Thursday, May 30, 2013

Well Paris, I guess this is goodbye.

I honestly don't know what to say. I think I'm still just in shock that this semester is over already. I mean it makes sense. I've done quite a lot of stuff in 4 1/2 months, it just still is hard to believe I'm in Paris, which makes it even harder to believe that I'm actually leaving Paris. But I feel like I should say something since this is probably the last blog post that I will write while actually abroad (since my computer charger is broken and I had to return the replacement one to the Apple store earlier so I don't end up with a charger with a European plug... long story. You'll hear about it eventually.) and I should somehow document this whole leaving thing. Probably. I don't actually know the rules for this whole "blogging abroad" thing so I might be wrong. But it goes...

Paris, I'd be lying if I said every second of these past 5ish months were great. They weren't. Sometimes after one to many rides on the metro or just after too much time together, I started to hate you and everyone associated with you (aka Parisians. blech.) and I would go hide away in my room for quality peace and quiet, some time alone. But let's be realistic, there's not really ever peace and quiet in a big city, at least not the kind that I'm used to. So I'd just tune out the world, curl up by my heater and wish for sunny weather. Which never really came by the way. But you know what? The next day, or even just a few hours later, I'd leave my apartment again, turn the corner and see the Madeleine and just remember where I was and how amazing it is. And somehow the hole in my boot, the puddle I was standing in, the umbrella that just stabbed my eye... none of that mattered anymore. Because I'm in the most beautiful city in the world. No matter how much you may get frustrated with the French and their... quirks... you have to admit that Paris really is the most beautiful city. It's not just the famous monuments like the Eiffel Tower or Arc de Triomphe, but the city as a whole. The way it has managed to magically blend together centuries full of beauty, royalty, suffering, war, croissants, you name it, is just magical. And I mean Paris can pull off rain; hell, Paris manages to become even more beautiful in the rain.

So it seems fitting that my last days here were in the rain. I was sick. I got pushed around on the metro. I got stabbed with umbrellas, I got stared for taking pictures. People were rude to me. But it was perfect. This sounds incredibly cliché and you can make fun of me as much as you want (I mean most of you do anyway...) but there really is something about being in Paris, especially realizing you are about to leave Paris, that does make it feel like you're looking at the world through rose colored glasses. Which makes me happy. Even after almost 5 months of living here and seeing what Paris really is like, the magic is still there. I still stare at the Eiffel tower in awe for minutes on end, especially when it lights up and glitters at night, and the view of the Arc de Triomphe at sunset, with pink and blue clouds peeking out behind it, can still almost bring tears to my eyes it's so beautiful. So Paris, I have to say, you've still got it.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the other, more important, aspect of my time here, aside from just Paris being Paris. The people. Not the Parisians on the street I want to get into a baguette-fencing match with (it should totally be a thing here... just saying. I mean fencing with baguettes! Who wouldn't want to see that?!), but the friends who have gone on these adventures with me, and have made them that much more amazing. There's no point being in an amazing place if you don't have amazing people to share it with, and I was lucky enough to meet the greatest people here. So to all of you (because I know you read my blog!) I just want to say thank you! Thank you for making my time here amazing, for making me laugh when I just wanted to stab people with baguettes, for making me actually do work those few times I had stuff to do, and more importantly for distracting me from the studying part of being abroad as much as possible because if you hadn't, I wouldn't have nearly as many wonderful/ridiculous/humiliating/hilarious/overly unforgettable memories! I'm lucky to know each and every one of you. But if you don't come visit me, I will start photoshopping myself into every picture you put on Facebook ever until you do. Consider this fair warning.

So really, all I can say is Paris, it's been real. Actually I'm not sure about that. It stills feels pretty damn unreal. But you know what I mean. Or not. You're just a city. You have no idea what I'm talking about,  but that's probably just because I'm not writing in French. Sorry about that. But anyway, Paris I really will miss you and all the amazing memories (also the bread!), but I'm confident that I'll be back! Until then, au revoir! To everyone out there reading this, and who has been keeping up with me on here, thank you! I really appreciate you taking the time to read about my life and I just hope I haven't bored you too much!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Oh yeah, my parents came to visit!

As many of you most likely know, my parents came to visit me for the part week of my Spring Break. We took a 4 day trip down to Cinque Terre in Italy in the middle (that I'll write about separately) but otherwise just stayed in Paris, visiting the sites and visiting people we haven't seen in ages. Well that's not entirely true... I had seen most of them since coming to France but my parents hadn't. So yeah... I figured I could share some of the fun adventures we went on although I don't have pictures for everything since my mom was the one taking pictures most of the time and I was just standing there sharing glances with passing Parisians, like "oh my god, can you believe these tourists?? Americans..." and such. Well kind of. I might be lying about that part.

But anyway, I won't go into too much detail about what we did every day but I figured I could at least talk about the highlights. The first day we met Véro for coffee at the airport before she had to go to work and then headed into the city. My parents were pretty tired when they got here so I let them take a nap and then we went for a walk around the neighborhood, got some lunch, and walked to Sainte Chapelle over by Notre Dame. Harass my mom to put her pictures on Facebook so you can see how beautiful it is. (Don't actually harass my mom btw. But you can drop not-so-subtle hints, like oh hey your daughter told me via the inter-web to tell you to put your pictures online. That's ok.) We they went to Saint Germain-de-Près for drinks with my friends at the Rhumerie, the most magical place in Paris. It's this Martinique-style cafe that specializes in rum anything and also has great food. You have to go! For dinner we then went to this Brittany-style restaurant for crêpes and it was delicious. Although my mom was falling asleep a little during dinner. I tried not to be too hurt.

On Saturday (the second day) we hit up the Musée d'Orsay to see the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists mainly but also saw some other cool stuff. Like a polar bear statue my mom became obsessed with. We also somehow ended up in a room full of photography of naked women. Looking at pictures and paintings of vaginas is always somewhat uncomfortable but it's about 100x more so when you are with your parents. I mean luckily I have cool parents so we all we able to act like adults (for the most part...) but I still preferred the Impressionists. Afterwards we had lunch in the Marais (where I got moules frites and ended up with about 5 dozen mussels, I kid you not!), walked to Place de la Bastille so I could show my dad that there was nothing to see and then we head over to Cergy via RER to visit Hervé (my parents' friend from work way back when) and his family.

Sunday we got up fairly early to go over to see Paris VII in all of it's lack of glory and to show my parents the lawsuit bridge.
Paris VII and that evil, sloped bridge
We also got to see the sculpture made from canoes that they had been finishing up the week before so my mom and I took a series of pictures under it including one where we are pretending that it is falling on us. You'll have to ask my dad for that picture. It's a classic. We then crossed the Seine and spent some time in Parc de Bercy, which I've never been to before but it was really nice and secluded-feeling, which is rare in Paris. We were killing time before meeting Alexia and her parents and boyfriend so we just meandered around the park for a while.

Family Selfie in Parc de Bercy

Parc de Bercy
Fluffy was there too. Obviously.
 We then met up with Alexia et al. and had a wonderful lunch in Cour Saint Emillion and then went to Les Invalides to see Napoleon's tomb and visit the Army museum there, which I had been meaning to go to. After Alexia and her parents left to catch their train, we walked up Le Champs Elysée to see the Arc de Triomphe and find some place that was open on a Sunday to eat dinner, which ended up being the Public Drugstore (which is also a restaurant and much more) right on the Champs. Afterwards, my dad and I briefly lost my mom when we went to the bathroom without her knowing but it all worked out fine because we got macarons from the Pierre Hermé there. We then head home and packed for Italy the next day.

We spent Monday-Thursday afternoon in Cinque Terre, which I'll write about separately, and got back around dinner time on Thursday. We ate in Chinatown and then walked over by Hôtel de Ville for crêpes for dessert and saw Notre Dame lit up at night. The headless gargoyles looked even creepier!

Friday we got up super early to try to do Versailles before coffee with my host family in the early afternoon. But despite arriving soon after it opened, the line was too long to go into the actual Chateau so instead we just walked around the gardens, which are amazing by the way.

Standing in front of a tree thing in the gardens
The palace and a very, very small part of the gardens
We then headed back to Paris and got crêpes for lunch at a stand on the way home, then had coffee with my host family. It was super fun because my host dad doesn't speak English, my real dad doesn't speak French, and my mom was sick and not feeling 100%. Luckily my host mom speaks some English so we were still able to have a conversation. Also I translated a lot. Afterwards, I stayed and did laundry while my mom went to go nap and then we met up later to go see Printemps (the giant department store that's super close to me) and take the metro to Montmartre. Getting to the top of Montmartre was rough, but not as rough as realizing that my mother who is still recovering from back surgery and my dad who is still recovering from a lot of things are in better shape than me. Man, I was dying coming up those steps! But that's besides the point.

In Montmartre we walked around the square with all of the artists and then had dinner outside in a cafe where I was served about 2 potatoes worth of French fries. I mean I love fried food but my goodness! Then came the highlight of the night: my dad got a caricature done and it was amazing!

We told him to make it as ridiculous as possible and I think he lived up to the challenge. It's even better in person. I told my dad he has to hang it in the office with some sort of placard saying "President". Because you can only really get away with that type of thing without looking arrogant if it's a caricature. In which case you get to bring so much joy to everyone who sees it. Yeah. That's what I call doing Montmartre right!

We then walked down the hill to see the Moulin Rouge because my mom had never seen it and really wanted to. It was just starting to get dark so it was lit up and all in all worth seeing at least once. From there we went to the Eiffel Tower and got there just as it started sparkling. We didn't go up in it because we've all done it before and we were all getting tired but we walked away from it to the metro to get some good pictures from far away.

You can never have too many pictures of the Eiffel Tower!

On Saturday we got up early to go to the zoo in Jardin des Plantes to go visit my best friends, the red pandas!! They were asleep when we got there but right before we left they woke up, ate, walked around a bit and then went back to sleep so it was pretty awesome that we got to still see all of that. Plus it was early so there was no crowd. We also watched the flamingos chase each other from one side of their exhibit to the other, and my dad tried to wake up a mongoose by making snake noises (it was not effective btw).

Sleepy red pandas
They were actually behaving themselves when I took this picture.
We then met up with Romain, Clémence and the rest of their family for lunch, a walk through Luxembourg Gardens (and past Sweet Briar), and then we later went to the apartment where they were staying for dinner. They made crêpes for us and it was amazing. We then headed back to the hotel and I helped them pack since they were leaving in the morning. So, Sunday morning I got up early with them to walk them to the bus for the airport and to say goodbye. Not gonna lie, I was sad to see them go because we had an amazing time together, but man did they tire me out (although I'm sure they could say the same). I went home and passed out for about 3 more hours before having to get up and start packing for Sardinia since I left that evening. But that's yet another adventure I have to write about!

But anyway, in conclusion (because you are always supposed to have a conclusion or something like that and not end by rambling) my parents are super awesome and I had an amazing time with them and you all wish your parents were this cool! Also I converted them to red panda adoration, so I consider their trip a win.

Stay tuned for more about Cinque Terre and Sardinia! Also I guess I should write about Prague at some point. In the meantime, I have links on the right for my pictures so you can see them all online!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

8 Things that Aren't "A Thing" in Paris

Sorry I've been so terrible about keeping up with this lately. I had a final paper to write and then 2 weeks off for spring break so my parents were here and then I was in Sardinia so I haven't had much time to blog, but I will!! In the meantime (until I finish my internship report), here is a post I've been working on for a bit now, while I've been collecting ideas. Some things are most definitely missing, so let me know if there's anything that should be added! Enjoy:

8 Things that Aren't "A Thing" in Paris:
(I was going to say things that aren't "a thing" in Paris but should be, but that's not always entirely true.)
  1. Efficiency: Paris has done better than places like Rome in turns of catching up with the real world but the level of efficiency just leaves something to be desired. It's hard to pinpoint exact things (which makes me an awesome writer, I know) but after waiting in line at the store MUCH longer than I should have, it's clear there are a lot of things not done quite right.
  2. Cleaning up after your dog: Parisians just prefer to leave it in the middle of the sidewalk for people to step in. Lovely.
  3. Lawsuits: I know they still kinda exist here, but not like in the US. It's obvious based on the things that exist, which in the US never would because the are a lawsuit-waiting-to-happen. The French make fun of us for our lawsuits too. Not that I blame them. Also, not "a thing" that I miss while being here. France, in this sense, you can stay just the way you are! Although I still hate that bridge at Paris VII that everyone always falls on in the winter!
  4. Hoodies: Sure you occasionally see people (especially guys) wearing chic looking zip-up hoodies but I miss wearing giant, warm, cozy hoodies out in public especially when it's cold outside. But that's just not something that happens here unless you want to throw on a fashionable zip-up sweatshirt (but that's totally NOT THE SAME THING!)
  5. Bacon: this is the saddest one. The only place I've ever really seen bacon is at Breakfast in America. Sure you see fancy looking bacon bits on salads and whatnot but that isn't nearly the same thing. I think you can buy strip bacon in the grocery store so why is that not a thing?! If anyone has found a place where you can eat bacon please take me there! Now!
  6. To go boxes: Although French portions are definitely smaller than those you find in America, there are still plenty of time when you get way more food than you are capable of eating, and unlike in the US where you can take it home for another meal, in France there are no to go boxes or "doggy bags". You lose whatever you can't eat. And it makes me sad.
  7. Dryers: This is more of a Paris thing, but I've found that most families don't seem to have dryers and often just hang up laundry to dry instead. Most apartments have fancy space saving drying racks for this purpose. While I have no problem hanging up my laundry to dry, I do miss having a dryer. I miss being able to shrink jeans/shirts/etc back to their original size after they stretch out from wearing them. 
  8. Petting other people's dogs: This is something American tourists don't seem to understand. Back in the warm, friendly USA it's totally fine to ask to pet someone's dog if you are out walking, but here it is just not done. People will look at you in horror if you reach down to pet their dog, no matter how cute and fluffy they may be.