After a smooth trip from Maastricht to Paris Thursday evening, Bonnie, Jean, and I arrived in the City of Lights to a luxurious hotel room waiting for us across from the Arc de Triumph. A visitor from home, Hilary, had generously allowed us to stay with her in a nice hotel provided by her parents. That night we took a walk by the Arc and down the Champs Elysses then returned to our hotel for a great night’s sleep in our large, comfortable bed with fluffy pillows and an ice bucket.
The next morning we woke up early to explore the area surrounding our hotel. We walked through and around the Arc de Triumph while stopping to people watch for a while. There were many groups of school children in Paris this weekend, mostly American, that I found very interesting to watch because of the difference between a high school students experience, or how it appears to someone watching, and a college student’s experience. The gap in appreciation is very large for such a small age difference.
From there, the four of us checked out of the Renaissance Hotel and into the Garden Hotel. It was quite a big change to go from one to the other; yet, the Garden Hotel at least allowed us our own bathroom, which is an amenity we don’t get very often in our travels. We settled in quickly and moved on to the Latin Quarter for lunch and shopping. My favorite stand in the market was one overflowing with handmade soap in all different colors and scents. The saleswoman was very sweet to us American girls that I found to be a common and unexpected trend in Paris. I had heard many times that the French were hateful and arrogant towards Americans and had prepared myself for these harsh attitudes. I was pleasantly surprised to experience the complete opposite. I would go as far to say that Paris is one of the friendliest places I’ve visited (Ireland remains in first place).
The Netherlands played later that day against Brazil where we met up with a group of Baylor students to watch in front of the Eiffel Tower. This event was by far one of my favorites! It was an incredible feeling to be supporting my “homeland” while watching the game on a big screen television with the Eiffel Tower setting up an amazing landscape behind the screen and surrounded by the opposing team’s fans. On top of all that, Holland won! Throughout all this, it began to rain, and we realized who the true fans were and who the fair-weathered fans were. Soon after the game we returned to the Latin Quarter where I saw the Notre Dame for the first time. Later Friday night, a large group of us celebrated Leah’s birthday underneath the Eiffel Tower, which was absolutely gorgeous, lit up in the night sky.
Saturday we had planned to visit Versailles but woke up to a thunderstorm. We decided to make it a relaxing day and traveled to Versailles Sunday morning. After sleeping in and enjoying the rain outside our hotel window, we checked out the Montmartre area of Paris. I visited Sacre Coeur but spent more time on the steps of the Cathedral being entertained by street singers and performers. We took a walk through the red-light district to take a look at Moulin Rouge then walked through Notre Dame. Outside of Notre Dame sat “the bird lady.” This lady quietly walked up to Bonnie and I and sprinkled bird food on our hair. Pigeons came from all directions to eat off our heads and perch on our arms. As we did every night, we returned to the Eiffel Tower to soak up the beauty and romance of the city.
Sunday morning, July 4th, we headed to Versailles to tour the palace. From there we headed to the Louvre for a free look at the famous Mona Lisa. To celebrate the 4th of July, we went back to the Eiffel Tower, once again, and brought with us market fresh watermelon, chocolate chip cookies, and hot dogs. While there were no fireworks, I decided the twinkling of the tower would suffice.
Paris has been my favorite trip so far. The people were friendly, the city was lovely and the Eiffel Tower where we spent most of our time was magical. Maybe it’s because it is a place I’ve dreamed of visiting for a large portion of my life, or maybe it’s because the “city of lights” is captivating in itself. Either way, I look forward to traveling there again someday.