A Travellerspoint blog

So much to do in so little time!

An epic post about an epic weekend

sunny 15 °C

So this past weekend I made my first real trip outside of Besançon – to Paris! Because of the wonderful facts that I do not have classes on Fridays and that my first class on Mondays is in the afternoon, I was able to stretch it into a super long weekend. (And the early trains were the cheapest, so that was a plus, too!) I left Besançon at 6:30am on Friday, putting me in Paris before 10:00. In typical form, the trip had a great start when, after the two-and-a-half hour train ride, I realized that I suddenly REALLY needed to use the bathroom. But that was okay, because I came into the Gare de Lyon – the same station that I went through on my initial arrival to Besançon. So I was able to head straight to the bathroom that I knew about. Only when I got there, it was – quite literally – gone. Where there had been a door less than two months ago, there was now a solid wall, with a sign directing people to one of the other two (impressively far-off) bathrooms in the station. Also, before leaving the station, I stopped and bought an awesome map of the city with great details of the streets, bus, metro, and RER stops, and big landmarks. It proved to be pretty invaluable over the course of the weekend.

I had about a mile and a half walk along the Seine to get to the Centre Pompidou, and I hadn’t yet eaten anything, so I stopped at a boulangerie and bought a “brioche Suisse” and continued to meander towards the museum, discovering some other really beautiful stuff along the way; it is so cool to be completely in charge of your itinerary!


Eventually, I made it to the museum, without having had any navigational problems, which is quite a feat for those of you who know me well! Another pleasant surprise came when I discovered that admission to the Pompidou is free for student-aged legal residents. The Marcel Duchamp exhibit that motivated the whole journey was pretty interesting – not the best exhibit I’ve seen, but there was some pretty interesting stuff nonetheless. It was also cool to see the works exhibited in the context of their original language, including case upon case of notes and studies that Duchamp had scribbled to himself.


At this point, it was getting late and my brioche was starting to wear off, so I headed off in search of a snack. I fully intended to eat some real food, but the pull of pastry was too strong, and I was sucked into a patisserie where I ordered a tropézienne (essentially a pie-shaped brioche, cut horizontally and filled with a mixture of pastry crème and butter crème – kind of a sandwich, right?) – I recently translated a traditional recipe for this particular dessert for Eva, so you should all get on her about that!


After my dessert break, I headed off again and found another amazing church (Saint-Nicolas des Champs) that didn’t make the cut onto the landmark map, as well as the Théâtre de la Renaissance, which was the backdrop of a lot of the early work of Alphonse Mucha, and the incubator of the Art Nouveau style (which just so happens to be the subject of my UNL Honors thesis). So that was a lucky find!


By this time, it was about 5:00 and time to meet up with my friend Mike, a UNL grad student who is teaching English in Paris this year, and who – very graciously – agreed to host me for the weekend. So I headed to our agreed meeting spot – La Place de la République – a big square/central metro station close to his apartment. As awesome as my day of total independence and aimless wandering had been, it was so nice to see a familiar face!

While we were chatting (in English) in the square, a French guy our age approached us and asked if he could talk with us, just to speak some English. Our conversation ended up lasting about forty-five minutes, and spanned an impressive number of topics, from Star Trek to Frank Zappa to Quantum Leap. Our friend Antonin also mentioned that there was a movie theatre in the area that holds weekly interactive “Rocky Horror” showings, about which both we demanded as much information as possible.

Next, we headed to Mike’s apartment so I could drop of all of my stuff (I had been awkwardly lugging my backpack with me all day). Then the next thing we knew, we were both waking up from long and unintended naps…it was 9:30 and we were starving, so we walked to a neighborhood pizza place. It was here that I was introduced to the wonderful French practice of cracking an egg into the middle of a pizza partway through the cooking process, so you have a sunny-side up egg and a delicious pizza at the same time!

The next morning, Saturday, I headed out on my own to hit up Notre Dame and Sainte-Chappelle, a small private chapel constructed for Louis XIV (it has been at the top of my Paris bucket list since I saw a picture of it in my first art history survey class). Notre Dame was absolutely magnificent and overwhelming (and so was the line to get inside). So I took a 360° tour of the exterior and called it good.


Sainte-Chappelle, however, did not disappoint. I don’t know how much the steep climb up a tiny spiral staircase contributed, but when I reached the top of the stairs, my breath was taken away. Of course, the crowning glory of the chapel, an immense rose window, has recently been removed for restoration, but that didn’t really matter – it was absolutely surreal to be inside such an old and beautiful place that I had studied so many photos of.


Next, I headed back to the apartment, where we ate a lunch of champions – cheese and baguette – and then we headed right back to the neighborhood of Notre Dame (this time by métro) to buy our tickets for that night’s showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show! The metro turned out to be way less intimidating that New York’s subway system; it was surprisingly easy to navigate. However, I was incapable of feeding my ticket into the right part of the turnstile. A kind and patient older French man behind me tried to help me, but as it was obvious that I was NOT from Paris, he didn’t speak, just kind of tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to the right slot, which was in the last place I expected it to be. It took me a second to figure out what he was trying to do, so it was a little awkward. But it worked. We bought our movie tickets, and then headed in the direction of Père Lachaise, yet another bucket list item of mine. This time, I fed that subway ticket through the stile like a pro! At the entrance to Père Lachaise, we found a map pointing out all of the locations of the most famous people buried there. I was surprised to learn that Camille Pissarro, Sarah Bernhardt, Chopin, Molière, and Max Ernst are all there, in addition to some of the more iconic names. The cemetery turned out to be laid out in a very strange way, and we had some trouble finding the graves we were looking for. And after about 45 minutes, a guy on a motorcycle drove up and started herding us toward the exit. Apparently, the cemetery closes at 6:00. The only famous grave we saw was Yves Montand – Mom knows how I feel about that…. But again – so much history and so many pretty moss-covered mausoleums!


Later that evening, it was back to the theatre, where we were greeted and escorted to our seats (dead-center of the second row) by the actors of the troupe that leads the showings. The theatre was a tiny basement room, with maybe about sixty seats. The screen was a canvas attached to the wall with carpenter clamps. At the beginning, the leader (he also played the Doctor) asked how many people were new to interactive showings. More than half the people in the room raised their hands. So as part of the introduction, we all stood up and practiced the Time Warp. Apparently, it was clear that Mike and I knew what we were doing, so we were asked to remain standing and repeat the dance a few times for everyone – on our own. The movie was shown in the original English with French subtitles, and about half of the jokes were the English ones that I’m used to, but there were also a lot of new French jokes added, some of which were pretty great. There was also an interesting moment where a guy celebrating his birthday was brought up to the stage, stripped down to his underwear, and sent back to his seat. And some pretty intense audience interaction that made me grateful that we were not in the front row…. This was definitely the kind of thing that I hope I can continue to do as I travel; it was a little bit touristy (there were a few other tourists there), but totally off the beaten path. And I was still finding rice in my pockets two days later.

Sunday morning brought a super long ATM search (the first one I found was out of order, and then at the next one I realized that I had forgotten my new French PIN…but after this minor heart attack and most of the possible permutations of the four numbers that – thank God – I could remember), a great cup of coffee, and some more independent aimless wandering. Then we headed to the Louvre.

I think that I have been told by literally every single person who has visited the Louvre that it is just plain too big. Truth. And as Mike said, it was like my candy store. I had an idea of a few things that I really wanted to see, but aside from them, I had no idea where to begin. After I bought my ticket, I made a beeline for the section where I knew would find one of my all-time favorite works, the Nike of Samothrace (a Greek sculpture of the goddess Nike dating to the 2nd century BC). It is displayed on a landing at the top of a giant staircase. I can’t lie – I definitely got a bit choked up when I walked through the doorway and saw it up there.


The whole afternoon was spent jumping all over the museum, trying not to miss anything that I would regret not seeing, and also discovering some awesome new stuff. But I also have a pretty strong reputation for moving painfully slowly through museums. So it was a moment for personal growth in that respect. (Ben, as much as it pained me, I did NOT read every single plaque!) Aside from the incomprehensibly large collection, the building itself is quite an impressive work of art. I could easily spend a week there and not feel like I had enough time. It was so fun to come across numerous famous works that I had forgotten were part of this collection (Rubens’ Medici series, the Law Code of Hammurabi, The Lacemaker, The Grand Odalesque, etc.).


I left Paris bright and early (not really; it was still pretty dark…) on Monday morning in order to make it back with plenty of time to get to class. It was a fantastic, super fun weekend; I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to make this trip, and so incredibly grateful to have had a friend to help me out (thanks again, Mike!). I can’t wait to get back. But there are also so many other places to see as well!

And I’m afraid that if this post gets any longer, no one will ever want to read my blog again….

Posted by NKammerer 14:57 Archived in France Tagged art paris theatre metro museum pizza cafe louvre pompidou notre_dame pastry pere_lachaise duchamp rocky_horror saint-chappelle saint-gervais saint-nicolas-des-champs

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents


Les photos sont merveilleuses et tes commentaires sont intéressants et informatifs. Cependant, c’est clair que tu as besoin d’une autre excursion à Paris. Je souhaite que j'aurais pu être une mouche sur le mur pour le Time Warp!

by Lisa Kammerer

Are you kidding my friend. Write on. I am always enthralled with your tales. I could read of your adventures for hours. I am so glad you are having such a great time and learning on top of that. Keep it coming. I can't wait for your next installment.

Love ya, bill

by Bill Collins-Wolaver

The pictures of your delicious snacks have made be ravenous! Your photography is unbelievable - all of the wonder and beauty comes through - I'm so happy that you are getting to experience all of these buildings, churches, and works of art. It's amazing how much you are managing to squeeze into each day. This weekend Opa and I were at a bride and groom shower where Aunt Chris, Aunt Betty, and Aunt Barb raved about your various blogs! They all think you are a fantastic writer and they love your pictures.


by Judy Trout

Hi Honey,
Your camera angles are a blast; seems you are developing still another fantastic skill. You are too much.

Love, Opa

by Omer Trout

What more can I say - You are such an interesting writer & I love your pictures especially the food !! LOL Muti

by Muti

I will never get tired of your blogs. Always so entertaining and informative....the pictures are awesome!! The only problem is...I need to eat something with alot of butter and sugar in it. love aunt betty

by aunt betty

I'm just like everyone else that has commented - totally in awe of all you are doing. The way you write, transports me right next to you!! Love this blog and all that you are doing but most of all love you!!! (like Aunt Betty - I'm finding the need to eat something sweet!!!)

by Chris Wulff

Comments on this blog entry are now closed to non-Travellerspoint members. You can still leave a comment if you are a member of Travellerspoint.