Ok, so I have officially made my way to Italy and I have time to continue on with my story. A while ago (let’s be honest, by this point it really doesn’t matter what day what happens as long as it’s slightly chronological) Jonas and I took the long way from the Louvre to the Arc de Triomphe. It was a super long walk and we decided to make things even harder on ourselves by going up the over 200 steps to reach the top of the monument. We also saw the Tuileries Garden and the Orangerie, along with Place de la Concorde. I recommend that anyone going to Paris take this walk. It may seem like a lot, but you miss so much by taking the metro, and if you’re at all used to walking it should not be a problem. I am one of the most sedentary people I know and I only got tired after we climbed the stairs to go to the Arc de Triomphe, it probably goes without saying, but you have to pay to get a work out even in Paris. I had to pay 5,50 to get to the top, while Jonas got in for free because he is part of the European Union. Adults have to pay 9,00. I can’t remember the prices of the Louvre or the Orangerie because I got in for free (students and people age 18-25 in the European Union get in to museums for free). Here are some of the pictures I took:
So, today is my last day in Paris, and unfortunately I still am not up to date, but my next stop is my aunt’s house in Italy, and I’m sure I’ll have time while I’m there to finish telling you about my trip. Since my wondrous iPhoto separates my photos by date for me, I’ll be able to use the pictures to jog my memory, except for one instance that I have to talk about before I leave my room in the cité universitaire because there are no pictures of it and I’m terrified of forgetting.
The metro system here, is how I assume any metro system is, you swipe your pass or insert your ticket to gain access to the overall system. Once you’re in you can transfer and get on any metro without having to have another ticket. People (teenagers mostly) take advantage of the fact that the people at the information desk leave around five or six, and instead of paying to pass through the turnstiles one person pays or uses their pass and the second person goes in behind them, so it’s basically getting a two for one. This is an extremely normal thing, and you see people doing it all the time. But while it is normal, it is obviously not something authority figures love; everyone is supposed to pay. I got on the subway the other day and noticed all these people kind of standing around, out of view from the turnstile entrances. I think nothing of it and keep walking and all of a sudden I hear all this noise and these men go rushing towards this poor asian couple. They grabbed the guy and were pointing fingers and shaking heads, I didn’t see the whole thing but I think it’s fairly obvious that it was kind of like a speed trap back home, but instead a turnstile trap? I guess I don’t know what the correct name would be, but point is…follow rules people. It’s only 1.70 for a metro ticket, and it’s a 60 euro fine for doing this (according to one website, so that might not be accurate).
So, last week it basically rained every single day. I, of course, did not pack for rain even though my father told me specifically to make sure I’m ready for any kind of weather. He insisted I bring an umbrella and a heavier jacket, but I was all “it’s summer!” and did not pack accordingly. Since I definitely hate umbrellas and would not use one even if I had one, I’m not too upset about that or getting wet…but man was it cold. I really should have brought a jacket that had a functioning zipper. And even since I’ve been here I’ve been pretty against getting a jacket or sweater because I knew the second I did the sun would come out and it would stop raining. Which is exactly what happened. I finally gave in and bought a heavier shirt, and the next day sure enough there was sunlight. So there you go, always listen to those with experience, it might just help every once in a while.
Since I haven’t been keeping you up to date with all my fabulous outings I’m just going to give you some bullet points. At some point last week I did one of those touristy boat tours, which is something I definitely recommend to anyone going to Paris. There was a tour guide who gave us fun facts about everything as we passed it. The only thing that wasn’t that great was that we took the tour at 11 pm, so taking pictures was slightly impossible. With no flash my pictures came out blurry and with flash I felt like a huge a**hole, pardon my language. It was definitely a buzz kill blinding a bunch of strangers, so I had to be content with just taking in my surroundings, which is very hard for me since I am trigger happy. I would love to take another tour and go during the day instead so I could get some decent shots.
After the tour we saw a sign along the Seine that said there was a beach about 50 feet away from us. Yes, a beach! I definitely had to see it. And let me tell you, definitely not a beach. It’s a glorified sand box. It was definitely disappointing, but I guess it would be pretty amazing if I was a ten year old with nothing to do and was stuck walking around with my parents going into a bunch of museums all day long.
Last Sunday I went to the Louvre with two classmates of mine. When we realized that it was raining so hard we thought we should take advantage of the fact that most people would probably be staying home. I’m glad we did because I passed it on Wednesday and the line was insane. There is no way I would be able to wait that long to enter, especially because inside the museum is so crowded.
We just wanted to go inside to see the Mona Lisa and some other big pieces, and the sculptures. There was no way we would be able to see everything because according to my tour guide on the boat, if you looked at each piece of work for three seconds it would take you two months to see the whole museum. And that is definitely not happening. My favorite part was definitely the sculptures, it was the calmest part of the museum with the least amount of tourists.
While the Louvre was amazing, and everything was beautiful, it really had too many people. One of my friends was saying that they should have a maximum number of people that they let in, which I completely agree with. It’s hard to enjoy things when there are a million people everywhere walking extremely slowly in front of you or bumping in to you. Plus everyone is completely crazy about the Mona Lisa. I mean, yes, I wanted to see it. Obviously, I’m in the Louvre how can I not…but it is not that great of a painting. There are other works of art that are just as good, and possibly more visually pleasing than it. But people were literally causing a riot over it. There was a huge crowd in front of it, along with security guards. Which is actually kind of funny if you think about it.
I didn’t actually get up close to get a picture because, well I’m just not that into it. I’d rather see it from afar than push and shove a bunch of people to take a picture of something I can easily google image search. Oh, and sorry about the quality of the photo, but flash was a no-no in the museum, and even though some other people decided to defy the rules I decided to observe them and got kinda bad photos because of it.
Well, it’s definitely bedtime, so even though I have more to share, it will have to wait.
Last weekend Jonas was kind enough to invite me to join him and his family during their vacation to La Baule. I was obviously very excited because I live on the beach back home and haven’t entered the ocean in over a month. When I told my father about the trip he google imaged the city and told me that the beach was just like Newport Beach which obviously made me extremely happy. The only beach that I’ve been to (that I can remember) in Europe is completely different from the beach back home. So after a three hour train trip we finally arrived, only problem was, the sun didn’t join us. Friday night and Saturday the weather was absolutely terrible. We were able to walk around at night, but the rain during the day on Saturday made it impossible for me to catch up on my tan. Thankfully the weather changed dramatically on Sunday and it was sunny and extremely hot.
Some notable differences between Paris and La Baule were clothing and the buildings. When I’m in Paris there is a pretty big variety of what people are wearing. I assume this is because it is a huge city with types of people, not to mention the fact that there are so many tourists that come dressed as they would normally in their own country. In this town though, everyone dressed fairly similar. Everyone was wearing white (either white cotton pants, white shirts, or in some bizarre cases people were dressed head-to-toe in white). Another popular clothing item was stripes. I asked Jonas and he said that people dress in a nautical/sailor style there. Another reason everyone might dress so similarly is because it isn’t really a tourist town, so almost everyone there is a repeat visitor coming multiple summers to the same destination.
Each house was so cute. They all had their shutters and window/door panes painted in a very bright color. I could not get enough of it. Another cool thing about the town was the open market it had (the picture of the striped shirts was taken there along with the picture before it). Usually when towns have markets like this they are only once or twice a week, but Jonas told me that they run it every day. It’s pretty convenient since besides selling souvenirs and clothing they had a section for food products. The only problem was the insane amount of people. It was very overcrowded and slightly overwhelming, but everyone was probably just taking advantage of the fact that the sun had finally come out after a day of bad weather.
Another cool thing about going was the fact that I was almost entirely emerged in the french language. I admit Jonas did speak to me in french when we were having conversations, but his parents don’t speak english so when we were in the house I mostly just heard french. Sometimes Jonas would have to translate but I must say I understood quite a lot. Things were dramatically different when his friends came to visit on Sunday though. I could not understand a word they said. I understand my mother now when she says she doesn’t understand me sometimes. It was a miracle if I could process one or two words. They spoke very fast, and I assume with some slang, so I couldn’t even understand the general concepts that they were talking about. I felt like I was in Russia or Germany. It was extremely difficult for me, but thankfully they joined us on the beach so I just sat quiet and took in the sun. I got back to Paris at about 12:40 am, and by request from my father took a taxi back to my apartment even though my metro line left from the train station. I of course had to wait in line for about an hour and a half, but I summed safety first. All in all it was a great weekend. I love the beach, and Jonas’s family was so nice to me. They really made me feel welcome, which I appreciate because I have a tendency to feel like I’m intruding. Time for me to get my beauty rest, I shall continue trying to catch you up tomorrow, hopefully.
Wow, I have gotten lazy. I apologize for the lack of blog, but hey, I’m in Paris. Can you blame me? Ok, so many things have happened, including an awesome weekend involving a beach very similar to my backyard back home. But let’s start from the beginning. Some time last week Jonas and I went to the Sacre Coeur of Montmartre. It was fantastic, although there were so many stairs, and not until we were leaving did I find out that there was an elevator type deal that could take you from the street up to the Sacre Coeur, and with my handy dandy metro pass I didn’t even have to buy a ticket to ride it.
After all of this was done we entered the fanciest McDonald’s I’ve ever been in…there was a piano on the second floor. That’s right, and zebra print stools. It was fairly intense. We finished off the day in front of the Notre Damn which was fairly entertaining. We were supposed to meet a classmate of mine, but I was having cell phone difficulties, so really all we did was stand around and watch people. These people included some amazing performers, and some amusing performers. I caught some footage and will definitely try to edit something together for your entertainment, cause it was pretty cool. You know that even if your plans don’t work out, there’s always something to see because people perform everywhere trying to make a living. Among the people in front of the Notre Damn was a fire dancer who had balls of fire on her hula hoop, a balancing act, some crazy lady dancing what I assume she thought was ballet, and some rollerbladers.
While I would love to continue, I must go. But I will tell you about my amazing beach weekend and more once I have had a healthy meal and some decent sleep.
Yesterday me and Jonas went to the Luxembourg gardens. It was phenomenal. The only thing I didn’t love so much was the fact that there was not that much grass. I suppose I was expecting more of a park feel, but I should have realized otherwise since it’s such a tourist spot. There was one designated area for people to sit on the grass, and besides that just benches and chairs. That being said I had a really wonderful time. There was a fountain right in front of the Luxembourg palace that had adorable little ducks swimming in it. All in all, I definitely want to go back, the grassy area for people was so relaxing after walking around the gardens. Maybe a little too relaxing, because Jonas fell asleep, hahaha. Since he was asleep I had to entertain myself, which happened easily because I am definitely a people watcher and I was surrounded by people.
After a long day of walking I spotted a Starbucks from across the street. I decided, hey, I would love an iced Chai right about now and went for it. I am just going to give this advice to anyone traveling out of the U.S., never buy Starbucks in a different country. The prices were outrageous. I didn’t end up buying it so I couldn’t say if the quality is as good as back home, but I can say that you would never want to find out. It cost upwards of 4,50 euros, which is ridiculous even for them.
I moved into my dorm room yesterday. It’s pretty amazing, I mean my actual building is not the best, but I’m staying in basically a mini city filled with old buildings and a huge park. It’s beautiful. I also started school today, and I’m so excited. I can already tell that I’m going to learn a lot. I was kind of worried when I took my placement test because the woman who gave it to me made it seem like the class I was entering was too easy since I’ve taken french classes before. Thankfully almost everyone else in the class was at basically the same level as me, and after one day I already feel much more confident with my french. Since it rained today, no pictures, sorry…but I’m definitely going to do a full tour of the area I’m living in tomorrow and post many pictures after.