Paris: the Main Attractions — with Students in Tow

Again..., it's been a while. Our Internet situation has been touch-and-go since we departed St. Hilda's ten days ago — ten days ago! Yes, I was just about to launch into another exclamation of incredibility apropos of time's bizarrely dual-speed of passage: lightning fast and/or snail slow. Has it been two months or two weeks since this program began? Well, I'll avoid blandly going on about the sensation, which I really shouldn't attempt to describe any further since, 1) I'm sure you're all familiar with the taste of this kind of time, and 2) it would take Proustian effort (and skill) to find the right metaphor(s) to do it justice. Instead, I'll try to get a few photos up while my four creative writing students churn out their Egan-inspired second-person snippet stories.

To orient you, here's a quick rundown of the moves we've made since last I wrote. In brief:
- on Thursday (7/11), we bussed from Oxford to London's St. Pancras Station, boarded the 10am Eurostar, and arrived in Paris that afternoon;
- we stayed in a cool, old, classy hostel in the Marais through Sunday afternoon (Quatorze juillet!/Bastille Day!);
- and then we trekked back to the train station for the overnight train to Firenze (Florence).

I'll try to get something up about the Italian half of our adventures soon. But, first... Paris!

To start, a few pics of the usual suspects (a.k.a. where you find yourself when in Paris with teens who have — for the most part — never been before...). As you can see, we've had extraordinary, sunshiny weather!

That first afternoon, I took a group of tired kids on an excursion to Montmartre. (And, yes, I did march them up the never-ending, underground, circular staircase at the Abbesses metro stop — everyone has to do it at least once!)

Lounging on the slopes below Sacré-Cœur on a fine summer day.

Lounging on the slopes below Sacré-Cœur on a fine summer day.

I also seized the chance to introduce them to the incomparable vista and... some of the most delicious pastries in town. In other words, it worked perfectly for me to get my ritualistic Coquelicot tarte au citron — which, I'm sad to report, has gone a bit downhill since last I tasted it. The baguettes, however, smelled as delicious as ever.

Then, after dinner at the hostel, we strolled across l'Île Saint-Louis and l'Île de la Cité to Pont Neuf, where we boarded one of the ubiquitous vedettes for a sunset ride up and then back down the Seine.

Notre-Dame de Paris bathed in "Golden Hour" light.

Notre-Dame de Paris bathed in "Golden Hour" light.

You really do get amazing views of the bank-side architecture and monuments from the water. Case in point:

Cruising by Le Tour Eiffel at Dusk.

Cruising by Le Tour Eiffel at Dusk.

p.s. Note the carousel in the foreground...? I have a great story about... a friend <throat-clearing> who spontaneously jumped on for a revolution on a frigid New Year's Eve some years ago and was promptly reprimanded by a grumpy older man.

Oh, I did manage to jot down a short and clunky paragraph in Paris during our full-day major class, a week ago yesterday:

***** Travelogue: Saint-Germain, 6ème, Paris – Day 33

Bonjour, Paris!

I'm sitting on the terrasse at Les Deux Magots on Blvd Saint-Germain with mes étudiantes, whom I have engaged in a Georges Perec-inspired writing exercise....:

Write down, in whatever form you like, as much as you can about the sights, sounds, and happenings around you. Observe. Document. Without, for once, considering style and diction and voice, work to capture the feeling of the flood of activity — passersby, traffic, conversation, tolling bells (as is the case now, at high noon), spoons clinking as chic Parisiennes stir their café crêmes, forks and knives clattering on plates as businessmen simultaneously chew their lunch and gesture animatedly, efficient mutterings of the bow-tied waiters as they circulate with their silver platters aloft, white cloths draped over their arms. Get it all down on the page. Witness how it changes your experience of the moment. Later, perhaps, we'll mine these details for a longer, shapelier piece of writing....