This week’s events could not have been a better way to conclude our study abroad here in France. Museums, gardens, and national monuments were the primary focus of this week. All of our visits could not have been possible though without the Paris museum pass.
On Monday we went to see the Louvre which is famous for Greek sculpture, Italian paintings, and other relics from early civilizations. The Louvre also has the most well-known painting the Mona Lisa. From what everyone else told me I thought the painting would be really small but after seeing it I consider it normal size. We also saw the sculpture of Venus de Milo which was my favorite piece of what we saw that day. Afterward we made use of our museum pass again and went to the top of Notre Dame. We could see all the major landmarks of Paris from up there.
On Tuesday we took a train to Monet’s garden in Giverney, and our tour guide gave us a very nice explanation about the structure of both gardens. My favorite of the two gardens was the water garden which had Monet’s famous bridge that is seen in some of his paintings. In the afternoon we had a picnic in the nearby town.
Wednesday we went to some botanical gardens and we got to see five different gardens that represented every period of plant evolution. My favorite of the five gardens had plants from every mountain range on six continents to represent the global differences. Then we had lunch at a mosque and I ate pork cooked with almonds and prunes. Then we went to another museum after lunch where I found my favorite painting in Paris. The painting was of two chickens engaged in a fierce battle of dominance with two people watching close by. One day I will hang this picture in my house.
Thursday was my second favorite day of the entire trip, visiting the Versailles castle and gardens. Our tour of the castle was too short I thought because Versailles has over 6000 rooms and we only saw about twenty five of them. After a small lunch we went to meet the gardeners that take care of Versailles’s 34000 hectares of gardens. We were very lucky to get to see some of the gardens because they are only open to the public in late summer. These gardens had very different tones based on who build each one. We didn’t get a chance to go see Marie Antoinette's gardens but hopefully I will come back to see them. After the tour we got to go back to the main gardeners building and we got to drink champagne with him. He told us that previously no Americans that went to see the gardens really enjoyed them. He was a very fun spirited man that didn’t speak much English but could convey his meanings with hand gestures.
On the last day of the trip we were allowed to go anywhere we wanted in Paris. After waiting in line for the Eiffel Tower for two hours and getting nowhere we decided to go to lunch at a nice restaurant. Then we decided to make one last use of our pass so we went to the Arc de Triumph just down the road. This was very cool to see in person because of its significant role in WWII and the French Revolution. In the evening we had dinner together with our professor at a very nice restaurant that had live band and nice dancers.
Saturday I took a train to the airport. Since Wednesday the train unions had been on strike so after a certain point I had to take a taxi because there were no more trains running to the airport. Once I got on the plane and watched France disappear below the clouds I used the rest of my flight to reflect on the events of this past month. I met so many new people and formed several lasting friendships here that leaving is most assuredly bittersweet. This will certainly be a trip I will never forget, and hopefully one day I will return. Au revoir for now!