Sunday, June 16, 2013

No Time for Sleep

My first week in Paris has been unbelievable in every aspect. While on one hand it feels like I've been here for months, on the other it feels like it's only been a day. On Tuesday we started at the Roman Arena of Lutecia where we talked about the beginnings of this amazing city during the Roman Empire. While Maile lectured, we all occasionally paused to watch a group of kids in summer camp play on the sand where gladiators once fought lions.

The Roman Arena

After the Arena we stopped by the Baths at the Cluny Museum, which we unfortunately had to look at from behind a fence... Despite the obstructed view, the surprisingly well preserved ruins of the baths were still fascinating to look at.

Once we'd awkwardly peered through a fence at the baths, we took a quick break for lunch and a few of us sought out a little cafe near the Sorbonne to had a celebratory birthday lunch for one of the girls. We then headed to Notre Dame, not for the cathedral, but to see the crypt beneath it (we're big on crypts right now). We were able to look at the location of the old medeaval city's wall, a few remnants of buildings, and plenty of 3D reconstructions.

The crypt at Notre Dame

That night I was lucky enough to meet up with my friend Tricia who's been working in Cannes (yes, that Cannes at that film festival) and is now spending some time in Paris! We had dinner with her friends Moira and Elise on the bank of the Seine right near Notre-Dame. I somehow managed to get myself there and back with very little knowledge of the Parisian subway system, but between confused public transit explorations, I had a wonderful night! We quickly befriended some street performers and attempted to communicate with them, speaking what little french we could while they spoke what little english they could.

Elise rapping with our new friends

Wednesday, we started off at the Carnavalet museum, which is made up of two old mansions and filled with all different centuries of art. Because of the mansion layout, making our way to the room containing Parisii artifacts was confusing but it lead us through rooms of earlier impressionist and classical pieces. After that we took a nice walk through Paris, and by nice walk through Paris, I mean a trek across the entire city. Though my feet ached and my knees creaked with each step, getting to see the city on foot is so much more meaningful than jumping from place to place on the metro (but I'm very content with that one long trip and hope I never have to walk that far again).

National Archives

When Maile said we'd be going to get some "amazing views" of Paris immediately after the walking tour, I thought I might cry out of fear for walking up stairs. Thankfully, the view was at the top of the Galeries Lafayette, a department store with endless escalators leading to a terrace overlooking the entire city. 

On the way, we met Maile's insanely adorable daughter, Matilda, who may not have understood the amazing view, but was definitely entertained by all these girls fawning over her cuteness.

On Thursday we met at Saint-Martin-du-Champs, which is half church half technology museum, which, as you might imagine, is a very interesting combination. We learned about the various parts of cathedrals from this period, while surrounded by things like massive pendulums, old planes, and modern couches.

Next, we moved on to Saint-Germain-de-PrĂ©s, a more traditional looking and much larger cathedral. 

Candles within the chapel

Our third, final, and largest cathedral of the day was Saint-Severin. Here we saw the difference between the two different times the church was constructed and reconstructed. At the alter was a glowing cross which stood out from the darker ambulatory behind it because it was ringed with light. Obviously this illumination is very new, but just getting to walk in and see the light glowing at one end was amazing.

We were meant to take a Bateau Mouche ride down the Seine that afternoon, but what with the rainy weather we'd been having we decided to postpone until Friday. Though we chose to move back the boat ride, we did so knowing it would make our already lengthy Friday classes even longer... The day started all the way up at the Basilica Saint-Denis, a 30 minute subway ride away. Though the distance was far, the Basilica was worth it. When the doors opened, we all gasped at the view of the massive, circular window flooding purple and blue light into the room across from us.

After the initial shock of the first window we saw, we entered the church to find further beauty. Here we heard our first presentation from one of our classmates, more will follow as the class progresses.

Our next destination was the Louvre, but we had at least 3 hours between leaving the Basilica and our appointment at the museum. Instead of risking lateness by staying up around Saint-Denis, a group of us voted to head to the Louvre and leisurely get lunch down there so we could leave time for getting lost (which tends to happen relatively frequently). 

We ended up grabbing sandwiches at a little boulangerie a few blocks from the Louvre walls and though we had planned to eat them in the Tuileries gardens, our hunger got the best of us and we ate them while we walked. At one point we asked a shop owner if she knew of a creperie nearby and we were shocked to discover she couldn't name a single one. What do you mean no crepes around here?! We eventually made it to the Tuileries where we spent some time lounging on the grass and appreciating the perfectly manicured lawn (which we later discovered was at least partially manicured by goats) before heading to class.

The Tuileries

The Louvre

Finally, after what felt like the longest day of my entire life, we ended with the postponed Bateau-Mouches trip down the Seine. Thankful to at last have a place to sit, we all ran onto the boat to get the best view. As the sun began to set over the Seine we passed the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame, and the Musee d'Orsay, a beautiful end to a long day and an even longer week.

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