This past month in Paris has been amazing! I have learned so much about the planning and history of Paris. I feel like I mastered the metro system and can get anywhere with it, although once I’m on the street I’m not quite as skilled with some of the smaller streets. I now know more of Paris now than Washington D.C., which is close to where I live, but I don’t frequently go anywhere outside of the National Mall. Before this trip, I found the idea of traveling alone nerve-racking, but now feel more confident about doing so. I am so grateful to Professor Smith and everyone else on the trip for a great experience and many, many memories!
For class yesterday, Professor Smith surprised us with a day trip to Disneyland in Paris. Disneyland has some similarities with Disney World in Florida, especially Main Street, USA. There are a lot more thrill rides though, especially considering that it is a smaller park, which I really liked. We went on Crush’s Coaster which was the best ride EVER and needs to come over to the United States.
The increase in number of thrill rides may be due to the fact that the park is much newer than the ones in the United States. Disneyland Paris is 20 years old. Paris was chosen out of all the options in Europe to have Disney, partly because the government had the power to easily build the theme park. The park was built in the suburbs of Paris and required metro transportation. Both the park and the public transportation caused economic development in the surrounding area.
The park itself combines the American elements that you see in Disney land, but there are also some French elements. They had an arcade in Disneyland Paris (the Liberty Arcade), which a more Parisian architectural element. However, the new and colorful buildings mimicking American architecture, along with the costumes and food, allow for interesting stereotypes of Americans to be formed by those who have not been there.
Yesterday, we went of a scavenger hunt for class. We were given a list of 40 things that we had to try to find within Paris. You can check out mine and Phoebe’s pictures at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/81940946@N05/sets/72157630732049850/.
Today, we went to DISNEYLAND! I’ll try and write a blog about that tomorrow, but I want to show some of the pictures I ended up taking because I saw a lot of things from the list and ended up trying to see how many I could get. Redonculous? Yes. Pathetic? I prefer to think not.
#12 live fish-Nemo? I didn’t take a picture of him though 🙁
Yesterday, Professor Smith took us on a day trip to Brussels. When we first got off the train, we saw a market with really cheap clothes and some rides. I think the rides may have been because Saturday was Belgium’s national holiday. Luckily for us, most of the places in Brussels seemed to be open despite the holiday, while, in Paris, many restaurants were closed the day after Bastille Day.
We wandered the streets of Brussels until we could find a place with waffles that Professor Smith considered to be good enough for our visit. I tried speculoos with mine, which I can only describe as tasting like a graham cracker spread.
Then we went to the Margritte museum. I had never heard of Margritte before (I am not an art expert), but he had some really awesome surrealism pieces. I also liked the layout of the museum and how at the beginning of each floor there was a timeline of what was happening in his life. It helped to put some context of his life with his work
Afterwards, we ate some fries and mashed potatoes. Then, we went to a few chocolate shops and got to try some Belgium chocolates. We wandered the streets of Brussels, discussed its planning and how it is different than Paris because Belgium’s power was much earlier and is evident by the narrow streets and less grand buildings (although there were still some!). We finished the day off with more fries and waffles. As we walked back to the train station, my belly was pleasantly very full.
Yesterday, we went to Montmarte, which was annexed in the 1860s during Haussmann (because everything seemed to happen around that time). It was a poor, dirty area on the outside of town with lots of activity and crime. It became famous for the Moulin Rouge and the Sacre-Coeur. Artsy people lived in the area because it was cheap, making it a hip area, until the cool place to live moved.
We went up the funiculaire to the most elevated spot in Paris: the Sacre-Coeur, which is a stunning Romanesque basilica. Unfortunately, I could not take any pictures inside the basilica, but I can always have my memories, and this video on their website: http://www.sacre-coeur-montmartre.com/us/basilique.html.
Professor Smith treated us to a delicious French dinner after class. I had duck for the first time! And I had missed mashed potatoes so, so much.
After dinner, we walked to the Moulin Rouge, which unfortunately is not all that exciting since, other than the red windmill, it is like the other places on the street. It’s in located in what is still the Red Light distinct of Paris. Places like that are completely legal, which I wonder if it is because of difference in culture or because of the money that it brings in.
After class, we went to the Centre Pompidou, which is a modern art museum and library. Now I have to admit this: I’m not into contemporary art. Sometimes I am able to appreciate the ingenuity or the skills required to make it, but a lot of the times I just think “what??” Perhaps I’m just not able to think abstractly enough or do not know enough about the movement (or both).
From a museum studies aspect though, I thought that the sensors were a good technique to ensure that people did not get too close or touch the paintings. The sound that went off when you crossed the line made sure you knew that you were doing something you were not supposed to do and caused everyone to look at you-and public attention works really well at preventing people.
However, I now have a favorite contemporary artist: DARIA! She got a hold of my camera and took a lot of photos.
The area of Les Halles was once the stomach of Paris, even though it did not seem like it when we visited. It had been the market center since the very beginning of the city. In the mid-1800s, glass and iron pavilions were built to protect the food from the elements and allow for better sanitation. These pavilions made Parisians proud of the area. They are gone now since they were bombed during World War I and then could not compete with modern markets methods.
Now, it is an underground mall and metro hub, with ongoing construction to redo the park that’s above it. The underground mall is confusing, dark, and stuffy. The atmosphere did not encourage me to shop even though I normally love to shop. Instead, it gave me a headache.
It is such a shame that the pavilions are lost. While I do not know first hand what the old park looked like due to construction, it apparently was crime-ridden due to poor planning, which does not seem like a good way of preserving the past. When the past is lost though, it might not make sense to recreate it. Paris is not the same as it was in the time of the market and so perhaps it is necessary to let it adapt and move forward as they are with the new park design, instead of looking to the past.
Yesterday, we rode the metro for class. Granted, we have ridden the metro many times throughout the last few weeks, but this time we learned about its history and focused on its strengths and weaknesses and how it compares to systems in the United States.
Line 1 of the metro opened in 1900. They looked at the way other cities had done their metro system to determine how to do their own. They decided to have an electric system and to build the system underground where possible because they did not want the property value around it to decrease. When I learned that, I instantly thought of the silver line being built near Washington D.C. After much debate over whether it should be above ground or underground, the government decided to build above ground to save money on the construction, but does it save in the long run?
They have been adding on to the metro non-stop… unlike in Washington D.C. Now, there are 14 lines in Paris.
When professor Smith told us that when Paris wanted to add line 14, I could not help but think about the silver line again. The silver line was planned and debated for a long time before a decision was made for it (unfortunately with it being above ground). Construction began in 2009 and I know firsthand that it is still going and going… I avoid that part of route 7 whenever I can because of it and the road always looks different when I come home from school. Line 14, on the other hand, was proposed in 1987 and approved in 1989. Construction began in 1993 and line 14 began running in 1998.
2 stops of the RER C are closed for track work, so we had to take a bus instead to get to class today. It was my first time on the bus system in Paris, but it was not an enjoyable one. Part of the reason was that a bus can hold a lot less people than the metro can and everyone was trying to cram into the bus. Because of traffic, the bus was more stop and go, which caused me to constantly bump the people near me. In a heavily populated city, such as Paris, heavy rail is necessary because of the volume of people it can hold (even if there are even more people than that during rush hours) and because it gets people off the streets which also cannot contain all of the people traveling. It is much more reliable as well because it does not have to compete with other modes of transportation.
Near Cite Universitaire, there are lanes designated for light rail and I’ve also seen some lanes designated for buses in other parts of Paris. These take out the unreliable nature of buses since they are separated from traffic.