Spring Break Day 2: March 25th, Paris

Hello everyone!

Welcome back to my 8 days of posting! Today you’ll hear all about day 2 in Paris, which was one of my favorite days in Paris altogether! I’m actually going to split day 2 into two posts, one for tonight and one for tomorrow, as it was a very action-packed day ans it’s hard to fit it into one post. Today I’ll talk about what we did before lunch, and tomorrow we’ll go over lunch and what we did afterwards.

So, on that Sunday morning we woke up “bright and early,” which for me means, like, 9, which Auntie did, in fact, laugh at. Anyways, we woke up around 9 and ate breakfast downstairs at our hotel. The cost of staying at our hotel had included breakfast, which was a very nice surprise as food in Paris doesn’t come cheap! There was a full spread of croissants, pain au chocolat, cheese, cereal, and baguettes. Yes, that’s right, baguettes for breakfast. There was also a huge juicer against the wall that made fresh squeezed orange juice that tasted delicious.

After our breakfast, Auntie and I headed out with a map and vague directions to where we could get tickets for the hop-on-hop-off tour. I made the mistake of forgoing a coat and decent shoes because it was PARIS I wanted to be FASHIONABLE, which meant repeatedly telling my aunt that I wasn’t cold while visibly shivering. I’m not always the most practical person, but my mother always said “beauty is pain,” so it’s not really a surprise that I wore a cold-shoulder blouse while on top of a moving bus in 40-degree weather just because it’s Paris.

Basically, we got to the bus stop and got a two-day ticket each, as the tour company we chose- Open Tours- had 3 different routes to explore. For our first route, we chose the basic Must-See-Parisian-Sights route, with the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe, etc.

The bus drove right through the center of the Louvre’s grounds, through an unbelievably tiny passageway in a wall. Honestly, if my elbow had been resting on the edge of the bus it would have hit the wall. From there it crossed the Seine to pass the Musée d’Orsay, which used to be a train station. The initials still on the walls of the building, PO, stand for Paris-Orleans, the line that was once active there. Then, we drove through the Place de la Concorde, where the guillotine was once stationed. Now there’s a carousel and a park, and the U.S. Embassy. It’s just as eerie and vaguely uncomfortable as it sounds. From the center of that square is one of the best views of the Arc de Triomphe, which stands at the other end of the Champs-Elysées. That is where the bus turned next, down the infamous street. It was much different than I expected. I guess I had anticipated more designer shops and those Parisian stereotypes of high fashion. Instead, there are several McDonalds’, a Disney store, a Gap, and a bunch of other run-of-the-mill stores. The only designer store I saw was a Louis Vuitton, which was in a 6 or 7 story building with chandeliers and gold accents. That was more of what I expected.

The Arc de Triomphe is also less glamorous for those who don’t know that it’s literally in the middle of a traffic circle. We didn’t stop there, but I still got nice photos. There’s an eternal flame in the ground at the center for the “Unknown Soldier.” A group of feminists once placed flowers at the base of it and said that the only person more unknown than the unknown soldier is his wife.

Then, stop #13, the Eiffel Tower. It’s even bigger than you think it is. No, trust me, it is. We didn’t get off to see it until that night, because it’s even better when lit up, but it’s still impressive during the day. From anywhere you are in Paris it’s easy to find the Eiffel Tower in the skyline. After the Eiffel Tower, the bus passed by the Hôtel des Invalides, which holds the army museum. It is also where you can visit Napoleon’s tomb, which lies under a golden dome. This marked the end of the first bus ride, so we decided to get on the next one to see Montmartre, the district famous for the Moulin Rouge and Sacre-Cœur  Basilica. It’s also famous for being the artist’s district, once being the home of famous artists like Renoir, Picasso, Degas, and even Langston Hughes.

Montmartre is very different from the other parts of Paris that we had seen. Wide roads give way to winding alleys with outdoor markets; mainstream shops give way to seedy adult stores and burlesque theaters. Everything is bright and loud and bustling, and at the top of the massive hill that the neighborhood is named after sits the pristine white domes of the Sacre-Cœur. It was built with a certain type of white stone that is self-cleansing in the rain, so no one ever has to wash it. We were taken aback by the line to get in, but then my aunt remembered that it was Palm Sunday, and mass was starting in 20 minutes. The inside of the church was crowded and had that very distinct Catholic church atmosphere, the smell of incense and the hanging feeling of guilt. It was beautiful; there were intricately designed chapels along both sides of the room and  beautiful statues throughout.

After we left the basilica, we decided to look around Montmartre and find some lunch. Just behind the church is a thriving neighborhood of narrow, cobblestone streets and portrait artists and caricature artists peddling their goods to tourists eating at sidewalk cafes, and that is where we found ourselves having our lunch. Each of us had a croque monsieur, or a ham and cheese sandwich. We both just took in the sights and sounds around us, deciding on what to do next, which you will hear all about tomorrow!

Until next time,


Spring Break Day 1: March 24, Paris

Hello, everyone!

Welcome to day 1 of my 8 days of posting! If you didn’t read my post from earlier, I’ll be posting daily about my Spring Break trips to Paris, Dublin, and London!

So my first day of spring break started with getting up early- 4:30 in the morning- and getting on a 5 a.m. bus to Dublin Airport for my flight to Paris, where I was meeting my aunt. Even though it was so early, I was as excited as I’d ever been. Once I got to my gate, my excitement faded when I saw not one, not two, but over twenty frustrated small children also waiting for my flight to Paris. Nevertheless, I tried to stay positive. I ended up falling asleep on the plane for a little while, which eased my grumpiness towards the screaming kids.

Finally, after what felt like 5 hours but was actually under 2, we landed at Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris. It took forever to get through passport control and get my luggage- they checked my carry-on due to the fact that it was a full flight- but I eventually managed to reach the end. I was meeting my aunt at the Starbucks on the second floor, but  I couldn’t find my way to it for the life of me! After asking an airport employee for navigation, I spotted my aunt. It was literally like out of a movie; both of us squealed and ran towards each other, hugging.

The two of us hopped in a cab and headed to our hotel, the Ibis Styles Lafayette Opera at cinq Rue de Trévise, s’il vous plait! In true European style, we were stuffed into a tiny room with twin beds and a tinier bathroom, but on the plus side we had a gorgeous view and a balcony!  One thing I noticed about Paris is that no matter where you are in the city, everything around you is gorgeous. The architecture is so uniquely Paris that it’s impossible to forget where you are.

It was only around 2 p.m. at this point, so after a change of clothes and some lunch we decided to walk to the Louvre Museum, which was a little over a mile from our hotel. To get there we walked through the Palais Royale and its gardens, which were beautiful and expertly manicured despite the lack of flowers, it being March. We arrived at the Louvre in only about 20 minutes, and we quickly made our way inside, where we were pleasantly surprised to find that as I am a student residing in the EU, it was free for me to go in. This is actually very common in the EU- students between 18 and 26 can get discounts to a ton of the major attractions and museums.

As amateurs, my aunt and I had no idea how big the Louvre is. It’s the largest art museum in the world and at the moment it holds over 35,000 pieces of artwork. To make a long story short, we walked a lot more than we expected to! Something that I had already known was that the Mona Lisa is seriously underwhelming. Like I mean ridiculously! It’s a fairly small portrait done in dark colors in a room surrounded by 20-plus-foot scenes done in vibrant colors and decadent frames. When it’s put into perspective, the Mona Lisa is one of the least impressive works in the Louvre. Personally, I don’t even think it’s the most impressive Da Vinci painting at the Louvre- that spot is reserved for La belle ferrionnère. Despite this relative disappointment, the artwork at the Lpuvre is breathtaking. There are wings for every type of art, from sculpture to jewelry, to paintings, to furniture! Eventually, the both of us were exhausted and made the collective decision to leave.

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at an odd restaurant for dinner. It was an old train car shoved into a building and converted into a pizza restaurant, which was really too cramped of a space for much comfort, but the pizza was really good. Finally, after our long day of flying and walking, we decided to call it a night, with plans to get on a hop-on-hop-off tour the next morning to see all of the quintessential Parisian sights. Tomorrow night you all get to hear about the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre, the Champs-Elysées, etc.


See you next time,