Spring Break 2016 – Part One – Paris
Our spring break officially started at 3:52 pm Friday February 12th. We took a OuiGo train to Paris, arriving a little after 7pm. We split an Air BnB in the 18th arrondissement, a small but comfortable (relatively) apartment. We immediately when down the street and got Chinese food for dinner and called it a night.
Day two was met with rain and grey skies, but nothing could stop us from visiting some of the most important landmarks in France. We began the morning at Notre Dame, walking through the cathedral then climbing to the top of the towers (roughly 387 spiral staircase steps) for a better view of the city. We stopped for lunch at a café near by. Afterwards, we walked to the 4th arrondissement and visited the Centre Pompidou. This experience was interesting for many reasons. There was a refugee camp based in front of the Centre Pompidou and while we were waiting in line, their camp was being disbanded under police presence. The protesters chanted and handed out flyers in English and French, saying that this was true French culture. The demonstration was powerful and many stood in solidarity with the refugees. Upon entering the Centre Pompidou, we were greeted with contemporary and modern art by the likes of Marcel Duchamp, Kazuo Shiraga, Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, František Kupka and Vassily Kandinsky. It was so easy to lose sense of all time while wondering through the rooms and exhibitions that covered the cinquième étage. We finished our first full day with an obligatory trip to watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle in the night. The Eiffel Tower is adorned with nearly 20,000 light bulbs that light up for 10 minutes on the hour every night. For those who have never witnessed this spectacle before, it can be exceptionally breath taking.
Day three (also Valentine’s Day) we started the same way we ended the night before; à la Tour Eiffel. We decided to climb the some 1,700 steps to the top. Unfortunately, the staircases from the second floor to the third were shut down, so we ended up taking an elevator to the top. We climbed roughly 700 steps to the second floor, passing by the ice skating rink, the informational posters, but always reveling in the enormity of this once hated monument. The day began sunny with blue skies, but as we climbed higher the sky turned to a menacing grey, imposing rain on our adventure. When we finally reached the third floor, we were almost literally standing in a rain cloud. It was extremely hard to see the city below, but was still well worth the climb and shaky legs that would follow. What else is there to do in the city of love on one of the most romantic days of the year? Well you go to Sacré–Cœur, which literally translates into Sacred Heart! We visited this magnificent church on one of the most powerful days of the year for love, receiving prayer slips if we were interested in writing a prayer for a loved one and slipping it into a basket. The visit was humbling and full of emotion, for everyone in the group. “Tu comptes beaucoup à mes yeux, tu as du prix et je t’aime.” We then wandered over to the 8th arrondissement to L’église de la Madeleine for our Four Seasons Vivaldi concert later that evening. We found a delicious little restaurant for dinner before the concert, spending our time chatting and laughing together. The concert was a baroque style string quartet and absolutely phenomenal. We were completely silent, in awe of what we’d just witnessed. A perfect ending to Valentine’s Day.
Day four we began by going to the Panthéon which was just as immensely beautiful as one would assume. The interior was open, full of paintings and sculptures, but the true treasures were below in the crypts. The Panthéon houses some of the most famous individuals from France; Alexandre Dumas, Victor Hugo, Marie Curie, Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Louis Braille. Afterwards, we split into two groups since Kyle and I had already been to the Louvre, and didn’t feel the need to go back. We instead walked through le Jardin du Luxembourg. While the trees may not have been in bloom, it was still a great way to relax and look at statues. We eventually made it to le Cimetière du Montparnasse. The day began to cool down, making the two-three hour walk around the cemetery even more creepy. We were only able to find the headstones of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir during our walk, because there were so many headstones. We began walking towards the Louvre, walking through a commercial district before settling into a café for some of the greatest food on this trip. We met up with Kaitlyn, Abbey and Kim at the front of the Louvre, took a subway to the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile as our final stop. We would spend a few hours sitting in a local bar after this, waiting for our 7 hour over night Flixbus to Amsterdam that departed at 11:55pm; starting the second leg of the journey.