The best was to get back into your normal routine after a break is to have a short week, and that was exactly what I got.
This week was weird. On Sunday night, after I got back from Iceland, I had to reset my alarms to get up for class, and I actually could not remember what time class started. Thank goodness I only turned off the alarms on my phone, rather than deleting them, or I probably would have been late to French. Once I was awake, though, it was like any other Monday here: I went to French, bought myself lunch, went to International Contract Law (where my group had to present the project we had been assigned before break, on worked on haphazardly from different counties– thank God for shared documents!), and then worked with my Communications group on our group project because that class was canceled.
Yes, I know Dad, my classes always seem to be canceled, but I don’t decide when my classes do and do not meet.
After class, as is our Monday routing, Ariel and I went to the grocery store (Auchan, which is kind of like Walmart, but located inside a shopping mall) to get all of our food for the week. Most French people go grocery shopping much every day or every other day, but it’s easier for us to just go once a week.
Tuesday, of course, was Election Day in the United States, and for anyone who thought that not being in the United States for the election meant that I didn’t have to see news and talk about it semi-constantly:sorry, you’re wrong. The only election hype that I did not get was the political commercials. Yes, I did vote from over here, but I did not get an “I voted” sticker, since I had to send in my ballot by mail.
Fun fact: For Illinois, where I vote, absentee ballots from overseas only need to be sent in by election day, and be received by 14 days afterwards, so Illinois was decided– and claimed to have counted 100% of votes cast– before ballots like mine needed to be in. So if anyone is still claiming that their vote didn’t count, my vote literally had not been counted before the election was officially decided. It was probably still in the mail.
Here in France, the polls in the US closed in the wee hours of the morning, so only a dedicated few stayed awake to watch the election results roll in. I was not one of those people. I woke up Wednesday morning to more notifications on my phone than I’ve had on any other day since I arrived here, telling me what had happened. For the rest of the week, all of the Americans did their best to have nobody know that they were American because the election– and especially Trump– was the only topic of conversation, especially if anybody knew that you were an American. The topic of Trump and the election even came up in class. I also had to do a lot of explaining about how the American election system works, because although Europeans may follow foreign politics, they don’t necessarily understand it.
Thankfully we did not have class on Friday because it was Armistice Day (also known in the US as Veterans Day). To celebrate the long weekend, Ariel and I took what is widely known as one of the most beautiful train rides in the world! We took the train from Paris to Turin, Italy, although the train itself goes from Paris to Lyon to Turin to Milan, with several minor stops on the way. The train ride is around 6 hours long, and the first hour or so is as scenic as a train ride through the Midwest. Once you get to the foothills, and start to see and go through the French and Italian Alps, the views get 1000 times better. When we got to the French-Italian border, it was even snowing! Just imagine, we didn’t see a single flake in Iceland, but we rode through a blizzard in Italy!
Turin itself is very much like Paris, or, what Paris would be if it wasn’t a major city and the most popular tourist destination in the world. In short, it was the best parts of Paris (style, good food, beautiful language and architecture), combined with all of the charm Italy (pizza, pasta, gelato, piazzas with street markets), and surrounded by mountains.
We started off our day visiting the Mole Antonelliana, which is actually the world’s tallest museum. It is a museum for film and cinema, but you can go up to the top and it has amazing 360° views of the city and surrounding mountains. Once we had both taken enough pictures– Ariel’s motto is “do it for Instagram”– we headed to the Egyptian museum. Yes, we did visit Italy (partially) for a museum about Egypt. For those of you that don’t know, Turin’s Museo Egizo has the best collection of Ancient Egyptian artifacts outside of Cairo. But on the way to the museum we wander past, and looked around at a whole bunch of street markets. I don’t know if it was just because it was Saturday, but in every piazza we passed, and on many of the streets there were street market stalls filled with everything from collectible stamps to jewelry to furniture to nativity pieces.
After the Egyptian museum, we went to have lunch. In Italy they eat very much the same way they do in lunch– taking a very long time. Naturally we had pasta, and then went for gelato. After our gelato we headed towards the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, which is the church where the Shroud of Turin is kept. The Shroud is believed to be the cloth that Jesus was wrapped in when they took his body down from the Cross. It certainly has the image of a man who was crucified, and is easily the most studied artifact in human history. However, it only goes on display once every 5 to 10 years, so the fact that it was not on display was not a surprise, as it went on display in 2015.
The last thing we saw before heading back to our hostel for the night was the Porta Palatina, which, although I don’t actually know why it is well-known, was right next to the Cathedral. On Sunday, I went to mass (in Italian) at the Cathedral of Saint John the Baprist before we had to head to the train station, so we could make the 6.5 hour journey back to Paris.