Monday, November 16, 2009

Paris 7 and les Benoist-Lucy

Well, hello, there!

Here are some pictures from a typical Monday in Paris, including what seem to be the first host family pictures on this blog (they don't all wear berets and striped shirts!)

A little bit of Paris 7 Didérot, my Parisian university. Well, some things inside the library that were interesting. I was supposedly studying this afternoon (shhhhh!).

These stairs are SO bizarre. I can't figure out what their deal is! There are like two intertwined, but they both seem to go to all the floors... I don't understand.

Here's another picture, for clarification. (If it's possible). Maybe it has something to do with it being a converted flour factory?

I don't know where they come up with this ad campaign, but it is SO WEIRD to see in France! I mean, do they really understand the iconography of this image? Or is it just cool and trendy because it's American/English?

And a few pictures of my host family, that my REAL family has been after me for months to take and email around. We had mussels tonight, with potato chips! Actually tasty and kinda classy, not trashy. The chips absorb the crème very nicely.

Philippe and Agathe!

Me on the left, Guilhem in the middle, and Philippe again.

Oh, Guilhem.

 All done!

Dessert. France is classy like that.

This was his reaction after his mother said he had three girlfriends at once, and his sister said that since his 26-year-old brother Aurelien's married (and his wife is pregnant), he's going to be the next one.

And finally, Rimbaud!

Hope this gave y'all a bit of insight into what dinner with a host family (and fake studying) is like!

À bientôt,

My Portrait Of Paris

If I could take a snap shot of Paris, I would not be able to capture just one image. And by snap shot, I mean an image that would describe the Paris that I see through my eyes, the city of light, of love, the place that never fails to inspire me each day that I am here. Paris is life, Paris is love. I do not exaggerate. There is never a day that finishes, where I do not feel that illuminated joy in the bottom of my soul that says, "I'm glad I am here." And at the start of each new morning, as the coffee brews in it's tiny-espresso cup form in the kitchen by my room, I smile and say to myself, "hmm, I wonder where I'll go today...."

I have begun, so I think, a sort of love affair with the city. I have left it three times while I've been here to go on trips to foreign cities or neighboring towns. And each day when my bus or train pulls me back through the royal gates, I think, "how I am happy to be home".

The realization that I love Paris set upon me last night as I listened for the hundreth time to the rumble of the metro four floors and some odd feet beneath the ground. And I mused upon the events of the evening. I thought of dressing in my Parisien-friendly heels to go meet our school's President for tea. I thought of the classiness of our afternoon-meeting with her and the fact that we were following a Smith-tradition by having tea, but tea in Paris with the President is different than tea in Northampton on a Friday. There were platters of the oh-so-good madeleines and dew-drop fruit candies served in wrappers. There was tea seeped through a strain and the ambiance of the Parisien dusk. The air was not too cold and the wind outside was friendly. And we chatted and mused on the wonders of our Parisien lives here and we came together as a group in Paris with such ease that an outsider would have thought we had been here for longer than three months. That is because so long as we have been is Paris, it has become a part of us just as we have become a part of it.

I love Alex's reflections on what it means to truly be here, not as a tourist, but as a habitant, an intellecutual muse, a young woman with the world at her fingertips. I agree that it is the small things that count, the things that are mundane, even. I love taking my metro line 5 to my metro line 7 to Reid Hall and watching the passengers as they talk and read, and listening to the children who talk excitedly with their parents about things they have done and places they'll go. I have begun to become a Parisien because I love to people-watch. And I love to every Tuesday and Thursday go to my favorite Boulangerie Eric Kaiser a block from Reid Hall and recieve my demi-monge baguette, warm in the inside and crispy around the edges, and think, I love to eat this bread and be in Paris doing it. And on the way back to Reid Hall between my classes, I love to dodge the path of several pigeons whilst a small dog takes its Madame for a walk on her way to tea with a copine. And these small peices of Paris, the pigeons, the dogs and their pea-coat wearing owners, all these things bring me joy.

Pars, je t'aime. I've said it once and I'll say it again and I won't stop saying it, not even after I leave. I love the way I can lift my head from my reading and follow the last strains of light out of my apartment down the worn rues to work my way towards the sound of the five-o'clock bells that ring from the towers of Notre Dame just ten minutes outside of my appartement. And once I get there, I won't go into the majestic Cathedrale, but I'll stand outside and marvel at the beauty of this place, and by this place I don't mean just the cathedral, cloaked in shadows and light in some spots, but the trees around it that stand above the rues and next to the winding Seine. I mean the petit Cafés with their crèpe stations and nutella bars, next to the boutiques with their antiques and patterned cards, past the musiciens who smile even when they haven't earned a sou. There are simply so many images I could use to describe Paris, Paris at 5 o'clock, Paris at night, Paris at dawn, Paris at mid-day, Paris whenever. I have found myself by degree more and more attiré by these images which describe Paris and these images that are like the brushstrokes of a Manet painting: not one of them can stand alone, but each of them are necessary to create the whole image of a portrait so wonderful, and so original, the world open's its eyes to observe.

But by bit, I am beginning to find myself here, and I am beginning to paint a portrait of my life as I would have never imagined it, were I not here. And more than anything, I have the people to thank for bringing me to this realization because it is them, with their openness and their charm, with their social grace, their reverence for antiquity and their hope for the future, who have led me to this spot of recognition with myself. I thank the people and their monuments and the work they have done to welcome Americans like myself by leaving the doors to their city open for the curious and leaving their wet-paint brushes out for the artists who are ready to paint.

This is what I have to say on a Monday afternoon as the last light of day fades and those Cathedrale bells begin to ring once more.

May each and every one of us who are here excite in the ringing of the bells! And may each of use never fail to paint our own portraits out of some or of all that this glorious city has to offer!

What is your Portrait of Paris?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


AHHHH! why is this blog so confusing for me! i don't know how to write on it, but maybe this will show up. I don't really like the idea of blogging (which is why i'm so late in writing something) because I feel like most the stuff i'd blog about is personal; but i guess it's a way to remember things and remember this year.
One idea that i'll contribute to JYA Smithies: i think it really is good to make french friends. Just from hanging out with the few friends i have a Diderot, if i go to a party or a cafe and even just listen to them (although talking is good too) i can tell my french has improved. And because it helps your understanding of french culture, it just makes it easier to live in Paris.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

in september, i saw l'orchestre de paris perform gustav mahler's symphony no. 3. at about an hour and a half, it is regarded as the longest symphony in the standard orchestra repertoire. the concert took place at la salle pleyel, ligne 2, metro ternes. smith's orchestra played mahler's 3rd at the end of last semester, so i was excited to hear it and indulge in a bit of nostalgia. naturally, as much as i love performing and being surrounded by the sound, it is wonderful to simply sit back and enjoy the music without having to worry about missing an entrance or botching up a difficult passage. (though at times i did find myself becoming nervous when i knew something particularly tricky was coming up.) during the pause after the first movement, i was amused to discover that the seemingly contagious, group release of suppressed coughs is not just an american phenomenon. (i also couldn't help but wonder if anyone was dispersing little bits of swine flu virus throughout the hall...) the completion of the finale was met with enthusiastic applause and shouts of "bravo!" (but no whistling, which is considered rude, as madame miquel informed us.) i lost track of the number of encores which were signaled by a continuous, rhythmic clapping from the audience.

i sat in a row of single chairs in the balcony, giving me a lovely view of the performers, but a very limited view of my fellow concert-goers. it was pretty isolating. when i'm not inside of the orchestra, i enjoy the simultaneously private and shared experience of being part of the audience. interestingly, la salle pleyel also offers seating behind the stage which allows the audience to face the conductor.

the different ways in which i've experienced this music made me think about how i will experience my time à paris. i hope that while immersed in my everyday life i will be able to remove myself enough to have a sense of perspective, understanding the implications of a year in a foreign country and making the most of it. granted, i didn't really need mahler to remind me of that. i've sort of been freaking out about it on a daily basis since i got here. as has, probably, every other junior abroad. so, bonne chance, everyone. and let me know how it goes.

musings on the metro system

Yesterday, I saw a spray-painted metro train. The whole thing, spray painted, outside, inside. Whoever did it is my hero. It was on the 6 line. The colors were vibrant, neon. My camera had just ran out of batteries, and I cursed myself. I either felt happy or about to have an epilepsy attack. The mood inside that car was optimistic. Once I got off, however, the rain touched my face again.

Almost every time I get on the 9th, I lose at least 1 euro to an accordion player. They tug at my heartstrings when they play "La Cumparsita" or Piazzolla (which, you know, kuddos for achieving that).

I live far from everything. I must take the metro/rer everywhere. There is only one bus that goes by my house, which takes me to Odeon. The metro is a big part of my parisian life. I have a love/hate relationship with the metro. They should really start running lines over the night, at least on the weekends. The noctilien is really not recommendable. Strange faces live there.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Soup for the Soul

I want to be more than just a tourist here, I want to be more than just a tourist here.

Almost every time I am out, walking around Paris, I think this to myself. I think this while I'm out with my friends speaking English (sorry, Rob) when I go to the same places that I always go to for lunch...It has become my little mantra to remind me that I am here for a year, and don't want to be like every other americaine here.

So, in efforts to evade this, I am going to start volunteering at a Soup Kitchen, or a Soupe Populaire as a means to ground myself here. I'm excited to be a part of the city that no tourist will ever see, and really do something for the community here.

...wish me luck!

No longer a tourist

During my first month in Paris, I felt guilty every time I forgot to bring my camera somewhere, every time I stayed home with my host family rather than going out, every time I spent an hour doing homework rather than exploring a museum… I was constantly chastising myself, saying, “You’re in Paris! Make the most of every single moment you have here!” But after over a month of trying to pack “the most” into every second of every day (and being upset with myself when I felt like I didn’t succeed in doing so), I realized that I hadn't really made any progress in my quest to get to know the city.

I realized that the point of being abroad isn’t to visit every quartier, every monument, every bar within the first month just to be able to check them off my list and prove to myself that I’m taking advantage of my life in Paris. The most valuable experiences for me so far have been the 4-hour Sunday lunches with my host family, the afternoons spent in cafés reading my course material, the strolls through my neighborhood with my host dog… I’ve realized that every time I do something that some would consider mundane, or, if nothing else, simply ordinary, I feel much more connected to my life in Paris than I do when I snap a photo of the Sacre Coeur or the Obelisk. Paris is truly starting to feel like home to me, and that is not thanks to the number of monuments that I’ve visited.

My parents are visiting me this week, and my mom immediately wanted to know what museums to visit, what sites to see, where to get the best view of the Eiffel Tower. I let her consult any guidebook or tourism brochure to find all of the above, and instead I told her where to find the best crêpe in Paris, which movie theater has half-price admission on Tuesdays, the best day to visit my favorite open-air marché, where to find the best selection of used books, which restaurant has a breath-taking mural on the ceiling, and which contemporary art museums always have free admission. I’m finally starting to get to know Paris in the same way that I know Northampton or my hometown of Keene.

To me, “taking advantage” of living in Paris doesn’t involve visiting the Eiffel Tower every day—I’ve felt most connected to the city and the people in it when I simply allow myself to live life here, without the pressure of a list of “Paris must-sees” that disconnect me from my real life in Paris and make me feel like a tourist.