Paris Day 1:
I AM IN PARIS! Crazy words, right?
The first part of this trip was taking the Eurostar train from St. Pancras Station to Paris. We took a bus to the station, and then hopped on the train. It was awesome. I got a backward facing seat, at a table with three other people. Half the seats face in one direction, half in the other, and in the middle they meet and there’s the table. The beginning part is interesting, because there are a lot of small tunnels on the England side of the trip, and going through them you get these crazy pressure changes, that completely mess with your ears. The English side is very pretty, a lot of rolling green hills. Then you go through the Chunnel, which was surprisingly fast. We weren’t sure whether we were in France or not for a while. The French side is equally beautiful, with wind farms scattered here and there plus the occasional small town. And we got to see the sun set over the French countryside. It was an unforgettable experience, probably one of my favorite parts of the entire trip.
After that, they offered a boat trip and tour of the Eiffel Tower (one part today one part tomorrow) for 22 Euros. Most people did that, so we met up with the tour guides and headed off on the metro to our stop. The metro here has two decks, so that was cool, but the stations and most of the system were not nearly as nice as the London Underground. The city is also much dirtier it seems. Now, our guides had told us to rip our tickets when we were done with the trip there, because we’d get new ones on the way back. Of course, me being a genius, I ripped mine after getting into the system, not thinking about the whole exit part. So my ticket didn’t get me out. I ended up getting out (after standing to the side in embarrassment) by squeezing in with someone and sneaking through. This was at the Tour Eiffel station. So I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was when I turned the corner a few yards out of the station and there’s the Eiffel Tower. We walked right by it, got onto the boat, and took a boat tour of some of Paris. The buildings are cool around the Seine. We passed Notre Dame Cathedral, which seems so much bigger from one side than it does the other. We’re going to try and go there for Church on Sunday.
After the boat tour I ended up hanging with some people who decided to get crepes. Figuring it was something one should do when in Paris, I got one. It was good, but I couldn’t get through the whole thing. I think it was too much chocolate and banana.
We passed a group of soldiers at the Eiffel Tower that were just standing there with rifles hanging down, right by a group of people trying to sell the flashing Eiffel Towers (you just have to ignore them). I felt a little safer knowing they had that visible security in the area.
Now I’m back in my room, and when I first got in and was typing this, I felt very overwhelmed. There’s so much to take in such a short period of time. I’ve enjoyed my time here so far. But I think London is still my favorite city. Probably followed by DC, and then Paris. Then comes New York City.
Today started out early. As in I woke up about 7:45, showered, had breakfast, and then we met for the bus tour at 8:45. The tour was cool, we got to see the major sights of Paris, which was nice. We stopped to go into the Notre Dame Cathedral. It’s huge, absolutely massive. And I’m excited to go to church there tomorrow morning.
The bus tour dropped us off at the Eiffel Tower. That was cool, but I’m not a fan of heights. Thankfully, we only went halfway up, as the top was closed. And it was a rainy day, so it wasn’t the best view, but I still was going crazy being that far up. I was ready to get down pretty quickly.
After that we went to the Louvre, which is massive. But, it’s also not all that interesting to me. I enjoyed it, it was cool to see the Mona Lisa and one of the famous statues, but really it just wasn’t all that interesting to me. I’m more of a landscape painting type of guy, and I didn’t see many there. Although I will say the quality/detail of most of the paintings there is unbelievable.
So overall opinion on the second day: Paris is pretty, that’s true. But, there are definitely things I don’t like.
Day three started early. Me and this girl Andrea (there were supposed to be other people joining us, never really got things worked out) went over to Notre Dame Cathedral and caught the 10 Mass. It was good, although they let people walk around the cathedral while Mass was going on, which I found odd. Also, the whole Mass in French part made it hard to understand.
After that I was going to go on a bike ride with these older guys Dom and Thomas, they work at the school. Paris has this system where you can rent a bike for one euro a day, but you have to switch out the bikes every 30 minutes. If you don’t return the bike they charge you 150 Euros for it. The problem was my debit card doesn’t have a chip on it. Most credit/debit cards here in Europe have a little chip, so you just slide the card in and the machine reads it. Mine don’t have that, so they didn’t work. That meant I couldn’t use a bike (Thomas tried some other cards he had, but even those didn’t work). Oh well. I decided to go down to the Louvre and hang out. I walked along the Seine, and the Louvre wasn’t a bad walk at all. When I went in, I just wandered around and found places to sit and watch. There were some big rooms that had statues, and provided a good place to hang out.
After the Louvre, I wandered some more, went into the Apple store right next to it, then headed to the Metro. While waiting in line to get a ticket (it took a while) I talked to a guy from London who was heading back home later. He was annoyed the lack of service in the Paris metro. In London, there are people in the Underground stations that help you, and really it’s just a whole lot better. The system is cleaner, better, all those good things.
When I got back to Gare de Lyon, I sat down in the station (which our hotel is right next to) and watch the TGV trains come and go. I saw three of soldiers walk through. They have these at the major sights, and I guess at some of the transportation hubs. This time two of them had rifles, and the other one was just looking around. I then went back to the hotel and sat down with people to wait for the Eurostar train back. I got bored a few times and walked back to the train station (the hotel is practically connected to the station), looked around, got some food, and watched the very serious looking soldiers walk through occasionally.
Gare de Lyon:
Overall, Paris really isn’t my favorite city. I think it might rank a little ahead of New York City, but it just isn’t all that great. Of course, I’m glad I saw it, it’s definitely a place you should see at some point in your life. I miss London, there’s really stuff that’s so much better there. The Tube is bright, clean, and has people there to help you if something isn’t working. It’s so much better than the metro/DLR system in Paris. It might be the weather, or that knowing someone who knows Paris and speaks French would make it better, and maybe I’ll go back some time, but the first impression wasn’t that great. Heck, maybe if I was in a different part of London (not as nice) I would have a different impression, someone was pointing out today that we’re lucky to be where we are. And, I should add that I can’t complain that much, I’m lucky I got to go to Paris in the first place.