Sitting on a cornflake Sunday, Jul 12 2009 

Saturday morning I think we did the best at waking up and getting around. We didn’t have any definite plans so we were a bit more relaxed and able to take our time getting ready before heading out to our last day in Prague.

After breakfast we made a short list of the things we wanted to see in Prague before leaving. Re-visiting the Prague gardens around the castle, the John Lennon wall and the Petrin Tower were all on the list. By consulting the map we decided to start with the wall and then visit the other sites. We were a little off in how far the wall was from the Metro stop so we actually started at the gardens. They were beautiful and we took about 60 more pictures of the same view of the city. Granted, it is a beautiful view of a beautiful city but I think we just might have a few too many pictures (I’ll have some up as soon as I get home!). The gardens were so pretty and really fun to explore, but the Czech weather got the better of us and it started to rain after about 45 minutes. This time we only had 2 umbrellas so we left pretty quick. Czech weather is pretty tricky and by the time we made it down the hill to the street the rain had stopped.

Prague Castle sitting on top of the hill overlooking the city.

Prague Castle sitting on top of the hill overlooking the city.

The view of the city from Prague Castle.

The view of the city from Prague Castle.

Since we were pretty close we went to the Lennon wall. I had seen a little picture in the guide book and immediately decided I had to see it. The wall is a continually changing memorial to John Lennon and the Beatles and the impact/change they had on the world. After Lennon’s assassination, Czech citizens began leaving favorite quotes and other tributes on the wall. Today it is still possible to visit the wall and write something special to you. Seeing that wall was my favorite part of Prague and I never cease to be amazed by the impact those men had on the world. Their songs were a little glimmer of hope in a very scary and dark time. They were so diverse in their music and managed to touch so many people in so many countries in so many generations all over the world. It’s amazing to me.

One of the many elaborate tributes to the Beatles on the Lennon Wall.

One of the many elaborate tributes to the Beatles on the Lennon Wall.

I left my mark on Prague.

I left my mark on Prague.

When we left the wall we went to find some lunch. Choosing an eating place is always a little tricky because we all have different wants in a restaurant. We finally found one and all had goulash… again. It was good as usual but it was still goulash. From lunch we went on to Henry’s Bell Tower, the last major Prague monument to see (other than Petrin Tower, which we skipped because of the rain)  but it wasn’t really anything special. The best part of the bell tower was it’s proximity to our apartment so it was easy to hop on the tram and go home for a bit. Jaclyn, Katie and Andres ran to the grocery store for a few things while Sarah and I just chilled in the apartment and did some packing before dinner.

The others came back and we all headed out for dinner. Because the Czech food is pretty heavy and we’d been having a lot of it we decided to go to a pizza place pretty close to the apartment and we were all glad we did. The pizza was delicious, I got jalapenos on mine and it was amazing, I’ve really been missing spicy food! The others all got genuine Budweiser beer, which actually originated in the Czech Republic. I never knew that it wasn’t an American beer, I guess you learn something new every day.

Originally we’d planned on going out for our last night in Prague but instead we decided to stay in and hang-out because we didn’t want to risk missing our flight in the morning. We all just drank some wine and goofed around, definitely having a good time. Prague has been a blast and I’m a little sad to leave but Ireland is going to be just as much fun!

Advertisements

Have you seen snow? It’s white Friday, Jul 10 2009 

Friday morning we all managed to wake up at a decent hour despite hitting snooze about 30 times. We’d decided to go on “The Ultimate Tour of Prague” we’d seen in a pamphlet so we ate breakfast really quick and set off.

The tour met in King Wenceslas Square and the ticket man was very impressed with Andres for traveling with 4 girls alone. We all just laughed because he’s been getting that a lot. The tour was totally worth the money and we got it at half price! Our guide was incredible and he really knew his stuff about Prague, but then again he was a native Czech. I loved seeing all the architecture and learning all the history. I now know why it was called the Velvet Revolution again the Communists (because it went smoothly and no blood was shed) and why the metronome is on such a giant platform (it used to be the site of the world’s largest statue of Stalin before it was torn down after he was declared a war criminal). Every day I’m hear I just learn more about this city and love it a little more. The tour included a boat tour on the Volta River and a traditional Czech meal, as well as seeing the Prague Castle from the outside. We didn’t get to go in the castle but we got to go in the chapel and I think it easily rivals many of the ones we saw in France. Because it took over 600 years to build (thanks to a long break during the switch from Catholicism to Protestantism) it has many modern touches from the 1920s when it was completed, including Art Deco stained glass windows.

After the tour we came back to the apartment to relax for a little bit before going on the Ghost Tour that was included with our ticket for the Ultimate. As great as the Ultimate was is as horrible as the Ghost tour was. Our guide was a moron and couldn’t tell a single story without making all of us bust out laughing. Everywhere we went she stammered and stalled, attempting to make the stories longer, we soon realized this was so her accomplice could change into costume to jump out and scare us. I swear at one point we were standing in a passage way and she was describing the “cold, dark winter” to us and asked us if we’d ever seen snow and when the Australians in the group said only in movies she told them it was white. Gee really?

The tour lasted an hour, thank goodness, because any longer would have killed us and then we would have started haunting Prague. Afterwards we found a nice little pub/restaurant for dinner and really enjoyed the meal. Czech food is definitely growing on me but it’s definitely a heavy cuisine. When we left the pub, in the rain again, we just came back to the apartment. Katie was really disappointed in the Ghost tour so we decided to tell our own ghost stories. Luckily for me, so many years of camp as a child has left me with a ton. We all had a great time, except Jaclyn, who got a little overly scared but fell asleep pretty soon so it was okay. At first Sarah was worried because she’s always hated ghost stories but quickly realized she’s not as scared at 21 as she was at 12. That was a relief. We all had a good time and some good laughs before calling it a night. I hope no one has nightmares!

5 people+3 umbrellas=a wet evening Thursday, Jul 9 2009 

Thursday the gang woke up… eventually to our first day in Prague. I guess the lack of sleep finally caught up with all of us and the super good blackout curtains in the apartment didn’t help, but we all slept into the afternoon. It was lovely.

When we finally all got up and got around we made our lunch in the apartment before heading out to explore the city. Our first stop was Old Town Square. There we saw Prague’s Astronomical Clock, a very elaborate contraption that can tell you the time of day along with about 30 other things, I’m pretty sure it could even take your temperature. Everywhere we looked we could see the beautiful, classic Czech architecture. I don’t think I could ever get tired of seeing these buildings that are centuries old.

One of the many ancient cathedrales in Prague. The city is full of architecutre just like this.

One of the many ancient cathedrales in Prague. The city is full of architecutre just like this.13th century architecture really made me realize just how young the States are and how new all our architecture is compared to everything in Europe.

While we were wandering around the Square we saw St. Nicholas’ Church and found out there was a concert starting in less than an hour. It was really cheap (like everything here) and it was a trio playing some very famous classical pieces, plus it was the only way to get in the church. We bought our tickets and couldn’t have been happier that we did. The group was amazing and the church was beautiful! Classical music is always impressive and these people really had talent. It was really great to hear the music in one of the oldest, most well-known musical cities in the world, the Mozart piece we heard was written right in Prague!

After our concert we wandered across the river to see what we could see. Somehow we wandered into an old garden and found some weird things. Right off the bat we saw an albino peacock, something I’ve only see pictures of. What really made it annoying was that it kept screaming, I hate when peacocks scream, that was the only bad part about staying the night at my grandparents’ when I was little, the neighbors’ screaming peacocks terrified me. The garden also had a really strange artificial dripstone wall. The king at the time (sorry, I don’t remember who exactly) wanted a wall that would be intimidating and terrifying. I think he succeeded a little.

The albino peacock in the gardens. I never would have imagined these birds could be just as beautiful without their colors.

The albino peacock in the gardens. I never would have imagined these birds could be just as beautiful without their colors.

The dripstone wall from the view of Prague Castle.

The dripstone wall from the view of Prague Castle.

Eventually though we were pretty hungry and it was starting to sprinkle so we set off in search of somewhere to eat. We remembered how to get to the restaurant Keegan took us to the night before so we got on the Metro and headed there. Like I said, it was sprinkling when we got on the Metro but when we got off it was POURING. We waited in the station for 20 minutes waiting for the rain to let up. It eventually did but we still got all wet because only Jaclyn, Sarah and I had umbrellas. Oops.

We found a great little Czech restaurant in the same neighborhood and had another wonderful meal. It’s so strange going from the pretty light, summery food in Paris to the heavy, stick-to-your-ribs Czech food. It’s wonderful but I don’t think I could eat it for a prolonged period of time. After our dinner we decided to head home because despite the late wake-up we were getting tired. I think we’ll be tired from this trip for the rest of our lives. Andres really wanted to take the trams so we gave it a try. We managed to take one to a good stop but from there we got confused so we hopped on the Metro instead. The Czech is starting to get to us because we really are walking around this city blind. It’ll be a strange feeling getting back to an English-speaking nation. Overall though I’d say Prague is pretty amazing and I’m really looking forward to the next few days!

Dumplings and goulash and whipped cream, oh my! Thursday, Jul 9 2009 

Wednesday morning Jaclyn and I woke up bright and early to meet Katie, Andres and Sarah to continue on our journey through Europe. Our flight left at 9:20 AM so we needed to be at the airport by 7:20, that was fun. The flight wasn’t too bad, Andres got a little motion sick but not horribly so and we didn’t even have to go through customs when we landed. That made me a little sad because I was wanting another stamp in my passport.

We got transport tickets and found the bus that would take  us into the city to their Metro system to get to our hostel/apartment. On the scale of Metros/underground travel I would rank Prague’s above London’s Tube but a little below the Paris Metro. It must be really deep underground though because the escalators in and out are ridiculous. I’m pretty sure they’re at such a steep grade that no vehicle could make it up and they have to be at least 3 stories and go crazy fast. It was interesting.

When we left the station we found our hostel pretty easily and got checked in. It’s by far the nicest accommodations we’ve had here. It’s more like a small apartment, with two bedrooms with beds for each of us, a bathroom with a shower and a small kitchenette. We were stoked. After unloading our bags we decided to go find lunch and to stop by the small grocery store we noticed along the way to get some food for the rest of the week. Grocery shopping in a foreign country where you have absolutely no grasp on the language is entertaining to say the least. We relied on pictures and basic recognition to make it through but I think we did fine.

By the time we got back to the apartment after shopping, mine and Katie’s friend Keegan, who is studying in Prague for about as long as we were in Paris, was out of class so we gave her a call. She told us she would take us to a traditional Czech pub where we could get good food and then she would show us some fun night activities for the rest of the trip. The dinner was incredible! Keegan doesn’t speak Czech either but way more people here speak English than in Paris so we were fine. We all had goulash, which was really rich gravy with cooked beef, and it came with flour dumplings on the side. The only strange thing was that the beef was topped with whipped cream. I wasn’t so sure about that but it ended up being really really good.

The pub was right down the street from Keegan’s apartment so after eating we went there to meet her roommates. They were super nice too and decided to come out with us for the evening. Keegan and Brooke knew of a really cool club right along the Volga river by the Charles Bridge. This bridge has been around since the 14th century, much like most of the city and the architecture. Even in the dark we could tell just how amazingly beautiful the ancient architecture is. I can’t wait to see more in the daylight!

Keegan ended up showing us two clubs and both were really fun. Between the two we got fried cheese sandwiches, which are apparently a Prague specialty. Just imagine mozzarella sticks on a bun. Catching up with Keegan was a blast, I hadn’t talked to her since school got out and we typically worked together several times a week so we had a lot to chat about. It’s too bad she won’t be around the rest of the week to show us more of the city but she’s taking a trip to Hungary, lucky brat!

So far I’ve got a good internet connection here so I’m going to try to keep up the blog. Because I’m using Sarah’s computer though I can’t upload photos. I promise to get those up once I get home though!

Paris was so sad to see us go she cried…again Tuesday, Jul 7 2009 

Tuesday Jaclyn got up to go in to IES to take her last final and I got around to go in to the final picnic they were providing.

Lunch was a blast, it was a great way for everyone to chat and discuss plans for the last night in Paris. Afterwards we all did a little bit of last minute shopping and then we headed home to do last minute packing. Katie came over with her suitcase because she’s leaving it at our apartent while we travel because her family is going on vacation too.

The grand plan of the night was to have a final picnic at the Eiffel Tower with everyone but the weather did not cooperate. It rained off and on all afternoon/night so we decided to go to a nearby fondue restaurant instead. It was the best decision yet! The food was delicious and we all had a blast! There were 8 of us there and it was amazing! I was the only one that had been to a fondue place before (thanks Tom & Deb) so I guess that made me the resident expert. I tried not to screw it up too hard.

After the fondue place, the gang headed to the Bastille to meet Meaghan, Emma and Harrison for one last hoorah. We all went back to the Indian restaurant we visited a few weeks ago and had one last round of drinks and chats together before saying good-byes. It was a little difficult, I’m not going to lie. It’s going to be so strange not to see the same people all day every day for the rest of the summer. At least I’ve got an extra week of travel with some of them to help soften the blow.

On that note, the rest of the updates are going to be few and far between, if they happe at all. Katie, Andres, Jaclyn, Sarah and I leave bright and early in the morning to head to Prague and after that it’s on to Ireland. I’m hoping we’ll have computers with internet at the hostels so I can update the blog but if not I promise to do retrograde posts when I get back to the States. Thanks for following along with me through Paris and I hope everyone enjoyed reading this as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it!

Finally finished with finals and then it was farewell to our fabulous family Monday, Jul 6 2009 

Okay, I’ll apologize right now for that ridiculous title, I just couldn’t help myself with the alliteration.

Monday morning I got up with Jaclyn and fixed a quick breakfast before heading to IES to start my finals. They went about as expected, Contemporary France was vague and more difficult than it needed to be and Impressionism was a breeze. I literally was just given 4 pages to talk about the art of Monet as much as I wanted. Hooray for easy finals!

After the tests, Jaclyn, Katie, Harrison, Andres, Emma, Meaghan and I headed to Andres’ (and everyone else’s) favorite gelatto place to celebrate being done (or close to done for the grammar kids) with classes and tests. This time we went big and got way too much ice cream bu tit was worth it. I’m really going to miss that stuff!

Once we could move again, most of us headed to St. Michel because a few still wanted to do some souvenir shopping. Harrison finally found a few things he’d been wanting and Jaclyn found the grammar book she’d been looking for. I guess that made it a successful trip. From there I left Jaclyn, Harrison and Andres to study while I came home to start packing…

I really hate packing and this was especially difficult. Because we’re traveling extra and leaving our big bags behind I couldn’t exactly pack my big suitcase because I’ll have other things to go in there and I still have to buy a bottle of wine or two to bring home too. Overall it’s a nightmare and was the bane of my existance for a couple of hours.

Luckily, it was soon time for dinner and that was a great distraction. This was our last family dinner and it was so sad! Mme. Chalufour made us quiche again, I think she knows that’s our favorite. After dinner we got some recipies from Mme. and just sat and chatted with the family while watching some TV. It was a really relaxed night but I’m going to miss them. M. Chalufour kept inviting us back anytime we want to come and they both told us to recommend them as a host family to any other MU students we know that come on an IES program. I’ll definitely recommend them to anyone! Being with this family made my stay here so much easier, they’ve been so friendly and welcoming that I felt right at home. Hopefully I’ll come back to Paris and visit them again someday.

It was the 4th of July, we had to find fireworks somewhere! Monday, Jul 6 2009 

Saturday morning the plan was to leave Paris bright and early to go to Versailles…things didn’t exactly work out as planned. To get to Versailles it’s necessary to take the RER, my least favorite form of transportation in all of Paris. Jaclyn and I had so many problems but we finally got on the right train headed in the right direction and got to the next station to meet Katie. Andres was already there and Harrison was on his way. After a few more switches, including a bus to another train to our feet, we made it to Versailles.

Just walking up the street to the castle is breathtaking. The entire place seems to glow like the sun, which is exactly what Louis IVX wanted. The man was very, very conceited but it’s okay because he had a gorgeous house! We went inside and were even more blown away. I’ve been thinking about this for a couple days now and the only word I can come up with to describe the palace and all the rooms is opulent. Everything is gilded or covered in perfect silk or velvet. The Hall of Mirrors was just stunning, Every surface in that room glistened and glittered and blinded you a little bit. Everywhere I turned I was seeing crystal and gold and magnificent paintings. Well done Louis.

The chateau gates.

The chateau gates.

The front of the chateau.

The front of the chateau.

The organ in the royal chapel, it's 3 stories high!

The organ in the royal chapel, it's 3 stories high!

The Hall of Mirrors. One of the most stunning sights I've seen in all of France.

The Hall of Mirrors. One of the most stunning sights I've seen in all of France.

George Washington and LaFayette in a painting commemorating a battle of our Revolution in a room dedicated to great French military victories. It was neat to see GW on the 4th.

George Washington and LaFayette in a painting commemorating a battle of our Revolution in a room dedicated to great French military victories. It was neat to see GW on the 4th.

As beautiful as the interior of the chateau was, the grounds were even better. The shear expanse of the fountains, the hedges, the trees, the flowers, the sculptures and a million other things was almost too much to wrap my head around. I’ve never felt that my eyes/camera were so inadequate in all my life. Everything looked big and expansive from the windows of the chateau but it was even more so once we were in them ourselves, every little row of hedges had secret paths between them, it would be so easy to get lost there but no one would mind. You could spend a lifetime in those gardens and not be able to soak in all their majesty, and yes, majesty is the only way to describe these gardens. Wow.

The view from the chateau.

The view from the chateau.

Giant lawn with pond behind.

Giant lawn with pond behind.

The chateau with a tiny portion of the gardens in front, only 3 fountains are shown out of dozens.

The chateau with a tiny portion of the gardens in front, only 3 fountains are shown out of dozens.

The huge Neptune fountain in the center of the garden.

The huge Neptune fountain in the center of the garden.

One of many semi-secret, narrow pathways.

One of many semi-secret, narrow pathways.

The gardens closed at 5:15 but we didn’t leave the city. We went and got some dinner, which was very good. The best part was dessert, as usual, because it was just amusing. Jaclyn and Katie ordered a Nutella crepe to share and I got my own and when they came we had to make them ourselves. By “make them ourselves” I mean we spread the Nutella out ourselves and trust me they didn’t skimp. It was delicious.

After dinner we went back to the gardens because every Saturday night from June to September they have a fireworks show! I didn’t think it was possible but the gardens were even prettier at night! Everything was lit up and glowing and classical music was playing from speakers hidden in the trees and bushes, it was magical. Seeing everything glowing and hearing the music made it so easy to imagine the grandeur of the place back in the 18th century. Even with 2,000 other people there it didn’t matter. We were in our own little world of wonder and amazement. When the fireworks started we all got very happy. They were so incredible, filling the sky with the grand fountains below and the rest of the grounds behind. It was the best possible way to spend the 4th of July outside the States.

The sunset was perfect!

The sunset was perfect!

The flames were timed to the crescendos of the classical music that was playing.

The flames were timed to the crescendos of the classical music that was playing.

I didn't have a tripod so all of these are a bit full of movement but I tried my best.

I didn't have a tripod so all of these are a bit full of movement but I tried my best.

Fireworks over the fountains and the flames on the lawn.

Fireworks over the fountains and the flames on the lawn.

It was a beautiful night, enough said.

It was a beautiful night, enough said.

At the beginning of the day I was a little homesick because the 4th is always so special at home, with both sides of the family having big celebrations and my surrogate family having a huge party, I was really missing that. All said and done I of course still missed that but the day at Versailles was the best cure for that. We all decided that it made up for whatever we were missing at home.

Wow, that’s in a museum? Thanks for making me feel old… Monday, Jul 6 2009 

Friday morning Jaclyn and I both woke up early and set off to see a few last things we wanted to catch before leaving Paris. It was exciting and sad at the same time. Jaclyn headed off to a park her History of Paris teacher told her about and I headed to Le Musee des Arts et Matiers, a technology museum.

Right when I got off the Metro I knew it was going to be awesome. The Metro station is decorated like The Nautilus from Jules Vernes’ “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” complete with copper walls, porthole windows and wooden deck seats for waiting. I loved it.

The museum was really cool too. It divided technology into 7 different types: communication (my favorite), construction, energy, scientific instruments, materials, mechanical engineering and transport. All the ares were so cool. The scientific instruments were especially cool because it was a bunch of the old marine time clocks and devices for measuring distance at sea and such. It’s amazing that the people back then could figure out such complicated mathematical things and that they made them so beautiful. Every clock or astroglobe or even set of surgical instruments was beautiful as well as functional, when was the last time you looked at a Texas Instruments calculator and thought, “man is that machine pretty!”?

Scientific instruments also included the realm of computers and how they were created and have advanced over time. It made me feel a little old to see an Apple II computer, complete with 4.5 inch floppy disk, on display as ancient technology. It also made me realize just how easy we have it today. Everything is handed to us on a megabit encrusted plate.

The communication exhibit was awesome too. I’ve never seen so many old printing presses in my life and I realize just how much I owe to those glorious machines. With the invention of the printing press came an entirely new lifestyle and way of seeing the world, education was spread to the masses and a whole new curiosity and desire for information was born, leading to journalism. Along with printing presses were typewriters. As much as I love my Mac and word-processing programs, I do miss playing around on my parents’ typewriter when I was little. I loved to sit down and type up crazy stories on neon colored paper, there was just something about the sound of the keys clicking and the paper sliding back and forth that was exciting.

The history of the camera was on display too, from the early Draguerrotype camera obscuras to the exciting world of digital SLRs. The Canon equivalent of my old 35mm film camera was on display too but that was cool, not aging.

Seeing all the construction, transport, engineering and energy exhibits really made me wish my friends in the engineering department and my brother-in-law could have been there. They would have loved seeing how machinery has changed over time to allow man to create better, more advanced buildings and vehicles. I found the exhibits interesting but I know they would have all gotten more out of it.

After my trip to the museum Jaclyn called me and I headed to the Luxembourg Gardens to meet her, Katie, Harrison and Andres. Harrison was bent on finding the smaller statue of the Statue of Liberty that we didn’t find the first time we went to the gardens to explore. I hopped on the Metro and then the RER and made it to the gardens. The first order of business was actually lunch, which I was fine with, and then the statue. It took us a while but we did find it and get the obligatory pictures. We were all very touched to see a young oak tree planted next to the statue with an explanatory plaque saying it was in honor of all the Americans killed in the 9/11 attacks.

Smaller Statue of Liberty in the Luxembourg Gardens.

Smaller Statue of Liberty in the Luxembourg Gardens.

On the way to the statue we went by the big fountain/relflecting pool in the middle of the gardens and this time it was full of little boats. There was a stand where you could rent a tiny sailboat and tons of little kids were playing with them. They were the most adorable thing ever and I really wanted to rent a boat but I settled with taking a bunch of pictures.

This little boat wanted to be a Mizzou boat, black and yellow with a big "M" in the middle!

This little boat wanted to be a Mizzou boat, black and yellow with a big "M" in the middle!

I just loved the bright colors!

I just loved the bright colors!

With the statue found and pictures taken, Harrison left to do some shopping before the rest of our evening plans. Katie was a good student and did some studying in the gardens while Andres and Jaclyn wanted to walk to a nearby historical site they had learned about in class. I felt like walking so I went with them but got distracted on the way by a small bookshop. I’m really glad I stopped though because I found the find of a lifetime in the bottom of a box of old books: a 1922, hand-illustrated, copy of “The Swiss Family Robinson” in French. That book was one of my favorites as a child and this copy is just incredible. The shop owner saw me looking at it for a long time and chatted with me and gave it to me for an incredible price. I’m pretty sure I ripped the guy off but o well, I got my book!

When we went back to the gardens to meet Katie we all set off across the gardens towards the Louvre to take advantage of the free Friday nights. Harrison met us at the museum, as did two other students, Anne and Nicole. This time we saw the Venus de Milo but that was about the most exciting thing. We looked for Vermeer’s “Girl with the Pearl Earring” for a long time before being told by a guard that it’s not in the Louvre, it’s in London, our bad.

The inverted pyramid, pretty cool!

The inverted pyramid, pretty cool!

Venus de Milo, she's big and impressive and totally worth seeing.

Venus de Milo, she's big and impressive and totally worth seeing.

By the time we finished with the Louvre we were all starving so we set off in search of a cheap meal. In case you couldn’t guess already we wound up going to the Latin Quarter…again. We got some good Greek food and had a good time chilling, literally, in some air conditioning. Finding a place with air conditioning is a monumental thing so we’re all super happy when it happens. Shortly after dinner Katie went home to study, Harrison left to call his parents and the rest of us went to a pub. Another girl from the program, Sara, met up with us on the way. It was nice to talk to a few new people and we all decided it was a little sad that we waited until the last weekend to start hanging out. But Sara at least is coming with Jaclyn, Katie, Andres and me on our extra travels after the program. After some laughs everyone finished their drinks and so ended our last Friday night in Paris.

Senator McCarthy would not have approved of that neighborhood Wednesday, Jul 1 2009 

Tuesday started out as a pretty basic day. Contemporary France was pretty typical. We finished watching a movie about the youth in the banlieues (urban areas outside of the center of Paris, not good neighborhoods) and discussed it for the rest of class. It was interesting but very difficult to follow because there were no subtitles and everyone spoke very fast. Not only did the conversations happen incredibly fast, they really used the slang and vernacular of the banlieues, which includes a lot of words taken from the Arab, African and other foreign languages of the people of the banlieues.

Between classes I walked down the street to a children’s store and finished my shopping for the nieces and nephew. I found some adorable books in French, including Kallie’s favorite so I’m really excited about that! I spoil them way too much but I guess that’s what being an aunt is all about.

Impressionism was pretty good too. It was actually our last in-class class because we have museum visits the rest of the week and that’s it. We went over the final and talked about our last artist and that was that. The professor let us go a little early because it was so hot and sticky in the room we were all dying. It’s been getting pretty warm here lately, in the upper 80s by the afternoons for sure. I realize this is much cooler than it is for all of you back in Missouri, but keep in mind, in France they don’t have air conditioning. At night we’ve stopped even pulling back the blankets and we just sleep on top of them.

After Impressionism, our Contemporary France class met up because the professor was taking us on a tour of the banlieues. We all got on the Metro and rode it to the end, quite a long ride on a hot, sticky day. When we got off at St. Denis, the first place we went was the Cathedrale of St.Denis. It was actually pretty cool, especially because it is the first gothic cathedrale. Ever. All the others were modeled after it.

The tour of the neighborhood was more just walking around and observing the different people and the different culture. It was incredibly interesting to see the huge difference between this poorer area of Paris and my very chic, ritzy neighborhood. Prices of fruit and vegetables were about a quarter of what they are at the marketplace outside my window and all the clothing shops were ridiculously cheap. This enticed some of the not-so-enthusiastic students away from the learning experience and onto more trivial matters. I swear half the people in this program are dumber than a box of rocks and make me ashamed to be an American student in Paris.

We also looked a lot at the architecture of the grands ensembles, the big apartment buildings built in the 70s to house all the extra people in the banlieues after the housing crisis. These buildings are poorly constructed and were made fast and cheap. The interesting thing though is that all of them were a little unique. Our professor said the architects did that on purpose to make the people living there feel better about being in a place with so many others. This is the total opposite of an American suburb, all the houses are the exact same layout with the same color pallette with the same yard with the same toys. It kind of freaks me out sometimes.

One neighborhood we walked through, near the university, was very much influenced by the Communist movement in France. The professor said the entire area is still Communist and will probably stay that way for quite some time. We saw streets named after Lenin, Stalingrade and Che Guevera. It was good for a giggle for sure.

When the trip was over, Katie and I met up with Harrison, Jaclyn, Andres and our friend Ann for dinner. We ended up taking forever to eat so it was pretty late already when we got home and Jaclyn, Katie and I still had to book some things for our extra travels after the IES program is over. That was expensive and painful but I’m sure Prague, Dublin and Galway will be worth it. Finally we went to bed, although we didn’t sleep very well because of the heat. Hopefully the wind will start blowing or something because we’re all about to melt.

Artist’s paradise Saturday, Jun 27 2009 

Friday morning we somehow managed to drag ourselves out of bed to head to IES to go on our excursion to Giverny. It was difficult but there was no way I was going to miss this!

On the two hour bus ride, everyone from our little group was completely passed out. We’d all gotten around 3 hours of sleep the night before and it was catching us.

Once we got to Giverny though, I was wide awake. You can tell just driving up to the place that it’s something special and magical. There we were split into two groups to go on the tour. The group I was in started at the museum and got a tour of the artwork there. Everything at that museum is from Monet’s years at Giverny. We saw more of his water lilies and his Japonese bridge, as well as several other views of his garden and his house. This exhibit was cool because I didn’t know he had used so many different canvas shapes and sizes. Several of his paintings were on large, square canvases and a couple were even on round ones. We also got to see personal photos of his family and the process of building Giverny.

From the museum it was off to a really nice bistro to meet the other group for lunch. Again, lunch was incredible. We had chicken with yummy potatoes and some sort of orange mousse/souffle that none of us are sure what was in it and an apple tart for dessert.

After lunch the two groups switched places and my group headed to Monet’s actual house and gardens. I can’t even begin to describe the beauty and serenity of the water lily pond. Just walking around it for 45 minutes or so made it so easy to see how the man spent over 40 years there painting and still found inspiration. The water is so clear and so beautiful with all the willow trees and the water lilies being reflected in the surface.

_MG_2502

_MG_2504

_MG_2521

_MG_2551

_MG_2509

The gardens up by the house were beautiful as well. I’ve never seen so many poppies growing in one place before. He had them in all different colors and mixed in with lavander and peonies and apple trees and a dozen other flowers I don’t know the name for. The grounds were so extensive I have no idea how the man kept up with everything but I’m so happy they’re being kept in order now. I think it’s so great to be able to see the place where so many of the most influential paintings of a century and an art movement were created. Monet’s house was pretty cool too. Each room had its own color and everything was that color. Walking through the house also made it so obvious just how much Monet loved Japonese art. His personal collection is still on the walls and it covers nearly every free inch.

_MG_2566

_MG_2582

_MG_2590

_MG_2592

With the tour done and a day at Giverny well spent, it was back on the bus to go back to Paris. There we, of course, had the usual argument of what to do for the rest of the evening. We were all pretty tired still so we didn’t want to do anything too intensive. Eventually it was decided that we would go to Ile St. Louis because M. Chalufour had told Jaclyn and me that the best ice cream in the city was there. Meaghan wanted to go to the Louvre with a couple other girls and Harrison had to run home to do a few errands first so Katie, Jaclyn, Andres and I headed there alone first. We got there and stopped at a cafe for coffee before doing much else. Then we just wandered for a bit waiting on Harrison to come back. While we were wandering we looked at a few book stands along the Seine. The river is covered on both sides by little book stands that sometimes have pretty good finds. Katie spotted Alice in Wonderland and I spotted Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream so needless to say my French library is growing. Eventually, Harrison and Jaclyn’s friend Max and Max’s friend Alex found us (after a 45 minute wait) and we set off in search of dinner.

Because we were hungry and tired, we went into the first Indian restaurant we found and enjoyed a pretty good meal. It was nice to just sit and relax again because this week was insane. We were all running around like chickens with our heads cut off this week and it was beginning to get tiring. After dinner Katie went home to go to bed early and the rest of us went to get the ice cream. It’s called Berthillion and M. Chalufour was right, it’s delicious! It was so flavorful and was in a waffle cone. I’ve missed those! After that we all decided it was definitely bed time and called it a night!

Next Page »