Julia SMU-in-Paris

Julia is a junior from Plano majoring in history, with a French minor, and is a member of the University Honors Program. She is studying abroad with SMU-in-Paris in fall 2007.

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La Nuit Blanche

Once a year the city of Paris celebrates its eclectic, vibrant, and beautiful culture by flooding their city with light all night long! During “La Nuit Blanche” or “White Night” all of Paris – monuments and attractions, like the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elysees, the George Pompidou Museum, La Madeleine and others – are open to the public (usually free of charge) and feature various art exhibits, light shows, and theatrical shows. The city literally glows from the amounts of string lights hung on the trees, buildings, and light posts.

A Ferris wheel ride
My friends and I decided that Nuit Blanche was NOT an event we could miss. Though most of the activity runs parallel with the Metro Line 14, we opted to stick around the Louvre area in order to ride the huge Ferris wheel in front of the Tuileries Garden. For only 8 euros we rode around the wheel about 15 times and even got to stop at the top! We had an absolutely stunning view of the “city of lights.”

Though we were absolutely in awe of the beautiful city, I’ll admit that a few of us were a little scared to be up that high. The Ferris wheel “buckets” also spun, much like the Tea Cups ride at Disneyland, so when we would come back down at the bottom a man would always spin us so we would literally feel like we were going to fall out! Even though I was a little freaked out, it is one of the most special memories I have of Paris.

Candle light and techno dancing
While we were on the Ferris wheel we noticed that the Tuileries garden was on fire! Well, not literally, but there was an exhibition of thousands of candles displayed on different types of torches in the Tuileries Garden. I encouraged my friend Federico to light one of the candles that had gone out, but I guess you’re not allowed to do that because later a security guard scolded him!

After walking through the Tuileries Garden, we noticed that in front of the Palais Royal were these three large video screens that kept changing colors in rhythm with this strange techno-trance music, with various members of the audience being invited to dance in front of them. Little did we know that three of our friends who had separated from us earlier that night, Brenda, Margaret, and Brooke, were dancing in front of them just minutes before we got there!

TAXI!
I decided at around 1 AM that I wanted to go home, and I thought it would be simple getting a taxi. Boy was I wrong! That night France had defeated New Zealand in the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup (taking place in Paris at the Stade de France). It was literal pandemonium on the streets of Paris due to the victory combined with Nuit Blanche. People were riding their scooters with the French flag swaying in the wind, and traffic was at a virtual standstill.

After walking up and down rue de Rivoli looking for a free taxi cab and pleading with taxi drivers to take me home (in Paris it’s illegal to “hail” a cab like it is in NYC), my friend Stephanie finally found a taxi stand. All of a sudden I saw a free cab, cut about 25 people waiting for a cab, jumped in and got home safe and sound at around 2 AM, a whole hour later than planned. I was extremely lucky compared to my friend Stephanie and her housemate, Claire, who waited for a cab for almost three hours until they finally decided to just wait until the metro reopened to go home! Luckily they had each other, because I would have been very scared to take the metro that night by myself!

Even though there was the difficulty with the taxi, La Nuit Blanche was a fabulous night. If you are ever in Paris during the first weekend of October, it is a must see. I’m not looking forward to my midterms next week, but luckily, immediately after that we head to Provence for our second study tour!

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