Where to start when describing such an incredible weekend? I’ll just start with the beginning and take you through one of the most phenomenal weekends of my entire life. In Paris…
We started out Friday morning at 5:00am in the Czech Republic and promptly flew to Milan, Italy for a 2 hour layover and then on to our final destination, Paris. In the course of one day we found ourselves saying “thank you” in three different foreign languages (thus the title) and all I can say now is “thank you” to God for blessing us so abundantly in the past few days.
On arrival to Paris, Christie and I took the Metro to the St. Michel/Notre Dame stop just to explore. We walked up the steps and there was the Notre Dame. Majestic as it was we stood in awe of our surroundings. After looking around for a few moments we found a park bench and picnicked with peanut butter and jelly sandwhiches, cheese, and crackers right next to Charlemagne. Violins played on a street corner nearby, people walked around with ice cream cones, and birds were everywhere. Surreal. After our lunch, we walked around a bit with our packs on our backs and fell in love with the sights of Paris. We got so excited as we walked through the Latin Quarter (built in the 14th century and housed education facilities, students, and now numerous shops and cafes and gorgeous historical buildings) we just hugged each other and squealed because it was that amazing. We walked and walked and walked and oohed and aahed for a few hours. We were supposed to meet up with 4 other girls from our trip and had a cell phone number of one of the girls. However, the calls never went through and we couldn’t get a hold of them. Thus… we were homeless and carrying really heavy backpacks on our backs. We decided to hold out and try them a little later in the evening and we trekked to the Eiffel Tower. Amazing. Instead of going up that night, we decided to hold out for the next night. We were starving at this point so we picnicked again in front of the Eiffel Tower in the middle of a huge, gorgeous park where French troops once trained. After dinner and another attempt to reach the girls we started looking for a place to stay. What an adventure we found ourselves in! We started hotel hopping and checking out room availability and rates. Teddy developed a really great way of telling our story and evoking sympathy from the receptionists which always brought the price down almost 50 Euros or more. Still, it was rather pricy for our budget and we kept walking. Finally we found a hotel (Hotel Studia) that would give us two nights (breakfast included) for 57 a night. Not bad considering the location and circumstances! On to the room… And what a room it was! Two beds, a sink, a closet, a cute balcony, and where the heck is the toilet and shower?! The toilet we found two floors below us at the end of the hall and the shower? Well, there was another sink for us to use that was lower to the ground. Roughing it in Paris… and time for spit baths! 🙂 Needless to say we were exhausted and soon fell fast asleep… And that was day one. Hang in there, I’ll try to make this worth your reading! 😉
Saturday morning we woke up for a morning run… through a history book! We ran by churches established in teh 13th century, hotels, gov’t buildings, colleges, etc. that were all centuries old! Teddy was the one who exclaimed “it’s like we’re running through a history book!” and she was so right. I remembered names and events from my European history class, (the Monday night 3-4 hour killer classes that I dreaded each week) and then I could see the buildings in person. It’s quite different to see history that you’ve studied and know well compared to history that has no interest because you don’t know about it… so this history was exciting to me. After our run we ate a breakfast of great coffee, baguettes, and croissants (so healthy I know). Next it was time to hit the Louvre… Yes, the Louvre. We walked along the river and found ourselves in an enchanting art museum that houses the Mona Lisa and other famous pieces. The art collection is so huge that it would take days to see everything. I saw incredible paintings, and most of them had historical meaning that I could interpret and understand (these are Italian painters by the way). I saw images from the French Revolution, the black death, the Crusades, Bible times, and of course the Mona Lisa. I could have spent a few days there, but time didn’t allow and our tummies were famished. Christie and I have discovered the merit of sharing meals… half the price and half the portion! Our wallets and our bodies will thank us! We split a chocolate croissant and baguette sandwhich for lunch on another park bench and satisfied our appetites. On to the next event… shopping on the Champs Elysee! We walked for a very long time through parks with fountains, statues, old fashioned lamposts, ice cream stands, music, and trees… and yes it was amazing. The Champs Elysee is the most famous avenue in Paris and would be similar to Rodeo Drive in LA. We went shopping and found a fairly inexpensive boutique to build our European wardrobe. We had a great time! We visited the Arc de Triumph (sp and title?) and then went back to the Latin Quarter to eat a French dinner and crepe for dessert. Ahh so much in one day but we weren’t finished! After our meal, Teddy and I played European dress up and got ready for the Eiffel Tower. We met another traveler on the way and visited with our new friend George (from Canada) on the Metro and all the way to the top of the Tower! Christie is holding out until she and her boyfriend return to Paris to go up the Eiffel Tower so George and I went by ourselves. It was fun to have a companion! The view from the Eiffel Tower was amazing of course, but I think the most incredible part is the view of the Tower itself at nighttime because it glows and sparkles like no other! I should add that they had closed access to the top of the Tower due to it being overcrowded and didn’t reopen it until the very person in front of me! That meant that I could go to the top and to the top I went! A must for any Parisian travelor!
Wow I am only on Sunday, and I’m trying to be brief but there is so much to include!!! Well, Sunday, as you are probably aware, was the day Lance Armstrong won his seventh Tour de France… and I was able to see it in person! The Tour de France would be an international equivalent to the Super Bowl but it is free of charge and standing room only! During the 6 hours of standing we snacked on brie, baguettes, and fruit – yumm! We wound up with a great spot right next to the road and near 5 other Americans! In fact, one couple, from San Louis Obispo, were visiting because the husband had participated in the ameatur portion of the Tour, so we got a ton of great inside explanation! We saw Lance ride by 16 times (along with the other cyclists of course) because the last stage is a loop and we saw them ride in both directions. It was so amazing to see it live and to see him get his award and hear his speech and listen to the national anthem… all live. By the way, if Phillip Green ever reads this, I thought of you and am so grateful for your diligence in making the Tour a part of summer staff at Calvin Crest! I felt so informed and that much more appreciative because P-Hill always gives the staff thorough updates on the Tour and how Lance is doing … so thank you thank you thank you! 🙂 After the Tour was over, it was time to find our hostel that we had booked for Sunday night. It was supposed to be near the airport, only there are two airports in Paris (as I just discovered) and our hostel was at the opposite end of the airport we were to take back to Prague. Hmmm oh well! After a ton of hiking (that’s what it seemed like because we crossed rivers, railroad tracks, and went around in circles with our packs on), we finaly arrived at our hostel that was literally located on a residential street in the midst of Parisian homes. It would be like finding a hostel on the street I live in at home… bizarre but really cool. The hostel was very accomodating and enjoyable…
Monday means I’m almost back to Prague so it will be brief! We ate only French food on Monday including a croaquette monsieur (?), bread with chocolate chips, baguettes, creme brulee, and chocolate glace… SO YUMMY!!! We also visited the Notre Dame and went inside for a brief visit. A few stops in tourist shops and we were on our way back to Milan, and then Prague where we once again spoke three different languages in a day. By the way, I learned that I picked up French much quicker than Czech and am excited to learn Italian. One last thing before I sign off and head to my last class… I would like to dispell any rumors/myths that I once heard that the French were rude and snobby to Americans and tourists. We found the exact oppposite to be true and we were pleasantly surprised by the accomodating nature of the French. More than once we were asked if we needed help by a local on the street, and the service was delightful. We conversed with people on the Metro and though there was a language barrier, the laughter said it all. All in all it was a fantastic time. I know this was a lengthy post but thank you for sticking with me and thank you all for your emails and encouragement! I love hearing from you and getting input from those who view my blog. Much love to you all!
Arvoir! (sorry I totally butchered that spelling but I’m in a hurry)