Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Paris!




Ahh, the (long awaited?) Paris update is finally here! Well, as I'm sure all that are reading this probably know, last weekend I went to Paris for the first time in my life, and it was a wonderful experience. I'll give you the break down of all that I did, because man did I do a lot in a short period of time. I was quite exhausted by the end of the trip, and was more than happy to get back to my room at Plantage Muidergracht 20.

Well, my trip began way too early on Friday morning. I had an 8:50am flight out of Schiphol Airport and so I awoke at 5:30am in order to catch the first tram to central station just after 6am. Luckily I was able to figure out what train to get on that would take me to Schiphol and I got to the airport with plenty of time to check in and go through security and then grab some starbucks (Amsterdam doesnt have starbucks except in the airport, and I really needed caffeine, so I figured what the hell). My flight to Paris was on time and went very smoothly. After deplaning at Charles De Gaulle Airport, I followed the wonderful directions given to me by Amanda Miller and made my way via the RER and the Metro to the 16th arrondissement where I was staying with Alanna and her friends from high school, who are currently studying in Paris.

I forgot to mention a few of my first impressions upon arriving in Paris. At this point I was still carrying my backpack around and I wrote down a few things that happened to me that I wanted to remember. First of all, I saw soldiers carrying guns in Charles De Gaulle right after I deplaned. If I had been coming straight from New York, I probably wouldn't have taken any notice of this at all, but after being in Amsterdam for almost 3 weeks, it was a weird site to me. In Amsterdam I don't think that I have seen one gun the whole time that I've been here. Policemen don't carry guns around with them, so where else would I see them? It was definitely the first thing I saw in France that made it clear to me that I was in a different country, and also reminded me how amazing the social policies in Amsterdam really are. I'm really excited to learn much more about them in my Social Trends, Problems, and Policies of the Netherlands class. The next thing I noticed was that I saw a bunch of tall buildings from my window seat on the train approaching the center of Paris. Amsterdam has very few tall buildings, and even the tall buildings really aren't that tall. I live on the 5th floor of my dorm, and there aren't many buildings that go much higher than that.

The next two things that I wrote down were about encounters that I had with two Parisians. First, while I was waiting for my metro train, I went to get myself a chocolate bar because I was getting really hungry. Right after I had purchased my chocolate, a 30-something year old woman who may or may not have been a gypsie came up to me and asked for some money... I gave her one euro (which she basically took right out of my wallet) because I didnt really know how to get out of the situation, especially since I don't speak French. I thought that was it, but then she came and sat next to me on a bench and when I pulled out my chocolate she asked for a piece and practically grabbed it out of my hand! I was very taken aback and didn't really know what to make of the experience. The next encounter was a lot more pleasant. After I exited the metro, a nice old Parisian man came up and started speaking to me in French. I said in English that I did not speak French and he quickly switched over to English and started asking me how I liked Paris and why I was there and many other nice questions. We had a nice little conversation and it seemed like a better way to be introduced to the Parisian population than my first experience had been.

Okay, now moving on... After walking around and getting lunch with Alanna and her friends, I figured out the metro and made my way over to where Michelle takes classes. When I got there I ran into a few other Oberlin kids who happen to also be studying in Paris on the same program as Michelle, so that was pretty fun. Obies are all over the world! Michelle and I spent the rest of the day together. We went and saw the apartment she's staying in, and then went over to the Bastille, then to the Museum of Erotica, and then finally to the Eiffel Tower where we shared a lovely bottle of wine and had a great time talking about life and being abroad and Oberlin and softball. It was a very fun night indeed. When I finally decided to make my way back to the apartment I was staying in, it was too late to take the metro, so I took a cab. The taxi driver was a woman, which I also found very interesting. I don't think I've ever had a female taxi driver in New York, and I wonder if it is a more acceptable job for a woman to have in Paris than it is in New York City, or if it was unussual that I had a female driver.

The next day I slept in and then met up with Michelle again, and with her we walked for a while in order to meet up with my friend Amanda, who went to Beacon with me. Amanda happens to be studying abroad in Paris this semester and through facebook and instant messenger we managed to get together and see each other for the first time in two years! After we all met up, we grabbed some lunch and then headed over to the Catacombs! The Catacombs are these crazy underground tunnels filled with bones from old Paris cemeteries. Sometime in the mid-19th century the city decided to get rid of many of the cemeteries in the area, but they also decided to relocate all of the bones to these underground tunnels. And they didnt just throw them down there, they organized them in a very systematic and artistic way. It was really cool and also really creepy. Just getting down there requires you to walk down what seems like a neverending spiral staircase (which made me really dizzy) and then at the end you have to walk back up! The Catacombs is not for the weak of heart! I thoroughly enjoyed myself though, and highly recomend it to anyone visiting Paris.

Michelle and I spent the rest of the night with Amanda and her roomate Chloe (who I apparently have a lot of mutual friends with, because she is from Brooklyn too).
It was a fun night, we walked around Paris a whole lot and I treated myself to a crepe with nutella and bananas, HEAVEN. Michelle's host family had gone out of town for the night, so I decided to spend my second night in Paris at her place.

The next morning, we slept in again and then made our way to the Louvre. This must be the largest museum I have ever visited in my entire life. We were there for almost three hours and probably saw less than a quarter of the entire museum. Dont worry though, we made sure to get a look at the Monna Lisa, and all of the rest of the galleries we were able to get to were really beautiful and we both had a great time just looking at all the artwork. I have a bunch more pictures of the Louvre in my facebook album, so if you want to see more, you should definitely check it out.

After the Louvre, we walked accross the street and into Notre Dame, which is absolutely beautiful. We only stayed for a little while because there was a mass going on, and I think that we both felt a little bit intrusive being so touristy when people were trying to be spiritual. But we did get a good look at the architecture and the stained glass, and it was a wonderful sight. We also sat around outside until six when I had to catch my train back to the airport, and so we got to hear the bells tolling. There were so many different bells! We didnt know what they all meant, but it was fun to listen to.

Finally it was time for me to head back to the airport to catch my flight back to Amsterdam. It was a fun filled, and completely packed weekend, and I hope you enjoyed reading about it... More updates on life in Amsterdam to come! I already have some new pictures to post, and yesterday I went to the public library for the first time, it's so wonderful it might merit a post of it's own!

Also, I've posted all of my Paris pictures on facebook, so if you want to see more than those that are included in this entry, you can go to my facebook profile or just copy and paste the URL below:

http://oberlin.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2024342&l=066cd&id=4302935

Thanks for reading!
-Ruth

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