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The Mass Media

The Oxford Blog: Week 8

It’s been a week since Paris, and I have to say – I certainly have mixed feelings.
To be fair, I had extraordinarily high expectations for France. I studied French starting in 7th grade up until the end of high school and dreamt of visiting the country. I felt a little wary of going to France, because of their anti-Muslim stances (i.e. the burka ban). Fortunately, I didn’t get any weird treatment, probably because I do not wear a hijab. There was some extra security – men with giant guns everywhere – but people were generally kind and eager to help when I was lost. Everywhere I went in Paris was ethnically diverse, so I didn’t feel like I stood out like I did in Oxford.
I found myself feeling a little underwhelmed by the city of love. Paris resembled Boston, just a little emptier. People have told me it’s dirtier, but I did not notice that so much. The city seemed a little barren – besides the major attractions, like the Eiffel Tower (which honestly was smaller than I expected), there was nothing else. It was easy to navigate, which came in handy, as a couple of us got separated from the tour group and had to find our way around ourselves. Every major site is along the river Seine, which certainly isn’t the cleanest – but coming from Boston, it’s impossible to criticize a dirty river.
There could be number of reasons for me feeling this way – my exhaustion from travel, my stress from being lost, my worry over my final paper, my super high expectations. Maybe if I return under different circumstances, I’ll have a very different experience.
Don’t get me wrong, though – so much about Paris was great. After climbing (yes, I took the stairs) the Eiffel Tower, I finally got to check out the Louvre. As an art buff, I couldn’t contain my excitement during the hour long walk. The museum itself is beautiful, the architecture breathtaking, and it was thrilling to enter the glass triangle and go into the museum. 
Perhaps my favorite parts of the Louvre was the Gallerie d’Apollon (The Apollo Gallery). It’s a tall, lengthy room covered from floor to ceiling in paintings and gold-carvings. I spent a solid half an hour staring up at the ceiling and looking at the carvings of the Zodiac, and happily would have spent the next two hours looking at all of the little details. The hallway’s backstory is pretty cool too. It was built to embody a beautiful vision of the universe through the story of Apollo, the Greek and Roman sun god.  It was great to see the Mona Lisa too, although the portrait was unexpectedly small. The Louvre carried some spectacular sculptures by Michelangelo, who is one of my favorite Italian artists. 
I’m big on experimenting with funky foods, and finally got the chance to try snails – escargot – and frog legs in a tiny local restaurant. The frog legs tasted a bit like tangy chicken, and escargot is easily now one of my favorite meals. The crepes, pastries, and macaroons were beyond delicious. When it comes to food, France definitely does not disappoint.
The next day, me and a couple of the girls checked out the Notre Dame Cathedral – an awesome display of Gothic architecture – and Saint-Chappelle, famous for the beautiful display of stained glass windows. Right before heading to Versailles, I had a little bit of free time to check out the famous Shakespeare and Company bookshop, which easily became one of my favorite experiences of the summer so far. The bookshop is famous for its visitors – the Beat Generation as well as writers like Anais Nin and James Baldwin. I have never seen a more beautiful bookshop, complete with an old piano, little reading nooks, and piles and piles of delicious smelling old books.
Despite some of the disappointments, I was pretty sad to say goodbye to Paris. Spending a day and a half in the city is not even close to enough time. Versailles itself might need some more time too – the gardens of the palace alone would take two hours to see in full, and me and the only girls spent an hour. The palace tour itself is about an hour, and one of the most enchanting of the rooms is the famous Hall of Mirrors. There are some more sights to see around Versailles, too – maybe I’ll come back one day.