How I Spent My Parisian Vacation

Paris Travel Blog

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Pitter-patter goes my heart--this city gets in your blood.
The summer getaway is one of life’s greatest treasures. Between work, school, and all of the other obligations that most of us try to juggle, opportunities to go on vacation are generally few and far between. This past June, though, the stars aligned and the powers-that-be looked down upon me with beneficent eyes. Thanks to the Department of Romance Languages and UC International Programs, I was able to spend the first part of this past summer in the City of Light.

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 Languages’ “Tour of Contemporary Paris.
Waiting for the metro... in style.
” Expertly planned and organized by Professor Kathryn Lorenz, this unique study-tour would expose each of us to the very best that Paris has to offer.

In his memoirs of 1920s Paris, Ernest Hemingway characterized the city as a “feast.” 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 world’s first Gothic cathedrals. The massive cathedral stands as “Point Zero,” the alleged birthplace of the city and the juncture from which all distances are calculated between Paris and the other major cities of Europe.
From this point, we would begin our weeklong immersion in Paris.

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 night’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 culture—not just French culture or even world culture, but to the very concept of culture.
Rodin's "The Thinker."
The Louvre, strangely commercialized by a plethora of “The Da Vinci Code” cross-promotions (including a pre-recorded tour of one of the wings, narrated by French film star Jean Reno), continues to house some of the world’s great artistic achievements. Seeing the works of Rembrandt, Raphael, and, of course, da Vinci himself, up close and personal was an awe-inspiring experience.

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 café near the Sacre Coer on a sunny summer afternoon could ultimately be as fulfilling as any palace or museum exhibitions.
Beneath the Arc de Triomphe.


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 match’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 café, and every street corner seems tailor-made for intrigue or romance.
Paris. Night.
Paris exudes a sense of timelessness, wherein the sleek curved lines of modernism, embodied by the swarming Vespa scooters, exist side-by-side with the embellishments of the Gothic cathedrals and the futuristic glass and steel pyramids that now cap the Louvre. For the amateur tourist in Paris, every new sight and sensation appears as if it has been filtered through the swirling sensibilities of the French New Wave Cinema.

For generations, young Americans have sought inspiration and immersion in Parisian culture. Each of my fellow “Tour of Contemporary Paris” 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 UC’s other study-abroad programs, is that it really does feature something for everyone. F. Scott Fitzgerald, another of the “Lost Generation” of American artists in 1920s Paris, once claimed that “the American in Paris is the best American.” 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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Pitter-patter goes my heart--this …
Pitter-patter goes my heart--this…
Waiting for the metro... in style.
Waiting for the metro... in style.
Rodins The Thinker.
Rodin's "The Thinker."
Beneath the Arc de Triomphe.
Beneath the Arc de Triomphe.
Paris. Night.
Paris. Night.
I Louvre Paris.
I Louvre Paris.
Inside the Louvre.
Inside the Louvre.
My first time seeing the Eiffel To…
My first time seeing the Eiffel T…
The Arc de Triomphe.
The Arc de Triomphe.
Oscar Wildes grave.
Oscar Wilde's grave.
Paris, 2006.
Paris, 2006.
Rodins Le Penseur.
Rodin's "Le Penseur."
Parisian apartments.
Parisian apartments.
Rodins garden.
Rodin's garden.
The Champs-ÉlysĂ©es (as seen from…
The Champs-ÉlysĂ©es (as seen fro…
The Monet Museum.
The Monet Museum.
A Sartrean quote from the MĂ©moria…
A Sartrean quote from the MĂ©mori…
Ascending the Eiffel Tower.
Ascending the Eiffel Tower.
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photo by: Sweetski