The Magical World of Disney

Disney has a way of making us all feel like kids again, believing in the magic and fairy tales. Even today, whenever I’m feeling stressed or down in the dumps, I play some Disney music or put on a movie and I feel better. Since I grew up with everything Disney, I was ridiculously excited when I found out we were going to have class in Disneyland Paris. I felt like it was Christmas morning when you run down the stairs to see what presents Santa layer out the night before. In this instance the present is Disney and Smith is Santa. So thank you Santa Smith (even though you’re Jewish…)

I understand that Disney isn’t some people’s cup of tea because they think it’s just a bunch of marketing bs. To those people I say this, just try to think of it from a child’s point of view. Kids grow up emotionally attached to these characters, and when they see them in person it’s like they’re living in that fairytale. I was even high-key disappointed that I wasn’t able to see Ariel, and I’m a 21-year-old woman.

I also got rid of my fear of roller coasters – I mean just look at that face 🙂

During my visit I knew I was going to shut the place down, because when is the next time I’ll be in Disneyland, yet alone Paris?  We stayed until the “illumination show” that started at 11:00pm, and let me tell you if you skipped that you were really missing out. It was the perfect ending to an amazing day. There were images reflected on the castle as well as the classic Disney songs playing in both English and French. For a second, the hundreds of people that were gathered in that space were all thinking about the same thing. Just for a second you could forget everything else, and reminisce about what is happening now, and that’s what Disney means to me.





On our trip to Provis yesterday it was kind of hard not to notice that the majority of the buildings are from the Middle Ages or shortly after. The tour guide told our group that there are at least 300 buildings that are from that period. Instead of turning the whole town into a “museum town”, it became a part of the functioning urban and modern lifestyle. Or that’s how the UNESCO website described it.

View from Caeser’s Tower in Provis

This UNESCO world heritage site has done a remarkable job maintaining the whole town and making sure that the historical importance is still in tact. This site reminded me of another UNESCO site I visited earlier this summer in Taos, New Mexico. These two sites were very similar because they preserved a whole town (or in New Mexico’s case, a pueblo). The goal of doing this is to keep the history of the area while incorporating it with modern society. However, I don’t believe that goal has been reached. Both Taos and Provis are tourist towns, and their economies are highly dependable on the people that get shuffled in and out of these places. After visiting these two vastly different sites, I believe that they are somewhat stuck in the past because that’s all that they know. In Taos, the people that live in the pueblo are trying to find that opening into the modern world and in Provis, the people seem to eat, sleep, and drink the midevil times. These two places were so touristy, that it was a little overwhelming.

Taos Pueblo, New Mexico

In class, we’ve discussed how Paris is able to encorporate the new and the old in such a swift and simple way. When I walk around Paris, it’s crazy to me that so much history is embedded in this city while just around the corner there’s an H&M. Paris has encorproated itself into the modern era, so how is it that places such as Taos and Provis are unable to do the same? Maybe it’s because they’re more on the country-side, maybe their enconomies are too dependent on tourism, or maybe its UNESCO’s agenda and/ or criteria. I’m paraphrasing here, but our tour guide made a comment on how Provis is dwindling away from modern society. How is it possible that some cities are able to encorporate the modern while others simply cannot?

The Transportation Dilemma

One of my biggest fears before coming to Paris was learning how to use the metro system. In the past when I went on trips with my family or friends I usually had them figure out the logistics of where we were going because I have no sense of direction (just ask Kerry). To my surprise, I’ve been able to maneuver the Parisian metro system fairly well. There are signs everywhere you turn so it’s kind of hard to get lost. The trains come every 3-5 minutes so you’re not standing there waiting impatiently, which is great for me because I can be a very impatient person.

I can’t help but compare the Parisian metro system to the Metro in DC. I had an internship last year in Georgetown so I was commuting from Fredericksburg to DC two days a week for the whole semester. I got very accostumed to the Metro, more so than ever before. I would usually have to wait 15-20 minutes before a metro car even arrived because I would be commuting at a weird hour of the day. For people who know DC, know that Georgetown is basically its own little island. The closest Metro station is about a 20 minute walk from the main area, which is very inconvenient when you’re walking around in a boot for a whole month.

Paris is a hub system, so there’s usually a metro station five minutes from wherever you are. The DC area is obviously very different *cough cough sprawl* because it is a hub-and-spoke system, so metro stations aren’t as accessible. How can we fix a situation that seems to be unfixable? That is a loaded question and there is no quick and easy answer. The French government is so different from America’s, so basically we would have to rule out beuracracy all together in order to get anything fixed. We have to be willing to face a problem in order to fix it, and right now it doesn’t seem to be that big of a priority.

Independence Day(s)

Europeans think Americans are loud, obnoxious and annoying, and to an extent that is true. I was able to understand their reasoning behind those statements on Bastille Day. In America, the 4th of July is a day for people to scream “USA USA USA” at the top of their lungs. Living about 30 minutes from our nation’s capitol, I have been able to experience the rowdiness that is the 4th of July in person. I was expecting a very similar dynamic here in France on Bastille Day. To my surprise I didn’t see people decked out in their nation’s colors or shotgunning a beer. Instead, I saw people picnicking on the lawn eating cheese and drinking wine and just genuinely looking like they were enjoying their day.

In America we have this habit of exploiting a holiday to the point where we don’t even remember what we’re celebrating. The people of France seem to take on a different way of celebrating. To me it felt like everyone knew what this day meant for their country and they wanted to do their ancestors justice. Instead of running around with their shirts off with the France flag painted on their chest, they just stood and watched the amazing firework display happening right next to the Eiffel Tower. Now maybe I didn’t see the crazy side of the holiday, but what I did see was very comforting.

Seeing a community where everyone was silent when those fireworks were going off, and only “oo”-ing and “ah”-ing at the appropriate moments was very peaceful and made me love Paris even more. So dad, if you’re reading this, go to France to watch fireworks so you’re not bombarded by drunk teenagers.

My view for the fireworks wasn’t too shabby.

One Big Contradiction

Catholicism and Greek Mythology to me are two very separate schools of thought. The funny thing is, these two are blended together most often than not in French architecture and stories.  As an ex-Catholic, I was told to believe that there was only one almighty God, and the Greek myths were nothing but silly stories. When I was at the Palace of Versailles I learned that King Louis XIV was very Catholic, and he even built himself his own grand chapel to showcase just that. Louis XIV was also the one to build the rooms that were dedicated to certain Greek gods and goddesses. Now how can an extremely religious man believe in more than one god if he says he is Catholic? That to me just goes against all Catholic teachings. The tour guide mentioned that the king at that time was the only person who could “speak” to their god (or at least that’s what they wanted to make their people believe). They wanted the people of France to believe that they were just as mighty as god(s?).

Louis’ XIV very impressive chapel.

Since I was so curious about this topic I decided to use the good ol’ google machine. Apparently Greek mythology and Catholicism have some stories and lessons in common that I didn’t realize. The tales of Eve and Pandora,  as well as Samson and Hercules have the same story line as well as similar outcomes. I understand that all religions’ ideologies have some similarities but that didn’t answer my question on why the kings would believe that they’re just as mighty (or mightier) than their god. Then I had to remind myself that Catholicism today is very different than it was back then. There was no separation between church and state, so the kings really did believe that they were god-like. I also have to remember that the Louis’ of France built whatever they wanted to because they were so insecure. They wanted to give the allusion of being confident and powerful. Today, people use religion as a safe place, but back then it was a symbol of power.

One example of the mixing of Greek mythology and Catholicism at Versailles.

Old vs. Really Old

One thing that has stuck out to me since being here is that everything is super old. That may seem silly to say out loud, but it’s true. Back in Fredericksburg, some of the oldest buildings are from the 18th century. In Paris, the 18th century is considered to be young.  While America was being colonized, the Europeans were building these monsterous masonry structures. That just completely blows my mind. When I stepped into a Roman bath that was built in the third century, I was completely taken aback. The technology that was used to create that was so far ahead of their time. How, HOW did they do that? While I was standing in the middle of that room, I could almost imagine the activites that used to occur in that space.

Living in Fredericksburg part-time, you get really comfortable with Chesapeake architecture and the Chesapeake lifestyle. In Paris I’m completely out of my comfort zone. The last time I learned about the Middle Ages I was in high school, and my teacher was a football coach (so you can imagine not much practical learning was taking place). I’m surrounded by a completely new culture that I now want to know everything about. I thought I was only interested in just American history because that’s what I’m used to and that’s what’s being taught, but there’s so many other histories to explore and I’m ready to take them on.

Things I’ve learned: how to use the public transportation system and that the French really, really, really don’t believe in AC

Goals: learn more about the Middle Ages as well as the French monarchy, eat even more cheese, and get over my fear of ordering my meals in French

Learning Paris

Day two in Paris and I’m jetlagged and confused. Since I took Spanish in high school/ college, French is (literally) a foreign language to me. When buying breakfast this morning I felt very incompetent and the hostess was probably laughing at me while I struggled. I now know that the phrase I need to learn is “parlez-vous anglais”, I’ll write it down on a chalkboard 1,000 times if I have to. I think this trip is going to be a great experience for me. When I came to Paris a few years ago I wasn’t as big as a geek as I am now. I feel like I’ll be able to appreciate the architecture and the history more than before.

Things I’ve learned in these past few days: I packed way WAY too many shirts, some (not all) Parisians think us Americans eat ketchup on a regular basis (and like to throw it in our faces), and that our hall mates like to sing “Barbie Girl” at 1:00am.

Goals for the month: eat as many cheese platters I can get my hands on, take a million and one pictures, and become a sponge (so I can learn everything I possibly can).