Saturday, July 14, 2012

Paris pt. 1

I've been in Paris now for two whole days and I've got to seems more like London to me. It hasn't stopped raining since I got here :( and its been in the sixties. I think it feels more like a Michigan April than a French July. Such is life and it looks like my weather will vastly improve when I head south.

Today is Bastille Day!! The French Independence Day, like our July 4th. Except on the "first" Bastille Day, they were only able to free EIGHT prisoners and democracy wasn't realized until decades later, so I think the date choice was a little premature. However, who doesn't want a chance to watch military parades and fireworks!! Especially when it looks like it might be sunny on and off today.

Unfortunately I already missed the military parade. Slept right past it, but woke up to the sound of the guns from miles away. Its a strange but amusing ritual to still see a military parade...very World War II. I'm not sure what I'll end up doing today, my last day in Paris, but I'll make sure to fill you in!

Over the past two days, I fully embraced the term tourist by setting out with my camera and exploring the endless array of beautiful buildings, churches, gardens, and monuments. On Thursday I walked around for 5 hours. I started at the Eiffel Tower, which is beautiful and breathtaking but oddly industrial and factory-like. The line to go to the top was about 1 mile long, no exaggeration. I'm a little spoiled because you can see the Eiffel Tower from the apartment I'm staying at. It was a pretty unique experience to get off the Metro morning number 1 and BAM Eiffel Tower.

The architecture of the city is incredible. I heard yesterday that the typical French style apartment so reveled around the world was actually all designed and built in one decade. A politician named Haussman- he's got to be big and burly, right?- decided that the Medieval Buildings of Paris were ugly and unfortunate reminders of the Dark Ages so he tore them all down and built new ones. I've got mixed feelings about this one for sure, but now we've got the Paris everyone knows and loves. Perhaps it was more about the fire threat with wooden buildings than purely vanity.

 A random street with beautiful buildings

In my first day I also stumbled upon L'Ecole Militaire, Luxembourg Gardens, St. Sulpice, Montparnasse, another little church, Pantheon, Sorbonne, Notre Dame, L'Hotel de Ville, La Seine, and the Latin Quarter/District...all by foot. It was great though, I had a map and some places that would be cool to find so I just walked until I found them. Though, I must say, Paris streets are confusing because they all seem to go diagonally in the wrong directions! For those who know me best, I ended up in two large stores- Galleries Lafayette and La Grand Epicerie. The first one is a giant mall I happened to be near when it started pouring and I was only wearing a sweater (learned quickly) that carries the likes of Louis Vutton and other famous designers I'm not really interested. The second was a HUGE gourmet food store- perfect place to begin my research! I won't bother you with the details of my research until the end, but I must say, the relationship between French and their food is much different than the USA.
At Luxembourg Gardens (get used to these strange timed pictures of me alone!)

Yesterday, Sidonie, the girl I'm lucky enough to be staying with and I started our morning off at a "small" (maybe twice the size of Ann Arbor's market) marche down the street! It was beautiful, expansive, diverse, and everyone was so friendly. It helped that Sidonie is a fluent French and English speaker. We tried fresh figs- MUST TRY IF YOU HAVEN'T- and Crepes with Nutella and Banana. I wanted to buy everything and cook a feast, but I'm a nomad these days and I'll have to wait until the Fall for that.

I'd like to make a shout-out to Siobhan for hanging out with me in Paris and embracing tourism! Its been nice to have the company of another American to see all of the sights. Yesterday I visited the Pont des Arts- a bridge where couples go to "lock their love" with literal locks and then throw away the keys. Its romantic and strange all at once but if I was on my honeymoon here, I'd definitely go for it. There are THOUSANDS of locks and the bridge overlooks Pont Neuf and Ille de la cite, its a beautiful location. I then proceeded to drag Siobhan by foot (its a theme these days) past the Louve, the Toulleries, down Le Champs Elysee, to the Arc de Triomphe. It was SO crowded, I guess because today is July 14th and probably the least charming Paris in my mind. Too many large overcrowded expensive stores for me. ALTHOUGH, there are these ridiculous sales going on right now mandated by the French government, so EVERYTHING (no joke) is 70% off. Too bad I can't send a wardrobe home for me/ I don't actually want to go shopping for it haha.

 Emma- strange how you're in love with your sister?! :)

I ended the day with dinner in Montmarte and a walk up to the Sacre Coeur to see Paris from its highest point. Being able to overlook such a large city always seems to put things in perspective. I think that area is my favorite part of Paris. I think its a combination of the tight winding roads, hills, creperies, and painters that just sums up what Paris is to me. I recognized the area immediately too, from my last trip to Paris 10 years ago. Even back then the Sacre Coeur was my favorite landmark.

Last night I was lucky enough to be in the company of some study abroad students in Paris, it was nice to make some English-speaking comrades and talk to people my age. They were all very friendly and welcoming and we got along great.

Tomorrow morning, very very early, I say goodbye to Paris until the end of my trip. Though its been beautiful and there are probably even more sights to see, I'm content with leaving and starting my trip throughout the country. Cities are a little too large for me and nobody is really looking to stop and have a conversation. By this time tomorrow, I'll be in Bordeaux and I get the chance to explore the city until the evening when I head to a vineyard for 10 days. I'm excited to dive into my research and take a close look at the wine industry. I'm not sure my email situation, but I look forward to filling you in when I get there.

I apologize for my very long and detailed update, I just want to pretend like you're here with me. I miss all of you and hope you're all having a wonderful summer.

Thanks for reading!

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