On day two in France, we traveled to the Cathedral of St. Michel, located on a hill at the northern part of Paris. The entrance of the cathedral itself provided a panoramic view of the entire city. The church itself was one of the more solemn. The Knights of Malta, who collected donations at the doors, and tourists were not allowed to take pictures once inside. Sadly, that meant we could not take anything permanent from the beautiful alter piece. However, we were able to enjoy the view of the city from the stairs on the hilltop. As the picture on the left shows, Cadets Hodges, Salazar, and Cummings can be seen sitting on the stairs and enjoying the bird’s eye view of the entire city. The Cathedral of St. Michel’s was not the only church in the city – the number and magnificence of the cathedrals, namely St. Michel’s and Notre Dame, highlighted the Catholic history of Paris and France.
Throughout day one and especially at the Arc de Triomphe, we were able to learn about and see the impact that the two world wars left on France. In the U.S., we highly honor all the veterans who fought in the wars, specifically WWII, and have since labeled them “The Great Generation.” However, unlike in the U.S., large portions of both wars, especially WWI, were fought in France. The impact is visibly different. Both in Paris and in Lille, monuments exist all over the place to commemorate those who served and died for France. The memorial on the right is located underneath the Arc de Triomphe and is the French equivalent of the Tomb of the Unknowns. Given the entirety of French military history, we were surprised to see just how much importance was placed on WWI and WWII. The impact of both wars was something on a scale that we have never experienced in the U.S., and offers an interesting contrast to the way we commemorate both of the World Wars and the other wars in our history.
In both Paris and in Lille, we noticed the heavy German influence in the area. In many of the museums in Paris, German arms, medals, flags, and uniforms decorated entire halls and sections of museums. For example, the picture on the left depicts a Prussian flag around the time of the unification of Germany under the command of Otto Von Bismarck. After speaking to the French military in Lille, German was by far the most common secondary language spoke by the students. Given the history between France and Germany, we were a little surprised by not only the accepted influence but also the current level of cooperation between the two nations. But, thinking of the relationships that the U.S. has with both Canada and especially Mexico, we realized that although relationships with one of those neighbors may not be ideal, the two countries are both neighbors and therefore experience a high level of cultural influence in their respective proximate areas to the United States. Especially in Lille, we were excited to experience a mix of not just French and German culture but also some Belgian as well. The mix of cultures helped us to understand the differences between the different regions of France and to better understand the French culture as a whole.
One of the agreed upon highlights of the trip was the Sunday morning run to the Eiffel Tower. We ran over five miles from the hotel, through the streets of Paris, through the courtyard of the Louvre, past the Alexandre III bridge, and right underneath the Eiffel Tower. Cadet Garcia was able to take this great action shot as we began to head back toward the hotel, showing Cadet Salazar has his arms spread out wide with an expression of satisfaction and relief. Next to him, Cadet Stein seems excited by his accomplishment, as shown by the fist pump and yell. The run gave everyone a greater appreciation of the city of Paris and proved to be a truly memorable PRT session for everyone involved. It permitted everyone to see the city without the flood of tourists and therefore allowed for a greater appreciation of the beauty and design of some of the nicer things in Paris while also highlighting some of the not so nice things in the city such as the trash and unpleasant smells. On the whole, the entire group enjoyed themselves and felt as though it enhanced their understanding of the city and of the culture.