by Bella Richter de Medeiros
We landed in Paris and were absolutely exhausted from flying 9 hours into the future. I wasn't a fan of Paris, even though I was the family's French translator. I probably didn't enjoy it as much as I could have because of the lack of planning of the trip; we were exhausted and rushed the whole time. We took the metro most places because our apartment was so far away from the "tourist" area of the city. We did Versailles one day, and I was miserable the whole time because it was so hot and so crowded and I wasn't wearing sensible shoes and also wasn't used to walking so much. We did not do the Louvre, but we did D'Orsay and L'Orangerie, which were both incredible. I saw Degas' Little Dancer again at the D'Orsay, my second time seeing it since the first time it came to Portland Art Museum in Oregon. D'Orsay was incredible and I really did enjoy it, despite being very tired. There was a man painting, so we got to sit and watch him paint. Monet's water lilies were amazing as well. We saw both the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, but did not go up either of them.
I also went to a One Direction concert at the Stade de France, which was super rad. We were in the back and pretty far away from the stage, but we got a lot of great footage and Papai loved it, even though he would definitely tell you otherwise if you asked.
The neighborhood we stayed in was Montmartre, which was further away from the "touristy" areas of Paris. Sacre Coeur was within walking distance of our apartment, so we visited there the first night. The cathedral was beautiful, and humbling. The nice thing about churches like this when you're travelling is that if you ever get too hot or too overwhelmed or too tired and just need a break, you can go into the church and just sit for an hour or so to get away from the crowds and the sun. Marco lit a candle for our dog, Pablo, in the cathedral as well. The view from our apartment was awesome. You couldn't see any monuments or anything, but the balcony's ironwork was beautiful and very typical of Paris, as well as the little street it looked out onto.
Our cousin Sheyla visited us in our apartment on the last day, along with her mom Lulu. Sheyla visited us in the US for a whole year in 2006 when she was 17 to learn English. She is now a pastry chef and teaches English in Brasilia. It was a crazy coincidence when we found out we’d be in Paris at the same time, so we knew we had to meet up for lunch. Sheyla and Lulu's visit is exactly what we want on the big trip; we want people to come visit us wherever we are.
We took the metro to Abbesses (naturally), and discovered that the restaurant we wanted to eat at was closed. But, we walked around for a bit in what I found to be my favorite neighborhood yet in Paris, and found a small restaurant. Shockingly, the waiter spoke flawless Portuguese and it turned out that he had lived in Belo Horizante for four years!
However, obviously not everyone is going to speak one of our languages in any given place that we go, and it's rude to expect and assume that they will. For example, when we were in Versailles, we went to a little baked potato stand with a huge line. The guy making the potatoes was super friendly and entertaining the customers all on his own. He spoke three languages (French, English, and Spanish) and had menus in several others. There was a Brazilian family of tourists in line in front of us, with what appeared to be one middle-aged woman who was the only French-speaker out of the group, desperately trying to keep track of what appeared to be her parents, siblings, and aunts. They were all speaking Portuguese trying to decipher the menu, but of course only the one woman spoke French so she was trying to help her entire family at once. The potato guy understood that they were speaking Portuguese after a bit and offered a menu in Portuguese. After some discussion, the father of the Brazilian woman asked the guy (in Portuguese!) which potato he was making. He didn't speak Portuguese obviously, and the woman had to step in and help out. Long story short, don't be the person who expects people to accommodate to your language and culture when you travel. Make an effort to speak French when you're in France; we found that if we approached people very respectfully and tried to speak in French, and asked "Sil vous plait, parlez-vous anglais?", people will be much more willing to help.
We decided that we could not leave Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower, so we took the metro (surprised?). It was crawling with tourists and with people trying to sell the tourists little trinkets for way too much money. We did not go up, but just looking at it lit up at night was incredible. At one point, there were flashing lights on the tower that went on for almost ten minutes. The crowd cheered when they came on; it was amazing.