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Near, Far, Wherever You Are…

- Justine

Salut once again from the Office du Tourisme! To continue with my grande aventure à Paris:

From Sacrè Coeur, we continued to walk through Montmartre, stopping at Café Turgot to eat lunch, where I thoroughly enjoyed my lamb kebabs with fries, pictured below. Oh, by the way, if you ever go to France, I hope you really love carbonated mineral water, because you’re going to have it with every single meal. I kid you not. However, having just escaped the fiery pits of hell colloquially known as Chemistry Honors, I always have much fun reading the label to see what ions I’m consuming as I down a glass of Eau Minérale Naturelle.

After a considerable amount of trekking and metro-riding, we found ourselves at Avenue des Champs-Elysées, the most famous street in the world. It’s lined with trees and it’s got L’Arc de Triomphe on one end and the Obelisk of Luxor on the other with the original Luis Vuitton store somewhere in the middle. Exemplifying an obnoxious tourist and vexing several taxi drivers, I stopped in the middle of the street to take about three thousand pictures. Then we made our way towards the Arc de Triomphe end, crossed the street again, and walked down a flight of stairs and under the street to access the monument. The tomb of the unknown soldier was quite pretty, the eternal flame reminding me of the JFK grave in Arlington National Cemetery. Also beneath the arc is a plaque commemorating the return of the Alsacian region to France after WWI, which I know all about (yay education!). So far, France has been a great place to apply history and, obviously, French lessons from the past three or four years.

Nearly three hundred steps later, we were at the top of the Arc, where you could see nearly all of Paris, but particularly the wealthy streets. It was the pictures from my French textbooks come alive, and I could’ve spent ages just looking out at the city. However, seeing as we only had two days to experience as much of Paris as possible, we had to press on. Next we walked to the quarter where Victor Hugo lived, which also happens to be the Jewish quarter, which also happens to be the gay quarter. There were men in wigs, make-up, and revealing policewoman costumes. There were also crowds of people walking around wearing rainbow flags as capes and skirts. It was fabulous.

Our last stop before hightailing it home for dinner was the Place des Vosges, a cute square containing a park with a statue of Louis XIII and lots of people relaxing on the grass. We had a quick dinner of fruits de mer (seafood), baguette (always), and (you guessed it) eau minérale back in Montmartre. Then we took the metro to Place de la Concorde (the site of Marie Antoinette’s execution), where we crossed one of the 37 some odd bridges of the Seine River and walked along the water, stopping to look at L’assemblée Nationale and the Musée D’Orsay. Something I had noticed earlier, but that particularly stood out at night, was the number of couples walking around the city. We passed many, many couples (straight, gay, young, old, French, tourist…y?) holding hands. So they aren’t exaggerating when they call Paris the City of Love. It was actually a little nauseating sometimes. Ha. Je blague (I’m kidding).

We finally boarded a tour boat and set off. I really enjoyed seeing everything lit up, and the cool breeze of the river was refreshing. It was another way of experiencing Paris, but our feet didn’t get sore and the Eiffel Tower would sparkle like festive Barbie eye glitter on the hour. We saw (and learned about) several other famous places in Paris. I actually looked for the hunchback when we passed Notre Dame (which, by the way, was even prettier than I thought it would be). And under this certain bridge, you can close your eyes and make a wish. The tour guide’s English was in need of improvement (did you know the Eiffel Tower was “imaginated” by Gustave Eiffel in the late nineteenth century for the World Exhibition?) but overall, it was an amazing ride, and I would highly recommend it. Oh, and my cousin Claire and I stood on the rail at the back of the boat and sang the Titanic theme song at the top of our lungs when the tour guide was taking a coffee break. I would recommend that, too.

And that, young-uns, was my first day in Paris. More to come!




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