Sunday, January 31, 2010

Walk 11:Lutetia Pulchra Est

I am ashamed. I can’t actually remember when this walk happened – some time in January, I think? I fail.

Whenever it was, big group of us started off at the Musée de Cluny, which was originally home monks and pilgrims in the middle ages. Today it has an amazing collection of medieval items, so we spent about an hour looking inside.

We then went to the Sorbonne, which was exciting for me since I gave my prep class presentation on it.

The main stop of the walk was the Pantheon, which was originally intended to be a church to Sainte Geneviève, the patron saint of Paris. During the revolution it was changed into the final resting place for great French people like Marie Curie, Victor Hugo, and Emile Zola.

We then visited Saint-Etienne-du-Mont, a quirky little church with parts dating from the thirteenth, fifteenth, and seventeenth centuries. It was really beautiful, but a worker there kept giving me the dirty eye for accidentally taking a picture with flash.

We finished things up at Philippe Auguste’s wall, which Rebecca loves, and a Roman arena. Amazingly enough, a bunch of French kids were playing soccer inside the arena. I wonder if they understand how amazing it is that they get to live in the midst of all this history.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Walk 16: Montmartre Walk

My very first Paris Walk! Oh, the memories. Too bad I’m retarded and waited until April to write about it.

After a presentation by a former study abroad director, the entire group went out for couscous. I had never had it before and can’t say that it was one of my favorite meals – it was just a little too dry. It was fun to get to know everybody a little bit better, though. It seems so weird to think that only three months ago, none of us knew eachother.

A big group of us then headed up to Montmartre, home of Sacre Couer, Amelie, and Moulin Rouge – definitely an important tourist area. As with any other touristy spots, there were plenty of people there trying to rip us of. Heading up the hill toward the cathedral, I was lucky enough to meet one of them – a guy doing the friendship bracelet scam who called me his “crazy, sexy, baby.” Luckily I had about 10 other people with me, so I didn’t have too hard of a time ignoring him. Look out for those guys. Or you could just take on a little of this statue's attitude:

Sacre Couer itself was pretty incredible. I hadn’t hit cathedral overload at that point, so I was actually able to fully appreciate it. Plus, its architecture is so different from what you see in other cathedrals. Built after the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, it looks like something from the Middle East, not Paris. The best part, though, was the incredible view it offered of the city – a pretty good welcome to Paris for all of us.

From then on we got a real taste of Erickson walks – up and down hills, down little alleyways, half way across Paris and back just to see a fountain. We’ve since developed a theory that Dr. Olivier is trying to make us fat off of French pastries, while Dr. Erickson wants to thin us back down again. First we saw Place du Tertre, a tourist trap, but a cool one since it’s filled with artists painting away. We also went by La Maison Rose, a favorite restaurant of Pablo Picasso and Gertrude Stein, Renoir’s house, and a lovely statue of Saint Denis holding his head. I’m pretty sure he’s my favorite saint. Anyone who’s willing to walk miles with their head cut off has gumption!

Montmartre is traditionally a very artsy area, so we had a chance to see the apartment buildings where Picasso, Apollinaire, and others lived in the early 1900s, as well as the Mouline de la Galette, which was made famous by a Renoir painting. We finished up at Van Gogh’s house and then passed by the Mouline Rouge as we headed down into the metro – I have to say, it doesn’t look quite so glamorous without Nicole Kidman.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Following in Betsy's Footsteps

All right, I’ve given in and decided to start a blog, but I’ll be lazy and count this as my journal, letters to home, and homework for French 362. Since I’ll be spending the next five months living and travelling in Europe in my best Betsy Ray style, I decided to name my blog after Betsy and the Great World, one of my favorite books (if you've never read Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy series, I’d highly recommend it, just like Kathleen Kelly does in You’ve Got Mail – skip to 6:52). I definitely hope my adventures here are something like Betsy’s, apart from having to leave abruptly due to the outbreak of a world war. Anyway, thanks for reading and sharing my journey with me! Sorry if some of these posts are really long - feel free to skim.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

After checking in, breezing through security, and eating Tami’s homemade bread, I boarded the plane and headed down to Dallas, where I wandered for five hours waiting for my flight. It turns out that when I’m bored in an airport, I buy lots of things, including lunch, a pillow, chocolate, and a copy of InStyle magazine (my go-to in-flight read). If I had been there much longer I probably would have ended up buying Cowboys memorabilia. Luckily I had facebook and MLIA to keep me entertained until it was time to board.

My transatlantic flight ended up being surprisingly comfortable. There were very few people on the plane, so we all got to choose our own aisle and spread out. With my three pillows, two blankets, and fantastically appropriate reading material (My Life in France by Julia Child), I was one happy camper and was even able to sleep for around four hours. I also got special attention from a nice LDS flight attendant, who was very excited that I was a BYU student. Arriving in Paris was a little anticlimactic, given that fog covered the city and I couldn’t see the ground until we were ten feet from it, but I was in France! I was supposed to meet up with Haley in the airport, but we had underestimated its size and never did find each other. After wandering around for an hour and a half and developing a deep loathing for my luggage, I realized that I didn’t have the address to my hotel. More wandering ensued as I searched for wifi. I searched, and I searched, until…McDo to the rescue!

After looking up the address using McDonald’s Internet, I managed to find a taxi to take me to the hotel. Feeling thoroughly exhausted at that point, I handed the cabdriver the address and said, “Je veux aller à cette hôtel,” and then kicked myself mentally for pronouncing the “h.” It was only later that I realized that I said “Je veux” instead of “Je voudrais.” Oh well, c’est la vie. The driver was completely confused by my writing, since my accented “e’s” apparently look like “i’s” (my French teacher last semester had the same problem), but he eventually got me to the hotel. Along the way, I was pretty sure I was going to die, since French cabdrivers like to drive in their own imaginary lanes, cut other drivers off, and generally ignore all traffic laws. In spite of my terror, I did notice that most people in Paris drive little hatchback cars, and I even saw several Lolas (yes, I named my car).

I arrived at the hotel to find my program director, several group members (including Haley, which was a relief), and pain au chocolate waiting for me. Once everyone had arrived we hurried down to the metro to head out to Hôtel de Ville. To be honest, I made absolutely no effort to understand the metro system that day – I just followed everybody else. We had a little time to look around and then took a boat tour down the Seine. It was a beautiful evening, even if it was freezing.