Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop!
Oh my goodness, oh my Guinness! What an eventful 2 weeks it has been! After returning from Ireland, I had less than 24 hours in Leiden to unpack, get to classes, and then repack for Paris, thus there is plenty to fill you in on (so please understand the long entry). Before leaving for Ireland, I had a class field trip to the Dutch city of Urk. The town has a reputation for being incredibly autonomous (it used to be an island before being connected to the mainland), very religious, a love for fishing, and high levels of drug use (although the speaker at the town hall assured us their problems were no worse than Amsterdam!) We went to see Urk’s fish market and compare it to that of the Tsukiji fish market in Japan and study both places from an anthropological perspective. I was very impressed at the sustainable practices the fishermen follow and even tried some fillets (I forgot how much I missed fish). The people of Urk love fishing so much even their churches have boats in them and pictures of Jesus with fish. It was quite an adventure.
|My professor and tour guide telling us the value of the fish|
|Neerlandia Urk fish market and auction|
|Urk tour guide|
|They love each other so much, they build their houses literally on top of each other!|
The next morning it was off to Belfast in Northern Ireland. In Belfast I met up with my travel buddies, Danean and Megan and headed to my favorite place in every city—the market. St. George’s Market was full of delicious foods, free samples, crafts, and lively Irish music. From there we walked along the water to Queen Anne’s University where we would meet our first hosts. Our hosts were university students who took us out for our first Irish Guinnesses and to watch the rugby match (although we were warned to never root for England while in Northern Ireland—still a very sore subject there). After an excellent first evening, we hopped on a bus the next morning for St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin!
|Belfast City Hall|
|Most bombed hotel in Europe!|
In Dublin, we were greeted by our Brazilian host (there were a surprising number of Brazilians all over the city also celebrating the holiday). Although we didn’t catch the parade, the streets were alive with people dressed in green and having a stupendous day and night. The next day we wandered the city, strolled along the Liffey River, walked through some lovely parks, saw Trinity College and passed the Book of Kells and finally ate on the James Joyce balcony before hopping on another bus to Galway!
|St. Paddy's Day|
|St. Paddy's Day full costume|
|By the River Liffey|
Galway was definitely my favorite place in Ireland. It’s the third largest city in Ireland, but very small, manageable, and authentic. We stayed at a fantastic hostel called Snoozles and went out to a pub called the King’s Head for some traditional Irish music. The next day we went on a free walking tour of the city with a guide who was full of zingers and corny jokes about his beloved city. Fun facts: there is an old window where a man by the name of Lynch was hanged, hence the term lynching and Galway is also the town where the word boycott was coined after Boycott raised his rent too high. From the tour we walked along the coastline and explored the Galway City Museum before once more getting on the bus to Cork and Kinsale.
|Galway tour guide... VERY Irish|
|The Irish's favorite Irish Catholic celebrity, JFK, in one of their church|
We did not arrive in Kinsale until very late and by some miracle a New Yorker living in Ireland drove us to our farm lane where we were staying the night. The house was full of French permaculture students and would have been perfect if they hadn’t run out of oil to heat the house (they assured us it would be warm soon… just not tonight)! Nevertheless, we were only there briefly before exploring the small town of Kinsale and making our way to Charles Fort for some lovely views. That afternoon we journeyed to Cork (not a glitzy city but very welcoming and livable) for a delicious Irish breakfast. In Cork there was plenty of shopping to do at our new favorite UK store Primark as well as at the English Market. We also strolled through the historic Shandon Quarter then went to our final host, whom was an Italian student studying abroad there. From top to bottom and long bus rides through the rolling green hills of Ireland I think I got quite a good taste for the place!
|Charles Fort in Kinsale|
|DELICIOUS Irish breakfast|
|What most of Ireland looks like|
As I mentioned after a brief stop in Holland, I took Megabus to Paris! The ride was about 7 hours long, but it gave me ample time to rest and appreciate the drive through Belgium and the French countryside. My couchsurfing host Roman welcomed me to the city and invited me to Indonesian food with his friends and a party at his friend’s swanky apartment near the Louvre. Afterwards, his friends (who couldn’t get enough of imitating my American accent) gave me a night tour of Paris and invited me to join them at Dali exhibition at the Centre Pompidou (but it was 2am and bedtime for me!)
|Centre Pompidou at night|
|Roman and his friends on the Seine|
The next morning, my friend Nancy who is studying in Montpellier met me bright and early for my first full day in Paris. We walked through the Luxembourg Jardin, the Jardin de Plantes, through a mosque, the Pantheon, and a Roman arena (the arena was more of a place to play soccer than ancient ruins). After catching our breath for a moment we took the metro to the Montmarre area and climbed the hill to Sacre Couer, an astonishingly beautiful cathedral with a wonderful view of the city. We then ate delicious Moroccan food with Nancy’s friend from home and ended up meeting a bunch of Americans who invited us to join then for the evening. Not only were they Americans but, most of them were from Rutgers and one of them was someone Nancy and I knew from NFTY (what a small world!)
|Chess at the Jardin Luxembourg|
|Practicing my gladiator at the Roman arena|
|Montparnasse, Paris's only and and least favorite skyscraper|
|With Nancy outside the Sacre Couer|
|Sacre Couer by night|
After Nancy left, I decided to explore the old Jewish Quarter before most of it would be closed for Passover (I thought being a vegetarian in Paris was challenging, but keeping Passover in Paris is a whole other battle). There I saw the Shoah memorial and had some of the best falafel I’ve ever had. Afterwards I met my new friends in front of St. Michel Fountain for a free walking tour of the city guided by a Bulgarian woman who came to Paris following the love of her life (they are no longer together). Over 3 hours we saw all the crucial sights, including the Obelisk, learned why Henri IV was France’s favorite king, the Jardin Tuileries, the palace of justice, and much more. We then braved the long line for the Musee d’Orsay, which is known for it’s impressive collection of impressionist artists and the building itself, which used to be a grand train station. We tried to visit Notre Dame but, it was a zoo since it was Palm Sunday, (although we were able to watch the mass on a giant screen while waiting in line). That evening I said my farewell to Roman and went to stay at my French friend Lexi’s house, who I had met when he studied abroad at UC Berkeley. He gave me an excellent night tour of the city since we had to vamoose from his flat because his home was being used as an exhibition for an art gallery!
|This falafel was comparable to the one I had in Israel|
|New friends near the Obelisk|
|Inside the Musee d'Orsay|
|All the bridges are COVERED in locks of love|
|Grand Palais by night|
Monday morning I met with one of my new friends at the Louvre. IT IS MASSIVE and exhausting. The ornate building used to be where the French royalty lived until Versailles was built. We hit all the main sections including Egypt, Rome, Greece, the Italian painters, Mona Lisa (shockingly tiny), Venus de Milo, and Napoleon’s apartments (excessive amounts of gold). After the decadence of the Louvre, I trekked to St. Oeun, which is one of the largest flea markets in Europe located on the outskirts of Paris. With the exception of the building focused on antiques it was largely a North African market. Exhausted but full from the both savory and sweet crepes I bought, I headed to my Clark friend’s apartment for the evening.
|Louvre and Pyramid|
|Venus de Milo|
|Crepe #1: Savory|
|Crepe #2: NUTELLA!|
On my final day in Paris, I walked and climbed the Eiffel Tower (not all the way to the top though because I have no patience for such lines!) Nearby I went underground to the Musee d’Egouts or the sewer museum to appreciate the complex water system and the former place of resistance (apparently people still go missing under there today from secret parties and a whole sector of the police force is dedicated to patrolling it!) Despite his hectic schedule in French law school, I met up with Alexis again for a lovely French lunch and a stroll on the Plante Boulevard (similar to the High Line in New York City) before he left me at the Bastille (the monument, since the jail is no longer there). Finally, I wandered through the Marais and along Rue St. Martin for some Parisian thrift shopping before once again collapsing from exhaustion.
|View from Eiffel Tower|
|Climbed it, no problem!|
|Lexi on the Plante Boulevard|
On my last morning I made a stop at Pere Lachaise, the massive cemetery where famous French artists such as Delecroix and Seurat are buried as well as French politicians, Jim Morrison, and Edith Piaf. The cemetery had people from all cultures and religions buried in everything from simple gravestone to structures that looked like mini cathedrals! Just like the rest of Paris they were massive, ornate, and very old.
As jaw dropping as Paris is, it is not for me. The buildings start to look very similar after a while and there is no real nature since every French garden is perfectly manicured and the grass is not meant to be walked on. While, I was pleased to see an incredible network of bike shares and electric car shares throughout the city there is definitely some greening to do (very little recycling!) With the exception of my hosts, the French are not exactly the most welcoming or progressive (there was a massive anti-gay rally during my stay). Nevertheless I would return to the city of love and dog poo in Spring or Summer to see their gardens in bloom (especially Versailles) and return to their numerous museums! For now, I do some have quite a bit of homework to catch up on over Easter weekend before my next trip to Copenhagen!
|Electric Car Share!|
|French Environmentalists =)|