A few days after the six-month mark of my stay in Belgium, I went on a trip to Paris with around 130 Belgians.
Unlike in the United States, schools here in Belgium organize an annual trip for all the students of each grade, called a voyage d'étude. At Notre Dame des Champs, the rhetos (senior) class went to Paris.
The four days that I spent on this trip are four days that I will never be able to imitate in my life. I was in an environment where I don't think many Americans find themselves-- with a giant group of Belgians, speaking totally in French, yet still visiting a foreign country. Damn. I felt lucky.
A school trip to Paris with a bunch of Belgians is quite a different experience than travelling with a bunch of Americans. People are not all that interested, for example, in "sightseeing." Everybody on the trip had already been to Paris multiple times, so they'd seen all the big landmarks (the Eiffel tower, the Louvre, Notre Dame cathedral, etc...) that tourists come to see. So there I was, taking tons and tons of pictures, while they were more interested in hanging out and partying.
Partying--that was the huge difference. Here, it's no problem at all (almost normal) to drink alcohol on a school trip. The teachers don't care (as long as the alcohol's not in the rooms and it's not past the curfew) if students go out drinking. That made it very strange for me-- a complete contrast from the United States, where students get arrested and expelled from school for drinking. So it was definitely different.
But it was an amazing trip. I slept very little, laughed a lot, and tried to take in every moment of the four days that I knew I could never imitate.
Like I said earlier, I took a ton of photos. Because I took so many, I'm not going to describe them in great detail, but most of them are pretty self-explanatory.
|Getting ready to leave|
Between Brussels and Paris
|Basilique du Sacré Cœur|
|Performer across from the church|
|View from the bottom of the hill|
Cathédral Notre Dame
Hostel, where we stayed
|7 kilos of junk food!|
|The ceiling, painted by Marc Chagall, provides an... interesting... contrast to the rest of the operahouse.|
|Ever wondered what's across from the Mona Lisa?|
Bateau Mouche, on the Seine river
Quartier de Marais
Rue de Rivoli
|Place des Vosges|
Avenue des Champs-Elysées
|Moi et l'Arc du Triomphe|
|On the Pont Marie(?)|
Quartier de la Défense
|Class picture. Pretty cool, huh?|
|Desk of Louis XIV|
|(This is all marble)|
|La galerie des glaces, or the Hall of Mirrors, inside the palace|
Outskirts of Paris--on the way home
Four crazy days that I will never forget.