Monday, February 7, 2011

First Week, Check!

It's hard to believe that I've already been here a week. In some respects one week feels like an eternity, but simultaneously and contradictorily, I can't believe it has just been a week. So much has happened within one week, yet I'm still the clueless, American tourist wandering around an unfamiliar city. It's amazing how time can be so transformative and deceiving when thrown into an entirely new environment.

On Wednesday of this past week, we had a relaxing afternoon. We walked around our neighborhood a bit, and feasted on fresh baguette and cheeses we picked up along the way home. We went to the Louvre at night and wandered around parts of the Richelieu and Sully wings. We didn't see many of the Louvre's most notable works of art, but nonetheless we were in awe of the palace and the size of the collection. With our student IDs it's super easy and free to get into most of the museums, so we plan on going back many times throughout the semester.
In the courtyard of the Louvre
View of the Seine, at night

On Thursday, we had a placement exam at the Sorbonne. It was a bit daunting, but thankfully didn't take too long, so we had the afternoon to ourselves. I went to the Montparnasse Cemetery with some friends in search of some of its most notable inhabitants: Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Baudelaire, Serge Gainsbourg and Alfred Dryfus, to name a few. The cemetery was pretty to walk around - many of the tombs were topped with sculptures in all different styles, and there was a great mix of modern and classical styles.
Cimetière du Montparnasse
After the director's course on Friday, we walked around Notre Dame and went to the Shakespeare and Co. bookstore. Notre Dame was beautiful, especially the stained glass windows. When it's a little less windy here, we plan to go back to see the gargoyles on the roof. Shakespeare & Co. was so whimsical and fun. There were cute reading rooms upstairs with a piano and typewriters, and a section just for kids! After that, we ventured to the Picasso Museum, walking by the Centre Pompidou and stopping to check out Saint Merry's Cathedral. We arrived at the museum only to learn that it's closed for renovations. We cut our losses and headed to Angelina, for the greatest hot chocolate in Paris. I had chocolat and Angelina's famous pastry, Mont Blanc - a meringue topped with a mountain of chestnut cream. Delicious!
Me and Elora with some of our favorite children's books
The Centre Pompidou
Mont blanc and hot chocolate with whipped cream

Katie and Vanessa at Musee d'Orsay Restaurant
On Saturday, we went to the Musée d'Orsay. We ate a delicious lunch at the museum restaurant and then spent a few hours in the galleries. I really liked the Degas pastels of ballerinas, the works by Tolouse-Lautrec and the vibrancy of colors in Van Gogh's paintings. Orsay really has quite the collection.

Chinese New Year celebration in Belleville
Sunday, we went to Belleville to celebrate the Chinese new year. Belleville is at the junction of the 10th, 11th, 19th and 20th arrondissements and is very culturally diverse. Being there was an entirely fascinating experience. We got off of the metro to a swarm of people crowding the streets. Small children towered over the crowd on their parents' shoulders, cotton candy and rabbit balloons in-hand. We arrived just before the parades began and the ceremonial dragons were opening the eyes for the first time, which was much cause for celebration. There was lots of music and dancing and even firecrackers. Afterwards we walked around the Chinatown area, met up with many people from our program and had dinner together at a grandiose Chinese restaurant.

What a week!

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