Molly Ballenger
March 22, 2022
A crepe at the Eiffel Tower

For my last major trip of the semester, a couple friends from home flew in from the U.S. and we went to Paris together! We flew in on Friday evening and discovered the hard way that taxis coming from the airport can rip you off very easily…lesson learned. But once we settled into our hostel, we managed to find a fun pizza restaurant nearby where we could have a late dinner and toast to the start of our adventure. 

Our first morning, we found a classic Paris cafe for breakfast, then went to the Louvre! My two friends were disappointed to learn that since they hadn’t gotten the most recent COVID booster, they wouldn’t be allowed inside, so while they went shopping nearby, I got to explore the museum on my own. The Mona Lisa was cool, but I’d say my favorite part was the Venus de Milo and all of the Greek and Roman art. I passed a replica of this iconic statue of Venus every day in my high school, so to see it in person was really surreal. I also randomly ran into my roommate from sophomore year at Furman, Cecilia! She’s studying abroad in Greece right now and we happened to be visiting the Louvre at the same time! What a small world. 

I did enjoy my time at the Louvre, but it was a really overwhelming experience. The entire museum is huge, and would have taken an entire day to see it all. I left in a daze after a couple of hours, and didn’t realize until later on that I only walked through one of several wings. Also, the environment was crowded and loud: not great for the emotional and introspective experiences that I often appreciate at art museums. I’m glad I went, but it wasn’t the amazing experience everyone hypes it up to be.

I met back up with my friends and we walked down the Champs d’Elysees, enjoying the beautiful weather and popping in a couple fun shops along the way, including the fancy Galeries Lafayette mall! At the end, the Arc de Triomphe awaited us; it was stunning!

Then, of course, like the classic tourists we are, we had to go see the Eiffel Tower! Honestly, seeing it during the day was pretty underwhelming; we were tired and hungry and it really just looked like a big piece of rusty metal. But we still enjoyed getting a crepe and sitting in the park for a little bit. 

Ready for dinner, we found a good place for dinner and drinks and I finally got my favorite French food: a croque madame! (Maybe an unpopular opinion, but I actually enjoyed the one I got in Edinburgh more…go figure!) Afterwards, the sun had set, so we went to a bakery to get macarons, bought some cheap wine at a grocery store, and then went out to sit on the banks of the Seine in front of the Eiffel Tower to enjoy our treats. Here, we understood the hype behind the tower; at night, the whole structure glows gold, and the sparkles every hour were truly magical. It felt like a night out of a movie! I’ll never forget it. 

The next day, we went to a cafe for breakfast then headed to Notre Dame! Because of the construction from the fire, we couldn’t go inside, but we got to see it from afar then we stayed in that neighborhood the rest of the morning. We loved getting to visit Shakespeare and Company, the iconic English bookstore in an incredible old building looking over Notre Dame, and I got a used copy of Jane Eyre and a beautiful booklet of poems about Notre Dame that folds out to a really cool poster—it was being sold to benefit the church’s reconstruction. 

Then, we took a train out to Versailles! We didn’t go inside the building, but we walked around the gardens for a couple hours and enjoyed the sunshine. Also, I got to meet up with another group of Furman friends who decided to go to Paris for their spring break! It was SO much fun to see them and catch up; it was definitely a small-world weekend and a sweet reminder of home.

We took the train back into the city for dinner, and since we’d been to several classic cafes, we decided to try out an authentic Greek restaurant we’d noticed and it was INCREDIBLE. I’m not exaggerating when I say it was the best gyro I’ve ever had. We moved on to a fun bar called George’s Cafe, where we got some cocktails and made friends with the waiters, then we ended our night with a street crepe (made by a sweet man who we talked to for a long time) and headed back to our hostel. 

We had one last morning to soak up the Paris sunshine, so we made the hike up Montmartre to see the Sacre Coeur Basilica. We got to admire the sanctuary for free and listen a bit to the sermon in French, trying to pick out whatever words we could. The front steps of the basilica has an incredible view over the entire city, so we hung out there for a few minutes taking in the views and listening to the buskers; it was so dreamy, especially when one older man started playing “La Vie en Rose,” and it all felt like something out of a movie. With that fantastic end to our trip, we got our last French pain au choc and headed to the airport.

Visiting big cities like London and Paris has been so fun, but it definitely makes me appreciate Dublin even more. Paris is about ten times the size of Dublin, and it’s so much harder to get around! Plus, the language barrier is exhausting; even though most people speak English, they automatically don’t like you very much if they have to use English to talk to you. They do seem to appreciate the gesture of even a badly-pronounced “bonjour” and “merci”—it shows that you’re not just coming into their homeland and expecting them to conform to your culture. 

It also made me appreciate Dublin’s friendly culture; we managed to find some kind Parisians here and there to make friends with, but overall they do not give a very warm welcome to visitors. I was so happy to get back to Dublin, with the cab drivers and bartenders who instantly treat you like an old friend. 

Our weekend in Paris was a dream come true, and I felt so lucky to get to explore it with two of my best friends.

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Molly Ballenger

<p>I'm an English and Religion major at Furman University from Lookout Mountain, Georgia. At school, I'm on the leadership team for several campus ministries, I work at my school's farm, and I play club ultimate frisbee! In my free time, I enjoy being outside, climbing, and playing guitar, as well as spending time with friends.</p>

2022 Spring
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Furman University
Lookout Mountain, GA
Religious Studies
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