This past week, we at IES were lucky to have a week-long winter break. I say ‘winter’ loosely, as the weather here has been steadily approaching the mid 50’s since the start of February and the rainy mist of January has given way to lush green grass, but I digress.
During this vacation, my older sister planned to visit me in Paris, where we would spend a few days before coming back to Nantes, potentially throwing in a day trip for fun. It was a bit surreal seeing her at the airport and having such a familiar face so far from home. This wasn’t our first time being abroad together though, as I paid her a visit when she spent a semester abroad in Norway, but I was excited to be the one playing tour guide. Once we had some pain au chocolat and espresso in our systems, we hit the trains from the Charles DeGaulle Airport towards the center of Paris.
The trains to and from Paris were fairly easy to manage, as was the Metro. Tickets were available for a few euros at machines in all the stations, so we bought a book of ten for the weekend, give or take a few, and we were all set. The only inconvenience was the inconsistent hours. As is typical, even in cities like Nantes, protests and strikes often result in transportation being delayed or suspended over the weekends. Paris was no exception. Stations also became busy during rush hours daily, making some train cars impossible to enter. We learned to hope for the train, but not rely on it. The best solution was to pick a neighborhood to explore for a day, to not plan on jumping around the city, and to always have a back up plan or be prepared to walk.
One of the most fun things we did in Paris was dip into some luxury stores. There is an area specifically between the 8th and 9th neighborhoods that has store after store of brands like Gucci, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Versace, and more. It was interesting to see the exclusivity each store marketed themself with, and anyone with an interest in business or fashion could find something to take away from a venture in to a shop, if you are brave enough.
Otherwise, sipping wine across from the Eiffel Tower on Valentine’s Day and watching all the couples propose was a highlight, as well as visiting the crypts of the Pantheon, where we saw the tombs of notable personalities such as Volatire, Marie Curie, and Louis Braille. On our last day, we stopped at Cafe Hugo for lunch, a restaurant not originally on our itinerary, but we both agreed was the best meal of the trip. Finally, we headed back to Nantes to continue our tour de France.
For other ideas on things to do in Paris, my friend Rachael Grochowski (another Hope college-er!) will be posting about her trip there during our break as well. Be sure to check out her blogs to read about more experiences we’ve had through IES!