Thursday, August 6, 2009

Paris: July 17

July 17- Versailles

Happy Birthday Jen! Miss you. :)

Okay, we went to Versailles today and it was everything and more than I had imagined. I took AP European History from Mr. Markworth when I was in 10th grade and have ever since longed for the chance to see it in the flesh. (Cup of chocolate? Inside joke that nobody will understand...)

Our tourguide, I kid you not, had a rattail. It was the best thing ever. We were all less than subtle with our attempts at capturing it with our cameras. He took us through the palace where I learned about the 7 salons/apartment for the royal family, which is meant to represent the 7 known planets at the time. I walked down the beautiful hall of mirrors, I meandered through the gardens, I ate a picnic in front of the grand canal, and literally melted when I saw Marie Antoinette's Hamlet! I WANT TO LIVE THERE. I have always dreamed to live in a European cottage over a mansion, so why not dream about the queen's cottages? :)

Rat tailing tourguide!

Perfect little cottage

FREEZING OUR TAILS OFF with the wind/light rain

Pretty flower in gardens

Hall of Mirrors with Laura (roomie)

Paris: July 16

July 16

We went to Villa Savoy this morning, a famous house designed by Corbusier. I was impressed by the architecture, but not the interior. And I'm not talking so about decoration, because there was none. I'm talking about the floorplan. It just seems clear it was designed by a man, but I guess you'd have to see it for yourself. Haha. Sketching it was really fun. It's such a famous house and it rests in a perfectly manicured property enclosed with tall trees and shrubs and a large wall.

Villa Savoy
(great on the outside, impractical on the inside)

Afterward we ate at a pricey little restaurant called Kong (a Phillipe Starke creation). There was a ballerina tu-tu light fixture, a giant geisha on the ceiling, and see through chairs (ghost chairs, officially) with pictures of female Asian faces on them. So strange! I got a cheeseburger and fries were 17 Euro (without tip). But it was cool. I found my favorite bathrooms so far (Oh, so on this study abroad I have been checking out bathrooms EVERYWHERE I go for my research. It's been pretty fun because they are all so different and quirky). These bathrooms were rad though- a blown up child sumo wrestler on the wall, naturally. The floors were made of rocks with a clear goop around them. Hard to explain...

We then headed off to the Museum de Orsay, which had impressionist paintings and such. I loved seeing all the paintings I'd seen in textbooks my entire life. I saw work by Renoir, Monet, Manet, Degas, etc. Very nice.

Finally Laura, Scott, and I ended our day by going to the Arch de Triumph. It was one ginormous arch, that's undisputed. We climbed roughly 6 thousand stairs to get to the top, which was beautiful. The city splits out like a sun from the Arch de Triumph, so everywhere you turn is full cityscape. It was sunset, so even more gorgeous. I love love love Paris. :)

Arch de Triumph

Nancy performing surgery on my pink chaco

Paris: July 15

July 15
How fun fun fun! We started at St. Chapelle's Cathedral, where they have the coolest stain glass. Then we went to the Pompidou (sp?) which is a modern art museum. We saw a dress made of meat, a naked woman hula hooping with barbed wire, and a big pile of garbage. UH? It was strange. But the building was SO cool! Sparkly signage, bright colored walls and lettering, and all these exterior escalators that have the most incredible view of Paris- equivolent to the Sacred Heart (which sucks because we put so much effort into all those stairs!). And some of the art was really cool. I liked the furniture and this one totally feminist exhibit by the Guerilla Girls. :)
The Louvre was not at all how I expected. After wading through the fountains (probably not allowed, but lots of people were doing in this hot summer day and nobody stopped them) we headed inside. It was TOO BIG! Like, not cool how big it was. Just thinking about how the royalty kept adding on to this enormous structure is baffling to me. Why? One of them even brought in livestock and filled a wing with water so he could HUNT INDOORS. What a dissillusioned joke. Anyway, the Mona Lisa was practically the size of a post card (honestly, the copies with arrows beneath which were signs leading you TO the Mona Lisa were larger than the actual Mona Lisa). I also saw the Venus, the Winged Victory, and many more famous pieces. I enjoyed them all, but the Louvre itself was a bit overwhelming. Too big with too many people.
Then Julia, Amanda, and I headed off on a ridiculous adventure to see the French National Library, a modern structure. It was huge, but not as great as we'd hoped considering the effort exherted. Effort which even cost me my shoe! My cute pink chacos died in a revolving door! I was so so so sad. I think Europe is out to get me. I have the worst luck. Could be worse though- so I'm enjoying the journey. :)

The Palace Marie Antoinette spent her last days in.

Random little toilettes

St. Chapelle's

The Pompidou

No Holding Hands, I'm afraid.

Paris: July 14

July 14
BASTILLE DAY (and free day)
Today was full of sites. It was our free day and Laura, Jeanette and I got started (after stealing some extra cheese and bread from our continental breakfast, naturally) by trying to see the parade. All we saw was a bunch of middle age Johnny Hannyville fans camping out for the concert tonight. We decided to make our way to Notre Dame instead. We rode on a funny two-story metro, which I had never seen before. Notre Dame is very detailed on the exterior. Much like how I would have pictured it to be. Inside had beautiful stained glass windows. I really liked a chandelier they had on display which was symbolic of the crown they put on Christ.
Basilique Du Sacre Ceur was next. I had never heard of it. It is a church on a hill that overlooks all of Paris. It's not just any church either- it's white and reminds me of Gondor in LOR. GORGEOUS! It was a highlight. And looking out on Paris is just so surreal, because it's such a light-pallette of a city. I've never seen anything like it.
We lost part of our group while trying to find the Moulin Rouge. It was fun to see- although it looked a little more plastic-y than authentic. Does that make sense? It looks like it's still used though, so that was cool. We were creeped out by an older man staring at all the photos of can-can dancers. Oh well.
I was hesitant to go back to the Opera House since there is just so much to see in Paris and such little time. Since we had already seen the outside I didn't see a need to go back-- but I was WRONG (That's right Mom, I can admit it)! Inside was incredible! So fancy. I would love to see a show there. I'm happy to report that although it won't hold a charge and has a monochromatic screen now, my ipod works enough to salvage material on it. In fact, it allowed me to play one song (Masquerade) while I was inside to help me connect to the Phantom of the Opera motif! :)
The chandelier hall was unexpected and words just don't describe the feeling I got as I turned the corner into it.
Somebody had the bright idea of walking home (about 4 miles) which after walking all day just about killed me. I didn't leave the hotel again until 11:00 pm to watch the most amazing firework display off the Eiffel Tower I could have ever imagined! I think today was my favorite day of the trip. :)

On the stairs in the Opera House where Phantom was filmed

Most amazing chandelier room ever!! (In opera house)

Sacred Heart (my favorite "site)

Laura snapped this shot of me doing an interview for my research

Notre Dame

Moulin Rouge!

Paris: July 13

July 13 - Paris!

I think I wanted to hate Paris. I think I wanted it to be snobby and gross and totally overrated. Wrong, so wrong. It is like a clean NYC. Lots of white buildings with cute little balconies. The subway is even pretty clean! I like this city the best so far. It has a gorgeous city scape. When we arrived we passed a lot of the great sites and I felt so giddy. We got to the hotel, freshened up, and then went to the Opera House (the one from Phantom of the Opera) before grabbing dinner (Food here is WAY better than Italian Food. In fact, I think American Italian food is better than Italian food!) and heading off to a boat tour at night of Paris. The Eiffel tower is lovely. Especially at night. Tomorrow is Bastille Day so I can't wait to see the fireworks and lights they use on it.

Cool building at a museum

My favorite pic of Darrin (my teacher)

Pretty at night

Susie, Josie, and Laura on boat tour

Eiffel Tower!

Amanda and Josie at the famous sign

Venice: July 12

July 12
Cockadoodle doo! 6:00 am shower and pack so I could check out and get to church. I am sorry to say I had to leave a handful of clothes and food because my suitcase wouldn't shut. After a swift hotel breakfast, Megan, Malory, Whitney, Laura, Beccah, Kylie, and I made our way with one water-taxi, two bus transfers, and about a mile of walking to the branch in Venice. We attended S.S. and Sacrament mtg. and I LOVED it (not like I'm really surprised or anything). The people were so nice! We met the missionaries and I thought of all my friends. I donated some of my American Ramen to0 them- haha.

Making it to the church!

The group that made it to church (plus we found missionaries!)

Megan brought stuff to her brother who is finishing his last month of his mission. I contributed some Cup O' Noodles to the package. What every missionary wants, right?

Laura and I spent the rest of our day wandering about near the train station. We ate pizza, gelato, we sketched a bridge, and relaxed inside a few beautiful catholic churches. The we wated around for a few more hours until the group got onto the train. Wht a joke. Tensions were high because it is a stressful process. I felt like I was in Harry Potter. Im rooming with Allie, Erica, Laura, Jeanette, and Becky.

A real confessional box. We saw several people go in and come out. I don't know what the draw is, really- but it seemed pretty exciting at the time.

A big group of Thai people I met at the train station!

Venice: July 11

July 11 -Venice
We woke up on our free day only to find we were not-so-free. But it was a good thing, because I like the structure. And we go to great places. This morning a speed boat picked us up and took us to the Murano Massego Glass Factory. We watched a man with no voice make a stallion ouit of glass in just one minute! We toured their inventory which consisted of vases, figurines, dishes, wall hangings, jewelry, but more than anything, chandeliers. My favorite were teh black and white ones. Some pieces scared me. They looked like they belonged at a circus- but overall it was very intersting. Watching the man actually make the stuff helped me to appreciate the art of it. It's not like they stick the glass into a mold and whip out twenty. It's all hand done, and it is what Venice is famous for.
On speedboat

Real oven with molten lava fire where they make the glass

Afterwards many of us went to St. Mark's Cathedral. There are probably no greater modaics in all the world. Full ceiling and wall gold mosaics. Wow. But words I sawy simply don't do it justice.
We were scared to find our way back to the hotel because it's just understood that you WILL get lost in Venice and that you should just embrace it and enjoy it. But we've been lucky I guess. Not lost once!
One of the best parts of our entire trip came at 7 pm when we met up with Ksenia Choate! I arranged via email to meet her at the Rialto Bridge, after which we (Laura, Scott, Ksenia, and I)foujnnd a little resaurant in a hidden little courtyardI'm certain I'd never be able to find again. 2 musicians played our entire meal, making the evening quite enjoyable. I ordered Gnocci 4-cheese pasta and water. I got about 17 pieces of small pasta and a glass of water with no ice, and all for the price of just 14 Euro + a tip! Oi, my plate had so much blank space on it, it was pathetic. They added a leaf to make me feel better, I'm sure.
We left the restaurant to go get a gondola.It just doesn't seem right to leave Venice without riding in one. Granted, it would be much nicer witha significant other, but then what wounln't? Our gondolier was handsome. He talked about the city and sang to us. Ahh, heaven. And we did it at dusk, so the day hyad cooled off and the reflections were fabulous. I desperatley tried to take pictures and video footage in my head.
We saw where Casanova's house was, we learned that all gondolas are black and asymmetrical so the gondolier can row just on one side. Our guy has been rowing since he was six year old and is a 3rd generation gondolier and even wins many races here, including one last week!
The ride was pleasant. It honestly felt like a ride in Disneyland though, as if all the buildings were just a swet, built for tourist pleasure.
Jeanette looking at St. Mark's