Jason in Paris

Jason is a junior majoring in music composition in Meadows School of the Arts and the recipient of a Meadows Artistic Scholarship. In Fall 2009 he is participating in SMU-in-Paris, where he intends to study the past and present culture. As a music and history student, he intends to pay close attention to the contemporary musical scene, the waves of cinematic history in France and the 17th and 20th century political history of France.

Goodbye to Paris: Jason’s Top Ten List

P1010008.jpg Yes, everyone, this is the last blog from Paris. It is hard to believe that in one week, I will be back in the United States. I have experienced so much here and have been so inspired, but I can definitely feel home calling me.

Most important, I am not leaving Paris, or Europe for that matter, with any sense of regret. I guess I feel like I have accomplished a lot since I have been here; I’ve studied and seen all the great museums, went to Cologne and saw the beginnings of my family, ate a lot of Tortilla Espagnola in Spain, and oh, how many baguettes and macaroons I’ve eaten! So I do not know what else I could possibly do at this point but stuff myself with more baguettes and macaroons, live the last days here with my friends, and maybe get a little Eiffel Tower souvenir?

However, let’s make this blog count. While I have learned so much about history and art since I have been here, I’d rather give you all a glimpse of real Parisian life. For example, what is a typical French dish? What do people really wear every day? Do strikes really happen? What’s the best mode of transportation? All that and more, of-course. But, I want you all to know that if you ever want to go to France, Germany or Spain, and you have any question at all no matter how small or big, I would thoroughly enjoy hearing from you!

Starting your day

Breakfast in France can be many things. For me, I eat cereal because that is fastest, and I’m not a tourist but a student. If you stay at a hotel or are a real all-out Parisian, you’ll probably enjoy a breakfast of croissants with savory unsalted butter, slices of ham, maybe even some peach preserves on a baguette, and a coffee that is more like a shot of espresso. Really tasty!

How to get around

After that savory little breakfast, it will probably be time to make your way down to the metro station, which truly is the best mode of transportation in Paris, beating out taxis due to its speed and cheap price. You can buy day, week and monthlong passes, but for those just visiting, stick to the weekly passes that you can purchase through the electronic ticket machines. You can select English on these, so have at it!

Plus, the metro is so well-planned that you do not have to walk much at all to get to whatever destination you choose. Just know what the name is for the end of the line and take that direction. Many trains intersect at several stations, making it easy and convenient, and they also will let you off close to all the major sites in Paris.

Another helpful hint about transportation: Don’t take a taxi from the airport (unless you really need to). The RER, which is a suburban train, operates to and from Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports, and being only 10 Euros versus the 50 Euro cab fare, this is much better! Just follow the signs or ask someone once you get off your flight and get your baggage.

However, if you have a lot of luggage, and I mean A LOT, then definitely do the cab because it will be difficult lugging 5 suitcases per person throughout the metro tunnels. But, an even cheaper option can be the airport shuttles. Just Google “Airport Shuttles from CDG to Paris,” and a host of options will show up. For a mere 20 Euros, they will pick you up at your designated time and place, and they will deliver you to your designated place at whatever time. You can also book these online, and you can also use these for when you have to go back to the airport!

Now the metros can be stifling hot, especially in the summertime (except in Spain where there is air-conditioning in the metro). Just bear it, and think of all the money you are saving. Paris is not hot or cold in the summer, but dress comfortably.

What to wear

A tip to pack light: a scarf changes your everyday outfit, ladies. Men: only wear them if it’s appropriate for the temperature, but they are incredibly fashionable and will make you look French if you wear one. If it’s October or later, you can bet you’ll want a big coat, but bring a little one in case it’s unseasonably warm. In any case, weather.com is your friend. It does rain a lot, but not heavy pounding rain like we have in Texas, so a nice little umbrella will do you justice.

Also, people in Paris do generally wear tighter pants than we do. Skinny jeans and pants, well-tailored suits, all the rage. You may be interested to know, however, that Wrangler’s are popular; very weird. These goes hand-in-hand with the fact that Americanism has plunged deeply into France and that pretty much everyone speaks English. So if you do not know a lick of French, you’ll probably be ok.

No one wears shorts – that is a big no-no in the city. It is better to have a list of what-not-to-wear than what-to-wear. So no shorts, no baseball caps and no sandals. You’ll be fine from there.

What to say

The infiltration of English has led France to become alarmed. No worries; I doubt they will do anything about it. However, the government is very particular about the culture, having its very own academy that sits around discussing the French language constantly.

Speaking of the French government, it is a socialist government under the wing of democracy, in fact. Six weeks of vacation is guaranteed for all citizens who work, and health care is essentially free and amazing.

Also, the French government seems to listen to its people more than ours does, or perhaps we are just not as vocal. Well, we don’t go on strikes that often either, like they do. I have not met any major strikes that have affected me, but beware, last week the Louvre and other major museums went on strike. I bet Ms. Mona Lisa had a nice long nap, though.

What to eat

JasonandMedees.jpg So let’s say you took Metro Line 1 to Musee de Louvre to see the Mona Lisa, and after visiting only a little section of the Louvre’s 50,000 square meters of art (not exaggerating), you want lunch. There are thousands of restaurants in Paris, all very good. Well, I haven’t found a bad one yet. Sit outside if the weather cooperates because the people-watching is fantastic. Order “Steak Frites,” which is steak and French fries (pronounced stake-freets). You can even get ketchup. Watch out, though, things can get pricey quick, and that can of Coke is almost always at least 3 Euros. Get dessert; it’s often the cheapest thing on the menu, and the most satisfying. Anything chocolate goes.

You’ll find that French food is not really shockingly different. Sandwiches, salads, chicken, and many other typical American foods are on the menu. Nothing really sticks out as overly awkward.

But if you want something lighter, pop in to one of the many “Boulangeries.” These are the places that French people go for mainly bread, but little tarts, chocolate macaroons (like a brownie but better), sandwiches and other really tasty desserts can be found here, all for a cheap price.

Another great little idea are the “Creperies.” Here, you can get that infamous Parisian delicacy, which is like a pancake meeting a tortilla with anything you want inside of it. My personal favorite is chicken and cheese, SO GOOD – but my friends enjoy them with Nutella especially.

Whenever you pay for food, always place your payment in the little tray. The French are not unusually particular about this, but it’s just a little thing they do, so respect it. Also, you never use your index finger for 1; use your thumb. Just another little difference between us and them.

How to have fun

If you still need to walk off that big tasty lunch, and you don’t have exams to study for, just walk around. You’ll stumble into something. The Jardins du Luxembourg are beautiful, and the palace in the middle of it all is absolutely lovely. Who knows what flowers are growing from week to week, so keep checking back. Perhaps you should even get yourself another macaroon in case you get hungry. Or, you can just go shopping.

The Galeries Lafayette house the popular chain brands and department stores of Paris, but streets like Etienne Marcel (near Place des Victoires), St. Honore (near the Louvre) and Champs-Elysees – and the areas around the metro stops such as St. Paul, Hotel de Ville and Chatelet – also have great shopping with all their little boutique stores and what-nots. You’ll definitely find something no matter what; it is Paris.

Beethoven-1.jpg If you want to hear a nice concert, check out Opera de Paris (composed of Opera Bastille and the Palais Garnier), the Orchestra National de France, The Philharmonic Radio Orchestra of France, Cite de la Musique or Theatre Chatelet. Just Google, buy your tickets, and then pick them up the night of the performance (they all have their websites where you can buy your tickets).

Or if jazz is more your taste, just Google around for jazz clubs; they are everywhere. Perhaps you want more popular music? Definitely do Bercy. The website is Bercy.fr, and you can use Google translator to get it in English with a fairly decent translation.

Dinner is always late, by the way. Most restaurants will not start serving food until 8 PM, but because of tourism, some will serve food before then. Anything is game for dinner; I have no specific recommendations. Just walk around for a little bit again, check out the menu (since it is posted outside with prices; it’s the law), and then pop in to whatever you choose. Generally no one will be hosting, so you just sit down wherever. Tip and tax are already included, so you don’t have to worry about that so much either. Bon appetit!

Four months ago, I was afraid. I feared for my musical abilities; will I just be too busy? I thought I’d never really survive, but well, I did! Like Hemingway suggested, Paris is a moveable feast that one can take with them for the rest of their life. No doubt this trip will continue to influence me in so many ways, especially through my music.

Here ends my journey, for now. Who knows what is really in store for me in the future? But I feel that after this experience, I am in decent control of what I want to do with my life, and I have stronger convictions than ever. I guess I have grown up a little, but I am not afraid to say I miss my family!

Jason’s Top 10 Things to Do in Paris

1. Go to the Louvre. See the Mona Lisa, Winged Victory and the Medici Cycle. Reserve one full day; lunch break at nearby Rue d St. Honore.

2. Find a Boulangerie, get a chocolate macaroon or a baguette, or both! Or perhaps you’ll see my infamous summertime treat, the Strawberry Tart (Tarte de Fraise).

3. Visit Jardin du Luxembourg. Utterly awesome.

4. See a concert, anywhere, anything. Especially opera; go for the gold!

5. Jump up to the top of the Eiffel Tower (via elevator) – totally worth it!

6. Visit Notre Dame, St. Chapelle, Sacre Couer, and any other church. Absolutely amazing.

7. Go to Chateau de Versailles; compare it to the Louvre.

8. Visit Musee d’Orsay. This is the museum across the Seine from the Louvre with much more modern art (late 18th century to upper 20th).

9. Eat lots of crepes. Eat more crepes. Never forget what a crepe is.

10. Learn how to make crepes at home.

Finally, as we like to say in France, “Au Revoir!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

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A break from research: music and Versailles

EquestrianLouisXIV.JPGYes, it is that time of the semester when research papers start to clog your brain. I just finished perhaps the most difficult paper about the domestic and foreign reach of music and science under the Reign of Louis XIV. Although I feel quite scholarly now, the thought of another 15- and 8-page paper is a little depressing. Luckily, they deal with music too, so I feel somewhat at home!

A “beaucoup” of rain is coming this week too, just in time for our SMU-in-Paris Thanksgiving dinner. But, I have found relief in attending some quite inspiring concerts this past week. It cannot always be a dreary day when there is new music!

On Thursday, I attended my favorite performance at the Opera Bastille amphitheatre. Small, intimate and well-balanced acoustically, it is everything you want for chamber music. The piece was the German composer Wolfgang Rihm’s “Et Lux for male vocal quartet and string quartet,” a stirring yet beautiful composition, lasting 55 minutes.

The performers were admirable, with the vocalists effortlessly soaring through the late-Renaissance style polyphony, and the string quartet lusciously mimicking and supplying an ominous yet energetic ground. The piece was extremely well crafted, as if it were just one long melodious line giving way to three rounds of applause for the composer, who was in attendance, and the musicians.

Friday, I attended a concert at Cite de la Musique, which, like Opera Bastille, puts on a hefty amount of new music concerts with a packed audience. The concert focused on four Hungarian composers with the aid of soloists and the infamous Ensemble Intercontemporain: Gyorgy Ligeti, Gyorgy Kurtag, Peter Eotvos and Marton Illet (I apologize for the lack of accents and umlauts).

Starting the concert was Eotvos’ “Sequences” for chamber ensemble, describing different types of wind, with extremely complementary extended techniques on the flute. It was nice to hear a piece where extended techniques were not some circus spectacle but actually a meaningful part of the music. All in all, Eotvos’ piece had a spectacularly audible line of direction, and at no point could one feel lost or confused. However, in the “Illet,” I was a little befuddled. It was a meat-grinder piece, with choppy rhythms and comical chance music, something way overdone in the past. The composer was in attendance.

Perhaps a nice relief was the Kurtag “Four Caprices” for soprano and chamber ensemble. Describing Kurtag’s visit to Paris, they were dramatically and effectively sung by Natalia Zagorinskaya, the soprano, often to a captivating and magnetizing degree. Truly expressionist in nature, I felt.

And last, but not least, for this was my personal favorite, was the Ligeti violin concerto played by Diego Torsi. Everything you come to know about Ligeti, in my opinion, is beautifully executed here on the part of the performer and composer. I particularly liked the intermezzo; its string glissandi, harmonics and lowly buzzing gave way to an ethereal atmosphere that both the ensemble and the soloist played so well it was goose-bumping cool. The entire concert left me with a renewed sense of inspiration, and a welcome relief from research paper writing.ChapelatVersailles.JPG

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Last Friday, I also got to visit the grand Chateau de Versailles, quite cool. Hall of Mirrors, huge fountains and gardens, and so much ceiling art that you felt that any moment your head might get stuck in that position. The best part was imagining court life at Versailles as you walked through each room. For example, the composer Lully frantically running around for the king, writing this and requesting that. Ah, the life of Versailles…

JardinVersailles.JPGIt is a little distressing that I have only one more month here, but while I have thoroughly enjoyed the bread, strawberry tarts, gelato, concerts, classes, and the experiences I have had with friends (Euro Disney and Spain!), I am ready to return home.

The highlights have definitely been Euro Disney and Spain, as aforementioned, but getting to work in the Louvre and using Paris as a living museum has been incredible. Still, I feel that the greatest adventure was when I went to Cologne a couple of weekends ago. Nothing has lived up to that yet!

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Making connections in Cologne

RheinHohenbrucke.jpg 130 years ago, my great-great grandmother was baptized as Caroline Kuehl in the Koelner Dom in Cologne, Germany. This was shortly after the Franco-Prussian war, and the people of Germany were facing seriously difficult times, so she and her husband, William August Kuehl, emigrated to the United States to start farming in the small town of Riesel, Texas, where most of my family still resides today.

Sitting in my grandmother’s living room, listening to her tell this story many times over a nice cinnamon roll or two, I would have never have thought that I would make my way to Cologne someday.

KolnCathedral.jpg As I stepped out of the Hauptbahnhof of Koeln, partly in shock that I made it so easily, the dark cathedral was looming over me. Smoked by the bombs of WWII, it still majestically stands with its extreme Gothic design.

I decided to go ahead and go inside, lugging my suitcase around. Indeed I was a tourist, but my family was once a part of this city, and there is something warm and welcoming to be derived from that. It is like that feeling you get from seeing someone you think you know.

KoelnCathedral.jpg That feeling, however, was heightened once I walked in to the cathedral; the organist unexpectedly began to play this grandly ornate and powerful prelude. It felt like the ground shook. I think what made this even more exciting is the stained-glass windows that truly function in league with the sunlight, making the crystalline upper registers of the organ music shine brilliantly.

Everywhere, beams of light pierced the dark grey walls of the cathedral, making it seem like God had just appeared or something. More than Notre Dame in Paris, this cathedral meets the demands of Gothic architecture, a notion presented by many clergymen and architects.

I took some German in high school, and I had short conversations with my grandmother on occasion, but I was surprised to observe how much of it came back to me. After reading some newspapers and conversing with locals, I found myself above survival-German status. I even carried on a couple of conversations at times, but at others, I was completely confused.

For instance, a waiter at an Italian restaurant said “Bon appetit,” and that completely threw me off! But, the fact that I drank Koelsch (the beer of Cologne) and liked Bratwurst went a long way, and then telling people I descended from this city helped a lot too, although I did not know enough German to warrant a genealogical conversation (but most people spoke a good deal of English).

So after my visit to the cathedral, I went to my hotel. What a great hotel! It was a Hilton, so I shouldn’t have expected less, but the huge comfortable bed and towel warmers made my weekend so relaxing. And, the cheap prices of everything in Cologne helped a lot too! For instance, I paid 5 Euros (7.50 USD) for toothpaste, a huge bottle of water, and a cherry Coke. Pretty awesome.

AlongtheRhein.jpg The rest of Friday was spent at Museum Ludwig and the Roman-German history museum, where I experienced some quite moving pieces of art. At the Roman-German history museum, I learned about how Cologne used to be a colony of the Roman empire, but there are cave paintings and pottery pointing back to Neolithic and Celtic eras.

Most surprising, though, was to find in Museum Ludwig art from pop-art artists who lived in Texas, like Rauschenberg. There were also pieces of the photographic Russian avant-garde, Picasso and something by the artist Darboven concerning the face of humans in light of sociology, something I fancied quite a lot. Lots of inspiration to be found in Germany!

I ate a typical German dinner after the museum visits of bratwurst with some sort of potato salad and Koelsch before going to the orchestra concert. Tasty, es schmeckt sehr gut!

KolnPhilharmonie.jpg I then went to an orchestral concert, where they played the daunting Mahler 9 and Berg’s 3 Pieces for Orchestra. Well-played and interesting pieces, they left me with the whole night to write music, and the whole Saturday morning to sleep in!

On Saturday, once I woke up and ate breakfast (at 12 PM), I ventured to the chocolate museum. YUM! They do give you free chocolate there, and it was SO GOOD! It was along the Rhein (like the cathedral and museums), and it made me realize how small Cologne is actually. Nice for tourists, but maybe not so great for those who get antsy. It was quite chilly too, and even the short 10-minute walk from the museum back to the concert hall for my second concert was a little bone-chilling.

This concert featured the chamber music of Schoenberg, Webern, and Korngold. The Schoenberg was the best, I thought. It was “Ode to Napoleon Bonaparte,” a chamber piece for two violins, viola, cello, piano, and speaker. Well done, I believe, like the rest of the concert. It is so much fun to hear Germans playing German music, especially that of the early 20th century avant-garde (minus Korngold). The frequency of concerts in Koeln is immense; this and the opera were just a taste of what was all going on during the weekend.

The opera I saw a couple of hours later was Orfeo et Euridice. It was a modern production set in the 1950s with all that Jung and Freud influence, and the cast was phenomenal, as well as the lighting. It was at this point that I realized how awesome music is in this city. It’s just a city of a million people, and they beat Dallas when it comes to choice and diversity in the realm of classical music. I thought that maybe I just hit the right weekend, but looking at the rest of the concert season, it just gets even heavier! I wish I could get back, or, maybe I’ll find some way!

PianoDude.jpg On Sunday, I found my latest love, the Berliner. It is like a cherry-filled donut with sugar all around, so good. I bought two, just to make sure I wouldn’t forget how the first one tasted! German food is quite good, and their little dessert stands like this are even better and loaded with pretzels, giant Gingerbread-men, these Berliner things, and other stuff that makes you gain weight but in a noble way. I worked it off though by walking around all the time, and it seems that as of late, it is impossible for me to gain weight. Weird.

I also attended Mass at the cathedral that morning. The music was absolutely outstanding. The choir, made up of boys and men, walked around the cathedral singing Gregorian chant before settling down in their place on the right transept. The organist was impeccable as usual, and the priests and bishop sang so well I felt embarrassed to even open the hymn book. A moving experience, and I understood a bit of the sermon, but I did not know the Catholic procedures like 50 percent of the rest of the congregation. I wonder how the main congregation must feel about tourism, although it brings in a ton of money for the cathedral!

On the way back to Paris, I felt a sense of accomplishment. I unlocked the history of my family’s past, I guess, and I really fell in love with Cologne. Maybe too much, since coming back to Paris seemed a little dreadful at first. But the prospect of chocolate macaroons and strawberry tarts keeps me going!

Das ist alles!

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Fall Break in Spain

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Picasso, Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, Barcelona, Madrid, Tortilla Espanola, Flamenco, Prado, the Royal Palace, Gran Via, Poble Espanol … need I say more? No, but I want to!

Madrid

Along with my friends Kate and Bonnie, I set off for a nine-day trip to Spain last week, not knowing Spanish or really too much about the places we were going.

Getting to Charles de Gaulle to leave for Madrid was easy, although Terminal 1 was sorely lacking dinner food, but flying the discount airline, Vueling, was way better than I expected. Discount airlines are quite popular in Europe; by not offering complimentary items and sometimes making one pay for toilets, discount airlines are a cheap and quick way to get to one place or the next. Can’t beat it.

British Airways, in fact, is facing fierce competition with these airlines as well as trains. Why pay more for peanuts and a blanket? But in BA’s defense, discount airlines will nickel and dime you to death if you are not careful, but with some pre-planning and a strong attitude, you can financially succeed in your travels just like we did!

Arriving in Madrid around midnight, we met some people from the SMU-in-Madrid program, Drew and Laura. They led us to our hostel, something none of us had ever stayed in and were frankly quite curious about the whole idea. It was actually pretty cool, and like the discount airline idea, hostels do not have that hotel charm some of us are used to, perhaps. The guy even gave Bonnie a free soda!

Although the complimentary breakfast was just toast and jelly, all the Spanish tortillas I ate definitely made up for it. Linens were free, and the bathroom was in the room, and my conclusion is that hostels are good if you want to pay next to nothing for just a bed and a light.

Prado.JPG We visited the great Prado Museum (photo left), the Royal Palace and adjacent cathedral, the Park Campo Moro, marketplaces, shops and things of the like.

The best part is that things were so much cheaper in Madrid. For instance, I could get a Coke for as little as 60 centimes … something that would cost 3 EUROs in Paris. SO NICE. The food was excellent too, and one night we indulged ourselves in a Spanish restaurant near the Royal Opera that was amazing! FYI: French fries are universal (YES! Called “Patatas” in Spanish, I think.)

Madrid has an awkward flair to it. On one hand, it is a party scene happy to be rid of Franco, but on the other, it is a beautiful city with great public transportation, remnants of the past and tasty food.

We also witnessed a parade of sheep on Sunday morning, an annual parade put on to essentially glorify livestock. Really cool! Also, it was fun to walk into all the little churches and see this magnificent array of gold everywhere. Every cathedral was like a treasure chest.

CataloniaisnotSpain.jpg Barcelona

Barcelona is way different than Madrid, though only an hour and a half away by air. First of all, they do not speak Spanish (though a part of Spain); they speak Catalan. Barcelona is like France’s Marseilles because it is always rebelling and quite independent.

ParkGuelle.JPG We really enjoyed things like the Picasso museum, works of the famous architect Gaudi such as the Sagrada Familia and Park Guell (photo right), the beach, the warm weather, the Poble Espanol and just the general night life. It was nice too that our roommates in the hostel were much quieter!

Things are still pretty cheap in Barcelona, and the public transportation is especially great because it is air-conditioned, a nice relief from the hot metro of Paris. Pick-pocketers in Barcelona are professionals. While none of us got anything stolen, it was very obvious to point out who would probably get robbed and who were the robbers. Some of the robbers make these little mouth noises to distract you, and when you are dumb enough to respond to them, someone will come behind you and snatch your wallet. But really, awareness is the best preventive measure! I cannot stress that enough!

Flamenco dancing, nice beaches, good food, happy people … a great place to be when you need a relief. Highly recommended!

PrettyPark.JPGA Little Artistic Statement

Looking at the development of Picasso, I feel assured that we have not discovered everything in terms of art yet. In the past, many have felt that we have, and they do now too, but I think it is close-minded to think so.

I remember when I was younger that I sent out letters to some admirable musicians asking them about their views on a “new” form of art, and the responses were quite exciting. I do not want to be a seat-rattler; I just want my own voice that people can understand, distinguish, and respect because I think have something valuable to say through music that will encourage people to think more deeply about themselves, thus promoting a more thoughtful society.

Well, check back in 10 years, and we’ll see where I am with this.

And now

I am afraid of all the research papers, small papers, and reading to do this week. It’s like being crushed by a gravel truck! Argh! But, Germany this coming weekend!

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South France: The “Tourized” Zone

Me%20in%20the%20Street.JPG Before I embark on my nine-day trip to Spain tomorrow, I want to discuss the many layers of history in France. Everywhere I go, I can trace history, earning myself a greater understanding and respect for the world around me. Greek ruins lie underneath Roman ruins with skyscrapers around; what a mark of history! Everything is a result of something else, a deep connection to the past. Class here is not just reading books; it is more like detective work, taking memories from museums and readings in order to contextualize the gist of things.

As part of this detective work, I recently spent five days studying events and impacts of World War I and World War II in the south of France. It is the land of sunny lavender fields, clear blue Mediterranean beaches and mountains that crest the clouds, but that is a facade to the devastation it faced back in the 20th century. You see, it is one thing to study something, it is another to be where it happened, and yet another to experience it firsthand. Sometimes I wish, for the sake of my knowledge, that I was present at some of these sites where major events happened, but that is truly sadistic for no one should ever want to be in such a time or place of unrest, blood and savagery. Although, tourism is so prevalent that half of the people speak English!NiceStreet.JPG

Marseilles
The story begins at Marseilles, where I spent one night. Marseilles began as a Greek port city, actually, then it was turned over to the Romans during the Roman civil war around 49 B.C. This explains why, when archaeologists are excavating some of the Roman ruins, they will usually find Greek ruins beneath!

Marseilles, since it allied with the side opposing Julius Caesar, has always been known as a resistant and independent city. In fact, Louis XIV was said to have had to break down the wall of Marseilles just to get in, even though he was king!

During World War II, a good portion of Marseilles was destroyed by German bombing, something I blame for the absence of that touristy feel like in Nice. However, of interest to note is the fact that Marseilles’ civilians actually rebelled against the Germans even when French help did not come yet. The civilians of Marseilles essentially defended their own city until some French and American help did arrive as a diversion tactic for D-Day.

Hitler tried to take Notre Dame de la Garde, a beautiful church on a huge martyred hill, but the French got it back in the end. The church is a symbol of the strength of Christianity, for it is an arduous journey to the top of the hill. It is utterly amazing to see this level of independence from a city, but the civilians of Marseilles were well-prepared, considering their admirable defensive history.

Also, there is an excellent memorial for internment camps in Marseilles since Marseilles is where a huge round-up of Jewish people took place in 1942 under the collaboration of the Vichy regime and the German government. I found this particularly moving.

Giens
The next town I visited was Giens, just to stay for the night. The hotel had a brilliant view of the Mediterranean, even better than Marseilles! But I left the hotel to visit Villa Noailles the next morning, a beautiful modern house built on a hill in the Bauhaus style of the 1920s. Form follows function is its motto. A lovely place to be, if you like small rooms, obsessive-compulsive cleaning, and architecture that reminds you of that nasty pink sweater you bought in 2004. I respected the place for its thoughts, not necessarily its opinion. Villa Noailles reflects the post-World War I concern with hygiene, fitness, and the disembarkation from classic architecture; hence the modern, Bauhaus feel of this 1920s chateau with fitness rooms, clocks in every room (think Age of the Machine), and clean nature.

St.%20Tropez.JPGSt. Tropez
From Giens, I went to St. Tropez, where Hermes, Dior, Prada and other top fashion brands await the extremely wealthy tourists that visit year-round. Snow-covered mountains drift over the crashing sea, and sailboats linger around with little idea of their location, it seems.

After lounging around the port with my friend Kate, especially in response to a little motion sickness I experienced from the bumpy bus ride, I visited a museum housing Pointillist, Fauvist, and Impressionist paintings. You can probably tell from my experience at Musee Lorangerie that I love these styles of the late 19th and early 20th centuries; they are centerpieces to my own music. It is so nice to see the originals of artists that I have only read about!

NiceVilla%20%2825%29.JPGNice
St. Tropez was too pricey, so I was happy to leave for Nice, where there was a better array of things to do. Where do I start, though? The hotel was amazing and comfortable and right along the beach! In fact, it was right along the Promenade des Anglais, or Promenade of the English.

Nice used to be a vacation spot for the English before World War I, as even Queen Victoria of the Diamond Jubilee visited in 1892. The world wars destructed France, and I believe that because of that, tourism was on a decline until the latter half of the 20th century. In fact, most people speak English in Nice, and those who are not French prefer English. Perhaps this represents the reburgeoning interest of the English in Nice.

I also visited this amazing little chateau built by the Rothschild family that was just outstanding. There are seven gardens outside, and the lady herself collected so much art back in the ’20s (mind you that this is the same era of that Bauhaus modern villa), representing Antiquity, Renaissance, and Baroque painting and objet d’art. The most stunning aspect were the fountains that danced to music, overlooking that blue dreamy Mediterranean with foggy mountains in the background. Many of my fellow classmates felt they should get married there, but I think it is too early to think about marriage.BeachonNice.jpg

Nice has so many little shops, so I could not help shopping for Christmas gifts. I cannot reveal too much about what I bought for everyone, but rest assured, the gifts of Nice are unlike anything else. I also found time to jog around the beach, stumbling upon beautiful rocks and memorials. And the food! Oh, I love food! Nice cuisine is so tasty, like your grandma’s cooking but refined into a 5-Star restaurant style.

Also while in Nice, I visited the town outside called Boit, where the Fernand Leger museum is. The tour guide was amazing, and she detailed every creation of Leger, from his first little Impressionist exercises to his last avant-garde pieces. I like Leger because he understood that the Renaissance negatively influenced and hindered future artists; he was not content with rules. I would probably not hang his art in my home, but I would definitely find some more time to study it. I am too picky about art to settle on something I like right now. (Do you see that theme in my view of marriage too?)

Antibes%20%288%29.JPG The next day was spent in Antibes, which also use to be a Greek city. Now, it is home to some of the wealthiest people; its popularity started with the American art patrons Gerald and Sarah Murphy.

Even F. Scott Fitzgerald visited Antibes, notably the Belles Rives Hotel, and that is where he wrote Tender is the Night, or in my opinion that is where he sketched a good deal of it. His reputation in Antibes was scandalous, but aren’t all of us artists just a tad scandalous?

But from this, one can definitely say that American tourism was prevalent then, and today, it is even more so with its infatuation with American culture due to the visits of the Fitzgeralds.

And fortunately, I got to play the piano a bit there, a nice grand black piano sat in the room while we enjoyed refreshments. I just made up some jazzy 9th chords with a Debussy-like melody over the top, a kind of seaside jazzy feel. I think it won some favor in my upcoming writing. And here I am, about to leave for Spain for nine days! Until next time!

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Why am I here?

j-FallinParis.jpgParis never ends. To agree with Hemingway, yes, Paris will be a feast to take with me through the rest of my life. This entire experience is about origin, essentially unlocking mysteries of the past in order to make sense of the present. It is so true that we learn from the past in order to best prevent ill fortune repeating itself, and what I learn here will be invaluable, and it will go with me for the rest of my life.

j-StringEnsemblebyComedieFrancaise.jpgStudying abroad allows me the opportunity to experience other cultures, perhaps even learning a couple of things that may benefit my own. But on a deeper level, it is about sincerely connecting to the world around me, and this relationship, like friendship, is built on a sincere mutual interest. Friendship is not a product of egoism. So to explore the culture of Paris a little more, I ventured out this weekend on my very own to a couple of hot spots.

On Friday, I attended a concert of 20th-century orchestral music of the composers Igor Stravinsky and Iannis Xenakis. As a composer approaching the Parisian scene, I feel, especially in retrospect, this was a significant event for a multitude of reasons. Stravinsky essentially rattled the Parisian scene in the early part of the 20th century with his ballet music for “The Rite of Spring,” and notable Parisian musicians like Nadia Boulanger nonchalantly dismissed Xenakis’ approach to composition.

j-CitedelaMusique.jpg However, today, we cherish the music of Stravinsky, from “Petrouchka” to “The Rite of Spring” to “Symphonies for Wind Instruments,” and we adore Xenakis as a continuation of the idea that mathematical principles can be artistically combined with music to create a pleasantly earth-shattering effect.

So, without an umbrella amid dense rain, I ran from the nearest metro station to the Cite de la Musique, where this concert would be held. Little did I know of what would come next! I did not know where my seat was, so I asked three English-speaking people standing next to me. Turns out, they all attend the prestigious Conservatory of Versailles as saxophonists! And their knowledge of music is out of this world; they are so well-versed in their music that I felt demoralized yet inspired. That night, I composed a significant amount of music, if that tells you anything.

j-BowlingMouffetard.jpg Remember that in the midst of all this, I am studying quite deeply. Topics of interest include 17th-century France, history of the early to middle part of the 20th century, and French cinematic history, so there is plenty do here. Just wanted to make that clear, especially since midterms have arrived. But yeah, I did spend Saturday night celebrating my friend Lydia’s birthday … at a bowling alley near the Sorbonne! SO FUN!

j-ParcduButtesChaumont%20%286%29.jpg On Sunday, I woke up with the intention to photograph some parts of my daily life, including the park I jog at (Parc Buttes-Chaumont; in photo right) and the neighborhood where my school is, Vavin. However, I ended up also doing a little walking tour.

I visited the area of the Louvre (remember this? 50,000 square meters of art, world’s biggest art museum, once the royal palace of all kings before Versailles become more prominent), documenting its exterior, notably the Richelieu wing where one of my classes often meets to stare at 17th-century French art and ponder its meaning.

j-Louvre%20%282%29.jpgSpeaking of “Richelieu,” you may remember that name as the sinister cold-blooded cardinal from The Three Musketeers. Or, you may know him as I know him, as the chief minister of Louis XIII, largely responsible for France’s modernization and centralization, made possible by his extensive “network” of loyal subscribers. Essentially, he is a back-room-politic kind-of-guy, but he was a cardinal … sure.

Well, anyway, he built his palace, the Palais Cardinal, next to the Louvre, ever the involved man in state affairs. Today, it is the Palais Royal, but marks of Richelieu’s appointment are scattered throughout still, including anchors and a Poseidon carving on the Palais Royal that indicated him taking control of the navy in the late 1620s.

j-l%27Orangerie5.jpg After the Louvre, I attended Musee de l’Orangerie (photo, right), a small museum next to the Louvre housing some beautiful works of Picasso, Renoir, Ultrillo, Denair and Soutine. This building actually used to be where they stored the orange trees in times of bad weather, hence its name. I was particularly moved by the works of Soutine; his boldness of color in his “Beouf” was especially moving and vibrant. But in other works, like “Poulet,” he uses more muted tones, but his work is so fluid and energizing that it promotes a better artist within me!

After Musee de l’Orangerie, I ventured to the Obelisk area where Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI were executed, or commonly known as Place de la Concord. I cannot remember exactly why the Obelisk is there, but Egypt wants it back, and France still refuses. It is quite charming, I have to say, and I would hate to give it up as well!

j-insideDome.jpg Behind the Obelisk is Paris’ most expensive hotel, and beyond that is the Dome of Mary Magdalene (photo left), which I attended. Beautiful church! There is a magnificent air to it, and upon walking in, I was deeply moved by its grandeur and beauty. A must-see for anyone visiting Paris, and so convenient too!

If you have been following me so far, you will know that I came across the infamous letter from Einstein to Roosevelt (1939), which essentially informed FDR of the power of uranium. Last weekend, I actually strolled by the Curie Institute! If you do not remember, Marie Curie discovered uranium. What a link of time!

It can be concluded from my visits this past weekend that I feel like I know Paris pretty well now, especially since I navigated mostly on foot without a map. That’s kind of scary in a way. But I would not trade this for the world, and I feel that through this so far, I have bettered my linguistic skills, my sense of direction, knowledge about the past, and ability to cope in difficult situations (gotta order that strawberry tart).

It was just a month ago when I was freaking about the metro lines! But hey, here I am, rocking it out in the big city of Paris!

Although this coming weekend, I am off to the south of France (Marseilles, Nice), then next week it is Spain for 9 days, and then 3 days in Germany after that!

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Everyday life in Paris

Disney.jpg Tourist Vs. Resident

It is awkward to say, but the days of “touring” Paris are over. I am an efficient guide of the Louvre, a crepe/panini connoisseur, a Metro expert, and I am well-versed in my personal language of Franglish. I also can walk my way through Paris at 4 AM in the morning, thanks to the splendid Parisian party of “Le Nuit Blanche,” which taught me that all-night citywide events do not constitute all-night public transportation!

Disneyland3.jpg I also just got back from Euro Disney with friends Kate, Lauren, Sarah, Bonnie and Noelle – AMAZING! – and recently I also saw Opera Bastille’s production of Wozzeck composed by Alban Berg!

Wozzeck.jpg So, now that the tourism of Paris is over, I have some upcoming trips that I am looking forward to: Barcelona and Madrid for 9 days, Cote d’Azur for 4 days (school-sponsored), Cologne (Germany) for 3 days, and I am still toying with the idea of Munich for a weekend plus London for the last days of my European stay. These trips will be an oasis in the times of my studies, and since midterms are already on the horizon, I just keep thinking about the good time ahead!

Daily Schedule

I usually wake up in the morning at 8 AM from the pleasurable alarm tone of my phone. After a little lounging around and showering, I find time for my usual so-not-French breakfast of cereal. Well, it is French cereal, so naturally it is loaded with chocolate. Now, my host family is Jewish and about 75% kosher, so food is interesting sometimes. I especially am curious about the milk they buy: How can it sit out of the fridge until “opened”? Hm, I don’t know, and I really don’t want to know, I guess.

After all this, I get my bag and walk down to the Metro, just a few feet from the condo tower. I live on the 19th floor, so while I get a lovely view of the Sacre-Couer and the various parks and what-not of Paris, walking into the Metro station reminds me that I live in the 19th-arondissement. I hate to be brutal, but it is honestly not a clean area. But in all areas of Paris, you will find happy people excreting waste on the street corner with no shame (even at Jardin de Luxembourg), crashing wine and beer bottles on the sidewalks (Georges Pompidou Center) and smiling at random women in hopes of a date (everywhere). The Metro is like a singles club too; just don’t look anyone in the eye.

Anyway, my Metro ride is 35 minutes long, and I usually just listen to my mp3 player or read over notes to prepare myself for class. The Metro is not air-conditioned, so it’s quite hot usually, and all of us agree that the stench of certain (if not many) people does not combine for a good morning commute.

During the ride, I usually just look downward to not only avoid the eyes of others but to also smell the laundry detergent/cologne scent on me. This city invented perfume apparently, but sometimes just from pure observation I’m thinking the perfume market is hurting! But in their defense, if you can grab a breakfast pastry, you will experience pure bliss and gratitude for such an amazing culinary culture.

I have French every morning for an hour-and-a-half, and then I break for lunch. There are little crepe stands and panini stands all around the neighborhood, so in between classes I’ll grab my food, come back and study for a while, fraternize at the Jardin du Luxembourg, and write a little music. There is also an amazing gelato place that I frequent, called Amorino. Thankfully, I still jog around the beautiful park of Buttes-Chaumont (quite hilly, I must say), or else I would be in the shape of gelato!

Dinner is generally around 9 PM, so after practicing and writing in the evenings, I arrive home about 8:45 PM to the sound of the barking dog, Spike. The way my host mother scolds him by calling out “SPIKE! ALL RIGHT!” sends me into immediate laughter because 1) They usually do speak to the dog in English because it understands English better than French 2) I guess I just hear it like all the time and 3) I have fun doing my impression for my friends and others. After Spike calms down, we eat dinner, which tastes extremely American. I believe that kosher foods and kosher cooking do not allow too much embellishment, so it is difficult to be authentically French when cooking.

After dinner, I generally go to my room and Skype with friends and family. My schoolwork gets done during the day, so I never feel like I have “homework” per se. Sometimes though, I will go for a jog, but the weather is getting colder so I try to push that up in the day in a little. Otherwise, that is essentially the end of my day until the routine begins again.

Some Thoughts on Current-Day Paris

I do not agree with some stereotypes I heard from advisers and peers. I have not found any rude French people yet, almost everyone I talk to speaks pretty good English (even at the little specialized stores and panini stands), people do jog in regular athletic clothe – not corduroys and sweaters – and the food is not as expensive as I thought (I eat lunch for about $4/day if I bring my own drink). Although, if I get a chocolate macaroon, that’s an extra $3, but it’s so worth it!

Also, I find that most people dress comfortably but conservatively. Black and grey is popular, and I would say that the typical everyday outfit in Paris is New Yorker business style with pointier shoes and slimmer pants. Every once in a while I’ll see the runway model, but really, nothing is too exquisite or eccentric except for the occasional super-low V-neck that I myself cannot get into at all. Scarves are popular, though, and a lot of men and women wear these to not look so dull, but it is not as prevalent as I thought.

French people, by law, only work 35 hours a week and get six weeks of paid vacation a year. They also strike, and take other holidays, so in reality they do not work near what Americans typically work. I am not sure why this is, but if it keeps the country successful, then why not? It is also interesting to see French opinions about our own president; they are far more interested in ours than their own. However, I believe they disapprove of both as of late.

StrawberryTarte.jpg They also are genetically inclined to eat a bunch of food and never gain any weight. If anything, many look undernourished, but I do see some of them running at night, so I know they have some formula for this toothpick silhouette idea. I think we have a difference in opinion about acceptable weight, but with all of these strawberry tarts, chocolate cakes and chocolate macaroons lying around, I could care less!

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Perspectives from Normandy and WWII

MeOhamaBeach.jpg Prelude

I experienced something greater than excitement alone this past weekend: transcendence. There are pause points in the pursuit of knowledge where we are required to contemplate what has happened, what is happening and what will happen. It is in one of those points, I think, where we realize we are learning for our own good and not just by the will of others. These moments of transcendence highlight our interests, prove our future and are preserved in our memories forever.

KateandMe-1.jpgFor me, that happened this weekend in the green, quiet and hilly region of Normandy. Normandy is exceptionally known for its creamy butter and apple desserts, but we cannot forget that it is the focal area of two major events in history: the capital region and burial place of William the Conqueror and, of course, the site of D-Day, that fateful but victorious day for the Allied Powers.

While my visit to Normandy was full of frequent visits to delicious chocolate stores and peaceful hillside jogging, it is the cold and distant past that made me freeze in my tracks sometimes.

In the Stillness of Memory

When I ran across Omaha Beach and felt that icy water over my legs, there was a chill beyond physicality. I was with my friends looking for seashells, but I was also walking on the graves of soldiers, and I knew that buried beneath that seashell-covered beach was a memory of lamented courage … and blood.

I am not sure if I could ever hold that bravery for myself, but I guess I have never been asked to do so. If the time came, would I be willing to parade my life on the front line like an unsuspecting worm crossing the eyes of a million crows? Hopefully that time will never come, but I believe that if so, I would have adequate cause to have that kind of courage.

SketchofShostakovitch7thSymphony-1.jpg GermanLetter-1.jpgThroughout the weekend, I also walked in the bunkers of Point de Hoc, where the Nazi army of World War II shot American Rangers off the cliffs, one by one. I read accounts of Nazis with their overconfidence and well-fed stomachs that were posted (photo right) by other accounts of starved and tortured Jewish people. I saw an original sketch from Dimitri Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony (photo above left), which quietly rebelled against the last major Nazi attempt to invade Russia (the city of Leningrad) … actually premiered during the invasion.

Cathedrals were never meant to take bullet holes, statues of angels still need their heads, little children died so violently; 50 million died in World War II. We are so fortunate today, and we have to remember these events to retain our morality and sense of being.

NormandyCemetarAmericaine-1.jpg Just like how the ocean tries to overcome land, so does the guilty willingness to forget the past succeed. Yet we maintain white crosses, white Stars of David and white columns that encourage our peaceful co-existence while simultaneously reminding us of the wrongs we have done to one another. We cannot forget D-Day, the rage at Pont du Hoc, or the mass destruction of innocent towns like Caen or Bayeux.

But it is my opinion that to this day, sadly, our history books shamefully prove that we are creatures of habit.

German Perspectives

LaCambe%28German%20WW2%20Cemetary%29-1.jpg It was disparaging to see my grandmother’s maiden name on a plaque in the La Cambe German Cemetary. Please do not mistake this, however, as I almost did. It is not that every German soldier was in agreement with the Nazi party. Perhaps the most moving symbol of this is the accounts that describe young German boys calling for their mothers while half of their stomachs were literally blown off. Bleeding helplessly in the eyes of American soldiers, some of them uttered in their last breaths that they did not want to join the war, and that they were forced to do so under Nazi rule. One account even retells the cries of a teenage German soldier asking for his mother.

Hence today why Germans feel that the defeat of Nazi Germany was liberation for not just the rest of the world but Germany as well. I know this may sound obvious to a certain crowd of readers, but it is important I reiterate that fact to ensure the reality of the situation.

However, no matter the reality of the state of Germany, due to the post-war feelings that were not so warm and happy, the agreement was that at the German cemetery of Normandy (called Le Cambe), the crosses had to be dark. So, you will see that the cemetery is incredibly somber, and that there is a sense of dark morbidity, guilt, and dissolution within the memories the cemetery wishes to convey. The red roses and lilies that line the graveyard are stunning; I think they remind us of the blood so freely spilled.

Also, the town of Le Havre, a port city in northern France, was occupied by Germans, but it was actually the hastiness of the British that destroyed it and its people almost completely. According to its history, the German command wanted to evacuate its people, but the British did not want to waste time. Because of rebuilding and decline of wealth in post-World War II, Le Havre is scantily dressed in modern-day architecture, but it still remains as an essential economic center (hence the Del Monte ship that bustled into the harbor). The industrial air of Le Havre reflects its rebuilding after being bombed over 132 times during WWII. May no one ever have to experience that again.

EinsteinDiscoversUraniumSendsLettertoRoosevelt-1.jpg What Does this All Mean for Today?

We have indeed seen wars since WWII, but I believe no other war has reached the death toll seen in that last great war. However, we did learn that we can indeed destroy ourselves, and for now, we must hope that we are really aware and in control of our lives in a safe, positive way. We just simply cannot afford another world war. (Photo right: Einstein’s letter to Roosevelt about uranium)

On the contrary, I really do wonder. The world is armed; someone is waiting for the right time. It is my hope that there is at least an ounce of humanitarianism left, and that those thoughts of destruction are just threats and not actual plans.

Normandy left me with new feelings.

A List of Facts:

Early 1920s: Hitler gains popularity with the Populist party due to the demand for strong leadership in the dark economic aftermath of World War I.

1925: Hitler publishes Mein Kampf.

1931: Great Depression begins and hits the United States, Britain, Germany, and France terribly hard.
• The agricultural areas of France were thriving and were forced to send food to the city while those of the United States were deeply poor and threatened.
• Germany was the weakest country, and no one would bail them out.
• Britain’s economy waivers off and on the gold standard, seeking help from the US.

1935: The first concentration camps open.

1939: Hitler occupies Poland.

1940: Hilter occupies Paris.

1941: United States declares war on Japan.

1942: Nuclear reactor built in Chicago.
• Leningrad invaded unsuccessfully by Germany (after unsuccessful attempts to again Moscow and Stalingrad)

1944: D-Day

1945: Hitler commits suicide.

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Paris: City of Grandeur

Rebonjour!

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!

NotreDameTowers-1.jpg 13th-Century-Style Mass at Notre Dame

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).

Sarah%2C%20Kate%20and%20Me-1.jpg 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!

InsideNotreDame-1.jpg 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?

JardindeLuxembourg.jpg Jardin de Luxembourg

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!

Au Revoir

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!

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Bonjour from Paris

WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
(It still seems surreal!)

This is my first time outside the continental United States, my first time traveling without any idea of the language of my destination, and my first time using a different currency … well, it is a first time for many things then!

Anyway, I basically want everyone to know what it is really like to be traveling to and living in a country outside home-base. This also fulfills my personal reason to keep a record of what I do. Therefore, I hope my blog will be of service to you in this way, answering many of your questions, reporting minute instances in my day or life-changing experiences, perhaps even changing your perceptions of the French way of life, or Europe as a whole.

About Where I am Currently:

Right now, I am in the imperial city of Compiegne, which has seen the rise and fall of four main dynasties (namely the last of which is the family of Bonaparte), the English capture of Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc), and the signing of WWI’s armistice between the Allies and the Germans.

Compiegne is an old city, arguably dating from the 5th century, and today Compiegne is a mix of the old and the past with cobblestone streets and buildings formed by remnants of older buildings. Old cloisters are parking lots, displaced Dominican arches are architectural figures at the local park, and the town hall used to be a church in the Gothic-flamboyant style.

Altar%20of%20St%20Jacques.jpg A couple of streets behind that town hall is the Church of St. Jacques, which was where Jeanne d’Arc had her last communion before being taken by the English during the Hundred Years’ War.

JeannedArcStainedGlassWindowinStJaacques.jpg The Church of St. Jacques was also a stoppage for those on the great pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela (a chapel in Spain that medieval Europeans ventured to, and upon doing so, received an abnormally large seashell as a testament). A memorial inside of the church is in the shape of a beautiful stained-glass window, and an utterly astounding organ sits at the back of the church in the balcony.

Rules about Travelling Abroad (with true experiences to tell!)

1) British Airways is the way to go! It takes 8 hours from Dallas to Heathrow (London), and 45 minutes to Paris. Also, enjoy the top-notch service of this airway, and the fact that trash is called “rubbish.”

2) Pack no more than two bags to avoid hurting yourself or tiring, and leave a little room in one so that you will have room to take things back. Luckily I only packed 2, but I feel for those who have 4 bags!

3) Bring travel adapters, or adapted chargers for your electronic devices. Check compatibility.

4) Paris is 7 hours ahead of SMU-time. So if it is 10 AM in Paris, it is 3 AM at SMU.

5) Call back home by placing 001 in front of the number plus area code. Yes, you have to put the zeros in for all of you who like significant digits.

6) It currently costs 1.50 USD to buy 1 EURO. OUCH! But, one British Pound costs over 2 USD! Hence my $45 breakfast at Heathrow.

7) Cell phones are kind of tricky. Get one here, or just use your US phone (but fees can be tricky). I’m still exploring all of these options. Texting is free for me, but not calling. Weird.

8) Don’t worry, the food is great! Just watch the price.

9) Attempt to speak the language, or find out how to ask someone if they speak yours. Not everyone is as multilingual as you think, but you’ll catch on to their language real quick! An attempt to speak their language will at least win you their respect and interest.

10) Be a sponge. Find out all you can about everything you are doing!

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