My family usually takes a trip to Europe every two years, because my stepdad is from Ireland and that's where his family lives. In the summer of 2010, we decided to take a side trip to France for my sixteenth birthday.
My excitement was overwhelming as my family and I stood in the Dublin Airport waiting to board our plane to Paris, France. We flew Aer Lingus (http://www.aerlingus.com/home/index.jsp?campid=aer_lingus_mus&se=ppc) from Dublin to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport. The plane ride only took an hour and after getting all of our bags together, we had took the free shuttle bus to the RER (Reseau Express Regional) to buy train tickets. To my dismay, the airport was actually about 30 minutes away from the heart of Paris. Upon arriving to the Guare du Nord train station, we walked a short distance to our hotel, Hôtel d'Alsace. (http://www.venere.com/hotels/paris/hotel-alsace/#overview) Our hotel was small and when I looked out the window by the stairs, it reminded me of a scene from the movie Taken starring Liam Nessen which was a little unsettling. The room had two beds which pretty much took up the whole room and the bathroom had a shower, toilet, and a bidet. All in all, I didn’t want to spend more time than necessary in the room or my claustrophobia would kick in. However, the hotel was quite clean and had an excellent continental breakfast. We decided to walk around Paris to see what was close to our hotel (yay! a McDonald’s!). After hitting the McDonald’s, we made our trek to the Arc de Triomphe . To get to the Arc de Triomphe (http://www.arcdetriompheparis.com/) you must take the underground passage, because it is one of Paris’s busiest traffic centers. You would definitely be taking your life into your own hands if you were to cross the street to get there. You can either take an elevator to the top or climb the many stairs. The view from the top is worth the climb, because you can see all of Paris.
You can’t go to France without taking a day to go to Versailles and visit the Palace of Versailles (http://en.chateauversailles.fr/homepage). The palace was breathtakingly beautiful and I instantly fell in love. The grounds had tons of things to do. We rowed our own boat in the canal, went bike riding around the expansive grounds, and took some time to sit around and eat until our hearts were content. Since I had just taken World History in school the previous year, it was great going and seeing where all of this history had taken place. The extravagant grounds certainly made you realize why the peasants revolted against the decadent monarchy.
For our last day, we decided to wake up early, take advantage of our continental breakfast, and head to Notre Dame Cathedral (http://www.notredamedeparis.fr/-English-). You must get there early to avoid the long lines. It was spectacular, and I couldn’t keep myself from looking up to the top to see if the hunchback was peering over the edge. After exploring the inside and lighting a candle of prayer, we decided to climb to the top to see the gargoyles.
Last but not least, we visited the Eiffel Tower (http://tour-eiffel.wapldm.com/index.php?id=204967). You hear about the marvelous sights to see from its many floors, but you are shocked to see the number of street venders. Watch out! Some of these people are pickpockets.
The wonderful thing about France is that all of the historical sites give a student discount on admission tickets. This makes traveling to France an affordable and fun experience for families of all ages.
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