March 22, 2012 – It’s our last day in Seville, and already it’s starting off wrong. The water pressure on the entire floor is non-existent, and no one can take a shower, brush their teeth, shave or even just wash their hands. Needless to say, chaos ensued. It didn’t help matters that there had been almost no internet for the last two weeks, and at this point there were nearly 80 angry college students ready to riot.
Luckily, Fernando and Raul (the administrators in charge of the Seville program) had the answer – shrug and say they’re sorry until 10 AM when we were all loaded onto coach buses on our way to the airport. Oh well, at least it can’t get any worse, right? Well, maybe it can. We arrived at the airport and got through security at 11:45, giving us enough time to grab a chorizo and cheese sandwich from the food court before going to the gate at 12:50 (boarding was at 1:05). Iberia Air has a strange tendency to be delayed, and this time was no different. We were supposed to leave at 1:35 PM, and we didn’t board until 1:45. We landed in Madrid at 3:30. Our connecting flight was scheduled to depart at 3:40, and wouldn’t you know it, this Iberia flight had no delays. We missed our plane and had to wait for the next one at 4:40.
Boarding for the rescheduled flight started at 4:10, giving people enough time to grab lunch at the closest spot if they wanted, but a few adventurous students decided to run to McDonalds on the other side of the terminal. We learned on the plane that they’d missed the flight, and they were going to have to pay for their new tickets out of pocket. When we landed in Paris, the drama was over. It was later than we’d hoped, sure, and everyone was a little exhausted from having so many things go wrong, but we’re in Paris! We got our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower on the drive to the dorm, and suddenly the atmosphere was a little brighter. We were really here! The rest of the night was a blur, and I fell asleep quickly.
March 23, 2012 – The day started early, at 9:30 AM, as we met downstairs for breakfast and our orientation meeting. We learned the most important rule of Paris: Say Bonjour (or Bonsoir, at night) before you interact with anyone. It’s a sign of great disrespect to not say it, and it’s one of the reasons that the “ugly American” stereotype gets so widely spread. Right after the orientation meeting it was time for lunch, which was served in the cafeteria, and we lined up expectantly. We were not disappointed – the food was absolutely delicious, and I only wish we got more of it (despite the fact that the meal filled me up just fine).
Right after lunch we took a walk down to the Seine River, where we took a boat tour around the city. I have well over a hundred pictures of just that trip, and I’ll upload them tomorrow (to my imgur account “kevininrome.imgur.com”). We saw the Royal Palace, Parliament, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and a good number of other places on the boat, and as we got off my group of friends decided we’d go to the Eiffel Tower that night. Michael, the Student Life director for SJU in Paris, decided to then show us all the Latin Quarter, and specifically the area where food was good and cheap. And by cheap I mean $15 per person, per meal (minimum, those were the dirt cheap places). Considering we’re only getting breakfast and dinner Monday through Thursday, that means there’s going to be a lot of spending going on (which means I’d love it if I had a little more money in my account).
After another great meal at the dorm, I headed out with Frank, Caroline, Kristin and Joanna to the Eiffel Tower. It was 9:50 when we got there, and at 10 the lights on the tower started flashing and sparkling, something that apparently happens every hour, on the hour at night. After the light display finished, we walked up to the tower to really get a sense of its size (note: it’s massive!) and take a look around. We noticed that there was an 88 euro meal available at the Jules Verne restaurant (the one at the top of the Eiffel Tower, and that equates to almost $120 for a meal), a price that Frank and some others are willing to pay, but that the rest of us are skeptical about; it’s money better spent elsewhere, in my opinion. Either way, we went home and went to sleep. Paris is beautiful at night, but I’m still pretty tired.
March 24, 2012 – We woke up at 11:30 this morning and got together to discuss what we wanted to do. Frank and Caroline wanted to check out some stores they had heard about before coming, and Kristin wanted to sleep. Elena, Joanna, Rebekah and I decided we’d head off to the Louvre and see about going in. We took the Paris metro system, which is basically a simpler, yet more out-of-date subway system than New York’s. The trains run extremely frequently but most of them are really old and even require you to open the door manually, which is admittedly kind of fun.
We got to the Musee Louvre metro stop, and walked out into the Parisian version of Rockefeller Plaza’s underground mall. Marble floors, walls and ceilings led in a straight path to the Louvre itself, first the upside-down pyramid that you could walk right up to and touch, and then to the area beneath the large above-ground glass pyramid, which served as the huge lobby for the museum. We got a great surprise when we learned that our St. John’s ID got us in for free(!) and quickly decided to go to the Richelieu wing, which of course houses the Mona Lisa. Again I took tons of pictures, and they’ll be uploaded tomorrow. After we looked through the wing we decided to grab lunch (since it was 2:30 and we hadn’t eaten yet today), and went out to the food court in the subway plaza. There we got McDonalds – the cheapest food in the food court – and then headed back to campus.
Tonight we went back to the Latin Quarter and ate at a restaurant (one of the few that weren’t completely packed) for 17 euro per person (about $23). The French onion soup was all right but certainly not great, and the beef stew was better but still nothing to write home about. The crème brulee, on the other hand, was fantastic. After dinner we came back to campus, did laundry, and printed our tickets to Disney. We leave at 8:30 AM tomorrow, and I’ll take lots of pictures!