Une Semaine Chargée

Posted on: July 14, 2008

This past week has been absolutely crazy, and it looks like the coming one will be no different. Last week, along with classes and related outings to various museums and other landmarks, we went to the Opéra Garnier to see a ballet, and on Friday we took a day trip to two castles (chateaux) and then a wine tour and tasting! At the Opéra on Wednesday, we saw La Dame aux Camélias. It was wonderful! The costumes were beautiful, the dancing was exquisite, and the Opéra itself was so ornate and impressive! After we got back to the Foyer, we went to a bar nearby for a bit, and I discovered a delicious drink called the indigo – rum, coconut, banana and delicious!

Thursday was low-key, just classes and hanging out on the terrace in the evening. While we were there, we made a new friend from UNC who had finished a program in Paris two weeks ago and had been traveling around Europe since then. It proved to be a fortuitous and beneficial meeting, as he gave us “insider” tips on what to do and where to go around the city, and we made tentative plans to hang out the next evening.

On Friday, we took our field trip(s) to the chateaux! Throughout the day, we experienced various stages of weather, as well as interest and excitement. The day got off to an interesting start before it even began (if that makes sense at all) because one of the two boys in our program got locked out of his room (although he did have his key… long story short, his roommate is a deep, deep sleeper and the locks here are a little funny) so he had to spend the night on our floor. My roommate and I have decided to adopt him, along with another girl in our program who hangs out in our room a lot… we’ll probably take some family portraits in front of various landmarks. 😉

Anyways, we got off to an early start, leaving the Foyer not-so-bright but early at 6:45 in the morning. It took us 3 hours on a charter bus to get to the first chateau – Chateau de Chambourd; I’m pretty sure we all passed out within the first 20 minutes of the trip. The chateau itself was quite impressive – it was the largest of its time, and built not for any sort of defense purposes, but just to house the king and his buddies (about 2000 of them) when they went hunting. After it was finished, the king spent a total of only 72 days in the chateau, which kind of seems like a big waste of energy and resources, but hey, if you’re king, you get to do that sort of thing. The castle is massive, yet it still has amazingly intricate architecture. It also has a double helix staircase, which necessitates that the ceilings are very high, which makes it quite impractical and inefficient to heat the castle, so it’s pretty cold. It probably didn’t help that it was wet and rainy at the time of our visit, but still it is July, and I wouldn’t like to think about staying there in the dead of winter.

By the time we got to the next chateau, the Chenonceau, the clouds had cleared a bit, and the weather was much more pleasant. The Chateau de Chenonceau is located over a small river/stream, and is surrounded by nice gardens, which I didn’t have time to visit. It was much smaller than the Chambourd, but I also found it much more attractive – probably due to the weather, the gardens, and the fact that it was decorated (instead of the empty Chambourd). In order to get to the wine tasting on time (Madame was worried we wouldn’t make it), we left the Chenonceau a bit hastily and continued on our way. Eager for the wine tasting, we took a quick tour of the winery (conducted in French), along which I found this:

It basically says that wine is quite beneficial for diabetics

We tried several different kinds of wine. The first two were actually champagnes; a sec and a demi-sec. The sec was very good, but the demi-sec was a little too sweet for me. I was actually kind of surprised that I favored the champagne sec because prior to this, I haven’t really liked champagne at all. Next, we sampled another white wine, sec and demi-sec, and lastly, a red. I ended up buying a bottle of the champagne sec as a souvenir to take home and share with the fam. 😉

After we had all made our purchases, we boarded the bus again to return to Paris. We saw wind turbines on the way back, which I got pretty excited about, and a little snap happy – but I got some really cool photos! It was super cool to see them, and I don’t see how people can claim that they are more of an alleged eyesore than coal mines and mountaintop removal and other ugly un-environmentally friendly energy sources, but that’s a topic for another post.

After we got back to the Foyer, a group of us went out to a bar on rue Mouffetard that our UNC friend led us to. It was a lot of fun, and we ended up making some Norwegian friends, which ensued in a rather intense (but enjoyable) political discussion.

Saturday morning involved a group of us first running various errands on the way to Chatêlet metro stop, from which we traveled to the flea markets in Clignancourt. I’d been looking forward to going to the flea markets, and it was certainly not a disappointment. There was so much to see (and buy!), that it was quite overwhelming. I did buy one gift for a friend, but I’m planning on returning in the near future now that I’ve scoped it out and know what to expect. After we had finished circulating the market, we were famished, so we got lunch and I had my first crêpe chocolat, which was actually nutella and bananas. Delicious! 🙂 Next, we headed over to Montmartre to see the Sacre Cœur, which was simply magnificent. It was truly awesome, and all of it was very impressive – the size, the architecture, the stained glass, the art, everything! Not to mention the fact that the Blessed Sacrament has been on display there continuously since August 1885, which I find to be pretty incredible.

Our UNC friend decided to spend another night in Paris, but unfortunately, the Foyer was booked for the night. Instead of going up north to spend the night in a hotel for €40 or sleeping on another Foyer resident’s balcony, my roommate and I agreed to let him spend the night on our floor. A bunch of us went out that night to drink along the Seine, and we met up with our new Norwegian friends again. After a while, we headed over to a discotheque in the Latin Quarter, where we stayed until 3 a.m. (!)

The next morning, we left the Foyer ISO some form of nourishment… dreaming of a delicious American-style brunch, but “settling” for some delicious Italian pizza. After we ate, we wandered the streets for a bit, and stopped for some Starbucks – which is ridiculously expensive over here. I almost got something to drink there, but decided against it – I’m trying to do the whole cultural thing and minimize American influences. Unfortunately, McDonalds’ are rather prevalent here, and everyone tells me that it’s so much better here, and they have delicious salads. So I’m going to try to stick to my guns on this one, but we’ll see what happens…

We took the rest of the afternoon pretty easy, and our UNC buddy left us around 4 to do some last sight-seeing and hop on a train to Nice. Our plans for the night vascillated between going to the much-anticipated “Bal des Pompiers” and a house party of a French friend whom we met last week. While both sounded promising, I had been looking forward to the Firemen’s Ball ever since I got wind of it, and there was not a chance that I was goign to miss out on this opportunity. In the end, our entire group, minus four people – three of whom were traveling – got dressed up for «la fête». We headed over to the Seine first, where our Norwegian friends joined us. From there, we took the metro to where the party was happening, right next door in the 6ième arrondissement. As we exited the station, we were promptly greeted by a long line wrapping around the block. Dismayed yet undeterred, we were reassured by two British girls that the line was moving rather quickly, and that it had only taken them about 45 minutes to reach where they were, and that we could buy drinks at the café while we waited. We proceeded to spend approximately the next 2 ½ hours inching forward, until we reached the entrance. (Remember my red pumps? Yup, I was wearing those.) However, we were in good company, and we did enjoy ourselves, both in line and once we got in the party. It was essentially a huge dance party, which is just my scene. It was wild and crazy and so much fun!!! Most definitely worth it.

Amazingly, five of us were able to rouse ourselves at 8:30 this morning to go into the 8th district to see the parade (but not before fueling ourselves with baguettes and coffee). It was pretty cool to see, and we relocated a few times from street to street to see. There were even parachuters! After that, we wandered around the 8th district for a while and did some window shopping. I found an absolutely delicious perfume that I’m going to buy for myself. We went out to a Chinese restaurant for lunch (don’t laugh – it was recommended by one of our professors!), and then did a bit of grocery shopping. My roommate and I made dinner (a delicious apple and walnut salad) and ate it on the terrace, which we will be returning to shortly to watch the fireworks display for «le 14 juillet». The view from the terrace is superb, and it’s going to be quite a show.

… I never thought I would finish! That’s about all for now, à bientôt!


1 Response to "Une Semaine Chargée"

Justine, I celebrated Bastille Day with Sarah and her roomates and friends. We had a wine and cheese party, and I tried my first white wine ever, I wasn’t drinking because of my medicine, but I had a sip, and well it burned my throat so bad, anyways I just wanted to let you know, so people parties a little hard, but it was fun, we all got dressed up and watched Moulin Rougue and the rest fully celebrated the French and thier wine. Cioa bella~barbara

p.s. I miss you sooo much justine:)

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