Oh my gosh, this can not be our lives right now!! As we were laying in front of the Eiffel Tower last night we just kept saying how blessed we were and that we can't even believe that we are so lucky as to be doing all these amazing things!
Before making our way to Paris we stayed the day in Girona, Spain. The old city was really cool and so old it was sort of hard to grasp. The cathedral at the middle was built in the 14th century and is still standing and looks so amazing! We spent time looking all around the Cathedral and then we walked around the city and along the river that runs through it. That night we had our last meal in Spain..Bikini's, Calamari and of course some Sangria. Bikinis, as we discovered, are basically a breakfast sandwich on texas toast that are panini'd. They were really good, but not very Spanish! I miss the Spanish Sangria already though. We stayed up all night long because we had to be to the bus stop to go to the airport at 3:30 in the morning. While staying up all night was probably not the best idea, we were afraid to over sleep and miss our flight!
Once we arrived at the airport in France we had to take a bus an hour and a half to Paris. You know your flight is way too early when you are in one country in the morning, but you're driving through another country's morning rush hour traffic at 9:30. Although we had arrived in what we thought was the City of Lights, it looked more like the city of umbrellas and rain jackets. The rain was coming down hard, and we were worried it would put a damper on all of our plans. However, by the time we got checked into our hotel and ate some lunch, the rain had gone away and we set out to start our day, which was a long one!
The first stop was the Catacombs. The Catacombs are a set of hundreds of underground tunnels that run underneath Paris and where the remains of over 6 million people who over populated the cemeteries of Paris in the 18th century were put. The tour was extremely eerie. It was really cold in the tunnels and the ceilings were dripping with water from the ground above. The bone room was so organized and methodically laid out. Each set of remains was placed in a specific pattern and the faces of the skulls were set up to face us. The lights were dim and all of the corners were dark. It was a weird feeling walking through mass graves like that where people who had had families and lives were just placed anonymously after they passed.
After the catacombs we made our way to the Louvre. The outside of the Louvre was incredible by itself. There were so many people in the main courtyard area. The courtyard, the building, and the pyramid entrance were all so huge, but amazing to look at also. There are fountains all through the courtyard and glass pyramid at the center is a modern contrast to the Royal Palace like building that wraps around it. Once we got into the museum we were, once again, in awe of the beauty of the building. Every single hall of the museum was incredibly big and had countless rooms off of the main hallway. Neither Josh nor I consider ourselves art lovers or connoisseurs, but the pieces and exhibits were fascinating. We first saw the paintings, which were all so intricate and extravagant no matter what the story they told was. Each piece had its own personality and style, and seeing each different piece was really interesting. In this hall is where the original Mona Lisa is located. There was such a buzz about the painting and a bunch of people stood around the piece taking pictures; Josh and I thought it was cool to see it, but she was incredibly simple compared to her neighboring pieces. Next was the sculptures where we saw the Venus de Milo, a sculpture from 120 BC greece. Then we were off to the ancient Egyptian hall where there were pieces from different tombs, sarcophaguses, clothes, books, jewelry, etc. We also saw the Code of Hammurabi, which is the oldest set of written laws in the history of the world. All of it was so interesting and incredibly old that it was sort of mind blowing. After two hours our Museum ADD set in and we were so exhausted that we left.
From the Louvre, we set out to walk over to the Arc de Triomph which we could see from the museum, but we realized the Eiffel Tower was just as close so we decided to go over that way. It was my birthday, and I wanted to be able to say that I had a baguette and a bottle of wine in the park in front of the Eiffel Tower on my birthday. When we arrived at the site we were in total awe of the structure. It was huge!! The Eiffel Tower is such a romanticized structure that it was amazing to actually be standing at the base of it. We of course had a small photo shoot before grabbing a baguette and some wine from a corner store and headed to the grass; however, the park in front of the Eiffel Tower is the only place in Europe that we have discovered that you can not drink in public. We were so bummed, but there were cops everywhere telling people to stop drinking that we weren’t about to chance it! While we laid in the grass people watching, eating, and loving life we realized that we are so incredibly blessed!
We had planned on waking up early the next to go back to the Tower to climb up to the top but, like Josh said, I don’t think we realized how tired we actually were because when we woke up it was noon and we had spent the morning catching up on sleep instead of exploring. When we did finally set out we hit the streets running! We went to the Eiffel Tower and climbed the over 600 steps up to the second floor. The views from the first and second floors were indescribable. We could see everything in Paris and it felt like we were at the top of the world! We took the elevator up to the top of the structure and it was even more incredible than the floors below. I don’t know that there is any better way to see the entire city of Paris than from the top of the Eiffel Tower. You can see literally everything in the city and it all looks so small. It is really hard to describe the feeling of actually being on the top of the tower that had before seemed like such a storybook place. We made our way back down and before we got all the way down we had crepes and coffee at the cafe on the second floor.
After the Eiffel Tower we went over to Notre Dame. We couldn’t be in Paris and not see where Quazimodo had lived! The church was huge, as are the other European churches we’d seen. Notre Dame was much more gothic and had something different than the churches we’d seen before. While we were walking around on the inside they actually started a small mass which was interesting. They were playing the small organ and the sound seemed to fill every crevice and arch without echoing. Hearing the grande organ would have been something special. Since we were super motivated tourists, after we saw Notre Dame we got on the metro to make our way to the Arc de Triomph, however when we finally arrived at what we thought was our destination we were at the Grande Arch instead. The Grande Arch was really quite the grande piece of architecture. We it really was a giant arch in the middle of a huge plaza where there was a mall, which put all American malls to shame, and a bunch of business buildings. We ate at the mall and we walked around for awhile and still hadn’t seen everything!
We wised up after our mishap and found the correct arc that we had been looking for in the first place, after the mall closed. While we were standing outside of the round about and watching the madness for a little bit, we decided that you sort of have to have a death wish to enter the unruled disorder that is considered a street. There are no lanes, or traffic signals, and there are 12 exit spots around the street. It is literally madness. We walked from the Arch de Triomph down to a park called Pont Neuf to meet some girls that we met in Barcelona to go out with them.
We met up with the girls and took them back to our place so they could stash their bags in our room while we were out. We got in a cab and headed from our place down to the crazy roundabout that we’d seen earlier...it was just as insane to drive through it as it was to watch. I’m pretty sure the cab driver was loving scaring us because me and the girls were freaking out in the back seat while Josh was just laughing at us in the front seat. We stayed out until 6:30 in the morning because the girls didn’t have a place to stay and they wouldn’t let them come into our room. We met so many interesting people in the streets and bars of Paris and then we watched the sun come up as we drove back to the hotel. Thank goodness it was our last day because we were so tired that we didn’t want to do anything touristy. We had been doing as much as we could everyday during our two weeks that by the final day before we left for Berlin we were touristed out. We actually went and saw a movie at a place close to our hotel until we had to catch the train. Doing something normal that we would do at home was a nice feeling.
The train to Berlin was a 13 hour overnight train ride. Our cabin was totally packed and it was difficult to get any real sleep, but the scenery until the sun went down was amazing. I couldn’t believe how beautiful everything was. Once we arrived in Berlin, we made our way to Michendorf (the place that we’re staying for the week of training) and as soon as we got to the house all the other counselors that were already here invited us to go into the city with them. Naturally we didn’t want to skip this opportunity so we headed out with the group to the Christopher Day Street Parade, Berlin’s LGBT pride event. The parade was incredible and we had an amazing time getting to know our new friends. We’ve been training since Sunday and after training everyday we go out and do something fun with the group. Yesterday we went to Potsdam and walked around the town and then watched the opening game of the world cup at a little restaurant. Last night we went to a lake nearby and had a fire when the sun went down.
It’s so nice to be in a house for a little bit and know that we’re going to have a solid group of people with us all summer. We can already tell we’re in for the best summer of our lives. We move into a flat in Berlin with everyone on Saturday and then on either Sunday or Monday we will start our first official camp!
Well, if you’ve stayed with me through that disgustingly long update, thank you! and stay posted for more of our crazy adventures :)