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?!

Caramel, Banana, and Dark Chocolate

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!!!!

Week & Weekend 5: Homework in Paris is Still Homework

I’ve basically spent the entire past week and most of the weekend doing school-related things and finishing up my first photo project for critique on Monday, which had a lot of last-minute problems. Despite all of this, I did find some time to explore this week!

On Tuesday, I finally went to Shakespeare & Co! It was even more awesome than I thought it would be. I could spend days in there reading all of those books. Of course I went right to the art section, which had a lot of books I’d never heard of before. I took note of a few to check out later on Amazon, because as awesome as the store is, it’s pretty expensive. I did get a nice 4 euro tote bag, which I’d been needing.

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On Wednesday, I got to go on the roof of my school for part of a class. It has an amazing view of Sacre Coeur, and it was the first time I had an elevated view of Paris since arriving.

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Thursday night I went out to an Irish bar with Anna and Miranda, who wanted to do go out before they left for Amsterdam for the weekend. It had a really great atmosphere and played lots of wonderful “American” music that was once again really nice to hear. We definitely plan on going back there sometime!

Mellon shots!

Mellon shots!

Friday and Saturday were pretty much dedicated to solving the Murphy’s Law that surrounded my photo project. Depending on how I feel after my critique I may dedicate a post to sharing the photos. After all the problems this weekend I’m just glad they’re done but I don’t know how I feel about them.

Sunday I met Francesca for brunch and she showed me some great shops, including a fromagerie! I hadn’t been in a cheese shop yet because I found them intimidating, but now I had some new cheeses to try and some amazing bread to eat them with. Fun fact: apparently white wine is the best wine to eat with cheese, not red! I’ve found that I am partial to white anyway, so this is good news.

Afterwards, I decided to finally go up the Eiffel Tower. This is probably the most touristy thing I have done since coming to Paris, but I knew I had to do it at some point. This doesn’t mean I didn’t want to, but I just don’t enjoy doing things with lots of people pushing and waiting in lines and taking photographs of each other in the middle of everything.

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Just a walkin’ down my street.

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The very top of the Tower was closed, so I could only go to the second level. I didn’t mind this, but I think I would like to go back one other time to go to the very top at some point. Maybe once there’s less people around, even if it will be freezing!

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The view is stunning, and it was neat to see the whole city and find landmarks that I’m now familiar with. At the same time, maybe because I waited so long to go up, it wasn’t that incredible to me. I know, I know. I’d rather go to museums any day over this kind of thing.

I still suck at cell phone selfies.

I still suck at cell phone selfies. Oh well.

The only other notable thing this past week was that I have finally started figuring out food stuff. It only took me a month, but I actually tried cooking and making meals at home. It was soo worth it. I also did some research and was able to find a lot of things I initially couldn’t, like oatmeal, almond milk, and peanut butter. It just takes persistence, but it’s possible! Also everything I’ve been buying is organic and it isn’t even that expensive. You just have to know what you’re doing and spend some time shopping. I found this stuff that is like apple sauce except with bananas. I never even thought of making apple sauce with not apples. It’s pretty yummy, but kind of what I imagine baby food is like. Also, Monoprix (the main grocery store chain here) has AMAZING quinoa. Who would have thought?!

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Oatmeal!! With raisins.

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A European twist on my favorite sandwich: peanut butter and bananas on toast!

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The meal I could eat forever: stir-fried veggies in soy sauce and egg whites with quinoa.

This coming week the weather is supposed to be really nice, so hopefully I don’t get too swamped with school work so that I can go out and enjoy it! I still have so many cathedrals I need to go see, among all the other things. I’m also hopefully going to finally figure out my whole internship thing, and then I’ll share about that as well. I also want to start photographing the area I live in and prepare more posts about every-day life for me here. We’ll see how it goes!