Paris & London
Last weekend, my friends and I thought it was a good idea to squeeze Paris and London into one weekend. Yes, we got to hit all the main sites, but we didn’t get to wander and because of travel issues (of course) our time in London was cut short.
We began our trip when we arrived in Paris late Thursday night. Since everything was closed at that point, and we were vehemently opposed to eating McDonald’s, we settled for some good ole kebabs. I know it’s not French, but the kebabs stands are more popular in Europe than in America, so that made us feel a little better.
I woke everyone up in my hostel early Friday morning by continuously singing/shouting that we were in Paris and that it was time to get up. No one was too happy with me, but it got them moving. We left the hostel and got lost in the rain, of course, looking for the metro station. We finally reached the metro and while we were at the information desk, my friend’s iPhone got stolen. Between that and the rain, everyone’s spirits were dampened (look at that pun!), but I was determined to keep moving so we could see everything.
The first monument that we saw was the Arc de Triumphe, which is actually a monument for fallen soldiers. In the center of the Arc is a large French flag, which blows majestically in the wind. I imagine the monument to be very patriotic and moving for the French.
We then walked down the Champs-Elysees, one of Paris’ most famous streets for shoppers. We found a French cafe along the way where we got lunch. The street was decorated for the holidays, with sparkling white lights on the buildings and trees, white wire globes with shiny blue balls, and fake snow. It was a winter wonderland.
We then crossed the bridge to the Eiffel Tower. We decided to be ambitious and climb up it, as opposed to taking the lift up. We deemed it “the workout to last us the rest of the semester.” Along the way up, the stairs were numbered and there were signs that explained its architecture and gave background to its purpose. They displayed the other possible designs the creators were considering for the 1889 World Fair. On what they call the first level (or the first breathing stop), there is a restaurant and souvenir shop. Sitting in the restaurant was a groom and his bride. I wish I asked them their story, I wonder if they got married on the tower or just in the city of Paris.
There’s a bar at the top of the tower. When we finally reached it, we each got a celebratory flute of champagne. Being able to say that you had champagne in Paris is impressive enough for me, but adding at the top of the Eiffel Tower as well, makes it even cooler.
By the time we got down from the Eiffel Tower it was already getting dark. At a certain time each night, the Eiffel Tower lights up. The Eiffel Tower was literally glistening. I think it was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.
We made our way to Notre Dame. It was pitch black when we saw it, I would have thought that there would have been lights illuminating it. But the darkness gave the cathedral a very gothic look. The architecture was amazing. I was really interested in the gargoyles though, mainly because of Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame. We wandered the streets around there which were full of pubs and shops. It had a nice nightlife going. We stopped at one place and got crepes, mine had Nutella and bananas.
We then took the metro to the Louvre. Although we did not go into it, just seeing the outside was beautiful. The pyramid in the courtyard is stunning, especially at night- it glows. I think Paris in general is amazing at night.
As a result of a last minute decision, Saturday morning we went to Disneyland, Paris. The happiest place on Earth, but in Europe. I don’t think it can get any happier than that. The park was decorated for the holidays as well, which put us in great spirits. I felt like a little kid again when the Christmas parade went by and we were dancing along and taking pictures of our favorite characters on floats. We were only able to get on three rides, but they were all very different than their American counterparts. I guess safety standards are a tad different in Europe.
We then had to rush to the airport to hop on our plane to London. We spent the night in Piccadilly Circus, London’s Time Square. Off the main circle are streets filled with clothing and souvenir stores. There were big, bright signs advertising various products. I saw one sign with the Union Jack and the Beatles saying “Let it Be.” I don’t even know if it was advertising anything, but it was so British!
London was decorated for Christmas as well. On one of the main streets off of Piccadilly there were arches, each with a day of Christmas, from the song “The 12 Days of Christmas.”
That night we went to a steak house. I had mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and bbq chicken. It was the most American thing I’ve had in a while. And it was great being to ask for things in English, and then getting a responses in English as well.
The next day, we planned on doing a hop on, hop off bus tour. We started with it, got off in one place to switch to a different bus, and then it didn’t come. We wound up wasting two hours. We were able to rush along though. We saw Parliament, Big Ben, London Tower, and the Tower Bridge, all the main buildings we wanted to see. The only thing that I didn’t get to do was take a picture at Abbey Road. And shop. Oh well, I guess that just means I need to go back there.
London was such a beautiful city, maybe because it reminds me the most of Manhattan. But the buildings are prettier and some much older. I was sad to find out that most of Old London, where the Tower is, was destroyed during World War II. In Italy, I get to see so many ruins and old buildings, that I forget that with how much has been preserved there is even more that have actually been destroyed in war.
Although the trip was a tad rushed, I am so happy that I got to see both of these cities, two of the most famous in the world. I understand why now, both have a unique feel that links them back to their history as well as the modern era.