19 July 2008

day 20: shopping & night life

Date: Saturday, July 19th, 2008

I was feeling pretty sulky this morning because most of our group has gone to Amsterdam or to the Lore Valley for the weekend and I was kicking myself for not planning a trip for the weekend. Last night instead of doing something fun, I was watching movies and tv shows by myself online until maybe 4am (after a two hour nap somewhere in between.) This morning I was looking up some ticket prices this morning but they're all quite expensive and even though I was tempted to spend 120 euros traveling to Geneva next weekend, I don't know who would want to go with me.

So I did a bad thing. Zak wanted to check if the H&M had the shirt he wanted in a different size so I decided I wanted to go shopping. Nic came along too because I'm sure he's just as bored as the rest of us are. The other girls who are still here went shopping yesterday so they didn't come. I spent a good hour or two there (I don't remember, I didn't keep track) but I'm happy with what I purchased. There was a lot of stuff that was on sale and I actually found some items that I liked that were only three euros each (marked down from 10 to 25 euros). I bought a full priced dress and a good cardigan (because I need another top that isn't my brown knit sweater or my UCSD sweatshirt). The point is, I spent money to make myself feel better. Hopefully I do something more productive tomorrow, like actually explore Paris.

Went to dinner with Clementine. Well not really dinner so much had champagne at a chic little brasserie called La Rotonde at Montparnasse. It was tasty and I always love hanging out with her. :)

17 July 2008

day 18 & 19: day of recovery & the louvre

Dates: Thursday, July 17th, 2008 and Friday July 18th, 2008

Today is my day of recuperation. If we're going to the Louvre tomorrow, I'm definitely going to take it easy tonight. The Louvre was overwhelming as it has always been. I didn't bring my camera and I wasn't feeling in tip top shape so unfortunately I have no pictures and really not much to share, either. Nike of Samothrace is still one of my favorite statues, I still love seeing Castiglione's telling eyes (thank you Raphael) and the Madonna of the Rock's hands still impress me. Also, the Death of Sardanapalus (Delacroix) is still huge and impressive as are Liberty Leading the People and the Medusa Raft (Gericault). No one else seems like Flemish and Dutch painting which I still enjoy. I also didn't have time to sit in the Greek statues gallery and soak up the ethereal goodness of it all...

16 July 2008

day 17: erc 103 midterm & freedom!

Date: Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

It wasn't so bad! I didn't budget my time as well as I should have and I felt like I had more to say, but that seems to be the general consensus I'm hearing from others. I should've written about justice and law with the Bois de Vincennes terms but I didn't and it's over so c'est la vie!

I mostly spent my free time uploading pictures, tinkering on the computer, and sleeping. It was fantastic. I just got back from the bakery and the grocery store. I watched Amelie with a few friends last week I keep thinking about the one shot where Amelie has her fingers in the seed and looks at the camera, knowingly with a satisfied, yet slightly mischievous smile on her face. I'm kind of a space cadet at times--but honestly I think almost everyone has a little space cadet inside of her--and small things do give me great pleasures, however fleeting. I've noticed that one of the things that make the world pause, even for just a small moment, is the sight of stretched dough on a fresh baguette. I know I'm kind of destroying the "moment" by capturing it and keeping it, but I want to be able to remember a time of tasty fresh bread whenever, wherever. (Well, almost whenever. Except Sundays. And usually bakeries are closed after 8 or 9PM. And Bastille Day. And sometimes Wednesdays. and Sometimes Tuesdays.) Dough is cute.


day 16: the long day (in class essay, latin quarter tour)

Date: Tuesday July 15th, 2008

The day was doable, survivable, tolerable. There are much worse things that could happen and the schedule could have been more rigorous so given the general nervous-exhausted state of our group, we pulled through. We started the day with our much anticipated (heh) In Class Essay on three articles that we were to read critically. Then we had class and learned about the Safavids (after reading an article on the Safavid? I feel like I would have been better prepared to criticize the OSM article had I just learned some good background from the Professor instead of Wikipedia...heh). Then we had a meeting with Jim Galvin in which we were slightly more energized. We had to break for lunch and I finally got a rotisserie chicken from the place down the street that I've been eyeing. It was great because I had a fresh baguette (oh how I love fresh bread!) to pair it with, along with the potatoes that it came with. Afterward we had our Sorbonne tour.

It was interesting because we spend so much time there staring at the food and the shining lights from the noisy clubs and right next to it all (literally one alley down) is a great church that I've never been inside of. (Although I've even shwarma outside of it may a time.)

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Church of Saint Severin

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Notice in the picture on the left that the first level of stained glass is not classical--it looks post-impressionist! How neat!

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Church of St. Julien the Poor and the interior

But wait, it's not over yet! We ended the tour with Dominique in the Luxembourg Gardens. A big group of us decided to sit in the garden and review for the Mid Term (and try not to fall asleep). We actually got a good conversation going. I do find that the best way for me to learn history is to review my notes and talk it out with people. When I tell others what I know, it sticks better in my head. When I listen to others explain things to me, I'm also allowed to actively ask questions repeatedly until it sticks. I guess I learn best when I jabber on. Sometimes I really do feel a slave to my genes; Am I really just wired to be a chatterbox?!



In any case after our hour break, we had dinner. The tomato & mozzarella appetizer was awesome but the main dish was unimpressive. The fruit pastry was tasty, but I love pastries in general and not too difficult to please.

And we're not done yet! We got back around 9:30PM and decided to meet at 10:00PM for a review with Professor Herbst. Having these late night review sessions and just being in constant contact with the Professor and his family (as a student, as a friend, as a baby entertainer/sitter!) is truly an invaluable perk to Global Seminars. The small class is great for learning because we rarely get to be in such a close knit environment with professors. Anyway so we reviewed with the professor, then reviewed some more on our own, and slept. Fin. (Really!)

A little pond at the Luxembourg garden, featuring a sweet little pirate ship. (I couldn't get the skull and crossbones on the mast, it was on the other side.)

14 July 2008

day 15: bastille day et plus étudiant

Date: Monday, July 14th, 2008

This morning a group of us met downstairs at 9:30AM to check out the parade. Of course we were stopped by tons of human traffic and since we departed rather late (at least I think it's because we left later) the main stops along the Champs-Elysee were closed on Line 1 so we took it all the way to the end, at Charles de Gaulle-Etoile. It wasn't too bad, except that we got off at Champs Elysee-Clemenceau thinking we could outsmart the French but alas, our folly only made it clearer that we need to learn how to speak and understand French... Zak thought he heard the conductor say that the Champs Elysee stop was only open for transfers, but most of us (who don't understand French at all / as well) thought we'd 'give it a shot.' In any case that was a minor setback.

We saw all sorts of neat things once we finally got above ground again. (The lines in the metro were atrocious.) Most notable (for us, since there were several rows of people all along the Champs Elysee that we had to try to see over) were the fly overs. The first one we saw was a group of planes with colored exhaust--bleu, blanc, et rouge!


I studied for the rest of the day, mostly trying to get into the reading and untangling some information I had mixed up. Around 9PM a bunch of us got together to see the fireworks. A lot better than finding the parade because we took the 6 and got off at an open air stop so there was none of that crazy mob-ness. Although...when we DID get nearer to the Eiffel Tower, the mob awaiting the fireworks was already huge. We managed to find a spot by the Seine, high enough to give us as view of the fireworks at Trocadero. Crazy as it sounds, the crowd actually got bigger towards 11pm--there were so many people!

I tried to balance my time between filming the fireworks to keep as a nice memory and actually appreciating them on their own. In these videos, I usually keep the bulk of the show in the frame, but sometimes I tried to watch the actual show and sometimes my arms got tired. Also just to give an idea of the scale of these fireworks: I took 6 other videos and these videos only capture maybe 1/4 of the show. Definitely better than Disneyland. (Haha)

P.S. Please don't be shy--leave a comment! It's nice to know who's out there. Although I am writing mostly for myself, I do realize that I've spread word of this Blog along to my family, teacher, and friends (and friends of friends!) I don't know who has the link by now and it's interesting for me to know who's out there, even if you're just skimming. :) Thanks!

13 July 2008

day 14: les deux magots et étudier

Today I met with Clementine for lunch (her birthday is tomorrow, Bastille Day.) She and her father came by school to pick me up and we were planning on going to the Champs-Elysee to find a brasserie but traffic was quite horrendous so we got dropped off at Saint Germain des Présto eat at one of two famous cafes that surround the area. The first one, Café de Flore was very crowded so we checked out Les Deux Magots and they had room for us. We were delayed a bit by the traffic and Clem had an appointment for a spa at 2:30 PM so déjeuner was a bit rushed.

All the same, I satiated the grumble in my tummy with a delicious Croque Monsieur (that is, ham and cheese on toast) and they were generous with the cheese so it was quite delicious. Clem had Les Deux Magots beef tartare which apparently is some sort of partially raw beef mixed with sauces... intriguing but I certainly wasn't adventurous enough today to try any. :P


The rest of my day will (ideally) consist of studying and very likely some study breaks. OK I already had a study break and I was drawn by the movie Catch Me If You Can and then I read a bit about Frank Abagnale on Wikipedia but now I'm returning to those articles. There are so many terms that are specific to the scholars' esoteric realms of study... I may need to make a word bank to fully comprehend but then again, I may just read them several times. We'll see... À bientôt!

day 13: château de vincennes et la grande mosquée de paris

Tiring but informative day. We met at 9AM as usual (as opposed to the graceful 10AM meeting time the day before.) Essentially we spent the day touring the very nifty Château de Vincennes, the "fortified royal residence" (1, Green Info Pamphlet). Unfortunately my camera was low on batteries all day as I had forgotten to charge it the night before. I had to take pictures then frantically turn my camera off which, as you can probably imagine, reduced the quality of my pictures. (I know I'm already an amateur as it is...haha. Scary. Brace yourselves for the uncentered-ness and blurriness!)

That's the cathedral on the right, but we didn't get to go in as they're doing some restoration in it. Yes, that's Zak's head mid-laugh, haha.

Starting the 18th c. the abandoned chateau was used as a prison. Apparently the prisoners passed their time with drawings like these.

An impressively deep well.

There are some rooms that I didn't take pictures of, such as the underwhelming latrine that was really just a boarded up indoor outhouse. I suppose they didn't want tourists doing anything stupid or obscene so they blocked it up. I think it would have been interesting to at least block it up with something see through so we could see the piping systems. I'm not so much inerested in the scatological humor as I am the mechanisms of transporting human waste out of an old, old building... (OK maybe the scatological humor is tickles the five year old in me a little.)

After the tour we had an hour or so for lunch. I was with Aria, Priscilla, and Zak but somehow we got separated at the MONOPRIX that we found. I guess I sort of ran away because I was following my nose; my nose was sniffing out the smells of the MONOPRIX bakery (cheap and reliable--is it un-classy for me to really enjoy MONOPRIX baked goods?). Alas, my nose did not fail me and I found a small bakery at its other entrance where I purchased a Poulet sandwich and a Grille Pomme (A lovely, ordinary apple tart that looks like it's been grilled...AKA has a criss cross pattern of flaky pastry dough over apple tart-y goodness.) I exited from that entrance and decided to sit at the park and consume my Lunch. The street that is adjacent to the Château was quite quiet but just further inside the smaller streets (and in the small park where I sat) things were much livelier. I had a nice time people watching and ended up meeting with other people for the rest of the lunch time.

Depsite tired feet and tired brains (I have a few hypotheses on our group tired-ness one of which I will explain later) we trekked to the metro and went to the Grand Mosquée de Paris. The guide we had did not speak English so our ever so helpful guide Christine, agreed to become impromptu translator. The architecture was quite breathtaking and certainly, especially in the middle of cosmopolitan (in a French way, I suppose) Paris, quite a getaway. The main garden was certainly reminiscent of some sort of exotic desert paradise. See for yourself (kind of):

For an extra cute picture of Jonah in this courtyard, check out the Photobucket Album!

Inside the mosque's library.

And so, we ended our day. For the first time ever, nobody in the group wanted to stay after and go on our own--except the Herbsts! Everyone was thoroughly pooped and ready to retire to our dormitory rooms. After a good rest, myself and a few friends had a lovely evening by the Seine, right by the Notre Dame. Unfortunately, it was partially dampered by an obnoxious flying spit from some hoodlums (I think that's a fair description given the circumstances). Fortunately, it didn't land on anyone. Anyway we hung out by the Seine to relax after studying and thus we concluded another fantastic night doing something we could only do in Paris.

Very quickly (as I have been using lots of words lately--people seem to be more receptive to pictures than words, haha), my hypotheses on our group tiredness:

Travel fatigue is out of the question as it is the second week so I must say that, although our workload is not unbearably intensive, we do get lectured at a lot, and I do feel like we are constantly expected to be learning. Almost everyday, we have lecture, then in the afternoon we have small excursions where we are frequently guided by a tour guide who is presenting information to us that is all fair game for the exam. For me, I try to get as much as out of each excursion and try to pay close attention to everything the guide says (although I do admit the last few trips, due to the cumulative fatigue of this hypothesis, I have been a bit more lax ... aka lazy). Therefore, although we are not actively reading all the time (we don't need to be to be tired and/or overwhelmed with information) we do get very tired. We have lots and lots of free time, but I think a lot of us would feel very guilty if we spent all of that free time napping or even all of it reading instead of exploring Paris. So we explore Paris and then we do our work, but--at least for me, in this second week--I have done a fair amount of relaxing Paris exploring, but little guilt-less relaxing which, combined with constantly being lectured and trying to retain information, equals a very tired bunch.

And now I'm sure you're all tired after reading that. (Sorry, I said it was going to be quick...) Haha! I'm done, I promise. Thanks for reading and/or skimming. :)

P.S. Shout out to birthday cutie, Jasmine! (Yes, this is technically late but let's all pretend this was posted on July 12th, 2008!)

days 11 & 12: institut du monde arabe & alexander nevsky

In between a study break, I think I will catch up with some of the last few days of action. On Thursday, we visited the Institut du Monde Arabe after class. I think our exhaustion was quite evident from the tour although I do think we tried to be respectful. The tour guide made it very clear that it was a secular institution and how difficult it was to get the institute built in spite of discrimination against Arabs. She also mentioned how the architecture (which I found was a lovely marriage between oriental and modern styles) did not jive well with some Arabs who visisted who felt it didn't ring true to true Oriental styles.


Apparently the little star-flower-ish-patterns are supposed to change according to the pattern of the sun to let in more or less light depending on the solar panels on their roof. And apparently a few of the ones that we saw were broken and hadn't moved in awhile. :P We took a neat glass elevator up to the museum but we weren't allowed to take pictures inside so all I have is a picture of the elevator shaft:

There weren't many artifacts inside, but I did get to see some Umayyad period art for myself which was pretty exciting, as that was the topic for my MMW 3 essay. The turqouise color that is frequently used in their pottery is quite breathtaking as, from what I recall, it was slightly translucent--or perhaps that was a trick of the light. In any case, after the tour, we made our way to the patio at the top for a lovely view of the Seine and the Notre Dame. And since my mother insists that I include a picture as proof that I am actually, in fact, in Paris:

Unfortunately, the Notre Dame was to the left of the panorama which we didn't manage to capture. You can see more pictures in the album, as always though. (L-R: Vicky, Me)

Afterwards we sat outside on some nice lounge-beach chairs (it seemed like a set up for an outdoor movie of sorts) for a very very short break and started back. I can't even remember what I did that afternoon besides attempting to read and eventually falling asleep...

Before we knew it though, it was time for our Friday excursion. On the agenda for this week was a visit to Cathédrale Saint Alexandre Nevsky. I admit, the way I remember his significance is through Professor Herbst's mention of the use of Alexandre's character in history as the protagonist in a Soviet-era propagandistic film called Alexander Nevsky where the courageous Nevsky fights of the evil West (historically Western Europe). Again, pictures were "interdit" as the French like to remind us but I have a picture of the facade. (Actually the inside was quite beautiful and clearly different than a Catholic church with its numerous icons. There was a lovely painting in there of Jesus walking on water that I wish I could've gotten a picture of, but alas...Photographie est interdit!)


Our tour guide took us into the crypt below and proceeded to explain (what felt like) each icon and its significance. If you have ever been in a traditional Orthodox Church, you know how what a substantial number that is. All the same, it was very interesting to look at and it does make more sense when someone explains who all the people are, otherwise they're just more religious men (and Mary) in pious poses.

Our agenda for the day was to include a promenade of the Parc Monceau and a visit to the Musée Cernuschi, but we (I believe including the Herbst family and Christine, our guide) were all clearly exhausted so we decided to head back after the Park. The rest of the day was dedicated to resting and studying until dinner time at Autour de.... The (French) entree (the U.S. appetizer) was delicious! It was a bit of salmon on toast in delicious sauce with cheese (or was there?), egg, and spinach on it. The main dish was somewhat forgettable as it was six pieces of meat (I'm not sure what it was) over beans but as dessert, we got Tiramisu.

And yet, later that evening a few friends and myself decided we were still hungry and would catch a late night snack. It seems inevitably but we found ourselves back at the Latin Quarter at the St Michel-Notre Dame stop of the RER-B. We grabbed some frites and some ice cream, took some fun pictures by the Notre Dame by evening, and headed home happily hailing the evening a success.

On another note, my mosquito bites have been healing well and I am happy to report that I have not found any new bites since my last post. Yes, I still have a few little bumps that may scar from my excessive itching but everyone has these--right? Haha, in any case I have learned my lesson and I now thoroughly enforce our room rules of closing the windows and blinds at night (or at least shutting it most of the way.)