Thursday, July 3, 2014

Adventures Abroad Part 1: Paris

A few weeks ago my mom and I returned from our trip to London and Paris, but things have been so hectic that I haven't had a chance to sit down and write about it. I actually just purchased a new Macbook Air after having a white Macbook for 6 years, so now I am back to blogging.

Paris was amazing of course and definitely felt like more of a foreign country than London did, but my mom and I preferred London. That's not to say Paris wasn't amazing, it was, it just didn't feel as accessible as London. This was probably due to the language barrier as well as the cultural differences apparent in meal times, shopping, and such.

We stayed in the 1st Arrondisement in the Hotel Vendome, which is located in the beautiful and pricey Place Vendome. The area definitely prevented us from getting an authentic experience of everyday life in Paris, but there was something so surreal about walking out of the hotel to see Chanel and Cartier right next door. We were also conveniently located to major tourist sights such as the Louvre and the Musee D'Orsay, without being right in the center of the crowds.

I don't really recall exactly at this point when we did what so I'm just going to cover some of the highlights of our trip. We read in our travel guide that the Louvre had special hours on Wednesdays and Fridays where they stay open until 11PM instead of their usual 6PM closing time. We walked over around 7 and went inside.

The area around the Louvre was beautiful and is located next to the Tuileries Garden, which is home to four cafes, a merry-go-round, and a large fountain. The Louvre lobby area was pretty crowded and all of the restaurants and food courts were closed but we found a Starbucks and fueled up before beginning our search for the Mona Lisa. I had read that the Mona Lisa is incredibly difficult to see during peak hours and large groups crowd around the small painting.

However, after following the multiple signs and navigating the museum corridors, we found the room. There were people there but my mom and I easily made our way towards the front and walked right up to the barrier. Next we found the Venus de Milo as well as some other works of art that hardly anyone was near. By this time, around 9, the museum was practically empty. It was a very cool feeling being able to meander the spectacular rooms easily and I would definitely recommend going in the evening.

Another day we took the metro over to the Ile de-la Cite, an island in the center of Paris where Notre Dame is located. The cathedral was magnificent and large, with the famous gargoyles perched on top like in the Disney movie, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. We spent a while walking around inside where there were areas to light prayer candles to different saints and even to view relics.

Of course I couldn't go to Paris without taking one step closer to my bucket list goal of visiting all of the Disney Parks by going to Disneyland Paris. The park was much smaller than my "home" park Walt Disney World but it was somewhat similar to Disneyland in California. The ticket gets you access to both Disneyland and Walt Disney Studios Parks. We didn't spend much time in the Studios, but did see an interesting black-light stage show featuring Mickey, Donald, and characters from a few different Disney films. 

Disneyland Park was lovely, although I was a bit disappointed that we had to cancel our dinner reservation at Walt's due to the time of our transportation back to Paris. We went on some rides - Pirates of the Caribbean, Phantom Manor, and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril - which each had their own spin on the rides found in other Disney Parks. Phantom Manor was a bit too dark in my opinion and we couldn't really see anything, but Pirates of the Caribbean was longer than our "home" ride which we enjoyed. 

There were a few other places that I knew I wanted to see ahead of time, including the love locks bridge and the bookstore Shakespeare and Company. The bookstore was tiny and a little overcrowded but definitely worth the visit. I purchased the smallest book I could find to make for easy packing, Virginia Woolf's "A Room of One's Own". 

The love lock bridge was really something to see in person and I enjoyed perusing the various locks, reading the names and messages written on them. A few days after we left Paris, one of these bridge barriers actually collapsed from having too many locks attached to it, a problem which the city is now dealing with and debating over.

One of the most luxurious and amazing places we visited in Paris was Versailles, the famous palace in which Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI lived. It was massive and every hallway and room was more extravagant than the last. My personal favorite was the hall of mirrors which was used as a socialization room and dance hall. 

Part 2 will be coming soon talking about some of my favorite experiences from London! Thanks for reading.

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