This week I got a visit from my parents! My mom has been to Paris once before (when her and I went to Europe with Girl Scouts), but my dad had never been, and neither of my parents speak French. That meant that I got to play tour guide and translator for three days while they came to visit.
On Tuesday, because I don’t have class, I met them at Charles De Gaulle, and helped them get to their hotel. As much as I have learned to negotiate the Paris public transit system, it gets significantly more difficult when you have to lug (full-size) suitcases along. Thankfully, I knew exactly where we were going and we only had to change trains once.
Pro Tip: people who speak even a little bit of French will probably not have difficulty figuring out the train system, but if you don’t know any French at all, you may have difficulty recognizing the names of stops.
It took us a couple of hours to make it all the way back to Cergy, by which time all of the restaurants had closed for lunch, and wouldn’t open back up until 7pm for dinner. In the mean time I showed them around my school. Unlike Iowa State– or almost any other college/ university in the United States– it took only about 15 minutes to show them my whole school. Then we had to wait, so we stopped at a bar where we could sit and talk until the restaurants opened and we could eat.
My parents’ hotel was near ESSEC campus, but my residence is 2 stops away on the RER (or roughly an hour’s walk), so I met them in front of ESSEC so we could head into Paris together. There were only 2 things my mom and dad definitely wanted to do when we were in Paris, the rest was at my discretion. Dad wanted to see the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower. So, naturally, our first stop in Paris was the Arc de Triomphe! We took a few photos at the base, then got tickets and climber the ~270 steps to the top. In case you were wondering, the Arc de Triomphe does have an elevator, but it is only for handicapped people and the elderly. As my dad liked to comment on, almost every staircase in Paris seems to be a spiral one. The top of the Arc gives you a vantage point where you can pretty easily identify all of the major monuments in Paris (as long as you know which direction to look). Like the good little tour guide I am, I pointed out all of the major sites, most of the things that Mom and I saw when we were in Paris for Girl Scouts, and the general direction of Cergy.
From there, we walked all the way down the Champs-Elysées to the Place de la Concorde, through the Jardin du Luxembourg, all the way to the Musée du Louvre. We stopped several times along that nearly 2.5 mile stretch– to eat lunch at a bistro (George V), window shop, take pictures at the obelisk, and sit in the green chairs in the Luxembourg Garden.
Pro Tip: if you don’t have a lot of time in Paris, don’t bother going into the Louvre, unless you are a big ‘art person.’ It takes several hours to go through, even if you just want to see the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and a few of the other (most) famous pieces in the museum.
Our next stop was Notre Dame [de Paris]. To get to the Île de la Cité, we crossed Pont Neuf, and, my dad being my dad, he had to go halfway across, take off his jacket and face east. Sadly, Jason Bourne did not call. It was getting fairly late, so we went up to the bell towers first as they close earlier than the church itself. Our legs were already tired, but we made it up to the top.
After the bell towers (where I actually go to see the panoramic view this time), we walked around the inside, and sat and watched for a while as they were starting the Vespers service. Afterwards we wandered around for a while until we found somewhere to eat dinner, and headed back to Cergy.
On Thursday I had to go to my People and Organizations class before we could go into Paris. The plan was to visit Sainte Chapelle (which had closed before we could get there the day before) and go up the Eiffel Tower. But first, my parents wanted to actually see my room. For some reason, nobody seems to really believe me that I a) have a staircase inside my apartment, or b) that my kitchen really does consist of 2 hot plates and a fridge, until they actually see it for themselves.
Visiting my residence hall took longer than expected, and the train was delayed slightly on the way into Paris, so we did not get to spend much time at Sainte Chapelle before we needed to head to the Eiffel Tower. I had gotten us tickets in advance, so we had to be at the Eiffel Tower at 4pm. We made it on time and went straight to the top! Unfortunately, it was very windy and pretty cold at the top, but the views were still good! My mother had promised me that we could have champagne at the top because when we were there with the Girl Scouts you can’t drink regardless of your age (so my mom couldn’t have any either). This time, we both had champagne. We also looked for all of the places we had visited together the day before, and Sacré Cœur which was too far out of the way for us to get to. It took a long time to find Sacré Cœur because it’s on a hill, so we were used to seeing it above everything else, but from the top of the Eiffel Tower, it blends into all of the other buildings.
When we came back down we went to Place de Trocadero, where everyone has pictures of the Eiffel Tower. Then we got dinner and waited for the sun to go down because if you haven’t seen the Eiffel Tower lit up at night, you haven’t seen the Eiffel Tower!
Pro Tip: The Eiffel Tower is lit up as soon as it is dark, but it only sparkles on the hour, and only for 5 minutes, so if you miss it, you’ll just have to wait.
My parents left early the Friday morning, but I got up in time to see them off. They left their hotel at 7am, and I walked straight to the school once they were in their taxi. This meant that I was easily the first student at the school as classes generally start at 9 (though a few start at 8:30). Ariel and I had both packed all of our stuff for the weekend in our backpacks so right after our International Marketing class ended, we headed into Paris to catch our train to Champagne!
*Our visit to Champagne will be getting its own post, so look for that tomorrow!*