Sunday, July 18, 2010

I see London; I see France! (pt. 1- Paris)

*Note: Despite not posting anything yesterday, I worked on my blog for a looooong time and encountered many technical problems. Therefore, I am not considering my resolution of blogging everyday as broken. Just fyi:]

So, for the promised details and photos:

Monday morning, we woke up bright and early *cough cough 5:30 am* and climbed aboard our beloved coach, headed for the south of England.  We made the 9:00 am ferry across the English channel to Calais, France.  The ferry was absolutely huge- it had shops, cafes, seating areas, etc on board, plus room for hundreds of cars and buses! 

(notice the white cliffs of England in the background...they were beautiful!)

After a long, uneventful ferry ride, we climbed back on board the coach and started to Paris.  On the way, we stopped at two World War I sites- Vimy Ridge, a battlefield where you can walk down in the remaining trenches and bomb craters still cover the ground, and Compiegne, where a small museum and copy of the train car in which the WWI Armistice was signed is.  

Vimy Ridge was absolutely beautiful, despite being really somber.  It was hard to believe that all of the huge holes in the ground were once cause by bombs falling, and that the trenches we were walking in were once used by real soldiers, fighting for their lives. 

Some of the trees at Vimy Ridge... it had just stopped raining, so the trees reflected on the parking lot.  Can you say breathtaking?
in the trenches

After Vimy and Compiegne, we went straight to Paris! We got there at about 7 in the evening, found out hotel, and immediately headed out to see the city! Besides exploring the area a little, the first thing we did was take a riverboat down the Seine River to see the major sights.  

our super cute boat tour guide!

Right after the river boat, we of course went to the Eiffel Tower and took lots of pictures! We wanted to go to the top, but it was closed by the time that we got there. 

the girls in my room... 4A baby! love them.

That night, we also walked to the Arc de Triomphe (we didn't realize how far it was, so we ended up wandering around Paris at night for a while...) and the Champs-Elysses, which is the really huge, famous road down the middle of Paris.  Because we had done so much that night, we were there at about 12:30 and the place was still packed! Every restaurant was full, the shops were busy, the streets were bustling... on a Monday night!  Paris really is the City of Lights... the place never shuts down!

Tuesday, we woke up and went as a group to Chartres, France to see the Chartres Cathedral.  It is best known for it's amazing stained glass windows, which were incredibly old and beautiful.  Every single window in the cathedral was an elaborate stained glass picture.  Despite our tour guide being a typical grumpy old man, it was fun to see.  Chartres also has the "Mary Relic", which is a piece of cloth which Mary supposedly wore while giving birth to Jesus... pretty dang cool.  

We also ate lunch at a cute little cafe in Chartres, and made a few "friends" along the way...

(For some reason, I find it very entertaining to pose with statues...)

After Chartres, we went straight to Palace of Versailles, the super elaborate palace which the French royal family, beginning with Louis XIV, lived in.  It is one of the largest and fanciest palaces in the world.

ALL of the rooms in Versailles were this fancy... it was ridiculous (and beautiful).

The most famous part of Versailles is the room of mirrors... a huge hall filled with mirrors on one side, windows on the other, and decorated beyond belief.
Of course, we couldn't resist taking a few "MySpace pics".
The hall of mirrors... sooooo beautiful!
The royal gardens at Versailles.  They were huge and super fancy, but cost 8 euros to get in (so of course we didn't!)

After Versailles, we had the choice of either going back on the coach or catching a train ride home, if we didn't want to wait a couple hours for the coach.  Well, me and one other girl named Lindsey got separated from everyone else, and because of the huge crowds caused by Bastille Day, we couldn't find anyone.  We didn't want to wait for the bus, so we headed back to Paris on the train (apparently, we were the only two people who didn't take the bus home.)  Since the coach dropped everyone else off in central Paris and we went back to the hotel for a bit, we never found anyone else for the rest of the day, so we were on our own! We hung out at the hotel for a little, just explored the city, went back to the Eiffel Tower and Champs-Elysses, and got crepes! It was a really fun day of just exploring Paris and getting to really know the city.  Unfortunately, since the next day was Bastille Day, a lot of attractions were closed.

A delicious, authentic French crepe...yum!!
Every night, every hour, the Eiffel Tower lights up with tons of tiny light which flash, and make it look like the entire Eiffel is sparkling! We were right underneath it one time, and it was awesome.

Wednesday was Bastille Day!!! (France's crazy Independence Day.) We woke up to find...

cloudy skies and rain! 
While the skies cleared up, we got breakfast and soon headed out.
First stop: the Louvre!
Unfortunately, the Louvre was free that day because of Bastille Day, so it was packed. (We had museum passes, so it wouldn't have cost us anything anyway!) 
We spent quite a bit of time exploring the Louvre.  You cannot believe how huge it is!

this was my favorite thing that we found! ("Psyche Revived by Love's Kiss" by Antonio Canova) It was just sooo beautiful.

It was ridiculously hot in there, and there were these little vent things in the floor which blew out cold air.  We were all wearing skirts, and, needless to say, it felt wonderful.  We couldn't resist taking "Marilyn Monroe" pictures!

(Yes, we saw the Mona Lisa, the Sphinx, Winged Victory, and all that other super famous stuff too!)

After the Louvre, we were walking around (headed to the top of the Eiffel), when all of the sudden the clouds just opened up, and it was pouring! We were on a bridge, over the Seine, with nothing around us, and we were instantly soaked.  Luckily I had my trusty water-proof camera to capture the moment...

You don't even know how hard it was raining.  Honestly, it was probably one of the hardest rains I've ever seen. (Granted, I grew up in AZ, but we have our share of thunderstorms!)

While it continued to pour, we got some lunch and headed back to the hotel to change.
We were already sopping and just had to dance in the rain a little on the way...

(I took this picture as I was running through the rain... I am quite proud of it:])

After we changed, we headed back into the rain to St. Paul's Cathedral, which was awesome to see. 

Next, we went back to the Champs-Elysses, shopped around a bit, and climbed to the top of the Arc de Triomphe! The view was amazing

under the Arc...

(the Champs-Elysses)

Next, we went back to the Eiffel Tower to get seats for the Bastille Day fireworks! This is supposed to be the world's largest fireworks show, and let me tell you... it was out of this world.  It was a little shorter than I thought it would be, but I don't know if I've ever seen so many people in one place.  Ever.  And the show was SO cool! They turned the lights off on the Eiffel, so that its silhouette was just illuminated by the fireworks behind it, and the entire thing was coordinated with music.

this was one of the first songs, but a good idea of what they looked like

After the fireworks, the metro was so packed, we couldn't even get in to the station for a good hour (and we RAN to the station.) They literally had police holding people back from the stations... it was psycho.  It took us a few hours to get home (and the show started at 11), so we got home late, to say the least.

Thursday morning, we woke up and had to load our bags on to the coach, but we weren't leaving London until about 2.  So, we headed to Bastille to the market to hang out for a bit.  It was really fun.  My favorite (and one of my only) purchase was a fat chunk of watermelon.  That watermelon just looked so good! Then, I realized that I didn't have any way to eat it, so I carried it around all day. 

(notice the blue bag- watermelon- in my hand.)

After the market, we went back to the Eiffel one last time, to say goodbye.  We hung out there for a while and got crepes one last time (which were delicious!)

crepes:] yum!
(my favorite part of this picture is the creepy crepe guy in the background... haha!!)
missing horses:[

Finally, we headed back to the hotel and hopped on board the coach.
This is where my blog for today ends- Paris.
Overall, the City of Lights was amazing! I've never been anywhere like it before.  Even on weeknights, the city never seems to slow down or shut down.  Nobody there sleeps, and, despite what people say, most people were pretty nice.  There was sooo much to see, and so much I didn't have time to see... I really hope that I can go back someday and spend more time there!  I was surprised how much French I remembered and knew from school, and it was a huge help translating and getting around.  
It was funny, though... Despite Paris being completely awesome, everyone got a little homesick for London!  We all decided that Paris is an awesome place to visit, but London is a much better place to live.  Everyone here is just SO nice and the Tube is 1000x cleaner/nicer than the Metro (in Paris.)  I honestly loved Paris, but it also just made me appreciate London so much more! It's weird (and awesome) how much being back in London feels like home!


Brett and Rachel said...

Paris looks amazing! I LOVE the pouring rain video and the pic of the city from the top of the Arc de Triomphe. I never realized the Eiffel Tower was THAT big!

BTW, thanks for the Roman Baths shout out. :)

Saw this commercial and it made me think of you:

Here's a longer version:

I'm thinking you should try this, becuase apparently the guards can't resist the "Red Robin call." :)

alisongary said...

When in Paris, dance in the rain. Definately!