“But Paris was a very old city and we were young and nothing was simple there, not even poverty, nor sudden money, nor the moonlight, nor right and wrong nor the breathing of someone who lay beside you in the moonlight.” -Ernest Hemingway
Paris has surprised in me the best way possible. Before arriving here, I had several American friends warn me that the French were rude and generally do not like Americans. However, I have found this to be far from the truth! In fact, one nice man helped me with my backpack on the subway and another lady has walked me to a subway stop I was having trouble finding. Everyone I have met has been extremely friendly and welcoming. This is simply an added bonus, as I was already so excited to finally visit Paris and experience all it has to offer. I am loving Paris, the City of Light! I have already booked an extra night here (but just one night as the city is so expensive…even more expensive than NYC, if that’s even believable! SO far, I have paid the equivalent of $11 for a beer and $9 for a plain coffee here…yikes!)
I arrived Saturday night at the airport in Beauvais (which I learned is like the Newark airport of Paris! haha) The airport transfer required a 1 hour bus ride into Paris. My phone had died by this point (as well as my portable charger…ugh!), but fortunately I had written down directions via the subway to my hostel in my notebook based on the maps Nat had sent me (thanks again, Nat!) I drifted off to sleep on the bus, but randomly woke up just in time to see the lights of the Eiffel Tower over the horizon on the highway as we came into the city. I felt the same thing I felt the first time I saw the skyline of Manhattan from an airplane…sheer excitement!
The subways were easy to navigate, and I found my way into the city from Porte Maillot. After accidentally wandering into an abandoned building I thought was my hostel (oops!), I found my way into my hostel and settled into the smallest room I have rented so far. Despite the tight space, I was happy to find my bed on the top bunk has a beautiful skylight right over it. So, I drifted off looking at the few stars that I could see from here.
I woke up early the next morning to meet my good friend Jess from NYC at the Palace of Versailles, which is about an hour subway ride outside of Paris. Jess is one of my closest friends in NYC and happened to be traveling through Paris at the same time I was. I was so excited to see her and catch up on everything that has happened in both of our lives since I left the city 2 months ago. We planned to meet at our guided tour at Versailles, but by a stroke of serendipity, we ran into each other at a random subway station underground!! After a lot of shrieking, hugging, and catching up, we were on our way to Versailles, along with her brother and his girlfriend with whom she is traveling.
Visiting Versailles was truly a childhood dream come true for me. When I was 9, my mom took me to an exhibit of Versailles artifacts that happened to be traveling through Jackson, Mississippi. Ever since then, I have wanted to see this place in person, and it happened on Sunday! We booked a general admission ticket for 25 euro, as well as a guided tour in English of the King’s private chambers for 7 euro. This was money well spent, as we saw and learned so much during the day!
Whenever I think of Versailles, I always think of the Tolkein quote, “All that is gold does not glitter.” I think this quote applies to just about everything except Versailles, where everything is in fact gold, and it glitters! Versailles became the center of the French kingdom in the late 17th century, when Louis XIV moved the royal court there. Louis XIV was known has the “Sun King” and ruled France for 72 years until 1715. He was the ultimate monarch, and everything in Versailles (and France for that matter) revolved around him and his wishes. On the tour, I learned he even had a ceremony everyday when he got out of bed, called the lever. His ornate bedroom in Versailles faced the rising sun, and he woke up with great fanfare to a crowd of attendants each day. He gives a new meaning to Beyonce’s expression, “I woke up like this!” He also had a crowd that watched every meal he ate in the dining room…I find this to be quite awkward, but he was really into himself so it worked for him!
Versailles was inherited by Louis XV and then Louis XVI, who was married to the famous Marie Antoinette. Marie Antoinette built her own estate within Versailles, which we explored along with the rest of the gardens. This place is the size of the small town, and Jess’s FitBit reported we walked over 8 miles during the day!
One of my favorite things we saw was the table and room where Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin negotiated the terms of American sovereignty with the British and French following the American Revolution.
After a busy day at Versailles, we grabbed dinner (I had a crepe, a cheese plate, and wine…very French!) and watched France defeat Iceland in the Eurocup semi-finals at bar. The atmosphere was electric!
This morning, I woke up early once again to meet up with Jess and the crew to visit the Eiffel Tower. I got some good views of the tower, but decided the line was too long today to visit the top as I had plans to meet another friend at the Louvre. After saying goodbye to Jess, I met up with my friend Chris (also from NYC and visiting Paris for the day!) at the Louvre. Chris and I had a nice, relaxing day wandering around the city, eating amazing food, enjoying good wine, and catching up on all of our news in life!
We ultimately wandered upon the Sacre Cour in Montemartre, where we decided to climb the 300 steps to the top of the dome. There was an amazing view of Paris from here!
As Chris had to catch a train back to London, I said goodbye and explored Montemartre a bit more before heading back toward my hostel. There is so much of Paris I want to see and too little time. One thing about long-term traveling is you have to find time to do mundane things like laundry and buying a new computer charger, so I am going to try to tackle this tomorrow while seeing more of the city. I also booked a ticket to the Louvre on Wednesday and plan to spend the entire day there…stay tuned!