Paris 2015

Three weeks is not long enough to explore Paris, the capital of France but visiting each location made me realize there’s a story behind every building and viewing pictures in textbooks do not do justice of actually being there and experiencing it. While on the Thomas Ahrens International work and study program there have been many tours such as restaurant, hotel and historic, these include Movenpick, Montparnasse Tower, Sacre Coeur, Kube hotel, Pavillon le notre and of course the famous Eiffel Tower. We also visited Epernay, France for a champagne tour and also Rungis, France for Rungis international market. While touring the various locations we learned a little about the history, interesting facts and also the architecture. At each of the hotels we visited we saw the factors that made it unique and the creativity that was involved in the planning of each room. The Kube hotel we were shown several rooms with an minimalist concept and they all resembled an ice cube, with the shape and transparency while the seven hotel was a boutique hotel where each room was individually themed and artfully created.

Montparnasse Tower was one of the locations the class visited to learn about the history and how the citizens felt negativity about the building because the Parisians viewed it as a modern, ugly skyscraper. The fifty nine story tower looks out of place because it is the only building that tall and it doesn’t reflect the city and its urban outlook. La Tour d’Argent is a historic restaurant in Paris where many famous people have visited because of the quality of their food. This restaurant also has an amazing view of Notre Dame and the Seine from its second floor. The waiting room is an amazingly large space where it is decorated with several chairs that looked like they could have came from the palace of Versailles. I was amazed at the size of the wine list and also their wine collection which was located under the restaurant in the cellar. We trekked up a hill to Sacre Coeur and learned about the history and architect of the church and were amazed at the view of the city. We wandered around a cemetery where each tomb told a different story and it paid tribute to the dead.

At Epernay, France we visited two wineries Mercier Champagne and Rene Geoffrey. At Mercier Champagne we took a train tour of the Mercier cellar,  also known as the Galerie de Pékin. The tour explained how Mr. Mercier was a daring entrepreneur who had futuristic ideas because he built an authentic underground town in which to store the wine so it can age and also a place to visit and learn. We marveled at the many sculptures and listened to the recordings handed out to us at the beginning of the tour.

Rene Geoffrey is a family owned winery and vineyard where they grow all of the grapes used in their champagne. They press and package and age all in one place. They use traditional Coquard presses and also organize their wine by plot of origin because of the diversity in taste. At Rungis international market we observed the flurry of activity from distributors and purchasers. We were able to see the quality and presentation of the products available to restaurants and markets and also the regulations they have to follow. Fruits, vegetables, dairy and poultry are among some of the products available.

I have made many new friends with others who are in the field, most of them have  already graduated and are in the hospitality field already and we are still in contact even after the program. I have also went to different countries with several of them also, because while on the study abroad I spent my weekends going to different countries and exploring their culture and historical sights to broaden my knowledge. I feel culturally experienced by traveling and embracing the lifestyle of another country. I traveled to new locations by megabus and stayed at various housing found on airbnb. The first three day weekend was spent going to Versailles, France on Saturday with a small group from the class. Sunday and Monday was a visit to Barcelona, Spain with Rehana where we made the most of our short trip, even though it was a two day trip, it took fourteen hours to get there and back by bus. The second weekend was another bus trip to Brussels, Belgium with Rehana, Yayun, Eliana and Marilyn.  

Bright and early Saturday morning on June 13th, a small group of us decided to make our way to Versailles, and the first place we visited  was the castle or Palace of Versailles, where we saw the rooms that were previously occupied by Marie Antoinette and other royalty. We were amazed at the hallways of lights and the paintings on the walls and ceilings. Afterwards we saw several water shows which happen several times throughout the garden, then we walked around admiring the statues and ponds located all around. We also explored Marie Antoinette’s estate, where we saw her personal gardens where the temple of love was located and also her hamlet.

Barcelona, Spain was our first stop outside of France while in Paris, we were recommended to visit the Sagrada Familia church, and las ramblas, a tourist and local streets in central Barcelona by our airbnb hosts.  At the Sagrada Familia Church we admired the architecture and noticed the construction it is currently undergoing. We were disappointed at the sight of the cranes and it wasn’t until we did some research online that we realized it would not be completed until 2026. We also visited Montjuic where it was a journey because we had to take the train, and cable car to get up the hill. We were also able to go inside the castle of Montjuic, where we enjoyed the scenic view of the houses and the sea. It was really peaceful and you were unable to hear the sound of technology and only the sound of the wind blowing. There it was my first time trying Ecuadorian cuisine at a restaurant  called El Nano Bellaterra, I loved the food because it was flavourful, cheap and the portions were huge. When visiting Barcelona stopping at the beach is an ideal spot but we arrived there a little late when the sun was setting. We stopped by a rooftop bar called “Danzatoria, located nearby” here we observed the view of the ocean and how the locals spend their time relaxing at a club. While in Barcelona, Spain I realized how nice and open everyone seemed. Most of them were bilingual in both Spanish and English and it was a pleasure conversing with locals about our visit.

Brussels, Belgium was the location for the second weekend and it is famous for many things including chocolate, waffles, mussels and more. It was my first time trying Belgium food at Fin de Siecle which serves traditional Belgian food. The food was a bit bland to our tasting but the leg of lamb was very flavorful and the dish was huge. We also tried the Belgian waffles with chocolate syrup, strawberries and whipped cream, it tasted wonderful and I was sad that we were leaving because there was so much left to explore and try. We learned a little about the history when we saw the Manneken Pis which is a statue of a little boy peeing. He is popular in the city because he saved the city by peeing on a bomb before it exploded.

I am aspiring to be a chef and traveling to Paris allowed me to officially say I have cooked in Paris, both personally and in a school environment at Saint Pierre Institut where we split into groups and dabbled a little in both culinary and pastry. While in the culinary team it was my first time being in an assembly line and it made me realize how every dish is made simple, through this process. Pastry class was a bit more difficult because everything was whipped or mixed by hand and it took more effort to complete a dish.

“Live as much as possible. This is a good time in your life to experience all of these things. Living in the moment more. It gives more meaning to the memories and pictures because they’re secondary,” something Kim, my roommate said to me before on my weekend trip to Brussels and it stuck with me. Living in a new environment helped me realize how you could accustom yourself to having a roommate and how you adapt to having another person around all the time. Kimberly was an amazing roommate because she was a personal chef and she was experienced in a little of everything. There was no problems or arguments between us and it was a peaceful three weeks. Traveling to Paris gave me real life experience which left me with unforgettable memories and friends.


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