After we purchased two cheap bus tickets online, my friend and I headed out to Paris to explore the fashionable, romantic and bustling city. I have been to the city before, but my traveling partner had not, so we flew through some of Paris' famous sites to fit in as much as we could.
To beat the crowds, we went to the Eiffel Tower first. Surprisingly, there weren't any crowds to beat, as the line for the stairway access was small and there was plenty of room to view the city from the tower. After hundreds of stairs (which were painful but a good way to burn off those crepe calories from breakfast) and an elevator ride to the top, we were greeted with a seemingly endless view of the city, complete with northern France's typical gloomy winter skyscape.
Because of my French language skills and my previous visits to Paris, I got to play tour guide for my friend. It was a lot of pressure, but I got us lost only once, so I would say that it was a success.
We strolled for a while down Avenue Champs-Elysees, Paris' notorious shopping district, and were greeted with a sprawling Christmas market, complete with a pop-up ice skating rink. The smell of fresh crepes and hot spiced wine mingled with the sounds of holiday music and the bustling street made a festive and lively atmosphere.
After doing some shopping and taking pictures of the Arc de Triomphe, the famous archway at the end of Champs-Elysees, we took the metro to zip in between some of Paris' other main sites. We saw the outside of the Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral, Hotel de Ville, or City Hall, and walked along the Seine River for a bit.
After a while it was getting chilly, so we stopped for dinner. The French, and Europeans in general, seem to love people-watching while they eat. In the summer in Paris, tables set up outside cafes and restaurants only have chairs on one side so everyone could watch the street while enjoying their coffee. The winter weather makes sitting outside slightly uncomfortable, so to solve this problem, many restaurants set up portable heat lamps and plastic siding around their patios so diners can watch people pass by and still be warm.
My friend and I spent dinnertime enjoying our French food – quiche lorraine, creme brulee and chocolate mousse – while keeping an eye on the street. A few hearty Parisian girls were walking around in skirts and huge scarves pretending not to be cold, and we thought that was un peu stupide.
The day flew by and before we knew it, it was time to catch the bus back to Lille. Paris is a huge city and can't be fully explored in just one day (or just a week, for that matter). My friend will have to come back to experience the whole thing, but I think our whirlwind visit gave her a good first impression.
I'll be writing about my return to Lille, where I studied abroad this past summer, in my next post. Thanks for reading!