Over the past month, I have managed to fit in A LOT of traveling, especially as it has been between uni classes and assignments! Needless to say, I have been to some of the most amazing places lately, and have had the best of times!
The first of my trips out of the UK began when my flat mate Katie and I decided spontaneously to go to Paris. It was such an unreal experience, and the fact that Katie and I had never been to a country that didn't speak English as their first language was both extremely scary and enlightening. Although we realised it would be different, the fact that every sign, map, television and menu was written and spoken predominantly in French was so strange and daunting at times. I know it was expected because c'mon, we were in France! But, needless to say it was something we didn't really consider at all until we actually arrived. When we first arrived in Paris we took a taxi to our hotel which was in the district of Gare Du Nord. This was the first shock of the trip, realising that we had booked a hotel in the central ghetto district of Paris. Lets just say that it was an experience in itself... The hotel was absolutely lovely though with it's typical French winding spiral staircase and indoor courtyard.
On our first day in Paris we woke up early to ensure that we could see as much as possible. After about a thirty minute treck into the city from our hotel, past the countless "Black AFRO" and "AFRO's R US" stores, gangs dressed in bright yellow tracksuits and stores pumping Kanye West at 10am, we reached the city centre. When we arrived we decided it was time for breakfast, and of course we couldn't go past a croissant and French cappuccino in Paris! So, we settled in at one of the cafes on the way, and ordered just what we wanted. When people said that the pastries are actually better in France, I obviously didn't know until that exact moment that they weren't joking, but they definitely weren't! The croissants were absolutely amazing, and the coffee was also THE BEST. I think it was at this moment I decided I never wanted English coffee never. Ever. Again. The day followed with Notre Dame, Lover's Lock Bridge, Eiffel Tower, Champs Elysees, Arc de Triomphe, The Louvre and A LOT of walking. First stop Notre Dame was amazing to actually see in real life, and the gardens surrounding it were also so pretty. After Notre Dame, our next goal was to get the the Eiffel Tower. After a quick glance at the map, we stumbled upon the lover's lock bridge which was incredible. The Bridge is covered in padlocks which are all different sizes and colours. Lovers write on them to symbolise their love and lock them to the bridge so that their love will last forever, something very fitting to see in the city of love. After getting absolutely lost as we thought it would be fun to just find our way to the Eiffel Tower without paying much attention to where we actually were, we became engrossed in all of the little shops and patisseries along the way, when we came across a French macaroon store! It smelt and looked sooo good, so naturally, Katie and I went in and bought a pack to share immediately. Behind the Eiffel Tower we found a street market which was awesome! We had French stall holders yelling at us in every direction about their cheap produce (I am assuming as I had no idea what they were saying most of the time)... but then we finally saw Eiffel ahead in the distance. When we were in Paris we were lucky enough to have amazing weather, somewhere in the low twenties which was great after coming from chilly England, although because it was Katie and I traveling together a.k.a the bearers of bad luck, as soon as we reached the tower, the sky became grey and gloomy and started spitting. Obviously it was still amazing to see the Eiffel Tower in real life, but consistent good weather would have been nice! Needless to say, it was so awesome and surreal to see it with my own eyes after so many years of wanting to come to Paris. When we were there, we had planned it perfectly so that it was time for lunch. As we were in France, we HAD to get baguettes, so that's what we did... and we sat in front of the Eiffel Tower whilst eating baguettes. It is incredible that now I can say that I casually sat in front of the Eiffel Tower and ate a French baguette. Cliche, yes... but so cool.
After sitting there in awe for however long it was, we made our way toward the tower for a closer look. It's kind of different to what I expected it to be like, I imagined a really tall structure which was made out of flat metal but on closer inspection, it looks like a bunch of wires have just been put together to build the tower. Unfortunately we didn't have enough time to climb the tower because once again due to our amazing luck, the lifts were not working that day, hence the lines to climb the tower by steps was longer than ever. Once we left the tower we mapped out our way to the Arc de Triomphe and set off along the Champs Elysees. All I could think of at the time was THE CHAMPS ELYSEES IS A BUSY STREET! My American bud Katie thought this was hilarious even though she had no idea what I was on about until I later forced her to watch the music video by Art vs Science (which we now enjoy to crank every once in a while). Once we got to the Arc de Triomphe we had a bit of a freak out because we thought that we would have to run across the entire round about to get to the middle. Not only was the traffic driving on the opposite side of the road to both Australia and England, but it was absolutely mental. Cars were just shooting around the roundabout like there was no one else on the road. It sure gave the good ol' Britannia round-about a run for it's money. Finally after almost willingly flinging ourselves into a death trap, we realised that there was a tunnel which went under the road to the middle of the Arc. The Arc was so much bigger than I expected it to be after seeing the Marble Arch in London which is tiny in comparison!
The next stop on our list was the Louvre. We walked through the massive park and gardens in front of the Louvre which was beautiful! Finally after trekking around Paris all day, we had made it to the Louvre. Although we knew there was so much to see there we headed straight for the Mona-Lisa. As I was told by stacks of people, the Mona-Lisa was a tiny painting in comparison to what I expected it to be, yet it felt like she was watching us the entire time. Freaky stuff! After walking around a few of the different galleries in the Louvre we decided it was time to head back for a bite of dinner. The walk home was a bit of a different experience to the walk into the city... Gare du Nord had come alive during the hours that we had been away and it was pumping. Even more brightly coloured tracksuits, Afro stores and pumping toons were out to play, guys cooking corn over a hot tin can in trolleys were on every corner and by the time we got back it was folky, funky and freakalicious. After dinner at an adorable cafe near our hotel we followed it up with THE BEST chocolate croissant and cappuccino I have ever tasted. It was the perfect way to end a perfect day in Paris.
Our second day in Paris was my favourite, not only because the weather was beautiful and sunny and warm, but because we went to the area of Montmartre which was so wonderful. As we were walking to Sacre Coeur, we stumbled across a street market which went for miles. Lucky we went early so there weren't too many people around but by the time we got to the end, we were surrounded by bargain hunters. The markets had so many amazing things, from old records to vintage clothing, antique telephones to absolute junk, it was fab as. I ended up purchasing a few pieces of jewellery and some mint jackets both for 5 euro! After restricting myself from almost buying everything (only being allowed to have one small carry on bag helped a lot), we made our way up the hill to Sacre Coeur. The streets surrounding Sacre Coeur were filled with trendy cafes, wonderful little sweets stores and bits and bobs everywhere. Eventually we made it to Sacre Coeur and were blown away. The church is perched on top of a hill, and behind is more of the area Montmartre. From the top of the steps, there is an amazing view of the Paris city skyline. As the weather was so nice we were able to see so far into the distance it was breathtaking. After hanging out in Montmartre all day, consuming French wine, traditional quiche, gelato and taking in all of the beautiful artwork on display by the artists in the area, we headed back to the airport as it was time to leave. Although we were only there for two full days, it felt like we accomplished everything we wanted to do, and saw all the sights! I am lucky enough to be heading back there in February so that will be awesome to be able to experience Paris in a complete different climate and with a different group of people, and see some of the city again!