Staying in the same theme of spontaneity that I’ve reverted to throughout this entire endeavor, I booked a last minute trip to Paris for the weekend. My friend from Berkeley, Nadia, is slated to start classes in Berlin within the next couple of weeks, but until then she’s been exploring Paris and staying with friends of her native Parisian father. Another friend from college, Olivia, who is currently studying in Copenhagen, was scheduled to visit a childhood friend who lives in Paris that same weekend. More than enough justification to venture to the City of Light. One of my favorite movies as a kid was Anastasia, and my favorite scenes were always the ones depicting their whirlwind weekend in Paris–I’d dreamt of Midnight-in-Paris-esque strolling through lamp-lit Parisian streets, picnicking under the Eiffel Tower, and shopping along the Champs Élysées, but these visions of Paris all seemed to exist within an incredibly romanticized and narrow understanding of all that the city has to offer. After meandering my way into to the city center from the outskirts of Beauvais’s airport, I was immediately taken by the cultural diversity and heightened energy that are readily apparent upon departing the train station.
My hostel, St. Christopher’s Inn, was situated in the heart of the bustling 10th arrondissement, a stone’s throw away from the Gare du Nord metro station. My 8-bed dorm-style room hosted women from Germany, Canada, New Zealand and Chile to name a few: a holistic international experience for which I’m very grateful. Parisian’s pride themselves on the interconnectedness of their comprehensive public transport system, and it was the gateway to many of the sights I visited. I met up with Nadia and her friend, Shakira, before we ventured out to explore. We took advantage of the Louvre’s free admission on Fridays after 6pm for anyone under the age of 26, and it was, without doubt, my favorite place we visited. Formerly the old palace of Louis XIV before he ordered the construction of the Palace of Versailles, it’s now a magnificent structure housing more than 500,000 pieces of art. My favorite exhibits included Egyptian Antiquities, showcasing a sphinx and remarkably well-preserved mummy, as well as the Galerie d’Apollon, with its opulent fresco ceilings and enormous portraits. It still blows my mind that people could conceive such elaborate works in their minds. We got to see the Mona Lisa, which was truthfully underwhelming, perhaps because of its surprisingly small size. This individual piece had far more security measures than any other in the museum. The crown jewels of former French royalty, including Louis XV, were absolutely dazzling with the integrity of each precious stone impressively maintained. I don’t think I’ve ever had the opportunity to immerse myself so fully in history and artwork–an enriching experience to say the least.
We also waltzed our way through the Palais Royal and all the way up to the Sacré Coeur, a famous basilica with one of the world’s heaviest and loudest bells. Located on the summit of Montmartre, the highest point in Paris, the base of the church offers an unparalleled view of the entire city. We walked away with sore feet, but they were ultimately well worth it. In total, our step count that first day exceeded 24,000 which roughly translates to a little over 11 miles. I was exhausted by the time we retired for a homecooked meal and incredible wine (available at an enviable price). After an all too fleeting weekend, Italian food has some serious competition courtesy of the French. I had the best pastries and bread OF MY LIFE. Words can’t even express how phenomenal the food was, so I’ll consider myself lucky that I’m already planning a trip to return in a few months with Sydney and James.
Huge thanks to my personal photographer, Nadia, for capturing these moments when my iPhone 4 could not 🙂