Paris was just as charming as I imagined. From chocolate, wine, cheese and pastry shops galore, to the Eiffel Tower lit up at night, to the Love-Lock-Bridge, to people watching at Café de Flore, to metro rides with an orchestra playing in your car – there is a little bit of magic everywhere you turn. After being in Paris for 24 hours I was anxious to see the Eiffel Tower, so I took a Christmas Eve stroll to see it lit up. It didn’t matter that it was raining – it was beautiful! On Christmas day I had a home-away-from-home Christmas dinner with friends I had met at the Institute. French and English Christmas carols, warm apple crumble, skyping into my family’s Christmas lunch in Arizona, walking along the Seine River and seeing Notre Dame made it a Christmas that I’ll never forget.
So many people say that you should only travel to Paris with someone. If I’ve learned one thing while traveling it is that you shouldn't always listen to what “people say,” because, quite frankly, Paris is wonderful even if you are alone. Yes, it is fun to share the excitement of everything you see with someone else, but the thing about being in a city like Paris is that you’re never really alone. When you sit down alone at a café, more often than not, there is someone else sitting there that is alone too. I’ve shared newspapers and had brief conversations with the other "loners," but half of the fun in going to a Parisian café is sitting outside and people watching.
On that note, Paris is fun with a girlfriend also! Miquela was able to fly through Paris for New Year’s Eve on her way to Italy. Champs Elysées on NYE is packed; the energy was incredible and champagne bottles were popped left and right. I practiced counting backwards in French so I could join in at 11:59:50 p.m., but to my dismay they don’t have a countdown in France. Instead, the lights flash. Countdown or not, it was a wonderful way to welcome 2014.
I spent the first few days of the new year visiting museums, walking around Paris and enjoying the moments I was lost. I climbed the Eiffel Tower, as far as you can anyways, and then took the elevator to the top. I toured the Palace of Versailles and constantly found myself in awe of the old textiles and paintings. One painting was 600 square feet – or about 3.5 times bigger than the studio I stayed in; the Hall of Mirrors was absolutely stunning.
Stepping inside of the Notre Dame Cathedral was another jaw-dropping moment.
However, one of my favorite educational experiences – at least I call it that – was visiting different boulangeries (bakeries) and patisserie (pastry shops). It’s not only about the baguette you buy or the coffee you sip on – it’s the experience, which can be a slightly intimidating one at first. Be sure to say “Bonjour!” immediately when you walk in, sing it if you wish, just be sure to say hello – it’s just the French way. For some people walking in and out of a boulangerie is accomplished in a quick minute. I’ve never been known for my decisiveness; I tend to go back and forth between a few different options before making a decision and nothing is different about me when I’m in a boulangerie staring at 15 different types of baguettes, not to mention the hundreds of different pastries – macaroons, madeleines, and gallettes galore – staring at me, too, but eventually I make up my mind and usually it’s a win. Now the key to getting the real educational experience at a boulangerie (besides all of the new vocabulary you'll learn) is making sure not to nibble on anything you buy until you're home so you can really compare the different baguettes (and maybe a macaroon or two) and see which one is your favorite!
Audrey Hepburn nailed it when she said, “Paris is always a good idea.” Two weeks in Paris was just a start for me – I enjoyed every minute of it and am excited I’ll be going back for another month (or so) in March, but for the moment I’m off to the country for my first “Workaway” adventure!