C'est la vie!

Trip Start Sep 29, 2006
1
Trip End Oct 01, 2006


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Friday, October 6, 2006

Sorry so late, but classes are beginning to get in the way of my traveling! This weekend I have to write 4 essays...so I'll be home all weekend.

On Friday morning we flew into Paris. The airport there is connected to the train station and we needed a train to get into the city, but it took us over 2 hours to actually get onto a train because their metro system is super confusing. The French feel it is necessary to name the same metro system 4 different names. Also, the ticket machines only accept coins or European credit cards, so it was hassle getting change, buying the correct ticket etc. We finally figured it out and were boarding the train, when we saw several people in a row jump the gate and get on the train. The officials working there didn't say a word. Oh well!

Once in Paris, we checked into our "budget hotel" (it was basically a hostel) where we were sharing a room for two older women for the Ukraine who didn't speak a word of English or French and a guy in his twenties from Arizona. Our first exploration of Paris included walking along the Seine River past the Bastille Monument to the Jardin des Plantes (Garden of Plants). Across from the garden was a cafe where we shared a Quatre Fromage Pizza (4 Cheeses) and it was delicious! As a cheese lover, France is a good vacation spot! The waiter was really friendly, which was refreshing after becoming accustomed to London's service. We went and sat in the garden which was in front of the National Museum of History and watched people for about an hour, when it started to rain. Thoroughly soaked, we reached the hotel and changed before heading out to the Eiffel Tower.

Seeing the Eiffel Tower lit up at night was awesome and every hour it twinkles. A Bollywood movie was being filmed and we watched for a while (I find Bollywood hilarious) and then walked through the Champ de Mars to get a closer view of the Tower. Beneath the Eiffel Tower are carousels; Lauren and I decided we needed to ride one so we bought tickets from the vendor, who was laughing at us, and were the only people on the carousel. Natalie took pictures of us but seemed a bit embarrassed, so we felt we should yell hello at her with her full name to erase any unease she might have. It was fun and felt like a great way to begin a trip to Paris. For the next few hours we wandered around town, looking at shops and monuments and parks. Finally we were hungry for dinner, so we stopped at Cafe Clement to see if we could grab some food before they closed. Even though it was 11:45 pm, the waiter sat us down and said they weren't about to close, so we ordered a full meal. French food never seemed like a big deal to me, but now I believe that is because I hadn't tasted French food in France. The food was phenomenal! Full and happy, we returned to the hotel to sleep.

Saturday we slept in, which was fun since we don't get to do it very often. For breakfast we ate at a patisserie near our hotel (again, delicious) and then wandered around the Latin quarter looking at the little shops and boutiques. By pure luck, I booked our hostel in the Latin quarter, which is the "hip" young part of Paris and was perfect for our stay. We then went to the Gallery Lafayette, a gigantic store that is 7 stories high and packed with people. In the center there was a bird cage at least 2 or 3 stories tall that was suspended with 2 people dancing in it. The best way I can describe it is that it reminded me of Cirque de Soleil. Half way through the store, we stopped at got ice cream, then finished by drooling at shoes that cost upwards of 800 euros...it was insane.

Next we walked to the Arc de Triomphe and took some pictures. As we were about to leave, the streets were blocked by the police and we watched what was happening out of curiosity. A military parade was occurring, so we stayed and watched it. Although we have no idea what it was about, it was interesting to watch and it seemed to be some type of memorial or veteran event. We got some dinner before heading back to the hotel at a restaurant in the Latin Quarter. The food was good, but not nearly as sensational as the night before.

After we had booked our trip to Paris, I discovered that on the 1st Sunday of each month, admission to museums are free. It was a wonderful coincidence that we were there on October 1. First, we attempted to go to the Orsay museum because we had heard it was a good museum, but there problems on the Metro and we couldn't reach it. Instead, we started at the Louvre which was packed! Since we had different interests, we split up and agreed to meet a few hours later. I went and saw the Ancient Egypt section as well as the Etruscan, Phoenician, Roman and Greek collections. Together we went to the Renessaince Painting collection because we felt that it was necessary to see the Mona Lisa. Since I had heard from so many people how the Mona Lisa was a bit of a disappointment in person, I was prepared to be unimpressed which actually result in my being pleasantly surprised by what we saw. The line was insane and it was extremely crowded, but the painting was nice and it helped to understand how the Mona Lisa affected the art world. Several people were taking pictures with flash cameras, which is prohibited, and I was glad when a security guard practically tackled one man and took his camera away. Over time, flashes from cameras could cause serious damage to the paintings!

Since we had watched the movie The Da Vinci Code the week before, we joked about the Louvre's significance as we left. An interesting thing happened (this is a specific example but the basic event happened multiple times while we were in France): Lauren was checking her backpack at the Louvre and there is a Swiss Army logo on her backpack. The man checking the bag glanced at it and in a rather rude tone, asked if we were from Great Britain. We answered "No, we're from the US." Confused, he pointed at our bag and said "But isn't that British?" and I replied "That's Swiss, it's just the brand for the bag. We are from the United States." He started laughing and his attitude towards us changed completely. It is interesting that French people actually like Americans better than the British, I was not expecting that reaction at all. But multiple people assumed we were British and were difficult until discovering we were in fact American, which caused them to joke and talk freely to us.

We got lunch at a cafe on the Seine before heading to the Palais Royal and Notre Dame Cathedral. Along the way we passed the Hotel de Ville and the French Consul building. All of the architecture was beautiful and impressive. As a Cathedral enthusiast, I loved Notre Dame. There was an afternoon Mass service while we walked through the cathedral and it was beautiful to hear to the service in French while looking at the art, stained glass and statues. All of the cathedrals I have seen have impressed me, but this cathedral was my favorite by far. I took lots of pictures!!

Our last stop was at the Pompidou which is a contemporary museum as well as a library and cinema. The building is bizarre and impossible to miss, as you can see in my photos. Movements and Images, the current exhibit, was fascinating and dealt with art not being 2-D, but rather interactive and active. I bought the book about the exhibit because I wanted to read about it. Leaving the Pompidou, we caught a cab and headed to the airport.

The trip was fast and we were so busy, but I feel like we barely saw anything at all. I know that I would like to spend more time in Paris. Since I was the only that knew French, it was my responsibility to get us around the city and communicate with people. We had no problems and I really enjoyed using French and was proud that I could interact with people, even if it was on a basic level.
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hilaryw
hilaryw on

Sounds amazing!
Jean,
I'm so glad you're having such a good time in London and Paris and everywhere else. I've been meaning to write to you and send you photos of Finn, but I haven't been able to find the wire to get the pictures from the camera. I promise I'll write you a real email soon. It's so wonderful to be able to read your journal and get updates on how you're doing. This sounds like it is a really amazing experience for you and I'm so happy for you that you're there. I love you and miss you!
Keep enjoying yourself,
Hilary

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