Read about my trip to Florence, Italy where between my weekend travels throughout Europe, Italian language courses, fashion marketing internship and Tuscan wine tastings on the weekends, I'm not sure if I'll ever want to return to "The States"...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Spring Break 2010 Part I: Oui, oui, Paris!

Armed with nothing but my trusty old high school backpack, Laura and I left our apartment at noon on Friday, April 2nd for our ten day spring break excursion. The two of us traveling around Europe was disastrous to say the least. Shall we begin:

We arrived at the train station and bought our tickets at the machine. While waiting for our train to arrive, I decided to venture over to the tabaccheria where I could purchase credit for my phone since I would need to contact the people that we were meeting up with over the next ten days. The lady at the tabacchi gave me credit for the wrong service and then wouldn’t let me exchange it once I realized her mistake. This, unfortunately, was the first of many mishaps to occur during this eventful vacation. 20 euro down the drain. Once I forked over more money to get the correct credit service for my phone, we booked it to our train. It was literally closing its doors as we arrived but hadn’t moved yet so we pounded on the doors to have it open only to have some Italian man just shrug his shoulders at us as they pulled away. Thanks buddy.

We successfully caught the next train to Pisa, boarded our plane to Beauvais, hopped on the shuttle to Paris, and caught the metro to the hostel and arrived a mere 9 hours after we left our apartment in Florence. Biggest thing I learned from this trip: pay for the more expensive flight. It’s worth it, plus you probably are going to pay just as much with the extra transportation to get to your actual destination.

Our hostel in Paris was really nice. It was pretty much like a hotel except you were roomed with strangers. One stranger in our room consisted of a 60 year old man who I got to wake up to changing the next morning. Seriously buddy, there is a Holiday Inn right next door. Pay the extra 10 euro to be with people your own age. At least we didn’t have the little rugrats running around in their DisneyLand Paris gear as roomies. Again, Holiday Inn right next door people.

Once we settled in, we met up with our friends Monica and Anne for dinner. Our friend, Elysia, who is studying in Paris, recommended this all you can eat and drink fondue restaurant. We got there and after being directed to literally climb over the table to sit down, were served baby bottles of wine. We’re talking actual baby bottles with the rubber nipples on top . It was gross and weird and not at all appetizing. We then got cheese fondue, but by cheese I mean oil and butter with a little bit of cheese melted in. Yum. Needless to say we didn’t take advantage of the unlimited food because we got our fill after two bites of the oil. At dinner we happened to be sitting next to one of my friends who is studying in Florence too so we all decided to hit up the Paris nightlife together. After multiple expensive cab rides and multiple club rejections we decided just to go home. Apparently the clubs in Paris are exclusive to the six foot tall hundred pound models we saw flocking into the club as the bouncer told us they were full. Ouch.

Day two in Paris was the best day by far. I forced Laura to sign up for a Fat Tires Bike Tour with me so we could see all the sights in Paris in one quick sweep. The tour met right at the Eiffel Tower so we snapped a couple of pictures and then got to bike around Paris where we saw Notre Dame, The Egyptian Obelisk, The Louvre and the square where Marie Antoinette was beheaded and her head paraded around on a stick. There was one minor setback where it literally started to downpour on us in the middle but we were rewarded with a gorgeous rainbow afterwards to make up for it. The tour guide was an American guy from Colorado who wanted to be fluent in a second language so he just travelled over to Paris and started a life there for himself. He was witty and really smart so the tour was fun and Spinks was glad I made her go. If only I could get her to sign up for the one in Munich next weekend now too…

Since we saw pretty much everything there was to see in Paris on the bike tour, that probably should have been our cue to leave for our next destination. Unfortunately our flight wasn’t for another two days so we decided to try and actually go inside the Louvre. Unfortunately this happened to be Easter Sunday, and the first Sunday of the month which means a) the Louvre is free the first Sunday of the month, and that b) it is the only thing open in Paris on this particular holiday. We saw the front of the line and figured it might not be too bad if we just waited since we didn’t have anything else to do. Wrong. Once we finally found the end of the line about 20 minutes later, we realized we would probably be standing there for about six hours before going in. Sorry, Da Vinci, but after hearing that the Mona Lisa is only about 2x2 feet, I was not about to wait that long of a line to see it.

We tried going to about three more sites that day and all ended up being closed because of the holiday. That night we hung out at the bar in our hostel and met some really cool people that either were staying there or worked at the bar downstairs. We made plans with a boy from Indiana to go the Palace of Versailles the next day which was absolutely gorgeous. The Palace was about 100 acres and every inch of it was beautiful manicured and covered in ornate statues and ponds. No wonder the Parisians didn’t like King Louis after spending their hard working tax dollars on that kind of home.

We went out that night to the bars (our first successful attempt at actually going out in Paris) and met a 45 year old Irish man who I bonded with because both of our ex-boyfriends were from Palatine, Illinois. Small World. We had a wildly good time that night and realized it was our first time really meeting a large group of people while studying abroad who weren’t fellow American students. Even though our last night in Paris was fun, our last day was not so great. It was Tuesday morning and we bought the same ticket we had been buying the last three days for the metro to go see the Moulin Rouge building. Apparently though, that ticket was only good for weekends and holidays. This confused us because we had used in on Monday but apparently Easter is a 48 hour celebration in Paris. Of course there was no one on the outside of the gates to help us but as soon as we went through, about eight rent a cops ambushed us and charged us 50 euro each for buying a “false ticket.” We tried to explain that we had no idea and were not intentionally stealing metro passes but the lady said, “It’s not my fault you don’t speak French,” in a perfect English accent mind you, but when we asked her to explain which ticket to buy to us she said she doesn’t speak English. She also had no problem telling us she needed to swipe our credit cards for the fine. Then it hit me, this is what people are talking about when the say the French hate Americans. Glad we got to experience the typical French hospitality.

We grudgingly paid the fine and then stomped around Paris for the rest of the day. The icing on the cake was probably getting lost on our last time going back to the hostel so I finally gave in to looking like a tourist and opened my map. As soon as I did though, the wind blew it into the street and as I tried to save it I almost got decapitated by the cars speeding towards me. Now that was our cue to leave.

For a quick recap, if you ever decide to go to Paris, take the Fat Tire Bike Tour and spend no more than 24 hours in that city. Save the money for another destination. Any other destination. Luckily we still had more places to visit.

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