Back in January, when the exams were looming large and the pressure was really starting to come to bear, Stephen and I decided to take a trip during Spring Break. I’m usually not much of a fan of traveling at this time of year, in fact. The spring semester, unlike the fall, is not punctuated with many days off, and Spring Break subsequently feels like an opportunity to catch up and recapture some lost relaxation.
We considered several options, but narrowed it down to two–either Barcelona or Paris. And, it was Stephen who made the decision (I had no preference), and we went to Paris.
Fortunately, I spent the past year taking French classes for research purposes. In the past, the University offered courses that focused exclusively on acquiring reading ability in French, and other important languages, but due to some issues in the modern languages department, these courses were cut, and the grad students were subsequently shuffled into the undergraduate beginner’s courses. These certainly did teach reading and writing, but speaking was also stressed here. This was frustrating at the time, but it definitely proved useful traveling abroad to France. My speaking ability was poor, but I could stumble through. I have never been particularly good at listening to French, so this was a challenge, but I can say that I could read almost everything, particularly the information presented in the museums we visited.
We stayed in the neighborhood of the Eiffle Tower, which was a little bit of a ways from some sites, but it was a quieter neighborhood as a result. We used AirBnB to find the small apartment we rented, and we had a really good experience.
We visited several of the can’t miss sites–the Louvre, Notre Dame cathedral (which has a really great exhibit on the city of Paris in the crypt), the Pantheon, the Army Museum/Napoleon’s tomb. As for some specifically medievalist destinations, we did see the Cluny Museum, which was really fantastic. Since the Cluny Museum is near the Pantheon, we intended to see the latter immediately afterward, but it turned out to be closed due to what was stated to be “extraordinary circumstances” (which were never explained). It was a little late in the afternoon, but we decided to hop on the Metro and travel out to St. Denis to see the Basilica.
*Finally* after all these years, I got a chance to see the birthplace of Gothic architecture. It was absolutely freezing inside the church, but it was absolutely worth it.
The weather was pretty miserable for most of the trip, unfortunately. We dealt with cold temperatures and the threat of rain (or actual rain) almost every day. This changed, however, on the last day of our visit. Since both Stephen and I were pretty “museum-ed out” by that time, we decided to go out to Versailles, and although I am not a fan of places that attract so many visitors at the same time (the line was incredible), it was worth it–really interesting place, a great learning experience for someone like me who doesn’t have a background in this time period/location, and a great way to enjoy nice weather.
We certainly enjoyed the trip, but, all along, it was a bittersweet experience. Right before we left, we discovered that Charlotte, our cat, has a brain tumor. Charlotte had been walking increasingly unsteadily over the course of the months of January and February. We started out exploring the more common causes–arthritis, infection, internal organ failure–but nothing rendered any results. Then, one night, I was lying awake and I thought that maybe she had had a stroke. I contacted the vet, and he put us in touch with a neurologist who specalized in treating animals. An MRI later, and the cause was clear–the growth was clear, at the back of her head, pressing on her brain stem. Untreated, or only treated with pills, she would live no longer than 6 months. Surgery was the only solution, and tomorrow, we will bring her to the vet in anticipation of the operation on Thursday of this week.