Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Museums, Museums, and Church

Wednesday in Paris began super early. We were out the door of the hotel before 7:00. The first stop of the day was the beautiful Notre Dame! Due to some miscommunication problems we were early-like really early. Turns out Notre Dame wasn't open to go to the top until 10:00. So, we went to the bridge and watched the sunrise over the city. It was beautiful. After that we explored inside the cathedral. It was kind of eerie, it being so early and all. The only other people there were the one there to say their daily prayers. It was so cool though, to see the daily worship of people in this amazing place.

 We made our way outside soon, and began to wait. Approximately one hour later we were on our way up the stairs to the best daytime view spot of Paris. The gargoyles are amazing, and yes I did really want to watch Hunch Back of Notre Dame after going up there. My favorite thing up there were not the gargoyles however, but the bell. It was so large, and powerful. And while we were up there the bells rang. It was perfect.

After Notre Dame we headed over to Saint Chapell to see the stained glass. You walk up to the second floor and the entire walls are beautiful stained glass. It was exquisite as the sun peaked in painting the room in a red tint. Sadly some of it was under renovation and closed off but the rest of it was truly beautiful.

Next up-lunch. Wonderful paninis and luckily for Jessica, unluckily for me.. Pepsi. Eh-you take what you can get when you're across the globe. Also-a delicious chocolate tart, because it's impossible in Paris to eat any meal without dessert after!
I know you may not really care about what food I ate, however, it was one of the best parts of the day any time we ate. Sooo good. Seriously, France is the place to eat pastries. And eat pastries I did!

Next it was back to the Metro and across the town to visit the Musee de l'Orangerie. This museum is kind of small but one of my very favorites that we visited. It has some of the huge water lilies painted by Monet. I love Monet's work, he is one of my favorites so this gallery quickly became a favorite.

Our next stop on the marathon of museum visits was the Musee d'Orsay museum. It was also pretty neat. I saw lots of cool things there but one of my favorites is the model they have of the Opera house. From the model you can see all the tunnels and extra rooms that exist in it. It was so cool. I also loved the Monet, Manet, and Van Gogh I saw there.

After this we met up with some more girls and headed straight to the museum of all museums. The Louvre. The plan was to spend the rest of the day there, wandering the galleries, and crossing things off the huge check list for Humanities. As soon as we walked in we were looking at the map and guess who we ran into-our American friends from the Eiffel tower! And being as friendly as they are they suggested we all go find the lady together. And don't pretend that you don't know who I am talking about... we passed Winged Victory on our way to her, and I've never been more struck with a sculpture in my life. It was absolutely stunning. Then we weaved our way around people and through a crowd and I saw her:

Now, let me tell you-everyone who has ever told me about being at the Louvre themselves must have been lying to me. They told me how the Mona Lisa was so disappointing in person, so little, so dark, so overrated. I completely disagree, perhaps because everyone had my expectations sitting pretty low. She was beautiful. She glowed. The brightness in the painting shone threw. And more than that she looks so content, so blissfully peaceful in person. It is truly one of the greatest pieces of art I've ever seen. She is stunning.

But if you haven't been let me tell you some outrageous lie about how horrible she looks so that you'll love it as much as me when you see it. :)

The next hours were spent wandering the halls finding Ruben's, David's, Delacroix's and then wandering the statue gardens. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the entire place. It is absolutely stunning.

And it was about 8:00 PM when I realized that I could no longer walk another step. It's bad to realized this across town from your hotel however! So we went out and walked around awhile to get a good view of the Arc de Triomphe, and then caught the metro back to our hotel. Once there we found this great little pasta bar restaurant. It was their first day open and the cute little owner tried to help us understand the menu. He even tried to tell us that their sauce was "homegrown". Pretty sure he meant homemade. It was great.

The night ended in a bliss of pasta and girl talk. Sitting of course, because my feet couldn't stand any longer.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Tuesday morning was met by a mediocre continental breakfast with exceptional hot chocolate. We were on the coach by 8:30 again on our way out of the city toward Chartes.

As soon as we got on the coach Dave, our resident director, came on over the intercom and from a very socialogical point of view explained to us all why French men approach woman more "aggressively" then we are used to in the states, especially American women. It would have been completely hilarious if it was not necessary after the evening that had been had by the different groups of girls the night before. Because of the previous night it was only partially hilarious. Partially hilarious, completely understood, listened to and more importantly adhered to.

We rode on the coach for awhile on our way to Chartes. And thanks to my friends Liz and Sara full of singing as if no one else was around. As we pulled into Chartes I was admiring the old buildings, the beautiful scenery, and then


Yes, we saw missionaries in Chartes. They couldn't hear us, which was probably for the best because they probably would have had a heart attack from the shock of the sound of apx 30 girls screaming at the tops of their lungs. They probably don't encounter that much in the small French towns.

So, when we got off the coach a few girls ran up to them, and Dr. Seely followed to explain that we're with BYU and such.

Mormons are everywhere. And it is beautiful.

So, after our missionary encounter we headed over to Chartes Cathedral. We got to use the headsets and do our own group tour lead by Dr. Seeley. He knows everything about reading Cathedrals and churchs. It was such a cool experience. Now the really beauty of Chartes is the stained glass. There is so much of it and it is absolutely stunning on a sunny day like we had. Some of the students from the Bible class got assigned windows and as we went around the cathedral they explained all the stories in the windows to us. It was such a cool experience.

After exploring the cathedral we ventured into town for our first real French meal. I've never had a better ham and cheese panini in my life and probably never will. It was so good. So good that we also went to get a fruit tart from there too. That is the precise moment my love affair with French pastries began.

Love affair is the only adequate discription.

 Next up was Versailles. It was gorgeous. As we pulled up I couldn't believe how big it was. I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the rooms, and gardens. I really appreciated the beauty of the Hall of Mirrors, and the gardens but I definitely understand why people hated the monarchs.

There was one bad thing about Versailles though. And that is the art show they had going on inside of it.

Anime in Versaille? The king was probably turning in his grave.

I loved wandering the gardens and just taking in the beauty of it. Also it was Music in Gardens day so wandering was just that much better. I felt as if I should be in a fancy dress, and I honestly did walk with better posture there.

After this we all headed back to the city for the evening. Jess, Amanda, Rachel and I wandered around for awhile before discovering a little Italian place for dinner. As the waitress came to take our order was asked if she spoke English... well she didn't.  She spoke French and Italian. Problem? Not for us! A few broken French words and hand gestures on our part and some smiles and nodding on hers and we got exactly what we ordered! It was perfect! We all agreed it was delicious! I even learned the French name for Diet Coke-Coca Light, in case you were wondering.

After that we hopped on the Metro and headed over to the river. From there we took a cool little boat tour. It was an hour on the river, looking at the lights, and the beautiful full moon.

 After that we hopped on the Metro and headed over to the river. From there we took a cool little boat tour. It was an hour on the river, looking at the lights, and the beautiful full moon. It was beautiful. After that we explored the city a little more and ended up at the Louvre.

The pyramids were lit up and so beautiful. It was stunning.

"I'm gonna put my feet in, take a picture of me" It was Jess.

"No way friend, I'm putting mine in too."

The cool water felt so good on my feet after walking all day.

"Nicole, go walk out into the pool."

"Jess are you joking? I'm not doing that."

"Get out there! It'll be awesome."

"Jess, there are people over there."

"They are walking away."

And then, I just thought.... Jump. Stop planning, stop worrying and jump.

So I did, literally.

 Well, not literally! I walked out though, and got some awesome pictures.

And how many people do you know that can claim they've waded out into the fountain in front of the Louvre? I know, it's cool right! So, the thing I learned the most from France was this-just jump.

That has been the theme of this whole experience. The night I decided to go on study abroad I hadn't planned, I hadn't compared, I didn't think- I just saw it and e-mailed my parents about why I felt it was right for me. And then, I went.

It felt right and I jumped. And it's one of the best things I've ever done.