14.8.09

I Don't Want to Spoil the Party

Last blog.

Reflections.

I have been back in the United States for approximately four days, and still, I can't stop this separation anxiety. Dulles Airport is the worst in the world, so as soon as I stepped off the plane, my thoughts turned to the glory hallelujahs of Europe. "Paris would have done this xyz way" "London's system is so much better" "I hate my life," etc. It was a little overdramatic. In combination with a cold and stomach virus this week, my first impressions back have not been shiny happy ones.

(I did, however, get jelly biscuits at Cracker Barrell yesterday. It was a good moment.)

More than anything, however, I just think it's because I'm returning to responsibilities. I got lazy while I was in Europe; only having class two days a week, traveling across the UK on weekends . . . I got a little spoiled. Now it's back to reality (as opposed to the "fake life" I was leading in Europe, of course), and I guess I have to embrace it! I have SO many great friends in Clemson who I have missed very, very, very much. I have a really awesome class on Ian McEwan coming up, too, so that's something to be stoked about. OH! And I'm moving into a new apartment on Saturday, complete with full cable package. Squee!!! Oooh! Oh! And FOOTBALL season starts, like, NOW! YESSSS!

So, take a look at that, self. Clemson has a lot to offer; it's just different from where I've been. Lots of people in Europe would ask us to tell them about America, would go on-and-on about how they want to visit. Really? I need to visit it myself.

Thanks for the ride, everybody! Marty, the Honors College, Dr. Wainscott, St. Peter's College, Dr. Addison, Hugh . . . just, thanks. It was a (cliche alert) life-changing experience that will not be soon forgotten.

8.8.09

The End/Too Much Monkey Business

Ladies and gentlemen, Adrienne has left the building.

I purposefully haven't written a proper "farewell" post about Oxford (which I left, officially, at 10:10 this morning) because it's just too sad for me. I met so many amazing people (especially two particulars who are my friend soul mates for life), did SO many amazing things (remember the trip to Paris? or when I waited to see Jude Law's Hamlet at 4 AM?), and stretched myself socially/mentally/even physically (cobblestone streets hurt your tootsies!). I can't bear to think about that chapter of my life ending. Although I may return, nothing will replace the memories I created this summer.

SO. As I wipe the tears from my face...

We move from the End to a new beginning in Dublin. I got here with Hattie this afternoon, and it's great fun! A wonderful, energetic distraction from what I left behind in England! Fave sighting of the day? A James Joyce living statue. Other bonus features? The best fish-&-chips of my LIFE in Temple Bar, three fun and crazy old men at the pub, a glorious musician who sang American songs just for us, light rains and warm breezes, and the city bus driver who pulled over - yes, pulled over - his passengers to give us directions. I'll write more once I have time to process/breathe...see you in America!!!!!!!!!

6.8.09

Ain't She Sweet

I got a Nutella milkshake at Moo Moo's in the Covered Market today.

Whooooa, man. I love the UK.

4.8.09

Dig It

I just walked out of my last tutorial of the summer, and it feels really bizarre. Happy, but bizarre.

We only met in this 2:1 setting four times, and as such, I don't feel like I've been in summer school at all. The majority of my hours have been spent hanging out in Oxford, in Stratford, in London, in Paris - really indulging myself in the culture. On the other hand, I know I've learned as much in the last five weeks than I would have in the same course at Clemson. Not only was I able to study a topic I truly enjoy, but I had infinite resources at my fingertips. My outlook on Austen's novels has completely shifted, from that of an optimistic romantic to a hardened historian.

Okay, that sounds bad. But it's true! And it's great. I've learned so much about her time period, about her critics and her life, that it's become impossible for me to take her books as simple love stories. They're about (particularly in Mansfield Park and Persuasion) suffering, the self-sacrifice that is ultimately rewarded - or, perhaps, not.

With my course basically finished (one full class on Thursday, to wrap things up), I'm ready to really enjoy Oxford as a tourist. This morning I finally made it to Christ Church (aka Harry Potter Extravaganza), and on Friday I'll probably be punting. Oh...and I still have the rest of my travel money to spend...

Dig it.

3.8.09

Carnival of Light - Part III

I didn't want the last day in Paris to come. The city had captivated me, and the thought of leaving it just twisted my insides; nevertheless, there it was. We got up early to go see a choir rehearsal at the Sacre-Coeur, but apparently, my sources were misinformed. After a long and windy walk through Montmarte at 9:30 AM on Sunday, including a hike up a bazillion-trillion stairs, we made it to the empty (except for tourists!) basilica. Apparently, they have services except during the tourist-heavy months of July and August. It was an exceptional bummer, but the chapel was still quite lovely and worth the walk.

We made up for it by picking up breakfast at a patisserie we passed on the way there, located close to the Abbesses metro station. Kathleen and I bought - are you ready for this? - chocolate chip baguettes. That's right, people. Bread. With chocolate. It was heavenly bliss. In combination with a cafe creme, our breakfast could not be beat.

Full of delicious carbohydrates, we headed over to the Musee d'Orsay, where the first Sunday of every month is - yes, again - FREE. We saved so much money on this trip to Paris! The Degas exhibit was my absolute favorite of ANY museum I've visited ANYWHERE since I got to Europe in June. Seeing his ballet paintings and sculptures first-hand just blew me out of the water, especially since my Mammy has some of those prints in her home. I also got to see two of van Gogh's self portraits, which -WHOA! - was so crazy. It felt like I wasn't even there.

Because the museum was free, it was full of tourists, so we didn't stay long. We tried to make a trip to the Catacombs, but the line wrapped around the block, guiding us to an alternative plan. Lunch. Kathleen and I went to the French equivalent of a meat-and-three for 7.50 euros, and I couldn't even finish my meal. SO GOOD! (I can't remember the name, but it's owned by some French-Asians really close to Denfert-Rocheareau. In the meat market.) After finishing, the line was just as long, so (after yet another failed attempt at shopping the LaFayette Galleries) we headed back to Montmartre. It ended up being the best day of all 3, because we were able to wander the more locally-inhabited vintage stores and petite bakeries without feeling claustrophobic. I even bought a Parisien dress, which I wore to our formal dinner tonight...it was a hit! We also returned to the same bakery from that morning (yes, the chocolate baguette place) and got take-away pastries. I'm ashamed to say none of them actually made it back to Oxford. Zero self-control.

Our evening was spent playing cards and eating Nutella crepes in the hotel, and it was a perfectly relaxing end to a perfectly relaxing weekend. Paris is a magical place, full of KIND (not rude!!! What a horrible stereotype!) citizens, beautiful sights, and - most importantly - infinite bread and wine. :) La vie est belle a Paris.

Carnival of Light - Part II

We left Bertha around 10 on Saturday, with Elizabeth's friend Lauren along (the more the merrier, we decided, unless you have more than four) for the adventure. After finding our coffee (yummy take-away by the St. Paul metro), we headed for the Musee Carnavalet. This museum focuses on a cultural approach to Parisien history, presenting art and artifacts throughout the ages. Although all of the information was in French, I found that a lot of the items were self-explanatory. The best exhibit? A massive French Revolution display on the top floor. They even had a toy guillotine, complete with a miniature person to stick inside. What?!

Leaving the Museum, I was feeling pretty confident with my new map. However, as all of my friends back in Clemson can vouch, I am directionally challenged. We got a little lost, but it ended up wonderfully! We found some great murals on the...err...scenic route to Notre-Dame.

Cool, yes? See, I totally meant to take a wrong turn. Totally.

Regardless, we did reach the Notre-Dame in plenty of time for our (Free! Again!) tour. Interesting Trivia: The kings featured on the front of the cathedral are the Kings of Judah, but during the Revolution, radicals destroyed them all thinking they were kings of France. More Interesting Trivia: The stained glass windows are pretty new. A while back, some people thought the Gothic windows were too dark and knocked them out to replace them with plain windows. Thank goodness someone re-replaced them!

While Elizabeth, Kathleen, & Lauren had lunch at a really cute restaurant called the Quasimodo (how appropriate...), I decided to fulfill my intense craving for a savory crepe at an equally cute roadside stand. I took my delicious fromage et jambon crepe to a staircase on the Seine, thereby having the most picturesque meal of my life. Everyone was happy as we proceeded to the Champs-Elysees and Arc de Triomphe.

All that can be said for the Arc de Triomphe is that it's huge. Really, really huge. Much bigger than it looks on TV. I can, however, say more of the Champs-Elysees. If you want to do some window-shopping, that's the place; it's home of the Louis Vuitton and Cartier Diamond HQs, and let me tell you, it looks like Cartier helped design LV's digs. The buildings are equally shiny, one from its facade and one from its merchandise. The street is also filled with funky street performers. I really enjoyed the breakdancers, even though I could only see them over the crowd when they flipped into the air. That was cool, though. I got the picture.

*Random note? Pigeons. Every day, throughout the day, we were bombarded with pigeons. It's the same thing in London. These birds are really scary and feel comfortable flying dangerously low. Beware. End random note.

After checking out those sights, we metro'd over to the Eiffel Tower for a picnic. At a nearby supermarche we grabbed some fruit, cheese, and wine (which, btw, costs as much as water); then, we grabbed a famous French baguette at the bakery. Tiramisu gelato was also in the works. Basically, it was a perfect meal at the perfect cost.

Because we showed up fairly early in the evening, we were able to snag a great spot on the Champs du Mars. People-watching in this park is glorious, because you have a wide variety of cultures getting drunk and taking creative photographs in front of the Tower. Our favorite was the team of Americans making a pyramid. USA! USA! There were also some (Russian?) girls taking model-esque photos right next to us, and they were hysterical. I didn't know there were so many variations on Blue Steel available to the human countenance.

Although our original plan was to leave at 9, we hung around until 10:00, watching the sun set. As I'm sure you saw in my last post's video, the structure lights up on-the-hour with hundreds of twinkly lights...and I kinda freaked out. It took my breath away, and you would have reacted similarly had you been there. I can promise you that.


Carnival of Light - Part I

I'm splitting the Paris blog into 2 segments, because I don't have time to put it all in one post. Too much detail would be excluded.

video

Paris, je t'aime. C'est la plus belle dans la monde.

But, for you to really understand any of this, you should check out my pictures first:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2276442&id=12721557&l=9af1cb1359

On Friday morning, I left with Elizabeth and Kathleen on the 6:20 (yes, AM) Eurostar from London to Paris, but the adventures didn't wait until we crossed the channel. As Kathleen and I discussed where we were going to get our morning dose of caffeine in France, a waiter came by with a breakfast menu.

"Breakfast," quoth I. "I didn't know we got breakfast on this trip!"

"Ah, but this is first-class," quoth the waiter.

Turns out we bought first-class tickets by mistake, with no extra dent to our wallets! I don't know how it happened, but it made for a lovely trip. Upon arriving in Paris, however, our comfy seating was yanked from under us; we had to walk 3 miles to pick up our metro passes at this tiny souvenier shop on the Seine. Luckily, the path Google Maps laid out for us took us by the Opera (Gorgeous!) and some other cool buildings that I could not then, and still cannot, tell if they held any importance. For all I know, I was ooh-la-laing at an elaborate storage shed.

After grabbing our tickets and checking into the Hotel Bertha - which I highly recommend for a cheap, friendly stay in Montmartre - we took our first big excursion to the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. It's a beautiful green space located off the typical tourist track, where lots of families go to hang out for the day. A gazebo at the top overlooks the Sacre-Couer and gives you an amazing (and amazingly FREE) view of Paris. On our way into the park, a local realized we wanted to hit up the Pere-Lachaise cemetery; he recommended the 26 bus, but alas, we got lost exiting the park. It didn't bother me, though, because it meant I got to test out my rusty french. I walked into a small patisserie, and the following conversation ensued.

"Bonjour!"
"Bonjour!"
"J'ai besoin le bus."
"Oui."
"Uhhh...le bus Vingt-six."
"Oui. Tournez a droite, et puis...etc etc"
"OK. Awesome. Thanks...uhh...Merci!"
"Au revoir! Bonne journee!"

It was terse, yet effective.

We hopped on the bus to our next stop, what I liked to call "the place where cool dead people go to hang out." Oscar Wilde, Chopin, Moliere...the gang's all here! It's almost like a city of tombs, with its own road signs and blocks within the cemetery. I've never seen anything like it in my life, particularly Wilde's grave, on which hundreds of women (and perhaps men, knowing what we know about Wilde) have left lipstick kisses.

Our final stop of the day was the Jardin des Tuileries and the Louvre, which are neighbors on the Seine. Tuileries is a beautiful park with a carnival; nothing says Paris to me like a carousel with adorable french children spinning in front of a historical art museum. The entire city is like an amusement park, really.

The metro is Space Mountain, the Champs-Elysees is your arcade, and the Eiffel Tower is Cinderella's Castle.

Because we were each at a different energy level, we decided to split up for an hour and explore the area on our own. I went for a walk along the Seine, where I saw the Tower for the first time.

To be candid with you, I cried a little. It was something I never thought I'd see, and there it was, with the river sparkling beneath it and the sun shining above. Even the sketchy homeless guy who followed me for about 50 yards couldn't ruin my moment with Paris.

At 6, we met back up for Free Friday Nights at the Louvre. If you're under 26, you can get in free-of-charge between 6-10 every Friday during the year; it's something you should definitely take advantage of if you're ever in town! I think seeing the Venus de Milo up-close was my favorite part of the museum. It's absolutely breathtaking. Of course, the Mona Lisa was a close second, but the massive crowds surrounding her portrait made it more difficult to enjoy. With achy feet - really, really achy feet - we made our way back to Bertha around 8:00, where we just chilled out and watched a French/Russian period drama (tres interessant) before bed. It was a great day...but didn't hold a candle to what came on Saturday and Sunday.