I realize I went on this trip almost two months ago, however, I am just getting to writing about it now (that I have already returned home).
Dates: October 23 – 26 (4 days)
Flight: EasyJet (I would recommend EasyJet to students and other low maintenance travelers in Europe. For a low price, you can find early morning flights to the more difficult to reach airports in many cities in Europe. If you can put up with the delays, open seating, and baggage restrictions for lower fares, EasyJet is a decent airline.) http://www.easyjet.com
Stayed at: Auberge Internationale des Jeunes, 10 Rue Trousseau – Paris http://www.aijparis.com
Despite the fact that the week before i arrived in Paris, the city was having some issues with strikes and terrorist threats, I was extremely excited about the trip. After arriving in the airport and following signs to the train, i realized that this trip was going to be somewhat difficult because of the enormous language barrier. English-speaking tourists are often told horror stories of their difficulties in French-speaking countries. In a daze, somehow we (I was traveling with my friend Jacob) managed to get tickets and get on a train headed into the city. We had to switch trains three times to get to the metro stop closest to our hostel. All went smoothly until we arrived at the metro stop and realized we didn’t know the exact address of the hostel. I won’t bore you with the details of how this information was attained, but 45 minutes or so later, we arrived at our hostel, conveniently only 4 blocks away. I will however mention that it was pouring rain.
This was my first hostel experience. I was seduced into the idea of hostels by the low rates per night (usually around 20 euro, which depending on the exchange rate is about 28$) and ideas I had been given in movies (in particular, “What a Girl Wants,” thankfully i have never seen the movie, “Hostel”). In this particular hostel, i soon discovered, you had to pay for towels, keep your luggage in a monitored luggage room (instead of your bedroom) and you slept in bunk beds. It wasn’t exactly the romantic honeymoon suite I had imagined, but looking back on it now, it wasn’t too bad.
After dropping off our luggage, Jacob and I mentally prepared ourselves to venture out and try to find something to eat. The only thing I for knew how to say was: ” L’addition s’il vous plait” (the check, please.) We found a cafe very close by and after sitting down, we discovered that the menu was entirely in French. After staring at it for 15 minutes, I decided to order Boeuf Bourguignon, a dish very similar to pot roast with vegetables. I knew (or hoped) this would be delicious because it is a French specialty, or at least so i was informed by the movie “Julie and Julia.” The meal was delicious and less embarrassing than I though, although still very stressful. By this point in the trip, i had become very used to ordering in Italian, so to enter another country where I literally spoke none of the language was very strange. It made me really admire people who visit or move to the United States without knowing the language. The do this knowing that they quite possibly will encounter no one who speaks their language. As Americans, we often assume that the world is our playground and that while we are traveling, people should oblige us and speak in English…
For the remainder of my time in Paris, I experienced many of the typical things:
-Ordered random things off menus, hoping that I was translating them correctly. For the most part, this had good results.
-Visited the Louvre, twice. (A tip for American student studying abroad with a visa, show your visa at museums and other historical sites requiring you to pay admission. Many times you can enter for free or at a discounted rate because you are a student.) Another note i would like to mention here is that I was able to see Ruben’s “Queen Marie di Medici Cycle,” and it was more fabulous than i expected!
-Ate French Onion Soup and Crepes
-Visited Notre Dame and Sant’ Chapelle
-Took pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower
-Bought post cards and Eiffel Tower key chains.
On Monday, Jacob and I went to the town of Versailles to see the Palace and the Petit Trianon. Unfortunately since we did not have internet at the hostel, we didn’t plan ahead for the fact that it is always closed on Mondays. It was one of the biggest disappointments thus far in my life that I was unable to see them, however, I am sure that I will return to Paris. We instead spent the day walking around the grounds taking photos and when it got too cold, went and had lunch.
The following morning, we headed out of the city to Amsterdam…