The next leg of our European Adventure took us to the city of love or is it lights or is it both? I can't remember, but up next we went to Paris!
I was really excited to see Paris, because it was the first place we were going that I had never been before. And we were getting there via the EuroStar. The first of 3 train rides we would take on the trip.
Our train left Kings Cross Station (I'm a little giddy just typing that. Thank you Harry Potter) at around 10:25am and we arrived in Paris at around 2:35pm.
Travel note: If you're ever going to be taking the EuroStar make sure you get to the train station at least 2 our before your scheduled departure time because since your going to another country you have to go through security and customs again. (Which I loved because it meant I got another stamp in my passport). But sometimes those lines can be long.
One we arrived in Paris we were told a few things. First keep our carry ones and purses close because the train station was packed with pickpockets (or gypsies as our tour director called them) and two don't sign any of the "petition" that women and children are trying to get you to sign. It's a scam. So packed with those two warnings we made our way of the train to wait for out luggage. We waited for the luggage and the bus that would take us to our hotel for about 35-40 minutes and then we were on our way!
We got to our hotel at around 3:30 and after a minor lost luggage scare (thankfully not mine, Jenny's, which she handled with amazing calm. I would have been panicking) we were on our way to the Metro to pick up our tickets to our first stop in Paris......the Louvre!
Our hotel was called the Pullman Montparnasse. In the Montparnasse area of Paris.
This is where our time in Paris starts to take a slightly negative turn. At least for me for about 15 minutes. So we walked to the Metro, where we purchased 20 tickets for the 3 of us. Thankfully the 20 tickets would be the perfect amount of tickets to buy for all 3 of us to get around Paris the 2 days we were there. Total it came to about 30 Euro, so we spent about 10 Euro each on Metro tickets.
The rest of the people in our group was heading straight to the Louvre. We on the other hand had to find the tourist shop where we could pick up the tickets I had purchased for us in advance. Now everything I read said to buy tickets to the Louvre in advance otherwise you'd be waiting in the longest line in the world. So I did. What I did not realize is that we would not get to start exploring Paris until 4:00.
SO...to make a long story short, by the time we got to the place we needed to pick up our tickets it was already 5:00pm. And guess what time the Louvre stops letting people in. Yep, that's right 5:00. (Correction, they close at 5:30 but stop letting guests in at 5:00) So we missed the Louvre. I did not take the news lightly. I got very upset while we were in the shop and as soon as we stepped out of the shop immediately started crying. It was just so frustrating! I thought I had been doing the right thing by getting our tickets in advance but that wasn't the case and I felt bad because not only were we NOT going to get to see the Mona Lisa but we were out 15 bucks!
I was in no position to make any decisions by that point (I trying to pull myself together and failing miserably) so the others decided we should stop for some lunch and make a game plane there. This was our restaurant. I seriously couldn't seem to get it together when we sat down. I ordered some wine and just sat there moodily. Tears kept filling my eyes every time I thought about it. Until finally my friend Katie said I just needed to let it out and cry. I put on my sunglasses let myself have a good cry and then I was able to pull myself together and help make a game plan.
After that minor crisis, we ultimately decided we would still make our way over to the Louvre to see the pyramid and the Louvre itself and then just see where the afternoon took us from there. The walk to the Louvre turned out to be absolutely delightful and the even just getting to see the outside buildings was a treat. I mean look at these buildings!!
The Louvre itself was originally built as a fortress in the 12th century. Then it was turned into the gorgeous structure we see today and used as Royal Palace for The Sun King, Louis XIV in the mid 1600s. Eventually the Sun King would abandoned the palace (and all the work he put into it) for his new palace and permanent residence just a couple miles from the city in Versailles. During the French Revolution the Louvre was almost torn down but was eventually turned into a museum by the Convention Nationale.
And that is your history lesson for the day! :)
We then began to just wander and take pictures. We walked through the Jardin de Tuileries, we walked through the Place de la Concorde (sight of the guillotine during the Revolution, our guide said the streets would be covered in blood for days), and made our way to the Champs-Élysées.
We walked and walked and walked and I wore the WRONG SHOES!! I knew I was wearing the shittiest shoes in the world that day, but hey they went with my outfit. So I didn't complain once that my feet were really hurting. At least I didn't until Jenny noticed that I was walking like a little old man and basically hobbling my way down the street. And I wouldn't have complained at all but Jenny kept looking at me with such...sympathy and saying things like, "Oh my god, you look like you're in SO much pain."
The plan had been to walk all the way down to the Arch de Triomphe, but we had paused outside of Louis Vuitton and I suggested we skip the rest of the walk and just jump on the Metro and head to the Eiffel Tower. Thankfully the girls agreed with me, so off we went.
Here's the evidence of my stupidity. (Don't worry, I didn't wear the shoes the rest of the trip. I learned my lesson)
We spent the rest of the evening at the Eiffel Tower. We briefly stood in line to go up to the top. But it was already 9:30pm by this time and they stopped selling tickets to go up to the top at 10:30 and the line was at least an hour long. Instead, we wandered around the structure, grabbed ourselves a VERY tasty nutella crepe and parked ourselves just in front of it on the riverbank and watched it come to life at night.
The following morning we began day 2 with a guided bus tour of all of Paris. We went from arrondissement to arrondissement taking in all the famous sights of city. Our local tour guide was SO incredibly knowledgeable about the entire city that we had a very nice little overview of the history of Paris. For example did you know that Paris was originally settled on an island? There are bridges just like this one connecting the originally island to the rest of the city. So neat!
We drove past the Palais Garnier (the opera house The Phantom of the Opera is based on), down the Champs-Élysées ( the French flags are lining the way in preparation for the end of the Tour de France), and over to Les Invalides, the military museum and home of the tomb of Napoleon. After a quick stop and photo op in front of Les Invalides, we headed to the Eiffel Tower for a day time photo op!
I think out of the 2,000 pictures I took on this trip, out ones in front of the Eiffel Tower are some of my favorites. We had so much fun posing in front of the tower and it was a gorgeous day. Which made for GORGEOUS pictures! :)
After the photo shoot in front of the Eiffel Tower the group that had signed up for the excursion to Versailles jumped back on the bus and headed out to the sumptuous palace.
I absolutely ADORED our afternoon at Versailles. I could easily have spent the entire day out at the palace. After a tasty lunch at a restaurant close to the palace (where I was stung by a bee for the first time in my entire life) we met our guide for a private tour of the palace. Thank goodness we had signed up for the excursion because just like every other major attraction the line to simply buy tickets at Versailles was at least a 4 hour wait.
Travel Tip: If you're not traveling with a tour group, BUY ALL TICKETS IN ADVANCE!
The palace chateau was built by the Sun King, Louis XIV in 1682. It became the official residence of the royal family until 1789 when they were forced back to Paris at the start of the Revolution. The last royal couple to live in at Versailles were the famous Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Sadly since most of the tour was of the palace itself we did not get the opportunity to explore any of the gardens of the palace. That's why I say you really need a full day to get the most out of your trip to Versailles.
We got to see all the major highlights of the palace. Both the King and Queen's private apartments (I was most excited to see the Queen's apartments) and of course the Hall of Mirrors.
After Versailles we were dropped over by Notre Dame Cathedral, sadly I did not see Quisemodo, nor did I get to go up to the bell tower and sing The Bells of Notre Dame. It doesn't cost anything to actually go inside the cathedral, but once again the line was crazy long so we took a few photos and moved on. The cathedral was stunning though and the next time in Paris I may make the time to go inside.
Our last stop of the evening before we headed back to the hotel was of course another nutella crepe. It was still extremely tasty but not as tasty as the crepe we had at the Eiffel Tower the night before.
Our last night in Paris we met up with a high school friend of Jenny's who has been living in Paris the last few years. It was great getting to see Paris at night by a someone who actually lives there. She even showed us her apartment, tiniest thing apartment I've ever been in by the way and we got to see how the locals do things which was amazing. The place we had dinner was over by Les Invalides. It was a huge park directly in front of it and there were tons of people lounging on blankets with bottles of wine and food just enjoying the night with friends.
I really wish we had more parks in Texas like this. Parisian (and all Europeans for that matter) really take the time to enjoy each other and the cities they live in. Life is more fast paced in the States and in Europe it's much more leisurely, I guess is the word.
If I'm honest though, I didn't fall in love with Paris. I really enjoyed my time there but it didn't strike me the way I know it strikes some people. I will most definitely go back to the city of love or light (still not sure which it is or if it's both) because I need to see the Louvre and the gardens at Versailles and Disneyland Paris of course. But it's not at the top of my "return to" list.
And that my friends was Paris. Tune in next week to find our all about Amsterdam! My personal favorite from the trip! :)
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