Alternate Title: The City of Endless Baguettes and Chocolate Croissants
Disclaimer: Sadly, my French is still rather subpar. Please forgive my lack of French vocabulary here!
So, in good news, I didn’t get lost on my way to the Cite Universitaire! In fact, my group and I didn’t get lost in Paris at all. (I do declare that our little group of eight are secretly Hufflepuffs; we’re particularly good finders.) Our week in the City of Lights was definitely not one that I will ever forget. Not only because I easily walked over 100 miles in seven days, but also because of the beauty that is Paris. Within a few hours of arriving at our lodging, my classmates and I were eating a baguette-and-cheese picnic in a French park (and even took part in an outdoor aerobics class directly afterwards—a painful but rewarding decision). Having arrived on Bastille Day, we then went down to the Seine in front of the Eiffel Tower to watch the fireworks show, which followed a war and peace theme, complete with opera singers and a gorgeous orchestra. Something about standing on the cobblestones in old Paris was strangely magical. The thrum and whisper of the strings, the haunting voices of the singers as they rode the crescendoes, the Eiffel Tower lit up against the black backdrop of a warm summer night sky—my words are not enough to describe the feeling. I was both a part of this holiday and not; both familiar and stranger. Surrounded by French whispers, I couldn’t understand the words, but somehow that didn’t matter, for I could understand the awe in the faces around me as they looked up, the loving arms wrapped around boyfriends or girlfriends, the joy on the little girl’s face as her father let her sit on his shoulders to get a better view. I guess some things transcend all boundaries.
There were other highlights to the week as well, of course. I explored 18th-century paintings in the Louvre; the magnificent opulence that is Versailles, home to King Louis XVI; and the medieval Sainte-Chapelle chapel, which is known as the Jewel Box for its tall, stained-glass windows that cover every wall and tell the story of the Bible. I saw the French Revolution take form in the museums we visited, and I saw the Terror that came in its wake. I then saw the Tomb of Napoleon, as well as the horrors of the World Wars through French eyes. I explored the inside of Notre Dame and gaped at the yawning ceilings, the graceful arches—my textbooks brought to life. How can one absorb the history that is in Paris? Its Latin quarter, its labyrinthine catacombs that are the Empire of the Dead, its Jewish shops that even now face threats with the rising tension in Israel and Palestine? How young the United States seems in comparison, and how lucky I feel to get to experience this city that is so rich in its culture and history.
Like all things, my time in Paris came to an end. My adventures there already feel like an echo, both close and somehow already far away as I begin to settle in Cambridge. Only a few nights ago, I was trying to order my meal in broken French and sitting on the grass in front of the Eiffel Tower with my new friends. Today, I was in Cambridge’s amazing library doing research, and then I shared a Ben & Jerry’s chocolate brownie ice cream with three of my classmates in our dorm. But, you know, more about Cambridge in the next post.