Tuesday, June 23, 2009

J'adore la Finlande!

Home, sweet home! Oh, it feels so great to be back in Finland! Everything's so beautiful and calm and... well, simply the best! Much better than I remembered. Or perhaps I've just too overwhelmed about everything... Maybe it'll pass soon enough :) A few times I've thought about my time in Paris, sometimes perhaps with a small sting in my heart. But most of the time I've been too busy to think back. I'm just enjoying being back home.

The last five days in Paris with my friends were wonderful! During the weekend we rushed through all the main sights and then chilled and shopped during the last two days. And even though I had seen everything before, it still felt so different seeing it with my best friends. Even though I had spent the last 4,5 months living in Paris, the last days still felt more like a short holiday than showing my friends around. And I think it made it easier to leave too. Perhaps I'm gonna start missing Paris more later on when I've gotten more used to Finland again, but right now I only have one more thing to say:

Been there, done that. Goodbye Paris!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Happy! :D

Yay! My friends will be here in only a few hours! Hurray! We're going to have so much fun these last days in Paris. It'll be the best farewell party ever! :D And it'll feel so much better to fly back home with someone else in stead of just sitting all alone in the plane. I'm so excited!

See you soon back in Finland! :) This girl is off to have fun now! Ciao!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Something beautiful

Today I did the last things I had on my "to do"-list before going home and I actually found some very beautiful things.

These beautiful ladies live in Jardin de Luxembourg and of course, I've seen them many times before and I always stop to admire them too, but it occured to me that I've actually never memorized them in a photo. But now I did it :)

Then I finally took a stroll through the old covered passages in Paris. Here's the one I found the most beautiful. It's called Galerie Vivienne and is filled with fancy shops and cafés. I liked the other passages very much too, but their interior wasn't as special as this one. But the athmosphere was perhaps more lively and relaxed in the other ones. Galerie Vivienne is a real parisian place - very chic :P

And do you know what this is? This is actually the roof (and the top floors) of Galeries Lafayette, the most chic department store in Paris. Stockmann in Helsinki looks very, very cheap compared to this one! :D But even though you can't afford to buy anything in there, it's still nice to just walk around and be amazed by all the stuff you find there. On the ground floor, with all the cosmetica etc they, for example, have a big aquarium filled with exotic fish next to the stand that sell a cream called "Crème de la Mer" (Cream of the sea). Then I just can't help being chocked when I see the prices of some of the clothes... I mean, it's crazy!

Apart from visiting all these chic places, I also did something much more simple: I said goodbye to "my" piano over here.

She's so very beautiful, isn't she? In such a simple and careless way... I'm gonna miss her. But in the same time it's so nice to get back home where I have the piano in my own appartment and where I'm able to play whenever I want to. I have to admit that during the last two months here in Paris, I haven't played the piano so much. There has always been something else to do and it always feels so difficult to go downstairs. You also always have to check the time to see if you can play or not. And then it really, really disturbed me to know that everyone could hear me. So yeah, even though this piano was wonderful, it's still gonna be nice to get home to my own piano.... although I do wish it would be a real one too :P

Beauty is really something I've learnt to appreciate more here in Paris. I don't think I've ever before in my life visited as many art museums and really spent a lot of time in then admiring the sculptures and paintings. I've also been amazed by the beautiful colours outside when the spring breaks out to its' full blossom. I mean, I've always loved spring because spring makes the snow melt away and you know that the summer is coming. It's also so amazing how everything (and everyone) starts living! You can almost see all the plants growing... But even though the spring in Finland is lovely, the spring over here is almost better. Because it's so much faster and there's so many more colours everywhere. And after living in a big city, the wildness of the nature also gets a new, very special place in your heart. You gasp of joy and feel so happy everytime you see the sea or a forest.

I have to say that I like this new awareness I've developed very much. I just hope I won't forget it right after I'll get back to my normal life and normal environment.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Love and hatred and somewhere in between

After spending four and a half months in Paris, it's sure there are certain things I'm going to miss once I'm back in Finland. But there's also absolutely gonna be some things that I'm so NOT going to miss! One such thing is my neighbour... Sometimes she's really driving me mad with her loud music, her very weird and annoying laughter and especially the fact that she obviously don't know how to use the handle on the door. She keeps slaming it everytime she walks through it. No matter if it's early in the morning, in the middle of the day or in the middle of the night. And she slams it so hard that the walls are litterally shaking!

Another thing I won't miss is the buildings from the inside. Or how they don't have a good isolation. In the winter it was really freezing in my room and even though I tried to turn on some more heat, the radiator was apparently centralized so you weren't able to do anything about it. Then, when the spring came, they turned the heating off compleately! So when the sun is shining, it's actually ok in my room but when it's raining and cold outside, like it has been for the past few days, the room turns really cold again. I mean, I usually don't sleep with socks and a thick pyjamas even during the winter in Finland, but here I have to do that every night. And that feels a bit silly.

On the other hand, I very much like the buildings from the outside over here. They're so beautiful with their french balconies! Before I didn't at all understand the use of a french balcony, but after spending so much time at Liss' place (because she has one of those), I've really started to understand the charm of them. I wouldn't exchange a real balcony for a french one, but these ones are still much better than no balcony at all. It brings you closer to the open air.

The city itself is also very beautiful. I love the way you can find really wonderful, cosy places hidden just around the corner. Small lanes or parks that most visitors of the city doesn't even know excist. Like Parc de Belleville, for example, where we had our first real picknick for the season. A small but beautiful park right in the middle of the immigrants district. And the picknicks themselves! Oh, I love them! I could have picknicks every night! It's so amazing to for example sit on Pont des Arts with a couple of friends, eating good food and drinking champagne while enjoying the warm summer evening and the lively city around you. That's one of the best experiences I've had here.

But even though it's so great to have this variety of things around you, I still know I could never live in a big city like this. It's very convenient that you can do almost anything anytime you want since there's really almost everything in Paris. Or if you don't find what you want in Paris, it's still in the heart of Europe so it never takes too long to go somewhere else. But Paris is still too big for me (although it does seem smaller than you would think after spending some time in it). There's too much stress and traffic all the time. The city is never quiet and calm. People are always rushing somewhere and it is actually true what they say about parisians: that they're impolite and arrogant. I mean not all of them, but most of them. If you try to ask something really nicely, it's not at all rare that they just snap you back and look very, very annoyed as if you're just wasting their time. But as soon as you get outside the city, you're struck by the kindness of everyone! Really! I never thought the difference could be so huge! The only people I really like in Paris is the busdrivers because they're all really nice. They say "Bonjour" to everyone and if they see someone running towards the bus, they stop and wait for him, even though they would have already left the bus stop! That would never happen in Helsinki... So yes, I like the buses in Paris. You see so much more when you take the bus in stead of the metro and there's actually usually much fewer people on the bus too. The metro makes me depressed. I didn't notice how bad I felt before I started to take the bus in stead to Sorbonne every morning, but after that I've started to feel so much happier and now I even try to avoid the metro as much as I can. If I can, I choose the bus or even walking.

This is something else I'm going to miss: all the boulangerie-patisseries that you find in every corner of the street! It's amazing how you can go and buy your bread form the baker every morning if you feel like doing it. Or if you're hungry while walking around on the streets you can as well just pop in for a croissant for lunch. And just stay there for a while to admire all the sweet things they have. Seriously, their cakes and small pastries are like small pieces of art! It's astonishing! I love it! ...but I just don't understand how all the parisian women are so thin! I mean, I know I've probably gained some weight during this spring due to the bakeries. And the worst thing is that once I'm back in Finland, I won't at all appreciate anymore that small bakery that opened very close to our house last autumn. Next time I go there to buy sunday-breakfast, I'll be really dissapointed... Because it's going to seem so... pathetic after Paris. Poor little one...

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Music in Paris

Now I only have a bit over one week left. Three of my best friends are coming on friday and then we fly home together on wednesday next week. Yay! I'm started to get so excited! :D I'd like to start packing already, but that feels a bit silly since I don't think it will take more than a few hours to pack all my stuff... But maybe on thursday.

I thought I would have felt at least a bit sad to leave Paris, but actually I don't. Neither does it feel like I HAVE to get out of here right now! It's more like... I don't know... Like now this experience is over and it's time to move on. Or that it's time to go back to my normal life again. This spring was just a small and different face in my life, a small adventure. But now I'm ready to go back to all the things I've learnt to appreciate so much more during my stay in Paris.

These last days before friday afternoon I'm all "alone" in Paris. Sophie started her trip back to Finland by train already yesterday and Liss will spend this week in Germany with a friend. I take it easy. No need to stress for anything anymore. I've made a small list of the things I still wanna see in Paris before I leave, but that's the only thing that keeps me occupied. And then of course planning a marvellous stay for my friends ;)

But enough nonsence now. Since I'm coming back home soon, I guess it's time to make some kind of summary of Paris and my stay here. And today I'll start with something very close to my heart: music. As you all know, Paris is famous for its' musicians standing on the streets. And believe me, there's lots of them! Every time (or at least almost...) I've seen someone special or really good, I've taken a small sample-video of him/her/them. I've already shown you the cute old man in Orléans, but I've found so many others too. So here we go:

This girl is actually quite traditional but she sings very well down in the St.Michel metro-station :)

These guys, however, I liked very much for some reason. This song is quite slow, but sometimes they played really lively, russian songs. Always standing at the same place down in the metro-station Châtelet.

He's pretty amazing, isn't he? Unfortunately you can't hear it that well, but he actually plays at least three instruments at the same time. And in all he has about five or six instruments attached to him. This video is taken in the park Buttes Chaumont.

This group on Pont des Arts really had a jam going on! I loved it!

In Montmartre, on the steps right in front of the church Sacré-Coeur I found a guy who even had the audience with him! Everyone was singing along, and that's very rare! Usually people just walk right by them, sometimes stoping for a while or giving them a coin. But that's it.

And this jazzy group was standing on the promenade by the Seine one evening when I was walking home after a picknick.

I also once saw a chinese woman playing on that chinese guitar-instrument that I actually don't know the name for. But I didn't feel like stoping for taking a video right then since there were too many people around... :)

This last street-musician video is perhaps my favourite even though it's not taken i Paris. This old man I saw in Bourgogne in a small town called Louhans, and he's playing with a saw! I've never seen that before in real life, only in movies... It's a real shame though that the sound in this video is so bad, because he played really, really well! And some very catchy and famous songs too! ...and sorry, I had also forgotten that I can't turn my camera like this when I shoot videos since you can't turn them around afterwards...

Except all these musicians on the streets, I also love to enter a catholic church during a mass. Unlike the churches here in Finland, everyone actually sings along in the churches here in France! And then they always also has a choir singing, so the music is really fantastic! This one is filmed in the cathedral of Chartres.

Well, hope you enjoyed this small Parisian or french music-session :) Sorry once again for the poor quality of the sound...

Monday, June 08, 2009

Travel journal, part ten: Normandie 2/2

The next morning we were still in Fécamp and after enjoying a fancy breakfast we had prepared with fruits, raspberries and mini croissants, pain au chocolats and pain au raisins we headed out to explore the city.

This too was a small fishing-town but slightly bigger than Dieppe had been. Like most of the towns by the sea, this too had a lot of boats, especially sailing boats anchored by the promenade. And since it was mother's day here in France on sunday, there was actually quite a lot of people on the streets. Usually even Paris is really dead on a sunday morning, but not this time.

The main sight in Fécamp, apart from the sea and the port, was the Benedictine Palace where they make the liqueur Benedictine. This liqueur is made out of 24 different plants and spices from all around the world according to an old recipe dating from the Renaissance. The building itself has actually never been used by benedictine monks, but was especially built for the museum and the destillery in the 19th century. But it's still magnificent! In the museum they had, among other things, these really old books and documents and it was really amazing (at least for an historian) how they were so well preserved! They almost looked like new ones!

In the end of the tour we also got to taste the liqueur but even though it actually was quite good, I decided not to buy a bottle :)

After Fécamp we continued along the coast to our next destination. What makes the coast of Normandie so special is the high cliffs throughout the coastline. Aren't they beautiful? They look a lot like the cliffs in Ireland but I guess it's because they once were part of the same piece of land :) Unfortunately the road actually didn't follow the coatline, so we saw the cliffs only when we came to a town or a city. I guess if you'd really like to see them, you'd have to go hiking.

Our next destination was a small place called Étretat and famous for its' very special cliffs painted by several artists, including Claude Monet. There were at least three cliffs that had a natural arch like the one you can see in the picture. This one is perhaps the most panited one, but the others were really beautiful too. You were also able to climb up each cliff and the view from up there was splendid! Then, another thrilling thing was that in this area they have the tide-phenomenon. You see that the cliff also has a small cave and when we came to Étretat, the cave was partly under water, but a few hours later, after climbing around on the cliffs, the water had receded so much that you were able to walk to the cave and also enter it.

It was really cool, because you were practically walking on the bottom of the sea :) Then, in the cave, there was this small tunnel that led to the other side of the cliff where there was another beach and the third arched cliff that looked just like an elephant with its' trunk reached in the water. Really amazing! But you had to be sure to get back before the water started rising again, otherwise you would have been stuck on the other side for the next six hours :)

Our last stop before heading back to Paris was the city Le Havre. This city was heavily bombed during the Second World War and therefor lost almost all the old buildings. In stead everything is made out of concrete, espacially built in the 50's, and believe it or not, this concrete city is nowadays listed as a UNESCO world heritage for "an innovative utilization of concrete's potential" and "an exceptional example of architecture and town planning of the post-war era". But it wasn't actually as bad as we had thought after reading that the whole city is just concrete. It was a nice surprise to see how nice they've managed to make it after all! Unfortunately the rain just kept pouring down, so after taking a few pictures of the city center, we decided to drive back to Paris as it already was pretty late. And it was a good thing we started our trip back because there had been a small accident on the highway so we were actually stuck in queues for almost an hour.

But, summa sumarum, Normandie is a beautiful part of France for those who like nature and especially the sea. Go there if you ever have the chance!

Travel journal, part ten: Normandie 1/2

Now I've back from my last trip during my stay here in France. This time I spent the weekend in Normandie together with Sophie and her finnish friend who also went to Chartres with us earlier this spring. As Normandie is in the north of France and by the sea, it was actually pretty cold. But even though some metheorologists had said it would rain the whole weekend, it actually started only on sunday afternoon, so we were still quite happy about the weather. This was probably also the closest I'll ever get to Obama! On saturday it was the 65th D-day anniversary, so to honnour that Barack Obama visited the beaches in Normandy where the battles of the Second World War was fought. We didn't visit the same place as he did, but we were still not that far away ;)

We started our journey by driving to Rouen, a small city famous for it's old town and gothic cathedral. And I understand why it was famous! The whole old town was nothing but half-timbered houses everywhere! In many different sizes and colours facing everythig from big boulevards to tiny small lanes. And the cathedral had so many small details it was impossible to look at all of them.

In Rouen we also found a very interesting and a bit different museum: Musée Le Secq des Tournelles that displayed different old iron-works. Some of them were really beautiful! And had such tiny details, I don't understand how anyone has ever been able to make them. I was really amazed. A good thing with the museums in Rouen was also that even though they had a lot of nice stuff to look at, they weren't too big like the museums here in Paris. You could actually enjoy your visit without getting really tired or stressing about seeing everything you want.

After seeing enough of Rouen we headed to our main destination: the coast. Our first stop was a small fishing-town called Dieppe. Really idyllic with cute houses, loads of boats and a beautiful promenade by the beach. And the beach itself consisted of thousands of small, round rocks in different grey and white shades. It was only further away the beach changed into sand.

And even though it wasn't at all warm outside, me and Sophie just couldn't resist going wading in the sea. We were actually surprised because yes, the water was still cold, but not as cold as we thought it would be. And our feet felt so warm afterwards. I still wouldn't have gone swimming in it even though we saw some people do that...

In the evening we drove to our final destination for that day: Fécamp, which is another town by the sea. Here we bravely ate our dinner-picknick by the sea while the sun was slowly thinking about setting. Since Normandie also is famous for a special kind of cow they have for making cheese we, among others, tried a Normandy cheese that actually was really good! We had also bought a french cider, but that one we ended up drinking in our much warmer hotel room. And it wasn't good. I miss finnish cider...

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Travel journal, part nine: Dublin

Tadaa! And I am back from yet another trip :) But this time, in stead of taking the train somewhere close I flew all the way to Ireland with Liss! A new city and a whole new country for me :) Yay!

Dublin is a very small city compared to Paris but that was again a very welcome break. And it was very nice and cosy for an industrial city too! Lots of colourful houses and small parks here and there. And then of course the river Liffey also added something to the city panorama. As I've said before, it's usually the river that makes the city. It's very often the area around the water that's the best part of the town, and even though Dublin didn't have any wonderful riverside promenades like for example Paris, the blocks just around it were my favourites. It was here you found that certain athmosphere.

Here's what the river looked like in the evening. The big buildning is called the Four Courts and actually reminded me a bit of Pantheon here in Paris. And we were really lucky with the weather while we were there. It didn't rain one single time. In stead it was actuallt really warm and you were able to walk around with a t-shirt very late in the evening.

This is a bridge I liked very much. It was actually quite far away from the real city center and not at all famous, but sometimes I guess the most famous things aren't the best ones :)

And it's not a joke that Ireland is green! EVERYTHING was green in Dublin! The trains, the souvenirs, the poles for the streetlights and even the eveninglights underneath the bridges were green! It almost got a bit surreal in the end. Wonder if the irish people really love green or have they perhaps grown sick of it already? I think I would...

The most common architectural style in Dublin was georgian, that means there were a lot of brick-houses with this very special shape. Actually quite angular. At first I thought they were quite boring, but when I had spent those three days there, I actually started liking them. They were romantic and sweet in their own way. They all had a personality. And the doors were all painted in different colours, as you can see on the picture above. Those doors happened to be green and red, but I also saw blue, yellow, pink and violet doors :)

In Dublin I of course also went to the Guinness Storehouse. It was an expensive but very well-made museum telling the history of the company and also explaining how Guinness is made. And in the end of the tour everyone got a free pint of Guinness. I almost finished the whole glass. But only almost. It was still too much like beer for me...

But oh, I also finally drank real cider!! It's so hard to find cider here in France, so once in Ireland, I took advantage of the situation and ordered a Bulmers. And it was sooooo good :) Not at all like the finnish cider, but still real cider! Mmm...

Then we also went to see Trinity College and the old Book of Kells in the library and that was really nice too. I really liked the college. We actually had a small guided tour with a student who told us a lot of funny stories about the university and its' buildings and I have to say that I woulnd't mind at all studying there. It seemed really nice and friendly! Who knows, maybe I'll go for another exchange someday? ;)

But even though Dublin was the main target for our trip, it however wasn't my favourite. My favourite part of the trip was this:

The headland of Howth. Howth is a small village by the sea in the north-eastern suburbs of Dublin. It took about half an hour to get there by the local (green) train called DART. After briefly looking at the village itself, we then climed up on the headland that you can walk around following different small paths. We decided the follow the coastline as much as possible, which meant the longes loop. It took us more than three hours to get around the whole headland and even though the sun was broiling hot and we got very, very tired of climbing up and down the cliffs all the time, it was totally worth it. The views were aboslutely magnificent! Totally splendid! I took a lot of pictures but as always, the photos only give a small hint of what it was like in reality. This was also the first time I saw the sea (or actually any area of water bigger than a river) since I left Finland and I hadn't quite realized how much I've missed it. The lovely smell of the saltwater of the sea, mixed with the smell of seaweed... Hearing the seagulls scream and feeling the refreshing sea breeze on your skin... It was simply lovely. That's all I can say.