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Monday, June 10, 2013

Samedi

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Freedom!!! Finally we had the day to ourselves: no school, no company visits, no meetings. My friends and I put on our touring shoes and wielded our Metro maps to take the streets of Paris by storm. 

Several of my classmates and I chose to join a group to visit an art museum, Musee d' Orsay, across from the Louvre. At that point I had already decided that the Louvre, as much as I would love to visit it, would not be an option because I would prefer to dedicate at least one whole day to really experiencing the magnitude of it and its pieces. Anyway, I was still surprisingly impressed by the works at the Orsay. The museum houses (at least temporarily) Van Gogh's Self Portrait and several others of his paintings. The sculptures, especially the many by Rodin, and architecture pieces had me floored--the ornate attention to detail is unrivaled by any art or building of modern culture. My favorite exhibit was the impressionist section. Monet, Manet, Renoir, Cezanne, Sisley... I wanted to stay and state forever, imagining myself in scenes like a quiet bridge, a hill in a bright park, or a dimly lit dance classroom. I bought the visitor's guide to the museum just so I could return to some of the pieces I really favored. I really admire Impressionism simply for its dedication to imagination and personal vision of the artist based on real objects, rather than a realist rendition of the same things. To me, the memory and feeling you have about a place is much more resonating and important than a snapshot of it. 

From the front of the Orsay. 

The large clock at the front of the Orsay Museum. The museum once was a train station. 

In the afternoon, some of us decided I go to the north side of the city in Montmartre to shop and see the red windmill from Moulin Rouge. It started raining around 2 or 3, so a friend and I took shelter in a small cafe and had a three course lunch (yes, lunch) with the most charming waiter. It was easily my favorite meal out in France. The food seemed more authentic than anything I'd had yet (excluding dinner at the Beaujolais winery) and the server was very engaging. He asked us back for dinner in broken English; I wish we could have, because it was so cute! I tried real French onion soup, had a chicken dish in a delicious creamy lemon butter sauce, and chocolate mousse for dessert. 

The rest of our time in Monmartre my friend and I decided to visit the Sacre Coeur Basilica that is not only gorgeous, but offers a fantastic hill-top view of Paris. Can you tell I have an affinity for Catholic places of worship? The churches in France were top of my list of places to see. I was lucky to see so many. Another church at the bottom of the hill in Monmartre had an atypical stained glass window picturing a skeleton or reaper of sorts. 

View from Sacre Coeur of Paris. 

View from Sacre Coeur of Paris. 

View from Sacre Coeur of Paris. 

Inside the Sacre Coeur.

Inside Sacre Coeur. Here you can see the large organ and stained glass with skeleton. 

It's somewhat paradoxical that after visiting two churches we decided to visit a burlesque club. However, we only stood outside and took photos of Moulin Rouge for the sake of its infamy. 

The infamous Moulin Rouge. 

In the evening we took a short break at the hotel and gathered a group to go see the Eiffel Tower. We stopped for a few bottles of cheap French wine and boarded the Metro to the Tower. We arrived just in time to watch it sparkle. We were even charmed by a group of singers from a school in The Netherlands. I only wish my fiancĂ©e had been there. As cheesy as it may seem, it would have been incredibly romantic! 

The Eiffel Tower in Spring, among the blossoming trees.  

Daylight. 

Our lovely group of romantics. 

Candace being charmed by the singers from The Netherlands. 

All lit up!

Yours truly!

Our escorts... I mean boys. :)

One last glance.

The rest of the night was quiet. I had a late dinner (and some more wine) and made sure I had all my things together so I could take the Metro to the airport directly after Mass at Notre Dame in the morning. The full day left me feeling the old clichĂ©, "Ah, France!" 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Vendredi

Friday, May 24 2013

Friday morning began with our first ride on the Metro! We then had to walk a little ways to get to the UNESCO building in Paris. On our way, we came across a great view of the Eiffel Tower. 


Yeah, we totally look like tourists. 

But the view was pretty legit. 

If you don't know anything about UNESCO, essentially it's like the UNICEF of the United Nations. UNESCO stands for United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. They work hard to promote peace across all continents and improve the world by implementing accessible education and preserving cultural places across the world. 

Unfortunately, during the first half of our visit I was battling a stomach bug and was busy searching for the nearest restroom... I wasn't able to pay as much attention to the introduction as I would have liked, but I did gather that the organization uses educational tools, peace promoting tools, technology, and many other means to bring the world closer to peace and betterment. 

The information hall at UNESCO in Paris demonstrating the many ways the organization works. 


Some of the sculpting work on UNESCO grounds in Paris. 

When we got to the lecture hall, we were introduced to several people who are currently working with UNESCO. Perhaps the most resonating piece of information we learned during our lecture session was that the United States has discontinued funding to UNESCO in the past year under President Obama. We were shown  the following video from the Daily Show describing how ridiculous, selfish, unnecessary, and outright detrimental it is for the US to have cut off funding to UNESCO. 



I encourage all readers to watch the video. This is only part one, but you'll get the gist. Something like $2 Billion is being denied by the US to UNESCO, which is already in the process of promoting education in small African countries and the like. Without such funding that makes up a large part (if not a majority) of the spending by UNESCO, these activities may have to be discontinued. I understand that we have plenty of issues on the home front that we need to take care of, I do. But I can't see how cutting this sort of funding is the ethical way to combat the deficit. I feel that this is yet another example of Obama and his regime... er, government... cutting the wrong costs and spending on the wrong things versus finding better, more efficient, ethical, and sustainable ways of reducing the deficit and improving our dwindling economy (i.e. reducing welfare dole-outs... hello, "freedom" is not the same thing as "free stuff"...). Think about it. If you had been a wealthy person all your life but had suddenly come upon hard times, are you going to discontinue your yearly donation to the Salvation Army, United Way, or weekly contribution to your church's offering plate? Or are you more likely to cut down on your own personal luxuries, like giving your kids $100 for shopping whenever they ask for it or eating out at fancy restaurants 4 times a week? I can only hope most of my friends and family would do the latter, making their own personal sacrifices but continuing to give whenever possible. So the Christian in me becomes evident. 

Not to mention, the US retracting from activity does nothing to help the global economy. Getting out of the GLOBAL economic crisis is going to take GLOBAL effort. If the big players like Germany and the US step out of the ring, the gap between those with some measure of success and those dwindling on bankruptcy (like Spain and other European countries) is only going to become larger. I'm not saying the US doesn't need to look out for its own skin first, but by the same token it cannot afford to isolate itself.... 

In an effort to avoid becoming too much more political, I'm going to stop here on the discussion of America's discontinued involvement in UNESCO. Our visit was concluded with lunch, then we divided into groups for company visits or to be part of the "Street Team." 

I was part of the Street Team, meaning I and 3 other group members were to approach Paris natives to ask them questions about how similar or different their daily lives are to our American lives. My group's topic was technology. We chose to concentrate mainly on internet use and cell phone service. Interestingly enough, their use of technology services are very similar to ours. While their service providers are different, their usage tends to be very similar, even across different demographics. 

The rest of the evening was spent relaxing and getting ready for a day full of tourism to follow. A couple friends and I decided to visit Notre Dame in the evening. 

In front of Notre Dame. 

To all my Harry Potter fans, I found Rue Nicolas Flamel, who was actually a French apothecary/chemist. Duh, I had to take a picture. If you don't understand the connection, go read/watch Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's (Philosopher's) Stone.