ESSEC’s “iMagination Week” is only a two year old program. It consisted of lectures from prestigious French people in a variety of fields (quite literally from theoretical physics to chocolate!) and group meetings with life coaches where we were supposed to learn more about the theme of the week: transformation. All of the lectures, except for the last one, were in French, so they gave us translation headphones. I was slightly disappointed that my headphones didn’t work Wednesday morning when the chocolatier came. He was most peoples’ favorite lecture because he brought us samples– dark chocolate/pistachio (the best one), milk chocolate and some crunchy filling that tasted like a donut, and a dark chocolate truffle. In the group time we would discuss the lectures and talk about our own transformation. At the end of the week we had to create a project that symbolized our transformation, and everyone voted on their favorites. The girl who won actually created a video game reminiscent of Mario.
Lesson of the week: I cannot type on a keyboard that is not in QWERTY format. French keyboards are not in QWERTY.
This week I also went grocery shopping for the first time since arriving in France, and it was very different than in the United States. For one thing, milk and eggs are not always refrigerated. For another, United States is in the cultural/foreign foods aisle. And as you may or may not have expected, the selection of cheeses is far superior to in the United States… unless you are looking for shredded cheese. As my kitchen consists of 2 hot plates and a refrigerator, I mostly stuck to pasta, rice and some toppings to go with them.
Since this week was the beginning of September, all of the international students got our Navigo cards. These are monthly (or yearly) passes that allow you to ride the RER and métro as many times as you want. Using these cards, my friend Ariel and I capped off our week by going down to Paris on both Saturday and Sunday. What we did in Paris ranged from typical tourist to unusual tourist to typical Parisian.
Saturday we started off by making pancakes, then headed into Paris to Père-Lachaise Cemetery which is where many famous people are buried. It is also the largest green space in Paris, so you need to make a list of whose graves you are going to see and make a plan of how to get to each of them using a map. We saw Pissaro, Hélouise et Abélard [aka the French Romeo and Juliet], Rothschild, Jim Morrison, Henri Salvador, Edith Piaf, memorials to the French people that were sent to concentration camps or killed in WWII, Oscar Wilde, La Fontaine, Molière, Champollion (le jeune), Casimir Perier, Chopin, Haussmann, and Seurat. Most of them were fairly easy to find, but it took us over half an hour to find Pissaro, and to find him we had to triangulate the position from the Rothschild tomb and the memorial to Hélouise et Abélard!
After the cemetery, we went to Bistrot Victoire and ate outside like typical Parisians. I had duck confit which was fantastic and the weather was perfect for sitting outside! We tried to follow this up by going to the oldest chocolate shop in the world, but it was closed. Instead we stopped in the Passage des Panoramas and did a I bought a dress before we went to go to Berthillion, the best ice cream shop in Paris for some sorbet. Our next stop was at Carette for macaroons (#2-7 in the challenge) and the Place du Trocadero which is where everyone who has ever visited Paris has a photo of the Eiffel Tower.The last stop on Saturday was the Arc de Triomphe to see the flame of the Unknown Soldier, and then we headed back to Cergy for the night.
Sunday was another early morning as we got on the RER at 8:15am. Our first stop was at Angelina’s for their famous chocolat chaud (hot chocolate). We drank our chocolat chaud and ate our croissants while walking through the Jardin des Tuileries. Afterwards we walked the 45 minutes it takes to get from there to Notre Dame de Paris (my all-time favorite church!) so that I could go to mass. The international mass was at 11:30am and we arrived at 10:15, so we decided to go up into the bell-tower before, rather than after. For anyone planning on going up, it is 10€ unless you are a 18-25 year old living in the European Union. Fortunately, since Ariel and I are on exchange in France, we qualified to go up for free! It is a beautiful view, but it gets very loud when they ring the bells. We got to see the bells, but we did not have time to go see the panoramic view in the other tower because I had to go back down for mass. Most of the mass was in Latin and the rest was in French, but thanks to 20 years of being Catholic I knew exactly what was going on.
After Notre Dame, we went to the Musée D’Orsay because on the first Sunday of every month, entrance is free. Neither me nor Ariel are big ‘art people,’ but the Musée D’Orsay has some very famous paintings that we wanted to see. We spent a lot of time in the Impressionist area where they have lots of Monets and Manets. We also walked through the statues and found the Van Goghs before heading back to Berthillion’s and heading home.