Logbook #4: Birthday in Paris

Travel News

How far did I travel this week?297 miles! That’s the distance from London to Disneyland Paris, which is in fact East of Paris by about 45 minutes.

How far have I traveled on this journey so far?297 miles is the record for the furthest I’ve traveled thus far. My trip to Wales came pretty close, at about 270 miles.

How did I get around this week?I traveled via the Tube in London to get to St. Pancras International train station, then took the Eurostar (train that runs underneath the English Channel) to Disneyland Paris. In Paris I used the hotel shuttle to get to and from the park, the RER (which is like an underground train) to get into central Paris, and the Metro (like the subway, it only runs in central Paris) to get around from there. Then lots and lots and lots of walking.

What was the most interesting place I visited this week?Rue Cler. I know, I didn’t say Disneyland Paris! Rue Cler is a market street near the Eiffel Tower. I visited it three years ago when I went on short Paris trip during my longer London school trip. Revisiting the same street and the same bakery as three years ago showed me how much I’ve grown as an individual since then, and how independent I’ve become. I’m much less shy than I used to be; I was actually comfortable attempting broken French to communicate with bakery owners when ordering my pastries.

Other Travel News from this week
Here’s a useful lesson I learned the hard way: locations look much closer together when you’re looking down on them from a tall building. For example, from the top of the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame looks like an easy walk away. Be warned. Walks are not to scale. That “short peaceful walk” ended up being over an hour long. It was still beautiful, but very misleading!

Nature News

How was the weather this week?The weather was surprisingly good for my trip to Paris. Maybe it was Mother Nature’s birthday treat for me!  The weather forecast changed a lot in the week leading up to my trip. Originally it was supposed to rain on Friday, then the channels said it would rain on Monday. It didn’t end up raining at all during the day! I think some showers snuck in during the night. It was a lot colder than in London, especially when we went up the Eiffel Tower.

What animals did I see this week? I saw quite an elusive animal this week, called Mickey Mouse. We found this human-sized mouse in many strange habitats, mostly inside the park called “Disneyland”. He liked to stand on top of large floats while wearing fancy suits and singing to the music. Wherever he went, children swarmed around him like…mice. We could only assume he was a magical mouse.

What was the coolest thing I saw in nature this week?Icebergs. In central Paris. Yes, you heard correctly. Real, cold, melting icebergs. Read below to learn why!

Other Nature News from this week:
Here’s some background. From November 30 through December 11, Paris is holding the United Nations Climate Conference. After 20 years of negotiations, the public is hoping that the conference will result in a worldwide agreement to prevent climate change and further temperature rises. As such there have been many protests around the city, arguing that the climate talks are being controlled by large companies, instead of keeping the environment in mind. We ran into a performance art piece commenting on the climate change talks. The artists imported a bunch of icebergs from Greenland and placed them in a square near the Parthenon, a building close to Notre Dame. They projected a black and white photo of a crowd on the large building opposite, and had two performers dressed in all white with these giant hoods covering their faces. The two women looked almost like aliens, walking around to all the icebergs and twirling in their long white robes.

Lifestyle News

What main languages are spoken here?French is the main language in France. Most citizens speak a little bit of English, but I found that in order to ask questions I had to use a bit of pantomime. Next time I should do a crash course in French.

What type of money is used here?Because France is part of the European Union, the country uses euros. Coins come in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cent denominations, and there are also 1 and 2 euro coins. Euro banknotes are color-coded and sized according to their value. For example, 5 euro notes are smaller than 50 euro notes. They come in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 euro denominations.

How much does a bottle of water cost?The euro is very close in value to the U.S. dollar, which means that European currency less expensive to Americans than the British currency. 1 euro is 1.1 dollars, so depending on where you get your water, a bottle could cost 1.1 dollars.

What was the best meal this week?This past Monday was my birthday, and my boyfriend treated me to a dinner inside the Walt Disney Studios Park. Remember how at the end of Ratatouille, Remy created his own mouse-sized restaurant, using buttons and bottle caps for chairs and tables, and Christmas lights? They recreated that in the Disney Park in a restaurant called “Bistrot Chez Remy”.

We were shrunk to the size of a mouse and had a very French meal: steak, French fries, and of course Ratatouille! The whole meal was amazing, partly because I felt like I was in the movie.

What music did I listen to this week?Disney. All the Disney all the time. The best part about spending time in Disneyland Paris is that all the background music is Disney. I was very happy—  especially when we went to the Frozen sing-along show. Apparently the families and little kids were looking at me oddly because I was a 22-year-old singing out the lyrics to “Let it Go”. Come on, it’s Frozen. You have to belt out those songs!!!

What activity was the most fun this week?Disneyland. That’s an activity, right? Okay, I’ll be more specific. My favorite part about visiting the parks was seeing how the classic Disney I grew up with was put in a different context because the park is in France, not the United States. Many of the shows had two hosts, one who spoke French, and the other English. Some of the lands were renamed too. I have a feeling not many French people understood or related to Frontierland as Americans do. There are many other differences, like the Indiana Jones ride was a roller coaster, and Space Mountain had a 360 loop.

What did I read this week?This week I read a lot of street signs, maps, and train schedules. I’m lucky that the romance languages (Spanish, French, and Italian) are all similar, so I was able to use my Spanish skills to piece together enough of the signs to figure out how to use the public transportation and where to go.

What games or sports did I play this week?On the train ride I got addicted to a Brain Training book I purchased. It has all sorts of puzzles in it, like variations of sudoku where each row has to add up to a certain number without repeating the digits 0-9, and the mine-finder game. It made the time on the Eurostar pass very quickly.

Other news from this week:I could tell security had increased in Paris due to the terrorist attacks just a few weeks ago. There were security guards posted outside the shopping mall to check bags and jackets to make sure no one was carrying anything dangerous or wearing suicide/explosive vests. It was weird seeing French military carrying giant guns outside Notre Dame and sometimes running into the military personnel on the street. It’s reassuring to see the police/military presence, but since guns are not allowed in England, and I rarely see a policeman, it was weird seeing guns again.

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