Don’t worry, it’s still Haley in France here, but for my winter vacation time I was joined by my dear brother Grant and his friend Matt. I figured, why would I go home for Christmas when my brother and his friend could come to Europe for their first time ever to celebrate it here? (Well, I would go home to see my family, enjoy a fabulous Christmas meal, and catch up with friends… but that was supposed to be a rhetorical question.) So, I took the opportunity to show two American high school boys why France is awesome and why they should travel later in life. I think it was a success!
They took a direct flight from Dallas and arrived in Paris on a Tuesday morning. I know how difficult jet lag can be, so that’s why we went directly to the hotel to drop off our things
and I let them take a nap and headed to the Eiffel Tower. The only time I have ever even been near the tower was around 2am on a Saturday night and it wasn’t even lit up, so I was just as thrilled as they were when we climbed up the stairs from the metro and were bombarded by the direct view of the tower. “Now we feel like we’re in France,” the boys said. The line was extremely long so we didn’t climb up, but we did take lots of silly pictures (which I can now cross off my list). It really is gigantic.
Then, I let them take a nap at the hotel… I was tired too! Two hours later, we bundled up and headed over to the Champs Elysees to see the gigantic Christmas market. Two apple ciders, three tartiflettes, and an Arc de Triomphe later, we had seen the whole thing. We called it a night and headed back to the hotel.
Early the next morning, we arrived at the Gare du Nord train station to catch our train to Cologne, Germany. The boys were super excited, and so was I… until I heard my favorite kind of announcement at the train station EVER. You know those announcements where they start by apologizing and then you hear the word “greve” and then you hear that your day is now terribly off schedule because well… no trains are going where you need to go? Yes, that’s the one that I heard. I turned a ghastly shade of white (maybe), but the boys still had no idea what was going on; the announcement was in French. I explained the situation to them, and we started working through plan B’s and C’s and D’s. Eventually, I waited in line for nearly an hour to return our Germany tickets, called the hostel to cancel our reservation, and we spent the rest of the day in Paris. Life could be worse.
We decided to walk along the Seine, the river that flows through Paris, until it was time to take our train to Douai, where I live. First stop: Notre Dame. May I remind you all that the previous times I had been to Paris consisted of train stations, metros, friends’ apartments, and the Centre Pompidou, so once again, I was excited to be discovering these things along with Grant and Matt. The Notre Dame is absolutely gorgeous. We went inside and did a tour around the church. I have been to many cathedrals during my time on this side of the pond, but I had forgotten that this was the first ancient cathedral that the boys would ever visit. They were quite impressed to say the least. Grant was strongly tempted to donate his last remaining cash at the moment (20 Euro) to the upkeep of the organ. I told him it’s the thought that counts.
We continued walking along the river until we passed the Academie Francaise, which faces a very special bridge in Paris. It’s called something like the Love Lock Bridge. For the past 18 months, people have written their initials or names on locks and attached them to the bridge, throwing the key into the water below. It could signify their love for each other, their love for Paris, etc. Grant and Matt particularly appreciated the gigantic bicycle locks that some couples had opted for, but I liked this one…
We crossed the bridge and headed to the Louvre. We all had another WOW! moment as we turned the corner and saw the five glass pyramids in the main entrance area. After seeing that the line was as long as the length of the museum… we skipped out on going in. (Unfortunately this was before I knew about the secret entrance.) We walked by the Jardin des Tuileries, took the metro back to our hotel, and rested a bit before walking to the Sacre Coeur.
I have ventured up the numerous steps to the Sacre Coeur basilica before, so I was already familiar with the sketchy vendors hanging around that try to grab your arm and start making a bracelet on you so that you are required to buy it. I gave the boys a little safety speech before we went in. Boys, keep your hands in your pockets. Don’t make eye contact with the vendors. Walk fast. DON’T LET THEM GRAB YOUR ARM. Make sure you still have your wallet after we pass them. Etc. Etc. Etc. I think I might have scared them but they did fine. The first group that we passed try to get Matt’s attention, and I said clearly, “Non, MERCI,” and the guy literally hit my arm and tapped my face. Aw hell no. Personal space bubble, popped. I did not appreciate that. But we continued and eventually made it to the top. The weather was ridiculously foggy, so our panoramic view over Paris was rather blurry, but we explored the mini Christmas Market at the top before heading back to the hotel and catching our train to Douai for the night.
Up Next: a day in Lille, a day in Amiens, and a French Christmas in Hazebrouck!
Up Next Next: two more days in Paris!