Last weekend I went on the trip of a lifetime to Paris. The tour was through WSA, a company run by Rick Steves’ son Andy and choosing to do that tour was an awesome life choice if I may say so myself. I was able to see a ton of Paris in a short time, and completely enjoy the weekend without any stress of trying to plan things or find a place to stay. The weekend started on Thursday night myself, Kristin, Erin, and Carly flew out of Rome. I was so excited the entire flight that I couldn’t sit still so I watched out the window the majority of the flight and in doing so I got to see the Alps! Really cool, except at the time I didn’t realize that’s what I was seeing. As soon as the pilot announced that we were beginning our descent into Paris I began to scan the sky hoping to see the Eiffel Tower coming up through the clouds. I knew we had to be near the city because the clouds were glowing bright orange and white all over, and I could tell where the busier areas were based on how bright the clouds were. It seemed abnormally cloudy and like it was taking excessively long to descend, but I kept my eyes peeled, anxiously awaiting the moment when we exited the clouds and the beautiful lights of Paris were revealed. I waited and waited, and then suddenly I saw the runway and felt our tires hit the ground. It turns out the fog in Paris that night was so thick that I literally thought we were still in the clouds when we were landed. Very strange feeling.
Trying to navigate the airport was a little tricky and may or may not have involved the four of us sprinting, bags and all trying to make it to a metro that there was no chance of catching. But we found a taxi eventually and headed to our hostel. After settling into our room I realized I was way too excited to sleep and met up with Mary, Kaitlyn, and their room mate to walk around and see a little of the area we were staying in, which was right by the Louvre. We were looking for someplace to grab a quick bite to eat, but at that hour it was hard to find anywhere that was still open and semi-affordable. We ended up stumbling upon a random Moroccan restaurant where the food was actually pretty good, and the waiter was very nice considering it was after one in the morning, and we were ridiculously indecisive. Even though it was late and almost everything was closed, it was the greatest, most surreal thing in the world to be walking the streets of Paris.
Friday morning we met our amazing guide Kevi in the hostel lobby and set off to begin our day. It was so weird because I feel like for the last two months I’ve been living in a time warp in Italy, because with every day in the upper 60’s or 70‘s it has been really hard for me to comprehend that the rest of the world is in the midst of fall right now. Paris on the other hand was definitely experiencing fall weather. It was so good to actually feel like it was fall. Even though it was really cold I wouldn’t have wanted any other weather, Paris and fall just seem like they’re meant to go together. We walked a fairly short walk over the river to see Notre Dame and it was unbelievable! Absolutely massive. After a little time at Notre Dame we headed to the Latin Quarter, which is where a few universities are located and is home to the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore. It had a really cool vibe, and I would definitely want to go back and spend some time in the area. It is our tour guide’s favorite part of Paris so I feel like that says a lot about it. We walked around for a little bit before heading to lunch at a little cafe. I ordered quiche and a cinnamon sugar crepe and just about died in happiness over how good it was. I learned two very important life lessons in Paris. The food and the men of that city, it turns out, are completely underrated. People rave about the Italians and their food, but I would have to disagree on both counts. Not that either are bad, but they’re definitely better in Paris. Moving on, once we finished our lunch we made a quick pitstop to buy hats and gloves since none of us packed appropriately for the weather, and began to make our way to the Eiffel Tower!
As we exited the metro we were all scanning the horizon in every direction waiting for that first epic moment when we would finally lay eyes on the Eiffel Tower. It took a few minutes of walking, but all of the sudden we looked up and there it was. Seeing it in person was literally the coolest thing in the world. It was still super foggy so we could only see about halfway up the tower before it disappeared, but the bottom half alone was so impressive. They told us it would be a waste to go all the way to the top since it would be impossible to see anything, but we did get to go halfway up and that was good enough for me. The view was stunning! As I circled around checking out all of the different views I was amazed by the beauty of Paris, especially with all of the changing leaves.
We ate dinner at an awesome restaurant down a little side street, where we had the entire tiny place to ourselves. I had a salad with fried goat cheese, a vegetable quiche which tasted like Thanksgiving stuffing, and the gooiest, yummiest, chocolate cake with custard … once again I actually thought I was going to die because it was all so fantastic. Once we finished dinner we set off to go on our nighttime bike tour of the city. Our guides were two Americans, one from Denver and one from Austin, who had seen ads on Craigslist for bike tour guides, and on a whim packed up and moved to Paris. Pretty awesome. Our tour took us all over the place from Notre Dame to the Louvre, to the bridge that Liam Neeson jumps off of in Taken. Riding through the streets of Paris, seeing all of the most famous sites, while dodging traffic and trying not to crash, was incredible and ended up being one of my favorite parts of the entire trip.
After we rode around for a while, stopping for a bit to get ice cream at Le Flore en L’Ile, the most famous ice cream shop in Paris, we rode down to the Seine River and got on a boat for our boat tour. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend the evening than to be cruising down the Seine. Even though it was absolutely freezing, it was phenomenal. Like the bike tour it was a really cool way to see parts of the city that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. When we boarded the boat the fog was still so dense that only a little bit of the Eiffel Tower was visible, but it still looked really cool glowing orange in the fog. As we cruised the river, little by little the fog began to lift and by the end of our tour, for the first time since arriving in Paris, all of the tower was revealed to us. It was absolutely magical!! For a few moments each hour, the Eiffel Tower begins glittering and sparkling like a diamond, and we got to see it twice from the boat. It was so beautiful that there is really no possible way words or pictures could ever do it justice. If I had the power I would make it a requirement that everyone had to see this at least once in their lifetime.
The next day we woke up and went to the Louvre for most of the morning. We did the touristy stuff, a.k.a. saw the Mona Lisa, and roamed around a bit, but as lovely as the museum was we were all dying to get outside because the weather was gorgeous, especially compared to the previous day. I feel like I’m the world’s worst art major for saying such a thing, but no art could ever compete with the beauty of Paris. Not for me at least. Inside the Louvre we grabbed a Starbucks (so good, first one since leaving the U.S.), then headed off for our next stop. We reached the Champs Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe in the early afternoon. Yet another awesome site to see. I feel like everywhere I go I’m in complete awe of the size of these things I’ve seen pictures of my whole life. Of course I realized the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, etc. were huge, but seeing them in person I couldn’t believe my eyes. We spent the rest of the afternoon in smaller groups, exploring different areas of the city on our own before finishing off our night by meeting our guide Kevi and some of the rest of the group at an off the beaten path little club called Panic Room. Not the most inviting name, but it was actually a pretty cool place in a quieter neighborhood, where we were able to get a feel of what Parisian life is like. It would have been nice to stay for a while, but we had to keep the visit short so we could navigate our way back to the hostel and pack for our early morning flight back to Rome.
On the plane ride to Paris I was so excited, but also a little nervous that I would be disappointed once we got there. My whole life I have dreamed of visiting Paris, and heard the stories of my loved ones who had travelled there and fallen in love with the city, so I was afraid maybe I had built it up too much in my head. I couldn’t have been further from the truth. Paris was everything I could have dreamed of and then some. There was a moment on our second day where I legitimately hoped one of the countless gypsy’s on the street would steal my passport so I wouldn’t be able to leave. In hindsight, perhaps that wouldn’t be the best scenario, but that goes to show how awesome it was there. I love Rome more than words can say, and I am heartbroken that my time here is so quickly coming to an end, but there was something truly magical and special about Paris that I can’t explain. Two and a half days, three life-altering crepes, and countless unforgettable experiences later, I left Paris and a little part of my heart behind.