As I woke up, I became very excited with the thought that I would be spending the entire day touring around one of the most famous cities in the world, Paris, France. The day began when we met in the lobby to start the tour of a lifetime. Our guide was named Veronique and was very familiar to me because she was the same person who gave our tour around Versailles during the Safford Educational Travelers’ last trip to Europe.
The first thing we did was hop on the bus for a tour. First, we passed the Arc de Triomphe, the site of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Napoleon Bonaparte built it, but the design is not the original because all of his constructions were modeled after Rome. We drove by the biggest Louis Vuitton in the world, which takes up a whole block — now that’s a store! We also passed by the finish line of the Tour de France, where our own Lance Armstrong won the race 10 times.
Passing by the Pont Alexander III was one of my favorite parts. This bridge is known to be the most romantic bridge in Paris. It has been featured in many different movies. When I saw it, I remembered the popular singer, Adele, walking over it in her video for the song “Somebody Like You.”
Next, we saw Place de la Revolution, which is the square where Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were beheaded. Marie Antoinette’s life is very interesting to me, so I really enjoyed that part. I learned that during the Revolution up to 50 people a day were beheaded in that square.
The bus also took us by the Opera Garnier, the setting for “The Phantom of the Opera.” The opera house was built with 72 different marbles and accented in gold. We then passed the Musee d’Art Moderne, which is the most controversial building in the city because of the bold blue, green and red colored pipes in the back of it, which face a town square. We also learned that chateau means castle and château let means small castle. Nearing the end of our bus tour, we drove past the Latin Quarter, which earned its name because teachers would teach their students Latin in the square.
The last thing we drove by on the tour was Les Invalides, a former military hospital used during the Revolution. Now it is a military museum. Napoleon Bonaparte is buried underneath the building in six different caskets. There are cannons outside the museum with a long history. The tradition was that when a king had a child, the cannons would shoot to signal if it was a girl or a boy. Twenty-one shots meant it was a girl, and 22 signaled a boy.
When our bus tour was over, we headed to Versailles. We split into two groups. My dad and I were in the first group, and we went into the palace of Versailles. There was a modern art exhibit in each of the rooms that took away some of the beauty and made it very difficult to take pictures, which was a disappointment. It was immediately apparent that Louis XVI was very particular about his appearance. There was a large painting of Louis in his throne room that he was famous for loving of himself. He liked to show off his legs and always showed them in paintings. There was a statue of him on a horse that he demanded stay in the back of the garden because the horse was fat.
As strange as Louie XVI seemed to have been, he found a beautiful wife. Marie Antoinette’s room was magnificent, but I found it strange that she and the king had separate bedrooms. We then went to the Hall of Mirrors, which was breathtaking with a line of chandeliers down the middle and bright light streaming in. This made it clear why Marie was nicknamed “the queen of deficit” due to her luxurious spending habits. When the people of Paris became angry that they were spending so much, they rioted, causing the French Revolution. Now Paris has a saying that “Louis XIV built it, Louis XV enjoyed it, and Louis XVI paid for it.”
After touring the palace, my group strolled through the gardens of Versailles, which seemed never-ending. They’re trimmed so perfectly and the colors are vivid. We were all taking pictures of the beauty.
The group met afterward at the big golden gates, the entrance to Versailles, so we could head to Notre Dame Cathedral. I was very impressed by the cathedral. The detail of the architecture is just mind-blowing. The stained glass window in the front was the largest and most stunning I have ever seen. On a ledge, right below the stained glass window, there are statues of 28 kings of Judea, and Jesus stands in the middle, passing judgment. Menacing gargoyles are on each corner to help keep evil out of the holy place. The name Notre Dame means “Our Lady,” devoted to the Virgin Mary. I was surprised to learn that there is, in fact, a Notre Dame church in many cities in France, but the one in Paris is the largest and oldest of the country.
For dinner we walked to a restaurant called the Hippopotamus. We were served potatoes and pork with chocolate mousse for dinner. After we were all stuffed, we started our night tour, by boat. We cruised down the River Seine, passing many of the main tourist sites of Paris. We went by the Eiffel Tower and learned that it has 10 million visitors each year. It takes 20 tons of paint to cover the Eiffel Tower, and the painters paint it three different shades so it appears even.
While in the boat, we passed 11 bridges each way. It was a very nice boat ride on the Seine River. When we got off of the boat, we went to the center of the Eiffel Tower. I was dreading the walk to the second floor but knew I couldn’t pass up the chance to see the view from the top. Once we bought our tickets, my dad and I walked up 667 steps. I thought I was going to die! Views from the second floor were supposed to be the best because you could see right above the whole city. When we were so high up, it was difficult to know exactly what we were looking at since it all shrinks in size. Luckily, we got to ride the elevator down.
We all boarded the metro and arrived at our hotel, which was very close to the train station. The day had been packed full of so many new experiences that I knew I would never forget. As soon as my head hit the pillow, I was fast asleep, dreaming of what the next day of my tour of Europe would bring.