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For the love of Paris

Yara Hamdan documents her journey from Dubai to Paris along with her friends.

The city of love

The city of lights

Historical Artifacts and the Eiffel tower

Paris painted a picture so beautiful, rich with its history, food, and wine. Middlesex University Dubai gave us a chance to experience something of a fairytale. With a seven-hour flight, around thirty students from the university were going to see the beauty that Paris offered its tourists. However, the initial journey started with a one-hour delay due to the harsh weather conditions in Abu Dhabi that day.

The trip began with a cruise across the River Seine. With the Eiffel Tower near the banks of the river, the evening was beautifully lit with just the right amount of yellow streetlights. We watched the sunset behind the Notre Dame, taking in the elegance of a bridge that is believed to grant wishes. Indeed, we were truly in the city of love. One hour was all it took, for us to understand the kind of beauty we were going to witness for the next five days.

River Seine, Paris.

Having had an early start the next day, we had a two-hour-long journey to the outskirts of the city, to a valley known as the Loire Valley. The bus ride to the valley proved to be a sleepy and a cozy ride yet with a view of the sunrise so magnificent, the skies were orange and red fading into a soft blue.  Located near the central stretch of Loire, was the castle “Chateau de Chambord” built by King Francois I. Originally built as a royal hunting lodge, the chateau was further used by King Henry II and King Louis XIV. With its intricate French architecture, seventy-seven staircases and 426 rooms, the castle is the largest structure in the region of Loire. 

The castle indeed took us back to the 16th century. The next palace we visited, was the “Chateau of Chenonceau”. Belonging to Diane de Poitiers, King Henry II’s mistress, the castle was taken away by Catherine De Medici, Henry II’s wife right after his death. The chateau is known for its French galleries, gardens and its picturesque view of the River Cher. The castle was once home to around 600 women as ordered by Queen Catherine de Medici. Hence the chateau was also known as the ‘ladies’ chateau. The ride back to the hotel was filled with jokes that made no sense, bubbling laughter and an air of excitement as to where the evening was going to take us.

Chateau de Chambord, Paris.

The same night had a walk through the streets of Paris in store for us. With the cold wind, street food and graffiti painted walls, Paris in the raw was one of the most beautiful scenes we had ever witnessed. It was these late-night walks and dinners that got us bonding very well with one another, listening to every story each one of us had to tell.

The third day in Paris included the initial trip to the Eiffel tower. Built-in the year of 1889, the tower was built by the architect Gustave Eiffel, in order to celebrate the centennial year of the French revolution, during the world expo “Exposition Universelle”. It was built to show other nations, the power and industrial advancement of France. It is also interesting to note that the Eiffel tower was built as a temporary structure, however, today it stands as a wonder of the world. The tower has two viewing decks, each with a fantastic view of the city of Paris from 187 and 377 feet from the ground. The cold weather coupled with the magical view of the city was what made the experience, an unforgettable one.

We were then taken to the Basilica of Montmartre. Montmartre literally translates mount of a martyr, where St Denys, the first bishop of Paris was martyred. The basilica was situated on the hilltop where an extraordinary view was yet again witnessed. We were given an opportunity to catch a foggy glimpse of the entire city in one go. The final trip of the day was to the famous Louvre museum, previously a royal fortress, and then a palace to various kings of France. The palace was then converted into a museum filled with famous paintings such as the Mona Lisa and Liberty leading the people. The museum was filled with artifacts- sculptures of the Greeks and the gifts from Egypt. One would agree, every room had a story behind it.

Montmartre, Paris.

The fourth day in Paris included a city tour and a trip to Disneyland. Students who went to Disneyland describe their experience to be a colorful one. There was joy, there was excitement and, everyone was able to embody their inner child. The Disney parade was one that wasn’t to be missed. From Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Daisy to Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White, and Elsa, there wasn’t a single Disney character out of sight. The lively beats, drums, and melody, brought the fictional world to life, and we felt like we belonged in it too.

Disneyland, Paris.

Alas, like every trip, this too had to come to an end. The last day took us to one of the busiest streets in Paris, known as the “Champs Elysees”. The avenue ran for 1.9 kilometers long and 70 meters wide, while the streets bustled with people going about their normal routine. Shops such as Louis Vuitton, Armani and Chanel stood prominently calling to us. One could find anything in the streets, right from restaurants, car showrooms, macaroon shops to cosmetics. At the heart of it was the Arc de Triomphe. Built-in honor of those who fought in the Napoleon wars and the French revolution, with their names engraved in the inner and outer columns of the majestic monument.

Apart from the rich history and knowledge that was imparted to the students on the trip, there was a strong sense of friendship and understanding among the students and the staff members. Right from clicking one another’s pictures and comparing the weather of Paris to Dubai, every student turned into a friend, making the trip to France, a magical and an unforgettable journey. And speaking on behalf of those whose trip to Paris was their very first European destination, every laugh, every joke, every trip in the bus had us awestruck and added to the charm of the journey. The responsibilities that awaited us back home were silenced for a while. And for that, we thank you Middlesex.

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