Published: October 18th 2011October 18th 2011
Look at all that green.
Well, Paris was truly an amazing trip. It is a city that is full of history, buildings and art that many will only see in movies and on television and seeing it with my own eyes was surreal. Paris was actually a trip that API planned for all of the students in Seville and Cádiz, however, Conor has a friend named Evan who is currently living in Paris working on his Masters in French Language and Culture. Evan ran with Conor at Wesleyan and was also a member of the infamous Legion of Doom. He is an RA for the NYU in Paris program and said that I was welcome to stay with him if I ever wanted to come to Paris. It just so happened that I didn’t have school the two days before we went to Paris, so I left early and got to spend 2.5 days with Evan before the rest of the API students arrived. He made a “nest” for me on his floor from commandeered sheets, blankets and a very fluffy comforter from the residence hall. It was actually an amazingly comfortable place to sleep, although I was pretty pooped out from our
This is where Evan and I ate lunch right after I arrived in Paris.
adventures in Paris and I have also been known to nap on solid concrete, so I don’t know that I’m the best judge; point is I thought it was super awesome.
The airport I flew into was called Paris-Beauvais which is actually about 45 minutes outside Paris by shuttle bus. I knew on the drive into Paris I was going to like France. Green. Green as far as the eye could see; and I don’t think I have ever been so excited to see clouds, fog and mist. Driving into Paris we could see little glimpses of the top of the Eiffel Tower and I was SO excited, I really couldn’t believe I was actually in Paris. The cool, crisp air was incredibly refreshing, until I realized that two days from then the cool, crisp air might be cold and painful. First activity in Paris: went to the Gap and bought a pair of jeans and a scarf! I know, I was in Paris and I went to the Gap, but it was right by the shuttle stop and I was cold, there was no time for trying to be Parisian, ok? Amazing event: they never even knew I
Oh, the Pigeons.
didn’t speak French. Muwahaha! It’s amazing how you can get by with “Bonjour” and then a smile and a nod. Don’t worry though; it didn’t stay like that as the weekend went on.
Evan gave me good directions to get to the NYU student center and besides walking into the wrong building once; I got there on time and with all my things intact. Evan was pretty relieved that I got there too, he was a bit worried I would be swallowed by Paris, and trust me its big enough we probably never would have found each other had I gotten lost. However, I can chalk this victory up to my Dad who has thankfully passed his map-reading/direction following/ sense of direction onto me…thanks Dad :)
Evan greeted me with a hug and a quick chat and then we got on to important things, like food! We stopped at a small bakery/sandwich shop and got our sandwiches to go so that we could start seeing Paris. I thought maybe we would head to Evan’s to drop off my backpack and stuff, turns out that Evan actually lives about a 40 minute metro ride away from the student center…nope.
Map of Paris
The numbers represent the arrondissements.
We weren’t about to be wasting time in Paris, so my backpack took the journey with us! We walked about and talked and Evan kept hinting at the Eiffel Tower because it kept popping up in between buildings and such. Then just as we turned a corner, suddenly it was there! We were at Troncadéro, a sort of landing at a museum thing that looks over the Eiffel Tower and the Seine River. We walked right up to the railing and this is where I had my first meal in Paris…looking over the Eiffel Tower. Yes, I know, Evan is a terrible tour guide, right?
We spent a bit finishing our sandwiches and reminiscing about Nebraska, France and Spain. Evan has lived in France before in Nancy, as well as Granada in Spain for a semester and Tunisia for a summer, but he is from around Ogallala, Nebraska so we were able to compare them all…well, I couldn’t contribute much to talking about Tunisia, but I got a text message from Morocco while we were in Gibraltar…does that count?
As Evan and I were trying to protect our sandwiches from the pigeons we got on a conversation about
pigeons. Turns out pigeons in Paris are a little more comfy with people than the Cádiz pigeons and they don’t really get out of your way very easily…Evan has even stepped on one while he was running.
“They just don’t really get out of your way; they just let you hit them.”
“Sounds like Spaniards. I mean I just had this epiphany one day that Spaniards are not in a hurry, but they are just very focused on where they are going and they just don’t move!”
Evan thought it was funny that I had already made that observation and I had only been in Spain for a little over a month, he said that the French have a word for when you just wander around a observe like that, it’s called “flâner.” Apparently I have been doing some flâner-ing around Spain. Turns out it’s one of Evan’s favorite activities too, so we did quite a bit of it in Paris. We just wandered about, never in a hurry, which was actually so, so nice because I always feel like we are so rushed on API excursions.
After the Eiffel Tower, we flâner-ed down towards the tower, but we
were not going to the tower.
“Have you ever seen ‘Inception’?”
Just a short five minute walk away and an underground tunnel, and we were at Pont de Bir-Hakeim (Pont = Bridge in French). May not sound familiar, but if you saw it you might recognize it. It’s what we referred to as “The Inception Bridge,” aka the bridge that Ariadne does the mirror trick on when she is creating her first dream. We walked across, took a left and walked along the Seine for a few minutes. Apparently we were deep in conversation because I didn’t even notice that we were directly under the Eiffel Tower until we were pretty much directly under the Eiffel Tower. We considered going all the way up for maybe 0.001 seconds until we saw the incredibly long line. It’s impressive from the ground, so I was good.
After the Eiffel we continued to wander around and Evan explained little bits about Paris as we went. Basically, Paris is split into twenty divisions called “Arrondissements,” which are sort of like neighborhoods and they are referred to by their numbers. For example, the Eiffel Tour is in the 7th, however Trocadéro is
across the Seine in the 16th with the NYU student center, Evan lives in the 11th, but the park he runs in is nearby in the 19th. The arrondissements start with the 1st in the center and spiral out like a snail shell. Pretty simple way of locating things, I think. Evan gave me a handy book-map of all of the arrondissements so I could get around by street or metro. The metro system there is also incredible…you can get anywhere on that thing! Evan says that you aren’t supposed to be able to go 200 meters without finding a metro station, but he hasn’t tested the theory yet.
We walked over to Boulevard Saint-Germain where there were stands of fresh fruit, veggies, other food items and the most important…cheese. In France cheese is no joke. I think Natalie (who is from Wisconsin, by the way) was even impressed by the cheese. We stopped at a stand and just looked at cheese, for maybe 3 or 4 minutes, which for looking at cheese, is a pretty long time, but there was a lot of cheese! Evan says that there are 360 different kinds of cheese in France and his
roommate from Nancy (Henry, maybe?) had a goal to eat 100 different kinds of cheese over his year there and got to around 70, I guess. Evan really likes the cheese. The US and our white, yellow and American cheese just can’t compete with 360 different varieties. I told him maybe he should try to eat all the kinds of cheese since he wants to try and stay in France for the next three years if he can. That’s a new cheese every three days, and you don’t just buy a bite of cheese, you buy a small wheel. We bought some Chèvre cheese and we didn’t finish it between the two of us over the 2.5 days. Chèvre is a type of goat cheese by the way, delicious. And I don’t even like goat cheese.
After fawning over the cheese and deciding that our dinner should include some of this said cheese, we arrived at Hôtel des Invalides. Not 100 percent sure exactly what it is, but Napoleon is buried at the cathedral there and the Pont Alexandre III is on the street that leads up to its front gate. Pont Alexandre III is recognizable from “The Devil
The Labyrinth of Books
Technically we aren't allowed to take photos in the store...sneaky Jerica
Wears Prada” for you movie buffs, and you know it by the four pillars on its corners with golden statues on top.
That’s actually the interesting thing about Paris; it is almost prettier when it is overcast because it makes the gold more brilliant and beautiful. Evan said it is one of the few cities that is actually better to tour when there is no sun. I’d agree. The first few days that I was there it was overcast, but once the API kids showed up they brought that Spanish sun with them. When Evan and I went for our run that morning that I met up with the API kids he said that it may have been the first time he had seen Paris with no clouds before. Paris was equally as wonderful with the sun as without, but I would say that the cloud cover does no damage to enjoying the city. The rain perhaps, although Evan kept saying that he hoped it would rain for at least a bit so that I could experience Paris in the rain. I don’t know why I need to experience it in the rain, but it didn’t rain, so I
The note board
Lots of notes from all over the world! Some are even held up with band-aids!
guess that just means I have to go back. Shoot.
Still more to see on our walking tour around Paris, we turned another corner and saw a beautiful sight: Starbucks.
“Hey, there’s something you might know. You like Starbucks?”
Oh, sweet Frappuccino de Vanille. Across the street from Starbucks is one of the oldest buildings in Paris which is now the Musée de Cluny. This museum actually contains all of the original statues from the outside of Notre Dame; the original statues were replaced in the seventies. However, at this point it was about 6:15(ish) and the museum closed at 5:45. Never fear though just up the street from there was the Sorbonne, the oldest part of the University of Paris and a small plaza where we could sit and rest for a bit.
At this point it was starting to get darker and we had walked long and far enough that the time had come to start considering dinner...hmmm…well we knew we wanted cheese and what goes better with cheese than a baguette! But we needed something else with it. Well, we didn’t need anything to add to the cheese and baguette but we figured we should
have some meat, you know, hit some more food groups. This didn’t change the plan of seeing more of Paris; we just kept our eyes peeled for rotisserie chicken along the way.
Headed back down Boulevard Saint Michel (where the Starbucks is) Evan asked if I like bookstores. Doesn’t he know that there are Starbucks' inside of Barnes & Nobel? :) No, I really do like bookstores, even though I never really have time to read. Well, this one had six floors. France also does this thing where you can buy the regular books (so the books are all different sizes and covers), but they also do a separate printing of all of the books that are in the same format (all the books are the same size, so you can make your library look very orderly). So, it’s like you have regular “To Kill a Mockingbird” that is huge and hardback and “Cat in the Hat” which is tall and hardback, and then they also have the versions of both books that are the exact same size…if that makes any sense at all. The point is that there is a floor where when you enter all you see
are shelves and shelves of books all the same size and with white bindings. It would be a good space saver for my Dad and his vast collection of books.
We spent a good hour or so just looking around at books and paintings, I probably spent a good 30 minutes just looking at all of their maps. Then on towards the Seine again, we arrived at an intersection and across the street…Notre Dame! Amazing how things just kept popping up as if out of nowhere. However, as if we hadn’t had enough of books, we found another bookstore, but this one was different. Shakespeare & Co. is a bookstore that looks as if it belongs in Diagon Alley; it even has those little wooden ladders so you can climb up and get books and a little board where people have left notes over the years. It appears like a tiny little bookstore and it sort of is, but it ends up being this little labyrinth of books. All the books here are in English. Apparently Evan had heard about Shakespeare & Co. but hadn’t been able to find it, so it was a good thing we just happened
As we were headed back, now determined to make the rotisserie chicken more of a priority, Evan says, “We should probably go see Notre Dame at night, huh?” I agreed. It is really neat all lit up. We walked around the backside because apparently it is said that the back is more beautiful…I think it’s a tossup. What I found most interesting is that Notre Dame is actually on an island in the middle of the Seine. This island, Ile de Citè, is called the birthplace of Paris because it is where the first Parisians lived, I suppose.
We had been walking for nearly 5 or 5.5 hours, and so we opted for the metro to get back to the 11th. We had bought a baguette back in the Latin Quarter (the 5th) near Notre Dame, but we were still in search of delicious cheese and a rotisserie chicken. Monoprix (Evan says it’s like Wal-Mart only smaller and classier) was able to aid us in our cheese search where we got the Chèvre goat cheese and another type of cheese whose name escapes me, but it had a nice mold around it. Evan’s rotisserie chicken place was closed though, so we went for the next best thing: Kebap. All around Paris, especially in the Latin Quarter are these stands with what looks like a giant leg of some animal on a spinning rod, almost like a rotisserie chicken only about 10 or 11 times larger, and it’s a combination of meats. Anyways, they shave it off of this leg thing (sometimes with a sword) and cook it and make sort of a pita pocket sandwich thing, but they give you so much! The French are not stingy with their Kebap.
The Kebap was filling enough, so the baguette and fancy French cheese were saved for breakfast. We ate back at Evan’s room and he actually has quite a nice view from his window, and I got to meet one of his window mates, Fanta. (Yes, like the drink). Fanta likes to play loud music at night. Thankfully for me, I was sup-aire tired and so I wasn’t really phased by the music.
So, five pages of blog on Microsoft Word, and I have only gotten through my first nine hours of time in Paris. Well, tune in tomorrow for day two! I don’t want to spoil it, but it involves a cave, Nutella, Louis Vuitton, and a club with the skin of a Lion. Yeah, now I’ve got you hooked, right? :)
Love and miss all of you!