Hello, again! I have now relocated to the amazing city of Paris, away from the beautiful forests of Compiegne. I have already started classes at Reid Hall, a building in the Montparnesse neighborhood where American schools such as Columbia and Harvard send their students abroad as well.
In old cities like Paris, there is an air, a feeling that you are walking in the path of prestige and triumph. That feeling definitely describes my recent journey to the Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral, Eiffel Tower and Jardin de Luxembourg; these four places definitely sum up the beauty and grandeur of Paris.
What Exactly am I Doing Here + The Louvre
Through SMU-in-Paris, I am taking Images of Power and Nobility in 17th-century France, Motion Pictures of Paris, France-American Relations between World War I and World War II, and yes, Beginning French. All classes are conducted in English, and the student body is only SMU students despite studying in the same building as Harvard or Columbia students.
That means that our class size is generally 4 people, but that also means the professors here demand more papers than those in Dallas; I estimate that I will have written a thick history of Paris by the time I leave here. However, getting to have classes in museums like the Louvre or libraries like Pompidou is kind of a cool perk!
The Louvre houses the world’s largest art collection, period. It will also probably house me a lot, too, considering I have a free pass, my history class will meet there sometimes for lectures, and it is just amazing! It is 50,000 square meters of sculpture, paintings and object d’art that used to be a great palace for the monarchy.
Perhaps its most famous possession is the Mona Lisa, which I saw last week – quite amazing! We learned that Canadian scientists have determined through facial recognition that she is 83 percent happy. Finally, we can all sleep at night.
In addition to coursework, I will be studying with composers and pianists here in France, notably Alexander Raskatov (Russian composer living in Paris) and David Lively (ex-patriot pianist). Some of you may remember that Alexander Raskatov was the composer of the DSO-premiered violin concerto in May. In fact, my first lesson with Mr. Raskatov is this Saturday, and of course I am very much looking forward to this!
This past Sunday morning, a couple of friends and I attended Messe de Notre Dame, or as translated, Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral. However, this was no typical Mass; this was a 13th-century-style Mass, just like what the people of Paris heard when Notre Dame was completed (after 100 years of construction, finished around 1250 AD, involving the maximum reverb present at completion).
Florid singing of the most ornate sounds filled the air. Stained-glass windows shone brilliantly as if they followed the Gothic call of the organ while people murmured in awe. Waves of incense poured over the altar and aisles. It was just purely amazing to experience what others have been experiencing for almost 800 years. Utterly astounding!
One of our most beloved professors and a great inspiration to my trip to Paris, Dr. Mayer-Martin, often talked about Notre Dame in her Western Music History class. That is perhaps where I learned most of my knowledge about Notre Dame, and I have taken it to heart.
Her recent passing made my attendance not just out of pure interest or knowledge but out of respect and tribute as well. Like great clergymen line the doors of Notre Dame to inspire and remind us of the great past, so do my memories of sitting in her class inspire me to keep being a better musician and student. I feel that my trip to France is a testament, not that it is needed, of her excellence as a professor and musicologist.
Lunch at the Tour Eiffel
After Notre Dame, I journeyed to the Eiffel Tower with a couple of friends for a picnic. We ate lunch at “Tour Eiffel” today, relaxing comfortably on its evergreen surroundings. Bread, cheese, tortes … all combined with a clear day and no memories – the perfect Parisian afternoon!
Note to the wise: Just don’t buy too much food around the Eiffel Tower; two scoops of ice cream can cost 20 USD, so venture a tad like we did, and you may find an excellent cafe. By the way, cafes want you to hang around, so never feel like you have to rush out of there. In fact, no one rushes in Paris. If you’re late, then you’re never late. Nice, right?
Less touristy, extremely beautiful, and best of all, close to our school! The great palace overlooking this lush garden is breathtaking, and it was the perfect spot for me and a couple of my friends to relax even more.
In fact, Sunday was all about relaxing. Most shops close in Paris, and museums are only open for so long, so why not just sit back and enjoy the great weather? People read, play Frisbee, have picnics, walk their dogs, and just people-watch sometimes, and nothing is better than feeling like a normal Parisian instead of a snappy-photo tourist. Although we did take a couple of pictures here and there!
I hope you are enjoying my blog thus far. Enjoy the pictures – they are mine, and they are beautiful. If you are thinking about studying abroad, go for it! Or if you just want a vacation, I hope this inspires you to come to France.
Feel free to post comments or questions!