Thursday, August 30, 2012

"Paris is always a good idea"

Thank you Audrey/Sabrina for these words of wisdom. I have to agree that Paris is indeed always a good idea. I think I would also say that it's a good idea to go more than once and for at least one of those times to be an extended period of time. It really only gets better the more one gets to know the city, and I definitely think I've gotten more out of it while understanding the history and speaking the language. Although it would be really cool to just travel with a French friend and speak French all the time but let them handle the hard words and awkward situations. That would be optimal.

Anyway, this is probably my last post re: the city of lights. Sad right? It's currently my last night, but I wanted to post about the last week from the city itself, so here it goes.

Saturday 8/25 was possibly my favorite day yet. It's easy to forget how important it is to treat yourself once in a while. Saturday was my treat to myself :) I slept in and then started my day with a walk through the Luxembourg gardens. They are simply beautiful. 

Hard to see, but this woman has a pigeon on her arm and is feeding it.
Definitely one of my favorite things I've seen in Paris.
I meandered on over to the Latin Quarter, getting a little lost along the way. It is really a nice place to get lost in actually. I couldn't quite decide what I wanted to do first, but my stomach made the decision for me, and I decided to cross back over St. Michel and go to Les Deux Magots.

This is the restaurant my aunt and uncle and I went to when I was 13 where I had some wonderful chocolate cake. We had some confusion over the name back then (magot typically means cigarette butt), but I believe the name references two chinese men of some sort (political or religious leaders maybe?). This time I had a croque monsieur and a café crème. The waiter was a little snappish when I was confused about why he brought me my coffee and a bill for just coffee, but when he brought my croque monsieur and its check we sort of joked about it, so I think we were cool. It was a delicious meal, and I was glad to have revisited the café. I actually just googled it to check on the name's meaning and look what I found:

Who knew Hemingway frequented it?? Looks like I was all over good old Ernest's stomping grounds that day, because my next stop was Shakespeare and Company. 

I love love loved Shakespeare and Company. I could spend all my time there. It's the kind of place that reminds you why you love books. I browsed and picked up Hemingway's A Moveable Feast and read it in the top room for quite a while. It was incredible to be reading about the very place I was sitting at that moment and to know how much it meant to Ernest Hemingway and other great minds. I bought the book and can't wait to keep reading, fondly remembering the places he talks about. 

After that I bought some souvenirs and gifts for people while making my way in the direction of St. Sulpice...which also happens to be the direction of the Longchamp store...where I bought a Longchamp bag. It was a good day. After walking around a bit I met up with friends and we all hung out. Good day, good night, good weekend. 

The next morning I was a little alarmed to be woken by a call from my parents, but it ended up being a good thing, because it got me out of bed to enjoy the day. I met up with Kelsey and we went to the Orangerie to see Monet's water lilies. You can't take photos of them (I think this is a recent rule...), but they are phenomenal. You can take photos of the other paintings there. Here's Kelsey looking at some: 

After we were done (which was fairly quickly because it's a very nice, non-overwhelming sized museum) we got some coffee and took a nice walk to the Notre Dame area where Kelsey was meeting her family. I've never seen Paris, especially the Seine, as beautiful as it was that morning.

The rest of the day was mainly homework and studying (it was the last week of classes too) plus a nice kebab break. When we were done with work, however, we headed to the Eiffel Tower and began the climb to the top. It was beautiful up there, but one of the coolest things for me was that the lights flashed while we were walking up and while we were walking down! Also we got nutella and banana crêpes after :)

Monday we had class and then worked on our papers and studied for the final exam like most of the afternoon minus having couscous for lunch, which was good. Tuesday was sort of similar minus going to visit the Bibliotheque Nationale and studying in the park. Then we went to see the Pantheon and do a little book shopping!

Open book building!
The library is made up of four of these.

Yesterday was our last trip as a class, and we went to Versailles. It's so huge I couldn't get a picture of all of the front of it without being so far away that it was hard to see. 

 The gardens are incredibly beautiful, but huge and easy to get lost in. Also we saw a swan! 

Per usual, a highlight was dessert :)

This morning Stephanie, Kelsey, Kelsey's friend Kelly, and I went to breakfast at our favorite crêpe place. It was a fantastic deal: crêpe (nutella - duh), oj, café crème, and tartines. Breakfast formules comme ça are definitely one of the things I'll miss most. 

Then Stephanie and I ran some errands and got last minute gifts. We also did some shopping with Julie and stopped for a tart! I wont mention where we went/what we bought in case any readers are recipients to be...

We did end up on the Île St. Louis in the course of shopping, and I took a photo of what I thought was the apartment my aunt and uncle and I stayed in when I was 13, but now I'm not sure it's right. I'll ask them. I took photos of a couple others in case this is the wrong one. 

When we were through shopping, Stephanie and I went to see the grande arche with the intention of eventually getting to the Eiffel Tower. Instead, very shortly after taking this photo we were caught in a terrible downpour, ran for the metro, and got stuck in a series of very crowded metros that kept stalling. We decided to head home. 

We did head out to dinner with Chelsea to a place where some friends had told us they got a delicious meal. The food was very good, but our friends had said there was a lot of it and that they had shared, so Steph and Chels wanted to share too (I'm an only child so that's not so much my style; Also, I'm like terrified of offending the French). Anyway, the waiter seemed to say that it was only ok if they got drinks, so they did. But then he was just super rude, and he and the other woman working like very blatantly said they had to stop sharing like while they were eating. It was a really odd situation (especially because the girls that had been there earlier had had no problem) that would have been avoided if he had just said from the very beginning that they both had to order. All around confusing. Mostly the people just weren't very nice. Probably my worst experience with cultural misunderstanding just because there was no real effort to explain what they wanted but no hesitation to yell at the customers. I've generally found any and all places I've been in France to be patient with Americans who don't get the eating customs, even if that means explaining that they have to order something or can't order a certain way. It was unnecessary, and exactly what I usually try to tell people isn't true of the French. I suppose stereotypes, whether French or American or anything else, all come from somewhere.

Anyway, as unpleasant as that might have been, it was a nice reminder of the things I love about America (customer service, friendly people, less stress over unspoken rules), and I'm excited to go home. I will, however, maintain that Paris is always a good idea. The more I get to know and understand French culture, the more I love, hate, and am stupefied by it. But Paris, Paris is incredible, beautiful, wonderful, and enchanting. And always a good idea.

À bientot back in the states!


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