Weekend 11: Florence, Italia Part II!

I finally finished going through the several hundred photos I took in Florence between all the homework I’ve had, but more on that later. Finally, Florence!!

The first night I got there (Friday) I was pretty exhausted after 4 hours of sleep and a day in Pisa, so I went to sleep early. This allowed me to then wake up early the next morning and start wandering around for a little while. First I went right down the street to see the Ponte Vecchio on the river Arno, a Medieval bridge in Florence.

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The covered pathways alongside the river, called the Corridoio Vasariano, were made for the Medici family (like everything else in Florence) so they didn’t have to walk with everyone else from the Pitti Palace to the Ufizi. And that sculpture building? That’s the Ufizi!

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Okay back to the bridge. It’s known for the silver and gold shops on it, which are now all touristy.

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Next, I wandered to the Palazzo Vecchio, looked at the sculptures outside, and then got a ticket to go in later that day.

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Then I walked back down to the river, but went in the opposite direction of the Ponte Vecchio towards Sainte Croce.

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I considered going inside, but the line was already kind of long, so after looking around I headed back, towards the Duomo.

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Then I met up with my friend Leon who I was staying with and I borrowed another SACI student’s museum pass so I could skip lines and get in places for free. First, we went to the Bargello, a sculpture museum. It’s home to some amazing work, including Donatello’s famous David.

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Next we went to see some markets, and passed the Palazzo Medici Riccardi. It was closed thanks to the holiday on Friday. Also a dollar bill-ding which we don’t really know what its deal is.

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We stopped to have lunch near Santa Maria Novella, and I had some amazing pasta.

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Then, we went inside, and I got to see Masaccio’s Holy Trinity, aka the birth of linear perspective! The cathedral is beautiful, too.

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We walked around and saw a few other things, like the oldest pharmacy in the city (it’s super fancy) and then I used my ticket for the Palazzo Vecchio.

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Sunday morning, my day started with the Ufizi! This was one of the things I was most excited to see in Florence. You can’t take photos inside, although there is a great view from the top where I took some photos. The art is, of course, incredible. I’ve seen Gothic art plenty of times before, but for some reason seeing it at the Ufizi was a completely different experience. And then there’s the Botticelli room. It really shocked me, not because the moment you walk in you are faced with Primavera and Birth of Venus, but because the Portinari Alterpiece was there, which I had no idea. I sat in front of it for a while, trying to figure out how many of me could fit in it. I’d say at least 15. I also almost had a panic attack because I realized I went through the entire Ufizi and missed the Venus of Urbino (I’m totally serious, I think I had a nightmare where that happened) and then I back-tracked through the museum against the flow of traffic until I found it unceremoniously placed in a hallway towards the end of the museum. Everyone was walking passed it, like it was nothing. I do not understand.

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After the Ufizi, I got a day pass for the Duomo.

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Except, since it was Sunday, the dome wasn’t open, and half the stuff the pass gets you into closed by 1:00. I had to make some decisions, so I decided to start off with climbing Giotto’s Tower, since the line was still short and I could get a great view of the city. It was super windy but the climb restored some faith in my deteriorating physical health. Going back down was actually way worse. Anyway, here are some amazing views!

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When I finally got back down, the cathedral was about to open and the line was already getting really long, so I decided to just join it since the museum and baptistery were about to close anyway.

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Similarly to the Pisa Cathedral, the Duomo (Santa Maria del Fiore) is incredibly decorated on the outside while being very minimal on the inside. Well, except for the dome of course. For those of you who are unfamiliar, the dome was designed by Brunelleschi and was a major architectural achievement, considered to be one of the first main events of the Renaissance. The inside of the dome is covered in a fresco started by Vasari (yeah that guy was all over everything in Florence).

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The baptistery was closed at this point, so I hung around outside for a bit, admiring Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise which always has a group of people in front of it. The real doors are in the museum, which was also closed. Also, that gigantic Medici crest is pretty impressive. I bet they’re all happily resting in their graves. Oh, I went to go see their tombs. I forgot to mention, it was something I did on Saturday. You aren’t allowed to take photographs in there so I forgot. See, this is why I am a photographer.

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After the Duomo, it was time for the one other thing I knew I absolutely HAD to do while in Florence… go to the Galleria Accademia and see Michelangelo’s David. You aren’t allowed to take photographs in there, but it was amazing. I honestly did not realize how big he is, even though the replica in front of the Palazzo Vecchio is the same size. He dominates the entire Galleria, and while the other works in the museum are nice, they don’t stand a chance. Sorry, guys.

After that, I had some more amazingly delicious cheap pizza. Seriously, the whole Italian pizza thing is no joke.

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Then, I went back to Santa Croce, only this time I went inside. It was awesome!!! It’s basically a giant, beautiful, indoor graveyard for famous Italians. Some of its notable inhabitants are Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, and Rossini, plus a giant monument to Dante (but he couldn’t be buried there because he was banished from the city). Oh, and it has a wooden ceiling. I don’t know why but this really surprised me.

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By the time I exited the basilica, the sun was setting and making everything orange and beautiful. Outside the basilica was this row of casts made from sculptures based on Dante’s and Virgil’s depictions of hell. They were pretty cool, especially in this setting!

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We crossed the river after taking a ton of sunset photos, and then went grocery shopping. And I got gelato, duh.

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That night we had a potluck with other SACI students which was one of the best meals I’ve had all semester. Oh do I miss home cooked meals. Eventually, I had to go to sleep, and then wake up early to take the bus back to Pisa to take my flight back to Paris. As soon as  I touched down, I got to go out into the freezing rain. Oh, Paris.

So, Italy was an amazing, packed, delicious, beautiful break from Paris. It was definitely an unusual way to start November, in the heat eating ice cream and walking around in capris and a t shirt. It was also my last break, as I have been working hard in the cold since then. The end of the semester is nigh! But more on that in another post. It’s almost 2AM and I’m really, really tired. I just needed to finally get this post done so I can catch up with everything else…

Weekend 11: Pisa & Pizza, Italia Part I!

I left Paris cold and raining on Friday morning after only 4 hours of sleep, due to allowing myself a little bit of Halloween fun the previous night. Since I was flying on a small, budget airline, I had to take a bus outside of Paris to one of the smaller airports. It seemed as though the moment the plane touched down in Pisa I started sweating. A few days prior to leaving, I decided to spend the day in Pisa, because why not? I didn’t see the point in being there so early, with the city being so accessible from the airport, and not going to at least see the leaning tower for the afternoon before taking the bus to Florence. I took the bus from the airport to the city train station, where I left my bag at the luggage check and then headed in the direction of the Piazza del Duomo. I took my time, wandering where I wanted and enjoying the sun. I immediately regretted my last-minute decision to not bring my sunglasses. Everything about Italy is warm; the colors, the light, the people. It’s such a refreshing change from the coldness of Paris.

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After wandering, I realized how hungry I was. However, I also didn’t have enough cash on me to buy a meal, and I had passed up several ATMs. Just as I approached the Piazza, I decided I needed to backtrack to find an ATM fast because I was so hungry. This took up a good half hour at least, which combined with the heat was frustrating. Once I finally found a working ATM, I headed back to a place I saw with a view of the leaning tower and an amazing deal of pizza, fries, and a drink for 7 euros (unheard of in Paris). The pizza was delicious, and it was the first pizza I’ve had in Europe that I could actually eat with a fork and knife (there’s no such thing as finger food in Europe)!

My first Italian pizza!!

My first Italian pizza!!

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After eating, I walked around the Piazza for a while and then got a ticket to go into the cathedral and the baptistery. I initially wanted to climb the leaning tower, but then decided it was getting too late since the line was pretty long.

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Italian cathedrals are soooo very different from French cathedrals, or really any of the Northern European cathedrals that I’ve been in. I think I prefer the Northern ones, but of course these are impressive in their own right. For one, they are massive. This was by far the largest cathedral I’ve ever been in. They are also relatively plain inside compared to Northern Cathedrals, which spare no centimeter of wall, floor, or ceiling from decoration. Italian cathedrals also have much smaller stained glass windows. The outsides are decorated in colorful patterns, but the overall whiteness of it all is still very present. I think these photographs make it seem more decorative than it is, probably because that’s what I ended up being most interested in! Also, I don’t think any of these properly convey how massive it is. Just go there for yourself and see!

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A reliquary with a human skull!

A reliquary with a human skull!

I didn’t know what to expect in the baptistery, since I’d never been in one before. It’s pretty plain, but there were two things that made it worth it. One, if you go to the top level, one of the windows has part of the screen cut out so you can take a photograph looking directly at the cathedral, with the leaning tower in the background. And two, while I was in there, a woman stood in the middle on the lower level and started vocalizing, and you could hear it echo throughout the baptistery. It was haunting.

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After that, I headed back to the train station to get my bag and then take a bus to the airport to take a bus to Florence.

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Why do they even have this sign?

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By the time I got to Florence, it was dark and I was pretty tired. I just settled in and had a relaxing night before going to sleep early. Stay tuned for Italia Part II: Firenze!

Weekend 9: Beautiful Weather & Gardens

I have had so much work this past week, so I’m sorry it has taken me so long to get around to posting about last weekend! I wanted to make sure I did it before I left for Poland, but then I decided sleeping for once was more important. I am pretty much a week behind in life, but I want to be caught up with everything before I leave for Florence.

Last weekend had the best weather I’ve experienced since being in Paris. It made me love it a little more, which just goes to show that even though I don’t like living here doesn’t mean I don’t like Paris. There is definitely a difference. Paris has these amazing moments where the light will fall off a building into the street in the most beautiful way, and I don’t see how anyone could not love it, even if only for that moment. Also, I discovered these awesome buildings right down the street from the American Library in Paris. Out of all the times I’ve been there I can’t believe I never noticed them!

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Friday started off with my internship, but I had the afternoon to start shooting my final photography project. First, I went to the Jeu de Paume for the first time to see the current Erwin Blumenfeld exhibition, which I had to write a review of for class. This is the other smaller museum in the Tuileries along with the Musee de l’Orangerie. I then spent the rest of the evening shooting in the Tuileries and also in front the of the Pyramid at the Louvre. The weather was perfect and the light was amazing.

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I also got some gelato because what afternoon is perfect without it?!

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Caramel, Banana, and Dark Chocolate

I finished off by going across the street to the Place de la Concorde, which is filled with golden ornamentation that was highlighted by the golden setting sun. It was absolutely beautiful.

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The next morning I let myself sleep in because I hadn’t been able to since the previous week, before we went to Amsterdam. As soon as I was awake, I got ready and headed to Gare Saint Lazare, because I was going to Giverny! Since Giverny closes November 1st and I was going to Poland the next weekend, this was my last chance to go and I knew I had to take it. Once I got to the station, I spent a while trying to buy train tickets from the SNCF machines before realizing my cards wouldn’t work because they aren’t chip cards. That meant the only way that I could get my tickets was to wait in the incredibly long line of people at the SNCF ticket counter. By the time I got to the front, I had missed all the morning trains and I had an hour and a half to kill before the next train to Vernon.

I decided to go to the Fnac down the street, which is basically France’s equivalent to Best Buy and Barnes & Noble in one. The store was huge; I think it had about six floors. It was really fun seeing things I was familiar with but in French, like these:

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Les Sims!

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Star Wars AND Harry Potter

I also saw that they have this really beautifully illustrated hard cover graphic novel-esque version of Camus’ The Stranger that I think I will own before I leave Paris. One of my small goals before I left was to get a version of the book in French, and while initially I was picturing some beat-up, used version, this fits that description and is definitely unique.

Once it was finally time for my train, I headed back to the station and got on. It’s a relatively short ride, I think just under an hour. When I got to Vernon, I had to then wait another 40 minutes for the next shuttle bus to Giverny. I wandered around the sleepy little town for a bit and stopped in a lovely boulangerie to get some lunch. Initially I ordered a pizza, but only after I had paid for it and was waiting for it to be heated up did I realize it had Salmon in it. In desperate broken French I explained how sorry I was but I couldn’t eat it, and instead got a waffle. It was 10 cents more than the pizza but the nice woman there wouldn’t accept my extra payment, which was so kind after the little hassle I caused.

The shuttle to Giverny was supposed to cost 4 euros, but for some reason the driver wouldn’t take a payment. When I finally got to the bus drop-off I then had to walk though this underground tunnel to cross the street into Giverny. Immediately, it’s like walking into a little French storybook town. I’m not sure how much of this is genuine and how much has been shaped by tourism, but it is still lovely, especially in the fall! Everything was covered in rainbow ivy and flowers.

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My first priority was seeing Monet’s house and gardens. Since it was already the afternoon and I’m wary of how early things close in Europe, I wanted to be sure that if I got anything done it was at least that. I was not entirely sure of how big it would be, but it turned out to be well worth it! These are no ordinary gardens, and his house is like the one from Alice in Wonderland, but full of prints by Japanese printmaking masters and Impressionist paintings from Monet’s close friends, as well as his own work. I’m not sure that my photos fully convey the magical experience of being there, even when you’re surrounded by tourists and you can’t take a photo of the front of his house without strangers posing in front of it.

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To get to the waterlillies pond you have to go underground through this cool tunnel:

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And then you first see all this bamboo:

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And then of course, there is the pond. It was a lot bigger than I expected!

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After I left the gardens, everything else in Giverny was closing. I wandered around a little bit to see if there was anything else to do but eventually decided to take the shuttle bus back to Vernon.

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Once I got there, I must have just missed a train to Paris, because the next one wasn’t for over 2 hours. I was getting frustrated at this point but there wasn’t anything I could do about it, so I decided to seek out the local church.

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I was pleasantly surprised to find that the church was open. I was the only person inside, which is sort of an eerie experience. Since the sun was setting and the church wasn’t lit very well, it was difficult to take photographs, but I loved the stained glass so I took a few of the windows.

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After the church, I wandered around Vernon a bit more, got something to eat, and then spent the rest of my time waiting at the train station and deeply regretting my last minute decision to not bring my Kindle. By the time I got back to Paris it was too late for me to do anything else. I’m so glad I went and it is something I highly recommend, but definitely plan ahead a little more than I did! Also, if you have allergies you might want to consider that before going to a giant garden. I stopped taking my medicine soon after coming to Paris since I didn’t really need it, but after Giverny I was sneezing all week so I’ve started taking it again.

To give a quick recap on this past week, I basically spent all my free time doing homework until 2-3AM every day. Annie and I are almost finished the translations for her book. I also finally found a vegetarian place by school! It’s in the one direction down the street from the metro stop I get off at that I had never been down previously. I am both disappointed that I spent half the semester spending my money on mediocre, unhealthy food, but also really happy I can spend the rest of the semester eating from there. I can’t wait to try their veggie burgers!

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So, I am about to start another incredibly busy week where I will probably not be sleeping much, but it will be so worth it because I’m going to Florence on Friday!! Also, Halloween is Thursday, but I honestly don’t even have time to think about it at this point. I can’t really go out too late since I have to leave the next morning at 6AM. But, Florence!!!!

Weekend 7: Crossing Off My List

Saturday was completely a school work day for me. By the end of it I was pretty exhausted. I had dinner with friends at Miranda and Shelby’s apartment which was really fun. We were all still craving Mexican after Chipotle on Thursday, so we had a taco night. It was amaazingg. We hung out there for a while and eventually went out to Nuit Blanche, but didn’t see very much. It’s a big city-wide arts night that happens once a year. Apparently it is pretty big but maybe we weren’t in the right area.

Sunday I wanted to cross more things off of my super huge to-do list in Paris, so I got right to it and went to Les Invalides. This building was originally a war veteran retirement home, and now houses the military museum of the French Army, a few other museums, a chapel, and the burial sites for several important French war heroes.

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I didn’t go into any of the museums and I don’t know if I will, but it was nice just to walk around. Of course I loved the chapel, Saint-Louis-des-Invalides.

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Now one of the main attractions of Invalides is Napoleon’s burial site under the gold Baroque dome. I wasn’t sure how to get there from where I entered Invalides, but you can actually kind of see it through the windows at the end of the chapel. When I first got a good look I couldn’t believe what I saw because it looks just like the Baldacchino from St. Peter’s Basilica which is obviously in Italy, not Paris. For a second I doubted myself, but I definitely remembered learning it was in Italy. I looked it up later and it is supposed to be a direct influence, so I’m glad I wasn’t going crazy!

There didn’t seem to be a way to get to the other side from where I was, so I left for my next destination: the Musee Rodin.

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Being the first Sunday of the month, entrance was free, though I think I get in free anyway with my school ID. Still, it’s definitely nice going to museums on first Sundays when you can just wander in! There was a really long line to get into the Biron house, so I wandered the gardens first.

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They are installing some kind of stage, so this was my beautiful view from the other side of the garden:

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Also, in the part of the garden with The Thinker, they play this weird “music” that is basically a woman humming and vocalizing. It’s really eerie and at first I didn’t realize it was part of the museum. I wonder what the reasoning is behind it?

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As I walked around, I found that I really, really like Rodin. He found a way to capture such raw emotion in an equally raw form of sculpture. He turned a really cold material into something fluid and natural. And those hands and feet are huuugee! I tried to take close-ups to show how big they are, but you really have to see it in person.

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After the gardens I finally got in the line for the house. You have to wait a while because they only let in a certain amount of people at a time, which they monitor very closely. At least you have a pretty view while you wait!

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The house is pretty small, but it’s great to see his process and some of his more famous works in their original sizes. There are also some great views out of the second story windows.

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There is a special Camille Claudel exhibition going on in one of the rooms, but no photography was allowed. I really loved seeing her most well-known works in person as well. They were actually much larger than I expected. The Wave and Women Gossiping were really, really green in color, which is given no justice in photographic reproductions.

After all that walking I was starting to get tired, so I decided it was time for a break at the cafe in the garden. I got some ice cream and it was AMAZING. I’d love to go back and actually eat there some time, but man was that ice cream good. I got vanilla pecan and chocolate. If you ever find yourself at the Musee Rodin, make sure you get some!!

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Next I headed down the street to finish my exploration of Les Invalides, but this time to the dome were Napoleon is buried. I had to get a ticket to get in but it was free (yay!). Being a student in Paris really has its advantages. My student ID is magical.

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When you first walk in, there is a tomb to your right. This is not Napoleon. This is his older brother.

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Like pretty much every other building in Paris, you can spend a lot of time looking at the ceiling.

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The Baldacchino I was talking about earlier:

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This is Napoleon.

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What a guy.

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There are really beautiful gardens in front of the dome. They have tons of plants I’ve never even seen before.

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This looks like something that fell off a Muppet.

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So that was basically my Sunday! This week is going to be super crazy for me, because I have so much to do before Thursday, when Shelby and I take a night bus to Amsterdam!! We are spending Friday and Saturday in Amsterdam, then leaving early Sunday to spend the day in Brussels before heading back to Paris. We are soo lucky that Dov’s brother lives in Amsterdam and is gracious enough to let us sleep at his house! I am so excited, but first I have a lot of work to do… for some reason even though it’s the first week of October, I have to write three proposals for final projects/papers. And do research at two different libraries. And prepare another PowerPoint presentation. Ahhh!!

Week & Weekend 6: Mixed Feelings

This week was filled with some ups and downs.

Monday started off great. I finally figured out my whole internship situation which I can now explain in full detail! I am assisting the academic writer Annie Cohen-Solal, a historian who has written several books on subjects like American Abstract Expressionism, a biography on Jean-Paul Sartre, and is currently working on a monograph on Mark Rothko. She also served as the Cultural Counselor to the French Embassy in the United States. So, basically, she has done amazing things, met amazing people, and is an incredible person. And I get to work with her three days a week! I got right to work on Monday. She gave me several excerpts of her writing that she was lecturing on in Zurich on Friday. My job was to prepare a complimentary PowerPoint presentation to her lecture by Tuesday night. I get really into PowerPoints and make them quite often, so I spent a lot of time on this which was slightly stressful considering I also had a bunch of school work. However, I wanted to make sure I did my first assignment well, and she was pleased with it.

Monday afternoon I had my first critique for my main photography class. This was the project I mentioned last week that gave me so much trouble. I didn’t know what to expect, but overall the critique went well and my teacher really liked one of my concepts. The prints were absolutely awful, but I’ll fix that by next time! Since it went well, I may share it here now that I’ve had some time away from it.

Tuesday was when things started to go downhill. I forgot to turn on my alarm and woke up at 9:40 for my 9AM French class. It’s the only class I have that day, and by the time I woke up it was too late to even try to get to school since it takes me 30-40 minutes. Oversleeping and missing class is basically one of my worst nightmares, so it was not a great way to start the day and made me overly-stressed and anxious the rest of the day. I had to hurry and get ready to go to my internship with Annie and I was still even 10 minutes late for that. I spent the whole time reading about American Abstract Expressionism (the topic of her lecture) and preparing the PowerPoint. The rest of my day was spent doing homework.

Wednesday was pretty much a class and homework day. I was still feeling left-over anxiety from missing class (yes, it gets me that badly). I also started to truly feel homesick for the United States. I think a lot of it has to do with autumn starting, which is my absolute favorite season and time of year. I love the weather, colors, air, smells, clothes, food; all of it! Autumn in the US is pretty distinctly shaped by both Halloween and Thanksgiving in a way I never realized until coming to Paris. There will be no pumpkins here, or turkeys, or pilgrim hats. So, I was pretty sad to realize that I will be completely missing out on my favorite season for an entire year. I need to figure out what Parisian fall traditions are so I can try and cheer myself up with them. They probably just involve wine, cheese, and bread, like most things here.

Thursday I actually got up in time to go to French. I also gave a presentation in one of my classes, which was another small source of anxiety this week as I really had to prepare two PowerPoints (and like I said, I take them seriously). It went over well though. Thursday night I spent a lot of time watching Netflix and Hulu because I finally found a simple way to make them work in Europe. Actually, every night this past week was spent watching Netflix and Hulu. Hey, I miss my American TV shows!! I also met some friends at Breakfast in America again because what better way to cheer up than good old burgers, fries, and shakes?

Friday I got up early because I was able to make up the French class I slept through on Tuesday. It was really fun and I actually like that class better than mine. I would switch to it if I had another reason to be in school on Fridays. I then spent the afternoon babysitting for Dov and Francesca’s kids, which involved picking them up from school, watching a lot of 1940’s Mickey Mouse cartoons, and eating 3 frozen pizzas between the 4 of us. Overall, it was a good day. Random fact: frozen pizza is one of the few things that is actually cheaper here than in the US. You can get a decent one for 3-4 euros, where in the US they are usually $7-8+.

Friday night when I got back from babysitting, my friends asked if I was up for going out in our favorite Saint Michel area. We ended up at this Canadian bar that they had gone to before. The guy who served us was really nice and from New York. They had popcorn there for 4 euros which we ordered super enthusiastically because we all miss popcorn. A lot. I especially miss it because thanks to my popcorn-enthusiast family, I love making fancy stove-popped popcorn! Anyway, the bar also has a great deal where you can get 5 Coronas for 20 euros. I don’t know anything about beer or what I like or don’t like, other than it smells like bread (yum) and I like to use it in cooking and baking. I decided to go for it and split the deal with Miranda. Turns out I like Corona. We had a great night there and will definitely return again! Afterwards Miranda got a crepe (her food weakness), Anna got 2 euro fries (her food weakness), and I was saved from getting gelato because it was closed (my food weakness). That area is dangerous.

Cheers

Cheers

Saturday I let myself sleep in before meeting Miranda and Shelby on the Champs Elysees for some shopping. First we tried to see the Arc de Triomphe, but turns out you have to pay to even go under it, so we decided to wait until another time when we can go up at night. We walked around looking for food until we found a Paul boulangerie. They’re a chain, but they have amazing soft pretzels. It’s the only place I’ve seen them in Paris so far. Afterwards we hit up the H&M, which was the first time I’ve bought something for myself in Paris that wasn’t food. I let myself splurge a little because I figured it would be worth it considering how unhappy I am with the clothes I decided to bring. Also I don’t own a long sleeved shirt and forgot black tights. These are essential things, right??

Miranda and I (sort of) at the Arc!

Miranda and I (sort of) at the Arc!

Pickle-flavored Pringles are a thing here. It's also normal to have chicken-flavored chips. I ate some by accident.

Pickle-flavored Pringles are a thing here. It’s also normal to have chicken-flavored chips. I ate some by accident.

Saturday night I made a list of everything I want to do while I’m in Paris (that I haven’t done yet). It is scarily long, and considering there are several weekends where I will be traveling out of town, I wanted to start doing things as soon as possible. So I planned to do two museums on Sunday, since it was supposed to be a rainy day. First, I woke up as soon as it was light outside to go shoot for my second photography project. I really like Paris at 7:30 AM on Sundays. Too bad I probably won’t be able to get up at that time every Sunday since it’s one of the few days I can sleep in.

Little things make me smile.

Little things make me smile.

After that was done and I got ready for the day, I wandered down rue de Rivoli for a while trying to find a store that ended up being closed because it was Sunday.

The Harry Potter fan in me had to...

The Harry Potter fan in me had to…

At that point I was really hungry, so I decided to splurge a bit and have lunch at a cafe in the Tuilleries where I watched little birds fluff their feathers and play in a pool.

A weird panorama where I tried to get my food and view in the same shot.

A weird panorama where I tried to get my food and view in the same shot.

Pretty view

Pretty view

Then it was finally time to go to my first destination: Musee de l’Orangerie. This is one of the two smaller museums in the Tuilleries, and it houses Monet’s gigantic panoramic Water Lilies and the collection of Walter-Guillaume. The Monets were absolutely amazing. I loved being able to get up close and see all the globby layers of paint and brush strokes. I think the rooms they are in are designed very appropriately as well. The Walter-Guillaume collection is full of works by Renoir, Cezanne, Picasso, Derain, Soutine, and Modigliani, just to name a few.

I feel like someone in my family has a print of this??

I feel like someone in my family has a print of this??

Some new favorite Picasso's.

Some new favorite Picasso’s.

Soutine's quirky portraits.

Soutine’s quirky portraits.

He was not afraid of color!

He was not afraid of color!

Awesome miniature recreations of the collection. Remind me of the KC Toy & Miniature Museum!

Awesome miniature recreations of the collection. Remind me of the KC Toy & Miniature Museum!

So cool.

So cool.

After that, I headed to my second destination: Le Petit Palais, a FREE art museum. You see that word? You still have to stand in line to get a ticket, but then it’s FREE. If you’re in Paris, you should go here! The building is absolutely amazing. I actually really enjoyed this museum because it is full of artwork I’ve never seen before by artists I’ve mostly never heard of. Yet, it is all really beautiful and I found some new favorites. It’s nice to still discover new artists I like in the city full of the world’s most iconic artwork.

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LOVE this!

LOVE this!

Pretty cool

Pretty cool

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At one point I looked out a window and realized it was really fall. That happened fast.

At one point I looked out a window and realized it was really fall. That happened fast.

After several hours of walking and museum-going after waking up early and carrying a tripod around Paris, I was pretty tired even though it was still early afternoon. I decided to walk over to the area where I babysit, which is quickly becoming a new favorite spot of mine. I stopped for some gelato (finally!) and have some treat yo self time.

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Caramel & Chocolate

Afterwards I made my way back home and spent the rest of the day relaxing and watching things. So, despite having some moments of doubt, Paris still manages to win me back. Even if it has to bribe me with art and gelato.

Weekend 4: Sunday, Parisian Art and American Food

Sunday I woke up with the intention of finally going to the Musee d’Orsay. First however, I needed to shoot the second-to-last photo for my assignment I’ve been working on, which meant taking the metro across the city (almost an hour commute) to go to Miranda’s new apartment. It was a lot of fun though and we had a nice morning before finally heading off to the museum.

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This woman on the metro has Daenerys Targaryen hair!!

The weather was absolutely perfect and it actually did not rain the entire day, which I think was a first this past week. It wouldn’t have mattered that much because we spent a lot of time in the museum but it was still nice.

So, the d’Orsay. We started from the ground up, weaving our way through. I actually had my camera with me, but you’re not “supposed” to take photos there, so I only took phone pictures. I totally could have gotten away with my camera for the most part though. They only enforced the no photos rule in random places, like the van Gogh galleries. Oh well, I am definitely going back!

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I’m Hugo!

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I discovered a lot of new favorite paintings while I was there, and gained a new appreciation for so many I knew existed but never really looked at until I was standing right in front of them. A few of them I didn’t photograph but still wanted to include them so they’re reproductions I found on Google.

This painting is INTENSE. I really like it and was unfamiliar with it until now! Dante and Virgil in Hell by Bourguereau

This painting is INTENSE. I really like it and was unfamiliar with it until now!
Dante and Virgil in Hell by Bourguereau

Sorry Botticelli, but I actually like both of these “Birth of Venus” paintings more than his. Is this terrible? Maybe it’s because during my first week of school I think every teacher used Botticelli’s painting for an example or assignment of some kind. It’s not bad of course, but I just like these better…

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The Birth of Venus by Cabanel

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The Birth of Venus by Bourguereau

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I really liked the work by Gustave Guillaumet, particularly this painting Preire du soir dans le Sahara

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The pastel Symbolist paintings by Redon were beautiful!

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Can I please have a bejeweled winged crown thingie?

There were also so many works of art that I either forgot or didn’t realize were at the d’Orsay, so when I saw them I completely freaked out. It was really fun going with friends who for the most part equally freak out about art. Also most paintings are far larger than I am.

Cheesin'

Cheesin’

I AM IN THE GRAVE

I AM IN THE GRAVE!! (I yelled this a bunch)

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Bonnard makes cool cats

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A pleasant surprise.

I also had no idea that the d’Orsay had such an extensive collection of Art Nouveau decorative objects. This basically made it the museum of my dreams.

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Just a whole room!!

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My new bed.

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I need a sink like this in my life.

We spent several hours making our way through the first two floors. We were pretty tired by the end, but had to get to the last floor because that’s where all the major Impressionist work is. Once we finally got there, they made the announcement that the museum was closing in 15 minutes. So we rushed through to quickly see Moulin de la Galette and Luncheon on the Grass before it closed. Obviously I’m going to have to go back because there’s still so much to see, and I think I missed a few paintings on the lower levels, too.

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Way bigger than I thought it would be!

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Miranda can’t contain her excitement.

After the d’Orsay closed, we were all craving good old American burgers and fries. I recently learned of a diner in Paris called Breakfast in America so we headed over there. It was amazing. We all gorged ourselves on burgers, fries, and milkshakes. Yes they have veggie burgers, my first in Paris! They also play what I guess they consider to be “American” music which was everything from Of Monsters and Men to Led Zeppelin. They don’t play music in French restaurants unless it’s a live musician, so this was a nice homey little touch. Also I had the song “Breakfast in America” stuck in my head the whole time. I wonder if they ever play it?

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The milkshake I got is called Obama. It is peanut butter and chocolate. This is brilliant.

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Avocado veggie burgers forever.

After this super amazing museum-filled weekend I’ve been looking up other artworks I want to see in case they are in Paris. Turns out a lot of them are in America. Go figure.

Oh yeah, and I officially have plane tickets to go to Florence the first weekend of November! I’m flying into Pisa and then taking a 70 minute shuttle to Florence, so I get to see a bunch of the Italian countryside as well. It seems so far off but I know it will be here all too soon. Except I also can’t wait. Ahh!!

Weekend 2: Le Marais & the Louvre

I started off my Saturday morning with the goal to run to the Eiffel Tower (and back). Ever since I realized how close I live to the Eiffel Tower, I really wanted to use it as a running goal. I hadn’t had time to run since coming to France, so I was pretty excited. However, running on the sidewalks in Paris is no easy task. You have to maneuver around pedestrians, children, dogs, street cafes, and you have to stop a lot. Plus, once I got close to the Tower, there were tons of tourists and there was a pretty bad car accident. I also went down the wrong street a few times Still, I did it!

Snapped a quick pic under the tower before turning back.

Snapped a quick pic under the tower before turning back.

Once I got back, my friend asked if I wanted to go to le Marais so I met up with her and we spent the afternoon exploring.

On our way down, we passed a photography museum we heard about (Maison Européenne de la Photographie) and decided to check it out. There were several featured artist exhibitions going on that were progressively more interesting. It’s a huge building with tons of floors and is pretty confusing to navigate at first, but once we figured it out we really enjoyed it.

An interesting way to display photograhs

An interesting way to display photograhs

Dali and cats? Perfect.

Dali and cats? Perfect.

Then it was on to le Marais. This area of Paris has lots of great shops, boulangeries, chocolatiers, and patisseries. There’s also a lot of interesting graffiti and the most Americans I’ve heard since coming here, yet it is not touristy in the way that, say, the Eiffel Tower is. It is one of my favorite areas of the city so far!

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An adorable and tempting chocolate shop.

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For some reason there are signs with DC and Marvel heroes on them. I am okay with this.

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Super amazing smelling and looking boulangeries:

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I let myself get a treat. I decided to try something new and got a chausson aux pommes. It’s basically an apple-stuffed croissant. YUM.

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They take their mopeds and motorcycles seriously here.

The end of a pretty garden street.

The end of a pretty garden street.

Terrifying graffiti

Terrifying graffiti

St. Paul

St. Paul

In a bookbinding shop

In a bookbinding shop

Later that night we went to a super cheap Chinese restaurant we heard about and then to a party at another student’s apartment. It was another fun, full day!

Sunday I woke up with the intention of going to the Louvre. I had already been in Paris for almost two weeks without going, and that needed to change! First off I had to go get a Navigo pass. These are monthly passes that allow you access to all public transportation in Paris for a flat rate. They are completely worth it if you are spending a good amount of time in Paris. I love having it and it makes me feel a little more Parisian.

On my way to the metro station, I stopped in this really amazing smelling boulangerie right across the street from where I live. It’s one of those places that makes me wish there was a way to capture smell like a photograph. I was happily surprised to find that they have sandwiches with hard boiled eggs. Hooray for vegetarian-friendly fare!

Lunch, Paris-style

Lunch, Paris-style

Then it was time for the Louvre. I entered through the shopping mall entrance, but it turned out to be a free entry day anyway because it was the first Sunday of the month, so the line moved very quickly. Once I was inside the Louvre, I realized I had no idea where to go or start or where the things I wanted to see were located. For some reason, I had this feeling that I needed to see the Winged Victory of Samothrace before anything else because that was the thing that mentally solidified being in the Louvre for me. I started to freak out trying to find it and maybe had a little panic attack. Luckily it didn’t take me that long and I was able to stare at it and get over myself enough to start walking in a direction.

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Ahhhh!

I had no idea where I was going but I ended up in the French painting area. I think most of my time was spent looking without really seeing. I needed to get an over-all feel for the museum before I started scoping out the major works. After wandering around through French painters I didn’t know very well, I came across the big ones that each had their own rooms (Gericault, Ingres, David, Corot, Delacroix, among many others). Of course, their biggest paintings were not in their individual rooms.

I kept wandering and ended up in Italian painting. I figured I should get the Mona Lisa over with, being my first time at the Louvre. I made my way to the front, got my crappy cell phone photo, and was immediately pushed aside. I wouldn’t mind it if I could actually look at the painting, but since that’s obviously not an option I got out of there as soon as possible. It’s a pretty weird phenomena to think about. One of the world’s most famous paintings, and all people want to do is take a photograph standing in front of it. I don’t think anyone actually looks at the Mona Lisa.

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I was also kind of shocked at the amount of tourists blasting their flashes away at these super old paintings. Like Leonardo’s St. John the Baptist. That painting was clearly in better condition at one point, and there are now tourists flashing it with their cameras all the time. There are signs everywhere with pictures showing not to use flash, but everyone does anyway and no one regulates it. This is definitely a big difference from American museums.

Moving on, I then found the big, famous paintings by the French artists I saw earlier. I found this especially exciting because these were works I studied a lot in my art history classes, and yet there is no comparison to seeing the real thing in person. The size makes such a difference. Having said that, here are a few photographs I took of them (for all you non-art history people).

Ingres’ Grande Odalisque

I actually thought this painting was smaller in person than I thought it would be.

This painting was smaller in person than I thought it would be.

David’s Oath of the Horatii

This was bigger than I thought it was!

This was bigger than I thought it would be!

There was also Gericault’s Raft of the Medusa, which was exactly how I hoped it would be!

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Another thing I realized about the Louvre is that I found myself constantly looking not only at the walls, but the ceiling as well.

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The whole building not only contains art, but is art!

I wandered around some more and then decided to go look at the Greek sculptures. Marble sculpture will always completely blow my mind. I can’t comprehend how something that was once a huge hunk of marble becomes an incredibly life-like representation of humanity.

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At this point they were starting to close off certain parts of the museum. I don’t even know how long I had been there but it was at least 4-5 hours. I decided I should start meandering out of the museum. I was pretty tired and had seen way more than I could absorb.

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This guy is cool.

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Oh look an area of the Louvre with no people.

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Dat baby’s face.

So I definitely need to go to the Louvre only about a million more times, but I’d say this was not bad for my first time. I now can at least get my bearings when I go inside and I’ll hopefully be able to navigate a bit better. I may need to systematically tackle a small section of the Louvre each weekend. But then school is starting, and I still need to go to the d’Orsay, and the Petit Palais, and the Picasso Museum, and the Rodin museum, and Versailles, and Giverny, and Saint Denis, and Notre Dame, and Sainte Chapelle, and the Pompidou again, and the Palais de Tokyo, and an infinite list of other places. Good thing I don’t have class on Fridays.

To end my day, I went out for crepes and wandered around Saint Germain.

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Candy!

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Coolest graffiti ever?!

So there it is. Just another weekend in Paris. This is my life.

My next post will be about my first week of class! Let the craziness begin.

Day 3: Provence

My Wednesday started out not so great. I was awoken by my alarm clock at 5AM after only one hour of sleep. I got ready and tried to force myself to eat, but I felt so sick I could barely force down some cereal. I was running a little behind my intended schedule so I left for the train station on an empty, unhappy stomach.

Paris Gare Lyon

Paris Gare Lyon

I made it there fine with plenty of time before my train track was announced. I spent the entire 4 hour train ride looking out the window, unable to sleep. The French countryside is beautiful and exactly as you imagine it would be. They also have white cows, which I did not know existed!

White cows!

White cows!

Once I arrived at the Avignon station and met up with my Aunt Sue & Chris, we decided to go straight to Arles and save Avignon for Friday morning. On the way, we first stopped at the Pont du Gard. It’s so funny to me that when I learned about this ancient aqueduct in my freshman year art history class, I never imagined I’d actually see it so soon!

Olive trees are everywhere out there!

Olive trees are everywhere out there!

My Aunt & I at the Pont!

My Aunt & I at the Pont!

My Aunt & Chris

My Aunt & Chris

On the bridge.

On the bridge.

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Phone panorama

Phone panorama

It is an amazing structure, but I was more surprised at all there is to do around the Pont. I thought you could just drive up to it and look at it, but there is actually a whole museum and touristy shopping/eating area. More impressive was the large amount of French people who go there to kayak and swim in the water around the it. If I had known, I would have brought my swimming suit! It looked beautiful and clear, and it is also pretty shallow.

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Another favorite surprise was this beautiful building. It is not labelled, and as far as I know is only being used as an outdoor cafe. We got giant bottles of water and Magnums here and ate with a magnificent view. I really want to find out more about this building, it should be put to better use!

My future home

My future home

The cafe

The cafe

Awesome porches

Awesome porches

The cafe view

The cafe view

Next, we went to the nearby town of Uzes. We walked around and looked in some of the charming shops. One shop keeper had spent a year in San Diego and knew English pretty well. He was very interesting to talk to, and I thought some of his opinions of America and its cities were accurate and well said.

Got Nutella?

Got Nutella?

A plant shop in Uzes

A plant shop in Uzes

An adorable ceramic shop in Uzes.

An adorable ceramic shop in Uzes.

Uzes

Uzes

Uzes

Uzes

A cool mirrored lamp.

A cool mirrored lamp.

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Items in a shop in Uzes

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Uzes

Finally, it was time to go to Arles. At this point I was completely exhausted and starving. We signed in to our hotel across the river, then crossed the bridge into town for something to eat.

City view from across the river.

City view from across the river.

You can see why painters were so entranced by Provence. Look at the lighting and those colors!

You can see why painters were so entranced by Provence. Look at the lighting and those colors!

The sacred temple of martinis? Also, why is there a stone carving in that tree?

The sacred temple of martinis? Also, why is there a stone carving in that tree?

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I love the colorful shutters.

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A private alley.

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Possibly for the photography festival currently happening?

Possibly for the photography festival currently happening?

We ended up at the Place du Forum, home of the Cafe van Gogh.

Cafe van Gogh, subject of the painting Cafe Terrace at Night.

Cafe van Gogh, subject of the painting Cafe Terrace at Night.

We had a yummy meal at a cafe in the Forum, and then after a long day headed back to our hotel to sleep.

A quick shot of the town across the bridge at night.

A quick shot of the town across the bridge at night.

More of Provence is to come over the weekend!

Day 2: Exploration

I started off my morning with a mini panic attack because I realized I would need to take the metro to the TGV station at 6:00AM the next morning. Before coming to Paris, I thought my excitement would always be greater than any fears I had about suddenly throwing myself into a strange new culture, but in this moment that was proven wrong. Anne helpfully drove me to the closest metro station so that I could see where it was and buy tickets. Once I got back and stopped freaking out, I realized the only way to reassure myself was to go ahead and use the metro. I picked the Eiffel Tower as my destination and set off. (All the following photos were taken with my phone)

It turned out to be a lot easier than I thought it would be. I soon got off at the station and headed in the direction I thought the Eiffel Tower was in. Pretty soon I realized I was wrong, but I kept going anyways.

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If I were rich, I would eat here.

I ended up on the Left Bank of the Seine, and started following it. Immediately as I went down to the bank, there was this awesome floating greenhouse/garden that followed along the river for quite a while.

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I walked along the Seine until I passed the Pont des Invalides and then arrived at the famous Pont Alexandre III, the most ornate bridge in Paris. (This is where I started taking panoramas with my phone and they get a bit funky…)

Pont des Invalides

Pont des Invalides

Pont Alexandre III

Pont Alexandre III

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Pont Alexandre III

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Stairs up to le Pont Alexandre III

I then wandered across the bridge to the other bank…

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La statue de La Fayette

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La statue de La Fayette

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La statue de La Fayette

From across the water I saw this giant domed building which turned out to be the Alexandre III Grand Palais. I need to get inside it somehow, but it’s super fancy.

Alexadre III Grand Palais

Alexadre III Grand Palais

Across the street is the Musee des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris, which I will have to visit again.

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Le Petit Palais/Musee des Beaux-Arts

Le Petit Palais/Musee des Beaux-Arts

Le Petit Palais/Musee des Beaux-Arts

I kept on walking through a park, which was of course beautiful. These flowers made me think of a painting, as does everything else in Paris!

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I then realized I was probably close to the Louvre, so I looked it up on my phone (Yay apps! They have been awesome so far) and started heading in that direction. I came across the great Egyptian Luxor Obelisque in the Place de la Concorde, which is in front of the entrance to the Tuileries Gardens that lead up to the Louvre.

Luxor Obelisque

Luxor Obelisque

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And of course the amazing Fontaines de la Concorde. Coming from the City of Fountains, this kind of puts Kansas City to shame…

Fontaines de la Concorde

Fontaines de la Concorde

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Fontaines de la Concorde

Fontaines de la Concorde

The Two Towers

The Two Towers

I then headed into the Tuileries Gardens, which has lots of beautiful sculptures that each have a unique personality!

Librarie des jardins

Librarie des jardins

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The Pit Smeller

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At lest your day is going better than this guy’s…

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They missed the last ferris wheel ride.

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I also made my first purchase in Paris… Banana Sorbet shaped like a rose!

Yummy

Yummy

Then it was time to finally see the Louvre!

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Funky panorama

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Taking a selfie in front of the Louvre is harder than it looks…

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I thought it was funny how on either side of the pyramids there are things to stand on so it looks like you're touching the tip of the pyramid. Oookay.

I thought it was funny how on either side of the pyramids there are things to stand on so it looks like you’re touching the tip of the pyramid. Oookay.

The museum was closed today, and I actually did not intend to go in anyways, so I just kept wandering around.

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A sculpture in one of the courtyards.

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Through some windows, you can see people installing something!

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By this point I was pretty tired (I don’t even know how many miles I walked or for how many hours) so I figured I should get something to eat. I exited the Louvre through the side and crossed the street, seeing this metro immediately.

Art Nouveau Metro!

Art Nouveau Metro!

Being a super huge Art Nouveau enthusiast, I was really happy to stumble upon this metro station on my first full day in Paris. I kept wandering down the street, which is pretty much all touristy shops. I stopped to get a panini and then kept walking, trying to find a place to rest and eat it.

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This panini was way huger than it looks.

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La Madeleine

This church had caught my eye earlier, so I decided to head down to it and eat in the shade on its steps. Once I had eaten enough, I retraced my steps all the way back to the original metro station I came from and headed back to my new Parisian home. Of course, once I got out of the metro I got lost for a little bit, but I eventually found my way back.

Tomorrow I have to get up at 5AM to leave at 6AM to make sure I get to my 7:37AM TGV train to Avignon. I’m still a little nervous, but after all of my exploring today the excitement is definitely back. I still have to pack, so I’m going to do that and then go to sleep. Bon nuit!