09 July 2008

day 10: île de la cité

Today's lecture was a little stressful for me. Not entirely physically stressful (falling asleep / not paying attention etc.) it was more internal (uh oh, brace yourselves for some disorganized emotional quasi-philosophical logorrhea...I will keep it to one paragraph.) There's something very stressful about learning history, especially when it cover (as it often does) the senseless and systematic self-destruction of the human race. I don't know why this lecture should resonate more with me than the Mongol lecture, but the pointed cruelty that we learned of today just seemed so unnecessary and yet so frighteningly unpreventable. I guess a combination of general being tired and almost nearly always being around a group plus today's lecture equals a rather quiet me. Though on the bright side, Professor Herbst brought up St. Francis of Assisi. His story thoroughly impresses me and, in many ways, is incredibly uplifting.

After our lecture I did some reading and had some bread that Zak picked up at the Boulanger. (It was a wonderful, delicious, fresh baguette.) (OK I admit it I was sulking about the aforementioned stuff in my room and stole away to the quiet of my room while everyone else was at lunch.) In any case, our afternoon trip was a visit to Il de la Cite. We stopped at Chatelet from M-4 and met our tour guide. From there we explored a number of places including Notre Dame and Sainte-Chappelle. I actually had never been inside Notre Dame until today and it was actually quite quick. It was all very grand, but much busier that St. Denis Basilica so I don't think I quite got to appreciate it the same way. There was, however, a neat choir that started to sing in the church which certainly contributed to the experience.

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We got to go into Sainte-Chappelle via the Palais du Justice instead of waiting in line. (We felt really important.) The gift shop / information area of the chapel on the first floor was decorated impressively the way we think it used to be -- brilliant gold, red and blue.

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I personally prefer the plainer stone condition that most churches are in today but it was quite beautiful. We climbed the steps up to the chapel, and the chapel is simply spectacular. Part of me doesn't want to show you pictures because it doesn't, in any way, substitute being there in a relatively small room, the walls of which mostly comprise grand stained glass windows. But of course I will share what I have and hope it tempts you into coming (back) to Paris!:

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Afterwards we had free time--I desperately craved frites avec ketchup as I had only Prince cookies for breakfast/snack and parts of a baguette. We got some frites and some people got ice cream, then we walked to the park behind the Notre Dame (mm to admire those wonderful flying buttresses! Possibly my favorite architectural achievement) but we had mostly finished our snacks by then so we returned back to CiUP where I promptly fell asleep until about 9:00 PM...

Valiant attempt at disguising the yellow crane...

(But not before stubbing my toe pretty badly on a gate locker on the way out of the RER at Cite Universitaire...I have a picture of it for personal reasons but I'm not showing haha!)

And now it's time to read. I feel much less somber and upset by the atrocities of humankind and still believe in the potential good of (wo)man.

day 9: stephen sawyer & st denis

An exciting guest speaker, Professor Stephen Sawyer came to lecture for us today on Christianity in Paris. He was so interesting and so eccentric and very knowledgeable and informative. And so after much ado, we finally went to Basilique de Saint-Denis: it absolutely took my breath away! On a side note, it's rather interesting how demographically stratified you can see France (or Paris is) by hopping on different metro lines...

In any case there was so much to see in the Basilica and the Necropolis. I don't really have much to say about it except that I spent most of the 90 minutes in absolute wonder of the church. (Of course, there were flying buttresses and ribbed vaults that consistently take my breath away / impress me to no end.)


Then we stopped very quickly at an old Roman Arena that well, looks vastly different not. And yet I would love to play soccer there and grow up there. I love love love old things and I look touching them and imagining what "it used to be like" back in the day.



We had an hour of free time around the Jussieu stop (wonderful!) and chose to go to the Jardin des Plantes. I had no idea there was a menagerie there but apparently Zak pointed that out to me when we went the first time around, I just wasn't listening... I WAS wondering what all the enshrining of the "zoologiques" was about... Haha. The menagerie was closed but we managed to see some wallabys and some black swans for free. :) Wallabys were cute!

When we were done with free time we walked to our dinner place: Heureux Comme Alexandre – Mouffetard. Le Petit Prince decorations and wonderful wonderful FONDUE! I love cheese fondue so much. I want to go back to this place... Just look at it:



08 July 2008

days 7 & 8: more of the same thing (lazy sunday and extra weekend-day: monday)

Day 7 was a lot of lazying about. Most of my day revolved around finding food (yes, Latin Quarter, yes Frites...) as it was a Sunday (contrary to the time stamp--Sunday, July 6th 2008) and sitting in a park (Vosges) for many hours (with a baguette--mm) and searching for food.

Day 8 was more lazying around and meeting Clementine for dinner which was wonderful! That's about it though... I spent the majority of the day fretting about what constituted "casual but chic" in Clementine's eyes. We were supposed to eat at a restaurant that Clementine chose but it was closed for renovation so we just picked a random Cafe. Had a delightful salad (tons of turkey and meat in it...) paired with a wonderful white wine. Afterwards we had a glass of champagne at the ever so chic and hip "Costes" where apparently celebrities dine and wine on the weekends. (Last time Clementine was there she saw Diane Kruger--wow!)

No pictures from either days... It was slightly rainy though. I quite enjoy the cooler weather because it's just more tolerable to walk around that way. Also, after a week of just jam packed action, the two days were decent breathers. I also did one interesting event each day so I don't feel guilty about relaxing. I feel properly recharged for the week.

I have been working on watching Amelie with some people, too.

06 July 2008

day 6: exploration of paris!

Mood: Accomplished
Warning: Convoluted post ahead! Lots of metro line references. May get confusing...

Today I explored Paris with Zak. The key to our plans for the day was intuition and being spontaneous, aka Metro hopping and lots of wandering. I had gone out the night before so I didn't wake up until 11:50 ish so I had to grab breakfast along the way. We took the tram to Porte d'Orleans to look for a bakery or a supermarket. We walked along the Metro line 4 (unknowingly, although it's hard not to as, according to Zak, the first metros built follow the main streets so they wouldn't dig through people's basements) until we found a MONOPRIX and it's wonderful bakery. Maybe I just don't know what it's really like to have exquisite French pastries but I really love MONOPRIX's stuff. It's reliably good and affordable too! Anyway as we were searching for it, it started to rain which put Zak's coat to good use.

After we got me breakfast we hopped on the Line 4 at Alésia and stopped at Montparnasse Bienvenüe to see the big black building that so intrigues Zak. We walked around it and spotted a Farmer's market and of course, I had to see. It stretched for two blocks along this nice little divider-street lined with trees.

So we just kept walking along it and wandering until we saw a metro for line 6 and hopped on (it might have been Edgar Quinet but I'm not sure anymore) towards Nation. Turns out part of the 6 is being renovated and we would have to take a bus (which, of course, is not classy enough for Zak) so we stopped at Place d'Italie and took the 5 towards Boblgny Pablo Picasso, stopping at Gare d'Austerlitz where we walked around the train station. (Literally, around it. We made an unnecessary circle.) It's an old station! Then we went to the adjacent Jardins de Plantes which houses the Natural History Museum of Paris.

It's very large, very roomy, and quite beautiful. After we left the garden and followed some crowds, we found the Grande Mosque of Paris and continued down a small street.

This small street led us to the find of the day: Stop Jussieu of Line M-7 and RER-C is near a cute community that I really enjoyed. Firstly the crepes and snacks were reasonably priced. A sugar crepe was less than 2 euros (the price that it should be!). Secondly, it seemed tucked away enough that it had almost a small town feel, or at least a more private atmosphere despite how close it is to the Seine.

As we wandered around the area, choosing small streets that looked interesting to walk up and stairs to climb, we found a building under construction for the University of Paris. It looks like it's being redone from the top bottom.

We continued to wander and chose a small street that took us towards the Seine and the Eiffel Tower (unknowingly--we just thought we were going NW). along the way we saw Eglise Saint-Nicolas du Chardonnet. Didn't get a picture of the actual church because the streets were pretty narrow. We took a peek inside and it was rather fancy for a small church (relative to the Notre Dame and such.) We continued to walk around randomly by picking streets that looked interesting. Zak wanted to pursue a tower that he saw which conveniently brought us to the Seine and close to the Notre Dame (aka close to the Latin Quarter, aka near lots of Grec, aka Lunch time!) More meandering led us to a small park across the street from the Notre Dame in the courtyard of a really small church that was adjacent to Rue St Jacques--what I call Shwarma Street.

And so, we stopped for lunch--Grec Pita, obviously. Devoured our food in the park and took a little break there (at my request).

Then we set off towards the Tower across the Seine that Zak had spotted. We crossed Il de la Cité and onto Il de St. Louis. We found the tower on the Right Bank at the end of a charming cobblestone alley. It seemed like part of the old church had been fused with a new apartment complex. We walked around it and found the facade which looked pretty much brand new. Apparently we found Eglise Saint-Gervais Saint-Protais. The old part of the building was awesome, but we didn't go inside. The church is right next to Hotel de Ville which led to us to the next part of our adventure: The Grand Arch!

There's a Metro-1 by the Hotel de Ville so we took that all the way to La Defense, right underneath the Grand Arch. On the other side of the Arch (I guess the back) is a long walkway built over a cemetery (questionable?).

It seems to be some sort of look out. We saw some strange looking towers that, according to Wikipedia, are called Tower Aillaud. They are strange looking and look like futuristic public housing gone nuts! Note that some windows are circles and on some floors where it looks like there's supposed to be windows, there aren't!

Then we walked along the strip on the other side of the Grand Arch. Near the Arch, it's all very glamorous with shiny, impressive, tall buildings but the further down the strip you walk (that is, more towards the Arc de Triomphe) it gets less and less glamorous. All the same, here's a shot:

After that we had just one more goal before heading home: find the little island with the small version of the Statue of Liberty! Hopped on the 1 and transferred to the 6 at Charles de Gaulle-Étoile stopping at Bir-Hakeim (Eiffel Tower stop). We walked along the long, little island and found the Statue of Liberty at the very end. Snapped a quick photo, then we headed home, but not before stopping on a bridge for a good shot of the Eiffel Tower.

We stopped at a MONOPRIX for some fruit and Orangina before heading back to school. Took 8 to Balard so that we could sit on the Tram longer. Upon returning to Cite Universitaire, I promptly fell asleep and napped until about 10:00PM when some knocking woke me up. A big group of people were setting off to hopefully climb the Arc de Triomphe and see the sunset. Unfortunately with all our slow moving-ness, we didn't make it, but we still managed to get some lovely night shots. :)

That was relatively quick so we decided to head to the Eiffel Tower for some night shots, too. At 12:00 the big blue tower sparkled for us and we headed home.

We were hoping to get some food by the Latin Quarter but we didn't want to risk getting stranded / have to take the Night Bus so we just headed back. I had another baguette-brie-salami sandwich, some Orangina, and thus ended my wonderful day.