One of my best friends Annie, her dad, and some of her friends has been studying abroad in Florence for the last couple months and now that they have completed this term, they are traveling. Fortunately for me, one of their stops was Paris! I was really excited, not only to see them, but also get a chance to see the more touristy things in Paris. Since I have been here, I have not been able to do many “typical” Paris things. So here was my chance!
Annie and her posse had gotten tickets for a hop-on-hop-off tour bus. Because I have a Navigo card (a prepaid transportation card that allows you to travel between 5 zones including Paris on the metro, RER, and buses), I decided I would meet them at each of the stops their bus was going and use the metro. Until now, I have gone everywhere and done everything with Callie, so this was my first adventure into the big city by myself! It was all up to me to figure out the buses, metro, and RER system! I was so proud of myself. This was a perfect day to do it too because I had to go to so many stops. Once you get the hang of it, it really is not bad at all. I actually quite enjoy it because you don’t have to think about driving. Although, I do hate relying on the buses a bit, because I never seem to have my timing right. And because I live in the sticks, the buses to my village stop early and then its 13 euros for a taxi. Not very economical. Ok enough of my commentary on public transportation.
I met Annie and her friends at the Palais Garnier (also know asthe Opéra de Paris). The first time I went to Paris I had seen the Palais Garnier but not the inside of it. For only 5 euros, you are able to go inside and explore. The Palais Garnier was finished being built in 1875 by Charles Garnier, an architect who had won the competition set out by Napoleon III for the project. It is so beautiful and definitely worth the euros to see inside.
The Grand Staircase is made of marble and decorated in ornate gold, deep reds, and royal blues. I was also extremely impressed by the library, which holds three centuries of the Opera’s history, as well as paintings, photographs, drawings and temporary exhibits.
Next we headed into the foyer that just beamed with gold fixtures, elaborate decorations, and a gorgeous painted ceiling. Chandeliers lined the ceilings and two giant fireplaces were at either end. There was then an exhibit on a famous opera singer named Regine Crespin. The exhibit examined her life as an internationally acclaimed singer as well as showcased some of her costumes from her famous works. We then headed to the auditorium and I couldn’t help but picture people scurrying to their seats and private balconies centuries ago.
Our next stop was the Arc de Triomphe. This monument honors those who fought for France, especially during the Napoleonic Wars. I am not completely sure what I find more amusing: the actual Arc itself or the idiot tourist trying to cross the busiest traffic circle in Paris. For the people who put their thinking caps on when they woke up, there is a fabulous, and safe I might add, staircase that goes underground from one side to the Arc. However, for those with limited brain power, apparently running across the street with children seems to be the way to go. Americans constantly say that the French hate them, but I am here to say there is an extremely valid reason for this. Please insert brain before coming to tour Europe. Thank you! Ok, enough about the tourists… I should expect it in August!! The Arc is gorgeous to see. The size of it is truly remarkable. The monument stands 160 feet in height, 148 feet wide and 72 feet deep. Incredible! After people watching for a bit and gazing up at the giant Arc, we headed over to the Grand Palais and Pont Alexandre III.
Pont Alexandre III is a magnificent and ornate bridge that cross over the Seine that connects the Champs-Elysees quarter and the Eiffel Tower quarter. It was built at the end of the 1800s and named after Tsar Alexandre III. Its architecture and design matches the Grand Palais nearby. The Grand Palais was originally constructed for a World Fair back in the late 1800s-early 1900s. Now it is a exhibition hall, museum, and historic site. Unfortunately, we were unable to see very much of it due to the construction and it being between exhibits. However, we were still able to see the remarkable architecture.
After the Grand Palais, we headed to my favorite stop, the Trocadéro. The Trocadéro is across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower giving it impeccable views. The square is filled with street performers and gypsys selling little trinkets to tourists. People are everywhere snapping shots of the Eiffel Tower. It is such a fun place to not only see the view, but also partake in a favorite pastime of Parisians–people watching.
From there we headed to catch a boat tour on the Seine, (I know! All the touristy things in one day!). This is a definite must when you come to Paris. I only had to pay 9 euros which makes it even more worth it! It is such a great wait to see the city from a different view. There is a personal audio guide for each seat that gives you interesting facts about the things you passed by. It is so relaxing and perfect for when you want to see Paris, but also need to rest a bit. I did this the first time I came to Paris as well and enjoyed it both times. One of my favorite things to see is all the people strolling and picnicing on the river. The Parisians just sit and chat with their friends over their baguettes and fromage. Unfortunately, right after the boat ride I had to scurry home so I didn’t miss my bus… which I did anyways!
It was such a nice and full day. I absolutely love this city.