Sunday, May 29, 2011

Tennis, Anyone?

Let it be known throughout the realm that Azeezah brought yet another lifelong dream to fruition by attending the French Open at Roland Garros, 2011.

 On May 17th, I, along with fellow Trojan Jamie K. and Aussie Andrew G., went to the first day of qualifiers for the French Open. This may not seem like that big of a deal for most people but for me, an avid tennis fan and recreational player, this was monumental. Because it was the qualifiers for the tournament, it lacked the marquee names of later matches but none of the excitement. Our tickets allowed us to roam freely across the auxillary courts, taking in matches as we saw fit. We decided to use our time rooting for the Australians and Americans competing to move forward in the tournament.
We we we so excited!

This was my first time attending a professional tennis tournament, let alone a grand slam, so it was pret-ty darn cool for me. The wind kept blowing the famous Roland Garros terre battue into our eyes, and each time the linesperson called "FAULT!" I could not only hear but feel the sound vibrations emanating from each bellow.

Suzanne Lenglen Statue

One of the cooler parts of the day had to be when Jamie and Andrew pointed out to me that while we were sitting watching Australian player Luczak play another player, Australian tennis star and former number one Lleyton Hewitt was sitting mere feet away from us, muching on a sandwich, no  less! He eats sandwiches just like us regular people!
Luczak tearin' it up

The Crew
One of the most interesting parts about going to see professional tennis played in person was watching the human drama unfold in front of you. When we watched the Luczak match, we could see the defeat in his posture and on his face when he was struggling against his opponent. When he managed to turn the match around and win, it made the victory that much more amazing. All in all, another great day watching the sport I love in the city that I'd come to call home.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Outta my way, protesters. "Cézanne"n't you see I'm trying to get to a museum?!

Today, I decided to play "tourist"and spend the day museum-hopping. My itinerary was ambitious- finish Musée Rodin, go to Musée de l'Orangerie, do the 3rd wing of the Louvre that I had missed and then if time allowed, go to Musée de l'Armée. Well, as my mother always says, we plan and God plans, but God is the best planner. I got up at around 10:30 but didn't end up making it out of the apartment until about 1:30. I try to go to Musée Rodin first but-surprise, surprise-I exit the métro to find that there is a major demonstration going on on the street perpendicular to the museum.

On the bright side, at least the riot police guy that told me the museum was closed was nice, and pretty cute to boot. We had a nice little conversation about whether or not women should be able to have a midwife or a "sage-femme"when they give birth, the subject of the protest-du-jour. To be honest, I was slightly surprised how long it took for me to see a protest in France in the first place.  From there, I decided to head over to Musée de l'Armée, since I could see the shiny gold dome of Invalides across the street from where I was standing. It was interesting to see the types of weapons that were used in various wars and how the "tools of the trade," if you will, have evolved over time. For me, the whole ordeal was a bit morbid. When looking at the swords, muskets and tanks, all I could do was wonder how many people had been stabbed, shot, and crushed by said items during various wars. At the same time, bands of boys-and grown men- hurried by me, pointing and "ooh"-ing and "aah"-ing at the various weapons. The costumes the soldiers wore, however, were super neat. The Europeans sure did love them some ornate battle clothing back in the day. 

Connected to the Musée de l'Armée is the tomb of the infamous Napoleon the I, former Emperor of France. It wasn't quite as over-the-top as what I was expecting, but it was nonetheless grandiose. 
Here lies Napoleon, "Nappy B" Bonapart. RIP, homie.

After finishing up at Musée de l'Armée, I finally made my way to Musée de l'Orangerie, a modern art museum tucked away in Jardin de Tuileries. The museum may be small, but it is jam-packed with artistic treasures, ranging from pieces by Cézanne to those of Picasso, Monet , Renoir and Matisse.The main attraction were Monet's Nympheas, huge paintings of water lilies inspired by a pond by his home in Giverny. The exhibit features two large oval-shaped rooms with white walls , each room containing 4 paintings featuring the water lily pond at different times of the day. The paintings wrap around the contours of the walls, giving the viewer a panoramic effect. 

Rodin's "Le Baiser" in front of l'Orangerie

Delicious-looking Renoir peaches

Pre-cubist Picasso work
Soutine work showing the processing of a chicken- #anotherreasoni'mvegetarian

another Soutine

After Musée de l'Orangerie it was too late (and frankly I was too tired) to go to the Louvre. Alas, another day. On the way home I decided to try out a Grand Marnier crepe...unless you like the taste of pancakes soaked in alcohol with a coating of granulated sugar, I'd skip it :) All in all, another great day in Paris!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Marché Richard Lenoir and La Tour Eiffel Revisited

Yesterday I got a bit of a late start...I was supposed to meet some friends at Champs de Mars for a picnic and I didn't end up rolling in until 5pm. At first I wasn't really excited to go because I'd already been to other picnics at Champs de Mars, which has of late been flooded with tourists due to tourist season. I actually ended up having a great evening playing frisbee with my friends and waiting for the sun to set to watch the Eiffel Tower turn on. We waited another hour and we got to see the famous Eiffel Tower "sparkle". The best parts about that evening were just sitting and talking to my friends..people I've been hanging out with a lot in Paris and people that I had just met. I ended up having a really interesting conversation with another USC student who had just finished studying in Germany about China and it's relationship with the U.S. Later I went to dinner at an Indian restaurant in Saint Michel with two girls from Canada that I had met at Champs de Mars that afternoon and we talked about why we had come to study in France and the things we had learned from our experience here. As the semester comes to a close, I feel like things are coming full circle in a way. I started off as a tourist, then tried to transition to being a student and a resident of Paris, and now that I know the end is near I've started transitioning back to being a tourist, but this time with a more nostalgic slant.Watching the Eiffel Tower turn on and watching it sparkle from Champs de Mars wasn't something on my Paris bucket list, but it turned out to be one of the most memorable experiences yet, thanks in large part to the people I was there with.
Sparkling Eiffel Tower
Today, I accomplished yet another item on my Paris bucket list, going to an outdoor market. I went to the biggest and most famous market, marché Richard Lenoir near place de la Bastille in the 11th.
Parisians line dancing? Quick, someone grab a camera...

This is the first time that I have ever been to an outdoor market in Europe and it was awesomeeee. Just watching the different types of people wandering down the rows of produce was a treat in itself. The market also had cheese stands, stalls selling live seafood, jewelry, clothes, fresh flowers, and mini restauraunts selling different types of prepared food like falafels and crepes. I was super happy not only because going to a market in itself is cool, but also because the produce was cheap enough that it was actually affordable to buy! In Paris, it's much cheaper to get food like baguettes and fancy cheeses than it is to get, say, a bag of clementines. Check my haul:
2 heads of lettuce, a grapefruit, 5 peaches and a pack of strawberries for only 4.20 Euro!
This weekend has been fun, but for now until Tuesday morning I have to lock in: my China in the World exam is that morning and I've got to make sure that I finish the semester strong!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Knockin' Em Down...

As promised, I've started blogging more regularly now that I a) don't have class or homework and b) have begun to cram as much sight-seeing into each day as possible, necessitating more frequent blogging to keep everything straight.

After I went to Musée Rodin on Tuesday, I went to Angelina's on Rue de Rivoli with Isabel E to try their world famous "Chocolate chaude à l'Africaine"...a delicious drink despite it's somewhat ignorant title (what do africans and chocolate have in common? oh wait...)

 Angelina's is a charming little belle epoque salon du thé  near the Jardin de Tuileries in the 1st arrondisement, known for both it's chocolate chaude and it's "Mont Blanc", a dessert made out of meringue, chantilly (whipped cream) and some type of almond filling. I plan on going back to try the Mont Blanc..i'll keep you posted. After chocolate, Isa and I took a little stroll around Place de Vendôme and checked out all of the amazing window displays. Gotta love girl talk, chocolate and window shopping tee hee (just kidding haha)

The next day (Wednesday) I went to Galeries Lafayette, a super-mall located near Palais Garnier in the 2nd. I thought I could get a proper look around in about an hour. I thought wrong.
Beautiful glass-domed ceiling

Despite the fact that it was a little crowded for my taste, I absolutely loved being surrounded by products from every major fashion house at one time. Galeries Lafayette was a-mazing not only due to the sheer size and opulence of it, but also for the booming business the high end retailers seemed to be doing in the midst of what is (or was?) a global recession. Sales clerks behind Cartier counters busily wiped ever-mounting  fingerprints off of the glass displays while a Louis Vuitton Sales Associate tried to keep the line in front of the counter quiet and orderly. Galeries Lafayette, in addition to being a designer one-stop shopping destination, also features it's own travel agency and gourmet food shop.

Today, I accomplished another item on my Paris bucket list by  pique-nique-ing with some friends at Champs de Mars, the fields surrounding the Eiffel Tower. After class I basically decided to wander around (flaneur, if you will) until I ran into something interesting. I ended up flaneur-ing my way to Jardin du Luxembourg, another stop on my list.  Though I prefer the English style (see my England post), I still found Jardin du Luxembourg to be very beautiful...though unfortunately most of the grass was not sit-able.

What Jardin du Luxembourg lacks in tush-friendly grass, however, it makes up for in an abundance of metal lawn chairs. I sat in said lawn chairs and read my LSAT prep book which had come in the mail yesterday. Studying made me feel much better and excited about the future; taking action helped to calm down a lot of my anxieties. In an attempt to find the métro, I inadvertently ran into Le Panthéon, yet another item on my list. Unfortunately it was too late to go inside, but I snapped a shot of the outside. Behind the Panthéon was l'Eglise Saint Genévieve, which had some really beautiful stained glass windows.
Le Panthéon...where all the "gods"of French culture are buried (think Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, Marie Curie..)
I like STAINED GLASS and I cannot lie...

In between sight seeing I've also been working on little things here and there, submitting an application here, getting info about another one there. I'm beat, but there's nothing quite like the feeling of getting a lot done in a small amount of time to keep one motivated!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Beautiful Day to "Think"...

The countdown has begun...

I'm closing in on the last 3 weeks of my time here in Paris and while 3 weeks is still a substantial amount of time in my book, the timing has definitely made me pause and reflect on my experiences so far here. There are still a lot of sights here in Paris that I haven't seen, so I'm going to make it my goal over these next three weeks to get as much sightseeing done as possible before I head back to the states. Stay tuned for more frequent blogging now that I'm done with my homework..

In an effort to knock an item off my Paris bucket list, today before my EU Law in Context class I headed over to Musée Rodin. The line was super long and slow moving- anyone who knows me knows how much I hate long lines, which unfortunately seem to be ubiquitous here in France-but gaining entry to the museum was DEFINITELY worth the wait.

Musée Rodin is a museum in Paris dedicated to the work of August Rodin, whose better-known pieces include "le penseur" (the thinker) and "le baiser" (the kiss). The museum was converted from a hotel in which Rodin lived in during the later part of his life. The museum also features some of the most beautiful rose gardens that I personally have ever seen.
Beautiful..note the sun glinting off the dome of the Musée de l'Armée in the background...

Perhaps it was seeing "The Thinker" that put me in an especially reflective mood, but I started thinking about this semester and how it compared to my expectations and to semesters past. Of course I knew things in Paris would be different, but there was no way I could have prepared myself for just how different. Sometimes I feel like I've been falling behind the rest of my peers because I haven't been volunteering and going to interest meetings...also a lot of programs I wanted to participate in this semester at USC required me to be physically there to participate...but at the same time, I have to believe that there's no way that I've been wasting my time here in Paris. I'm hard worker and I'm used to pushing myself hard..but here its hard to push yourself in the same way. Maybe that's a good thing. If anything, I think that being here has forced me to finally confront myself about some of the choices I've been making in my education and what I want to do for a career, instead of blindly doing whatever I could to make myself  "more competitive". I'd been viewing my time here in Paris as a distraction, but if anything, I think that this experience has enriched me in more "real" ways that a traditional semester in an American university ever could have. If anything, I think that the overwhelming feeling I have-and should always keep in the forefront of my mind- is the feeling of gratitude. Sure I don't quite know what I'm going to do this summer...but I'll figure it out. In addition to many, many other things, my experience here in Paris has taught me the importance of having unwavering faith in myself.