Sunday, May 17, 2009

Recaps: Part 1: Paris, France

So, I know that I've been utterly and woefully neglecting this poor blog ever since I went on my trip, so I'm going to try and recap what Kristina and I did in each city. I apologize right now, because my memories have already faded, and I'm probably going to forget a lot of stuff that happened, but I'll do my best. And I'll come back later and fill in any information I remember later, too.

We took the train from Cork into Dublin. This was our first of many, many experiences with the train system throughout Europe, and we had our shiny new Eurail Passes validated at the Cork station. I loved watching the Irish scenery fly past our window, greener than green, with horses, cows, and sheep at frequent intervals. When we arrived in Dublin, we took the convenient shuttle straight to the airport, which took, to our surprise, nearly an hour. Fortunately, we'd left plenty of buffer time, and still arrived in plenty of time to catch our first Ryanair flight into Paris.

By the time we got to Paris, it was quite late, and the shuttle into the city from the airport took nearly as long as the one in Dublin. Fighting off exhaustion, we hunted down the Parisian metro, on which we promptly went the wrong direction. Unfortunately, Paris's metro is the most unforgiving of all the ones we encountered, and we were forced to pay again in order to get on the correct one. By the time we made it to the right metro stop, it was about 1:30 in the morning, and we didn't have a clue which way to go to get to our hostel. Fortunately, we ran into a small pack of college kids who knew where we wanted to be - good thing, too, because I probably would have walked right past it. From the outside, it just looks like a bar. Which it is. It also happens to have a damp, unkempt courtyard out the back door, with stairs leading to probably twenty or so cramped, bed-filled rooms beyond.

Sorry. As you might guess, I'm not a big fan of our Parisian hostel. The whole place only had one functional shower to its name, which you had to go outside to access. It had no lockers, twelve beds in our small room, and the rooms were left unlocked most of the time, because there were only two keys. They did provide breakfast free of charge, but they were stingy even with that.

Anyway. We headed out the next morning, immediately in search of the famous Eiffel Tower. Having obtained a decent map, we found it in short order, along the River Seine. We also saw a long rack of identical bikes that the city makes available to anyone who cares to use them; we played with the idea of hopping on a couple, but they apparently required a mysterious card that we had no idea how to get. We got to the Eiffel Tower (see video), which was pretty awesome, if tiring to climb. Additionally, we saw the Louvre, and a bunch of buildings in between that we thought might be the Louvre but weren't - one of these was the Museum of Modern Art (we didn't go in, but wanted to.)

Paris is a very awe-inspiring place. People call it romantic, but I didn't feel that so much as its grandeur, the way everything towers over you. It's all elegance and beauty, but I felt like an outsider there, very much a tourist and not at all a part of the environment. Paris is to other cities what a supermodel is to other women - lofty and beautiful, but not familiar.

After our failed, hasty expedition to the Notre Dame (again, check out the videos), we took some roundabout trains into Bern, Switzerland.

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