I must admit that before I ever took French (and even when I started taking it in high school), I had my stereotypes. I will shed some light on those, and let you know if they turned out to be true or not.
*French women do not shave their armpits. False. That may have been true at one time, but all the women I saw seemed to be rather hairless there. I think that being hairless in more in style than ever these days, even in Europe. But there are exceptions to that as well. So if you can’t get to a razor, don’t sweat it—you will blend right in.
*Everyone wears a beret and or/a striped black and white shirt. False. I saw only one French guy with a striped shirt, and no beret. I saw an American group of students all wearing a beret so that they could easily locate one another. All the other berets I saw actually were sold in touristy shops in every color imaginable.
*The French are rude to Americans. False. No French person was rude to me, either of the time I have been to France. Everyone was very kind and helpful. I also speak French, so that may have made a bit of a difference! Like I said, learn some phrases to help you get by, and you’ll be just fine.
*Accordion music plays everywhere you go. False. You can find old time French music in restaurants and things, but there are really no speakers blasting it across the land.
*Frog legs and snails are a delicacy. True. You can order snails (escargots) pretty much anywhere you go, and they are usually served with garlic and butter. The frog legs are not as commonly found on menus, but they are actually really good. They taste like chicken, and you can usually get them fried with a batter of some sort.
*Everyone smokes. False. Not everyone smokes, but you will see people smoking, and from a young age. It’s still not as taboo in Europe as it is here in the U.S.
Day 1: Saturday, July 7th, 2012: The city of
light, the city of love. Paris is one of my favorite cities in the world. The
moment I stepped off the plane and onto the airport ramp, I was giddy and I
felt like I had stepped into a magical place. All around me, I could hear
people speaking French, and I saw signs in French all over the place. This was my
own personal Disneyworld. I met up with my friend Chad, and we set out to
explore the city. The funny thing is, it rained off and on all day. It wouldn’t
rain while we traveled to things, but the moment we got to a site, it poured.
This happened at least 3 times! Our first stop was la basilique de Sacré Coeur
de Montmartre. It is a large basilica with a great view that overlooks the
|La basilique de Sacré Coeur|
It’s absolutely beautiful. Next up, we went to La Tour Eiffel. You can spot it
from many places around the city, but there is nothing quite like standing
right in front of its majesty. It’s an architectural wonder, and the very
symbol of Paris.
|The view from Sacré Coeur|
Lastly, we went to la Cathédrale de Notre Dame. We didn’t go
inside, because the line of people, much like the Eiffel Tower, was insanely
long. We took some good pictures from afar and went along on our way.
|La Tour Eiffel|
For dinner, we
stopped and ate at a nice little restaurant called Rendez-Vous Des Artistes and I ordered the classic Croque-Madame. It’s
basically a croissant sandwich with ham and cheese, and an egg on top.
|la Cathédrale de Notre Dame|
drink, Orangina. My absolute favorite drink! It was delicious. After all that walking, I got
back to the hotel and just plain passed out at about 10:00p.
Day 2: Sunday, July 8th, 2012: I woke up at about
10a. Wow, I really slept 12 hours! I met our group in the lobby and was
introduced to those I hadn’t previously met. We all headed to lunch at a nice
restaurant. We discussed our game plan for the week. Then we had a multiple course meal. We split
appetizers, (escargots (snails)—soooo amazing! They were in a garlic butter
sauce!) food (I ordered duck), and dessert (crepes and mille-feuille, or “thousand layers”: a
pastry with layers of flaky thin crust sandwiched between a thick vanilla
cream). I also had eau gazeuse (or carbonated water, which is amazing. I love the bubbles!) Eau plate means flat water (no bubbles).
|Des escargots (snails)|
Then, I headed over to the convention center (Palais du Congres). I
couldn’t find the room where my reception was. Embarassing! I finally found it
after asking like 4 different people. The opening ceremony for the conference
began, and it was really exciting! Afterwards, I attended a dinner where I
learned of a program called the Buddy Awards. It’s given by someone with a
bleeding disorder to someone in their life who is a hero, and has helped them to
cope and make their life as normal as possible. I love the concept. I was finally learning my way around the subway system!
|Mille-Feuille (a thousand sheets)|
Day 3: Monday, July 9th, 2012: I woke up early and headed to breakfast. I loaded up on chocolate croissants (My favorite! I could eat those thing non-stop, all day, every day).
|Les croissants au chocolats|
I attended a few morning sessions, and then I headed out for adventure part 2. As a side note, I was asking for directions at the conference center, and got hit on by a French boy! Woohoo! Although Chad and I did a whirlwind tour of the city, and didn't actually go into most of the touristy places, we got good pictures and we saw a LOT, which was perfect. We met under the Arc de Triomphe. Underneath the arc is a tomb of an unknown soldier who died fighting for France.
|L'arc de Triomphe|
Next, Chad and I walked the famous strip of expensive stores, the Champs-Elysées. They have Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and many other stores. We didn't really go in any (I shopped there later in the week), but we walked past and headed out to see some more great places around Paris. We went to Place de la Concorde, the garden of Tuileries, and the Louvre, which are all right next to one another. I have been in the Louvre before and seen the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. It's a huge museum, and impossible to see everything, even in a day. It is said that the French do not like the glass pyramid that makes the Louvre so recognizable, because it's modernity clashes with the old architecture of the museum itself.
|Tomb of the unknown soldier (underneath the arc)|
|Place de la Concorde|
|Le Jardin de Tuileries|
Then, we headed over to another famous museum, le musée d'Orsay. I am not big on museums, but maybe next time I am in Paris I will go here and actually go inside.
For dinner, we originally were going to go to le Moulin Rouge. It seemed pretty cool from the outside, and I took some pics. However, we got there, and it was all sold out and we didn't have a reservation. So, the staff sent us to a place a couple blocks away that still had dinner and a cabaret show. We saw the prices and freaked out: 130 euros for dinner and a show. Yikes! We ended up going to a nice little place called La Cloche d'or (the golden bell). We we went to a nice restaurant where Ian and I fully utilized our French speaking skills. It was such a nice conversation, and intimate setting! I got a steak, and green beans. It was really tasty. Our waiters were really cool also, and were glad Ian and I spoke French. They told us they once had some southerners and could not understand their accent very well at all. Funny! What an amazing day it was.
|le Musée d'Orsay|
|Le Moulin Rouge (red windmill)|
Day 4: Tuesday, July 10th, 2012: Ian and I attended a great youth session, in which several youths talked about their experience getting young people involved in their local NMO, or national member organization. Afterwards, I made it to our booth, where we were handing out educational materials. The exhibition hall itself was huge, with many booths set up. I made a donation to WFH and got to have my picture taken in front of the world map. I was the only Wisconsinite!
Some booths gave out goodies, drinks and snacks, which was cool. I talked to a lot of people and did some serious networking. At night the cultural event was held, in which the host city gives the conference participants a taste of the culture. So, we saw a cool show with a band that played French music, cabaret dancers (pretty sure 2 of them were guys, but no judging), a mime (hilarious, not the old fashioned type you would imagine), and some amateur acrobats who did handstand and somersaults. Afterwards, there was a cocktail reception with hors d'oeuvres. My friend Ian actually had a friend in town, so we went and met up with her and some of her friends for dinner at a restaurant. I had the most amazing burger of my life, and it had a chef's special house recipe sauce. Some really funny moments of the night happened here. I thought the name of the restaurant (La Souris Verte) translated to "the green smile." Actually, it ended up being the green mouse, a slightly less weird title. Sourire is the word for "to smile." I don't know why, but that was exceptionally funny to me. Secondly, I got a delicious chocolate mousse for dinner and inhaled it in under 2 minutes. Chad kindly offered to share his dessert, and after he did I realized I had none to offer, and so I declined sadly. He asked me, "Are you declining because you would offer me some of your dessert, but it's GONE?" We both cracked up about that one. And finally, we were going to play the French version of bocce ball, called pétanque, but it was too late and parks had closed by the time we arrived for dinner, and so Chad remarked, while waving a fork around with a potato on it, "I really wanted to play...uh...P..." and Ian, seeing the potato thought he was trying to say it and filled in, "Pomme de terre?" After I explained that Chad had meant to say pétanque, not potato, we all had a good laugh.
|Pinning my location on the world map|
Day 5: Wednesday, July 11th, 2012: I attended a session called Women's Voices. This was a really cool one, because it was basically a bunch of women from all walks of life and all over the world discussing their experiences, successes, and challenges living with a bleeding disorder. I attended a lot of sessions throughout the day, and then I snuck out for a few hours to do a little shopping on the Champs-Elysées.
Our group had a reception and dinner to attend this night, so I went to that. The reception was at Pavillion Elysée Lenôtre, and dinner was at Foquet's (funny in English, right?) I remember on this particular night I drank a lot of champagne, because the waiters kept coming around and filling up my glass when I wasn't looking. I couldn't tell you how many times that happened, mainly because I don't remember. I had red wine, white wine, and champagne. Let me tell you, the next morning was definitely not a good one. But, it was a lot of fun, and worth the lingering headache.
Day 6: Thursday, July 12th, 2012: The last full day of the conference. It's funny because I went to H&M, which we have in the states, but shamefully, I couldn't tell you if we had the same products or not. It was cheap, and so I bought some cool stuff: 3 cocktail rings, a necklace, 2 dresses (an orange one and a pink zebra one), a neon pink skirt, and a pair of bright blue heels. I also bought a pretty rainbow Egyptian themed necklace from Zara (we don't have those in Wisconsin at least). We had the cultural dinner at the Pavilion Dauphine. This night I got to hang out with our group a lot and I really got to know everyone so well, including my 3 new adoptive moms who I absolutely adore!
|Les Champs Elysées|
The Pavilion Dauphine was beautiful. There were tables set with a silver candleabra holding white and blue candles, blue flowers, and blue bottles of water. We were served a salmon appetizer, guinea fowl for dinner (the only meal i didn't really care for very much), and a pastry type dessert with pistachio. Then, the dance floor opened up. I took a lot of pictures there. I love the dancing part because there are so many people from all over the world dancing, all brought together by a universally spoken language: music. I think the U.N. needs to have a giant dance party. It would really break the ice.
|Me and my 3 adoptive moms: Jordana, Mary Ann, and Edie |
Overall, I had an amazing time in Paris, and the vote for the bid would take place in the morning (Friday), and I would leave for London! Stay tuned for my London adventure up next!
|Now here is some trouble: the three young Americans: Alex, Ian, and I. |
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