The Mona Lisa in the Louvre

Bon Voyage! (4)

Salut! This is my fourth entry of a two week stay in France. I’m here with 15 other students as part of my school’s exchange program. Specifically, I’m staying in Saint Germain-de-la-Grange, a town outside of Versailles (about 45 minutes from Paris). I’m staying with Victor’s family, the exchange student who stayed with me for two weeks in February.

This is the fourth post from my trip. I hope to post every couple of days (or more) about what I’m doing, seeing, and of course: eating. You can find all of the posts here.

Saturday 4/20
Today, I did stuff. We were up early because Victor’s class had a test, so I went with my fellow Americans Joe and Harriet to the Catacombs. There, we met up with our friend Jaime and proceeded 103 curvey steps underground.

The walk is only 2 kilometers (a little over a mile), but there are over 35 kilometers (21.7 miles) in total. There’s information on how the catacombs were built and used at the beginning and end of the walk. There aren’t any bones at the first part of the walk either. It’s dark and cold, and I kept expecting to see them after each corner. Then we reached a room with a doorway saying “ARRÈTE! C’EST ICI L’EMPIRE DE LA MORT” (“Stop! The empire of the dead is here”). Surprise, the bones were after that. And there certainly were a lot of them. To call them piles would be incorrect because that brings to mind a disorganized jumble, while here everything was exceptionally organized. The bones and skulls would face the same direction, and there were often patterns running through them. They reached from floor almost to ceiling, all the same muted dim colors. I found the idea of so many bones and so many people all stuffed down here, pretty creepy at first, but the fact that there were no complete skeletons and the attention put into the designs made it less so. Victor’s dad also had another way of looking at it that I really liked: although there were so many bones and people here, the designs and attention to detail show respect for the dead. A lot of effort was put into bringing all the bones there making sure everyone had a place.

When we returned to the land of the living, it was time for lunch, so we headed over to Chartier, the oldest restaurant in Paris. There, I had the chance to try both escargot and duck. It was absolutely delicious.

Tried Escargot for the first time. Délicieux! #frenchexchange #France #Paris

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Then we drove to Monmarte (a par of Paris very popular with the tourists) to walk around and see La Sacre Coeur. It’s a basilica with some very nice stained glass. The really cool part was the dome though. 300 steps up and you can get an amazing 360 degree view of the city. One of our French friends Tristan pointed out the major landmarks. It will be interesting to compare the view here to that at the Eiffel Tower.

Before heading home, we stopped at a little cafe and got some coffee. I didn’t drink coffee regularly before this trip, but I also hadn’t tried coffee this good before. No matter where you go, it’s delish.

Sunday, 4/21
After a week, I got to sleep in this morning. When I got up, I had the chance to go running, which I haven’t done for a while before I arrived. It was pretty slow, but very nice out, so a good run anyway.

Later in the afternoon Victor and I met up with Tristan and Joe again to go to The Louvre. We got a late start, so we only had a few hours there. I got to see the Egyptian artifacts, the Greek works, and then some more current paintings and statues. Oh, and La Jocande, aka the Mona Lisa.

Oh hello there Mona Lisa. #frenchexchange #france #paris #louvre #monalisa

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Tomorrow should be relaxed, then The Eiffel Tower on Tuesday!

Jack Struck

Student in our nation's capital, studying International Relations with a focus on the Middle East. Web designer, runner, reader, and leader.

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