By Alex Martin ’16
Photo Above: Molly Reising ’16, Alex Martin ’16, Spencer Goodheart ’18, and Chantelle Brady ’18 in Vaisson-la-romaine.
I was skeptical about going to Paris at first. People seem to have a generally negative attitude towards it in the United States. What I experienced was a beautiful city rich with history, fashion, and flavor. The architecture is absolutely incredible. Often times our group has expressed that we could just walk down the streets of Paris every day for hours. Every single street is expressive. The people walking around are fascinating. Not once did I see a person in the crowded streets wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt. There is a certain level of posh that goes with every single aspect of the city. My extremely limited knowledge of the French language came in handy, as the people of Paris will be kind and help you as long as they see you’re trying to express their culture. The food is less of a means to get energy for the rest of the day, and more of an art. You can see the amount of preparation and care that goes into the meal. It also prides the French that almost all the ingredients are locally purchased, given to you from the farm to the table the same day.
One of the most impressive things I saw in Paris was the Arc de Triomphe. This giant arch was ordered to be built by Napoleon, a symbol for all the victories of the French army. The Arc is in the center of a massive roundabout, which has about 6 lanes connecting a numerous amount of streets. The surprising part is that all of these lanes and streets have absolutely no painted lanes or lights. The lanes are just created out of nothing, and people just have the common sense to stop when cars force themselves in. I watched in fascination as a car 4 lanes deep cut a sharp right to get to his connecting street. This is all done with almost no car horns going off. The people of Paris just seem to know what is going on, without the need to get mad at each other.
Our trip to Versailles was breathtaking. Our guide told us that the whole city took 10% of Paris GDP for 50 years to build. There is a quality of the Chateau that is almost sickening if you look at the amount of the money that was needed for a king who considered himself a god, while his people starved a couple miles away. Yet there is a good quality about it as well, for without the massive grounds, the French Revolution may have never sparked. The grounds are now a public park. We got a chance to purchase food from the local market, using fresh foods with no preservatives; something else the French pride themselves on.
My lasting impression of Paris was one of grandeur and respect. There is so much pride that goes into the city. Where we may be sensitized to not be so nationalistic to not seem ignorant, the people of Paris truly love being French. It is a very refreshing attitude. As we head towards the south of France, the differences are already shocking. Huge fields of mustard flowers were spaced out with small, traditional French villages. They are easy to point out by their huge, beautiful churches that tower over the small town. I am excited to see how the south compares to the beauty of Northern France.