I’d be happy never riding a bus again Friday, Jul 17 2009 

Thursday morning the 4 of us woke up semi-early to check out of the hostel on time. We didn’t stick around for breakfast because we decided we wanted our last meal in Ireland to be a traditional Irish breakfast. After walking around for a little bit we found a pub nearby that was still serving and sat down to enjoy some food before Sarah had to catch her bus to Dublin to catch her flight to London. The breakfast was huge and delicious! We all agreed that we’d made a good decision in choosing breakfast out over toast at the hostel.

After breakfast it was good-bye to Sarah as she headed off to catch her bus; she still has 2 weeks in Europe thanks to a cruise with her family. Personally I’m ready to go home. Jaclyn, Katie and I still had about an hour to kill before we had to catch our bus so we wandered around Galway one last time soaking  it all in. After one last visit to the Oscar Wilde statue and the tourism center so Jaclyn could grab one last souvenir we got on our bus. The bus from Galway to Dublin took about 3.5 hours total and I’m not ashamed to say I slept most of the way. I just put on The Beatles on my iPod and conked out. It was wonderful.

We got to the airport in plenty of time and actually made it through customs and security just fine (mainly because we didn’t have to go through customs). The flight was delayed about 20 minutes but overall it wasn’t bad. We found out in the air what the cause of the delay was–bad weather. Flying into Paris we got some bad turbulence, worse than anything I’ve ever experience, and could see the sky light up with the lightning from a summer thunderstorm. When we got off the plane we were a little shocked by the heat and humidity, we’d gotten pretty used to the cooler weather in Prague and Galway.

From the plane it was onto another bus, this one to take us actually into Paris. I think it’s pretty cool that now we’ve flown in/out of all three airports in Paris: Charles de Gaulle, Orly and Beauvais. That bus ride was the worst because the driver was a moron and kept going in circles. I swear it must have taken twice as long as needed to get to our destination and the rain had nothing to do with it. Luckily for us though the drop off point was really close to the Chalufour’s apartment so we just walked home.

Once we got home it was a speed round of re-packing and last minute preparations for leaving tomorrow. Our flight home leaves at 1 pm so we have to be on the Metro headed to CDG by 9. I’m actually pretty excited about going home, even though this summer has been incredible! I still don’t think it’s fully sank in that I spent my summer studying/traveling around Europe. It was a dream come true and I will never forget this summer!

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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!

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.

All Venezuelan stories have sad endings Saturday, Jun 27 2009 

So Thursday was Katie’s birthday. We went to Contemporary France and I got her a pain au chocolat (remember-croissant with chocolate baked in) and Meaghan brought her a hot chocolate cake thing. That was fun to watch Katie eat because it was a too hot to pick up with her hands but she didn’t have a spoon so she had to use a small plastic cup. Not the best idea but it still tasted amazing so it was okay.

Impressionism had another excursion so again we had a lot of extra time between classes. I actually had to run home because I’d gotten roses from Ben for my birthday and they needed to be put in water. When I got back to IES (fasted Metro ride ever) Harrison, Andres, Meaghan, Katie and I got lunch at our favorite bakery and then just wandered around close to IES for a while. Us girls went in a few shops to look at the sales and Meaghan found some shoes while Katie and I found jackets for less than 20 euros, it was a good shopping excursion.

When the boys had to head to class, the three of us got on the Metro to head to the meeting point for our excursion. This time we went to the Rodin Gallery. It was pretty awesome. I’d never realized just how much his sculptures broke from the classical idea of sculpture. He rarely used marble and his figures were hardly ever the perfect, smooth, beautiful creations from the classical era. Instead he focused on movement and human form and left rough edges. His “Gate to Hell” was a very intresting piece that is based on Dante’s Inferno. Rodin did such an incredible job showing all the levels of hell and the anguish of the people stuck there.

After the museum I had to go home because Jaclyn and I had dinner with the Chalufours. I got home none to soon because just as I walked in the door it started pouring down rain. I’ve never seen such hard rain in Paris before, I felt like I was back home for a minute. This was bad news though because Katie had wanted to take some wine and maybe some desserts to the Eiffel Tower and sit outside and relax for her birthday.

When dinner was over Jaclyn and I called to find out what was going on. It turned out Katie had talked to a friend of ours from Mizzou who’s been studying in Paris since February. Stephanie had gone to dinner with Katie and some others that didn’t have family dinner and Stephanie said she had a friend with a big apartment where we could all hang out. Jaclyn and I met up with them at their cafe and off we went.

The apartment was the perfect size for a big group and Stephanie’s friend (also an MU student) and her French boyfriend were super nice. Everyone just hung out there and enjoyed some wine for quite a while. Eventually though, just when we thought things were winding down, Stephanie asked if we wanted to go out for a while because she knew a really great club with good dancing. Now there’s nothing Katie likes more than dancing so of course we went. At this point though, one of our new friends, Marissa, was feeling her wine. (Marissa and her younger sister Taylor are really fun and we hope to hang out with them more in the last week or so.) For some reason, Marissa was convinced she was Venezuelan like Andres and could speak “Venezuelan” as well. When we got to the club and got in she thought she needed a beer too and needed to be on the dance floor as well. That was a bad idea so Harrison and I kept her preoccupied by asking her to tell us a Venezuelan story. She told us one about a boy and his coconut that went out on the ocean in a boat and sank. All Venezuelan stories have sad endings she said.

Before too long the sisters went home. The rest of us stayed for a while longer. Katie, Jaclyn, Meaghan, Emma, Andres, Stephanie and her friend were having a blast dancing while Harrison and I held down the fort. Eventually though I was tired and we all decided to go home because we had to be up early the next morning. When we got outside we realized it was raining again…harder than before. It was a truly bonafide thunderstorm going on. We saw lighting and heard tons of thunder. Somehow we all managed to grab cabs and get home without being completely soaked, just 80% or so. Off to bed we went to sneak in about 3 hours before we had to be up for the IES excursion to Giverny!

Hands down, best birthday ever! Thursday, Jun 25 2009 

Okay, turing 21 in Paris was the best birthday of my life!

The day started bright and early as usual since I did have class. I’m pretty sure it was also the first time in my life that I’ve had to go to school on my birthday since I’m a summer baby but it wasn’t bad. Jaclyn finally gave me back my birthday cards and they were worth the wait! I loved them all and it really made me feel good to see cards from  home. Melissa’s was hilarious! I don’t know where you found a French Hoops and Yo-Yo card but it rocked!

When I got to class Katie had bought me a pain au chocolat (a croissant with chocolate baked in) and Meaghan tried to buy me coffee but the machine was broken, it didn’t matter though, it was the thought that counted. The others wished me happy birthday when they got their for their class and it was great!

We didn’t have Impressionism like normal, instead we had an excursion that started later so we had several hours to kill. To pass the time we went to the outdoor market again so Meaghan and Katie could get some scarves and Ann came with us. After they got scarves we decided to go shopping because it was the beginning of the big soldes, or sales, in Paris. For the next 6 weeks pretty much all clothing in all stores will be marked down by 20% to 60%, it’s pretty much amazing!

Our visit was fun and so was shopping. I got some cute clothes that I can’t wait to wear at home and be able to tell people I bought this in Pairs 😉

Jaclyn and I had dinner with the Chalufours and that was by far the best part of the day. They went all out!! With dinner I had a glass of wine for the occassion and then after dinner it was cake time! They had gotten me two cakes, one was a delicious chocolate mousse heavenly thing on a pastry crust and the other was a raspberry custard with a flaky pastry base, so good! They even put candles on them spelling out 21 (but they set them down backwards so I turned 12 again but o well). I made my wish and we ate and it was delicious. They also gave me and Jaclyn both copies of one of their company’s books based on the American Revolution and they bought champagne! After dinner M. Chalufour gave me the cork and he’d written the date, Paris, Bon Anniversaire (happy birthday) and my name on it. It’s the best souvenir from Paris I could ever ask for. My family here rocks!! (the one at home does too!)

Finally it was time to go out! I wanted to go to a jazz club and the guide books and the Chalufours both recommended one in the Latin Quarter called “Caveau de la Huchette”. I called the gang and we all decided to meet at the Metro there to go to the club.  It was amazing! I loved the quite, mellow atmosphere. It’s one of the oldest jazz clubs in the city and is in an actual basement/cavern on the street. There was live music and we managed to meet the singer totally by accident. He was marvelous and everyone had fun. Everyone else got some beers but I’m not a fan of beer so instead I had a Bailey’s while we just relaxed and chatted. We’ve all been really tired lately so just chilling was perfect!

Eventually we realized though that we all had class in the morning and we should probably head home. Jaclyn and I hopped on the Metro with Katie and by the time we got to our stop it was Katie’s birthday, hooray!! Tonight (Thursday) will be more fun I’m sure! The last surprise of my birthday were the roses I received this morning, they’re beautiful and I’m leaving IES right now to go home to put them in some water!

Even on the Metro, that’s a little strange Wednesday, Jun 24 2009 

Sorry for the lack of posts. It’s been crazy here. Monday was just plain boring and Tuesday left me exhausted, that said here you go:

Monday I just got up late and went to class. Contemporary France was cancelled in the morning and just moved to the afternoon instead. Classes were classes and afterwards we didn’t do anything. Jaclyn and I had dinner with the Chalufours and then she did homework and I went to bed early. Like I said, Monday was boring.

Tuesday was better. I went into class and we just watched a movie in Contemporary France. It was a short film about the Parisian suburbs and it sort of reminded me of “Radio Days” by Woody Allen and “Brighton Beach Memoirs” by Neil Simon because it was a film about remember the suburbs when the director was a child. It was full of mixed emotions of the time and the place, happy memories of being a kid but at the same time disgust for how he had to live.

Between classes the others wanted to go to the catecombs and I didn’t really so I had the brilliant idea that I’d go to Montmartre to see the Dali museum by myself. This was not a good idea. Montmartre is a huge, very hilly area of Paris and it’s pretty far away from IES. The museum itself is very small and very hidden among the twisty, turny streets of old Paris. It took me over an hour to find and then when I did there was also a group of school kids there being really noisy and annoying. Despite these problems though it was a great musuem and now I have an even greater appreciation for Dali and his art. The man was so conflicted between religion and what he thought of the world, it was very interesting to learn more about him as a person.

I then made my way back to IES for Impressionism and fell asleep on the futon in the lobby before class, luckily Colleen came in and woke me up before class so I wasn’t late. We talked about Van Gogh so that’s always a good day in art class.

After class I went to Parc Monceau and sketched for a bit. It’s so relaxing there, it really is one of my favorite places in the city. Just as I was about to head home, Jaclyn called me and told me she and some of the others were going to get a drink in the Bastille if I wanted to join them. I hopped on the Metro (after going home to drop stuff off) and met them. Over all, between getting lost looking for the Dali museum, going home twice and then to the Bastille/Le Marais, I took the Metro about a dozen times on Tuesday. One of those times I saw the strangest instrument yet: a digirido (you know, one of those weird Austrailian things that kind of hums). I’ve seen/heard a lot of weird music on the Metro but that takes the cake. We had a nice time just relaxing and drinking some coffee and getting gelatto (that’s becoming a bad habit) before all heading home to go to bed.

When we got home and finished our homework and got ready for bed and such I tried to convince Jaclyn that it was after midnight so technically it was my birthday and she should give me back my birthday cards. She didn’t agree and made me go to bed and wait until the morning. It was worth it, the cards were super cute and made me feel very loved, but that’s another story for Wednesday’s blog. It should be pretty good because so far my birthday’s rockin’ and I want to put it all together in one for you all so I’m going to go eat dinner and listen to some jazz!!

It’s okay, I know the guitar player Monday, Jun 22 2009 

Sunday morning we all woke up bright and cheery at 6:30 am to catch the bus back to Paris. Yeah right. We woke up but we were not cheery or bright. We’d gotten roughly 3 hours of sleep on top of very little the night before. By some miracle though we did make it to the station on time and got on the bus. Meaghan was awesome and scored us the seats in the very front so we had more room and could stretch a little more.

The ride back to Paris was so much nicer than the ride there. Customs was much easier and the driver wasn’t nearly as uptight. Plus we all slept for 90% of the ride. I managed to stay awake long enough to see some more of London and to see the sun come up fully but then I was out. It was great.

When we got home we all split to go to our respective homes. We were all tired and disgusting from being on a bus for a grand total of 21 hours over the weekend. Jaclyn and I came home and unpacked and relaxed for a little while before deciding to head out to the music festival that was going on in the area.

We wandered around for a while and got some sandwiches and some macaroons. We went to a store called Laduree and it’s a very old, very famous bakery. The macaroons were the best I’ve ever had and I’m definitely returning before the end of the trip!

Once we had our food we wandered down to a park at the end of the Champs-Elysee and found a stage for the musicians. We sat on a bench and just enjoyed the music. Pretty soon an older gentleman sat down next to us with a friend and they asked if they could see our program. We shared and started talking with them a bit and learned that they were jazz musicians that were playing later in the night.

We had a great conversation with them for about an hour and were really excited when they told us our French was very good. They gave us a lot of information about jazz clubs and whatnot in the city and invited us to another concert in July. I’m super excited about this and I think I’m going to see if the others want to go to a jazz club on Wednesday night for my birthday!!

I left the concert early to head back to the apartment to make some phone calls. After all, it was my niece’s 5th birthday and Father’s Day.

All in all it was a really great day but I was happy to go to bed and even happier that I got to sleep in a little the next day.

The wheels on the bus hit every single hole Monday, Jun 22 2009 

Thursday we got up and went into class. The day was pretty mundane, except for everyone being antsy for the end. Our gang was headed to London, another group was going to the French riviera and yet another to Barcelona. Needless to say no one wanted to be in class.

After class we all set off in our separate directions for home because we all had to pack still and most of us had dinner with our families. Jaclyn and I got home and began packing. We knew we needed/wanted to pack light so that made it easier. I’m a speedy packer so when I finished I actually had enough time to check my email and make a few calls home. It was nice to talk to home and have things squared away before heading out.

Dinner was nice. Poor Colombe just got braces on Wednesday so she wasn’t really feeling like eating too much. Over dinner we told the Chalufours our more specific plans and when we’d be back and they told us to have a good trip.

Right after dinner pretty much we had to grab our bags and head out the door. The bus left at 11 so we had to be at the station by 10 so we had to leave our apartment by 9/9:15 because it was on the other side of Paris. Jaclyn and I made it in plenty of time and so did the others.

We waited until they called our route and then boarded. We were all prepared to go to bed as soon as we got onboard. Yeah right.

First off, the seats were incredibly uncomfortable. More uncomfortable than typical bus seats in my opinion but whatever. Then we would up right in front of a group of American law students heading to London as well. One guy in particular was super chatty. I think he kept us up for a good 3 hours.

Eventually we made it to customs and boy was that fun. Before they could check our passports we had to fill out a piece of paper saying where we were staying and where we were from because we were coming from a place with known cases of swine flu. I’m really getting sick of doing that.

After the questionnaire was done (finally) we got to go through a mini-interrogation by the board control. They wanted to know how long we were staying, where we were students, what we were studying, what we planned on doing in London, when we were going back to the States, what airline we were flying. It was awesome. Eventually we got through and headed off on the last leg to London, it was about 4 am. Hurray London.

I felt like a zoo attraction Wednesday, Jun 17 2009 

Wednesday had a bit of a rough start. I finally dragged myself out of bed but failed epically at getting Jaclyn up. The girl has been getting very little sleep lately and it caught up with her last night. I finally convinced her to just stay in bed until 9 since she doesn’t have class until 11 and headed to IES alone.

I’ve taken to reading on the Metro so I don’t feel like I’m totally wasting 40 minutes of my life every morning. I think this makes a nice segue to talk about the book I’ve been reading. In our rooms here there are tons of books that have been left behind by other students, about 2 weeks ago I found one titled Three Men in a Boat & Three Men on a Bummel by Jerome K. Jerome (no joke). Naturally I was intrigued by the title so I started reading it and fell in love immediately! Basically it’s two books in one that are the journals of this Jerome fellow and, in my opinion, are written like blogs for the 1800s. In Three Men in a Boat, Jerome tells of his trip up the Thames river as a young many (about my age) with his two best friends just to have a change of pace for the summer. It’s hilarious because each day he tells about what they did but he includes anecdotes and ridiculous stories and doesn’t attempt to hid his opinions at all, he calls his friends idiots and shares how he himself goofs each day. I’m only half-way through Three Men on a Bummel but so far it’s just as good. It’s the same 3 men, only 20 years later going on a bicycle trip through Germany. This time they decided they needed a break from their wives and children so they set out biking through the mountains on a single bike and a tandem bike. I would have like to have known these guys because they sound crazy!

Anyway, back to Wednesday. Contemporary France was interesting again, we finished talking about social security and the various programs France has. Perhaps the most interesting thing our professor told us was that France, while being all for helping her people and giving assistance, doesn’t really believe in disabilities. The more I think about this the more I realize it’s true. I don’t know how anyone in a wheelchair could get around Paris, there are only about 4 Metro stops that have elevators, the rest are all stairs, and none of the restaurants are handicapped-friendly. She also told us that the French don’t really believe in learning disabilities. Students with ADD and ADHD or dyslexia aren’t really taken seriously here and they laugh at Americans that come over expecting different treatment because of such conditions. While I do feel that these conditions are sometimes over-exagerated, I don’t think they should be ignored completely. I guess that’s just another gross cultural difference.

Between classes Katie and Meaghan went to the Gardens of Luxeumbourg for a run and I walked to a nearby neighborhood to go to the outdoor market they have every Wednesday. I found a really great deal on pashmina scarves, 3 for 10 euro, so I was pretty excited about that. Now when it gets cold and rainy again (because I’m sure it will) I’ll have something to wear that’s appropriate for the weather.

The girls came back from their run and the others got out of class so we all headed to grab a quick lunch. After that Harrison and I decided to go to the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation before his class. That was amazing, actually seeing Cartier-Bresson’s first camera in person was just amazing and of course his photos are out of this world. I tried to explain to Harrison the importance of his work to photojournalism and how much we all look up to the man in our degree. I think he got it a little but it’s hard for non-photos to understand I think. The temporary exhibit was a very intersting look at wartorn countires, with an emphasis on unrest in Greece. The portrait series was great because the subjects captioned themselves.

We didn’t  have our regular Art History class, instead we went to a museum but that wasn’t until later in the afternoon. Because we had plenty of time and the others had class/went home to take showers after their run, I decided to go to the Gardens of Tuiliries to sketch. The museum we were visiting was in the gardens so it worked out well. I found a nice spot in the shade (useless because I already have a sunburn just from walking around) and picked a sculpture to sketch. I was working for quite a while and listening to my ipod and was about halfway through when I felt someone watching me. I looked up to see two older ladies watching me sketch over my shoulder. They were nice and told me I was doing a great job and when I said it wasn’t that great they disagreed and kept encouraging me. Finally they left and told me “bon courage” (good luck/you can do it) on their way. It was nice to hear the words of encouragement but a little weird to be watched while I sketch. I’m used to preforming (I’ve done enough acting) but somehow watching while I work is different, there’s more pressure. That sketch was okay, somedays I feel I’m getting better but others I feel like I’m making no progress.

The others arrived so I met up with the group to go into the museum. Katie kindly pointed out that I had weird smudges  all over my face, I guess that’s what I get for sketching in public before a trip. Eventually she  helped me get them all off but I was still paranoid I had green marks everywhere. The museum was amazing! It’s the home to several of Monet’s huge Waterlilies paintings and to an entire collection of Renoir, Matisse, Cezanne and Gaughin too.

Seeing Monet’s lilies like they’re supposed to be seen, in the round with natural light, is just incredible. Those flowers just dance on the water and draw you into a trance. His use of the light to show the reflections of the sky while still having no horizon line just fascinates me. Even when he painted the night he used the light like magic.

We also saw a temporary exhibit by Didier Paquignon, and I would describe him as a modern impressionist. He uses light just like Monet and Degas and others of that time, but in a way that I think is both more challenging and a bit sad. Today there are so many more colors of light than in the 19th century. Paquignon uses all the light that truly exists today, meaning he includes the growing problem of light pollution in the 21st century in his work. This makes them very stunning to look at but also very depressing to me because I think light pollution is one of the saddest results of our time.

After the museum, Katie, Meaghan and I headed towards the Pantheon because that’s where the others were having a trip for their History of Paris class. There we stopped at a cafe and they got some beers and I got a coffee and we just relaxed a little. It was nice to give our bodies a rest and to just enjoy a conversation with each other. Just as I finished my coffee the others finished their trip and came to meet us. Jaclyn and I had dinner with the Chalufours so we headed home while the rest set off in search of their dinner.

Dinner was a blast, as usual. We ate outside again because the weather has finally gotten its act together. Over dinner we discussed M. and Mme. Chalufour’s jobs as editors and how they chose it. They both wanted jobs outside of a regualr office where they could breathe and have a family so it worked out well. I was also teased for having a sunburn just from being outside walking, it sucks to be me sometimes. I felt bad for Colombe though because she just got braces today so she couldn’t really eat anything. Hopefully she’ll be better tomorrow night for dinner.

Tomorrow we leave for London so it’ll probably be Monday before I have anything up again but expect a few posts. I’m so excited for this trip!

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