I finally got to visit a city which I have been dreaming about visiting since I started high school: Paris! I imagined that I wouldn’t remember anything that I learned in my four years of studying French in high school. Once I arrived however, I was surprised by how much came rushing back to me. Speaking French was definitely rough, but I at least understood some things that were going on around me.
My trip began with a wake up call at 4:00 a.m., for a 7:00 a.m. flight direct from Florence to Paris. From the Charles de Gaulles airport, my friend Danielle and I somehow found our way to the train station, bought tickets to the center of Paris, and managed to navigate the subways to our hostel. All of this without a hitch! This definitely speaks for how easy it is to use public transportation there!
We dropped off our bags at the hostel and immediately set out to explore the city center. Our first destination was the Louvre Pyramid. As I’ve stated about many other destinations in my other articles, this wasn’t what I expected! It was much bigger, and very much a part of the actual structure of the museum itself. The fun of posing for pictures here did meet my expectations though!
From the Louvre, we walked the length of the Champs-Élysées on foot to the Arc de Triomphe. It was funny to see such a magnificent structure literally surrounded by a circle of traffic; a scene of structural beauty clashing with the cosmopolitan lifestyle. Pedestrians have to cross the street underground in order to reach the Arc.
Before sunset, we continued our sight-seeing with a visit to the Eiffel Tower. A beautiful lawn stretches out in front of the Eiffel Tower, where we saw many locals and tourists alike having romantic picnics. This was the point of our first day during which we decided our feet could no longer handle anymore walking.
We rose plenty early the following morning in order to prepare ourselves for a long day of touring Versailles. Our hostel provided us with a breakfast of fresh French bread with marmalade and butter, coffee, and juice. This gave us enough energy for our tourism-filled morning. We took an hour-long train ride to Versailles, then waited in line to purchase tickets to enter the palace, only to find out that we didn’t need them! As students within the EU, many historical museums and landmarks are free to enter and tour; Versailles is one of them!
The Palace was an absolute beauty, both inside and outside. It is astounding to think of how lavishly the royals lived, and absolutely gives the French Revolution by the bourgeoisie a much bigger meaning. It is fun to be able to explore historical landmarks like these, which bring to life all of the history lessons that we have gone through. Within the palace is the infamous Hall of Mirrors, which was used as a grand ballroom. We also saw the bedrooms of the king and queen, their dining room, the study, and the many ballrooms and game rooms that entertained the upper class in the 16th century.
Outside, the gardens span acres and acres, with many fountains and landscapes that must have been tended to by hundreds of workers. Nearby is Marie Antoinette’s estate, where she spent her time whenever she wanted to be away from the king. Rooms were built and rebuilt and redecorated many times over in order to suit the wishes of the royals during this time period; all of it coming from the taxes of the bourgeoisie. Today, Versailles is a huge center for tourism. It makes me wonder what the various classes of people in the 16th century would think if they were to see what has become of Versailles today.
Sunday was our last day in Paris, with our flight departing late that afternoon. Since we had the entire morning to spare, we decided to attend Palm Sunday Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral. This was a wonderful experience. Of course, we did not get there early enough to be seated inside the church at first, and were under the impression that we would be viewing mass from the projectors that had been set up outside. However, right before the mass began, we were ushered inside, along with the massive crowd. We were handed olive branches on our way inside; these are given out in France and Italy since they are more common to find than palms in these regions. The Mass was all in French, but was surprisingly easy to follow for me. My French studies definitely paid off here!
Such was my experience in Paris, France! I would encourage anyone who ever wants to travel here to try to experience it in more than just three days. I covered all of the places that I wanted to see at the top of my list, but I would certainly not want anyone else to rush through this city as I did!