Sunday, November 16, 2008

We loved Paris...even though it drizzled

I knew when planning our trip to Paris that I wanted the experience to be one of several days rather than the typical mad rush of three days in the life of a tourist. Paris requires moments of relative leisure to wander the streets, relax in a café, or stroll through a garden. At the same time, the museums, monuments, and historical sites exert a form of mandate on a visitor’s time. After some searching (way back in July!) I found a miraculously budget-priced hotel right in the Latin Quarter, not far from Notre Dame, and we were able to stay for six nights in Paris, giving us really a week to experience the city.

Our first excursion was to the bateaux mouches for a tour down the Seine, and even though we fought through pouring rain to get to the dock, it was a beautiful first look at the city and its monuments and a way of orienting ourselves for the week.

Our days were punctuated with stunning moments, from the experience of the city spread out before us as we peered from the top of the Notre Dame towers to the overwhelming immensity and grandeur of Versailles. But just as importantly, we had quieter moments as when we gratefully sipped our cups of chocolat chaud in a warm and welcoming café or enjoyed a dinner together at which some of our group had their first tastes of escargot.

I think we actually came to feel that Saint Michel was “our neighborhood,” and most of the group became fairly expert at negotiating the labyrinth of the Paris Metro. We also visited the Louvre and the Tuileries, the Musée D’Orsay, Monmartre, the Cimetière Père Lachaise [where we saw the vault of Isadora Duncan ( I left her my card…) –and yes, it was a dark and stormy evening!], and Shakespeare and Company, not to mention Amorino, a shop where one can have an ice cream in the shape of a flower! There was additional time during the week for individual explorations to places like Galeries Lafayette, Giverney, and La Moulin Rouge. We even managed to see a dance performance at the Theatre Nationale de Chaillot that was an impressive (and very French) fusion of hip-hop, danse contemporaine, circus, and theatre. On the final morning before departing, a number of us were able to attend a mass at Notre Dame Cathedral, an impressive and beautiful final experience.

One of my goals for this Paris visit was to encourage in my students a desire to return. There is still so much to see and to know, and now they have a familiarity with the city and some knowledge of its pleasures that I hope will make that return more likely.

The photos in this blog include: our group at the top of Notre Dame, dancers making like gargoyles atop Notre Dame, Gabrielle on Rue Gabrielle, improv in front of La Pyramide at the Louvre, Courtney, Paige, and Maryanne at a café in Monmarte. There are also two lovely videos courtesy of Courtney.

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