Friday, July 3, 2009

Amber, where are you going?

This is a phrase I will probably use many many many maaaaaaaaany times over the next month. *grin*

My first week in Paris has been absolutely wonderful. I have seen so much and loved it here. Buuuuuuuuuut, I figure you don't want a play by play of my week lest I keep you here for far too long. So here are the highlights of this first week.

Sightseeing has been the primary focus because once classes start on Monday we really don't have much free time. When I got in I took a short nap and headed with Francois (the lady I was staying with) to Monmatre, a beautiful Byzantine Cathedral on the north end of the city. It is completely white and has beautiful mosaics inside. After walking through we explored around the cathedral through what I have come to learn is the Artists Quarter. Many famous french actors and artists have lived in this section and many of the houses are very old and beautiful. Could I tell you the names of anyone who lives there, heck no! I was incredibly jet lagged, but I did get some cool pictures.

Tuesday I got up and went sightseeing with Claire, the 21 year old daughter of a friend of Francois. She took me to Notre Dame and we wandered through some of the quarters in the near area. I remember visiting Notre Dame when I came to Paris 12 years ago, but this time it was a much different experience. I find visiting Cathedrals to be very sad. The art and architecture is beautiful but these are buildings that were originally very sacred places being trampled through by hundreds of tourists. In the medieval era these Cathedrals were the center of cities, all life revolved around these houses of worship, and they were so well loved. As I have visited the Cathedrals of Paris I often find myself wishing for another time when these buildings were loved and cherished and their symbolism understood.

At Notre Dame we were able to walk through the main portion and then go up onto the roof. It was incredibly hot but completely worth it. The view from Notre Dame was absolutly incredible and we also visited the bell tower that had the biggest bell named Emmanuel. Traditionally bells are christened after they are cast and at their christening they are given a name that often will stick with them for life. This one was given the name ______________ Emmanuel. I don't remember the first name.

Wednesday we visited San Chapelle and wandered through the really really ritzy shopping district. It was cool to look in all the windows there. San Chapelle is absolutely beautiful and the history is quite fun. It was built by King Louis who not long after his death became St. Louis for all he did for Christianity during his reign. He was incredibly pious and went on many pilgrimages and crusades along with sponsoring the construction of many churches. This particular church was built to house the "true" crown of thorns. Oh, relics.

The church had two levels, a lower chapel where the servants of the king could come to worship, and the upper chapel is where the royal family would go. For many years it was the official church where the royal family would come to from the Louvre to worship. It is absolutely beautiful. Most of the walls are stained glass windows thanks to the very very best use of flying buttresses to be seen anywhere. There are fifteen massive windows with a large rose window in the back. Each window showed a book from the Bible. The first window was Genesis and so on. The three windows of particular note are the fifth window which depicted the crowning of the Kings of Israel, the thirteenth window which depicted the book of Esther, and the rose window. King Louis, and subsequent kings, always sat below the fifth window thereby alluding the their divine right to the throne by drawing the connection to the religiously based Kings of Israel. Queen Mother Blanche sat under the window depicting the book of Esther. It was symbolic because Esther had saved her people from death as Blanche saved her French subjects from the trials of having a child king when her husband died early. The final Rose Window in the back of the Chapel depicted (quite vividly) the apocalypse and the end of the world. It faced west and was to remind the king that he was to guide his people to Christ until He would return. (I told you there was freaking awesome imagery in these cathedrals!!!)

Thursday was my down day, I slept a lot and finally finished making the time change and spent some time figuring out Paris and practicing. So, on the whole, not much for you. Although, in the evening we went out walking and I was able to impress the French with my sweeeeeet knowledge of French History. (It's really not that up to snuff, but on the way over I read through a french history book, so I can sort of hold my own, and at least do better than they expect from Americans. I still feel woefully out of the loop, because often it takes me a few minutes to place rulers and movements and so on, but I am getting there. It's frustrating though, because British history comes so easily... French history, not so much. Too many similar names right next to each other. At least the Brits tend to space their names out and when they don't the son with the same name usually tries to distinguish himself by doing something absurd like marrying six different women and breaking from a main religion.) But, back to my main rant, they pointed out a statue of Henry IV and I was actually able to hold on a conversation about him! He is a real favorite of the people because he really worked for the common man... well more than his predecessors... none of them really cared too much, hence the French Revolution.

Today I came to the dorms and met up with some other students from BYU and a few others and we headed to Museo de Orle (or something like that... that's how the darn thing sounded). There were paintings, and lots of statues. My favorites were some by Monet, and some pastels that we saw. Severine, I found the ultimate painting for you, and will probably send you a picture of it soon. You'll love it. There were also some rooms of black and white pen sketches that were amusing at first but after too many rooms they were slightly disturbing. They all were male figures with animal heads running off with naked women. Awkward. "Hi Mom, Hi Dad, meet my boyfriend, he's a real animal!" yeah, awkward.
Tomorrow we head to Ravel's house, which will be absolutely amazing and I will probably still be freaking out one week from today. Some of the piano majors are going to play his compositions on his piano in his studio... so so so so so so excited.

~I tend to associate smells with places. Home smells like Indian curry, the dorms smell like Ramen, the practice rooms smell like feet (on a good day), China smells like urine, and France smells like B.O. Lots and lots of BO. Particularly on the subways at rush hour. I'm just glad I am tall and don't have hairy men putting their arm over me to reach the hand holds. EEEEWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!
~ To date I have tried 12 cheeses and liked 10 and 1/2. The only one I was adamently opposed to was a very very ransid smelling piece of blue cheese. Goat Cheese gets a half, because I didn't mind it, but I would go out of my way to get more. Some of those cheeses though, I could eat them for ever! The family I stayed with joked that I must have been French in another life because I can eat cheese like the French.
~ The key to eating lots of new cheeses is to not smell them before you taste them. There should be no inhaling before biting, because the smell can be a real turn off. That's what killed the blue cheese for me. It didn't taste too bad, but the smell made me gag.
~Paris truly is the city of love, and boy have I seen a lot of it in just one week. It's like being at BYU near the end of the semester... *gag*
~ Wednesday I heard Qawwali music (pronounce Ka-bali) in the streets and felt two things. First I was excited because I LOVE Qawwali, and then I felt slightly nerdy because I actually knew what it was and recognized it. But it was still really really cool and fun to hear.
~ Notre Dame is beautiful during the day, but stunning at night, go twice if you are here. Once to see inside and once to see it lit up, it is AMAZING!
~ After dealing with Chinese vendors these French vendors seem soooooooo reserved. They don't even yell things like "hey lady, hey lady" or anything! It's great. And if you walk away from their stall they don't follow you.
~ Europeans are much taller than I expected. I fit in here much more than I thought I would, I believe all those articles that I have read that state that Americans on average are getting shorter, because I feel more normal with regards to height than I do in the states.
~ The bread, oh the bread, I am in love. The end.

I will upload pictures later. I'm exhausted. Soooo, good night. I shall dream of Ravel and cheese (but not together...)


  1. Sounds like so much fun. The smell thing is interesting. Hum, I am glad that I do not smell China the way you do. Unfortunately the smell that I equate with China is STINKY TOFU!!!!

  2. I am excited to see this painting!

  3. AH! I want to eat real, good, European cheeses! Why does everyone else have so much better food?