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!

2 Months in Paris: Halfway There

It’s pretty crazy that I’ve been living in Paris for two months now! Which also means I have two months left to go. Each week goes by faster and faster, so I think this last half will go by much quicker than the first.

As far as school goes, this past week was mid-semester. I’m now working on final projects/papers for all of my classes. I think maybe towards the end of the semester I’ll make a post dedicated to how school is here, so I don’t go off on a tangent. Basically, it has been kind of difficult adjusting to a new school, particularly one so much smaller than what I’m used to. I definitely appreciate KCAI even more now that I’ve been away from it and I’m so excited to go back next semester.

My French has definitely improved in the past two months, though not in the way I expected it to. I am really comfortable with practical French and do all of my  daily “transactions” in French. This past week I even got a haircut without using any English! I am still not very good at conversational French, and I am not happy with where my vocabulary is at. I know this will improve over the next two months, and once I leave France I will continue to work on it! I also think I have a pretty good French comprehension, as long as whoever is talking speaks slowly and uses enough words that I know. I was pleased to find that while waiting in the hair salon, I could read the celebrity magazines and understand almost all of it. I didn’t expect to become fluent within only four months, but living here has definitely given me a great start to understanding the language. In Amsterdam last weekend, I had to resist the now-impulse to speak French to everyone, which I guess is a good thing! I still have off-days where I can’t seem to understand what anyone is saying to me and I feel really stupid, but then there are equally triumphant moments where I completely understand someone and am really proud of myself. It has, like most things in this experience, its ups and downs.

I think in my one month post I described the stereotypical outfit for a Parisian woman, but it’s taken me a little longer to figure out men. In some ways, they’re almost exactly the same as women. The working men all wear business suits, but your average everyday outfit for the Parisian male consists of jeans or pants, shoes (meaning not sneakers or sandals), and a blazer. Under the blazer could be a plain t-shirt, light sweater, or a button-up shirt. Chambray button-ups are also big with men. And it is perfectly normal to wear scarves and have a murse.

Paris is every man’s urinal. I think this is because of the lack of public toilets, as well as the fact that most of the homeless seem to be men. I’ve seen men peeing along the sides of all types of buildings; one down the street from me to the Jeu de Paume in the Tuileries! The metro is basically the unofficial sewer system of Paris. There are little gutters along where the floor meets the walls that I’m sure were made with the homeless and drunk in mind, but I’ve seen plenty of people clearly neither of those things use them as well. Once I saw a man along with his two small children, a boy and a girl, all peeing in the metro. I also saw a woman having a conversation with someone while her dog peed right there on the floor. So, beware of puddles!

I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned the American chains that also exist here in Paris. Obviously there is McDonalds, which I haven’t gotten anything from because it’s not somewhere I go even in America, but I might just for the experience. You order on these touch screens and they have croissants and macrons there as well as everything else. I wonder if cheeseburgers are really called Royale with Cheese? A chain that surprised me here is Subway. For some reason it’s really, really popular. I don’t know why, considering all boulangeries sell sandwiches, but I guess in a way hoagies (or subs, or whatever you call them) are the closest thing in America to French sandwiches. They also have Pizza Hut here which again I don’t understand because you can get pizza almost anywhere and it’s probably a million times better than an American chain. There is the one Chipotle which I have gone to. It’s super expensive though, so unless you’re dying for it, it’s not really necessary to go there. Another surprise to me was Office Depot. It’s such a random chain to have here in Paris, but there’s one that I pass every day on the way to the metro so I’ve become used to it.

This second month has been fairly difficult, emotionally. I have tried to be honest on this blog about my experience studying abroad to make this as real and accurate as possible. However, there are a lot of things I haven’t shared on here yet simply because I didn’t feel ready to, or that they didn’t fit in with my previous posts. Mostly these have been very mixed feelings about living in Paris. I even felt guilty for a while, because I honestly do not like living in Paris, which is a dream come true for so many people! However, after talking with many other semester-long exchange students from America at my school, we all seem to be going through the same things and are on the same page, which is so relieving. Basically, none of us are that crazy about actually living in Paris. We think it’s beautiful and we love being able to see things in person that are not possible in the US, but none of us find Parisians to be accessible. This is heightened especially for me, because I specifically chose to live with a Parisian family and I had so many expectations, none of which have happened. Parisians are very prideful and private people. Whenever I see couples ogling all over each other (every day) I am more and more amazed that they somehow had an opportunity to speak to each other and get to know each other enough to be in a relationship. I don’t actually know any French people and I’ve been in France for two months! This is a pretty frustrating realization, but it’s one I’ve mostly come to terms with over the past month. This is the way it is here, which is something that I wanted to find out. It’s not what I expected, but I think I’m okay with that. Also, the main reason I chose Paris was because of all the history that the city holds, and regardless of who lives here, that is all still intact and has been well worth the trip. Still, I definitely think Paris is one of those cities that is much better suited for being a naive tourist for a week or two, seeing all the sites, eating the food, and then moving on. You will have a much more enjoyable time than trying to assimilate with people that are indifferent.

Another huge source of stress for me here has continued to be food. Every time I feel like I’ve finally found some stability, it doesn’t last very long. I honestly think that it is not possible for me to eat the way I want to in Paris. I’ve already decided to stop stressing so much about it and have since finally started eating baguettes every once in a while. Still, I dread every weekday at school when lunch time comes around and I have to struggle to find something in the area to eat that is somewhat decently healthy and not entirely composed of bread and cheese. The worst are cheese paninis. A lot of times this is my only option, and it is literally a bunch of cheese melted on some bread. I always regret ordering this, but sometimes I’m so hungry and frustrated I do it anyway. I don’t understand why it’s so difficult to just take out half of the cheese and add in some vegetables, considering most places at least have lettuce and tomato, but it is not always an option. Why not get salads, you may ask. Well, salads are usually much more expensive than sandwiches and are also less filling. So I usually opt for the cheaper, more filling, but less expensive option, because being full longer means potentially not having to spend money on food later. Not being able to eat healthily would also not be nearly as stressful for me if I could work out the way I want to, but that is not an option either. I have no weights, no yoga mat, and there is no running trail near me. I have been making do with doing Youtube pilates videos on a towel, but if you’ve ever tried working out on a towel on tile floor, it is awful and extremely difficult. It’s better than nothing, though, and there have been a few days where I felt like I had a decent workout. I’m pretty sure I have gained some weight here, but that seems to be pretty normal and I’m trying not to worry about it because I can lose it when I get back to the US (after Christmas of course!)

I’d like to end this post on a more positive note, so here’s an update on my internship! At times it has felt very overwhelming and potentially impossible, but overall I am really happy that I decided to do this. My main job so far has been taking quotes that Annie used in the French version of her book and finding the English translations of them. This is an incredibly difficult task, especially in the cases where she did not have a source for the quote, so all I had to go off of was the person who said it and the translated French version. We are really close to (finally!) having all of the quotes translated, which I will be so happy about. I’ve been able to complete this mostly thanks to Google Books and the American Library in Paris. Annie always lets me know how grateful she is for my help, and I am learning a lot in the process, so despite my few moments of doubt this has been a really wonderful experience.

This coming week is going to be a very full work week for me because on Friday I leave for Krakow, Poland to visit my friend from high school, Janka! I’m really excited to visit somewhere so different from Paris, and I’ve heard great things about it from people who have been there. Before then, I’ll update on this past weekend, but other than that I have a ton of work to do!

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 7: Playing Tourist

Monday started off with my internship, which was spent finding quotes Annie used for the French publication of her book in their original English translations. This is not an easy task, but I’m motivated by the fact that this is for a really important book that is going to be published by Yale. It’s pretty intimidating!

For class that afternoon we met at the Pompidou to get library cards to the Kandinsky library and see the Roy Lichtenstein retrospective. The Kandinsky is a reference library that claims to have every art book ever published. I’m not sure if this is true, but I know I will be using it a lot this semester. I was conveniently able to look up a quote for my internship while I was there, too. We spent several hours looking through books full of amazing works that are difficult to find otherwise. Some of my favorites were a book of Claes Oldenburg’s sketches and a beautiful book of Andreas Gursky’s work. I’ve decided that he is a perfect photographer and one of my favorites. I really want to see his work in person.

Then, we went to the Lichtenstein retrospective. This was probably one of the most complete exhibitions I’ve ever seen. I don’t quite know how to explain, it, but it was like reading a book. By the time I had gone through the whole thing, I felt completely satisfied. I can honestly say I’ve seen every Lichtenstein work of art that you would ever want to see, and I learned so much about him as an artist that I didn’t previously know. He was incredibly inter-disciplinary and art historically-aware. I’ve always appreciated him stylistically, but I really had no idea where he started as an artist and where his work went after his most well-known pieces. Considering how thorough this exhibition was, I am really excited that I will be in Paris for the Pompidou’s next exhibition on Dali. If it’s as good as this one, they will be two of the best exhibitions I’ve ever seen.

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Tuesday morning I had my internship after French, where I went through every chapter of Annie’s book and copied all the quotes I need to find translations for. I will now get to spend some quality time at the American Library in Paris, because she will be out of the country for the next few weeks. Tuesday I also had a major scare with my computer. It glitched during an update and looked like my computer had completely restarted and I lost all of my information. After freaking out for a while, I restarted my computer and everything was back to normal like nothing ever happened.

After that stressful, short amount of time, I decided that even though I had a good amount of work to do, I really needed to do something fun and relax. One of the things I’ve been realizing is that even though I’ve been in Paris for practically a month and a half, I haven’t fully let myself be a tourist, and I think this has been causing me a lot of unnecessary pressure. I decided to dedicate the afternoon to letting myself be a tourist. First, however, I made a stop to do what I has originally intended to do last Sunday: get second ear piercings. This is something I’ve been wanting to do forever but just never did for no particular reason, and decided to just do it since the place I went to was actually pretty inexpensive.

Right across from the jewelry store is the Saint-Jacques Tower, which is all that remains of a cathedral that once stood here. Nicolas Flamel was a patron of the church and is actually buried here!

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I kept walking down the street to the Paris Hotel de Ville.

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And then walked across the bridge over to Notre Dame.

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Finally, I was actually at Notre Dame during the day!

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And then I went inside…

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The way the cathedral is lit on the inside, it looks like an HDR photograph in real life. It’s crazy.

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After Notre Dame, I wandered down the Seine and through the rest of the island, which was pretty empty.

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I then crossed the Pont des Arts, one of the several lock bridges in Paris.

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After that I walked down along the Louvre and Tuileries until I got to the Metro stop on my line and headed home.

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Oh, and if you ever wondered how they move things into tiny little Parisian apartments with 2 person elevators, this is it:

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I have so many more photos, so I’ll be putting them all on Facebook as well!

The rest of my week was pretty uneventful; just schoolwork. I did go to Chipotle for lunch on Thursday because I can only go so long without guacamole. I’m not even a big Chipotle fan but man, it was so good.

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.

One Month in Paris: Slowing Down

Today marks one month since I arrived in Paris! In some ways I still can’t believe it, but I have also already settled comfortably into new routines.

After one month, I still haven’t gone up the Eiffel Tower, stepped into a clothing store, or eaten a whole baguette. I have, however, gone to several art museums, become super confident using the metro system, and eaten many pain au chocolates.

I have already learned so much since coming here. There are many cultural differences between America and France, and I still have much to figure out, but I think in the past month I have gained a pretty good sense of how things work here. Maybe one of the biggest differences is the pace of life. The French love to take their time. You hardly ever see people rushing, especially when it comes to food. The waiters don’t come around to refill your drink every minute and there’s no such thing as take-home boxes at restaurants. I also hardly ever see people eating and walking, except baguettes. Every type of person can be seen at any time of day walking down the street eating a baguette.

There is also definitely a greater emphasis on quality over quantity. I think this is partially why things are so expensive here, or at least compared to in America. The French generally have less, but what they do have is very good quality and they take pride in it. The things that people get every day are still inexpensive, like fresh baked goods in the morning and bottles wine at night. Everything is savored, enjoyed, and spent time on because it worth spending time on.

I still have yet to experience a stereotypically rude French person, but I think I understand where it originates from. The French have a different standard of manners from Americans, and if you come to the country completely ignorant to them, I can see how it would be really offensive (as would be true anywhere else). They are actually very polite in a lot of ways, but you have to know the proper context to use this politeness. In shops, or with people you encounter in more personal spaces (an apartment building, school, restaurant, etc.) everyone says “Bonjour/Bonsoir” to each other. If you are on the street but do something that leads to a direct interaction with someone (i.e., holding a door open) They will thank you and also greet you. However, when you are on the metro, the unspoken goal is to have a little interaction with others and attract as little attention to yourself as possible. The metro has its own set of etiquette entirely, but that’s a lot to get into!

Of course, there are a lot of things that are socially acceptable in France that would be looked down upon in America. There is more blatant nudity in advertisements and on magazine covers. There is also an abundance of PDA between couples of all ages, especially on the metro. I never even realized how relatively tame Americans are when it comes to PDA until I experienced the French version.

The French also are very laid-back when it comes to work (or at least from what I’ve experienced at PCA). They never seem to be in their offices when I want to find someone and they take incredibly long lunch breaks, so between 1-2PM I can never find a teacher or administrator. However, in contrast to that, if a teacher has to cancel class because they are sick or even for a national holiday, they reschedule the class to make it up, which usually happens on a Saturday. I find this bizarre, but I guess the French assume you’re always going to be flexible so you can just go to class on Saturday if you have to? I know this would never work in America because we kind of have the general assumption that people are busy and constantly have plans.

There is a very “French” way of dressing, which I don’t really fit into at all. For women, it involves flats, heels, booties, or boots. Usually black, or another darker color. They some how always are in very good condition despite all the walking they are put through. Then black pants, dark jeans, or a professional-looking skirt. A simple top with a blazer, or maybe a light sweater. A scarf, and probably a trench coat. Natural or no make up. Long hair, usually down. I’d say this is a typical uniform for a French woman. There are of course exceptions and the norm varies between age groups. Denim shirts and jackets are also really big here. All the women have huge, fashionable bags as well.

A weird phenomena here is chocolate cereal. I don’t think cereal is a popular breakfast option here (baguettes and croissants, always) but if you were to have cereal in France, it will be hard to find one without chocolate in it, This doesn’t mean sugary, unhealthy chocolate cereal like we have in America. It’s just the way cereal is here for some reason.

All the chocolate cereal...

All the chocolate cereal…

One of my favorite parts of using the metro are street musicians. Very often there will be a person playing the violin, accordion, or saxophone either in a metro stop or even on the train. My absolute favorite are the full bands that play in the bigger metro stops. There’s nothing like racing between stops to super-Parisian band music!

An interesting part of life here are the billboards. There are advertisements everywhere, and I find them fascinating. I especially like the gigantic ones in the metro stations. It’s also a fun way to practice my French while I’m waiting for a train.

Well this became a ramble of some more observations I’ve had regarding life in France, but a lot of people liked my first one so I hope you enjoyed it! This weekend will consist of lots of homework, and I hope to go into Notre Dame providing the weather is nice. I also am having brunch on Sunday with Francesca, Dov, and their kids. Ah, la vie Parisien c’est bon!

Weekend 4: Saturday, Back to the Louvre!

Saturday I woke up with my throat feeling even worse than it did before. I did not want to have another rainy, stay-inside-all-day sick day, so I decided what better thing to do than go to the Louvre? I took a ton of vitamin C, had a mug of tea, and set off through the rain.

This time, I started off exploring the Egyptian section. The Louvre has the most amazing and extensive collection of Egyptian art I have ever seen. It’s not just typical things you see in most museums, either. They have artifacts covering the entire range of Ancient Egyptian life. Just by walking through the galleries I feel like I gained a much better sense of what life was like for them than I have at any other time. I have always been fascinated by Ancient Egypt and would love to take a class on it (hey there, Ancient Art History credit I still need to fulfill) but seeing this collection really peaked my interest not only artistically, but regarding every aspect of their lifestyle. They were a really incredible people.

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This is what it’s like to look at Egyptian art at the Louvre. Yeah.

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Their mummy is much bigger than the Nelson’s and doesn’t have a creepy computer generated face on the label.

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One of the most colorful steles I’ve seen

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I think in a past life I may have been an Egyptian. As a child, my favorite toys were things that were very small. Polly Pocket, doll houses, you name it. I was the Queen of Tiny Toys. I also love things that are colorful and shiny. And, my favorite animals are cats and monkeys. Well, guess what they have a lot of in Egyptian artifacts? Tiny, colorful, shiny cats and monkeys!!!

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They have tons of other super tiny, intricate little sculptures as well. They are amazing!

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Look at the tiny hedgehog on the far left!! I didn’t even know they had hedgehogs in Egypt…

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Also, some of the works were lit really beautifully. My phone pictures do it no justice, you’ll just have to go see it for yourself!

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One of the reasons I picked Ancient Egyptian was because I figured it would eventually lead to the Seated Scribe and Code of Hammurabi. The Scribe was almost at the end of the Egyptian collection and when I finally saw it, it actually surprised me. It’s so big and vibrant!

I looked deep into the eyes of the Seated Scribe

I looked deep into the eyes of the Seated Scribe

For some reason I find a lot of Egyptian artwork in museums to be really amusing. One of my favorite things at the Nelson is the Egyptian head that looks exactly like Voldemort. Well, the Louvre has not escaped this scrutiny either.

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This guy can not handle losing his nose

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The Louvre has Voldemorts too! But they have ears.

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Does anyone actually swim like this?? They’re like Ancient Egyptian versions of those scuba diver bath toys.

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I found the ears

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He’s so blue, he don’t know what to do

After I got through the Ancient Egyptian stuff I wanted to keep looking at ancient collections so I moved on to Greek and Roman.

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They have soo much pottery!! I was amazed no one was in there until I went in and it was a bajillion degrees. I will probably spend some quality time in there when it gets colder.

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I went in a circle somehow so I took the elevator downstairs and ended up right at the Venus de Milo.

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I just kept walking through the sculptures. They were generally either missing really important body parts or had too much of the ones that remained. Also some craaazzzy headless drapery going on.

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Those obliques are intense

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This guy reminds me of someone… (hint: Nelson)

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She has some serious issues

No, this is just a wall in the museum.

No, this is just a wall in the museum. Above a fireplace.

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After the Ancient Greek and Roman sculpture, you are directly led to Northern European sculpture. The subject matter goes from ancient gods of marble to Jesus, Mary, and Popes in painted wood.

Well, except for her.

Well, except for her.

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Oh no, Jesus 😦

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There’s that Northern love of grotesque detail I learned about!

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All the while, I was trying to figure out how to get over to the rest of the ancient stuff where the Code of Hammurabi is, but I ended back in Italian and French painting where I was last time. Not that this is a bad thing, but I wanted to see new sections and I spent a lot of time there during my last visit. I finally figured out that I would need to get to the opposite side of the museum to see the rest of the ancient works, so I decided to go to Northern painting instead. It took me a while to find that, too, but when I finally did it was so worth it!

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I totally forgot that these paintings were in the Louvre until I was standing in the room looking around me and I think I audibly said, ohhhhh! It was a nice surprise.

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Look at the Louvre trying to be cute. Too bad no one follows this sign. Literally as I took this there was a woman photographing a statue using her flash. Sigh.

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Hey there Lucas Cranach the Elder. He has a very similar composition at the Nelson.

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Did not know this was here. Yay!

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I super-studied this painting in art history and I think even wrote an essay about it. It’s really darkened in person.

From one of my favorite places to say, the Studiolo in Urbino!!

From one of my favorite places to say, the Studiolo in Urbino!!

Also did not know this was here. The inside is in beautiful condition!

Also did not know this was here. The inside is in beautiful condition!

I shall end with this.

I shall end with this.

Some day I might go to the Louvre and actually bring my fancy camera. I want to experience it all with just my eyes first. Also when it’s not raining and there are less tourists. Working at the Nelson this summer spoiled me and I want museums to always be empty when I’m photographing in them!

Versailles!

We honestly could not have picked a better day to go to Versailles. I think there’s some kind of magical bubble over the entire estate that makes the sky absolutely perfect, because I can’t imagine seeing it any other way.

Versailles is definitely the kind of place you need to experience in person to fully understand. I mean, I’ve generally known of its existence for a long time. I studied it in art history and heard the dimensions and facts regarding its size and grandeur. One of my favorite movies is Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. Despite all that, seeing it in person was crazy. My eyes have never had to absorb so much exorbitance at once. There’s so much gold, so many decorations, paintings, statues, and then the gardens that go on forever. After seeing all that, I understand why there was a Revolution. Also, in the gardens they have surprisingly inexpensive food and I had a really yummy panini.

I took a lot of photos at Versailles. Like, way more than I realized until later when I put them on my computer and had to spend an entire afternoon editing them. So, I think for the most part my photos will speak for themselves. There’s not much else to say, you really have to see it for yourself. And try to go on the most perfect day you can imagine. It will be worth it.

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This installation was right across from where you exit the train station. I was super excited to see it because I’ve always wanted to see one in person! I’m not sure who the artist is though.

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Who knew Descartes was so ugly?!?

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I love the way this restoration work looks. So Klimt!

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Lumiere and Cogsworth?

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Sooo cool to see this painting in person!!

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Marie Antoinette’s bed (!!)

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All the beds have these silly flouffy things on the top.

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The Hall of Mirrors! It was really hard to take photos here without people's heads in them.

The Hall of Mirrors! It was really hard to take photos here without people’s heads in them.Versailles_35 Versailles_37 Versailles_36

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I could not get a good photo of this painting, but those legs are super fabulous in real life.

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This room is right after the Hall of Mirrors and I think they put it there on purpose to cleanse your visual palette. Even if they didn’t it was really beautiful to see something so simple after all that extravagance!

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I would probably look like this if birds pooped in my eye, too.

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Of course Versailles has palm trees.

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This is how perfect it was. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sky like it before.

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Perfection!!

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Coolest gardens ever.

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So there you have it! Versailles is amazing. Just another favorite memory from my time abroad so far!

Weekend 3: Homework, Food, and Montmartre

Since my school week ends at 4:30 on Thursday, I had quite a full, long weekend.

Thursday after class my friends and I went to an art supply store and then ate dinner at this super cheap Chinese restaurant we discovered the previous week. Afterwards, I went to the Palais de Tokyo with Miranda to write an exhibition review for a school assignment. Since I’d never been there before, I was pretty overwhelmed. The space is used to display contemporary exhibitions, but it is unlike any space I’ve ever seen. Also the manner of the exhibition was rather unique: It was essentially an exhibition made up of over 20 exhibitions, each showcasing an up-and-coming curator. As you can imagine, it was huge and confusing. After a very long day, I couldn’t really process it, so I took a few notes and decided to come back another time to decide what I was writing my review on.

Friday, I went back to Montmartre with Miranda to find a prop for a photo I wanted to take this weekend for a school project. I ended up quickly finding exactly what I wanted for 6 euros! Afterwards we got crepes and I got ice cream from the same place we went to last time, but I tried a new flavor. We wandered around and explored new parts of the area. It is one of the most charming places I’ve ever seen. I can’t believe people actually live there! Eventually we somehow ended up at the Moulin Rouge, which was pretty cool. After Montmartre we headed back and got ready for a housewarming party at a fellow student’s new apartment. It was fun to get to talk to some people I hadn’t really spent time with yet.

Dreamy Montmartre

Dreamy Montmartre

Oh hey there, very modernized Moulin Rouge

Oh hey there, very modernized Moulin Rouge

Saturday I woke up with the intention of shooting as many images for my first photo assignment as possible. By the end of the day I had only shot one. The location of the shot was at Luxembourg gardens, which I hadn’t been to yet. It was beautiful, but I was carrying heavy camera equipment so I couldn’t enjoy it as much. I think we spent at least 2-3 hours there because my friends had some things they needed to do as well. I got the shot I needed and we headed back. After hanging out at the St. John’s dorms for a while we decided to fulfill our Italian food craving at a place we found online. It turned out to be way more expensive than we thought, so we turned around and went to a place in Saint Michel. I’d been in that area once before for some school book shopping, but it is completely different at night! I think it is one of my favorite places in Paris. There is a tiny street too small for cars that is lined with every type of food you could want. We had an amazing meal at an Italian restaurant (I got Margherita pizza and it tasted just like my favorite pizza at home), and then we decided to get gelato afterwards. On our way to the gelato, we saw a place selling 2 euro fries and decided to split that first. We walked over to the Seine where there is an amazing view of Notre Dame and ate our fries. Afterwards we obviously still had to get gelato! I had dark chocolate and caramel. It was incredible! We brought our desert over to Notre Dame, but this time sat on these stair/bleacher type things in front of it. There were street performers dancing with fire and doing other tricks while playing music. We stared at the Notre Dame, which is magnificently lit at night, watched the performers, listened to the music, and ate amazing gelato. It is probably one of my favorite moments so far in Paris. I wish it could have went on longer, but I had to get back to the Palais de Tokyo to finish my exhibition review because the exhibition closed on Sunday.

Notre Dame at night

Notre Dame at night

Fries!!!

Fries!!! Also, I’m not eating my finger, I’m pointing.

Sunday I got up early because Miranda I were going to Versailles! Which I think deserves its own post because I have so many photos! Look for that soon.

Week 2: PCA Orientation

This past week was orientation week at my school! It was a pretty interesting experience that helped me get a much better introduction to Paris.

The pictures I took this week were phone photos. Since I am just familiarizing myself with the city and I have the luxury of time, I figure any place I really want to study and photograph I can go back to on my own time with my camera and really get the shots I want.

Right down the street from my school.

Right down the street from my school.

A metro station.

A metro station.

So, Monday we started off with a small breakfast and a welcome session. The group of friends I have been spending the week with consist mostly of other Americans spending the semester abroad who live in the dorms at St. John’s, with a few exceptions. It’s really crazy being surrounded by so many people from all over the world who have lived in several countries and speak many languages. I constantly feel over-shadowed and uncultured because I’m “just an American who speaks English.” After the welcome session we had lunch, and then a free afternoon until dinner that night at Bistrot de la Montagne.

Fancy dinner!

Fancy dinner!

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Blurry veggie food.

Blurry veggie food.

After a delicious dinner and lots of sitting, talking, and getting to know one another, we went out and did some exploring into the night.

New friends!

New friends!

Tuesday was the longest day of orientation. We spent a lot of time sitting on hard little wooden stools hearing different faculty talk to us about various aspects of living in Paris, studying abroad, and the school. I also had my first macaroon!

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I think I get the hype. They’re pretty yummy.

The event that night was a boat cruise on Les Bateaux Mouches on the Seine! It was super touristy but still fun to see all of the amazing sights right along the river. I got slightly overwhelmed realizing everything I have to see in the next few months, including my first glimpse of Notre Dame!

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That night  we walked around and explored. I also had my first crepe!

I don't know what this church is but I want to go back to it! I think it was in the 9th.

I don’t know what this church is but I want to go back to it! I think it was in the 9th.

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Nutella Banana. I wish it was peanut butter.

Wednesday was advising day, aka the day we finally got to see what classes were available and pick our schedules! It started off with departmental meetings, then we met individually with the department head to pick our classes. This day really made me miss KCAI. I love reading over each class description and formulating the perfect schedule. It also helps being familiar with all of the teachers and the way classes work with their credits. At PCA, I was pretty clueless. The head of the department basically told me all of the classes I should take, and most of the classes I chose had time conflicts. I was initially unhappy with my schedule, but they advertise the first week of class (add/drop week) as a time to try out classes and flexibly change your schedule, so I’m just going to every class I am interested in and then deciding what to take. So by the end of next week, my current schedule may look very different! One of my photography classes is a fashion class, which I am the most iffy about. When it comes to fashion photography, I have zero interest. That’s another thing I’ve had to get used to at PCA. It’s a very fashion-based school, whereas KCAI is liberal arts, fine arts and design.

That night we went to the Centre Pompidou. Is it terrible that I don’t think I’ve ever heard of the Pompidou before? I don’t know how that happened, because it’s the largest modern art museum in Europe. It is probably one of the most absurd, busy buildings I have ever looked at. It just doesn’t look like a building to begin with; more like a Dr. Seuss creation. Anyway, we had an unofficial tour from a Sorbonne student through the current main collection. It was really interesting because I’d only heard of about three artists before. Contemporary art is not my forte.

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Usually when I photograph art at museums, I also take a picture of the label so I can refer back to it later and research the artist. I regretfully did not do this, so I’m not sure who created these works or their titles. It is really hard to Google work based on a description of it.

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The Rainbow Room!! My favorite.

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So far my favorite part of the Pompidou is the view at the top! But I have yet to see their Modern art collection (it’s currently being remodeled or something so it’s closed). Oh yeah, we get in free with out student ID’s to the Pompidou, the Louvre, Versailles, and most art museums in the city. Yeeeesssssssss!!! After the Pompidou we explored the area and got food (see a pattern here).

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Wednesday night (or early Thursday morning; 2AM) there was an adorable little mouse running around in my room all night and keeping me awake. It especially enjoyed running up my curtains. It finally got so annoying that when I heard Anne’s grandson leave his room, I waited for him to come back and showed him the mouse. At this point it was camping out on this frilly thing that runs along the ceiling above where my windows are. We got a metal rod and after maybe 10 minutes, we lead it back down and out my window.

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Too bad he doesn’t cook.

Thursday was a free day so I finally took the opportunity to work out for the first time since I got to Paris. I was then texted by some friends that they were going to find brunch in Montmartre and I quickly agreed. Finally, Montmartre!!

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Almost immediately after we got there we ran into none other than le Bateau Lavoir. Needless to say I kind of freaked out. It was surrounded by a German tourist group that we followed for a little bit before veering off on our own.

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We ended up eating at Le Consulat. I had crepes again. It’s right across a super touristy shop that is filled with everything I love, so of course we went in.

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If you know me, you know this place is my heaven. It combined the two areas of art history I love the most: Art Nouveau and turn of the 20th century Paris. I have a gigantic le Chat Noir poster above my bed and a giant canvas Gustav Klimt print in my room in Kansas City. I think those were the only things keeping me from buying everything in that store, but I can always go back…

We saw a lot of people with huge ice cream cones, which is a big deal because everything is tiny here. We went to check it out and viola:

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We totally had ice cream. I want to go back and try (almost) every flavor!

Right down the street was this amazing view:

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And then we made our way up to la Basilique du Sacre Coeur.

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You aren’t allowed to take photographs inside, but it is incredible. All of the art is beautiful and the building itself it enormous. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many domes. I honestly don’t know that much about the history behind it, but considering it finished construction in 1914, it is a relatively new addition to Paris, which explains why everything is in such good condition. It also has an amazing view of the city:

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Montmartre is everything I dreamed it would be and I’ve barely explored it! I can’t wait to go back and spend tons of time there this semester.

That night, our orientation event was a guided tour of the undergarments exhibition in les Musee des Arts Decoratifs. I definitely learned a lot and our tour guide was very enthusiastic. This is another museum I don’t know that much about, so if anyone has any recommendations let me know because I get in for free!

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After the museum we explored and got food, this time Vietnamese.

Friday was the last day of orientation. We had our last information sessions, mostly regarding the school. Then we had a crepe lunch party. I also met with the career services faculty to discuss getting an internship in Paris. I have a really awesome opportunity I am applying for and will hopefully hear about next week. If I get it, I will share!

That night, the final event was garden aperetifs in the Tuileries. I met more of my fellow PCA students and we drank a lot of wine. Yeah, a school sponsored event that involves alcohol? You would find no such thing back home. C’est Paris!

So, this past week has been a whirlwind of information and new people and places and things and foods. I’m super confident at using the metro now. I’m starting to figure out how to eat in Paris. I fell in love with Montmartre for real. And school starts on Monday. I can’t wait to get my classes figured out, potentially get an awesome internship, and finally have something concrete here in Paris. As fun as all of this exploring is, it is also a lot to take in every day. There are many exciting things coming up though, so who knows!