I haven’t had a lot of time to blog this week, but I want to be as thorough as possible…I’ll do my best to cover everything I can in this round-up of week 1!!
Wednesday: Arrival, see previous posts
Thursday: This was our first day of orientation!!! We met in the BU Center and listened to a bunch of boring powerpoint presentations about safety and school policies etc…then we were given sandwiches and tickets to the Bateaux Mouche boats that cruise down the Seine. I can see how this tour might be worthwhile if you’re really gung-ho about it, but for a group of 39 college students who just met each other and were seated in the middle of the boat far away from all the windows…it was a little bit of a bust. The most exciting part was the tour guide who gave every instruction and introduction in 5 languages. It was really cool to see some of the many many bridges crossing the Seine, and of course to see sites like the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Louvre. Let’s talk about the Louvre. Holy crap. I guess the Met is technically bigger (or so the internet is telling me) but when you’re sailing past and the tour guide says “Look, that’s the Louvre Museum!” you don’t expect it to go on and on along the bank for like 7 minutes!!! So the boat tour might be worth a go, but I’m not convinced it’s the number one way to experience Paris. I didn’t even take any pictures because none of them would have turned out well at all. A group of us walked back to the Eiffel Tower and went in search of 1) the store that sells our class books/materials 2) a cheap temporary cell phone, and most importantly 3) somewhere to have a glass of wine. It seems like about half the program is from BU and everyone else is from the northeast. Apart from Steph who goes to U of Miami and 2 girls from UNC, I’m the most “southern” person in the program! It’s weird not being around people who get my DC references…at least one girl’s freshman year roommate was from Fairfax, so she knows the difference between Virginia and Northern Virginia. A small group of us sat and chatted for a long time, and then headed back home, exhausted after a long day.
Friday: Yet another orientation day, this time information about our classes and the academic side of our internships. It sounds like this will include a 5+ page paper and a juried oral defense…I’m sure it’s not as intimidating as it sounds and I guess I’m used to talking on and on about random stuff (thanks, IB!) I’m just hoping I’ll be able to do it in French!! We had an extra long lunch break, so a few friends and I bought sandwiches (I really think the whole baguette sandwich thing is something that needs to catch on the States!) and took them for a picnic on the Champs de Mars. I really like that park. It obviously has a lot of tourists walking around, but it reminds me a lot of the National Mall. The Eiffel Tower/Washington Monument on one end and the École Militaire/Capitol on the other!! And the river just beyond! In the remaining hour, we decided to take a walk to find the somewhat nearby Arc de Triomphe!! It ended up being about a half hour walk, past the Palais de Chaillot (where you get a BEAUTIFUL perspective of the Eiffel Tower and Champs de Mars from the top of the hill) and down some beautiful Paris streets until we finally arrived at L’Étoile! We sadly didn’t have time to go around and cross over to the monument, but we saw it!! Here are some pictures to prove it!!!
We then had more presentations about some cultural excursions and more safety tips from the US Embassy…plus an explanation of the “Passporte Culturelle” (I bet even you can figure that one out, mom 🙂 ) which is basically 130€ that BU will reimburse us for cultural activities that we take part in around Paris, like museum admission, theatre or cinema tickets, etc. Pretty sweet! Then, the same group that sat chatting at a café Thursday, went out in search of another one, this time in Le Marais, the Jewish Quarter. This is a really neat neighborhood with narrow, winding cobblestone streets and lots of “Parisian” architecture everywhere. We found a café outside of the National Archives, which was a huge fortress, which I just found unbelievably funny in comparison to our nation’s National Archives (which most people in the group didn’t know exists). Then we trekked back to the dorms of the Cité Universitaire, where some students in our program are staying and ate a pretty good (and very cheap!) dinner before heading home.
Saturday: We were given instructions to basically do a photo scavenger hunt of an assigned neighborhood in Paris. My group and I were assigned the Montparnasse area, which sort of overlaps between the 15th, 14th, and 6th arrondissements. We walked first to the Tour Montparnasse, the tallest building in Paris at 56 stories, it was the tallest building in France until 2011 and remains the 14th tallest building in the EU. We would have paid €7,50 to go to the top and have a panoramic view of Paris, but it was foggy and raining, so we thought we’d save our money for a different time. We also explored the Gare Montparnasse (train station) which has a garden and a museum built on top. The park is actually really nice and peaceful and had some sort of party or event involving inflatable sumo wrestling costumes…Then we all spilt up and went in search of somewhere warm to have a warm cup of café au lait or chocolat and then went to buy our school books. At 7, the program took us out to a very nice restaurant for dinner. We were served some sort of cheese/eggplant starter which was delicious and then salmon or duck on a bed of delicious veggies. Guess which one I had 🙂 It was the first time I’d had duck though, and it was really quite delicious. Then some sort of chocolate lava cake deliciousness and we were off to the next stop of the evening: The Musée D’Orsay for La Nuit des Musées (Museum Night). This is a big festival where several museums stay open until 11 or 11:30 with Free Admission and also have some sort of special presentation or tour. At the Musée D’Orsay, there were seven dancers who were dancing in different sections in the big main sculpture hall. It was really mesmerizing to watch. I love art that is based on another medium of art, and so doing a dance in a visual arts gallery is super exciting to me! I watched them so long I hardly got to see any of the works in the actual gallery! It was so exciting to see some of the paintings I’ve studied or used in projects in person! There’s nothing like seeing that page of your textbook come to life. After the museum closed, we walked down the Seine back to meet our friends at the Eiffel Tower, where I saw the light show for the first time!! In the evenings, for 5 minutes every hour on the hour until 1 or 2, the Eiffel Tower SPARKLES! It’s so beautiful, I want to try to take a video of it soon.
Sunday: This was our completely free day! I took my time getting out of bed. It was kind of rainy and grey, so I didn’t have that many plans besides enjoying the day. I met some friends at the Musée de L’Orangerie, where Monet’s huge waterlily murals are. They are really truly magnificent. The Museum is in the Jardin des Tuileries, outside the Place de la Concorde, which during the revolution was named Place de la Revolution and was the site of the infamous guillotine. Now it features two lovely mermaid fountains!! After the museum, we took a stroll about halfway down the Champs-Elysées before hopping a métro to the 18th Arrondissement to climb Montmartre up to the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur. Where it promptly started raining on us. We huddled under our umbrellas hoping to wait out the drizzles while we looked at the sprawling view of the city below us, but eventually decided to go home and spend the rest of the rainy day at home with some quality personal time!
So, that’s what I’ve been up to for the most part this week!! I haven’t been speaking too much French because most of the orientation has actually been in English, and we are all still trying to get to know each other, which is really hard in a foreign language. Tomorrow is the start of our classes, so I guess we’ll have to jumpstart back into French soon!
Congratulations for making it to the end of this incredibly long post!! Talk to you soon!