I’ll just preface by saying that I did soooo much during Semana Santa that I’m going to split the trip up into two blog posts. Yeah, I did that much. Also, side note – Semana Santa, which translates to Holy Week, is the week before Easter in which a lot of students, in both college and grade school, have a week off from class. It was our equivalent to spring break.
It started for us on Thursday, May 29th. Actually, Semana Santa technically started on Saturday, May 31st. Yes, we skipped class on Thursday and Friday. No, it wasn’t the ‘responsible thing to do.’ But no pasa nada, right? Anyway, on May 29th, there was a general strike in Spain. When my host mom asked when I was heading to Paris to start Semana Santa and I told her the 29th, I think her jaw dropped a little bit. She asked if I knew that there was a strike, that there would be minimal services available and that I might run into a wee bit of trouble. Nope. Thankfully, my host sister had a flight to Dublin on the same day from the same airport I was flying out of so I drove with her and her boyfriend Nacho. Apparently it was a good decision because there were no buses going out of Oviedo that morning due to highway blockades, angry people destroying things, etc.
I met up with everyone else at the airport (they had arrived the night before) and our flight to Paris left around 5pm. Actually, that was another snag we ran into. The flight didn’t actually fly to Paris, but rather to Beauvais, a city an hour to an hour and a half outside of Paris (thanks for letting us know, Ryanair!). By the time we had gotten off the plane, met up with two more friends coming from Barcelona, got our bags, took the shuttle to Paris and took the metro to our hotel, it was already about 10:30 at night. We didn’t have much time to do anything, but we were squeezing four people into a two-person hotel room (with to tiny beds), so we wanted to get out for a little bit. Three of us had croques, or grilled sandwiches with a fried egg and melted, crispy cheese on top while Tressa got escargot. It was awesome, yet pricey, and we soon found out that apparently almost everything is beyond expensive in Paris. Who knew?!
We hit the sack by midnight that night and got up around 9 or 10 the next day. We got ourselves ready, grabbed the metro again and headed to the EIFFEL TOWER:
Sacrebleu! I was finally seeing it for the first time in person! We climbed up to the second level, and when I saw we climbed, I mean we took the steps. It was a few euros cheaper and we were only in line for about 15 minutes. Score! We did have to stop at the second level, though, not only to catch our breath but also because we could only take the elevator all the way to the top. Here we are before we hopped on the asensor:
What a good looking bunch, if I do say so myself. After having someone take our picture, we went to the top, snagged some more pics while we took in the amazing view, and then grabbed the elevator back down. After grabbing something to eat (the girls got sandwiches but I felt like something sweet, so I got a merengue, which was, as expected, fantastic), we headed to the Notre Dame Cathedral:
Just like everything else in Paris, the cathedral was beautiful, both inside and out. Afterward, we headed to the Louvre. It was Friday night, and that meant free admission! What we didn’t know was that students can get free admission any time. Anyway, we were greeted by the familiar glass pyramids, through one of which you descend to enter the museum:
We walked around for hours, seeing Roman sculptures, an ancient Egyptian art exhibit (in which I saw a really cool piece – a menu for an restaurant carved into a huge piece of stone with each meal individually chiseled into its own box) and the painting gallery. Here’s me eating a sandwich (thanks to my host mom Celes for packing me food to make my own) in front of what I’m sure is a priceless painting:
Apparently that’s not allowed. Again, who knew? And here I am in front of La Jaconde, or, obviously, the Mona Lisa.
After a day of so much walking, we headed back to the hotel, grabbed a small dinner along the way and crashed, two of us in each bed. The next morning, we got up a little later than the day before and decided to see Montmartre, the ‘Painters’ Neighborhood.’ Unfortunately, we didn’t see a lot of painters and it wasn’t the nicest day. We stopped for lunch, and here I am with my bowl of french onion soup and my strawberry jam crepe:
I don’t think I need to say it, but they were both great. Afterward we went to see the Basilique du Sacré Cœur on top of the hill in the middle of the neighborhood. Unfortunately, it was a cloudy day and we couldn’t enjoy the amazing view of Paris the site normally offers, but we did get to go inside and take a look. It was, yet again, a beautiful building with brilliant stained glass windows and a stunning dome. Here’s a photo with me and the basilica:
We headed by the Moulin Rouge:
Saw the Arc du Triomphe:
Walked down Champs de Elysee and then Ashley and I got tickets for a boat tour on the River Seine. It was amazing. We got some information from a student working as a tour guide on the boat and had a different view of the city than before. I took countless photos of the Eiffel Tower:
And because we went at sunset, we saw the tower getting brighter and brighter as we went downstream:
It was truly a stunning sight. We met up again with Rachel and Tressa afterward and went to the Latin Quarter to grab dinner:
A lively section of town with lights, music and street performers, I wish I had more time to explore the Latin Quarter. However, because 4 of us were sleeping in a 2-person room at the hotel, we had to be back by midnight so all of us could sneak in before they locked the door. At dinner, I had more french onion soup (among other things, like coq au vin) and another crepe which had Nutella and bananas. If I thought the food from earlier that day was great, the food from that night was incredible. We were enjoying dessert while simultaneously hopping the turnstiles (it wasn’t our fault the metro tickets we bought weren’t working) and rushing home:
And to sum up our experience with the Parisians, I didn’t encounter any that were snooty or rude. We kept asking our overused question (Parlez-Vous Anglais?) and almost everyone we spoke with did indeed speak English. It could have been a lot harder to get around, but not being able to respond AT ALL to the native language was a little intimidating. After Paris, it was off to Rome and Barcelona for me, two places where I would have much better luck communicating if English wasn’t an option.