Monday, July 4, 2011

6.28.11 - 7.02.11: Showers on the Sink

We arrived into Beauvais airport on Tuesday morning. Apparently, the French do not care who comes into their country because not only did we not have to go through customs, they didn't even look at our passports. In fact, there weren’t any workers in the area. In a way it was awesome because those lines always seem tedious, but I am a little disappointed I won’t have that stamp in my passport. We got out quickly though and caught the bus to central Paris, about an 80 minute ride.

The first thing that struck me along our drive was how much it looked like a drive through Missouri. If someone put me in the middle of a highway (without signs of course) and asked me to guess where I was, I would probably guess incorrectly. Obviously, the landscape began to change once we got into Paris. We had to take the Metro from the center of Paris to our hotel in Boulogne-Billancourt, which turned out to be a very family oriented neighborhood in the 16th Arrondisement. The Metro was slightly harder for me here because unlike London, it was not in English and unlike Rome, every stop didn’t coincide with some famous attraction. That being said, it was still pretty easy, especially with Jess’s help on the French.

Our room was nice enough. The owner even upgraded us to a room with AC because it was open. After Rome, AC was the greatest thing that we could possibly have hoped for. Granted, it’s not nearly as warm in Paris. The only negative side was the bathroom. Without exaggeration it was the size of an airplane bathroom with a shower head. I’ll just say that if I had to sit, my knees didn’t fit. It was so small that it didn’t bother much because I just laughed my way through it. Every time I showered it had to sound like there was a battle going on because my elbows were smacking the walls and I was running into the sink and things were falling everywhere. Moral of the story: the Residence Aurmat in Paris is a decent hotel in a nice part of Paris with absurdly small bathrooms. Absurdly small.

You can't see it, but the shower head is toward the upper right. This pictures does not do it justice

After a shower (or a spraying of water above the sink) we headed to the center of Paris. For my birthday, Jess bought us tickets for a river cruise along the Seine. It began at the Eiffel Tower and took us up the river past all the sights: Notre Dame/the Latin Quarter, Musee d’Orsay, the Louvre, etc. This remains my favorite part of our trip so far. We then took a bus (part of the same tour) around the sights on land. This is a great way to start a trip in any city. Getting a glimpse of all the famous areas got us really excited for the rest of our stay. From now on we will be doing similar tours at the beginning of our trips, funds permitting of course. The tour was quite long and we headed back to the hotel afterward. We fell asleep to our one and only English TV channel, the BBC World News.

Not the best photo, but you get the idea

The next day we went to Versailles, the palace built largely by Louis XIV. The opulence of this place was out of control. Everything was covered in gold and the gardens were, as the legend states, as far as the eye could see. The coolest part of the palace was seeing the King's and Queen's chambers. In the Queen’s bed chamber, you can see the door where Mary Antoinette ran to escape the mobs during the revolution. She apparently wasn’t quick enough. We spent most of our time outside, largely taking pictures of flowers that Jess thought might inspire good wedding colors. We’ll see if they make it to the big event.

Front of Versaille

Us in the mirrors at the hall of mirrors

At the top of the gardens at Versaille

When we got back to Paris, we wanted to save a little money. Logically, we went to the shop near our hotel and bought a baguette, some cheese, and of course, wine. A baguette may sound a little cliché, but it’s not. Everyone seemed to be carrying a baguette, at least in our neighborhood. We passed one guy carrying a baguette and fresh flowers. I thought I was looking at a Parisian painting. Anyway, we took our purchases back the center and wined and dined by the river, right outside of Notre Dame. We watched the river boats go by and waved at the tourists as we tried to pass as Parisians. We were at least partially successful. This will probably be my most vivid memory of our entire trip. After all, I had my four favorite things: wine, cheese, bread, and Jess of course.

Jess and our wine by the river

Just some wine by Notre Dame. NBD.

The next day we met up with Daisy outside of Notre Dame. We walked around the cathedral for a while. Luckily it was free; the one and only free thing in Europe apparently. Then we went to the Louvre. Like everyone else, we headed straight for the Mona Lisa, the most popular painting in the museum (and possibly on Earth) and probably the smallest. The gigantic crowd really sucks away the experience of seeing such a masterpiece, but it was beautiful nonetheless. Being law students, Daisy and I dragged Jess to see the Code of Hammurabi. We took a quick pass through Napoleon III apartments and we were museumed out. We found a nice little café called Le Petit Fleur where we ate strip steak with shallots and French fries. It was pretty good and relatively cheap for Paris. Of course, I had a giant beer afterwards. Later that evening, I dragged Jess to look at the grounds of Roland Garros. They were only 15 minutes from the hotel.

*My camera was dead on this day so I have no pictures. I will have to steal them from Daisy*

On Friday we met Daisy in Montparnasse, the historically bohemian district of Paris. This is where Picasso, Dali, and a bazillion others did much of their work. We checked out the view from Sacre Couer, which was pretty impressive. The whole city of Paris was laid out before us. This whole area is certainly in the running for my favorite area in Paris. After this we finally decided to go up the Eiffel Tower. The thing is tall friends. It was awesome to stand at the top and see Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre and other landmarks. We then walked the Champs-Elysees, which is bar far the biggest let down of the whole trip. It’s a boulevard. Wow. Cool. Never seen one.

Toilet in the restaurant made for squatting

Sacre Coeur

At the steps of the Sacre Coeur

Ice Cream in Montparnasse

On our final day we mostly hung out in the neighborhood by our hotel and sat in the airport. Nothing exciting really happened.

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