A STUDENT’S GUIDE TO THE CITY OF LIGHT

Title-Travel Study Welcome to my UCLA Travel Study Paris Guide. Browse the sections below, or continue scrolling to read my travel blog, La Vie en Rose.
 

TRAVEL BLOG


 
Stopping to smell the roses tous les jours à Paris cet été

Bonjour! My name is Leslie and I am a third-year Bruin embarking on a European journey this summer with UCLA IEO. I will be traveling to Paris for the intermediate language program that extends form June 28th to August 1st of 2014. I can't wait to share all of my exciting experiences! I invite you to join me on my trip by following my live posts, and I hope that my blog serves as a useful resource for future students! Merci beaucoup et bon voyage!

UCLA TRAVEL STUDY | PARIS LANGUAGE PROGRAM | JULY 2014




Bastille Day: 14 Juillet in Paris

Happy Bastille Day! Or rather, happy 14 juillet. Because calling it Bastille Day is like wearing a neon sign that says “I’m American” on it. So from now on, please call it Le Quatorze Juillet or La Fête Nationale.

It’s been a minute (ok a lot of minutes…) since my 2014 summer in Paris, but we all wish we were there anyways, so why not pretend for a little bit?

For many years in a row, my 4th of July’s were spent far away from the US. Celebrating 14 juillet in France was the first time in a long time that I got to see fireworks in July. Plus with the whole bleu blanc rouge, it was close enough.

Now, for a little bit of history:

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, July 14th is the French national holiday. According to my trusty source (Wikipedia, lol), the holiday celebrates the storming of the Bastille in 1789 as well as the Fête de la Fédération celebrating the unity of the French people on the same date in 1790.

While definitely not as obnoxious as the American Independence Day, the French do have some yearly festivities. There’s a parade (v different from our parades), parties (v v different from day drinking on the beach), and fireworks (ok this part is p similar).

Let’s break it down:

bastille-day-defile

THE PARADE

Défilé du 14 juillet { Military Parade }
The morning kicks off with a parade down Champs Elysées, but not like the 4th of July parades in any sense. There’s no high school bands marching along, no cheerleaders throwing confetti down Main Street, no local firefighters spraying water at the crowds (the firefighters celebrate in a very different way – keep reading!).

Rather, it’s a very official military parade. The president of France makes an appearance, the French “acrobatic patrol” airplanes fly over, and troops march / drive down while the crowd pretty much watches in silence. It’s a bizarre experience from an American perspective, but worth a look if you are in that part of town. If you’re farther away, make sure to check the metros, since line 1 is usually closed down the length of the parade.

Tl;dr: not the end of the world if you miss it (see dog below).

bastille-day-dog

bastille-day-pompiers

THE PARTIES

Les bals des Pompiers { Firemen’s Balls aka Parties in Fire Stations }
Les bals des Pompiers refers to the parties thrown at various fire stations, one in almost every arrondissement, the nights of July 13th and July 14th. These parties start at around 9 pm and last until 4 am and can get pretty crazy. I didn’t go…I wasn’t not sure how popular they are among local Parisians considering my host sister had no idea what we were talking about when we asked her about it. It seems like a popular event for tourists, though, and they often play American music.

Tl;dr: sounds glamorous, but basically a block party

bastille-day-fireworks-1

THE FIREWORKS

Feu d’artifice { Fireworks }
The night of the 14th, everyone crowds in Champ de Mars for an outdoor concert and eventually the fireworks. The challenge, really, is getting there. The metros are a mess. Several stations are closed, they are crowded, breaking down, and announcements are mumbled (in French) quietly over the intercoms. On the streets, local authorities corral people onto side streets and close off detours as the crowds close in. But as long as you end up somewhere with a view of the Eiffel Tower, it’s worth it. Starting at 11pm, fireworks shoot out of the tower in a spectacular show that is truly a work of art. Cue the boomerangs.

Tl;dr: definitely go

Another random fun fact: each year, the holiday has a different theme. This year the theme is “Paris et les jeux Olympiques” (as an Angeleno, I’m thinking this is a pretty ballsy of them, even if Paris is the favorite for 2024). The year I was there, the theme was “Guerre et Paix,” “War and Peace,” to commemorate the 100th year after the start of WWI and to celebrate the French military. Slightly ironic, considering the French experience of the war, but nevertheless a fair theme. In the past, they seem to be more random, such as the theme of “Disco Years” in 2012 and “Broadway” in 2011, the most bizarre (that I’ve heard of thus far) being the 2005 Brazil themed celebration…because no sane country would have a different country be the theme of their national holiday. Just picture beautiful decorations in red, white and blue…and green and yellow.


Anyways, as a throwback, here’s how I spent my 14 juillet, 2014:

On the night of the 13th, we (as in my roommate and I) decided to skip the bals des pompiers. Sure, we are both super lazy who would generally choose sleep over going out. But we actually had a more valid reason for calling it a night. The World Cup Finals was that night. So we were out at a bar and too tired to even walk up the 97 steps up to the apartment much less go to a party.

Our host family was out for the weekend so it was just us. When we finally made it up the brutal stairs (seriously, drunk people would never stand a chance), we decided to celebrate being home alone in the middle of Paris by blasting Beyoncé and eating chocolate pudding (highly recommend, btw, the generic store bought tastes like heaven).

bastille-day-parade

The next morning, we woke up early and tried to go to the parade. Which ended up being a lot more challenging than anticipated. We headed over from the 1er arrondissement, which should have been an easy cruise down line 1, but ended up having to detour and walk a few blocks.

By the time we reached Champs-Elysées, there was already a crowd 4 people deep lining the streets. But we soon realized that there wasn’t all that much to see, so we just hung around the shops (many were open!).

Soon after, we had another big realization. Which was that finding public bathrooms is a dire challenge. So for anyone interested in going, I recommend you hang around near McDonald’s for the easiest access to public restrooms. We ended up in Pomme de Pain, but they only had one or two stalls so McDonalds is still your better bet. S/o to America.

In the days leading up to the holiday, it was dreary and rainy and cold. Somehow, it was like the skies new it was a big day. So a bright blue sky blanketed the city and all of Paris was bathed in warm sunlight. It was the most beautiful day.

bastille-day-view

We went back to the apartment to nap, but couldn’t even stay inside for long before wanting to head out again.

After a refreshing nap, we headed out for the Tuileries after receiving a tip from our host mom. The event she suggested had already ended, but the sunny weather made for a nice walk through the garden (with ice cream). During the summer, the Tuileries garden in front of the Louvre hosts a carnival/fair featuring various attractions, the most iconic of which is the ferris wheel that conspicuously rises above the buildings to be seen from various parts of the city.

bastille-day-statue
bastille-day-carnival

The “Fête des Tuileries” attracts a lot of families during the warm days and was especially inviting on this holiday. I still prefer Jardin du Luxembourg, but the picnickers and ice cream stands won me over for the day.

bastille-day-park

paris-ice-cream

After soaking up some sun in the garden, we walked over to Rue de Rivoli for some shopping before dinner. The street runs parallel to the Seine from Concorde to Saint Paul, but the main shopping area is between the Louvre and Hôtel de Ville. It’s like Paris’s Third Street Promenade, with every clothing chain imaginable. A great way to spend an afternoon…and a lot of euro.

jardin-tuileries

paris-chatelet

We quickly ate dinner with our host sister before scrambling to get to the fireworks. Quite literally. We didn’t really know what was going on. As of 10:30, we were still on the metro. Our metro broke down a couple times, and announcements were mumbled over the intercom in French (do you know how difficult it is to distinguish between et (and) and a (to) in a crowded subway?!). Eventually we got off and just scrambled in the general direction of the Eiffel Tower. With the streets closed, people everywhere, and police fencing off streets, it was a miracle we even got to a viewing spot. People were crowded in the middle of the road where (from the perfect angle) you could see the tower between buildings.

It probably would have been better to camp out in Champ de Mars for the day, but oh well. Somehow, we ended up in Palais de Tokyo. With 5 minutes to spare.

bastille-day-fireworks-2

bastille-day-fireworks-3

The show was so worth it. Even though we could only see half of it from where we were standing. Still worth it.

After the fireworks, we decided that the métro was not worth braving a second time. So we walked home. Four kilometers. Took us about an hour, since it involved cutting a lot of crowds.

Concorde was felt like a crazy night market, with people, cars, bikes and motorcycles going in every direction all at the same time. Everyone was in the middle of the streets. Many people were drunk. Bottles and broken glass covered the cobblestone. People were pushing through crowds, trying to stay together with their groups, phone in one hand, cigarette in the other.

bastille-day-night

bastille-day-eiffel-tower

We followed the Seine home and the crowds thinned out by the time we walked past the Tuileries. This was by far the liveliest night I experienced in Paris. Even though I was absolutely exhausted during this midnight walk, I loved seeing people out and about at night, excited and happy. I loved the street vendors selling hot dogs and crêpes and the smell of the grilled food filling the night air. I guess it reminded me of post-concert LA.

4 kilometers, 97 steps and some tip-toeing later, I postponed my last minute studying to the next morning and collapsed happily in bed. I think we did Bastille Day justice. I’d do it again.


If you’re in Paris, the official tourism site has details on events.



When I woke up, it was August. Well, let’s be honest, when I fell asleep it was August. But it sounded better that way.

Anyways, it was finally my last day in Paris. Despite the fact that I was up until the wee hours of the night packing and cleaning, I woke up bright and early and headed out one last time. Three broken métros later, I finally made it to Trocadéro.

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la dernière semaine

The thing about studying abroad is that usually your last moments abroad coincide with final exams. The UCLA French Language Travel Study takes this into account and shifted our schedule so that we would have a free day before our final night dinner and cruise on the Seine. We ended up having oral exams on Tuesday, a written exam on Wednesday and then no class on Thursday.

Unfortunately, I still felt extremely rushed. I wanted to spend my last week shopping, because let’s be real, everything is too expensive until it’s your last chance to get it, right? But instead I had to balance my shopping endeavors with studying. But in the end, I was able to do it, somehow.

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Musées, marchés aux puces et un beau cimetière

Nothing to kick off a successful weekend of second tier attractions better than a panoramic vue from my favorite second tier museum.

Wait. I just realized. By calling them second tier I by no means want to discredit these lovely places. In fact, I love them even more than the mainstream ones. I just want to acknowledge that we have officially graduated from the first tier of attractions and moved on to things that people will probably only visit if they stay for a week or two at least.

Whereas a weekend in Paris would probably consist of visiting the Louvre and Musée D’Orsay, climbing up the Arc de Triomphe and picnicking in the Champs de Mars and shopping on Champs-Elysées, we started off the weekend with Centre Pompidou, dined in Montmartre, thrifted a bit by Porte de Clignancourt, picnicked in Jardin du Luxembourg, visited the legends under the Pantheon, eating Szechuan food and world famous falafel, and of course, visiting the legendary UCLA alum, Jim Morrison, in Père Lachaise.

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[ quatre | on continue \\ partout ]

Due to a schedule change, we had class on Tuesday and not on Friday. But even Thursday was full of activity, starting off with one of my favorites: Marché de la Bastille. I was mentally kicking myself for not checking this out earlier, but hey, better late than never, right?

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[ quatre | art, shopping, et plus de randonée ]

What better place to go than L’Orangerie after trip to Giverny?

It’s the second to last week. I can already feel the time crunch. So everything from here on out is about maximizing our time (awake) in Paris. That means actually waking up and getting out of the house before 10 am!

On Monday, we started off at my favorite Rue Montorgueil, where there is an Exki, the European take-out friendly version of Lemonade, if you will, full of prepackaged salads and sandwiches as well as warm quiches, fresh pies, pastries, and coffee. With free wifi and a friendly helpful staff, it’s my work place of choice. Not quite the same ambiance as your go-to LA café but it’s an affordable place where I can linger so I wasn’t complaining!

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{ au-delà de | paris } /2/ dimanche à versailles

The adventure continues!

Sunday morning, we met up with our lovely TAs by Saint Michel, who were kind enough to arrange this informal trip. Even though they were busy, they still took us there and made sure to help us ask all the questions we needed before going right back to Paris to work (seriously, shout out to Katie and Anneka for being the best)!

Meeting in front of the fountain reminds me of meeting at Ximen exit 6 in Taipei, definitely the student meet up spot, though much more quiet on a Sunday). Unfortunately, we learned the hard way that it is always a good idea to look up which stations are open/closed, as the nearest RER station was most definitely closed. A quick (ok, maybe not so quick) detour (walk to Odéon, métro to Javel) later, we were back on track on the RER C towards Versailles. But hey, at least this time we were actually going to Versailles on purpose

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{ au-delà de | paris } /1/ samedi à giverny

– the ephemeral beauty of a traveling – 

This weekend was all about escaping the smoke (though not necessarily the the crowds) of Paris and exploring (slightly) beyond the borders of the 20 arrondissements. Saturday started off a bit rocky but we eventually found ourselves in a tiny town northwest of Paris, home to Monet–Giverny.


Giverny is a small village that would be pretty serene and quiet if it weren’t for the hundreds of visitors that come through each day on Impressionist pilgrimages to the home of Claude Monet, father of Impressionism. Arguably the most mainstream favorite art period. Arguable the most famous artist.

Even though I have already mentioned my relative indifference to this particular period, I have to admit that Giverny was an unexpected highlight of my trip. For our fourth weekend in Europe, we started off with grand plans to go beyond the borders of not just Paris, but France and cross over to explore London or take a short train ride to see Brussels. We considered a trip through Champagne or to Normandy and Saint-Michel. However, plans are always more romantic before the dollar signs are added into the equation. So we enjoyed day trips/staycations instead. It may have been our second or third choice, but the adventure was well worth it.

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{ la troisième semaine }

Fun fact: I have been to more McDonalds in the past three weeks in Paris than I have in the past three years in America. And even though it’s been a while in America, I’m pretty sure everything is at least double the price here.

Of course, this is completely irrelevant…to everything. Anyways, it’s week three. Before the fact that I’m living in Europe has even sunk in, the sneaky week 3 has descended upon us. Which means French 4 is over. Which means…finals. Ok, fine. Singular, final. But nevertheless, a final exam in Paris. And I thought LA was distracting!

We had our final on Tuesday, the day after Bastille Day, and I spent the morning before class cramming studying for the test. Since French 4 is mostly review, and since I had my French 1-3 notes in tow, it wasn’t too bad. The cultural aspects of the class were pretty much drilled in given that a lot of it was applicable to daily life…or at least was brought up at the dinner table.

After class, I wandered over to the Gilbert Jeune by Saint Denis to pick up some discount books before slowly strolling back (in a long windy completely touring half the arrondissement kind of way) to the apartment for dinner. Suffering from exam-exhaustion, I only had energy to…finalize tickets and lodging for my post-travel study London trip! There goes $500. Aka like a month’s salary. With two (poor paying) jobs.

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{ escargot } /a spiral town/

Ok, first off, a disclaimer. Before you think I have finally overcome my less than adventurous eating habits, I’ll say it up front. No, I have yet to try the delicacy.

What I am referring to is much larger than a tiny mollusk. I am talking about Paris itself. For those of you who are completely lost and think I’ve gone off the deep end (believe me, a week ago, I would be just as alarmed), allow me to explain.

As I mentioned before, Paris is divided into different districts. There are 20 arrondissements in total, organized in a spiral layout, comme un escargot. Hence, the title.

As I mentioned (perhaps a little excessively) in my other post, Paris est très petit. Just walking around, the first day, I traversed through 3 arrondissements (1, 2, 9). By the second day, it grew to 7 arrondissements walked through (4,5,6,7). Now, less than two weeks later, I have been to 11 (8, 15, 16, 18). I live in the 1er arrondissement and take class in the 2e. The Eiffel Tower is in the 7me, Notre Dame in the 4e, Arc de Triomphe in the 8e and Sacre Coeur in the 18e.

As I continue to explore Paris and get a better understanding of the different neighborhoods, I thought I would go over some basics first, compiling from a mixture of online research and my own experiences. Perhaps later on in the trip I’ll be able to give a more comprehensive guide by arrondissement for students.

 

1er arrondissement:

Let me start off with the one that I am most familiar with. I live in the 1er arrondissement, the most central district in the city. It is home to Musée du Louvre, Jardin des Tuileries, Palais Royal, Place Vendôme, Place de la Concorde, Les Halles, Saint-Eustache, a lot of government things (such as the Bourse du Commerce and Banque de France) and of course (this actually counts because it is in guide books) the place I live in, Place des Victoires.

2e arrondissement:

Place des Victoires is actually on the border of the 1st and 2nd district, and as the CIEE center is located in the 2nd, I’m pretty familiar with this one as well. The Grands Boulevards are located here as well as many old covered galleries tucked into the streets. It is the smallest arrondissement and I’m honestly not sure if Opera Garnier counts as this district or the 9th, but either way, it is nearby.

laksjdhfalskdjhf summary of different ones, favorite spots, go to places, being touristy, how to arrange your day, etc etc. Basically get the gist of each one, and like how nice the neighborhood is, what it is known for, popular monuments, anything special I found there, anything that stood out to me.



Un jour au château de Fontainebleau

Fontainebleau: the hipster chandelier-infested older brother of glitzy and popular Versailles.

To kick off the long weekend, the program took us on a day trip to Fontainebleau. Fontainebleau is the royal residence that came before Luis XIV decided to build Versailles. It is in a quiet town slightly further outside of Paris, southeast rather than southwest. And there are approximately 95% fewer visitors on any given day.

Granted, that may be because it is harder to get to, since you have to take a different train rather than just the RER C (which Navigo Passes work with) for Versailles. Of course, we were lucky enough to be bussed there with the program. I thought it was a good choice to take us on a visit there instead of Versailles, since I know I probably would not have gone to Fontainebleau by myself had it not been part of the program.

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{ la deuxième semaine }

et en un eclair, la deuxième semaine a passé

It is terrifying how time warps when you travel. A part of me feels like I just got here yesterday…another part of me feels as if I have been here forever. The magical thing about finishing week two is that I feel comfortable navigating the city yet I still have so much more to explore. This second week opened up the bridge to museums, starting with Centre Pompidou and expanding to the Louvre (twice) and Petit Palais on a rainy day. I’m proud to say that not a day went by without a little adventure.

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{ oeuvre } d’art

Louvre : L’ouvre : L’oeuvre ? While the origin of the name of the most famous museum in the world is unclear, it is a pretty coincidence that resembles the word “ouvrer,” an ancient word that means to work, especially when referring to intricate and ornate work. The word “oeuvrer” stems from this ancient word and “oeuvre d’art” means “work of art”. The museum is as intricate and ornate a work of art as the works it houses.

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{ moderne } les beaux-arts dans le centre pompidou

Désolée, mes chers amis, je prends du retard…mais je vais rattraper tout de suite! Pour commencer…CENTRE POMPIDOU, 4e arrondissement (près du 1e, et 15 minutes de notre appart!)

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Une chasse au trésor à Montmartre

I’ve learned to appreciate the irony. “Internet in Paris”

The first week of class went by in a breeze. I barely feel like I’m studying abroad, more like I am traveling with a program and go to a center to do program-y things for a couple hours four days a week. It doesn’t feel at all at school, but I can still feel myself improving in language skills.

This UCLA Travel Study program is divided into three levels. The first level is for French 3 and French 14, a culture class, and has six students taught by a TA with class every day but Tuesday and about 9 hours of class a week. The intermediate level, which I am in, is for French 4 and 5, with class every day but Tuesday and 8 hours of class a week. Our class is taught by our lovely TA, Katie, and there are 16 people in the class. The advanced level is for French 100 and 107 and only meets Monday, Wednesday and Friday but has three hours of class a day and therefore 9 hours a week. There are about 22 people in the advanced level and they are split into two smaller classes taught by separate professors.

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{ la première semaine }

(a little late, but) the week in photos

A magical last thing to see before falling asleep that first night. No, I didn’t fall asleep at 5 pm, this was around 9:30.

orientation

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{ manger } /le premier macaron/

IMG_5214

Ceci n’est pas un hamburger.

Really. That’s a macaron the size of a slider. It was called a macaron individuel. The ones that look “normal-sized” were in fact labeled as “mini.” And I thought it was the American way to go big.

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{aventure} /un monde étranger/

Fun fact: Paris is only a little more than 10 times bigger than Westwood, and it is about 20 square miles smaller than my hometown of Thousand Oaks. It is about the size of Santa Barbara, slightly smaller than San Francisco, less than a 10th of the size of Los Angeles, a little bigger than Manhattan, about an eighth the size of New York City, a sixth of Chicago and Madrid, a 15th of London and about a 60th of Shanghai.

You get my point, Paris is small. It’s been five days and I already feel like I’m getting the gist of navigating Paris. It’s amazing how fast one grows accustomed to a new place. I remember back in grade school when weeklong summer camps would feel like a lifetime, and when after five short days together, it felt like leaving a home behind.

The first few days have left me a good kind of exhausted each night. We started class on Monday. Our weekly schedule includes class from 3:30 to 5:30 every afternoon except Tuesdays and weekends, for French 4 and 5. The other levels have slightly different schedules, but we all have at least one full day off. Even the days that we have class, there is still so much time to explore.

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{ arriver } le premier jour

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Je suis allée à Paris un jour pluvieux. Mais c’est le seul fois que j’ai froide et mouillée et contente. Le photo au-dessus c’est la vue a l’extérieur de ma chambre. C’est très belle, malgré la pluie.

Number one on the to pack list that I already messed up on: clothes suited for rainy cold weather. Perhaps I am too spoiled with California weather that I basically only packed clothes suited for a California summer. Unfortunately, we hit a rainy weekend at the start of the program. 60 degrees and rainy, Angelenos. It’s real. As for the rest of la ville, it’s surreal. I almost feel like I’m walking around in Vegas. I mean, it seems just ridiculous and impractical to have such grand spectacular buildings intricately embellished with gold detail around every corner. All the buildings actually look like façades. Walking around at night, I felt like I was walking through a studio after hours, where there were very few people on the streets and all was quiet.

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{ voyager } /v. to travel/

It is currently 7:30 am and I am sitting at Gate 56 at LAX, waiting to board for my flight to…Seattle. I woke up at 5 am, and my family braved the 405 bright and early (yes, there was still traffic) to drop me off at the airport. I’m running on four hours of sleep.

It’s been a while since I have flown domestically. If I remember correctly, the last time I flew domestically was also to Seattle, but of course, that time I was actually going to Seattle on vacation with my family the summer of 2006. That was also the last time I celebrated the 4th of July in America. My main impressions are that the check-in area is a zoo compared to the international terminal. Also, they have much better food options here in the domestic area. I’m pretty sure the international terminal, last time I checked (it’s been under construction for years), had no more than a coffee shop and See’s Candy Kiosk. Meanwhile, here there is probably a dozen restaurants including a giant Lemonade. I’m going to miss LA.

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