Monday, June 27, 2016

Final Stretch of Tour de France

At last we arrived in Paris for our final week. I had high expectations for the city of love, however, I was in for a rude awakening. My first taste of the city was on the outskirts when we stopped at a McDonalds for lunch. Surrounded by subsidized housing it was not the best of neighborhoods. As we drove further into the city it reminded me of one place- New Orleans. The amount of homeless on the streets along with trash thrown everywhere was alarming. Not to mention the overwhelming amount of middle eastern refugees begging on the streets. It was not a pleasant site to see. I believe Paris is well overhyped. After dropping the van off we walked to the Arc de Triumph and down the main drag- Champ de Elysees. It was a different story here, clean streets with little to no beggars. Ferraris and Lamborghinis roamed the grand street. I quickly realized that the Paris everyone expects requires some serious cash. It is not the place for a budget. The following day we visited the magnificent Louvre. It was truly astounding the amount of art and ancient artifacts contained in the palace. It would take one a week to view everything inside and about after four hours it becomes hard to appreciate each work of art. Seeing the Mona Lisa was on the bucket list, however, it was a little disappointing. I understand the technique and mystery behind it is what makes it great but it was much smaller than I expected. When I view art I look for the emotion that it brings to me and the Mona Lisa simply didn't do much. 
Starry Night over the Rhone

Monet Painting of his garden
The next day we visited the Orsay, which contains many Van Gogh and various impressionist paintings. I enjoy this museum far more because it appealed to my taste in art. I could stare off into starry night for hours if it wasn't for time constraints.There had been various protests around France due to the new labor laws and on our way to the catacombs we got to experience a full on protest/riot. The police barricaded one street that the protest moved down but things quickly escalated with protesters throwing rocks and police retaliating with tear gas and flash bangs. It got my adrenaline pumping with flash bangs going off right next to me and clouds of tear gas blowing though. After a while we had seen and felt enough so we decided to head back. On our day off we explored the city, roaming from one tourist attraction to another.  By then I was starting to become tired of Paris, it wasn't as relaxed as Toulouse and I can only take in and appreciate so much. 
Protest/Riot in Paris
Our last day of the program actually turned into one of my favorites. We caught a train to Versailles and toured the extravagant palace and garden. I always will enjoy nature more than anything and receiving a tour from the head gardener was spectacular. We had a VIP pass to all the areas off limits to the public, however, our visit was cut short by rain. Manuel and I had a European Championship game to catch that evening so we quickly made our way back to the city. The game was between Germany and Poland, vying for the top spot in their group. Historic rivals as well, it was a hard fought draw. Poland had the better opportunities but couldn't capitalize. Great ending to my time in France. The people I met and relationship I developed will last a long time and I hope to one day return to this great county. Thank you, Julien and Cecilia for the trip of a life time. I will take much back with me and will implement it in my own career of vegetable production.
European Championship: Germany vs. Poland

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