I've got so many things to tell you about!
My brother's Christmas present this year was for him to come to France to see me, and this was the weekend! He arrived Friday morning after way too many complications. First his flight was delayed, then canceled all together because of engine trouble. He was able to get on a flight with AirFrance but it took him to San Francisco first, so he had to spend more time in the air. In the end, he arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport a few hours later than planned, but that was fine. (It meant I didn't have to wake up before the sun to pick him up!)
So, he finally made it and we hopped on the bus to take us into Paris, then made our way to our hotel. I didn't do so hot in choosing this hotel. It was a chain hotel that I've used many times before, but this place was in the ghetto of Paris. It was a very sketchy part of the city. Now I know never to stay at that hotel again.
We dropped off our things then went to see Notre Dame and Sainte Chapelle. I figured since he was exhausted we shouldn't do anything too strenuous and churches seemed like a good option.
Of course, Notre Dame was beautiful as it always is. We spent some time sitting and talking then left to find the other church.
Sainte Chapelle is breathtakingly beautiful. The ceilings are painted blue and the walls are covered in stained glass. The structure was designed so that there is very little stone holding it together. The majority of the building is the glass. The windows tell stories from the Bible beginning in Genesis at one side and ending with the life of Christ on the other.
After Sainte Chapelle, we walked a little on the island, then went back to the hotel. On the way back we stopped to pick up a pizza then took it to the hotel and watched The Pink Panther before we went to bed. I thought that movie was so funny when it came out, but now that I'm actually in France, so much of it is even funnier!
The next morning we woke up early to start the day at the Catacombs. The line there gets really long really fast so I wanted us to be there before they opened the doors so we wouldn't have to wait for hours. We were about 10 people from the front of the line so once we got down there, we walked ahead of them and were the first ones in the tunnels.
It was so cool and kind of spooky to be down there when nobody else was around. (We came across a snoring security guard at one point!) When we were standing in line, Zane asked me if the bones were still down there or if they had moved them all out. Ha! There are so many bones down there it would be quite the task to get them all out. When we got down there, he was impressed with it all.
From the Catacombs, we went to the Pantheon. This is where people like Marie Curie, Victor Hugo, Voltaire, and many other famous people are buried. It's not a church, but the inside felt very much like one. The columns were massive. At the back there is a large statue where the altar would be in a church. We took the stairs down to the crypt to see the graves. This crypt was massive. There were several rooms that held the tombs and many more that were empty.
When we left there, it was almost lunch time so we decided to head across town to find somewhere to eat. We had scheduled a wine tasting at 3:00, so we wanted to be near there. We picked a nice little restaurant, then took to the streets to pass the time.
The wine tasting was at O'Chateau and it was fabulous. Our sommelier was very informative and the whole thing was so fun. First he served a white wine--Saumur, from the Loire Valley. With this he taught us how to determine the quality of the wine using our eyes, nose, and mouth. Then he poured a red wine--Morgon, from the Beaujolais region. With this he talked about the regulation of wine in France. We ended with another red--Cahors, from the Sud-Ouest region.
I really like the white wine and the second red wine. Zane liked the first red wine, but not the second. The second was much darker and it tasted very deep, like there was a lot to it. (I don't know how else to say it.) Anyway, it was fun and I learned a bit.
Before the wine tasting, while we were passing time, I had taken Zane to see the Louvre so that he could at least say he'd seen it even if he didn't want to go inside. After the tasting, he decided that he did want to go inside so we walked back over there and meandered through the Egyptian section of the museum.
We were both pretty hungry at this point, so we left and found food. Since the neighborhood we were staying in was so sketchy, we decided to eat before we went back because I didn't want to look for dinner in the dark there. After we ate, I searched for a shop that sold macarons for dessert. I think French macarons are divine, but Zane wasn't a fan.
The next day, we began at the Montmartre Cemetery. I've been there twice before, but each time I go, I'm still fascinated by it. It's such a beautiful place. This time, upon entering, I turned left to see parts that I'd never walked through before. It seems to go on forever.
From there, we went to the Arc de Triomphe. I wanted to take Zane to the top of it, but it didn't open until after lunch, and it was only mid-morning. We still went out to it and walked under it and he took pictures. It amazing how much bigger it is in real life. I'm still struck by the enormity of it.
Next on the agenda was the Eiffel Tower. I took him to the Metro stop across the river so we could see it from a distance and then walk up to it. I like seeing it that way. We took pictures as we walked closer, then stood in line to go to the top. It was a fairly foggy day, so the tippy-top was closed, but we still got to go to the first and second floors.
We went to the second floor first to look out over the city, then went down to the first floor where the glass floors are. (There is an ice skating rink on the first floor now!) We walked around up there and grabbed some sandwiches for lunch before we went to the bottom.
After the Eiffel Tower, we went to Sacre-Ceour. We ate ice cream at the bottom of the hill (even though it was so cold outside), then walked up to see the church. It's magnificent.
After that, we went shopping. The jacket Zane brought wasn't keeping him warm enough so we went to find something a bit warmer for him. I googled where to shop in Paris and picked a place at random. The place I picked took us to a mall where we were able to find him a nice coat and do a bit of other shopping.
From there we headed back to the hotel to rest a bit before we went to the Queen concert!!! You probably don't know this about me, but I absolutely love Queen. I love their music; I love Freddie Mercury. (If there is anyone I could see in concert it would be him. Too bad he died before I was even born.) This is one of the things that Zane and I share. We have spent many a car ride blasting Queen albums on repeat (much to the annoyance of my mom).
This concert is the main reason Zane came to Paris at all (except that I'm here, of course). I have been looking forward to this concert since mid-December. When I found out they would be here, the only person I could imagine going with was my brother. I'm so glad we could do that together!
I don't want to sound too cheesy here, but the concert was an absolute dream come true. I couldn't stop smiling the whole time. It was everything I hoped it would be and so much more. Adam Lambert was fabulous. Absolutely fabulous. He was incredibly funny and he's massively talented. I loved him so much more than I anticipated.
The whole evening was just perfect. We had good seats, but about halfway through the concert I couldn't bear to sit any longer, so I went down to the floor so I could join the fun there.
It was so fun for me to watch people enjoying themselves there. I could tell just by looking at people that they were having the time of their lives. I loved looking across the crowd to see someone singing their heart out.
Of course, I was also singing my loudest and clapping and jumping. By the end of the night, my voice was gone and my ears were ringing. It was so, so incredible. In a few songs, they played bits of Freddie Mercury singing and it just made it so magical.
They played all of my favorites: Another One Bites the Dust, Fat Bottomed Girls, The Show Must Go On, Who Wants to Live Forever, Bohemian Rhapsody, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions, and Radio GaGa. Oh my goodness, dream come true. (You bet I got a t-shirt, and I will cherish it always.)
I hope that didn't make you cringe too much!
We left the venue absolutely beaming. I was happy. Zane was happy. We had a wonderful time.
The next day, I didn't really have anything planned. We had seen all of the important stuff. We decided that a trip to the Zoo would be fun, so we went that way. The Paris Zoological Park is pretty far out of the city, so I got to see a whole other side of Paris. The streets were wide and open and not packed with people. We had to walk through a park to get to the zoo and once we got there, there was no one in sight.
This was a bit worrisome, although I had checked the website twice and it didn't say anything about being closed in the winter. When we got to the gate, a security guard came out to greet us. I asked if the zoo was open and he said it was! Since it was the off season, they weren't very busy (which was awesome for us because there were no crowds anywhere).
It has been many, many years since I have been to a zoo. The last I can recall is Branson, Missouri with my family and my cousins. (That trip was a long time ago.) I was pretty excited and it was fun because for most of it, we were the only ones looking at an animal at any time. We saw other people in the park, but not very often.
We saw penguins, giraffes, and monkeys. There was a great reptiles exhibit in one of the buildings. There was a bird enclosure that we were able to go into and walk with the flamingoes. There was even a greenhouse that had a tropical forest and its animals inside. Since it's winter time, a few of the animals were being housed indoors instead of their outside cages, but this was fine. I had fun taking pictures of the snakes and anything that would come close to the windows.
We didn't really know where to go from there, so I decided that I wanted to see the Paris Hotel de Ville. I'm so glad we did. It's a beautiful building. In front, there was another ice skating rink and there were food vendors on either side. Zane and I bought some Vin Chaud to warm us up a bit as it was a little chilly outside. We stood and watched the skaters as we sipped our drinks then decided to go see the Grand Palace and Petit Palace. Zane wanted to see what "petit" meant in terms of palaces.
The two sit directly across the street from each other. The Grand Palace is massive with towering pillars that stand across the front of the building. It is quite the sight until you turn around to see the Petit Palace. It is much smaller, but is still quite large and definitely prettier than the Grand. It has an intricate arched doorway with a golden gate at the entrance. We weren't able to go inside either of them, but we admired them from the street.
We decided to walk a bit and came to the Roue de Paris. It's a ferris wheel that stands at the end of one of the streets that stems off of the Arc de Triomphe roundabout. So, we walked towards it and went on a ride.
I've seen Paris from the tops of several places now, but it never ceases to amaze me with it's beauty. The sun was just setting as we were going around and it was a beautiful thing to see all of the major monuments from the sky.
When we disembarked, we walked into the park and found chairs. We sat and enjoyed the evening watching birds and people. When we got cold, we went to the streets to find dinner then took the Metro back to our hotel for the last time.
That night we just hung out and packed all of our stuff up. The next morning we went directly to the airport for Zane's flight and my train home. Saying goodbye was bittersweet. I'm so glad I got to see him and I know he had a wonderful time here. (Although, I'm fairly certain he got tired of hearing me say, "get in this," while holding my phone for a selfie.)
It's so hard to say goodbye. I'll see him again in about 4 months, but it's still hard. (That, and I'm a little jealous that he got to go back home and I am still here. Not to say that I'm ready to leave yet, but I miss it and I would love to be there.)
Now I'm back at my apartment in Poitiers. I've got a test tomorrow that I need to study for and a group project to work on.
Sunday marked 5 months that I've been living in France. That means I only have 4 more to go. That is both incredibly encouraging and fairly sad. I love my life here. I love where I am and the people I'm with. I'm not ready to leave them, but I look to the future with excitement.
And here are the rest of the pictures!