We left for Paris thursday morning, around 12:15. We were running about 30 minutes late, which was very frustrating, because we were pushing it by leaving at 11:30. One bus stop, tube stop, and another bus later, we made it to Luton Airport, in north London. We practically ran to the EasyJet counter, but we were too late (by 4 minutes). The check in time had ended at 2:30 and we were there at 2:35. They wouldn’t let us check in, as I guess that is how cheap airlines make their money… not to mention their motto is something like “if you’re late,we won’t wait”. We decided shilling out £40 more was worth it (instead of travelling back to school, and losing the money on the hostel and return flight). We took at 6pm flight and got there at 8. It only took an hour to get there (8 because of the time difference). We found the RER train and took that to the métro.
We walked to our hostel easily, and got our keys, padlocks, and settled in. It was much nicer than I had expected! There were 10 people in our room, co-ed, and a hall bathroom. We looked into an all-female dorm, but they had filled up quickly. Anyway, the hostel was very secure: we were given cards (like hotel keys) which we had to use to get in, get onto the elevator, and into the room. The elevator wouldn’t let you swipe your card for a floor that wasn’t yours, and if you took the stairs, the card only worked at the door to your floor. The room had 5 bunk beds, each with lockers underneath for storage. I did sleep with my wallet every night just because I’m a worrywart but I think it would have been fine in the locker.
Friday morning I woke up to a beautiful view out of the window:
We then hurried over to Place Saint Michel, where we were meeting Melissa and the tour group. Our tour guide’s name was Jacq (short for Jacqueline) and she was from Melbourne Australia. She gave a fantastic tour! It was really funny, but full of information and side stories about Paris. We first walked by Notre Dame (where Lauren, Sarah and I ventured later)
and over to “New Bridge” where we our guide told us a funny story. New Bridge, which is actually the oldest bridge in Paris, was commissioned by Henry III and finished by Henry IV in the late 1500s. According to tale, King Henry held a party one night, and people got incredibly drunk off of red wine and champagne. The king found this funny and ordered sketch artists to come and sketch pictures of the party. The next morning, King Henry finds the sketches and sees what everyone looked like the previous night. After seeing this, he orders that all of the faces be carved into the new bridge that was currently under construction.
We then walked past a statue of King Henry, and over the Pont des Arts bridge, the one with all the padlocks. From there we walked right into the Louvre, which was the Palace before Versailles was built.
Across the street from that was another palace, where Cardinal Richelieu lived.
After that, we walked through a park toward the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, and Champs Elysées. There was a ferris wheel still set up from the holiday season. Notice the fountain on the left of the picture – our tour guide told us that a lot of people pose in front of these fountains as if they were peeing into the pond.
We also walked by an egyptian obelisk “collected” by Napoleon, and two fountains, one of which is in the movie Devil Wears Prada. We then walked toward the Petit Palais and the Grand Palais, where the exhibition of 1900. They are both used as museums now.
(doors to petit palais)
Then we walked to L’Hôtel national des Invalides, originally built as a retirement home and hospital for war veterans, but now a war museum and the place of Napoleon’s Tomb.
From there, our guide took us to a cute little french restaurant where we ordered a late lunch. I got quiche and Lauren and Sarah got a croque monsignor, which is a ham and cheese sandwich with cheese melted on top. It was delicious! After warming up for a bit (It was freezing the whole weekend, about 20 degrees!) we ventured back over to the eiffel tower to take pictures, and then we headed to the Louvre.
(inverted pyramid inside the louvre)
(view looking up out of the glass pyramid)
The Louvre was gigantic (the largest art museum), and was hard to maneuver. It was a labyrinth of rooms and galleries, with floors in-between floors. We started out slow, and then realized it would take us years (literally) to go through the whole thing. So we went and saw Venus Di Milo and began searching for the Mona Lisa. On the way to the Mona Lisa, we saw quite a few other famous paintings, including a famous Louis XIV portrait, Champaigne’s Last Supper, and Liberty Leading the People (cover art from Viva La Vida).
(some paintings were huge!)
(Louis XIV – Hyacinthe Rigaud)
(The Last Supper – Phillipe de Champaigne)
(La Liberté guidant le peuple – Eugene Delacroix)
As we were walking, I couldn’t get over the fact that the museum at one point was someone’s house (well, palace). I thought I knew how big castles and palaces were, but this was unimaginable! According to Wikipedia, it is 632,000 square feet…
We finally found the Mona Lisa, and she was extremely underwhelming. I’m glad we saw it though.
The last thing we did was to go through Napoleon III’s “apartment”, which, although it was called an apartment, it was probably bigger than my parent’s 3 story house. (brief history of Napoleon III – he was the nephew of Napoleon I, and was heir to the throne, where he ruled as the last monarch of france until he was voted president by popular vote in 1848. He attempted to create a military alliance with the Confederate States of America during the civil war, but none was actually made.) Anyway, his apartment was beautiful!
(Lauren & Sarah)
(large dining room … yes there was a ‘small’ one too)
We ate a reasonably priced and delicious dinner at the Louvre and returned to the hostel happily exhausted.