Planning the last weekend trip of my exchange was a bittersweet feeling. Organising every minute of the day with exciting activities and time to intensely explore a different side of Paris resulted in the best travel weekend of my exchange.
Every detail – metro lines, screenshots of maps, tour details – was pre-planned and strictly followed. Beginning and concluding our exchange together, Siobhan and I were able to recognise the immense growth and knowledge we now obtain from our vast travels and living abroad. To feel comfortable exploring a city with half the population of our entire country was rewarding and special – accomplishing a dream.
Day one: Saturday 23rd May
Rising at 6 AM to train to Paris. Our 13-minute transition from one platform to another included an unknown connection to another station – we made it with one minute to spare – intense but otherwise simple.
- Montmartre Walking Tour – Moulin Rouge, 20th century writer’s retreat, local Parisian park, Sacre Coeur, and many fascinating history stories of Montmartre.
- Arc de Triomphe.
- Walk through the Champs Elysees, random streets, the seine and explored the Eiffel Tower area.
- Eiffel Tower – relaxed on the grass with chocolate for 2 hours waiting for the magical moment when it sparkles. Magical.
Day two: Sunday 24th May
Visiting Versailles when I was 11 years old created my passion for history. To have the opportunity to experience what has had such a significant influence on my life was special and the most interesting part of my exchange.
- “There is nothing more beautiful than nature in the early morning.” Walked through the fresh and peaceful sunrise to the train station.
- Local French market to collect food for picnic: baguette, brie cheese, chocolate croissant, cherries, strawberries and a nectarine. YUM.
- ‘Blue Bikes’ cycle tour around the enormous grounds of Versailles stopping at beautiful points to hear about the history of how it was created, maintained, developed and lived in. The nature was symmetrical and groomed to perfection.
- Picnic lunch at the end of the Grand Canal looking up towards the Palace. Speechless and in awe.
- More cycling around the grounds. I cannot emphasize how enormous it was. The grounds are free to the public, it’s a beautiful place to run or cycle around.
- Palaces of Trianon and Marie-Antoinette’s estate and hamlet. I was amazed. It felt as if I had entered another world – to physically be in these places and see the exact rooms where they lived felt unreal.
- The Grand Palace. Some paintings covered the entire scale of the wall. Rooms were lit with the colour of paintings on the roof. The hall of mirrors displaying the richness and success of King Louis XIV. The bedrooms where furniture has not been moved. The real-life paintings looked as if they were photographs. The elegant and decorative nature of the entire Palace was a dream come true, it was an experience like no other and something I am excited to relive one day.
- After returning back to the Airbnb apartment around 7 PM, we ended up falling asleep and missing dinner. Alongside the excitement, walking 20 KM took every ounce of energy from us… We were exhausted and fulfilled.
Versailles exceeded everything. It was the best day of my exchange and one of the best days I have had in my life. I felt as if I was living in a dream, I could not comprehend the beauty and history I was seeing and experiencing. Appreciative and grateful that I was able to have this occasion and feel extremely passionate and interested towards everything the day offered.
Day three: Monday 25th May
- Breakfast at a local, organic café. A selection of French breads satisfied my cultural food cravings… Trying local foods throughout my travels has always been a pleasure.
- Notre Dame.
- Left bank walking tour – Shakespeare and Co, oldest tree in Paris, learning about the history of how Parisians lived (the numerous floors to an apartment, the curve in the streets, why some streets are narrow or wide, the significance of a front door), linguistic matters – how the tennis term ‘love’ was created (love sounds like French word ‘egg’ – the ball of Tennis looked like an egg and somehow this developed over time), and the University institute and good luck statue.
- Shakespeare and Co. Time disappears when entering into this fascinating store. The atmosphere and scope of books completely absorbs me into another world. I decided to focus on the development of a passion: writing. Three books were bought with the intention to improve my skills:
- ‘The Elements of Style.’ Written by William Strunk Jr and E.B White and illustrated by Maira Kalman. The book is “the go-to guide when in need of a hint to make a turn of phrase clearer or a reminder on how to enliven prose with the active voice.”
- ‘What they didn’t teach you in design school.’ Written by Phil Cleaver. A “guide to visual creativity… “How to create the best portfolio, impress at interviews, develop strong client relationships, and produce great work in the studio.” Although I am not studying at design school, the book completely captured by attention. Alongside having a great passion for art/design, it poses as an exciting entrepreneurship opportunity.
- ‘On writing: A memoir of the craft.’ Written by Stephen King. “Part biography, part master class… Tips for the aspiring writer…” Recommended by a staff member, I trusted their experience.
- Luxembourg gardens.
- Siobhan’s favourite – getting lost in a new atmosphere and finding our way. 12 years of friendship allows this to work perfectly… Growing up, we would cycle around our hometown with the intention to get lost and find our way home. We walked through beautiful streets and found our way to the Louvre before walking down the seine until we needed to catch the metro to the train station on route to Maastricht. To us, travelling is not all about ticking famous landmarks off a to-do list. We want to dig deeper, observe the natural state and extend ourselves by living in the moment and testing our boundaries by simply exploring. No map, just instincts.
Last week in Maastricht
Goodbye’s are in the near future.
Preparing to leave Maastricht has formed a strange and gloomy feeling. I will deeply miss everything; my flat mates and friends, listening to accents, the determination of students at SBE, the ability to bike and walk everywhere within 20 minutes, eating berries everyday, my personal growth and pure independence, being surrounded by diverse cultures, and travelling.
I have taken the time to write each blog to the best of my ability. I hoped to display the passion and excitement I experienced while living 18558 kilometers from home. I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I have enjoyed writing. Thank you and goodbye!
“I’ll look back on this and smile, because it was life and I decided to live it.”