Sunday, February 21, 2010

La Tour(iste) Eiffel

Just kidding - I didn't really see the Eiffel Tower today. I just heard two French people talking about it, and one said La Tour Eiffel, laughed, and then said, "La touriste Eiffel!" On the way back from Notre-Dame today, we saw the Eiffel Tower from a distance and it was sparkling like it does every hour. My new tourist friends were very excited. All in all, though, it was a long day and a long weekend of feeling like a tourist in the city I'm supposed to be calling my home for these four and a half months.

This morning, we started with Versailles. Just a little background - Louis XIV was king of France from 1643 (at the ripe young age of five) until he died in 1715. While he was growing up, there were a lot of rebellions in Paris, so he grew to fear the people. That was why he decided to build a new castle outside of Paris, where he could keep an eye on the nobles while staying far away from his subjects and their barricades. French people still like to rebel, by the way. My host father told me - they love to assemble in the streets. It's just, I suppose they've calmed down a little bit and aren't building barricades, which is too bad, because I'd love to see a real live barricade on a Paris street! Anyway, at Versailles - a very, very humble looking castle, covered in gold and with a painting on practically every ceiling - Louis would have the nobles surround him. Getting dressed was a ritual. Nobles (the lucky ones) would get to help him. Crazy, right? Louis XIV called himself "le roi soleil" or "the sun king." The earth couldn't survive without the sun, ergo France couldn't survive without its sun king. He also singlehandedly caused the French Revolution. Versailles was very expensive (side note: there are so many fountains in the garden, that there wasn't enough water pressure in all of France to run them all at once; so two people would turn on the fountains in front of Louis and two people would walk behind him turning off the ones he had already seen), and so were the wars that France was fighting. So, what do you think? Do I remember a little stuff from AP Euro?

Basically, Versailles hasn't changed since I was there three years ago, but I got more pictures this time. And, this time I took the French audio tour. Actually, I can't remember if I took the French one last time - it would have been a dumb idea, though, since I wouldn't have understood all of it if I had.

After Versailles, we went to a second palace (because one just isn't enough in France): the Louvre. Therese and her friends had to see the Mona Lisa. Just kidding - they were much more knowledgeable about art history than I am, even though I am an art history student according to my CUPA card (they put histoire de l'art on the card so that we can get into all the museums for free - I'm not actually art history, obviously). The only problem was, of course, that Alexandra and I had gone yesterday, so eventually, we got a little bored. That was when we decided to go to a cafe! It was a very French decision.

After the cafe, Alexandra was feeling sick, so she went back to her dorm. So, Therese and I went to Notre-Dame (I'm going to be sick of that church eventually. I have to go there with my Paris 8 literature class on Tuesday too!). There was a mass going on inside, which made it more interesting for me. Being Jewish, it's not like I knew what they were doing, but the church is for people to pray and not to visit, and it was interesting to see it being used probably exactly as it has been since the time period in which Hugo set his novel. To me, it brought the site to life. It was no longer just another boring museum or historical site.

Then, we saw the Eiffel Tower as we were heading to the metro. It sparkled for a little bit. Anyway, the same way that studying in French universities has made me appreciate my Hopkins education more, having other students here who are studying in London made me appreciate being in Paris more. They love London, but they all really loved Paris, and three days here obviously just isn't enough. I'm probably going to travel to other cities in Europe while I'm here, and weekends might not be enough to see the everything, but I'm so glad I get to spend the majority of my time in Paris. It's impossible to run out of things to see and do here, and even though I'm sure all of Europe is filled with incredible sites, there's just something about Paris.

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