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Published: January 9th 2010
To those of you who tuned in especially to see if I made it to Versailles today, I'm sorry to disappoint you. But I have a different story to tell!
Last night, when I returned to my room I met one of my roommates, a guy from Austria. We started talking, and our conversation ended up going until 2am! We were talking about politics, and sort of comparing American and European stances on certain issues. It was really fascinating! It's nice that even though I'm by myself here, I have made several friends.
Titillating conversation or no, waking up this morning before 11 (when we have to be out of the rooms for cleaning) was difficult. I finally managed to lug myself down from my top bunk, and like a zombie I got dressed. When I pulled back the curtains, I saw that it was snowing again! This, combined with my fatigue made me decide not to go to Versailles (which is a pretty long trip away). So the extravangant palace will have to wait until next time (plus everything except the main palace itself is closed due to the snow!)!
Since I had missed breakfast, I decided to stroll Rue Mouffetard and find a crepe. As I passed the now-familiar square with the fountain and decorated Christmas trees, I was surprised to see that the vendors were all out despite the frigid weather and snow! At the large produce vendor's stand, oranges, apples, spinach bunches and much more were out and seemed to be nestled in the coating of snow that was still falling. The bright orange of the orange rind and the green of the leaves still on the stems was like a delightful bit of color popping out of the ice that they were almost buried in. Who says you need electricity for cold storage?
Down the street I ordered a crepe with nutella (my favorite!). Crepe stands are everywhere along this street, and the shops are open to the outside, almost always with a counter that is directly open to the street. I watched as steam rolled off of the round crepe griddle and was pulled upwards by the glacial wind. The crepe maker, spread the hot nutella on and then expertly flipped and folded in with a spatula in one quick motion. It was still steaming as I walked down the street, munching away. I decided to visit Saint Medard again to finish eating in a warmer place. I don't think food is allowed in the church, but I figured if someone made I fuss I could just tell them that I thought God would understand due to the inclement weather. 😉
Since my digital camera died yesterday (because I forgot to bring the charger that hooks it up to my computer), I brought my SLR camera around with me today, trying to inconspicuously snap shots of the the fantastic street markets: cheese stands...a sea food stand with snow covered mussels, oysters, octopus tentacles, and squid...a wine shop with frosty bottles outside on display. I stopped in a book shop and bought a novel called "Un longe dimache de fiancialles" (a very long engagement). It's my favorite movie, and I have always wanted to read the novel in it's original French, so here was my chance! Awesomely enough, books here are cheaper than in the states! You can buy a new paperback for 6 or 7 euro (about 10 bucks) compared to more like $20 at Barnes and Nobles or Borders.
As I continued down this winding medieval pedestrian street, I saw the dome of a familiar building rising in the near distance. I had wondered what it was since my arrival, and even a local Aurelie and I asked didn't know what it was. Since I seemed close anyways, I decided to find out what it was--I mean it looked huge, so it had to be something important, right? A kind old woman with a fur hat told me that that many famous people were buried there, and that a lovely church was close as well. Once I turned onto Rue Pantheon, I realized that what it was--the Pantheon!
I bought a ticket and entered. Inside, it seemed like the whole world opened up before me. The expansive ceiling seemed to rise for hundreds of feet, so that the only thing that kept it from continuing upwards was the slight problem of gravity.Speaking of gravity, hanging from the very top of the main dome is Foucoult's pendulum, which was the first experiment to prove that the earth rotates around the sun. A golden ball of 28 kilos swings slowly back and forth above a table marked with degrees, demonstrating that the basilica itself it constantly rotating around the pendulum! Along the walls, huge canvas paintings are attached to the walls, telling the story of Clovis' conversion to Christianity and the life and death of Saint Genevieve. The original basilica was built by Clovis a super duper long time ago. Then, in the 18th century, after Louis XV attributed his recovery from an illness to the patron saint of Paris, Saint Genevieve, he set in motion a project to honor her and build something that would rival St. Peter's in Rome. I had seen much, but there was still the crypt to explore!
The crypt is exactly what is sounds like: a tomb where dead people are laid to rest. Except at the Pantheon they aren't just any dead people. Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, Louis Braille and more are all permanent residents of the underground labyrinth-like passages.
I was happy to re-emerge into the basilica, where the living outnumbered the dead. Next, I headed across the street to the church of St. Genevieve. Inside, spiral stair cases in white stone were carved into what seemed to be flowers traveling up to the clerestory. Above, the stained glass windows looked like hard sugar candy. I spent some time here. And I have to say that this non-tourist spot touched me much more than Notre Dame or Sacre Coeur.
All of this soul searching gave me quite an appetite, so on the way back I found a pannini stand where I had a cheap french style grilled cheese. Those of you who know of my directional impairment should be very proud, because though I had wondered to the Pantheon on a whim, I found my way back thought the winding streets to Rue Mouffetard without a map!.................Okay, so I only asked two people for directions, and it was only after I had found my way most of the way back 😊
The cold was biting, so when I saw a Starbucks on the corner, I was curious to get a tea there. I learned that French starbucks in pretty much the same as American starbucks. Except that you can't use American gift cards there 😞 Dommage! I read my book there and tried to warm up. Then I headed back to the hostel for a nap before dinner.
Though I've been to several cafes here, nothing is better than the place I've been haunting, l'Interlude. The food is reasonable, delicious, has a great view of the street, and the waiter rocks. For dinner I cozied up to the radiator in my regular spot and had sole in a butter sauce with potatoes. Yum! And then I ordered something called "Grog de rhum" just because it had the word grog in it and I was curious. Turns out, this drink is a hot toddy made with rum! YUM! It was delicious and hit the spot, warming my body up.
Back at the hostel I chatted with my Austrian friend for a little bit, and then two other guys arrived...who are from Wichita Falls, TX! Ha, one guy was even wearing a UT jacket! Small world. And now the biggest choice in my life is this: to crepe or not to crepe? that is the question.
Tomorrow: I leave Paris and take the train to Besancon! I'm meeting my French mom Christine at the station. can't wait!
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