Paris, the City of Lights, is the embodiment of elegance, European architecture, history, and culture. The city is dense with ornate stone constructions, cobblestone pathways, bridges, and some of the world’s most famous architectural marvels. As an abroad student, I visited Paris in November 2019 with a group of fellow students from London for a weekend.
If planning to study abroad, I always encourage students to consider London because of its proximity to other cities, like Paris. In fact, London makes it really easy to get there. You can take a plane and fly into CDG. Or, you can take the Eurostar.
The Eurostar train to Paris is a great option due to travel time and low cost. Depending on the train schedule, the ride itself can take anywhere from 2 ½ to 4 hours with prices varying throughout the year. To get to the Gare du Nord railway station in Paris, you’ll leave from the St. Pancras International railway station in London. The train travels out of London to Dover and under the English Channel; so, you’ll spend some of the ride entirely underwater.
When my friend and I arrived in Gare du Nord, we stopped for a quick coffee before heading to our first stop: the Louvre Museum. We arrived at a square surrounded on three sides by ornately decorated buildings, complete with classic arches, columns, and sculptures. In the center of the square is the iconic glass pyramid which serves as the entrance to the museum.
The museum itself is huge and has displays of art, architecture, and artifacts both above and below ground. Because of its size, it is extremely easy to get lost. My friend and I had the hardest time finding the Mona Lisa, a common occurrence according to an employee that helped us. And to be honest, there are other parts of the museum that I enjoyed so much more than seeing the Mona Lisa.
The Mona Lisa has its own room with a single wall suspended at the center featuring the painting. There are security and museum employees everywhere controlling the crowd with barriers, keeping them in as orderly as possible. The line was so long my friend and I didn’t bother getting on it. Even if you make it to the front of the line, you can’t stand very close and the painting itself is pretty small. We stood on the edges and zoomed in to take a picture, hence why the photo quality is a bit poor. I suggest checking out the other parts of the museum that are a bit quieter and feature other fantastic works of art.
That evening after dinner, we walked to the Eiffel Tower to watch the lights. Honestly, it’s one of the most magical things I ever saw. Everyone on the street is gathered around, some have picnics, some travel up the tower, and vendors sell light-up toys and bottles of wine. When the tower starts blinking again, the crowd all looks up and there’s nothing but silence and expressions of awe.
Instead of spending all three days in Paris, our group decided to take the train to Versailles Palace just an hour outside the city. Unfortunately, the weather was poor and the season didn’t favor exploring the grounds. However, the inside of the palace is huge and has plenty to see. Different wings and rooms represent different styles and eras the chateau lived through. Some of the more popular areas include the Battle Gallery, Hall of Mirrors, and the Marble Court.
Check out "A Pedacitos of Versailles, France" to learn more about the palace!
On the last day, there was someplace specific I wanted to go. Growing up, my dad and I were fascinated by the story of the singer Jim Morrison, who happens to be buried in Paris. Not the typical trip for a tourist, I made my way to Paris’ largest cemetery, the Père Lachaise Cemetery, to see him.
Well, they weren’t kidding. To avoid getting lost in the winding cobblestone paths, you need a map. You can get one at the front gate that shows the entire cemetery and has the graves identified by number. All the graves are unique. While there were a few simple slabs, others were full sculptures that looked like miniature cathedrals. Jim Morrison was hard to find, but I did eventually. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get close enough for a picture and his grave was fenced off.
Paris was a beautiful city, and one I hope to see again. If planning to visit the city as an abroad student, take advantage of the Eurostar and an Airbnb over hostels or hotels. I found they were much more affordable, meaning you have more to spend when exploring the city! Happy travels!
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