Wednesday, November 24, 2021 | Written by Mira
One amazing thing about GTL is its close proximity to Paris. I’ve been on the Metz to Paris train plenty of times, but Paris has rarely been my final destination. In fact, the only time Paris was my destination this semester was back in August for the short weekend. I decided that as the semester is winding to a close (and classes are in full force) and as my Eurail pass is about to expire, I should take the opportunity to do a quick day trip to Paris.
I woke up bright and early Friday morning for my solo Parisian adventures. I arrived in Paris around 9am, got a 12euro day pass for the metro, and was ready to begin my day. I meandered around the beautiful Luxembourg gardens, in full fall ambiance with red, orange, and yellow leaves coloring the trees. The gardens are lined with statues of women from European history, and there was even a mini Statue of Liberty.
After enjoying the brisk fall air of the garden, I walked a little bit to the Île de la Cité, the island on the Seine that is home to the Notre Dame Cathedral. While the inside is still closed due to reconstruction efforts from the fire of 2019, there is an archeological crypt underneath the cathedral, one of the only excavation sites in Paris open to the public. In the exhibition, there was a retelling of Victor Hugo’s Notre Dame de Paris and how the novel shaped the public opinion around the Cathedral. There was also a portion that was the stone remnants of a Roman bathhouse, which reminded me of the popularity of the bathhouses in Budapest.
Near the Notre Dame Cathedral, on the south side of the Seine, is a quaint, mostly English bookstore called Shakespeare and Co. (37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris). It was incredibly touristy, but the upstairs portion was a little oasis – a reading room (with a cat!). I successfully convinced myself I didn’t need to buy another book (my book count is up to more than a dozen and transporting all these books home will be less than convenient… whoops).
After grabbing a quick lunch at the Shakespeare and Co. Café, I made my way across to the north side of the Seine. I walked along a series of bridges. The first had incredible street music, and the second had an antique market with a very enthusiastic French woman telling me about her antique maps.
After spending a majority of the afternoon sitting at a café, The Caféothèque of Paris (52 Rue de l’Hôtel de ville, 75004 Paris), and reading a book I had brought, I wanted to make the most of my 24-hour metro pass before I had to leave, so I hopped on a metro and headed across the city to see the Arc de Triomphe. You can go under the traffic circle to get to the middle of the monument, and you can even pay to go up it. Even though I love heights, I did not end up going to the top. Instead, I took another metro to the Eiffel Tower to watch it illuminate in the approaching dusk. It had been cloudy all day and shortly after 5pm, the tower’s lights turned on– it was breathtaking. There was something really peaceful about watching the “sun set” against the Eiffel Tower and watching as a crowd of French school children went about their Friday evening and some men nearby me were playing bocce.
After a little while, I mapped directions back to the train station so I could grab dinner in the station before heading back to Metz. As I walked away from the Eiffel Tower, I ran into three other GTL students who were spending the day or the weekend in Paris! We grabbed a small dinner together near the Eiffel Tower before I headed to the train station to return to Metz for the night.
I really want to make the most of my Eurail pass before it expires in a week, so I had booked another quick day trip to Paris! This time, I was meeting up with a friend who lives in Paris for lunch. She took me to her favorite café, Treize Bakery Paris (5 Rue de Médicis, 75006 Paris), near Luxembourg gardens. We walked in and the first thing I saw was “Bienvenue Y’all” in big letters on the wall. I got a vegetarian breakfast plate that came with an authentic Southern American biscuit. Any homesickness I felt was either intensified or cured by the biscuit, and I can’t quite determine which it was.
After lunch, I met up with some GTL friends who were spending their weekend in Paris as well. I met up with them in the afternoon on the street by the Arc de Triomphe, Av. des Champs-Élysées, a major shopping street, that was being lit up that night with holiday decorations. For dinner, we ate closer to the station at Pizzeria Popolare (111 Rue Réaumur, 75002 Paris), part of a group of restaurants called the Big Mamma group, as recommended to me by my friend I met up with for lunch. We had somehow secured a reservation for five at this restaurant, and we enjoyed a leisurely 2-hour dinner before returning to the train station.
I hope I get to return to Paris at least once more before the semester ends. I feel like it’s been so close this whole time and I haven’t taken full advantage of it.