Saturday, July 14, 2012

Paris July 8th w/ Capetian Tours

 Didn't have much time to do stuff on Saturday morning because I was meeting people at noon and most things opened at 9:30-10.  By the time I got to the Musee d'Orsay there was already a long lineup so I knew that even if I got in I would have to hurry through it and decided I wasn't going to try. Instead I walked around taking pictures of nearby pretty buildings.

At noon I met with my friends Jason Sager and Chris Enns of Capetian Tours. Jason and Chris are two professional historians who started their tour guide in Paris this summer. They offer personalized tours that are capped at 5-6 people so you'll never have to crowd into a site with 25 other tourists all trying to hear a single tour guide.  Jason is a professor at Wilfrid Laurier University and taught both Chris and myself while we attended. His courses were the type of class I took even if I wasn't necessarily interested in the material (Renaissance, ick!) but knew it would have interesting lectures and be a worthwhile credit.
The tour started at Basilica of St Denis which is in the north part of the city. Legend has it that St. Denis who is the patron saint of France was decapitated at Montmartre and afterward carried his head to the location of the current church.
 There's a necropolis where all but three French kings have been buried which is pretty cool. I won't tell you any details because I'll let Jason and Chris do that. They have a store of interesting and historical stories to tell that are relevant to each site and the history of Paris.
Rose window

That tart Marie Antoinette falling out of her dress. 
Next was St. Germain des Pres church which is a really cool painted Romanesque church. It's also the home of the tomb of Rene Descartes.
 After that we passed by the ruins of the oldest church in Paris, St Julien le Pauvre on our ways to St. Chappelle's church which was built by Louis IX to house Jesus' crown of thorns (yyeahh, right). The upstairs of this church is absolutely stunning. It seems like there is more glass than wall.
SO if you're in Paris and at all a fan of medieval history you should most definitely contact Capetian Tours. I believe the price listed on the website is currently under discussion so don't let that stop you. It's a really interesting and informative tour that would make any medievalist happy.

I went back to my hostel after looking around some shopping streets and again there was a get-together in the evening in the common room of the hostel and I told Chris and another fellow student Barry and his cousin to come to the hostel to meet people, so they did and we all had a pretty good time just sitting around chatting with people known old and new.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Paris July 7

The day started with a very early morning in order to catch my Ryanair flight that was at 6:45am. I attempted and failed to get a couple hours of sleep so I got up at 2:15, had a shower and double-checked all my luggage before catching a city bus into downtown at 3:27. I caught the 4am bus to the Rygge airport which was jam packed and I was uncomfortable and soaking wet. At that time I really really wished I had taken the last train into the airport the night before and attempted to sleep in the airport, I probably would have been substantially better rested. 
Flight was quite uneventful as I dozed in and out of sleep before arriving at the Beauvais airport. I hadn't really done any research for this trip so I was mildly shocked to find out the only way into Paris was to take a bus that cost €15. Since two or three planes had recently arrived there were tons of people waiting for the buses and it took about an hour and a half to simply buy a ticket let alone wait in a different line to get on the bus.
Then there was the 2+ hour drive into Paris in traffic. Lovely. At least it let me nap a little more.
They finally dropped us off near the edge of the city and I got a metro pass and map and went to find my hostel. I stayed at Smart Place Paris. I was too early for check-in so I left my bags and went to Versailles.
Lots and lots of gold around Versailles. Personally I think it's a little gauche but who am I to judge?

However, there was a giant line-up despite the very bad weather Paris was having that day.
The line was longer than the building.
The huge line combined with the €25 entrance fee (there are cheaper options if you only want to see certain parts of the grounds, the 25 is for a full pass) meant that I didn't go into Versailles. I tried to walk around the gardens because they're often free but they have some sort of show on every night recently so they were charging €6,50 to get in so I didn't care enough for that either. I decided to walk around in the park area that was free and wandering around to see the royal horses.
While in the park I heard a horrible noise. Thunder. Shortly afterwards I was soaked through. My umbrella was essentially useless. I attempted to huddle under a doorway for a while to let it pass but by that point I was so wet that there wasn't a point. Sopping wet I decided to head back to the hostel.

That night in the hostel was really great. When I got back I brought my laptop down to the lounge and ate some food I picked up at the grocery store. A couple other people came down and a few chatted with each other because they had met before and there were periods of silence and chatter. Eventually though a topic came up that I had something to say about so I overcame my silence and my instinct to just be quiet and I spoke. I was drinking a bottle of wine and as the night wore on and more people were chatting overs decided so go get some more. I drank basically a whole bottle to myself while a couple people had a glass or two of a different bottle but it definitely helped move the conversation along. The talk eventually moved on to talk of going somewhere, the original decision was the grounds of the Sacre Coeur church but another group came down that knew a couple in our group and said they were going to the Eiffel Tower. So we were at the Eiffel tower for midnight where this happens (apologies for the sideways-ness):
We then got nutella crepes and ate the beside the tower in the rain which had started again. There was a long metro ride back because the more direct route had closed down for the night. I collapsed in my bed a happy but slightly damp traveler.
I was also pleased with myself because I had the option to stick with the easy and familiar and go hang out with some friends from university at a Canadian sports bar ( in Paris, I know wtf?) but I decided to have a more authentic evening with new people.
Eiffel Tower at night

Louis XIV

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Book Review- The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

The CorrectionsI almost 'lemmed' (gave up on) this book. I hated almost every second of reading the first half of this novel. Hearing the pathetic mewling of the self-obsessed depressed characters regularly made me want to bang my face into a wall rather than read. The second half improved somewhat because I found Denise to be the least fucked-up and mentally oblivious member of the Lambert family and the Lithuania stuff was mildly interesting and because I expected Chip to get shot. I didn't feel a second of sympathy for any of the characters. I'm surprised and horrified at the amount of people who say that Franzen has done an amazing job recounting dysfunctional family life and that they recognize real people in his characters. really? Fuck, how haven't you killed them or yourself yet?  Maybe once every 50 page or so there was some mild thing that seemed familiar to me in something a character said or did but thankfully I don't know anyone like the characters in this book (rare glimpses of my mother in Enid scared the shit out of me). I actually found some of the auxiliary characters more interesting that the main cast, particularly the woman on the cruise ship but I'm glad Franzen didn't write any more about her or else he probably would have made her mentally rabid as well. I don't know if it a structural issue or ebook formatting but several of the pov transitions were very abrupt and didn't have any connection/ chapter ending/ or even a page divider to mark the change. I also felt very weird reading the book on the metro when suddenly I turned the page and Chip's listing of mentions of breasts in his screenplay appeared in 20pt font. 
Random bits I highlighted:
"but from her underpants, which to his relief were delicate and sheer -distinctly gendered- an affectionate warm rabbit came springing, a kicking wet autonomous warm animal. It was almost more than he could handle."       um, ew.
"Suzy Ghosh asked the table in a voice like hair in a shampoo commercial" what does this mean? that her voice was silky? then say her fucking voice was silky. I have never personally or known anyone to describe anything as being like hair in a shampoo commercial besides hair in a shampoo commercial. Maybe it hasn't been done before because it's pointless.

The one good thing I can say about Franzen is that his prose flows well. If I hadn't wanted to personally murder all but one of the characters and smash my own head in with a brick I would have found it a relatively smooth easy read.