France

Final days in Paris

The last couple weeks here have zoomed by, with time being split between classes, monuments, museums and friends.

Hillary and I stopped by Notre Dame and it was splendid in all its glory, as expected. We also stopped by the Sacré Coeur to watch the sunrise and eat at a small café atop the hill. Needless to say, each arrondissement in Paris is well known for something, and being known for the Sacré Coeur is a saving grace for the 18th! Although, I must admit it might make the lines at the church shorter if the arrondissement was instead famed for its pick pockets, prostitutes and many strip clubs.

We spent another afternoon at the Paris aquarium (as a student in marine biology it’s my duty to appraise every aquarium I stumble across), where we were shocked at the “touch tank” rule: everything goes. There were young children everywhere reaching into the water, attempting to snatch up a coy fish; we stood there expecting a fish to come flying out of a child’s hands and land flopping on the floor, fortunately, the coy were a bit too slippery that day.

My final day in Paris I spent at the Musée de Musique, which was by far my favorite museum yet (this may explain my absurd number of photos of instruments). Interestingly, in addition to being known for his palace of gold, King Louis was also a patron of the arts and is responsible for many large advances in music. For instance, under his patronage, a young luthier reinvented the playing style to include strumming all of the strings at once rather than simply plucking strings individually, giving rise to what we know as modern day guitare playing. Additionally, his obsession with canaries and their songs lead to the invention of one of the first music boxes that would play simple songs, teaching the canary’s a repertoire of popular music for their owners amusement (and perhaps bragging rights). Violins were also furthered under Louis reign: he encouraged his bourgeoisie and high ranking officials to be well practiced in many dances, even providing dance teachers, who carried small “pochettes” (tiny violins that could be stowed in the pocket when instructing the dancers).

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I depart tomorrow for the great state of Maine, where I shall remain for one semester before heading out to Madagascar. Expect the next post in the beginning of February.

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Third week in France

This is the second full week of classes and I have a newfound appreciation for Bowdoin. My professor has demonstrated that the “laissez faire” attitude in France should not be carried into the classroom, as it is not particularly conducive to teaching. Throughout the grammar portion of my class she makes error upon error, and usually doesn’t catch them unless one of the students questions it further. For instance, she butchered the present tense conjugation of an ER verb (which is perhaps the most used category of verb used in French), and insisted that when aucun(e) is used to replace a plural object, it has an s added to the end, which is most definitely not the case, ever (we consulted the internet and our phonetics professor, both which were in agreement with our thoughts). However, if one pays close attention in class, there are a few gramatical gems to be found, elevating my written French to a slightly higher level. The phonetics portion of class is (as my British friend David says) stupendous. Although my prononciation is very good for an American, I am learning many colloquial phrases and to decipher the complex series of noises that is spoken French.

This past weekend Nico visited me from Germany, which was long overdue, but worth the wait. He arrived late Friday night, which we spend catching up over a bottle of his favorite German wine.

 

On Saturday we set out to find the Hard Rock Café because Nico’s friend collects their shirts. Before leaving the apartment, we made sure to not know where we were going and took the metro to what we thought was the general vicinity. After spending a good three hours walking about, we had found the Japanese neighborhood, the Opera house, an American style diner where we ate lunch, the many stores of Lafayette, and countless other cafés, but sadly, not the Hard Rock. Finally, after asking for directions from several people (all who knew the general area, but not the specifics), we found it.

Next stop: Eiffel tower.

 

 

However, once again, there was a long line, so rather than wait to climb up, we headed over to Montparnasse, which not only is taller than the Eiffel tour, but gives one a spectacular view of the tower.

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Last moments of freedom and classes

On Tuesday, the last day before class, we squeezed onto the crowded metro and popped off at the Champs Élysées, whereupon we intended to just walk to the Arc de Triomphe. However, three girls on a long road filled with stores…it required several brief respites from the heat *cough shopping cough*. But thankfully the Arc managed to stay standing while we were delayed, and we snapped a couple pics before heading home for dinner. I won’t even begin describing the food because it would have everyone running to the nearest bakery only to be disappointed. 

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I also discovered my dream job! It’s a PR and Communications position that requires a bilingual, highly personable young adult, who dabbles in cartography. Oh, and most importantly, a sense of humor:

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Bike tours! 

On this most glorious of days, we had our first day of school, both Hillary and I were placed in the intermediate intensive French class, albeit in different sections. My class consists of about 12 people ranging from 20-30, from a whole host of countries, including Lithuania! As it turns out, the French aren’t prone to exageration and it will indeed be an intensive course, with loads of homework and five hours of class per day. 

To celebrate the last day of Katherine’s visit and the first day of classes we went out to dinner, walked about for a bit and finally returned home to enjoy a nice bottle of Rosé Champagne. Katherine did not trust my cork removal skills and insisted upon hiding behind the wall in the corner, oh ye of little faith (needless to say the cork was expertly handled). Image

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Arrival and first days in Paris

Should anybody ever decide to stay in Paris for a short period of time, my first recommendation for lodging would probably not lie in the 18th arrondissement of Paris; or rather as we discovered, the red light district. Hillary and I reserved what appeared to be a chique, modern looking apartment in said district back in April. The apt had everything we needed, including a nice black couch. Upon arrival, it turned out that the couch was not black, but rather grey with dirt highlights and the wooden floor was actually thatch. It is well known that France is fashion forward, but then again, I’ve never been one to follow fashion too closely. After a short time, Hillary managed to find a much nicer apt just a few blocks from the Sorbonne, where we will be taking our French class.

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On Sunday we ventured to the Palace of Versailles, which was originally a hunting lodge for King Louis XIII, but became the seat of the monarchy during King Louis XIV’s reign. Although the Palace is unfathomably beautiful and rich, it has a bloody history that is strongly tied to the French Revolution and the beheading of King Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette. As during my previous visit to the palace, my favorite portion of the castle was the large, square staircases that had large divets worn into the marble, serving as a constant reminder to the palace’s lengthy history (or perhaps its role as a modern tourist attraction, but I prefer the former).

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On Sunday, Hillary, Katherine and I partook in the classic Eiffel Tower visit, which, surprise, was just as stunning and cliché as one might imagine, but don’t let that stop you. Despite our late arrival of 10 pm, the line snaked back and forth under the base of the tower due to the closure of one of the two elevators. Given the recent ankle injuries of both Hillary and I (clearly we were meant to be roommates), we decided the better part of valor would be returning at a time when the elevators didn’t require the sacrifice of a whole evening. But we did manage to snag a few artistic photos before jumping back onto the subway (or as Katherine calls it, the Tube).

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The beginning

Throughout recorded history, men and women have explored the far “corners” of the earth, discovering amazing places and meeting unique people. I won’t be discovering any unknown lands nor making any treaties; however, I will have an adventure or two worth recording. Therefore, I came up with the extremely unique idea of making a blog that will cover my travels this summer in Paris, the Spring in Madagascar and the following summer in Germany, Greece and finally France.

 

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