kathryne goes to france

22 April 2007, 11:55 am
Filed under: American culture, europe, exchange student, france, paris, travel

I love figuring out who’s American and watching them try to get around in France. See a group wearing North Face jackets, sweatshirts, and baseball caps? Definitely American. See an overweight guy? He’s more likely to be American than French, that’s for sure. Hear someone butchering the French language, saying mare-see and bone-jour instead of merci and bonjour? Probably American, and probably from the South, but you have to appreciate their effort.

My favorite Americans today:
The lady wearing a windbreaker with the American flag printed on it who was trying to use the subway system and the husband who congratulated her on the other side with a “You’re gettin’ it, baby!”

The family on the subway. The little boy munched on a chocolate pastry while the parents looked at the subway map and tried to decide where to get off. “Should we get off here? No, wait, there? Or there? Oh hell, we’re in France. Nothing makes sense here.”

The teenagers running through Musée d’Orsay. They’re surrounded by statues by Rodin and they’re running toward the gift shop. All I heard one of them say was, “Dude that sucks!”

The classic middle-aged American woman who laughed and pointed to a statue of a man wearing a helmet. “Let’s get out of here, I’m bored. Who is that, anyway?!” she shrieked. I wanted to tap her on the shoulder and say, “Ma’am, his name is Symbolism. You two should get to know each other.”


cultural confusion
10 April 2007, 9:53 am
Filed under: europe, exchange student, france, french culture, paris, study abroad, travel

I spent my day in Paris surrounded by tourists. As I was trying to make my way through the crowded Musée d’Orsay, people were speaking different languages around every turn. Hearing American English, French, German, British English, and Chinese, mixed in with languages I couldn’t even identify, was completely overwhelming. I didn’t know whether to say “excusé moi” or “excuse me” or or “désolée” or “sorry.” I feel like an idiot when I say “excusé moi” to Americans, but do they even notice that I’m American anyway? And does saying “excuse me” in the correct language matter if we all know what they mean? Besides that, when I’m surrounded by as many Americans as I was today, should I start talking to people in French or English? Which is the better bet? It’s so confusing.

I can’t decide if all Americans really are as uncouthe as they seem over here or not. Granted, we’re out of our element when we’re in Europe. We’re not used to being surrounded by different languages everywhere we go. We don’t know how to travel on a subway system because we’re accustomed to driving cars everywhere we go. And I probably shouldn’t be talking about the kids in Musée d’Orsay who exclaimed, “Dude that sucks!” because I say that all the time.

Not only that, but do all the other Europeans walking around with me just seem more sophisticated because their style and body types are a little more in line with the French? And do I just assume that they’re having conversations about significant topics just because they’re speaking in a language that I can’t understand? Are all the Italians running around saying the Italian equivalent of “dude that sucks” after all? Do I just think that they’re talking about something important because it sounds prettier when they say it?

Je ne sais pas. I’m off to Rome tomorrow. My head’s still spinning from seeing so much art at the museum (I feel like I just read my entire art history book at once) and I have to wake up insanely early tomorrow morning to catch my flight.

Lessons learned today:
Rousseau is awesome.
Realism is a bore.
Americans are amusing.

30 March 2007, 9:48 am
Filed under: europe, exchange student, france, paris, photos, travel


Originally uploaded by ms.kdizz.

I had the best time sitting here, on the ledge of a fountain in the Latin quarter, eating a Nutella crêpe.

New pictures today. Their order got all mixed up somehow, but they’re there. Latin Quarter, Champs Elysees, Arc de Triomphe, Sacre Coeur, Versailles, etc.

Carnivals, Cotton Candy, and Ferris Wheels, oh my!
16 March 2007, 5:23 am
Filed under: bordeaux, europe, exchange student, france, paris, photos, study abroad


Originally uploaded by ms.kdizz.

New pictures today.

It’s strange.  Now that daylight savings time cut the time difference between Bordeaux and Oklahoma by an hour, I feel a little closer to everyone at home.  Funny how going from a seven hours apart to six hours can make a difference.

parisian pizza thieves
8 February 2007, 6:40 am
Filed under: exchange student, france, paris, study abroad, travel

TGV. Left for Bordeaux’s train station before dawn on Friday. Got stopped by the tram patrol, got a ticket, missed the train, had to pay 16 euros more to get on the next train. Ug.

Hostel. Our hostel was great. It was close to the subway and the Sacre Coeur, less than 25 euros a night, and awfully cute. We stayed in a room with three bunk beds, a W.C. and a shower/sink. At first it seemed strange that we had to share a room of six beds with three strangers, but they all ended up being nice English-speaking young people. We met two Iowans who are studying abroad in Spain and an Australian girl who has been working in Germany. On Saturday night, a mysterious guy replaced the Australian. I never even got a good look at his face, but he did sleep about 10 feet away from me. He could have been Brad Pitt or Jack the Ripper. Strange. The one problem I had with the hostel is that someone ate the garlic pizza I stored in the fridge downstairs. I was bummed. The breakfast lady’s only explanation was “Lots of drinking last night.” My consolation is knowing that whoever ate my pizza likely awoke up with a nauseating combination of alcohol and garlic breath. Take that, pizza thief.

History. After settling in at the hostel, we took the subway to the center of town. I was astounded by the view after I climbed out of the depths of underground Paris. From the top of the stairs, I could see the obelisk, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the fountain, the tuileries, and the Louvre. Never before have I felt so overwhelmed by historical significance. Visiting Paris made me wish that I’d payed more attention in history. Everything was gorgeous, but it would have meant more if I understood the story behind it all. Growing up, I felt so far-removed from historical events that I couldn’t appreciate their significance. In Paris, history is unavoidable.

I saw too many monuments, museums, statues and famous Parisian buildings to write about them in detail. You’re better off just looking at the photos.

Here’s a brief summary:

Eiffel Tower. If it weren’t for the Eiffel Tower’s size and shape, it would just be a big tangled mass of metal. Le Tour d’Eiffel is definitely fun to photograph, though.

Le Louvre. The Louvre is so enormous that we didn’t have time to explore it thoroughly. I saw the Mona Lisa, which is surprisingly small. It’s no larger than two feet by three feet. It’s also covered with thick glass and surrounded by ropes, so I couldn’t get a good look at the shading in the background. We saw the Venus of Milo, which is an incredibly old, mysterious, and detailed statue. My favorite was the Nike statue. I’m still wondering how sculptors manage to make stone look like draping, tissue-thin fabric.

Napoleon’s tomb. This was actually one of my favorites. Instead of being dark and damp on the inside like the gothic cathedrals I’ve gotten accustomed to, light streamed through the windows in the church and filled the whole room with a warm glow. Brightly colored medieval flags hung in two long rows from the ceiling—I felt like I was in the castle in Sleeping Beauty. The actual tomb was cool, too. The air around the tomb felt heavy with significance. I can’t believe I stood ten feet away from wear Napoleon lies in rest. I don’t even agree with his conquest, but he did change history, and I got to visit his grave. The whole place felt a lot more like a shrine than a tomb.

Notre Dame. It’s beautiful. I expected it to blow my mind, but it’s just like all the other gothic cathedrals… on a grander scale. They all have the same basic floor plan, they all have stained glass windows, and they all have huge pipe organs. I’m frankly getting bored with them. While we were in the Notre Dame, a priest started mass, which was totally unexpected and cool to watch.

Sacre Coeur. La Basilique de Sacre Coeur overlooks Paris from a hill in Montmartre, the area we stayed at. It’s by far the biggest church I’ve seen yet. I could hardly fit the whole thing into one picture! The church was built after France went through some hardships as a way to give hope back to the community, or something like that. Although all the churches are incredible, the fact that they were built with money that the citizens needed detracts from my overall impressions of them.

Les Galeries Lafayette. This department store has nine floors worth of designer clothes, accessories, cosmetics, men’s and children’s clothing, and gourmet groceries, among other things. The women’s section was a separate building with a huge dome on the top and walls gilded in gold. I felt like I was in a Fabergé egg. The fabrics used in the designer clothes were extraordinary. I’ve never felt finer silk or softer cashmere in my life. If I had the money to burn, I could have dropped thousands of dollars there on a Balenciaga bag, a MaxMara sweater, and lots of chloé shirts, but I didn’t end up buying anything at all. I found a dress that I could actually afford, but after touching all the luxurious fabrics upstairs, the knit just wasn’t up to par. Everything was so fancy there that I felt like a peasant in a Gap overcoat.

Moulin Rouge. The Moulin Rouge was not what I expected. I thought it would be a huge free standing building, but it just takes up the larger part of a strip of dirty shops. I imagine that it would be much more impressive at night when it’s lit up, but visiting that area of town at night is too dangerous to make the trip. I’d also like to see a can-can show, but the cheapest tickets are around 80 euros. I give up.

I think that sums up my first trip to Paris. As always, click on Esteban to see the pictures.