ULIP's Win a Trip To Paris competition is uniquely designed to engage students working at AS/A-level French or equivalent. The competition has been an annual event for the past eight years. As we prepare for the next competition, we asked this year's winner, Hollie Partis (Wallingford School), to give us a written insight into her trip. Read on to find out how she spent her weekend in Paris.
We arrived in Paris at 2:30pm to promising weather. Or, at least, the weather we’d packed for. As we would learn, the rest of the city had also decided to make the most of these last remnants of summer: after dropping off our luggage, we found ourselves confronted by an inundated Champ du Mars.
Like all good tourists, we took this opportunity to visit the Eiffel tower. It was awe-inspiring to see it in real life, but I imagined it must have been even more so in 1889 when it was erected. The queue was short, so we decided to explore the courtyard underneath. The next lift would not be for another half an hour, though, and we were running short on time. As such, we abandoned the Eiffel tower, and took the métro to the Louvre instead.
As it turned out, the part of the Louvre that I had wanted to see was closed. I wasn’t too disappointed, though: it was Friday, so the Louvre was open until 9:45pm, and we took the opportunity to explore every wing of the gigantic building. Halfway through our explorations, the sun began to set, lighting up the pyramid in yellow and blue and pink. I’m sure it happens all the time, but it felt like a singularity of sorts. Of course, we took pictures.
We had made several bookings for Saturday. The first one was at the Atelier des Lumières, which is hard to do justice in writing. ‘Dans la halle’ during our visit was a Van Gogh exhibition, where Van Gogh’s paintings were animated and put to music. It was such a unique experience, to be immersed in an artist’s paintings like that. I left with a much greater appreciation of Van Gogh’s work than before.
We had planned to go back to the city centre at this point, but, noticing that we were near Père Lachaise, we decided to have a look. We had underestimated how big the graveyard was: we managed to glimpse the graves of Chopin, Molière, Edith Piaf and Oscar Wilde before rushing back to the station. We had to take a convoluted route to reach the Catacombes, our second booking, because the climate strike had been hijacked by anarchists, and as a result many of the métro stations were closed. But we made it, and descended into the 14°c of the Catacombes, a welcome escape from the heat outside. I had thought we were morbid for going to Père Lachaise, but our morbid interest was nothing in comparison to that of the original curator of the Catacombes. The bones were stacked like supermarket shelves, with skulls arranged in patterns such as hearts and crosses. All of this was accompanied by placards boasting famous quotes about death. Macabre to say the least, and refreshingly ridiculous.
Having heard little about it since the fire, we went to see the Notre Dame. I had been inside last time I went to Paris, when I was 10, so it was sobering to see it bordered off and obscured by scaffolding. We then crossed the bridge to visit Shakespeare and Company to buy a book for the train ride back. In the evening, remembering Friday’s beautiful sunset, we headed for Montmartre. What we hadn’t factored in was the fact that everyone else would want pictures of a beautiful sunset in Montmartre, and that it would be packed full of people. We got to the top of the Funicular only to head back down almost straight away. Incidentally, there was no beautiful sunset anyhow. I wouldn’t say the trip was wasted, though: it was nice to see the Sacré-Cœur.
On Sunday we considered visiting Napoleon’s tomb but concluded that we had probably seen enough dead French people for one trip. After a quick detour to stow our baggage at the Gare du Nord, we visited the Musée de la Vie Romantique. We had lunch in the museum’s lovely café before heading towards the Musée d’Orsay, at which point it began to rain. It didn’t rain half-heartedly. Thankfully, the museum was dry, but not in content. We saw many of Van Gogh’s paintings from the Atelier des Lumières on canvas, as well as some of Monet’s most famous works, like Waterlilies. We couldn’t stay long, though: we had a train to catch. We left Paris wishing we’d had more time, but appreciative nonetheless of the time that we’d had.