Paris is Always a Good Idea

Contrary to what the silence on the blog may have led you to believe, much has happened since Montpellier. Lots of exams! But, after exams came 10 glorious days of vacation, one of which I spent in my favorite city.

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I can’t explain it, but Paris possesses a simply magical quality. The grand boulevards, Haussmann architecture, all the monuments, the pastry shops (of course!), the history, and the light- soft and sweet- together, all these elements give the city a romantic and nostalgic quality- as soon as you taste it, you’ll fall in love, too, and you’ll never want to leave.

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It’s been four years since I last saw Paris, so while on the train this time around, I was worried. I knew it had been a while…so what if Paris disappointed me? I had an elaborate, idealized dream of what she should be- what if she failed to live up to everything?

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But, no- like an dear friend, Paris welcomed me with open arms and once again, I was captivate by her beauty. In Paris, one has permission to dream a little bit. That is, I believe, the reason that so many fall in love with her. In Paris, it seems that anything is possible…and nothing is impossible.

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I spent the entire day walking throughout the city…and still didn’t cover everything on my list. Paris is not a city to be seen in a day. No, to do her justice you could spend a lifetime there. I ended up not taking many photos- Paris, in my unsolicited opinion, is best seen in the early morning, without the fellow tourists. But I also wanted to soak it all in- Paris has a certain feeling of je ne sais quoi, and it’s an enchanting one that begs to be imprinted on your memory for you, and only you. It was the most beautiful dream of my life and the one I will never forget.

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Montpellier

It’s a quintessential town in southern France, with plenty of light, warmth, and buildings that sparkle in the sun. There are people milling about, looking to be delighted; fountains trickle gently and statues stand, ever watchful.

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The fun part about having (almost) no agenda and traveling alone is stumbling across small quirks. On this particular day, an organization was campaigning for breast cancer awareness. One of the streets was covered in jolly pink umbrellas, giving it a rosy hue.

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Of course, I also live for the small pleasures of brilliant, classical architecture and fresh, vibrant flowers, of which both were plentiful. The flowers were awfully expensive, though. I’ll stick with my local florist in Grenoble.

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I really had no agenda coming to Montpellier, aside from a few “touristy” places that I wanted to see in person. This included the Promenade du Peyrou, which was part of a re-beautification project in the 1700’s (?). It’s an elegant little space complete with a majestic pavilion and two romantic tree-lined walkways. The light’s really brilliant.

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Making my way back toward the center of town, I took a few detours through side streets and was happily surprised to find little bursts of color. The French have excellent taste in doors, each unique and more charming than the one before.

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Montpellier didn’t woo me like the other cities have, and I don’t think I would revisit. That’s to say, I’m not at all disappointed with my trip and I’m happy to have experienced it and all it had to offer- including several lovely Marches des Livres (book flea markets)- but I have no real desire to return. But, if you have a desire to explore it, Montpellier is rightly charming and you’re sure to have a grand adventure!

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Arles & Saintes Maries de la mer

The sky was overcast and promised rain. We teetered across the uneven cobblestone, wove our way through fellow tourists and vendors, and allowed ourselves to be delighted at every turn. The little bistros called to us, the charm of the south sang, and I tried very hard to keep up with the group. I was nearly lost a few times, but window shutters, thrown open to rain and sun alike, begged to be admired. In the afternoon, despite the gloomy drizzle, I marched on, alone, stopping as often as I pleased, wondering what else Arles had up its sleeve. A brightly colored door, a forgotten cobbled street, a moped waiting for its rider; the surprises were varied and always lovely.

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We tumbled out of the bus at Saintes Maries de la mer, the salty, cool breeze carrying a faint smell of fish. The Mediterranean sat calmly, and boats bobbed in the harbor, fishing gear spelling onto the docks. It was quiet, with only the rustling of the wind; the town was barely awake but for some Arlésiennes dancing by the shore.  Some of us went off to mass, but I lost them in the crowd because I stopped, captivated by a diminutive inn covered in flowers. I gave up trying to find them, and instead ambled about, stopping often for all the extraordinary little scenes in an ordinary little town.

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Sur le Pont d’Avignon…

Sur le pont d’Avignon,
On y danse, on y danse,
Sur le pont d’Avignon
On y danse tous en rond.

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Le samedi dernier, moi, Molly, et Zoe sommes allées à Avignon, une jolie ville provençal. J’ai eu envie de voir Le Palais des Papes, le trône de l’église catholique au XIIIème siècle pendant lequel il y avait beaucoup de bouleversement politique en Europe et dans l’église soi-même. Cette monstruosité gothique ne m’a pas déçu.

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On peut monter au sommet du palais ou on peut trouver une vue panoramique d’Avignon, qui est très jolie. Les toits sont toujours charmant.

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Après avoir vu le palais, nous avons fait une promenade dans Avignon, et j’ai profité bien de l’architecture et le jardinage. Nous avons eu un peu du temps supplémentaire avant notre depart, donc nous avons vu le Basilica de Saint Pierre, lequel avait l’architecture gothique comme le palais, et était aussi impressionné.

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Avignon, vous m’avez complètement charmé !

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Un jour à Annecy !

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What I love about French cities and villages is their charm. All of them! So charming. The rooftops are always so quaint and the architecture stunning. The other thing? It’s pretty consistent here- there’s no random pockets of modernity. I hate that.

Two Sundays ago we travelled to Annecy, a city a bit north of Grenoble. There are farmers markets on Sunday mornings, where you can find the most exquisite produce. The colors are the most vibrant I’ve ever seen; it’s like a drawing. A good Vermeer still-life. There’s also local honey, candies, and anything you can imagine. It’s really magnificent. Unfortunately, I didn’t buy anything because I had no change. They seem to be particular about exact change here, and I didn’t think they would fancy me paying for a small 5€ of strawberries with a 50€ bill. Oh well. But, I won’t be forgetting the strawberries any time soon- they are vividly ingrained in my mind.

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We ate lunch at a restaurant called Le Freti and it was magnifique! The restaurant specializes in something called raclette, in which half a cheese wheel is melted by a large heating lamp. It’s poured on potatoes and is incredibly divine.

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After lunch we took a boat ride around Annecy Lake. It was very picturesque, and I saw two châteaux. One of them had been in the same family for…27 generations or something crazy like that.

We ended the day with…guess…yep, a stop at a pâtisserie. A pâtisserie that has, apparently, won the world championship of pastry?! It’s called Roses de Neige and is quite pink. I, personally, was tickled pink by all the pink.

Our next trip is to Arles and Camargue, two villages in southern France.

A bientôt!


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Ce que j’adore des villes française, c’est qu’elles sont très très charmantes. Toutes ! Les tuiles sont toujours jolies et l’architecture est vraiment belle et surtout consistante. Moi, je déteste les villes aux Etats-Unis où l’architecture n’est pas consistante. A mon avis, c’est moche.

La dimanche dernière nous sommes allés à Annecy, une ville au nord de Grenoble. Les dimanches matins, il y a un marché fermier ou on peut acheter les beaux produits frais et vif, la charcuterie, le miel, les bonbons, tout ce qu’on peut imaginer. C’est vraiment magnifique ! Malheureusement, je n’ai rien acheté parce que je n’ai pas du tout de la monnaie- et en France, on aime beaucoup la monnaie exact, de laquelle que je n’ai pas. Tant pis. Mais je ne vais jamais oublier les fraises que j’ai vues- elles étaient rouges vives- incroyable.

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Nous avons déjeuné au restaurant s’appelle Le Freti qui se spécialise en la raclette. J’adore la raclette; ça c’était la première fois que j’en ai eu et c’était délicieux. On a fondu une extrêmement grande demie-roulette du fromage et on l’a mangé avec des pommes de terre et de la charcuterie. Miam !

Après avoir déjeuné, nous avons pris un bateau sur le Lac Annecy. C’était incroyable- les grandes montagnes, l’eau turquoise, pas beaucoup des nuages… wow. Sur une des montagnes, il y a un grand château qui est très joli. Je crois que la même famille l’a gardé pour 27 générations !

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Nous avons terminé le voyage avec un arrêt à… devinez… bien sûr, une pâtisserie s’appelle Rose des Neiges. Vraiment jolie, très rose, sur une petite rue.

Et voilà. Annecy était merveilleuse, et j’ai hâte de voir plus de la France !

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Bonjour de Grenoble !

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Bonjour tout le monde !

Je suis à Grenoble où je m’inscrit à l’Université de Grenoble-Alpes CUEF. Si tu veux recevoir des mises à jours, inscrivez-vous ici:

tinyletter.com/memoriesbymarissa

Je continuerai à écrire sur le blog, mais pas assez souvent.


Hi everyone!

I am in Grenoble studying at the University of Grenoble-Aples CUEF. If you want little updates, click the link above.

I’ll still write on the blog, but not as often.

 

Yellowstone Part 2

I felt so small.

On the edge of the forest, standing in the gravel, in the pitch black, shivering as the night air brushed by, I looked up.

Sparkling stars sprinkled the dark canvas, which was rendered a royal purple by the soft, delicate splash of cream.

The Milky Way.

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I inhaled the soft scent of pine and grass, and the gravel crunched between my toes as I tugged the blanket tighter around me. I savored the silence, drinking in the vast skies, a feast, a symphony for the eyes. This is what wonder feels likes.

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You are confronted with vastness, you acknowledge your smallness, and you accept both.   You are unable to comprehend the sheer beauty that engulfs you, but you allow it to consume you and quiet you.

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The colors are vivid, as vibrant and intense as a Friedrich painting, but no photograph does any scene justice. The paintings, even, are shamed by the experience of seeing the golden light peek between the trees at sunset; the lake awash in pink, champagne mist at sunrise; and the endless valleys and plateaus flooded with regal trees and feathery grass.

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The waters hush you, the waterfalls spray violently, and the rivers flow and bubble exuberantly; hot springs run down the mountains, joining the rivers.

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And, despite the fact that it is summer, the thunder rolls and the clouds darken; lighting  fires and illuminates the mountains in the distance. It rains the refreshing, romantic, out-of-place rain that makes you want to dance joyfully in the meadow, arms open wide and hair flying.

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You close your eyes, take a breath, say goodbye, and know that somehow, you’ll be back.

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Yellowstone Part 1

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Snake River facing Grand Teton

The airport, which probably qualified as an oversized ranch, was so small only three airlines serviced it. There were no jetways; instead, travelers were greeted by open sky, a soft breeze, the majestic Teton Mountains, and no cell service. The town of Jackson, with a population just under 10,000, was nestled in the valley of Jackson Hole, eight miles south. The size of the sign indicating the airport’s presence was about as large as a generously-sized agenda. No words, just the symbol of an airplane quietly pointing the way.

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Forest in the Upper Geyser Basin near Old Faithful

There were blue skies, open plains, and forest as far as the eye could see. Cars, like the intermittent lost ant, occasionally sped down the highway at a leisurely pace of 55 mph. The national elk refuge and Grand Teton National Park left scant room for any roots of civilization. It was quiet, and you could think.  From Jackson to Yellowstone was 76 miles, depending on the destination within the park, but there would have hardly been enough time to soak in the splendor of the landscape, which was occasionally dotted with bison.

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Pool in Upper Geyser Basin

Each scene was a painting, as heavily-saturated colors burst forth and created a serene masterpiece for the eyes and heart. The green of the plants, the oranges of the sulfur, the incredibly deep blues of the water; they all sang with incomparable beauty. It was a place that shouldn’t exist, but miraculously does.

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Dry riverbed at Gros Ventre Junction

On a chilly, early morning, the sun softly kissed the rocks of a dry riverbed. The water flowed, sparkling and chiming, a few yards away. It was crisp and sharp, so clean that you could see the rocks beneath. If you closed your eyes and listened, the most brilliant symphony played as nature slowly, though not lazily, awakened.

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Sapphire-colored water at Upper Geyser Basin

Wonder is such a sensational, singular emotion, felt in solitude, but always shared. There never seem to be words to communicate the sense of beauty, joy, and peace that envelope us as we become small and grace becomes big.

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River at Upper Geyser Basin

And we wandered, slowly, drinking in the serenity.

Muir Woods + Marin Headlands

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This week I did something I swore never to do: I drove on the side of a cliff. Maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit, but I’m telling you, Highway 1 is not the safest road you could be driving. Deep curves, steep roads, and sometimes no guardrail…several times I envisioned accidentally driving off and tumbling into the abyss below. Needless to say, I drove under the speed limit. And, I didn’t care if the car behind me was judging. No Marissa pancakes today, please.

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The last time I was in Muir Wood was maybe 10-ish years ago, and I’ve never been to Marin Headlands. I’ve heard a lot about the Headlands, but they’re a bit far and honestly I’m somewhat against driving anywhere more than 20 miles from my house. But, Squaw was here, so there’s the exception. If it weren’t for her, I definitely would not have gone, because going alone is almost certain death. Both lovely national parks are, unsurprisingly, without cell reception. That means no GPS, and frankly I’m surprised that we made it out of both places without being horridly lost.

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Once we arrived, however, scenery was worth the near death and destruction. Marin Headlands has a handful of trails, and we ended up on one near a beach. Which beach, I don’t know, because I’m incompetent when it comes to paper-map reading, but it was the most dramatic scene. Karl the Fog had decided to roll in, shrouding the view. But, you could hear the waves lapping gently and the wind whipping. Despite the lack of view of the Bay, the Headlands themselves are something to look at, a quiet and peaceful respite from the smog, dirt, and grime of the city.

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After bumbling our way back to 101 North, we survived parallel parking and waltzed into Muir Woods. I had forgotten how grand the redwoods are, majestically towering into the sky. Beauty and grace are so evident in the vast trees, trickling of the streams, and hushed, wooded paths. Sometimes I forget that these places still exist, but it’s undeniably peaceful when you inhale the gentle sent of moss and earth and listen to the stillness.

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{Review} The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny

6449551If you’ll recall, I sped-read Louise Penny’s A Great Reckoning during spring semester in order to write an arts review for class. Since then, I had tucked her away in my mind with a note to read more of her books.

While perusing the table of books at Costco a couple weeks ago, as I am wont to do, I stumbled across her again, and being my very cheap self, took a photo of the cover as a reminder to borrow it from the library. The Brutal Telling is the fifth book in Penny’s  Armand Gamache series, and A Great Reckoning the most recent. In fact checking that statement, I just discovered that a new Gamache novel, Glass Houses, will be published in August!

While only my second Inspector Gamache novel, I can already tell that Penny has a penchant for incorporating themes of secrets, truth, and façades. I admire the consistency, and she does it well, all whilst weaving in minor themes, notes, and commentary that, although not the focus, draw an acute attention to themselves.

The discovery of a body in Olivier’s bistro in Three Pines, Quebec rattles the tiny, welcoming village. Instantly, all are plunged into an unfamiliar world of secrets and brutality. As the blame constantly shifts and lies create a façade, it seems that more questions will be created than answered. It begs the question of what is more dangerous: the truth, or the comfortable walls that conceal it?

As the case drags out, Olivier’s past is unearth in a brutal telling, revealing an insecure, greedy man hidden behind the generous, well-loved bistro owner the villagers have come to adore. But, while his secrets are revealed, the process also raises an important question about how we love: conditionally or unconditionally? Do we have the power, or more importantly, the will, to love unconditionally? What are the boundaries? How far will we go when we feel someone we love has betrayed our trust?

All the while, Clara’s about to receive the artistic recognition of her dreams…until her agent makes an ugly remark about her friend, Gabri, Olivier’s partner. As Clara wrestles with her conscience and swings between silence, safety, and acceptance; and courage, risk, and dignity; she must decide how important it is to stand up for friends and family. Is it worth sacrificing her dream to defend her friends and stand up for what she believes is right?

And, remarkably, there is the entrance of a rookie Sûreté agent, Paul Morin, whose courage, gusto, and willingness prove to us that there is much more than what meets the eye. Sometimes, we must stand out from the crowd, withstand the ridicule, and put ourselves out there. If we want our dreams badly enough, we will weather the judgement, the laughter, and sometimes, disdain to prove ourselves and take the risk. In Inspector Gamache, he continues to testify to the power of kindness to strangers, colleagues, and friends.

In regards to A Great ReckoningThe Brutal Telling was lacking somewhat in character development. We see the struggles of Olivier, Clara, Peter, and others, but few come to favorable resolutions, if any at all. Instead, the issues are suspended, perhaps to be continued in the next book, perhaps to be laid to rest.