Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Class et La Conciergerie

Winter has finally descended on Paris.  The first two weeks were on the warm side, but now everyone is wearing their puffy black down coats, so I'm blending in nicely with mine!  Today was class at Sweet Briar, but sadly no visits to the monuments, as it has been rescheduled for tomorrow.  We are going to Chateau de Vincennes, so look for a post about that sometime tomorrow night!  However, to make up for the lack of a monument, one of my friends and I paid a visit to La Conciergerie.  There's always something to do or see here in Paris! 
La Conciergerie

Thanks again to google for the picture, they are renovating the outside, so the facade does not look so hot right now.  It is on Ile de la Cite, right next to Sainte Chapelle and le Palais de Justice.  The Conciergerie was originally built as a palace for the kings of France in the Middle Ages.  Charles V later moved the royal residence off Ile de la Cite, and the palace was used for trials and a place to keep prisoners.  Currently, there is an art exhibit called Bêtes Off (Beasts Off) in the Hall of Men at Arms.  It was very interesting to see some modern art in such an old setting.  Voila some pictures of the exhibit.....

Le porteur de l'esprit de la balenine échouéé
(Carrier of the spirit of the beached whale)

Crisis Cabin

Inside the Crisis Cabin...this was my favorite, the walls were covered in green feathers and the inside was filled with livres francais! (French Books)

Here is The End of All Things

This work of art was my second favorite....so cool!  It made me think of Harry Potter....

Quagga Project
I liked this installation as well.  You can also see the huge arches of the Hall of Men-at-Arms in the background.

And now onto the prison!  The Conciergerie had a reputation for being the worst prision around.  During the Reign of Terror after the French Revoultion, the former palace was used as a pit stop on the way to trial and (most likely) execution.  
Some of the cells.  If you paid extra, you got a cell with a bed in it!  And for even more, you would have a bed in a room to yourself.  Les pauvres just slept on straw on the stone floors....

 I think the jailers would have a hard time loosing these huge keys.

The business end of a Guillotine.  Ouch.

 The Girondin's Chapel

 Memorial for Marie-Antionette

 Painting of the last Queen of the Ancien Regieme in her old cell.  It was converted into a chapel by Louis XVIII. 

Courtyard where prisoners bid au revoir before heading off to the guillotine in Place de la Concorde.

C'est tout pour ce soir mes amis!  I need to translate some syllabi so that I can get credit for all of my delightful classes and look for an internship for when I'm stateside again.  But who knows, peut-etre je trouverais quelque chose en France(maybe I'll find something in France)!


Monday, January 30, 2012

Quelque chose pour rire (Something to laugh)

Bonsoir mes amis!
Today was pretty quiet!  After my writing workshop I went to visit le Musee de l'Orangerie which is home to Monet's massive water lily paintings as well as works by Cezanne, Renoir and some other great painters.  Then I ventured into the sales again at Galaries Lafayette and Printemps in search of the perfect pair of brown leather riding boots that would not cost all my euros.  Sadly no success there.  All the more reason to go shopping again!  I have two more weeks until the sales end.  But back to the culturally important stuff!  Pictures were not allowed at le musee, so here's some pics courtesy of google...

Front of the le Musee (I didn't take any because it was cloudy again today)

Room de les Nymphas (Water Lilies)

Monet's work displayed how it was meant to be!

Because there's not much to report tonight, I thought I would share some of my favorite video clips about Paris.  Enjoy!

Foux de Fa Fa- Flight of the Conchords

How to Fake French

Team America
"Don't worry everybody! Everything is 'bon'!"  Haha gets me every time....also the geography of Paris is completely off.  It is impossible for the Eiffel Tower to fall on L'Arc de Triomphe.  Le Tour Eiffel is on the left bank and l'Arc de Triomphe is on the right bank of the Seine.  Just sayin'.

Paris Je t'aime....one of my favorite movies ever. 

This woman just LOVES this city.  A great way to show the effect a city can have on a person.  She wanted to visit Paris, so she did.  And props to her for doing her best with her French.  You'll never get better if you don't practice!  The grammer is good, but the accent could use a little work. The movie Paris Je t'aime is made up of a series of vignettes about love in Paris.  It has a star studded cast and is absolutely fantastic.  I highly reccomend it. 

Anyway that's all for now folks!  Tomorrow is my writing workshop again and then another Paris Through the Monuments class.  I believe we're going to le Basilique St-Denis! 


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Lions and Snails

Salut mes amis!
Yesterday, the Junior Year in France program had a day trip to Lyon!  Although the title of the post is "Lions and Snails" Lyon is pronounced LEE-on.  So after an early morning metro ride (complete with people who clearly had not yet gone to bed after their revelries the night before) we hopped on our 7h23 train to Lyon.  Voila un carte for a reference of Paris to Lyon:

PDF map of  France

We took the TGV (train de grand vitesse/super fast train) and arrived at 9h37.  Lyon is gorgeous!  As strange and stupid as it sounds, I kind of forgot that there is a whole lot more to France than Paris.  To me, Paris is Parisian first and French second, and Lyon is French first and Lyonnais second.  However when I made this observation at the dinner table tonight, my host dad immediately objected with at "Pas du tout!!" (Not at all!) He said they are Lyonnais first, and French second.  I guess I'll need to spend more time in Lyon to figure the national and city identity out.

Voila un carte de Lyon:

We started our tour at the top of Vieux Lyon at the Basilique de Fourviere.  Construction started in 1872, and was finished in the early 20th century.  Our tour guide said it is in the Byzantine Style.  Sadly we did not get to go into the main part of the church because it is under renovation, but we were able to go into the chapel beneath. 

View of Lyon from the lookout at the Basilica, we were very lucky with the weather!

 La Basilique de Fourivre

In the crypte (pretty sure now that crypte can also mean basement, not just a place for dead bodies...)

After the church we started to head down the hill toward the Roman Theaters.  Back in the day (Roman Empire days) Lyon was an important trading city in Gaul.  The Romans built these massive amphitheaters for music, plays, and speeches.  The theater used to seat 10,000 people!  Nowadays the space is used for performances in the summertime and seats 3,000 people.  Our tour guide told us that the stone stages are original and used stone from different parts of the Roman Empire. 

 Good job Romans!
Roman Aqueduct

After marveling at the work of the ancient Romans, we walked down the rest of the hill to Vieux Lyon.  I cannot imagine trying to drive a stick shift up that hill, but several Pugeots drove past us on the cobbled streets.  Vieux Lyon looked like what you picture a small French village to look like.  Very quaint and charmant, because if the style isn't broken, why fix it??

Cathedral St. Jean

At the heart of the old city is the Cathedral St. Jean.  You could probably spend a year visiting old cathedrals, chapels, and churches and not see them all.  This church took 200 years to build, and is home to a fantastic 700 year old astrological clock.

The clock displays not only the time, but lunar patterns as well, and has moving parts like a cuckoo clock! 

This is Rue de Bouef (Beef Street).  There is even a little cow statue above the street sign!

After our tour, we were free for lunch, so I met up with some family friends from Stroudsburg who have relocated to Lyon.  They kindly showed me some more of the old city and told me about their life in Lyon over lunch.  It's been two weeks and I still have not had a bad meal here in France!  My family friends suggested something called a "tarte flette" which was a salad along with a potato, bacon, and cheese dish.  It was simply delicious!  They said one of the things the love about French food is the seasonality of the dishes and produce offered.  You can't get a tarte flette in the summer; it's a winter dish and really warms you up from the inside.  For dessert I had a creme brulee.  YUM. It was really nice to see some familiar Stroudsburg faces in France!  Apres that, it was time for a puppet show....
Guignol was the hero and is very Lyonnais apparently, the show was very well done.  However I only understood about 10 minutes of it.  The actors were speaking in funny voices (high pitched or low pitched depending on the character) and very VERY fast.  I might have been able to follow along if there was only one added difficulty, but I was hopeless, as were many of my friends on the program.  Oh well! With the little time we had left in our visit, we headed to the Presqu'ile(the landmass between the Saone and the Rhone rivers) to wander about the city.  Eventually we came to Place Bellecour, the third largest square in Paris, complete with a statue of Louis XIV.

 Place Bellecour.  The Basilica where we started our day is the white building at the top of the hill!
 Louis XIV and Lyon's version of the Eiffel Tower

All in all it was a wonderful trip!  I enjoyed my day in Lyon and I am looking forward to exploring more of France.  There is so much history and so much to see and so much to learn!  Sacre Bleu!

Today I played tour guide again to Jeanette and her Penn State friends.  They said the waiters were much less pleasant when I was not with them to speak French!  Dommage....anyway, we saw some sights and then headed towards Montmartre.  I had already been to see Sacre-CoeurMontmartre.  So Parisian, so artsy, so fun.  It was a nice day out today, so there were lots of tourists about as well.  Please note that I do not consider myself a tourist here in Paris, bien sur.  I am an etudiant (a student), I am living here for an extend period of time and I speak French.  Anyway, some pictures....

 I will certainly come back on another nice day to get a better look at what the artists have to offer.  I saw a lot of Paris landscapes, as well as some other more modern works in various mediums.  My friends had a train to catch back to London, but they wanted to have one last meal in France before heading back to the land of fish and chips....

Les Escargots

Oui mes amis, we ordered escargot.  I knew that snails are a typical French dish, but I had not yet gathered the will to order some.  Jeanette, Kelly and I decided to go for it and ordered six garlicky snails. 

 Forking my victim with my escargot fork.  We later realized we should have used tongs to pick up the snails and not our fingers.  I guess it's a rookie escargot mistake. 
 There is no turning back....
Verdict: Delicious! 

I was so proud of the French-ness of my lunch (I also had French Onion Soup to wash down the escargot)!  I told my host family about my lunch and they laughed and seemed to be proud of me too.  We agreed that anything cooked in that much garlic and butter cannot be that bad.  Although I still prefer a crepe to escargot, I confess I would order the dish again.  Have any of you eaten escargot?  Tell me where and when in a comment!  Feel free to also tell me if you are disgusted and cannot imagine eating the slimy things. 


Friday, January 27, 2012

Le Shopping, les accents, et les traductions

I finally succumbed to the siren call of all the "soldes" dans tous les magasins (sales in all the stores).  The French retail industry is much more regulated than the American retail sector.  From what I understand from my conversations with my host family, the time for sales is determined by the government, not the individual owner or company.  So every store (I do not exaggerate when I say EVERY STORE) has deep discounts for the next week or so.  Alors, c'est seulement le bon sens de profiter aux soldes!  I went with some of my Sweet Briar friends to some of the stores listed in Parisian Chic by Ines de la Fressange.  Most things were still quite expensive, despite the discounts.  I only bought a t-shirt (tres mignonne, only 6 euro!) and a dress that was the last one in my size.  La vendeuse (the sales woman) said it must have been waiting for me.  My JYF friends and I were speaking French to each other, but the sales woman picked up on our accent and started speaking to us in English.  So we responded in French. And she responded in English.  The other sales woman came to our defense, saying "Elles parlent francais bien!" but it turned out that she wanted to practice her English.  So we just had a bilingual conversation.  It must have sounded very funny! 

I told my host family that story and they found it very entertaining.  I'm really surprised at how good my French is, and we had a discussion of accents at dinner last night.  Although my accent is not completely awful, people still know je suis une americainne by my accent.  My host family tried to help the sound of my "u", (by saying, la voiture roule dans la rue.... the car rolls down the street) but they just laughed.  Not in a mean way though!  I'm sure I'll be able to roll my 'r's and say 'rue' properly someday.  Then I laughed at them trying to say 'the' and 'through'. Try as they might, they could not get the 'th' sound.  We enjoyed laughing at each other's accents. 

Today, I met up with Jeanette, one of my friends from high school.  She's studying in London and visiting for the weekend with some of her college friends.  Although I'm no expert on Paris, I'm pretty comfortable getting around now.  I've been here for 2 weeks!  Crazy.  So I showed them around a bit and did all the French speaking for us.  Our waiter at lunch told me my French was very good!  That made me happy.  Jeanette and her friends asked me which places were good to eat, and I just replied that no matter where we eat, the food will be good.  I haven't had a bad meal yet!!  She said that in England, there have been more than a few bad meals.  I guess I picked the right place to study abroad!  No offence London, you're delightful, but you have nothing on Paris when it comes to food.  I enjoyed hanging out with them and teaching them some useful French phrases.  It was the first nice day since last Monday, so we went to the Eiffel Tower,  l'Arc de Triomphe, and the Champs-Elysees.  I am so lucky to live in this city!!

 Yeah class of '09!
 La Tour Eiffel
funny tourists....

I think this would look super in "college corner" or in the Journal...

got artsy with my new camera :)

adjouter deux lettres a Paris, et vous avez: le Paradis
"add two letters to Paris, and you have paradise:

There was some sort of state ceremony at l'Arc de Triomphe tonight

Tomorrow I have a day trip to Lyon with the JYF program!  It will be nice to see another city in France, although it will not be as nice to get up at 5:30am to catch the train...next post will be about Lyon!