After a couple days in Paris, we still had not even caught a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower! It’s hard to believe, isn’t it? So that was next on the itinerary for the day. We took the Metro countless times to get around the city and it proved to be a wonderful form of transportation. I loved getting to see the different performers in the underground tunnels that connect one stop to another. I also liked how it was dirty and grimy while the streetes above were immaculately beautiful. Rising up from the dark into a new, unexplored part of Paris to see the spectacular buildings and blue skies was surreal:
We eventually found our way to the Louvre, but not before stopping at a stand across the street for some crêpes. The guy running the stand was from Italy, but to us virgins to Paris, that didn’t make a difference whatsoever. Mine was so delicious! I chose to have Nutella and strawberries in it and yummm it was just so good. I highly suggest that combo. Just thinking about it is making my mouth water.
So the Musée du Louvre. A mystical, magical, gigantic labyrinth of many of the greatest works of art known to mankind. Quite overwhelming. I think it’s safe to say that Kyla, Sydney, and I were all fairly/completely ignorant when it came to this museum (and all of the others we visited on the trip) so we mustered up some help from Rick Steves’ Pocket Paris and took his suggested tour around the Louvre that hit the must-see (a.k.a. mainstream a.k.a. “basic”) paintings and sculptures that are so special to see in a lifetime. You could spend weeks in the Louvre and still not see everything it has to offer and since we only had a few hours to spare, it was crucial that we maximized that time.
Needless to say, we got lost more than once. But, in the end, I am fairly sure that we saw everything each of us had wanted to see so it was a successful trip. Lots and lots of walking. By the way, if you have not yet visited Paris and seen the Mona Lisa, it was so incredibly tiny, although that was pretty much what I had been expecting. I have heard many people say that it is underwhelming and overrated, but I tend to disagree. Pretty much everything I know about Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous painting is from reading Mona Lisa by Donald Sassoon in middle school, so I’m no expert but I feel like there has to be a reason why people come from all over to see her! However, I thought the crowd/herd of people attacking each other to get to the front of the pack was completely insane, unnecessary, and kind of barbaric. People were snapping selfies all over the place. But, I took part in the aggressive crowding so I am part of the problem as well (no, I didn’t take a selfie with her). Also, it was pretty amazing getting to see Venus de Milo. Below are some of the pictures I took of a few of my favorites and the ones I was most awestruck standing in front of:
After the Louvre, we strolled on over to Musée d’Orsay. While there was an incredibly long line to get in, once inside, there were far fewer crowds than at the Louvre. Well, it was still pretty crowded but I felt that it was definitely less crowded. The Orsay had a completely different vibe. It was converted from a train station into an art museum so it had high ceilings and interesting architecture. I also found the collection here to be more to my taste and was completely starstruck standing right in front of some of Vincent van Gogh’s finest works. There were many other paintings I admired immensely but here are just a few:
I thought this giant clock/window in the museum that looks over the Seine was kinda cool. So I took a picture:
Afterwards, we were completely exhausted from all that walking around so we headed back to our apartment. We ate some bread, cheese, crackers, and grapes as a little bit of an appetizer, but mostly because we were completely famished. Then we got dressed up and headed out to the Latin Quarter, where we had been earlier in the day. We did the most mainstream thing possible and went to Rue de la Huchette where it was hopping! (sorry for saying that — do people still say that?) There were vendors selling anything and everything from woven figurines to simple little rings, numerous bachelorette parties, bright neon lights, and so many different types of restaurants. We ended up eating at an overpriced Italian restaurant which was at least slightly above average in my opinion. I can’t remember what I ordered but it was some kind of pasta. Just walking along the street was exciting and funny. There were so many things to see. But then we wanted to get out of the touristic throngs of people…
…So, after dinner, we did the least touristy thing we could do and decided to finally go see the Eiffel Tower (ha). We made our way via Metro but got off a stop early or something because we walked for about five minutes through a really beautiful neighborhood until we first got a glimpse of it. Walking through the empty streets of the surrounding neighborhood and seeing it slowly getting bigger and bigger overhead was incredible. Then after ten more minutes, the Eiffel Tower was right there! It was my first time ever seeing the Eiffel Tower and it was pretty surreal just craning my neck till it hurt and gazing up at it above me. So when I got to the park, I just kind of laid on the ground for twenty minutes or so and stared at it. I’ll have to go back with my boyfriend one day because even without being in Paris with the person you love, you can feel how romantic of a city Paris is. Not just the Eiffel Tower, but the general vibe of the city. The Eiffel Tower was kind of like the cherry on top, though. At night, especially, it was so pretty:
Walking back was a struggle. Kyla and I truly trusted Sydney with the directions, but it turned out that he failed us (sorry to say that, Sydney, if you’re reading this). We walked for twenty or thirty minutes aimlessly until we even found a Metro station and from there we had to wait for probably about ten minutes for it to get there. It was so empty at that time of night, too. By the time we got back to the apartment, we were exhausted so went immediately to sleep.
The next day, our last hours in Paris, I woke up early to go on a walk alone. Kyla and Sydney were still asleep but I had postcards to mail and baking bread to smell so I walked south toward Notre Dame, passing bakeries along the way while the city was still asleep. The sun rose as I walked and it was really quite a lovely stroll in the early light. Once I reached Notre Dame, found somewhere to mail my postcards and buy stamps (it took a while), I turned around and headed back. At that point, I realized that I should probably hurry up. The train leaving for Barcelona was departing in a little over an hour and it would probably take me about thirty minutes to get back since I didn’t exactly know the exact way back.
Pictures I took on the peaceful part of my morning walk (before I realized I was running late), one on my way over the Seine and the other on the other side of the bridge on the way back:
So when I got back to the apartment, Sydney and Kyla seemed a bit exasperated. Oops. I had to rush super quickly to pack up the last of my things. By the time we walked out the door, we had less than thirty minutes until the train was supposed to depart. It was not looking too good. We started sprinting toward the nearest Metro station and when we got there we stood around impatiently, worrying, while waiting for an eternity for the train to get there. It finally did and we hopped on and then off once we got to Gare du Nord. We ran over to where the train to Barcelona would be leaving from but we couldn’t find it! We realized that we had most likely missed it even though we thought we had made it just in time. But we asked an employee working there anyways for help finding our train because we were hardcore struggling. He looked to confused. He told us that there were not trains leaving from Gare du Nord to go to Barcelona. We were shocked as we had bought our tickets from Gare du Nord one our first day in Paris but had apparently been too daft to even read what the tickets said: Gare de Lyon. At that point, the train had already left that station so we headed to the ticket booth to buy new tickets to a train that would depart from Gare de Lyon at five o’clock that evening. Which meant we had more time in Paris!
With these newly earned hours to spare, we all agreed that this was the perfect chance to go see the Eiffel Tower again — this time in daylight! So that’s where we went and I’m so glad we did because it was entirely different during the day:
After spending some time sitting down in front of the tower, we realized that we wanted to be early for our train this time so we got to Gare de Lyon a couple hours early and grabbed lunch at a restaurant across the street called A l’Express de Lyon. The food was pretty good and I thought it had a really nice style. I had no idea what the hell the menu said because it was in French but I took the waiter’s advice and ordered something (can’t remember what it was, but it was good as far as I remember). And then it took so long for the waiter to give us our bill that by the time we were out of the restaurant, there were only 15 minutes until our train left! So, once again, we found ourselves sprinting to make a train. And we made it — just barely. After a few truly wonderful days in Paris, we departed the City of Light and headed toward sunny Barcelona, Spain for more European adventures.
Here are some pictures of the utterly gorgeous landscape on the train ride in the south of France before we crossed the Spanish border: