|Eric, Reid, Craig, Kasey & I at the Christmas Market on the Champs-Elysees|
|A delicious religieuse from Thevenin|
|Ad in the metro - so excited to have a ticket for the sold-out show!|
|Coeur de Pirate!|
|Notre-Dame all decked out for Christmas by day...|
|...and by night!|
|Eric, Kasey & Craig strolling through the Christmas Market|
This area of the city is really lit up for Christmas, and it's very pretty to walk through at night to see all the twinkling displays!
|So many Christmas lights!|
|My permanent souvenir!|
|Musée d'Orsay's famous clock window|
|Looking out over Musee d'Orsay's main gallery|
Also on my Paris Bucket List of things to accomplish before leaving was a trip to the Catacombs. Following rampant outbreaks of disease in the city, due to poorly-manged and overfilled cemeteries in the center of the city, the tunnels of the city's underground quarry (its stone was used to build many of Paris' famous buildings) were converted into an ossuary which contains the remains of about 6 million people. Cemeteries were systematically emptied during the night and the bones were transported by priests who ceremoniously arranged them far below ground where they were no longer posing a health risk to the public.
|Carvings in the walls deep inside the Catacombs|
You walk for a long time through old tunnels containing various sculptures like the one above, which was carved in the 1790's, before arriving at the official start to the bone depository:
|"Stop! This is the Empire of Death"|
The bones are arranged in intricate patterns, and although it is a little creepy, it's really amazing to imagine how long it all must have taken to put together. The ceilings in there are low, water drips from the ceiling in some spots, and it's totally silent save for visitors' crackling steps through the gravel paths.
|"Bones from the Cimetière des Innocents (cemetery), placed here July 2nd, 1809"|
|One of the many cylinders made of bones!|
On a happier, less-morbid note, my host family put up their Christmas tree! It was much smaller than the standard American tree, but serves the same purpose and was just as nicely decorated as the one at my home!
|Our baby "sapin de Noel" (Christmas tree)|
|My host parents, Béatrix & Quentin|
Of course, we had to go out one last time to say 'adieu' to one of our favorite bars in the Bastille neighborhood - Bastille Pub. Their happy hour went until 1am, so needless to say we could nearly be called regulars!
|Last night out at Bastille Pub!|
|Maddy, Nicole, Lauren & Kaitlin at Bastille Pub|
After waking up very early, sharing one last breakfast with my host family and a misty adieu, Eric (who is staying with our host family for the whole school year) helped me bring all of my bags to the airport. Upon arriving there, we said good-bye and my friend Reid and I began our struggles with all of our luggage. And a security workers strike.
Our departure from Paris couldn't have ended with more of a cliché, as the French are stereotypically known by Americans as those who faire la grève (go on strike) every time they want better working conditions (which we've grown to learn is quite frequently). The French equivalent of the TSA workers decided not to work that day, and consequently there was a back-up in the security screening lines - only 6000 people total were in line, we were assured by a worker. Needless to say, our double-decker plane had to wait an additional 2 hours until all of its 550 passengers made it onboard before taking off, which led to me making my connecting flight from D.C. to Hartford with literally 1 minute to spare. Thankfully, I made the plane and got home on time. Unfortunately, after greeting my family, I came to the realization that none of my bags had made it onto the flight. Oh well! At least I was home. And my suitcases got delivered to my house sometime during the night and were waiting for me to unpack them all the next morning. All in all, it was a very hectic trip home, but thankfully those were the only travel issues I had the whole time I was gone - guess I needed to go out with a bang!
I'm still getting used to living back in Westfield - experiencing a bit of reverse culture shock, I'd say. I feel like I'm living in a country of gigantic things: cars, houses, people, you name it! And I think it's funny that my taste has changed, because I am finding everything I eat here to be far too sweet or salty for me! Guess all that healthy living in France really rubbed off on me. It will be interesting to see if my little Parisian appetite grows over the holidays, or if I regain my love for sugary Christmas cookies...only time will tell!