My one French friend
So I havenâ€™t written in a few days, and I know you are desperate for knowledge of what I am doing in Paris
. This is my favorite city in the world, so its hard for me to slow down and write, when I could be out there enjoying it. I had to do laundry today, though. So a perfect opportunity to write about some of the highlights. I havenâ€™t been very planful about writing my blogs, I am sure I am forgetting things, but I make mental notes all the time about things to remember that I need to get onto the screen.
The wash cycle just started and I donâ€™t have to be to Versailles
until 4:45, so here goes.
Security Breach at the Louvre
The Soap Opera of Student Travel.
People ask why I donâ€™t like the Real World on MTV. The short answer is that I live that television show every day at my job. On a trip on a bus across Europe for a month, it may be more like the old version of Road Rules, but the situations are the same, but just magnified, because I look at, hear from, and occasionally smell everything these students do. We have a really good group this year. I have been very happy with their patience and interest in what we are doing. However, there are always good stories, and for some reason, I get to hear them all. There have been bitter breakups between people on this trip and the anger and fury that brings â€“ watching your ex-girlfriend of one day, hook-up with someone else is infuriating I would imagine. There is lots of canoodling and hand holding â€“ even amongst the students who have boyfriends and girlfriends at home. There are medical emergencies â€“ nose bleeds from out of the blue, vomiting of blood, swollen ankles that prevent walking, etc. There are the students who have gotten drunk for the very first time and destroyed sheets, towels, and ashtrays with a night of sickness. There are nicknames for everyone, I havenâ€™t heard all of them, some are funny, some are mean. Thatâ€™s the interesting thing about doing this job, it doesnâ€™t seem to change. It sort of runs like clockwork. All these situations have happened on the two trips I have done before. There are the same cliques, they just get different names (the Frat Pack, the Jew Crew, ZTA, the Smokers). The cliques all start off strongly, and then about mid-way they sort of realign as people grow tired of one another. The 2 week mark is also the point when the hooking up and breaking up really begins in earnest. The same complaints and irritations come up, the same worry over every penny spent, unless its for beer or for bungee jumping, then the sky is the limit â€“ for the most part. I really mean it when I say that we have a great group on this trip, I like everyone on the trip, but the issues are all the same. So I just smile when they ask about the other groups before, they may be a little tamer, but they would have fit in very well with the others.
As we drove to Paris from Switzerland the bus got increasingly warm â€“ up to 84 degrees actually, it got really hot. We finally broke our streak of cold, rainy weather and ended up in Paris on a 90 something degree day. We are staying at a fantastic hotel here. It is brand new â€“ well brand newly renovated and updgraded. It has a pool with a waterfall, a spa, amazing breakfast, flat panel tvs, a rainfall type shower head, heated towel racks, and a nice clean modern feel â€“ it is up there with Le Parker Meridien with hotels that I have stayed in. Except the first day, when the AC in my room didnâ€™t work and it was in the 80s in my room. I have never slept not under some sort of cover before. It was the first time in my life â€“ and I never got cold during the night, if I moved, I sweated. Fortunately, it was fixed the next day and has been fantastic ever since. Plus, the weather broke on Wednesday and its been much cooler and Parisian outside. At the hotel, Nills, the desk clerk has been really helpful and friendly. Thatâ€™s why I love Paris, when the people are nice, they are the nicest people in the world.
Paris is the longest stop for the students on this trip, 5 nights. We have been to the Musee dâ€™Orsay, Centre Georges Pompidou, Musee Carnevelet, Musee Cognac Jay, the Louvre, the Pantheon, and today we head to Versailles, my least favorite place in Europe, I think. I hate Versailles. I didnâ€™t mind taking the Louvre tour for the 5th time, but I am dreading having to see all that red velvet and silk at Versailles. Iâ€™ll let you know. Actually, the visit to the Louvre was rather exciting. While I was there, earlier than the group there was a security breach. Alarms started going off, metal doorways shut everywhere, and the escalators all stopped. Everyone in the museum was directed to exits past security guards with machine guns. Stairs appeared from the square around the pyramid and within 10 minutes we were outside waiting for the all clear. I found Joyce in the square, as she had been evacuated from another part of the museum as she had been doing her pre-walkthrough. We guessed it was not a bomb threat, but more an art theft thing, as we were all allowed to stand around the giant glass pyramid with no issue and the metal doors shut off the metro and funneled everyone past the guys with machine guns. It was very exciting. The exhibit at Pompidou, the National Museum of Modern Art, was on filmmaking as an art, interesting screenings and art pieces on optics. It was the first museum I visited in Paris when I was a kid, and it still impresses me, although it seems to get smaller every time I go. I love the French sensibility about art. There were videos of people having sex in the main hall of the exhibit with kids walking by not blinking an eye. However, there was a slide show with a sign saying that some of the images may be uncomfortable for some visitors, I was all excited about what thrilling images waited for me inside that curtain â€“ it was a family in a bathtub and a little boy peeing. I was bummed. Fortunately, in other rooms, there was a video of a man drowning himself, getting shot, and dragging his body through ground glass â€“ no signs there. As I mentioned, there were lots of school groups there. I think its great that little kids here are given an appreciation of modern art. There were classes of 7 or 8 year olds learning about Jackson Pollock and Matisse, and they seemed so happy and excited. The college students from Tech, rarely appreciate the modern art. They usually say, I could do that, or thatâ€™s not art. So I have my standard answer. It is art, because it has caused a reaction in you. Art doesnâ€™t have to be beautiful or something you would want in your home. It just has to make you think, and that painting or sculpture that you have such a strong reaction of dislike (for its simplicity, perceived ugliness, etc) has caused a strong reaction in you. That usually makes them be quiet. I always am happy at the modern art museums, it means fewer pictures of mary holding Jesus or pictures of saints standing in a circle looking at something holy.
One thing that traveling for a month can do for is make sure that you miss your friends and family. I always feel that in Paris when I am here by myself. I am desperate to have people here with me to do the same things I want to do. I sit at restaurants by myself, I sit in pubs by myself and ride the Metro alone. It gets really lonely here. I think I feel it here more, because being social is such an important part of life here. There is a huge appreciation for social things here. When your French is limited to a few phrases (yes, no, I donâ€™t speak French, I would like (noun), 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, shut your mouth (thanks Tony for that one), push, pull, Iâ€™m sorry, please, thank you, beer, water, chicken, beef, vegetable names, excuse me, my God, and something that sounds like Zoot Allors (which is an expression of shock,) its hard to hold a meaningful conversation with the locals. I always say that I want to learn French when I am here. This is a city I would do anything to live in for a few years, so I guess I should really start trying to do something about it and bite the bullet and expand my French knowledge. People are usually very friendly here, as opposed to what you may have heard, and really do try to make you feel welcome. I always do, but I just wish I could understand the jokes going on around me and laugh with everyone else.
I love eating here. I have had great French food â€“ salade nicoise and a galette filled with more cheese then Iâ€™ve ever seen in my life (its chevreâ€™ season by the way,) it was really a lot of cheese (I didnâ€™t eat again for 10 hours). I have had great Thai food (shrimp wrapped with beef and a beef salad flavored with lemon grass and lime leaves), Lebanese food (kebe and fatoush), and tonight I am having Cuban for my last night in the city. My first meal here, I had a dog join me while I ate my salad, as you might imagine from the previous entry, it was nice to have the company. Food is relatively inexpensive here as are most things, in comparison to the rest of the places we have visited, you actually get change back when you order a drink from the smallest bill in your pocket â€“ change is good.
I think I just boiled my underwear. The water was 90 degrees C and the cycle lasted an hour, at least I know its clean. The drying has begun. After this, I am heading to the Grand Arche of La Defense
to see it and have lunch and then race off to Versailles. Then my last night in Paris. Tomorrow we head to Bruges
and on Tuesday to London via the Chunnel. A week from tomorrow I will be in Oxford for a few days, with Ann, and my new sandals, they have been retrieved.
I am going to miss Paris so much. It is, however, a place I know I will be back to soon. It is everything you make it, very stereotypical -- dogs, baguettes, high fashion, crazy people on the Metro. It is also, so much more, the most exciting, fun place in the world.