely worth it. Although the language barrier was challenging, I enjoyed getting to experience another great European city!

I do have to say, London is still my favorite city. I even managed to find London in Paris! And, I have yet to find anything better than an attractive English man in a uniform. They simply put American men in uniform to shame (sorry, Andrew)!

Need I say more?

Need I say more?

Thanks for making it to the bottom of this post! I know it was a long one! I hope you enjoyed reading about my eventful experiences in Paris.

Until next time, my friends!

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