Our first half hour in Paris (after getting to our hostel) was my favorite part of the trip. Once again, we had to take a train from the airport to the center of Paris however when we got to our hostel we were too early and had to leave our bags in the office and come back and check in later. Since it was only 9:45 AM, breakfast was first on the list of things to do. Less than a block away we found a café/bakery that was absolutely perfect. I ordered a pain du chocolate (a chocolate croissant) and espresso and for those 20 or so minutes sitting outside and enjoying this petit-dejeuner in Paris, I could not have been happier.
Just like the last two cities, we started off our Parisian experience with a New Europe walking tour. On the tour we walked along the Seine River, saw Notre Dame, Pont Neuf, the Louvre, the Opera House where the Phantom of the Opera takes place, the beginning of the Champs-Elysees with the Arc du Triumph in the distance, and of course the Eiffel Tower. After the tour we walked to the New Europe base camp – a quaint little café/restaurant that had 9-euro specials on a plate of traditional food (such as a cheese plate, a quiche, or a croque monsieur) and a drink.
Afterward we headed over to the Eiffel Tower (which we had only seen from a distance) and had a photo shoot with it before going all the way to the top! We climbed the stairs to the second level and then took the elevator the rest of the way up. We came back down in time to watch the sunset from the second level and were back on the ground in time to see the sparkling light show. Up until Paris, every city I’ve been in has seemed large on the map but in reality has been quite easy to walk around. We completely underestimated the distance from the Eiffel Tower back to our hostel and when we finally got back all we wanted was some ice cream. Lucky for us, right across the street from our hostel was a shop with the best gelato I have ever tasted!!
The next day four of us got up early (ate breakfast at the same café, of course) and headed off to see the palace of Versailles. After a 30-45 minute train ride we arrived in the small town of Versailles and on our walk to the palace we stopped and picked up some picnic supplies for later. I did not enjoy the palace as much as I thought I would. It was very impressive, but full to the brim with tour groups and it was impossible to move around and enjoy the rooms…I’m very glad it was free for students. The grounds and gardens where we picniced, however, were one of my favorite places we saw on the entire trip, especially Marie Antoinette’s gardens at the Petit Trianon.
Upon arriving back to Paris, we went and saw the Arc du Triumph and walked part way down the Champs-Elysees but we were so tired from the day before and walking around Versailles that we went back to our hostel to rest before dinner. After getting some dönner kebabs and falafel we took our dinner on a boat tour of Paris on the Seine River at sunset. In addition to all of the monuments and famous buildings we saw there were tons of people sitting along the river enjoying the nice weather and a glass of wine.
On our way home from the boat ride I was still hungry and hadn’t had a crepe yet since being in Paris so we sat down at a creperie…which turned out to be not such a good idea since I was the only one who wanted one. After I ordered a crepe and the rest of the girls just got drinks, the waitress was a little upset and said that it is not normal for four people to sit down and order just one crepe (even though we weren’t sharing)…oops. But it probably was the most delicious crepe I have ever tasted, complete with bananas, raspberry sorbet, chocolate ice cream, walnuts, and whipped cream!
Our last day in Paris started off with a trip to Notre Dame followed by hiking up Montmartre to Sacre Cour. One of the girls in our group had been to Paris a few years ago and made the walk sound like a very strenuous experience….but it was probably the easiest hike of the trip. After walking through the church we wondered around the artists’ district in Montmartre (where painters like Van Gogh, Picasso, etc. lived and worked) and ended up as the one and only Moulin Rouge!
In Stevens Point, WI, there is a delicious café (I might be little biased since I work there, but it really is amazing) called Café 27, and it is based of a café called Rose Bakery in Paris. Knowing how good Café 27 is, I had to try the original version in Paris and lucky for me it is located very close to Montmartre and the Moulin Rouge. Walking into Rose Bakery was almost like being back at Café 27. The salads were very similar and the pastries looked and smelled just as delicious! I ordered an eggplant and squash quiche with a small portion of carrot & seed salad and garbanzo, squash, & arugula salad and I for dessert I decided (with much difficulty) to try the apple & berry crumble. Everything was delicious and it was the perfect way to end an amazing week of traveling around Europe before heading back to Sevilla!