Un weekend à Normandy

This past weekend the Sewanee crew headed to the North-West coast of France to visit the historical sights in Normandy.  We left Paris early on Saturday morning to get the most out of the weekend that we could, stopping in Honfleur and a Cider brewery on our way.  Honfleur was a beautiful and small village with lots of boats and color.  We spent close to 3 hours walking around to stretch our legs and lunch on some good seafood.  We arrived at Christian Drouin, the Cider brewery, that afternoon and got the grand tour followed by some tasting!  It really brought the fall out for us in France with the overwhelming smell of fresh apples.  We arrived at our hostel for dinner and quickly hit the hay to rest up for a day of walking and sightseeing.

    We rose with the sun on Sunday and headed straight for Omaha Beach which houses the American Memorial and Cemetery.  It was a surreal feeling stepping onto U.S. territory all the way over here in France.  With over 9,000 headstone it was hard to not feel overwhelmed with gratitude to be an American.  After being free to walk along the coast, through the cemetery, and into the chapel, we piled back onto the bus to see Pointe du Hoc.  Immediately we were able to see the the craters in the ground and the bunkers created to halt the invasion of the Army Rangers.  It was a very cool experience to see the beauty of the present day coastline filled with animals, such as goats, in contrast to the harsh reality of what events took place there only some 60-70 years ago.    We finished our trip with a stop on our way back to Paris in Caen to visit the Memorial Cité de l’Histoire pour la Paix.  An immense museum that included not only history and memorabilia from WWII but also WWI and post war life throughout all of the countries involved.  All in all it was a weekend of appreciation, knowledge, and fun!

France at last!

It has now been nearly two months since our arrival.  When we first arrived on the 23rd of August, already in front of us were 2 weeks of orientation filled to the brim with tours and sightings.  From la Tour Eiffel to Sacre Coeur to the Moulin Rouge, every day checked something off our study abroad to-do list.  One of my favorite memories has been our first sighting of Notre Dame.  Our tour guide, Benjamin, led us from the metro on the way to Le Marais, with little to no introduction to the area.  While we walked, he casually said, “Oh yeah, there’s Notre Dame,” with a nonchalant head nod toward a church several hundred years older than the United States.

On Monday the 28th, we ventured on a bike tour of the city.  The views were amazing, and it was a good feeling to have biked 15 kilometers around Paris, but I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so sure I was going to get hit by a van.

Later that week, we visited Montmartre to see Sacre Coeur and the just-as-impressive view of the city.  Despite the pickpockets and steep climb, this was certainly one of my favorite orientation field trips.

-Miller Dew

 

 

Un weekend à Burgundy

During one of our first weekends here we took a group trip to Burgundy, a countryside town just an hour away from Paris. Still exhausted from our first weeks in a busy city, it was refreshing to retreat into a calmer environment and see some new sights. We don’t have class on Fridays, so we were able to leave that morning to tour the town of Dijon, famous for its mustard! We saw the local cathedral, walked past countless boutiques, and touched the “chouette” (French for a female owl) which allegedly gives you a vision if you touch it with your left hand. The next day was full of activity. We got an early start and toured the Musee Zervos, a small modern art museum. After lunch (escargots, ratatoullie, boeuf borgogne, and the like), we traveled to a vineyard for a wine tasting. We got a great lesson on distinguishing different qualities of wine, and then got to taste several for ourselves! The next day we toured Vézelay, a tiny rural town famous for its medieval churches. Our tour guide showed us what it would be like to be pilgrims during the crusades by taking us underground to places where they could spend the night. While the town receives millions of visitors each year, Vézelay is only home to about 400 people – mostly those who work in the church. Looking out onto the French countryside during such beautiful weather made me wish for an afternoon visit to Greensview! My personal favorite part of this weekend was stumbling upon a huge outdoor market where I bought a handmade scarf and a big bag of dried apricots.

-Gretchen Steele

Allez les bleus!

With the world cup approaching just next summer, it was only appropriate that we attended a qualifier game. The last time I was in Europe, it was  the summer of 2014 and the world cup was going on, but I never actually got to see a game. The ambiance centered around the world cup is something that is so uplifting and positive. Even though we obviously aren’t French, we couldn’t help but to put lots of passion and energy into cheering for the country that we have called home for the last two months. The stadium was huge and a lot more modern that I thought it would be. It was located just outside of Paris in an area that looked similar to parts of the US…it was a weird feeling. We grabbed a burger and bought an official scarf before entering …yey! (I’ve always wanted one of these!) We went along with all the crowds which were singing “La Marseillaise” as we entered the Stadium. We had amazing seats and they gave us French flags that we could wave around. In my opinion, the mood and atmosphere is a lot more fun than football games in America. Also, I think the game was much more entertaining because it was shorter…American football games tend to be like four hours. When someone would score a goal, the crowd would go crazy and it was fun to watch the players celebrate their accomplishment. Since “le foot” is a lower scoring game, it just seemed to be a bigger deal when the French would score a goal. Happily, the French came up with the win against Belarus! It will be a night I will always remember!

-Anna Comer

La dernière étape à Paris

1-joyeuse-fete-de-thanksgiving-2016Joyeuse Fête de Thanksgiving, 2016

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Le groupe de Sewanee-APA à table pour Thanksgiving.

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Joyeux 21ème anniversaire à trois membres du groupe.

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Avec notre guide à Chartres, le Portail Royal (occidental) au fond.

Our final Sewanee activity of the semester (following a memorable excursion the day before to the grand Gothic cathedral of Chartres, an end-of-semester party the night before, and a final theater run the evening before that to see an excellent Marivaudian comedy) was with the gracious Charlotte Puckette, a Sewanee alumni hailing from Charleston, South Carolina. She has lived in Paris for over 20 years, teaching cooking classes and catering. Despite French becoming her primary language of communication, a few “y’all’s” effortlessly rolled off her tongue as we exchanged conversation (one can leave the south, but the south never leaves a southerner).

Following the lead of Puckette, we explored a Saturday morning market, meandering through the throngs of elderly French women toting ingredients that were awaiting their transformation into weekend repasts.  Amongst the stands overflowing with fresh fruits and vegetables, savory cheeses, and a wide array of meats, Puckette explained, translated, and later made the ingredients come alive in her own kitchen, sharing her passion for food and French culture.

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au marché avec Charlotte Puckette

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Chez Charlotte, préparation des oeufs

Unfortunately, I had to depart prior to the lunch that was prepared, with help from my peers, chez Charlotte, nonetheless as I hopped on the Metro after my morning with her, I was stuck by how happy she seemed in her work. As my return to Sewanee grows nearer and nearer, the reality of being a second semester junior is just weeks away. This fact brings the inevitable question of what I will pursue post-graduation. I am most concerned with finding happiness in my work, just as I have found in my studies. To see Puckette, having received a Sewanee education just like myself, living her dream, thriving, and delighting in her work gave me hope that, yes, it is absolutely possible to love one’s work, just as I have loved my education.

The most influential aspect about my time in Paris has not been the language aspect, important as that has been, but rather the lifestyle. Seeing a culture that differs from my own in many a way has allowed me to question my own identity as an American, while simultaneously reaffirming it.  I have a new-found appreciation for my home, and especially for the charm of the south. In my experience, I have felt the strong southern sense of goodwill, shared amongst strangers and families alike, to be lost in the vastness of Paris. The pace of life in the city can feel too fast at times, and I miss the simplicity of home. That being said, French appreciation for art, for history, and the general respect and pride for its culture has been incredible to experience firsthand. These facets of French culture are deeply rooted in hundreds and hundreds of years of varying religions, peoples, and visions converging into a single country, but but no means a single culture. To see, live, and participate in this beautiful, yet complicated intricacy has allowed me to further contextualize my own position as not merely a student nor an American, but rather as a member of humanity. Living in the States, it is far too easy to remove myself from international issues, and the multicultural nature of France has challenged my notions of what I considered my global perspective — the world is far more diverse than I ever imagined, and my experience here is only a springboard for my future explorations.

 

Hemingway and his Era Come Alive in Paris

As I continue my travels here in Europe, I have yet to encounter a city as extensive as Paris; it truly is huge. That being said, I experienced a serendipitous moment that suddenly made the city feel smaller. I was finishing up my weekly reading of A Moveable Feast—our only reading in English this semester, though even in this exceptional case, we compared a few passages with those from a French translation—at a cafe nestled outside of the Luxembourg Gardens, when I glanced out the window to take in my surroundings and daydream. My eyes fell on the advertisement for the cafe across the street, La Closerie des Lilas.

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La Closerie des Lilas

The name seemed oddly familiar, and after flipping back a few pages I saw that La Closerie des Lilas was a cafe that Hemingway not only frequented during his stay in Paris, but included in the very book I held. Of all places to be in Paris to be reading A Moveable Feast, I happened to be across the street from that cafe. It was an interesting coincidence that helped make the book feel as if it was partly my story too.

To read A Moveable Feast in Paris legitimizes the novel through the experience of place. To stand on the very street that Hemingway describes while gazing upon the very statute that he makes reference to makes one feel so much more a part of the book.

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le Maréchal Ney devant la Closerie des Lilas

One can connect to his words not merely through Hemingway’s lense, but also through an intimacy that the reader develops through this interaction with the “Lost Generation’s” space.

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dans la cour du 27, rue de Fleurus, devant l’ancien salon/atelier de Gertrude Stein

The story develops a layer through this, enhancing the literary experience by making it one’s own.

To celebrate homecoming weekend at quite a distance from Sewanee, Professor Poe orchestrated a Friday night dinner that brought together our current abroad cohort with Sewanee alumni living in Paris for a dinner at a Latin Quarter restaurant across the street from the first residence of Hemingway and his wife Hadley.

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74, rue du Cardinal Lemoine, première adresse des Hemingway

Stories of Sewanee, living abroad, life after graduation, and a few bread baskets circulated among us, serving up a bit of a taste of Sewanee here in France. The night ended on a high note, leaving both alumni and students with a feeling of warm familiarity in this grand City of Light.

-Tess Steele

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Prof. Poe, Ron Oman (C’98), Audrey Loirat (French assistant, 2001-02), Sylviane Poe (behind poster), Jacques et Carol Bossonney (C’82), Charlotte Puckette (C’82), notre ami belge Tanguy

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Margaret Blackerby, Caroline Kerr, Katie Keith (C’15), Chris Cooper, Alex Cooper (C’15), Crystal Caviness (Kelly’s mother visiting), Kelly Caviness, Grace Dossett (C’16), Sophie Bore (en visite de Dublin), Sydney Peterson, Tess Steele (en tête)

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Chris, Caroline et Breaux devant le château de Fontainebleau, dans des costumes du 18e siècle

Notre week-end en Normandie

1-affiche-au-musee-eugene-boudin-de-honfleurFrance is not simply Paris (contrary to popular belief at times), with the country offering a plethora of cultural and historical  sites at one’s disposal. France is bursting with rich history and perhaps even richer variety, and unlike the United States, these remarkable sites are often simply a train ride away. As my exploration of France continues, my appreciation for how culturally dense the nation is grows. Unlike the United States, there are distinct regions, many on the smaller side in comparison to the vastness of the States, all with developed and particular histories and dialects, regional specialities, and defined personalities. Having earlier travelled to Strasbourg as well as to Dijon and the Burgundy region, I was eager to likewise visit Normandy to develop a more holistic understanding of France and her many charms.

Last Saturday morning we departed from Paris’s Left Bank, and by late morning I felt worlds away from the captial. The Haussmannian streets, crowded cafes, and fast pulse of Paris was replaced by the tranquil and nostalgic nature of Honfleur, a coastal town in the Calvados region of France. We visited the Musée Eugène Boudin, a relatively small museum offering a delightful collection of paintings of nautical scenes; and then we strolled around the town in search of seafood, naturally.  As I enjoyed a bowl of mussels and a glass of wine, with a delightful sea breeze ridding me of any remnants of urban exhaustion, I couldn’t help but feel that I had entered one of the intimate scenes of Boudin.

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visite d’une cidrerie dans le Calvados

 

Following our exploration of the town, we were treated to a cider and Calvados tasting (regional specialties) at a nearby distillery. While not necessarily the warm, spiced, and alcohol-free cider that I associate with autumn’s county fairs, orchards, and football games, this tasting was one of the more conventional fall activities I have participated in during my abroad experience.

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Sur la plage de Deauville.

Following a quick excursion to the beach at Deauville, the day came to a close as we arrived at a quaint coastal town for the night, our lodging address being right on one of the D-Day beaches — where I luxuriated in a post-dinner stroll to the company of waves and sand between my toes, with Paris but a distant memory.

The beaming sun on Sunday morning, accompanied by a coastal wind and a rainbow that spanned the sky, provided a beautiful yet somber background to the American Cemetery at Colleville-sr-Mer. Visitors were sparse, providing ample time to observe and reflect on the significance of the cemetery.  Seeing the locations of such momentous events in human history transcends language and cultural differences, making the world a little bit smaller for an American in France.
-Tess Steele
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Cimetière Américain à Colleville-sur-Mer.       

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au Pointe du Hoc près d’Omaha Beach.

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déjeuner gastronomique à Bayeux où nous avons vu la célèbre tapisserie.

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musée du Mémorial (Seconde Guerre mondiale) à Caen.

 

Musings on Dance Performance, “Volver”

This past week, my fellow francophiles and I here in Paris attended the contemporary dance performance Volver at the handsome Palais de Chaillot-Trocadéro performance hall, centered on the interaction between an individual and place, specifically regarding immigration and the difficulty in uniting identity with place. While some expressions and verb tenses were certainly lost in translation, a general message came through: adjusting to a new way of life can be difficult.4-apres-un-spectacle-de-danse-au-palais-de-chaillot-trocadero

Après un spectacle de musique et de danse au Palais de Chaillot, Trocadéro

My abroad experience has been my first exposure to learning how to live as part of another culture, not merely to visit. While my Sewanee soul would love to wish everyone a lovely morning in passing, doing so in France is generally a social faux pas. Subtleties like saying hello, asking for the bill, and when to cross the street are all relatively superficial, yet require some thought and gradual acclimatization all the same.

After attending Volver, I found myself comparing my own cultural assimilation experience with that of others coming from extremely varied backgrounds.  For those coming to a foreign country with little or no knowledge of cultural differences, I can only imagine how intimidating everyday interactions must be. When one adds a racial or religious component to this change, it really makes my abroad adjustments seem mild at most.

As an American, I find myself consuming, sharing, and participating in much of the same pop culture as Europeans. While I am a foreigner here, France is not totally foreign. France has a knowledge of America, American life, and American culture that has consistently surprised me throughout my stay. I have found that our political affairs, music, films, literature, language, etc. seem to hold a significant influence on French culture. The posters decorating métro stations bare many American actors’ faces, the music being played in cafés is so often American pop, and the similarities continue. As my language barrier lessens, I become more aware of the similarities between the two cultures and the impact of living in a time of globalization and instant communication.

As I exited the métro and made my way home following the Volver performance, I passed the same group of displaced foreigners that I pass every time I leave my metro stop, and for the first time I considered the utter unfamiliarity that these individuals face on a daily basis. While I don’t wish to get into the politics of immigration in France, I certainly felt a sense of empathy for these men, women, and children that I had not considered before. While I experience hints of homesickness, I know that I will return home and anything I find myself longing for will be waiting for me in January. For these families living on the streets, they likely don’t have that promise of a return to normalcy. They aren’t living in a country that is necessarily interested in their homeland. The posters in the métro do not show familiar faces. The lyrics to pop songs are not those to which they can sing along.

A dose of perspective came with the performance of last week, and while I am physically far from home, I have a cultural safety net simply because I am American, and that is something to find comfort in.

–Tess Steele

Parallels between Sewanee and Paris

A quintessential component of Sewanee, and perhaps its very essence, is its location nestled on the Cumberland Plateau. Acres of forests, trails, streams, mountains, caves, and scenic lookouts beckon contemplation of nature’s beauty. The presence of that which remains hardly touched by mankind is a consistent object of adoration, fascination, and education at Sewanee; one can escape the material world and lose herself in nature.

This phenomenon is seemingly nonexistent in Paris, and yet there is a striking similarity between Sewanee’s relationship with nature and Paris’s relationship with mankind. Sewanee celebrates the grandeur of the natural world; one is reminded of her smallness amongst the vastness of the cosmos. Paris celebrates the grandeur of humanity; the city is a manifestation of thousands of years of human accomplishments, triumphs, and failures. The wilderness of Sewanee and the metropolis of Paris, while seeming opposites, both encourage a deeper reflection of one’s place in the world.

This parallel occurred to me during a walk to the Louvre this week. While strolling down the Boulevard Saint-Michel, I casually glanced over my shoulder and the Panthéon was in my direct line of sight. There I was, hardly taking note of my surroundings and merely focusing on getting to class on time, and on a street away was a neoclassical masterpiece and the burial place of some of the most influential intellectuals in French history (Hugo, Zola, Voltaire, Rousseau, Marie Curie, and others). Stumbling upon the Panthéon (our group wil return there soon for a more formal encounter) is by no means a casual event, but in Paris it is a part of daily life. The Panthéon is just one of hundreds of historically relevant sites throughout the city, and it is easy to get lost amongst them.

1.le Panthéon sur la Montagne Sainte-Geneviève à Paris

Le panthéon sur la Montagne Sainte-Geneviève à Paris.

I have attempted to make a conscious effort to take in my surroundings and contemplate the importance of place.  Seeing the same monuments, artworks, cathedrals, and streets as millions of others before me makes me realize my contingency in the grand scheme of human existence. The city is a synthesis of so many different periods of human history. Egyptian artwork in the Louvre stands near baroque and rococo rooms used by 17th and 18th century kings, and all of this is being captured by iPhone cameras. There is no one time period that defines the city, and as the past is celebrated, the city is evolving constantly. The city’s fast rhythm makes the influence of Paris throughout history daunting and difficult to understand. The city, like nature, evolves and changes over time, ensuring that there is always a new facet to discover, and as the semester continues I will eagerly continue my exploration.

-Tess Steele

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Sophie explique le théâtre dans la rue

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La troupe après le spectacle dans la rue.6-a-la-maison-de-balzac

 

À la maison de Balzac.

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Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine.

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Breaux et Caroline with tee-shirts and medals from “We Run Paris 2016”.

 

Week 4 Update

This past week concluded my fourth week in Paris, and after nearly a month of adjusting to life abroad, I can confidently say that I have suffered no more than 28 hours without eating a baguette and have only gone the wrong direction on the metro twice. Call me Parisian.

In all seriousness, the greatest challenge of navigating the city has had far less to do with Google Maps than with the newfound loss of my awareness of my surroundings. Language is taken for granted until its familiarity, that ability to give you security, confidence, and understanding, vanishes. My linguistic insecurity reveals itself daily. Is the woman yelling on the metro trying to tell me something important, or perhaps just fussing at her son on the phone? Did the waiter just inform me that I ordered a 50 euro bottle of wine instead of the five euro glass? Passivity ceases to be an option when I am a foreigner. Everyday interactions get more complex, and I am forced to be an active participant in my environment, yet it is this necessity to submerge myself in French culture that allows me to understand and appreciate it.

Listening to the couple chatting beside me at a cafe, exchanging stories with my host mother, or simply taking in everyday scenes of Parisian life provides ample opportunity to celebrate progress in my French studies and actively gage my comprehension. It is an interesting balance of confusion, excitement, and growth that is now becoming my norm, and as my French improves these everyday confrontations with the language become a source of intrigue and anticipation.

I have discovered firsthand that the language of love can sound irresistibly seductive, or like a dreadful attempt at communication whilst gargling. While I gravitate towards the latter of the two (though with less frequency than in August), I have come to appreciate the art of well spoken French, thus attending a production of Molière’s L’Ecole des femmes served as a delightful manifestation of the beauties of Classical French verse in a seventeenth-century comedy.

As a class, my fellow students and I read a Molière theatrical masterpiece, a play which is both social commentary on French society of the 17th century and an extraordinary demonstration of the refinement of the language. Following a discussion of L’Ecole des femmes, we explored the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, the hauntingly gothic final resting place of Molière and scores of other cultural, artistic, and historical icons. Dusk was beginning her descent over the sky, early impressions of autumn hung in the air, and leaves eerily rustled as we mulled over literature amongst the tombs, in typical Sewanee fashion.

1.devant les tombes de Molière et de La Fontaine

The gothic romanticizing came to an end with a hop on the metro, and soon we were at the Théâtre de la Tempête near the château de Vincennes for an evening of Molière. Hearing the same words that I myself had struggled to pronounce effortlessly flow from the actors’ lips elevated my appreciation for L’Ecole des femmes. There was a musical quality to the delivery, and I realized “Oh, that is how French verse is supposed to sound!” The production bought not only the language to life, but also the culture, with many a sexual suggestion, dramatic flair, and a heavy dose of French humor.

Screen Shot 2016-10-03 at 11.48.00 AMWhile I am by no means fluent after a night at the theatre, these cultural experiences are necessary if one is to not just learn the language, but to learn the culture. French history does not live in textbooks; it is visible on the streets of the city, in the museums, the architecture, the churches, and in the people.  Transforming the works of previous generations from words on a page to conversation, while certainly not always easy, is why I am a student of the humanities, and the chance to contextualize French culture in the country itself is worth getting a little lost on the metro for.

– Tess Steele

3.Tess Steele devant la tombe de Delacroix, Cimetière du Père-Lachaise