Sunday, March 3, 2013

Bonjour Paris! And Berlin!

Hey everyone!

So it's the Sunday after my half-term break and I can't wait to tell you all about it. I spent seven days on the continent and went to Paris and Berlin.

So Saturday morning arrived and I had to wake up super early to get to my 8:24 Eurostar train. Laura and I rushed to St.Pancreas to get to train and just barely made it. We didn't really have a window by our seat but I still managed to sneak a peek out of a sliver in the seats. I loved the train ride because I hadn't been on a train journey since I was about six. I got to walk around the train to the food cart and could stretch my legs or whatever. It was wonderful to see the difference between the English countryside and the French. We pulled into Gare Nord station at about noon-ish and had to figure out how to get to our hostel on the Metro which was chaos to figure out. The woman working at the counter did not speak English and we did not speak French. We eventually found our way up to Montmartre and found our hostel after searching the various Rues (streets) around. Our hostel was super cute. Think charming, stereotypical Parisian apartment with carpet going up the stairs and red wallpaper. We were sharing a room with four other girls on the fourth floor of the building with the world greatest view. We couldn't check in until much later that day so we went and walked around Sacré Cœur, which was a five minute walk from the hostel, and wandered around the really touristy area of Montmartre and got macaroons and crepes. It began to snow as we were heading back and did not cease until we left for Berlin.  We then got dinner at an amazing French-Italian restaurant called Babalou and went back to our hostel to check in. We then went to a little cafe called Hope Cafe and sat and read our respective plays for class. We then went to sleep early that night.

Sunday began early because we were planning to go to Versailles. We got to the Metro stop and that was when the mayhem began. We talked to the man working about how to get a ticket for Versailles, which is outside of the city. He helped us but accidentally got us the wrong ticket. We then had to go to a new station in order to get the right ticket. Except we went out the wrong way and had to use our tickets to get back in. The lady did not really speak any English and told us that we couldn't refund our tickets. We were then planning on just going to the Musee D'Orsay and went to that stop. We asked the lady at the counter about Versailles tickets and she sold them to us. So we went. And it was amazing! And because I was an Irish citizen, I got into every museum for Free!!! I'm so glad we went. Versailles is beautiful and way more then I ever expected. I had always wanted to go and I finally reached my history nerd mecca. The Hall of Mirrors was my favorite because it was absolutely gorgeous. Versailles is even more beautiful in the snow. We then left and went to the Musee D'Orsay which was one of my favorite museums when we went to Paris when I was seven. It still was just as good as I remembered and I was so excited to see the Impressionists but I had not had caffeine all day so I was slowly drifting away. We then returned to the hostel for a little bit and got dinner at a Parisian cafe right next store. It was wonderful and I managed to get some tea! We then trekked out to the snow and went to see the Eiffel Tower from the famous viewing point that everyone and their mother has taken pictures from. We got crepes and then returned home to go to sleep after our very full day.

Monday morning also began quite early because we were planning on packing a lot in. We started out by going to the Louvre museum because one does such things. We only managed to see about a fourth of the museum but we saw the Mona Lisa and I got to replicate a picture from my youth. People kept shoving when we were looking at it which was annoying because it is only a painting, not a cure for cancer. We then got some tea and coffee and made our way down the Seine to Notre Dame. Along our way, we stumbled across the famous Lock bridge which was amazing to see because there are literally locks upon locks upon locks. We then found Notre Dame and went inside to see the 850 year old church. It was incredible as always. We then searched for Shakespeare and Company, the famous Lost Generation bookstore and could not seem to find it so we were all set to leave when we stumbled on it. It is the world's most incredible place, I died and went to heaven when I saw it. I ended up buying a copy of A Moveable Feast because Hemingway talks about that bookstore in the book, so I couldn't resist. We then returned back to our neighborhood and went to Babalou again for dinner. We then returned to Shakespeare and Company only to learn that they were closing for an hour for a reading, so we went and sat in a little cafe for the hour right across from Notre Dame. We were finally feeling settled in Paris on Monday and were sad that we were leaving for Berlin the next day. We then returned to Shakespeare and Company for a bit and went home to get to sleep.

Tuesday rolled around and I woke up early to finish packing my non-existent suitcase and get ready to go. We left our hostel at about eleven am for our flight out of Orly and made it with plenty of time. We then boarded our flight at about 1:30 and were on our way to Berlin. We landed in Berlin at about 3 pm and had to find our way to our hostel. Since I took Spanish for about seven years, I could figure out a bit of French but once we landed in Berlin, I couldn't read a thing. We managed to find our way to our hostel and were immediately regretting our choice. Our hostel was this big building next to the train that was across from a bunch of grey office buildings in the outskirts of former East Berlin. It was miserable. We tried to get out of their as soon as possible and found our way to Alexanderplatz, a big square by the TV tower. We wandered around there for a while and got much entertainment out of the Germans attempts to use English on clothing and such. We then went back to our hostel and mourned the loss of our charming Parisian hostel. We then went to bed.

The next day, Wednesday, we woke up in time to go to a free walking tour of Berlin since both of us really knew nothing about the city. The walking tour really made us feel better about our choice to come to Berlin. We got to see the Brandenburg Gate, The Reichstag, the Holocaust memorial, the site of Hitler's Bunker (which is appropriately not mentioned  in a single way, it is a parking lot), a section of the Berlin wall, the site of the book burnings of 1933 and Museum Island. It made me realize that Berlin does have some beautiful places to it while still needed a little work after the damage the 20th Century had done to it.  It definitely is an interesting city, but not a beautiful one like Paris. We then went into one of the museums called the Pergamon museum which was named after the Alter that was from said city. It was a very cool museum because it had a lot of large structures from antiquity that were cool to see although not related to Germany at all. We walked down to the Brandenburg Gate after this and then returned to the hostel for a little bit. We decided to go that night to the neighborhood called Friedrichstrad and walked around there until we settled on a nice resturant to eat in.  While walking around, we stumbled upon the Berliner Ensemble which was Bertolt Brecht's theatre. I had a moderate freak out about actually seeing the theatre and the general public had to listen to be shriek about Brecht. At the restaurant, we tried Berliner Wisse which is this incredible beer that has a syrup added to it that makes it sweet. It was delicious. We then returned home and went to bed.

On Thursday, we woke up and wanted to do another one of the free tour but got to Brandenburg gate too late for any of them. We then wandered over to the Reichstag to see if we could walk up to the glass dome above the building but that fell through too. We then walked through the Tiergarten which was right next to the Reichstag which is this large park in the middle of Berlin. It was quite beautiful even in the dead of winter and we came across a statue of the famous German composers. It was moderately creepy because when the statue was fixed after World War II, they didn't cover up the bullet holes so you can see where chunks of the marble are missing making it very obvious that war happened. That's the case with the entire city, they are very serious about making amends for the Nazi party and their time under Soviet rule. But back to the present. We then walked down the park to the Victory Column which lies in the middle of the Tiergarten. We got to go up to the top and got a nice view of Berlin. We then returned back to the Gate and made our way to the East Side Gallery, which is a large part of the Berlin Wall that artists have painted. We got kind of lost on our way there and ended up in a rather sketchy area but soon got the hell out of there and found the Gallery. It was very cool to see and we ended this tour with a stop at Pirates Berlin, this strange pirate themed restaurant on the river. Then we made our way over to West Berlin for the first time of the trip and saw how dramatically different the two sections are. We came across what I believed to be a solely DC restaurant called Vapianos and just had to eat there. The chef in the restaurant thought that I was British and I didn't try to tell him otherwise. I guess we English speakers can't hear the difference in German accents so why should they hear our differences.  We then went to a piano bar we had seen the night before called Van Gogh and enjoyed more Berliner Wisse and the piano music. We then returned home and went to bed on our last night.

Friday morning, our last day on the continent, we woke up and decided to go to the Neues Museum which was right next door to the one we went to before. This museum is famous because it has the bust of Nefertiti. In this audio tour, we learned that basically every room in this museum was destroyed by bombs during World War II. Super depressing. We then finished there and went back to the neighborhood in Wes Berlin we were in. We wandered around there and then came back to the hostel before realizing that our flight was earlier then we thought by 45 minutes. We rushed to the train and had to wait ten minutes before the airport-bound train showed up. I was beginning to freak out at this point because I have serious anxieties about time and missing a flight is one of my biggest fears. We made it to check in about a minute before they shut it down and had to sprint through security to get to our gate. I ran through part of the airport with no shoes on, just socks. We were told that final boarding was at 5:30 and at this point it was 5:15. We get to the gate and they had not even started boarding yet. Needless to say, I was annoyed. We then had a nice flight back to London Gatwick and scarfed down Marks and Spencers sandwiches while waiting for a bus back to Victoria. We got back to Atlantic house at about ten pm and I was so happy to be home because I missed London while I was gone. I chilled out the rest of the night and went to bed.

Saturday morning, I slept in to about 11 and began work on my silly Dramatic Criticism paper. I managed to get 2/3rds of a way through it before I had to leave to go see a show at the Almedia: The Turn of the Screw. Based on the story by Henry James, it was an amazing show that scared me a lot but luckily, I had no nightmares. We then had a chaotic tube ride back home and chilled out and greeted everyone that came home from their various trips.

Today, Sunday, I woke up early and finished my paper and decided to go to Spitalfields market. The weather was beautiful today and it felt like spring. I had a wonderful time at the market and came home to finish doing work and the like. I wish that this weekend back could have been longer but alas, I got to travel around Europe, which was fun.

I hope you all enjoyed this very long post! And now, some pictures!


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