PARIS – So Friday, July 12th came very quickly and of course Cass and I hadn’t packed for our three-week backpacking adventure until the day of so that was special! In an unfortunately hung-over, humid, and hurried state we stuffed our supposedly TSA regulation backpacks with as much as we possibly could. A few hours later, the backpacks were full and our temporary rooms at Petra’s were once again as empty as we had found them a month earlier. We said our goodbyes to Petra and we were on our way! It’s quite possible that we sweated out nearly half of our bodies’ worth of water weight as we made our way over to the ISA office to leave our luggage there until our return to Barcelona.
Once at Barcelona’s El Prat airport, we attempted to board our Easy Jet Paris-bound plane, only to get ambushed by a snotty worker who was determined to make us check our “oversized” backpacks. Cue emergency purging session and more sweating and Taylor cursing. Evidently we didn’t read the Easy Jet baggage rules well enough, as we were quickly informed that we would not be let on with our backpacks and purses; only one bag per person in the cabin. Hence, at this point in time I parted ways with a bag of snacks, wrapped my beach towel around my neck, and discreetly shoved my travel pillow into my running shorts. One stress-fueled push later and I proved to the Easy Jet Lady that my backpack indeed did fit by their standards. Unfortunately, Bri, Julian, Taylor, and Cass all had to pay 50 euro extra right then and there in order to check their backpacks. (Spoiler alert: this would be the first of several bag fiascos during our voyage).
Around midnight we finally touched down on that sparkling Parisian soil! Initially we had resolved ourselves to attempt to navigate the metro to get to our hostel, but we soon realized that we wouldn’t have enough time before it closed for the night. So a van taxi was the next best option at that hour. After waiting for the taxi driver to finish his conversation with his coworkers, we hopped in the van and headed towards “St. Christopher’s Inn” please and thank you. Having already read Rick Steves’ section on Parisian taxicab customs, I was sure that we could avoid any mishaps and get to our destination smoothly. While a good theory, none of us were aware that St. Christopher’s Inn had opened a new location in Paris 1 week earlier… We pulled up to a hopping St. Christopher’s, paid the driver, and excitedly strolled to the check in desk. Then we were informed that we had booked beds at the new location near the train station. How nice! Eventually, Taylor, Cass, and I arrived at the right location of St. Christopher’s and were checked in by the cutest hostel receptionist I have ever seen. I still wish we had got his name.
7/13 – On Saturday morning, we met up with Bri and Julian at the nearby train station to book our upcoming train reservations using our EU Rail passes. As fate would have it, we were only able to book a 12-hour route (3 different trains) to our next stop, Nice, France. Then we struck out to conquer Paris: we toured the outside and inside of Notre Dame, savored fresh made banana and Nutella crepes, stumbled upon Love Lock Bridge, and ate a late lunch at a café in Pompidou Square. With full tanks we then explored all that the Pompidou Center has to offer; their modern art museum is my favorite museum in Paris. The temporary Roy Lichtenstein exhibit was so cool. For Saturday night we had a dinner picnic beneath the Eiffel tour. I probably could have done without Julian’s pick of chocolate raspberry vodka, but that’s water under the bridge 😛 …After shooting the shit for far too long, we attempted to make the metro before it closed; I actually hopped a metro ticket taker thing because for no apparent reason my ticket wasn’t working. We then sprinted through the station with fellow hopeful riders. Much to our dismay, we had just missed the last one. Sprinting to catch a train had been on my bucket list though so that was fun in hindsight.
7/14 – Sunday morning we woke up, indulged in the complimentary breakfast, and booked the rest of our hostels. July 14th is France’s national holiday called Bastille Day, which celebrates the French Revolution and the birthdate of the modern republic. To join in the fun, we made our way to the main quarters around the Champs-Élysées to watch the big parade. The main streets were like sardine-can full of people. Afterwards, I went to the Orsay museum with Tay – although we were both dead tired, seeing Starry Night in person was definitely a highlight! We met back up with the Louvre goers and lunched on quiche and lemon tarts.
Back at the hostel we power napped and then met Shelly, a lone traveler from the states who had just gotten her phone stolen at the train station. Talk about deer in the headlights – we attempted to take Shelly under our wing and invited her to get kebabs with us. Per Hot Front Desk Man’s suggestion, we hiked up to the Sacré Coeur area to watch the culmination of Bastille Day festivities – citywide fireworks. Unfortunately, seemingly everyone else in Paris had heeded similar advice and were already camped out at the top of the mountain. We squeezed our way into a spot on the steps, I bartered for beer, and we watched the show! We paid for Shelly’s beer and she didn’t even drink it, nor offer it back to us – annoying. And with that Paris was a wrap! We packed up our backpacks and mentally prepared for Nice.