For four months, I studied abroad in London, England. These notes are select entries from my experiences in the United Kingdom and Western Europe from that time.
Friday, October 16 –
I’ve been a cycling fans for years. I always enjoyed watching Miguel Indurain clinch his 5 consecutive victories on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. Now I would finally have the opportunity to visit the mecca of cycling with my fellow students.
I woke up early at 6:30 and finished packing for the weekend trip to France. I woke up not feeling well after becoming sick a couple of days earlier. The good news is I was taking Tavist-D and trying to drink a lot to feel better.
We left around 7 a.m. by coach outside our university center in South Kensington. We then picked up some students from Santa Clara University and Elon College before leaving for Paris. We arrived at Dover around 9 a.m., where our bus boarded a ferry.
I’ve been on ferries before in Chesapeake Bay, Virginia, but this was the biggest and nicest ferry I have ever traveled on. It had everything on board from a restaurant, to bars to a few shops. It was cloudy outside, but it was enjoyable on deck with the wind and fresh air whipping in my face. After about 85 minutes, we reached the other side of the English Channel in Calais, France. There we were required to deboard the bus and pass through customs. I grabbed some self-service brunch there with the rest of my friends.
We then boarded the bus and we drove the 3.5-hour long drive to Paris. From the region of Nord-Pas de Calais, we passed through the region of Picardy. The countryside was beautiful and the scale of French agriculture was extremely impressive. As the farms and fields gave way to the suburbs, we entered into the Île-de-France region, the wealthiest and most populated of the twenty-seven administrative regions of France. Suddenly from a distance, the cityscape and buildings of Paris appeared on the horizon.
We were staying in Pigalle at the Hotel Minchy, around the Place Pigalle, on the border between the 9th and the 18th arrondissements. It is honestly a little bit of a seedy place with many sex shops, theaters and adult shows and has had a raunchy reputation back to World War II when Allied soldiers called it “Pig Alley.” I even saw the famous Moulin Rouge nearby. However, good deals are available with hotels in this area if you can overlook the neighborhood’s reputation.
After unloading our things at the hotel, we had free time to explore the city and eat from 16:45 until 18:50 p.m. I attempted to grab supper at a sandwich shop using the little French I knew, but she wouldn’t serve me because I didn’t speak French well. It definitely seemed like one of those bad traveler experiences you hear about in Paris!
I walked around Pigalle, got lost, but found my back to our Hotel Minchy before leaving on our bus ride tour of famous areas like the Champs E’llyses, the shimmering glass pyramid of the Louvre, Place de la Concorde and the Centre Georges Pompidou. The bus tour was amazing! We then boarded a boat for our Seine River cruise. The cruise was absolutely beautiful and truly showed off the grandeur of the City Lights at night with views of the Eiffel Tower, Arc d’Triumph, the Ile de la Cite and Ile Saint-Louis. Unfortunately, my medicine was making me fall asleep. I felt really drowsy and run down.
When I came back and before I went to bed at 22:00, I reflected back on the bad impression I had from ordering food earlier in the day. I realized that there are inconsiderate people everywhere and it had nothing to do with Parisiens in general. I am hoping to feel better tomorrow.