Thursday, 20 May 2010

Paris part three

I think I have come across three people in Cyprus that don’t speak English. While this makes it a lot easier for me, there is little motivation to learn Greek. Going to France, I was hoping to be able to stumble through my high school French to get around. One morning, Mom and I went to a cafĂ©. She ordered her coffee and I attempted to order a hot chocolate. Proudly, I ordered a “froid chocolat”. When I got chocolate milk, I remembered that “froid” is cold and realized why the waiter gave me a confused look at my request. I doubt he gave anyone older than 12 a “froid chocolat”! If I remember one thing besides, “bonjour,” I will remember that “chaud” is actually hot and “froid” is cold.
Besides going to the monuments, we couldn’t leave Paris without going shopping. I was barely properly dressed to window shop at many of the stores. I did manage to find an Audrey Hepburn outfit though! It’s a black dress with a belt. Now I just need big sunglasses!
In Europe I have observed many fashion trends that I am hoping don’t come in style in the states. I am saying this now, but I am guessing, a year from now, I will be wearing the things that I am currently criticizing. One of the trends here are jeans that are the epiteme of mom jeans! They are super baggy at the top and crotch area and continue being bagging down the thigh. Then they suddenly suck in at the calves! I think the pants are confused whether they are skinny jeans or jeans from the 90’s. Not going to lie, I tried a pair on! I did not buy them though.
Going to the Louvre was on the top of my list for the trip. In my mind, I was picturing the Louvre, in the outskirts of Paris, surrounded by trees, squirrels, maybe a monkey –secluded from the city. It turns out that the Louvre was only a walk away from where we were staying. In the Louvre, Mom and I made goals of what we wanted to see. The Mona Lisa and Napoleon’s apartment were on the top of our list. The Mona Lisa was swarmed by a crowd of people. We still managed to take pictures with it. I heard that her eyes follow you, where ever you stand. Sure enough, they do! Right now, I am in the process of apartment searching. It was huge and decorated with elaborate paintings and chandeliers. Do you think I will be able to find an apartment like that in Lakewood under the budget of a college student? Probably not!
We also saw the Arc d’ Triomphe. It is in the center of a multiple lane roundabout. Seeing people at the monument, we could not figure out how to get over there and considered running through the heavy traffic. This idea did not last long! We figured our lives were more important. Eventually, we did make our way over by the tunnel underground (much more logical).
In the area of the Arc d’Triomphe is the Eiffel Tower. Being there, I genuinely felt like I was in Paris. If someone knows only one thing about Paris, it is usually the Eiffel Tower. As if the coffee shops, language, and other historical monuments were not enough, the Eiffel Tower completed the trip.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

A short break from France to fit in Utopia

Beginning in 1516, the world was painted an image of an ideal society. It was a culture where people lived unanimously and in peace. There was no economic recession or unemployment. Dare I say… a socialist society that succeeded. This picture was constructed by Thomas More, author of the novel, Utopia. Although countries have tried, only More has been able to perfect this society.
After living in Cyprus for 5 months, I have realized that Cyprus is the closest to a Utopia that the world has to offer. There is a homeless population of 0%, crime is unheard of, and Cypriots are more than willing to invite others into their lives (female Cypriots can be a little more selective). There are also many different activities. This includes a city life, beaches, and mountains. Cyprus is a well-rounded country.
I am not claiming that Cyprus is perfect. My wallet has suffered since getting here from the high prices and Cypriots can be the loudest, most distracting people I have ever met. There is also the Greek/Turkish conflict. With this, my “utopian” idea is referring more to the Greek side. Overall, I am thankful that I came to a country that I don’t need to cover my purse with my arm everywhere I walk. I can even walk alone, knowing that I am safe. Being in Cyprus, provides me with hope of restoration.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Paris part two

In Paris, Mom and I stayed in the 5th arrondissement, which is renowned as the artistic and intellectual section of Paris (we figured this was the best place for us since we are such intellects!). The 5th arrondissement is along the Seine River. Supposedly, Ernest Hemingway completed works there. It turned out to be close to many historical sites. Arriving there, Mom and I walked around the area. Our first stop was the Notre Dame. For years I have studied the sites I have visited throughout this trip but each one brings the same feelings of shock. It takes me a second to realize I am not staring at a blow up picture from a history book but the real building, painting, or sculpture. It’s something I can touch and even smell. I’m hoping that this sensation never fades because I think that would mean that I don’t appreciate it as much.
What I have always remembered from the Notre Dame in the goblins that protect the cathedral. They distinguish it from any other cathedral. With this, I was more excited to see the outside of the building than the inside. Not only have they been hyped up from school but also the movie, “Hunchback of Notre Dame”. Seeing them, I could imagine them flying from the building. The faces looked fierce and ready to pounce on any oncoming predator. After almost tripping on flower pots and the side walk from staring at the strong walls, combined with walking, Mom and I took our bundle of picture and moved on.
Following this, we walked further around the 5th arrondissement, where the UniversitĂ© la Sorbonne is located, along with the Jardin du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Gardens). If you love reading or walking in parks, the Luxembourg Gardens is ideal. Statues line the walkways of Gods, along with members of royalty. Ignoring all shame, I mimicked the statues, while Mom took pictures of me. I couldn’t get her to do it though! There is also a large fountain in the middle of the park with tanners lining the sides. I doubt Marie de Medicis, the widow of King Henry IV, figured that the Palace’s garden she built would be used for tanning centuries later!
After taking a tour of this monumental neighborhood, we went out to eat. I don’t know how Mom was still awake with the major time change that she was suffering through. There were many restaurants close to the hotel and we chose the one that looked the least touristy. I had smoked salmon fettuccini, along with amazing bread that was provided. We both finished all of our food and went back to the hotel where we fell asleep until the next morning.

Paris part one

So it's definitely been a long time since I have written in this (sorry about that). Combined with already getting easily distracted, studying abroad has intensified this procrastination. I suppose it may be a good sign. If I were on top of my blog, it may mean I had too much spare time. Throughout this experience, I have had anything but spare time and am glad for that. With that, I have a lot of catching up to do!
One plus to studying in a European country is that I am able to travel, fairly cheaply to other European countries. This provided me with the opportunity to travel outside of Cyprus. After studying French throughout high school, I knew I could not leave without visiting France. It was also the perfect opportunity to follow through with the years long, plans my mom and I had made to explore France together. After looking at my schedule, I decided that the professors would not miss me if I skipped class for a week. So I booked my flight, left school behind, and said “bonjour” to the country I had been missing for four years.
I flew to France with Kristi, my roommate. She was meeting friends there and then taking off to London, while I was with Mom. After stumbling our way through the airport, confused, Kristi and I got on the train. My first experience with Paris was their amazing public transportation system. It’s fast, efficient, and will take you anywhere in the city for only 1.30 Euros. While it was convenient, the train was incredibly confusing for an Alaskan who had stuck with cars, dog sleds, and snow mobiles. (Kidding about the dog sleds and snow mobiles). With all the stairs so switch trains, it was a maze. I was glad to have Kristi, a New Yorker, who had been doing this forever. I am a workout fanatic and would usually love taking all those stairs but not when I have a suitcase that reaches my waist, to carry around with me. Dragging my suitcase up one step at a time, I thought my arms were going to fall off. After reaching the top of the stair case, I had to go down steps to reach the other train. After being under ground for half an hour, we reached the other side of the city. It was ten at night and dark outside. Coming from underground, we see the Eiffel Tower lit up. It was the perfect introduction to Paris.
Kristi’s friend, Yasmin, met us at the exit from the train station. We walked down the brick path to her apartment, where I spent one night before meeting Mom. Since it was late when we got there, we decided to go out for dinner. What I have missed from America is their amazing food. Yes, this includes burgers, waffles, and milkshakes. So instead of getting crepes we went to “America in Paris,” where I got the biggest banana, chocolate chip pancakes since the creation of Denny’s. Thankfully, I was wearing leggings so there was no need to unbutton my jeans as I finished the last bite. After, we went immediately back to the apartment where I passed out for the night.
The next morning I said “bon voyage” to Kristi and her friends, to meet with Mom. Meeting her at the hotel lobby was like a breath of familiarity. I usually see her at spring break anyway, but being across the world makes time spent together seem more valuable. With this, I wanted to take advantage of every day.