For Valentine's Day -- or Saint Valentin as it is called in France -- seven of the students I'm studying with and I decided to head over to Paris and experience the City of Love. It was a bit of a courtship though, as opposed to love at first sight, after having gotten lost on the metro trying to find the apartment we were renting for the weekend, waiting for almost an hour or so for our host to come and give us the keys, and trying not to be drowned out by the rain.
But once we did get into the apartment all of us were breathless. I only took photos of the most photogenic (in my mind) areas of the apartment, but it was a sprawling loft-like space that felt very minimalistic yet eclectic simultaneously. There were windows everywhere so during the day the apartment was just filled with light.
Two of the girls and I broke off to begin our explorations of Paris, which started with Sacré-Coeur. We climbed almost 300 steps, took more pictures than necessary of every view, unfortunately got scammed out of a collective 15€, and marveled at how Paris looked from the final elevation.
On the way back down we came across this corner of an apartment building covered in various graffiti and posters.
Our next stop was Pont des Amoureux, or Love Lock Bridge. It was incredibly busy on Friday, it being Valentine's Day, but it was still an amazing sight to see. There were over at least a thousand padlocks marked with names and dates, on the rail of the bridge, on the lamp posts, multiple people selling locks and roasting chestnuts.
After having had our fill of love, we ducked into Coffee Crêpes -- a very wonderful little crêperie just across from the bridge, that was empty when we went in. The ladies who worked there were absolutely lovely and gave us advice for our weekend as well as bringing us the largest, most delicious crêpes I think we've had in France thus far. If you're in Paris and looking for a crêpe, I highly recommend you stop in here!
I had the citron (lemon) crêpe and did the whole "this is so good I don't know what to do with myself" sigh of contentment after the first bite.
Paris is full of statues, all very tall and grand and attention-commanding. Some of them, like the one pictured above, are in the middle of contemporary building structures and others, like the one pictured below, are completely on their own and kept solitary.
And how cool is this tree bark?! I saw these trees all over Paris and every time I thought that it looked like somebody had painted them.
Eventually we made our way to Notre-Dame, and marveled at the magnificence. While I am not religious in any way, I felt extremely humbled to be in the presence of the building and to walk through the doors.
When we were there a service was taking place, adding to the magical quality that seemed to exist.
After Notre-Dame we made our way to the Arc de Triumph, stopping to watch a group of dancers bust out some serious moves on the sidewalk. One of my favorite things was this display window outside Tiffany's.
It felt right to be a little sassy in front of the Arc instead of just the stock "stand and smile" touristy photo everyone else was taking.
On Saturday we made our way to the Catacombs, waiting in line for about an hour to descend under the city. If you're under 25 you can get in for about half the price as a regular ticket, which was a lovely surprise!
Throughout the halls were dioramas carved out of stone and plaques with the history of the different portions. Although the ceilings were low and the hallways were cramped, making even this six foot tall Austinite feel a bit claustrophobic at times. Outside there is a sign that says the catacombs aren't for the faint of heart -- they aren't lying one bit.
The part I was not ready for were the actual hallways lined with the bones of over six million people. I lasted maybe five minutes before feeling the need to either throw up or cry, so I hurried through while my friends stayed back and took photo after photo.
After the end of the bones there was more of the educational material, which I enjoyed. Reading the plaques in French was also fun, even though I only understand a modicum of what they say.
I loved this little window garden that I saw while walking around Paris!
We stopped for lunch at a café afterwards, where I had a café and a mixte sandwich, which is ham (jambon), cheese (enmental -- what the French eat on everything), butter, and sliced pickles. It was so delicious, and while not a four star meal, I finally felt like I was eating French food while in Paris.
Another girl in the group had invited me to go along with her to a poetry workshop at a bar near Shakespeare and Company that night, which I did so gladly. I neglected to take any photographs, but it was in the basement and lit mainly by tea lights, two hours filled with nothing but poetry. Afterwards we found a quiet place for dinner and got supremely lost on the metro while trying to make our way to the Eiffel Tower, but we were ultimately successful! The tower is breathtaking while all of the lights are on, and we probably stood there the entire time with awestruck faces and grins on our faces.
I don't think I'll ever get how there are huge statues and chateaus and centuries old churches integrated into the main roads and surrounded by modern life while I'm in France.
All of Sunday was spent at the Louvre, where unfortunately I couldn't walk around because my body was uncooperative and my camera died right after I took this photo. But I did have a good afternoon sampling the different cafés and people watching.