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Go Overseas in Paris with Atout France
Published 09/26/2012 by Megan Lee
As a certified Asia-nut and wanna-be Chinese person, I'd be lying if I said I am not completely enamored by France, the French, and the French language. Comment dit-on "awesome" en Francais"? On-dit TRES-SUPER!.
Let's rewind a bit to the day I was invited to attend a trip to France with Atout France, the official tourism agency of the French government. That morning, I was stung no less than two times by one bee while on my morning run. Was not the best start, though I must say things did get a bit better as the day went on.
Go Overseas is now working in conjunction with Atout France as they continue their mission of strengthening their youth oriented tourism in France. Many young people are drawn here for so many reasons: history, art, fashion, the language, the desserts. Students find that France has no shortage of learning opportunities, and Atout France is giving us (myself and a few other great organizations who focus on youth travel) a taste of what this country can offer the younger crowd.
What we've been doing
Did you know that "chocolate" was consumed only as a drink for the first 4000+ years of it's existence? I didn't - not until we visited the museum Choco-Story, anyway! Whether you want to know more about chocolate, consume exorbitant amounts of chocolate, or take your shot at making your own chocolate, this fantastic museum has something to offer students and cocoa-fiends alike. For students interested in France's robust film scene (or Hollywood lovers in general), don't miss out on Paris' Grand Rex Theater. This activity is extremely interactive - watch out for the surprise at the end!
The Paris Aquarium was a fun stop to get a deeper look into French waters: focusing only on islands and bodies of water under French territory, it was great to not only learn about the marine life itself but also get a unique perspective on France's current affairs. The only downside were the creepy, ginormous eels.
I've been stumbling through my high school French magnificently, though our visit to a nearby language school really whipped my butt into shape (pardon my French!) For students wanting to focus on immersion in and increasing their proficiency in French, this type of school should be considered.
What we've been seeing
A quick hop from downtown Paris will place you in the suburbs of Versailles - practically a city in itself! The infamous castle found here makes for a wonderful weekend excursion when you're taking a break from the books. Come in the afternoon to catch the sun lighting up the Hall of Mirrors, and stick around for the evening light shows that Spectacles hosts each night. If you're feeling fancy, be sure to watch the opera at Versailles.
For students who are sports fans, I recommend checking out the French Open's "Tenniseum" at Roland Garros. Learn about the "four musketeers," get a tour of the locker rooms (hubba hubba, Rafael Nadal!) and see the origins of our fave-crocodile-friendly brand, Lacoste. Seeing center court and imagining the talent that has walked through there is incredible!
What we've been eating
Just about everything, to be honest! A former lover of the ever-spicy, ever flavorful Asian cuisine, I'd be lying if I wasn't just about licking my plate at the end of each meal. Breakfasts were enjoyed at the student-budget-oriented IBIS, and I am always delighted by the number of different breads, baguettes, and jams available for the taking. Lunches have been more casual and a less complicated affair, especially when enjoyed at Flunch - oft dubbed the "McDonalds" of France, this place is really so much more. Salads, dishes, and desserts a la carte helps condense a typically 3-hour lunch affair into a healthy and convenient quick bite to eat. We took a break from Louis XIV's widespread (and well tended) gardens for a meal at La Petite Venise. This three course meal paid tribute to the canal's formerly Italian vibe; at one time, gondolas rode up and down the waters to offer leisure to visitors. We had delicious vin blanc and cafe au lait to wash down our tasty meals.
We ventured out from our neighborhood of Montmartre to the hip area of Canal St. Martin, dining at Cafe de la Rotonde. This former government-building-turned-restaurant took the word "trendy" to a new level. Students in France will enjoy this spot for budget-friendly meals in a fabulous atmosphere - hope you like pink!
Sometimes it's good to get a little taste of home when you're studying abroad. The Hard Rock cafe is a must for any visitors to Paris, offering an excellent collection of rock-oriented memorabilia. What impressed me most with this restaurant was the section dedicated to French musicians - always great to see a little home-town pride!