Archives from France

Thursday
May102012

Heavenly Rainforest

My favorite day in Barcelona was Sunday.  On Sunday we toured Sagrada Familia, a massive church designed by Gaudi that is STILL under construction.   One way to describe the exterior of this church is that it looks like a giant drip castle.  The architecture in Barcelona is possibly my favorite style of architecture.  Everything has an exciting curve, every possible detail is acknowledged, and Sagrada Familia had the power to WOW me for the entire time I was inside. 

I had no expectations for this adventure to Barcelona or to Sagrada Familia.  And as I approached the giant drip castle, I walked into a world of Spanish structure, Spanish Christianity, and a building known for having no straight lines.  There are different entrances to Sagrada Familia and I entered through the Passion Entrance.  Above me was a stone Jesus on the cross and various mourners around him.  The style of these statues is so incredibly different from stone statues in Paris or anywhere else.  The faces of the people were made with more geometric shapes, and spoke their character in a more simplified way.  I especially noticed a statue of an older man kneeling a couple feet away from the cross, and was wondering who it might be.  There were the recognizable three women struck with sorrow, and even a couple embracing.  There were more statues but these were the ones my eyes caught.

I passed under a massive metal sheet hanging above the door with names welded or stamped into it.  Seriously, Spanish architecture fills in every square inch of their buildings with something unexpected and interesting.  And as I entered the church there were plant-like markings on the floor that I enjoyed.

The main part of the church almost knocked me down when I first lifted my eyes upward and was blinded with natural light and structural splendor.  The tree-like columns were big enough to be actual trees in a rainforest.  The stained glass windows were colorful enough to be filled with a dozen captured rainbows.  And the ceiling…oh the ceiling.  The ceiling was possibly the closest depiction of heaven (architecturally) I have ever seen: it was made up of hundreds of coffers but these coffers were not in a square shape.  The coffers or, recessed parts of the ceiling were shaped like suns and lined with gold material made to look like rays.  There were big suns and little suns.  There were suns with colorful pictures in the middle of them, which I could not see because they were so high up.  The entire building was to me, a heavenly rainforest.  I say this because, it was a large, wide-open space yet I was protected and enclosed.  There was a ton of natural light, but there was also filtered light through colorful stained glass windows.  The columns actually were modeled at their capitals to look like tree branches reaching up to the jaw-dropping canopy above.

This was the best place to go on a Sunday when I wasn't able to go to an actual church service.  This was my own awesome wonder, my own heavenly rainforest.

Tuesday
May082012

Baby, You're a firework

This weekend was my private getaway (with five other girls) to Barcelona.  Not long after we surveyed our tiny yet upscale, six-person room in our youth hostel we hit the streets of Barcelona…

By hitting the streets I mean we went down to the third floor of the hostel where the kitchen was, and paid 5 E for a big plate of paella and a glass of Sangria.  The paella in Barcelona, of course, was amazing and satisfying in our stomachs after a long day of hopping on and off trains.  The man who served us was a young, enthusiastic Spanish man with a mullet.  His black hair spiked upward and the long hair behind his neck was made into dread locks…a style among young Spaniards these days.  The man excitedly told my friends about the most popular clubs nearby and how everyone in the hostel is meeting in the lobby at 10:45 to take taxis together to the clubs.  He told us all we have to do is flash our room key at the door and we would get in free, (our hostel: Urbany Barcelona was very well-known) and before I knew it I was sandwiched in the back of a cab wearing blush and a very cute dress.

For my friend Brie and I, this was our first clubbing experience.  After getting looked up and down by the bouncer to see if I was dressed properly I descended down a spiral staircase with glowing white treads.  The staircase wrapped around what seemed to be hanging diamonds, or maybe they were raining down - I'm not quite sure.  I stepped off the bottom step and there was blue light glowing all around me.  I remember the colors white, blue, and black but it seemed all of my sensing strength was taken up by the deafening music that was playing and the constant strobe light that flashed to the beat of the music.  A couple of my friends walked up to the bar while Brie and I explored the rest of the premises.  I couldn't help but notice that the boy and girl bartender standing at the pristine white bar were perfect for the club.  They were snapshots of the fashion moment, just as the interior design of nightclubs is also supposed to be.  The barista was a beautiful dirty blonde with a subtle black outfit and perfectly complicated hair.  And the bartender was wearing a V-neck black shirt and had just the right amount of tattoos.  His hair was the, again I'm going to use the word PERFECT length, which made each of his silver earrings subtle but eye-catching.  I really wasn't sure how he pulled off the haircut-tattoo-earring-muscular-polished-sophisticated combo but ladies and gentleman: it's possible. 

Brie and I walked across the shiny black floor that wasn't quite full of people yet, walked outside the back doors, and found that the beach was right there.  The boardwalk was very populated with people speaking a combination of Spanish and French.  We walked back into the flashing and glowing blue and found our three friends in a small circle dancing.  We joined in the fun and learned each girl's style of dance.  The club quickly got more and more packed (because we were there…) and shimmying and doing zumba moves with Brie became more and more fun.  I didn't drink but I didn't need to.  I very possibly spent three straight hours dancing. And the feeling from laughing, shouting, and moving to the beat (sometimes) was better than anything any drink could have given me.

The strobe light "in da club" as one song puts it, made the night feel like a series of pictures flashing to the beat of each loud, heart thumping song.  Of course, the moment came, when one girl from our group needed to use the restroom and so of course another girl must accompany her (that girl was me).  The interior design of the bathrooms (which I always love to observe in any place I go) was outstanding for a nightclub.  The bathrooms were far away from the dance floor, which meant the music was at a normally loud volume.  We walked down a hallway and followed the stick figure with the dress.  The bathrooms were really dark: the most flattering light.  The best setting I can think of to help with visualizing these bathrooms is laser tag (Jim?).  It was like my friend and I were walking through a futuristic, flattering maze.  The stalls were made up of 12' high shiny black rectangles with silver handles and they were laid out very maze-like along with the sinks and mirrors.  I didn't need to use the restroom, and was also scared I might get hit with a laser if I turned another corner and so I looked in the mirror to see what the shady Indian man on the dance floor was talking about when he said I looked beautiful tonight.  I heard Katy Perry's "Firework" come on out on the dance floor and thought about how this night, I did in fact feel like a firework.  I was exhausted from traveling and Paris last week yet so energized from dancing.  I had no idea what time at night it was but I knew fireworks exploded at night.  I walked back onto the dance floor and for a little bit longer, sprinkled my fiery energy all over the room.

Tuesday
May082012

incommunicado

 

Hello everyone!  Sorry I haven't posted a blog in a couple days, I was on an excursion to Barcelona!  But look forward to a blog about Barcelona today!

Thursday
May032012

Le Petit Prince

Thursday was the day I got lost in Paris.  Okay so I was only lost for a couple minutes, but it was one of the best parts of my trip.  The morning had been another museum visit.  I went to the Musee d’Orsay and saw a room full of Van Goghs, Seurats, Renoirs, and Cezannes: they were stunning.  Like most museums at midday though, Musee d’Orsay started to get crowded and teeming with pushy tourists.  As my group and I exited the museum we walked down shallow stone steps into the tune of a string quartet playing on the street.  The music only added to the sophistication of a morning museum visit, and it lifted my spirits as we decided to stop at the café on the corner for lunch.

After I had a delicious egg and cheese crepe, and coffee and vanilla ice cream for dessert, the girls I was with wanted to go for a boat tour.  Now I’ve heard that a boat tour in Paris is a “must” and a great way to see the city, but for some reason I didn’t feel like a boat tour at the time.  I didn’t feel like doing anything with motion, I get motion sick pretty easily, and I was itching for some introvert time.  I felt comfortable enough with Paris by this point to tell the girls to go ahead on the boat tour, and “I’ll find a nice café to sit and write in or something.”  Marissa knew better than to cut me loose right then, and she drew a dark line on my map starting with a “you are here” note, all the way back to our hotel. 

“And once you reach this street you know how to get back right?”

“Yep” I said, not knowing at all.  And I set off on my journey through Paris. 

The beginning of my walk was pure and soothing.  This was the first day I hadn’t had to take out my umbrella: the air was cool and clear, not quite ready to rain.  I took a deep breath as I walked down the side of the Seine, and took in the freshness of the day, my alone time, and romantic Paris all around me.  I’ll go ahead and kill the anticipation now: I didn’t get REALLY lost, I just got a little turned around when I reached the street close to the hotel from which I supposedly “knew the directions by heart.”  But before this confusion, I was fulfilled by Paris in almost every single way.  I walked along the street stands that line the Seine: stalls filled with vintage books, post cards, magazines, posters, all the things tourists love and think aren’t touristy.  I have to admit, I was one of those tourists.  I bought the book “Le Petit Prince” or The Little Prince, a book my mom used to read me when I was little.  The originally French book is about a young boy from outer space who doesn’t understand the narrow-minded behavior of grown-ups, which I continually try to dispel myself.  My mom also had the pleasure of playing the Little Prince in a school play when she was younger.  I would say the story, artwork, and idea of the book have deep meaning to us.  Perhaps if I am ever to design a coffee shop, or maybe my child’s nursery, the concept will be inspired by Le Petit Prince.

After crossing the street towards the Latin Quarter, where my hotel was, I walked along Boulevard Saint-Michel: one of the major streets in the Latin Quarter with a powerful statue of Saint Michael killing a demon.  One of my hopes as I came to Paris was to find a purse.  And it was on this walk, not long after passing Saint Michael’s statue that I popped into a store and found the Parisian purse of my dreams for a very good price.  It was the sort of purchase where you get a feeling that what you are buying is 100% YOU and it will be of good use for a long time into the future.  I also explored a crammed used book store where I think I got away with being “French” the entire time.  Unfortunately there were no books in English so there wasn’t much to read or look at for as long as I would have liked, but the experience was something I wouldn’t want to miss.  And finally, before the home stretch, I bought a crepe filled with bananas, nutella, and coconut.  I’ve learned the French love their coconut.  After finishing the crepe and wandering around for a bit, I was forced to take out Hotel Home Latin’s business card and follow the map on the back leading me to the hotel.  It turns out I was very close, although that was pure luck.  And arriving in an empty hotel room with three hours till dinner was possibly the best feeling I had felt the entire trip (except at Le Hide).  My throbbing feet were given a break, and I drifted off into a perfect Parisian power nap. 

Wednesday
May022012

Mona Lisa Smile

'Hers is the head upon which all "the ends of the world

 are come," and the eyelids are a little weary.'

Oscar Wilde

 

Wednesday was 'Museum Day' and so I started off bright and early at the Louvre.  Many people had been telling me "Oh, you'll never be able to do the entire Louvre, it's too big," but I like museums, and I had every intention of staying in the Louvre at least until I was satisfied.  Marissa and I were together this day, just the two of us, because we had a feeling we loved museums the same amount, and wouldn't be dragging each other along as we might have done to some of our other friends.  I, an amateur at 'Paris' in general, had no idea the means of entry into the Louvre was to descend into the giant, modern glass pyramid located in the courtyard surrounded by old stone buildings (the Louvre).  You can imagine my excitement as I learned we could go IN the glass pyramid, and I gazed up at the cloudy Parisian day through multiple glass triangles as Marissa and I descended down into the Louvre on the escalator. 

 

"Where do you want to go first?" Marissa asked me, because she had been to the Louvre once or twice and was willing to cater to my desires for the beginning of our museum journey.  I was so overwhelmed looking at the map and all of the wonderful options, that I simply said: "Let's get the Mona Lisa out of the way."

 

Now I had heard disappointing things about the Mona Lisa.  I had heard that she was smaller than you expect, behind glass, and hardly worth visiting because her gallery is so flooded with tourists.  But I was in Paris and I was going to see the Mona Lisa!  It turns out, having low expectations for something has the ability to make one's experience wonderful!  Marissa and I were smart to do the Mona Lisa first because I was pleasantly surprised at how free the room was of tourists!  And since at this point I was imagining it to be the size of a postcard, in my eyes the painting was bigger than expected!  I was able to work my way to the front of the crowd of people in less than a minute, and the best part was: Marissa was able to get a picture of Mona and I without any other people in the frame! 

 

Walking through the Louvre was absolutely wonderful.  Apparently I retained more information from Art History than I realized because at one point Marissa said, "Thanks for the Art History lesson" after I was speaking for a while, reacting to a painting.  I saw famous painting after famous painting, and discovered that I love chiaroscuro paintings: paintings that are mostly dark but have extremely light spots to show great contrast.  Chiaroscuro paintings look much better in person than on a classroom's projector screen.  They are a nice way for the eyes to "take a beat" in a sea of colorful paintings, and they help the viewer focus on an important message of the painting, rather than all the details (You're welcome for the art history lesson).

 

The quote at the beginning of this post is something Oscar Wilde said about the Mona Lisa.  I love this quote because he makes the Mona Lisa, and I like to think all the paintings in the Louvre, timeless as he says "all the ends of the world" as if there were and will be multiple time periods.  I like to think I am part of an important time period just like those represented in the Louvre.  And so for that reason, for worlds to come, in pictures and paintings I will smile.

 

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