Thursday, June 19, 2008

La Ville-lumiere

Tomorrow is our last full day in Paris, after which Heather and I part ways with my parents and grab a train to Strasbourg. Heather hasn't been home since March, and I think she's more or less ready to see the States again. Still, I think this should be a good trip.

Some highlights from Paris... we saw Victor Hugo's house, the Pantheon (which contains among other things Foucault's pendulum and the aforementioned author's remains), Saint-Sulpice, the Eiffel Tower (of course), and Saint Chapelle. We viewed a large amount of impressionist and realist art at the Musee d'Orsay, and today we spent a few hours at the Louvre (where I could have spent a week). We also saw the Opera Garnier, which is the opera house that inspired Leroux to write the Phantom of the Opera (the French book, not the musical). It has subterranean water and everything. Tomorrow we're catching an early train to Versailles.

The pinnacle of the trip for me, however, was our visit to Notre Dame Cathedral. The cathedral itself was spectacular, and not just because of its associations with Victor Hugo's Hunchback of Notre Dame. After touring the inside of the sanctuary we climbed the tall spiral staircase up to the first landing at the base of the two towers, right near the entry to the belfry where the fictional Quasimodo made his home.

There is a belfry at the base of each of the two towers of Notre Dame, one containing a full complement of cathedral bells and the other a single, gargantuan bell. While wandering around the top of the cathedral, amidst the gargoyles and chimeras, the bells began to sound. The clamor was enormous, almost to the point of being painful; the vibrations could be felt across the entire stone edifice. They sounded for a good fifteen minutes, and those fifteen minutes overlooking Paris and listening to the bells of Notre Dame were the best fifteen minutes of this trip.

In my opinion.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Traipsing the Old World

Heather has officially finished her term in Oxford, and thanks to her study abroad-ing and my father's hoard of frequent flyer points the whole family is over here now to visit the university town with her. It was great meeting some of the UGA students she studied with. And it was obviously cool to see the colleges, shops and pubs of Oxford. Several of the pubs we've eaten at are older than the U.S. The majority of them, actually. Just to put things in perspective.

Being here gives one strange ideas about graduate work abroad, though the cost would be prohibitive. Especially at 2 dollars per pound. Though they have a great D.Phil program in Development studies, with focuses in Economic Development, Anthropological Research, Forced Migration...

Anyway, we're off to Paris tomorrow from whence Heather and I will be hitting hostels across Europe.