Saturday, May 31, 2008

La Vie Quotidienne

So the main thing that is really the advantage of my program is that in living here, and working, I really get the chance to be a Parisienne (to the extent that a flip-flop wearing, native English speaking American can be a Parisienne for 2 months...) But anyway, you get to experience to some extent la vie quotidienne - the daily life. We are not just here as tourists (and let me tell you, it has become quite easy to pick out who are the tourists on the metro). Now granted, I am doing several touristy things, visiting museums and so on, but I really get to see what the daily grind is like. If there is one word it is good to know about daily life in Paris, it just might be grève - that is to say, strike. There is toujours un grève - people are serious here about maintaining a high quality of life. Here is the first grève I saw up close and personal, I believe on Thursday:

I should have taken a picture looking down the length of the street - there were hundreds and hundreds of people. Ever since the turbulent month of mai '68, May is the main month for strikes. The worst is when the RATP strikes - they run the Metro, bus, and commuter rail systems, and on strike they either limit the number of trains running or certain lines won't run at all. Luckily for me, I live pretty near to where I work, but this could be a huge problem for a lot of people in the program here!

I am glad June starts tomorrow.

So anyway, I started at the gallery Tuesday, and as it is now Saturday evening, I have completed my first full week. The first three days, it was just me and mon patron (my boss), Eric (as in, Eric Mircher, as in, Galerie Eric Mircher). Contrary to the stereotype of the laid-back, laisser-faire European worker, Eric seems to be always in a hurry. Basically from what I have seen in the last week, his job is to first and foremost keep the collectors happy, and then to try to keep the artists happy, and then to make sure everyone else stays on task to keep those collectors happy. Most frequently, he has dictated emails to me. His assistant Lou came in the last 2 days... I think she is preparing for final exams right now, so maybe she was off to study for that, or maybe she only works part time regularly... I'm not sure.

Eric speaks mostly English to me, but Lou doesn't really speak English (she took Italian instead). I think Eric uses English mostly because he's in such a hurry, and he thinks I will understand more quickly... He did tell me he will use more French as time goes by. Alors, comme il veut. He is not, however, fluent, so when there are emails to write in English (he deals with Canadian, American, and Chinese artists, dealers, shippers etc), he tells me generally what to say but then I put them in "my good English." At least then I really feel like I'm useful!

On Wednesday, Eric asked me to run an errand to the Centre Pompidou, the "modern cultural center" or something like that. It was built in the '70s under then-president Pompidou, who said it would "cause quite a stir" - in comparison to the rest of Paris' architecture, I should say so :

The long tube going up the side of the building is actually the escalator. When Eric asked me to go on the errand, it was about 12:30. I usually lunch about 1:00 for an hour, so he told me to head over there, and then take my lunch and be back at the gallery by 2:30 - sounds good to me! I got a chance to look through the museum of modern art there... I only had about an hour, but that was plenty. When I was leaving, however, I rode the escalator up to the top level. This was the first time I really got to go UP, and see Paris from above, and it was pretty incredible.

This is looking out over the centre Pompidou fountains, which you can see in the foreground, towards an unknown church. I like the juxtaposition of the new with the old.

And there she is, the Tour Eiffel! Note as well the gold dome to the left. I am not sure what that is, but it is certainly pretty.

Looking out to Sacre Coeur, the church on the tall hill of Montmartre :

It was incredible to get to be up to see all of the city like that. Unfortunately, it was not outside, but within the plastic tubes, so there is some glare on the pictures... But oh my goodness, it was magnifique all the same. It makes me impatient to visit the top of the Tours Eiffel and Montparnasse and of Notre Dame!

Friday, I walked during lunch South from my office down to the Basitlle - the site that the revolutionaries stormed on the 14th of July, 1789, to start the revolution. The revoltionaries tore down the Bastille, a prison as well as a munitions stock. Several decades later, this column was erected to commemorate the spot :

Once again I got lucky with blue skies! The building you can barely see to the left is the Bastille Opera House, commemorated 14 July 1989. I took pictures of it as well, but they will have to wait for another time.

Other than work, I had class again on Thursday, and I have been mostly eating pretty well. Tuesday night, we celebrated my birthday over dinner. Each tuesday, my host mom, Catherine, makes dinner for us (us being me and Kendall, the girl who lives here with me). She offered to give us cooking lessons, but she wouldn't let me help last week since it was my "birthday" :) It was too bad she wouldn't, dinner was incredible and I'd love to know how to make it! We started with a salad, and then had ratatouille and rice and tomatoes stuffed with pork and spices, and then she made me a cake for dessert. I had never had ratatouille before, and it was delicieux - even though it had fenouil, et courgette - fennel and zucchini, two vegetables that are not my favorites. But everything cooked for so long, and with so many good flavors, you couldn't even tell. The cake was "Catherine's own creation," and was some kind of white cake layered with strawberries, and then mascarpone and fromage blanc, which is basically like a very thick not sweetened yogurt. Wonderful. I want more just thinking about it! Catherine and Jacques' son Francis came to dinner as well, and there was good conversation to go along with the good food. I had been told the French really like to discuss politics, and I am finding it to be very true! It makes me very glad I was following the American election before I left the states, so I can talk about it!

Today Eric was really nice and asked me just to work 11-2, so it wasn't a real work day. I was going to be good and go swim afterwards, but I went to the pool that is only a few blocks from my office and looked in the window, and it was so crowded! It is a 25 m, 6 lane pool, and there were at least 5 people in each lane. That is crowded enough when everyone is doing the same practice, let alone when everyone is different and you have to pass rec'ies all the time... So I decided against it. I thought about running, but then I thought about lying in bed, and the latter was more appealing, go figure. So I feel kind of guilty having taken an entire afternoon pour me reposer chez moi (to relax at home), but I think I will be much more refreshed tomorrow. The BU program has offered to reimburse us up to 30E for any trip we might want to make into the Ile de France region (the region surrounding Paris), so I think tomorrow I will try to go to Chartres to see the Cathedral, which I have studied and understand is absolutely magnificent. I am hoping to make it to mass, and get to experience that.

All that being said, I am probably going to be lame for a Saturday night and go to bed early so I can wake up early and go to church.... Alors, bonne nuit, et

a bientot!

L'Orangerie, Ile de la Cité


Last Monday I decided to visit the Orangerie. I wanted to go due to the recommendation of an art history professor that I had last year who said there was a room of Cézannes that eminated a grey light because it was so well lit. Having now seen it, I think this may also be related to the fact that the walls and floor are grey... But anyway, there is a very nice collection from late 19th and early 20th century, including some wonderful Cézannes, Renoirs, Picassos, Matisses... And then the museum is probably most famous for these two enormous curving rooms with frescoes painted in situ by Monet, called the Nymphéas, which were really quite beautiful.

It was really quite serene, with the soft lighting and the beautiful paintings surrounding, nearly engulfing you.

The Orangerie was considerably smaller than I had anticipated, so when I was done there I decided to walk to the Ile de la Cité, the bigger of the two islands in the Seine in the middle of Paris. It was here that the city of Paris was first started, and today it holds the number one tourist attraction in all of France (and I think all of Europe, although I am not sure) : Notre Dame de Paris.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Before I got to the Ile, I walked along the Seine past the Louvre. This time, my camera did not run out of batteries, thank goodness. The architecture, and more specifically, the myriad sculpted figures who inhabit the architecture, are really quite incredible. Here is just a very very small sample:

Figures like that are one of the main reasons why I am loving this city!!

After crossing over onto the island, I looked back across the river and saw the Hotel de Ville:

Wow. I think if you click on the picture, you get a bigger image. That is quite the facade!

Another reason I wanted to go to the Ile was to see Ste Chapelle, a gothic chapel built by some king (there were too many, I have no idea which one). Ste Chapelle was built as a reliquary church for the Crown of Thorns. Today it still holds the "crown" but everyone comes instead to see the incredible stained glass. (What's really incredible to me is that this is an incredibly sumptuous chapel, made for the private use of the king of France... and please realize when I say chapel, it is an entire church... And the reliquary built to hold the crown cost 5 times the price of building the church!!! Incroyable.) The line to get into the chapel was incredibly long, so I am planning on going back another day, early in the day, to visit the inside. I will tell you more about it when I actually have seen it.

Continuing on, I came to Notre Dame.

She's pretty spectacular.

I had studied portals like this one (and probably including this one, but they all kind of run together) in art history classes, but I have to say, it was (just like any good piece of art) way more moving in person, when all the figures really have mass and personality.

Heading inside the chapel... for as light as gothic churches are... they are pretty dark!

But the sun coming through the stained glass is pretty magnificent.

The detailing on each tiny piece of glass is pretty incredible... And there is glass everywhere!

I did not go up in the towers yet, because it was cloudy and if possible I would like to go on a clear day, and also because I had my first class in the evening and I didn't want to be late.

The class I am taking is called "France in Paris" and we are looking at literature between 1750 and 1950 that represents Paris and the way the world saw it as well as its perception of itself. What I am most excited for is the fact that we will be making a few visits to different places in the city (Montmartre, the Musée d'Orsay, and others) to really see first hand what different writers are talking about. It is taught entirely in French, and while that worried me a little the professors here are all very cognizant that we are Americans, and not fluent, and so while Lionel (my prof) does not exactly speak slowly, he does make an effort to use words we will know, which we all appreciate. There are 10 people in my class (there are 30 with the program all together) and I think I will really get to learn a lot... Not that I really want to think about papers and exams after just having finished a semester a couple of weeks ago!!

So that was monday...

I will try to get quickly caught up with the rest of the week. My internship started tuesday so I have worked every day since then so there has been less time to go and visit places and take hundreds of pictures so hopefully this will be a quicker task.

A bientot!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

La Butte aux Cailles

In continuing to play catch-up....

Sunday, May 25

Joyeux fête de mere! And CONGRATULATIONS VAL!!! Sunday I made crepes for breakfast (evidemment, pas comme dans la crèperie) and then went over to Killian’s. We went on a run together along the Seine and then around the Tour Eiffel, you know, no big deal or anything. Then we had an assignment to discover la Butte aux Cailles. All the students had an assignment to visit a certain quartier in groups of two or three, and we happened to be paired together. I’m glad we were, because we really enjoyed it together. We were given several places to visit and photograph, that we have to turn into a project as though it were to promote the BU program and show why our quartier was great, or something like that.

La butte aux Cailles means the “Hill of quails” but Cailles is also the name of the man who bought the land a long time ago so presumably it is named after him and not to an abundance of foul that formerly inhabited the hill. It is a quiet quartier, and very residential – not many tourists here. We got off the metro near un boulangerie et patisserie (bakery and pastry shop - they are ALL OVER and probably Paris' best attribute - no lie):

And then walked up the hill. Our first stop was in this apartment building:

How cute is that? It opens to a central courtyard:

There are multiple places in this quartier where I would love to live. This is one.

A little later, I was taking a picture of a crèperie when Inde:

Told me to look up at this:

Inde works at the bar she is standing in front of. Killian and I spoke with her and her friend from the bar a couple over, Radu:

Ils sont très gentils, et Radu nous a demandé de retourner pour practiquer notre francais et pour lui de practiquer son anglais (They are really nice, and Radu asked us to come back, so we can work on our French and he can work on his English).
Next, we visited this POOL (obviously the best part of the trip).

It was built around 1900, and is in an art nouveau style… Malheureusement, we were not allowed to photograph the interior, so I can’t show you what that was like.

Continuing on our way, we came to and entered the Eglise Sainte Anne:

Vraiment belle, n’est-ce pas? Pretty much partout (everywhere), when a shop is closed, there is a gate that comes down over the window. Most are just plain, but this bakery was more creative:

Ok so here is the place I really want to live: the Cité Florale.

It’s a little neighborhood filled with plants, where all the streets are named after flowers. It was beautiful, and the air was completely parfumed. Magnifique.

We finished in a park that, while beautiful, pretty much looked like a park so, as adding pictures is the most emmerdant part of writing an entry, I won’t bother to add one. I also won’t exactly define emmerdant, but “merde,” in the middle, means shit, so you can guess the rest…

We’re about to eat dinner now. We eat dinner with my host family each Tuesday, and today Catherine would not let me help her prepare it because on fait une fête pour mon anniversaire (we are celebrating my birthday. Elle m’a fait un gateau – miam!) Hopefully soon I will catch up to the current day.

A très bientot!

Monday, May 26, 2008


On the 24th (HAPPY BIRTHDAY JEN!!) we visited Versailles. C'est tellement incroyable. We toured the palace, and then toured the grounds (which luckily was partly on the petit train, so we didn't have to walk everywhere! it is BIG.) The palace by itself is enormous. More rooms than could ever be used, and the decor for all was unbelievably sumptuous and opulent.
Here is one wing of the Palace:

The tour winds its way around the palace. Here is the King's private Chapel. You can't see it from this image, but the entire vaulted ceiling was painted as well.

On the ground floor, there were a ton of rooms filled just with paintings. The premier etage (second floor) was filled with the most interesting rooms, I thought - the king's and queen's chambers (they are separate, of course - don't want the queen to know when the king chooses to stay out late with his mistress at the Petit Trianon, across the gardens). Also probably the most famous room in the palace, the Galerie de Verre (hall of mirrors)

I imagine it would be even more incredible without the many tourists!!
What really struck me was just how rich EVERYTHING is. The floors are all parquet, the walls are marble, or wood painted to look like marble, or with velvet wall"paper," the celings are very frequently painted or sculpted... And then they are all adorned with sculptures, and paintings, and rich furniture.... You hardly even know where to look!
Here is a porphyry bust in one of the rooms

Porphyry was a stone that royalty loved, due to its purple hue; however, also fitting for royalty, it is incredibly expensive because it is very very hard, and thus very very difficult to sculpt. There were many busts like this.... And I have barely scratched the surface here of all of the decoration... But I will move on now to the gardens.

Here is what I had already seen of the gardens at Versailles, and what I was expecting to see:

The very neat, carefully groomed topiaries spreading out in all directions, juxtaposed with fountains and sculptures. Man is more powerful than nature - the French way to construct a garden.

But when we took the petit train, we came to the Trianon and Petit Trianon. Both were built for mistresses of kings; both are most famous for later inhabitents. Josephine, wife of Napoleon, lived in the Trianon, and before her Marie Antoinette inhabited the petit trianon. Marie Antoinette was not a big fan of the French style of gardens, and preferred the English, more romantic approach that looks as though it was constructed entirely accidentally, and nature is in charge.

Voici, her Temple d'Amour:

She also had an entire little village constructed, with a dairy and a mill to make flour. While the outside is simple enough, we were told the interior was very rich - not that we were able to see it.

Looks rather out of place, next to the previous photos, doesn't it? I believe the building on the right is the dairy. What you can't see in this picture is that these buildings, along with others behind me, are all centered on a little pond, with swans, and huge fish that evidently really like baguette.

Basically, it's good to be king.

Alors, c'est Versailles! That evening, my gallery had a vernissage (opening) along with all the other galleries in the quartier, and so I stopped by briefly. I believe it was the last vernissage of the season, with the next not until October or something with the next foire (exhibition), so maybe I won't have to work one, but we will see.

I still need to tell you about le Butte Aux Cailles yesterday and the Orangerie and the Ile de la Cite today, but it is getting late and I am exhausted so it will have to wait for another day. Tomorrow, I start my internship. Hopefully, I will not be too tired from trying to speak French all day to try to get caught up in the evening, mais on verra.

A bientot!

Sunday, May 25, 2008



Sorry for the lack of posts lately, it’s not that I’m a bad correspondent, it’s that I’m too busy!! I’ll try to go briefly through each day so far.

Wednesday, May 21

ORIENTATION – big orientation session in the morning. This is the metro, these are your fellow program members, use a condom, etc... Pretty standard stuff (clearly, some more useful to me than the rest... haha). Lunch (sandwiches on baguettes) on the Champs du Mars, the park with the Eiffel Tower, which is about 2 blocks from the Boston University center.
So in case you didn't believe me that I am here...

In the afternoon we went on a boat tour of the Seine. It started at the Tour Eiffel, went east down the Seine, around the Ile de la Cite and back. I took a tonnn of pictures, but I think it will be easier to try to post them all together soon rather than on here. Dinner was a quick baguette, du fromage et de la confiture.
I could get used to this.

Thursday, May 22

Joyeux anniversaire à moi! I went for a run around my quartier in the morning. A great way to see the city! At the BU center, we finished orientation, did lunch again on the champs du mars, and then a walk across the Pont d'Iena, a stroll along rive gauche (left side of river), and walking back across the Plle Debilly. When we crossed back au rive droit (the "right" side of the river - really, the south side) we found ourselves at the Musee d'art de Polynesie et Afrique - so-called "primative art." And here is one part of the building. The architecture in Paris is magnificent, but this may be my favorite yet - I have never seen anything like it.

Those are plants growing directly out of the side of the building!

In the evening we went to see the film Paris je t’aime and then went to a creperie for dinner and dessert. They made my dessert (crepe avec nutella, bien sur) with a HUGE sparkler stuck in a lemon – it was adorable. Not to mention delicious, evidement.
These men kept coming around into the Creperie selling roses, and a friend in the program bought one for me - voila

I spent the evening on the Champs du Mars with a few friends. You have to wait a long time to see the sunset here - it's almost 10 when it really gets dark!

But if you can see the Eiffel tower at night, do! it lights up every hour - beautiful.

Friday, May 23

Entretien (interview) for mon stage (my internship) at Galerie Eric Mircher. Eric was to interview me, but he arrived 40 minutes en retard (late)... So at least I got a chance to look around the galerie. But, it's a very small galerie, and there isn't really enough to see for 40 mintues... But anyway, the interview itself was maybe 5 minutes and entirely painless... He just wanted to see my level of French. I start Tuesday, because the galerie is open tues-sat. I will be working those days, 11-6 or 7.. But Eric is tres gentil, and he told me I can take off any Saturddays if there are activities I want to do with the program, which is incredibly nice of him. I think the entirety of the staff is Eric, moi, and his assistante, Lou. I w

ill tell more after I start.

Afterwards, I rushed back to the BU center for the end of the degustation demonstration, where they brought a ton of cheeses and sausages and spreads and pastries to try... I missed a lot of the information but I still got to taste everything which was fabulous. In the afternoon, I visited a cafe and had an espresso with a couple friends in the Place Pablo Picasso. It's cute, ALL the chairs in a cafe are turned out towards the street, to facilitate people watching :)

In the afternoon, I visited the Tuileries, the gardens right outside the Louvre, where unfortunately my camera batteries died before I could take nearly all the pictures I would have liked... But here probably my favorite from the day:

In the evening, I cooked dinner with friends Killian and Ian at their apt. They are also in the program, and live in a homestay the 7e with a view from their apt of the tour Eiffel. (my view from my window is just of a little Italian shop... I think they sell gelato there, I will have to investigate soon.)

I will catch you up with yesterday (when we went to Versailles) soon hopefully, now I am late for a rendez-vous avec Killian (on va faire un jogging ensemble - we're going for a run) and then we have an assignment to "discover" the quartier La Butte Aux Cailles.

A bientot!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


After leaving this:

last night, and about 9-10 hours of flying (and considerably more travel time), I am HERE. I am living in the 11eme arrondisement with a nice couple who are about retirement age. Catherine runs a day-care from her apartment, and Jacques is un professeur de biologie. They have 4 grown children, who I am told come by frequently - we will see. There is also another girl from the program staying here; her name is Kendall and she goes to UNC. I got lucky - all my baggage made it. Hers did not - but hopefully it will be here soon.

Certainly not to say all of the travel was bad - the atlantic flight had individual tv's and - Kate, you'll appreciate this, I watched a 2 hour rendition of Persuasion. They also served a "3-course" dinner (course 1: 2 pieces of lettuce and a cherry tomato to be a "salad;" course 2: choice of lasagna or chicken; course 3: a 3 square inch piece of lemony-cheesecake) AND they served us breakfast, AND I got free socks out of the deal - so basically it was pretty sweet. However, as high-class as my travels may have been, I only got about 3.5 hours of sleep, so it really does feel like 10 pm (rather than my East Coast 4 pm). Donc, je vous dirai bon soir.

A bientot

Monday, May 19, 2008

Presque Partie

This evening I am leaving for Paris. I have a late flight that gets into London tomorrow morning, then a short lay-over, and then just a quick jump across the channel to get to France.

I don't really have a lot to tell you about what is going on en ce moment. Right now, I'm only finishing packing, but hopefully in the next few days there will actually be something worth reading here. What I can tell you is a little about what I will be doing. I am participating in a program through Boston University called the Paris Summer Internship Program. If you would like to know more about the program, here is the website.
I will be taking one class, called "La France à Paris : Paris in literature." Here is a description taken from the syllabus:

This multidisciplinary course will cover a broad sampling of literary cameos. Using the city of Paris as the unique text, students will read its monuments and buildings and interpret works of fiction and non-fiction.Walking through the city (physically and textually), students will trace the history and culture of France in Paris. We shall begin with Walter Benjamin’s notion of “Paris, capital of the nineteenth history,” and move forward and backward in time to achieve a cross-dimensional sense of this peerless city.

The class will be held Mondays and Thursdays, at 5-7:30 PM. It is an evening class because I will also be completing an internship. I have an interview on Friday at Galerie Eric MIRCHER, an art gallery in the 3eme arrondisement, which is the art district. Here is their website.

Between the internship and the class, I expect I will be pretty busy for the next 8 weeks! I will try to keep this well-updated so you can see what is happening on a regular basis, but I am notoriously bad at keeping a journal so I won't make any promises.

Souhaite-moi un bon voyage!
A bientot!