Posts Tagged ‘france’

There is Never Any End to Paris

3 July 2009

When we last checked in with our intrepid young travelers, they had just seen the sunset over the Seine and made their way back to promptly pass out in their highly proximitous bunkbeds.

Yes. Proximitous. As in very close together. So close, in fact, that Tyler and Hannah could hold hands while each in their own bed.

bunkbeds

On Wednesday of Paris week, we ventured through the “seedy” 10th arrondissement (Seriously.the guidebook’s breakdown of what was worth seeing in each arrondissement, which is like a district of the city, said that the 10th had the Gare du Nord and a bunch of porn shops and nothing worth seeing…and it was right by where we stayed. Nice, right?) to the train station to make our reservations for the trip to Switzerland before heading off to the ‘burbs to see Versailles.

Wow, kudos if you can follow all of that.

At the Tra Sta, we had a bit of a travelfail. We were standing in line, blissfully tra la la-ing about how 2 days in advance is enough time to get reservations because, really, how many people are clamoring to get to Laussane on a Friday morning?

And then we got up to the window, and Monseiur Ticketbooth was all “Zuit alours! Zhere are non tickets available avec Eurail pass to Switzerland on Friday!” To which we responded with a hearty panic because we had no time/day flexibility for travel because of everything we wanted to see in Paris and when the Swiss family was expecting us. We ended up paying 70 euros each to just book normal tickets for the earliest train on Friday. It was a cringey moment for my wallet, but it had to be done.

With those annoying logistics out of the way, we were more than ready to be escape to a palace of opulence and extravagance and cake.

Versailles!

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The lines were approximately 1000 years long, but we had Contact (really fun game…I’ll teach you sometime) and a fisticuff with some line cutters to keep us occupied.

It’s very grand, but it’s also very crowded and touristy…I don’t want to say I was underwhelmed, I was just not as whelmed as I was expecting to be, you know?

The Hall of Mirrors was pretty bombdiggity,

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and I definitely think I should have some of these installed over my bed:

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On the other hand, the gardens are where it’s AT, yo. Though some people were “not even hungry anymore…just miserable” by the time we got to them, and the fountains were not on, it was pretty cool.

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My favorite part was the Queen’s Hamlet, a little pretend “peasant” village for Marie Antoinette to frolic and play in. So we thought it only appropriate for us to frolic and play as well. It was…um…an homage! To her memory! Really, we were obliged to do it. It was work. Not fun. At all.

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There is also a farm! With animals!

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This picture does not show the animals, but they were there.

Think what you will about Marie Antoinette. Sure, maybe she was a little bit too flippant and carefree and extravagant and unqualified to rule a country, but an adorable little town with all of the charm and none of the work of Provencal life? BRILLIANT.

After Versailles, we went back to Paris and ventured to the top of one of the most famous landmarks in the world…drumroll please…

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LE TOUR EIFFEL!

The views were AMAZING (even though it was cold and windy) and the whole structure is pretty remarkable, especially since it was originally only going to be a temporary thing! Whoa!

Also, while we were at the top, we saw a proposal!! It was so life romantic (and romantic romantic)! Everyone was excited and cheering and clapping for them. The girl was SO happy and surprised! I definitely did not get goosebumps and did not get a little teary. Definitely not.

It occured to me, while we were up there, that I had seen a lot of movie trailers recently in which explosions or similar tragedies bring down the Eiffel Tower. Of course, I thought it highly appropriate to mention these while standing atop the thing.

ME: Hey, so, there are a zillion movies coming out soon, and in every one of them THE EIFFEL TOWER EXPLODES.
RANDOM AMERICAN MAN NEAR BY: Oh my. Please…don’t.
ME: Yeah, one is GI Joe, and there’s like lots of fire, and it falls over.
RAMNB: Nah nah nah. Not listening.
ME: And the other one was Transformers…and there was more fire, and maybe it fell over in that one too.
RAMNB: Can you please talk about something else??!
HANNAH: ZOMG. What if the Eiffel Tower actually IS a transformer? Only it’s been…dormant?
EIFFEL TOWER: (Sways)
RAMNB: (Runs away screaming)

After the ridonkulous lines at Versailles, we were relieved that getting up and down the tower was relatively painless. We designated that night as “nice dinner night” and had THE BEST TIME at a nearby restaurant. We were there for about 3 hours. It was so European!

Thursday was our last Paris day, so we naturally had a lot to cram in. The Louvre

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bless it, took up most of the morning/a bit of afternoon. We saw the “big three” first (Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, Venus de Milo) first, and then did a pretty extensive (if brief) sweep of almost the whole museum.

Hannah and I were VERY upset, however, that one of the painting galleries was closed, so we could not see “Liberty Leading the People,” of Ms. Hayes’ art history classroom poster and Coldplay album cover fame.

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Alack!

Oh well.

After that, we ate a quick lunch on the steps of the (Phantom of the) Opera House, and then dashed off to the catacombs.

IT IS SO FREAKY! Basically, you wander around along 1.4 km of underground corridors that are COMPLETELY LINED WITH BONES. Human bones! That are all stacked and neat and orderly and unreal seeming.

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Why, hello, lil skulls of dead french people!

So that was weird. And cool?

Then it was Disneyfail (long story…don’t want to get worked up), the Moulin Rouge, touristy/sexshoppey Monmartre, souvenir shopping, crepe eating, bunkbed picnicing and packing!

Paris was SO MUCH FUN! As with any travel, it had it’s ups and downs, but the company was great, the city was beautiful, and THE TEAM will always have Paris!

Sorry. Had to.

Versailles and the rest of Paris pics are on facebook.

And here’s a nonsequiter bonus treat:

Americans in Paris

22 June 2009

A little bit of music to set the mood…

Hannah and I arrived in Paris on May 25 on the train from Lyon. As previously mentioned, we had to take a slower train that got us there much later in the day than we had planned originally. We tried a couple of times to reach Grace and Tyler to let them know (they were arriving the night before and checking in to the hostel) that’d we’d be late and they should go ahead and start sight seeing etc etc. But no luck on the contact front.

So our train got in around 1:30 in the afternoon, and we successfully navigated the Paris metro and walked the GRUELLINGLY HOT few blocks to the hostel. At the check in desk, I’m all “Hi. We’re checking in. Our friends got here last night. We’re all in the same room. Tra la la.” And then Monsieur Check-In is like “Non! Zhey did not arrive! Zhey are not here! We are mad zhey cancelled! Zhey will have to pay! If zhey are not coming tonight, we want to sell zheir beds!”

To which I respond with a bit of OH EM GEE ARE THEY DEAD? WHERE ARE THEY??? AHHHHH THEY WERE SUPPOSED TO BE HERE LAST NIGHT!!!! Except a little bit calmer on the outside.

Luckily, there was free wifi in the lobby, so Hannah whips out her iPhone, and checks email/facebook to see if they contacted us. Thankfully, we had a message that they’d had trouble with the train tickets and had to stay an extra night in Strausborg.

I had just calmed down from thinking they were dead when they appeared on the sidewalk in front of the hostel. A sweaty reunion group hug ensued.

Our room was ridonkulously small (there was barely enough space to stand between the two sets of bunkbeds) but we had our own bathroom and a tiny balconey and AIR CONDITIONING, which we partook of for awhile before venturing into the city.

First up was Sacre Coeur Basilica, which was right down the street and on top of butte Monmartre. It’s the highest point in the city, but in an effort to save money, we walked instead of taking the funicular.

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Once we got to the top, we toured the inside (pretty; no photos allowed) and then sat on the steps people and pigeon watching for kind of a long time because it was too hot to move. We had shade and a breeze and this view,

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so why not hang out there for a long time?

When we finally managed to rouse ourselves, we headed more “in to” Paris to see the Arc de Triomphe.

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We wanted to climb to the top, but it wasn’t quite dark enough yet, so instead we walked down the Champs Elysees, and saw the gates to what we speculated was the residence of the French Prez (I just checked…it was, in fact, the Elysee Palace, where Le Prez lives) as well as the big fancy National Gallery complex.

We kept walking toward the river and caught our first good view of Le Tour Eiffel!!

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Yay!

It was getting darkish so we walked back up to the Arc to climb to the top. The view was pretty pretty! And we even saw the Eiffel Tower do its sparkley thing.

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Spoiler alert: The Eiffel Tower is a vampire.

At that point, it was after 10pm, and The Team was STARVING. But we were trapped in a fancy pants area with not that many options for food. It all worked out in the end, because we got to eat at tables on the sidewalk of the Champs Elysees, at a dining establishment, that shall remain nameless.

It started to drizzle near the end of our meal, so we took our cue to head for the metro back to our hostel.

Day 2 dawned a bit sunnier and MUCH cooler, leading The Team to a collective sigh of relief because the previous day’s heat was so draining. The hostel breakfast wasn’t stellar, but hey, it was free, so we loaded up on croissants and bad coffee, and then set out for Musee d’Orsay. Because the weather is cruel and unusual, it started to rain while we waited in line.

My favorite moment of the morning was when we were on the way to the metro stop, and Tyler had the map/guidebook out to figure out which line to take to get to the museum, and this adorable old french man stopped and tried to explain to us how to get to Sacre Coeur (since it’s the only touristy thing in that area). And he even told us to bring umbrellas because it was supposed to rain. Or at least that’s what I’m assuming happened based on my interpretation of context clues and his gestures. It was sweet though.

We spent a lot of time at the museum (which I liked better than the Louvre, in hindsight) admiring the impressionism/post-impressionism housed in the former train station,

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then it was back out into the drizzle for some lunch and a walk down the Seine toward Pont Neuf and  the Ile de la Cite.

Did you know there’s an island in the middle of the Seine in the middle of Paris?

I did not.

It turned out to be a “two-fer” because we saw the Sainte-Chapelle

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AND Notre Dame.

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Not only did I not know about the island, but I also didn’t know that Notre Dame was on it.

Of course it became cloudy and windy and cold again as soon as Hannah and I decided to climb to the top.

We were freezing, but the climb up the tiny winding staircase warmed us up, and as soon as we got out, the bells starting ringing.

The Bells…of…Nooo-tre DAAAAAME! (Ah AH ah, ah AH ah)

No but seriously, it was so loud and cool! And we could kind of see through the slats and saw the bells moving!

The rest of the day was spent getting stuck in childrens’ playground equipment (Tyler) and jumping over walls of guarded palace complexes to follow cats (again, Tyler) and not protecting us from creepos who reached out and tried to touch us (also Tyler). We had dinner in the Latin Quarter (that’s Latin as in Virgil, not latin as in Cha Cha) and that was about it for another great day in Paris.

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I’ve only posted the first set of pics on fb (the ones that correspond to the events herein recounted) but more coming soon from Versailles and the rest of Paris!

Lyon

15 June 2009

On May 22, I had my last exam (WHOO!) which I THINK (fingers crossed) I passed, and then Hannah and I whisked ourselves away to Gatwick to fly to Lyon, France.

Why Lyon?

Well, we discovered a while back that one of my mom’s cousins has been living in France for about 30 years, so we jumped at the chance to stay with real people in a real place (ie not a hostel) and have an authentic experience.

So we landed in Lyon around 9pm (and it was still SO light outside) and partially fulfilled one of Hannah’s life dreams: disembarking down stairs directly to the tarmac, while the cheers of the adoring public provide the soundtrack for the journey to the limo.

PassengersAlas, there were no cheering crowds, but we did walk straight down the stairs, across the tarmac, and directly into immigration.

Unfortunately, we forgot our old-timey suitcases.

Old timey suitcase

Cindy (my mom’s cousin) was waiting for us literally on the otherside of the passport hut (it was a weird temporary seeming building), and we drove on the RIGHT SIDE of the road back to their apartment.

It was such an authentic and fun experience! First, it was nice to stay in a home, after 5 months of dorms and hostels and the like. It was also really great just to have people who knew things and could show us places, without us having to worry about finding things or planning. We went to a few farmers markets and an arts fair, and everything was so colorful and fresh and delicious!

In other Authentic French Things We Did news, we:

1. Had fresh pan au chocolat for breakfast that Cindy picked up at the bakery down the street.
2. Tried pate.
3. Ate cheese and fruit for dessert.
4. Went to restaurant called “Gaston,” like the guy from Beauty and the Beast.
5. Had Ratatouille!

In normal sightseeing news, we saw both cathedrals and the roman ruins/museum, walked all over the plaza’s/Vieux Lyon/quays of the Rhone, and went to the art museum. It’s a very pretty city, and the color palatte of all of the buildings really reminded me of Nice.

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Cindy also helped us book our tickets/reservations on to PARIS! Unfortunately, all the TGV (high-speed trains) were booked up for EuRail Pass people, so we had to take the long way and change trains in Dijon. It took four hours instead of two, but I saved on my reservation fee, and Hannah’s ticket was cheaper. We were worried about meeting Grace and Tyler for sightseeing since we’d be getting there so much later in the day, but it turned out to be a non-issue…more on that later : )

The Lyon pics are here.

Aventures sur la Côte d’Azur

24 April 2009

Here begins a massive undertaking: trying to chronicle all that must be chronicled from EA!P1.

First up, La Côte d’Azur. Aka the French Riviera. Aka Nice and Monaco.

That should set the mood nicely, if you want to just play it on loop.

I arose bright and early on the morning of April 11 to make the trek to Gatwick Airport for my flight to Nice. The rest of The Team (DM and JP) was in Barcelona, so I was on my own for this leg of the journey. I flew on EasyJet, which was not as traumatic as I was expecting it to be (thank goodness for online check-in though…the lines at the airport were a bit reminiscient of That Time That Shall Not Be Named). It’s like Southwest, so I had to fight for my seat, but after knocking out a lady and punching a dude in the face, I got an aisle seat in the exit row! V for Victory!!

Ok fine not really. I just rolled up and the flight attendent was like, “Exit row??” and I was all, “Don’t mind if I do.”

You know how when you land, they always get on the intercom and tell you not to get up until the captain turns off the fasten seatbelt sign, and be careful when opening the overhead compartments as items may have shifted during flight? Well, I usually hear that and think “Oh that’s so funny and cute how they always that.” AND THEN lo and behold, homie from across the aisle opens it up, and A BAG FALLS ON MY HEAD. I never thought that warning was REAL! It’s just a cute thing they have to say, like where the exits are.  W-t-heck??

I was mildly concussed, but I still managed to find the bus to the train station, from which I walked a few blocks to the hotel.

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Hahahhaahah I wish. No this is what it actually looked like:

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I explored a bit, checked out the beach, and eagerly awaited the arrival of the rest of The Team. They had train problems (and literally 12 hours of travel from Barcelona bless their lil hearts) and finally showed up a bit before 9pm.

Sunday was Easter, so I woke up, no joke, to choirs singing and organ playing from the cathedral next door.

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That was the view out our window.

We climbed the Colline de Chateau, which was this big hill with a waterfall on top, and fantastic panoramas of Nice, illustrated in this short film I shot up there:

And that’s not even the top. From the top, we spent an obscene amount of time watching a big ferry from Corsica come into port and, I’m not kidding, parallel park. Or parallel dock, since it was a boat. Other highlights of the day include, but are not limited to: collecting sea glass, getting chased by mean mean waves that drenched my poor 1 pair of shoes, and exploring the alley-like avenues of Vieux Nice.

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Monday was Monaco Day! We took a 40 minute bus ride along the coast, and arrived in that lovely playground of a Principality for the rich and famous. Did you know…

1. Monaco is only .76 square miles?
2. The average person can walk across Monaco in 56 minutes?
3. Monaco’s beloved Princess Grace is American actress Grace Kelly?

I didn’t. Also, the bus ride (round trip) was the same price as a can of coke. 2 euro. This seems strange to me.

Also, in Monaco, I learned that you have to weigh your own produce and get a price sticker BEFORE going to the cash register.

We got back to Nice around 4pm, and I decided to venture up to Cimiez and the Matisse Museum. The rest of The Team pooped out and took a nap at the hotel. LAME.

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Not only did I get to see a lot of Matisse (FOR FREE), I also saw an olive grove, some ruins, a monestary, lots of bocce balls, and bunches of people enjoying Easter Monday picnics.

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It was tres beautiful.

That night, I fulfilled a life-long dream: eat dinner in a plaza between a fountain and a church. Added bonus: crazy man who we nicknamed “The Troll.”

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Sorry it’s crooked. The Cathedrale Ste-Reparate was behind me.

In Nice, I ate a lot of bagettes and drank cafe au lait. Yum! Did I mention the crisis we witnessed TWICE during breakfasts? The cafe we were eating at RAN OUT OF BAGETTES! Gasp! On the 1st morning there, we saw our waiter run down the street looking quite distressed. We jokingly suggested that he was going for more bagettes, when LO AND BEHOLD, he comes back carrying an armful of bagettes. Crisis averted.

Also, I saw topless sunbathers and this:

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Go figure.

Check out the rest of the pics here. And there’s probably little things I forgot to mention in the captions.