'Hills' Still Alive in Paris

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When Lauren Conrad finally headed from "The Hills" to Paris, MTV wasn't far behind.

After turning down her first chance to take her Teen Vogue magazine internship from the City of Angels to the City of Lights, aspiring fashion designer Conrad wasn't about to decline an unexpected second opportunity. And MTV wasn't about to let her leave Los Angeles without its cameras coming along, so her unscripted series resumes its third season with new episodes Monday, March 24.

Co-worker Whitney Port joins Conrad overseas to help handle the elegant Crillon Ball for debutantes. Her escape from L.A. gives Conrad a temporary break from certain troubles: her undefined relationship with sometimes-beau Brody Jenner; and her fractured friendship with Heidi Montag, who when last seen had split from fiance Spencer Pratt, a thorn in Conrad's side.

"It's funny," Conrad reflects. "I want to be really excited when I talk about [Paris], but it happened a while ago. It was a good trip, but it was also a rough trip, just dealing with the time change. We really did wake up and work until we went back to sleep, so we were a little disappointed. We didn't get to shop much, only in a chocolate shop. And that's because we were running an errand for a photo shoot."

Viewers shouldn't fear they won't get to "vive la France!" at all, though. Conrad confirms "it was definitely glamorous, and it was an amazing experience just to be there and see how beautiful it is. It wasn't really a vacation, though."

Still, Conrad and Port made the requisite tourist trip to the Eiffel Tower. "That was all I wanted to do when I got there," Conrad says. "You do get to see some of the night life, but most of the time, we were too tired to go out. We had the option to, of course, but we were so sleepy that we would just go back to the hotel room and pass out."

Indeed, Paris showed Conrad even more how her work life will be if her internship blooms into a full-fledged career. "In Los Angeles, we go into that internship once or twice a week, but this was every day. It was a lot more demanding. We were that much more tired, but we had to look nice because we were dealing with the Crillon Ball, so there was a lot of pressure on us."

The first time Paris was dangled in front of Conrad, she opted to remain in California with then-boyfriend Jason Wahler, a fellow alum of MTV's " Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County." Teen Vogue's senior West Coast editor, Lisa Love, proceeded to hold the decision over Conrad -- who maintains that getting another chance at France was a true shock.

"She had made it clear that because I gave it up once, there wasn't going to be a second chance. I really didn't expect it. A part of me knew that maybe I didn't deserve it, but I was just so excited, I didn't care."

Conrad reports the Paris segments make up only the first couple of the eight new "bonus episodes," as MTV terms them. It doesn't take long for her to reunite with friend and roommate Audrina Patridge, nor for the Heidi-and-Spencer matter to enter her thoughts again.

"I just needed to get away," Conrad says, "and what better place than Paris? One of the biggest things I got there was perspective. When you go to a new country, it reminds you how many opportunities there are in life. It made me re-evaluate a lot of situations."

As fare for audiences, those situations have kept "The Hills" one of MTV's highest-rated shows. "Some of us don't really understand it, but we're grateful for it," says Conrad, who now has been a reality star for more than four years between "Laguna Beach" and "The Hills."

How much longer does she foresee riding that wave? "It depends on when you ask me," she says. "I love the show and I love working on it, but there are times when you do get overwhelmed and it's difficult. We can't really live normal lives right now, which can be good and bad. We get a lot of amazing opportunities we wouldn't have otherwise, but we also have to deal with the downside of being in the public eye."

At least Conrad's high profile is keeping her in lucrative side activities. Besides being a cosmetics spokeswoman, she is visible through a clothing line named -- what else? -- Lauren Conrad, inspired by her personal style.

"It's been so much fun," she says of having her name on fashions, "but it's also been a lot of work."

As was Paris, so Conrad claims she's just as happy to be stateside again.

"Luckily, a couple of the crew members spoke French, but Whitney and I were often thrown into situations where there was such a language barrier and a cultural barrier, we found ourselves kind of lost. It was over before I knew it, but I was ready to come home."

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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