Allure of Paris grows with time

In June, I embarked on a 12-day tour of Europe with a group from the high school. We spent the first two days of the trip exploring the wonderful city of Lon?don. To read about my adventures there, check out my previous column.

From London, we boarded a Eurostar train that took us under the English Channel and straight to Paris, France. So began the second leg of my European adventure.

As our bus made its way through the streets of Paris, my first impressions weren?t the greatest. My heart was still back in London, and it probably didn?t help that one of the first things we witnessed in Paris was a horrible pick-pocketing. However, as we began sightseeing and learning about the city?s history, I started to really love Paris, too.
Our first stop was at Montmartre, a hill in the northern part of Paris that provides a spectacular view of the city. Here, we visited the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, did a little souvenir shopping, paid way too many euros just to buy a water bottle and got our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower.

We then made our way to the Notre Dame Cathedral. We spent some time exploring the massive, gargoyle-covered cathedral. We also saw the Lock Bridge, a bridge across the Seine River where people, usually couples, hang locks.
After making a quick stop at a plaza with a great view of the Eiffel Tower, we ended our first day in Paris at a cafe and ate our first French supper, which included quiche and beef bourguignon.

The next morning, we were treated to a breakfast feast at our hotel, which was located near the Disneyland Paris theme park. I was a big fan of the chocolate-filled croissants. The French definitely know how to do breakfast right!
We drove back into the city and met our tour guide for the day, Carine, a hilariously authentic French woman.

Carine enlightened us on the history of monuments and buildings all over the city. We drove past several historic palaces, made a quick stop outside of Les Invaliades, which is a military hospital where Napoleon Bonaparte is buried, drove around Place de le Concorde and then made another stop to view the Eiffel Tower.

Next, those of us who had signed up for the Versailles excursion took a bus outside of Paris to the mammoth palace. Inside, we toured about 15 of the palace?s 700 rooms, including the King?s chambers, the Queen?s chambers and the famous Hall of Mirrors.

We also had a little bit of time to explore the expansive Gardens of Versailles before we headed back to rejoin the others.

Back in Paris, we spent some time browsing the stores on Champs-Elysees and took some pictures of the Arc de Triomphe. Then we enjoyed a French supper of ratatouille and crepes before we went back to the hotel for the night.

The following morning, after another delicious breakfast feast, we boarded the bus to spend our last day in Paris.

We began the day with a visit to the Louvre, one of the largest and most famous art museums in the world. Here, a group of my friends and I navigated our way through the huge museum and viewed famous pieces of art such as Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa.

After a few hours exploring the Louvre (and grabbing some much needed Starbucks), we had some free time in Paris. A group of us Kansans decided to make our way back to the Eiffel Tower to get a closer view. While we didn?t have time to go up the tower, we walked underneath and ate some baguettes at a park nearby. The whole time I was in pure awe that I was seeing the famous landmark with my own eyes.
We met up with the whole group and said good-bye to the City of Lights before heading to the train station.

The next adventure awaiting us was the wonderful night train. And by wonderful I mean cramped and incredibly uncomfortable. Whoever had the idea to cram six people and their luggage into a tiny closet obviously didn?t feel that personal space was important.
After 13 long hours and some awesome views of the Swiss Alps, we made it to Milan, Italy. More to come on Italy, the last leg of my trip, in my next column.