Conference Calls at the Eiffel Tower

It’s busy season and work consumes my life. I recently just got back from a week long inspection trip and ever since I cant seen to find a way to cross everything off my to do list each day. I understand that people don’t think I should complain while gallivanting around France trying out hotels and restaurants and yes, I understand my job is pretty cool. But hey, an 18 hour work day is an 18 hour work day. There is a huge amount of stress involved because the amount of money my clients bring into my company. And as big deal American clients… they expect the best, which sadly is sometimes more than the French want to give.

Anyways, I basically sleep with my Blackberry. I get woken up at 8am on Saturday morning from calls from my guides after working for 7 days straight. I am not complaining. I love working and I love my job. I cant believe the opportunities I have gotten working for this company and I am very appreciative of the chance to work in my field abroad. It just that my job is actually taking over my life. However, I do have some pretty entertaining stories.

Yesterday I found myself at the Eiffel Tower for the second time just this week. Just so everyone knows… I love the Eiffel Tower. Its awesome to look at. From a far. I despise going there and battling the crowds of tourists and illegal immigrants selling cheap trinkets. Sorry to ruin your romantic view of Paris but I cannot stand venturing over to this area. However, it is a must see on the tourist trail which means I have to suck it up sometimes and go. The reason I have frequented the Eiffel Tower so much lately is because they have decided to do renovation on all of their lifts except one. Awesome idea to do during tourist season, right? Not so much. There is around a 2 hour delay to get up the tower. Not so great when my clients are on a jam-packed tour. My little trips to the Tower are trying to find some way around this debacle but yep, you guessed it! It’s France and things don’t work efficiently. Deal with it.

However, yesterday was a new experience. And the debacle was mine.

I had to meet a group there in order to give them the tickets to go up. I was supposed to meet them at 16h30 but due to the delay caused by traffic we didn’t get to meet until 17h. Well the problem was I had a conference call with another group at 17h30. As I braved the crowds of the Eiffel Tower while schmoozing with my clients and Blackberry in hand, I carefully checked the time to make sure I was available for the call. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to avoid the crowds completely and found myself almost sprinting down the stairs of the Eiffel Tower in attempts to make it to a quiet place before the call. Timing clearly wasn’t perfect causing me to take my call during the journey down the stairs. Quite an interesting atmosphere if you ask me.

In my wildest dreams I would have never imagined I would have to take a conference call on top of the Eiffel Tower. Don’t worry though—it was a success. The power of multi-tasking is seriously incredible.

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My First Solo Adventure in the City of Lights

For those of you who knew me, you know that I do little to nothing by myself. I love people and I love to be around them 24/7. I mean, come on, living in a sorority house of 30 girls was my dream. Part of the reason I came to France was to become more self-reliant. I use this term instead of independent because I believe I have always been an independent person–I have always done what I wanted to do, had my own thoughts, and made things I believe in happen. However, I do feed off the love of the others around me. I have always lived closed to my parents. My sister has always been there for me. For the past 10 years of my life, I have been in a relationship for 8 of them. I joined a sorority and constantly had a sister around. And for my best friend, well she knows how much I need her. Of course none of this is a bad thing and I wouldn’t change any of it. But I do want to be ok just being me. When people would tell me that they went to the movies alone or out to eat I thought they were weirdos. Part of me was envious though. I never thought I could do that. So me, being all that I am, moved to a foreign country. Go big or go home, right?

Callie is gone for a week in Sweden so it was my first weekend alone. Although I was exhausted, I didn’t want to waste a Saturday. Before I had left for France, I had bought Frommer’s 24 Great Walks in Paris because I knew I was going to want to some guided exploring when I first got here. There is several good things about this book–it gives you a starting and ending metro stations; it gives clear directions; and it gives a history and facts about the things you are walking by. I knew that I wanted to stop by my favorite museum, Musee d’Orsay so I tried to find a route that included that. Here is my route below:

My Walking Route (to see larger, right click on the image and open in a new window)

Pont Alexandre III

Although I had seen the Pont Alexandre III with Annie, this is where my route started and it is so magnificent I had no problem exploring it a bit more. This bridge is named after Alexander III because he had laid the first stone for it as a symbol of the alliance between France and Russian during the Franco Prussian wars. The neat thing about this bridge is that it is one of the first prefabricated structures in the world and only took 200 days to assemble. That is truly incredible when you see this bridge. The views from it are just breathtaking. It is probably one of my favorite views of the Eiffel Tower. There is something about the Seine that I think is just marvelous. As it runs throughout the city and even beyond Paris’s boundaries, I always find such beauty in it. The bridges are such an important part of the history of the city and the river is such an important part of the culture. Parisians can always be seen holding hands walking along the bridges or picnicing with friends along the river banks.

Pont de la Concorde and Assemblee Nationale

Once I crossed the bridge, I made my way over to the Pont de la Concorde- a bridge that leads to the Assemeblee Nationale. The Pont de la Concorde, though not as ornate as the Pont Alexandre III is still beautiful and important in its own way. It was made out of blocks saved from the demolition of the Bastille. Once over the bridge, I took a look at the Assemblee Nationale which is the seat of the lower house of the French Parliament. It was really neat to see where laws are voted on. The building was guarded and looked like a forbidden place. I was so curious to see what was inside those doors…

Little place du Palais Bourbon

As I continued to make my way to Musee d’Orsay, I headed around the Assemblee Nationale and stopped at this little square filled with mansions from Louis XVI’s era. They were elegant and beautiful. I felt like I had stumbled upon a hidden gem because there really was no people around. There was one café with a few workers preparing for the day, but other than the noise of their work, the square was silent and peaceful. I couldn’t help but wonder how many memories had been made in those mansions over the centuries and what this square used to look like on an afternoon like this. After leaving the square, I walked through this small street filled with tourist shops and little cafes. I stopped to look for a bit because it had started raining and that was a perfect excuse to dry off. It is funny to me how there can be so many tourist shops in one area that all carry the same thing. I was thrilled however, to find one place selling postcards for an actual reasonable price.

Musee d'Orsay

As I made my way down the little street, I came upon the Musee de la Legion d’Honneur and the Musee d’Orsay. There are so many reason I love the Musee d’Orsay. For one, the building has a remarkable history and is incredibly gorgeous. Originally, the space was built for the 1900 World Trade Fair, however the project was given up and plans for a train station took its place. The station was built for steam engines and when electric trains had replaced them, the platforms were not long enough. The Orsay station then remained abandoned until 1977 when the idea to create a museum arose. The museum would be dedicated to the 19th century. When I walk into the museum, I just stand there in awe. The ceilings are beautifully decorated and there is a large clock above the door. You walk into a wonderful foyer filled with impeccable sculptures and doors that led into themed rooms of art. I could spend days in this museum–even just sitting in the main foyer examining all the sculptures and people watching. The great thing is because I am now a European resident, I get in free! Which means I will spend countless lazy afternoons there…

Stairs leading to the Jardin de Tuileries

Jardin de Tuileries

I headed to the Jardin des Tuileries after spending a few hours at the museum. To get there I crossed the foot bridge, Pont de Solferino. I walked down to the river level and walked up some stairs into a beautiful garden. By now, it had started raining but the gardens were still incredible the second I got up the stairs. Unfortunately, I did not get to explore very much because it started to down pour! I made my way to the metro and headed home.

I would have to say… my first solo adventure was a true success!!!

#26: Completed 1 of 5 in going somewhere by myself!!!

Check out my pictures from the trip!

Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em: Being a Tourist in Paris

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.

Palais Garnier

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.

Annie and Me on the Grand Staircase

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.

The foyer in the Palais Garnier

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.

Arc de Triomphe

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.

Grand Palais

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.

View from Trocadero

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.

View of the Louvre from the boat

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.

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Check out pictures from Annie’s visit!