The Peggy Guggenheim Museum

Another thing that made Venice so magical, much like Paris, was that it was home to what has since become one of my Favorite Art Museums Ever. The Peggy Guggenheim Museum did not have any artwork that directly related to what we were studying in our art class at the time, per se. Our professor simply wanted to go because she had never been. So we went just because. And it was amazing.

The museum today is located in what used to be Peggy’s actual house. She collected art from everywhere, mostly modern art, and tucked it away and on the walls and in the hallways of her very own and similarly very modern home. There were Calders hanging from the ceilings, Kandinsky’s displayed in her dining room, and sculpture upon sculpture speckling her garden outside. And it was all hidden beside a major Venetian canal behind ivy covered walls, if it wasn’t already special and wonderful enough.

Peggy herself was also dope as heck, we all collectively decided as a class. She befriended and/or slept with all of the artists whose work she had obtained and put on display. And there were a lot of hecking artists represented. So rock on, Peggy.

Furthermore, there were pictures of her in each of the rooms, in each of the rooms. So, in the living room, there was a photo of her in the living room, as it had looked when she lived there. She looked sad in most of these photos, and was sad most of her life, but seeing the snapshots from such a time was art in and of itself as well.

There was a little bit of everything everywhere we looked. I wished that we could have stayed longer, and that I could have better admired the Picasso sketches or Warhol prints. But I am so happy with the chance to have visited this museum, and so happy with everything we almost didn’t and hadn’t been supposed to learn. Sometimes it definitely pays to throw your syllabus out the window and into the water of the canal below. And sometimes it’s incredibly rewarding and amazing when your professor does the same.IMG_0933IMG_0940IMG_0941IMG_0950IMG_0951IMG_0956IMG_0969IMG_0973IMG_0978IMG_1033IMG_1036

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Venice

Venice is a place of dreams.

This is true in a broad sense, of course; the place is completely surreal. Everything about it is hazy and magical, vivid and strange. It’s a city built on water, a city sinking amidst its own paved alleyways and winding canals.

But more specifically, it’s a place of my dreams too, a place I have wanted to visit since reading The Thief Lord in fourth grade. I have longed to wander between the walls at dusk, be surrounded by gondolas by day. It was one of the places on this trip that I was most looking forward to. And it didn’t disappoint.

Sure, there were tourists everywhere. We had to avoid main roads at some points simply because pedestrian traffic was so freaking frustrating. But around the late afternoon, everyone disappeared. And we had the quiet eeriness and beauty to ourselves. Sure, there wasn’t much to do once we had “been there, done that.” But it was perfect for the brief period of time that we did get to stay there.

And plus, our hotel was on the beach.

Boat taxis, Peggy Guggenheim, an island full of glass workshops, the beginning of our gelato crawl… Venice, Italy, ladies and gents.

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This was the view that welcomed us into the city and was the very first thing we saw as we traveled from bus to ferryboat.

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Our hotel was on the REAL Venice beach and we couldn’t have been happier.

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The first of many pretty Venice sunsets ❤

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The Bridge of Sighs. Prisoners walked across it to their trials and deaths. Countless bridges have been modeled after it. And thousands upon thousands of the world’s most annoying tourists visit it each day.

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Tag yourself I’m the bird. Or at least I wish I could have been so I could avoid and/or dive bomb all these people.

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Everywhere we turned looked like this, it was unreal. It was also weirdly hard to navigate because there weren’t many large bridges over main canals.

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First Italian food of the trip! Probably microwaved but definitely hype.

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The Gelato Crawl Begins. (As does our GT OIE Instagram fame.)

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There’s something interesting everywhere, even in the most boring of museums. You just have to wander and look around a little bit. (You might find really hella old windows made out of bottles. Overlooking a fabulous canal. In Venice.)

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You also might find a painting so large that it had to have part of the frame removed in order to be displayed in a museum.

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This opera was much less impressive than the Paris one, and we had the most bored tour guide ever. But it was still pretty cool because apparently the building itself has burned down twice under suspicious circumstances? I dk man sounds like a hit action/adventure crime novel or movie to me.

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Oh hey it me!

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Oh hey it my dinner!

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In between museum visits and concerts, we wandered around the streets to and from, taking everything in.

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There are some Britney Spears lyrics that would fit in really nicely here. Oops.

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Love you Syd ❤

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Isn’t this pink building adorable??

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Bless all of the fruit stands.

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On the second half of our free day and last day in Venice, we went to Murano, an island about thirty minutes away from the city by boat taxi. In reality, it took us over an hour to get there and, once we did, it was a ghost town. But a beautiful ghost town nonetheless.

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We all wanted glass, because essentially this entire island is world renowned (or something) for its glass blowing workshops. It was weirdly hard to find one that was open for the public to watch, and by the time I did, everyone else had grown impatient and taken off. But ya girl got to witness these sweaty old dudes makin some art!

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See? A ghost town. Spooky.

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Afterwards, we did The Thing.

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And it was absolutely amazing.

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It was almost like meditating. It was so quiet and calm down on the lapping water hidden just below the bustling streets we had grown accustomed to. This was the part that felt most like a dream.

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After the gondola ride, we had kind of seen and experienced everything we wanted to in the city itself. So we returned to the island that our hotel was on (by boat taxi, naturally) and hung out on the beach for the remainder of our stay. It was relaxing, fun, and altogether lovely.

Versailles

Saturday, May 27th, 2017, Part Two

The first time I went to Paris, we did the whole guided Versailles tour group thing. But that didn’t stop me from going back after Dorsay, for the remainder of what was essentially a really good free day.

IMG_0042This time, though, I didn’t have the fast skip-the-line advantage. But that was okay. Because even in the heat, in the direct sunlight, in the serpentine line of similar and sweaty tourists, most of our group was there together. Okay, maybe not most of the 55, but a solid 20 something. And we all bonded, complained about being thirsty, freaked out about the fact that we were in Europe, talked about Arrival and Survivor (Chris Page), and joked about tourists…together. For almost two hours. Talk about bonding.IMG_0039

It was really only bad because of the heat and lack of shade. Otherwise, I wasn’t in a hurry, but I think I was one of the only ones. I had already seen it before, though, so I mostly knew what to expect. I was embracing the chit-chat.

IMG_2269When we finally did get to the end of the line and go inside, though, a bunch of people were disappointed. It wasn’t as amazing and overwhelming as they had expected, I think. Or perhaps they were just thrown by how packed it was. Because that definitely also takes away from the experience: the sheer number of people packed into those hallways and being filed and pushed through those rooms.

It was still incredible, obviously. And even better because this time I knew the history and significance behind everything, but it certainly wasn’t as impressive as it had been the first time. And the tourists were viciously elbowing us to take pictures. And we didn’t have a tour guide telling us what we were seeing. And stopping to read anything for a refresher would have been impossible as the people are quite literally like a tidal wave or herd pushing you forward, forward. IMG_0045IMG_0065IMG_0076The Hall of Mirrors, a highlight of my last trip, was unfortunately only a blip this time. It was still gorgeous, and still my favorite part of the main palace. But it was kind of ruined by the volume of people. There was even a rope in the middle to lessen the confusion into a queue. And another of my favorite places, Marie Antoinette’s chambers, were closed. I was bummed. And then I was bummed that I was bummed in the freaking Hall of Mirrors.

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Me, pouting when I shouldn’t, in a room that was closed to the public. *not still bitter a little*

Talk about a bourgeoisie mindset. But, seeing as where I was, that was nonetheless appropriate though I guess.IMG_0137We got through the parts of the palace open to visitors in about thirty minutes. And even that was merely due to how large and crowded it was.

Afterwards, we wanted to go to the gardens out back. “Out back,” like it’s a casual backyard or something.

But first, we needed a snack.IMG_0155A Blair Waldorf snack, or a snack fit for queens, in any case. I may or may not have been channeling my inner Kirsten Dundst.tumblr_of24f8iqe91qcvii9o1_1280We sat and ate our macarons (Ladurée macarons, mind you) in the courtyard in the front of the palace of Versailles. We walked around on those gorgeous checkered tiles, did some more princess spins, and licked the sugar off of our fingers (whether they were actually covered in sugar or not). We were finally in the shade, and could see the line of people waiting to get in, all lined up outside the golden gates a ways away, just as we had been. And we did not envy the masses at all. Again, all very bourgeoisie.img_0169.jpgimg_0158.jpgThen we really did go find the gardens. I beelined straight to where these lil pruned beauties were, as I had not found them the last time that I was there.IMG_0177IMG_0195IMG_0184May or may not have saved one macaron to take this picture. (It was eaten soon after.)IMG_0196This garden is immediately to the left out the back of the palace. We had only gone right and back last time, and then ran out of time. I’m so glad that I got to see it this time though.

There was something else though, in addition to “the cool swirly gardens” that I was longing to see that I hadn’t during my previous visit. I hadn’t known about this at the time though, so it wasn’t an annoying regret at having been so close but missing something as the garden had been. No, this I learned about later. And this, you see, was Marie Antoinette’s estate.b3b48f06f13540cb28c0ce5c7e537455The estate is way the heck in the far right corner of the gardens of Versailles. Like, halfway down the huge freaking canal. In the top right corner, to be exact, if you’re looking at a map, which I was, a lot, and have since memorized.

Anyway, this estate is called Petit Trianon, and it is exactly 1.4 miles, or a thirty minute walk, from the back of the palace, where we were standing in the heat of the day.IMG_0211 1No one else wanted to go. They were tired, hungry, hot. It was already almost five o’clock, and they had “been there, done that.” Everyone wanted to go back to the city.

But me, no. I was determined. Marie Antoinette’s estate and farm, fundamentally, was the reason that I had returned. And knowing about it then, but LEAVING before taking advantage of the fact that I was at Versailles once more and may never go back…no. There was no way I was not going to go see it.

So I went.IMG_0218Like the previous day, when I had mastered the courage to go across Paris on the metro by myself, I simply took off. My friends knew where I was. I had my cell phone. I even had water. I was surrounded by tourists and other people. It was broad daylight. I could argue my safety in court. As for the train on the way back…I could do that too. I had done it yesterday, hadn’t I?IMG_0222I headed off in the directly that I knew (and that the map told me) the estate and farm was. I passed some things that were familiar, like one of the side fountains, hidden amongst the winding garden hedges; I passed some things that were new, like the rose trellises and sanctuaries of high arching trees. IMG_0241 1IMG_0242These tree paths were glorious. The breeze blew through them, a breeze that had seen been mysteriously absent. And then there was the shade. I walked on the grass for a bit, for it felt really nice on my feet which I at that point refused to acknowledge ached a bit.IMG_0252I went on that walk so so happily. Adrenaline and excitement, I think, got me to the opposite end of the park. Adrenaline and maybe a little bit of spite. Because once again, after all that time in line, everyone else just wanted to leave?

Granted, I had been there and seen everything else before. Everything was new to most everyone else. But my wait hadn’t been for the Hall of Mirrors. I knew exactly what I wanted to see, and I was going to see it. And that was so liberating.IMG_0245Along this walk, though, I also learned why Marie Antoinette took a carriage to her getaway house. It’s basically hidden on the other side of the park if you don’t know which tree maze to go through to get there. Kudos to Marie for knowing how to avoid Louis. Just have him build you a house on the other side of some really huge ass gardens.IMG_0259Finally, I found Petit Trianon. It was at the end of a really long lane, like something out of Pride and Prejudice. Or any period film, actually. Say…Marie Antoinette?

Regardless, I could imagine carriages coming and going, and it made me so happy that at one point I walked up in the very middle of the road like the merry lil tourist I was.IMG_0280IMG_0289I went inside the house itself, and, after Versailles and its grand rooms, it wasn’t terribly overwhelming. It was cute, almost. Tiny, cramped. Even her bed was small. But everything was really pretty and very tasteful. It was modest for a queen, but I think that’s what she was going for.IMG_0312 1I walked through and out to the back, where the trails led on towards the farm and into the countryside beyond. This was going to be something, I knew, and relayed to myself mentally, sounding like an endearing grandpa. This will be something for sure.IMG_0326 1The trek was easy by now. I walked really slowly and took tons of pictures. Everything was beautiful and shadowy and green. So, so green. I was at peace.IMG_0343IMG_0350 1

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Oh hey!

IMG_0360IMG_0373 1Eventually the path led through the woods and onto the farm. I only knew this because one, that’s what the map told me, and two, because after a while I could see more buildings, buildings I still hadn’t much been expecting, make themselves known from beyond the hills and trees.IMG_0352IMG_0381IMG_0390Um, peep.tumblr_oo440otidz1r6mymdo4_400(I’m fine. They just filmed literally all throughout this area, and I’m still just now finding more and more stills from the movie of places I walked. I feel like if I watch the movie now I’ll like melt away or something but I also literally know what I’m watching next. Seriously though why haven’t I rewatched that movie since then. Bye I’m off to worship Sofia Coppola a lil bit.)IMG_0396 1IMG_0421 1IMG_0458IMG_0461 1IMG_0466IMG_0475IMG_0477Jokes and movie references and fangirling aside, this entire area is one of the most beautiful places I have seen.

 

Maybe I loved it because I had anticipated it so much and yet had no idea (despite seeing the movie a while back) what I would find and see there.

Or perhaps it was because I had found it on my own, a little treasure and adventure all to myself. I had proven that if I wanted to do something, gosh-darn it I would.

Or maybe it was so wonderful because of the air, the quiet, the breeze, the rolling hills, the grasses swaying and flowers blooming. Everything was alive and moving while simultaneously remaining quiet and still. There were no tourists here. In fact, I could go for ages at a time without seeing a large group of people, something that would not often happen for the rest of my summer abroad.

This was an escape. Just as it had been intended to be, way back when Marie and her little girl came here to play farm, as Tracey told me once. Still, I loved it. It was one of my favorite adventures, I think.IMG_0486After I had seen the farm, I walked back a different way. It neared that by whence I had came, so I generally knew where I was, but I still wanted to see more, as much as was humanly possible. I wanted to see and cherish everything.

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Me, being very very happy. (And very amused that I found a French tourist wearing a Star Wars shirt to take my picture.)

IMG_0535I’m screaming and fangirling again sorry, but holy crap this was literally on the other side. I walked there!!!b1b2d049541c9b2eae416ea1c854e6a9I went back around from the farm in a way that led me around and past Grand Trianon, which I think was Louis’s getaway spot. Like, a hunting lodge or something similarly royal and seemingly masculine and…that’s right, bourgeoisie.IMG_0557IMG_0559By then, the park was closing, and I was much less impressed by this than I had been by the gardens and Marie’s lovely lil places. My adventure, though, was nearing its end anyway. The parks were closing, so there was a slow but unmistakable exodus of day-trippers like myself. I walked out through Grand Trianon and towards the long lake in the center of the park, which eliminated any chance that I would get lost.IMG_0565On my way I passed a restaurant and tiny little village-type area near the gate, for tourists of course. It was gorgeous too.IMG_0575It’s a straight shot from the end of the lake where I was to the palace. The palace, which at the time I was certain was my only exit. (It wasn’t, but don’t tell my past self that.)IMG_0579Because the hike back sucked. I know I can’t really complain, because I had basically just had the most amazing adventure ever, and was literally in the gardens of Versailles outside of Paris in freaking Europe. But it sucked. It just…did.

 

Somewhere along the lake I lost one of my nine lives, a small piece of my soul. I was exhausted, and none of the adrenaline that helped me get there in the heat remained to help me back. My feet hurt. It was hot. And I was starving.

I regret nothing, obviously. But I could have really gone for some food and a chair right then.IMG_0587 1This must have been how everyone had felt earlier. But it was just now hitting me. It would only be when I was back on the train by myself (well, by myself beside a really nice group of exchange students from Asia and Bulgaria that somehow knew each other and were also visiting Paris), that I could finally relax. I shoveled back some food, stared out the window, and floated away once again, completely content.

I was also, once again, pretty damn proud of myself for mastering Parisian public transportation. IMG_0599 1More importantly, though, I was proud of myself for being so determined and strong-willed and refusing to accept defeat. (Yeah, defeat. The Battle of Versailles, me versus myself and the elements and the influence of others in order to hike all the way to Timbuktu and back. I’m not being dramatic I swear.)

I was, and still am, proud that I walked the three plus miles total in order to see that beautiful piece of land and buildings where a former teen queen spent her holidays in peace and reprieve. Proud, and so, so happy. tumblr_oo440otidz1r6mymdo2_400

Dorsay

Saturday May 27th, 2017

We got to Musée d’Orsay (which again, I will be calling Dorsay because one I’m lazy but two it sounds more like an appropriate and affectionate pet name) around 9:30 am. Paris was quiet and cool, and we got to cross and see the river and streets before they grew wild with travelers and pedestrians like ourselves. Because we were so early, and such a large group, we were miraculously allowed inside the museum before they actually officially opened.

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As a result, we got to explore the quiet old railroad station, unencumbered by the crowd. And it was magical. You know that scene from Pride and Prejudice where Lizzy (Keira Knightley) slowly wanders around all those beautiful white marble statues while piano music plays? This was the closest I’ve ever gotten to that.

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We got lost for a while, wandering in and out of and between the various statues and paintings and rooms. We went upstairs, downstairs, back again.

At one point, we found an old ballroom full of chandeliers and mirrors where we twirled and twirled for a bit, pretending that we were princesses and that this was where we lived. It wouldn’t have been a bad arrangement.Then we finally kept going up, and up, and up, to what inexplicably felt like the main event on the fifth floor. It was the Impressionist exhibit.

I have always loved Impressionism. It’s my favorite painting style and movement, I think. When we learned about it in art class, I always got so excited. We got to do timed Van Gogh drawings and recreate Monet paintings.

I even loved the cheesy movies we watched on those awful rolling television carts in middle school, movies about Degas painting the ballerinas and sculpting the Little Dancer, about Renoir and his fierce competitive streak. The acting was terrible, no question. But they made the artists and their subjects real, alive. Also, Mr. Cooper, my amazing art teacher, was always so enthusiastic about them and how bad but good they were, and I think that kind of fervor catches on.

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The fact that I knew something about the artists, perhaps, made seeing their works even more special. Learning about things, having a context and background to them, always does that. Or maybe I was just so happy and into this exhibit because the paintings are so lovely. I love the style and mood of Impressionism, as I said. I love seeing the light, the paint and brushstrokes, the airiness.

Or maybe it was also because literally every painting was more famous and familiar than the last. Literally every single one. The poppy field? Waterlillies? The freaking Renoir girl that Lorelai Gilmore dresses up as in the Stars Hollow Festival of Living Art? The Degas ballerinas and practice statues? I was freaking out. It is, in fact, also possible to fangirl over paintings.

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Regardless, I was in awe and in love.

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After spending an eternity amongst the Impressionists, I wandered back downstairs to find my friends. In doing so, I also found Van Gogh, the Surrealists, and a handful of other abstract and brilliant masters.

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And then, after another little bit, it was time to leave.

I got a tote bag because I was tired of carrying my water bottle and brochures everywhere. I bought postcards and continued to fangirl over the wonderful place I had just visited.

Even when we all boarded the train that would whisk us away to Versailles, my mind and heart were still focused on the little train station-turned art museum. This had been my favorite art museum of the trip yet, maybe one of my favorites ever. And that is the pillar upon which it would and has remained. I loved, and will love, Dorsay and all that we saw and did there.

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Paris

May 24th – 28th, 2017

We arrived in Paris at at sometime around seven or eight in the morning. They told us to sleep on the plane, but even after the windows were shut tight and the cabin darkened, that didn’t exactly happen. I wasn’t yet used to sleeping upright, and I’m pretty sure there was a crying kid somewhere. Unless I was dillusional after being awake for only twenty hours at that point.

If I was dillusional then, by the end of this, the longest day ever, I would be totally buggin.

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We went through security and loaded onto a giant cross-country tour bus that would become extremely familiar to us over the next month and a half. We met up with our tour leader, group leader, and adorable bus driver named Ricardo. And then, finally, we entered our first city.

Paris, around the edges, isn’t much to look at. It’s actually, we quickly realized, pretty gross. The buildings are its saving grace. Everything even in the beginning was “so French.” The old woman with glasses watering her flower boxes and smoking a cigarette. The old bald man shouting down from his balcony at some skinny teenager down below. The cat on the railing stretching itself out in the sun. It was easy to ignore the filth for a while.

What was less easy to ignore was the fact that the roads were extremely narrow and that our bus was extremely large. I’m still not sure how Ricardo managed to maneuver amongst those endless twisting alleyways—for that’s essentially what they were. We thought we were going to scrape the light posts, the sides of buildings, other cars. Somehow, though, we never did.

It took over an hour of this strenuous navigation to finally reach our hotel. We realized several things very quickly. One, that our bus driver was amazing, obviously. Two, that Paris was pretty darn big. Three, that the metro would become our best friend. And four, that our hotel was in a really sketchy far-away-from-the-city-center area of town. Number four was the kicker.

Still, we were within walking distance from some pretty cool things during day-light hours. We were in the 17th arrondissement, which I proudly knew was a district on the snail shell of Paris thanks to a fashion book I had read before departing. Every block here had the Cutest Cafe Ever situated conveniently on its corner. Moulin Rouge was less than two metro stops away. Montmartre and Sacré-Cœur weren’t far away either. And it was the latter place that, after checking into our hotel at one, we began to excitedly walk towards.

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We wandered aimlessly around Montmartre for a bit,  our destination in mind, but maps and landmarks still an abstract concept. First and foremost, I think, we were in awe of everything, everything was shiny and we were crows, pulled to and fro without a single thought.

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We saw this Love Wall mural, which I had seen online before and briefly fangirled over before we were dragged on by something else, something lovely and dazzling and new. There were art fairs, fruit stands, so many flowers. There were people everywhere, people and bread and tourists and birds alike. Even here, where there were fewer iconic landmarks to draw the masses, here where there were more native French-speakers than anyone else.

Soon, we couldn’t resist another thing we all idealized: crepes and french fries. Our stomachs, by this point, were empty. We were running on E. So we stopped, finally, and had our first meal of the Very Long Day. By then, I had been awake for about thirty hours. IMG_9205

This was our first restaurant visit of the trip. We ate outside of one of the aforementioned Adorable cafes. The waitress was kind, amused at our accents. Our view was perfect: we had found some side street deep in the heart of Montmartre that, if I were to go back, I could probably never find again. The food was reasonable and exactly what we needed.

We learned that meals in Europe are slow, and that you have to ask for the check. We also learned that they do not split checks, and that it is rude to even ask. Venmo became another best friend.

And so did we. For each meal was like a bonding experience. We talked freely, happily, endlessly. When neither waiter or waitee is in a hurry, when there are people to watch and things to discuss and learn…it’s all quite lovely. And, apparently, very European.

After our first lunch of the trip, we explored some more, all the way until dinner several hours later. First, we went to this really strange shop that I can only describe as specializing in knick-knacks. Floor to ceiling: knick-knacks. It was another thing I had found in that book of mine, and I was surprised and excited to see that we were actually right next to it on my map app. When we did go inside, I kept thinking, over and over, that the Little Mermaid would have loved it. It was weird, but great.

And again, somehow, very “French.”

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Afterwards, we just kept wandering around Montmartre. And tried and failed to both spell and say “Montmartre.” Repeatedly.IMG_9226img_9293-1IMG_9248img_9288IMG_9249

We walked on and on until finally we figured that we could reasonably read our maps and figure out where we were in relation to other things. So now, after our day of meandering with the Monte Carlo and Amelie movie dreams somewhere in front of us but always beyond grasp, we finally went for it. We found Sacré-Cœur. And up we climbed.

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It’s a hill, you see. At the bottom, we turned the corner and saw the tell-tale carousel. Then, you look up. And there’s the basilica, cathedral, site of something worth pilgrimages—maybe a piece of Mary’s cloak? Whatever it is, there were tons of tourists there for it.

Or perhaps they were actually there for the same reason we were. No, not the movies, though that was a huge pull. But because this is the only hill in the city of Paris. It’s true, everywhere else is flat. So you know if you’re going uphill, ever, you’re going North, towards Montmartre in the 18th.

So, being the only hill…it had one of the best views of the city.

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I imagined that Amelie’s blue chalk arrows were everywhere, leading me up, up, up. It made the admittedly arduous climb slightly easier.IMG_9292

We left for dinner, our first welcome meal of the trip. We were served from a set but delicious menu, some kind of pasta and chicken I think. There was panna cotta for dessert, that I remember.

And then we all went our separate ways. Groups had not really formed yet, so everyone stuck together, and in more varied pairings, than they otherwise would have or later did. People either continued to explore Paris, went back to the hotel to sleep, or began the collective hunt for the cheapest wine possible. Or, ya know, all of the above.IMG_9291

At the end of my thirty-six hour day, I went with a group of my new friends to the Eiffel Tower. We had only been strangers mere hours and days before, but already we could see how much a trip like this, how much navigating and wandering around a new and strange city, could bring people together. We didn’t want to walk around alone here so soon, and especially not at night. It took team work, in the beginning, to figure out the trains. And, of course, it was just fun.

We didn’t get to climb the tower that night, though others did. But we did get to walk around it in the dark, watch it sparkle on the hour and walk under it to gape at its misleading size.

At the end of the night, we all made it back to our new tiny and poorly wired hotel rooms with their clean sheets and odd showers. And then we knocked out. The Longest Day Ever was complete.img_9326

The next morning we had our first classes abroad. We had had a week of pre departure classes, so we were old pros now; we knew what to expect. Our art history professor Tracey went first, showing us slides and telling us stories about a certain period of art. I loved these hours and lectures. Tracey is and was amazing and I am so sad that I cannot take her class a hundred times over. I didn’t mind that this was how we were to spend every fifth morning at all.

Then, however, we had music class. And I’m not a music person. We learned anything from music theory to the history of composers to the physics of sound. I wasn’t a fan then and I’m still not a fan now. The first part of the morning, in other words, was highly preferable.

After our classes, though, we had free time for lunch and travel before we had to be at our Next Thing: a music museum.

We took the metro to the 19th, as it was where the museum was located. We figured we would eat nearby so as to not have to stress and worry about travel times and train delays. There are no train delays, which we learned soon. However, the train itself was a painful forty-five minute endeavor. The museum, our professor failed to mention, was all the way across the city.

Once we got to the 19th, after ages, in other words, we walked around in search of food. Instead, we found murals.

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This was the first time on the trip that I was really relied upon by strangers for navigation. I was one of the few with the downloaded maps, you see. I also, apparently, was one of the few that had their head screwed on right and didn’t blow a gasket when we took a wrong turn or two. I was on a mission, with a destination in mind, but I also wasn’t stressed. No one I was with could make a decision. They were all hangry and completely reliant on group think to make their decision on What to Do Next.

I don’t put up with that. And I also had the maps. So we were all stuck together, something about stress and unhappy families all being alike. By the time we all actually did find food stands and restaurants (really, why were there not more around the river and park up there?!) I was done with people. At least, done with being in charge.

The music museum had a lot of instruments in it. That’s all I really remember. Cases and cases of instruments. It’s kind of funny, actually. It was organized by type, then by era, so it traced through all of their development and what have you.

I’m more of an art girl.

As I had decided that I was #done with people, I was extremely happy about what I was headed off to do next.

I had messaged my friend Margaret from high school the day before. She took a gap year after graduation and before she goes to college to be an au pair, or a nanny, in Paris. So, during my remaining free afternoon, I went to find her.

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That’s why, on day two of being in a foreign European strange abroad unfamiliar city, I ended up on the metro by myself.

Ok, well, to be fair, the city wasn’t completely unfamiliar. I had been there in tenth grade, so I knew generally where the city center and a good number of landmarks were. I knew what was around the river and where the Louvre was, basically, and I still stand by the notion that to navigate there that’s all you really need.

To also be fair, I rode about halfway with a group of people from my group who also happened to leave the museum at the same time. But as far as navigating the downtown metro and sidewalks? All me baby.

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We met up at a place that, the first time I had visited, I had wanted so badly to visit but had never had a chance to: the Shakespeare and Company bookstore.IMG_9378

It’s tiny, cramped, full to bursting with books and people alike. There are corners full of books, stairs and walls displaying quotes, desks covered with typewriters and plants. I loved it.IMG_9399

It was so sweet to see Margaret, and we picked up right where we left off. We talked of Paris, traveling, classes, books, people, our lives. We had coffee and talked even faster.IMG_9392

She and her boyfriend showed me around the area by the river. I had been there before, but I was seeing it through new eyes. They knew how to do it right, they said, so Right we did.

That, I guess, was how we ended up cutting in a really long and winding line of tourists to see the inside of Notre Dame.IMG_9404IMG_9408

After seeing the cathedral that Tracey had told us about mere hours but what seemed like ages before, we went to do something else that was completely necessary for a Parisian tourist like myself to do: eat more crepes.

Margaret showed me where the absolute best crepes in that neighborhood were. I knew I met up with her for something.IMG_9413

All jokes aside, the Nutella and strawberry crepe that I had, standing on the bustling sidewalk the Latin Quarter laughing with my friend who now speaks fluent French, was life-changing. So life-changing, in fact, that when I dripped melted chocolate onto my yellow and white shoes, I didn’t even really care.

Crepe still in hand, and with only a little while before I had to go back to the hotel to change for our music class outing later that evening, we went to an open-air farmer’s market held nearby. Again, so “French.”IMG_9423

After saying goodbye to my wonderful happy lil Margaret and her boyfriend, I took the train to the hotel, changed into too fancy of a dress, lost an earring, ran down a hotel hallway, met up with another group of new friends, and hopped back on the train. That took about ten to fifteen minutes. I lost my sanity somewhere along with the earring, I think. But I had successfully survived my first solo city outing. And, after a while, I ignored the missing earring debacle and focused on that instead.

We raced (as much as you can race on a train) back to the 19th. Yep, the forty-five minute train ride we had had to take earlier. And then, we entered our first music event. Our first concert.

We all had high hopes, I think. It was Mozart, everyone knows Mozart, it’ll be great. But I think everyone fell asleep at some point.

It wasn’t bad, per se. Just not riveting. And definitely a snore to fifty something students who have each been running around a new and exciting city all day, likely on very little sleep. We were all exhausted, in other words.

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Going to this concert and those that followed was really cool though, because I know that it is something that I wouldn’t have gone and seen on my own. I never would have chosen to go to the symphony and see Mozart performed had it not been done for me, and for a grade. Because I love movies, plays, shows, and art museums. But a symphony? Yeah I had fallen asleep for a moment. But it was a good experience nonetheless.

After the show, we took pictures.IMG_9445

This was the most we dressed up for any of the concerts. We hadn’t had much precedence, ya know? Like, none. I wore heels, for crying out loud. But hey, now I can say that I walked two miles around the cobblestone streets of Paris at night wearing strappy heels. And I felt pretty dang fabulous doing it, so that’s all that really mattered.IMG_9801

None of us wanted to go back to the hotel, so after several failed plans and changes of plans and debates of plans, we somehow ended up near the river. We got to see everything lit up, wandered around the Louvre with its glowing silver pyramid, got to shout and sing and holler in the strangely quiet city streets. Damn tourists, amiright.

It was so lovely. We got pretty lost, but my map was still in use, so it was ok. And the river was right nearby, leading us wherever we needed to get, a solid backbone to a solid city.

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The next morning was very blue. We went to the Louvre around when it opened, and were ushered in. img_9458img_9467

The touristy photos were a must. I had to fight for that box too, man.

I had almost but not quite forgotten how wild it was, for I had visited there in tenth grade too. There were people everywhere, jostling one another, coming up out of the earthworks, probably from hell. Literal fire ants.

 

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I wanted to go back and see Napoleon’s Chambers, but they were, of course, closed for renovation. This is the most appropriate reason to say “c’est la vie” I have ever had.

Instead, we saw Nike. And she was glorious.

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Seeing the things that we learned about just days and weeks before in Art History class was incredible. It made the pieces so much more meaningful. We knew the stories and contexts behind the works, knew what was going on during those time periods. They gained a new importance, and we gained a much greater appreciation. It made fighting through those packed and endless hallways okay.

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After escaping the Louvre, we had two hours before our Next Thing. So, on the way to finding lunch, we wandered through the Tuileries Garden.

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It was really hot.img_9589

So the shade was an absolute blessing. And these trees looked like something straight out of an impressionist painting. img_9593

We kept walking towards food and the Paris opera building, our next destination. We found some cool street things along the way.img_9620img_9601

And then our Phantom of the Opera Afternoon began. We went on a tour of the Palais Garnier, and it was amazing, gorgeous. The ceilings, the walls, the chandeliers…so detailed and so, so beautiful. It was horrible that this was the first opera building that we toured, really. Our expectations were screwed.img_9632

I mean come on. The ceiling was a Chagall.img_9644

It was funny, though, because Parisians back in the day hated it because it was so modern and clashed with the rest of the decor. I love when art makes people mad.

There was also another pretty lil gem hidden here. The opera house had its own little spin off of Versailles, right down the road: it had its own mini Hall of Mirrors.img_9661

After the tour we were tired and still hot, so we went shopping for a bit, as this was apparently The district to do it in. But alas, the shopping was futile and like the stereotypes would have predicted, me and four other friends ended up in a nearby Starbucks.

This, however, was no ordinary Starbucks. This wasn’t the super hero of Starbucks’, either; no. If Blair Waldorf or Marie Antoinette was a Starbucks, this would have been her.

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They even had really good wifi. And the chocolate-filled muffin I had? AMazing.

Soon I wanted to explore some more. The friends I was with were tired, or wanted to go shopping, or simply do other things. But I was now fearless. I had conquered the metro by myself the previous day. I had won. I had proven that I was completely fine taking off on my own. So that’s what I did.

I went to this beautiful mall, mostly just to see how beautiful it was and to close my eyes to the beautiful designer stores taunting me from all sides on the way to its center.img_9709

Then, I hopped on the metro in search of antique and vintage clothing stores. I got gotten directions from my book, had places saved in my map. I went towards the Bastille near the 11th and farther up (or down?) the river, a place I had never been before but immediately loved. I found street art and, though the stores I had originally been looking for were all closed, I had a wonderful time getting lost and found and lost some more.img_9731

The streets here were cleaner than most. It was a nice neighborhood, somewhere in between the high end opera area and the Champs and the Latin Quarter. The place our hotel was doesn’t even fall on that scale. It falls off the bottom.

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When I got hungry for dinner, I had the most amazing falafel wrap from a street vendor. I walked around eating it, people watching and taking pictures.img_9763-1img_9741-1

After a while, I figured that I had seen that area through and through, so I went searching for people. Maybe the extravert in me was rearing its head, craving company; I headed back towards the metro and touristy areas for a while. I saw Notre Dame once more, then walked around the dozens of bridges that crisscrossed the river. I never did find the lock bridge again, though.img_9792

When it started to get dark again, I went back to the hotel. It had definitely been another full and crazy and busy and wonderful lovely day.

The next day, we went to Dorsay (which isn’t really spelled like that but that I choose to spell like that for the sake of my missing sanity) and Versailles. Both places were so special…and I took so many pictures there…that they both have their own posts coming up next. So like, Next Week on Youn—I mean, Lauren’s Blog or something. (If only this WERE an episode of Younger!)

The last night that we were in Paris, though, so after we got back from Versailles on Saturday night, was truly a dream. We all got cheap but good wine and prosecco, bread, cheese, and jam from a variety of mini markets and sidewalk stands. We picnicked underneath the Eiffel Tower. We met French people. We got to know one another. And we got to see the sparkling lights overhead once again.img_0614

Those were the yellow shoes that were tragically attacked by my amazing crepe.img_0611img_0612

A brilliant idea, one that was shared with us by former groups, shared by us to other current groups, and will be shared with future study abroad groups to come. Do you hear that? Go to the Eiffel Tower with your new travel family. It’s one of the best things you can do.

It’s certainly a SPARKLING memory from my wonderful but exhaustion-driven whirlwind of a time in such a large, dirty, lovely, gross, and crazy first city.img_0604

…And the Return

That’s right…I’m back!

So yeah, you’re probably thinking…”wait, I thought there were supposed to be a whole summer’s worth of blog posts before this one?” And if you weren’t expecting that, then, boo you for not having faith in me…but mainly kudos to you for thinking that my former resolution was pretty far-fetched in reality. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about at all, well…you have some catching up to do too, them, and I’m glad I’m not the only one.)

Because let’s face it. The fact that I was wholeheartedly intent on blogging every single day of my trip? A noble goal. But I didn’t account for…well, anything, really.

tumblr_nsxt712zqv1rdutw3o1_400That wide-eyed and nervous girl with wild blonde hair (me) sitting in the airport however many months ago didn’t really think about the fact that, twenty-four hours from that moment, her time of departure, her hotel would not have reliable wifi, nor the fact that she was going to be walking, everywhere, non-stop. She was going to be awake for the next thirty hours straight, then she would keep going, going, like an energizer bunny. She would trail across Europe from city and poor wifi hot-spot to poor wifi hot-spot.

She (still me) was not going to be able to upload her photos to her blog every night; she was going to do good just to get them on Instagram. (And Instagram she certainly did.) She definitely wasn’t going to be able to do justice to and write about her adventures just yet. So, after a while, she decided not to worry about Internet connections or uploading pictures. That could wait. She was, instead, simply going to keep taking pictures, keep exploring, and keep living in the moment.

That’s why, dozens of cities and thousands of pictures later, I’m only now blogging about my summer. My crazy, hectic, amazing, overwhelming, maddening, short, long, wild summer. So…here we go.

Departure

img_9140-2It’s today it’s today it’s today!!!

I have no idea what that quote is from, but it’s from some movie. A kid is running somewhere really excitedly, saying that that in a high pitched voice over and over. I’m imagining that he is waving something in the air, shrieking and completely filled with energy and joy. I’m not sure if that’s what the kid in the movie was doing , but that’s what I feel like.

Today I’m flying to Europe. Paris, specifically. I got to the airport around 11:30 am this morning after a mild navigational misadventure. (Getting to the actual airport is wild.) It was the first time that I’ve ever gone through check in and airport security by myself too. My suitcase img_9145was exactly forty-nine pounds, out of the allotted fifty, so that was exciting. Also, full-on security pat-down? Maybe it was my bracelet. The lady couldn’t believe that I was nineteen; she said she thought I was younger. I was taken aback, but I’ll take it. I made it through unscathed.

There were few people coming and going yet, and I got lunch and have been sitting at our boarding gate since. People have come and gone, all going about their lives and travels and day. Slowly the other people from my group have collected together. We’ve talked and joked and eaten and shared in our excitement. I can’t wait to get to know them better over the next few hours and weeks and months. I can’t wait to drink coffee and wander around the streets of Paris and eat crepes. I can’t wait to see the beautiful city and art and rivers and sky. It’s today it’s today it’s today!!!