13 mars 2015
After a very long day Versailles, I bid my three traveling companions (Claire, Piper and Ryan) adieu and embarked on my first solo adventure abroad. I’ve heard traveling alone in your 20s a great lesson in discovering yourself, and I’m a big fan of self discovery. I didn’t have much of a plan for my time, but I did know that I love Paris so I decided to play it by ear – solid choice. My trip was to be short, only Saturday night and Sunday day. It just so turned out that a girl in my room at the hostel went to my high school! This coincidence made all the more shocking given my graduating class was 82 people.
I started Sunday, appropriately, at Saint Chapelle. The stained glass windows tell a very lengthy count of how King (later Saint) Louis received the thorny crown from Jesus himself. A less than humble choice given that it was Louis that commissioned the work. The stained glass is stunning and certainly was worth standing in the cold in ballet flats; however, I did all but sprint to the nearest warm looking café after standing in the stone walled, refrigerator-like sanctuary.
It was at this café that I made my first new friends of the journey. Having seen the best pizza I’ve ever eaten through the window, two lovely American women stopped in a sat at the table next to me. While self discovery is all fine and well, it is nicer to have someone to chat with over a great lunch. If you two are reading this, thank you for keeping me company, it was so nice meeting you!
My afternoon was full of art. I had yet to see the Musée d’Orangerie and had no idea what I was missing. Conveniently located in the same area as the Louvre and the D’Orsay, the Orangerie is host to Monet’s Waterlillies. the artists intention was not lost on me, the 360° watery splendor was a welcome respite from the thriving city just outside the museum walls. The history of the paintings were almost as interesting as the actual works. Installed in the 20’s, they were wholly unappreciated and more or less abandoned as the public lost interest in Impressionism. In the late 90’s, the public regained interest And the museum received enough funding to restore the paintings and fit the gallery with the sunlight Monet intended. How something so beautiful could go unnoticed for so long is beyond me.
After a somewhat brief return to the D’Orsay, I was dead on my feet and decided to return to the hostel (and bar) to wait (and drink a beer) before heading to train station. At the hostel I was greeted by a gaggle of English speaking people around my own age. Given my limited contact with people outside our ten girl group at the moment I’m not sure I can call missing that train entirely unfortunate. After chatting a while at the hostel, it was an appropriate dinner time and headed to get pho (hallelujah). The group was quite the motley crew of all solo travelers hailing from India, Wisconsin, Argentina, Texas, England, and California.
After my exercise in futility of trying to catch and promptly missing my train home, I caught the group heading out to the Eiffel Tower. Four miles or so later we returned to the hostel and my legs were shaking from walking, or adrenaline, or both.
The following morning, I decided that if I was going to miss my art history class I might as well experience some in the flesh. Eight of us hiked the butt-shaping stairs up to Sacré-Cœur and, after taking in the breath taking view, feasted on crêpes and mid-afternoon wine. Even after less than 24 hours with my new friends, it was hard to say goodbye. I can’t wait to see some of you in our future travels!
20 mars 2015
This past weekend, I returned to Paris. My obsession with Paris is becoming something of a running joke with the other Dijonettes, but Piper was kind enough to indulge me this weekend and joined me on the trip. Due to a somewhat unsuccessful attempt to experience the Paris nightlife Friday night, we stumbled across Shakespeare and Co. Booksellers. Thumbing through weathered pages and imagining the likes of Hemingway and Fitzgerald browsing the same selection was more than enough to make my night. It’s too bad my current reading list is far longer than my time here (Harry Potter in french is next).
On Saturday we swung by Monet’s Waterlillies (Nymphéas) at the Orangerie, which Piper had yet to see, and headed up Champs Élysées en route to the l’Arc de Triomphe.
Fun Fact: The french equivalent for “window shopping” is “lèche vitrine,” or “window licking.” The french expression is a much more accurate description of what I look like in front of stores like Chanel, Dior, or Céline. Among those stores I can’t afford is Louis Vuitton, and I don’t think any window licking could have prepared me for what the flagship store had lurking behind its mirrored walls. The first few floors were what you may expect from a luxury brand, with the added novelty of people sipping complementary (with purchase of handbag) champagne and gabbing away in an impressive assortment of languages. The real intrigue lies in the luggage room on the third floor which features a three story dripping with crystalline spires. The semi circular room has a mysterious looking pitch black rectangle cut out of one of the walls – it’s an elevator. Rather, its a lightless fabric lined box that, should you dare, will take you up to the top of that three story ceiling to show you the Espace Culturel Louis Vuitton. Given my natural curiosity and Piper’s flexibility, we boarded the plush death chamber and rode, in body odor-filled, stinky silence up three floors. The exhibition proved to be a very modern, abstract art installation involving a lot of thread/string, strange lighting, and a great view of Champs Élysées. I think you’ve gotta see it to believe it.
A bit shell shocked from that experience, we returned to our tourism goals via the subterranean walkway to the Arc de Triomphe. My takeaway: it’s a lot bigger when you’re standing underneath it.
Other highlights of the weekend include:
- Thai and Indian food. Sometimes a little variety from the bread and cheese lifestyle is good.
- Ladurée. Need I say more? Pistachio and Rose Water are my favorite.
- Open air markets. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of gawking at the abundance of fresh produce, drooling over mountains of cheese, marveling at the seafood selection and breathing deep next to the rotisserie chickens.
- The metro. I’m not sure this should qualify as a highlight, given the frustration it caused. Aside from the standard half mile long, urinal smelling underground treks, this weekend the metro had another irritating trait: it was free. Free, to our great dismay given that we had already unknowingly bought 12€ day passes. Did no one think to inform us?! Fingers crossed we’ll be able to use them in the future.
- Street musicians. As a result of unlimited free rides around the city of lights, we were treated to a frenzy of musicians turning a 100% profit. Piper got to experience just how much I love these musicians and patiently stood by while I took videos and scrounged what loose change I could. After spending quite a bit of time in the metro, I’ve compiled quite the collection of videos ranging from the ways classic accordionists, violinists, polka bands, mouth harpists and the like. With this much footage I feel obligated to compile something; ideas are welcome.
Spring has sprung here in Dijon and with it I have a few new things to smile about.
Daffodils (Jonquilles) will always have a special place in my heart. The hillside behind my house annually produces a rather impressive selection of the buttery flowers and I’ve fond memories of picking them and handing them out to neighbors. In the spring here you will find street vendors have swapped out chestnuts roasting on an open grill for baskets overflowing with little bouquets of daffodils. These guys brighten my day even without buying the flowers but at one euro per bundle, it’s a price I can get behind to brighten someone’s day.
THE FOUNTAINS ARE ON. Well, at least some of them are. Back in December, Which feels like a lifetime ago, I was googling photos of Dijon to get myself acquainted and the most popular photo I found, aside from the bounty of mustard pictures, was of the fountains at Place de la Libération. While those fountains have yet to spring to life (pun intended,) those in front of my tram stop have. It’s beginning to look a lot like spring time y’all.
People Watching – french edition
Now that people can stand to be outside longer than to just run between buildings, all of the picturesque, very french looking cafés have unfurled their outdoor dining areas. My lunches have consequently improved ten fold. There’s nothing quite so lovely and french feeling as sipping a white burgundy, nibbling on a croque monsieur, and basking in the sun while watching the dijonnais amble by.