Claire in London

Claire is a junior majoring in history and anthropology, with a minor in political science, in Dedman College. In fall 2011 she is studying at King’s College London with IFSA-Butler, in partnership with SMU Abroad.

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Paris, Part One

Hello!

I just returned from Paris yesterday afternoon. and I have to say, it was quite a whirlwind adventure! Tenley and I accomplished everything on our list and more!

Our first day, we arrived in Paris at 8:30 in the morning and we went nonstop until after 10 that night! First, we got breakfast at the boulangerie that was voted ‘Best Baguette in Paris 2011,′ and afterward we agreed the award was well deserved! From there, we took the Metro (like experts, I might add) to Notre Dame.

The cathedral is nothing short of beautiful, inside and out. The stained glass is incredible, and all the small chapels that line the walls are so interesting. It was different from what I expected, though. They required silence and proper clothing for entrance, out of reverence. But they also had several large and bright ‘penny stamper’ machines, where you could get your coins pressed with the image of the cathedral. It just struck me as being a bit out of place inside the church right next to prayerful statues and rows of pews.

People watching is always fun in such touristy places, and the Notre Dame was no exception. One young woman was walking around taking pictures with her iPad — just holding it up to statues and windows. And one man and his son stopped at every single little chapel and alcove to take photos. The man would stand at a strange angle to the camera.. either 3/4ths or halfway turned instead of full on. Then he would pose in a position he must have assumed was appropriate given the context — he would clasp his hands in front of his face and look heavenwards with a contrite expression while his son snapped a photo. And they did this – literally – every few feet.

In spite of a few funny moments, it was one of the most incredible places of worship I have ever been to.

Next, we walked to the Latin Quarter to see the Panthéon. It was constructed on a religious site dedicated to St. Geneviere, built by Clovis, and Louis XIV had the Pantheon constructed on the same site, after attributing his recovery from an illness to the saint. Later, its use expanded to include secular events. It had an artful domed roof, plenty of sunlight streaming through, and several impressive sculptures of memorable Frenchmen and mythical figures.

From there, it was a straight shot down the hill to the Luxembourg Gardens – definitely a highlight of the trip! These huge grounds are perfectly manicured and shaded. Flowers, trees, fountains and sculptures everywhere. It was full of people walking, sleeping, playing and reading. Tenley and I enjoyed our lunch and took a short nap in the thick grass, before walking almost the entire park. They even had a beekeeping hutch, a vineyard, a fruit and vegetable garden, a humongous playground area, an indoor children’s theater for puppet performances, several cafes and tennis and bocce ball courts.

We journeyed to the Musée Rodin and spent some time in the amazing rose gardens there. We got to see his famous work, “The Thinker,” and I took another nap in the cool grass and warm sunshine! While we were there, part of the jardin was closed and they were constructing a large tent. I guessed it might be for some sort of wedding reception but I found out today that it was for the Dior show at Paris Fashion Week! Wow!

Our last trip that day was to the Eiffel Tower. We spotted it a few times in the distance earlier, but when we actually got to it and could see it down the park, it was awesome. It is such an iconic image, and to finally see it in person is a very cool feeling. It is stunning! We walked around for a bit, then took a nighttime cruise down the Seine.

We got back to our hostel late that night to discover that our 3-female room was actually two females and a male! The guy was from Chile, spoke very little English, and was way more terrified of us then we were of him. Nonetheless, Tenley and I were more than a little taken aback and I slept with my hand through the strap of my camera bag, which was also tied to the bed, just to be on the safe side!

As you can imagine, we both slept soundly that night. Our hostel was great and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone looking for an inexpensive place to stay in Paris. (Just be adamant about wanting a single sex room if that is what you booked!) It was clean, well organized and everyone was very friendly.

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