Paris, je t'aime

Trip Start May 23, 2010
Trip End Jun 26, 2010

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Flag of France  , Île-de-France,
Thursday, June 24, 2010

I can't believe I'm saying this, but this was my last week in Paris. It's flown by, and I can't believe that this is the city where I was once culture-shocked and homesick. I don't want to leave, and when I do leave (in two days!!) I'm going to come back as soon as possible. 

On Monday, I decided I wanted to do something by myself. I like to be independent sometimes. So I went to one of my more frequent haunts, the Latin Quarter, which is the area around the Islands and Notre-Dame. I went to the famous English bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, trying to find a book to read on the plane ride home. I love bookstores so I was sure I'd find something, but no such luck; it's just too overwhelming. This bookstore is named after the original, which closed during WWI. The original proprietor was Sylvia Beach, and she made it the primary Anglo/American literary center in Paris. It was visited by writers of the "lost generation," like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, and James Joyce. Sylvia Beach published a lot of books that had been banned in the U.S. and England because they were controversial, like D.H. Lawrence or James Joyce. 

Then I wandered around the Latin Quarter and my favorite arondissement, the fifth. I love not needing a map anymore; I love eating at sidewalk cafes; I love having having the metro system memorized; I love soaking in the culture. 

The French are a unique people. No other word can describe them but "French." Monday morning on the metro, I saw a guy about my age, wearing a purple v-neck and furry leopard headphones, squeal with delight when he saw someone had left a copy of his favorite tabloid on a metro seat. Monday afternoon, I saw someone who stopped her daily run for a smoke break and a cup of coffee. I watched her (since I was eating across the street), and 30 minutes later she got up and continued her run. 

Tuesday, I went to Victor Hugo's house with my class and gave my final presentation. It was pretty cool to see because I just knew he wrote books, and Les Miserables is one of my favorite books of all-time. I had no idea he designed his house, painted portraits of his family members, or had been exiled from France. 

Wednesday was the Musee National Gustave Moreau, which is actually just a block from my apartment! Gustave Moreau was a French symbolist painter in the mid-19th century, and it was really cool. The first floor was his apartment, and the second and third were his ateliers (studios) with some of his really famous paintings. A lot of other artists described him as the precursor to surrealism because of all the mythological and biblical figures. It's probably the most underrated museum in Paris. 

Thursday was my last day of my art and architecture class, which made me really sad. It was so great having a crash course in art history and I feel like I learned so much. We went to Montmartre and walked around and admired the architecture and things of that sort. We went to the Sacre-Coeur, which is breathtaking. It's a Gothic/Byzantine-type cathedral built in the 13th century. Montmartre is the highest neighborhood in Paris, and Sacre-Coeur is the highest point of the city. After class, one of my friends and I climbed to the top of Sacre-Coeur for some really outstanding views of Paris. (However, no view beats the Eiffel Tower). 

It was a really great way to end this trip, by being able to take in all of the city. I leave Saturday, so tomorrow I have my last French class, and I have to pack and print out my boarding pass, etc, before the farewell dinner. 

I'm really going to miss Paris. Sorry, Midwestern United States, but there's just no competition. 
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