Bonjour Tout le Monde,
I am writing to you from Paris, France. Both of my plane flights went relatively well. I was able to catch up on some reading and watch a few movies while in the air. When I arrived in France, I took a train from the airport to my hotel. Luckily they both had stops on the same line. However, when I tried to leave the train station, I discovered that I had accidentally purchased the wrong ticket and therefore the turn-styles would not let me exit the station. In order to leave, I ended up calling the ticket office at the train station for help and one of the workers just manually opened the gate for me.
The classes for the French summer language intensive program seem to be going pretty well. We start at 9:00 am and finish by 4:00 pm on most days with about a two hour lunch break from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm. We work a lot of building vocabulary and verb conjugation. When classes finish for the day, I either go to the supermarket to buy food or take the train into Paris for sightseeing.
The most iconic symbol and tourist attraction is, of course, the Eiffel Tower. According to the website for the landmark, the Eiffel Tower was built to commemorate the Exposition Universelle in 1889 which celebrated the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. The tower was designed by Gustave Eiffel and took two years and two months to build.
Besides having 1,665 steps to the top, the Eiffel Tower is also known to light up every night for the first five minutes of every hour.
In the picture with me are some of my classmates from the French summer language intensive program. Students come from countries all over the world, such as Brazil, Russia, Spain, South Africa, and Australia.
Another must see landmark of Paris is the Notre Dame. This year marks the 850th anniversary since the start of construction of the cathedral in 1163. Notre Dame then took about 100 years to complete.
The cathedral has about 37 sculptures of Mary, the Mother of God, inside the building and on the outside. Notre Dame is also known for having beautiful stained glass windows. The grandest of the windows is the South Rose Window, which was constructed in 1258 and has a diameter of 12.90 meters and a height of almost 19 meters. The 84 panes are divided into four circles each displaying events in the New Testament.
During one of my free afternoons, a few of my classmates and I visited Bercy Park, which is located in the eastern side of Paris. Of the parks that I have visited in the past week, this one is by far my favorite because it contains many beautiful garden and flower beds, mazes, ponds with bridges, arched walkways, and statues. Here are just a few pictures of the park:
Bercy Park really highlighted one of the differences between French and American culture. I have noticed that the French have no hesitation to publicly display affection. While in America it is common to see couples holding hands and maybe exchanging a quick peck on the lips, the amount of touching between couples seems toned down compared to French couples. French couples, young and old, don’t mind making out in parks, trains, dance clubs, and other areas where everyone else can see them too. In addition, even on trains or walking on the street, it seems that the French have a much smaller personal space bubble than people in the US. It is very interesting and something that I need to learn to adapt to since I tend have a bubble larger than most of the French.
During this weekend, one of my classmates, Irina, and I visited the Ménangerie du Jardin des Plantes, essentially a small zoo located in the middle of Paris. Even though the menagerie was smaller than most zoos in the US, there were still plenty of animals to look at and learn about. Irina and I practiced our French by reading the information signs located next to each exhibit. One thing that I noticed was that each exhibit had smaller walls and fences compared to enclosures in the US. This may be due to the fact that since the menagerie was smaller, it did not contain many of the larger, more dangerous animals and therefore needed smaller safety precautions. It is also possible that France has fewer and less strict rules than in the US. Either way, it allowed Irina and me to view animals up close. Even though the menagerie was small, we were still able to see a lot of animals.
One of the other must-dos in Paris is to experience the Parisian night life. On Saturday night, a few of my classmates and I went to a discothèque, a dance club. The one we visited was called Mix-Club whose entrance was located on street level, but whose dance floor was actually a few stories underground. The music was very loud and from countries all over the world. In addition, there were also a lot of flashing lights and fog machines. Since I love to dance, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Even though we stayed at the club until 5AM, the club was nowhere near close to closing. The idea in Paris is that night clubs stay open until morning so that many intoxicated dancers have access to public transportation such as the trains, busses, and metro, most of which are closed at night, and to decrease the amount of drunk driving and related accidents. It makes sense to me. Since the other clubs in the same area are also underground, noise isn’t much of a problem, the clubs make more money, and people are kept safer.
Thank you for reading,