Tuesday, March 30, 2010


So, I know I've been on a bit of a blogging hiatus. It's hard to blog often, and then it's even harder to catch up on what I haven't blogged about.

I'll be back to blogging soon. Probably in a few days. And since I'm pretty sure people in the fam are the only ones who read this, here's a little something to tide you over.

I have found that middle aged Frenchmen are weird. They are nice to us girls in the group, and what may not constitute as flirting in France by any means, it does constitute as slightly flirting by American standards. I do not think they are intentionally creepy or anything of the like; they are just simply being friendly.

Everyday I go to the little grocery store by Mr. Crêpe Man and the Institute building. The produce man at the grocery store met me once, and talked to me about where I'm from, the fact that I look Italian, and that his mother is Italian. (I recall him saying something weird about how my dad and his mother need to meet and to be friends and that he will give me his mom's phone number..) He also picked out what he said were the best apples in the bunch, and they were disgusting. So since then, I have avoided him. I have been successful until today.

Produce guy: Bonjour mademoiselle!!
me: bonjour
guy: çava?
me: oui, et vous?
guy: oui, çava, merci beaucoup!

I then walked away thinking that was the end of it. I had a lot of things in my arm as I was picking an apple, so if I dropped something, I would have to drop everything in order to see the floor where said dropped item fell. Well, moments later the man jumps up from right under my arm (where my view was obstructed), and grabs my arm and makes weird sounds and yells "cou cou!!" Which means, "hey" or "hello" in a very casual way. I jumped back and said "oh my gosh." It freaked me out and caught me off guard and completely scared me. So then the man started laughing and repeating "oh my gosh, oh my gosh, you just said oh my gosh!" And then he told his co-worker how funny my reaction was. The man then watched me purchase my food, laughing the entire time. I don't think I will go back to that grocery store as long as Produce Guy is there.

Well, that story may have been anticlimactic, but there you go fam, an example of a daily occurrence that happens in the "vie quotidienne" in Paris.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Chartres, France

Yesterday we took a trip to the quaint little town of Chartres, France. It was refreshing to be in a small town with less hustle and bustle and more open space.

A little taste of the quaint-ness of Chartres--no one around!

We went to see the Notre Dame de Chartres, which is actually 500 years older than the Notre Dame de Paris, which is the one The Hunchback of Notre Dame is based after. We had this awesome British tour guide named Malcom Miller who has been giving tours of Chartres Cathedral for over 50 years. He has written books on it and has traveled all over the world to talk about it. Needless to say he was a very good tour guide, and his racial slurs made it even better :).

Notre Dame de Chartres

We climbed to the top of the tower on the left....

...and this was our view:

I did not realize how ridiculously out of shape I was until I had to climb hundreds of steep, winding stairs to the top. It definitely justified eating a pastry or two.

Looking down at the other tower.

Our guide used the time to teach us about the stained glass windows. Some of the windows of Chartres are the oldest stained glass windows in the world that are still in tact. They date back to the 12th century. Each window was made with the intent to teach the Catholics about the Bible. There are stories portrayed in each picture, and in each picture resides an unbelievable amount of symbolism. I guess I had the idea that stained glass windows were made to add beauty, and I did not realize how much thought went into each little part of each little
window that makes up a bigger window that makes up a bigger window...

Malcom told us that we needed about two weeks with him to scratch the surface of Chartres. He related it to BYU's library. If we spent two hours in the library we would hardly learn anything relative to how much information is there. Chartres is a library and we were only there for two hours. Malcom has been there for over 50 years and still doesn't know everything there is to know. Wow.

Marie Antoinette's Versailles

Our class went to Versailles again. This time, our class got to see a lot more of the secret and forbidden rooms that any regular tourist probably hardly even knows exist. A lot of the things we saw were based on Marie Antoinette and her time at the Chateau de Versailles.

Above: Marie Antoinette's bedroom

If anyone has ever been to Versailles they see that, much like most French buildings, it is built in a square with an outdoor courtyard on the inside. Versailles is so huge that it has many "squares" with courtyards in it. If you take a tour of the inside, you see most of the big rooms that accommodated the whole court, the bedrooms of the king and queen, and the chapels. But in most of the bedrooms there are camouflaged doors that lead to bathrooms, offices, and private quarters. The more "public" parts of the chateau are very grand, large, and rich in paintings and fabrics. The private quarters are just as decadent, but are much smaller. I wish I had pictures of the tiny rooms and offices of Marie Antoinette.

One of the courtyards from the inside of a closed off room

Above is a chair that I thought was really pretty. It is in one of the "dressing rooms" of the queen's that is not really used for dressing or storing clothes. Dressing rooms were more used as private places where one could study, think, or relax in a quiet and secluded area. Hence the pretty furniture. All of that on the wall is real gold leafing too!

A view of the courtyard from a secret window. I snuck this picture. Shhh Valerie doesn't know...

And another picture of the Hall of Mirrors

Art class is usually so long and drawn out for me. We were at Versailles for close to four hours and it did not seem as long because of the things we got to see! The teacher is so knowledgeable about Versailles. I think she got a little excited to show us all of the things which is why we stayed for at least half an hour longer than our class was scheduled to. It's funny because she is very well-educated and knowledgeable; she spoke with such authority and intelligence. But when I asked her a question her reply was, "Well I don't know! I wasn't there!"

Oh okay. Thanks Valerie...

London, Baby!

Catch up: A quick recap of London:

We went to Les Misérables! The first time I went was in 2008 and we saw it the night we flew into London. I was so jet-lagged that I fell asleep no matter how hard I tried to stay awake. So this time I got to see the whole thing. I thought the cast from 2008 was better (from what I actually saw of it), but Les Miz is Les Miz, and it's always good.

The theater was in Chinatown in London, and it was Chinese New Year so the streets were decked out.

We went shopping on Portobello Road/Knotting Hill. Probably the funnest littlenot-so-little road I have been to in Europe. The buildings were bright colors and there were the coolest shops that lined the street. There were all kinds of stores, from antiques/flea shops & cute little boutiques...

...to the
most famous cupcake shop in England.

We saw the Buckingham Palace....

...and the Queen...
(I'm only about .001% sure that it truly was the Queen)

...And walked in the park near Buckingham Palace...

...We had Ben's Cookies....
(Which I now crave every day. Thank goodness for the Gateway)

...And went to the Opera.

It was a great trip. And since our train was delayed twice totaling over 5 hours of waiting, we were all granted complimentary roundtrip-and-a-half tickets on the Eurostar. Here's to hoping I can make it back!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Art Class

Everyone in the program is taking the same Art History class. It is taught by a native Parisian who is also a curator at Versailles. We meet in the Louvre every week for class. Sounds amazing, right? Well in theory, it is. Unfortunately the class is in the later afternoon and after having an early start to the day it is impossible to not be
tired while we stand for two hours straight looking at obscure paintings. No really, we do get to see some cool art; however, I was under the impression that we would be learning the history of famous pieces of art. Which I'm sure will happen soon enough. Our teacher, Valerie, is a funny little lady. She must have learned English from a Brit, because she uses British terminology. It seems as though she can speak more than she can understand. Sort of counterintuitive.

But I can't complain. First because I get to spend hours in the Louvre, have a student art card that grants me priority access so I don't have to wait in line. All for free. But second, because I leave the Louvre and see this:

Part of the class also requires us to go to the Chateau de Versailles.

We get backstage passes so we get to go into rooms that any old Regular Joe isn't allowed. We get to ignore roped off portions....

...stay after closing time and play in the Hall of Mirrors....

And enjoy the view.

Rough life.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Musée d'Orsay

A couple days ago I had some time to kill. I had about 3 hours of free time, and I needed to be in the city. So Brooklyn and I decided to go to the Musée d'Orsay. I've always heard that people like the Musée d'Orsay better than the Louvre. Which I didn't get, because the Louvre is probably one of the most famous museums in the world, and the Orsay is very much lesser known. But now, I see why people love it.

It is much smaller than the Louvre, which makes it much less overwhelming. It is filled with beautiful impressionism by the world's most renowned artists.
I got to see the originals of paintings that I have seen throughout my entire life.

Monet's famous "Field of Poppies." My mom used to hang a framed print of this in our family room. I remember laying on the couch admiring it and looking at it often while growing up. I was excited to see it in person.

Monet's garden

Monet's "Water Lilies."

I loved having a day where I was able to go to a museum and look at the things that I wanted to look at. There was no agenda, no required essay or journal, it was simply a leisurely visit.

Except when a little boy threw up in the Van Gogh exhibit.

Friday, January 29, 2010

L'Eglise Madeleine

The next day we decided to do a walk for our Paris Walks class. Which is exactly the way it sounds. We have set walks to do that were created by BYU professors. It's basically our own little tour guide. We get guided through the city without loo
king completely like tourists (i.e. a double-decker).
**I stole your picture Brooklyn. Hope you don't mind :)
The walk then took us to a very cute little Patisserie/Restaurant. It is called Ladurée. I highly recommend going there if you are ever in Paris. Even for the cute window displays alone.

The Ladurée is where these little delights were invented. Yep, invented. They have some bizarre flavors of macaroons. And it has the strongest taste. They have flavors anywhere from chocolate to rose. I got four flavors and by the time I got the chance to taste the rose I had to pass. I'm telling you, the flavor is very strong and rich. Not much of a fan myself.
Then we went to the musée du parfum. The museum tour was super boring. I'm pretty sure the tour guide who supposedly spoke English just memorized a script, because I tried to talk to her and she gave me a very doe-eyed look.
I've always known Paris as a place known for its amazing shopping. But even more so, its amazing window displays. Never before has window shopping been so fun.
Don't ask why this man is proposing to the other man. It turns out that in the series of windows the man was actually named "Mary". I don't think the French quite understand English...