Monday, March 05, 2007

Bonjour Paris!

Last week, during winter break, I visited Paris for the first time. It was quite the experience… five days of sight-seeing and LOTS of walking. I left Nantes at 7am Thursday morning (meaning I woke up before 6 to get ready and get to the train station in time!) and arrived a little after 9. I spent the morning exploring Paris by metro and on foot. My first metro ride was quite the adventure… I realized as soon as we started moving that I was headed in the wrong direction. But at the subsequent stations, nobody got on or off… and I didn’t want to be the only one! (I think the logic was something along the lines of… I don’t know where I am and this might be a bad area?). So three or four stops later, we got to a station that was slightly more crowded and so I dared to get off… just to get back on in the opposite direction :) The metro and I are friends now – albeit I still have to look at the map each time (‘cause there are 14+ lines!). Once I emerged from the underground, I was at the Arc de Triomphe. I spent the morning exploring… le Champs Elysee, le Seine, le Palais des Invalides, le Tour Eiffel. I must’ve walked for 4 hours straight… but there was plenty to see and I didn’t want to waste any time! But by mid-afternoon, I was beat, and so for the first (of many!) time, I found a little caf√© and sat to drink some “chocolat chaud” and read... which often turned into people watching about half way through the page! Later that first day, I met up with my friend Emily (from Cornell… who is in Paris studying for the semester). I stayed with her until Monday night, and we spent the days traipsing about Paris. I don’t think I could possibly explain everything we did, which includes Centre Pompidou, Louvre, Tulleries, Sacre Coeur, Palais de Tokyo, so I’ll suffice with sharing a few fun stories from the trip…

The first night we were there, we met up with some French friends of Emily’s to go out for the night. They ended up taking us to this bar/club/place that was quite the experience: it was in an apartment building, and you never would’ve known it was there from the outside. There was simply a man in a suit at the door and you walked up to him and told him the password and he let you in. You walked up a flight of stairs and into an apartment. It seemed like a small club, you gave your coat at the door, paid admission, and got a ticket. Usually the tickets are for a free drink at the bar… but I went over and handed over mine only to receive a small plate with two potato wedges and a dollop of cream. Um… ok. Turns out the drinks were 14euros. Hah. Anyways, there was one big room, in which there were a handful of tables. Maybe 30 people there, tops. And so, we sat down, and within a few minutes, someone started playing the piano (did I mention there was a grand piano in the room?) and then somebody started singing… well, not just somebody: a black man, with an afro, wearing a black blazer with gigantic yellow and white daisies. And he wasn’t just singing any songs… he was singing American Broadway show tunes. Except, he didn’t really speak English… so he kept mixing up the words! (and way above the chimney stops, that’s where you’ll find me) Again, um… ok. The clientele was an interesting bunch… a lot of well-dressed young adults (but then again, practically everyone is well-dressed in Paris at all times… seriously, don’t even think about going out unless you’ve spent an hour coiffing. Unless you like being glared at!) There was also a man wearing a sheet as a toga. Yeah. It was really quite the experience, this private club... and Emily assured me that this was an exceptionally bizarre night, even for her!

Em & I also got a personal tour of Montmatre (the quartier around the Sacre Coeur) from a French friend of hers… quite the treat! He lives in Montmartre, and so he knew all of the little unknown sites and where to find all of the best views. He took us to the smallest street in Paris. And we saw the witch rock. And the studio that burned down. And the little vineyard right in the middle of town. And the perfect view of the Eiffel tower through two buildings. And the man walking through the wall. And where the other man walked after he got his head cut off. So many things Em & I would’ve never found or even known about on our own!

We ate with Em’s host parents one night… also quite the experience. Her host mom made me laugh – eating hardly nothing and smoking non-stop. Her host dad talked with… err, at… Em & I for about an hour after the meal about politics and globalization and socialism. Oh Parisians :)

So, Paris and I are friends now. I said ‘au revoir’ on Monday afternoon and headed back for Nantes. Never was I happier to be back where I can walk from home to class in 10 minutes, where there are only 3 tram lines – and I almost always can get a seat, where nobody speaks English, and where I have a ‘family’ and friends, and especially where I have my own bed. Paris is fun, but Nantes is home.

I wish I could write more… but these days have becoming more and more jam-packed. This weekend I visited Normandy with IES (I’ll write about this and post pictures later!) and this week starts mid-terms. Ick. I’ve never even written a timed essay in English… and now I have to do it in French! This might be interesting!!

Sumner comes to visit in 10 days.

Ho’mack :)

And my family two weeks after that. And then to the Cote d’Azur for spring break. So… it’s getting crazy, you see! And once everything settles down again, I’ll only have 6 weeks left here. I don’t even know how that’s possible!

Oh, and you should know, as of Thursday, my bathroom/tub/shower was finally in working order again :)

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