After a long train ride, Kierstan and I made it safe and sound to Paris. While lugging our suitcases, we met our friend we were staying with for the rest of the week, ate a much-needed lunch, and walked around in search of a couple close by historic monuments before checking into the hotel. Word of advice: don’t drag suitcases over cobblestone. It’s possible yet difficult to do. We saw Notre Dame and its construction and beneath a bridge along the Seine where a scene of Charades with Audrey Hepburn was filmed. Honestly, the suitcases had my patience running thin including the several metro stairs. However, I was fine after we finally settled in our hotel room with its one bedroom with three twin beds squished together and a decently sized bathroom. As we didn’t want to miss out on seizing the daylight, we left quickly thereafter to go to the Sacré-Cœur that was actually within walking distance. There was an amazing view of the city, and I couldn’t help buying a lock like Kierstan. Before coming to France, I really wanted my boyfriend to be able to visit me and have us spend time in Paris as it’s known as the City of Love. Since we found out that was not going to be possible and with the opportunity rising, I bought one and scribbled our names, locking it on a fence near the Sacré-Cœur. Given my exhaustion from all the stairs and all the people, I didn’t get to go into the church, but I was happy, nonetheless. After that, we went to the Café des Deux Moulins, where the movie Amélie was filmed and ate. We even got some crème brûlée which is important to the movie. This was the first time I had crème brûlée, and it was good. We then walked to the Moulin Rouge just down the street, and I helped Kierstan capture her “Marilyn Monroe” moment on a vent across the street (as you can see on her Instagram: @kkconway66). We could feel that the night was still young, so we decided to get an Uber to the Eiffel Tower. For Kierstan and I, it was the first time ever seeing it. Even though it’s just a bunch of metal, nuts and bolts, wires, and circuits, it was still such a surreal sight. The pictures Kierstan took of me even look photoshopped; that’s how surreal the sight was. We came back to the hotel happy and satisfied.
Kierstan and I heading to Paris from Avignon.
Picture of me in front of the Eiffel Tower taken by Kierstan Conway
The view of Notre Dame and its construction from the cobblestone path by the Seine river that we had dragged our suitcases across.
Picture taken by Kierstan Conway: Here's the lock I put on a fence near the Sacré-Cœur for me and my boyfriend. A tradition symbolizing long-lasting love.
Versailles! We had an early morning and had to run to Versailles. Our navigation told us it would take us over an hour with taking the metro and a train ride, and we had to get there BEFORE 9:30 am. We quickly got dressed, spouted directions while speed walking, and grabbed and scarfed down Starbucks holiday drinks and food to go as we walked up to Versailles and waited in the long line. We spent hours walking, taking pictures, gawking at all the amazing sights, and chatting along the way. By the time we finally got out to the gardens, my feet were killing me. The freezing weather didn’t help as it only made me sniffle and kept me moving. A little past 1 pm, we left and hopped on the train towards the Eiffel Tower. We wanted to go shopping near there. It was so interesting just passing the Eiffel Tower as we walked the streets. Between the buildings, it looked like a giant peering down at us. After a while, we found the mall that we were looking for. It was quite modern with several escalators and nice stores. We spent a while there going into shops and trying on clothes. With the pandemic, it reminded me how much just a normal thing like that is so precious. The ability to try on outfits ESPECIALLY in a different country with different sizes. After we left there, a couple of us (me included) wanted Burger King and a movie night. In my time here, I haven’t really eaten much fast food, so every once in a while, I crave it. Chilling in pajamas, watching a cheesy movie, and eating food felt amazing because 1) it feels weird for us to do a normal thing like that sometimes and 2) my feet FINALLY got a break. Talk about shop until you drop.
The famed Hall of Mirrors!
The trees in autumn are so colorful and beautiful in Versailles.
Yet again another early morning, and this time, we visited the Louvre. Because we are students, we didn’t have to pay an admission fee. In its’ place, we ate brunch in the Louvre around 10:30 ish am. The Louvre is immensely huge, and we got lost and/or separated on several occasions. We saw a lot of amazing things. I even saw several works by artists I’ve been studying in my art history class at the IES Abroad Nantes Center. Artists like De la Tour, Le Nain, and Le Brun. Fun fact: Le Brun was the one to lead the team of artists that contributed to the décor of Versailles. He’s basically the one responsible for the elaborate décor of Versailles and the creation of the myth around King Louis XIV (le Roi Soleil or in English, the Sun King) of France. Also, we saw the Mona Lisa; however, what’s more fun is seeing the crowd around the Mona Lisa. You have a small painting that everyone has seen on the internet or in books, and then, you have a massive crowd where everyone is trying to take a good picture. It was ridiculous because you could walk past the Mona Lisa to another room, which meant you could get really close by passing it from the side, and you have all these people in the middle of the room fighting for a good center picture. Personally, I don’t see the point of doing that if it’s not a selfie. If it’s just a picture of the Mona Lisa or any other piece of art or architecture without you in it or your loved ones in it, what makes it different from a better picture you can find on the internet? Maybe I’m a people-centered person, but it fascinates me as a psychology major. This desire for your own copy. I’m guilty of it too, but I try my best to either have myself or someone I know in the picture or a story to tell with this particular artwork. Like how I took a picture of this one statue because his facial expression reminded me of the awe of being in the Louvre. We left around 1 or 2 pm like with Versailles. My feet were hurting badly again to the point that as we walked to an upscale café featured in one of Kierstan’s favorite films I started crying uncontrollably. I think my blood sugar was dropping and my body didn’t know how to get out of the pain. We got there, got ice for my feet/ankle (which helped some), and we got their special hot chocolate. I ordered a sandwich as well, but it was honestly too expensive as I’ve had similar food at cheaper places. They were really kind though and let us take our time which is a French thing.
In French restaurants, they don’t rush you out the door like in the U.S; however, getting service can be difficult, which reminds me of when we went to dinner. Two to three hours after that Café break, we met up with three other IES Abroad students for our fancy dinner reservations. It was a really cute place, and the food was good. We shared a plate of escargot and frog legs. It was my third time eating escargot but my first-time eating frog legs. The frog legs kind of tasted like chicken but not quite, and the escargot tasted the same for me: like fat off meat. If you ask other people, they’ll say mushrooms or nothing (just the “beurre d’escargot” which is the sauce normally on it). Depends on your taste receptors though. Since I had a sandwich and hot chocolate not long before, I ordered a cheese plate which was good, but I got full easily. Several others got a rotisserie chicken and fries. Sadly, our waiter seemed to be annoyed, always busy, or not around so we barely got water. Sometimes it feels like people don’t drink enough water here but can still run around the world. (I asked my host mom when I got back from the fall break about this, and she said that the French drink at mealtimes, not typically throughout the day like Americans. Also, lunch is a very important meal for the French, so most water is consumed during lunch more-or-less.)
After dinner, we went to a performance at the famous La Comédie-Française which was really cool. It was a variety musical show with songs in French and English. They clearly made fun of themselves and how it is working in theater which was so refreshing. We were on the fourth-floor balcony, and it was a squeeze. It was also really hot because of all the body heat. Sadly, Kierstan had to run out because she had gotten food poisoning. Luckily, she was able to be seen by the in-house doctor. After the show, she took an Uber with another student, while I took the metro back with the three other students. The good thing was she was fine, and she slept it off really well.
How it felt being in the Louvre is written all over his face and body langauge.
I was a bit shook finding the portrait of le Brun and even finding rooms with some of his work that spans the wall of a room. Sitting down couldn't completely help taking in paintings each 20 times bigger than me.
Tough to imagine eating at this dining table in the Napoleon Apartment.
Ham and butter sandwiches like this are pretty common. Not my favorite though.
Since we wanted to take it slow for Kierstan and make sure she was okay, we got to sleep in a bit. This was actually good for me because the pain in my feet still hadn’t completely gone away. Kierstan swore she felt better, and we managed to go to the Shakespeare and Company bookstore which was so adorable. After, we had brunch at chipotle which was my first time at a Chipotle ever. I’m not a big fan of Mexican food, but it was really good. Another student and I had a tattoo appointment that afternoon, so Kierstan was able to go back to the room and rest. I was so excited yet nervous about our appointment. Not about getting the tattoo but about communication and whether it would turn out as I hoped. Turns out the tattoo artist I set the appointment with was a really sweet lady, and she took good care of us. It wasn’t even too expensive, and I got EXACTLY what I wanted. So, it was a 10 out of 10 experience getting a tattoo in Paris. I got 3 small dragons below my right collar bone. I had been thinking of this art design for a while, and I wasn’t sure why until I did some digging into the significance of dragon tattoos. There are several meanings and ideas around dragons, but the one phrase that caught my attention when I was researching was chaos and independence. Mixed with ideas of adventure, wisdom, and mystery, it seemed to sum up the main words I would use to describe studying abroad for me. Additionally, there is something special about the number three. For me, I like to think of the holy trinity (God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit), as that is my belief in the source of my being and how I see the world. Actions guided by the three. Also, as a kid, I loved when Tris from Divergent got three birds flying away in the same spot as it represented her freedom and self-expression. Cheesy I know, but I want you to know why this was important to me.
After tattoos, we went to the hotel, got Kierstan and another student, and went to a nearby Asian Express. The food was AMAZING for cheap. Out of everything I’ve had while abroad, it had to be my favorite or one of my favorite meals. After that, we went to the Arc de Triomphe and saw the Eiffel Tower as it sparkled again. The last time we were at the Eiffel Tower at night, my mom wasn’t able to pick up the phone, but this time, I got a hold of her as it sparkled. It was such a big moment because the Eiffel Tower sparkles only 5 minutes at the start of each hour after 6 pm, and it was as if I was able to share that moment with her (and her boss, co-workers, and friend as she was at work at the time). I even got a picture of us in that moment. It really shows how different life has been for us here compared to back home. We then went back to the hotel and packed most of our stuff for departure in the morning. This week has been quite an adventure, and I won’t forget it for the world.
Here's a picture I took when my mom and I got to FaceTime while the Eiffel Tower sparkled. I was so happy to be able to have her with me in that moment!
More Blogs From This Author
<p>Hello, everyone! My name is Daisy Humphries. I am a senior double majoring in Psychology and French at Wofford College. I am a first-generation college student from a small town in South Carolina, and I am beyond excited to share these once-in-a-lifetime experiences with you all from my humble perspective. I love to read, write, travel, eat food, and spend time with my family. I'm also quite determined and ambitious even if it scares me, but hey, what's bravery without some fear and nervousness? As I've learned, you have to be uncomfortable to change for the better, so let's do that!</p>