So wow, I’ve gotten way behind. But when classes suddenly stop, you begin traveling everywhere, and then people come visit you, and then you have exams, and then more people come visit you, and then you travel again, and then you have more exams…you get the picture. So in this blog, I’m going to try to sum up some other bits of my spring break, starting with going back to Paris (for the third time).
I love Paris. I really do. I think it’s my favorite of the world’s major cities that I’ve been to. More than London, more than Vienna, more than New York, even more than Boston (which up until now I thought was my favorite). It is a magical place. There’s always something to discover there, and if you watch Midnight in Paris, you’ll know that when night falls, it takes you back in time.
Maybe not literally, but Paris after nightfall is my favorite. Especially in front of the Eiffel Tower when it’s sparkling.
So here’s what happened: Lanier and I hopped on a bus back from Belgium to Paris, and after three hours we were safely back in the City of Light. It was lightly raining, and Lanier and I wanted to go do something but didn’t feel like spending any money, so we went to one of my favorite places in Paris: Pere Lachaise. It’s this AMAZING cemetery to beat all cemeteries, and Lanier hadn’t been yet. It was the perfect way to spend an afternoon! I mean, wandering around a graveyard for several hours while it is raining lightly doesn’t sound like much fun out of context, but look at it in context:
Each grave is ornate and unique. If I ever get to choose where I want to be buried, I’d want to be buried in Pere Lachaise where my grave would be part of the most epic real-life museum anywhere.
After strolling around Pere Lachaise, Lanier and I just strolled around Paris and had a much-needed heart-to-heart. It’s crazy how EVEN closer we’ve gotten as friends this semester, even though we’ve been apart. I’m going to need her so much when school gets back in the fall. I won’t know what to do with myself without a good friend like her who will be experiencing a similar thing.
We came back to her apartment, after doing some grocery shopping for dinner at the Franprix, and had sandwiches of Speculoos and apricot jam for lunch (Speculoos is a spread made of crushed spice cookies in a Nutella-like consistency. It’s utterly phenomenal and life-changingly delicious). We just hung out in her one room apartment until it was time to go get Elizabeth from the train station! We fetched Elizabeth, had a very happy reunion, and returned to Lanier’s apartment for dinner (cooked by myself, I’m getting better at this cooking thing) and watching Midnight and Paris! A perfect introduction to seeing the city for the first time, in Elizabeth’s case.
Since Lanier had class, Elizabeth and I went off to do some touristy things on our own. We first attempted to go to the Louvre, but it was tragically closed on Tuesdays, so we went instead to Notre Dame! It was my first time inside the cathedral, so it was pretty cool. After that, we were getting pretty hungry so we walked to Place Saint-Michel (detouring by Shakespeare and Company, one of the most exciting hipster/American expatriate bookstores in the world) for some shopping and street crepes! I got nutella and banana, big surprise there. It’s my fave. =) After Saint-Michel, we made our way to the Opera Garnier, another of my favorite Parisian places. It’s the most beautiful opera house in the world (I can say that since I’ve seen others now) with the most ornate designs, sculptures, and paintings you’ve ever seen on the inside of a building. It was so much fun to go again, but they were having rehearsal in the auditorium so we didn’t get to go in there, sadly since it’s my favorite part. But it was still fun all the same!
After the tour, we walked down to the Galleries Lafayette so that I could show Elizabeth pretty much THE oldest department store in the world. It’s also got stained glass, so it’s seven stories of shopping and gorgeous Parisian building. It was fun! We decided to go wedding dress looking on the sixth floor just for kicks, and that proved to be fun as well. During this, I got a text from my friend Claire (who was in Paris with her parents at the time) that her parents wanted to take us out to dinner, and not just me, but Elizabeth and Lanier as well. Well, this was shocking! But the three of us rallied together and met Claire’s family at their hotel to walk to dinner. You can imagine our surprise when it was a grand three course French meal with apperatifs at the start and lovely dessert at the end. I got this most astounding ravioli made of three cheeses (French cheese, of course, being king of the cheeses) with spinach in it for an appetizer, and I got the most incredible thing I have ever eaten for dinner: a slow-roasted duck. My goodness. I was literally hearing the guys from Remember the Titans humming “Amazing Grace” in my ears as I slowly savored that tender meat in the most mouth-watering sauce on this earth. It brought TEARS to my eyes, that’s how delicious this duck was!! It was served with some excellent haricot verts and of course some wonderful French baguettes for everyone. When dessert rolled around, we could hardly stand how full we were getting, but we just kept plowing on because we HAD to have the dessert at a place like this! Claire and I got the profiteroles to split:
That’s chocolate sauce he’s pouring over the profiteroles. =)
After this dinner, we DEFINITELY needed to walk around some, so after leaving Claire with her parents, Elizabeth, Lanier and I returned to Place Saint-Michel and then to the Eiffel Tower with a bottle of French wine ( so we could feel REALLY Parisian) to watch the Eiffel Tower light up and sparkle at midnight. We missed midnight by about five minutes, but we enjoyed just sitting in front of the tower with no one else around and just enjoying how beautiful that structure is at midnight. It was a wonderful night, three friends just enjoying each others’ company in the presence of a light-up wonder of the world at midnight. It was very peaceful, and it was one of those moments that made me feel like I was truly living the study abroad life I’d hoped I would live. We returned to Lanier’s apartment for some well-deserved sleep before setting off again the next morning for some last tourist things before Elizabeth and I flew out to Vienna.
First, the Arc du Triomphe! I personally recommend the view from the Arc more than the view from the Eiffel Tower because A) You can see the Eiffel Tower FROM the Arc) and B) Baron Haussmann, who designed Paris after the fire in the 19th century, designed the Arc to have “grands boulevards” stretching in a spoke formation from it and the view from that position is just incredible. An amazing view of the city, and I completely recommend it if you’re traveling there soon.
After the Arc, Elizabeth and I decided to walk to the Louvre from the Champs Elysees (the boulevard stretching from the Arc), which was a 45 minute walk, but it was a beautiful day and it was a beautiful walk, so it made it pleasant and well-worth it. Once we got to the Louvre, we waited in line for a good long time before going in so that we could see the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. We didn’t have much time for the museum unfortunately, but we did have enough time to hit the biggest sights and to cover the Italian Renaissance portrait section and the Greek sculpture section, so that was neat. The Mona Lisa is still my favorite painting in the world, by the way. =)
After the Louvre, it was time to get our things and make our way to the airport, which we did without too much hassle. We flew out of Orly into Vienna, FULL of excitement to explore this new country of Austria!