It has been two weeks since Spring Break and Valley is still reminiscing and reflecting what it’s like to be free to do and go where you want. This past break, two Penn Staters, Ryan and Joe, embarked on an international journey to visit their friend, Christian, studying abroad in Paris. The journey begins on Sunday at Newark Airport, where they would fly off internationally to France.
Monday, Day 1: Arrival
After a five hour layover in Dublin, we made our way toward the end destination, Paris. Three hours went by and we stepped off the plane into Charles de Gaulle Airport. It was already very disorienting to see all the signs in another language, but we followed where everyone else was going and found our way. We found the way to our hotel with the explicit instructions Christian had sent to us. The hotel was far from luxury, but it was in a good neighborhood. We immediately left to go see Notre Dame, where we met up with a group of students studying abroad. They showed us around the area and brought us to get our first crepes. The city was so big and so beautiful. Olivia from Arizona State said, “It’s almost like there’s no wrong direction. Anywhere you go there’s always something else to see.” We then left them to meet up with Christian who took us to a spot on the Seine to drink champagne and eat french bread with a view of the Eiffel Tower. We caught up and he told us about his time in Paris and plans for the week. We made a plan for the night and found a bar that had bowling and pool. Hours went by, we lost track of time and it had gotten incredibly late. We decided to take the hour walk back and, while only ten minutes away, Joe had realized he lost his phone. He and Christian went to go look for it, and I decided I would get back with GoogleMaps on my phone. We went our separate ways and my phone then died very quickly. I scoured the city for somebody who spoke English and knew where my hotel was located. At last, nearly two hours later, I finally found someone who spoke English and was able to help me back to my hotel.
Tuesday, Day 2: Arc de Triumph & Eiffel Tower
We woke up relatively early that morning and immediately went out for a traditional American breakfast at “Breakfast In America.” Joe didn’t get his phone back so it was important for us to stay close together for the rest of the trip. We decided after that we’d go visit the two most famous landmarks in France. We made our way to the Arc de Triumph, which was architecturally stunning with an incredible amount of detail. We then got on a train and rode our way to the Eiffel Tower. This engineering masterpiece was absolutely breathtaking, both figuratively and literally since we walked up the whole way. You don’t think that it can get any better until you climb up further and the view gets better and better. We were lucky enough that it was one of the few sunny days and we were able to see the sunset at the top. You often see these attractions in pictures, but they really just do not compare to seeing them up close in person. We then headed back to the hotel with the intention of getting dinner after, but we were so tired that we passed out for the night.
Wednesday, Day 3: Louvre
In contrast to the day before, we got out very late today, despite going to sleep extremely early. The time difference was starting to take effect and the jet lag was setting in. At around 4 pm, me and Joe decided to go to the Louvre while Christian was in class. Each of the exhibits in this famous museum were exquisite from one room to the next. The Louvre is so enormous that it’s impossible to be able to walk through the whole thing and be able to take in all the art in one day. Eventually we made it through about half before Christian came to meet up with us. We decided to get dinner for a change and then went out to a ‘football’ bar to watch the Paris vs Barcelona soccer game. We got there just in time to watch one of the greatest soccer turnarounds of all time and to hear the sound of crushing defeat from all of the French spectators. Following the game, we went to Bastille and met with some other students studying abroad who Christian had become friends with over the semester. We walked around the block and stopped at a few different places looking to find “the best place to be.” We continued walking throughout the streets of Paris and past the Seine until we finally decided to stick around the Latin Square, which was a very popular area with a lot of people our age. They all spoke French and very little English, but Christian was our personal translator and we were able to communicate through him. The night culminated at a venue with a live band and dancing.
Thursday, Day 4: Musée de l’Orangerie and Musée d’Orsay
We woke up the next day and, unfortunately, the weather did not allow us to go to Disneyland Paris. Instead we decided to make it another museum day, so we met Christian at the Musée de l’Orangerie. This museum has a variety of paintings by famous artists, but is most known for containing Monet’s painting entitled Water Lilies. This room-encompassing painting is breathtaking from the moment you step through the doorway. You can sit down and just stare at this painting forever because the colors and brushstrokes are so relaxing. We then walked through the Tuileries Garden and toward the Musée d’Orsay. This museum is located in an old train station that has shades of Grand Central Station in New York. It’s another museum that contains various well-known artists with paintings from many of the different art movements. It was near closing time for the museum so we left to go find food. We went to a burger place by the name of “Big Fernand” and we were all in agreement that it might have been the best burger we’ve ever had. After that it was a quiet night; they went to a bookstore by the name of “Shakespeare and Co.” and I went swimming at Piscine Pontoise at Le Quartier Sport.
Friday, Day 5: Versailles
The last day had arrived and it was long-anticipated. We got up early and took the train 45 minutes to Versailles and it was well worth the trip. We walked toward the Château de Versailles and even from a distance you can see the wealth and opulence that lives in this palace. The fine detail work on the outside gate alone is impeccable. From the second you step inside you feel regal and powerful. It’s the most elaborate and grandiose place I had ever seen. It takes hours to walk around the whole palace and gardens, you would never think that people actually lived here. How it was possible for a royal family to get anything done in one day, I’ll never know. Upon return, we went out to dinner, and then to the mall to shop. Lastly, we went out to a rugby bar and then the Latin Square to celebrate Christian’s 21st birthday. At the end of the night, Christian went back to his host home and we went back to our hotel. It was an enjoyable time together, and now we wait to be reunited together during the last week of school.
Saturday, Day 6: Departure
We got up early for our last few hours in Paris. We packed our bags and headed to the cafe across the street for a light breakfast. Although we had gotten so much accomplished, it felt as if the trip had ended just as quickly as it started. We took an Uber to the airport and said goodbye to the Old World, European charm. Looking back, I really am so satisfied with how well this spontaneous trip turned out to be. It will be an unforgettable memory that my friends and I will carry around with us for the rest of our lives.
Research the areas you’ll be staying in and want to visit while there.
Bring comfortable walking shoes — you will most likely be walking for at least 3/4 of the day.
As the fashion capital of the world, Parisians really do dress well every day. Try and put some effort into your outfit in order to avoid sticking out and looking like a tourist.
Be very careful with what you take when you go anywhere, especially your phone. Keep your hands in your pockets to ensure that all of your belongings are kept secure, especially in crowded places.
Talk to your cell phone service provider to see if they have any deals for international travel. Verizon has a plan where you can use your phone as you would normally for $10/day, a small price to pay for GPS and translations.
Since you’ll be walking everywhere, GoogleMaps is a lifesaver. Just make sure you have your phone fully charged for the long day you have ahead of you.
Either learn some basic French or travel with someone who knows French. There are many Parisians that do know English, but it just helps to have an elementary understanding of the language.
All photos were taken by Ryan Salamo