Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Adventures in Rouen

So this past Saturday Sweet Briar arranged a day trip for us to Rouen, the capital of Haute-Normandie, and also the town where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431. Upon arrival we went on a brief (but cold!) short tour of the historic monuments of the town starting with Notre Dame. Just so you know, there are a ton of "Notre Dame" cathedrals across France; the one in Paris just happens to be the most famous. So yes, we were at the Notre Dame cathedral in Rouen, which is cool for several reasons. First, the design is slightly different, with the towers on the sides rather than in front, which makes the cathedral look much wider than it actually. The tower on the left was built in 1035 and the rest built in the centuries following. Also the tower on the right is known as the "Tour de Beurre" (Butter Tower), most likely because of the yellow-ish tint to the stone.

The construction is actually just cleaning to remove the dirt
and pollution from the past century
But the most interesting part about this cathedral is that it was bombed during WWII, which assuming I understood the tour guide correctly, was done by the Allies (by accident) when they bombed towns all across Normandy in preparation for D-Day to make travel more difficult for the German. So yes, there are many newer aspects to the cathedral now. They were able to move some of the more valuable stained glass windows to safekeeping before the start of the war but many were destroyed during the bombing. You can see the differences between the older and the newer windows.

One of the original stained glass windows
One of the newer stained glass windows

The actual structure of the building was also damaged with several of the columns being moved in the blast, which is really amazing if you think about how enormous they are. But yeah, it's interesting to see the mix of old and new in one building, and also to think about how not even 500 year old cathedrals are safe from the destruction of war.

View of the inside of the cathedral
The heart of the cathedral

The cathedral also has a small area dedicated to St. Jeanne d'Arc (Joan of Arc) since she was killed less than a km away.
Joan of Arc
After the cathedral we walked through this very cool town to Le Gros Horloge, which is an astronomical clock dating back to the 16th century. Fun Fact: It's old enough that it was named back when "horloge" was a masculine noun because if it were named now it would technically be called "La Grosse Horloge."But yeah, the reason I really like this town is because you can see 500 year old buildings on the same street as buildings from 50 years ago, because of the war. It's actually really unfortunate that historical buildings were destroyed but the contrast is definitely thought-provoking. It's also just amazing that such old buildings still exist and are used, compared to the U.S. where a 100 year old building is considered impressive.

Close-up of Le Gros Horloge
In front of Le Gros Horloge

Anyway, from there we went to the square where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431.

The square where she died
Where the fire actually was

Overall, this is an awesome (but cold!) town that is definitely worth going to, especially if you like history. It's been an important town since the Middle Ages and has been an important part of history from the Hundred Years War to WWII. Even Claude Monet has lived here, and made the cathedral famous in one of his paintings!

See, even Fluffy liked Rouen!
I had to include her in a few pictures
since she is after all the 'Globetrotter'!
So some quick updates on my life: On Friday I'm off to Dublin for 4 days and then a day in Edinburgh so I will be out of reach until Wednesday morning. Ok I guess that was really only one update, but it's exciting enough to count as more!

Monday, February 25, 2013

I may never understand modern art

A couple weekends ago I went to the Centre Pompidou, which is a modern art museum in one of the most unique buildings I have ever seen. The building almost looks inside out and it has these tubes on the outside with escalators in them that you use to get from one floor to another. The view is amazing but it feels like you are in a hamster cage, not that it's necessarily a bad thing! Since it is right by Ile de la Cité there is an amazing view of Notre Dame (and basically the rest of Paris), but by the time I made it to the top to get the best view, my camera battery had died so unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of the view to share. So for this blog I will just focus on the art aspect.

The front of the museum, note the plastic tubes!

I have mixed feelings about modern art. Sometimes I find it unique and creative and can understand and appreciate how the artist chose to represent a certain idea. However, sometimes I look at something and have no idea why it is art or why it ended up in a museum. Also I wonder what kind of drugs they were on. I’ll read the description, occasionally understand why it is important, but usually just end up even more perplexed and just hope the museum didn’t pay too much for it. I would probably appreciate more if I had a better background in art and could appreciate the influences and different art movements but alas I am but an ignorant American.

Since I was only there for about 2 hours I only got to see part of the museum and somehow ended up seeing the 1960-present section rather than the 1905 to 1960 section (because going in chronological order is for nerds!), which meant the art was just that much more ‘modern’. Whatever that’s supposed to mean. I’ll throw in some pictures of some of my favorite and the most memorable works that I saw. Unfortunately I saw my favorite piece there, which was a kind of 3D piece messing around with color, towards the end when my camera battery was dead so I don’t have a picture of it. Basically as you walk horizontally in front of it, the colors change and it was awesome. There was also this metal disk in front of another piece of metal with light moving on it that made it look like it was moving and it was basically just a way of hypnotizing people. I spent at least 5 minutes standing in front of it. It may have been more like 5 hrs. Not really but you get the idea.
Different figurines rotating around a
light to create the most epic shadows
Still have no idea what this is.
But the bottoms are filled with spices so it's
 a multi-sensoral experience.
Also pretty sure I just made up the word
But you get the idea.
A bunch of lit up words that mean 'vagina'.
I kid you not.
Well technically they mean" female sex organ"
But same thing

Supposedly a sofa.  I really wanted to play on it.
I'm still a kid at heart.
I probably should've been kept on a leash around things like this.
This is art. ?
Overall, if you like modern art, making fun of modern art, seeing amazing views of the city, or pretending to be a hamster, you have to go to the Centre Pompidou. It’s very well done. There is also a Dali exhibition right now but it actually costs money and the line was over an hour long (plus I just went to a Dali museum) so I didn’t go to see it, although I would like to go sometime during the week when it isn't as crowded. So yeah, stay tuned for my next post about my trip to Rouen on Saturday. It’s where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake so it must be interesting! Probably. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

My Internship

As some of you know, I’m doing an internship here in Paris through the beginning of April. I was able to find an internship through Sweet Briar so I’m getting academic credit for it; I work 12 hours/week for 8 weeks and then will have to write a paper at the end of the semester. This won’t be a super long post but I know a lot of you have been asking where I work and what I do, so I figured I should probably write about it. Sorry the title is un-exciting but I figured I would just get to the point, because apparently that's what people in the real world try to do. Who knew!

I work at La Coordination Française pour la Lobby Européen des Femmes (CLEF), or in English, The French Coordination for the European Women’s Lobby. It’s a NGO that focuses on women’s rights, political parity, and equality in the workplace throughout France. We work with over 75 other organizations, in order to ensure the implementation of the objectives of the European Women’s Lobby (EWL) in France. CLEF's president is Olga Trostiansky, who (assuming I understand correctly, which I might not) is also one of the deputy mayors of the 10th arrondissement, and is involved with a number of other organizations besides CLEF. I read most of this in French on her Wikipedia page so it might not be entirely accurate, but I mean she has her own Wikipedia page so she must be important! I don’t get to actually work with her but before I started I had an interview with her and other woman from CLEF in her office (which is in L’Hôtel de Ville!), and I’ve decided she is basically a French, feminist superhero! And by that (in grown-up terms) I mean she is a very impressive person, like everyone else in the organization, and I’m extremely lucky that I got to meet her.

So what do I do exactly? Every Monday from 10-3 and Wednesday from 10-5 I walk to the tiny CLEF office, which is actually part of a much larger and very cool looking building that kind of looks like a mansion. There is even a gate! I need to take a picture of it at some point. See, this is the kind of thing that a good blogger would plan ahead of time in order to include pictures in the post, but I need to charge my camera battery, so sorry. I did include a picture of the CLEF logo though so that should count for something (although I realize I’ve been posting logos a lot recently). But anyway, the actual CLEF office is tiny with one big desk and a small round table and there are only ever 1-2 other people here with me. Most people involved with CLEF work from home or through other jobs and such.

My tasks mostly include translations, usually English to French, although I have translated several Press Releases from French to English (which I actually think is harder). Right now I’m working on translating these two long documents about sexual violence, with case studies form different countries. It’s fairly tedious work but at least the subject is interesting and it’s good practice for my French. I also occasionally create new contacts and contact groups on Gmail and I once made Powerpoint presentation. Overall, I thoroughly enjoy what I am doing there because for an internship it’s all fairly interesting. My only complaint: The office is freezing! I wish it were socially acceptable to bring/wear a Snuggie.

If any of you are interested in reading more about CLEF, you can visit their website here! (If you use Google Chrome you can automatically translate it to English), and they have an About Us section in English.

Don’t forget International Women’s Day on March 8th!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Breakfast in America!

Many of you have at some point asked me if I ever get homesick. The answer is no. With the exception of this past week when I wished I could be with my family, I'm never really homesick. I miss my friends and family sometimes but I get to talk to them on Skype from time to time, and I'm kind of used to being away from them anyway. I miss Fluffy but not too much because I actually have a whole bed to myself here. However, the one thing I have missed like crazy, especially the past few weeks, is American food!

"What?! You're in France, where they have some of the best food in the world, and you miss American food???" Yes, yes I do. Don't get me wrong, I love French food! The cheese and the bread and basically everything is delicious and 95% of the time I am more than happy to eat it. But I still have terrible cravings for cheeseburgers, french fries, bacon pizza, chicken nuggets, pancakes, Martin's potato chips, chocolate chip cookies, you name it. Sure, France has a lot of American things but for the most part they put a fancy, gourmet, French twist on all American food that is meant to be greasy and fattening and disgustingly delicious. Like McDonalds for example. I have only been there once and I only got a sundae because I wanted ice cream but at some point I need to eat lunch there to officially compare. But based on the menu they have murdered the wonderful, American idea of fast food. All of the restaurants are super chic, they serve a lot of their sandwiches on crusty, french bread, with fancy french cheeses, and have a sandwich called the McBaguette. No, no, no! I realize that they must cater to the audience, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to be disappointed! So I have been in search of a place that serves real, quality American food and I finally found it! Well technically friends of mine found it and I just went with them when they went again, but still!

It's called Breakfast in America and was started by an American who moved to Paris and noticed the lack of an authentic American diner. They serve breakfast all day; things like pancakes, french toast, eggs, bacon, homefries, you name it! Then the also have things like burgers, fries, salads, BLTs, and such at lunch and dinner. I would've gone for the pancakes except that we went at lunchtime and I saw someone else's burger and it looked delicious, so that's what I got. They even have a student menu so I was able to get a burger, fries, and a coke for €8, which is a good deal, especially for how much food you get and how good it is! The burger was amazing and the fries were just like you would find the the good ol' US of A. Plus they had Heinz ketchup so I was beyond ecstatic. One of the best meals I have had out in a long time! I just need to go back sometime to try their breakfast food because it also looks delicious!

I did take pictures of our food to share but I'm an idiot. I forgot to put my memory card back in my camera that morning so the pictures are on whatever minuscule bit of memory my camera came with and I have absolutely no idea how to get them off my camera. But when I do I will add them. I did however include a picture of the logo that I found on the internet because having pictures just adds that extra pizazz to a blog. Darn, the word pizazz just made me crave pizza. Please don't judge me.

Going to the doctor in France (A Mostly Magical Adventure Tale)

I should apologize in advance, because this post is very long and not overly exciting. There will be more interesting post coming soon, I promise, and they will also have plenty of pictures! But until then, you are stuck with this post about my magical adventure at the doctor's office. (Well, it wasn't really magical but that at least made it sound cooler). So last Sunday when I woke up I wasn't feeling very well and basically got progressively worse Monday and Tuesday. No fever but a really bad sore throat that was making it painful/difficult to eat (not that it was stopping me from doing so, nothing comes between me and food). So Tuesday I was talking to our resident director in the Sweet Briar office between classes and she offered to make an appointment for me at the doctor's office around the corner. Normally I would've waited longer before going but I wouldn't have had any time for the next two days so luckily they were able to fit me in for that afternoon.

The way our insurance through SBC works is that we pay in full (except in severe, super expensive cases) and then file a claim and are reimbursed in full. Which is fine. I figured I would pay with my card, no problem. So I head over to the office after classes and first wait about 5 minutes to take the elevator one floor up because the stairwell had some sign on it and I wasn't sure if I was allowed to take it. Then I get to the office and rather than immediately check in at the front desk, there is a little machine where you take a number and then there is a small screen that shows what number is being called next, and which of the 4 receptionists you should go to. Kind of like the DMV. Or the deli at the grocery store. The only problem was that the tiny kiosk where you get your number had a series of different options, and I was able to narrow it down to two. Normal visit with (some random abbreviation), and normal visit without (this random abbreviation). Everyone there looked busy, or exhausted, or diseased so I didn't want to ask, and just assumed the abbreviation must be for the nationalized insurance, which obviously I didn't have. Turns out it means appointment. So I waited a long time to be given a form to fill out, halfway through I mention the doctor's name I should be seeing and then the receptionist realized the mistake. I should also mention that the other reason they assumed I didn't have an appointment was because my name wasn't on the list or in the system even though I gave them my info over the phone earlier. So that was highly annoying. She then told me that it would be €23 (which is crazy, I mean only €23 to see a doctor! That's basically my co-pay to see a doctor at home!!!) and that I could only pay in cash. Crap. I had about €5 with me.

So, I left the office to use the ATM at the bank on the corner. Only problem was the one ATM that it had (and I mean seriously, only one? Every other bank has 2-5 ATMs!) was not working. So I basically ran around the neighborhood trying to find an ATM. Now remember this is after a decently long day of classes when I feel terrible and just want to go home and sleep; I was not happy. I've also noticed that Parisians are not always in a rush when I am. They walk slowly while taking up the entire sidewalk, they are in no rush as cashiers even when the line is 10 min long, and even the girl at the doctor's office was in no rush to fix the problem with me not being in the system and took several minutes to chat with her co-worker about when they were working next. Eventually I found another ATM and after a long wait, finally got to see the doctor.

Seeing a doctor in France is not at all like seeing a doctor in the US. For starters, there is no nurse that comes in to take your temperature and blood pressure and get information about what medications you are taking and what's wrong. You just go in and sit at the doctor's desk and he asks why you are here. When I said my throat was hurting he had me sit on the examining table, looked at my throat, took my temperature, listened to my lungs and felt the glands on my neck. Then just said oh yep, it's "une angine" and prescribed me some antibiotics and throat spray (although he did ask if I was allergic to any medications first) and showed me out. I figured I would look up what "une angine" is when I got home and it could either mean strep, tonsillitis, or just a throat infection, so I still have no idea what was wrong with me except that every French person knows exactly what I have when I say "une angine". But the antibiotics worked a miracle and I felt better in 48 hours.

So what can we take away from this long, fairly boring story? First, going to the doctor is much cheaper in France. Second, because it is so much cheaper, doctors don't spend much time with each patient or ask about other things that might be wrong except those related to the exact reason that you came. Third, the French clearly don't worry about lawsuits as much because they don't spend time testing for every possible malady before prescribing meds. Fourth, they clearly know what they are doing because I felt better very quickly.

I should also note that the pharmacies here are awesome! There is no dropping off a prescription and then either waiting there for it to be filled, or coming back in a few hours. In France, you see the pharmacist, he gets your information briefly and the goes and gets exactly what you need right there and then. I couldn't have been there longer than 5 minutes total, it was awesome! I'm guessing sometimes there is a line to see one of the pharmacists but there wasn't when I was there. So yeah, that part was awesome and they were also super nice!

So yeah, that was my experience (so far) with the French healthcare system. Sorry I haven't had a chance to write anything in a while, the past week has been kinda crazy with everything going on. As most of you probably know my dad had an accident on his bike on Tuesday morning and has been in the hospital; but despite all of the injuries, he's been recovering well. I just want to thank everyone who has been there for us, and especially for my mom. Since she is still recovering from her own surgery, I know it's been really rough on her. But thank you so much to everyone who has taken the time to help her out and make sure we are all ok. It's been really hard to be away from home these past few days because I know she could use an extra person around to help, but knowing we have so many wonderful friends and family members taking care of her makes me feel so much better! We are very blessed to have so many amazing people around us.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

French animals with jolly expressions, mystery red pandas and other observations on Le Jardin des Plantes

Going a little out of chronological order here, but I thought I would share my adventure to Le Jardin des Plantes on Friday afternoon. First of all, the garden is beautiful but probably much more beautiful in the spring when all of the plants are actually alive and blooming. In the winter it's kind of dead. But still a wonderful place to walk around (or jog based on the dozens of runners I saw), and there is an amazing natural history museum and a zoo.

Since it was pretty freezing on Friday we didn't spend much time outside in the garden and made a beeline for La Grande Gallerie d'Evolution, at one end of the garden. Granted, to walk there we basically walked through the middle of the park anyway. Despite everything looking grey and dead, it was still a nice walk. You can see the grandeur of the museum at the end of the path, making it pretty much impossible to miss!

Luckily admission to the general exhibit is free with a student ID and we perused the first two floors of the main exhibit. It was pretty cool, with a combination of skeletons and life-size forms of animals documenting evolutionary patterns. Or something like that, most of the science-y stuff went over my head. Being the highly mature and intellectual scholar that I am, I spent most of the time taking pictures of the models with really goofy expressions and smiles.

Happy, Happy Hippo

The fins definitely add a level of glee to this narwal's expression

But seriously, this elephant just looks so darn jolly!

They just look so happy to be there! My personal favorite was this drawing of a unicorn in the children's section of an exhibit on narwals. Not sure of the connection but I'm sure there was one.

Creepy, awesome, bizarre unicorn. For kids.

Speaking of children, I couldn't not recount my favorite part of this particular adventure! There were a ton of school groups at the museum on field trips and despite all I've heard about French children being brought up better than Americans, these kids were out of control! While I was walking through the exhibit on sharks I happened to see one of the forms moving out of the corner of my eye, only to realize it was this little girl swinging it up and down. At first I thought "I didn't know this was interactive!" until I saw the look of appall on her classmates' faces, who then started to yell to the teacher in an "oh my god, look what she's doing" manner of both shock and excitement. Her teacher than grabbed her by the arm (and at one point the ear, I kid you not) for a brief scolding before the students all ran off to terrorize another part of the exhibit. It was hilarious, embarrassing, shocking, and entertaining all in one. I wish I had gotten a picture. But that would have most likely been seen as creepy. Actually I guarantee it would have been, unless I were to pretend to be taking a picture of something else. Hmmm. That was a lost opportunity. But I digress... Anyway! Overall the museum was pretty cool.

There was also a temporary exhibit on dinosaurs that I really want to go to while it is there, but it was €7 and I didn't have enough time/energy to enjoy it on Friday. The garden has several other building throughout it that house the other parts of the natural history museum, but once again I didn't have the energy to explore them then, but I will.

Red pandas. I can't believe I've gone this long without bringing them up but there are red pandas there in the zoo! I really want to go see them but unfortunately it cost €8 or something ridiculous like that to get into the zoo so I'm waiting until it is somewhat warmer out and I have lots of time. So in the meantime, the red pandas remain a mystery. I really wish it were free though. I would go every day to see the red pandas and talk to them so over time they would come to recognize me and slowly accept me as one of them. It would have been lovely. Sigh. But I will see them soon because how could I be in the same city as red pandas for a whole month and not have seen them already? It's really unacceptable!

So yes, this was my brief but entertaining adventure in Le Jardin des Plantes on a cold February afternoon.

Espace Dali: The Dali Museum in Montmartre

I'll warn you ahead of time that this is a short and terribly written post. But I have a good excuse for both. First of all, I've been feeling rather terrible since waking up this morning because despite the 1-3 oranges I eat a day (Spanish oranges are amazing), I'm sick. Which has made me too lazy to make this sound grammatically pleasing and I'm also just more prone to rambling than usual. Secondly, my camera is cursed whenever I go to Montmartre, meaning the battery dies after I take about 2 pictures. Therefore I have 2 decent pictures to share. Enjoy:

Yesterday we decided to visit Montmartre again (which was fine by me, it's quite possibly the most beautiful place in Paris) in order to go to the Salvador Dali museum there, Espace Dali. After our student discount, it was a whopping €6 to get in which seemed like a lot considering I have this terrible "I'm a student so I deserve everything for free" attitude. But it was totally worth it.

I didn't really know what to expect since I've never really studied Dali much but I have to say the guy is awesome. Crazy, but extremely talented. This picture highlights all of that:
Salvador Dali, his life, and the Persistence of Memory

My friend who was with me also took plenty of pictures that I intend to steal and add to my photo album. There is a great one of me next to the Space Elephant sculpture that I'm sure will be enjoyed by all. We did however stop at the Dali photo booth on the way out to get our faces put on a famous Salvador Dali Painting.
Best €3 ever spent
Sorry I did a terrible job taking a picture of the picture so it's crooked and there's a glare. But anyway, this was my Saturday afternoon and it was awesome! Also really cold. I was very glad to spend most of the time inside because even though the sun was out for once it was chilly!

There is also a Salvador Dali exhibit at Le Centre Pompidou right now that I really want to go to but the line is ridiculous during the weekends so I need to find a time during the week.


Hi everyone! If you are reading this, it means you are either friends with me on Facebook and saw my post about creating a blog or you are related to me (Hi Mother!) or both. Basically after talking to friends with travel blogs yesterday I decided to finally create one as a way of remembering all the wonderful/terrible/interesting/hilarious/random memories of this semester. So here we are. For those of you who don't know, I'm studying in Paris through Sweet Briar College through the end of May. I will try to post things often but no guarantees unless I have work that I need to get done and am looking for a way to procrastinate. But thank you for taking the time to look at what I post and I'm sorry for being terrible at keeping in touch with all of you! Hopefully this counts.

I'm also working on creating an album of pictures that you should be able to access from a link on the right. It'll have all of the pictures I take, not just the one's I deem good enough for Facebook.

Here is a picture of the Eiffel Tower.
This is now officially a Paris blog
If any of you don't already know this (in which case you have probably never talked to me for more than 5 minutes) the title FluffytheGlobetrotter is named after my cat Fluffy. Who I'm sure wishes she were here. I needed a url to create this and thought hmmmm.... cats! And yeah... plus anything with "Mallory" in it didn't sound as cool and "YetAnotherAmericaninParis" was already taken.