2014 Fall CIEE Danielle Hagerty External Programs France

Making It My Own

These past few weeks have been the busiest since I’ve gotten to Paris! It was a huge mix of midterms, my 22nd birthday, my mom coming to visit, and registration for (MY LAST SEMESTER EVER OF) classes. Every morning I’ve been hitting the ground running trying to keep up with class work while still spending time with my mom and doing everything else that needs to be done. I suppose that fall will always be a busy time, even when I’m in a foreign country.

Paris has some kind of cold humming to it in Autumn. Not that it’s been super chilly here, but there’s definitely something different about the city when the leaves start to change. I think it’s a mix of the summer heat that’s waning more each day, the deep wooden scent of the air, and the charm that is always here that bewitches Paris in the fall.

It’s been that kind of feel that has accompanied me on my recent excursions to the Sacre Coeur (at night!), Monet’s Gardens, the Louvre, and Versailles. Versaille was actually the first trip that I took, which happened to be on my birthday. I had learned a little about Versailles in my Paris Collage class before going. It was originally a hunting lodge for Louis XIII in 1624 and was later expanded upon to become a royal palace. Despite the cold and rainy weather, it was truly a magnificent building to see. Because of my aforementioned class, I was able to recognize certain parts of the exterior such as the Corinthian orders and the dormer windows that were specific to the French Classical time period. Malheureusement, the rain kept me and Lexi from an extensive tour of the gardens, which we saw for only a brief period of time.

In front of Versailles!
Versailles, back view

My next trip was to the Sacre Coeur, this time at night with my mom. There are some things in Paris that are better at night, and Sacre Coeur is, in my opinion, definitely a place to visit after the sun goes down. It usually means less tourists and a different way of looking at the building and its surroundings. Both the Basilica and the view of Paris were absolutely breath-taking to see at night.

Sacre-Coeur Basilica
View of the city from Montmartre at night

Next stop, Giverny! My mom really wanted to see Monet’s Gardens, so I took Tuesday off and we headed north-west for a day trip. Giverny is famous for being the place where Monet lived and painted for most of his life. He created a magnificent garden in the land around the house he lived in and painted many of his most famous works there, including Water Lilies and In The Garden.  Even though it was late October, the flowers in his garden were still lively and vibrant. It was fascinating to be in the very place where the famous painter had lived and worked.

The pond that was a part of Monet’s gardens

My final stop for the week was the Louvre, again with my mom. I’m embarrassed to say that last Friday was my first time actually inside the museum. I actually don’t regret not going sooner, only because I’ve so much enjoyed discovering my own Paris instead of following the “must-do’s” of the city right away. Nonetheless, it was due time that I actually went in to visit the second most visited museum in the world (the first is the Vatican in Rome). First stop was the Mona Lisa, which was both necessary and surreal. I couldn’t fully comprehend that I was looking at the most famous painting in history! There were a lot of other people surrounding it, so we didn’t stay for long. Instead, we traveled to a room with an open ceiling that had white marble Greek statues in it. We ended up lingering there for a while; I loved the natural light and brightness that all of the white provided.

My mom and me, having fun at the Louvre

These adventures have taught me that I can make my French experience my own, even when attending the most tourist-y locations. Everyone’s experience is unique, and I’ve found that, so far, it’s the little things in between the big stuff that has been the most important part of my study abroad semester.

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