My first visit to Paris!
" A First Impression of Paris"
This is my account of the school trip I went on to Paris in 2008. We spent June 20th-21st in Paris, then part of the 22nd and 23rd. Being a English/German speaking student, I was nervous about visiting France. I only had/have a very basic, self-taught foundation in the language and culture. The city itself was amazing, beautiful and exciting. However, after visiting many other European countries, I do not want to return to France at all. I wish I was treated better by the locals.
(Maybe they should be more like the GERMANS.)
Oh, and I'm totally not biased because I love Germany and speak German. (DEUTSCHLAND!!!!!!!!!!) Seriously.
For more commentary on my first trip to Paris, take a look at my video documentaries! They are linked to on my homepage, or on the Paris video page.
"Day One: Hell would be an Understatement."
So... we started our trip at 14:00 EST. We arrived at Pittsburgh International, and could not be more excited. Boy, did that change quickly! We left Pittsburgh International around 5pm, then landed in JFK International in New York. Can that airport be any more rundown??? I felt like I was in Snoop Dogg's "Hood of Horrors." It didn't help that we got delayed there for hours. I don't think JFK has ever had a plane leave on time. Once we got on Air France, we were stuck in the plane for another hour since the runway was backed up 40 planes... That was nice. Thank you New York. I'm sure the former president would love to have such an airport in his name.
After sitting on the plane for an hour, I was ready to get off. Except I still had to sit through the 8 hour plane ride. Air France is pretty nice. I spent most of my time sleeping (attempting), but it seemed okay. Except for the girl behind me. She kept putting her feet on my arm rest, so I'd kindly PUSH THEM OFF. Accidentally, of course. Ahhhhhh, people. We got our dinner a few hours later. It was pretty good for airplane food, but it was "very French." So my first taste of French food was on a plane. Yay. The choice was either beef Bourguignon or pollack. I don't eat beef, so I just got the fish. It wasn't amazing. However, we got this "barley salad with cilantro and tuna." That was really good. Most people in my group didn't like it though. It didn't taste like anything I've had back in America. Which is sometimes a good thing.
Then I slept some more (I'm sure this is very entertaining for all of you) (Oh wait, no one reads anything I write...). Then the people came around with a little breakfast thingy. (I was on the red eye.) I ate the roll, that's about it. I'm not a big fan of cheese and natural, unflavored yogurt.
Finally, we arrived in Paris around 12:00, Paris time. Most of us hadn't slept very well, and we had a full day of touring ahead of us. THIS IS WHERE HELL BEGAN. (Dun dun duhhhhhh). We got on our first tour bus out of around 5,853,579,899 and headed towards the hotel. We stayed at the Hotel Citea La Villette. For a European hotel, it was decently spacious. We had enough time to get changed (quickly), then we departed. INTO HELLLLLL.
*Note: Hell is referring to the intensity of the trip's schedule. Not Paris. Paris wasn't that bad.
Once my group was ready, we took our first walk to the metro. Climbing down the stairs, we did not know what we were getting into. Our tour guide for the trip, Joshua, handed us these little tickets. "Do not lose these." That is when the most hilarious part of the metro came about: the ticket gates. At least half of my group managed to get stuck in these. It must have took us 5 minutes to get the entire group through. I feel bad for the people behind us... Entering the metro platform, I was initially shocked by how often the metro comes! We never had to wait more than four minutes. (Compared to the T's 30 or so...) And then, Joshua's famous words, "EIGHT STOPS until we get off!" I think the most confusing part about the metro were the doors. Unlike in Pittsburgh, they don't open at every stop. You have to press a little button to open them. It is a lot more efficient, actually. Also, the Paris metros don't announce every stop, like the Pittsburgh T. Therefore, I had to pay attention for once.
It wasn't until we first saw the Eiffel Tower that I knew I was in Paris. That sounds weird, but a city is a city... at least until you start looking at its unique factors. All of a sudden, I turned a corner and there it was. I had a beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower from a far. It was breathtaking. Everyone insisted on taking pictures, much to Joshua's dismay. "Come on! We'll see it again..."
After a view photo opportunities, we kept trekking down the Paris streets. I must say, it is nearly impossible to tell the street from the sidewalk at some points. I found myself walking along the middle of roads constantly. Anyways, after our walk through Paris, Joshua told us that we could take a short lunch break. For crêpes. From a street vendor. What a disaster waiting to happen... I quickly got out my French phrase book and tried to figure out how to order. One of the Frenchies in my group told me that le jambon was ham, so I decided I would get a ham crêpe. I think it went something like this...
"Bonjour. Uh, Je voudrais crêpe... uh... mit jambon. Sans... uh... fromage."
I got a cheese crêpe with no ham. I don't think the street vendor listened to a word I said, except fromage. But I didn't want to have to learn how to complain, so I ate it anyways. Ew. Turns out, I wouldn't get a decent crêpe until a few days later. And yes, I randomly throw German words into my French. I can't help it.
After this less than thrilling experience, my group had to meet in front of the Seine Sightseeing Cruise. Two words: tourist trap. I slept. It was a nice, well-needed nap. I had been on the move for over a day.
After getting off of the Seine River Cruise, my group and I got to go see the Louvre. I wasn't exactly excited, since I was tired and hot. However, as soon as they allowed us to go of on our own, I was amazed. I saw such wonderful art, and I saw such wonderful architecture. I was taking photographs and videos constantly. As one friend said, "It's amazing!" As another said, "Uh... It's art." In all of our amazement, we finally realized that we were lost. Do not underestimate the size of the Louvre. So my friends and I found one of those "You are here" maps and tried to find our way back. We walked for quite a while, through all sorts of time periods of art. In the end, we found our way back without being late.
By this time, we were all extremely hungry. We walked down the streets of Paris, as Joshua led us to our first Parisian dinner. We finally made it to the restaurant, L'Entrecote. Arriving at the restaurant, we were all served water and the house red wine. In America, I do not drink socially, since it is illegal at my age. Therefore, this was my first drinking experience with my friends and teachers. While I was sampling the red wine, my friend Scott chugged the entire glass in around 10 seconds... I told him, "That's how you drink beer, not wine!" haha. After this little incident, we received our meal... A steak that looked like a hamburger patty, and fries. Ugh. American food? I'M IN PARIS! Also, I don't eat beef. So I ate a salad. It was surprisingly good. Leaving the restaurant, we were informed that we had one more thing to do... ascend the Eiffel Tower. This was an experience in itself...
First, we had to wait in a line to get to the first elevator. Once we reached the front of this line, the attendants crammed as many people as possible into the elevator. This led us to the first level. It was still light outside. By the time I reached the top, it was dark. If I estimated how long it took to get to the top of the Eiffel Tower, I would say over an hour. However, it was worth it. Even though I had to push and shove and claw my way to see the view, it was breathtaking. The city of Paris is beautiful at night.
"Day Two: Can you say Partie?"
The best part of the Eiffel Tower at night was the light show. Every so often, the Eiffel Tower's lights flash like crazy, making a incredible sight to see! What wasn't as incredible... the attacking street vendors. These people try to sell toys and little light up Eiffel Towers. They. are. aggressive. Actually, I observed them for a period of time. They would purposely throw their flying bird toys into crowds, often hitting tourists and natives in the head. My group saw a lady flip out when she got nailed in the head by one. Then the cops came... Oh, Paris...
After getting as much rest as we could, my group set off for day two of our tour of Paris. After a light breakfast provided by our hotel, we set off for a tour of Paris. In a bus. UGH! I feel asleep again... Not because Paris is boring, (it is magnificent!) but because of the hot, slow-moving bus. Suffering from the heat while trying to take pictures through the dirty windows is not my idea of seeing Paris...
After that fiasco, we were allowed to get a quick lunch while waiting for entrance into the famous Musée d'Orsay. This museum houses some of the greatest works by impressionist artists. Also, it is a lot smaller than the Louvre! When we finally got to go inside, we were surrounded by amazing impressionist art. Works by Monet, Van Gogh, and others were everywhere. There are also sculptures, photography, and even furniture on display. Unlike in the Louvre, we didn't get lost. However, since my group was on a time budget, I still didn't get to see all of the museum.
After this experience, we were taken to the Latin Quarter of Paris for some shopping time! Finally, we were free to roam without the 30 person group! Leaving the group, I found that it was a lot easier to blend in as a European. With a couple of friends, we hit the stores and found some amazing, fashionable clothing items. At one point, I ventured off by myself to check out a store, Côte à Côte. I guess I pull off the European look quite well, because a bunch of French men kept coming up and talking to me. I didn't want to be rude and interrupt, so I'd just try and figure out any clues as to what they were saying. Then, I'd tell them, in my flawed French, "Je ne parle pas français...." They would look surprised, then try and repeat what they said into English. It was embarrassing, yet fun.
After a long day of walking around, we returned to our hotel for a quick change. We had to get dressed up, for it was time to witness the infamous Moulin Rouge! We took our bus to the distinct that holds the Moulin Rouge. We passed by plenty of sex stores and graffiti covered walls / buses. "Woah, where are we?"
Finally, we made it to the Moulin Rouge. We waited outside and watched the cute Petit Train pass by. I couldn't wait to get inside, since the Moulin Rouge is so famous. We passed by all the colorful pictures and signs, waiting to get in. To our surprise, the second we got in, they confiscated our cameras! I was so glad I didn't bring my professional camera, because I would have flipped out. Camera-less and sad, we took our seats in the middle of the room, with a decent view of the stage. We were brought out L%[http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/e900f/18308/2/#1902470]our dinner, which was an average display of French food. The champagne was delicious, however. It was served throughout the night, which was nice.
The show was much better than I expected! There was a wide variety of acts, not just dancing topless women. There was even a comedy act, which was extremely funny. All in all, it was a great experience! However, coming out of the show, we were confronted by tons of drunken people. Certain members of my group made a horrible display of themselves; no wonder Americans have such a bad name.
After such an experience, we got little sleep, then had to say goodbye to Paris, for a day.
"Day Three: Random bits of Other Days"
After a journey to Normandie, my group returned to Paris for a single night, to eat, sleep, and sight see one last time. For dinner, we went to my now favorite restaurant in Paris, Flam's! Oh wow, was this restaurant amazing! Flam's serves this dish called a flammekueche. It's like a pizza, but with no red sauce. Also, it comes with all kinds of toppings, such as ham, sausage, and even apple or chocolate chips! I chowed down on this stuff. Even now, I crave some delicious flammekuechen!
After a good meal, we began walking to our last tourist destination, the Arc de Triomphe. A beautiful spectacular at night, the Arc was a great way to end my visit to Paris. We walked to the Arc, then took the underground pedestrian route to walk around the Arc. At one point, a bunch of pickpockets began following some of my group. Watch out here, especially at night!
"Air France, the Metro, and Other Forms of Torture."
"Hotels: The Good and the "Ugly.""
All photos are © 2009 ~iamjacksgoat