mardi 30 août 2011


Yesterday...I!!!  There aren't enough exclamation points in the world for me to express my happiness.  It was everything I imagined, and, considering that I've spent a lot of time building up Paris in my imagination, it's pretty impressive that it lived up to my expectations.  It was like being in a book or a movie. I knew that Paris had an extremely high concentration of beautiful historical landmarks, but the sheer amount was still staggering, when I saw it first hand...You could stand on the oldest bridge in Paris, built by Henri IV, and see the Eiffel Tower, the Conciergerie (which started as a palace, became the prison where Marie Antoinette spent her last few months, and is now a museum), the oldest public clock in Paris (600 years old, still working), the Palais Conti (former national mint), and Notre Dame de Paris, all at the same time.  And that's just what you could see from one spot, in the immediate area.  And even if a building wasn't historical or breathtakingly magnificent, everything was at least beautiful.  Even the brickwork on the streets was in a fish-scale pattern instead of just straight rows.  It's still hard for me to wrap my mind around the sheer volume of beauty.

Anyway, here's some chronologically placed pictures of my day:
The first big landmark I saw was the Eiffel Tower.  We rode the RER train into Paris, and in the area approaching Paris, the train is in a tunnel.  So we come out of this tunnel and suddenly, we're in Paris and THERE'S THE EIFFEL TOWER.  Just like that.  Then the first thing we did after getting off the train was go climb the tower.  I didn't get all the way up to the top, but I did get to the third level.  It was pretty amazing- you can see all of Paris.

Including this...

Me, I think on the second level.
From the (almost) top of the Eiffel tower, looking down...This one's for you, Sean.

After the Eiffel Tower, we walked around a bit.  This statue is one of many in the vicinity of the Eiffel Tower.

Me again.  Just to prove I was there ;)

Next, we made our way to Notre Dame de Paris, which was absolutely awe-inspiring.  It was massive, extremely old, and you could spend a lifetime just observing the sculpture on the exterior.  Just outside of this picture there was a very old statue of Charlemagne that looked like it belonged in Gondor.

If the outside of the church was amazing, the inside could only be described as magnifique.  The size itself was mind blowing.  This church is so big, it contains the main church and then at least a dozen chapels on the side.  Art covered everything, and the whole place was lit only by the famous stained glass windows and saint's candles you could light for a donation of 2-5 euro.  I didn't light a candle, but I did buy a Notre Dame medal for 2 euro.  This church is one of the most awe inspiring things I have seen in my life.   

Aaaaand...I saw this, and I was gone.  As my host dad said, "You saw "Shakespeare" and zip!"  I ran towards this store like my life depended on it.  This is a very beautiful bookstore, full of antiquarian and/or English language books.  Of course, the books are very expensive because they are in English, but it was very fun to look.

A bridge we saw while walking along.  I don't have pictures of this, but one of my favorite things we encountered while walking along was the booksellers selling mostly antiquarian books out of green metal stands on the sidewalk.  It was very classic Parisian. 

Next we went on one of the bateaux mouches, the boats that go on tours up and down the Seine showing passengers notable sites along the way.  The guide would repeat everything in French and English, so I was able to understand, and I learned some very interesting things.  We went under some of the most beautiful bridges in the world, each with a different mythology attached to it which the guide would explain.  Here I am with my host dad, passing by the Eiffel tower.
 These pictures show just a sample of the incredible things I saw while in Paris.  And, while I spent the whole day there, there is still so much more I need to see!  I hope to have the opportunity to visit this amazing (and, luckily, nearby) city many more times.  Merci beaucoup to Mike and Alizee, my host father and sister, for giving me an amazing experience of Paris.  Also, to give credit where credit is due, many of these pictures where taken by Alizee, who is an amazing photographer.  I took my own pictures, but hers are so much better I decided to use them :)

Thanks for reading!


dimanche 28 août 2011

Long time no post...

Sorry for the lack of posting, I've been wanting to focus on my French and getting to know my host family.  The only reason I'm posting now is because it's currently 4:14 in the morning here, I've been up since 1 in the afternoon (23:00 here), I'm dead tired, and I cannot get to sleep.  Jet lag creates unhappy situations where my brain is screaming, "I need to rest!!!" while my body clock obstinately refuses, saying, "It's only 7:20, you shouldn't be asleep for at least four hours yet."  So here I sit, updating my blog at 4:20 in the morning when I shouldn't be waking up for at least four hours yet.

Anyway.  Here's an email I wrote to my family subscrib excit describing (see how tired I am?) my trip in and my first impressions of France.  My mom suggested I use it as a blog post, so here it is!

I am already having a lovely time here in France.  Both flights went well, and the flight across the country to Philly was a glorious way to say goodbye to the US.  Going over the midwest was gorgeous, the fields are so flat and square that it looks like a tiled floor.  Pennsylvania was also beautiful from above.  I spent most of the first flight staring out the window! 

The transfer went fine, except for a brief scare when I thought I had forgotten my visa card, which was a rather important thing to have...but it all turned out, and I boarded the plane with everything I needed.

The flight to France was mostly spent reading The Count of Monte Cristo, though I also played a trivia game on my video screen and used said screen to monitor the plane's progress using the GPS app.  I managed to get about four hours of sleep.  The last hour before landing was spent talking with my neighbor, who was a Frenchman returning to Paris from Baltimore where he was doing stuff with physics.  Turns out he was born in Algeria, so he speaks both French and Arabic...and he just happens to be seated next to me.  And French and Arabic are the two languages I want to learn.  I love fate.  Anyway, he gave me some great advice about places to go in Paris. 

That early morning portion just before landing was amazing...the fields were were flying over were so picturesque, so french, and there was mist hanging over everything...tres jolie.  And the moment the plane's wheels touched to runway was magical.  Finally, I am in France! 

After disembarking the aircraft I promptly realized that the plans for meeting Mike were rather fuzzy, so I got rather panicked and kept desperately trying to find someone who either spoke English or could understand my terrible French.  I got all the way to the baggage claim area (Customs was super easy...the guy looked at my passport for about ten seconds, stamped it, and I was on my way) before I finally found got up the courage to use my little French.  Turns out he knows Mike, my host dad, so he could lead me to the right place.  I am proud to say that I spoke at least three, maybe four full sentences of French to the nice man, explaining the situation, and he understood!

After we found Mike and the Rotary people, I shook hands with all of them, had my picture taken, and set off for home.  Mike's spoken English is actually quite good, so we talked on the way home and helped each other with a few words (steering wheel, flour, ect).  First place we went was the bakery to get breakfast...leaving with two bags of pastries and three baguettes, apparently a normal haul for the average French family.  Then home for breakfast (tea, orange juice, and pastries). Michel has three clocks set up in the living room, one for Paris time, one for Seattle time, and one for Mexico time (since their daughter Maeva is in Chihuahua City while I am here), which is useful. 

My neighborhood is just like the stereotypical French village.  The streets are tree lined, the houses all have functional shutters, and there's a tiny bakery and grocery shop down the street.  Pictures coming soon! 

I'm starting to feel guilty for using this much English, so I'll wrap it up.  I'm already having an amazing time here, and I think there are many more amazing experiences waiting in my future!

mercredi 24 août 2011

Sophia Wickman

...Is in France!  More later...

mardi 16 août 2011

One Week

It's one week to the day before I leave, and I must say, it's a pretty crazy thought!  One week from now, I will be in Paris.  Today I'll be having my last Rotary meeting with my sponsoring club and my last French lesson.  It's a weird time right now, because the whirlwind has calmed slightly- I have all the documents and everything that I need, so there's no running about frantically gathering applications and forms and papers of all kinds.  So now it's just calm, and all I have to do is wait.  I've been doing a lot of sewing (one of my hobbies), reading (The Count of Monte Cristo, which I am reading in English since, alas, I am as yet unable to read it in the original French), and being with my family and friends.  Since I've been preparing to leave, I've really been appreciating the people and places of home.  At the same time, though, I'm looking forward to meeting new people, going to new places, and making a new home in France! 

vendredi 12 août 2011


My visa arrived!  Happy dance!  I have every document I need.  All I have to do now is pack and get on the plane.  And less than two weeks until I do! 

So I'm pretty much freaking out.  It's actually weird, I expected at this point to be in a sort of constant state of excitement and happiness, but what's really happening is I'll be just normal, going about my life...then something will remind me of France or exchange or planes or anything remotely related to my trip, and I'll start squealing and jumping up and down with happiness. 

Eleven days!