On Thursday evening, 8 July, a group of 60 of us from the British Studies Program left for Paris. We traveled by coach from our dorm to Dover, where we boarded the ferry to Calais. After disembarking the ferry we drove to Paris. We left at about 11:30 pm and did not arrive until 9:30 the next morning. I am not sure how I managed to function so well with so little sleep.
After arriving at our hotel we went straight out on walks. I was in a group that went to the Musee Rodin and the Musee D'Orsay. We were given two day unlimited travel cards, so we went to the museums via the Metro. What an experience! Paris was unfortunately broiling on the days we were there, and Friday was the worst. I had thought the London Tube was hot, but the Metro was much hotter. Whew! We were sweating for the entire stay in Paris. Both museums were great, and after returning to the hotel, we went up to our rooms. I shared with Emily, a really nice student in the children's literature program. The rooms were nice but unfortunately not air conditioned. It was very hard to sleep. However, it was Paris, so I am not complaining.
After a short rest in the afternoon we set out for the program sponsored dinner. A small group of us ended up in a bistro with no French speakers in the group and a non-English speaking waitress. Exciting! I had french onion soup (delicious), lamb, and a lovely raspberry sorbet. After dinner we went back to the hotel to try to get some sleep in the hot rooms. Little sleep was had.
On Saturday I joined a group that went to the Louvre. Wow. I wanted to see everything, but it was not possible. Christina and I went to see the Egyptian and Ancient Greek collections, as well as the Italian paintings. Among the highlights were the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa (!). The Mona Lisa was mobbed and I had to shove my way to the front of the viewing group. After seeing the art at the Louvre we went downstairs and had lunch and then stumbled across a large shopping area in the museum. Christina was in ecstasy over finding a CD from her favorite band (Tokio Hotel) that contained tracks unavailable in the U.S.
We exited the museum and strolled through the Jardin de Tuileries, where I bought a piece of art from a vendor. We then found the Place de la Concorde, which I recognized from years of viewing the Tour de France. I was in awe over the fact that the riders would be arriving there in only a few days time. Next we took a train to the Eiffel Tower to get some day shots and then took the Metro to the Pantheon, which was fabulous and deliciously cool. We went down into the crypt and found, among others, Emile Zola, Victor Hugo, and the Curies.
In the evening a group of us went to a pizza place near our hotel. When we told our waiter we were from the U.S. he said "Obama--wicked!" After pizza (great) we took the Metro to the Eiffel Tower to meet our larger group and to go on an hour evening cruise of the Seine. For me, it was the best part of the trip. We saw the hourly light show at the Eiffel Tower and took a leisurely route down the Seine. The banks of the river were quite happening and people were waving and shouting at us. I listened to the audio tour, which contained commentary and French music. I teared up a bit at hearing "La Vie en Rose." After disembarking I joined a small group who were traveling to see the Arc de Triomphe. Although we were not able to go under the Arc, it was beautiful to see at night.
On Sunday before leaving, I went to Mass at Notre Dame. The church was exquisite, and although I did not understand what was happening in the service, it was a moving experience. Christina, Dr. Welsh, another program member and I went to eat at a French restaurant and had delicious sandwiches and crepes with whipped cream and Nutella (thank you Dr. Welsh!). Every meal in Paris was unbelievably tasty, even simple sandwiches.
We returned via cab (again, thank you Dr. Welsh) to the hotel and boarded the bus for the ferry. The air conditioning was not working so we sweated it out for an hour and a half until we reached a roadside restaurant. The whole group rushed the food section for cold drinks, water, and ice cream. Luckily, when we went back on the bus it was cooler. The ferry ride was nice, and I bought an English Rugby bag. I was tempted by some enormous sweets (they were in the duty free shop and came in sickeningly large amounts) but managed to resist. We then re-boarded the bus and returned to our dorm at about 10:30 p.m. Overall, it was an unforgettable experience, and I have to thank the British Studies Program for putting it together. I hope to be able to go back someday soon. I would really like to see Versailles.