Monday, November 3, 2014

Mother, Mother Europe, I have heard your call; or: My Trip to Paris

I have always believed (slightly) that Paris is (largely) overrated.

**cue looks of shock and disbelief and demanding questions of why...**

Okay, down you hordes from hell. It's an opinion, one I'm sure not everyone shares. Yes, Paris is pretty. Yes, it's got the Louvre (which is actually pretty cool), the Arc de Triomphe, and the Eiffel Tower, along with a large collection of art in various museums other than the Louvre. But I think Paris is largely romanticized by the American population. Young girls want to go there because Paris is a place where princes and dukes and lords are (which, to be honest, you're probably far more likely to meet in a place like Britain or another small country with a monarchy than Paris--and even then the likelihood is zero to none. This is not Gossip Girl or a Disney movie. You are not Blair Waldorf. Get over it). Then they grow up, and Paris is a fashion capital--the place where people like Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Louboutin, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton are from (I'm actually very proud of the fact that I identified three French designers who got their start in Paris without having to look it up, though I did just confirm. YSL was born in French Algiers, but made his design debut in Paris as well). Paris is an iconic place; where the rich and elite go, the city of lovers and the hub for so many things. But Paris has never been a place I've really dreamed of going. And I think the reason dates back to Gwyneth Paltrow and my parents (yes, I'm blaming you.). You see, first of all, my parents lived for the three years after they were married and before they had their perfect angel of a daughter (Me. Duh.) in Bavarian Germany. And I grew up on a steady diet of these stories, and the stories my mother would tell of how awesome Finland was as the only country to withstand Russia (fuck yeah Finland)--and also they have Santa! Santa! So, in fact, Germany (Berlin especially, along with Munich) and Finland (Lapland, baby--that's where Santa lives and you can see the Northern lights) were the places my parents told me about and the places I wanted to go. Paris? Not so much.

The reason I mentioned Gwyneth Paltrow is because of her movie, View from the Top. I'm not going to lie--it's not the greatest movie in the world, but it is one of my favorites. Paltrow plays a small-town girl who decides she needs to get out and see the world, getting a job as a stewardess on a tiny little airplane. Eventually, she moves to the powerhouse airline and becomes the best stewardess they have--but still stuck on one of those commuter flights, when her goal is, of course, international first class (she finds out the reason she's on the commuter is because her friend betrayed her, blah blah blah). She falls in love, but then has to leave to pursue her dream. She travels around the world, but has no one to share her life with. Eventually, at one point, she's spending Christmas in Paris, the city of love, so that one of her friends can be with their family over the holidays. This is when she has her big realization that no success is worth it without someone to share it with.

Obviously, I understand that this movie has major flaws that some will object to (she doesn't need a man, blah, she doesn't, but she does need to share her life with someone, and finding a place and a family where she feels that is the more important message), but I love it anyway. It's a story of how anyone can be a success, and considers what success really means. And, since Paltrow's goal was always "Paris...International...First class..." (or some combo of that), I think in some ways the idea of Paris is and will always be associated with that view of success: what is it, when you have no one else to share it with? In Wicked, Glinda (because she's Glinda at this point, not Galinda) sings a song in the second act titled "Thank Goodness". I have always loved it, and it's lyrics make sense here to me to describe this feeling: "There's a kind of a sort of...cost. / There's a couple of things get...lost / There are bridges you cross / you didn't know you crossed / until you crossed."

So, now that we've gone through all the reasons I was predisposed to not be as enamored with Paris as everyone else seems to be, let us describe my weekend, shall we?

The first day we went in (as I was staying outside the city with a friend of a friend because of free housing!), we visited Notre Dame and walked along the Seine to the Eiffel Tower. We then headed to Chipotle for dinner (because we're American, dammit, and there is no Chipotle in Geneva), and back out to our housing.

The next day I got a very late start, but I did get to Paris and had lunch and dessert with the rest of the intern group (as we were all staying in different places), then walked along the Champs-Elyees (that famous street that leads to the Arc de Triomphe with all the stores) to the Arc de Triomphe. We got to see it all lit up at night, which was very cool. We then walked back towards the Eiffel Tower (relatively easy, since you can basically see it from anywhere because Paris has one skyscraper) and took touristy pictures at night with it all lit up before going to dinner (I had clams over pasta that was very yummy).

The third day (I feel like I'm starting to sound biblical...I apologize. You don't go through Catholic school without making the references in your head.) I went to the Louvre. Literally all day. In my defense--the Louvre is really really big. And I'm a fairly slow Museum goer. I like to take my time. After that, I wandered about Paris a little. I walked to the Orsay (home to most of the Impressionist--my favorite era--paintings in Paris) but the line was far too long, so instead I headed to the far shorter line at a tea house for dinner (quiche! oh how I love quiche!) and a cup of delicious tea. Then spent a little time watching the sun set in the park outside the Louvre, then headed back to the Louvre (in desperate search for a restroom, I have no secrets) and found out it had wifi! (When you're an unpaid intern traveling Europe with a limited amount of very costly data, you'll find that the discovery of good, fast, and strong wifi signal is probably the best part of your day. This is the only time in my life I've been happy to see a Starbucks at the end of the street.) So I got in touch with my friend and her friend (with whom I was staying) and was able to head back and rest.

And that concluded my time in Paris.

I didn't get to Disneyland Paris, but I got to the Disney Store. That's close, right?

Ohh Tim....

I was trying to do the same weird head tilt thing...I don't think it worked.

The Inspiration of Katniss Everdeen

"Rawr I'm a lion" is what my cats say when they make this face.

Can we just take in how sassy Athena is here? Like, can't you just see her with Zeus, Poseidon and Ares like, "Why are you boys so stupid. I'm the fucking Goddess of Wisdom, just listen to me."

I realize all the pictures are at the end, but I uploaded them and was too lazy to move them around. Sue me.

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