Friday, June 27, 2008

Au Revoir Paris!

It's hard to believe that my 2-week adventure is at a close. I positively loved every minute here - even the hot, frustrating, insane ones! So, to sum up my visit in David Letterman style, here is my "Top Ten List of Things I've Learned About Paris"....
10. The metro is easy to navigate, but the RER is not.
9. Objects on map are much larger than they appear! (AKA, it's easy to get lost in Paris!!!)
8. Even bad food here is good!
7. Insane people frequent the metro - especially on Sunday mornings. (Note: these are probably
the same people that are responsible for the metro smelling like a urinal...)
6. You can fit 6 French cars in 1 American SUV and/or parking space.
5.(x) French people + Soldes (sales) = 1 annoyed, potentially violent American girl
4. French people do bathe, shave, and use deodorant. Many even smell quite good.
3. You don't mind the sweaty stench of the metro as much after a glass (or 2) of wine.
2. You speak French much better after a glass (or 2) of wine.
1. Paris is easily the most beautiful and historically rich and interesting city on earth!!!!!
I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog as much as I have enjoyed posting it. It has been wonderful to share my journey with all of you! Thank you all so much for your support - I enjoyed reading all of your comments. I will talk to you soon! XOXO!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Today I Went Grave Kissing...

Yes, you read the title right. Indeed, I smooched a grave today and left my hot pink lipstick mark to prove it! We went to Pere Lachaise Cemetery this morning (the infamous home of Jim Morrison's grave...there are so many more amazing people buried here than Morrison, but that is what it is remembered for...) Anyway, my favorite author, Oscar Wilde, is buried here and that is whose grave I kissed. Before you think that too weird, you should know that is the "thing to do" at his grave (when you look to the right and see the photo you will notice that there are hundreds of kisses on it.) I was a little weirded out, though. Not because I was kissing a grave - that didn't bother me (although it probably should have!) No, I was not liking the idea of the hundreds of other kisses to try and kiss around (I guess the Switala OCD-gene has rubbed off on me a bit! ha ha) But, I had to pay hommage to a great man, so I puckered up and did just that! As soon as I was done, I immediately wiped off my mouth and did the heebie-jeebie dance while singing "God made dirt and dirt don't hurt" and prayed that the 5 second rule also applied to kissing tombstones...
We also saw Edith Piaf's grave. I so badly wanted to sing "La Vie En Rose" but refrained....maybe next year! I saw the great Eugene Delacroix's grave, and looked a long time for Moliere and Jacques Louis David (I really wanted to see David's!!) but couldn't find them. We wandered around for 2 hours and only saw a small handful of graves. I will be glad to go back next summer and find the rest!
Well, tomorrow is my last day in Paris! I have a pretty big test tomorrow to study for, then Stacey and I are going to just shop and enjoy a relaxing day - no plans or running around like crazy! I'm just going to soak in Paris one last time - with the assistance of a glass of wine and a pastry, of course!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Deep Down Under Paris

Today, I explored deep down under Paris in the Catacombs. It was really cool - I haven't seen that many bones since Nicole Ritchie went through her anorexic phase! Somewhere in all of those piles of bones was the remains of Robespierre, Danton, and Desmoulins (3 of my favorites from the French Revolution!) I really thought all of the bones and skulls were amazing...I loved the thought that all of these things used to make up 6,000 people who were a part of history. While I was completely fascinated, there were several people who were creeped out. The one woman was clearly petrified, which I didn't quite get. I tried to make her feel better and told her not to worry because they couldn't hurt her, but she gave me a look that indicated I wasn't funny and should leave her alone. Some people have no sense of humor...
After the Catacombs, we went to find the Picpus cemetery where General LaFayette was buried, as well as over a thousand people who lost their heads in the French Revolution. We wandered around the area that was marked on the map but couldn't find the cemetery so we asked a shop owner. "Ferme!" he said...apparently, it no longer exists. Stacey and I drank a Coke and pondered where would a cemetery with a mass grave of 1300 people and General LaFayette disappear to? We concurred that the whole notion is disturbing, not to mention disappointing!

Even though I didn't get to see what would have been the most amazing cemetery ever, we did have a nice long metro ride where we were serenaded by a guy with a guitar. He actually sounded really good and had an enjoyable voice AND he sang 4 songs. I gave him a euro because he made the trip a little nicer...
The real adventure today, however, took place while waiting for the Catacombs to open. We decided to go check out Galleries LaFayette on the first day of "Soldes." Parisian stores don't put items on sale except during a 5-week period of "soldes" (sales) that run from the end of June to the end of July. The first day of Soldes in Paris makes WalMart on a Saturday morning in Selinsgrove look tame. People shove and push and won't move...they are dead serious and will not think twice to hurt you to get that Dior bag you're standing in front of! Granted, most designer things are 50% off (which makes them, uh, still unaffordable...) With the crazy mobs of people in every store, Stacey and I had another serious question to consider - when the heck do people work in Paris? They were all out at the stores ALL day!! Whatever it is they do, I want the same kind of hours! *LOL* (and the first person who makes a "teachers have their summers off" comment will get a punch in the teeth when I return home!) We will go back on Friday to see if things settle down...if not, I may leave Paris without an outfit (GASP!!)
Tomorrow, Pere Lachaise cemetery!! It will be the last organized place I visit before I return home!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Happy Birthday Draven, or as they say in France, joyeaux anniversaire!! (have Pappa say it to you!) I hope you have a fantastic 8th birthday and get everything you wish for!! You are a smart, sweet boy and I am so glad you are my nephew! I love you lots!!!! XOXO Aunt Jennifer
As for the rest of may be surprised to know that the metro has lost its charm. It was funny being a sardine several times a day for a week, but now that it's hot and sweaty, it's just plain old nasty! Now I know why everybody has a grumpy look on their face!
Stacey and I went to see the Marie Antoinette exhibit at the Grand Palais this morning. The guard asked what we were looking for and we said "Marie Antoinette" to which the guard replied, "She is dead." Who says the French don't have a sense of humor?! But the joke was on us in the end because the exhibit was closed today. I won't have the chance to go back, either, so that is a bit of a bummer.
Just as we were deciding what to do next, the unthinkable happened - my purse broke! The handle just ripped (which I am sure makes you wonder about the weight of the contents of said purse, so let's just say that when I come home from this trip, my biceps and shoulders will be ripped!) What I had to do next was horrible. I had to go purse shopping! I know, I know...purse shopping in Paris! Oh the horror! Actually, I was a little bummed because I wanted to get an outfit, but now I am stuck with a new purse...sigh! Poor me. *LOL*
After our shopping excursion, we went to class where the temperature was about 8,000 degrees, then onto the metro where it was slightly warmer at 10,000 degrees. When I got home, the first thing I did was head straight for the shower. Thus far, showers have been weird b/c they don't waste water in get wet, turn off the water, lather up, rinse, turn off the water, wash your hair, rinse, turn off the water, condition your hair, rinse, turn off the water, shave, rinse, turn off the water. If you don't do it this way and just let the water run like at home, the hot water is gone in about 2 minutes. But, on a day like today, that was not a problem!
Thanks to everyone who has been posting - it has been so nice to hear from you all. Even though my trip has been wonderful, I am definitely ready to be home with my family and friends. You all get a small reprieve today in that I didn't take any pictures (sorry, none of my new purse...I know you're disappointed). Only 4 days to go, so hang in there with me just a little bit more...
Tune in tomorrow for the Paris Catacombs and Picpus Cemetery!!!

Monday, June 23, 2008

La Conciergerie

Salut! Today was pretty low-key since I was exhausted from yesterday's grand adventure at Versailles. I had class in the morning and we got a new teacher. She seems very nice, but Stacey and I agreed that we miss last week's teacher, Laurent. Our new teacher's name is Christine and she has a good sense of humor. She also doesn't speak a lick of English, so communication has been interesting. It is good though, because I am forced to frantically search through my dictionary to find out what she is saying. I've used that bad-boy more today than I have the entire trip! I guess last week was the dipping the toe in the pool; this week is the cannon ball!!!
After class, we hopped on the metro and made our way to St. Michel (I've decided that this is my favorite area and would buy an apartment here if I could!). It is near the Seine, Notre Dame, and our destination, the Conciergerie. Before we went touring, we grabbed a fantastic sandwich from the shop I remembered so fondly from last year. I had really hyped up this place to Stacey and was worried that maybe I remembered it more fondly than it actually was, and that she would think it tasted like every other sandwich we've eaten. But, she said it was the best sandwich she's had here, and mine was as fabulous as I remembered! Whew! The fact that we ate them while sitting on the steps overlooking the Seine only made them taste better...
We went into the Conciergerie, which used to be a palace. During the 15th century, the royal family moved into the Louvre (not always an art museum!) and the Conciergerie was turned into a prison. It held various people over the ages (Bill - including Henry IV's assassin, Ravaillac) but none more famous than Marie Antoinette. We saw a model of what her room would have looked like and visited the chappel that was built in her memory over the place where her original cell was located. Bill called me at the highlight of my visit at the Conciergerie. I was standing in the very spot that Robespierre passed on his way to the guillotine!! He told me to call him back when I was done with "church!" *LOL* There was a room that also had listed the names of people who died on the guillotine. I found some of my favorites and also found that there were some Boyers who were guillotined...distand relatives, perhaps??
When we left the Conciergerie, I was beat, even though it was only 3:00. I took the metro home and took a nice long nap. My time is running out fast...I still have so much more to do, but am so happy to be coming home in 5 days. Tomorrow's excursion will depend on the weather, but either way, I'll be spending the morning with more dead people...
Au Revoir!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sunday is Creepy Dude Day...

Well, you will all be interested to know that I learned five really valuable lessons today. Of course, I will share my new-found knowledge with you!
1. Versailles is supposed to be a 40 minute ride on the RER (train).
2. The RER is not as easy to navigate as the metro.
3. If you go the wrong direction on the RER, you will wait a REALLY long time to get a train that goes back the other way.
4. If number 3 happens, then number 1 turns into a 4 HOUR trip to Versailles.
5. Sunday is creepy dude day at the metro/RER stations.
Yes, today was another crazy adventure. Despite the getting lost part and the creepy dudes, Versailles was amazing. Just so you know what I mean by creepy, one dude freaked out (as in yelling and what I will assume was cursing at us in French) on us because we wouldn't talk to him. In our defense, he was really dirty and was showing us his bloody hand and telling us the police did it to him b/c he's Yugoslavian. More likely they did it because he was a criminal, but I didn't think it wise to point out that fact to him. Normally, I would have offered him a band-aid but it was just me, Stacey and him on the car and I was honestly too frightened to do anything but look at Stacey with a deer in the headlights look. He was scary enough that at the next RER stop, we jumped off the train and into the next car where there were other people who looked far less disturbing. Anyway, we ran into some other sketchy characters during our 4 hour mishap, but the Yugoslavian dude took the prize.
Once we got to Versailles, we walked for about 6 hours straight. We got to see some amazing sights, but the best was Marie Antoinette's hamlet. There was a large pond there full of what I think were catfish. They were Pavlovian fishies because they all hovered by the bridge where people walk and stick their mouths up out of the water looking for food! It was hilarious. All I could think was how much my kids would enjoy that part! Dad Switala - I looked for birds for you, but there were only ducks, ravens, and swans there, so it was no different than America...I had hoped to bring home a photo of some rare French bird for you...sorry!
I was also able to use my amazing French skills (cough, cough) to get a private tour of Napoleon's apartments at the Grand Trianon. Actually, when I asked they told me they only had French-speaking tours, so I told them that was too bad and then explained I was a US history teacher (I did that in French!) who taught about Napoleon, so they were kind enough to hook us up with a guide who spoke some English. She was very nice and I couldn't tell her enough how grateful I was for the opportunity. Even Stacey who is not the history buff I am was impressed with the apartments, so it was a great experience.
The gardens were wonderful and classical music was playing while we walked around. It all felt very regal, and we decided we could do the princess thing. At around 3 PM, they turned on the fountains and it was fantastic! It was SO hot here today and so we loved standing near the fountains and feeling the mist.
The inside of the palace of Versailles was very hot and VERY crowded, but I got to see several parts of the palace that I did not get to see last summer. Bill - I even got to see the room in which Mme. Pompadour lived (and died). You know how much I loved that moment!!
Although it was a wonderful day, it was long (I left at 8:15 AM and got home at 7:30 PM) and I was very happy to eat some amazing quiche Loraine, take a cool shower, and talk to Bill, Gabby, Will, and Maddie. Tomorrow is class in the AM and more touring in the PM...most likely the Conciergerie where Marie Antoinette was held prisoner before her execution.
I am starting to get a little homesick, so any posts on my blog will be cherished!!! (HINT HINT people!!) Au Revoir!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Crazy for the French Revolution

I don't believe there is such a thing as a bad day in Paris. Even when riding the metro by myself this morning and the lady on the loud speaker was saying something in French about "Attention!" and "police en le metro" it was all good. For all I know she could have been telling us to watch out for the madman on the loose that the police in the metro are looking for (and according to Stacey, there was a madman on her metro screaming and freaking out and making little kids cry...) Thankfully, I was blissfully unaware thanks to the language barrier.
This morning began at the Hôtel de Ville. It is the "town hall" of Paris and is gorgeous. There are some ties to the French Revolution here, so I was very happy to walk around and take pictures. (Bill - it is where Robespierre was arrested and eventually shot himself, so it was kind of like sacred ground to me...) From there, we walked toward the Place de la Bastille where we made a quick detour to a little cafe and I had an espresso and gateau avec trois chocolates (3 chocolates cake) that was to die for!! The waiter scolded me for eating with my sunglasses on (he said people should be able to see your eyes when you eat???) then asked for Stacey's number... We kind of ran out with him following saying who knows what in French and found the spot where the Bastille used to stand. Again, sacred ground for me. I wanted to sit and touch the ground there, but I thought against it for fear of being deemed mentally unsound. I have to put up the façade that I'm sane, anyway!
We then went to Place des Vosges and toured Victor Hugo's home. It was very nice, and I got some good photos for you, Jan and Christy. I also grabbed an extra brochure - you two can share it since I couldn't get more. From there, we walked to the holiest of places - the Musée Carnavalet, a museum dedicated to the history of Paris. It is in the former home of Madame Sevignée and is the mecca of all things French Revolution.
Not since I was in second grade and shop-lifted Tic-Tac candies from Gee-Bees have I ever wanted to steal something as much as I did today. Thankfully, the lesson my mom and dad taught me when I got busted that night has stuck with me the last 30 years and I wisely chose to just take a photo. Actually, I didn't take a photo. I took nearly 200 photos of French Revolution stuff (no, I'm not kidding, and yes, I am nuts). It was the most amazing place I have ever been. I saw locks of hair of Robespierre, Marie Antoinette and her 3 children. I saw Robespierre's goblet, Danton's silverware, Louis XVI's chess set and razors, and Napoleon Bonaparte's glove and pistols. Besides that, there were tons of paintings, sketches, bustes, documents, coins, clothes, etc. (This is where you can imagine angels singing "Hallelujah").
WARNING: If you don't like/care about history, skip to next the paragraph. Otherwise, read on! Bill - I saw (took a photo, too) a coin with Louis XVI wearing the cap of liberty and cockade and calling him citoyen! How cool is that??!! I also saw some really amazing art work of Marat and Necker. It really illustrates how idolized they were. There were some fantastic paintings of the royal family and a model of Louis XVI's room in prison. There was a HUGE copy of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen. There was the original cartoon of the third estate peasant carrying the first & second estates on his back and the original drawings of the executions of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI. The best was a painting called "Jacobins in Hell" which I will try to post. I was not allowed to use a flash in there, so some of my pics need to be photo shopped.
After the museum, we grabbed a sandwich and ate in the Louis XIII park in the middle of the Place des Vosges. Then, we got lost. We went looking for a metro, but spent nearly 2 hours walking in a gigantic circle, always ending up at the Place des Vosges near Hugo's house. I was starting to get mad, then I started to laugh thinking this was my "European Family Vacation" moment, but instead of "Look kids - Big Ben, Parliament" over and over, it was, "Look Stacey - Place des Vosges, Hugo's house" over and over again. We did get to walk around some interesting stores and heard some music from the beginnings of the Fête de la Musique, so it wasn't all bad!
We found our way to the metro (finally!!!!) and went home. I was disappointed in the music festival because there wasn't much music around. When I came home, I found out that most of the music doesn't start until 8 tonight, and it goes on until after midnight. I am not going back out (1. I am too tired and have a big day at Versailles tomorrow, and 2. I don't like the idea of walking home alone from the metro after midnight - I would probably be fine, but why chance it...)
As I just mentioned, tomorrow is the Palace of Versailles. I think a bunch of people from school are coming, too. It should be a fun day! I miss you all and can't wait to see you soon! Bonne Nuit!