Traveling the world, learning languages, and immersing myself in new cultures.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Paris, France: New Year's 2009

Synopsis: Who can want to experience France without going to it's capital, Paris? My parents and I want to spend New Year's in the city of lights and bring in the year correctement. We will for sure see all the big sites like the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe, on this go round, and hopefully I'll move here one day and I can see all the other ins and outs, then.

Trip Overview:
Day 1: We set out shortly after traffic subsides, on our second trip to France. Every road sign we pass, my mom is asking me what is says. I really need to improve my french because I have no idea what any of these signs are saying. We approach the city and we can see the Eiffel Tower in the distance. We drive toward the hotel and my dad drops my mom and me off to check in, while he finds parking. After we check-in, we go straight out for dinner and grab some kebaps.

Because it's New Year's Eve, all the public transportation is free, and we hop on the metro to the Eiffel Tower, where we will bring in the new year. There are hundreds, if not thousands of people around the monument, waiting for the clock to strike midnight. Africans are selling trinkets everywhere! Soon, everyone is screaming and cheering as there are 12 stars on the side of the tower and we all count down the last 12 seconds. There are no fireworks, which is strange to me, but a few bottle rockets and black cats, that people brought themselves.

Heading back to the hotel via the free metro is madness. There are so many people crowding to get on the metro, that at one point my feet are not even touching the ground, thanks to the people pushing from behind and there only being two turnstiles to let people through the gates. Finally we do get on the metro and head back to the hotel and call it a night.

Thoughts: So far, every french person we had to talk to has spoken english, which alleviated a lot of pressure off of me, because I am not comfortable with the language yet. We have a Toyota Sequoia, so my dad took about 30 minutes to find a parking spot big enough for it. Celebrating New Year's in a foreign city is exciting all by itself, which mitigated my discontent from lack of fireworks. The whole metro ordeal was just insane. I hope no one got hurt, but I wouldn't be surprised.

Tiny bathroom in the hotel

First time in a kebap shop

On the metro to the Eiffel Tower

Not quite the Eiffel Tower, yet

We can see it in the distance

3, 2, 1, Happy New Year!

Day 2: Wake up to a cold New Year's Day, ready to go out and explore. First, we catch the, still free, metro to the Arc de Triomphe. It is a pretty large and impressive structure. We don't pay to go to the top of it, so we just walk around it and photobomb all the other tourists' pictures there.

We decide to walk over to the Louvre, and on the way, we stop for hot drinks. My dad orders a coffee for 3€, and is stunned when they bring out a thimble full of coffee. We are used to an 80oz coffee from 7/11 or Dunkin' Donuts for 99 cents, with free refills!

We walk past several other museums and bridges across the Seine, before we arrive at the Louvre. The line is ridiculous and the museum closes in two hours, so we will come back tomorrow.

Thoughts: Culture shock, cold weather, and lack of desire to stand in lines, pretty much sum up the day. Though it is really cool to finally see the places and monuments that I studied in school.

Ready to make my royal procession through the Arc de Triomphe

Dad and I hammin' it up in the archway

3€ for that little coffee!!!

Outside the Museé d'Orsay and the Museé Legion d'Honneur 

On s'aime comme ça, la Seine et moi

Liberty, equality, and brotherhood - French motto

Day 3: We don't want to wait in long lines today, so we get up in the morning and the Louvre is first on our list. When we walk outside, we see that it snowed last night, and it is still cold. We get to the Louvre and there is already a line! A local sees us discussing the line and tells us about an entrance that only the locals know about. We take his advice and skip the line and we're inside in less than 15 minutes.

The Louvre is enormous. Massive and gargantuan. We walk around and see the Nike statue without her head, other famous statues and paintings, and then the main oeuvre d'art: the Mona Lisa. Ok, so I thought the Mona Lisa was going to be a large painting that you could walk up and admire. This thing is in a bulletproof case, behind a velvet rope that is 3m (10ft) away, and there are multiple guards to ensure people don't cross the rope. And the painting is the size of a textbook, at most. I want to scream "rip-off" but because of the masses crowding around, I hurry and take my picture and move along.

On our way out of the museum, my mom notices Brian White, an actor, on vacation with someone. We do the typical starstruck thing and ask him if we can take a picture with him. He is a nice guy and we take a photo and then head out of the museum.

We head over to Notre Dame and catch people going in and coming out of New Year's mass. After a couple photos, we leave and go get something to eat, and then back to the hotel.

Thoughts: I'm not a huge museum fan, but you have to see some of the iconic things in history. However, after an hour or two, I've had my cultural fill and I'm ready to go. You literally need a full work day to walk through the entire Louvre. And not a European work day with smoke breaks, coffee breaks, and an hour and a half lunch, but a Mexican workday! I'm sure that is offensive, but I also bet everyone knows what I mean too.

It has to be cold for it to snow

Approaching the Louvre

The masses outside in a ridiculously long line

Glad that guy showed us the locals' entrance

There were people everywhere

I was the day's exhibition

Quick pic of my dad with Lisa

All these people trying to see that tiny painting

The Egyptian exhibit had some cool artifacts 

Hollywood actors go to museums too

Leaving the Louvre

Resting against Notre Dame. Shouldn't it be bigger? :-P

Unwinding after a long day of walking

Day 4: We get up early to head home.

Final Thoughts:
So, I've finally made it to Paris. I learned so much about it in school and it was pretty much what I was expecting. Very touristy, but for good reason, due to the amazing history, architecture, and culture. I used my french a few times, but the Parisians all seem to speak english, especially around the tourist areas. I will definitely have to come back a few more times to do all the things Paris has to offer, so until next time, à la prochaine!

Location: Paris, France


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