Mess-up Number 2:
I reserved the wrong night at my hostel in Paris.
I took an overnight bus from Berlin to Paris, December 14th-15th to save money on accommodation. It would have been fine, had I booked the right dates. Somewhere in my planning, I booked my hostel in Paris for 14th-15th instead of 15th-16th.
They had already taken the payment from my card, and could not offer a refund despite the fact I never checked in or used their facilities. They did, however, offer me a private room with free breakfast for 25 euro, which is cheaper and better than the single bed in a 3-bed mix for 35 euro that I initially booked (I guess they felt bad or something). They also threw in free coffee and a croissant that morning, despite it being past breakfast hours. I took it.
They let me check into my room right then and there, which was amazing. I showered, took a glorious 20 minute nap, and mapped out my sight-seeing route for the day. First stop: Notre Dame!
I decided to walk to Notre Dame instead of taking the metro. It was a half hour walk, not bad, and I would be able to see more of Paris this way. On my way I found a couple of interesting things. First, I found a Pintrest street art pin that I had seen on the internet maybe a couple of years ago!
This is the second time I see something I once found on Pintrest in real life, and even though it sounds kinda lame or insignificant, it is very exciting to me. The first real-life pin I saw was in Rome.
Continuing into this “in-real-life” theme, let’s talk Notre Dame. I have seen many, many churches during my time abroad. I’m not a religious person, but since my mom is, and my mom is the reason I’m here, I decided to visit as many churches as possible so I can send her the pictures. This has become a routine part of my travels.
Notre Dame was different. I grew up watching The Hunch Back of Notre Dame. A lot. On repeat. I still watch it in my free time and listen to the score. I even tried reading the original Victor Hugo work (his writing is fairly dense). It’s such a wonderfully sad story, and I love it.
The Disney adaptation has been my go-to my whole life. It’s a close second to Anastasia (and yes, I realize that as a 22-year-old woman, animated children’s films shouldn’t be first, but so be it).
So much like seeing my in-real-life pin, going to this church was like seeing my in-real-life Quasimodo and Esmeralda. My excitement could not be contained!
The animators at Disney did it again. The accuracy is impeccable. As I walked through the halls I could visualize the scenes so perfectly, I felt like I was slowly becoming a 2-d animation.
After my fairy-tale tour, I walked around the heart of Paris, through a Christmas market, the Latin Quarters, another church. Then decided to head over to Maison de Victor Hugo (AKA: Victor Hugo’s apartment inside of Place des Vosges.)
Madness or Artist
Victor Hugo lived in many places throughout his lifetime, and he didn’t really have the habit of staying in any one place too long. He did however, spend the most time in the apartment he rented inside of Place des Vosges. He lived on the 3rd floor.
This floor was free to students! Yay! But the 2nd floor was not; 6 euro for the exhibition on madness and artistry, which serves as a prologue to Hugo’s apartment. I could have skipped it, but I also couldn’t, so I paid the 6 euro.
The first part of the exhibit showcases how “madness” touched his life through his family; first older brother Eugine, and then his 5th daughter, Adele. It is alluded that writing was Hugo’s form of expressing his grievances.
The exhibit continues to showcase the work of the “mad” from the late 1800s to current times. I learned all about the history of art therapy, and saw the world’s shifting perspective on ‘madness’ through the drawings the patients would make.
Next: His apartment. Since he moved around a lot, there isn’t a lot of existing furniture that he used anymore, but some have been found, like his writing desk, and some pictures of what the rooms used to look like.
They recreated the apartment to tell the story of Hugo’s life; from when he first started writing, to when he was exiled, and to when he returned from exile and finished writing Les Miserables. It was a really cool experience, getting to see his life a little bit closer, especially since within the next couple of days, I would be going to the Queen’s Theatre in London to see Les Mis!! I was getting so pumped for London!
I had just one more thing on my Paris Bucket List, and that was Bastille (not the band). During the French Revolution, on July 14th, 1789, a bunch of people rioted the fortress and destroyed it, brick by brick. This action became a huge turning point during the revolution. I wanted to see this bit of history.
Place de la Bastille wasn’t a far walk from Hugo’s place. The area around Place des Vosges was very much alive with a young night-life, and walking around was pretty entertaining. When I found the remaining monument, it wasn’t quite what I expected. Maybe it would have been better to see it in the day.
When I finished my walk, I decided it was still fairly early. It was 6pm, and the Louvre would be open until 10pm. I could make it. I took the bus over, got in line, thinking about the 15 euros this museum would be.
As the line kept getting shorter and shorter, I thought about how 15 euros is a lot. 15 euros is how much I try to spend max on food a day. 15 euros could be 5 different museums at most, 3 at least. This is one hella pricey museum. Is 15 euros worth it?
I pulled out last minute. I still had London and Lucerne to think about, and potential museums I would go to in those places too.
I walked out of the Louvre, and took in the sights instead. In the distance, I could see a Ferris wheel.
It was a little eerie, and very far away from the life in the stores surrounding the Louvre, but I made my way towards it, hoping maybe there would be a Christmas market.
I didn’t find a market, but I did find hot chocolate, waffles, and wine. Needless to say, my dinner was very yummy. From here, I could also see the Eiffel Tower, beautifully lit up. It was a nice, quiet ending to my long day. I went back to the hostel to relax with the wine and watch a Christmas movie.
December 16th: Cue Caroline, James, and Ines & Co.
My friends Caroline, James, and Ines (plus a couple of her friends: Monica and Brittany) arrived to Paris about the time I was finishing my wine and movie. We met for breakfast the following morning, and I became the unofficial planner for the day.
First we went to the catacombs, only to find the wait would be 2 hours! So we opted no, and walked instead to the Palace of Luxembourg and the surrounding gardens. Due to the weather, the trees were bear, but life still buzzed with dedicated runners made their paths and children played at the parks.
Henry IV’s widow, Marie di Medici refashioned the property in 1625, and then passed down the Palace for her son, Gaston Duc d’Oreleans who called it Palais d’Orleans. After his death, it got passed down to a couple more important women, and finally to Louis XIV in 1694. The palace continued to be passed around among the aristocracy until it became a museum in 1750, and then a prison during the French Revolution in 1778, under Louis XVI. In 1799, it became Napoleon Bonaparte’s home, as he took over as First Consul of the French Republic.
It was really cool walking around the property, thinking about how this was the home of many people who contributed to French history. I wish I could have gone inside.
Next, Notre Dame! I was really excited to go inside again, remembering how happy I was to see it the day before. Unfortunately, there were 3 times as many tourists today, and sections of the church were closed to tourists, including the pop-up exhibit of the building’s history and the giant nativity set. Oh well.
Our next stop was the Eiffel tower. Contrary to popular belief, this piece of architecture isn’t actually anywhere near city-center, in fact, it is closer to the business district. We took a bus to the Eiffel tower, and got our pics.
Ines and Monica decided to get to the top of the tower, the rest of us decided to save the money and get pictures from a distance. We had a lot of fun on our mini photoshoot.
We decided to walk to the statue of liberty, which was about a 20 minute hike from the Eiffel tower, while we waited for Ines and her friend. They had a pretty long wait time before getting to the top.
As we started our walk, James, Brittany and I stopped to watch a woman perform a cup game, the one where you need to guess where the ball was. I observed as a man would continue to bet 50-100 euros, over and over, would win it and then lose it, then win it again. This had to be rigged. Caroline was a little bit ahead of us, not having realized we had stopped right away.
I was about to walk over to Carol when James decided to go up to the woman and play the game. It was a simple game, and he felt very confident he could win. He bet and lost 50 euro in the blink of an eye.
Needless to say, the rest of our walk to the Statue of Liberty was mostly cracking jokes at James’s loss. We finally reached the Statue of Liberty, and I was once again amazed in that way history always amazes me. The French gave us our statue in Rhode Island, and there is a third Statue of Liberty somewhere on the planet. I will find it one day just to say I’ve seen all three.
By then, we were all famished and in need of coffee. We walked through the business district in search of a Starbucks. Ines and Monica were still at the Eiffel Tower. We walked around a very modern mall, but didn’t find coffee. We decided to go back to the Louvre, for I had remembered seeing a Starbucks there, and texted Ines to meet us there.
The group finally reunited, and we ate a quick meal. We decided it was break time. It was also getting closer to the time I would have to board my bus to London, at 9:15pm. We went back to the hostel, stopping to buy some wine on our way. We watched a movie, drank. Then it was 8:15, and I had to go.
Mess-up No. 3: Nearly Missing My Bus
Okay, now I didn’t drink a whole bottle. Maybe half. But that’s enough! On my way to the bus station, I took the wrong metro, and then after I got on the right one and got off at the right stop, walked the wrong direction. I was asking people left and right for directions, but I couldn’t fully understand. I finally made it to the bus, 5 minutes to spare. I was so thankful to board, missing this to London would have been a disaster. Lesson learned. Don’t drink before boarding a bus. Got it.