To get from London to Paris on the Eurostar train, security was similar to that on airplanes, except we got on rather quickly. In England, we mainly went through tunnels and caught random glimpses of the English countryside. I didn’t even know the tunnel we had been in was the Chunnel until we came out on the other side and realized we were in France. It was cloudy and raining, but the rolling hills were picturesque.The ride was quick, and Sister and I soon stepped off the train at Gare du Nord. It was overwhelming. It smelled like urine, looked dirty, and everyone was moving in every direction. “Taxi? You need taxi?” said several different men guarding the door into our faces. No, no, no. We headed outside. There wasn’t any wifi, but we had planned, and I had screenshots of the map to get us to the hostel we were staying at. If the streets had street signs, they were hidden behind awnings or obscure on the side of buildings. Somehow, we found the street we needed to be on and started our nineteen minute walk. I had myself orientated, and Sister and I were walking along quietly and peacefully. They talk about our senses being able to perceive danger before we even realize it, and when one of the two men walking ahead of just suddenly stopped, I got that feeling, but couldn’t place it. He began walking next to Sister and talking to us in French. Without even looking at each other, I knew Sister and I were in agreement—silence, eyes straight ahead. With our no reply, he asked in Spanish if we spoke Spanish. No reply. “OH, English? Yes, English.” He had a slimy smile and my heart was beating so fast. We kept walking together, him laughing. We had no escape, the road was full of traffic. When I was almost in full panic mode (but not showing it on my face of course), he said, “Call the police.” and laughed. If we were in a thriller movie, that would be the line the creepy killer would say before he lunged at you in the street and dragged you to his dungeon. Thankfully, he grabbed neither of us, and a second later, there was a green walk light, so I got Sister to peel off with me across the street. He didn’t follow. The street we needed to turn onto had already passed, but I wasn’t going to stop on the street when the light was red and just be standing there, stuck, with those men. We got back on course, and the rest of the walk was pretty pleasant.
The hostel was incredibly nice, and I’m kicking myself for not taking pictures. This was my first time to stay in a hostel, and I don’t think another could compare. We were in a room with eight girls. I got the top bunk and Sister was on the bottom. The room had one toilet, shower, and sink, and there was a whole community bathroom down the hall. The girls in our room were friendly enough, but we locked out stuff up quickly in the boxes under the bed and headed to our night tour of the city. The meeting point was far away, so I googled “nearest metro station” and one .7 miles away from the hostel popped up. The tour information said which stop was closest there, so we walked SO FAR to get on the metro, and we got off at their suggested stop. It was raining and hectic and we couldn’t find the right street. We were supposed to be at our tour 30 minutes early, and we didn’t get there until 1 minute before. Luckily, we made it on to the tour.
We drove through the main square in the double decker bus to get to the dock for our cruise around the river. The cruise was scenic, and the narration was a bit weird. The voices were of the river personified, and I learned how proud France is to be France. France literally loves France. After seeing the sights along the river, we had a few minutes before reboarding the bus, so Sister and I shared some surprisingly good chicken nuggets from a stand on the boardwalk.
The bus drove around the city and taught everyone about important history and landmarks. All I really cared about was the Eiffel Tower that loomed in the distance. Soon, I’d be standing on the most iconic landmark in the world. First I had to go through a bag check and security and then cram into an elevator, but then I was on top of the world. It was incredible to see the entire city and all the different aspects of it. The Tower itself is just unbelievable, and it has so many different parts and pieces. It’s much bigger from the inside! We spent time exploring the first and second level (which are both broken into 2 sub-levels) and then walked down approximately a million steps to head back to the bus. At the same time, the Eiffel Tower suddenly began to change colors. Because of the Eurocup that was happening (hence the giant soccer ball hanging in the middle), the Tower was lit up to represent different teams. We watched the spectacular light show from a distance before boarding the bus. Sister and I got on the Metro, and it turns out there was a stop right next to our hostel—thanks a lot, Google. When we got back to the hostel, everyone else was asleep or in bed, so we snuck in and used our phone flashlights to get clothes and toiletries to take to the bathroom. I fell asleep full of exhaustion and content.
Sister and I got lots of much needed rest and slept in. We took the metro to one of our Big Bus tour stops and got on. The plan was to see the city, visit the Louvre, and hit up the giant arch to watch the relighting of the flame. We got off at the Louvre stop and ate some pizza at a nearby restaurant. After that, we walked the block and found the entrance to the museum. The grand pyramid out front looked interesting, and I was surprised to find out that was the entrance. In hindsight, we should’ve bought the audio guide because all the signs were in French, so we couldn’t read any of them. Occasionally, they had English signs, so we understood the gist of the exhibits and what the art showed. I attempted to pose like the statues, and Sister tried to appreciate the ancient art. The Mona Lisa was proudly displayed in the middle of a room, but swarms of people surrounded it. Interesting to see in real life, but I thought the paintings that were larger than walls to be more impressive. We found and used the bathroom there—one single, large room hidden among the art. Neat!
By the time we left, it was pouring down rain outside. Sister and I walked confidently in the rain to our bus stop, and we headed off to the arch. Thankfully, the rain stopped. In between the bus stop and the arch, we stopped for lunch. Sister had a sandwich and I had some fruit, but we both got these delicious chocolate eclair-like treats. They were amazingly good, and we decided to get some on the way back. We watched the relighting ceremony (which seemed oddly unorganized, considering they do it everyday…) and then headed back to the cafe where we had bought dinner. We decided it’d be easiest to take the metro back, but as soon as we started walking towards the stop, it began to pour down rain. Suddenly, and hard! We waited under the edge of an umbrella at a restaurant patio until the walk light turned green, and then we sprinted to the metro station just across the street. We scrounged around for our tickets and headed through the turnstiles. Lots of people were hanging out in the station because of the rain, and a group of girls was right behind the turnstiles. When Sister went through next to me, one followed right behind her. I assumed they were trying to sneak through, but then she turned around. That was weird, I thought, as Sister frantically declared she couldn’t find her phone. It had been in her pocket. I turned around, and the girls were laughing. We couldn’t get back through. I pulled on the machine in an attempt to bring myself through, searching the floor and their eyes. “Those girls!” I told Sister, “They were right behind you!” We had no way to get back through. Suddenly, a different girl than the one who had followed Sister walked up to the turnstile and handed over Sister’s phone. Just like that. No words. It was bizarre, and I still don’t know if they were trying to pickpocket but failed when they realized we knew or if one friend had a good conscious or if Sister’s phone had simply fallen and they had picked it up.
We rode the metro back to the hostel and quickly got ready for an early night. We FaceTimed home and then tucked ourselves in. Unfortunately, even though it was 10pm, some of our roommates weren’t back and the others were still active in the room. I closed my eyes, but just couldn’t sleep with the lights on. I ended up staying up until around 2am, when the last group finally got back and went to sleep.
Sister and I’s train to Belgium left in the afternoon, so we planned to visit Notre Dame and the “love locks” bridge. Since we had to check out of our hotel, we took the metro over to the bus station and found a locker to place our bags. The Gare du Nord station is really confusing, but somehow we managed every time we went there. We grabbed some Nutella crepes for breakfast and eventually found our bus stop.
We hopped on our bus and rode over to the Louvre stop. From there, we walked back to the “love locks” bridge. A man on the bridge selling the locks wanted €10 for a small lock! I said no way, no how, I’ll take three small locks for €15, and we had a deal. Sister and I each did one as a cute gesture for our respective boyfriends (the key & the picture makes a fun souvenir) and then one for our family with the intention of giving a key to our little sister.
All locked up, we got back on the bus and headed for Notre Dame. Fun fact: I’ve never seen The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but our tour said it was supposed to center on the actual structure as the main character, not the hunchback. Either way, the architecture is stunning. I think Sister appreciated it more than I did; it just looks like another old building. We did see people getting wedding pictures taken, though, and that was neat!
After that, we needed to get to the train station, so we walked down a metro entrance… and found one that looked different than ones we’d seen in the past. First of all, there was a double decker metro train down there! We looked at the schedule and the map, but we couldn’t figure out where to go. A girl approached us and said, “Do you guys speak English?” She was so relieved to find out we did. She was from the US, but studying abroad in England and had just come to Paris for the weekend. She was trying to find Gare du Nord, too, to catch to the Eurostar! We discussed the map, but there was no way we could find to get there. Finally, a nice French gentleman who’d been listening in on us informed us we had to go down another level. YAY, down there the train map clearly showed the quick route to Gare du Nord, and we were on our way.
Earlier that morning, we had seen a news report that the train station in Belgium (where we were trying to go next) had been evacuated due to the finding of suspicious bags and terrorist threats. I called mama, and we agreed that if we could just change our tickets to go to Cologne, our next stop, that would be ideal. So Sister and I waited in line for one hundred million years, just to be told we were in the wrong line (even though the worker told us to get in that line…) so we waited in another line to be told the man couldn’t help us and that we just had to buy tickets outright to go to Cologne. The only tickets he had were very expensive first class, so I called mama to ask what to do. We looked at the kiosk, and it said there were tickets available, but wouldn’t let us purchase them. Mama said the computer let her book them, but never sent her an email confirmation, so we were not able to print them at the station. The best plan of action was to just take a train the next morning, so mama booked us another room at our hostel (a private one this time) and we headed back there for the night.
I couldn’t sleep—too stressed about making our early train and the money we wasted and the rest of our trip. Morning came, and we boarded our train off to Cologne.