14.04.2011 - 15.04.2011 12 °C
This morning, I took the RER C from Paris to Versailles - about a 45 minute trip. It is quite wonderful to be able to just take the RER to Versailles instead of a train from an actual train station. I didn't realize that Versailles was so close! I went by myself, as none of my friends wanted or could go.
Facebook photo album:
There was a HUGE amount of people at Versailles. I had to wait in line for about 20 minutes to get in, which was pretty good! Also, I didn't have to get a ticket, because students (studying in the EU) get in for free! That was super nice. But once I got inside, wow...multitudes of people just "flowing" from one room to another, pushing this way and that, trying to get photos! The stress of the people and my own camera (and my audioguide) made it hard for me to enjoy, and I tired pretty quickly, just wanting to get out of there!
Of course, the palace was sumptious. One room more beautiful than the next, one chandelier more gorgeous than the preceding one. There is an exhibition going on at the moment called "Thrones of Majesty." In every room, different thrones have been placed for people to look at. There are thrones from Napoleon, Louis XIV, XV, XVI...Czar Nicholas's throne, and then some from the Musee du Quai Branly from Indonesia, Africa, and other parts of the world. Very cool! But, that also meant less manuvering space.
The famous Hall of Mirrors was, of course, beautiful, but I feel like it was marred by the thrones and the throngs of people in it. I couldn't appreciate the effect as much.
I went out into the gardens after getting through the palace. They are beautiful. Unfortunately, it was pretty cold, and I was too tired to meander around.
After Versailles, I came back to Paris on the RER and returned a book that Amir borrowed from the American Library of Paris (since the return date is when he will be in Israel). He took out 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a book that I read in high school and pretty much disliked because it was so raw and I'm so sensitive. I read some of it while on the RER and can definitely say that the first part isn't as bad as the middle and the end...
Looking forward to Shabbat, crazy as that is after Pesach.
By the way, fantastic news! I finally got my flight itinerary for Israel! I'm going to be there June 5 through August 17, studying at the girls seminary Neve Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) in the neighborhood Har Nof. So excited!! Unfortunately, this means I'm missing my friends Izzy and Jessie's wedding (Aug 14)...
To finish up my Irish roadtrip adventures:
(Last hotos in next blog post, I promise)
Dublin – Wednesday, April 13
After Henry left, Daniela and I ate dinner and then asked the guy at the hostel reception desk for a recommendation for a bar with live music. He recommended O’Shea’s (pronounced O’Shay-ahs instead of O’She-ahs), just two blocks down the street. We went and listened to a man sing and play guitar and a woman accompany him on a small accordion. These songs were more like Irish bar songs than Jo-Anna and her partern’s, which were sweeter. But it’s good to have heard a variety! Daniela and I got shots of Power’s whiskey. 4.30 euro each! Wow! Dublin is quite expensive. I’d think that they’d have enough of a supply of alcohol to lower the price a bit! The whiskey was terrible in my mouth and on the way down to my throat, but once it was gone, I had the warmest feeling in my throat and chest! Later, on Daniela’s insistence that we couldn’t get away with being in Ireland and not having a Guinness, we each ordered half a pint. It was gross! So watery! Isn’t this the national drink that everyone’s been raving about? Even though I knew it was absolutely against all European standards, I decided it was time to be American and complain. I went up to the bartender and told him that I was very unhappy with my drink and that I wanted to exchange it! He looked at me like I was off my rocker! “There is nothing wrong with your drink.” I know there’s nothing wrong with my drink, sir, but it’s watery and I’d like to exchange it. He looked at me, exasperated. Then, to my utter astonishment, he took a bottle of blackberry syrup (used for garnishing vodka and other mixed drinks) and proceeded to pour it into my Guinness! “There, that should make it better,” he grumbled. My mouth was hanging open. I tasted it. It was actually kind of better, kind of sweet, at least. I muttered “It’s ok” under my breath and went back to Daniela, relating the story to her. Is blackberry syrup the antidote to watery Guinness?? And isn’t it almost blasphemous to pour anything into a Guinness except more Guinness?? I suspected that the bartender thought I was making excuses and actually didn’t like the beer’s bitter, manly taste. So, he added sugar to it! Excuse me, sir¸ but I’ve had a better Guinness thank yours in Chicago, thank you very much! And it wasn’ t watery and it wasn’t so bitter that I couldn’t drink it.
At midnight, the bartender shooed us out of the bar. Midnight! Come on, Dublin! Aren’t you supposed to be the drinking capital of the world? Lame. Daniela and I had been listening in on a French conversation happening between a few guys at the table behind us for some time. We turned around to leave and saw that one of the guys was the one who worked at our hostel and gave us the bar recommendation! I said “Bonjour,” thinking he’d recognize us. He didn’t, but all of the guys were astonished to hear Americans speaking French. The hostel guy ended up being from Ile Maurice (Mauritius), just as Daniela had guessed earlier. We ended up talking and moved the conversation outside. It was nice to speak French again. They told us that we were the first Americans they’d ever heard speak French well. They didn’t know it was possible.
Thursday, April 14
Genia, from IES, had taken a free walking tour in Dublin her first days of spring break (she went separately from us, with a tour group) and recommended it to us. These walking tours are available in many large European cities. But first, Daniela and I had some business to attend. The day before, on our way to the hostel in the bus, Daniela spotted a Romanian grocery store, the Alimentara. She got so excited! Apparently, there are enough Romanians in Dublin to warrant a grocery store. We even saw another, similar one, later. So, we went early that morning, for we had to make it to the walking tour by 11am. We bought some Romanian treats, notably chocolate and “champaign” - filled croissants that were Daniela’s favorite. Yum! Then, we headed over to City Hall to meet the group. The tour guide was Peter, a funny, outgoing, born-and-raised-in-Dublin guy. He took us to see many monuments and areas such as the old 13th century prison/castle tower, Trinity University (attended by Bram Stoker, William Butler Yeats, and others. Even Courtney Love, for one year. And Peter, too). The University houses the famous Book of Kells, a 9th century illustrated Gospel book, one of its kind, by Irish monks in Scotland (yes, that makes sense). Peter took us to Temple Bar, a cute, old street with many…bars. He showed us the Irish Parliament and the Archeology Museum. The latter was very architecturally pretty. Apparently, the White House architect was Irish and was inspired by the Georgian-era design of the Parliament when building our Presidential residence. Also, Berkeley University in California is named after someone from Trinity University called Barklay.
After the tour (11am-2:30pm), Peter invited everyone to join him at a really nice pub for lunch. Daniela and I took him up on it, after giving him a nice tip, of course. Two Spanish girls joined us as well. I finally had fish and chips. The fish was delicious! It was whole with yummy batter (I know, the farthest from healthy). The “chips” (fries) were really big. I couldn’t finish them, of course. Definitely needed Daniela’s help. Then, she and I went to a souvenir shop to get some Irish trinkets. I got my keychain and a shot glass for Diana. When we got back to the hostel, we got to take the Paddywagon bus that we’ve been seeing everywhere, to the airport for free.
At security, I was told I needed a visa stamp because my ticket said my nationality was Belarus while I had an American passport. Um, why did I put Belarus as my nationality? Maybe I had gotten it mixed up with place of birth, but that was completely stupid. This should have rung a bell, though, because Daniela put Romania on her ticket and also had an American passport, but at the time, I didn’t quite realize what had happened – I was just following instructions. I got my visa stamped and then waited at the gate with Daniela for about an hour and a half. We were flying with RyanAir, and they have a completely ridiculous method of checking the size of your carry-on luggage: you have to fit it into a special box. If it doesn’t, you pay 35 euro on the spot for them to check it into luggage. I was busy rearranging some of the stuff in my suitcase, because it was barely fitting. Just as I got it to work, Daniela frantically came over, crying. She told me that she was told to get her visa stamp, too. The desk for that was far away, and because of a leg operation some years earlier, she couldn’t run. And they wouldn’t let me do it for her. There wasn’t a long line of people left. Daniela started walking back. I just stood there, numb, praying that somehow she would get back in time to board the plane. Would we really be forced to miss it because of such a small detail?? Why hadn’t the lady at security told Daniela to get her visa stamped, too? Why hadn’t I thought about it? Daniela’s was easier to miss because EU citizens (Romania, being part of the EU) don’t have to get visa stamps. But she didn’t have her Romanian passport. That was the problem.
The men working at the flight desk were closing the gates. I squinted to see if I could spot Daniela. I didn’t. Last call, they said to me. I said I wasn’t getting on. They looked at me, apologetically. And the gate was closed. I asked when the next plane would be. It was 8pm already. They said 6:30am the next morning. For 100 euro as a reissue price. 100 euro??? Each, they said. Each??? They must be kidding! In America, if such a thing were to happen, we would be put on the next flight for free, or practically free. But right, this was the stupid RyanAir company, a tiny airline. In Europe. Daniela came back some 7 minutes after they closed the gate. I hugged her; she told me she thought I would get on the plane without her. I wouldn’t do that! We found out that buying a whole new ticket would cost some 150 euro, and at AirFrance, it was some 200 euro! Crazyness! We grudgingly paid the 100 euro , went to McDonald’s, settled down on one of their “sofas,” and tried to fall asleep. I felt like I was in Tom Hanks’s movie The Terminal. I felt like such a bum! There were some other people trying to do the same. The t.v. was blaring wrestling matches and wrestling news. What a sleepless night! I heard Dmitri Salita’s (Orthodox Jewish wrestler) name at one point.
It was wonderful to get back to Paris the next morning. Daniela went straight to bed. I did my errands before Shabbat, and only went to sleep at Danielle’s that night. What a way to end my Irish adventures! Daniela and I will have to save money a little more tightly now to make up for that loss. But it’s almost over in Paris. I can’t believe how quickly time has gone by. I feel like I haven’t seen so much! I feel like I need another semester to be able to do what I want to do in this City of Lights. The next couple weeks will have to squeeze in: Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, Catacombes, Giverny, and the Champes Elysees. Very touristy, I know. But when you start living somewhere, the last thing you want to do is be a tourist, so you end up putting it all off toward the end! I was also hoping to see a play or musical, but I don’t think I have time. Next Tuesday is the Negocia final and next Thursday the French final. I have a presentation for PolySci on Monday. Whew, it’s coming to a close! Thank goodness I have a few days in the Basque Country with my wonderful host family (from 4 years ago) there. I’m going to have to improvise Shabbat. Going to bring candles, wine, and challah for everyone. There’s no Chabad nearby, but I’m not sure I’d want to leave, because I have such little time with them, and then I’d have to awkwardly leave Daniela with them, too. Time to improvise!