Ashley in Paris

Ashley, a member of the University Honors Program and a senior majoring in art history, was awarded a Richter International Fellowship to conduct independent, graduate-level research this summer in Paris, where she plans to examine primary documents and pieces of chinoiserie at the major libraries and museums. Chinoiserie was an 18th-century movement in Europe characterized by the production of goods that portrayed China as an idyllic utopia, with plump pagodes, mystic sages and enlightened philosophers.

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Le Weekend: A lot of research … and a little fun

Richter%2B269.jpgLa Vie d’une Chercheuse (The Life of a Researcher)

As the title of this post states, I split my time this weekend between researching/preparing and afternoon study breaks. I was feeling really apprehensive about going to the BNF (Bibliotheque Nationale de la France), so I wanted to ensure that I was as prepared as possible. This meant a lot more research and also getting my information gathered and organized.

I must admit that I was a little upset spending my entire weekend preparing for the BNF. When making my itinerary, I had thought that I would be prepared to go directly from the looking days into the libraries. Well, I was wrong. Getting organized was not something that I had accounted for. Now, I am two days behind, according to my itinerary (my first day at the BNF should have been Friday), but I guess that is how research trips go. Next time I will know to factor in that extra time, and in the meantime, I will be working hard to make up for the two lost days of library research.

Although I was stressed, I have to say that the time spent in my apartment was not only productive, but also extremely relaxing. I have found that my apartment is a beautiful and peaceful place to conduct research, and since I have internet access, a world of information rests at my fingertips (how convenient). So, I spent the weekend looking through the 200+ pictures I had taken at the Paris museums and noting potential leads for my research (see photo: me engulfed in the research process). It was a lot of work, but hopefully it will pay off this week at the BNF.

Exploring the St. Michel Area
Friday night, after a long day of work, Christy and I headed over to St. Michel to explore and have dinner. First we went by the Sorbonne (one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Paris). Christy will be utilizing the resources at its library for part of her research. I had already toured the gardens last summer during a lecture with Dr. Wellman, so I was familiar with the university in its historical context. It is a large complex that claims a large part of the street where it sets. It was very imposing at night, with few students around.

After looking around for a bit, we headed to rue de la Huchette. This is an extremely touristy area, but there are a lot of interesting and inexpensive restaurants around. We decided on a Greek place that had a lot of energy surrounding it. The entire meal we were constantly reminded of our surroundings by the random yelling of “Opa!” and the breaking of plates in the entry way. I had la formule (one of the set price menus), which included mussels in a tomato sauce for the appetizer, moussaka as my main dish, and an apple tarte for dessert. Delicious!

Next, we headed toward the Seine. This was the first time I had actually looked upon the river since my previous trip. For some reason, it is a place that really resonates with me. In my opinion, it is as iconic as the Eiffel Tower or Notre Dame. Also, it is absolutely beautiful by night. The city lights up, and you can see everything reflected in the water. It is fun to watch the boats go under the bridges and just take in the city.

Along the Seine, we found a small cafe, and I had my first coffee in France. I had heard that French coffee is spectacular and really wanted to see for myself. I am a new coffee drinker. The bug finally bit me this last year after two years of college. However, I usually don’t drink it in the mornings, and I definitely don’t drink it black. I ordered a cafe viennois, which is coffee with whipped cream. I wasn’t disappointed! French coffee has a completely different taste than American coffee. It tastes extremely fresh and rich. OOOhhh, I am spoiled now!

Richter%2B226.jpgLe Marais
Saturday Christy and I met for a late lunch, and I took her to the Luxembourg Gardens. It was extremely relaxing to sit by the Medici Fountain and eat our sandwiches and quiche. However, since it was the weekend, it was also a little crowded. The area by the fountain tends to be more quiet though, and we still had an enjoyable time.

Next, we headed to the Marais to do some shopping. Le Marais is one of my favorite districts in Paris. It has maintained the look and charm of Medieval Paris and is full of small, winding streets. In recent years, it has become a very hip neighborhood, and a lot of younger people reside in the many apartments. It is one of my favorite places to shop. You find a little of everything. Some places are extremely chic and very expensive, but there are also hidden gems along the crowded streets. So, we had a wonderful afternoon window shopping and people watching.

Richter%2B272.jpgLe Marais is also home to the Place de Voges (a chic shopping area with a historical background) and the Musee Carnavalet (museum devoted to the history of the city of Paris). I had been to both previously, but I hadn’t gotten to experience the splendor of the surrounding gardens. The Musee Carnavalet has a beautiful courtyard, which is open to the public. It was in full bloom, and we just couldn’t resist taking a closer look (see photo). A lot of people were sitting outside chatting or reading. Many others were tourists, such as ourselves, taking a billion photos. Truly a beautiful place.

For dinner we went to a neighboorhood Japanese restaurant. I had green curry. Yummy! Christy and I both are huge curry fans, and this restaurant was excellent. Also, it was an interesting mix of people. There was a table of French students behind us, who were all speaking English. Then there was a couple next to us possibly from Holland. They spoke English fairly well, but to one another, they spoke another language (sounded like Dutch). We will definitely be returning there if we get another craving for curry.

Richter%2B239.jpgI have to say that one of my favorite things of the weekend though, and Paris in general, was the amazing pastries! Between gelato, coffee, and pastries … I may never want to leave. One of my favorites was a raspberry tart (see photo) that I picked up Sunday at a nearby patisserie. Absolutely exquisite!

Conquering the Libraries … hopefully
All in all, the weekend was extremely productive. I can only hope that this week at the BNF proves to be the same. I am really nervous because I have heard a lot of horror stories. However, Dr. Roynier and my friend Julia, who was in the SMU-in-Paris program all last year, have prepared me with a lot of information on how to handle myself. Let’s hope that it goes well. Wish me luck, and be looking for more updates to come.

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