03 August 2008

day 34: fin

Date: Saturday, 2 August, 2008 (PDT)

And so it's done. I'm back home in good ol' Palo Alto. The weather is perfect, the skyline on the drive home was perfect. My family (minus my older brother...) was waiting for me at the airport, the luggage came out fine, my dogs are still as cute as ever. After a terrible experience in Dulles (being subjected to long line after long line after long line) I actually made it to my flight to SFO.

Coming home wasn't as ecstatic as I dreamt it to be during my last few hours in Paris. All the things that I thought I would miss about the States seem less important right this instant, probably because I'm still tired and don't feel like running around to see the hills, or Safeway, or even In-n-Out. (Yes, GASP! I know...) I find I will miss the fresh bread, the food, the metro, the getting lost in a big city, the monuments, and, of course, my Paris GS MMW4 2008 Family (haha what a mouthful). I know I kept saying I wasn't going to be sad because we all go to the same college and are all going to live near each other, but we won't be an RER ride away from the Seine. My brain is still tired from the flying (it was a mere 24 hours ago that I was sitting outside Fondation de Monaco waiting for people to come downstairs) so I'm going to keep this short. All in all, cliches included, we'll always have Paris. (hehe)

02 August 2008

day 33: versailles--the end is nigh

Date: Friday, August 1st, 2008

Today we went to Versailles and were lucky enough to have a great private tour. I kept thinking the weather would be atrociously hot and sticky--mostly because the last time I went to Versailles, it was atrociously hot and sticky--but we were so lucky! It had rained a bit the night before but things had cooled significantly. Not only did we get to view some rooms that weren't open to the public, there was a light breeze that kept viewing rooms with a million other people more than tolerable. Our tour guide was really interesting and pretty funny, too. We got little headsets to wear while he spoke into a mic--it was so useful!

We got to go to the upper level of the chapel and man, did we feel special! The tour guide had a special key (that looked very old) and we climbed a spiral staircase to the gallery of the chapel. Afterward we walked around the garden at our own paces--the huge, vast, enormous, gargantuan garden.

A group of us decided to head back pretty early because we still had souvenir shopping to do, or we were tired from the night before. I had to do some souvenir shopping because I still hadn't done any that day... I managed to get all of it done and started on a few postcards. Christine was helping a man with the dorms inspect our rooms and she sat in my room to chit chat for a bit. After that, I had to get ready for dinner--we students decided we were going to dress nicely for the last dinner.

As for the last dinner, it was much nicer than the other ones we had dined at and we were given the opportunity to choose our own entrees and main dishes. Escargots was on the entree menu and I (as well as a whole bunch of our group) decided we had to try escargots while we were here! It actually wasn't bad! Here's video proof that I ate it:

It looked a little too much like snail (which is not very appetizing to me haha), but the basil and butter sauce that it was drenched in was fantastic. It just tasted like clam (the texture and consistency is similar) except in basil and butter. For my main dish I elected for fish--since I usually don't eat fish--but I ended up eating more of Rucha's duck than my own meal, hehe. There was an accordion player who came multiple times to our room; we had bottles of wine uncorked on our tables but those were taken away and replaced with lots and lots of classy bottles of Coca Cola--in glass bottles!

We took pictures, we danced, we laughed, we acted like children, we played with Professor Herbst's children. It was a lovely end (despite the dessert mishap...) to a great trip with people I will never forget.

31 July 2008

day 32: the end is nearer...

Date: Thursday, July 31st, 2008

WE (the students) ARE DONE WITH CLASS! (Sorry, Professor... Now you've got to grade all of our hard work.) I don't really know what else to say. I didn't do much else today besides learn about the Russians, the Chinese, the Japanese, and the Scientific Age in class, ate lunch, reviewed (crammed), was sent to the Academic (aka figural) Guillotine and have now been released. Mercifully.

And that means we are done.

Tonight, I hope we're going out to St. Michel one more time. I can't decide if I should treat myself to shwarma or have as many delicious crepes before I have to leave Paris. I have to orient my decisions on last-minute-Paris-things around food because we don't really have enough time to visit more sites. (Even though there's plenty more I want to do.)

I am definitely torn between wanting to go back home and never wanting this to end. On one hand, I think if this continued, I'd have more to study and more that would weigh on my mind--but I'd be in Paris longer. Right now I'm looking forward to home because I see it as a chance to relax, fully and recharge before the school year. I don't think I'm going to look for a job because it's probably too late and mostly because right now, I can't imagine keeping myself as busy as I have in the past five weeks with a job AND all the things I want to do. (Sorry, mom.)

It's really warm in this building... the insulation isn't very good.

Also, I am now frantically writing postcards in case you haven't received yours (even though I have promised many of you postcards.) I also don't know what to do about writing the Friends of the International Center because I e-mailed Ruth Newark with a link to my blog and I asked for an address (I left all the information from the packet I got at home...) but I never received an e-mail.

Anyway I'm out. YAY!

30 July 2008

day 31: the end is near...

Date: Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

I can't believe it's almost over. I haven't even finished touring the city... In any case I haven't really been blogging because I've been trying to study (key word: trying) for the past few days. I had an awesome Sunday that involved Paris Plage, exploring, the Trocadero, dinner with a view of the Eiffel Tower, climbing the Eiffel Tower, and finding a rain stick... but that's just a bit of it. I haven't finished that blog yet. On Monday I went to the Georges Pompidou with Vicky (finally!) and took a zillion pictures then I also went to the Cluny Museum of the Middle Ages with Zak--exhausting. It was essentially our last free day because Tuesday we were busy all day with class, Invalides, and a (wonderful) Moroccan dinner--salsa-esque dip with baguette, couscous and vegetable stew, plenty of well-seasoned chicken, and a belly dancer who got many people in our group to dance. Including Professor Herbst. And Zak. (Everyone who attended dinner agreed that Zak was the star of the show, sorry Professor...though you ran a close, close second haha) Today we had class, and I just finished my Final for ERC 103. I feel pretty good about it but mostly I'm thankful that we had two hours. I didn't take the whole two hours because and I probably should have to augment what I had to say about the kings before Louis XIV, but it was written and I couldn't very well have too many arrows or asterisks without destroying (utterly) the flow of the paper. In any case, it's done and over with. I am going to hopefully do some grocery shopping, have a nice dinner, and do some MMW review.

Tomorrow we have the same schedule as today except we take our MMW final instead of the ERC 103 one. (Duh.) Class in the morning, exam in the evening. Friday we have a day excursion to Versailles and a dinner at night then we leave, bright and early Saturday morning. And then, it's all over. In a flash. I am currently writing in the middle of a (figurative) hurricane.

On Monday, I danced and sang in the rain with some friends. It was epic.

day 29: last free day (essentially)

Date: Monday, July 28th, 2008

Went museum hopping with Vicky in the morning (Pompidou--tons of pictures on Photobucket though you will have to sift through many pages of pictures from Invalides) and Zak after lunch (Cluny Medieval Museum). I didn't take too many pictures in the Cluny because I was kind of pooped from the intense picture taking in the morning but it was a very very cool museum. We wanted to go out and do something (all of us) as it was, essentially, our last day (Tuesday = Class & Excursion, Wednesday = Final, Thursday = Final, Friday = Versailles, Saturday = Gone...) but most of us were too busy studying.

Given it was our last day, I think I got a fair amount done. Next time I come back there are still some things I want to do ...

day 30: les invalides

Date: Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Today we went to Les Invalides, home of the military museums, ex-Veteran's Hospital (of sorts). I wasn't feeling too well and my stomach was bothering me (I think it was the lack of breakfast or something funny in my staple diet of morning Madelines that was stirring things up). I wasn't exactly enthralled to walk through aisle and aisles of armor but I do have to admit, the museums were excellent. (Mostly because the exhibits all had descriptions in three languages, including English.) We started with the Arms Museum (one of the two) and there was lots of cool stuff in there... LOTS of it.

After that I took a break while some people headed to the World War I & II museum. I thought I was going to sit it out entirely but I started to feel better and managed to get through the museum. (There were lots of videos playing in the museum so I didn't really even have to walk that much... Just walked then sat.) I felt kinda bad because I guess I kinda latched on to Zak and, if you know Zak, he was in his element. I liken his being in a military museum to me in an Impressionist museum... And there I was clutching my stomach like a helpless nuisance. In any case, he ambled through the museum and I followed along, sometimes hurried ahead to watch the next video. It would have been a great museum for me to walk through (there were lots of cool exhibits on weapons, different uniforms, etc. all in chronological order) but I was not feeling good. We both wanted to see Napoleon's Tomb before leaving though, so I dragged myself there and sat, soaking in the splendor of man's egocentricity while I let Zak wander. We found a stop (something Xavier) and made it back in one piece.

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By the time we got back, I didn't really have time to rest like I wanted to because we had dinner at a Moroccan restaurant at night. I thought I was feeling better by then (I wasn't) but that night's dinner made up for everything... Awesome salsa-esque sauce with bread, couscous with stew, plenty of chicken to go around, fresh oranges for dessert...and best of all, dinner entertainment: a belly dancer! The belly dancer got several of our group, including Professor Herbst and Zak (on separate occasions) to hit the dance floor! I have some incriminating footage if anyone is interested in viewing it ... Hee hee hee. But for the sake of preserving dignity, if you wanna see em, you'll have to leave a comment with an e-mail that I can contact you at. Suffice to say with the food in my belly (despite basically living off of Madelines for the day) and a nice walk back and a good night's sleep, I felt tons better. What a great day!

Although, in retrospect, whenever I see these grand buildings built for one man alone, I think of, well first of all I think of the Futurama episode where Bender builds a huge monument to himself so that no one will ever forget him. But secondly I think of one my favorite quotes ever. It's from an excerpt that I read from an English class textbook in 9th grade:

“Language, in the mind of a poet, seeks to transcend itself, ‘to grasp the thing that has no name.’ It seems reasonable to suppose that the unknown people who left this record of their passage felt the same impulse toward permanence, the same longing for communion with the world we feel today. To ask for any more meaning may be as futile as to ask for a meaning in the desert itself. What does the desert mean? It means what it is. It is there, it will be there when we are gone. But for a while we living things—men, women, birds, that coyote howling far off on yonder stony ridge—we were a part of it all. That should be enough.” –Last paragraph of Desert Images, by Edward Abbey

It puts things in perspective for me, just another human who constantly worries about death--when it will come, what it will feel like, where I will go...

day 28: perfection

Date: Sunday, July 27th, 2008

great day!

27 July 2008

day 27: churches a plenty and more sitting in the rain by the seine

Date: Saturday, July 26th, 2008

Mmm I got to sleep in today and it was fantastic. By the time I did decide to get up (an impressive 1:30PM, though I did go to sleep at 4:10AM haha) I was already behind schedule. After a quick breakfast of grille pomme (it's like an apple tart), a bit more resting, and a nice shower, we were ready to go. It was me, Zak, and Aria looking at churches. I'll take you through one by one. (We only had the energy to visit three.)

St. Sulpice (1646-1745)
The exterior of this church was under construction when we visited, but it was absolutely breathtaking when we walked in! It's different from other churches I've seen because the interior seems so old, slightly dirty, which makes it seem so much more authentic. Sacred-destinations.com describes it as a "Late Baroque Parish Church" (source). I have a few pictures of the interior, one of a stained glass depiction of St. Denis, and the ambulatory featuring an awesome Virgin Mary.

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St-Germain-des-Prés (1163)
I ate lunch with Clementine a few weeks ago by this church, and I didn't even see it! (In my defense the spot in the cafe I was sitting at had no view of the church thanks to some large hedges. Also it was raining and we were in a hurry!) I actually saw some of it, but I didn't see the tall tower. In any case, this is an old, old church and again, it's distinctive from others I've seen. The interior is completely painted--similar to the waiting room (I guess) of Sainte Chappelle, but with darker colors (aka less gaudy) which again, made it feel more authentic. Apparently most of the old churches used to be all painted and this gives a neat idea of what it might've been like. Take a look at the walls--the frescoes and the colors of the decor. And of course the first picture is of the flying buttresses.

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La Madeleine (1764-1842)
This is an awesome awesome neo-classical church. It looks like a fancy Roman temple except when you look closer into the colonnade, there are saints lining the exterior of the church. The area around this church is super neat. There are (as there are everywhere in Paris, I suppose) cute brasseries that line the roundabout. There was a service going on so we couldn't take photos inside. I have some of the exterior though. There was a concert of Mozart, Schubert, and someone else that Zak wanted to go to but it was that night so we opted out in favor of hanging out with our Paris people. We got out of the metro stop at the rear, so the first picture you see is actually of the back of the church. The front of the church had a bunch of lovely flowers in front of it. The front of the church faces the Bastille, which is pretty cool.

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And so it was. We headed back and by then it was already 7:30PM. I uploaded these pictures courtesy of Flock, a wonderful fully media-integrated browser that allows me to blog and upload pictures with great ease. It's made by Mozilla, the maker of Firefox. I hung out with some people, chit chatted, and we headed out to the Seine again for another lovely evening. We just sat in the same spot, but this time (after I googled a bit to look for public restrooms) we were able to locate a bathroom. Apparently the underground parking structures are open 24/7 and they all have bathrooms. Thanks, Google! :)

25 July 2008

day 26: marais quarter et musée de l’orangerie

Today was our last meeting with Dominique as we made our way around La Marais. (In English, this means marshland.) This area was at one point a marshland, a chic hip place where the aristocracy lived, and also home to a large Jewish community. We went to four hôtel particulier (Wiki defines as "an urban 'private house' of a grand sort.") and the Place de Vosges. I don't remember all the names of the places where famous influential people lived, but I tried to get pictures of everything. I had a little technical difficulty with my camera where it thought my 2.0 GB Memorystick was almost full, despite having only taken about 10 pictures... I only discovered this after taking 10 pictures but I didn't want to delete those by reformatting my memory card so I had to shoot the rest of the day in the lowest quality and also delete some other pictures. (I wanted to take pictures of everything at the Orangerie... I even tried to. But that's for later.) From about 9:30 to 12, we were led around the Marais by Dominique
Place de Vosges
Place de Vosges
Dominique telling us about the famous people who lived in Place de Vosges
Hotel de Sully
ingres' muse
Ingres' muse for his famous painting of the girl with the jug
I forget the name of this place :( Does anyone remember?
kids playing soccer in a basketball court
A group of boys playing soccer on a basketball court.
A Medieval building that sounded like "seance"
Shoah Memorial
Ex-Hotel Particulier, Current Court of Appeals

Vicky and I decided to skip on the Museum of Judaeism (which apparently was awesome... dang it) to visit the Musee de L'Orangerie. First though, we had lunch at a little cafe right by the St Paul metro stop. Three of us had amazing burgers with egg, bacon, lettuce, pickles, cheese, onions and tomatoes. It was so delicious I can still make myself hungry by thinking about it, hehe. Anyway then we went to the Orangerie which was, in short, incredible. It's like a smaller, more pointed Musee D'Orsay (also an amazing museum) but this is definitely one of my favorites. I am such a sucker for impressionism. I definitely lost myself in "Les Nympheas," Monet's lilies. The pamphlet describes them as "a gift from Claude Monet to the French State...they hang in two oval rooms as requested by the artist." It's simply breathtaking. There's natural light that filters in through the ceilings and through a mesh so the light comes in, but isn't too harsh. I probably could've stayed there for an hour just staring.

Oval Room 1

Oval Room 2


The rest of the museum features the collections of Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume. "Open to the public since 1984, the collection displays two seminal periods in French art. Impressionism is represented by exceptional paintings by Renoir and Cezanne; early modern art and the return to a degree of Classicism, typical of the period between the two wars, are illustrated by masterpieces by Modigliani, Le Douanier Rousseau, Picasso, Matisse, Derain, Utrillo, and Soutine" (L'Orangerie Pamphlet). I wanted to take pictures of everything. I wasn't familiar Utrillo, Soutine, or Laurencin but I'm glad I got to see some of their work. Just to warn you, my Photobucket Album has gotten really bulky because of the many, many pictures I uploaded... I've picked a few of my favorites for this entry but it'll be difficult to narrow down.

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Last night, most of our group--everyone who was feeling healthy and didn't feel like she had work to catch up on--got together and spent an evening by the Seine. It was awesome. Never before has there been such group congealing and mish mashing and complete break down of our little cliques!