Tuesday, December 20, 2011


According to the Larousse, the French verb flâner means
a. se promener sans but, au hasard, pour le plaisir de regarder
b. paresser, perdre son temps
or, very roughly translated,
a. to wander about without aim, for the pleasure of looking
b. to loaf around, to lose time 
Flânering was certainly one of my favorite Parisian activities. That is not to say that I am a natural flâneuse. On the contrary, as most my friends could probably tell you, I tend to walk rather briskly and with a purpose. Loafing? Losing time? Unthinkable.
Then came Paris. For the first time in my life, I found myself in a place where walking as a part of daily life (not as exercise) is both feasible and pleasant. Growing up, it would have taken me about three hours to walk to school. Not feasible. To walk to the nearest store, I would have to stumble along the shoulder of the state highway. Not pleasant.
In Paris, however, I could cover half the city in around two hours (feasible). And I was always sure to pass pretty buildings, shops, and parks (pleasant). Also, avoiding the metro is always a bonus...
And so it happened that I passed many afternoons just strolling about the city. This gave me time to reflect and also to smile over small, quirkly details of the city.

To ponder the fascinating decor of the Louvre.

Or even just to savor leaf prints on the sidewalk

I would sometimes pop into a few art galleries, especially around St. Germain de Près.

But at the end of the day, can anything beat a stroll along the Seine as afternoon softens into evening which slips into night?

I think not.

Friday, December 16, 2011


During the summertime, I love to lie in the hammock and watch the sunlight play in the leaves of our sugar maples. Dazzling. 
Indeed, I've always found it easy to appreciate light as it dances on waves or kisses flowers or splashes over the Appalachians. 
But Paris taught me to appreciate light in a new context: the manmade world. Obviously, I've seen light on buildings before this semester. But I never really saw it. 
What changed? Well, I spent a lot of time with the Impressionists during my art course. Their obsession with light is contagious, so quickly I became more attentive to that the context of a big city where "nature" does not abound. 
And here is what I found.

 unknown building on Ile de la Cité

Petit Palais

 Notre Dame de Paris

Jardin de Tuileries

These sights took my breath away and taught me that a city can be beautiful.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Home Again

Evidently, I have not been the most faithful blogger as of late. What can I say? Experience took precedence over reflection for a while.
But now that I am back in the States, I fully intend to finish documenting my adventures!
First, a few thoughts about my return. I wish I could say that I was ready to leave, that I was deeply yearning for my native land. But alas - I wasn't. While I dearly missed my friends and community back home, I did not feel ready to leave Paris. I still had a mile-long list of museums to visit, quartiers to explore, plays and concerts to see. But even more, I wanted to establish a real life in Paris. As a semester-long study abroad student, I felt like a hybrid between a tourist and a resident. I had just begun dipping my toes into the community (making friends, establishing routines, getting around without a map...) when I left.
That said, I am immensely grateful for the time I did get to spend in Paris. My experiences pushed me to grow in so many ways. It gave me the Large Quantity of Books feeling. You know, that feeling you get when you step into a bookstore or library and realize that
a) there is so, so much to discover
b) one lifetime just isn't enough to discover it all

These two realizations provoke a queer mixture of awe, frustration, and excitement. Welcome to my life in Paris.
Without promoting the frillyfrooha Hollywood image of Paris, I must say that there is something truly special about the city. The definition of that "something" is a little different for everyone. For me, it's all bound up in moments like this...

Albeit short, my time in Paris was rich and beautiful. I know that this experience will remain nestled in my heart just like my time in Nicaragua, the Stapleton internship, etc...
For the next few posts, I've planned a sort of toast to Paris to celebrate a few of the things I loved most about the city. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

La Vie Quotidienne

The other day, an inquisitive e-mail from my grandmother made me realize that I have yet to share the nitty gritty details of my daily life here in Paris. Clearly, I am not always scampering across the countryside. So what happens Monday-Thursday?
I'll start with a description of my home stay with the lively Madame Perrod. Thanks to this cute birthday card hanging on her door, I know her age.

But I doubt that I would have guessed it otherwise. She teaches exercise classes in her living room about six times a week. Once, she let me come. Most her students are older, so it was not super strenuous. Still, I find this pretty impressive.
Madame Perrod's apartment is simple but sweet. Here is my room:

My host mom and I have dinner together five nights a week, and I always look forward to our lively conversations. While I was initially sad not to be placed with a full-fledged family, I now appreciate the challenge/reward of carrying on a one-on-one conversation in French for an hour at dinner.
I shall never forget the day I learned that the French last used the guillotine in 1977. Since I had always associated the guillotine with la Révolution and la Terreur, I found this quite surprising. When I mentioned my discovery to Mme Perrod, however, she stiffened and reminded me that (unlike France) the US still administers the death penalty...touché. Mme Perrod is definitely a bit feisty (in a fun way) and also a prankster, as I discovered getting into bed one night...

Now, for my average day...
After breakfasting on a piece of Mme Perrod’s delicious homemade bread and jam, I scurry off to school. Depending on when/how I wake up, I either walk or take the metro. Obviously, I prefer the brisk half hour walk, which gives me the chance to say bonjour to la Tour Eiffel.

And la Bastille.

Before admiring the architectural harmony of more recent additions to the cityscape.

Then come classes, with a break for lunch. For the first month, I picnicked nearly every day in the sunny Luxembourg gardens by my school. Heavenly experience, but unless I learn to resist the cold weather, I may be fleeing indoors soon…
After classes, I like to go on some sort of jaunt. Again, the warm weather of September usually tempted me out to the parks of Paris. As it gets cooler, I am more inclined to set of for a walk armed with one of the many guidebooks Mom gave me. I discover something new about Paris every time.
After dinner, I usually head out to choir practice or a play or just a soirée with friends. If I’m lucky, I return on the hour, which means I get to see La Tour Eiffel a-sparkling on my walk back from the metro. 
Hopefully, that gives you a taste of ma vie quotidienne here in Paris!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Another Kind of Feast

No wine and cheese tasting on Saturday, but we did see some beautiful sites. 
First, we visited Les Hospices de Beaune, a hospital founded in 1443 as a charitable institution. Most buildings I've visited from that time period are churches or castles. Or castles or churches.
Honestly, those big grand places tend to worry me. I can't help but wonder how many "commoners" suffered in poverty to fund such massive projects. So it was good to see at least one trace of medieval benevolence. Still pretty ornate, isn't it?

The beds lined the walls of a long room that felt almost like a chapel. 

After this, we headed to the town of Vézelay. Back in the day, thousands of pilgrims used to climb up to this basilica to pay homage to the relics of Mary Magdalene, the patron saint of prisoners. 

When our guide told us we were about to see the most beautiful Christian basilica in the world, I didn't quite believe her. Saint Peters', anyone? 
But then I walked in the doors. 

I could write a novella on the experience, but let it suffice to say that the airy, simple beauty of this basilica took my breath away. 
And, of course, I cherished my long breath of fresh country air. 

This is what it's like to feel alive. 


Monday, October 10, 2011

Wine and Cheese? Yes, please!

Last weekend, the Hollins gals (minus Oktoberfest-ing Carlee) hopped on a train for Bourgogne. 
Our first stop was Dijon (yes, like the mustard). We did not stay nearly long enough to get a feel for the town, but I did appreciate the colorful tile roofs. Especially with this man posed oh-so-picturesquely in the window.

I also liked the follow-the-owl plaques along the road. 

Allegedly, the architect of the church in Dijon was supposed to observe the sins of the townspeople then immortalize them as stone demons on the façade of the church. He was much too busy for this, but a snoopy little owl helped him out. Here's the finished product. 

After Dijon, we headed to the Gaugry Fromagerie to learn how to make cheese. While the aroma/atmosphere could not rival that of Mulot's pâtisserie, the process was quite fascinating.

And, of course, we got to taste some cheese. : )

Right after this, we drove through the beautiful vineyards of Borgougne, also known as Le Côte d’Or (the Golden Coast) due to its autumnal gleam. Beautiful.

Then we had a wine-tasting at le Domaine de Serrigny. I have not yet developed a taste for wine, but sampling a dozen varieties in a row definitely deepened my understanding of the art.

We spent the night in the lovable village of Beaune. Although I did not quite approve of their Halloween-esque lighting...

I loved the market in the morning! 

And found this booth especially tempting. A lot of older ladies bring rolling baskets (like suitcases!) to the market. I must invest in one of these. 

Stay tuned for more on our Saturday adventures! 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Here Comes Emily!

Last Saturday, Emily came to visit me in Paris for the day. At least, she was going to come for the day…but then she found out that all the trains returning to Aix-en-Provence were full. We had a long conference with this man, trying to find a return ticket. 

He was nice, but I’m pretty sure he suggested/retracted about a dozen options (one of which included an 8 hour layover in Lyon) before securing a ticket to return Sunday at 5. That settled, we set off for our adventures! 
 We began with Montparnesse, where I showed her my lovely school.

After a picnic in the Luxembourg gardens, we rambled around Paris. I showed her the Marais, one of my favorite districts in Paris. ‘Twas here that I fell in love with falafels.

After some more wandering, we paused for a macaron-break in Tuilieries.

Exhausted, we dropped by my apartment for a quick siesta. Right around the corner, there was an enormous yard sale.

I think the goats were just for decoration.

That night, we saw “Le Petit Prince,” a grand spectacle! It was a beautiful mixture of narration, music, lights, and fireworks. Who knew that you could set off fireworks like this in the middle of a city??

Sunday afternoon, we had a delicious lunch.

Then went gallery hopping in Menilmontant!

 The next few pictures are from our very favorite gallery. We definitely got some kindred spirit vibes.

I loved looking at all the pretty paints and supplies.  

And smelling the pretty roses in the courtyards.

 I could not have wished for a better weekend. Thank you, French Train System, for landing Miss Emily in Paris for an extra day of laughter, exploration, and good conversation!