I got super excited on Friday, October 1st, when my friend Cedric, who is in the process of moving to Paris, invited me to come hang out for the weekend. I checked train times, packed, and was ready to leave on Saturday morning when he told me that he wouldn’t be back in Paris until Sunday morning. Well, I still wanted to go. So I called my friend Sean, who is a Baylor student studying in Paris for the semester, to see if I could hang out with him until Cedric got into town. Sean graciously agreed to let me stay with him, and also reminded me that Saturday night was the Nuit Blanche festival in Paris, so I decided to take the next train possible to arrive around 6pm on Saturday. As I was waiting at the tram stop in Caen to go to the train station, an announcement came on that basically said that there was a strike going on downtown and that trams wouldn’t be running for the rest of the day. Seriously?! So, I grabbed my stuff, and started briskly walking to the train station from my dorm which is 8 tram stops/35 minutes away. Luckily I had left early enough so that I still made my train on time! The only thing that threw me off before getting on the train was a text from Cedric that said something along the lines of “I can’t make it to Paris this weekend, I’m really sorry.” Well. I didn’t have any credit left on my phone, so I couldn’t even respond. Things were definitely not going according to plan, and I hadn’t even left yet! Oh boy.
I got on the train anyway. Luckily I found Sean right away at the station and we took the metro to his homestay, which was super awesome. He literally lives right at the intersection of Bastille. I dropped off my stuff and we headed across the street for a quick dinner before meeting up with some of his Canadian friends, Lindsey and Miranda. Our first stop was Hotel de Ville, where the bulk of the action was going on. There were lights everywhere for the festival and a bunch of museums and exhibits were open late too. After spending an hour or so in le Centre Georges Pompidou, we met up with some more friends of Sean from South Korea. After the museum we decided to just walk around for a bit, running into random displays in the street. It’s really hard to describe what all was going on because, well, there was a lot going on! We continued walking and found ourselves crossing through an area with lots of gay bars before reaching the Seine river. The Seine!!! It was so awesome to see places like this in real life rather than on a postcard, in a movie, or online. Past the river, we reached Notre Dame, which was still open for tours because of the festival. The line was ridiculously long, so we decided to just appreciate the exterior beauty for a bit before heading on. The group stopped at a local bar for a drink to relax and re-energize.
Where to next? The Eiffel Tower, of course. We figured that since the festival was going on, the tower would stay lit up throughout the night. It was the “white night” festival, anyway. So we walked some more, and before turning the corner, Sean and his Canadian friends told me to stop and prepare myself to see the best view of the Eiffel Tower possible. We took a breath, turned the corner, and… umm… where is it? The tower was definitely not lit up. It was like staring at one of those weird patterns in the newspaper that has an image hidden in it somewhere if you stare long enough. So I stared, and although I saw the tower, it was such a faint outline that I wasn’t quite sure what to think. I attempted taking pictures, but that failed even more miserably! We walked under it, so at least I can say that I did that. We were all getting a little bit tired so we decided to calm down in the grass just in front of the tower. After that, it was back down to me, Sean, Lindsey, and Miranda. Just like how we started! We decided to continue roaming the streets and I was able to see l’Ecole Militaire, Champs Elysees, and some bridges. Although I was seeing everything by night for the first time it was still really cool.
By this time we were all starving. Since it was about 4am, it was a little difficult to find places that were still serving anything besides drinks. We were walking past a bar with a waiter standing outside who asked us if we wanted to come in for a drink, and when I asked if they served food, he said, “of course! But just lasagna.” I hastily agreed (seriously, I was famished) and we were ushered inside to a little table. Our waiter came to take our order and when I asked how much the lasagna was, we were told that each piece was 11 euro. 11 euro?! Seriously? I know that this is Paris, but that was pretty expensive for a piece of lasagna. I tried to tell the waiter that we changed our mind and didn’t want to order any, but he bluntly told me that it was too late as our orders had been sent as soon as we walked through the door. We either had to pay and eat or pay and not eat, no exceptions. Blergh! (This brief argument was even more frustrating as I was speaking French with the waiter and trying to explain to my friends at the same time what was happening.) Well, we paid and we ate, and although the lasagna wasn’t quite worth 11 euro, it was delicious in my starving stomach.
It was time to go home. The metro opened back up at 5am, and you better believe that we were waiting outside the gates to get in as soon as that time rolled around. Our train came within fifteen minutes, and Sean and I were back to his apartment by 6am. Still not quite ready to go to sleep, we stopped at a little crepe stand near his apartment and devoured one of the best types of crepes in the world: nutella and banana. There really is no way to explain how good a nutella/banana crepe tastes at 6:30am in Paris at the intersection of Bastille. Wow. Just wow. We finally went upstairs and passed out, and responsibly set the alarm for 2pm on Sunday.
Well, my train was scheduled to leave on Sunday night at 8:45pm from a station across town, so I decided to choose to go to one thing that I really wanted to see. I chose Le Pere Lachaise, one of the most famous cemeteries in Paris. It had been featured in a scene in one of my favorite movies, “Paris Je T’aime,” and there are also many well-known people who are buried there, such as Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde. This cemetery was unlike any that I’ve ever seen in the states. This weekend, there was also an exposition on cemeteries of the world, so there were many pictures on display in the center of the cemetery of how cemeteries differ throughout the globe. As we entered the gates, I could tell that this place was huge, so I invested 2 euro in a map of the place so I could actually figure out where we were at any point in time. I took a few minutes to find some of the people that I wanted to see on the map, and then Sean and I began to make our way through this huge place. Some of the noted graves that we saw were Haussman, Arman, Chopin, and Jim Morrison. I also saw the grave of a prominent member of the SNCF train company, where many people had tucked their metro tickets into. I decided to put one of mine in there to honor him too. My favorite grave we saw was that of Oscar Wilde, which was the grave that was featured in “Paris, Je T’aime.” I also appreciate how bizarre some of his writing was. His grave was huge, and especially unique as women from all of the world had put on lipstick and made kiss-marks all over it. I wasn’t brave enough to kiss the old stone, but I drew a little peace sign with the lipstick that I had brought with me and left the lipstick on the ground near the grave. It was absolutely crazy to be in this cemetery after reading about it and seeing it in the movies, online, and on television.
Sean and I decided to grab a quick meal at McDonald’s and then take the metro back to his place. It was about time for me to head to the train station, so that’s exactly what I did. I thanked Sean once again for dealing with me last minute, and then took the metro by myself for the very first time! It sounds lame, but Paris is a big city and I was a little bit nervous about getting lost. Thanks to Sean’s superb directions, I made it there and even had time to meet up with another Baylor friend, Kaitlin, who is in Paris for the year to teach English. We met up in front of the old opera, which was near my train station, and enjoyed a cup of coffee and a tartine (nothing like we expected it to be; I thought it would be a little fruit tart or something of that nature, but in fact it was a long piece of bread with butter and jam on it. Kaitlin later found out that “tartiner” means “to spread” in French, so when we ordered a tartine, we really ordered a piece of bread with something to spread on it. Go figure!). It was great to catch up with her! I wished her luck for her first week of teaching coming up, and then got on the train, made it back to Caen, took the tram back to my dorm, and voila: my week-end in Paris had come to an end.
Although the trip was very last minute, a bit short, and I really didn’t plan anything at all, I had an awesome time. I was with good company in a city with lots of things to see, and things can’t get much better than that.
pictures: (1) le Centre Georges Pompidou (2) la Seine (3) me on the river (4) Sean and friends on the metro (5) the Eiffel Tower… I promise it’s there! (6) l’Ecole Militaire (7) awesome French spider (8) Chopin’s tombstone (9) Jim Morrison’s tombstone (10) me in front of Oscar Wilde’s tombstone (11) Bastille intersection (12) the Old Opera