Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wrapping up in Paris (Days 33, 34, & 35)

Parc des Buttes Chaumont
Whew!  Paris got HOT while I was gone for the weekend!  This week it has been in the mid-high 90s!  I had been waiting for a good sunny day to visit a park that was on my list, so on Monday afternoon, I went to the Parc des Buttes Chaumont.  It was a really neat and VERY pretty park, but also was very busy when I went, and it was the strangest group of people.  I felt like every shady character in Paris (minus the Eiffel Tower selling guys) was in the park.  I almost left because I was kind of uncomfortable, but I ended up just making sure I ONLY walked where I saw groups with women or other women walking (it was weird, there were big groups of men everywhere and then creepy people on their own).  But again, such a strange mix.  Elderly, people with children, young people, and everyone who was shady.

Anyway.  It was so pretty!  I didn't take as many pictures as I wanted because I wasn't always comfortable pulling my camera out, but I got pictures of what I went for, this gazebo up on a hill/cliff.  Very neat!  The park was definitely worth going to.  Along with the neat gazebo, it had a man-made little cave/waterfall area that was fun to see (no picture, was harassed a little there and pulling out my camera would have made it way worse).

That night, Teresa and I went to Champs-Élysées to take pictures for a bit.

our macaroons
On Tuesday after class, Teresa and I went to Laudurée (on blvd Madeline) and bought macaroons.  I tried the caramel with salted butter, raspberry, and two other flavors (they're not listed, something like passion fruit and guava).  Yum!  The rose one that I tried last week was the best.

After that I went to the Musée d'Orsay.  I had forgotten about the awful lines to get into museums; not used to that!  I ended up standing in line for about an hour.  I loved the building for the museum, an old train station.  According to my tour book, the station inspired Grand Central Station in NY and Union Station in DC.  It had a neat mix of things, paintings, sculptures, furniture and artifacts.  No pictures allowed, though!  Oh well.

our picnic
That evening, Teresa and I took my cheese samples from Switzerland, a baguette, a bottle of wine, wine glasses and a blanket to the Eiffel Tower and had a picnic where we had our picnic when we first arrived in Paris a month ago.  Hah, we had wanted to buy the wine from a wine store so we could ask for advice on what would go well with the cheese, but after hauling all our stuff all around, we couldn't find one that was open, so we went to the grocery store.  Since our wine tasting lecture several weeks ago was under two hours, we really had no idea what to pick!  We just knew that the professor had said that the wine that costs eight euros or more is usually good French wine.

 After staring blankly at the wines for a while, we finally decided to find something that was from 2007 (when we graduated from high school) with a price of around eight euros.  Then we realized we hadn't brought a wine opener.... darn it!  Thankfully all the tourist shops sell them so Teresa bought one to give as a gift when she goes home.
had a little trouble with the cork!

It really was a lot of fun, I'm so glad we did it.  I had told Teresa we should eat the cheese I had brought back with some French wine, but had just thought we'd do it at the apartment.  I'm so glad she said we should take it to the Eiffel Tower!

Maybe thirty minutes into our picnic, it started raining hard enough that we had to gather everything up and run to a little shelter nearby.  I'm glad Teresa's from New Jersey and wasn't cold; it meant that I was able to wrap the blanket that we had been sitting on around me so I wouldn't freeze!  We stood under the shelter with a bunch of other people who had been having picnics, and with maybe eight of the Eiffel Tower/drink sellers.

Once it stopped raining, we ventured back out and took some pictures of the tower and then went home.

Today I got all packed up because CEA made me move from my room into the room with Teresa so the two new girls would be in a room together.  Kind of was a waste of time; when we got here, the girls who were already here didn't have to be in the same room.  Oh well.
booths along the Seine, love them!

I went to see Midnight in Paris at the movie theatre.  I really liked getting to see all of the places I've gone while watching the movie!  Then I went to CEA to pick up a couple more raffle wins, a cookbook and Danish pastries.  I ate one of the pastries as I walked to the Notre Dame area to look at the tourist shops and booths along the Seine.  Towards the end of my walk, I walked by a bookstore that I had seen in the movie.

raffle win, Danish pastries
After I finished up some of my food in the apartment for dinner, I went with Teresa, Kathryn (other girl in our building) Katie, Kaylee, (all of us went to the Sorbonne through CEA) to rue Mouffetard for a little bit.  Tomorrow morning Teresa and I have a shuttle coming to the apartment at 9:30 to take us to the airport.  To London I go!  I'm supposed to have Internet access in my hostel there so I should continue to post!

Au revoir, Paris!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Switzerland (Days 31 & 32)

This weekend I got to see Switzerland, and it was GORGEOUS!

Geneva: Jet d'Eau
France: train ride to Switzerland
In January 2009, I went to Washington, D.C. for a four-month internship on Capitol Hill.  In my first few days there, Obama's Inauguration was held and the city turned into a madhouse!  While trying to get from my apartment in Crystal City to Capitol Hill to see the festivities, I made a friend, Gina, who I ended up spending my entire day with.  She helped me get to Capitol Hill (the metro wasn't going to my regular stop so I had no idea where to go), and I took her into an office building where we were able to get a good view and avoid the chaos.

Annecy, France: Palais de l'Isle jail
Gina is from Geneva, Switzerland, and this weekend I got to stay with her and her parents and they showed me around.  Wow!  What a GORGEOUS place!

Annecy, France
I arrived by train Friday night and after dropping my stuff off, Gina gave me a walking tour of Geneva.  I was really surprised to see these cables running maybe 20 or so feet in the air ALL OVER the city, and found out they were for many of the busses and trolleys so they could function using electricity as well as gas.  Don't think that I'd ever seen that before.  We walked through a park and around the lake where they have the Jet d'Eau, one of the largest fountains in the world.  It was huge!  The lake was very pretty at night, and I was really surprised to see swans all over the place; Gina said they're native to Switzerland.  Definitely didn't know that!

Annecy: Olympic Ad
Annecy, France
Geneva, Switzerland: flower clock
Gruyères, Switzerland
Geneva: cables for the busses
The next morning, we drove around a little bit and then went over the border to Annecy, France.  Gina said it's called the French Venice because of the beautiful little canal that runs through it.  We walked around the town for a while; very pretty.  They're in the running to be the hosts for the 2018 Winter Olympics.  Once we were done in Annecy, we went back to Geneva and went for a walk around the town again.  Gina said that Geneva is well-known for its watches/clocks, so we went to see the Geneva flower clock then had dinner and went to a movie.

Gruyères: cheese samples

Gruyères: Fondue
 On Sunday, Gina, her parents and I drove all over Switzerland.  It was an absolutely beautiful drive.  Our first stop was in Gruyères, Switzerland where we took a tour of the Gruyère cheese factory.  We learned about how cheese is made and got samples of the cheese they make.  After we finished our tour, we ate Gruyère fondue for lunch!  Fun!

Gruyères: cheese factory

Gruyères: cheese aging
Gruyères: cheese factory (Alps in background)
Lauren and Gina outside of the cheese factory
 After the cheese factory, we went to Broc, Switzerland to the Callier chocolate factory.  The factory had a really fun way of teaching their story when we took the tour.  It sent us from room to room where an audio recording would be played while lights would highlight whatever piece of the story was relevant.  So in the first room, it was decorated like an Aztec village/jungle area and then later on there were Victorian rooms.  It was definitely a lot fancier than I expected!

Broc: Callier chocolates
Broc: Callier raw goods display

At the end of the tour, we got to see the raw goods that are turned into chocolate, some of the factory machinery, and got to taste a BUNCH of chocolate... whoop!
Broc: Callier chocolates, so many to try!

From there it was onto Montreux, Switzerland where we saw more of the Swiss Alps, and got to see Lake Léman and the Chateau de Chillon.  Beautiful, beautiful place!  Bet there have been some breathtaking sunrise and sunset photos taken at this location!
Montreux: Chateau de Chillon
Montreux: Chateau de Chillon
Montreux: Chateau de Chillon
From there we started to head back to Geneva, but we stopped by Lusanne, Switzerland on our way so I could see the headquarters for the Olympic Committee.  Woah!  Pretty nice view they had.

view from the Olympic committee headquarters
Lusanne: Olympic Committee headquarters
There were vineyards EVERYWHERE!
Unfortunately on our way back we made it all the way to Geneva close to the time for my train to leave and ended up hitting every red light in town.  Gina and I ran from the car all the way to the platform and as we got there the conductor saw us and the train started to inch away.  Boo.  It was the last train to France, too.

We raced to the airport to the airport to try to see about a flight but that didn't work, so we went back to the train station to try to rebook a train for the morning but there wasn't anyone there!  So much for free ticket changes within an hour of missing the train!  We ended up going back to their apartment and booking a train ticket online for the 5:50 am train to Paris for Monday morning.  Whew!  Crazy ending, but what a fun, beautiful weekend with a great family!  

Friday, June 24, 2011

Rodin, Montmartre, Usher? (Days 28, 29 & 30)

The Thinker
A couple of weeks ago, my parents sent me the information for a friend's daughter who lives in Paris.  Wednesday after class, I went to La Défense and met her (Kerry) for lunch.  After lunch, I FINALLY got some stamps and mailed the postcards that I bought my first week in Paris!  I still need to send the ones I bought in Barcelona... couldn't find stamps while I was there!

The Gates of Hell
Musée Rodin
Once I mailed my postcards I headed over to the Musée Rodin because I had just enough time to see it before I needed to be home for a meeting at my apartment.  I really liked the museum.  Around half of the statues were outside in gardens, and thankfully the weather had cleared up for the afternoon so it was beautiful outside and wonderful to walk around.

La Défense
Wednesday night, Teresa and I went to La Défense so I could take some night pictures of the Grande Arche.

On Thursday, I began my day with an NACT conference call at 3 am (8 pm at home).. yeesh!  Later (much later in comparison to the call) in the day I went to Montmartre to follow the walk in my book.  It took me by Place Pigalle, Sacré-Coeur, Place du Tertre, St.-Pierre de Montmartre, Musée de Montmartre, and Moulin de la Galette to name a few of the sights.  I really enjoyed it!  It was a pretty area and I got to see a lot of parts of it that I hadn't seen the other couple times I had been up there.
Montmartre: wouldn't mind having their view!
One spot that was particularly fun to stroll through was Place du Tertre, where TONS of artists were selling their work and painting in the square.  Teresa and I had walked through there at night when we went to Sacré Coeur and had seen some artists, but in the daylight it was full of them!  There was some really beautiful and different artwork.

St.-Pierre de Montmartre
St.-Pierre de Montmartre
St.-Pierre de Montmartre
statue in Montmartre
Moulin de la Galette
These fountains are all over Paris
When I finally finished the walk (they're a little hard to follow and I ALWAYS end up getting turned around at some point), I headed home to get ready for our CEA farewell dinner (the students taking classes taught by CEA leave tomorrow) at La Mosquée de Paris.  The CEA staff member who I talked to said the place is a Mosque, a restaurant, and a bath house..?  Strange.  Anyway, I'm so glad they had our dinner there!  It was a really neat experience.  I had lamb couscous, and we all had this GREAT tea, and little pastries for dessert.  OH!  And there was a celebrity sighting!  Side story time.
some of our CEA group
Ok. So I think I've randomly seen one celebrity ever in my life. It was the singer Usher (Usher Raymond).  I was walking down a hallway on Capitol Hill on my way to a hearing, and I saw these two monster body guards next to him and.. well.. yeah.  There he was.  Anyway, we were sitting at our table and one of the girls, Anna, says "Hey, that guy looks like Usher" and the girl on the other side of her (Kaylee) and I look up at this group of guys walking by and just say "umm.. no."  Well a few minutes later, we found out the people we were looking at weren't who she was talking about.  The guy she was talking about DID look like Usher!  He was sitting like 30 feet away from us with two women and a man who looked like he was probably bodyguard!
La Mosquée de Paris
La Mosquée de Paris
La Mosquée de Paris
La Mosquée de Paris: Usher
We all started to wonder if it really was him, and when we saw him being served right after sitting down when we hadn't even had a waiter come to our table in ten minutes, we decided it was.  Cool!  So now the only celebrity I've ever seen, I saw in Washington, DC and again in Paris, France. Weird! And a little bit awesome.  He waved at one of our girls as she took a picture.  I had my good camera with me so I got some shots too.  Haha, ohh dear.  One of the guys in our group was taking a picture of a couple people in our group (as a cover, it was actually to be of Usher of course), and Usher saw and just threw his hands straight up into the air.. hah!  I think they were in and out before we even got our food.
After dinner I went home and grabbed my tripod and went to Pont Alexandre III, and Place de la Concorde to take pictures.

Assemblée National
Place de la Concorde
Jardin des Plantes
Jardin des Plantes: grapes
Today (Friday) I walked around the Jardin des Plantes after class for a little bit.  Couldn't stay too long, I have to pack and catch a train to Geneva, Switzerland at 4 pm!
Jardin des Plantes