Day 50, 51, and 52: PARIS

FRIDAY

Lab cleaning day= cake. Well, actually, in this lab any occasion leads to cake! No complaints here! Had a torte and a Baumkuchen. Germans have the strangest names for desserts- Baumkuchen (tree cake), Bienenstich (bee sting cake), and my personal favorite- Kalter Hund (cold dog cake).

I went to Uni Kilikum Tal with Natalia. Ended up being a day of watching her pipette.

I did some more research about Paris- it is overwhelming how HUGE it is. It is positively massive!

I met a nice, confused guy while waiting for my train to Stuttgart (where I would meet Kaitie to head to Paris!). He spoke poor English and poor German. We spoke in German- which was really fun! 🙂 He cracked me up because he kept asking me if I knew the words he was using. He was trying to get to Stuttgart as well, so he came along on the train ride with me.

The train was 10 minutes late and managed to change tracks in that time. But, they never made an announcement about the track change. So Kaitie was waiting for me on track 4 but I got off at 1. We both realized the track change around the same time apparently, because I walked over to track 4 and she walked over to track 1! Finally got up with Kaitie and grabbed some dinner.

All the trains in Stuttgart were late due to some construction. Our train ended up being 45 minutes late!

This train was the nicest yet- TGV. Kaitie and I had to reserve seats for this train, but did not get to choose them. So we were not sitting together 😦 Yet, there were 4 free seats by me! Oh well.

Sat across from a couple that loved PDA. They would not stop loudly kissing. I counted- 10 in a 30 second period. And the guy kept petting her. They drove me crazy. And I felt like I was encroaching on their private time. The guy across the aisle ate an enormous amount of food- I have no idea where he kept pulling it from!

Read quite a bit and napped on the train ride.

Got into Paris quite late because of the delay. Then we couldn’t find the bus stop for the bus the hotel told us to take. We wandered for some time. Asked a waiter for help. He said he would help for a kiss! ha Welcome to Paris! He said he was joking but then directed us to the closed information center….so maybe he wasn’t.

We ended up just taking a cab because two girls wandering Paris in the middle of the night seemed like a lousy idea. Taking a cab was difficult because we don’t speak French and the cabbie didn’t speak English or German. I do not like being in a country where I don’t speak the language. And conversely, I don’t like being in a country where no one can speak a second language. The cab ride was beautiful- saw Notre Dame on the way and what we thought was the Arc de Triomphe (but alas, it was not). After a while the taxi pulled over. Kaitie and I weren’t sure if we were at the hotel or what. I think the cabbie just didn’t know what to say. We finally managed to figure out we were there, paid, and walked over to the hotel and checked in.

We then proceeded to sleep. (Side note: This hotel had great a/c and a bed big enough for 2 people! This is always a big deal now after our delightful NYC hostel experience.)

SATURDAY

Woke up early, got dressed for Paris- we were looking styling and classy! 🙂

I cannot express how exciting this trip is for me. When I was seven, I told my mom I had a bucket list. On this list: see the Nutcracker, go to Disney World, and go to Paris. After this weekend I have checked all of these off the list. 🙂 The seven year old in me is jumping for joy!

Went to the metro and attempted to buy tickets. Again, doing things in French is hard. Asked the man at the information desk if he spoke English. He said no. After watching us struggle for 5 more minutes, he came out and helped us by tickets….in English! ha

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My friend Emily who lived in Paris for a year told us that we should enter the Louvre from the metro. We did and their was no line to buy our tickets! Then we got priority access to the Louvre! (Thanks Em!) Though apparently, all museums in France would have been free if we could have proved we lived in the EU. Darn. They all seemed shocked we didn’t carry our papers with us that said we worked in Germany. It never occurred to me that I would need such a document.

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Saw so much beautiful art. The sheer amount of it was overwhelming. Art was floor to ceiling.

DSC_0771 The building itself was a work of art!

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Got my first glimpse of the Eiffel tower from the Louvre window!

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Not much Impressionists (bummer) but there were a few rare Monets (neat!). We also got to see some pre-Impressionists. My favorite was Carot. Beautiful work. We also saw so many strange paintings of breasts- babies breast feeding, children breast feeding, grown men breast feeding, women breast feeding from other women, and one of my favorites:

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5 EUR sandwich in the Louvre cafeteria plus a chocolate eclair to split with Kaitie before returning to the art for a while longer.

Some art we saw:

DSC_0781 Renoir

DSC_0765 Winged Victory

DSC_0766 The Mona Lisa

DSC_0787 Monet

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DSC_0845Aphrodite

After the Louvre, we went to Musee de l’Orangerie.When buying our tickets for this second museum at the Louvre, the guy told me I should speak French. When I said I couldn’t, he said he would be my personal French tutor! haha

I think I liked this museum even better than the Louvre! Tons of impressionists, beautiful exhibits, less overwhelming, AND all of Monet’s water lilies panels. It was amazing and stunningly beautiful! Spent quite a bit of time just sitting in front of each panel to take it all in. Made me cry- I have dreamed about seeing these for years and years. They are just magnificent in person. And I got to see a panel I have never seen before.

DSC_0868 Renoir

DSC_0871 Matisse

DSC_0869 Picasso

After the Musee de l’Orangerie we saw our second glimpse of the Eiffel tower. It looked close, so we decided to walk. I have always heard that you should not do this- It always looks close and you could walk for hours before actually getting there. However, it actually was close! We walked along the river to get there. Quite enjoyable!

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The funny thing about the Eiffel Tower is that you can see it at such a great distance, but then when you get close enough, you cannot see it anymore. Then it pops up out of nowhere and surprises you because you are right there!

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The Eiffel Tower is absolutely beautiful!

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We went to find dinner. We wanted some authentic French food, but around the Eiffel Tower, this was a struggle. We found this little place with a menu only in French. We thought it would be good. What we didn’t realize was that it was Romanian food, not French food. It was not the best meal. We filled up on bread and butter.

We then wandered the area for a few hours waiting for it to get dark so that we could see the Eiffel Tower lit up. We went into every souvenir shop there was. And they all sold the same tacky things! Including hilarious condoms and sex positions dice. Literally every store we walked into, the guys tried to sell them to us! The vendors in Paris were really aggressive, and apparently the use of flirtation to sell items is not prohibited. Every guy in every shop flirted with us. Quite the flattering evening. Kaitie had one guy convinced that I had 2 boyfriends! haha He asked if he could be my third!

CAM00642 In case you can’t read it: They say “Eat my baguette” and “Want to see the tower?” etc. ha

We stopped at a little cafe for dessert. We shared some profiteroles and a strawberry torte. They were delicious! Had fun eating yummy food, laughing, and people watching. Met a golden retriever puppy named Marley (terrible name choice if you ask me!). It took us forever to get the check! Our waiter disappeared.

We then found a supermarket, where we went in search of champagne. We couldn’t find any. How were we by the Eiffel Tower in France and we couldn’t find any champagne?? We found something called Champigny and we thought it might be similar (plus it was only 4 EUR). So we grabbed that. I also found my favorite French mustard! It comes in these pretty little glasses. So I got one of those too. Then the store closed and chaos ensued. Everyone was trying to check out at once. But, bought alcohol in the store for the first time.

We then walked over to the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower and plopped down with our wine. We were near a group of people playing music and dancing.

Didn’t have a bottle opener. Oops. Luckily, a guy near by saw us contemplating our unopened bottle and offered a bottle opener. Then I tried to open the bottle. But I have never opened a bottle of wine before. The guy who had lent us his bottle opener let me struggle with it for a few minutes and then came and helped us.  He smelled it and said it wasn’t a bad wine. Oh, yeah, Champigny is not sort of like Champagne. It is red wine. But it wasn’t too bad! We enjoyed sipping our not Champagne and watching the sun set behind the Eiffel Tower.

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Chatted with a man next to us for a while.  Apparently I have beautiful eyes! The conversation was interesting. He talked about the better half of Paris in his opinion- “love.” He said we weren’t really experiencing Paris unless we were there with a guy. The point of the conversation became obvious pretty quickly. Luckily, our new “friend” left.

Enjoyed chatting and people watching. The group of people dancing behind us was hilarious! They could not dance at all!  My favorite was the old man wearing rolled up khaki shorts and an unbuttoned and tied up chambray shirt that he might have stolen from his daughter. Quite humorous! 🙂

It finally got dark enough for the Eiffel Tower to light up! And it glitters! So pretty 🙂

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3 more guys came over to talk with Kaitie and I.  They said my beauty and dress caught their eye. Also, that we were very friendly. ha The amount of flirting that went on in one day in Paris was insane! Parisian men are, as Kaitie put it shameless flirts. At one point, one of the guys said that he had a bet that I would him him. If I didn’t, he would lose 10 EUR. I told him it was a stupid bet. 😛 Kaitie and I had a bit of fun speaking German in front of them. They had no idea what we were saying.

We decided to leave, because we couldn’t get the three musketeers to leave. We caught the metro back to the hotel- one of our trains had a singing guitar man on it, the other a saxophone player! SO COOL that there are street musicians on the metro!

SUCH a good day full of beautiful things, laughter, and flattery.

SUNDAY

So our original plan for the day fell through. We mistakenly thought that the Arc de Triomphe was near the Catacombs, but alas they are in different parts of the city.

Stopped to get some breakfast at a cafe. This is the conversation we had:

~”Bonjour!”

-“Bonjour! English?”

~(shakes head no)

-“Crepes?”

~(shakes head no)

-“Croissant?”

~(shakes head yes)

-(hold up two fingers)

~(babbles in French while making a hadn motion for drinking)

-(shakes head no) “Merci!”

That was the extent of my French vocabulary. haha

So we went to the Catacombs first thing. It was a good thing we did too, because there was already a line but we were still close to the front. We waited in line for 2 hours before getting inside! Apparently, they only let a certain number of people in at once. So you have to wait until people come out the other side. While waiting we made friends with some Americans in line in front of us. Learned that the Tour de France was that day. How did we not know this?? It explains the incredible amounts of tourists we saw the rest of the day. By the time we went inside, the line was wrapped completely around the block three and five people across!

The wait was worth it though. It was really neat. And eerie. It contains the bones of 6 million people. There is something really poetic and beautiful in the bones being stacked on top of one another without regard for race, creed, religion, sexuality, anything. We are all just humans, made of the same stuff. It was also really insane to think about the fact that the same number of people were buried there as died in the Holocaust.

The history of the place is really neat. It used to be a quarry. The quarry fell in, and the King was pressured into redoing the tunnels and working on the saftey of the tunnels. At the same time, the cemeteries were filled to capacity and creating health issues. Milk was souring within hours, mold was growing everywhere, it was terrible. So they dug up all the bodies and unceremoniously dumped them into the Catacombs. Someone later came in a arranged them in the manner they are now.

DSC_0958 A man who worked in the quarry spent years carving this. It depicts where he was imprisoned during a war.

DSC_0953 The tunnels.

DSC_0959 The Quarryman’s footpath- a natural spring well. Named such because the water runs out onto the steps and the quarrymen would step in the water.

DSC_0963 The entrance to the ossuary. It says, “Stop. This is the empire of death.”DSC_0965 6 million bodies were buried here.

DSC_0973 This room containing the skull barrel was where a concert took place in 1897 at 2 AM.

After the Catacombs, we stopped at a street vendor to buy a crepe. We got to watch him make them! I got mine with sugar. YUMM

Got back on the metro to go to an authentic French restaurant Emily suggested. We have gotten quite good at navigating the metro, even in French! Though I will say that the French are quite aggressive on the metro. They push and shove like nobodies business! There was a guy playing the accordion on the metro!

We ended up in the most beautiful part of Paris. This little street full of shops and cafes and flower shops. It was beautiful. We walked the entire length of the street, but couldn’t find the restaurant. We ended up just picking a different one. We ate at Cafe Paris and ordered authentic French food and some wine. It was amazing!!! I got lamb (perfectly cooked meat, falling off the bone) served over an assortment of veggies. It was delicious. And so filling. I wasn’t able to eat it all. I drank a glass of Muscadine wine with my meal. It was also very good. Kaitie had preserved duck with potatoes. She drank a Rose wine. We topped the whole meal off with a dessert of roasted pears and gingerbread covered in a caramel sauce. YUMM While we ate, a street musician played his accordion. We had a perfect relaxing afternoon of good food, good company, and people watching. And the best part is, it wasn’t even that expensive!

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I love the cafes in Europe. You sit on the sidewalk to eat, surrounded by other people and the people walking by. You get to people watch and make friends with those around you. I love the communal aspect of it all 🙂

We then walked over to Notre Dame. Such a beautiful building. The line to get in, however, was wrapped around the building. We didn’t have the time or the energy to stand in a line that long just to get in the building.

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We decided to just go back to the hotel, grab our luggage, and head to the train station. So it was kind of a bummer because we didn’t get to see the Arc de Triomphe or the inside of Notre Dame, but the weekend was so wonderful that I don’t even feel that I missed out. There was another accordian player on the metro!

When we got to the train station, our track wasn’t posted. Apparently, the French wait until 20 minutes before departure to post your track. And they close the doors 2 minutes before departure. So there is a mad dash to catch your train every time. It seems to me that there is a better way to do this.

Said goodbye to Kaitie because we were not sitting together again. Caught the train home again. Long ride. Read and napped per usual (what else is one to do one a 4 hour train ride?).

Caught a train to Tuebingen. Talked with the nicest ladies on the train. They were so sweet and I got to practice my German! 🙂 We talked about tons of different things, and they even gave me suggestions of travel destinations! When they left they gave me hugs and good wishes. One of the ladies told me to keep thinking positive thoughts and positive things would keep happening to me. What a fabulous way to end the night. And a nice welcome back to friendly Germany!

Caught the bus back home and went to sleep.

All in all, Paris was wonderful and fulfilled my dreams and expectations. Paris had its ups and its downs. It was dirty, like every big city is. It was full of beautiful art and people. No one speaks English or German, which I find to be interesting considering a) most people in the EU can speak at least one other language, b) Germany and France share borders, and c) Paris is such a big tourist city, you would think they would be able to speak languages to cater to tourists. Also, the metros are sketchy. But mostly, it was a beautiful city filled with amazing history, art, and architecture. I want to go back! 🙂

Tschus!

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