Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Discours sur la littérature

This is a link to a video of some of the IUHPFL Brest 2017 students discussing works of literature that they read, in French. The job they did was absolutely fabulous. It's worth a look.


Paris - days 3 & 4

We were due for a day in which everything went right, and Wednesday was our day.

We arrived for our guided visit of the Musée d’Orsay and were ushered in with virtually no wait. We picked up what we thought were mp3 players, but turned out to be devices on which we could hear our guide without her shouting.

The guide was absolutely fabulous. She spoke French slowly that the students understood quite well. She explained the origins of Impressionism with artworks that were right in front of us. Then she led us into the gallery of Impressionism and tied what we saw there with what we had seen before. We saw colors and details in paintings none of us had imagined. She explained how these painters understood how the human eye perceives color, even though they were not scientists and had not studied perception.

In the end, it was an extraordinary museum experience for us all.

We then high-tailed it to the Champs de Mars, the park at the feet of the Eiffel Tower, so we could picnic in the shadow of the iron lady. (Actually, it was cloudy, so there was no shadow.) Everyone took pictures and fell in love with the grand lady of Paris.

A sudden light rain shower sent us headed to our Métro stop quickly. But we had an appointment with Montmartre.

Montmartre, the hill overlooking the heart of Paris has its own history. We met a group of actors there who took us through that history from the point of view of people who lived there at the turn of the 19th century. The visit was funny and fun, even if our students didn’t get all the jokes and historical references, and the actors spoke French as if they were native French speakers.

The end was perfect as the actress who played “la Belle Gabrielle” and the actor who played “Jean-Jacques Latour” danced with Loïc and Évie respectively.

We had a bit of free time before we needed to meet for dinner. One group headed for the Centre Pompidou (the modern art museum), another for Notre Dame, another stayed in Montmartre. And one group fulfilled Ash’s wish to visit Les Invalides and Napoléon’s tomb. To quote Ash, “C’est le meilleur jour de ma vie!” (We’ve actually heard her say this before…)

We met back up at the auberge before dinner. We headed to Flunch, which is a buffet-style restaurant chain. Ours happened to be in the Pigale district, not far from the Moulin Rouge. We saw some curious things on our walk. But everyone was full when we started back to the auberge to pack for the return home.

Thursday morning, we said goodbye to Abby and Sophia who were staying in Europe to travel with their families. After a couple of free hours in the neighborhood, we drug all our bags down to the square in front of the Trinité church to await the bus that was to take us the Aéroport Charles de Gaulle. We left Loïc and Évie behind, as they were staying in France to visit their families. Micah got a head start on saying goodbye, even though he was to be with us all the way to Indianapolis.

On the bus on the way to the airport, there was one last rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner and the Marseillaise. 

Some flight delays caused us to arrive in Indianapolis at 2 am, but our families accepted us anyway!

The clock at Musée d'Orsay harkens back to its days
as a railway station.

Our guide discusses Manet's Déjeuner sur l'herbe, considered to be the first Impressionist painting.

That's Renoir's Bal au Moulin de la Galette.

The main hallway

A study for Rodin's Portes de l'enfer.

A study for the Statue of Liberty

Here we are on the banks of the Seine in front of the Musée d'Orsay.

And dining with the Iron Lady

Jean-Jacques Latour tells us about Montmartre.

One actor played the painter Modigliani.

Mari looks incredulous.

Interior of Notre Dame

France's version of the prime meridian.

Packed up and ready to head for home.

Micah's early goodbyes...

Back home again in Indiana!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Paris Day 2

Trouble continued to plague Lindsey’s well planned Paris schedule. We arrived for our reserved guided tour of the Musée d’Orsay, the museum of Impressionism, only to discover that a scheduling snafu had our reservation for Wednesday, not Tuesday. It was time to juggle the schedule again.
We decided to catch up from the day before. Lindsey and Évie took a group to see the catacombs while Michael and Loïc took a group for a walking tour of the Latin Quarter.

The catacombs are a series of underground tunnels where the bones of thousands of Parisians from the 13th-17th centuries are placed. These tunnels provided the stone for the buildings of Paris and were empty in the 17th and 18th centuries. The bones were moved because of health issues from contaminated ground water from the decomposition. Bones are arranged by cemetery and by bone type; pelvises together, femurs together, skulls together, etc.

Today, the catacombs are open for public visits and nearly half of our students wanted to visit. They expected to wait in line, but few envisioned the over five hour wait. They were troopers and stuck it out. (I’ll post photos when students share them with me.)

Later, that same group visited glorious Notre Dame Cathedral. There was a group of street dancers in the courtyard in front of the cathedral that put on a rather amazing exhibition. (I am waiting for shared photos.)

Then they headed to the Montparnasse district for supper. Some had kebobs. Some chose a restaurant with the fixed price menus and a free Orangina!

The other group started in the morning with a walk around l'Île de la Cité, the City Island that is in the middle of the Seine River and is the heart of Paris. They also visited Île Saint Louis, the island just next to Cité and the calmest, most tranquil part of Paris. It is therefore also the most expensive, real estate going for about $200,000 a square meter.

From there the group wandered the boulevards of the Latin Quarter, seeing up close some of the buildings of the Sorbonne, the oldest university in Europe. There are books stores on almost every corner and many ethnic restaurants.

After picking up lunch in area boulangéries or restaurants, the students had a picnic under the bandstand in the Luxembourg Gardens. It was a very relaxing time, and the respite was welcome.
After that, it was off to the area around the Opéra. They saw the ornate Second Empire building that is the Opéra. Then it was off to one of the Grand Magasins, the original department stores, in this case the Galléries Lafayettes.

The Grands Magasins date from the 1870s and 1880s. Galléries Lafayettes has a glass and iron dome over the central part that is contemporaneous with the Eiffel Tower, and you can tell. This is a place that makes shopping an experience, indeed it invented shopping.

The group took a break for some drinks and ice creams in one of the GL restaurants, enjoyed the air conditioning for a bit before heading back out into the Paris summer for a short stroll down Boulevard Haussman, one of the great boulevards of the Second Empire.

Then it was off to the Montparnasse district for dinner. A group had dinner at a restaurant called “Comptoir des vaches,” which specialized in beef dishes. (But the name suggested a bar for cows. Those crazy French!) This was just across the street from the Japanese restaurant where Loïc and Michael dined.

The evening ended with a visit to the top of the Montparnasse Tower. This is the only skyscraper in central Paris. Built in 1969, Parisians generally condemn it as the ugliest building in Paris. No skyscrapers have been permitted in central Paris since. But the view from the top is extraordinary, rivaling that of the Eiffel Tower (its neighbor) with virtually no waiting line.

Michael stayed with Grace, who suffers from vertigo, and Nichole, who REALLY doesn’t like elevators. They had Oranginas while the others posed for photos on the top of the tower. The arrangement suited everyone. (Thanks to Kelsey for the photos on the tower.)

I don’t think I have mentioned how hot it has been in Paris. Monday and Tuesday were near 90 degrees and full sun. Air conditioning is not a thing in all buildings in Paris (including our hostel) because the hot season really only lasts a couple of months. It’s hard to justify the cost of retro-fitting 200-300 year old buildings with AC for two months a year. Besides, Parisians leave Paris in July and August for vacations in the mountains or at the beach, or visits to the US.

Altar boys? I think not.

But this is an angel.

Cool, but he had no idea it would cost him a Euro!

Cash is good!

The third oldest university is Europe.

The temple of shopping, Galléries Lafayettes.

On the terrace.of Galléries Lafayettes

In Front of the Palais Garnier, the Paris Opéra House.
Sunset over La Ville Lumière.