The past four weeks have been a flurry of activity. I signed up for an extra class, which coupled with my hectic London schedule, severely cut into my sleep and skype time, resulting in a sadly neglected UFIC blog. However, during the past month, I did manage to travel every weekend to the far corners of the UK, even past the cliffs of Dover into… the Continent.
Although the Brits pride themselves on their staunch individualism, separate from European control, the Eurostar’s creation opened up England to the rest of Europe. In just over two hours, the savvy traveler can commute from London to Paris, a phenomenon many study abroad students exploit.
However, Living in London is extremely expensive, and my frugal parents instilled a heavy dose of stinginess in my blood. That, married to my love for the Gainesville-Atlanta Megabus route led me to book 20 pound tickets on the 10 hour bus ride. In all honesty, that combined 20 hours on the bus almost overshadows my memories of the City of Love.
We left Thursday morning at 10 and arrived in Paris around 8 PM. My supply of diet coke and library books held out the entire trip. The whole intercontinental experience was fascinating. The bus parked on a communal ferry to cross the English Channel, and from the deck, we were able to see the Matthew Arnold’s white cliffs of Dover. The bus picked up again in Paris, and I really enjoyed passing through the pastoral countryside.
I celebrated our safe arrival with a delicious plate of beef bourguignon. Truly, Julia Child couldn’t have braised better. After walking around the city, my friend and I turned in for an early night, eager to start the next the fresh.
After a hearty hostel breakfast of baguettes and croissants, we took the metro to Notre Dame. We’d decided that instead of reserving and paying the hefty fee to ascend the Eiffel Tower, we’d follow in Victor Hugo’s footprints and climb the 422 steps to the top of Notre Dame. The exertion paid off in stunning views of the city, including the Eiffel Tower.
After compensating my inner bookworm at Shakespeare and Company bookstore, we walked along the Seine to the Eiffel Tower. I may manage to live a somewhat local lifestyle in London, but in Paris I was a true tourist. I’m not really sure when my next opportunity to travel to Paris will arise, but it likely won’t fall anytime soon. Consequently, I really wanted to see all the big sites while I had the opportunity.
So, after a close-up on the Tower, we walked down the Champ Elysees, breathing in the potent perfumes aromatizing from the posh stores. We didn’t dare enter garbed in shorts and sweaty blouses. Instead we just ogled the majesty. But the extreme wealth was juxtaposed by utter poverty as we passed many gypsy women, lying face down and hopeless on the pavement. As a metropolitan city, London has an active homeless population, but it is dwarfed by the share quantity and destitution of its Parisian sister.
After strolling along the boulevard, we headed to the Louvre. On Fridays after 5:00, admission is entirely free, so we managed to save ourselves a considerable fee. We gawped through the entire museum. Really, I don’t think my mouth ever closed from the sheer splendor. Each room was more ornate than the last—the ceilings and tiles alone would be a spectacular museum, but when combined with the masterpieces by the greatest artists ever, the effect was overwhelming. Exhausted, we headed to dinner and then to bed, entirely inundated with Paris.
The next day we visited the Musée d’Orsay to look at the impressionist paintings. The atmosphere was far more welcoming than the Louvre’s intimidating front. After eating a crepe on the street, we just walked through the city, enjoying the atmosphere inherent even in the air.
After a cheap dinner of McDonald’s croquettes and macaroons, we said goodbye to our new friend and braced ourselves for another long bus ride, this time on the red eye. We departed at 11 PM and survived another delirious ferry ride back to England. Just hearing the English voices at immigration overwhelmed me with happiness. Paris was fun to visit, but I left with a new found appreciation for everything English.