France
Pont des Arts

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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 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 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 43

      Day 40 and 41

      September 30, 2023 in France ⋅ 🌙 19 °C

      Day 40 - didnt quite get through the 14 km of artwork in the Lourve - the place is massive. Got the highlights with the guide though. It took 3 centuries to build.

      Photos 1 and 2 - Lourve
      Photo 3 - biggest painting - The Wedding at Cana - 7 square metres
      Photo 4 - the guide believes some of the inspitation for the Nike "tick" came from this statue
      Photo 5 - John with the statue, Diane de Versailles
      Photo 6 - difficult to get close to this one with the crowds

      We then went on a dinner cruise on the Seine River.

      Photo 7 - dinner cruise
      Photo 8 - Eiffel Tower is spectacular lit up

      Video 1 - people enjoying the music on the River Seine
      Video 2 - dinner cruise

      Day 41 - Managed to navigate two trains to Montmarte. It is known for its artistic history and Basilica of Sacre Coure. We took the Petit train around the area and then the funicular (cable car) to the bottom of the Basilica.

      Photo 9 - Mickey Mouse welcoming the kids to Montmarte
      Photo 10 - the little train
      Photo 11 - Moulin Rouge
      Photo 12 - Basilica
      Photo 13 - One of multiple fences with locks - there's thousands of them.
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    • Day 176

      Clap de fin 🎬

      February 8 in France ⋅ ☁️ 13 °C

      Et voilà ! C’est avec émotion que je vous écris ce dernier findpenguin ! 😢

      Après ces quelques jours sur la côte californienne, nous sommes rentrés légèrement dans les terres pour conclure notre beau périple 🗺️ Nous avons tout d’abord visité le campus de Stanford, marqué par une architecture hispanique en pierre jaune : cadre de travail absolument magnifique ! Cela donne presque envie de continuer les études. Puis, étant tout proches de la Silicon Valley, nous sommes également passés par les fameux locaux d’Apple. Un passage obligé pour des geeks comme nous. Une bijou d’architecture autosuffisant que nous n’avons pas pu approcher à moins d’une centaine de mètres 🏠 Mais il y avait foule pour la sortie de leur dernier appareil. Finalement, nous avons passé la nuit à San José, petite sœur de San Francisco mais paradoxalement plus peuplée et plus riche du fait de toutes les entreprises technologiques des environs 🖥️

      Enfin, pour notre dernier jour en van, direction Sacramento chez notre ami Martin. Après s’être marié avec sa copine américaine en décembre dernier, il loge à présent chez sa belle-famille en attendant de finir la procédure d’obtention de sa green card ! 💍 Nous l’avons embarqué dans notre van puis il nous a fait visiter Sacramento. Le centre-ville est assez attractif et est divisé en deux parties distinctes, l’une plus moderne autour du stadium de basket des Sacramento Kings , et l’autre, appelée « Old Sacramento » car conservant des bâtiments des années 1800 🤠 Très contents de revoir Martin une dernière fois avant plusieurs mois (années ?). Ce fut donc une chouette journée avec une météo très clémente au vu de la tempête qui arrive sur la Californie 🌩️ Dans la soirée, nous reprenons finalement la route pour passer la nuit tout près du loueur de van et pouvoir tranquillement le rendre le lendemain matin 🔄 Ensuite, direction l’aéroport pour repasser quelques jours à Atlanta, finaliser les valises et dire au revoir aux copains 👋🏼

      À Atlanta nous avons et gentiment hébergés chez Samuel et Paul, qui, eux, ont déjà repris leurs stages de recherche depuis début janvier 📚J’ai pu optimiser la place dans mes valises pour ne pas payer de surplus comme à l’aller et j’ai même pu faire une machine pour rentrer en France avec que des affaires propres ! Le bonheur ! 🧺

      C’est donc ici que s’achève cette merveilleuse expérience américaine ! Une page se tourne (écrite en tout petit et en très très dense vu tout ce que j’ai vécu) et c’est une nouvelle page en France qui s’ouvre ✍🏼 Je tiens à remercier toutes les personnes qui auront pris le temps de suivre assidûment mon épopée. J’espère avoir pu vous faire voyager à travers mes photos et mes textes, et pourquoi pas vous donner envie de (re)découvrir les États-Unis ❤️
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    • Day 21

      Another Day

      July 26, 2022 in France ⋅ ☁️ 23 °C

      Met up with Olivier and his family at Daon ( he was our French live aboard neighbour at Pruille. ). A lively port with many children from the next door campground enjoying the river in various ways. On to Chateau Gonthier which is a larger town of 20,,000 centred around agriculture . Lovely berth in spacious area of the old town . - feels like being in Paris at the Pont Neuf. Port Captain Christian a jovial and helpful man. Fuel for boat, and Supermarket too far to walk for food, beer and wine so we hired a buggy which worked fine behind the bike . À bientôt 🇫🇷Read more

    • Day 15

      Battery issues

      July 20, 2022 in France ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

      Graeme not happy with state of batteries so last 2 days focussed on sorting new ones . After a very hot night by bridge in Le Lion D'Angers we came back to Grez Neuville where the very helpful Port Captain arranged for new ones to be delivered tomorrow hopefully . Rain at last during the night and very pleasant today . Nice harbour here - we biked to Le Lion for lunch and back along shady riverside. Nap and chores this arvo and lovely meal at Crêperie across from boat . ..Read more

    • Day 3

      To Pruille Berth

      July 8, 2022 in France ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

      More shopping with Mauricette - (were given crystal champagne glasses, but now have a kettle and toaster ) while G and Alain moved the boat 5 km downriver to Pruille, where we can stay for a week . Hot weather continues but very cool early morning . Photos from Grez Neuville yesterday am . We are on the Mayenne River north of Angers in the Anjou area east of Brittany .Read more

    • Day 12

      Under way at last

      July 17, 2022 in France ⋅ ☀️ 30 °C

      Lovely tranquil day cruising up the Mayenne River . Berthed in mini marina by a still functioning ( but with electric power) 16 th century flour mill at Chenille Chance . Enjoying our umbrella and bbq topside . Very peaceful with only swallows twittering .Read more

    • Day 2

      Arriving in Paris !

      September 22, 2023 in France ⋅ 🌧 13 °C

      After a good flight with fellow rugby travellers like Graham and Ros Mitchell and John Smit 😉we arrived at Charles de Gaul - caught a taxi and arrived at a quaint Hotel Le Daum . We set off a little while later for the Eiffel Tower and an awesome trip on the Seine river. Dinner at a Brasserie with beer, pizza and pasta was the start to an exciting holiday !

      Saturday we caught up some culture at the Louvre and enjoyed seeing some famous pieces like the Nike statue and the Mona Lisa !

      Lunch with Herman and Janine at the Latin Quarter and then ready for the rugby !!
      More Gees you could not get from the South Africans and the Irish !!! An experience of singing, comeraderie and fun ! Unfortunately the outcome was not so exciting but the trip home continued with many discussions !

      An early morning today and we are off to Les Arcs in Provence via the TGV at 298 km / h

      Luckily there is a bar available as Charles and Graham need some more Gees !
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    You might also know this place by the following names:

    Pont des Arts, جسر الفنون, Пон дез Ар, Puente de las Artes, Passerelle des Arts, פון דז אר, ポンデザール, Мост Искусств, ปงเดซาร์, Міст Мистецтв, 艺术桥

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