November 22, 2010

Student Blog by Hannah Dupea: Paris

November 7-12, 2010
      I spent the third and final travel/study week in Paris.  Accommodations were found at the Institute Biblique de Nogent in city zone 3.  The students and staff at the site were quite friendly, and while many spoke at least a bit of English (and several were fluent), a few spoke no English.  Travel on the metro/RER railway system was much like that in Germany, though trains were headed to each direction every few minutes—if a passenger missed one, the next was not far off.  I thought the three-day “Paris Visite” pass was the best deal because it would allow me to spend three full days traveling wherever I wanted in zones 1-3 without worrying about tickets and prices.
      I spent the first full day looking around Nogent-sur-Marne, the quiet suburb of Paris in which the institute is located.  I found food for reasonable prices at the “boucherie” (butcher’s shop) and “patiserie” (pastry shop/bakery) right next to the metro station in addition to the “supermarche” on the way to the institute.  The “Bois de Vincennes”, Paris’s largest park, is only a 5-10 minute walk from the metro station as well.
      Day two was the first spent in Paris central.  It took about 50 minutes to get to the Champs de Mars station (including a train switch at Les Halles).  About a block down from the metro was the Eiffel Tower—the tall iron structure built in 22 months for the 1889 world’s fair.  The tower is made of 18,038 pieces and weighs 10,000 tons.  It was renovated in 1981 and is painted every 7 years with 60 tons of paint (probably includes the weight of the paint cans) to protect it from oxidation, and over 204 million people have visited the structure since 1889.  After nightfall the tower is lit every hour on the hour by 335 sodium lamps that project through the tower’s lattice structure and produce the “shimmering effect” for which the Eiffel Tower is famous.  I paid €3.50 (student rate) to climb the 704 steps to the second floor of the tower; the view of the city was great, and signs on the first level gave information about sites of interest.  From the Eiffel Tower, I walked down the bank of the Seine River to see the statue, “Liberté, éclairiant le monde”, which the U.S. gave to France in 1889.  It is a small model of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor which France gave to the people of the U.S. 
      The Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile was next on my list.  It was built in 1806 by and for Napoleon Bonaparte to celebrate his military greatness.  The tomb of France’s unknown soldier from WWI has been located under the archway since 1921, and the inscription reads, “Ici repose un soldat Francais mort pour le patrie 1914-1918” (“Here lies a French soldier [who] died for the country 1914-1918”).  An eternal flame burns at the site.  I didn’t pay the money to climb to the top because the day was cloudy and wet, and I hoped to wait for a clear day.
      A walk down Des Champs-Elysees brought me to the Place de la Concorde, the largest square in Paris and the place where the guillotine was set up in the 1790s.  The octagon in the center was designed in 1755 by Ange-Jacques Gabriel.  The U.S. Embassy is located in one corner of the square, and the hotel on site was the Nazi headquarters in WWII.  The French National Assembly building was next, followed by the Military Museum—I saw both only from the outside.  The Military Museum at Les Invalides was built in 1671 by Louis XIV to create a place for “all officers who are crippled, elderly, or frail”.  In addition to still being a hospital for wounded soldiers, the buildings now house a large collection of military items and Napoleon Bonaparte’s tomb (since 1861).
      My third day was begun at the Place de la Bastille.  From there a short walk brought me to the house of Victor Hugo.  Next on the agenda was the Notre Dame Cathedral on Ile de la Cite.  The church, famous for its 3 round, stained-glass windows and flying buttresses, was the site of Henry VI of England and Napoleon Bonaparte’s crowning and was the place where it was first proposed that Joan of Arc be re-accepted by the Catholic Church (which had executed her as a heretic in 1431).  It was constructed between 1163 and 1345.
      The Louvre was very large, and I was surprised to see what appeared to be a miniature version of the Brandenburg Gate in the courtyard.  The day ended with a trip out to Montmartre Basilique du Sacre-Coeur.  The white exterior of the Catholic church causes the structure to shine in the sunlight, and the front steps afford a great view of Paris, though the Eiffel Tower is not very visible.
      The fourth and final full day was comprised of last-stops and a short afternoon at the Cité de la Science.  Close by Notre Dame is the Place St. Michel of the famed Latin Quarter.  I walked around La Sorbonne, the University of Paris founded in 1254 by Robert Sorbon.  Just down the street is the Pantheon, which used to be the abbey church of Saint Genevieve (1755-1790) but is now the final resting place for the bodies of famous Frenchmen.  Those buried there include Victor Hugo, Pierre and Marie Curie, Rousseau, Voltaire, Emile Zola, Jean Moulin, Jean Jaurès, and Louis Braille.  After a taste of a “tarte des framboises” (mini fresh raspberry pie—I could eat another one just about any time), I took the metro to the Cité de la Science.  The museum offers a large library, hands-on exhibits, educational films, an aquarium, and more for kids as young as 2 years old on up to adults.
      In the evening, several girls from the Bible institute came over to my little “apartment” for a fun evening of making crêpes, playing “spoons”, and visiting in French, English, and occasionally a little German.  What a trip!

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