As is my tradition for the past seven or eight odd years I got dressed up and sang my repertoire of revolutionary tunes : )
As is my tradition for the past seven or eight odd years I got dressed up and sang my repertoire of revolutionary tunes : )
Two hundred and twenty-one years ago today … The mob captured the Bastille, a symbol of royal absolutism and the arbitrary power of le Roi (since les lettres de cachet put political prisoners like Voltaire behind bars). They later tore it apart stone by stone. REMINDER: Le 14 juillet 1789 only seven prisoners remained within its walls (this included counterfeiters and several loonies) so it is generally discounted that the mob set out exclusively to free them. Instead, they wanted to capture the powder inside it and rid Paris of a royal bastion. Interestingly, that day, Louis XVI recorded in his journal “Rien” referring to his disappointing hunting (he did not even catch a hare). Later after he learned about recent events in Paris, he asked:
— C’est une révolte ?
— Non, Sire, c’est une révolution !
Thus, today is considered to be the start of la Révolution Française and the road to a république!!! In 1989 to celebrate the bicentennial of this landmark event, a momentous two-part movie (Les Années de Lumière and Les Années Terribles together total about six hours) was made to tell the entire story of the revolution starting in 1789 and ending with the fall of Maximilien Robespierre in 1794. The meticulous attention to detail and accuracy amazes me. It also fallows all the stories of your favorite revolutionaries (Danton, Desmoulins … even Saint-Just)!!!! Just about every major figure has at least a cameo. Here is an excerpt of la prise de la Bastille: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vmy-ZUz-uVU&feature=related … In addition, the creators of Les Misérables, Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg, collaborated on a rock-opéra that also followed the course of the révolution along with a melodramatic love story. I find it fascinating that they have Robespierre sing about the Bastille … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_bqPMBneug&feature=related (The music in the clip starts at around 3:43). Feel free to sing along!!!
Ah Citoyens, la Bastille est tombée
On s’est battu et le sang a coulé
Le peuple enfin à Paris est armé
Prêt à lutter sans pitié pour sa liberté
Venez mes amis
Il faut fêter la victoire
Je vous offre un coup à boire
À la santé du père Capet (ie Louis XVI)
L’heure est venue de chanter la liberté
Notre destin nous le ferons de nos mains
Serrons les rangs l’espoir nous appartient
Mum, Dah, and I ended up driving back from Washington D.C. (eerr Virginia the real location of Dulles) over a period of two days. My first meal was an old-fashioned buffet at Ponderosa, which brought back childhood memories of summer road trips. As a kid, we would always stop on our way to Indianapolis. However, buffets are not something you typically find anywhere in France. Sure, they are appearing more and more, but they are still quite rare. I think I saw a grand total of three (one Indian, one Chinese, and one Thai) … Needless to say, it was odd to see so much food in one place. I think I properly gorged myself though. Mum joked that I acted like I had not eaten in nine months. I know that is far from true. I have eaten tons of wonderful food (a lot of it in Tours), but I guess buffets bring out the glutton (yeah not the gourmande … that’s France) in me. We then checked in to our hotel, watched bits of Tomorrow Never Dies with Pierce Brosnan, and exhausted fell asleep. We all got up insanely early the next morning ie before seven o’clock in the morning. I was positively chirpy!! I have never been such a morning lark (this continued for about a week too)!!! What really surprised me though was the number of motorcyclists up at this hour of the morning. Mum counted probably fourteen of them!! For quite a bit of our trip we had been accompanied by roaring Harleys all decked-out with American paraphernalia. It took a while, but eventually, we learned that the huge number of motorcyclists had driven to Washington D.C. for a freedom ride in memory of all those who died in the Armed Services. Oh yeah, it’s Memorial Day weekend … Makes sense now. Other random things that I have noticed … Breakfast biscuits kinda taste like scones. Fast-food restaurants like Burger King give out gigantic milkshakes. I got a small one (Way more than 40 cl that you typically get in France) and it took me three days to finish. Everything is so huge!!!!
Yet what truly makes an experience are the people you meet along the way. I have been very fortunate …
Mamie, Martine, et Kim — Ma famille française dont je suis reconnaissante à jamais pour leur générosité, leur bonté, et leur amitié. Elles sont vraiment chaleureuses. Merci mille fois pour m’avoir accueilli dans votre maison et votre cuisine. Vous me manque!!!!!
Marie-Christine — Ma lectrice!!!!!! C’est un vrai plaisir de vous rencontrer!!! J’adore vos histoires de New York City et je suis hyper contente que vous avez mangé des bagels!!! Que nous-avons bien rigolé!!! Le pauvre Sarko et Carla … Ces soirées manifiques!!!!
Anne, Niilo, Caius, and Oona — Thank you so much for letting Rebecca and I stay with you in Strasbourg!!! I know we both had a fabulous time. Germany and Colmar were incredible as well!!! I particularly enjoyed playing the penguin game and all the word games.
Anne, Raphaël, Benjamin, and Emma — I am so pleased to have met you. My family and I really enjoyed our stay in Reims!!!!! Thank you for the tour of the Cathedral and Pommery!!!
Jameson — Already a great, close friend from school, I was overjoyed to see you in three different countries this year: Paris, Glasgow, and Dublin!!!! I also appreciate talking to you on AIM every day.
Katie — Thank you so very much for taking a chance on a crazy American girl sitting on a bench. Innis Mor, Galway and comédies musicales!!!!!!!
Rebecca — My travel buddy!!!! Together we traveled to Chartres, Chantilly, Metz, Strasbourg, Colmar, and Nancy. May the adventures continue!!!
Miró — The third “Louis” musketeer!!!!! Swanky lunch, le Louvre, CM, TD, exposé oral, fiche de lecture … La France de Louis XIV was a great class after all : )
Claudia — What an amazing time in Glasgow and Dublin!!!!! French forever is our “secret” language ; )
Bérangère — Thank you so much for showing me around Bruxelles!!!! I really enjoyed that Kriek ; )
Elvira — Thank you so much for letting me stay with you in Budapest!!! I had such a great time!!!
Kate and Lauren — I really enjoyed bonding over Shahrukh Kahn!!!!! Bristol, London, and Paris!!!!! Kate, thank you so much for letting me share my passion for Richard Sharpe and the grasshoppers!!!!
Elyse — The Robespierriste!!!! I learned so much by talking to her. Adventures in Arras and great dinners!!!!
Aurélie — Ma amie française!!!!
Caroline — The “J’ai hâte” dance truly expresses her boundless enthusiasm. Giverny, The Pink Flamingo …
Marie et sa famille — My great hosts in Lyon.
I have been back in the States for three weeks and I think now I can properly reflect on my time abroad …
I am eternally thankful for the opportunity to live in France for a year. This has been a conscious desire for about as long as I can remember (ten years at least). I remember memorizing maps of Paris even and plotting the route I would take across France … There is something extremely satisfying when a childhood dream so ingrained as this one finally comes true after years of waiting. French/France is such a deep-seated part of my identity that I cannot imagine how my life would be without it. Given my history, I knew I was going to have a wonderful time in France. I would try my hardest to make it work no matter what …
Ma France à moi is modern and oozing history — Meaning it’s full of surprises. There is always something going on!!! From the Techno Parade to Fashion Week to interpretative dance in the halls of the Louvre … France is hardly predictable!!!!! My love for France has only exponentially increased. For goodness sake, it’s even the really simple things like public transportation!!!! I miss trains so much (Ô TGV, ô TER, ô métro, mes amours) and the freedom they bring to non-drivers like me. In addition, it still amazes me how each region has its own unique character. You really have to be there to appreciate it. Traveling around sometimes, it feels like you have entered other countries, but where everyone still conveniently speaks the same language — French. Strasbourg could not be more different culturally and architecturally from Arles!! I do regret though that I never got to Marseille and that I never properly explored Bretagne and Normandie, but that’s a great reason to come back. There is the Southwest corner as well : ) As everyone says, this is hardly the last time I will visit France. Everyone who meets me (even the taxi driver who took me to the airport) assures me that I will make it back again … One day … Soonish?!
Ma France à moi is also highly linked to food, which has been quite the adventure. I had never eaten blood pudding or rabbit (not sure if I would again), but that’s part of the process of trying new things. I eat quite a lot of new things now like artichoke and leeks. Here are also some food truths I have learned:
Ma France à moi has also given me a new appreciation for the importance of Liberal Arts. After the “big” school experience, I must admit that I am quite looking forward to going back to my small corner of the world. College for me is where the professors assign challenging, but interesting reading stretching the minds of their students through their fascinating lectures and discussion. Plus, everything is in walking distance and you constantly see people you know. Nothing is better than living on a campus … I love France; however, I prefer the American education system. Sure in the States, we have requirements that we must fulfill in order to graduate, but there is a hell of a lot of choice and variety of courses!!! Try explaining to a French student that next semester you are taking Anthropology, Geology, French …
Sometimes I feel like I “wasted” my first semester. Unlike, many of the Americans, I did not travel extensively ie visiting a new country every weekend. However, then I remember I took the time to explore Paris and the surrounding Ile-de-France, which is often overlooked (well, besides Versailles). I saw quite a few places that almost no one thinks to visit. For instance, I will never forget how overjoyed the guide was at the Laiterie de la Reine at Rambouillet. He was so fascinating and I think it is extremely rewarding to venture off the beaten path of la Tour Eiffel. In any case, I think my experiences first semester served as necessary confidence building for the later half of my stay. I often like to joke that first semester was my “academic” while second semester was “social.” That’s not to say that I didn’t take my studies seriously, but I feel like I found my niche outside of the classroom. I finally began to travel, I worked in an amazing art gallery Univers du Bronze, and I found an incredible group of friends. Magnifique!!!!!
In the end, non, je ne regrette rien. I tried to be highly active and take advantage of as much as possible. I was quite proud when my host mother told me as I rushed off to Piscine Joséphine Baker for a late night swim, “You never stop do you? I could not keep up with you …” I hope this best summarizes my year abroad.
First a year in numbers …
Cities in France
- Aigues Morts
- Baux de Provence
- Vaux le Vicomte
- Close Lucé
- Château de Maisons
- Maison de Chateaubriand
46 musées in Paris alone
- La Grande Magie
- Cantatrice Chauve
- Le Dragon bleu
- Mardi à Monoprix
- Fausse Suivante
- Maison de poupée
4 comédies musicales
- Cléopâtre: La Dernière Reine de l’Egypte
- Mozart l’Opéra Rock
- Roméo et Juliette
I got up super early on Sunday (6h to be precise) to get to the airport on time for my 10h35 flight. I was very happy to find that both my bags were under the weight restriction (I was a little scared for a while when I was packing them up). So whew no fine … I got through security too without any problems. Everything went very smoothly if I must say so myself. I boarded the plane very early on and did not have to wait in line forever. There was even a decent selection of food (lamb, couscous, and Camembert for lunch) and recent movies on board. I watched Le Concert (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NrLUsNHxMmA), which is an adorable film and told half in Russian half in French. I know some of you occasionally have your doubts about French films, but this one is legitimately touching and good. I rounded off the trip with two other films, Le Siffleur and Prêt-à-Porter (a satirical look at haute couture and Fashion Week in the 1990s with an all-star cast including Lauren Bacall, Rupert Everett, Sophia Loren, Richard E. Grant, and surprisingly Julia Roberts). Needless to say, I did not sleep a wink on this all together smooth flight. I even got through customs without any hassle (even with my macarons)!!!!!!!!! I found my parents waiting for me. After our reunion, we started the drive home. Welcome back …
This is my last day in France … I decided to spend it with all the amazing people I have met during my stay. Of course, the thought of leaving makes me extremely sad (especially considering the fact that I am the first of my friends to go home to the States), but I am determined to thoroughly enjoy the time remaining. In the morning, I went to la Posteand shipped off a 10 kg or about 22 lb (it’s quite expensive … 106 €, but it meant that my suitcases would be under weight, which would be a 100 € fine for each so it was worth it). After my final postal adventure, I rushed off to meet Elyse at Les Deux Margots (http://www.lesdeuxmagots.fr/index.php). Les Deux Margots is a famous café across from the church Saint-Germain-des-Près as well as the hangout of such celebrities as André Gide, Picasso, Prévert, Hemingway, Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir. Neither of us had been and it is supposed to be one of those things you do while in Paris … The coffee with cream was good if not a little pricy. I did really enjoying seeing Elyse one last time though. Afterward, I met Miss Katie Brown for lunch at our favorite panini stand. We wanted to eat on the bench where we first met, but unfortunately, someone had already taken it. Unperturbed, we sat in our favorite jardin instead. Once we finished lunch, we had an enjoyable walk to the Louvre. My amazing art history professor had told me that I could invite some friends and he would take us on one last visit to see whatever we wanted. Rebecca, Katie, Sara, Rosanne, Miró and I requested to look at Dutch art. So I went for the last time to Richelieu 2e … Goodness I am going to miss the Louvre, but I feel so very privileged that he would accompany us a final time. He is so insanely knowledgable!!!!! I particularly enjoyed looking at the Rubens and the Vermeer!!!!! It was a touching way to say goodbye to this professor who I have learned so much from and who has truly helped make this year so great. Next, the girls and I all went to Angelina’s (conveniently close by too), which is another Parisian landmark famous for its decadent, rich hot chocolate. I decided to go full-out. Heck it is my last day in Paris! We ordered three dark hot chocolates and one white along with three delicious desserts. At the end of our feast, it was really hard to say au revoir and I know that if I would have stayed a little longer, I would have started crying. For dinner, I met up with Aurélie and Cynthia for Italian followed by one final look at Notre-Dame de Paris. All in all this day was the perfect send-off because I got to say goodbye to everyone just the way I wanted to … I am so thankful to everyone who made it so wonderful.
Rebecca, Sara, Miró, and I finally ate at the swanky restaurant that we had planed on going to several Mondays ago. Rebecca even made reservations for 12h15 to make sure that we would have a table. The hostess would not let us forget that we had to be out by 13h so that she could have the space for another reservation … It actually got a little annoying how often she came over to remind us. Like I could have forgotten? So if the service was just ok, the food was quite intriguing. For entrées, the restaurant served a langoustine based soup (just think of a large scrimp like animal with large claws), melon wrapped with prosciutto-esque meat, and shrimp with a ginger lemon sauce. The langoustine was sorta acidic and I am not sure if I have ever had a fish soup like that before. We had a choice of plats (either veal, fish, or risotto) so two of us decided to get the fish and two of got the risotto. We then each shared so everyone got some fish and some risotto. Both were quite tasty. However, I am not sure if I would go back to the restaurant. Sure, the plating was beautiful, but I hate leaving a restaurant hungary. Not enough to eat … So Sara, Rebecca, and I went for ice cream at Berthillon (at the original one too)!!!!!!! I even tried their new summer treat: chantilly à la fromboise!!!!!! SO GOOD!!!!!!! Following this last ice cream cone in Paris, I visited Aurélie. We talked for a long time and caught up then met up with Cynthia for a bit of shopping. We went to Fnac where after much debate I bought the box set of Lady Oscar (Rose de Versailles). Lady Oscar is the animé title while Rose de Versailles is the manga. There is also a live action film by Jacques Demy and a musical preformed entirely by women. The story revolves around a girl named Oscar who is raised as a man to one day take over command of the King’s Private Guard from her father. She ends up becoming the private body-guard of Marie-Antoinette. So the series incorporates quite a lot of pre-revolutionary events ie the Affair of the Necklace and many historical figures including Maximilien Robespierre and Louis-Antoine de Saint-Just. There is also André, the gorgeous animé man … In any case, Courtney and I discovered it about seven years ago. We absolutely adore the story and since it is not readily available in the States, I decided to go ahead and get it for us. After a fun-filled day, I went back home for the last dinner with my host family. I cannot believe that my year is almost up …
For my final day at my stage, I got to play travel agent!!! I spent the day trying to find an appropriate hotel for my boss and Yannick to stay while in London for Masterpiece. This proved an interesting task … Trying to find something that is acceptable and meets a whole series of specific conditions while not costing a fortune is harder than you would think. I never realized how expensive hotels are in London. The most amusing one was the Osmonde House Hotel (http://www.ormondehouse.com/). This townhouse built by a Duke in Belgravia (close to Victoria Station) boasts that it has hosted Charlie Chaplin, many ambassadors, and various European royals. But, it gets even better …
“For the more discerning guests a butler and Rolls Royce limousine are available to facilitate your extra needs.”
Oh the supreme Englishness of it!!!! I know where I will be staying next time I go ; ) Surprisingly, it is not as outrageously expensive as you would think, but then again they don’t say how much extra it is for the butler and the Rolls Royce. This place is actually pretty much on par with most hotels … I could not believe that neither my boss nor Yannick wanted to stay there. Hélas … I left mid-afternoon to take my oral for Phonétique (I guess yesterday I was not quite finished, but basically). I think that also went ok. She had me read an excerpt from a play (Confidences Trop Intimes). The play’s plot is great. A woman is going to visit a psychoanalyst, but she walks into the wrong office and starts talking to the man in the office next door. He realizes that she is mistaken, but he does not tell her that he knows the truth and lets her keep talking. She also figures it out, but does not let him know that she in fact realized that he is not an actual psychoanalyst (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Ap85rTSmAw). Finished, I then returned to my stage to wrap up the work day and do any last minute things that they required. I helped them tote some bronzes and package them for shipping. At the end of the day, I thanked them for this wonderful opportunity and told them how much I had enjoyed working there. My boss, in turn, told me that he had shown my fiches to someone who understands English perfectly and that person had said that they were well done. He also added that he would give me a 17 for my stage!!!!!!! I really enjoyed reminiscing for the last few minutes there … I am really going to miss the gallery next year, but I am so glad that I could work there for four months. After work and dinner, I met Rebecca for a late-night swim!!!!!! I have been dying to go to the Piscine Joséphine Baker since Katie and I found it months ago. I finally decided to go for it and buy the necessary swim cap (bright pink). Tuesdays and Thursdays it is open until 23h (well they kick you out 20 minutes before, but still it is way too cool)!!!!!!! I have now swam in a POOL ON A BOAT ON THE SEINE!!!!!!! Awesomeness!!! If you are in Paris, I would highly recommend going. It is cheaper than a movie plus you can see la Ville des Lumières in its glory while even exercising … http://www.paris.fr/portail/loisirs/Portal.lut?page_id=6085. REMINDER: If you are a student, bring something that proves you live in Paris ie not just a student card from the fac to get the tarif réduit.