Ah, Paris, the city of lights and love. Or in my experience, the city of food. Hands down the best part of Paris was the food. Don’t get me wrong, it was beautiful (I mean look at that view), but the FOOD.
I felt the most culture shock while in Paris over the weekend. I didn’t realize how difficult the language barrier would be (I can’t imagine being somewhere in France where the majority of people don’t speak English). The street signs were all in French (duh..) and all of the other signs as well, which made getting around more difficult than I imagined. I’ve never felt more let down by the American education system. Children should be required to learn a second language and it should start as early as possible so that there is an actual possibility to be fluent. But I’ll step down off my soapbox, avoid a long winded rant, and continue on about the amazing food.
When we (we being a massive group of Americans from my program as this was a trip I signed up for before leaving the States) arrived in Paris we went on a boat tour of the Seine, which was beautiful but COLD (I swear we brought the London weather with us to Paris because it rained every single day were were there). After the tour we (meaning my friends Arielle, Garrett, and I) split off from the group and wandered around looking for a place to get something hot. We found this adorable little cafe and had hot chocolate and crepes with chocolate (and so began my love affair with French food).
The next day we had a bus tour and got to see a lot of the sights, and get out to take pictures with the Eiffel Tower (of course). The bus let us off at the Louvre where Arielle and I wandered around for a couple of hours looking at the art. We saw the amazingly underwhelming Mona Lisa (seriously, why is that painting so famous?), and the more impressive Venus de Milo. I was particularly impressed by the sculptures. I can’t imagine carving the things we saw out of a block of marble. The rest of the day was spent wandering around Paris getting slightly lost and eating more food.
Eventually we made our way to Shakespeare and Co. which is an adorable little bookstore. The good news is that it’s become extremely popular (kudos to the owners). The bad news is that it is extremely touristy (and expensive). But nonetheless it was fun to wander around for an hour or so browsing through the books (the only kind of shopping I enjoy). The bookstore is right across the river from Notre Dame, so we got to walk through the cathedral. It made me want to watch The Hunchback of Notre Dame again to compare the movie to the real thing. The inside was gorgeous though (and free to walk through). Afterwards Arielle, Garrett, and I celebrated Arielle’s birthday with a French baguette (my one true love), cheese, and wine (I felt so French).
Sunday was by far the best day. It finally stopped raining long enough for Arielle and I to go to the top of Notre Dame to get a closer look at the gargoyles and to see a breathtaking view of the city. We looked for Quasimodo in the bell tower and posed for a picture with the bells. Afterwards we went back to Shakespeare and Co. (because who can resist a good bookstore? And I also wanted to see how much The Hunchback of Notre Dame was… Answer: too much). Then we ate our last meal in Paris at the adorable Cafe Panis with an amazing view of Notre Dame. We tried to be as French as possible ordering escargot (surprisingly fantastic), veal, and for dessert espresso and creme brule (I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… The French really know what they’re doing when it comes to food–I mean these people found a way to make SNAILS taste amazing… Who does that?).
All in all it was amazing weekend. I’m not going to lie, at first I was a little overwhelmed and unimpressed by Paris (I mean, there’s a lot of hype that goes along with the city). I missed London, which is starting to feel very much like a home away from home (I especially missed the Tube. What is up with the Metro? It makes no sense! The Parisians make have the whole food thing figured out, but London has the superior underground). By the end of the weekend I finally was starting to get more comfortable with the city, and was sad to say goodbye. I’ll be back soon Paris, if only for one more baguette.