Well well well - another update for another trip. This time it was a long weekend in PARIS! What a gorgeous city. I have to say that it was probably one of the prettiest city that I have traveled to thus far this semester if not ever. It was after class was over on Thursday afternoon and a team meeting at the same that I boarded the Air Coach en route to Dublin Airport. No worries and an easy transit through security - surprisingly so. However, once I was given the gate assignment, I noted that it was in a different terminal. I headed out to the place where I was supposed to be a noted that it seemed like a commuter terminal, no jetways but rather doors that opened out onto the tarmac. Anyways, I found food and drink and found a seat to just cool my heals before we took off. On the plane, I was seated next to an Irish couple heading to Paris for a vacation. We spoke about what to do, practiced our little French and compared notes. They were so cute.
Upon arrival at Charles de Gaul airport, I thought I had stepped into a pipe dream. There were not the normal sorts of straight walkways that we are used to in the states. Rather there were moving sidewalks that dipped up and down as if it were an ocean swell that we were transiting. All the while, the path was in these huge tubes with concrete walls - it felt like I was in a cave spelunking or something. Once into the central terminal, it was through passport control (so many stamps now!) and into what they called "tube central." The atrium was literally something out of the game chutes and ladders with tubes crisscrossing through the center. It was so weird but I was able to find signs that pointed to the rail line that headed into the city center.
Onto the shuttle train it was and towards the RER (their version of a commuter rail I guess) station and trying to figure out their system of ticketing. I opted for the unlimited pass that would let me get onto pretty much anything anywhere any time just because I didn't want to have to deal with that sort of stuff while also trying to navigate and translate my way through the city. That first night, I made my way alone into the Montmartre (sp) area on the North side of the city and into my hostel for the night. The only other BU person was in the city on the opposite side staying with a friend so I would be alone at the hostel for two nights before setting myself in with the other BU people that would arrive on Saturday.
Friday started bright and early as the Australian pair, whom were staying their last night in Paris at my hostel (they had been on the road for 2 months then) got up at 0-dark-thirty. To my glee, there was breakfast waiting in the downstairs for me - croissant and crusty roll with coffee and OJ - I headed out into the city knowing only that I needed to meet Nicole at the Eiffel Tower at 10am. My plan was to hit the metro over to the Arch du Triumph, which I did, and then walk into the city from there. It was really need to see all these places that I had seen photos and videos of but now in the flesh. Onwards into the city, I went and moseyed in towards the center seeing Parisians going about their normal morning.
Nicole made it out to the tower just a bit later after getting lost on the C-Line of the RER (I do not blame her that line is CRAZY with odd end points and routes). We opted to save some coin and walked up to the first level of the tower, grabbed a quick snack, and then pushed on to the second level. Photos all around then found out how to get to the tippy top. The weather could not have been better - clear and relatively warm, minus the wind. We finally got into the HUGE line for the top stage elevator then it was on our way up! Hopefully you do not have a fear of heights and in the back of my mind, I was trying to remember that I am planning to jump out of a plane this summer...
Anyways, we hit the top and walked around taking photos as we went. Somewhere up there Brian and my mother become engaged and on thinking that, I saw a couple seal that deal right there as well - very odd but I took the opportunity to get on a knee for Nicole and ask her to take a photo of me. You should have seen the looks on people's faces when I said that - haha! After getting down, we walked around the park adjacent to the tower, took the obligatory photos, and then headed out for more adventure. The next spot would be Notre Dame Cathedral and oh, goodness it was beautiful. From the outside to the inside, it was absolutely amazing. History, stories, meaning, beauty all coming together. I lit a candle within for my family and friends so I hope good fortune reaches you wherever you are.
After the cathedral, it was to the Jardin du Luxembourg (Luxemburg Gardens) where we actually spotted David Letterman with his son, publicist, and personal assistant. It was SOO surreal to see him there, totally unexpected. I did not know where to place his face but I knew it was from US TV back home so I started to go through shows that I knew and I finally realized it was David Letterman with a salt and pepper beard. Too funny. Once we had had enough sun, we moved towards the Louvre where it was going to be a student's night with free admission with a student ID. It was a lot of fun to see the old and impressive stuff. We saw the naked lady without arms - very famous, old cuneiform tablets, the Mona Lisa and so much more. I was definitely disappointed that the real thing was so small and unimpressive - not to mention the room was completely different from the movie, The DaVinci Code.
That night we headed back to Nicole's friend's place at Cite Univeriste and had a cool little family dinner with parents and friends. Then I made my journey back north to my hostel for a night of annoyed sleep. Some drunken bitches rolled into the hostel room at 2am and not only turned on all the lights but were like yelling to each other. Of course, they were American. I bit my tongue while they were getting ready for bed but when they continued to yell at one another from the opposite sides of the room, I had to say something. Needless to say, they shut up really fast - I also adjusted my wake up time to be up showered and out before their alarm even went off.
Saturday started much the same way as Friday but I then ventured through the city on my way to Gare Du Nord (The North Train Station) where I met up with Nicole, Parker (her friend), and Parker's mom and aunt. We tried to find a train to Giverny, Monet's home, but there was not anything from that station - we found that it was on the other side of the city where we could make it out to the gardens there. We trucked and barely hopped on the train as it made its way out of the city center. I caught up with Lost on my iPod while on the train - much fun. Upon arrival in Vernon, we boarded a bus to get us to Giverny and we set ourselves loose on the small town. We devoured some delectable crepes at a small hotel/b&b before heading into the house and gardens of Monet. I took MANY MANY photos of flowers and really got my artsy on. With someone's suggestion, I have been trying to find marketable photos that I might be able to print and sell at some point in the future. Check out the Flickr feed for more of those.
That night, I wandered the streets of Paris after moving my stuff from Le Village to Le Montclaire hostels. Starbucks and all the rest of the American fat machines were around. After a brief dinner, I thought it would be a good idea to walk down along the Seine... well that was sketchy but I managed to navigate the stone boardwalks without getting mugged. I had a really good talk with a close pal, a long think while making my way from Notre Dame over to the Eiffel Tower. I snapped a couple fun night pictures of the tower just before and during the "sparkling" that happens late at night. That was really special for me. Along the way, I got a call from my softball pals that were in and we met up along the Seine and headed back towards the hostel by foot.
The next morning we (softball pals and I) trekked our way out to Versailles. WOW - that was an amazing experience. I do not think I can remember any buildings that are that old and that HUGE! Unfortunately there was a ridiculously long line to get tickets and then to get into security and to get into the halls. In the face of that, we headed around the back to the gardens. Let us just say it was just like the paintings and all the books - expansive gardens, trees, shrubbery, grass, lakes, ponds, fountains etc... it was perfect. We wandered snapping photos all along the way. Tucked away in one of the maze gardens was a café where we pickets up from paninis and that amazing ice cream that you just can't get in the states. More wandering and more photos ensued before we retreated to the train just as the bad weather rolled in.
It was a chill night that followed and then the next morning I had an uneventful trek back to Dublin. Sorry for the super long post... I sort of got away from myself. Hopefully this means my writing spirit is back and I will be able to keep this guy topped off a little bit better. Thanks for reading!