A couple of weekends ago I had the pleasure of visiting Paris for the very first time. Now, for some reason, I've heard very mixed reviews about the city. I've heard that it's "dirty" and that it's just not as romantic or beautiful as it's made out to be. Well let me tell you, all of that is wrong. Of course I was only in the very touristy areas of the city because I was only there for three days, so I can't claim to know the city very well. But from what I did see, I loved it. Perhaps my relatively low expectations helped me fall in love, but no matter, this city is truly spectacular. I was blown away by the sheer amount of history and things to see. Paris is somewhere I definitely need to get back to at some point. That city would take a full ten days to see properly.
I set out at 11:50 pm Thanksgiving night for an overnight bus with my friend Cara and her friend from home Ciara (yes, it's very confusing). Since we were only there for a few days, we packed our schedules full of all the sightseeing and eating we could possibly stand. We arrived in Paris at 7 am and immediately went in search of a French pastry that didn't cost over five euro, which is already way too much in my opinion. I ended up eating the best baguette I'd ever had for breakfast that morning, and every morning after that. What can I say, I like carbs.
We took a free walking tour around the city, though the three hour tour only covered about a quarter of the city center. We ended at the Louvre where the three of us simply stared in awe for a few minutes. We were also frozen through so that could definitely have influenced our lack of movement. I personally had no idea about the sheer enormity of the museum. I was under the ignorant impression that the Louvre was simply that triangle thing designed by the guy who designed my school's much less famous student center (yeah I. M. Pei definitely prides himself more on the Louvre design than the University of Rochester Wilson Commons). Nope, the Louvre is insanely big, my pictures don't even begin to do it justice. There are four tram stops around the museum just because of it's size. There are 35,000 pieces of art currently on display and this is only about a third of their collection. After we tried to take in the massive grounds for a bit we treated ourselves to some beautifully cheap falafel and headed to the hostel to prepare for night activities.
The next morning we had the quintessential French meal. We had a great recommendation from a friend who had studied abroad in Paris, so the restaurant was relatively non-touristy, which was great, except we were the only basic ladies excitedly taking pictures of our food. After ordering a 6 euro cup of tea without noticing, we decided it was time for some free entertainment. We walked along the lovely Seine and took in the majestic beauty of the city. The day was glorious and sunny. We passed a bizarre-looking group of at least a dozen horn players blasting upbeat songs and we stopped to dance and look on with a group of about thirty onlookers.
After our walk I headed to the Louvre while my traveling companions went on a walk to get a nice lookout over the city at sunset. I was blown away once again by the sheer enormity of the museum and I wasted about thirty minutes getting lost in the lobby. Yeah, that's right, the lobby itself was so gigantic I couldn't figure out how to get into the exhibits. When I met back up with the girls we walked to the Eiffel tower. This is how we realized that Paris is BIG and Amsterdam is SMALL. Looking on a map, we assumed that the distance from the Louvre to the Eiffel tower couldn't be more than a fifteen minute walk. I mean everything in Amsterdam is a twenty minute bike ride at most so why would it be different there? They're both big cities right? No.
We finally got to the Eiffel tower after an hour of walking. We huddled in the cold and stared up at the giant tower, once again we were not prepared for its size, and sipped on what we thought was classy champagne. Well it turns out that it was actually alcoholic French salad dressing (not a joke) but that is rather here nor there! Unfortunately I had to catch a bus home to Amsterdam at 2pm on Sunday so we went into Notre Dame quickly before I had to say goodbye to my friends and get to the bus station.
The most important part of my adventure is reflected in the title of this post. In case you were unaware, my name is Madeleine, and there is a fictional character many kids my age grew up with named Madeline. She is an orphan (I think...?) who lives in Paris and goes on adventures with her little dog Genevieve. My name is not Madeline exactly, but it's pretty close and I grew up with every Madeline book and doll they made. So yes, I made a connection to this beautiful city at a very young age thanks to capitalism and my namesake and you better know that I exploited that connection around every corner. Little Madeleine finally made it to Paris all grown up!