Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Bonne Année

Hey Everyone,

I'm so sorry it's taken me so long to start writing my blog. I'm going to try to fill you all in on the goings-on here in Aix-en-Provence in the past 3 weeks. But first I wanted to briefly share what I did in Paris.

As some of you know, I met up with my friends Matt and Carina for "la reveillon" or New Year's Eve in Paris. We all stayed at a hostel called L'auberge de l'Artagnan in the 20th arrondisement. Despite being a tad far from downtown (but still on the Metro!) we were still able to do everything we wanted to over the 3 days that we were there. On New Year's Eve we searched for what seemed like hours before finding a place to eat that we could both afford and that was actually serving food and not just drinks. Despite paying a bit more than we'd wanted to, we were able to sufficiently stuff ourselves so that we could begin drinking the 3 bottles of champagne that Carina kindly brought from Germany. In the hour preceding midnight we strolled down to the Eiffel Tower to watch the dazzling light show (check out my facebook photos) and then made our way back to the Champs-Elysées where we awaited 2010 with thousands of other people. Despite the fact that nothing really happens in Paris at midnight (no ball to drop), it was still incredibly exciting to be at the Times Square of Paris to ring in the new year. All around us, we heard songs in foreign tongues and saw crowds of North African men waving their flags and singing from the tops of lampposts.

It was so fascinating to witness this happening because I have learned so much about the difficulties that immigrants have been facing in France and here in front of me, people were singing the nation anthems of their homeland and it became very evident to me that the identity of Paris as well as that of France is a multiracial and multi-religious one much different from that of the original inhabitants of France. I would come to learn a few weeks later that the question of French identity is one of the most important questions being posed in France as of late and many people are seeking to redefine what it means to be French (if one can even come up with one definition).

After ringing in the new year (in France they say "Bonne Année") the three of us wandered (drunkenly) around Paris until about 4am when Carina and I headed back to our hostel for the night. The next morning Carina and I headed off to Montmartre to see the famous Sacre Coeur Cathedral and to stroll in the streets where the likes of Van Gogh and Picasso took their morning coffee. Later in the evening the three of us went to the Museum of Modern Art in the Pompidou Centre and then headed back to the hostel for an early night to recover from the last night's absence of sleep.

The next day we went to the Louvre only to find ridiculously long lines and instead headed to the Musee d'Orsay which houses a huge collection of impressionist works. I really liked this museum because impressionism is my favorite style of art and I was able to see many Renoir works that I had learned about when I did a research project on him in 7th grade (thanks Mrs. Forman!) After the museum we headed to the Eiffel Tower but again the lines were insufferable so we went to the train station so Matt and I could buy our train tickets to Aix. Once again we were met with ridiculously long lines (the French bureaucracy can be a bit slow. . .) but we had to wait. When we were finished with our long day of waiting in line we rewarded ourselves with delicious Italian food served by a delightful waiter who spoke French, English, Italian, German and Spanish with us! We then met up with my friend from U of M named Verena who is studying abroad at Sciences-Po in Paris. She took us to this really cool jazz-style bar called Le Cameleon in the Odeon neighborhood. The next morning we packed up our things and said our goodbyes and Matt and I boarded the TGV for Aix.