France
Paris 01

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    • Day 44

      Ile de la Cite

      May 4, 2022 in France ⋅ ☁️ 59 °F

      We had an exhausting day today - the adrenaline couldn’t hold the jet lag back any longer. But what a beautiful city Paris is!

      We’ve mastered the metro and are getting around pretty easily. (Adam would be proud). We headed to Ile de La Cite (a small island) and saw Notre Dame (the outside as it’s still being repaired from the fire in 2019), St Chapelle Cathedral, The Conciergerie (prison where Marie Antoinette was held), the Luxembourg Palace & gardens and finished it up with Musee d’Orsay. (Impressionist museum built in an old train station). It was a full day seeing places I’ve only seen on TV or in the movies. Crazy.

      Paris’s public water is some of the best in the world. It is natural spring water that is piped in everywhere. We saw a documentary on it at home. Jordan found one of the fountains. Have to say, it DID taste better!

      We went back to fall asleep early at 8:00 but we’re so messed up our bodies won’t let us fall asleep (probably because in our heads it’s only noon). Oh well, I’m sure we’ll adjust eventually!
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    • Day 28

      Tandem(not the bike kind) with Madeleine

      February 3 in France ⋅ ☁️ 9 °C

      Hello family and friends! Hope you've all survived this week. Here's what I've been up to:

      At the start of the semester, I decided to enroll in a program that our exchange organization was offering in partnership with the Sorbonne, aptly named "tandem". The premise is that you meet with a French student from the Sorbonne and spent 50% of your time with them speaking in French, and the other 50% in English. The goal is for both parties to better their speaking skills in their second language. I was matched with a girl called Madeleine. A quick stalk of her social media revealed that she likes food, jazz, and art. She seemed very cool and friendly, but her texts in English were suspiciously perfect and free from grammatical errors. (more on this later.)

      We planned to meet at a café near the Sorbonne. I was very, very nervous. Sitting at the bus stop, I anxiously wrote down the sentences I planned to use into a notes document, double checking any words I was even slightly unsure of against google translate to avoid making a fool of myself. They were things like:
      "my dad learned French in high school, and I want to understand the jokes he makes at my expense".
      "I live in Maine. It's close to Canada and it's freezing."
      "My dog and cat don't like each other. Often it's like a war in the house."
      "I have two siblings. One studies architecture, the other nursing."
      "Are there actually rats in Paris? I've never seen one."
      "My French is not very good, you might have to help me a lot. Your English is probably better than my French. I hope not to disappoint you."

      I silently repeated the sentences to myself on the bus. An elderly group of French people next to me noticed the bus was taking a detour to avoid construction, testily remarking "il y a toujours de travaux en tous les endroits de Paris!". This I had no problem understanding. Complaining is a popular French pastime and one of the many commonalities shared by Parisians and New Yorkers.

      I arrived at the café, and pretended to look busy until a cute girl with glasses, a stylish vintage handbag, and a bob approached. "act cool act cool", I told myself. I very quickly noticed her English was flawless, no trace of an accent. She could have passed for an American. After ordering, we found ourselves a table in the corner and proceeded to talk for the next 3 hours.

      To say that Madeleine is fascinating is an understatement. She is without a doubt one of the coolest people I have ever met in my life, let alone in Paris. To give you some background, Madeleine has an American mother and a French father. Her mother is the a high ranking administrator in a major French catholic NGO that does aid work all around the world. Before the age of 8, she lived in India, Sri Lanka, and the DRC. Her little brother was once invited to the birthday party of the president of Congo's daughter, a lavish affair that included popcorn machines, bouncy houses, and the president flying in on a helicopter and passing out bills to everyone. Her father is an engineer. Madeleine herself studies linguistics at the Sorbonne, and wants to join the peace corp and teach English in Sri Lanka when she graduates. She's funny and finds Americans and French people equally odd, as I do. Even she herself finds the French sometimes cold and standoffish, while are Americans are bubbly and kind, if a bit ignorant at times.

      I was extremely floored by how much we had in common. It turns out on her American side, she has an uncle in PORTLAND MAINE. What??? Apparently she spent last summer there doing an internship, while also working at Hannafords in produce doing the cut fruit. Can you guess who also worked at Hannafords last summer in produce doing cut fruit? Yours truly. I never thought I would find a person in Paris who knows the exact temperature range hannafords requires for sliced strawberries. To back up her claims, she showed me a sticker of the state of Maine on the back of her phone case. Needless to say it was impossible for us not to become friends after that.

      We talked for so long that the manager announced the salon would be closing in ten minutes. Unwilling to part ways so soon, Madeleine and I took a walk to the St. Sulpice church, a large and beautiful structure. The last time she was there, she told me, was for her cousins first communion. Like me, Madeleine is from a secular family, and we both giggled as she recounted that someone had asked her "doesn't this remind you of your baptism?"

      We stopped at an Indian jewelry store and pointed out all the rings we would buy if we were rich. We stopped at anything, really, that took our fancy. Bakeries, shoe stores, jewelers, CBD oil vendors, you name it. It was the best type of walk. Pretty soon we'd walked so far that we reached the Seine, and Madeleine showed me all of the picturesque houseboats, postcard vendors, and wooden sailboats. Her family likes to sail. So does mine. We walked across a bridge, taking in the dark water of the Seine and magnificent stone facade of the Louvre that lined the right bank.

      This was the first night that I'd ever seen the Louvre, glass pyramid and all. Haters say that the pyramid is ugly, but I found it absolutely spectacular, especially at night. Juxtaposed with opulent, carved Lutetian limestone architecture left over from Louis XIV's reign, you can't help but marvel at it. And Madeleine was the most perfect person to see it with. As someone who's lived in Paris since age 8, there's always a brasserie nearby that she's been to (and has opinions on), or a funny story behind something innocuous, like a crosswalk or a chestnut vendor. (these are so funny by the way, usually they use a very rickety and unsafe looking contraption consisting of a large metal plate and a rusting propane tank, often installed in a repurposed shopping cart. The smoke is extremely acrid and makes you cough.). But her stories make Paris seem so much less like a utopia for wealthy tourists looking to live their bourgeoise fantasies, and much more like a place where real people live. A place that a small person like me could one day feel comfortable and at-home in, too.

      Thank you for everything, Madeleine. On se verra bientôt. Bisous :)
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    • Day 33

      Afternoon with the dead at Père-Lachaise

      February 8 in France ⋅ ☁️ 13 °C

      Hello everyone! Nice to see you here again. Let me tell you about my little Monday adventure...

      It started off with a google search. I have decided to start challenging myself to do things directly after school, so that I don't get home and melt into my bed for the rest of the day. I have also been looking for free.99 things to do in Paris since my monthly budget is exiting my bank account a little more quickly than I would like it to. A list from google revealed this gem: the Père Lachaise cemetery. Bonus, it was only a 15 minute metro ride away from school. The French have a gloriously convenient tradition of putting metro stations right next to major landmarks, in this case the most-visited necropolis in the world.

      Very quickly I realized that the free price tag actually did come with a price: my time and patience. The only map of the cemetery available was digital, with small dots for prominent graves. The graveyard is beautifully somber, the graves of prominent figures mixed with family plots and ancient, withering tombstones overgrown with ivy. I made my way to the first few places with difficulty, and upon struggling to find Edith Piaf for 15 minutes I asked a lovely passerby in my best French if she knew where to go. She wanted to go to the same place, so we headed there together.

      Her name is Carol, and she's from Brazil. She's visiting for two weeks. I need to remember to ask her what her skincare routine is, because at 30 years old she looked my age. Carol used to work for the Brazilian government as the head of tourism in her district. She had heaps of stories about her brothers and the amazon and generally funny things that happen when you work for the government. Her English was impeccable. We spent the entire rest of our time together roaming the cemetery together, and her excellent navigation skills proved to very useful. Carol is relaxed, funny, and very bright. Her detective skills helped us find Maria Callas in a hall of commemorative plaques.

      Here's a rundown of the graves we found, with brief biographies for each:

      Maria Callas (1923-1977): a famed Greek-American soprano widely considered to be one of the most renowned opera singers of the 20th century, known for her bel canto technique. She famously "lost her voice" a few years prior to her death (diaphragmatic strain). Her dramatic weight loss during her career prompted Rome's Panatella Mills pasta company to claim that she lost it by eating their "physiologic pasta", resulting in a lawsuit. She died of a heart attack.

      Edith Piaf (1915-1963): one of France's most beloved singers of the cabaret and modern "chanson" genres. She is lovingly referred to as "little sparrow" and regarded as France's greatest popular singer. Edith grew up in poverty; conjunctivitis and ear infections left her blind and deaf for most of her childhood, and she was discovered while busking on the street. She collapsed on stage during her last tour, reportedly because she wanted to sing until the day she died, because once she could no longer sing, her life was over.

      Oscar Wilde (1854-1900): an Irish poet and playwright responsible for major works such as Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), Lady Windermere's Fan (1892), and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). He was also known for his wit, his flamboyance, and his trials and jail sentence for homosexual acts. He died of meningitis.

      Frederich Chopin (1810-1849): A Polish composer and virtuoso pianist whose works are considered a hallmark of the Romantic period. He wrote primarily for solo piano, and his works (particularly the 24 nocturnes) were known for expressing poetic genius without the use of words, regularly drawing tears from his audiences. He had a longstanding romantic relationship with the French feminist novelist George Sand (a woman), and died a tragically early death at the age of 39 from tuberculosis of the lungs and larynx.

      Thierry Mugler: A prolific French fashion designer and couturier, known for his use of corsetry and hyperfeminine, alien-like shapes. A former bodybuilder turned ballet-dancer, Mugler rejected the notion that haute couture should be prim and proper, leading to some of his most groundbreaking designs and perfumes. He designed signature looks for Michael Jackson, Madonna, Grace Jones, David Bowie and Diana Ross.

      Marcel Proust (1871-1922): a French novelist, literary critic, and essayist who wrote the monumental novel À la recherche du temps perdu. He was known for his insight into women and the love of men for women (which he himself experienced for the many female originals of his heroines) and was among the greatest novelists in the fields of both heterosexual and homosexual love. He was known to have a condition called "nervous asthma" throughout his life an eventually died of pneumonia and a pulmonary abscess.

      Elizaveta Stroganova: a wealthy Russian heiress with the largest and most lavish tomb in pere lachaise. Given that her name already sounds like an extravagant pasta dish, it figures that her tomb should reflect that.

      That's all for today! byeee :)
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    • Day 37

      Museum time!

      February 12 in France ⋅ ⛅ 11 °C

      Hello everyone!

      I've decided to post the two recent museum trips I went on. I visited the famous l'Orangerie and the Petit Palais museum, both of which I got into free of charge. (yay immigrant parents) You can just look at the pictures if you prefer, or you can read my honest reviews of both places I visited below.

      Petit Palais: Av. Winston Churchill, 75008 Paris

      The entrance alone is a spectacle of ornately carved, muscular statues on horses, something I've come to notice the French have quite an affinity for. It additionally emphasizes the fact that you are about to enter the territory of the French Bourgeoise. I was not disappointed by the hallway I first entered, which boasted sprawling marble floors and ceilings covered in fresco-like paintings of cherubs and other Jesus-y depictions. The first hall contains beautiful sculptures from Rodin and a surprising variety of artwork, including a few unfinished paintings with just the shadows and basic figures drawn in, which l found unexpectedly haunting. I had expected to be overwhelmed with ostentatious Louis XIV era art, and believe me there was no shortage of that in the first rooms. Pretty soon I was beginning to grow resentful of French art's obsession with depicting only the most beautiful, rich and perfect things , a feeling that can become very pervasive when you are an average-looking person in Paris. But I trudged onto the next room.

      I adored this room. It was worth the pain of the first two. As if answering my thoughts, the walls were covered in depictions of the 19th century French working-class; portraits of washerwomen, bakers, mothers, and fishermen with wrinkles, skin texture, and laborer's hands, all painstakingly portrayed in oil paint. It seems at least some French people think they are worthy of portraits too. Life-size statues of women carrying fish and loaves of bread are scattered around the room. But the piece de resistance of the room is unquestionably Léon Lhermitte's "Les Halles", which depicts a bustling market (now a shopping mall in the modern era). A woman carries a large wicker cage with chickens in the forefront, while packed around her shoulder-to-shoulder are women hawking fish, vegetables, fruit, cloth, and bread. Behind her, a man bows his head under the weight of a basket of washing. You can almost smell the portrait, and hear the din of the market. If it's anything like the metro, it probably smelled like pee and hot trash. But it is delightfully overwhelming to look at.

      The bottom floor contains a mishmash of Eastern European, German, and French medieval art. I enjoyed looking at some ornate samovars and hair combs, and giggled inwardly at the hopelessly flat and strange looking people in the paintings. In the middle ages it seems that it was quite alright, desirable even for women to have sallow skin and large noses. The objects were interesting, in particular some bone carvings that depicted what seemed like the entire bible on the space of one large cow horn. I also liked the portrait of Rembrandt with his dog! But I wasn't nearly as dazzled as I was by the previous room. An opportunity presented itself though. As I was taking a picture of what looked like a cult gathering on the wall, a French couple sat in front of me. The woman leaned on her partner's shoulder, resulting in a sweet, candid photo with minimal data privacy violation.

      Bonus room that I discovered on walking up: There was a small room off to the side with some admittedly very elegant portraits. It was there that I spotted the woman from my art class. A slender, graceful looking brunette gazes at you from her golden frame, clad in a strikingly red dress. Her wealth is obvious (the pigment and cut of the dress speaks for itself), yet somehow not ostentatious. Her portrait was the perfect antithesis to the excess of the previous rooms. She is alone in her frame and looks to be perfectly tranquil and content with her being. She may have been a bitch in real life, but I find peace in looking at her.

      Thanks for reading, if you made it to the end. L'orangerie coming soon :)
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    • Day 3

      Art Day

      June 16, 2022 in France ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

      We had early morning tickets to see some art so after a lovely breakfast and good strong coffee we hit the bikes again and risked our lives in the Paris streets. We were 30 minutes late for our time slot but Aiden said it was very Parisian of us to be late. It didn’t matter anyway because no one even checked our tickets! (Note to self, just walk in like you belong there and save the dough!) Here’s where Daniel shined. He has read every Rick Riorden book on the planet and really knows his Greek and Roman gods. The Mona Lisa was in the new room which is nice considering the last time we were there she was in a dark hallway. I prefer the big art anyway over her. The Wedding at Cana is more my style.

      Then Saint Chappelle- I heard Daniel walk in and say “whoa!” That says it all.
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    • Day 13

      Big pyramid and arch day!

      January 26 in France ⋅ ☀️ 12 °C

      Pyramid timeeee! We started our day by catching a few trains to the Louvre where we stumbled across the BEST bakery in Paris I’m convinced. I would buy endless baguettes from this place. After eating way more than we should have, we went to the louvre museum and optimistically we thought we’d see most of the place, but oh boy we were so wrong. We were there for about 5 hours and covered 1 of the 5 floors oops. My two favourites were the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa. We figured out way too late that you need many many days to cover everything. Non stop art and sculptures everywhere = getting quite lost. Anyway after we somehow found our way out we went to the same bakery again before catching a train to the Arc de Triomphe. It was a super nice evening to go there and it felt the most like what I expected France to be in the first place. After walking around a bit we caught the train back to our air bnb and then walked to the Mexican restaurant where we had dinner a few nights before. Equally as good as the time before. Then we walked back and watched Tangled (first time for me) which pleasantly surprised me! We packed up our stuff, ready for another travel day in the morning and zzzzzRead more

    • Day 46

      The Louvre … just wow

      May 6, 2022 in France ⋅ ☀️ 63 °F

      Each day on this trip brings a new wonder to behold, it seems like. Today we saw SO much again … Paris has a remarkable affordable public transit system, and the city is surprisingly walkable - in sections.

      We started our morning at The Louvre. It is the largest museum in the world, and it was obvious. I found the building itself to be a work of art! We only scratched the surface there. Did see some amazing statues - Nike of Samothrace (winged) which Jordan sketched - 190 BC, and the Venice de Milo! 100 BC. Other noteworthy piece we saw was the Mona Lisa - the crowds were intense, but we managed to get to the front eventually to see her.

      The French have created magnificent gardens everywhere - reminds me of what I’ve seen in Canada. They are just gorgeous. There were also two arches - one smaller and one massive. Really massive. The biggest surprise was seeing the Place de La Concorde - this is a square (where kings/queens were beheaded during the revolution) with what looks like a small version of the Washington monument from far away, but as you get closer it is clear it’s different. It’s an Egyptian obelisk!! No kidding. It’s 3300 years old! The Egyptians gifted the 230 ton Luxor obelisk (it has a twin still in Egypt) to France in the mid 1800’s. It took SEVEN years to transport it across the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, up the Nile and finally up the Seine river. And then it took a feat of engineering to raise it.

      We took a metro ride out of the historical district to what looked to be the suburbs of Paris - Wandered the canal and then what else to do when in Paris with the biggest Marvel fan ever (Jordan), we went to opening night of the Dr. Strange movie. Found one playing in English. It felt familiar, kind of.
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    • Day 3

      The Lady and the Unicorn

      August 19, 2019 in France ⋅ ☀️ 18 °C

      Woke at 5.00am, so not too bad. Breaky in hotel. The bread is devine. Salami and cheeses.

      Off to Musee du Cluny to see the medieval tapestries The Lady and The Unicorn. They depict the 5 senses along with desire. Massive red and dark wall hangings filled with millefleur and forest animals. Loved this so much. Read the novel and it's Harry Potters common room. So beautiful. The lighting is dark to keep from fading.

      We get to the museum just at opening time, bonus.
      The first room we enter is an old bath house. Massive empty room with a few statues and items from the era. A copper bathtub sits at one end. Loved this room. Next we check out a room full of jewellery and medieval artwork. I come across a golden rose. It looks to be important, so I take a photo. I may sit still one day and learn about it. But not now.

      We look at other tapestries leaving the best til last.
      Then we enter 'The' room. It is quiet, dark, black with a crimson glow from these magnificent tapestries.
      I am beguiled and take my time to investigate each one.

      Loving this so much. Finding treasures that you never think you will ever see. Then here you are in front of them. Always blows me away.
      I love this because it is like time travel.
      I imagine the pressure and artistry it takes.

      The intricate flowers are devine. The bunnies and birds whimsical.

      Even Athena says she really enjoyed seeing them.

      Bucket list tick ✅
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    • Day 10

      J’aime Paris

      May 29, 2023 in France ⋅ ☀️ 18 °C

      Jam packed day!! We visited the extraordinary sainte chapel. Glorious glass windows!! Saw the outside of Notre Dame and The Louvre. Did a little too much souvenir shopping… as usual. Ended the day with a dinner cruise on the Seine River and a close look at the Eiffel Tower:)Read more

    • Day 4

      Schlechter start mit....

      October 25, 2023 in France ⋅ ☁️ 15 °C

      grandiosem Ende 🥰😁

      Heute war Museum angesagt. Louvre stand auf dem Zettel.

      Leider gab es größere Schwierigkeiten 😤beim Einlass. Unser 14:30 Uhr Ticket🎫 wäre dann ein 16 vieleicht 17 Uhr Ticket geworden.

      Das ganze bei leichten Regen☔️...Nein Danke.

      Wir haben uns nach einigen Minuten⌚️ gegen das Warten entschieden und haben an der Stelle die Tickets gegen eine Flussfahrt ⛴️ auf der Seine getauscht.

      Mit dem nächsten Mietroller 🛵 ging es zur Anlegestelle und ab auf dem Dampfer 🛥. Kaum dort angekommen kam die Sonne ⛅️durch und trocknete unsere Sachen und die Frustgetränkte Seele.

      Vorbei an all den schönen Gebäuden🏙, Parks 🏞, Haussbooten und durch zahllose Brücken🌉 tuckerten wir auf dem Wasser 🌊 herum.

      Ein Eis🍦 ließ den Ärger dann ganz verschwinden und mir kam eine Idee.

      Amy schwärmte am Eifelturm 🗼von all den Straßenkünstlern 🛣👨‍🎨🎨die Karikaturen anbieten.

      Also einen 1️⃣5️⃣ Minuten Spaziergang und schon waren wir da. Die Überraschung💥 war geglückt und nach etwas Wartezeit waren wir an der Reihe. Das war ein Spaß!🤗

      Danach eine kleine Shoppingtour👗👚🥻 durch die Einkaufszentren von Paris.

      Abendessen🍴noch einmal Glitzertürmchen bestaunen. Mit dem Roller🛵 zurück ins Hotel 🏨für einen gemeinsamen Abend bei Netflix 📺und "Mc Donald-Snacks".😅

      Grandioser Tag mit sehr viel Lachen🥰
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