Looking back, I would have never guessed that I would have spent the holidays in two amazing cities! What a difference this year was from last year! Last Christmas was utter chaos that I will not even begin to talk about, and instead of celebrating 2012 in typical American fashion, last year my best friend Jess and I closed the restaurant we worked at.
Since we are both in Europe this year, our initial plan was to head to Italy for our vacation, but of course a series of unfortunate events prohibited us financially from making this a reality. So we decided that on our meager au pair budget, Jess would first visit me in Paris during Christmas, and then I would go back with her to London the following week for New Years.
Another Eiffel Tower picture, but this one is at night! In the evening at every hour the Eiffel Tower sparkles for five minutes. It was very beautiful to see in life.
Jess arrived in Paris late Sunday night before Christmas. We spent three nights in Paris and two nights in Rouen. The first night she arrived, we were both exhausted so we went to a really good Japanese restaurant on my street for sushi. As tempting as it seemed at the time, we resisted the urge to drink so we could wake up early the following day and have the energy to do some sightseeing!
First stop Monday morning was the Christmas Markets on the Champs-Elysees! Feeling a little tired on the metro, we grabbed some coffee, but soon afterward we came across a vendor selling hot wine. Obviously we had to get it! It is such a festive drink and perfect for a cold winter day in Europe. It is seriously delicious and cheap! Which makes it even better. I wish it was sold year round.
Monday was our shopping day. I took Jess to the stores on the Champs-Elysees first. I really am not that fond of this street. Actually I kind of despise it. It is like Times Square in New York. Crowded, Overrated, and full of obnoxious tourists. I prefer shopping on Rue Rivoli. We went there next because Jess was in search of a New Years dress. Afterwards we went to the famous department stores, Printemps and Galleries Lafayette. Jess was totally tempted to buy this pair of really cute cat eye Chloe sunglasses at Printemps. She almost did, but at almost 300 euros she realized that it was probably a bad investment for some plastic!
Tree at one of the entrances to Printemps
View from the top of the roof at Printemps! Amazing right?
Jesca on the Printemps roof. Galleries Lafayette allows you on the roof as well I believe.
Huge Christmas Tree inside Galleries Lafayette 🙂
After a day of stressful shopping, we went back to the flat and rested for a bit before getting ready to go out for Christmas Eve. Our plan was to meet up with two of our au pair friends and find any bar that was open. Not that difficult right? WRONG! Seriously more places are closed on Christmas Eve than Christmas day in Paris, which I found rather strange.
Jesca and moi in the metro on Christmas Eve
So my friend Val finds a bar on the internet that is allegedly open. Jess and I decided to venture out on our own to find this Irish pub, but for some reason could not find it even though we had pretty good directions. Almost everything was closed apart from some restaurants serving dinner (The French eat dinner after 8 pm and anyone who has been to a classic French dinner knows that it is at least a 2 hour ordeal). We asked some Parisians where this bar was, and they all kept saying it was nearby. We looked like two dumb American girls walking around in circles!
While lost, we ended up on Rue Princesse. Obviously I had to take a photo with the street sign since im a princess 🙂
After this photo was taken, these guys approached us and just started a conversation. They couldn’t speak any English, and I speak very bad French. What they were saying was surprisingly basic enough for me to understand. They were also in search of a bar that was open and said they are sure they can find one. So Jess and I followed them because we just love setting ourselves up to get TAKEN (ever see that movie with Liam Neeson?… ha). The guys kept telling us that the bar was straight ahead and we would be there soon. Meanwhile they kept trying to talk to Jess in French who only knows about two words (bonjour and merci). We were walking for about a good 15-20 minutes and there was still no open bar in sight. I saw the metro in the distance, and as we approached it I told the guys that we were leaving. Typical of the male species, they tried to convince us not to go, and told us they would buy bottles of wine and that Jess and I could drink back at their place. I was like uhm no? And then we ran down the metro stairs and shouted Au Revoir!
Once in the metro station, I started to get hungry. I needed chocolate! So I went to get a snickers bar out of the vending machine, and when I reached in to grab it, I pretty much decapitated my finger somehow! My middle finger was gushing blood. I thought I was going to die from blood loss. It was serious. Well not really. I was fine, but it was just rather unattractive and inconvenient. Neither Jess nor I had any type of band aid or tissue so I had to resort to wrapping the snickers wrapper around my finger! Talk about embarrassing!
Jesca looking beautious on the metro!
So we get on the metro finally and it is pretty empty. The few people there were dressed up really nice. I noticed a friendly looking family sitting near us and I thought I would ask if they knew any bars that were open tonight. I politely said something along the lines of “excusez-moi, savez-vous si les bars sont ouverts maintenant?” I am not sure how accurate this is but I am pretty positive I wasn’t far off from asking the right thing. The family burst out in laughter and said no! I wasn’t sure if they were laughing at my horrible American accent or if they were laughing because they were on their way to Midnight mass like good christians, and here we were in search of getting drunk. I guess I will never know.
Anyways, our stop came up, and Jess and I hopped off the metro, followed by three French guys. They overheard my horrible French on the metro, and told us they were also looking for a bar to go to. One of them saw my finger still wrapped in the snickers wrapper and kindly offered me a tissue. We agreed to search together for any bars.
Our options were limited, but we did find places that were actually open in this section of Paris! We settled for a casual bar. I am not a club person and I do prefer bars, but this bar was too casual. Not many people were there, and it was more of a sit-down-type of bar than a be-social-and-meet-new-people kind of place. I get bored quite easily in these type of settings but the guys we met were pretty funny and entertaining so it wasn’t bad at all.
My au pair friend Val from Mexico arrived shortly after with another Mexican au pair named Karime. I had a couple glasses of wine, and then the French guys as well as us, unanimously agreed to find a better place!
Au Pairs in front of the Arc De Triomphe
The guys recommended we find a club on the Champs-Elysees. This is so not my scene but desperate times call for desperate measures. We finally found a club that unfortunately had a 20 euro entrance fee. At this rate, I didn’t even care because I just wanted to seek shelter. It was cold and at least 1 am at this point. We walked in, and hip hop and r&b from the early 2000s was playing. It was dark with red furniture, and extremely crowded with mutants. It was like a freak show. It didn’t help that the floor was sticky from spilled drinks, and for some odd reason jolly ranchers were on the floor and kept getting stuck to my shoes. We all just thought to ourselves, it is Christmas in Paris… might as well drink!
Me and Val at the club… pretty self explanatory.
All seven of us partied till the club closed at a little past 5 am. We said goodbye to the French guys and us girls waited for the metro to reopen. Jess and I passed out as soon as we got back to the flat.
It was early afternoon of Christmas Day. Our hangovers were so horrific that Jess and I felt like we got hit by a bus. It was already getting late and we didn’t want to waste our day away hugging a toilet bowl. So we showered, put on our Christmas dresses and headed to Montmarte! It is the 18th arrondissement in Paris and one of my favorite areas.
We made it to Montmartre a little past 4 pm as the sun was setting. It is very hilly, and full of cobblestone streets lined with cafes and cute shops.
Sacre Coeur Eglise! This church has been in a number of films including the French film “Amelie”. We went inside, but we were not allowed to take photos. Such a pity because it was absolutely beautiful!
Jess managed to sneak one photo of the inside of the church. She’s such a rebel.
The church was surrounded by another Christmas market. Vendors were lined up one after the other selling food, sweets, jewelry, clothes, and of course hot wine! Round two? Yes please!
It was now getting late so Jess and I went to a nearby restaurant. I decided to be a little brave and order a “traditional” french meal. Along with the coq au vin I ordered ESCARGOT as an appetizer.
Snails do not look too appetizing do they? To be honest, they were so drenched in butter and garlic, that’s all I could taste. Jess was too afraid to even attempt to eat one!
After dinner, Jess really wanted to see the Moulin Rouge. It was walking distance so I was like sure, why not. We have to get a picture in front of the windmill! So we are walking, and like usual I am being a speed walker, and am way in front of Jess leaving her to fend for herself in a foreign country that doesn’t speak English. I am just such a bad friend sometimes… oops. It was only around 9 pm, but I guess that wasn’t too early for the creeps to start lurking around the sex district. So this sketch car pulled up to Jess and started saying things to her in French. She yelled for me, I told the guys to leave us alone, and then we decided to cut our trip short and just hop on the metro back to the flat. So we never got to see the Moulin Rouge, but I think we are better off going during the day.
Last day in Paris at the Notre Dame!
The day after Christmas we did some more sightseeing and the both of us stupidly forgot to charge our cameras so we took barely any photos. We took the train back to Rouen that afternoon.
Jesca in front of Le Gros Horloge in Rouen
I was so glad Jess was able to spend a couple days in Rouen to see where I live most of the time in France. It is a really fun city! We went out Thursday night and had a blast! I always end up having more fun in Rouen than Paris. The people here are really friendly. We woke up extremely early that Friday, packed our things, and dashed off to London! I will make a separate post about London because I am out of time, and am speed writing to the point where I am no longer making sense. So expect an update soon! To be continued…