The Luxembourg Garden: Everyone is Welcome

After spending a week in the most beautiful city in the world, viewing the architectural style, looking at the Eiffel Tower, visiting places like the Louver, Picasso Museum, and Orsay Museum, Visiting the Cathedral and Sacred Heart in Montmorie, learning about American writers while walking through the city, walking along the senie, enjoying pastries and food, and spending quality time in Cafes and restaurants, it feels like a dream.

The Luxembourg Garden has a rich history. Anyone can relax, play games, listen to music, enjoy cuisine and pastries, and enjoy the scenery and fresh air. You can sit and spend hours admiring the view, not notice as time passes, and never get tired of it. It is a place where families spend time, politicians relax, couples go on dates, and kids play. It contains The Medici Fountain, The Orangery, The Statues, The Bandstand, and the Remarkable Trees.

Marie de Medici, the widow of King Henry IV, had the Medici Fountain, initially called the Luxembourg Grotto, built in 1630, supposedly by Thomas Francine, as an homage to the Italian gardens. The fountain underwent reparations and moved 30 meters from the palace. The Tragic Story Behind the Statues consists of Polyhemus surprising Acis and Galatea, where Galatea chooses Acis over the Cyclops Polyhemus because of his appearance and, driven by jealousy, Polyhemus kills the mortal Acis; in the end, the Nymph Galatea turns Acis into a waterful living for all eternity. The story portrays jealousy, transformation, and acceptance of one’s beauty.

Orangery of Luxembourg

The Orangey is a building located west of the Luxembourg Garden. It contains 180 plants, such as oranges, palms, and pomegranates, exhibited from May to October every year. The species’ age is estimated to be between 250 and 300 years old. Parisians ensure that they take great care of all plant species in the Orangey. Since Marie de Medici created it to protect the citrus trees from winter, it is also used as a venue for concerts and exhibitions. Parisians make sure to maintain the structure of the building and plant. By replanting adults every 12-15 years and reducing the side of the plum trees so they grow healthy, they care for the plants, which have become a valuable part of Parisian history.

The Luxembourg Garden is home to 102 statues, most of which were created in the 19th century. These statues allow visitors to time travel and admire the artists of that era. They include statues representing the liberation of slaves, queens, kings, artists, singers, and writers. The garden also has a smaller version of the Statue of Liberty, which was created for an international exposition to demonstrate the relationship between France and the United States. The image of the statue above is of a Greek actor sculpted by Barn Charles Auther in 1868 for an exhibition. In 1873, the French state bought the statue for 7000 francs. 

The bandstand was built in 1888. The Senate allows anyone and everyone to play for free. They can have concerts, and people in the community can enjoy their time while listening to music for free. There are chairs all over the park where anyone can sit and relax while listening to music and eating lunch since there are multiple cafes and restaurants throughout the Luxembourg Garden.

Overall, my experience in the Luxembourg Graden was memorable, and I will never forget it. While walking through the Garden, I witnessed the art and history Paris has to offer and its beauty. The Garden possesses many games, such as basketball, racket ball, selling small boats, chess, and sandboxes. Watching people interact with one another and spend time with their families is fantastic. I could sit down and enjoy the scenery before me, and it was breathtaking, as if time had stopped. I felt the breeze in my hair, an unforgettable moment that will stay with me like many others. Every day in this city, I make unforgettable memories that will stay with me forever. Like Hemingway liked to say, Paris is a moveable feast.

Revolutionary Paris: A Journey Through History and Art

After a few informative days, today promised to be even more fun, with a walking tour about American Revolutionaries in Paris and a museum visit on the agenda. We started the day early in the morning, next to the Danton statue, where we met our tour guide. I was excited to find out that the tour would cover a lot about the French Revolution and its history too, especially since the French and American Revolutions were interconnected.

Our first stop was a small street packed with historical significance. We stood near a shop that used to be a printing press, a crucial player in the revolutions. Printing presses were vital as they educated the public and allowed publishers to disseminate their revolutionary ideas. Another key element in both revolutions was the cafe culture. We visited the site of the first cafe in Paris, which opened around 1650 and still operates today. Our tour guide told us how this cafe specifically got famous because of its two entrances. As the majority of people gathering in there were middle-class men, this allowed them to easily escape, if their debtors came to look for them. Cafes provided a space for people to gather, discuss, and debate their ideas. Even back then, people with similar political views would gather at the same cafes. Eventually, each political group had its preferred spot.

Another captivating stop was near the Senate building. It was interesting to discover that the origins of the terms “left-wing” and “right-wing” trace back to the French Senate. In the past, the conservative party occupied the right side of the Senate chamber, while the liberal party sat on the left. This arrangement led to the adoption of these terms to describe political ideologies. Even today, the French Senate keeps this tradition.

Before the French Revolution, France didn’t have a standardized system of measurement. Various units, such as the King’s Feet, were used. However, after the revolution, French people wanted to remove all symbols associated with the monarchy. The meter was defined as one ten-millionth of the distance from the equator to the North Pole along a meridian through Paris. To promote the new metric system, several meter standards were placed in public places. These were physical representations of the meter to help familiarize the population with the new measurement.

To end the tour, we went to the Pantheon. Originally built as a church dedicated to St. Genevieve, the Pantheon was later repurposed as a mausoleum for France’s most distinguished citizens. As an Armenian, I was proud to see a big poster of Missak Manouchian hanging in front of the Pantheon, whose reburial there took place just a few months ago. He was a resistance leader during World War II, leading the famous Manouchian Group, a French Resistance network in Nazi-occupied France. He was captured by the Nazis and executed in 1944. As we continued to explore, our tour guide told us about other luminaries, including Voltaire, Marie Curie, and Victor Hugo, who found their final resting place in the Pantheon. The stories of these great minds and their contributions to society were truly inspiring.

The second half of the day was in the Musée Orsay. When we entered the museum, even the building itself amazed me already. It was originally built to be a railway station in the 1900s to accommodate the high demand of people traveling in Paris. Later it became one of the city’s most iconic cultural landmarks. Our tour focused on the transition to Impressionism which brought a new perspective to the art world. As we explored the galleries, our guide told us about Impressionist artists such as Monet, Renoir, and Degas. Their paintings captured the essence of the everyday life of ordinary people. The highlights of our visit for me were the iconic works of Van Gogh and learning about his unique painting style. His bold colors and dramatic brushwork left a lasting impression on me.

After getting some rest from all the walking we did throughout the day, my roommate and I decided to head to the Republique metro station for dinner. We found a cozy little bistro with outdoor seating. As we enjoyed our meal french meal, we couldn’t help but soak in the vibrant atmosphere of the area. Even late into the evening, the streets were alive with Parisians and tourists alike, all enjoying the warm night. The distant sound of street musicians added a nice touch to our evening. This experience made it the perfect end to my day.

Discovering American Revolutionaries and the Artistic Evolution at Musée d’Orsay

After spending a few days in Paris with a little bit of rain, waking up to sunshine could only mean good things. The main focus of today was American Revolutionaries in Paris, and we were lucky enough to receive a guided walking tour throughout the streets of Paris from our lovely tour guide, Brad. We started the tour at Cour du Commerce Saint-Andre, which is the same street where Danton lived. Danton was a prominent figure in the French Revolution, as he was influential in the early days of the revolution and a leader in the revolutionary government. Unfortunately, he was eventually executed via the guillotine in April 1974. Interestingly enough, the first guillotine was also used on the same street we started on and Danton lived on.

The street we started on is also important for many other reasons. One of the first shopping malls was on this street, and this was very new because around 90% of citizens used to be poor, so they wouldn’t do much shopping. Also on this street was the printing press Marat ran during the 17 and 1800s, and the purpose of this shop was to aid citizens in becoming more literate and spread more revolutionary information, as a greater part of the population was able to read. Lastly, this street is home to the oldest cafe still in Paris. This cafe is notable for multiple reasons. First, the cafe contains Napoleon’s beak hat because, before he became rich, he pawned his hat in order to pay for food after being released from the military after Robespierre fell. Second, it has a front and back door. While having a front and back door may not seem special, it was important because if people came looking for someone, the cafe workers would help the person escape through the back. This fact is also a great example of why cafes were so important during the French Revolution. While each faction had their own cafe in order to confer with each other, everyone drank coffee because it gave much more assurance that it would be safe to drink than water did.

Afterwards, we learned about Benjamin Franklin’s achievements in France during the American Revolution. As most of you know, Franklin convinced France to help America against Britain. Franklin was able to convince Louis the XIV, one because he was charming, two because Louis’ father was a major general whose mission was to help France, and three because France had the Seven Year War with Britain. We also stumbled upon a bookstore, and Brad informed us of a French law where new books can’t be discounted more than 5% in order to keep local bookstores afloat. Later, we reached the Senate Building and Luxembourg Gardens. The Senate Building was one of the last buildings the Germans held, and there was a lot of fighting around the Luxembourg Gardens.

To end the tour, we went to the Pantheon. The Pantheon is named after the Rome Pantheon and is the location where French heroes are buried. Some people include Voltaire, Marceau, Simone Veil, Rousseau, and Josephine Baker. Baker is also the first American and one of 6 women buried in the Pantheon.

After the tour concluded, we had time to kill and bellies to feed, so a big group of us stopped at a cafe near the pantheon for brunch/lunch. I got a classic, delicious French omelette, which came with a side salad along with a fresh hot chocolate. Other orders consisted of chicken and mashed potatoes, avocado toast, and some pasta. The cafe encompasses a lot of what I’ve pictured about Paris: sitting outside on a nice, warm, sunny day along the side of cobblestone roads, sipping coffee, and eating some food.

To finish up the day, we took a guided tour of the Musée d’Orsay. D’Orsay used to be a railway station in the early 1900s because a lot of people were coming to Paris, and eventually, in 1986, the museum opened. D’Orsay contains many paintings from a multitude of French artists, like Manet, Bonhuer, the most famous woman painter of the 19th century, and Renoir. Additionally, our tour focused on the change from conventional art based on 3D to more modern impressionist paintings, which focus on the fleeting moment. At the end of the museum tour, we learned about Van Gogh, who painted for only 10 years: 6 years in the darker Dutch style, and then 4 years in a brighter style after moving to Paris.

Going Back In Time: Musee de la Liberation de Paris 

The Musée de la Libération de Paris was the main focus of our Saturday schedule in Paris. To begin the morning and take in as much of Paris as we could get, we left early to enjoy a cafe near the museum. The weather started out beautiful with sunny skies and warm temperatures making us grateful to have awoken with the day to not miss out on any of its beauty. The cafe was right next to the museum and fueled us with delicious chocolate tart before heading over to begin the tour. 

Prior to this trip I was knowledgeable about the basic information of World War 2, but did not know the full details and would often get confused with them. I was nervous about this tour because I was not sure how easily I would be able to understand and follow it as there is so much information about the war. However, as soon as it began the museum painted the picture of the French resistance easily and it drew me in wondering more. The videos, explanations, and pictures provided a detailed overview of many parts of the resistance and war. One theme that stuck out to me was the perseverance of the French as they continued to fight. Especially regarding certain leaders who were motivated to keep the fight on. One of these leaders included Charles De Gaulle who gave a famous broadcast urging the French to resist. He is seen as a pivotal figure and symbol of the French resistance. Learning more about his story from the museum provided more depth and realness as they had audio of the recording. 
This photograph is of one of the posters at the time trying to recruit French men. Not only were the French scared of losing half their country, but also scared to accept a whole new way of life and culture. Many were determined to stop the Nazi occupation because of this. It was interesting to be able to view actual posters, pamphlets, and artifacts that were actually used during the time. There were many other types of posters and artifacts including resistance posters that encouraged defiance and unity against occupiers. From this, it seems that not only was there a physical battle going on but also a psychological battle between people and themselves. 
I also found interesting some of the other personal stories the museum showed. Besides the main fighters, they also highlighted other people including Madeleine Collomb. I had never heard of her before but was happy to see a woman recognized in the museum. She served as a female volunteer and helped as a driver and mechanic of the ambulance. Looking into her more I also found she played a crucial role in organizing logistics, providing safe houses, and supporting other resistance fighters with supplies and information. It is inspiring to see women so involved in the French resistance, especially at the time when they had far fewer rights and respect. She is one of many who fought against tyranny, contributing significantly to the liberation of France. 
At the end of the tour, we were able to go down and see the World War 2 bunker. The museum was purposely built over this bunker to show and preserve it. After taking many flights of stairs down, I was surprised to see how big it actually was. We were warned it might be tight but it exceeded the capacity I thought. They had a telephone room that still had the old equipment, a General’s office, a war room, and small living spaces. The structure of it is very robust with reinforced concrete walls so they are prepared to withstand bombings and invasions. Being able to go down here provided a surreal experience and felt even more intimate. By showcasing this bunker to people, the museum can humanize the resistance movement making it much more poignant to people. The only problem with seeing this bunker was having to take the stairs all the way back up. However, the depth it provided was worth the workout afterward. The Musée de la Libération de Paris encompassed many different aspects to view including artifacts, radios, equipment, clothing, media, and descriptions which were able to paint a much more vibrant in-depth picture of the French resistance.

Magic in the Air: My Unforgettable First Visit to Disneyland Paris

After a fun two days filled with traveling and tours, we were given a free day with no set plans to do whatever we please. I had a few ideas on how I wanted to spend this free day, but ultimately woke up with no set plans and found myself wasting a beautiful day. I planned to just hop on the metro and see where I would end up. I happened to end up at the front gates of Disneyland Paris. Disneyland, being one of the most iconic theme parks to me and many kids growing up, was somewhere I always wanted to go, but unfortunately, I was never able to go as a kid. So, as you can assume, this was a big deal for the kid in me. As I made my way towards the gates, I was informed the entry ticket would be $115. Yes, that should be a euro sign; I just don’t know how to insert it. This price I honestly was not mad at, as it is more expensive at Disneyland in Florida, but I was told by the clerk that the third-party ticket on Trip Advisor can be trusted, so I went with that route.

After I went through security and scanned my entry ticket, I was wide-eyed as I was greeted with the Sleeping Beauty Castle, something I always saw pictures of online, right in front of my face. Even with me just recently graduating from college and being an adult, the kid in me was still excited to finally come to such a desired destination, but even better in Paris. Though I was surrounded by many kids and families, I still knew it was going to be an enjoyable experience. For reference, I am not the biggest fan of roller coasters, but I will go on them for the experience. Quickly, I noticed that because this was created more for children, the rides, which I would say are not roller coasters, were very mellow and tame, not including any big drops that would make your stomach turn. This was not a problem for me and probably got me to try out a lot of rides I would have been skeptical about if I wasn’t able to see the track route before getting in line. Even with arriving around 11 a.m, I was still able to get on every single “roller coaster” that was listed as “cannot miss” on their website, incentivizing that these were some of the best and most popular rides you must get on within your time at Disneyland.

For some of the rides, I did have to wait in line, but that was not a problem for me as the longest I had to wait was 30 minutes for Big Thunder Mountain, which was one of my favorite rides as there was a point in the ride where you would get splashed with water. It would have been the Tower of Terror, but unfortunately, I did not want to pay extra to go to the second park, as it only included a few more rides that weren’t all that interesting to me. After going on a few rides, I was stopped in my tracks as a live show included every Disney character imaginable.

This was not something I was expecting, as they basically stopped everything going on to do this performance. It was very enjoyable seeing all of the younger kids get excited to see some of their favorite movie characters wave to them and put on a show singing some of their favorite songs. After the show ended, I decided that it was becoming late. I decided to pick up a souvenir, as this was a big memory for me. I decided to go with a crew neck, as it’s something I would actually wear and not a souvenir that would sit on a desk collecting dust. To end the night, I decided to pop into the movie theater they have right outside of Disney World and see if there were any movies playing in English, as one in French would be very hard to keep up with even if they had subtitles. There was only one showing of Planet of the Apes, and I decided to go with that. This being an English showing in a predominantly French-speaking place caused there to only be 10 seats reserved in an IMAX theater with over 250 seats.

After the movie finished, I had to rush back to the train stop as it was the last one going in the direction I needed, causing it to be extremely packed throughout the whole ride. This gave me a lot of time to reflect and be grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given at Umass Lowell, especially with their study abroad program. To all of my Paris Session 1 and 2 classmates, I encourage you to also go to DisneyLand Paris even if you’ve been back home as it is a great experience and something you can do alone if necessary.

Love for the Louvre: A Day at One of Paris’s Finest Landmarks

Our second full day exploring the wonderful city of Paris was better than imagined. After a rainy first day we woke up Wednesday to sunshine, the perfect weather for the day ahead. I spent my free morning completing some school work for my summer class then got ready to take the Metro over to the Louvre Museum. At first sight this monument was breathtaking and even more intricate and complex than it comes across in photographs. This monument was grand and flooded with other tourists from all over the world who came to see this significant piece of history. The pyramid at the entrance added another layer of depiction and makes this museum even more prominent. 

The Mona Lisa

As we began our tour around the Louvre Museum we collectively decided to head to one of the most famous pieces of artwork in the world: The Mona Lisa. After learning and hearing about this piece repeatedly over the years it was on the top of my list to see while in Paris. On the way to the Mona Lisa exhibit we got to look at many biblical artworks crafted by Leonardo da Vinci and other remarkable artists. The biblical pieces were beautiful and as we walked down the corridor they came together to tell a story. This was personally my favorite part of the museum.  When arriving at the exhibit it was crowded with people trying to capture their own photos of this famous artwork. Even though I could not get to the front of the crowd I took many pictures, such as the one above, that I will forever look back on. 

I was completely blown away by the interior architecture of the museum. Before turning into the famous museum it is today it was previously a palace. There are so many intricate details that make it so unique. Every section looks completely different and adds character to the museum as a whole. Different areas focused on varying countries and times in history. Between the catacombs from ancient Egypt and varying structures from ancient Africa there was so much to be seen. Our wonderful tour guide from Worldstride informed us that if we wanted to stare at each piece of artwork for five seconds it would take a total of three months. This really put into perspective how enormous the Louvre really is. 

Another personal highlight from yesterday was the exhibit that featured all of the structures from Ancient Rome. I included the above photo as it was one of the many structures that came together to tell a story. The statues were beautifully crafted and looked uniform yet individual at the same time. While the crowds made it difficult at times, seeing so many people here admiring these creations was inspiring and telling of how influential this place really is. We saw a group of young school children on a field trip drawing pictures of the artwork. It was amazing to think about how these children get to experience such a special place at a time when they may not even realize it. We got the experience to see real artwork created by renowned artists such as Michaelangelo, El Greco, and van Dyck. I will always look back on how remarkable the Louvre Museum was and how lucky I am that I got to experience it. 

After spending a few hours exploring the Louvre we had the rest of the evening to ourselves. When leaving the museum the sun was at its peak and we enjoyed the afternoon outside. We saw the beautiful garden, Tuileries, surrounding the area and water fountains surrounded by small tables filled with people. We wrapped up the night indulging in desserts such as lava cakes and tartes and headed to the Eiffel Tower. Of course traveling to Paris I knew I had to see the Eiffel Tower in real life. I was overwhelmed by how big it was in real life. We found a great spot to watch as ten o’clock approached and the tower would light up in flickering lights. There was live music and people dancing and singing. We even got to witness an engagement which made the night extra special. Watching the Eiffel Tower twinkle was one of the most amazing moments of my life. The energy all around us was remarkable and the monument was beautiful. This busy day in the city of Paris was amazing and really gave me a sense of this city and its culture. Everything we read, watched, and listened to prior to this trip started coming to life and makes me even more excited for what is to come. 

Rain Before the Rainbow: Exploring Paris through History and Literature

The first official day in Paris promised sunny skies and a warm atmosphere; at least, that was my hope when I woke up to a gloomy overcast with morning showers. The whimsical weather didn’t stop my classmates and me from exploring the city, so we took our umbrellas and made our way down to the metro with a mission.

The first mission was getting an EU SIM for the internet. After trying a few different places, we accepted our fate of using our international lines for a couple more days. Our quest for a SIM was cut short by the impatience of our appetite for a Parisian breakfast, which at that point, we realized it was time for brunch.

We decisively made our way to Café de Flore, located in Saint-Germain. Its exterior is covered in flowery decor, which we later found out during our walking tour were all real flowers. This information did not surprise me, as my omelet had two beautiful—and I would argue, piquant—flowers adorned on a bed of greens. My aesthetically pleasing cappuccino was warm and comforting, not like the weather, but rather like the ambience of the city in the rain that morning.

Cafe De Flore

After a pleasing brunch, two of my classmates and I decided to explore some more of the city near Notre Dame, where we had been informed was the spot to meet with the rest of our class in the hours ahead. We arrived in the 5th arrondissement of Paris and somehow ended up in its narrow streets, just hidden away between the non-permeable buildings, where the rain could not reach us, and the ill-lit skies only made the little shops illuminate in relativity.

Realizing we had gotten caught up in Paris’s charm, we needed to find our way back to Notre Dame. As I approached Notre Dame, I was overcome with both disbelief and sadness. At first glance, I was captivated by the architecture and grandeur of its structure, only to come a little closer and be reminded of its ongoing reconstruction after the devastating fire in 2019. Notre Dame Cathedral, which can also be called “Our Lady,” is still in use today by the Roman Catholic Church for Sunday mass and serves as the seat of the Archbishop of Paris. It is a notable and distinct historical artifact, having served as the coronation site for Napoleon I in 1804 and later as a funeral site for various French presidents.

Notre Dame

When the class was in session, we visited the Pantheon, a site of immense historical significance, and then headed to Shakespeare and Company. This iconic bookstore, founded by Sylvia Beach in 1919, has been a haven for writers and readers alike. We even got to see its original location, just a couple of streets over.

Shakespeare and Company Original Location

We visited three different buildings where Hemingway lived during various stages of his life. Each apartment was characterized by a unique allure, reflecting the different periods of his literary career. One of the more interesting places we stopped at, in my opinion, was La Closerie des Lilas, where Hemingway worked on many of his literary works and which is a setting in “The Sun Also Rises.” This café was central to the vibrant literary life of the 1920s.

     La Closerie de Lilas
Hemingway Residence from 1921-1925

Another fascinating stop was the Dingo Bar, where Hemingway first met F. Scott Fitzgerald. The history embedded in these locations added a layer of depth to our understanding of these literary giants and the city they loved.

Dingo Bar, Paris

Our first day in Paris, despite the rain, was a beautiful blend of history, literature, and the charm of the city itself. The rain, in its own way, added to the mystique of our journey, making it a day to remember.