It seems like this semester has barely even started, but we’ve already had our “winter break”! It was Friday- Tuesday, and we (my roommates Danielle, Chloe and I) used our time off to travel to Paris, France and Koln (Cologne), Germany. The adventure started Thursday in the early afternoon right after I took my Art History midterm. We schlepped all of our stuff through the metro to the airport and after a slight flight delay, we were off.
Our flight was only about 2 hours and after a bus ride into the city, and a trip on the metro we arrived at our hostel, St. Christopher's, around 10pm. When we first walked in, I thought that maybe we were in the wrong place. There was a restaurant, an internet café, a bar full of people, music playing, the lights were low and people were playing pool. But looking further into the room I could see the front desk. This rockin’ joint was our hostel! I could already tell that we made a good choice with this place, but when I heard the words “breakfast included” come out of the receptionist’s mouth I knew it was a GREAT choice! We had a ten person room (I don’t think it was full, though) and I loved the set up! Every once in a while something comes along and I think, “wow… I would have LOVED this when I was younger”. And my bed situation here was one of them! Our bunkbeds were like cubbies, with curtains for privacy and nightlights inside of them. How cool is that?! I guarantee to you that if I had seen this contraption 13 yrs ago, I would have had my dad rig one up in my room and pretended it was my secret spy laboratory. Haha.
After an exciting night sleeping in my cave, I had my highly anticipated free breakfast. It was bread, cereal and coffee… nothing special, but I was definitely feeling it! Then we were on our way to Versailles. It is a little way out of the city, so the train ride was pretty long and we arrived around 9:30am. I was really excited to see it again (I was in Paris in 2005 on a school trip). We admired the extreme detail and beauty of the outside for awhile, then went in for the tour of the palace. It was kind of funny because after I would take a picture, I would look at it on my camera and think, “I know I have that exact same picture in my album at home”. This is definitely one of those places that you can visit a few times in your life without getting sick of it.
We explored the grounds much more than I did last time I visited, so I saw a lot of new stuff too. We walked all through the amazing gardens, and ventured over to the Grand Trianon and Marie-Antoinette’s estate. Needless to say, it was all beautiful. By far, my FAVORITE part of everything we saw was “The Queen’s Hamlet”. Marie-Antoinette wanted her own village for herself and her children… just for fun. So, she had one built! It includes 12 cottages with vegetable and flower gardens, and a dairy farm. I really wish I was one of her kids in a past life just so I could have played in this village! This is another thing to add to my list of things I wish I had when I was younger… my own village. Haha. This village puts my old playhouse (which actually was pretty awesome) to shame. It was sooo cute and quaint. If it wasn’t lurking with ghosts, I could totally live there.
We grabbed lunch in the town, then went back to Paris to do some more exploring! When we were walking by the Seine River, we found a SUBWAY RESTAURANT!! ! At home, I eat subway at least two times a week… and it has been something that I’ve been missing A LOT since I’ve been here. My roommate knew this, and pointed it out to me right away. I lingered by the doorway for awhile taking in the scent. But after some intense soul searching, I realized that I wasn’t hungry enough for it. And depressed, I walked away. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever get a chance to eat it again while I’m here because Spain isn’t cool enough to have them. But we kept on. I regretted it immediately. And hoped that someday soon, my favorite fastish-food chain and I would be reunited.
We walked by the Notre Dame, and I enjoyed seeing it soooo much more this time. Lucky for you, I now have all this art knowledge from my class, which I will share with you periodically throughout this blog haha (but for real I’m going to show off my new skills. Get ready for it). Last time I was at this famous cathedral, I only thought it was neat because I knew it was famous and Quasimodo lived there. But this time around, I really admired the façade (and only the façade because we didn’t go inside). It is hardcore Gothic style with its extreme height, Gargoyles, large stained glass and decorative doorways. I remember last time being captivated by the doorways of the Notre Dame and was excited when we learned about this style in art history. Standing there looking at it again in real life, I could clearly pick out the Archivolt, Tympanum, Lintel, Jambs and Trumeau and knew all of their functions. What an architecture whiz! Ha
Afterwards, we went to the Louvre. It was free for us after 6pm. Whoo hoo! Obviously with all of my newly developed artistic knowledge, I was really excited! It was amazing to see so many masterpieces, and I felt extremely lucky to be there for a second time. As you all know, this museum is the home of the Mona Lisa… I was definitely ready to meet her again actually knowing about her this time! I learned in class that all of those “It’s Leonardo Divinci as a woman” ideas are FLASE. The lady in the portrait is a real person, Lisa Gerardini, who was the wife of a very rich Florentine merchant (something Giocondo). He commissioned Leo in 1504 to paint a picture of his wife… so he did it. And now it’s possibly the most recognizable piece of art on the planet! Crazy. It’s really a shame that you can’t get close enough to the Mona Lisa (or “La Gioconda” as we call it in class) to truly appreciate it. The background landscape is amazing and attempts to give a 3rd dimension to the painting (not done very much before the Renaissance). He also used the “Sfumatto” technique which is very characteristic of Divinci… it gives the background a smoky look. Even though I now know the truth behind her identity, there are still some questions that surround her. She was a member of the wealthy class, but she’s wearing no rings (uncommon). Her fingers appear to be swollen, so maybe she just had a baby and this portrait was a gift from her husband? Also, Leo didn’t do a very good job at capturing the psychology of her. Some artists were amazing and just by looking at a person in a portrait you can tell all about their personality. But what the heck is Lisa like? What does that smirk mean? Divinch doesn’t quite tell us. I felt like I could really appreciate this masterpiece much more this time, actually knowing some stuff about it. We saw so many great pieces of art, and visited Napoleon’s apartment. After wandering around the HUGE museum for a couple hours, we were all beat and decided to grab dinner. We ended up at this great Lebanese restaurant near our Hostel. As soon as we walked in and they realized we spoke English, the guy behind the counter said, “I love you!”. Haha it was so funny- definitely NOT the reaction I would expect from anyone in France. The people were soooo friendly, and the food was soooo good. We don’t eat out in Madrid ever, so this was a treat for us! I got some lemon chicken that had an awesome salad with it, and some rice. My mouth is literally watering right now just typing about it. With our bill, our teddy bear of a waiter brought us 3 pieces of baklava. Yummmm. As we were leaving the restaurant and saying goodbye to the staff, he said, “Say hello to President Obama for me!”… we assured him that we would. Haha. Extremely happy with our meals, we headed back to the hostel to rest up for our next day.
We kicked off Saturday with another round of the free breakfast, and then headed to the Eiffel Tower. We went to the very top (I didn’t get in it at all last time) and it was soooo scary! The elevator just kept going up, up, up (and so did my heart rate and anxiety level!). We got to the tip top and the view was great! We could see all of Paris. When we made our way down we explored that area of the city a little more (which included the arc de triomphe), then got crepes and ate them with the Eiffel Tower in the background. Mine had nutella and banana in it. Once again… my mouth is watering.
We soaked up as much as the city as we could, but we had to make our way to the second destination of our trip, Germany! I was pleasantly surprised with my experience in Paris. I didn’t love it last time I was there and was nervous that I would have the same thoughts this time. I definitely did NOT. Not one person was rude to us, and people were generally very helpful. I’m excited to go back someday
Okay. This blog is getting ridiculously long and I haven’t even made it to Germany yet! I don’t want to bore you too much, so I will leave you for now. But I will plan on finishing it up tomorrow…
… To Be Continued!