Even though I live in London, England, and therefore do not have much contact with America, I like to read the New York Times. As travelling the world would be the first thing I’d do if I won the lottery, I LOVE the NYT book “36 Hours In…” which offers itineraries for weekend stays in various places. Naturally, the most interesting one for me is “36 Hours In Europe”, which was published in 2012.
Reading its publisher Taschen’s description of the book makes me want it even more:
Culture, history, natural beauty, fine cuisine, artistic masterpieces, cutting-edge architecture and style—Europe overflows with so many riches that a lifetime seems too short to appreciate them. But with the right guidance, you can go far in a single weekend. Stylishly written and carefully researched, this updated and expanded collection of the popular New York Times 36 Hours feature offers you 125 well-crafted itineraries for quick but memorable European trips, accompanied by hundreds of color photographs to fire your imagination. Explore the expected: the Renaissance in Florence, surfing in Biarritz, flamenco in Seville. And discover the unexpected: Sicilian mummies dressed in their Sunday best, a dry-land toboggan ride on Madeira, a hotel in Tallinn with a KGB spies’ nest on the penthouse floor. World capitals, ancient nations that once ruled wide domains, tiny countries with big personalities—it’s all Europe, and all fun to read about (whether you actually go or not) in this handsomely designed and illustrated book.
All I need now is lots and lots of money, and I’m off. (The book has also inspired me to invent my own 36 Hours In London… for teenagers)
It all started in mid-October, as 15-year-old Kosovar Leonarda was arrested during her school trip because she was an illegal immigrant. Some days later, Khatchik, an 18-year-old Armenian boy, was sent back to his country for the same reason. The same morning, students tried to block their schools in protest.
I remember how it began in our school: it was a Wednesday morning, and I went to school at eleven. In front of the doors were gathered a few large green bins. Not taking notice of that slightly unusual detail, I walked past them and went straight to class. In the staircase I saw different signs saying « For Khatchik and Leonarda, General Assembly at 1 pm ».
At the time I didn’t pay attention to the news and thus knew nothing of these cases, but I soon learned all about them. At the meeting, a sit-in was planned for the next morning.Having heard of how violently Leonarda and Khatchik had been sent back to their countries, I felt it was my duty, and especially as a student supporting my comrades, to fight for their cause. I went to the sit-in at 7:30 and helped motivate students to sit with us. Our school was one of the most involved in the whole affair: many students went to the demonstrations. We had banners, we wore « war paint », we screamed slogans at the top of our lungs… We were quite impressive when we arrived on the large Place de la Nation and occupied the square. From all directions (the Place de la Nation is the crossroads of several main streets) came running hundreds of students from different schools: what an amazing scene it was! We all started to walk down the Fbg St-Antoine towards Bastille.
Everything seemed quite romantic: thousands of teenagers uniting to fight for the rights of their friends. But something felt wrong. Themedia thought we were ridiculous, and though sometimes they were just trying to insult us, they were right. First of all, students kept saying « sitting » instead of « sit-in » (I guess the French are just really bad at languages). Second and worst of all, a large part of these supposedly « angry teenagers » were just using this whole thing as an excuse to skip class. Those were the ones that were the most vehement about the demonstrations, screaming things such as « Valls démission », when I’m sure they didn’t even know who Valls is (he is the Home Secretary) and whether or not he was truly responsible for these expulsions. It got even worse on Friday, when Hélène Boucher (my school) organized a « blocus »: students stopped other students from going to class. It started raising questions among us, as many of us thought that it was ridiculous to fight against violence with violence. And then at last, we lost all credibility when only few of us showed up for the demonstrations during the holidays, although many were back in the streets after the holidays. They tried a “blocus” again in early November, but we were all mostly fed up with these chaotic protests, and it ended up in a sort of fight in front of school: I had to fight my way through the crowd to get inside!
But after this peak of violence, the administration intervened, putting a full stop to these absurd demonstrations. The really involved students went to the marches, not caring if it was on a school day or on the weekend; and others went to school as usual. We regained the credibility we had lost, asking for specific changes in immigration laws, and not just reciting sentences given by adults trying to benefit from our naiveté.
Flore, 17, Paris
There are, of course, thousands of great French singers, so while these 3 might be some of my favourites, it’s very subjective…
ZAZ, otherwise known as Isabelle Geffroy, sings super uplifting jazz-styles songs. My favourite is ‘Je Veux’ – released in 2010, it was a massive hit and kinda makes you want to be her…
She has been described (in the French magazine Telerama) as having a “sacred voice” – listen to this and see if you agree: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tm88QAI8I5A
2. Gérald de Palmas
His album “Marcher dans le sable” got him the Best Francophone Album of the Year in 2002, and here’s a fun fact: Celine Dion translated his song ‘Tomber’, and sang it in English titled ‘Ten Days’.
Here’s the his and hers version… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1eDGbuQ_uE
3. Carla Bruni
So France’s ex-first lady is not only famous for posing naked, being involved with Mick Jagger and being married to Nicolas Sarkozy – she actually has a really good voice (and writes her own lyrics too). Her first album ‘Quelqu’un m’a dit’ was successful in French-speaking countries, and various songs from it have been used in other things – some in movies, and one in an H & M advert.
On Saturday night (and until very early Sunday morning) was the Nuit Blanche. The program was quite exciting at first: DJs on boats on the Seine, cranes transformed into Calder mobiles, art installations and music all over the place! But unfortunately… it rained.
Many of the exterior events were closed or ended earlier, and some places usually packed with people were empty. It was a bit disappointing compared to the previous years, but some attractions were as good as always. On Place Sainte-Catherine, there were, as usual, very artsy short films being played on large screen in the middle of the square with a carpet for people to sit on. At the Blanc-Manteaux Center, there were some kind of weird, psychedelic, fluorescent lights with creepy music.. also as usual.
But the place where the ambiance was really exciting was Beaubourg. A band played techno-dance-but not very good music on the 2nd floor and the whole crowd danced, or should I say “danced” to the “music”. After a while of feeling our stomach vibrating to the pound of the bass, we got bored and went to the quays, which was the worst idea ever. The only thing fun we saw while walking next to the water was a boat with flamethrowers on top (it was pretty cool, but it seemed as though the boat didn’t really know where it was going..).
The previous years, there had always been dancers at the “arcades”, but this year there were only a dozen people standing in a line a few meters apart that were doing some moves that were apparently supposed to be “contemporary dance”. From where I stood, it looked more like a bunch of people stretching after their evening jogging than professional dancers dancing in a synchronized and artistic way. Sorry for all the bad feedback, but the rain was certainly the main cause for all those disappointments. Maybe people weren’t as motivated as they were before? I don’t know, but I’m sure next year will be a lot of fun.
– Flore, Paris
On the whole I absolutely hate “joke” t shirts like the ones sold in market stalls and outside subway stations around the world. I don’t get how someone could walk around with one of those obscene slogans on their shirt… so weird. But here’s the only not vile, quite funny and very true t shirt which is acceptable to wear:
Every 21st of June or every first day of summer in Paris, there’s a really cool cultural event called « Fête de la musique ». It’s a day dedicated to music, it’s a « music day » and its purpose is to celebrate the longest day of the year. It starts at 6pm and lasts until around 1am. During this period you can be as loud and creative as you can ! It’s very nice because the 21st of June is usually a very hot day in Paris which makes the evening just perfect. Many streets are closed to cars and are invaded by musicians, dancers and mostly young people and teens wandering around, stopping to watch and eventually dance !
It’s not only a day to play music but also to discover new artists. Music is heard anywhere you go, and it’s also very different from one place to another, some are professional, some are just a group of 5 boys having fun playing songs of their favorite bands. If you go to the Jewish neighbourhood you might see a bunch of rabbis dancing on a techno remix of traditionnal jewish music. The gay neighbourhood is quite epic too with all those men dressed as women and women dressed as men getting crazy on loud club music. I think the most romantic spot remains the quays of Notre-Dame where groups of friends gather with their instruments watching the sun set on the Seine. If you come to Paris, try to be there with friends on June 21st ! It’s a really fun way to visit the city by night.
On the night of Saturday October 6, the streets of Paris will be full of people taking part in the annual Nuit Blanche. It’s an art and culture event that takes place between 7 at night and 7 in the morning, and it has been going on for 10 years. Loads of places take part, from major buildings to art galleries and even swimming pools, and best of all, entry to everything is free! This is such a fun and unusual event to attend – so make sure you make the most of it by following a few insider tips:
1. This takes place in October and lasts all night, so dress warmly and bring an umbrella (you wouldn’t want to have to go home early with frostbite/pneumonia)
2. Plan your route on a tourist map so that you don’t waste time wandering around aimlessly
3. Decide on a few key things you want to see, and leave time in between these to wander and see what you can find on the spur of the moment
4. Remember that the metro runs for most of the night during the Nuit Blanche, so you don’t have to necessarily limit yourself to one area
It’s all about the art, really, so make sure you know which artistic designers’ installations are where so you don’t miss anything!