Monday, June 25, 2012

Never judge a city by it's train station, unless it's London

Well, here I sit on the train, fresh on the Western side of the chunnel headed back to the amazing city of London from the city of Lights. I must say, I have been a little homesick…. For London. But before that, quite a lot has happened recently.

   Thursday night we had a boat party cruise on the Thames. Dinner wasn’t served on the cruise (baddddd idea). My friends and I had planned to go to this place called Spaghetti House and eat there before, but we, being ladies, took too long to get ready. So we stopped at Pret a Manage, which was the third day in a row I’d had the same sandwich from there. We ate on the tube on the way to the party, and got a little lost once we got off. I think we needed to go another stop or two or take a different exit. But we made it, and were a bit scared the boat had left, since we were supposed to be there at 7:15, and it was nearing (if not past) 7:30. But! Luckily, we found everyone. We docked right behind the Eye so I got some cool pics of that and right near Big Ben and Parliament. Got some great pics. They had a cash bar on the boat and I got a Pimms. They didn’t put strawberries in it which made me sad because it definitely didn’t taste as good as when there are strawberries! So the party was cool, music played and you could tell it was a boat full of Americans… some of the dancing was…… trashy. And some people got waaaaaay drunk. Classy, right?
Alcohol + college kids – food = a bad idea.
Pimms & Parliament

   After the party my friends and I went back to our dorm, with a stop to get some food, and I had a little homework to do and finally hit the bed at like midnight, ish. I swear, I have hardly five minutes to sit down, let alone to myself here! (as you can tell since it’s hard to update my blog often!) We’re so on the go and it’s great! But when we sit down we start bobbing for apples real quick. 

My pic of the Eiffel Tower from the boat!
    Friday rolled around and it meant PARIS. Class ended early, since we just had a writing workshop with some of our stuff that is all due on Monday (look for a blog post including some of that stuff coming up!). I needed to pack and I’m such an over packer. All the time. No matter where I’m going or for how long, I’m a way over packer. My bag was SO heavy it was ridiculous. Carrying it isn’t fun. But we made our way on the tube, (continued on 6/25) then to the train station, through customs and immigration and onto the train. The ride was very smooth; many people fell asleep. Brandi and I decided to venture to the food cart to get a little something. We both got a small can of Pringles and a Twix. Unfortunately for Brandi, her meal card didn’t work for some reason so she paid with her American card instead. Apparently in doing so, he had to take down her name, drivers license number, etc to make it go through. Once she was finished paying, the man looks at me and says, in accented English, “please tell me you pay in cash?”. I did.
   We sat back in our seats and realized we were in France. We missed the chunnel!!! But the French country side was very beautiful. As I told Brandi, it’s neat to see the green fields for acres, and then brown-brick homes. They’re so bland but so beautiful with the greenery surrounding. That’s something I’ve noticed in England, too. Not really Kensington since it’s super posh and there are quite a few white buildings, but in the other areas with houses and less business, it’s the same.
On the boat cruise!
   About two hours after departure, we arrived in Paris!!! We unloaded and were herded to the front of the train station to find our coach and head to the Latin Quarter. We had to take a small treck to get there, which my shoulders did not appreciate, then loaded up and headed out. As we drove by, I noticed something. Paris was really dirty. Trash lined the streets (like in the “gutter” area.. just LINED it), cigarette butts were everywhere, and they even had rubbish bins everywhere! London is immaculately clean!! AND it’s a game to try and find a rubbish bin in this city! Also, Paris was full of graffiti. Now, we weren’t quite in the heart of the city yet, but these themes continued throughout the city. We got to the Latin Quarter and were told to get a quick bite of food because we had a sightseeing tour on the Seine. Brandi, Myron and I successfully found an ATM, then joined alsmot everyone else on our trip at a crepe stand. I got an egg and cheese crepe, which was really good but towards the end it was like I was just eating straight melted mozzarella cheese. While we ate we watched some street performers until it was time to meet up for the cruise.
   We met up and made our way on the Metro (tube/underground) to where we needed to go. We got there and waited…. And waited…. Got some great pictures, though. It was really neat because all along the Seine people will sit and enjoy life, have some wine, a picnic or just chat! Here in London there’s an open container law so we can’t go to the park and have a bottle of wine (or Pimms), which is a bummer especially on those rare nice days. It was finally boarding time for the cruise and it was really nice. We saw the Eiffel Tower all lit up and that was pretty breath taking. I think that was when I asked Brandi to pinch me. After the cruise we went to the hotel and got our stuff. Brandi, Myron and I were really hungry, but it was pretty late. We finally decided to go downstairs and get a drink, but we got down there at minutes past midnight, and they stop serving at midnight! We ended up chatting with the two chaperones on our trip and they asked what we thought of Paris so far and I said it’s pretty dirty and stuff and one of them said to me, “Never judge a city by it’s train station. Except for London.”  Which is very true. While Paris was very nice, it was also quite dirty. While we were hanging around in the lobby, starving,  some other people from our program came in and had just gotten something to eat so Myron asked where, etc. We ended up going to this little corner burger place and it was SO hilarious. I can’t really go into detail because it wouldn’t make sense.. But let me tell you this, Myron, is also from GA, but has a much different accent than myself. Very southern mixed with black, sounds strange but that’s the best way to describe it. The man who was making the food, spoke very, very little broken English. He was French and didn’t understand a word Myron was saying. Myron is American and didn’t understand a word the French guy was saying. Ridge nor Brandi understood Myron either. So at one point, the guy working looked at me after Myron was asking for something and said “translate?” because I spoke understandable English while also understanding southern English. I got some chips  (fries for all you Americans) with catsup, and he also gave little fry forks and instructed, via charades, that we are to eat them with our forks.  That was quite an experience. You know how when you’re at an ice cream place and you get that tiny sample spoon? Well the mate to that spoon is this little fork we were given. Europeans take a long time to eat their meals and this is SURELY one reason why.
At the top of the Montparnasse Tower
After eating, Brandi, Ridge, Myron, Dan and myself ended up staying up way later than we should have just talking and laughing at Myron’s crazy stories.
    Bright and early at 9AM we were loaded on the bus for our sightseeing tour. But, thank GOD our hotel had breakfast. I don’t know the last time I had a legit breakfast, and I took full advantage of it. I had 3 small crepes with Nutella, fresh bread, cheese, yogurt, applesauce, chocolate croissant and apple juice. Talk about delicious. The Europeans love carbs, but they walk all the freaking time so it’s ok.
    The bus tour was good. 3 hours, a warm bus, and only two places we could get out made for a great naptime for a lot of people. The tour ended at the Montparnasse Tower, which is the only skyscraper in Paris and at the very top is an amazing 360 view of the city. That was pretty sweet to see.

 After that we and some others went to the Louvre. We headed straight for the Mona Lisa, even though one girl in the group was all “You don’t need to see it… It’s a waste of time… it’s so small anyways” I about punched her.
We also saw the Venus di Milo and I almost tripped over the one-foot-high bar they have so people don’t get close and touch her. I was glad I didn’t because I’d probably have been kicked out of not only the Louvre permanently, but also Paris.
     A couple hours later, we met up with the rest of the people who went to the Louvre with us and we headed to the Notre Dame Cathedral. It was really neat to see, though there was no hunchback. :(
    Then we did some browsing at a line of tourist shops that ended at a crepe stand. Naturally, I got some Nutella crepes. Let me just say: amazing. While we chowed down on our crepes we tried to find the padlock bridge. 10 Years ago, a man wanted to show his love for his wife. So, he bought a padlock and wrote their name/initials on it, locked it to this bridge, and threw the key into the Seine, declaring his everlasting love for her. Since then, the bridge (along with many others in Paris) has been covered in locks from people around the world. It’s a super romantic gesture. One of the guys with us, Ridge, bought one for him and his girlfriend (they’ve been together for 5 years and in kindergarten he told his dad he was going to marry her… precious, right?) and he filmed it and it was just all too precious. I do think that this (the symbol of the padlock) is such an amazing thing. It made me realize that I want that someday; I want someone so crazy and serious about me he’d be willing to do that for me (and vice versa). I find the symbolism of it all very touching.
Padlock Bridge
After that we headed to the Metro and made our way back to the hotel to go to our authentic French dinner.
            I chose escargot for my entrée, pork tenderloin in an orange sauce for my main dish, and apple crumble as my dessert. I was nervous that I wasn’t going to like it, but it was all amazing. Also the wine they gave us was phenomenal. I ate the entirety of my meal and was still hungry.. shows ya how starved I am here, eh? The dinner was in the wine cellar/cave thing of this restaurant and it took a while to be served and etc, but it was worth it. That’s how the French do- they have long meals and take their time to enjoy them!
After dinner Brandi, Myron and I had a failed attempt at experiencing the Parisian night life, so we gave up, got a glass of wine (Brandi and I) at a close by café, got lost on the walk back to the hotel, then passed out. Sunday morning we packed up, had some breakfast, finished packing then headed to the catacombs. It was really neat. It made my cough worse, but worth it. How often do you get to walk around, underground, lead by pathways of skulls and bones? When in Paris…

In the cellar corner at dinner!


After hanging out with some dead people, we stopped and got some crepes (I got Nutella and cinnamon), then at KFC for lunch, classy right? On the way back to the hotel, Brandi, Myron and I stopped in a boutique and did a little shopping- I got a  cute pair of shorts and a dress! We then high tailed it back to the hotel to get on other bus and head to the train station to head back to this side of the chunnel.  I did have a macaroon at the train station, I was pleasantly surprised! 
The train ride back was pretty uneventful. I got my paper done. Then this morning my teacher goes, “So I guess you heard the paper got pushed back to tomorrow?” Uh, no. I didn’t care since it was done anyways but he said someone asked for an extension since we were going to Paris this weekend. There are 8 of us in the class, 3 of us went to Paris. C’mon, like we had a 4-hour (roundtrip) train ride! That’s where I worked on mine. Some people…
So today has been pretty uneventful… I did try a Kinder Bueno for the first time and it was DELICIOUS. I would let someone try it but no; too delicious.
Now I’m sitting on Facetime with my mom. Hope everyone is having a marvelous Monday! This week is going to be a beauty on this side of the pond! 
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