Study Abroad Adventures Part 2

In planning our study abroad trips, a friend and I decided what better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than in Paris, the City of Love! So this past Saturday, we packed up our backpacks and headed for a weekend to remember filled with baguettes, beautiful scenery and romance!

Well the romance part didn’t quite turn out—mostly because we were too busy running around being tourists—but Ema and I had a great “Galentine’s Day” Weekend! Plus Paris offered some much needed sunshine that we had been missing on the Emerald Isle. Below I’ve included our daily adventures and sight-seeing during our four days in Paris, but feel free to skip below to the advice section!

 

Saturday:

We FINALLY arrived at our hostel around 5 PM (2 hours late) after we got lost because our taxi driver dropped us off in the wrong part of town. We were absolutely exhausted but seeing as it was Valentine’s Day and a Saturday, we decided to check out Parisian nightlife after dinner. We ended up paying 15 euro for a backpackers pub crawl advertised in our hostel lounge since we were too tired to try and figure out where to go ourselves and while it was decently fun, I definitely would not recommend it, especially since we had to wake up early for our excursion to the Palace of Versailles the next morning. Plus, during my short stay I found that at night many locals just sit, drink and hang out with friends at a café.

Sunday:

Ema and I managed to wake up, have the simple but delicious breakfast that our hostel provided of baguette and croissants with butter and jam, cereal, coffee and OJ (advice: when searching for hostels, see if free breakfast is included; it’s a great way to save a little bit of cash and many times it is pretty decent), and jump on the metro to the Chateau de Versailles—although not without getting lost for an hour! Thankfully we had pre-bought our tickets online, but even still the line to enter the palace took two hours since we got there later in the day. While we had only planned to spend an hour or two there, we severely underestimated the size of the estate and gardens and ended up staying till around 5 PM! So for those of you visiting, plan to spend at least half a day if not a full day there if you plan on exploring the gardens and Marie-Antionette’s estate, which I highly recommend because it is absolutely beautiful.

That night, Ema and I ate dinner at a café looking out over the Seine and Notre Dame. As tired as we were before, the food rejuvenated us and we decided to take a nighttime stroll through Paris, passing the Louvre, the Locks of Love Bridge, and finally making our way to the Eiffel Tower, Champs-Elysees and Arc de Triomphe. We definitely underestimated the distance of our walk—we ended up walking 21 miles by the end of that day!—but it was definitely worth it because Paris at night is a whole new experience, free of the hundreds of tourists there during the day.

Monday:

Since we didn’t accomplish as much as we’d hoped to in the first two days, Ema and I got up early and headed to the Basilica which was about a 5 minute walk from our hostel. The church was beautiful as was the view of Paris! We then took the Metro to the Louvre where we again found another 2.5 hour line (it honestly reminded me of Disneyland). Thankfully, however, because we are currently studying in the EU we were able to get in for free! The Louvre is massive and since we forgot to grab a map, we got lost…again…and probably for a good two hours. I didn’t mind, however, because it allowed Ema and I to actually explore the museum, find places no other tourists bothered to venture to and to appreciate the art versus finding all the famous things listed on the map, snapping a picture and leaving. Of course, we eventually made our way to the infamous Mona Lisa where we had to fight the hoard of selfie-taking tourists to take our own Mona Lisa selfie.  #thestruggle

After the Louvre we took the Metro to the Eiffel Tower since we actually wanted to go to the top and see Paris from above this time. Ema and I are both terrified of heights but when in Paris, one cannot not go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. It was surprisingly not that bad! Sure, the ride up felt equivalent to riding a roller coaster before the big drop and my legs felt like jelly, but once on the platforms even I felt completely safe and secure enough to walk to the edge railing and take photos instead of being glued to the wall like I usually would. While I can’t compare what Paris in the daytime from up top looks like, seeing an aerial view of Paris in lights was even better than the night before!

Tuesday:

Although Tuesday was our last day in Paris, Ema and I were on a mission to squeeze in as much as we could before we left so we first went to the Catacombs and no, we didn’t get lost! By our last day we were pros at navigating the Metro and it was our new best friend. The Catacombs also had a two hour line but we again got to pay a reduced fee because of our EU student status (bonus!). Since we didn’t have much time to spare Ema and I quickly walked through the catacombs which were eerie because the entire walkways/walls were built out of skeletal remains. It was cool to see such a different side of Paris and I hope to one day go back so that I can actually take my time walking through and listen to the accompanying audio guide to find out more about the history.

After the catacombs we then went on a site-seeing marathon to Luxembourg Palace, the Pantheon and finally inside Notre Dame! During which, we also made time to try macarons, which are like heaven in your mouth (it literally was just that good), and crepes (it’s filled with Nutella, need I say more?) before we had to make our way back to the hostel to pick up our bags and catch the shuttle to the airport.

It really was a dream weekend in Paris and I am so fortunate to have been able to travel there during my study abroad experience! Below I’ll give my recommendations/ advice for those of you considering a trip to Paris in the future.

1. Paris is a big city and divided into districts, called arrondissements, so it would help to familiarize yourself with them. These sites provides a nice overview about them.

2. I recommend staying at the Plug-Inn Boutique Hostel (in the heart of Montmarte, Paris). This is where I stayed during my trip in a 4 bed standard female dorm. While the bathroom and toilet were on the small side, but it was clean, safe, and the free breakfast was really good and satisfying for a day exploring Paris! Also it is in the Montmarte district, about a 5-10 minute walk from the Basilica and with tons of cafes around to choose from.

3. Learn the Metro, it will become your best friend and save your feet when you really can’t walk any longer. It’s actually relatively easy (and free) to transfer lines. Especially if you go with friends or family, it would be beneficial to buy the 10 pack of tickets versus individuals because you’ll most likely use at least two tickets per day each and it will save you a few euro.

4. If you are studying abroad in the EU, BRING YOUR STUDENT ID! You can get in for free (e.g. the Louvre) or for a reduced cost (e.g. the Catacombs) if you present them with your EU student ID.

5. To make the most of your stay, go early. Everything had at line and some, like the Louvre and Palace of Versailles, were 2 hours long during non-peak season. Also note that the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe are open late until around 10 or 11 PM, so you may want to save those for later in the day.