One of the greatest things about Teaching English in Italy is that I have the opportunity to visit nearby countries for a fraction of the cost that I would pay visiting from the US. As someone who loves to travel, it would be crazy for me not to take advantage of this opportunity. Currently I am in the midst of preparing for a weekend road trip to Switzerland with my friend Rosanna, but the other week I took advantage of Easy Jet’s reasonably low airfares and traveled to Paris for the weekend with my friend Natalie to visit my American friends, Chantal and Andy.
Paris has always been a city that I was curious about, especially after studying fashion. Many of my friends who have visited Paris have told me that they have fallen in love with it immediately, so I was pretty eager to see what the buzz was about.
After arriving and settling at Andy’s cute apartment in the Montparnasse area, he and I took advantaged of the warm weather and strolled through Jardin du Luxembourg on our way to meet Natalie. As I walked through the park, I was surprised to see the amount of people lounging around in the middle of the work day with their shoes off and reading books. Even though I was the one on vacation, it still sort of made me jealous to see…
After about an hour walking through the park and surrounding neighborhoods, we arrived at Hotel de Ville (which is not actually a hotel, it’s Paris’ City Hall) where we met Natalie. Andy had to go to work so Natalie and I were on our own to explore the city. Our first stop was to get me a Nutella crepe. There was no way I could be in Paris for another minute and not have a crepe with Nutella, especially since every cafe we walked by was practically inviting me to stop and eat there! Once I got my crepe we ventured over to Notre Dame. We got very lucky and was able to witness an evening mass there. Obviously the entire service was in French so we didn’t understand a thing, but just to say we experienced a service in Notre Dame is remarkable in itself. While at the mass we also had the opportunity to go up to the alter and participate in the Veneration of the Crown of Thorns. Although its authencity is not certified, it is said that the relics of the Passion include a piece of the Cross, which had been kept in Rome and delivered by Saint Helen, the mother of Emperor Constantine, a nail of the Passion and the Holy Crown of Thorns.
We spent about 3 hours at Notre Dame before heading over to walk along the Seine River where we came across the Love Lock Bridge. I was amazed at how many locks there were. There had to of been at least hundreds of thousands of locks (and no I didn’t add to the count)! Natalie was very much interested in seeing Palace de la Concorde, the execution site of Marie Antoinette and King Louis XIV. Meanwhile she headed over there, I headed over to a nearby stand to eat another Nutella crepe (I can’t help that I am so addicted haha).
The final thing on our list to visit for the day was Louvre with Chantal and her friend Jemma (who also went to school with me in New York, but I had never met her until that day). On Friday evenings the Louvre is free if you are under the age of 26, no matter what your nationality, which was a pleasant surprise.
The Louvre is a HUGE museum so we had to be very selective about what we spent time seeing since we had a short period of time. The one thing that was a MUST was seeing Mona Lisa. I have had 3 art history courses in my life and in 2 of them I studied Mona Lisa, and I must say she is even more beautiful in person! I kinda developed a woman crush on her!
The next day Natalie, Chantal, and I headed to Versailles, the palace of King Louis XIV and Marie Antionette. We spent 3 hours there and didn’t even see a quarter of the palace! Luckily since it wasn’t raining we did get to experience a bit of the garden, and even then we barely got to walk through it because it would have taken hours! After Versailles we headed back to the city center where we walked down Champs-Elysees Avenue and visited Laduree for some macaroons (because no way you can come to Paris and not eat macaroons!). We continued from there on to the Arc de Triomphe where we saw some sort of ceremony with uniformed men, possibly veterans of the military. The finale of our trip was the Eiffel Tower. Since it was in the evening we got to see the tower as it lit up. It was truly breathtaking.
Our trip was very short, but it was definitely one that was enjoyable. Since arriving back I have been asked several times if I would ever move to Paris and my response is that although I enjoyed my experience there, it isn’t where my heart is. I think for someone to truly be happy in a city, there has to more of a connection there than just glam or cool attractions. You have to feel at home and you have to be genuinely interested in the culture there. I could definitely see why people fall in love with Paris. In a way it reminds me on New York because of the the different types of neighborhoods within the city, the endless varieties of things to do, and the diverse group of people that live there, but I already have the real New York in my heart, and now Italy, and for now I am perfectly content with these two places 🙂