In Retrospect

Well.

It has been quite a while since I visited this blog. My life is completely different now, and I have accomplished so many things since my study abroad experience two years ago. So, why now? Why have I spent my entire night revisiting every blog post, and have even been persuaded to create a post such as this at nearly 2 in the morning?

To recap in extreme brevity, I am now a graduate student studying art history at the University of Kansas. I am in my first semester, and I am taking a seminar about Paris! In the process of procrastinating some homework on a Sunday night, I decided to revisit this blog, as I was feeling a bit nostalgic. Down the rabbit hole I fell. So that brings me here.

I am absolutely astounded to see that this blog is visited regularly, by people from all over the world. I had no idea people were still visiting this blog, since I had forgotten about it myself. Well, after a night of reminiscence and re-discovery, I would like to share a few thoughts.

I would like to first state that I never finished this blog, and I deeply regret that. Obviously, I was incredibly busy in the last half of my semester in Paris. However, I included so much detail that I would otherwise never have remembered. I really can relive my semester through those posts, although it also seems like another life lived by another person. In some ways, it is. However, by not taking the time to create posts about the end of my semester, I am missing out on some great memories. Sure I still have the photographs, and I could potentially try and re-create image-filled posts with the few details I have left in my memory, but it would not be the same as the rest of this blog. I am conflicted as to whether that would benefit me, or anyone else, to do that two years after the fact.

Some of the things that this blog is missing from that time include a visit from my German friend, Sophia, and her sister. My grandmother and mother also visited me for a week in November, during Thanksgiving, and I got to play tour guide. We took day trips to Bruges and to Chartres. Also, I wish I had written about Paris around Christmastime, which is magical. I spent more time in Montmartre and went to the Dali museum. I crossed more things off of my list, including Sainte-Chapelle, Garnier’s Opera (twice!), the Paris Catacombs, and Disneyland. I made a super cute video with my friend Anna for my film class. I went to the Louvre a few more times and finally found the Code of Hammurabi. During my last weekend in Paris, Nelson Mandela died. The Eiffel Tower was lit in tribute to him. I visited the Abbey Church of Saint Denis, and my life was forever changed. My friend Miranda’s then-boyfriend came to visit her, and we went to Père Lachaise. The next day, they went to Saint Denis, and he proposed to her. I am still great friends with both of them, and was delighted to attend their wedding. There were many, many other things, too.

After returning to the US, I did end up getting a car, and I have been on many road trips across the US since! I still have not been back to Paris. I have, however, returned to Europe. This past summer, after graduating from KCAI with my BFA in photography and art history, I spent 3 weeks backpacking in Europe. I went to Istanbul, Prague, Salzburg, and spent a week in Spain. I planned all of this myself, along with my best friend from high school, Amelija, who joined me after Istanbul. All of that would not have happened if it weren’t for everything I learned during my semester abroad.

I mentioned that Saint Denis changed my life. It is evident throughout small bits of my posts here, but I fell in love with Gothic cathedrals during my Paris semester. I initially chose to study in Paris due to what I believed was my art historical passion; 19th-20th century French art. By the end of the trip, I was a Medievalist. I spent the rest of my junior year writing what would equate to an undergraduate thesis on the Abbey Church of Saint Denis. I used this to apply to graduate schools, and I presented it last spring at the Midwest Art Historical Society (MAHS) Annual Conference in Minneapolis, as well as KCAI’s annual Art History Symposium. Another change occurred in my interests during this time. My love of Medieval architecture expanded to Islamic Art, hence my desire to travel to Istanbul and Andalusia this past summer. I am now working toward my Masters in Art History, and I feel that anything is possible!

I have considered updating this blog with the aforementioned backpacking travels. I did dutifully keep a hand-written journal throughout the trip, as I did not bring a computer with me. The journal was, of course, a result of this blog, and the regret I still hold from not finishing it. I wonder if posting my more recent travel experiences would be helpful to anyone else, and considering the clicks I see this blog getting, I think they may be. Endless free time is not something I have as a graduate student, but here I am, writing this post.

I hope this blog inspires and informs anyone who is interested. I hope this post in particular is useful to someone other than myself, though it could also be only useful to me, and I guess that’s okay. Maybe not, it’s after 2AM now. I have to TA a class in the morning and I really should be sleeping. Who knows, I may not be finished with this blog yet!

Week 4: Sick Days & Travel Plans

This past week was pretty uneventful, mostly because I spent the weekend not doing school-related things and then I remembered I was a student. I’m very good at time management and don’t put things off, but I am going to have to figure out how to balance sight-seeing on the weekends and doing homework. Luckily, my teacher gave us another week on our first photo assignment which saved me from being super stressed out.

Also, this week it officially became fall in Paris. After Sunday, leaves were on the ground and it has rained every day. I can even wear boots, a scarf, and my jacket and not look crazy. The rain isn’t too bad since it’s more of a constantly drizzle/mist, but I hope there are at least a few clear days in the future.

Tuesday I met with Francesca and her children for the first time. They are family friends who live here in Paris. I actually had one of her daughters pose in a photograph for my assignment! They have a really charming apartment and a very friendly cat that sheds everywhere. Also, I am now their babysitter for this semester! This was an unexpected but welcome surprise. Tuesday night my friends and I went back to Saint Michel to eat in front of Notre Dame because it’s the best. Of course I got more gelato!

Thursday I felt myself getting sick all day, which was exactly what I didn’t want to happen while I was here, especially this early on. After class I went to a pharmacie to get throat medicine and vitamin C, and then oranges and nectarines at the market. I have been OD’ing on vitamin C ever since and I think it is working! I spent Thursday night vegging out and finally watched Monsters University, which was great.

Friday morning I met with some friends to shoot another photo for my project, then spent the rest of the day editing my Versailles photos and consuming tons of vitamin C. By the end of the day I was tired of sitting in the same spot, so I went out to Le Bar a Soupes, a place recommended to me by my art history teacher and fellow vegetarian (thanks Madeline!!). All of the soups looked delicious but I chose a mixed vegetable soup. It was perfect for my throat and very filling. I spent the night watching In Bruges to get myself pumped to go to Bruges at some point while I’m here. Speaking of which…

One of the more exciting things that developed this week was that I started making travel plans for while I am here! I already have tickets to go to Poland for a short trip the last weekend of October to visit a friend from high school, and a weekend in Florence during November is in the works. I also want to take day trips to Bruges, Aachen, and possibly Amsterdam. I had a really big “duh” moment when I realized that I could go to Munich for Oktoberfest this year! I wish I had thought of it sooner because now everything is pretty booked or expensive. I’m going to try and find a way to get there, though. It would fulfill all my little middle school dreams when I first started to study German and celebrated Oktoberfest in school every year. Sorry France, but Germany is still my favorite country! If I had the money, I would travel somewhere every weekend. There’s so much to see and I have such easy access while I’m in Europe. I want to take advantage of that as much as possible while I’m here. Of course, there is plenty to see and do in Paris as well! I mean, I haven’t even been up the Eiffel Tower yet. Woops.

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!