I feel like each one of my posts begins with “Spain had a holiday so-and-so weeks ago so the schools were given a long holiday weekend.” This post is no exception. For the first weekend of May, we were given off Thursday and Friday which meant all of us Auxiliares knew we had to take advantage of this rare 4-day weekend! I spent my long weekend the best way I know how: in Paris with my sister! My sister and her friend Carla had been planning to come visit me in Madrid over that first week in May but when I found out her visit fell over a long weekend, I suggested we go to Paris since she had never been and I always wanted to see it in the Spring.
I arrived to the Paris Beauvais Airport (an hour outside of Paris) on Thursday evening. I figured out how to take the shuttle bus for 17 Euros into the city and from there I navigated the metro which was pretty easy to get the hang of. I arrived to my hostel for the night which I booked alone because my sister and Carla weren’t scheduled to arrive to Paris until Friday morning. Lucky for me, there was also a nice American girl traveling alone who was staying in my 4-bed dorm. I met her as soon as I walked in and after talking for a while, she asked if I wanted to go grab some dinner. I was so relieved because I was starving but didn’t want to eat by myself! I’ve never done a full trip by myself, but I have done bits and pieces of trips alone and they’ve made me want to plan a solo trip, just for a weekend or something. Each time I’ve done things alone I’ve had no problem meeting people and it’s a nice excuse to talk to people you probably wouldn’t normally talk to if you were with friends. So the girl and I walked around the Montmartre area where our hostel was and found a nice café where we ordered French wine and French Onion Soup! It was soo good. The next morning my hostel served a delicious breakfast: orange juice, Café au lait, a baguette with jam, and a warm, melty chocolate croissant.
After breakfast I was ready to tackle the first of my two day-trips. Since this was my second time to Paris, I knew I wanted to do things that I didn’t do before. Seeing the Palace of Versailles was one of the big things I wanted to do this time around. After the easy train ride getting there, I arrived to Versailles and was shocked to see the huge line for tickets. I ended up just paying 5 Euros more for a bus that took me to the Gran Trianon and Marie Antoinette’s Estate. The logic behind their advertising was that everyone starts at the palace first so that by working backwards from the Grand Trianon, we would avoid a huge line to the palace since it would be later in the afternoon. After exploring the Grand and Petit Trianons, I walked through the MASSIVE gardens. Over our winter break trip at the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, my friend Lindsey told me that those gardens weren’t nearly the size of Versailles’- and she was right! They were so big that when it started to DOWNPOUR on me for a good 10 minutes, I had nowhere to hide. It wasn’t like a tree or a bush was going to protect me, so I just trudged right on through.
After the gardens I got into the long line for the palace. Yes, there was STILL a long line because apparently the day before was Labor Day and therefore the palace was closed. The line went pretty quickly, but inside the palace was packed with people and it was a little hard to enjoy. Plus it had been a very long day and I was exhausted and damp from the rain. Also by that point I had already seen the palaces in Vienna and Madrid and they all seemed to resemble one another. I did really enjoy Versailles and it has an incredibly interesting history but I think seeing it just the one time is enough. I’d love to see other Châteaus in France.
I returned to Paris a lot later than expected but it was time to finally see my sister, Shaun! It just so happened that Shaun and her friend Carla booked our hostel literally five minutes walking from my hostel the first night so it made for an easy transfer. Although she was beyond tired from jet-lag, we still went out for a nice dinner together and called it an early night so that we could all get some much needed rest. The next morning (and every morning for the rest of our time there), our hostel had a delicious breakfast buffet with ridiculously strong coffee (just what the doctor ordered!) which took a ton of milk to water it down. If you travel to Paris, I strongly recommend booking a hostel that serves you breakfast. With the amount of food you get, it’s definitely the best option economically. Not only that, but their breakfasts are automatically good because you’re in Paris- the land of pastries!
That day (Saturday) we split up again because I had one last day trip I wanted to take and we decided it would also be a good time for Shaun and Carla to do a lot of the things that I had already done. I got to the train station JUST in time to catch the next train headed towards Giverny, AKA the famous painter Claude Monet’s house and gardens! In 4th grade, my class did an art project where we had to choose a famous painting and recreate it. I chose one of Monet’s water lily pieces with the Japanese bridge. My painting looked nothing like his (obviously) but he became my favorite painter due to that project and that painting of the water lilies in particular was my favorite. Since I was young when I learned about him, I always assumed his paintings were images from Japan since it was a “Japanese bridge” in his paintings. I later came to find out that Monet bought a house in Giverny, France and constructed a garden and pond area used for his paintings. I also found out that Giverny was an easy day trip from Paris so seeing these paintings come to life was actually a possibility!
I took a 45-minute train from Paris’ Saint-Lazare train station to a little town called Vernon. It was so nice seeing the French countryside! From there, I caught the bus to Giverny that waits right outside the Vernon train station for all the tourists and it takes about 15 minutes to reach Giverny. Again, there was a HUGE line to get into the gardens but fortunately I read online that it’s best to buy your tickets online ahead of time. So that’s what I did and it saved me over an hour and a half of waiting. I walked right by everyone in line to the front and the guy scanned my ticket and I got in! It was great. From there I walked around the beautiful gardens which were full of flowers of every color! The day was sunny, warm, and absolutely gorgeous. I couldn’t have asked for a better day to explore Monet’s gardens! The path I was on eventually led to the pond area with the bridges and water lilies. It was like a dream coming to life seeing my favorite paintings in person! There were a ton of people in a tight path area so it took away some of the pleasure, but I still enjoyed it nonetheless. My recommendations are to definitely pick a sunny, Spring day to go, try to avoid holidays or weekends, get there early, and buy your ticket online ahead of time to avoid the line. I’m so glad I made it to Giverny and now whenever I look at Monet’s paintings I’ll be able to say, “I was there!” which is incredible.
That evening I met up with Shaun and Carla at the Trocadero for the best view of the Eiffel Tower and after that we walked along the Champs Elysees. We also climbed to the top of the Arc de Triomphe (free for students under 26 which was a pleasant surprise!) and saw the Eiffel Tower sparkle on the hour, both of which were on my Paris to-do list because I didn’t do them the last time.
The next day, our last full day in Paris, was finally time to enjoy Paris with my sister! I tackled the day trips I wanted to do so now it was time to focus on Paris. The weather was perfect! I couldn’t have asked for a better Spring weekend (with the exception of the downpour at Versailles) for the entire trip. I always wanted to see Paris in the Spring and I’d say I got it! My sister and I actually got a little burnt.
On this day we walked around the Latin Quarter and saw Notre Dame, ate ham and cheese crepes at an outdoor café that overlooked Notre Dame, my sister put a lock on the famous love lock bridge (another thing that was on my Paris to-do list!), I took a small nap on the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower, then we ate Nutella and banana crepes as we watched the Eiffel Tower sparkle one last time. It was a perfect day.
Before our flight the next afternoon, we checked a couple more things off of my Paris to-do list: go to the Moulin Rouge and eat macarons! I’ve never actually seen the movie Moulin Rouge (shocking, I know), but since the theater itself has a longer history than the movie I still wanted to go see it. After looking around and reading about its history I’ve decided that the next time I go to Paris I’d love to go see a show which includes a dinner (which means the next time I go to Paris I’m going to have to make a damn good salary to pay for it). After that we stopped at a café where I finally got my long-awaited macarons! We hiked the steps to the Sacre Coeur and joined the rest of the people in Paris on the steps that overlooked the whole city as I ate my delicious macarons.
I know I say this a lot (more like all the time) but I was honestly so sad to leave Paris! Yes, I know I had to leave it to go back to my home in, ya know, Spain (oh hey, reality check), but that doesn’t mean I don’t get attached to other cities I visit and wish I could stay just a few days longer. These weekend trips go by so fast, just as I’m getting my feet wet. I think that’s why some of my favorite trips this year have been to places that I have already been before. The more time I spend somewhere, the more I like it (not always, but a lot of the time). My first time I was in Paris was with my parents for three nights and this time I was there for four nights, so I’ve spent a considerable amount of time there and have been able to see and do a lot. But after this trip, I’ve realized that Paris is the kind of city that I can keep going back to and always find something new to do. I already have my new Paris to-do list ready for the next time I go back! So yes, there will be (at least) a third trip to Paris in my future.
MADRID WITH SHAUN & CARLA
Our time in Paris may have been over but Shaun and Carla’s visit wasn’t! They came back to Madrid with me and stayed in a hotel right down the street from me for the rest of the week until Saturday morning. It was so nice having them in Madrid and being able to show them everything! It was annoying that I had to work while they were here, but luckily they had plenty to keep them occupied until we met at night. We did the typical things such as Plaza Mayor, Sol, Retiro Park, ate at some of my favorite places (Cien Montaditos and El Tigre), showed them my school and my apartment, etc. But we were also able to do things that I’ve been wanting to do in Madrid which was a lot of fun! I finally had my relaxing cup of cafe con leche in Plaza Mayor, saw the rose garden in bloom in Retiro Park, and finally returned to the same restaurant that I went to with my friends when we visited Madrid during our semester abroad. While there, we had delicious paella and sangria! Saturday morning came way too fast and it was sadly time to say goodbye to them.
It was such a great week with my sister and Carla! We started in Paris and ended in Madrid. Their visit really moved this year along faster than it was already going because by the time they left it was almost mid-May and I’ll be home in mid-June! Where did the time go?!?