En Provence 2013

Paris!!

So I just spent five days in Paris, and for those inquiring minds, I thought I’d give a day-by-day.

Friday: We got up near 8, said goodbye to Madame, and left for Paris! We took a bus to the TGV station and the train ride itself was only three hours. We immediately went to our hotel which was so charming and the area it was located in was very reminiscent of Aix-en-Provence. We ate lunch and then headed into the heart of the city! It was funny how much I remembered like the fountain at the top of the Quartier Latin and the Napoleon Bridge on the Seine. We went to Notre-Dame, which was breathtaking and easier to enjoy without the billions of tourists like last time. We got a little tour by Magali (the lovely director of our program) and got to stay for a thirty-minute worship session with incense and Latin chants. It was so beautiful! We then went to Shakespeare and Co. which is one of my new favorite places in Paris! It’s a famous English bookstore that looks like it came from a movie set, which teetering piles of quirky books and shelves that go from ceiling to floor. We got dinner in the quartier latin for Kelley’s (a girl in our group) birthday and then went to the Arc de Triomphe (but didn’t go up it). We got to see a bit of the Eiffel Tower and walked down the Champs Elysées before calling it a day!

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Saturday: Today we got up, had a lovely breakfast at the hotel, and set off to the Louvre!! I thought that I had remembered it well but I hadn’t done it justice. It’s. So. Huge. But those horrible glass pyramids really do detract from its beauty. We saw the “Mona Lisa” first (to get done with the elbowing and obnoxious crowds)…underwhelming. But my favorite parts included the gorgeous ceilings, the apartments of Napoleon III, and all the artists scattered around the building recreating masterpieces. Fun fact: if you looked at each work for thee seconds and took out the time to walk in between, it would take you three months, day and night. We got sandwiches and sat on the banks of the Seine before we took a tour boat. It started to POUR down rain but we stuck it out and had a blast! We had a free afternoon so we walked around and saw the Hotel de Ville, Notre-Dame, and the Quartier Latin again. We then had dinner where I discovered the most magical food of my life, aligot, which I can only explain as cheesy, doughy mashed potatoes.

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Sunday: Today I saw the oldest monument in the world. We started our day with a visit to the Obélisque, which was a gift from Egypt and is over 3,000 years old. It’s easily the oldest thing I’ve ever seen in my life! From there we went to the Musée d’Orsay, which is my favorite museum in the entire world. It was amazing; I had remembered every detail well and immediately went to the Impressionists. I saw Degas, Manet, Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Pissarro, and of course, Cezanne. Because of Aix’s obsession with their golden boy, I feel like I’ll always have a rather intimate, personal relationship with his work now. I flew through the museum, and finally went back to my favorite place in Paris, La Salle des Fêtes, which is a breathtaking ballroom with golden ceilings and crystal chandeliers . I was able to see it alone and it was even more marvelous than the first time! We got crêpes and while walking across the Seine, we passed  a group of five hundred women doing Zumba. We went to the Sacre-Coeur, which compared to Notre-Dame, is an explosion of ornate, golden details. We walked around Montmartre, which used to be the center of starving artists like the Impressionists. Unfortunately, it’s been turned into a horrid tourist trap. We saw the Eiffel Tower in the freezing rain, got dinner, and went to bed!

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Monday: We started out the day with Saint-Chapelle, which used to be the personal worship place of Saint-Louis and housed the 22 relics of the Passion of the Christ. It’s known for it’s wonderful stain-glass windows. We then went next door to the Conciergerie, which was the famed prison during the Revolution and housed Marie-Antionette before her execution. It was actually a very dark experience; the prison held near 2,875 people before their unjust deaths. It was interesting to see another country’s history from their perspective; it was dark and horrifying and we Americans often celebrate its ideals and political ideologies. To lighten our day after that we went back to Shakespeare and Co. and then to a very cool area of Paris called the Marais. It was historic and trendy at the same time; its epitome was the Place de Vosgues, where Victor Hugo’s house was. We then climbed the Arc de Triomphe, which was lovely. We had dinner at a belgian restaurant (moules et frites/ mussels and fries) on the Champs-Elysées and then went back.

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Tuesday: Today was so tiring but chock-full! We did our last activity together; we went to the national library to see an exposition on Asterix, which is France’s famous comic series. It’s a huge part of its culture, and while it didn’t particularly interest me, it was cool to see how grandparents and kids alike were so excited about learning more about Asterix. Our little group said goodbye and split up into all of our different directions (England, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Greece) and Becky and I to Versailles! We boarded our train without a hitch and were at the famous castle of Louis XIV and Marie-Antoinette within an hour! It was incredible and the best part- there were less tourists and it was free for us! It was just as amazing as the first time- the marbled floors, the hand-painted ceilings, the chapel, the Hall of Mirrors. At one point of time, we looked out of a window and saw a double rainbow! It’s crazy how much it resembles the stuff of fairy tales. We got to see the gardens, which was my favorite part. You can really appreciate the sheer massive size of the palace while looking back up at it at the bottom of the hill. It had fountains and statues galore, three glossy pools, and perfectly manicured trees and bushes. Each side had a forest cut into a maze with hidden statues around every bend. They placed classical music on hidden speakers, so it had the coolest ambience while walking around. We took our bus back and then separated; me off to Belgium and Becky to Scotland! I then stayed at a hotel with another student, Emma, and got ready for my train ride for Belgium!

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My trip to Paris was amazing! I felt like I got a better sense of it instead of just all the usual tourist places and felt more at ease, especially with my French. Our group was such fun and our director did a splendid job showing us its history and hidden gems. It’s funny because last time I was there I got an overwhelming feeling that I would return and a year and a half later, I did. I got an eerily similar feeling again this time…so we’ll just have to see…

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