Monday, February 18, 2013


First of all, I would like to point out that the title of this post is an allusion to a song. If you happen to know which one, bravo! You just gained a little more respect from me. If not, then ask the local eccentric-films-appreciating person in your area, and they would be likely to know.

This post is a post that will speak of "insteads." Instead of my usual "Obligatory Post on the 19th" post, I am posting on the 18th because, well, I won't be able to write an entry tomorrow and if you've been following me at all, then you should very well know why.
Furthermore, if I was still in Tualatin, I would currently be participating in the annual UC Berkeley speech and debate tournament with my high school team. This trip consists not only of competing but spending time with the team, getting a free day in San Francisco (my favorite American city: last year we watched the sunset off the Golden Gate Bridge, it was spectacular). This trip is the thing I missed the most not being Tualatin High School this year, but instead of spending time in the beautiful bay area surrounded by intelligent guys in suits, I had one of the most incredible, unbelievable weekends of my life so far.

So before I describe how I feel about the fact that I'm going to see Paris again tomorrow, let me tell you about my weekend in Versailles.

Ever since Christmas break ended, I have been planning the six weekends afterwards before the next break. I have very well succeeded, having done something worthwhile (that doesn't involve staying at home in little old Parthenay) every weekend. About five weeks ago, I had originally planned for this weekend a trip to Bourges, a city in the center of France, to see my friend Lydia (another American that I met in the San Francisco Visa trip in July). She asked her host parents right away, and we were okay with me staying Saturday and Sunday night. I found all the buses and trains necessary right away. However, about two or three weeks ago, she told me that plans had changed, and asked if there was a way I could get to Bourges earlier to make a trip to Versailles with her family. At first I thought it was absurd; there was no earlier way to do the five hour trip to Bourges, and there was no way I was gonna buy another train ticket to Paris. I am chastising myself a bit for thinking "No, it's all too far and it can't happen," but that's what comes from living in the middle of nowhere, I guess. Because really, after discussing what I should do with her host mom, it was all so simple. Instead of going to Bourges, they would pick me up instead at one of my layover cities, St Pierre des Corps, and from there we would go to Versailles.

That's exactly what we did.

On Saturday morning, I arrived in St Pierre des Corps, where I was greeted by Lydia and her host family. We crammed ourselves into the car- her host mom Anne-Katherine drove, and accompanying us were her host sisters Thérèse and Bénédicte, and her little host brothers Etienne and Charles. I will write about her host family later because I appreciate them so much, but for now I'll say that we all drove to Versailles and stopped to eat lunch in McDonald's.

(If you want to skip this part, then go ahead, it's just a parenthèse about French modern culture that has nothing to do with Versailles.
I had a meal that was actually really good and I'm not afraid to deny it. You know how fast food chains have these seasonal items on the menu? Yeah here in France, they had the McBaguette, and now they have these specialty "burgers" that come with a certain cheese.

For example, when I was there, I could choose between either goat cheese or raclette cheese, and previously there was a choice between camembert and some other fancy French cheese. Obviously, I chose the goat cheese, and it was DELICIOUS. I love how classy things are here, I really do, and did you know I also really love the cheese?
...whereas in the United States, the advertisements show people going gaga for the sloppy looking McRib... oh vive les rednecks.)

After lunch, we spent the afternoon in the palace.

Upon descending from the car, I was in complete awe over all the glorious, magnificent splendor that everything there, from the most unassuming tiles on the floor, to the ornate gates fabricated from real gold, glistens with. It was dumbfounding. Human hands built this site worthy of the heavens. I could just imagine all the royalty that used to occupy it, the drama among aristocrats and monarchs from all over Europe, the soirées, the military procedures, so many amazing things in human history happened on the ground where I was standing. Also, French was the language spoken by the elite in Europe at the time, so being able to go around speaking it made it feel even more authentic.

Because Lydia's host mom's nephew is a tour guide in the castle, we were able to get a private tour from him, and he showed us places that the public isn't allowed to go to. (Lydia and I felt really special...ahem, like queens.)

Us and our prince tour guide. We really appreciated his good looks passionate knowledge about Versailles.
 For example, we went to this chapel that the other visitors couldn't enter, so we were the only ones there.

Everyone that wasn't us had to stay behind the barrier

After the private tour, we continued walking around, taking in the sights of each ornately decorated room, the busts of famous figures in French history, the elaborate paintings present on a myriad of walls and ceilings, the many-tiered chandeliers, the floor to ceiling windows overlooking the vast grounds of the palace, the finely set silverware, EVERYTHING. My pictures don't do it much justice, but I figure that they will make this entry more interesting so enjoy!

"For all the glories of France" 

A very famous painting of Napoleon Bonaparte
Oh, him again

Another site I was able to see was Marie Antoinette's domain. I believe it is where she had her "play house" and pretended she was one of those poor countryside peasants, and also where she had some fancy parties. We rode a small train (just a chain of golf carts) to get there, and it was like another world within another world. It was deep within a forested park, but oh my was it gorgeous. There was a large pond, and her country houses were so quaint. It was the perfect environment to take a small, tranquil vacation, right within the palace grounds. I found it pretty spectacular. It reminded me of the isolated countryside environment I currently have to live in now, even though it was only a few kilometers away from Paris.

Once we were done visiting Versailles, we went to Lydia's host grandma's house in St Germain, a suburb of Paris. We were there to celebrate her host dad's 48th birthday. I would like to pay tribute to the wonderful Fayet family right here. First of all, even though I was a guest, not even a guest of any of their kids but of their exchange student, they were still extremely kind and generous and really made me feel welcome. It was a family event I participated in, but despite the fact that this was my first time meeting them and only my third time meeting Lydia, I felt completely like a part of their family. Some families just immediately exude that sense of unity and hospitality, and I'm not exaggerating when I say that this family was one of the best examples of that that I have ever met, not just in France, but in the world.

Lydia with (part of) her host family
Lydia and I prepared the happy birthday song for her host dad François. To greet him, we sang it, and the rest of the members of the family who were there enthusiastically joined in, resulting in a joyful, musical atmosphere. Just the kind of environment I cherish being in. I was so happy to sing songs for them, especially so when they really appreciated it. It was the least I could do for them after they graciously took me, a former stranger, in during a family outing, to VERSAILLES of all places! Furthermore, Anne-Katherine and François have nine kids, and yet all the ones I met were exemplary examples of well brought-up children. I was astounded. I have had unpleasant experiences with kids of "that age" here, but the Fayet kids were polar opposites of what I had known. Sure, 7-year-old Charles whined and got involved in spats with his siblings, but it was understandable. That didn't matter because he was a SUPER sweet, adorable, affectionate little boy. 12-year-old Etienne was already a young gentleman and just as caring towards me as he was towards everyone else in his family. Bénédicte and Thérèse were the two eldest of the four youngest left in the house, and they gave me the impression that they were amazing older sisters to the two boys. They also really made an effort to get to know me, and it almost felt like they treated me like I was their sister as well. They're all so darling, and I miss them. I am very happy for Lydia that she landed in such a family, and I could tell that the siblings are very happy to have her in their home as well.

I also met the oldest sibling, Jean-Marie, and his fiancée Bérénice (who studies law at the Sorbonne in Paris wowowowow!). They were one of those beautiful couples that one can't help but want to be like, and I know that they're going to be so successful in the future and have a family just as incredible as the one that raised Jean-Marie.

I felt so close to them that I even had them sign my exchange notebook. They were all so excited to sign it, and they even asked me when they would see me again and if I would go to their house at another time. It made me sad to say that I didn't know, but I know it's unlikely. However, I will make it a point to see them again in the future after exchange, because I really would like to see the kids again, especially to see how they have grown up.

I would continue on a philosophical spiel and commentary on the meaning of the word "family," but I have other things I prefer to talk about.

Around noon on Sunday, Lydia and I got the chance to explore the city of St Germain. It was a perfect day outside; cool, sunny, with a slight breeze. We went to the city center, where the market was located. The sidewalks were bustling with people, the vendors of the market were lined side by side, people sat on the cafés on the sidewalks, and there was all that noise and activity of the city that I have missed SO MUCH and almost forgotten. I loved it. I wished I lived in that environment every day. Even though it was Sunday (and France is dead every Sunday, nothing is open), there weren't any empty streets. I mean, Parthenay has empty streets even on weekdays. There was so much to see and explore. Lydia and I turned on a random street and we ended up facing the office of tourism, a small building tucked between other businesses. I wondered why it was called "Claude Debussy Office of Tourism," but then I looked above and saw a sign that shocked me...

"Claude Debussy House, Office of Tourism"

"Here, on August 22 1862, the composer Claude Debussy was born"
We had stumbled across the birthplace of one of the classical composers I had known for the duration of my 13-year career as a pianist. I didn't even know St. Germain was his hometown! I was extremely giddy with surprise. Just another one of the hard-to-believe moments of this weekend.

Currently, my mind is kind of in a limbo. En route on the five hour voyage from Bourges (we spent Sunday night there), I started this blog entry in the train station of Poitiers.

This was my view from the Gare bar/restaurant.
Now I'm on the bus going back to Parthenay. I can only think of all the things I need to do to prepare to leave again tomorrow, this time, to Paris. I say I'm going back tomorrow, but I don't think I fully comprehend that it IS tomorrow. I left Paris the first and last time I went on March 2010, knowing I would see it again one day in the future. That day is tomorrow.
I'd rather not imagine how I'm going to react when I see it again; I'll write about it next week. I'll just let the excitement build up inside me until it is nearly unbearable and I won't be able to sleep.
The city of lights, love, art. Only the subject of so many works of renowned artists, the hangout of important figures in the history of literature, a city saturated with inspiration, the subject of countless dreams, and, as I heard it put once, the "marvelous collection of human treasures." Treasures not only in the artifacts located in its countless museums, or in the boutiques along the Champs-Elysées, but the treasures that are stories the city has to tell, and stories everyone who sets foot in it will have to tell about it.
(Yes, I am a romantic, in case you couldn't tell, though I rarely admit it.)

If aliens one day visited our Earth and asked to see the capital of this world, where they could gain a tremendous understanding of human history and the development of our society, the Ambassador of Extraterrestrials would definitely direct them to Paris.
(Yes, I am a science nerd, and proud of it.)

For now, here is a song that I can't stop listening to whenever my mind is in this state, the day before something I have been really anticipating.

"Demain sera parfait," the name of the song, means "Tomorrow will be perfect."
I can't imagine it being any other way.

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