One of the wonderful parts about living in London is the ease of travel. I am just a ten-minute bus ride away from St. Pancras International, where I can catch the Eurostar for a direct train ride to Paris. Leaving on a Friday afternoon and coming back Sunday evening, my time in Paris was short but well spent. Especially because I explored with friends from Mount Holyoke, who are currently studying in Montpelier and at Royal Holloway!
It was surreal stepping off the train and acknowledging that, after just a two-hour train ride, I was in another foreign country. The advertisements and signs were in French, a child on a scooter shouted “vite!” at his younger sister. Luckily, train stations are very easy to navigate, even in another language, and I was quickly on “Le Metro” to meet up with my friends in the city.
We embraced the tourist status during this weekend in Paris. For just four euros, we were able to walk up to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower. Munching on croissants and stopping for photos, it was our study abroad version of Mount Holyoke’s “Mountain Day.” Since 1938, Mount Holyoke’s president surprises the students and faculty with 100 bells, signifying that classes are cancelled. To celebrate, everyone climbs a local mountain and eats ice cream at the top. Unfortunately, Mountain Day occurred during my first day of classes this year, so we celebrated in Paris (not a bad deal I must say).
After hours spent exploring the Eiffel Tower and picnicking on the green with baguettes and cheese, we wandered over to the Arc de Triomphe and Le Champs-Elysees. I had been advised to visit the Sephora store in Paris, and while I was skeptical I ventured inside to find a spectacle of grand perfume bottles, red carpeting, and every beauty product imaginable. It was worth the visit, even though we didn’t buy anything! We eventually walked all the way to the Tuileries Gardens, where we tried Amorino gelato, which comes in the shape of a rose! Seeing the Eiffel Tower at night was even more magical. We were not alone in taking photos of the sparkling tower.
Our final day in Paris we spent at the Musée d’Orsay, where we were able to see Manet’s Dejeuner Sur l’Herbe by Manet and Moulin de la Galette by Renoir, despite the crowds. While our original plan was to visit the Louvre (the wait was three hours long!) the Musée d’Orsay was a much less overwhelming choice and had many of the Impressionist paintings we had studied but never seen in person.
I spoke in French a bit, and was surprised each time a Parisian understood what I was saying. Paris was more affordable than London, which was refreshing. While my time there was wonderful, I feel I have just barely scratched the surface. My weekend in Paris was simply a teaser for another trip I hope to take in the future!