For a weekend of travel that almost didn’t happen, our time in Paris was spectacular! Our train tickets had been booked for the wrong day somehow, but Rachel quickly talked our way into new seat reservations, and we finally got to France on Friday afternoon. We arrived at a chaotic, urine-scented train/subway station, which overwhelmed us just as much as adjusting to yet another language and culture did. But we were ecstatic to even be in Paris, so we laughed off that panicky, disoriented feeling and moved forward in our newest adventure.
When we finally reached the artsy little one-bedroom apartment in Montemarte where we were staying (this is the section of Paris where it’s actually affordable to live), we were greeted by a tall, smiling man named Adam, who would be our host for the next two nights along with his roommate and long-time friend Madie. This was our first experience couch surfing, and we hid our nerves inside us as we walked into the tiny flat, tossed our bags aside, and made conversation about things like French food and cowboys in Texas. Adam laughed giddily when we explained that, yes, there are actually cowboys, horses, and farms in Texas. He also commented in broken English about our southern politeness and how we had a “special way of saying sorry” that was unlike any way he’d ever heard before.
Armed with the weekend-travel necessities of a map, a few Euros, a subway pass, and a Ziploc bag of peanut butter sandwiches, we headed out to see what we could of the city. After visiting the Pantheon and having flashbacks of freshman art history, we made our way to the Louvre, where we were shocked at the size and grandeur of the world’s largest museum.
If you give each artifact, statue, piece of artwork, etc. a full thirty seconds of attention, it would take you four months to see every piece in the Louvre (and this is without breaks for eating, sleeping, or using the restroom). We only spent a couple hours there and saw probably one one-hundredth of all there is to see, but we did get to see Greek and Roman sculptures, huge Egyptian statues, artifacts, and sarcophagi, famous paintings from around the world, and many, many more unbelievable masterpieces. After giving far less than the four months of admiration the Louvre demands, we regrettably bid au revoir to Mona Lisa and headed back to the apartment, where we were greeted by Madie with the traditional French hello, complete with two kisses on the cheeks.
That night I squeezed into the tiny kitchen with Adam and, after offering to help him cook but being turned down by his teethy grin and exclamation: “Ohhh but you are already helping me so much by being here!”, I settled for watching him prepare a massive dinner for us. He excitedly asked more about life in Texas, and I asked about things like French cheese and the French language; he tried to teach me key phrases, but we just ended up laughing at my poor pronunciation of even the simplest words. We all sat at the coffee table in the one open room and listened to kitschy American music as we ate and talked. He’d made salmon cooked four different ways: French-style, which was half-cooked in butter and served with raw mushrooms and Carré de l’Est (a popular French cheese), Japanese style (raw, with pickled ginger), and two other styles (which I can’t remember the names of) that consisted of a whole salmon filet cooked in oil with fresh mushrooms, and boiled salmon in a mixture of rice, broccoli, and mushrooms. If you’re wondering, the answer is yes… I did try what Adam called sashimi and then awkwardly pronounced in English as “roar sah-moan,” and the verdict is that the raw salmon was actually pretty decent. Amanda was brave enough to give it a taste (and then swallow it whole) after being urged to try it by our smiling hosts, but Rachel politely picked her way around it and stuffed her stomach with rice and broccoli.
We three piled onto a big mattress on the floor, where we shivered our way through the night and woke up early to get to the free walking tour, which we ditched halfway through because we couldn’t stand the rain anymore. With malfunctioning umbrellas and soggy socks, we made our way to the Palais-Royale, the Bastille Monument, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, and the Fontaine St. Michel, where we were surrounded by the grandeur of gothic and neoclassical architecture and the opulence of ancient statues stabbing their swords and staring dauntingly at us from their mounts.
We made it to the Eiffel Tower both in the daytime and at night, and we were lucky enough to see it sparkling for a few minutes against the dark sky. Postcards just don’t do the nighttime Eiffel Tower justice; in reality it is absolutely colossal and breathtaking. In the city of lights and the city of love, I stood beneath the landmark that combines the two and stared up, imagining that the lights twinkling in the beams were frantically exquisite love letters being sent across the city in Morse code.
The romance and beauty of the city really is surreal and quite unavoidable. We acted as if we were totally accustomed to the public displays of affection that surrounded us constantly, and we acted calm and cool even when there were kissing sessions taking place five feet in front of us. We felt immersed in the Parisian
lifestyle as we strolled across romantic arched bridges, and we gazed at the water and the picturesque buildings around us. Later I felt utterly absorbed in the Parisian lifestyle when we sat at a cute café eating crepes and actively doing nothing at all.
Now that was a lifestyle I could really get used to.