June 7, 2011
A long weekend in Paris

Whew! it’s been an eventful weekend.

On Thursday, the three of us (me, Kasandra, and Tim) made a trip to Guebwiller for their their wine festival. Guebwiller is this little commune in Alsace that is (as far as we know) only accessible through bus if you don’t have a car. Which we don’t. The trip there went pretty smoothly, and the return trip was both an adventure and a test of patience.

It was 7euro for a tiny wine glass. Considering you could try as many wines as you wanted for 7euro, I think that’s a pretty sweet deal. Kasandra and I opted for the bigger glass, one that actually says “Guebwiller foire aux vins”. We told ourselves that it was because we wanted the souvenir, and not because we’re actually alcoholics.

Trying the wines was really nice, because the people serving you the wine are usually the ones who run the vineyards themselves. Each little booth corresponded to a different commune. I tried different varieties of Crémant d’Alsace, which I found pretty okay. It’s bubbly! Of course, we got a mini-lesson how to properly taste wine, but I don’t think I’m quite sophisticated enough to do it properly. I remember trying different Moscatos. After being all wined out, we grabbed a tarte flambée for lunch and a nutella crepe because we’re fatties. There was an awesome street performer who was basically a one-man band, and he was incredibly entertaining! His songs were so catchy…

Fast forward to Friday, and Tim and I are on a train to Paris. A very early train. Having stayed up late to watch X-men: Le Commencement at the UGC, it wasn’t too long before I was regretting the decision to hop on the early train because it was cheap. We did a lot of walking the first day in Paris, but I had to apologize to Tim for being very zombie-like for the majority of the day. We got a lot of sightseeing done! We first headed up to the Sacre Coeur. Unfortunately, it is forbidden to take pictures of the inside of the Sacre Coeur. We then went to the Moulin Rouge. The prices to watch a show are outrageous! Someday I’ll be able to afford it. :)

We then made our way to L’arc de Triomphe. That thing really is something you have to see in person to appreciate. Having seen pictures of it before, it never fully registered how BIG the arc is. A lot of things this weekend made me feel tiny, but L’arc de Triomphe made me feel miniscule. We wandered over to the Louvre and took pictures of the outside, but we knew there was no way we could make it in that day. The lines are unbelievable. We never did make it inside the Louvre, but I doubt this will be my last time in Paris.

At the end of the day, we finally headed over to the Eiffel Tower! i kept telling Tim throughout the day that I wanted to see the Eiffel Tower at night, and I didn’t really care if we went there during the day. Honestly, I saw bits and pieces of the Eiffel Tower throughout the day and wasn’t that impressed. We got in line to ascend the tower at 7:30pm and finally got up there at about 10pm or so? But oh my goodness, was it worth it! The view of Paris was awesome, and the tower was gorgeous when lit up. We got to see two light shows while we were on the tower, which was something I’ll never forget.

After looking over the city in awe for an hour or so, we ran back to the train station to try and catch the RER train back to our hotel. I think we caught the second to last train? Close call!

The second day, we made our way directly to Versailles. Problem is, we caught the wrong train at first, so our intended arrival was delayed by at least an hour. We finally get there, and the crowds are horrendous. As Tim put it, the crowds were almost as imposing as the palace itself. When we were buying our tickets, the lady behind the desk told us to go to the gardens first if the line to the chateau was too long. We decided to follow her advice, and it was actually pretty good advice. There weren’t too many people in the gardens, so we could wander around at a leisurely pace. Versailles is another one of those places that just have to be seen in person. My pictures don’t even come close to capturing the sheer opulence and intricate details that make up this place. It’s one of those things that leave you incredulous. How could someone in their right mind build something this extravagant?

Marie Antoinette’s quarters were also incredibly awesome. It seems like not a lot of people venture out that far (it took us about 40 minutes to get all the way back there), so it was also pretty devoid of crowds.

Finally, at about 4pm, we worked up the courage to get in line for the chateau. Surprise surprise, the line had died down A LOT. We actually got in within 10 minutes or so. And the line for the gardens was long as hell. So. It’s apparently usually better to hit up the gardens first. The crowd inside the chateau was extremely dense. It’s a claustrophobe’s worst nightmare. Still, the sights are totally worth it. I could go on and on about how beautiful and exquisite each and every room inside the palace is, but I wouldn’t even know where to begin.

The daytrip to Versailles was easily my favorite part of our Paris trip. If you have a day, GO THERE.

The last day, we intended to go to the Catacombs bright and early to avoid the huge lines. Unfortunately, our train line from the hotel to the Gare du Nord wasn’t working. Our train was delayed by 1.5 hours, and by the time we got to the Catacombs, the line was even longer than it was on Friday. Sigh. So no Catacombs for us. Instead, we headed over to the Mus ée de Cluny, because Tim was really excited about an museum dedicated to medieval art. The entry was free for today, which was really nice. The few hours we spent there were pretty awesome! The museum was even bigger than we thought, so we took our time getting familiar with the exhibits.

Then we wandered over to the Cathedral de Notre Dame, which actually had mass going on while we toured it. Always makes me feel wrong to tour a church while service is going on. Definitely left the flash photography at home. Lastly, we waited for our train time at the Gardens of Luxembourg, which are lovely. It was the perfect way to wind down from our three day trip.

I’m writing this from our train back to Strasbourg, which should arrive in another hour or so. I probably won’t get to posting this until Monday or Tuesday. I’m exhausted, and still have some things to do before work tomorrow. Hopefully I’m not a zombie all day.

Barcelona soon!