I didn't mean to take yesterday off. Really. I promise. I don't even know how it happened.
Oh, wait. I do. Blame Harry Potter. I went and saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 last night and then came home and crashed.
Dang it. In order to make up for it, prepare for a (semi) long post.
Anyways, we left off on the Sunday where I went crazy by staring at too much artwork.
Monday was the Fourth of July. Woohoo!
Since France doesn't care about American holidays, there were no fireworks, no big American flags, no giant groups of drunk people (no more than usual, at least). Because we felt like it deserved celebration, and because Mom and Michael suggested it, I told the group I was going to the Hard Rock Cafe. There were about eight or ten of us who went all together.
It was decorated with Americana, had Bruce Springsteen playing, and was overall a very good time.
Sorry for the poor picture quality.
We all refused to speak in French for the hour or so we were there and embraced all things American. I had brisket. It was fantastic.
Madeline also surprised our waiter and the general manager by ordering the spiciest wings they had. The waiter warned her, saying, "You will die." Madeline took a poll before waiting and we all agreed that she should get the spiciest, going against the waiter's warnings, because the French don't know squat when it comes to spicy food. The waiter made her wait to eat it until the manager came over to watch her. She merely shrugged her shoulders. She had me taste it too, just to make sure she wasn't crazy, and I agreed. Though it was spicy, on the Buffalo Wild Wings scale of sauces, it wasn't even 3/4 of the way to the spiciest. We all had a pretty good laugh at that.
That night, the group had its own mini-celebration. We met at a park, had a picnic full of American food, drank, and ate cake.
That was a ridiculously expensive cake too, because we couldn't find any others. I had gone with Madison and Ariel earlier that day, to find a cake, because July 4th also happens to be Clint's birthday. We went to Fauchon, a very upscale store that sells every kind of dessert, wine, and coffee. This is also the store where I would later buy coffee to bring home.
I didn't eat any of the strawberries (sorry, some things never change), but I did have the cake. And it was delicious.
Now, you see the little sparkler thing on top? We had a lot of those. And we were running around our little section of the park with them. And we were enjoying ourselves. Until we were approached by park officials. We were told that if we didn't put them out, we were going to get kicked out.
Some of the guys tried to keep them, to light them when the officials walked away, but Professor Hayes confiscated them all. I was very sad. And thus ends the tale of how we almost got arrested.*
The next day, we had a walking tour. We went to a very sketchy part of town. We didn't see much, but I did have my first French eclair at the oldest bakery in town. It was okay.
The next day, I went to the Musee D'Orsay with Clint, Ian, Ariel, and Madison. We stood in line for awhile but it moved very quickly. I am very sad to say that no pictures were allowed to be taken inside the museum and that I didn't care enough to try to take any.
The D'Orsay used to be a train station, so the inside is gorgeous. It's also pretty small. While the main area is nice and spacious, the side corridors, where all the paintings I cared about were, were tiny. It was very crowded and I was very glad that we hadn't come the previous Sunday when it was free. I don't want to know how crowded it would have been. There were several times when we couldn't see paintings properly because too many people were walking by them. I was upset, but I quickly got over it after seeing certain paintings.
Not my photo, obviously.
The first major painter that we saw was Degas. Once again, I had the surreal moment where I've seen a painting a million times in textbooks, but it never quite compares to the original. His paintings were beautiful, full of subtleties, light, and simplicity. I realize I'm not an art critic, and I could be totally wrong about those, but I don't care. I would have stared at his paintings all day if I hadn't known Monet was in the next room.
The d'Orsay has an entire room dedicated to Monet, my absolute favorite artist. I knew I was going to have a reaction when I walked into the room, but I didn't quite expect what I got. I cried from all of the beauty in the room. I tried hard not to at first, but after I realized it was useless, I took out a tissue and slowly made my way around the room.
The room smelled of oils from the paint and I marveled at the individual brush strokes you could see in all of his work. Monet's use of color is one of my favorite things about him. For instance, while he is known mostly for his water lilies (the big ones were in another museum), he created several of snow scenes. These were Ariel's favorites and I quickly grew to love them too.
I don't remember if this one was there or not, but I figure you should look at an example while I talk about it.
While his snow scenes are mostly all white, there's hardly any white on the canvas. It's all blues and pinks and browns. Shades you don't notice until you're standing a foot away from them. There's something to be said about how an artist can blend colors together so effortlessly, that you can't even tell until you look for them.
My only regret was that my favorite painting, the one I recreated as a mosaic in one of my art classes, was not on display.
At first, I wondered if it was just on display on another museum. But when we visited the museum with his big water lilies, I found out that I was in the right place, they just didn't have it out. (Or it was on display somewhere else.) I was disappointed, but there was nothing I can do about it. Guess I'll just have to go back to find it.
That night, we had another group dinner. We met right outside le Musee de Pompidou, the modern art museum. It's the weirdest looking museum because everything is on the outside. This was the closest I ever got to it. I don't find modern art very exciting
The next day, we had a museum visit. Professor Hayes' specialty is the Middle Ages, so we went to the Middle Ages museum. It was nice to go to a museum that I wouldn't choose on my own, for a change. I have pictures, but they're not very exciting.
The next day, I convinced several people to travel to the Cimitiere le Pere-Lachaisse. If I had known we would visit it as a group later, I may not have gone, but I was very glad that I went anyway.
It was one of my favorite places I visited during the whole month.
It was peaceful, beautiful, and full of history. While we joked about whether or not it would be safe to be in a cemetery during the zombie apocalypse (we decided yes, since dead people can't come back from the dead unless they've been infected before they died, but you wouldn't want to stay there because there wasn't any real protection), we also wondered about the history of the place and the people who were buried there. Pere Lachaisse is full of famous people. Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, to name a few. We had fun trying to find their graves and doing our best not to get lost.
I thought of Tess, and the second line of her book, on multiple occasions.
A tree next to Jim Morrison's grave, where admirers leave him messages.
If you don't know who Edith Piaf is, here's a video. Justin loved to sing her songs, especially this one.
That weekend was very busy. I traveled all over the place. We decided to all go in one weekend, because we knew the next weekend we would be in London (yay!).
On Saturday, we went to Versailles.
Disclaimer: By this point on the trip, we had been to a LOT of chateaus. I didn't particularly care for them. I was always more impressed with the cathedrals. I know a lot of people loved Versailles, and I liked it, but I wasn't completely impressed.
It was interesting trying to figure out HOW to get to Versailles. Once we there, it was an adventure trying to figure out how to buy tickets. Then we stood in the world's longest line. But those things were all fine.
My biggest problem with Versailles, was this.
See those big giant copper things? How could you NOT see them? Modern art. I realize some people probably are impressed by them, and think they're great, and that they enhance the magnificence and blah blahblah... I don't care. I think they're horrid. Moving on!
By this point, I'm used to standing in line. I get it. I don't mind. I didn't even mind standing in this line because we were there pretty early and I knew that we would get in eventually. But I couldn't believe how long it was.
That is not a good picture of the line. I have video of the line. But I do think you needed to see the chateau.
When we got in (the line moved pretty quickly), we all got the headset things that take you through the tour. They came with the ridiculous entry fee. But it was worth it. It took us, step by step, through every room that was set up on the tour. I loved hearing the history of every room, of the things that happened there, of what each room was used for.
The Sun King went all out on his decorations.
The only thing I had problem with was that there were way too many people for the little hallways. I realize that you can't really expand the hallways, but I wish they'd figure out a way so that I wasn't dying, trying to escape the mob. Once we were in the gardens, it was fine. But I did not appreciate being claustrophobic for an hour or two.
The only room I really cared about seeing and actually took pictures of, was the Hall of Mirrors. And it did not disappoint.
After we finished the tour, we had lunch. Specifically, Clint, Madison, and I had lunch at Angelina. There are three Angelina stores. One is in the Louvre, where Clint and Madison had gone the previous Sunday, one in Versailles, and one in Paris. Clint and Madison had raved about their hot chocolate and I was determined to have some. Lunch was expensive, but the hot chocolate was worth every penny. It was so good, that on one of our last days, I made a point to go to Angelina to buy an extra bottle of it to bring home. (I had already bought one bottle here in Versailles and didn't think it would be enough.) I can't tell you how excited I am to go home over Thanksgiving or winter break an have some.
It's literally the richest, creamiest, chocolate in the world. I'm pretty sure it's just melted chocolate. If you didn't drink it fast enough, it would start to re-solidify. And oh my goodness. It was delicious.
We spent the rest of the day in the gardens. And they are HUGE. They had a "water show" at a certain time, so we made our way to one of the biggest fountains for that specific time. We were very disappointed when the "water show" only turned out to be them turning on the water. And the "big finale" at the end, was just one fountain turning on, them playing music, and then everything turning off. I was very disappointed that the fountains did not work in time with the music (with the exception of one fountain). I guess I'm too used to being American.
See. The gardens are FREAKING HUGE!
While we waited on the big finale, we decided to take a much needed nap. We had been there all day.
The only other thing I didn't like was that, because we had waited on the big finale, we couldn't see Marie Antionette's buildings and hamlet and things like that. They were closed. I didn't really care but Madison was disappointed.
The next day, I traveled again. This time, we went to Giverny, to Monet's house.
And oh my goodness, there's no way you could live there and not paint the world's most beautiful artworks.
We weren't allowed to take pictures inside, but that's okay. Monet loved Japanese art; it covered his walls. His rooms were also bright, vibrant colors. It was very cheerful. His studio was also covered with his artwork. Every surface had a painting of his on it. I was amazed. And then we started to walk around his gardens.
There's two parts to his gardens. The first is right outside his house. (In the picture above, my back is to it.) The second, where the pond was, is across the street.
I'll try not to upload too many photos, but I can't promise anything.
Part of the gardens his house faced.
This picture is framed, sitting on my desk.
I was so happy some of the water lilies were blooming!
It was impossible to get a picture on the bridge by yourself.
Does anyone know what kind of flower this is? They were in every color. I was amazed.
I miss that garden.
I took so many pictures that my camera died, after I charged it the day before. If you want to see them, I'd be happy to show them to you sometime.
Normally, I would end the post here. But because I have a deadline, and I don't know if I'll have time to post on Monday, we're going to keep going. Hurray!
The next day, after class, Clint, Madison, Ariel, Ian, and I went to Les Deux Magots. It's a cafe most famous for being the place where several notable authors, including Ernest Hemingway, used to eat and write. The food was okay, the company was amazing as always, and we enjoyed our afternoon.
The next day, we had a very long walking tour.
We started in the middle of Paris, which happens to be right outside Notre Dame.
They even have a marker for it. If you stand on it, you can make a wish.
We continued on, going to a cathedral (whose name I didn't write down.. Grr...) and I was yet again, rendered speechless.
I don't think I'll ever get over my fascination.
We then continued walking, and walking, and walking, and we saw some stuff. Not notable enough for me to take pictures of. However, we did see Victor Hugo, the author of Les Miserables and the Hunchback of Notre Dame.** It's a museum, that I really wanted to go see, but never made it back to. Surprise, surprise.
Okay, so that's not a picture of his actual house, but that's what it the building looks like. I only took a picture of the door, and that's not nearly as exciting as this picture.
That night was the premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 premiere.
I know you all are very confused right now. Wait, what? On a Tuesday night? We didn't get to see Harry Potter until Friday!
Yes, I know. But somehow Paris has this rule that all movies must premiere on Wednesdays (so we went and saw the movie at midnight).
We got there around 11, and hardly anyone was there. The movie theater was full of Americans, hardly anyone was dressed up, and I was impressed. No one really showed up until 10-15 minutes before the movie started. Now THAT'S how we should do premieres.
However, there was no line system. When they opened the doors, it was like a stampede. We all nearly died. I did, however, meet lots of nice Harry Potter fans, including a group of American girls who were about 14 years old. One of them was reading the book right up until we went inside. They had wands. I was jealous.
Once inside, we didn't have the best seats, but I didn't care. I was getting to see it two days earlier than everyone else.
I was very glad that I came prepared because I cried during the movie. (I cried last night too, when I saw it for the second time.) I don't think I'll ever be able to see it without crying just a little bit. If for nothing else, it represents the end of an era. When they were still making movies, that part of my childhood was still going. I'll never be able to separate my childhood from Harry Potter and I don't care to. I know I wouldn't be the same person, with the same values and friends, without it.
Emily and I took a cab back to our apartment when the movie was over. I distinctly remember staring at the meter, praying that I would have enough cash to pay for it. And I did. It wasn't too bad. It was also very weird to travel above the city, instead of below it in the metro like I had become accustomed.
The next day was the longest day of my life.
We got back to our apartment just after 3 A.M. I got up for class at 7 A.M. so I would have time to shower. I stopped at Starbucks and bought the world's largest coffee on my way to class. During our 10 minute break in school, I went down to the cafe on the corner and bought another coffee.
After class, we had our museum tours. It was moved to Wednesday that week instead of Thursday because Thursday was Bastille Day (a.k.a. France's version of July 4th). And we went to TWO museums, not just one.
We went to the l'Orangerie first. This was the museum specifically designed to display Monet's giant paintings. There were entire rooms dedicated to them.
They were breathtaking. And gigantic.
I was very excited. Can you tell?
Next, we went to le Musee de Rodin. Rodin is the artist who created the sculptures such as the Kiss, the Thinker, and the Gates of Hell. I was impressed.
Did I mention that the museum is really a giant building two huge gardens, with his artwork throughout all of it? Yeah.
Because my computer doesn't like how long this post is getting, I'm only posting one photo of his work that I liked. My favorite sculpture of his, in this museum, is the Gates of Hell. They were huge, intricate, and I couldn't believe how much depth was involved.
If you look closely, at the top is a miniature of the Thinker.
The next day was Bastille day, which meant we didn't have class. Yay!
I went to the parade with several others. There was a giant military procession, Sarkozy, the president of France drove by, and there were a lot of planes that flew overhead. There were also a TON of people there. It was crazy. That morning, we met ridiculously early, so we wouldn't have to be on the metro when all the tourists were there. We made a point to walk everywhere we could that day.
We didn't stay for the entire parade. After I saw the horses, we started walking, trying to get away from the crowd and the expensive food. (The parade was down the Champs d'Elyseese.) We found a cafe with a TV, so we could still watch what was happening. I had my first taste of escargot. They weren't bad. They tasted mostly like the seasoning they had been served with though the texture was a little weird.
That night, we all met up again and went over by the Eiffel Tower, where the fireworks would be. And it was packed. We hung out for awhile, listened to a concert that was playing, and waited for it to get dark. Henri, one of Ariel and Madison's roommates (who went to see Harry Potter with us), came with us. He didn't speak English which meant we had to speak in French the whole time so he could understand us. It was a great experience. I think we should have gotten some sort of extra credit for it.
This was one of the few times I saw the Eiffel Tower at night. And it is beautiful.
When the fireworks started, I didn't care that I had missed July 4th back home. They played mostly American music, and all the fireworks were programmed to go with the music. Songs included "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," "All That Jazz," and several other American favorites that we happily sang along to.
The next day, Ariel, Donovan, Kevin, and I left for London. And you can bet that's going to need a post all to its self.
*Lame story. Sorry. But it needed to be told.
**Fun fact: Notre Dame is only standing today because of that novel. It was going to be torn down for some reason or another, so Hugo wrote a book on it, romantacizing it. The book became so popular that the visitation rates skyrocketed and the building still stands today.