Tag Archives: France

Au Revoir

I write this final post from the Paris apartment, poised to shut down the laptop, and pack it up with everything else to journey to Charles de Gaulle, where I’m catching a flight home today.  I took the TGV from Lille to Paris yesterday afternoon, and it’s given me a nice sense of closure to return here one last time…where the trip began, where I spent most of the summer, and where I am now leaving.  Paris is in the height of vacation season: the weather is humid, and some of my favorite nearby shops have closed for the month. 

Paris metro, one of the modes of transport I used to get from here and back again

Paris metro, one of the modes of transport I used to get here and back again

Just because it’s the end of my European travels for the summer does not mean I’m done writing.  I’ve enjoyed it so much and gotten enough positive feedback that the blog will live on.  Of course, I won’t be writing as frequently (because honestly my daily life is just not interesting enough for that), but I’ll keep posting about interesting places and experiences, whether far or near from home.  In particular, check back for an update on my trip to New Orleans and Mississippi in a few weeks, interesting discoveries around Charlottesville and Princeton, my class trip to Sicily in October, and whatever else might unexpectedly come up in between.

To my fellow travelers, bonnes vacances.  To those at work, bon courage.  To everyone–thanks for reading.  Back to the States I go!

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Les Nuits Secrètes

The last few days have been fun and sleepless.  On Friday evening, we (Lise, her boyfriend Olivier, and one of his friends from Sciences Po, their university in Lille) trekked to Aulnoye-Aymeries, a small town in The Middle of Nowhere, Northern France, where the first night of the music festival, Les Nuits Secrètes, was taking place.  I was pleasantly surprised.  I love listening to music, of course, but I’m usually more of a “iPod+headphones type” rather than a concert-goer, because I have an unfortunately short attention span for live music.  However, I really enjoyed the four main acts we saw over the weekend, probably because it was such a wide variety of genres.  Friday night began with Puppetmastaz, probably the most entertaining concert I’ve ever seen.  Imagine a puppet show mixed with a rap concert, with gangster Muppets, including Kermit, Yoda, Elvis’ head, and Snuggles the bunny, among others, singing about taking over the world from the humans.  And it was even weirder in real life than it sounds from that description.  Seriously. 

the ridiculous rapping Muppets of Puppetmastaz

the ridiculous rapping Muppets of Puppetmastaz

The next show on Friday was Mr. Oizo, a 35-year-old DJ, apparently well-known in the techno world, who played an endless pulse of beats while chain-smoking and sipping on Moet et Chandon, with a completely straight face.  The one time he pulled out his phone and took a picture of the crowd was practically the only indication that he realized that he wasn’t balancing his checkbook, or reading the TV guide, but in fact playing music for a crowd of thousands of moshing fans.  While I wasn’t worried about my hair catching on fire from the many techno-loving French smokers who were waving their hands in the air, I had lots of fun.

On Saturday, between the two nights of the festival, I went to the free zoo in Lille.  The weather was perfect, and the animals were very active.  The small zoo was fairly similar to any zoo in the States, but I got to learn some new French animal vocab words, and also see a Slow Loris (a painfully cute nocturnal mammal–look it up) in person.  Saturday night: back to Les Nuits Secrètes.  The first group we saw, Au Revoir Simone, was a trio of girls from Brooklyn, who played some cute, easy-to-listen-to music, and made me feel better about speaking in French when I heard their attempts to address the crowd.  After that, we saw the General Elektriks, a funky, jazzy group with some wild hairstyles and a lead singer who looked like he should be in the Rolling Stones, but acted like a twelve-year-old on a trampoline. 
Memo: photos are finally up from Brussels, Lille, and the music festival so check them out.

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Lounging in Lille

Lille, where I have been staying since leaving Brussels on Tuesday night, is part of a fairly large metropolitan area in the north of France.  The city is much smaller than Paris though, without major sights or a large metro system.  Lille feels more like a university town, which it is, and it has a very cute downtown area, with several large public squares and winding cobblestone paths that make up vieux Lille, the oldest part of town, with pricey shops and cafes.

a view of downtown Lille

a view of downtown Lille

The last few days have consisted largely of shopping and meandering in downtown Lille, where I am staying with my friend Lise.  Yesterday we went to the Lille marketplace, an overwhelming hubbub of vendors selling fruits, vegetables, roasted chickens, spices, and so on, where we made off with a large bag of groceries for less than 5 euros.  Tonight and tomorrow night I am going with Lise and her boyfriend to a music festival called Les Nuits Secretes, which is about 50 minutes away.  I’m not entirely sure what to expect so I’ll be sure to update when it’s over.

In other news, my final Bonjour Paris articles are up on the website:
Paris on the Cheap
Corsican Adventure
Corte and Vizzavona
Once again, only the introduction is available for free for most of these articles, so just let me know if you’re interested in finding out more.  The Corsica articles are a three part series, so the third and final article will probably be up on the site in the next few weeks.

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Adieu, Paris

I’m now in Germany, enjoying a quiet week at home with Clara’s family in the small town of Bad Iburg after leaving the Parisian city lifestyle behind.  Now that I’m finished with my internship, several of my articles have been posted to the Bonjour Paris website. 

Feature articles (some of these might be available only for paying members of the site, but if you’re really interested in the full text, let me know):
Top 10 Views of Paris
Top 10 Picnic Spots in Paris

Destinations:
Highlander Pub
Puces St. Ouen (market)
Versailles
Palais de Tokyo (art museum)

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Tour de France

We took a break from packing this afternoon to fight the crowds downtown to catch the finale of the Tour de France, which was finishing in Paris today.  We found a spot on the Place de la Concorde, which is at the end of the Champs Elysees, where the bikers make a final few laps.  It was almost anticlimatic: swarms of people packed on the hot pavement, excitement rising as they found out the bikers were approaching, cheers, and then zip…a pack of cyclists flew by.  And then another 5 minutes until they would zip by again on their next lap.  Still an incredible experience though and a fun place to be on my last day in Paris.

eager fans at Place de la Concorde as the bikers arrive

eager fans at Place de la Concorde as the bikers arrive

Tonight, we returned to trivia night at the Highlander for a final go after being stumped last week, and walked away victorious.  Second place, not first, but our pride was intact this time.

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Aux Champs Elysées

At the end of every summer, Paris imports tons of sand and palm trees from the south of France and turns the banks of the Seine near Notre Dame into a boardwalk/faux beach area, called Paris Plages.  The several-week long event just began, so yesterday we spent the afternoon basking in the sun by the river, reading and listening to a bagpiper playing for money on the bridge above.  It felt just like the beach…well, except for the fact that getting in the water was the absolute last thing we would want to do there. 

Paris Plages along the Seine

Paris Plages along the Seine

Today, for Carrie’s last day, we spent the early afternoon at the Palais de Tokyo, a modern art museum whose permanent exhibition is gratuit (free, aka. my favorite word to see here).  After that we walked along the famous Champs Elysées, from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde (concorde means peace, despite the fact that it’s where the public executions at the guillotine once were).  Though the Champs Elysées is not as glamorous as it used to be apparently, it’s still pretty posh, with the Louis Vuitton flagship store, Cartier, and so on (although McDonald’s made it in there too, somehow).

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Trivia Night

Last night Carrie, Clara, and I decided to try our luck at a trivia night hosted by a Scottish pub we had discovered here in Paris a few days earlier.  As three current university students, who like to think we know at least a little about a lot, we were feeling pretty confident.  But this 40 question pub quiz was not so easy.  All of the questions were the kind that made us go “wait, wait I know that!”  And then realize that we actually didn’t, but should have.  I was wishing that we had the “phone a friend” option and that calls to the U.S. weren’t so expensive, because I could think of lots of people to help us.

-Anyone who remembers the 60’s or the 80’s.
Put these events in order: JFK assassination, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts released, moon landing, Canada adopts its current flag
Put these movies in order: Alien, The Empire Strikes Back, The Little Mermaid, E.T.

-Anyone with a greater knowledge of the Bible, old battles, or Europe.
The three angels named in the Bible (got Michael, Lucifer, forgot Gabriel).
Put in order: Battle of Hastings, Crusades, 100 Years War, Battle of Poitiers
Which four European flags have vertical stripes? (We forgot Ireland?!?)

We lost soundly to the older Irish men sitting at the next table (not fair, since they probably remember John Wayne winning an Oscar, which was another answer that we missed), but it was still definitely one of the most fun nights I’ve had in Paris this summer.

The one question we did ace?  The twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac.  Must be from studying the placemats at the Ming Dynasty.

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