The trip I had been waiting for was finally here.
My roommate Ashley and I flew out on Thursday evening and landed in Paris a bit before 10. We had to find our hostel which turned out to be not be as difficult as we first thought. We made our way over to the bus stop which dropped us off at a metro stop and got on the metro to Gare du Nord train station which was right near our hostel. Our hostel was so nice, thanks to a recommendation from a friend. Gabby was there waiting for us when we got there and I was so happy to see her. The first thing she said to me was “have you always been this short?” What a great friend I have. My friend Madison had already checked in to the hostel and was up in the room waiting for our arrival. The room was small, but cozy and we had our own bathroom so there was nothing to complain about. I couldn’t wait to catch up with Gabby, but we were all so exhausted.
We woke up mid morning and set up a game plan for the day. We headed over to Notre Dame and were able to get inside and take a look around without a problem. I had heard that sometimes the line is very long, but to my pleasant surprise it wasn’t. The church is amazing both on the inside and the outside and it photographs very well. After our visit, we decided to walk around to the back of the church and on the way we stopped to get some crepes. I had one with Nutella on the inside, while the others got the classic butter and sugar. We found a bridge with ‘love locks’ on it and we were a bit confused because we all had read that the love lock bridge was removed a few months before, but there are a bunch of these bridges all around Paris. We crossed the Seine and headed up the other side of the river towards the museums and the Eiffel Tower. Madison wanted to go into the Musee d’ Orsay and so did the rest of us, but we were too excited to see the Eiffel Tower so she went into the museum and the three of us headed over there (and I’m very glad we did). I’ve only ever seen the tower in pictures and movies so seeing it in person is such a surreal thing. It looks exactly the same and was a bit bigger than I imagined. It had been cloudy all day but as we got to the tower the sky cleared and there was nothing but blue skies above us. A photoshoot commenced and I took some pretty good pictures. Gabby and I would switch off every so often as her photography skills are better than mine.There was a group of Asian tourists that all of the sudden surrounded us and and wanted to take a picture with us. So right now there is a funny picture of the three of us with some tourists floating around on someones Faceboook. After we took enough touristy pictures, we headed back over to the museum to catch up with Madison. Admission to the museum is free for students which is really nice considering almost none of the museums in Rome have deals for students. The museum was really cool and was full of famous artwork. Gabby was in heaven! After we headed over to the Louvre which has free admission on Fridays after 5:30, but we would have gotten in free anyway with our passports and student visas. I saw the Mona Lisa in person and can now say that I went to one of the world’s most visited tourist sites in the world. I like museums and art, but we had seen so much that afternoon that my head was spinning. We decided to leave and grab some dinner. All of the restaurants around the Louvre are pretty expensive which is expected because they are meant to catch the hungry tourists. After settling on a restaurant, we were seated and devoured our meals. I suggested that we go over and see the Eiffel Tower all lit up, but we were all pretty tired and cold so we decided to head back to the hostel (which was another good decision).
That’s when our weekend was unexpectedly changed….. We got back to our hostel around 10:20 and the TV in the lobby was showing pictures of police vehicles and chaotic scenes. Since it was in French we didn’t fully understand what was going on, but a few of the guests in the hostel were translating things for everyone. Soon our phones were going crazy with people trying to get in contact with us to make sure we were safe. Madison brought her computer down from the room and started to look at news sites and get more information. Info started to trickle in and we began to realize the severity of the situation.It was all so overwhelming and we had no idea what to do with ourselves or what to do to help the situation. The hostel was put on a semi- lock down and they only let people with key cards in. I have to give them a lot of credit because they handled a dangerous situation very well. Time passed very quickly and before we knew it, it was 3am and we were all in shock from the evening’s events. After I finished getting in contact with my friends and family I headed to bed, not knowing what Saturday would bring.
Since we had no idea what to expect, we slept in and then tried to piece together what happened the night before. We discovered that we were only a mile and a half from the shooting at the Bataclan concert hall and the reason why we kept hearing sirens all night was because out hostel was very close to a hospital. Unsure of what to do, we left the hostel to find the Chipotle and get some fresh air. The streets were pretty bare and we were all a bit one edge, but we didn’t want to stay in the hostel all day. After wandering around for a bit we headed over to the Arc de Triomphe. It was really cool to see it in person.After snapping a few photos, we continued walking and were able to catch a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower from afar. There were many tourists out enjoying the day which put some of my anxiety at bay. The Champs Elysee was also on the list of places we wanted to see and it wasn’t too far from where we were. We had heard that there was a Starbucks over that way so naturally we found it and sat down for a bit before we headed back to our hostel. Before we went back to our hostel we made a stop at The Sacre-Coeur Basilica. It is such a beautiful church both on the inside and out. As soon as we walked in, all of the emotions from the past 24 hours hit me like a ton of bricks. I couldn’t help but cry, and Gabby joined me (true friends). After the cry fest, we grabbed some dinner and headed back to the hostel for some much needed rest.
Ashley woke up at 3am to head to the airport for her flight. I was sad to see her go, but I knew I would be back with her on Monday. Gabby, Madison, and I woke up and headed to a really nice bakery right down the road from our hostel. Each of us got a pastry and then walked over to a park to sit and chow down. It was such a beautiful day and the temperature was perfect. Since Madison had to head to the airport around 2, we decided to walk around the Montemartre neighborhood. There were a bunch of cute stores that we walked in and out of and just enjoyed looking around. Madison then headed to the airport and Gabby and I decided to hop on the metro and go to a park on the outskirts of the city. There were so many people enjoying the sunshine and the beauty of the park. It had some modern statuary on display and to our surprise there was a canal running right through the middle of the park! Many people were out on boats and Gabby and I picked a spot of the edge of the canal and sat down and reflected on the weekend. The sun soon set and we headed back into the city and got dinner at a restaurant that a friend recommended. We both ordered steak and fries which is supposedly a French favorite. It was really good and it was nice not having a bowl of pasta for once. Knowing that one of the attacks had happened in a restaurant Gabby and I were a little on edge. After all the walking, we headed back to the hostel, but knowing I had to be up at 3 to get the the airport, I didn’t get much sleep.
Up and at em at 3am!! I walked over to where the airport bus stop was and got on and to the airport without a problem. I made it in plenty of time for my flight and made it back to Rome safely… But my day was just beginning. As I have previously mentioned, to get back to my apartment from the airport I have to get on the train and then the tram. It was about 9:00 by the time I got on the tram and rush hour was in full effect. I was exhausted and had my huge backpack with me. I pushed my way on the tram and hung on for the ride. At one of the stops, two men pushed on and then got off at the same stop. I thought that there was no possible way they were going to fit and I was preoccupied with moving myself and my backpack out the way to make room for them. And that’s when it happened… An older Italian man caught my attention and asked me, in Italian, if I had my phone. I looked down at my bag and it was open and my phone was nowhere to be found. The two men that had pushed their way on to the tram had stolen my phone right out of my bag. I don’t think I have ever been that angry in my entire life. I was two stops away from getting off and this HAD to happen. I lost all of the pictures I had taken on my phone that weekend, but lucky for me I carried my camera around with me and Gabby had a bunch of pictures too, so not all hope was lost. Being without a phone was difficult, but it was kind of nice not being attached to something constantly. It was just so crazy to know that someone stolen something that meant so much to me. Now I’m not saying that I was attached to my phone, but a phone is such a personal thing. I paid for it by myself, it had a case on it, many pictures, and messages between my friends and I. The men probably sold my phone for a nice bit of cash and it is now in the hands of someone in Europe I’m sure…
NEST STOP: LONDON & EDINBURGH