Rodin museum

The Rodin museum and sculpture garden are a great way to spend a sunny afternoon. And it’s free for students! The Thinker depicting Dante Alighieri is one of its prized collections. In fact, all the sculptures represent scenes from Dante’s Inferno, most prominently the gate to hell which assembles multiple motifs into one.

The French medical system

It is easy to get worn out from travel and the end of semester academic pile up. Around this time of year the metro becomes germ central. Getting sick is no fun and getting sick in a foreign country makes things even more complicated. Luckily, France has one of the best healthcare systems in the world. APA can recommend a doctor or better yet ask your host family who they see. When I wheezed that I was sick, my host sister made an appointment for me with the physician whose office was right in the building. We made are way over later that same day as my host sister volunteered to interpret. We both realized I didn’t need it, but still it was nice having some moral support. The process was just some paperwork and the typical examination. I got the impression that doctors see a lot of patients one after the other during the day. However, I had a positive experience and found the doctor to be efficient and very sweet. Don’t forget to ask for a certificate excusing you from classes! Pharmacies are evenly spaced throughout Paris so there will likely be one down the street from you. The fee was 35 euro and the drugs were under 15.

Berlin

Berlin is not your typical traditional fairy-tale European city. As most of it was destroyed during WWII, it is ultra modern. To me, it felt like a cross between an industrial complex and a park, in the coolest possible way. The streets are extremely wide, so after packed in Paris, you feel that Berlin just gives you a lot of breathing room. It’s a green city, everyone bikes. Almost all of the memorials are consecrated to remembering the Holocaust; Berlin takes the message of reparation seriously.

The scene can be quite hipster. Think folktronika. Think warehouse renovated into trendy club. Think street art like the famed East Berlin Gallery.

I highly encourage anyone new to a city to go on a free tour. We learned so much from our guide, Ron, who moved here from Jerusalem to be with the love of his life. We were taken to Checkpoint Charlie (the scene of what could have been WWIII), Berlin wall (one time a family escaped to West Berlin by flying over the wall in a hot air balloon), Holocaust memorial (inspired by a Jewish cemetery in Prague where tombstones are stacked one on top of the other), Hitler’s underground bunker (now a car park). Ron also pointed out the North Korean embassy, the only one in Europe, another testament to Germany’s commitment to open diplomacy and peace.

BAR CACHÉ DANS PARIS

There is no way you can discover Le Comptoir Général just by walking along canal Saint-Martin unless you see other people sneaking in or were given explicit directions. My UChicago friends studying in Barcelona and I were brought here by a French friend who wanted to show us a “really cool place”. The speakeasy is so well hidden that even though Paul has been before, he walked passed it at first, doubling back to push open a gate off the main road. You have to walk through a narrow alley before you see the pink arrow over the otherwise unremarkable door.

This place has so many influences ranging from kitschy to tropical to hipster. There is a distinct African and Caribbean vibe because the space used to be a colonial museum. Now, in an ironic cynical twist, the waiters are all black. The prices are not too bad and the drinks are strong. We ordered two pitchers of rum punch and were good to go by dinner. There was a hip older couple and even a few children running around, but for the most part, the clientele are bobos (bourgeois bohemians) in their 20s and 30s. The music is also all over the place – ranging from mainstream, French chansons and West African riddims.

ALLEZ LES BLEUS

If you want to see French people lose their minds and learn some colorful language, go to a soccer game at the Stade de France. We got French flags on our cheeks and I patriotically painted the Russian flag on my forehead. The security was top notch due to the November attacks and the game started off with a moment of silence for Belgium. A cacophony of “putain”, allez les bleus and the marseillaise propelled the players to a French victory of 4-2 against Russia.