347 Steps

During our last day in Paris, we visited perhaps the most iconic monument of all time: the Eiffel Tower. A couple friends and I climbed the steps all the way to the first platform. We would have made it to the top, but the top tier was closed that morning. We weren’t about to take the easy way out or pay even MORE money just to take the elevator. My legs were screaming, and my lungs were burning by the end. The view and sense of accomplishment was more than worth it, though!


View from the first tier of the Eiffel Tower. Absolutely stunning!


This is one of my favorite pictures from the trip. We all had so much fun that day, and I’ll never forget our experiences.


After our climb up the Eiffel Tower, we were set loose to visit the nearby market street of Rue Cler. We got lost multiple times and quickly discovered we had no idea how to read a street map of Pairs. But what is interesting to me now, however, is that I never once was scared of getting lost. Even to this day, I have this irrational fear of getting lost, not knowing where I am, not knowing how to get where I’m going, worried about being late. But while I was in Europe, and especially that day we spent at the Eiffel Tower, I never once worried about being lost. We made the most of our cluelessness and ordered crepes at a bakery we passed. I believe I got a Nutella banana crepe, and it was amazing. Finally, we did manage to make it to Rue Cler! My friend James and I purchased a bag of fresh cherries then strolled casually back to the Eiffel Tower while eating cherries and spitting out the pits. I remember feeling so totally at peace and happy with the world. During that day, Paris truly was a magical place. I have yet to recreate that feeling of utter happiness and peacefulness I felt while strolling back to the Eiffel Tower that bright and sunny morning.

In my next post, I will post pictures from our last sightseeing destinations in Paris. Then, it’s off to Switzerland!


On Tour

After our visit to Montmartre, we performed our Paris concert at Luxemburg Gardens. It was a very peaceful and beautiful area. The concert seemed really rushed, but the audience loved it. Once again, “The Stars and Stripes Forever” march by John Philip Sousa was a huge hit! The most striking aspect of our Paris concert was my father’s discovery of an older woman in the audience who was sketching our performance. I thought it was very neat, and it was a wonderful feeling to know that people oceans away cared so much about us and our music.


Luxemburg Gardens was so green, peaceful, and beautiful. We performed our concert underneath this amazing gazebo.


There’s me playing the trumpet! I’m to the left of the guy in the back row.

After our performance at Luxemburg Gardens, we traveled to another old cathedral where the choir and orchestra performed (I also played during select songs in the orchestra). This cathedral was also magnificent and inspiring. Something about ancient buildings just gets to me and makes me think about all the historical moments that building has housed and witnessed.


Unfortunately, I cannot remember the name of this cathedral, but it was absolutely stunning!


The acoustics in this cathedral were astounding!

We ended our concert day with a boat trip on the Seine River which offered our first good views of the Eiffel Tower.



Some of the bridges we passed under were so beautiful!

What could have been more soothing, relaxing, and peaceful than a boat trip on the Seine River in Paris, France during sunset? It was a truly magical experience, and I cannot wait to relive it again someday.

In my next post, I will cover our trip to the Eiffel Tower and the famous Louvre art museum.

300 Steps

Any bad impressions I had of Paris were completely wiped away after my second day there! Day two consisted of a trip to Montmartre, the location of the Moulin Rouge and the amazing Sacre Coeur cathedral. The streets of Montmartre are lined with artists selling their art while they painted. It was amazing to just stand and watch some of them as they worked. And of course I bought a painting to take home with me!

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I could have roamed the streets of Montmartre forever, but I think I was most impressed by Sacre Coeur. After walking up 300 steps, I entered the cathedral underneath vaulting arches, and it just took my breath away. (Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures inside the cathedral.) I have to admit that I started crying. It was just overwhelming being surrounded by so much grandeur, and the solemn, spiritual atmosphere is palpable.


Sacre Coeur from a little ways down the hill. Yes, we walked up and down ALL those steps!

I think the experience at Montmartre was one of the most lasting impressions from my trip. We all think our world revolves around us and our little corner of the world, but traveling forces you to realize you are only one person in a million, and there is so much else out there: things you could never even imagine until you finally step outside your boundaries. Sometimes I think we set these boundaries for ourselves and refuse to step out of our comfort zone. But let me tell you, it is one hundred percent worth it! Was I in my comfort zone during most of my trip? Absolutely not! I was surrounded by people who spoke a different language; I don’t speak French at all. I was unfamiliar with the customs, language, streets, money, everything. But I learned and grew as a person so much through the experience. I don’t want to imagine a world where I don’t continue to step out of my comfort zone and force myself to expand my boundaries. Because once we cease to learn, we cease to live.


View of Paris from the top of the hill in Montmartre.


The City of Love and Graffiti

Next up on the European tour was the City of Love: Paris. To get there, we had to take a ferry across the English Channel. Thankfully, I don’t get seasick, so the experience was wonderful for me! We got to watch the White Cliffs of Dover fade into the distance as the ferry shuttled us towards France.


The White Cliffs of Dover.


The ferry was massive!

We even had dinner while on the ferry. It had an entire food court! I spent most of my time up on deck taking in all the scenery.

Once we set foot in France, we boarded another coach that would transport us to Paris. Much of the trip was spent on the bus, traveling from country to country. However, I did not mind the long drives. It gave me time to sit back, relax, and just take in everything around me. It gave me time to gather my thoughts and prepare for everything to come. Also, during the long road trips was when I really got to know my fellow students and form some wonderful friendships!


The French countryside looks a lot like Illinois really…

My initial response to Paris was, “Wow! It is really dirty!” Everything was covered in graffiti, and I remember being slightly disappointed. I had such an idealized version of Paris I’d spent my whole life constructing that I forgot Paris is an actual city with actual people. Of course it has its dirty parts. I also remember the Paris hotel being the worst one we stayed in over the fourteen days. To get to our room, you had to use a stairwell that I swear was designed and built to star in a horror film. Plus, we had to turn on the light switches! So you could be halfway up the stairs and someone behind or above you would turn off the light! Every time we went to our room we ran up the stairs as fast as we could, so we could out of that stairwell. It was the creepiest hotel I have ever seen. Me and my roommate’s room had only one full-sized bed, and the hotel had brought in a cot for the other person. Neither my roommate or I were going to spend the night on that cot, so we ended up sharing the bed and felt much safer.


The view from our hotel room in Paris.

Next up was a visit to Montmartre which I will cover in my next post. Au Revoir!