Wednesday, February 16, 2011

More Parisian Explorations

Last week, we had a free day before classes started!
Alexandra and I went to explore Montmartre. We got off the metro to a swarm of tourist frenzy. The streets were jam packed with shops selling Paris scarves, Sorbonne sweatshirts, miniature Eiffel towers and iconic posters. We dodged hagglers trying to tie bracelets onto our wrists and made our way to the tram to Sacre Coeur. As we ascended hilly Montmartre, we watched all the tired people climbing the steps up to the basilica, confident in our decision to take the easy way up. It was quite beautiful, and atop the butte there was a beautiful view of Paris below. Inside Sacre Coeur, we were in awe of the grandeur and how the building differed in design from Paris's most notable other churches, such as Notre Dame. It was also quite interesting to see the contradictory presence of sacredness and commercialism within Sacre Coeur. Guards were strict with visitors - no photos, speak softly etc. - but at every knoll in the church was a machine to get a souvenir coin, not to mention the gift shop on your way out. Outside, we watched street performers: musicians and a crazy soccer trickster . We made our way to the maze of village-like streets behind the basilica where we watched artists painting in the square. We refueled on hot chocolate and cookies, and later that night feasted on pasta at an Italian restaurant elsewhere in Montmartre. It was a great day and we'll definitely be back. We still have to see the view of Paris from Sacre Coeur at night, follow in the tracks of Amelie and take a visit to the seedy Pigalle area to find the Moulin Rouge.
Outside Sacre Coeur Basilica
Artists in Montmartre
On Thursday, we went ice skating at a public rink outside Hotel de Ville and then went for a tour of the mansion with our class. Hotel de Ville is home to Paris' administration and is used to receive foreign dignitaries. Hotel can be used in French to reference a sense of hospitality, not necessarily a hotel. As such, many mansions have "hotel" in the name. Hotel de Ville is enormous and ornately decorated - chandeliers, sculptures and paintings everywhere. The day we visited, they were preparing to welcome the Lebanese government for some function (we ran into the caterer and some musicians doing a sound check). Afterwards we grabbed some crepes and wandered through BHV (Boutique Hotel de Ville) checking out the last of the winter "Soldes" (sales) in Paris. 
Hotel de Ville
Skating by Hotel de Ville

More to come soon!

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