Posts Tagged ‘Paris’


Michelle: More of Provence and Paris

June 3, 2011

Over a month later… (I told you I’d right this, I never said when)

If you have heard of the town of St. Remy, you probably associate it with its insane asylum. This is where Van Gogh was treated for one year between 1889 and 1890. It was from his bedroom window that he created Starry Night depicting the city. As a patient, he had a habit of taking walks in the gardens. Some of his other works from the time portray quotidian scenes from this peaceful residence (eg Irises). Today, grounds are still used to treat the mentally ill and the patients’ artworks are for sale in the Gift shop. Indeed, those who see the world through different eyes seem to produce the most profound art.

Les Baux de Provence are considered to be one of the most beautiful places in France. The city name is derived from the regional word for a rocky spur, baou. With its unique character, it is easy to see why this city is revered.

Mt. Ventoux seems to be the Everest of the cycling world. A favorite stage in the Tour de France, this mountain challenges riders to a  grueling climb 1912 m into the air. Susie’s dad explained that every year, they see countless ambulances rushing by (you can see it from their house) to rescue some idiot, amateur cyclist who collapsed. Needless to say, my family drove.

The next day we headed to the beach house at La Capte. Although the water was still too cold to go in, we enjoyed strolling and eating beach side before heading to St. Tropez. The French Riviera is home to French and foreign celebrities a like. One such is Bridgette Bardot of Godard’s cult classic, Contempt. From twenty thousand euro outfits to yachts big enough to hold other boats inside them, this region is filled with luxury and gold seems to be the new black.

My last stop with my parents was Paris where we visited my uncle (not actually my uncle – it’s an Asian thing), his wife, and my aunt (also not actually my aunt). My uncle is the kind of guy who will open 3 bottles of wine with a meal: one to titillate the palate, one to accompany the main dish, and one with the cheese plate and/or dessert. My uncle kept filling my glass. At that point, I could honestly say that was the most alcohol I had ever consumed in that amount of time.

This wasn’t my first time in Paris, nor, I hope, will it be my last. Four years ago as a sophomore, I came with my high school. There’s a superstition that if you step on Point Zero which marks the center of Paris (in front of Notre Dame).

My first time in Paris was a little rushed. I think we got a total of about 3 hours in the Louvre. This time, I went back and did it properly spending the entire day there. The day after we did similarly with the Musée d’Orsay. Due to current renovation, the galleries are all moved around so works that are not normally placed together are now juxtaposed. Inside the gallery I heard an American say (rather loudly), “Oh, Van Gogh, finally some Impressionist art.” Sir, do you know where you are!? This museum is home to one of the most impressive collections of Impressionism in the world. Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, Bazille all under one roof! Blows my mind!

Another must see in Paris is the Rodin museum. This was on my dad’s list of things to see from four years ago, so this time we really had to go. If there’s one thing I learned at this museum, it’s that bronze sculptures are ridiculously complex to make. Props to Rodin for his mastery of such a non forgiving medium.


Britta: Week in Paris

June 30, 2010

The first week of the second program through the Learning Abroad Center ended with a trip to Paris. We caught the train early on Friday morning and after ditching our bags we headed out into the narrow, quaint streets.

Paris wasn’t all just sight seeing and taking in the romantic air of the beautiful city. We were there to visit the Musée de l’Immigration. It is a great museum, and after spending 3 hours there we still only saw a fraction.

We got lunch at a small cafe, where we met the nicest, best crêpe maker. We couldn’t just get a crêpe salé we caved and also got a sucré 🙂

We also visited the the Institut du Monde Arabe which is filled with beautiful artwork and the tiniest Korans in the world with amazing calligraphy.

On the last day I made sure to see the Eiffel Tour, Arc de Triomph, Champs-Élysées, the Luxombourg gardens. It was a very quick, busy, exhausting weekend but very enjoyable !


Christina: living life, beautifully

March 5, 2010

To photograph this city, to claim a part of this landscape as my own, to capture the wild thing—this would have been desecration. Instead, I spent four days in that wonderful state of awareness which comes from living the rare. As I had hoped, it was an experience grounded on integrity and simplicity.

Redemption came quickly and silently. It was etched beneath the gilded frame of the Paris Opéra, was infused within seven luxurious hours at the modern art museum, and was inked on the pages of the thousands of books dripping from the ceilings of the used bookstore in the Latin Quarter. Redemption waited within the first majestic swell of an accordion in the skeletal confines of the métro, in the harmonious bonjour from a Parisian shopkeeper, in the cold collision of insidious Seine with smooth stone. Redemption was the discovery that the reality can be more breathtaking than the dream.

On our last night in the city, our new Parisian friends invited us to dinner at their home in the third arrondissement. We arrived nervous and bearing a gift of white wine, only to be saved by the true magic of the bise, the quintessential French greeting of a kiss on each cheek. There’s a quiet elegance in the bise and its unfailing ability to make any situation comfortable. It brings a delicious feeling of being acknowledged and almost always makes me feel as if I belong.

The night was a waking dream—something which now feels suspended between truth and story. We sipped dark wine from delicate crystal goblets, exotic aromas forecasted the meal to come, and our friends spoke to us with a curiosity about our lives that still seems undeserved. I had never felt so regal or so important.

As we conversed with our hosts, it was the first time I was truly confident while speaking French and the first time anyone told me I spoke well. It was beyond enchanting, this feeling of contributing to something beautiful. To be a part of this good life for even a moment was unlike anything I could have created for myself. What a difference from the last time I was in Paris, when paralysis and fear were the only emotions known to me.

If I have a home in France, Paris is it.


Christina: Paris bound

February 24, 2010

I knew only one thing about my trip to Paris: that I wanted to probe beneath the immaculate shroud of expectation to find something truer. An American tourist in Paris was something I could not and would not allow myself to be. With that thought, I had made the difficult decision of leaving my camera at home. It would not be kind to subject this city to my amateur skills as photographer, and no picture of me lopsidedly posed in front of the Eiffel Tower could ever be just.

This was an experience that would rest within my mind alone, and I would have to do my best to find the words and the space in my memory to keep it fettered there forever. I would need both honesty and vigilant consciousness for the next four days, but I would not view this place through a glass lens.

It wasn’t until I began packing my suitcase that I realized I had been here before. That January afternoon when I arrived in France was little more than a few weeks ago, yet it felt years away. On that day, missing my train from Paris to Montpellier found me in cold desperation, my French-English dictionary a weak weapon against my own burgeoning fear. This language was being used against me in what felt like the most violent way possible, and where was the France I had dreamed about? I could not see beyond my tears of frustration, could not see beyond the grey gloom of the freezing train depot. Paris as a land to be discovered was lost to me.

A month later the slavish February rains had settled and March promises warmer winds. Although this language continued to humble me daily, I was astonished to realize how far I had come in only thirty days. Buying a train ticket, understanding a simple transaction in a store or restaurant—these were things I could now do without thinking. I knew I was willing to give this city another chance, so perhaps the trip would require reconciliation as well.


Veronica: How I Chose Montpellier

November 24, 2009

Choosing the program I wanted to go on was a long process for me. I had been thinking about it for about a year. Sometimes just choosing a country to go to can be hard, but for me, I knew it had to be France. It was basically between Paris with IES or CIEE and Montpellier. I love big cities–I grew up in Chicago. So Paris wasn’t scary. Paris is Paris, I mean, come on! Cool! The big plus for Montpellier was that it was on the Med. Sea and warm. France is warmer than here in general, but Montpellier seemed practically tropical from a Minnesota viewpoint, which was lovely. So the cities both had the same amount of pros.

I had heard from a lot of friends that Parisians didn’t like hearing Americans speak French, so speaking French there would be much harder than in Montpellier. Strike against Paris. But then I heard from others that it was actually the other way around. So strike against Montpellier. I still don’t yet know who to believe. So that basically told me that speaking French in France might be harder than I expected. But that’s okay. I’ll try. It can’t be that bad.

What I liked more about the program in Montpellier was that it seemed incredibly supportive of their students. They really help you through the process before you go, and there is a strong support staff in France that help you get settled and established, as well as help you with whatever you need the entire time you’re there. While I was reading the literature from the programs in Paris, I kept getting the impression that it’s much more independent and they kind of just drop you in this foreign country and say “Go have fun.” Obviously, I don’t know if that is actually the case because I’m not doing one of those programs. But the support for/in Montpellier seemed much stronger; they know you’re in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language fluently and that it’s scary. They seemed like they would be there for you much more than the other programs would. And so far, the support for Montpellier has been wonderful.

The one thing I wish Montpellier was and the Paris programs are, is language intensive–no English allowed at all. I’m not too disappointed though because I’m going to be in a French school, living with a French family, and navigating a French city. I’m going to try to get a pact with my friends there for minimal English. We’ll see how that goes.

So, basically, how I chose my program was through the support system. That’s really important to me. I’m a very independent person and I like doing what I want, but I like having people to turn to if I need it. And I always have tons and tons of questions about everything, so I need someone I can go to, to get answers. And I know that I have really good French, I mean, I’ve been taking it for 10 years, but I’m not fluent, I don’t know slang and vernacular, nor a lot of everyday stuff (How in the world do you say ‘stapler’ or that you need somewhere to plug in your laptop??). I need people that can help me get by in this scary, new country.

Choosing a program is an incredibly personal process and you might like the way the programs in Paris sound better. You might like Montpellier better, but for completely different reasons. I’m not telling you why you should like Montpellier more or Paris less. Hell, you could like Senegal the best. I don’t know. This is just how I made my decision, and what I advise you to do when you are making yours is to find out what are the most important things to you in a program and/or a country/city, and what you definitely don’t want. What are the deal makers and deal breakers? Once you know what you want and don’t want, look for a program that meets those the best. You may have to compromise a little (there isn’t one program that has everything), but it will be much easier than having a big, long list of programs and no idea what it is you want to get out of study abroad.


Alyssa: The Last Day

July 3, 2009

It’s my last day in London. The feeling is entirely bittersweet. I love this city and there is an immense amount of things to do and see (some of which I didn’t get to). However, I do miss driving, my family, cable, and living on my own.

Tonight the CAPA program is hosting a Cream Tea event at a hotel near the V&A. I think it’s a great way to round out the last six weeks. Tomorrow I will get onto a plane for about 9 hours back to Minneapolis, then drive another 4 hours back to Sioux Falls for what’s left of the 4th of July.

These past 6 weeks have been incredible and highly life changing and eye opening. I will have to come back in the future, if not just for London, most definitely Paris.


Alyssa: T-minus Two Weeks and Counting

June 22, 2009

A weekend in Paris and two more weeks in London. As the end draws near, I find myself evaluating my time spent in Europe. I feel as if being an American in Europe is the best way to be, not a tourist or a immigrant trying to be European, but a girl proud of her home culture while feeling at home in Europe.

Throughout the day, I found myself daydreaming about Paris. While I waited for my friend to grab a souvenir, I decided to walk onto a bridge and sketch the Eiffel Tower and the scenery around it. This was by far the highlight of my trip to Paris—the Mona Lisa and Notre Dame were amazing too, but they did not compare to the feeling I got while sitting on the bridge. It was completely inspirational and I could see why so many artists have spent time there in the past. That feeling is still with me and all I can think about is moving to Paris and feeling that way ALL the time. I would have to get used to the smell, the smoking, the attitudes, and the language (which is quite beautiful in itself); but I think I could do that. The beauty in Paris truly outweighs the negative parts.

There is still so much to see and do in London and I have it all planned out, I just hope I can get it all done.


Alyssa: Another Week in London and Paris Tomorrow

June 18, 2009

As a means of blatant procrastination from my homework, I felt the need to write a blog entry. The last week was a blur, as were the previous weeks. On Monday I worked at my internship and spent the day finishing up and presenting my ideas for the company’s identity, then set to work on a website. It’s a ton of work, and I’m almost positive everyone else’s internships are much more low-key. That is completely fine with me however, I absolutely love the position I’m in.

The other day I had a conversation with one of my supervisors about international design. It was such an eye-opening experience! I had always thought good design, is good design, well that’s only partially true. Different cultures value design elements and principles very differently than the West and this is evident in their design preferences. I was so excited from the conversation I went to tell my roommates about it and was met with blank stares and boredom, I guess this subject is only interesting if you’re a designer, anyway I loved it!

Tuesday, Anna and I went out for a lovely English evening. We met up on Fleet Street for a dinner consisting of meat pies (beef, not human like Sweeny Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street) and mash with vegetables. Then we crossed the river Thames to the Globe Theatre to see As You Like It. It was hilarious and so, so, so, so, good! As with Romeo and Juliet, we stood on the floor as groundlings and almost got stepped on by the actors a few times. It was an amazing day, I was exhausted by the end but that’s somewhat of a theme for me here.

I am headed to Paris tomorrow! It is such an opportunity to be in Europe, let alone getting the chance to travel a bit. I’ll be there for the weekend and am going to try and see as much as possible. I’ve made a list and it seems feasible, however I don’t speak any French, so we’ll see. Anna speaks a little so we aren’t totally lost (well, she won’t be totally lost).

I should really get to this homework, I have about five papers to write for my internship class that are due next week. I just don’t understand the point of the class. I’m already learning so much from my work in my internship. All we talk about in the class are business practices that one should already know if he or she has EVER worked in a job before. I think it’s designed for students with internships where they don’t really do anything, like imputing data or making tea. I, however, am constantly busy and these assignments are mind-numbingly frustrating. I just have to suck-it-up and do it because ultimately my grades transfer and therefore affect my GPA.

Wow, my posts just keep getting longer and longer, just so much to say!

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