Monday, July 6, 2009

Wednesday, July 1: Bienvenue a Paris!

From the moment we woke up to the moment we placed our weary heads on our pillows at well after midnight, we were on the move. After a delightful French breakfast ( and no, that does not include “French toast!”) we embarked on a 3-hour bus tour of the city. Our official city guide – Brian – was an ex-patriot who has been living in Paris now for 15 years. His knowledge of the history of Paris, its culture, architecture and people was astounding and he was comical to boot.
After our bus tour, we took a break for lunch, then spent a couple of hours at Les Invalides. The Invalides was commissioned by King Louis XIV as a military hospital to help and honor those who had served France. Although a small wing is still used in its original capacity, the better part is a military museum. However, the general consensus (with which I must agree) was that the most impressive part was le tombe de Napoleon (for those of you who do not speak French, it isn’t a trick word...just remove the “e” at the end of tombe and it’s the same in English!) Yes, it was a moment for me in which I had to control my urge to hop the thick marble rails that surrounded the sarcophagi and nuzzle his grave. Interestingly, he is buried in six sarcophagi – so imagine nesting dolls, but with coffins, and instead of a wee babe in the center, you’ve got the Emperor’s remains!
We left the Invalides and walked to Èglise St. Sulpice – one of the oldest Gothic churches in Paris. For those of you who watched The DaVinci Code, this is the church where the creepy albino monk breaks through the floor only to find he’s been misled. Cool if you like that kind of thing, but historically speaking, it is the church in which Victor Hugo was married and in which the Marquis de Sade was baptized (and my guess is the last time that wacko set foot in a church!) And if you are unfamiliar with  who the Marquis de Sade is, I will simply say that the etymology of the word sadism is derived from his name in relation to some of his extracurricular activities. If you want to know the gory details, I’ll let you and Google have fun with that!
The next stop was the Jardin du Luxembourg. The students were very impressed with both its beauty and the number of really cool things to do there. We made our way past the Panthéon and to dinner, then had free time. While Bill took his parents back to the hotel, I led a group of students to one of my favorite churches. Unfortunately, it was closed, so we did the next best thing – went shopping. I took the students down to the St. Michel area where there were tons of shops, places to get ice cream, and lots of street performers entertaining the crowds.
We finished the night with a cruise on the River Seine and we all oohed and aahed when the Eiffel Tower lit up and sparkled. We got home well after midnight and if I had to guess, we walked a good 15-20 miles within the day. I say this for the benefit of the parents who are reading. Please feel free to use this information to your advantage the next time your kids tell you that they can’t walk five blocks to the store or mow the lawn.
All in all, the day went without incident and a few of us learned some important lessons. First, Joe S. learned (12€ later) that there are no “free refills” on Coke in France. Second, Courtney L. learned that if a bearded man wearing suspenders plows into you with his toddler in a stroller, even if you apologize profusely, it is not his fault and he is required by law to kick you, swear at you in French and then translate said curse words to English just to be sure you fully comprehend how furious he is. Third, I learned that when in a rush to jump on the Metro and not leave behind Sherry, grab a hold of her at your own risk as she might get king-fu on your butt because she thinks you are a thug trying to steal her purse.

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