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Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Year Abroad Photo Diary: Paris

I have always wanted to visit Paris and was actually fortunate enough to get to go with university in 2015 as a compulsory trip (I know right, a compulsory trip to Paris... and some people complained and didn't go :|). So when my erasmus friends suggested we book some cheap flights and do a night there in December 2016, I was over the moon! In hindsight, 1 night was absolutely not enough time to spend in Paris, especially since we had to fly to an airport just outside of Paris called Beauvais, but we had a good time none the less!
We managed to book very good flights with Ryanair from Bergamo airport, so got to Paris early in the morning and left in the evening the next day. Paris Beauvais airport is about a 1.45/2 hour drive away from the centre of Paris, but luckily one of the people going actually lives in Paris so was on hand to help us navigate the Parisian metro station when we arrived. 
After a couple of mishaps where we missed our stops and got off at the wrong place, we managed to find out hostel for the night. It was called the 3 Ducks Hostel and Bar and was very close to a metro station and about a twenty minute walk from the Eiffel Tower. I'm ashamed to admit that I actually didn't visit the Eiffel Tower on my first trip to Paris even though I was there for four days, simply because I didn't have the time as we were visiting so many other museums and places! So I was determined to visit it this time around. We dumped our bags, freshened up and went on the hunt for some typical French food.

As you can see, it was a very moody day in Paris which I did actually like as I have studied Parisian photography such as the works of Atget and really appreciate the moody, shadow-y effect. The first photo is not a picture of a bowl of urine you'll be happy to know, but a bowl of cider! I asked to order a small bottle of wine and even pointed at the menu but that is what turned up - it was surprisingly nice and cheaper than the wine anyway so I wasn't complaining. That was in a little restaurant near our hostel which sold crepes and galletes, which are basically savoury omelette style crepes made with flour (I believe...). I had one with ham, cheese and mushrooms and egg which was lovely! We then went on the hunt for the Eiffel Tower. It was definitely more than what I was expecting, even in the day time! A lot of people say it is quite ugly but I have to disagree - the structure is really beautiful and as a landmark I had always seen on photos and had finally seen in the flesh, it was pretty overwhelming! 
After taking about a million photos of the Eiffel Tower, we met up again with our friend who lives in Paris who took us on a bit of a tour of the city. We saw a lot of monuments and managed to cram in a LOT of walking into the day, which was good as we had very limited time. I had wanted to revisit some of the museums I had seen the last time I came but unfortunately time was not on our side. A good thing about Paris is that if you are a European national/student you can pretty much get in anywhere free or very cheap, so make sure you carry a form of ID around with you at all times! 

We climbed to the top of the Arc du Triomphe which has a LOT of stairs for anyone wondering, and got to witness this gorgeous view! I'm sure it would look amazing by night as well but I just loved how moody and slightly haunting the city looked under all the mist. After this we walked to the Galeries Lafayette which is a huge luxury department store in Paris. The Christmas lights here were amazing and the window displays were incredible! There was also a mini market outside the shopping centre where a man was selling different flavoured wines and liquors and was nice enough to let us try every single one of them...
That night we went back to the hostel and freshened up before having a drink in the hostel bar. Our friend kindly offered to have us all round for dinner at his parents' house which was absolutely amazing - they were so accommodating and friendly, and even gave us a car tour by night of the city! Unfortunately we were all so tired from all the eating, drinking, walking and travelling that we had to cut the tour short to go to sleep ready for our next day, but it was an amazing experience none the less and we were very fortunate to get to do it!

I managed to get some amazing pictures of the Eiffel Tower at night time - every half an hour it sparkles for about five minutes which looks AMAZING so definitely look out for that if you go!
The next day we woke up pretty early and made the most of the free breakfast - a LOT of bread was consumed! We then decided to have another wander around the city and go to visit the Louvre.

We didn't actually end up going inside the Louvre as it is a huge museum and we only had a few hours that day but we got to walk through the gardens around it and see the iconic glass pyramid outside of it. The day decided to brighten up significantly compared to the one before and was absolutely gorgeous - perfect for a visit to the Parisian christmas markets!

Unfortunately I didn't get many photos of this as I was too busy eating everything in sight, but basically the Parisian christmas markets are located on the Champs Elysees on either side of the road and they are huge. There is every type of food you could possibly want, clothing stalls, cosmetics, a winter wonderland style area and many, many bars! I had a hot cherry beer which was absolutely amazing and ate a dish called tartiflette which I had actually tried before as they used to sell it at a local continental market in St. Annes - it is made up of potatoes, brie, cream, bacon lardons (traditonally) and onions (there may be more ingredients than that though!). They had the option of bacon, salmon or chicken, but I stuck to my roots and got the bacon. It was as amazing as I remembered and gave me more than enough energy to keep exploring the city.

We had a good stroll throughout the shopping district and me being the nerd I am had to take a picture of the Harry Winston where Prince Louis buys Blair a necklace from in Gossip Girl lol... We basically spent the rest of the day walking around and enjoying the Parisian sights before returning back to our hostel and buying some macaroons! I'd had them before at the market in Manchester but these were absolutely amazing, especially the pistachio flavour. Soon it was time for us to head on back to the airport where I bought this huge baguette for about €4 which is amazing for airport prices!
I had an amazing night in Paris but wish I stayed longer so I could've experienced more of the city and even gone out at night. My top advice for anyone planning on going, however, is to be extremely vigilant with your belongings on the public transport - the metro is always busy and people know that a lot of tourists are there. Also, the first time I went my friend's phone was stolen by a group of women pretending to ask for money for charity - whilst they have caught you off guard they basically go through your pockets or bag. They are pretty much experts at it too! When we asked for directions from the Eiffel Tower to a metro station from a police officer, he actually told us that a lot of young girls are pickpockets around that area so to be extra careful with your bags and phones. Another good point is to definitely look around or do some research before hand on where to eat - the first time I went to Paris I stayed near Notre Dame and found a restaurant that did a three course meal for €10 and was actually really nice, but Parisian prices are - like all capital cities - quite expensive. 
I would say if you are wanting to see a lot of sights, you would definitely need more than a day. Especially since for a huge part of the time we went, we were travelling either on the plane or to/from the airport and left absolutely knackered. The next time I go I will be sure to revisit some of my favourites but also leave a bit of time to chill out and leisurely explore the quieter areas. 
I visited Paris on the first weekend of December and it was absolutely freezing cold, but very beautiful with all the Christmas lights. Hopefully I can experience it in the summer months next!
Lauren x

Lauren Gibbins
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[name=Lauren Gibbins] [img=Your Image Url Here] [description=I'm Lauren, I'm a 21 year old student from Manchester currently studying in Italy for my erasmus year abroad.] ( ( (bloglovin=

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