Also known as: The lovely city of Paris <3
Oh Paris. <3
I always thought people who fell in love with the city of Paris was, well, kind of cliche. Maybe I’m just avoiding being mainstream. Or maybe, I just thought other places — like Italy, for instance — would be way better, more romantic than Paris. Some of the people who has visited Europe before told me that if I should visit some countries there, Paris is just okay compared to say, Rome, which was amazing. But still, Paris is Paris, and I am not one to choose.
So after three-hour train ride (and an impromptu household to boot!) from Geneva, we arrived at Paris-Gare de Lyon. Bonjour, Paris!
We were welcomed by Ashley and Angela, two girls from YFC Paris and they led us through the metro to get to the girls’ host home at Ashley’s sister’s place. Interesting thing about our hosts (and most of the YFCs in Paris) is they are French citizens but they came from Filipino families, so they are fluent in Filipino and in French. It was actually quite nice to hear them speak in Filipino — think of Ilonggos speaking. It just sounded so nice! And when they all start talking in French, all we could do was listen in awe. :)
Anyway, we arrived at Mel’s (Ashley’s sister) place in Liege, where we were welcomed by Mel and Toto, who were busy cooking spaghetti dinner for us. What followed was a fun dinner full of plans for the next day and things to do and lots of awesome, awesome French talk that we could not understand but loved to hear. It was a fun evening, and they were all so nice that I haven’t even been in Paris for more than six hours and I already knew I loved the place. Maybe it’s Filipino hospitality, or maybe, the “Paris magic”1 has caught me. Needless to say, I was very excited to see the city the next day2.
So we woke up bright and early the next morning to start our day-long Paris trip. :)
Here’s the thing about being in Paris: the city is so popular because of all books, movies, commercials and what-have-you’s that are set in this place that actually being there felt so surreal. Sometimes, when I think about it here and now, I still cannot believe that I was actually there and I was actually able to see places and things that I only dreamed/read about! It was also quite funny that I was reading a book set in Paris for my Europe trip, so I was all wide-eyed and squealing with delight with every single thing I was seeing. I was all, Oh, Bastille! Palais Royale! Louvre! You get my drift. :)
Our first stop was Notre Dame de Paris, that church were Quasimodo was supposed to live and featured in one of my favorite books back in 2010, Anna and the French Kiss. Honestly, I was more excited to find Point Zero in France than really seeing the church, but color me awed when this welcomed us:
It was a very pretty, yet a little crowded church. Probably because it was a tourist spot, so it was not as solemn as I expected it to be. Either way, it was still a nice place to visit, and architecture buffs will really drool at the detail in the church’s facade. Plus, I also love that there were so many adoration stations/prayer areas inside the church. It makes me wonder how many people hear mass here.
I was in search of Point Zero in France, but I totally forgot to research about it the night before so I didn’t know where it was. I thought it was somewhere out back, you know, where Anna and Etienne went up in the book? Oh but I couldn’t find it. And when we were done going around the church, I felt really, really sad that I wouldn’t even get to see it, that I wasn’t able to enjoy looking at La Seine (they say it’s prettier at night, though).
And then, I decided to make a very expensive phone call to my friends at home just so I can ask them to look for where Point Zero was. After a few minutes of phone calls and asking some guards at the Notre Dame, we finally found it!
Of course after that, more people started taking photos of the place. ;)
After Notre Dame, we headed for another must-see tourist place in Paris, MusÃ©e du Louvre.Of course, the inner fangirl in me was squealing once we got off the station, because I was just reading about Palais-Royal inRevolution. :)
Raise your hand if your first thought upon seeing the next photo was “OMG The Da Vinci Code!” :)
Again, cue squealing fangirl. :) It was a blessing that it was a bright and sunshiny day when we were in Paris, so we were able to see the pyramid in all its glory. :) We went in the museum, of course, but since it was too big to go around to in one day, we only decided to go to see Mona Lisa, because, well, if why not see it when we’re there already, right?
Funny thing was, I had to squeeze in a crowd just to get that close to her:
And Mona Lisa wasn’t even that huge, compared to the painting right across it which spans one whole wall. Either way, it was still interesting to actually see her, albeit a little underwhelming.
After the Louvre, we headed to a nearby restaurant named Chez Claude, for lunch. As expected, food wasn’t that cheap, but it was quite good. Lunch was filling, and I can’t remember where I heard it or read it, but they really serve lunch slow. Like, really. So much that we ended up snacking on the french bread served to us so we won’t pass out from hunger (although we missed pan de sal so much :P). The food was worth the wait, anyway, and it was quite a long lunch. I guess it’s true that people take their time when eating in Paris.
My biggest mistake was not ordering French macarons for dessert! I thought I would be able to buy macarons for snack later that afternoon, but alas, we did not have time. :(
Also, you know how they say Europeans, particularly the French, like to walk? Well, we found out how true that was after lunch. Katia from Geneva told us that if everything in Geneva was really near, Paris was the opposite. Geneva is mostly relaxed and you can really walk from one point to another if you aren’t in a hurry. In Paris, everyone seems to be in a hurry, and well, everyone liked to walk. After lunch, we started our looong walk from the Louvre to Avenue des Champs-Ã‰lysÃ©es to Arc de Triomphe. Let me illustrate:
Despite the long walk, I think we really enjoyed ourselves. Oh, and I noted the following among Parisians:
- They really like walking. Everyone’s walking.
- They are very fashionable people. For real.
- And, they also like to kiss. Haha seriously.
The walk to the Arc was a pretty one, though, so despite it being very tiring, it was still very fun. :)
I ran low on batteries when we got to Champs-Elysees, so I only had few photos there. But they say that’s the most expensive strip of real estate in the world…and I think I agree. I remember we were looking at cars, lots of stores and of course, that huge Louis Vitton store that we just stared at. :P
After reaching that, we were all very tired, but it was time to go to Eiffel.
Now, I already saw a bit of the Eiffel tower while we were walking that very long walk. I admit to squealing with delight again, with the sheer excitement of seeing that. People often ask me when I got back, “Was the Eiffel Tower overrated?” Well, I guess if you’ve been looking at it for a long time…it would be. But the feeling of being a tourist, and the feeling of seeing it for the first time with my own eyes and reading so much about the place, it’s hard not to be excited when the tower is finally, finally in front of you.
When we got out from Trocadero station where we could see the tower, I was in awe. There was nothing really special about it, if you think about it, but like I said, seeing it with your very own eyes changes things. We just could not stop looking at it.
We stayed at that place for a long time because we also met with the people from Team 1. We talked if we wanted to go closer and possibly even climb up the tower…but when we saw how long we had to walk again? Uh, no thanks.
After more photo ops, we went back to the metro to head for Basilique du SacrÃ©-CÅ“ur, or Basilica of the Sared Heart of Paris. But before we actually got to the church, we stopped by this place:
Moulin Rouge was a nice place to look at but it was expensive. Also, it was located in the 18th arrondissement of Paris, which was kind of a seedy area. I don’t know much, of course, but the entire street was kind of a red light district of sorts.
Interestingly, the 18th arrondissement also hosts the Basilique du SacrÃ©-CÅ“ur. :) It was kind of a shock having to go from a street lined with sex shops and then turn to go up to a church so solemn that our hosts told us that people barely speak inside the church. :)
Team 1 went to have a meeting with the YFCs in Paris and that left us Team 2 to go and hear mass. It was interesting to hear mass in a different language! We understood nothing, but since it was a Catholic mass, we knew how it went, so we went through the actions. The mass was officiated by a priest and only a priest — no knight of the altar, no reader, no one else. It was very, very solemn, and we were afraid to talk.
After mass, we headed out and I was kind of feeling sad that I would be leaving Paris the next day. But there was one more surprise waiting for me. Since the church was set on a hill, it was overlooking a lighted up Paris — so pretty. And then…
Photo quality isn’t that good, but hey, it’s still lighted up. And I still saw it. So, thank You Lord, for letting me see this. :)
After that, we went back down and headed for the metro. Almost all places were closed already, so there was really nothing else to do but go home, and rest. We had a few more photos before we all said goodbye.
It was En’s birthday that night, too, so we made crepes for her and we talked while we got ready for bed. Since I was flying off to Vienna the next morning, I opted not to sleep so I won’t miss my flight. That gave me time to think and reflect on how amazing my Paris experience has been to me.
I don’t care if it’s cliche — I fell in love with Paris in a day. It was probably everything I imagined it to be, and I knew there were more things to see and experience and explore. I have to be honest, too: of all the places I went to in Europe, Paris was really my favorite. Of course, I liked the other countries I went to, but I guess the little romantic girl in me was most thrilled the moment I got to the City of Light. :)
But! I think I would not have fallen in love with this city if it wasn’t for the warm and friendly people who hosted us, who watched us act like absolutely tourists and patiently answered all our questions and helped us get around because we hardly understood anything. :) So I must take this moment to say thanks: maraming salamat Ashley, Angela, Mel, Toto, Chachou, Jennica, Alyssa and the rest of YFC Paris3! Thank you so much for your hospitality and generosity and basically everything. I think I may have fallen in love with Paris more because of you guys. :)
I think Paris was also sad that I was leaving the next morning, because it rained when I left. Aw. If I could, I would go back to Paris in a heartbeat. But wait for me! I will be back. (And by that time, I should probably know how to speak in French :P)
It was time to go on the actual mission. Up next, Vienna!
Merci, Ã Paris! Jusqu’Ã ce que je vous revoir!4
P.S. This is the longest entry in my Europe series. I am not surprised.