Friday, September 28, 2007

Out on the Ville

So, I'have had the chance to go out a few times here in Paris. I went to the theater, to dinner and to have drinks in some interesting places.

This is the lovely theater where we saw a "spectacle" (the French term) with four musician/comedians. They played a wide variety of music - from Renaissance, through classical to modern music - with two violins, a viola and a cello. There was a blues song that they played all together on the cello - the cellist played as normal with a bow and the strings, another guy plucked the strings, the third guy held his bow to the bottom of the strings to make them give off a more metallic sound and the last guy sang while occasionally using his bow on the long, thin piece of metal that was the base of the cello. I only wish I knew the name of the song they played, because I know I recognized it.

(Sorry for the quality of this picture. I tried to get a picture of the posters by the entrance of the theater, but the spotlights on them made the poster half white.)

(Voilà, the poster half covered in light.)

I went out to dinner the last day of the introductory French classes with the other American and Canadian students in the group. It was a buffet, and I would just like to note that the manner in which the American students attacked the food as soon as it was brought out is really no different than what the French would have done. I saw a buffet of French people first-hand in Montoire, and at that buffet I had to worm my hand around a few people at the corner of the buffet table just to grab some cheese and fruit. Also, there were three of the teachers from the courses we had just finished, and the oldest lady was pretty much as bad as the students - trying to get to the food as soon as it was brought out.
We had a good time, even though not everyone got very much food or wine. It was all tasty, and, of course, it was a good excuse to get together and hang out.

The restaurant was down this "passage" - it was actually called a passage and not a street or boulevard or anything. And if we hadn't been very alert at the time (because we ran into two other MICEFA students who were convinced that we had already passed it) we would have walked right by it. It looked like a big doorway to a courtyard or something. Paris is full of little nooks and crannies like that though.

And here I am with two of my new-found friends, Jennifer and Christina, at the Bistrot du Passage. (And no, I didn't spell bistro incorrectly. Sometimes, the French spell it with a T on the end.)

After dinner, I went with a bunch of New Yorkers to the main street by the restaurant, and miraculously there were wine and wine glasses!

We passed around a few bottles, someone went to buy some more, people were singing, someone bought pizza... and then there were a few other things that happened that are just too wrong to mention. I would like to say that I did not sing or drink too much. But I did block someone from view while he did something inappropriate in public. I tried to balance integrity with being a team player, and that is just what happened.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A tour of the Louvre

We got a guided tour of the Louvre recently.

We only saw the most famous of the art in the Louvre - and I'd seen it all before - but we got some very interesting tidbits about it all.

For instance, the reasons that the Mona Lisa is so famous include a theft by an Italian who tried to take back a painting that he believed should rightfully be in Italy. He then tried to sell it, and was of course arrested. Also, a visitor to the Louvre once threw a stone at the painting, and though I don't know the reason why, I'm sure it caused a bit of a scene.

The painting that Napoléon had commissioned for his coronation as Emperor is impressing of course, but what the guide told us was that the coronation took place in Notre Dame Cathedral, which is not at all apparent from the painting. The reason for this is that Napoléon had the cathedral decorated with marble walls over top of the original stone to fit the architectural style of the day.

We were informed that the Winged Victory and the Venus de Milo are not complete sculptures because they are both ancient works that were found during excavations, and that they had to reassemble the pieces that they could find. She pointed out that the stance of the bodies could help art historians understand how the arms were originally designed, though the arms themselves were not found. They did recently find the extended hand of the Winged Victory, which they were able to identify scientifically as the same piece of stone, or marble or whatever it is.

We also saw the former crown jewels of the French kings. The crown that they have on display is actually full of fake gems, because of the custom of removing the real stones after the coronation. There is on display, however, a large, clear diamond that was used in the crown of the kings as well as in the sword that Napoléon wore at his coronation.

At the end of our tour, we went underneath the Louvre to see the original walls of the fortress that the castle started out as. It was in fact the former moat that we were walking through, surrounded by the inner and outer walls of the fortress, which were unearthed during the renovation of the museum in the 1980s-1990s.
From Paris, Fall 2007

My Room

Well, here you are folks- a video of my room. I love my camera!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Run Through Paris

I went on two runs in Paris last week. The first was a trip to the MICEFA office (the organization who coordinated the exchange I'm in). Since I had to pay my fees for class, I decided to take advantage of the trip to jog over. It took about 30 minutes, and I walked back, but it was nice to get out and get my heart rate up. On the way, I climbed Boulevard Pasteur, and when I got to the top of the street there was a large circle that I had to go around to continue. As I walked around to the other side, I suddenly noticed what had been at my back the whole time- a great view of the Eiffel Tower. Blvd Pasteur is a wide, straight street sloping downhill, and in the distance the Eiffel Tower stood just in the center. It was an amazing view that is not at all captured by the photo I took with my phone.

And this is the picture I took on the way back down the hill on my way home.

On the way home, I walked past the south wall of the Montparnasse Cemetary, and across the street I saw this great house with vines and flowers painted all over the pink facade. Once again, the phone photos do not do it justice...


Anyway, the point is that Paris is frankly fantastic.
I went on another jog a few days later to the Luxembourg Gardens, no pictures that time. It was nice to jog around the park where there were many other joggers at the same time. It is a very popular place amoung Parisian runners, from what I hear. It's nice to get off of the pavement and onto a gravel path. It's not Forest Park, but there is a nice break from the hard sidewalks and the traffic. And jogging among statues and a castle also provides some nice scenery.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Update, 15 September

Okay, so maybe I won't add more about what happened in Vegas since so much has happened since, and I probably just don't really remember much. Let's suffice it to say that I stayed up all night playing blackjack, had a blast and came out a few bucks ahead. The weather was nice, and of course hot, and the company was good, most of the time. That's all one really needs ask for in Vegas.

So, on the matter of France, I find myself settled in a little room in Montparnasse two weeks after arriving in France. My first week, I spent in the countryside in a small town called Montoire. What a fabulous place with a fabulous bunch of people.

We visited the nearby town of Vendôme...

We saw the castle at Chambord...

We visited the village nextdoor with Pierre...

We drank a little wine...

And a little coffee...
From Montoire 2007

In short, we had a hell of a good time. It was a great way to start of the trip, and it allowed us to put off the bureaucratic nonsense that we would all have to deal with once we got back to Paris.

Until next time...