Part of the reason that I came back to Paris in the middle of my fall break was to change out my clothing because ‘part 1’ was spent in Southern Europe, and was quite warm, but ‘part 2’ was much colder and further north.
Monday was Halloween, and Ariel and I were determined to do something Halloween related to celebrate, even though Halloween is not really celebrated here. Originally, we had intended to visit the Paris Catacombs, but they are closed on Mondays. Instead, we discovered the “Salon du Chocolat” was going to be held that weekend. The “Salon du Chocolat” is an exposition in Paris dedicated to chocolate. It is held every fall, and 500 of the world’s best chocolatiers come to show their wares, in addition to the lectures on various beans and chocolate making, and chocolate fashion. Nothing is more in the Halloween spirit than gorging ourselves on chocolate!
After spending the day sampling chocolates and foods made with chocolate from all around the world, we headed back to Cergy to figure out what we were going to wear for a Halloween party. For Parisians, Halloween is just an excuse to throw a party, so there were dozens going on in Paris on Monday night. Ariel and I went to a free one, but neither of us enjoyed ourselves so we left fairly quickly. The problem was that even though we left early, it was still late enough that we had to take the night bus back to Cergy because the RER had stopped running for the night. This was our first experience with the night bus, but luckily we met two other girls who were going back to Cergy Le Haut as well.
Pro tip: never trust the bus schedule for Paris public transit, and always dress for the weather, even if you are not planning on spending much time outside.
As you may have just guessed based on the above advice, we all spent a lot more time outside in the barely-above-freezing weather. Ariel and I both have the ViaNavigo app, which tells us all about Paris public transit, including routes and schedules. In this case, we had to take 2 buses to get back to Cergy from Paris. First, we had to wait outside for the first bus which was slightly late. This should not have been a problem because we were supposed to have 13 minutes in between getting dropped off by the first bus, and being picked up by the second one. Naturally, as soon as we were dropped off, the other bus pulled away. The problem was that the next bus wouldn’t be for another hour and nothing (especially nothing outside of Paris) is open that late, so all four of us got to wait outside in the cold. Fortunately, I am from the Midwest and know how to deal with cold, but Ariel is from the South and the other 2 girls were from India, so they did not deal very well with the cold.
Getting back late would not have been a problem if a) we weren’t leaving for ‘fall break, part 2’that afternoon, b) I had already packed, and c) it wasn’t a holy day of obligation. Of course, we were leaving for break, I always procrastinate on packing, and I did have to go to mass for All Saints Day (or Toussaint as it is apparently called in french). Unlike me, Ariel got to sleep in and met me at Charles De Gaulle after I went to mass and we flew to Berlin, Germany.
To add to the list of things I didn’t think about when I was planning this trip: at the beginning of November, the sun sets in Belin just after 4pm, so by the time our plane landed, the sun had already set, and it was starting to rain. Fortunately, the public transportation in Berlin was not difficult to figure out, but it certainly helped that I remembered some basic German from the 2 years of it I took in high school. Once we got to our hostel, we decided to just figure out dinner and then stay in for the rest of the night. Naturally, we got schnitzel and I had a beer because when in Germany… I was also preparing myself for another night of little or no sleep because it was game 6 of the World Series!
My philosophy when getting to a new city is to start out by taking a walking tour, so that’s exactly what we did. Naturally, most of the history of Berlin comes back to the World Wars, and the post-war decisions that split the country and city in two. The tour was fascinating, and the guide showed us all sorts of places that I wish we had time to visit. Unfortunately, by the time the tour was over, the sun was setting and it was beginning to rain again. We did go find “Rosenthaler strasse” (aka Rosenthal street) before heading back to the hostel. On the way, though, we picked up pretzels and brotwurst because I couldn’t leave Germany without having each of those, and we needed snacks to keep us awake for the Cubs game!