Fourth Email- A weekend in Paris

Sent 26.10.05


Wow. Paris was awesome.

Now that that is out of the way, I should say this is going to be a rather long email, so I apologize if you don't have 10 minutes to sit and read this right now. It is good stuff though, and I do have some pictures on my website to go along with it (the site hasn't changed, still

This was a longer trip than that to London last weekend; instead of leaving Friday night we left on a Thursday. I went with a group of four other kids from my dorm in Blackrock, three of us left on Thursday night (Pedro, Audrey, and I) and the other two (Kara and Martin) joined us on Saturday morning. Pedro is from Paraguay (and also a student at ND), Audrey is from Singapore, Kara is from Australia, and Martin is from Germany. It was a cool group to go with, and we had a lot of fun.

The whole Paris experience started on the flight into the airport. It was an on-time flight into this little shack of an airport called Paris Beauvais. It pretty much consists of two big rooms- one before security and one after. But all that matters is the flight was cheap, so I can't complain much. The plan was to get a ride with another girl from my dorm, Marie, who lives in Paris and was also going home for the weekend. I have been hanging out with her at the dorm, and we had both managed to pick the same weekend without planning it ahead of time. Her dad was coming to pick us up and offered to bring the three of us into the city where we could catch the Metro (subway) to our hostel where we were staying the next four nights. That was the plan; it did not go quite like that. To sum it up, he was having car trouble, which ended up being the alternator, and driving at night with an already dead battery and having no alternator doesn't get you too far. A roadside mechanic came to help out and didn't really seem to think it was the alternator at first, so he brought a battery out and tried recharging the one in the car for a bit. I suspected from the beginning it was the alternator, but communicating car troubles across a language barrier is not the easiest thing. After the car died once on us, we ended up getting a taxi paid for by the roadside service that took us into the city, which is an hour drive from the airport. We finally got to our hostel around 2:15 am on Friday morning, 15 minutes after the hostel 'curfew'; but we had called ahead to tell them we might be a little late. Quite the great start to the trip, but none of us were really too mad about it.

The hostel we stayed at for the weekend was not a five star hotel, but it wasn't bad for only €18 a night. We got a free breakfast every morning of bread, jam, and coffee, and the beds were relatively comfortable. It was themed after Woodstock (yes, the big concert in the US) and had half of a VW bug in the lobby. I should have a picture of this sometime; I will eventually get pictures from others in my group in addition to my own.

On Friday we decided to travel out to Château de Versailles. This is a short train ride from Paris and well worth the visit if any of you ever get the chance to go to Paris. We did this on Friday so we could save the more touristy things for Saturday and Sunday once the other two members of our group arrived. The Palace was absolutely beautiful. The pictures don't fully do justice, but it was one of the most extravagant places I have seen, with every room heavily decorated with paintings, painted ceilings, lighting fixtures, gold ornamentation, sculpture, and furniture. Behind the castle is an absolutely huge park and garden area. This was also very decorated with sculpture, pools of water, plants, and fountains everywhere. It is fairly obvious why the people of France were not fond of the Monarchy prior to their revolution. It is quite the place for a small family to live.

In the afternoon, we took the train back to Paris and walked around south of the river for a while, taking in some more sights. We walked into Jardin de Luxembourg (Luxembourg Gardens), which is right in the city and a relaxing place to sit. We saw Université Paris Panthéon-Sorbonne, a very famous French university, and right next to it is the Panthéon, a building dedicated to famous French people. We then walked across the river, seeing Notre Dame from a distance and then visiting the Cathédrale.

One of the highlights of the trip was Friday night, when the three of us went to Marie's mother's house for dinner. Marie had invited us to dinner before we had left Dublin, and we gladly accepted the invitation. We took the train to her area of the city, where we met Marie and her sister and walked to her Mother's flat. It was a very nice apartment, and in a very nice location not far out of the centre of Paris. There is a picture of all of us on the website after we finished eating dinner. The dinner was excellent, and was much more than just a one-course meal. We started with salad and crab cake, followed by a meat, vegetables, and rice dish. Next in the French meal comes the cheese, which are brought out with bread and you choose from the several varieties. We finished with a raspberry yogurt desert. The whole meal was accompanied by a red wine, which went very well with the food.

The most interesting part about the meal may have been the language barrier. Audrey and I speak English as our first language; Pedro has been speaking it for years so has no problem with it. (As a side note, I was the only one of the three of us that is mono-linguistic: Pedro speaks Spanish and Audrey speaks Chinese.) Marie, studying in Dublin, is also becoming quite good at speaking English. Her mother also spoke English, and even Marie was not aware that she spoke it so well. However, Marie's two sisters spoke very little English so conversations at the table either excluded the two of them if spoken in English, or the three of us if French was used. As we were speaking mostly English the whole time, I felt bad for Marie's sisters who just had to sit there and listen but understand nothing of what we were saying.

The next morning, the three of us decided to do a quick walk around the area of our hostel while waiting for Kara and Martin to arrive. We went up to the Basilique du Sacre-Cœur, which is on top of a hill and offers beautiful views of Paris. It is also a very beautiful church to see. After this, we walked over to Cimetière de Montmartre, which is named after the area of the city where we were staying. On the way back to the hostel I even took a quick picture of Moulin Rouge, which is on the main street in Montmartre.

Once Kara and Martin arrived, we began the standard touristy trip to Paris. We visited the Musée du Louvre for most of the afternoon, seeing more art than you can imagine, and of course seeing the Mona Lisa, which I really didn't find all that impressive. We then decided to go for a long walk up the Champs-Élysées through another beautiful garden, and past all the shops that make the street famous. Apparently someone brought the weather from Dublin as we had a quick 15-minute rain shower that made us duck into a storefront for a while. By the time we reached the end of the Avenue, it was getting quite dark giving us a beautiful view of the Arc de Triomphe. We then walked to the Eiffel Tower, which is an awesome sight to see at night. Every hour, thousands of flashbulbs all over the tower make it sparkle for a few minutes, which is quite the sight to see. We arrived at the river just in time to see this, and then walked across the river to get our ticket all the way to the top of the tower. Wow, is all I can say. The sight from the top is awesome, even in the windy conditions we were up there in. Lights of the city look awesome, and you are out in the open and able to take it all in. It was hard to capture in photos, but if you ever are in Paris, go to the Eiffel Tower at night because the views are spectacular.

Sunday brought beautiful weather and a good day for walking around the city. I walked around taking pictures and seeing various churches, opera houses, buildings, and other monuments in Paris. I went to where the tomb of Napoleon is, but didn't really feel like paying €8 just to see a wooden box. I then took the Metro over to Place de la Bastille, where there is a monument at the location. I ate a great French sandwich for lunch and then walked into a nearby square where I was just planning on sitting down for a bit; instead, I happened to come across a performance of a 20 piece street string orchestra which was very cool to sit and listen to for a while. I then met up with the others in my group to go and visit Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris again, as Kara and Martin had not visited it yet. We then went and saw the Centre Pompidou Beauhourg, which you may have heard of as the 'inside-out' building. Later that night, we all went out to eat at an Italian restaurant that served very good food. A side note-beer in Paris is even more expensive than in Dublin, so stick to the wine. The naming of the restaurant, "Le Big Ben", seemed a bit odd. A British name for an Italian restaurant in France? We'll just ignore that. Pedro's 21st birthday was Monday, so after the restaurant we decided to buy two bottles of wine to celebrate. We went to the hill where Sacre-Cœur is located to enjoy the beautiful night view of the city. It was a great way to end the trip, looking out over the city and sipping on some French wine.

Sorry for being so extensive in my detail, but it is hard to condense this great trip into just a few words. I think I will try to go back to the city sometime in the spring because it was such a good experience. There is something about Paris that gives the place a certain character and appeal. In Dublin, you can see much of the same thing, but I really didn't think London was quite this good.

With all of that, I hope you take a look at the pictures and enjoy them, although I admit it is hard to capture everything in just a photo. Keep in touch and feel free to send me emails, and I'll try and keep my next one a bit shorter.

Keep in touch,

Dan McGee
Mobile: +353 87 056 4163