Amanda (my sister and traveling companion for this trip) made it to Paris 2 days ago after 13 hours of traveling. I dont have much time to write but wanted to check in with you all and give you an update of our time so far.
Accommodations: We are staying with a French woman named Maelle (May-L) in her apartment. She lives about 30 minutes by metro (subway) from "the main drag" (there really is no DT Paris...there are many districts and it really depends on what you consider the main event as to where you consider the city center to be, but I think the area around the Louvre is pretty close to the center.) The place we are staying is considered a "B&B", but there is really no breakfast served. Its clean and well run and inexpensive.
Food: Oh! French food! Where to start? Well... if you're us, you'd probably start at the local grocery market. Amanda cannot have bread/wheat/flour and this makes it rather hard to just grab something off the street corner. Paris is probably one of the worst places to be gluten free because of all their breads and pastries they consume on a daily basis. I, on the other hand, have had my fair share of breads. My top favourite three things I've eaten so far have been: "jambon et fermage crepes" (ham and cheese crepe), cheese, and caramel and mocha ice cream. We mostly eat fresh fruit from the grocery store right across the street from our "house" and most of the times I'll find something good to eat off a street corner. We also love green apples dipped into Nutella (Nutella is like chocolate-hazelnut peanut butter.)
Sights: We've seen so many including all the big ticket items such as the Louvre (museum), Notre Dame (gothic cathedral), Montmartre (village-like area with narrow streets and plenty of gelato), the Eiffel Tower, and many, many more. We've pretty much walked our little legs off. Tomorrow we're taking a treck out to Chateau de Versailles (the palace of Versailles) which should be wonderful.
Weather: We could not have asked for better weather! It has been sunny with a few puffy clouds with temperatures in the low 70's at night to low 80's during the day: perfect! Because of the nice weather we've spent at least an hour (normally closer to 2 hours) each day strolling through different public gardens and parks. The French love to be outside and have beautiful gardens! They are very proper, and though, not as extravagant as the English gardens, they are still quite nice. Almost all of them surround a famous castle of church (or some other famous building.)
Culture: The French are SO friendly! We have had a fantastic time chatting (in fluent English) with our host and many other "young people". Their accents when speaking English are so pleasing to the ear. Even if you approach a stranger and they say they dont speak English, they will still try to talk to you (in French...not helpful for us at all...but at least they try and speak slow French...) and will give great hand gestures; it really is a shame ASL isnt universal! Paris fashion is impecable and beautiful! Everyone (especially the guys/men) wear beautiful shoes. Amanda and I wonder how they dont topple over with some of the creations they strap to their feet and wander around in.
The scents: My favourite sense is scent; I LOVE to smell things like parfumes and flowers, and food, etc. Well, Paris is like my heaven! Amanda and I stumbled upon an official parfume museum and at the end got to take our fair share of whiffs of parfume and cologne; amazing. As odd as it sounds, the people all smell very nice! When strangers pass us on the streets you always have a little sense of an "umm!" going off in the back of your head because they smell so nice! They also use deoderant (...many, many places where I've traveled before they dont, so this is an improvement, to say the least) which aids the stuffiness of the rush hour metro commutes. In Paris, there are also tons of flowers that grow everywhere in little potted planters or public gardens. Mums permeiate the air with their spicy-earthiness smell; I love it. Everything smells good here! Not to mention, the crepes and other delectible baked goods!
This is really all the time I have right now; just a general update on my findings of the culture of Paris. You will have to look at my pictures on my facebook (hopefully will be posted shortly after I return home) to fill in the gaps of activities and adventures we have had!
Please pray for stamina, for my back to not hurt (tons of walking + standing= not so good for me), for Amanda to find good food for cheap prices to eat, and for us to make some friends with the locals.
We have one more day in Paris (tomorrow) and then head out Wednesday morning for Amsterdam (the Netherlands)!
Date completed: July 30th, 2011