Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Last post for a while!

Well, the trip in Paris is almost over and I spent the day with my classmates taking pictures with our teacher and crying in our classroom! It was SO sad to leave them all! This afternoon we organizing our luggage and tomorrow morning Ben arrives for our trip to Italy! I will unfortunately not be taking my computer with me, so I will not be able to do many updates for the next two weeks.  I hope everyone is safe and sound and home and I will see you all in two weeks!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Loire Valley!

There are 300 Chateaus in just over 100 km in the Loire Valley and we visited all of them! Just kidding- we actually only visited four, but they were all beautiful! I have maxed out my flickr account for this month, so there are about 7 new ones on the flickr link and a few posted to the right on this blog. We did a wine tasting Saturday night at a 5th generation wine vineyard. The wine was absolutely fantastic- we tried rouge, rose and blanc. What a fun night! 

The Chateau de Villandry was my favorite with Chmenceau coming in a close second. Both castles had huge moats and you could take a boat ride along the river. 

I can't believe I am down to my last 4 days in Paris. If I wasn't going to Italy and then coming back to France, I think I would be spending my last few days in tears! :-) I have to say, Paris is not completely my cup of tea - too much pollution for me - but as soon as you travel a little outside of the city, it is amazing.   Also, while I didn't get to see the end of the Tour de France, I definitely heard about it and saw pictures! Even French people who aren't into cycling follow the tour and there is an update on the news every single night of who is in the lead and who is in the yellow jersey. Very exciting!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Musee d'Orsay et Bateau Mouche

Two fun things this past week: a visit to Musee d'Orsay and a boat ride down the Seine! The museum was really interesting and we had free reign to visit any exhibits we wanted. I spent some time in the Renoir and Toulouse- Lautrec rooms and took some great pictures! You can check them out on the flickr link!

Later that day went went for a boat ride past all the major monuments which line the Seine. From Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower and from the Parisian Statue of Liberty to the Louvre, it was some serious sight-seeing! Also, this time of year "Paris Plage" opens which is Paris's version of a beach along the Seine! They put out a bunch of sand, some chairs and everyone lays around tanning (some with clothes, some without) all day. We have yet to visit Paris Plage, but took some pictures as we floated by. 

This weekend is the excursion to the Loire Valley! We will be touring some chateaus and going to a "degustation" or wine tasting. As I am running out of space in my flickr account, I will be posting more pictures on the blog itself. Check in Monday for some new updates! :-) Bon Weekend!

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Paris Opera

The Paris Opera House, the most important building built during Napoleon III's reign, is absolutely unreal. We all agreed that it is more beautiful on the inside then the Versailles palace and more ornate then most churches we have seen. Also, for Phantom of the Opera fans, it is the setting of the book!  We took pictures in front of "haunted" box number 5 and looked down from high balcony to the stage. Although you are not allowed to tour the area underneath the stage, it was built exactly like it is portrayed in the movie and book; with layer upon layer of passageways, hidden rooms and even the lake all underground. 

The most impressive features of the Opera House are the stairways. There are probably 10 colored marble stairways where people would enter and exit the House. Also, there is an indoor "driveway" so the Emperor could literally drive his carriage inside the Opera House, walk a few feet to his private rooms and opera box and enjoy the show! It was one of my favorite buildings I have visited so far!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Le Louvre

Today was the long-awaited visit to the Louvre!! What a great experience so see so many things you have only read about (or seen in the DaVinci Code!) in person! Not only is the art inside amazing, but the building itself is some fantastic architecture. We saw the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, Winged Victory, pieces from the palace on Mt. Olympus, and paintings and sculptures from every major (and some minor) artist! There are pictures of everything on the flickr link. 

Let me tell you though, if you ever plan to visit the Louvre, be ready for two things: lots of people at the Mona Lisa and lots of walking throughout the museum! So wear comfy shoes, bring a bottle of water and be ready to be patient. 

Speaking of tourists, we all had a long conversation about whether we feel more like tourists or more like locals. The unanimous decision was like locals since most of us has either given directions to a tourist or seen a tourist do something incredibly "un-Parisian". :-) There was a group of young teenage Americans who shoved their way onto the metro with Jenn and me two nights ago. They were yelling and screaming and knocking into people and were utterly rude to everyone. After watching the locals regard them with a steely stare, I chatted with the lady next to me who was surprised to find out I was American and was happy to learn all Americans don't behave like that- an opinion I think she held previously.  So here we are: 12 K-State students trying to improve the reputation of all Americans in Paris! :-)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Notre Dame and the Buddha Bar

Bonjour! I have a couple fun updates on our activities in Paris! Yesterday, the K-State group went to St. Chapel which has the most amazing stain-glass windows I have ever seen. There are windows 360 degrees and the figures in the glass tell the story from Genesis to Revelations- it was spectacular! 

Then we went to Notre Dame. It was the most elaborate architecture I have seen yet on the trip- carvings in the stone and tall towers with lots of gargoyles. It was very easy to see why Hugo chose the church as the setting for The Hunchback. The entrance to the chapel (which still holds mass every week) has a depiction of the Eglisia and the Synegogia (Church and Synagogue) with the eyes of the goddess Synegogia covered as in the eyes of the church, the Jewish faith doesn't "see the light". Then there is a carving of Jesus in the last judgement above the door statues of those going to hell on his left and those going to heaven on his right. All the representations are so moving and it is (despite all the tourists) a very moving place.

Last night we celebrated another birthday! Carolyn turned 20 and we celebrated at the Buddha Bar, a very very upscale Asian restaurant, with a group of 11 girls. So much fun! We then went to Le Toile (a night club RIGHT next to the Arc de Triumph) to buy her a birthday drink.  

Check out pictures on the flickr link of the Eiffel Tower on Bastille day, the Buddha Bar and Notre Dame!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Fireworks at the Eiffel Tower

There are some experiences you never forget and I have already had quite a few on this trip! But one that will always stand out in my mind was tonight's visit to the Eiffel Tower. If you have been watching the flickr link for pictures, you will have noticed the great pictures of the tower last week that we took at night. Tonight (for Bastille Day) there was a huge firework display over the Seine right in front of the Eiffel Tower. Amazing.

I went by myself (since a few of my comrades wanted to head to bed early after a late night last night!) and walked across the bridge to get a good view. There were more people than I have every seen in one place and I luckily checked the map before I left and took a different metro stop than the normal Eiffel Tower stop.   While France's fireworks aren't as big and bold as the US, they might just have us beat on the scenery- between the reflection in the water and the lights on the tower, it was a spectacular show.

As I walked home along Canal St. Martin under a nearly full moon, I thought for the 1,987th time, I am SO lucky to be here.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Bastille Day

We haven't had much going on lately here except school, but I thought I would write a little about the noticeable change in Paris during Bastille weekend.  Riding the metro the last few days everyone has been carrying luggage and when we asked our host mom, she said all the Parisians are leaving and all the tourists and people from other European countries are coming. I was stopped twice by tourists asking directions- one group wanted directions in French and one group in English. It really made me feel like a local to know exactly where they needed to go!

We have been extra careful about carrying our purses and cash this weekend, but so far haven't had any problems. We plan to watch the fireworks tomorrow evening at the Eiffel Tower!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Le Tour d'Eiffel

Yesterday night we took a trip to the TOP of the Eiffel Tower! What an experience! There are a few different levels you can stop at- two have restaurants- and the view is absolutely spectacular! The elevators at the beginning take you up at an angle, which is a very strange experience.  

There are pictures on the flickr link of the view from the top as well as the tower at night. 

This weekend is Bastille Day in France! And they start celebrating early! There is a military parade and fireworks Monday but partying all weekend. It was actually recommended to us to completely avoid the Bastille area (there is a specific area called "Bastille") altogether this weekend.  I'll keep you posted on the festivities! 

Monday, July 7, 2008

Dali and Moureau

Two important artists received visits from K-State today! The Salvador Dali Museum close to Monmartre and the Gustav Moureau museums were both very cool. 

Also, all Normandy and Mont St. Michel pictures are up on the link. I also moved the link to the top of the page to the right. 

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Normandy and Mont St. Michel

Wow. That's all I can think of to describe our visits to the Normandy beaches, WWII Museum and Sept. 11 museum. The beaches were not only breathtakingly beautiful, but also sobering to know how many people died exactly where you are standing. The Sept. 11 museum had everything from part of the memorial fence that surrounded ground zero to the spare uniform a flight attendant had left at home when she went to work that day. There were also two TVs- one playing the French newscast as they reported what was happening and one playing Bush's address to American on Sept. 20.

Mont St. Michel is the second most popular place to visit in France (next to....the Eiffel Tower of course!) and is a huge "castle" built almost on it's own island in the ocean. It has been used for everything from an abbey (we visited on a Sunday and mass was actually happening in the chapel) to a stockade during the Revolution.  

It was about  a  4-hour drive through beautiful countryside (paysage) with stone houses, hedge rows, crops and lots of sheep and cows. Check out pictures tomorrow on the flickr link!

Friday, July 4, 2008

An amazing birthday!

I can't imagine a better place to celebrate your 21st birthday (or any birthday) than in Paris! The entire K-State group met at the canal for an outdoor celebration and a super fun night. Everybody went out of their way (literally, the metero is a long trip) and made my 21st a night to remember!

Also, Mme. Dugan made a wonderful French dinner- les endives avec jambon et creamerie. Or...stewed endives with thinly sliced ham and a cream sauce. For dessert, she bought her favorite pistachio and apricot tarte and we had champagne. It was so incredibly sweet for her to celebrate my birthday with me and Jenn!

Speaking of Mme. Dugan, we have had some wonderful discussions. We only speak in French together and we have discussed religion, American politics, Barak Obama's campaign, French literature, American literature, the movie the Passion of the Christ, traveling internationally and much more.  She is a fascinating person to talk to and it really expands my vocab to chat with her. 

Thursday, July 3, 2008

My Birthday!

Everyone seems to have found out about my 21st (I think I have Jenn to thank!) and has been wishing me Bon Anniversaire all day! I think they have something planned, but I don't know what it is yet....

We decided to have French birthday cake, aka an amazing pastry from the local Patisserie. I can honestly say I have never eaten anything as wonderful as what I had from that shop. Really, I can't describe what it was but Jenn and I decided if we died on the metero on the way back to the house, we would die very happy! 

Picture of the Pantheon are on the flickr link!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Pantheon and first day of classes

The Pantheon was the big visit today! I had no idea it is actually a crypt and home to the French Senate (or old boys club, as our guide said). I will have pictures up a little later of an amazing fountain and tombs of some very famous people.

Tonight I am celebrating my 21st!!! I just realized I will be 21 seven hours earlier here, than if I was home. Cool! My host mom said she would make anything for dinner that I could possibly think of. She is a great French cook and I told her I am the least picky eater she will ever meet and I would love to try her favorite traditional French dinner. As soon as I said that, she told me she already knew what she was going to fix.

We had the first class with our teachers today. I am in level Intermediere 1. It is a FANTASTIC class with 16 students: 4 Americans, 2 Pakistani, 1 Polish, 1 Slovakian, 1 Hong Kong, 3 Japanese and 4 nationalities I can't remember! Madame Catherine is tres gentille and speaks beautiful French. 

I'll have birthday pictures tomorrow and look for pictures of Normandy beach on Monday!

Love you all. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Des musees et un panache

Today was our first "tour" with Robert Clark, the professor from K-State leading the trip. We visited a few great museums and walked for 5 hours! We went from amazing churches to fabulous museums all day! Life is rough, let me tell you!

Dr. Clark also introduced us all to our new favorite drink- Panache. It is beer and lemonade mixed together and is great after walking for hours. A few students are enjoying the age-18 drinking age and I am looking forward to being 21 in two days!

I posted more pictures of our excursion on the link to the right. Enjoy and thanks for reading!

Placement test

We took a 10 page placement test this morning- in 45 minutes! Then we chatted with a fluent speaker for an oral test. It all went really well and everyone from the United States had the same trouble with the same parts. Clearly if you take French in Texas, Kansas, California or New York it is all very similar.

This afternoon we are going to our first museum with the small K-State group. Look later for great pictures and more details!