How I Spent My Parisian Vacation
Paris Travel Blog› entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
June 21st, 2006 – by: CurtWhita
Early on the morning of June 14, nine UC students, one professor, and one chaperone arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport. We were all participants in the Department of Romance Languagesâ€™ â€śTour of Contemporary Paris.
In his memoirs of 1920s Paris, Ernest Hemingway characterized the city as a â€śfeast.â€ť As such, it can be very easy for tourists new to the city to bite off more than they can chew. Professor Lorenz, as lively and knowledgeable a tour guide as I have encountered, though, had prepared the perfect introduction to Paris.
Scant hours after stepping off of our plane, we found ourselves outside of the Notre Dame de Paris, one of the worldâ€™s first Gothic cathedrals. The massive cathedral stands as â€śPoint Zero,â€ť the alleged birthplace of the city and the juncture from which all distances are calculated between Paris and the other major cities of Europe.
Jetlag was weighing heavily on me by the time our group boarded the Metro, en route to the Eiffel Tower on the evening of June 14. The first day in Paris had been largely a blur and, after a full day of walking, I was looking forward to nothing more than a good nightâ€™s sleep. As our group exited the underground Metro station, though, the city offered us an approximately dramatic reveal of the Eiffel Tower. My exhaustion, in that instant, became a distant memory and I was more than ready to make the trek to the top of the tower.
There is little wonder why so many come to Paris for inspiration. As Hemingway suggests, the city provides a veritable feast for the senses. The Louvre, for example, stands as a true monument to cultureâ€”not just French culture or even world culture, but to the very concept of culture.
Paris lends itself to pursuits both grand and idle. While first-time visitors might feel inclined to see as many landmarks as is humanly possible, the city offers just as much to those who would prefer to sit back and absorb the atmosphere. Watching the crowds while sitting on the patio of a small cafĂ© near the Sacre Coer on a sunny summer afternoon could ultimately be as fulfilling as any palace or museum exhibitions.
We were also fortunate enough to be in France during the heart of the 2006 World Cup. One of my fondest memories of Paris was spent in a local sports bar, where hundreds of Parisians and tourists had convened to watch France play Korea for entrance into the second round of the World Cup. As the game, tied at 1 to 1, approached the 90th minute, the crowd doubled and even the city workers, who parked their trucks and street sweepers on the sides of the street, joined our ranks for the matchâ€™s nail-biting finale. As we all watched the game together, any differences, be they cultural, lingual, or even political, were quickly forgotten.
Was it providence, coincidence, or design that made Paris the city that it is? Every bistro, every cafĂ©, and every street corner seems tailor-made for intrigue or romance.
For generations, young Americans have sought inspiration and immersion in Parisian culture. Each of my fellow â€śTour of Contemporary Parisâ€ť participants came to the city for a different reason. Some of us came to study the language; others came to study the architecture, the cuisine, or the history of Paris. The remarkable thing about this, and many of UCâ€™s other study-abroad programs, is that it really does feature something for everyone. F. Scott Fitzgerald, another of the â€śLost Generationâ€ť of American artists in 1920s Paris, once claimed that â€śthe American in Paris is the best American.â€ť This past June, the Department of Romance Languages gave students a unique opportunity to make their own Parisian stories. The experience, I feel, brought out the very best in all of us.
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