[personal profile] tavariel
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The Adventures of Mace and Courtney
Paris/Amsterdam Style

Warning: Image Heavy



I'm going to start in London, because we toured around London for a couple of days before we left for Paris and Amsterdam. I had seen a lot of it before, but I still took some pictures. Nothing real exciting. The group was horrified when I pulled out a Mace Windu action figure to take pictures with. But seriously, I would rather have a picture of the Tower Bridge and Mace than just the Tower Bridge. Pictures without people or silliness are always boring, and people get tourist-y and forget that. If a place was really beautiful or important, I of course try took "real pictures" of myself there as well. But really, I'm using Mace Windu to make my reports more interesting for you guys. ^_^


This is the view from my kitchen, in my flat in London. We live in the Royal Burough of Kensington and Chelsea, which is the richest area of London. Judi Dench and Orlando Bloom are rumored to live on our street! I have yet to see them, but you bet I'm looking. xD I love the view from our kitchen - you can really see the lines between time periods blurring - there is beautiful old style architecture (that arch in the very back), beginning to fall into ruin, and then SUVs and people walking their dogs. It's all very strange, but pretty.


This is the Tower Bridge. We went on a bus tour our second day and stopped at some of the big sites, so I pulled out Mace. Tee!


Mace at Buckingham Palace. The guards didn't stand a chance. ^_~


Myself at Buckingham Palace, looking very study-abroad-student. A hot French guy took this picture.


Then it was off to Paris! This is the French train station. I thought it was really pretty. It was massive. You can't tell, of course, you never can in pictures, but still.

So, we arrived in Paris. First was a ride on the hot, stinky Metro (subway) to our hostel (cheap hotel). The hostel was different than anywhere I had stayed before, but kind of quaint. It had four beds in one tiny room, smaller than my bedroom, ugly curtains, and a shower where you had to hold up the nozzle. It was small, but not really unpleasant. We were all BURSTING to get outside and see Paris, so we only stayed there a few minutes.

On the way to our first attraction (Notre Dame cathedral) I got my first real glimpse of Paris...and was disappointed. Everything was beautiful, but so dirty. London is a very old city, and it still manages to seem clean and respectable. Paris was filthy - it reeked of cigarette butts, and worse, urine. The whole city smelled like a sewer. I suppose everyone always idealizes Paris as this magical place, so disappointment is probably normal, but still...urine? That was a little much.


Notre Dame Cathedral. I didn't even know this was in Paris. ^_^;

It was absolutely breathtaking. The pictures never do anything justice. It was just SO huge, and the sides of it were even more intricate and beautiful than the front was (this is the front). If it weren't for the overwhelming stink of urine, I might have stayed around a little longer to take better pictures.


The inside of Notre Dame. It's dark, but hopefully you can see some of it - the Lord of the Rings "Khazad-dum" style ceilings, the huge stained glass...wow. I honestly didn't know that men were capable of building something that big and that intricate.

We finished Notre Dame kind of early, and seperated from the group to go to a little Paris cafe. I was trying to save money, so I bought the cheapest thing on the menu (by pointing and smiling, since I can't speak French for beans), and it was awful. It was a REALLY hard piece of bread with a slice of ham inside it. Not many slices, a slice. ^_^; It also had nothing else in it - no sauce or anything. I also ordered a coke, just because I thought it might be rude to order tap water, and the coke was FIVE EUROS. Which is like 7 bucks. -_-; Once again, Paris disappointed me. Our whole group was kind of depressed, by this point. This is Paris? This is it?

After Notre Dame, we headed over to the Louvre. I saw a street vendor selling Moulin Rouge artwork, and then it hit me. THE MOULIN ROUGE IS IN PARIS. I'M IN PARIS. I COULD GO RIGHT NOW. The Moulin Rouge musical is my all time favorite movie. I definitely wanted to visit, but for the time being, I needed to stay with the group and go to the Louvre.


Mace does the Louvre.

For those of you who don't know, the Louvre is one of the world's best art museums, perhaps the best. All I knew about it is that it had the Mona Lisa, and that I was going to see it! MONA LISA! Squee! I've loved that painting forever. I've wanted to do a Mona Lisa Halloween costume for years - myself dressed as her, with a painted background, holding a big gaudy frame. D

I was getting really excited about the Louvre just by looking at it. Apparently it was built to be a palace for the French kings, but they eventually moved out, and it became the museum. It was OUTRAGEOUS. It was like...I can't even explain to you how large it was. You can kind of see from the pictures, but not really. There were two buildings, with several floors, and the whole thing was done in old style French architecture, because it is freaking old. There were gorgeous marble floors throughout the whole thing, and gold-gilded everything, and huge glass windows, and paintings on the ceiling. It was absolutely obscene. I loved it.

Once we were inside and had our tickets, some of the girls needed to use the restroom, so I sat down near a wall and tried to figure out where the Mona Lisa was so we could make a beeline there. It was neat the the museum was so huge, but it made it difficult to get to all of the things we wanted to see. I could probably spend a full week in the Louvre and still feel that I missed a lot of things.

They finally finished, and we were off! The first big hall of paintings was really impressive, but kind of discouraging, because I didn't recognize anything. Eventually we got to the Mona Lisa, and...it was tiny, and they wouldn't let you get very close. It looked just like another print of it. It probably was, and the real one is locked away somewhere. I don't know. It had been a lifelong dream for me to see the Mona Lisa, and there she was...same as always. Nothing magical. No pictures were allowed there, or else I would have Maced up her up. I was very disappointed, again.

After that, we were off to look for some of the other familiar things on the map.


How YOU doin'?

The Venus de Milo. I was aware of this sculpture, but seeing it in person was AMAZING. It was the Mona Lisa experience I had been hoping for. In person, it was so much more detailed, and large, and beautiful. I really loved it. I felt better about the Louvre, and my mood started to change.


The girls were tired and wanted to quit, so I branched off on my own to see the French sculptures. And boy, was I glad I did! This is really where my whole attitude about Paris and the French experience changed. You can't tell from the picture, but this room is GIGANTIC, and filled with huge, beautiful sculptures. The ceiling was glass, so light was streaming in and illuminating everything...I can't even explain it. I audibly gasped, and then just sagged against the wall for awhile, looking at this amazing room. Look how tiny the people are. Try to imagine how large this room is.

The French may be proud and keep to themselves, but they definitely can appreciate beauty through extravagance - the more sequins and sculptures and gold moulding and chandeliers and glass ceilings and silk gowns and medieval paintings that you can stuff in to a room, the better. I really like that kind of attitude! It's really fun, and it IS beautiful in a way, to do everything so over-the-top. I began to see that, and I began to love Paris.

That was all for the first day. We headed back on the Metro to our hostel, and after resting for awhile, my roommates and I went out for dinner. We went to the Opera district, because we wanted to go somewhere ridiculously fancy. And as I emerged from the steps of the Metro Station...There. It. Was. The Paris Opera House. I literally choked and fell against the stair rail when I realized what it was. How could I have forgotten this was in Paris?

The Paris Opera House is the place that inspired Phantom of the Opera! Gaston Leroux heard stories about the (confirmed) underground lake and the (rumored) phantom at the Opera House, and he wrote his novel based on it, and the play was based on that. I saw a giant gaudy gold statue of an angel on the rooftop, and recalled that they filmed some of the scenes for the movie there. I was absolutely beside myself. We tried to go in, but realized they only gave tours in the morning hours. I resolved to go the next day. No Matter What. I'm crazy about Phantom of the Opera, for those of you that didn't know.

Dinner was fantastic. My meal was this fat juicy steak, and French Fries - which of course aren't French. I learned that in Europe, people eat French Fries with a knife and fork. WHAT? Absurd! It took me forever to eat them - pick it up with the fork, dip it in the ketchup, eat it. Lame. I eventually started eating with my fingers, and people glared at me, but oh well.

For dessert, I ordered chocolate crepes. O_O Literally the best thing I have ever had in my life. Soft, thin, moist, sugary pancakes, folded in half and stuff with fantastically rich creamy chocolate. WOW. I'm going to try to learn how to make crepes, because it was amazing.

Also, French service IS extremely slow. We spent three hours in the restaurant - like an hour before we ordered, an hour for our food to come, and then an hour for our bill to come. It was nice to be able to sit and really enjoy ourselves - I couldn't do that all the time, though.

After that, back on the Metro, where we crashed at our hostel. SLEEP!

--

The next day, we started out with the Eiffel Tower. YAY!


Mace at the Eiffel Tower.


Myself at the Eiffel Tower.

It was much larger than I had imagined. It was also brown. I had always thought it was iron, like silver-colored, for some reason. *shrug* It was fantastic, either way. We took pictures, then went on a boat ride on the canal, where we saw lots of the big sights again (Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Louvre). From a boat, Paris is beautiful. Can't smell the urine. Can't see the dirty streets full of cars. Can't see the lower-levels of the buildings, which are full of slummy shops and bright, ugly signs. Just "Old Paris" - the beautiful architecture on the upper-levels, and the blue sky. It was great.

After the Eiffel Tower and the boat ride, we headed to the Arc de Triumph, a big monument Napoleon set up. I was mostly unimpressed. A lot of the girls wanted to shop and sit in a cafe for awhile, but I persuaded a small group to come and do the Opera House tour instead. YAY! PHANTOM!

So, wow. Shut up with the the Opera House. I am SO glad I went. It was definitely reminiscent of Phantom of the Opera - there were old style candelabras everywhere, and the whole place was dimly lit by chandeliers. In one room, the moulding around the chandelier had ravens painted on it! It was very gaudy-creepy. I really loved the whole place. They wouldn't let us go see the underground lake, but I suppose I can understand that.


My favorite room. Just look how HUGE it is - the tassels on the curtains were twice as big as my head! The room made me desperately wish I were wearing a ball gown.


This is the main entrance room...wow. So pretty.

After the fabulous opera house, we met up with the rest of the group and headed off to another museum, called Museum d'Orsay - an Impressionist museum. It was fantastic! There were three entire rooms full of Monet, two rooms of Van Gogh, and a lot of other awesome artists (Toulouse, the one who always drew the Moulin Rouge!)


Mace chats it up with Vincent Van Gogh.

After THAT, my feet really hurt, but it was our last day in Paris and I absolutely had to see the Moulin Rouge. My tour guide said it was really dangerous to go after dark, especially alone, and that I should go while it was still light out. I grudgingly agreed to this, but it would have been a lot better if I had gone at night and gotten pictures while it was all lit up. Oh well.


I tried to go in, but apparently a lot of people are interested in the Moulin Rouge now, and they've been taking advantage of it. They only let you in if you are seeing a show, and it cost 200 euros (250 or so American dollars) for tickets. Oh well, it was still awesome to at least see!

Finally I left, and then it was back to our hostel for sleep.

--

PHEW! That is all of Paris. I had one more adventure there, but it was after Amsterdam, so let's move on.

AMSTERDAM. Amsterdam is in Holland, for those of you who don't know. I didn't know. ^_^; Holland is also known as the Netherlands. It's the land of tulips and windmills and wooden shoes. Or at least it was, before the legalization of marajuana. Now it is the land of drunkards and potheads. It was very sad to see the clash of the two cultures - wooden shoes and tulips, so sweet and innocent, overwhelmed by all of the drug paraphelania and prostitutes.

The first day we went to...why are these days so blurry, and Paris so clear? Maybe because I forgot to take pictures. We went to the Van Gosh museum, which was a huge disappointment (there had been much better Van Gogh in the impressionist museum in Paris), and passed the Rembrant museum because we were exhausted. We took a canal ride, but there wasn't as much to see, so I just wrote postcards. We went out to eat at this nice place, I had French Onion soup...*shrugs* Amsterdam wasn't nearly as exciting as Paris.

The second day we went to the Anne Frank house (where she lived in hiding), which was nice but depressing. We realized the day they were discovered and taken away was September 3, which was the day we were there - very sad.

On the way back to the hostel, we ate at the Pancake house. YAY PANCAKES!

Mine was a huge pancake, bigger than my plate (like an inch over the plate on every side, and it was a big plate), covered in two giant heaps of ice cream and three giant pillars of whipped cream. Oh, and swimming in chocolate. I ate the whole thing though, and it was awesome. I was sick the next two days, but it was worth it!

After that we headed back to the hostel for the night. The hostel - there is a story in itself. It was a TINY room, about the size of our Paris one, but with six beds. Everything was white, and there were no curtains, and there were all sorts of drawings and writings on the walls. The bathroom was the worst part, though - the shower was just in the same room as the toilet, with no barrier of any kind, so the shower flooded the entire bathroom. With six people taking showers for two days, you can imagine. It was NASTY.

Anyway, sleep, gross shower, and back on the train, back to Paris.

One more adventure the second time I went to Paris. I decided I wanted to buy a Moulin Rouge poster that I had seen on the street near the Louvre. I took the tube by myself back down to the Louvre, talked in French to the guy there (bonjour! merci!), and walked away the proud owner of a Paris Moulin Rouge poster. xD Somehow I managed to get back to the train station in one piece (the Paris Metro is really confusing becase all of the instructions are in French), and then back on the train to London.



WOW it took me a really long time to write that, and I still kind of have more to say. I have made a couple friends here who don't drink and party (namely Kaitlin and Christie), which is reassuring. I am GLAD to be back in beautiful London, which doesn't smell like urine and isn't full of pot. I am going to stay in London for the next three months, because school has started. Speaking of which, I'm late for class! Thank you for reading!
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