Au revoir!

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Champs-Elysées

After getting back to Paris on Tuesday, we were going to go to the Catacombs but they close at 4. Instead, we spent our last night strolling the Champs-Elysées. We stopped in for desert at this great restaurant, Ladurée that’s quite well known in Paris. I had ice cream with macarons and it was one of the best deserts I’ve ever had.

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Ladurée

On Wednesday, we spent most of the day getting to Charles de Gaulle airport via the RER B line and buying more French chocolate. Now I’m back home for winter break, eating French chocolates and macarons!

DSC_0160I was sad to leave Paris because I had such a great experience here but I’m so thankful for the opportunity; it’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit. I can’t say what my future plans include because it’s quite hard to plan very far in advance with my college schedule but I would really like to spend some time studying and living in Paris. Hopefully I can come back soon!

photo 2Also, if you’d like to take a look at more of the pictures we took in Paris, check them out on my flickr account here.

Au revoir,

-J

Château de Versailles

Front gates

Front gates

We decided to go to Versailles on Tuesday morning having pushed it back on Monday because the palace was closed. Having listened to my dad’s mini Google research project on the pick pocketing epidemic in France the night before, I decided not to bring my bag or the pocket map so as not to be targeted. The issue, however, with not bringing a map is that you don’t in fact have the map.

IMG_5341We got on the wrong train on the right platform (kind of line the Green line in Boston, there are several different lines) and spent an extra hour going up into northern Paris, realizing our foolish mistake, and traveling all the way back into the city to take the proper train. I think Louis IV would have gotten to Versailles in his coach faster.

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The actual palace was impressive; we got to see the Hall of Mirrors, King’s Grand Apartments, the Museum of the History of France. Obviously it was lavishly decorated with gold, velvets, marble, and beautiful paintings. However, I’ve been to Windsor Castle and some castles in Poland that were similar in extravagance. I think the most extraordinary part about Versailles is the gardens and the massive scale of them.

Looking out on the gardens.

Looking out on the gardens.

We walked down the large basins to the Grand Trianon, which was initially created as a sort of recreational facility for the monarch’s family. Also in that area of the gardens was Marie Antoinette’s Estate, where she spent most of her time. My friend Cortnee had told me to go to Marie Antoinette’s Hamlet, which was a little village that was specifically designed and created for her at the very edge of the gardens. All of her sections of Versailles were much homier and more welcoming than the cold grandeur of the palace.

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There were definitely a lot of tourists at Versailles; school groups and people speaking lots of different languages were everywhere. I got a little frustrated in the bigger rooms when people would push and shove to get closer to take photos, with seemingly no respect for personal space. Away from the palace, though, we were pretty much by ourselves. I can only imagine how crowded it is in the peak season, summer!

The Queen's Hamlet

The Queen’s Hamlet

 

We did a lot of walking that day and as close up as we got, my life’s greatest regret is leaving our licenses behind and not getting a golf cart to drive around at Versailles (kidding, I enjoyed our walk). Perhaps my favorite part was when my dad asked something akin to “so Marie Antoinette spent a lot of time here?” and I had to remind him that she was in fact the Queen of France. Ah, history.

Been There, Seine That

Père-Lachaise

Père-Lachaise

 

Our initial plan for Monday was to visit Versailles but upon further research the night before, I realized that the palace is actually closed on Mondays (as were the catacombs) so we pushed that off. I decided to start off with the Père-Lachaise cemetery which my friend Cortnee insisted that I do (partly because the Polish composer Chopin is buried there).

 

Sacre-Coeur

Sacré-Cœur

 

We got to Père-Lachaise soon after the sun came up. It was cold enough to see our breath (I take back what I said about Paris feeling like Fall) and crows flying around, adding to the creepy factor. After spending half an hour on the hill searching for Chopin, we trekked back down to the map to discover I switched the division of the grounds with the number for the grave. We finally walked back up and found Chopin’s grave. If you remember my post from Żelazowa Wola in Poland you’ll know that Chopin lived in Paris for the end of his short life and died here which is why he’s buried in this graveyard. Also recall that while his body is here, his heart was taken and sent to Warsaw.

View of Paris

View of Paris

After that, we took the Metro to the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, which was surrounded by people trying to sell you things or distract you in order to pickpocket you. That part upset me but the view from the top of the hill was nice. We made a beeline for the Champs-Élysées once again and walked around where we missed on Sunday, passing the Grand Palais.

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Finally, we had to make to the top of the Eiffel Tower at some point during this trip and decided that today was clear enough to see around. We spent about an hour in line before we took the first elevator to the initial viewing platform. Then, there was a second elevator that sent you straight to the top. It was exciting to see the city from so high up even though it was a little chilly up there. Definitely worth the trip!

Rêvons Plus Grand

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

We got up early on Sunday morning for a long day trekking around the city. The sun doesn’t actually go up until 8:30 and apparently things in Paris don’t open until 10. We were walking around at 9:30 and there weren’t a lot of people out and about. The Metro was pretty deserted as was the area around the Arc de Triomphe (except for Asian tourists who apparently had the same type of schedule as us). We considered running across the rotary across several lanes of traffic but found the underground tunnel eventually. I have to say it would have been really funny had we chosen the latter option.

The Madeleine

The Madeleine

 

 

 

We walked down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, stopping in at a bunch of stores like Nike, the PSG shop, the Disney store, and the Renault car store where my dad felt the need to hop in a tiny car that more resembled a go-cart to me. Continuing on, there were street venders all along the street on the way towards the Jardin des Tuileries with clothes, food (crepes, cheese, chocolate of all varieties), and trinkets. We made our way toward the Madeleine Church, which looked a little like the Acropolis and found Fouchon, a place that my neighbor Alida had recommended we try. They have all types of foods but we tried their macarons and they were so tasty!

Angelina's

Angelina’s

Next, I went to try out another recommendation by my friends Jane and Gretchen who told me that they went to this cafe, Angelina’s, when they were in Paris last year and that I had to get the chocolate chaud, a really rich hot chocolate. The cafe was super crowded but luckily they had chocolate chaud to go because it was so good (even though I burnt my tongue). We walked through the Jardin des Tulieries, posed in front of the Louvre and went in. Surprisingly, the museum tickets only cost 12 Euros! My dad has become quite fond of taking selfies with his phone; luckily I forced him to bring our nice Nikon camera as well.

IMG_5136The Louvre was so beautiful that at times I couldn’t tell where the museum ended and the art began. We started by making a beeline to the Mona Lisa just out of curiosity. People got intensely vicious around that particular painting, pushing and shoving as if the painting was going to suddenly vanish or they would die of heart attack before taking a selfie with said work of art.  It’s actually appalling how oblivious people are to those around them..backing up into others, obstructing their view, etc. Moving on, we also checked out the Roman, Greek, and Egyptian (my favorite) sculptures and art, including a Michelangelo sculpture!

Crowding around the Mona Lisa

Crowding around the Mona Lisa

Next, we headed out toward the Seine and crossed the Lock Bridge, which I’ve always wanted to do. It’s famous for couples who write their names on a lock, attach it to the bridge, and throw the key in the water as a symbol. I saw a minor version in Gdansk, Poland but it doesn’t compare to the one in Paris. We made our way to the Notre-Dame Cathedral, which had a festive Christmas tree outside and walked through. After wasting some time in souvenir shops, we ate dinner in a pretty abandoned place near the Seine and took the Metro back. We left when it was dark and got back when it was dark as well!

Notre-Dame Cathedral

Notre-Dame Cathedral

I have to be honest and say that as great as the ever present bread and chocolate is, I miss my fruits and vegetables! Did I just say that? The French language is beautiful, even if I can’t always understand it. We’ve had no trouble speaking English here and a lot of places include other languages in their menus or signs. Thanks to everyone who gave me tips on exploring Paris! More to come tomorrow.

-J

*Rêvons Plus Grand is the PSG slogan, “Let’s dream bigger.”

Un jour à Paris

IMG_4969After dropping off our bags at the hotel, we stopped in a nearby cafe for breakfast which was very “French” (this included croissants and baguettes). By the way, people actually do walk around the city with baguettes and I don’t think I’ll stop thinking that particular custom is comical anytime soon.

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Zlatan Ibrahimović ad outside the PSG store.

My dad humored me and we decided to trek over to the PSG Stadium, Parc des Princes. Paris St. Germain is the premiere football club in Paris and is well known all around the world. The game I had intended to go to was a match for the women’s team, PSG Feminines. Instead, we traveled by Metro and got a little lost in order to get to the stadium.

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To be fair, the Metro was quite easy and quick (we even switched lines three times); the lack of google maps on our phones (no wifi) stumped us. Having finally gotten there, it turns out there were no tours to be given as there was some sort of game involving Belize (other details are unclear- French accents can be hard to understand) so we checked out the Boutique and went on our merry way. I can’t leave Paris without some PSG gear.

IMG_5012Next, we decided to take a walk down the park to the Eiffel Tower and actually spent an obscene amount of time taking pictures of ourselves in front of the tower. My dad was quick to doubt the greatness of such a structure but by the time we were walking back after dinner, he was entranced. We decided to go up on a different day (not a weekend) to hopefully avoid a ridiculous line. Instead, we took a tour of Paris on a boat on the Seine. Unfortunately, I was flirting with consciousness the entire time and only remember bits and pieces.

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Dinner at a cool restaurant a couple blocks away from the park followed even more Eiffel pictures (this time at night, there’s a difference, I swear). I had chocolate crepes for desert because, well, when in Paris…

Chocolate crepes.

Chocolate crepes.

Paris has been a little bit like Fall instead of Winter; the leaves are still on the trees and it’s not too cold during the day. It’s been nice to be slightly warmer than I usually am in Boston! I’m a day behind in blogging but I’ll keep updating on what I’ve been doing!

-J

Bienvenue à Paris

Airport festivity.

Airport festivity.

Hello everyone! It’s been a while since I’ve last posted, which was apparent to me today as I reset my password for this blog after forgetting it. I’ve decided to continue the blog because I plan on going to many more cool places and it’s a good way to document my trip. It will remain “The War I Saw” for now, but I may change the title in the future.

IMG_4947Right now, I’m in Paris! Back in August when the Dialogue of Civilizations group flew back home from Poland, we passed over Paris and I knew I wanted to go so I started planning almost immediately (admittedly, I had looked up flights while we were in Poland as well).

Partner in crime.

Partner in crime.

My parents, supportive as ever, decided that my desperate plan to get back to Europe was a good idea and jumped on board. My excuse was that there was a soccer game that I wanted to go to in early December (which didn’t end up happening because of rescheduling…learning to be flexible ever so slowly) so we booked the dates accordingly.

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I had to do a little rearranging but the plan was for me to finish my fall 2013 semester at NEU on the 6th and fly out with my dad who had extra vacation time (do those people even exist?) that night. All was going smoothly and I was even writing a charming piece for this blog on airports at Christmas time that would have been heartwarming- I called them “homey”. Then, tragedy struck. Turns out Route 1 was at a full stop and dad would be very late.

Corner space potential to the max.

Corner space potential to the max.

Anyone who knows me knows that one of my deepest fears is missing a plane flight (Christmas 2005, we still don’t talk about it). All I’d like to say is that we ended up making it on time and I apologize to anyone who was bothered through my incessant texting or calling for 3 hours straight (sorry, Mom). I may or may not have started a solo prayer circle around the lone plug near the Terminal E video boards in my darkest period of doubt but that can neither be confirmed nor denied.

View from my window!

View from my window!

 

 

We left Boston at 8 on Friday night and got to Paris around 8:30 Saturday morning. There was a minor lack of sleep but we managed to use Parisian public transportation to get to our hotel, near the Eiffel Tower. I’m in a cute little corner room with a single bed; definitely an interesting use of space…HGTV, take note! Next post, I’ll detail what happened while wandering around jetlagged in The City of Light.

-J

P.S. Let me know if you have suggestions for how to best spend our time in the city!

Wrapping Up

Hello All,

It’s been more than 2 weeks since I got back from Poland and now it’s about time to pack up again and move back into Boston. I’ve been surprised by how much I’ve missed Poland since being home; at first, I even starting using Polish phrases when buying things just out of habit! I’m sure you’ve all been waiting on the edge of your seats to know who won the blog giveaway. The random number generator chose…Bob! Congrats!

Thanks to everyone who has followed and checked this blog out, I never expected so many people to find it. Currently, there are 1,453 views from 25 different countries! Here’s a visual (just click to make it bigger):

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Also, to anyone interested in seeing more photos (I took a lot and they obviously can’t all end up on the blog), I have an album on flickr that you can look through by clicking here.

Thanks again,

Jackie