Category Archives: Temple Summer

Until Next Time, Paris

Standard

By the time this post is published, I’ll be on my way back to Philadelphia, but right now as I write it’s my last day in Paris, and I’m waiting for my roommate to wake up so we can enjoy a last Parisian breakfast together. I’m planning on using the day to revisit the places I’ve enjoyed the most and to say my goodbyes. First stop is Musée de l’Orangerie, the art museum in the Jardins du Tuileries that houses Monet’s water lily rooms (check out the scene in “Midnight in Paris” for a good idea of what this beautiful space looks like). I visited Orangerie a few weeks ago and I thought the water lilies were so calming and reflective (it’s also free since I’m under 26, but that’s just an added bonus). I also just really like going to art museums by myself, and since Orangerie was one of my favorites I’d like to head over one last time.

After Orangerie, I’m planning on spending some time at Shakespeare and Company and maybe some time in the gardens around Notre Dame (the friendly street artist, small shopkeepers, and breathtaking views of the Seine make this my favorite place in Paris). Saying goodbye to Shakespeare and Co. may be my hardest goodbye (just kidding), but it really became my natural habitat while abroad. I’ve always wanted to open up my own bookstore or café, which is next to impossible in America, but which literally line the streets in Paris, and it’s been very nice getting to know all the bookstores in the area.

The best place on Earth.

The best place on Earth.

After Shakespeare and Co., my roommate and I are meeting our Swedish friend Lovisa for a picnic by the Canal St. Martin. Yesterday I said goodbye to a few friends from Australia, Texas, and Turkey, which was not fun. In the words of Lovisa, “You meet people and you know them so well, and then you go your separate ways and never see each other again. The world is so big.” She’s absolutely right, but it’s very cool to have people all over the world I know I can call anytime, and who can call me, if we’re ever in each others’ home countries. And since I’d never really met a lot of people who weren’t American, I’m very grateful for the opportunity to have met friends from so many other cultures here. Life, in my opinion, is about making an impact on other people’s lives—small, personal, fleeting influences, that everyone carries with them wherever they go. I’ll always carry certain people with me, and certain people will always carry me, and that is comforting.

After this tearful goodbye, I’ll head over to Angelina’s, a café by the Louvre famous for its delicious hot chocolate (my junior high French teacher tracked me down to tell me to go, so I have high expectations!) On this Temple program, there are people like me, my roommate, and some others who are in Paris for four weeks, but the majority of people are here for six weeks (I’ll be living vicariously through them until it’s time to go back to Temple) and we’re having a final meal together at Angelina’s to say goodbye until the fall. Coming into this trip, I didn’t know anyone, and was worried I would just be traipsing through Paris by myself for a month. I didn’t believe the Education Abroad staff when they talked about how close people on study abroad trips become. But they were absolutely right, and we really have all become very close—I can’t wait till our reunions in the fall!

One of our first days in Paris, in the Jardins du Luxembourg.

One of our first days in Paris, in the Jardins du Luxembourg.

I'll miss this place!

I’ll miss this place!

Until next time, Paris.

Until next time, Paris.

I won’t spend too much time gushing about how great studying abroad is here—but if possible, go. I remember almost deciding to stay in Philly this summer because I’d never been out of the U.S. before and traveling can be scary, but thank goodness I decided to take the leap. Traveling while young is especially cool, and meeting people my age from all over the world has been a incomparable experience. I’ve dreamed about coming to Paris since I was a little kid watching The Aristocats and reading Madeline, and everything about this trip has just left me in awe. And I’ll of course take Paris with me—the “moveable feast” of it all, and everything I’ve learned here. I made myself a promise to return in ten years (but hopefully sooner!) and I can’t wait to come back to this beautiful city, at a different time in my life. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered,” and that applies to both Philly and Paris now.

Until next time, Paris.

Paris on a Budget

Standard

As a college student in a major city, I’m used to living on a budget. And I’m naturally very frugal, so it’s never been difficult for me to manage money. Coming to Paris, where I wasn’t familiar with the ins-and-outs of daily life, however, definitely threw me for a loop for a little while. During my month abroad I’ve picked up some tips for living the good life in Paris, but for a fraction of the price.

Food

First off is, of course, food. Food was a major category in my budget for the trip, but I underestimated the cost of food, especially with the euro/dollar conversion. Since everyone gets paid more here, most significantly waiters, cashiers, and other minimum wage jobs, everything is priced higher because people can actually afford it. With approximately 1.4 dollars to every euro, however, my meals added up quickly! While eating at restaurants and cafés is very convenient (and tempting), I’ve found multiple alternatives that are cheaper and, often times, better. Farmer’s markets or fruit stands have the freshest produce and baked goods I’ve ever had, and they’re actually very reasonably priced. Also, food bought at the various specialized grocery stores or outdoor markets lasts for at least a couple of days if not a week, rather than one meal that’s gone in two and a half hours (the French take their time at restaurants). My hostel also comes equipped with a modestly-equipped “kitchen”—actually a microwave, a toaster, and two junior-high science class hot plates. I attempted to cook pasta, after finally tracking down a pot, during my first week here, and it took TWO HOURS. The microwave, which was initially broken, is now repaired and my roommate and I have ceramic bowls (which were also surprisingly difficult to find) and we cook our pasta in the microwave like true American college students. And when I do buy food, tons of small cafés offer prix fixe menus for around 10 to 15 euros, three or four course meals that are well worth the cash. And when I do buy lunch or dinner, I’ve found the best places to go are crèpe stands on the side of the road or gyro/falafel shops (which are very popular here). The food in France is such better quality than in the States, and they give you much more for your money—one crèpe will fill me up all day. Saving money on my meals really helps my budget and saves me room for the things I really want to buy—pastries and wine.

Public Transportation

Another concern while in Paris is public transportation. The metro system is great—compared to SEPTA, it is a pleasure to take the metro. Paris’ transportation system consists of 17 metro lines, all color coded and numbered, five RER lines, which travel through the city and also outside, and a comprehensive bus system.

A map of the metro and RER lines, which are actually not confusing at all. After day three, I was giving other travelers directions (without a map!) (Photo courtesy of A Paris Guide.)

A map of the metro and RER lines, which are actually not confusing at all. After day three, I was giving other travelers directions (without a map!) (Photo courtesy of A Paris Guide.)

I take the metro everywhere—Paris is nothing like the grid shape I’m used to back home, and the metro’s really handy in a pinch. On my second day here, I bought a Navigo pass, which gives me unlimited access to all metro lines, RER lines in Paris, and buses for one month. Having the pass was incredibly convenient, and I definitely got my money’s worth.

Museums

My final budget tip concerns one of Paris’ greatest attractions—museums! There are so many here—I’ve been to the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, Jeu de Paume, Musée de l’Orangerie, Memorial de la Shoah (Holocaust Museum), Cluny Medieval Museu, Musée d’Art Moderne, and Centre Georges Pompidou. My favorites were Musée de l’Orangerie the Holocaust Museum, and Centre Georges Pompidou. Out of all of these museums I visited, I paid to get into one of them. Most museums in Paris offer reduced admission or, more commonly, admission gratuit, for young people under 26 who are members of the European Union or studying at a French university. I just show my Sorbonne ID and my driver’s license (which I accidentally brought with me but turned out to be a fortuitous mistake), and have every museum at my fingertips. Some places, like the Louvre and Jeu de Paume, only offer these special admissions on certain days, but doing research in advance can save a lot of money. And for those over 26, the Holocaust Museum, Musée d’Art Moderne, and I’m sure other museums I didn’t have a chance to see offer free admission for all at any time.

Typical Louvre picture, taken on my way to the Tour de France!

Typical Louvre picture, taken on my way to the Tour de France!

Overall, I’ve been very happy saving a bit of money here in Paris and looking for alternative ways to feed myself and see all there is to see. Hopefully my tips will help any future Paris travelers! Stay tuned for my next (and final!!!) blog post.

Stumble-Upons in Paris

Standard

Bonjour tout le monde!

While abroad, I really enjoy keeping this blog—it is relaxing and therapeutic to write about my experiences, and the posts will serve as a great chronicle of the trip after I’m back in the States. However, it can be difficult to fit everything worth sharing into themed posts, and so I’ve decided to dedicate this entry to all of the cool events and experiences I’ve stumbled upon here in Paris that don’t necessarily fit in anywhere else. One of my favorite aspects of city life, whether at home or abroad, is the opportunity to just wander into things, and many of these “stumble-upons” have been the best highlights of my trip. And for anyone traveling to Paris, some of these “stumble-upons” which were accidental for me might be something to include on an itinerary or “must-do” list (I strongly recommend having a list of must-see/must-do’s, but also leaving plenty of time for exploring). Now without further ado:

1. Paris Jazz Festival

The Paris Jazz Festival is an annual event that takes place every July (again, arguably the best month to visit the city). My roommate and I accidentally stumbled upon a poster for the festival while we were lost and searching for an apparently nonexistent metro stop. Getting lost in Paris leads to some of the best discoveries, and so we and some others from our trip headed to the festival one Sunday afternoon. The festival has events in Parc des Flores on the outskirts of Paris every weekend, and each is themed—our concert was “A Tribute to South Africa.” The park is absolutely beautiful and the festival was a blast. It also wasn’t touristy in the least—it’s the things you can’t look up online that give you the most authentic Paris experience.

The poster that led to this stumble-upon.

The poster that led to this stumble-upon.

2. Shakespeare and Co. (again)

It’s probably pretty obvious that my favorite place in Paris is this bookshop. Shakespeare and Co. is much more than just a bookshop, though—it is a figurehead of the English-speaking community in Paris. Since my class ends earlier than everyone else’s on my trip, I often spend an hour or two reading in the upstairs library while I wait to head off to whatever museum or area we’re exploring each day. And it is while I’m hanging out there reading that I stumble upon many cool events.

One Sunday afternoon, I was reading upstairs when all of a sudden an old British woman and one of Shakespeare and Company’s employees began moving around furniture and setting out tea supplies and madeleines. A few patrons who seemed to know what was going on joined and began laying out cushions on the floor. Everyone was very welcome and friendly, and I decided this could be a cool event when the British woman, named “Pamelys,” who turned out to be a friend of the now-deceased founder, George Whitman, asked me what my “mother tongue” was. I had accidentally stumbled upon the weekly Shakespeare and Co. “Tea Party,” a group led by Pamelys (who was so crazy she seemed almost normal) shared poetry and writing, drank tea, and talked about life. People wandered in, most of whom were American or British tourists (I even ended up sitting next to some Temple alumni who graduated in 2011!). The entire experience was very welcoming and comforting, and of course only made me love Shakespeare and Co. even more.

Shakespeare and Co. also hosts a “Bard-en-Seine” festival annually with Shakespeare-themed events throughout the year. They feature guest lecturers on Shakespeare, Shakespeare discussion groups, concerts, and, in July, a week of open-air and completely free performances of the year’s play (this year was Macbeth). I found out about the performances while browsing through the store and stumbling upon a flyer, and having played Lady Macbeth in a high school English class’ poorly-thrown-together production of the Scottish play (still waiting for my Tony), I decided to attend. The performance was awesome—it was very cool to be at an open-air play, which I’d never done before, and all of the actors were incredibly talented. There was also that sense of community again, with everyone sitting together on the ground or in chairs or just standing (unfortunately my friends and I didn’t make it in time for seats). Overall it was a very cool event, and definitely something to check out if ever in Paris in July!

The Weirs Sisters in the open-air performance of Macbeth.

The Weirs Sisters in the open-air performance of Macbeth.

Another scene from the play.

Another scene from the play.

3. Brugges, Belgium

While in Europe, it is so tempting to travel to other countries, since it’s so quick and easy. However, it also requires planning, which I unfortunately did not consider. Before coming to Paris, I decided I wanted to visit Amsterdam and London, but quickly realized how much there was to see in Paris and revised my plans to include only Amsterdam. Planning on such short notice was very expensive and hectic (make sure to plan well in advance if visiting other countries is a part of a trip to Paris), so a friend and I decided to take a day trip to Brugges, a small town in Belgium, instead. I hadn’t expected to visit Belgium at all while abroad, but Brugges turned out to be very cool, and was a nice contrast from a major European city (I got to see the other version of Europe, the cobblestone streets-medieval churches-horse and carriages side). Brugges was a short train ride away and very affordable. We took a lovely open-air canal tour, tried our first Belgian waffles and chocolate, visited the Salvador Dali museum and St. Jan’s Hospital, which operated for over 800 years, and explored the (very tiny) city. There were bike parking lots and horse and buggys everywhere,and also a real sense of trust among the community—I did not see a single bike lock. Everyone working in Brugges also spoke at the very least Dutch, English, French, and Netherlands Dutch, and usually German and Spanish as well—very impressive.

Belgian waffles with strawberries and whipped cream -- made with sugar cubes in the actual waffle and the freshest ingredients!

Belgian waffles with strawberries and whipped cream — made with sugar cubes in the actual waffle and the freshest ingredients!

DSC_0169

A very neat flea market we stumbled upon by the river.

A very neat flea market we stumbled upon by the canals.

Horses and carriages everywhere -- but the horses were treated very well (they even had a special water fountain in the town center).

Horses and carriages everywhere — but the horses were treated very well (they even had a special water fountain in the town center).

4. Art Galleries/Street Musicians

Art galleries are everywhere here—we stumbled upon one in Brugges, and at least three throughout Paris. All of the art is incredibly interesting and usually modern (which I love). Paris has a real appreciation for the arts that’s difficult to find in the States sometimes.

Street musicians are also popular here, and they go all out—pianists play in the middle of the street, accordion players serenade on the metro, and live bands pop up in parks or by the Seine. I always make sure to give a few euros to those with caps or cases out, but there are also a lot of performers who don’t ask for money or won’t take any—they simply enjoy playing and want to share it with their city. The people of Paris also respond well to all the performances—they dance on the metro, gather in huge crowds by the piano, and sing along with the bands. Again, Paris has a palpable appreciation for art and music.

5. Synagogue

Growing up, I was always told that going to synagogue in a foreign country is a very cool experience, because even though that synagogue is on another continent, the prayers and tunes and language are the same and feel just like home. I identify more as a cultural Jew than a religious one, but I decided to attend Shabbat services one Friday night while in Paris. I had been feeling a little isolated with all of the anti-Semitic riots throughout the city in response to the conflict happening in Israel and Gaza, but as soon as I walked into synagogue I did indeed feel at home. Many of the tunes were the same, and I actually heard French people pronounce the hard “r” found in Hebrew and English — they can indeed do it. I’m sure that this sense of home can be found during any religious service while abroad, and I definitely recommend attending at least one French religious service, whatever you identify with, even for just a taste of another culture.

6. Marches des Puces/Chez Louisette

Every weekend, there is a huge flea market at Port de Clignancourt (the last stop on metro line 4) that is impossible to get through in a day (or two days, or three days, or more). We headed down one Saturday morning to check out Marches des Puces (literally “market of fleas”)  and were amazed with the place (after searching for it for about 45 minutes —getting lost has been a common theme throughout this trip). The market features everything from cheap shoes to jewelry to street painters to antiques. We spent most of our time in the antiques section which was fun and interesting to browse around. For lunch, we stopped at Chez Louisette, the figureheads restaurant of the market. Our lunch was, to say the least, an experience – featuring an accordion band entirely over the age of 60, groups of tourists taking pictures (although I am technically a tourist myself, I have begun to develop the Parisian attitude toward my fellow travelers since I have been living here for a longer period of time) and shouting, hectic waiters. In the words of my friend: “The theme of this place is tacky.” It was still, however, a neat experience, and worth checking out for a laugh!

Chez Louisette...quite an experience.

Chez Louisette…quite an experience.

7. Paris Plages

Each July, the city of Paris sets up “Paris Plages” (Paris beaches) along the bank of the Seine. The French people never cease to amaze me, but Paris Plages is a little strange. I’m used to beaches involving swimming, bathing suits, sunscreen etc. but Paris Plages is basically a giant sandbox on the street by the Seine. People wear normal clothes and drink wine in the hot sun but never go swimming. There is also a mini-Louvre with reproductions of the paintings and a miniature Eiffel Tower. The Paris Plages are very nice, but another interesting aspect of French culture that reminds me how American I am!

8. The People

Finally (this is the last stumble-upon, I promise), living in Paris and attending classes at the Sorbonne has introduced to me to so many new people from all over the world. Being a part of the Temple group is awesome and we spend most of our time together, but we’ve also all made friends in our respective classes. I have great friends I know I could stay with anytime in Australia, Sweden, Turkey, Pittsburgh, Louisiana, and Texas, and that is very very cool considering that up until now I really only knew Americans. I will be sad to leave a city with people from literally all over the world.

It is also interesting to be an American in Paris. In the States, there is a shared bond between people from the same city or general area—I automatically bond with anyone from Philly, Pennsylvania, or the Northeast (with the exception of Yankees fans). Here, that bond expands to include people I would normally never feel a connection with back home—two of my close friends in class are from Louisiana and Mississippi, and go to school in Texas. In cafés or at bars or even just on the street, Americans hear each other speaking English and automatically introduce themselves or smile. It’s a very friendly atmosphere and will really make me feel more connected to people in other parts of the country once I’m back home.

Thanks for reading the incredibly long post—believe it or not, this is the condensed version. There is just so much to stumble across in Paris! Stay tuned for my next post during my final week in France. Merci!

Discovering the 1920′s in Modern Paris

Standard

In the words of Ernest Hemingway, Paris is “a moveable feast”—a feast of emotions and sensations that, once you’ve lived here, you carry with you wherever you go. I’ve only been living here for one month, but I already understand what Hemingway meant. His posthumously-published memoir about his expatriate years in Paris with the likes of Fitzgerald, Stein, Joyce, Pound, Picasso, Modigliani, and others, A Moveable Feast, is a phenomenal read; I have a copy with me and it is such a surreal experience to read it in the very places it was drawn from.

Part of the reason why Paris aways seemed so appealing to me was because of the city’s ties to the 1920′s and the Lost Generation—to those of you who know me, this post comes as no surprise. It was only a matter of time before I blogged about Paris’ roaring years hosting the best literary movement in history (and the copy of A Moveable Feast and three copies of The Great Gatsby I have already accumulated since coming here). In a wonderful twist of fate, I have class in Montparnasse, the very once-inexpensive neighborhood where Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and their fellow expatriates wrote and lived, and I live a mere fifteen minute walk from the bookstores, cafés, and residences they frequented. My inner English nerd is definitely showing through in this post, but I’ll detail a few of the Lost Generation haunts I have discovered so far.

1. Harry’s New York Bar

Okay, so it’s not very French. But Harry’s was always meant to be an American hangout, founded in 1911 when Harry MacElhone relocated his bar in New York City to Paris. It was a refuge for English speakers in a foreign country, and is famous today for inventing classic cocktails like the Bloody Mary, the Sidecar, and the White Lady and for hosting the likes of Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Sartre, and Gershwin. Starting at 10 pm, the downstairs room turns into a live piano bar, in the very space where Gershwin composed “An American in Paris.” The piano lounge features red velvet lounge chairs, a mahogany bar, a beautiful piano, and small tables that really create a Roaring Twenties atmosphere.

The outside of Harry's located right near the Paris Opéra.

The outside of Harry’s located right near the Paris Opéra.

The downstairs piano lounge. (Photo courtesy of Harry's website.)

The downstairs piano lounge. (Photo courtesy of Harry’s website.)

2. Le Café de Flore

One of the many haunts frequented by Fitzgerald and Hemingway, Le Café de Flore is now a very expensive tourist attraction. Still, I made the trip and sat in the very restaurant where Fitzgerald once wrote (me getting excited over places where Fitzgerald sat or ate or wrote is a common theme throughout this post—you’ve been warned). It was a very unique dining experience I will always remember, and I even got a complimentary placemat that is going on my wall the minute I return to Temple!

3. Le Select, La Rotonde, La Dome, La Closerie des Lilas

These cafés line the street right by the Sorbonne, where my classes are held. Once cheap hangouts for struggling writers and artists, these restaurants now cater to tourists and the well-to-do—Le Select features 6-euro coffee (about 9 or 10 dollars) and La Closerie des Lilas offers very high-end dinners. However, each has really held its original charm and decor, and I love walking past La Closerie des Lilas (the site where Fitzgerald first showed Gatsby to Hemingway!!!) on my morning walk to school.

Le+Select+from+rue+Vavin

rotonde

Le Select, La Rotonde, et La Closeries des Lilas

Le Select, La Rotonde, et La Closeries des Lilas

4. Lost Generation Residences

Even more personal and interesting are the residences of Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, and Oscar Wilde (although Wilde’s not associated with the Lost Generation, he’s still a phenomenal writer and fun to check out). Although I haven’t yet visited Gertrude Stein’s residence, I definitely plan to make the trip, since her home was such a popular gathering spot for her peers (Midnight in Paris is pretty accurate). Paris also offers walking tours of the city based around Hemingway and Stein’s hangouts and major locations, which is an affordable and neat way to discover the 1920′s in modern Paris.

5. Shakespeare and Company

I saved the best for last, as Shakespeare and Company is my favorite place in Paris. It is frequently featured on “Best Bookstores in the World” or “Top 10 Bookstores” lists, and for good reason—there is so much history and culture and literary beauty behind it. I like to go after school and read for an hour two in the upstairs reading room, which features a unique library and cool events that I’ll detail in a future post about interesting stumble-upons in Paris.

The front facade of the bookstore.

In A Moveable Feast, Hemingway devotes an entire chapter to this bookstore (which I read in the very bookstore) and details his friendship with Sylvia Beach, the owner, and her generosity to struggling writers (she allowed Hemingway to take books from the store or library and read them even though he could not afford a membership). Beach’s store closed during the German occupation of Paris during WWII and never re-opened, but Englishman George Whitman opened a new Shakespeare and Co., modeled after Beach’s, in the 1950′s, and let struggling visitors sleep in the upstairs library (named after Beach). Today, Shakespeare and Co. is geared toward tourists, but the lesser-known aspects of it— the free Shakespeare performances, the visiting writers, the writers’ groups, the antiquarian bookseller, the weekly tea parties with an old British woman who also knew George Whitman, etc.—are uniquely Parisian, and especially for modern expatriates looking for an English-speaking refuge. Seriously, I’m considering applying for a job and not getting on the plane back home.

There are of course many more sites where one can discover the 1920′s in modern-day Paris, but I’ll sign off for now. Thanks for reading!

 

 

Bastille Day in Paris

Standard

When it comes to traveling to Paris, July is one of the best months to go—there are tons of outdoor festivals, museum exhibitions, and small performances and events to stumble upon. And although it rains a bit more often than during the rest of the year, July also features major national events like Bastille Day and the Tour de France, the final stage of which ends in Paris down the Champs-Elysées.

This past Monday marked Bastille Day 2014, an event I had been looking forward to ever since I registered for my study abroad program. “Bastille Day,” which commemorates the storming of the Bastille during the French Revolution and celebrates French independence, is actually a very American name—here, the holiday is called “La Fête Nationale,” or more colloquially “le 14 juillet” (literally meaning “July 14th”). I wasn’t sure what to expect of the holiday, and kept comparing it to the Fourth of July in my mind: Barbecues, parades, fireworks, and red, white, and blue, right?

There are tons of events throughout Paris to celebrate le 14 juillet, so I’ll focus this post on the events I attended and experienced firsthand. My experience was pretty typical and represents the holiday well.

As on the Fourth of July, many businesses are closed for le 14 juillet, but the celebration begins the night before. A few other Temple students and I traveled to Versailles (an easy train ride) for fireworks and a giant Bastille Day ball. The fireworks over the chatêau were absolutely breathtaking, choreographed perfectly to a variety of songs, among them the French national anthem and, of all things, “Walking on Sunshine” (French taste in music can be strange—they absolutely love old American pop songs. It’s like stepping back in time). Following the fireworks, we headed over to the city around Versailles, where a huge dance party was held. The soundtrack included French pop songs, the “YMCA,” “Summer Lovin’” from Grease, and, in another bizarre twist, “Cotton-eye Joe.” It was a blast to alternate between dancing with the French (this event was not touristy at all), who were super welcoming and would just grab you into a dance circle, and watching the World Cup final in the numerous bars on the street.

A poorly taken picture at the dance festival at Versailles for le 14 juillet.

A poorly taken picture at the dance festival at Versailles for le 14 juillet.

Carly, Sasha, Caroline, and I and some French teenagers we met.

Carly, Sasha, Caroline, and I and some French teenagers we met at Versailles.

The morning of le 14 juillet begins with a military parade. Paris’ parade features all military branches and President Holland, although this year there was some tension with Algerian soldiers marching in the parade (France and Algeria have a bloody past). Helicopters circled to keep order, and the president did not participate in the parade. The parts of the parade I did see were very similar to American Independence Day parades, but substituted tanks for fire engines.

Following the parade, my fellow Temple students and I picnicked in les jardins de Luxembourg, the gardens right across the street from the student hostel where most of us live. In France, le 14 juillet picnics are very common, with the main luncheon held at Versailles. It is traditional to wear all white at these picnics, and so we bought ourselves some bread, cheese, and wine, got dressed up, and picnicked with Parisians.

After the picnic, some of the group went home to rest, but my roommate and I decided to explore the festivities a little more. We headed down to the Champs-Elysées, where a large strip was partitioned off for people to stroll along, and French flags lined the avenue leading up to the Arc de Triomphe. We wandered past soldiers showing the insides of the tanks to French children, tourists taking pictures, and, unexpectedly, the normal hustle of Parisian life (I was very surprised at the fact that many Parisians acted no differently on le 14 juillet, since the Fourth of July is such a huge event). We also stumbled upon a flea market along the Seine and the preparations for an outdoor concert later in the evening.

French flags line the Champs-Elysées for le 14 juillet.

French flags line the Champs-Elysées for le 14 juillet.

DSC_0084

DSC_0085

The festivities for La Fête Nationale do not end until late until the night. Fireworks at the Eiffel Tower began at 11pm, and 2014 marked the first time since the millenium that the fireworks were actually launched from the Eiffel Tower rather than just near it. The show’s theme was “War and Peace,” and featured segments about the French Revolution and both world wars. Again, this fireworks display was one of the most impressive I have ever seen, made only better by the incorporation of the Eiffel Tower, lit up different colors and absolutely breathtaking. Pictures can’t possible do it justice.

A last unique Paris tradition is the “fireman’s balls,” thrown by the six firehouses in the city. The balls start at 9 pm and continue until 4 am. They raise money for the fire companies and honor French soldiers, firemen, and police officers. Again, my fellow travelers and I weren’t sure what to expect, but the balls featured live dj’s, smoke, colored fog, strobe lights, dancing, and of course champagne. We stayed until 4 am, dancing the night away with the French (who again played a lot of old American pop hits).

Overall, Bastille Day/La Fête Nationale/le 14 juillet 2014 was a very fun, unique experience and a cool look into another culture. I had a blast and was swept up in the unity everyone was feeling. Vive la France!

Merci for reading, and stay tuned for my next post!

Wiedersehen, Leipzig!

Standard

IMG_6208

The view of Leipzig from the roof of its tallest building, the Panorama Tower.

alte messe

One of the many DDR-era buildings in Leipzig. This is in the “Alte Messe” section of the city, where exhibitions were held in the past.

IMG_6277

Bicycles are more popular than cars in Leipzig. Here, a row of bikes sit outside of a bike shop on Karl-Liebknecht Straße.

IMG_6314

The view of the city from high up on a large monument called the Völkerschlachtdenkmal. I took this photo at 5 am with some German friends. The “Völki” was built in 1913 for the 100th anniversary of Napoleon’s defeat in Leipzig at the Battle of the Nations.

IMG_6327

 

The view from my window of a double rainbow that appeared after a quick but intense thunderstorm.

IMG_6381

“Graffiti Society.” We saw this being painted during the day, as we rode the train to school.

IMG_6382

Clarissa, David, and Webb sit in Augustusplatz before our Gewandhaus Orchester concert on Thursday night.

IMG_6384

Veronica waits at Augustusplatz before the concert. The Gewandhaus Orchester is one of the best orchestras in the world, and as a music theory major, it was amazing for me to be able to see them perform.

IMG_6388

The market at Augustusplatz occurs two or three times per week. You can buy fruits, vegetables, flowers, baked goods, and other food items there.

IMG_6390

 

Here’s Veronica on the steps of one of the dormitory buildings.

Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About French Food

Standard

Bonjour! 

Now that I’ve tried my fair share of French cafés, bars, boulangeries, patisseries, and restaurants, I think it’s high time for a post about the most delicious aspect of any country—the cuisine. Food is so central to the identity of a culture—it brings people together, represents local traditions and history, fuels the lifestyle. For this post, I decided to ask some of my friends back in the States (yes, I have started referring to America as “the States”) for any questions they had about French or Parisian food. I got some very interesting responses about aspects of France I had never even thought about, and I’m excited to answer them as best I can here.

1. The question on the tip of everyone’s tongue: Are baguettes really that popular?

Yes, baguettes are really that popular. The majority of Parisians buy a fresh baguette every morning, and use the leftovers for breakfast the next day. (The student hostel where I am staying provides us with day-old baguettes and butter (beurre), jam (confiture), and Nutella every morning.) Baguettes are also cheap (about 1 to 2 euros each) and available nearly everywhere. Nearly all sandwiches in boulangeries (bread shops) are on baguettes as well, and with dinner restaurants always provide baskets filled with pieces of—you guessed it—baguettes.

2. Do people in Paris drink as much coffee as Americans?

Americans drink A LOT of coffee. I was never fully aware of this until I came to a country where a “large” is equivalent to an American “small.” When it comes to eating and drinking, the French are leisurely—they drink coffee not for the energy and the caffeine but to savor the taste. Here, there is no “on-the-go” lifestyle—drinks are meant to be enjoyed, to be relaxing, rather than downed during the morning commute. The only place with sizes similar to American ones is Starbucks—everywhere else, a cup of coffee is no more than seven or eight sips. Parisians like to have a small coffee or latte in the morning and typically end lunch and dinner with an espresso—a very, very tiny espresso.

A "large" coffee in a typical French café.

A “large” coffee in a typical French café.

3. Are there any unique eating or serving traditions in France?

Like any country, France has its fair share of customs when it comes to food. I’ll outline a few of the interesting traditions I’ve noticed. First off, in terms of buying groceries, it is a very different experience from food shopping in the U.S. Here, no one store sells all food items—there are no Giants or Acmes or Shop Rites. Instead, each store specializes—I buy baguettes and sandwiches at boulangeries (bread bakeries,) pastries at patisseries (pastry bakeries), fruit at outdoor fruit markets or small independently owned fruit shops, non-perishable items like cereal, pasta, and canned goods at grocery stores that remind me more of supermarkets at home. I don’t do this because it’s charming or I want to—frankly it’s sometimes a hassle. I do it because the fruit stand doesn’t sell bread, the grocery store doesn’t sell fruit, and the bread shop doesn’t sell cereal. It took some getting used to, but the quality of the food is much fresher because of the personal connections between the shop owners and their local customers, which is a really nice atmosphere.

The front window of a patisserie in St. Michel, my neighborhood.

The front window of a patisserie in St. Michel, my     neighborhood.

An outdoor fruit stand selling fresh produce.

An outdoor fruit stand selling fresh produce.

In terms of restaurant dining, the service is always very good—as a former waitress, I am always impressed. Also, in addition to bread baskets, many restaurants give customers small bowls of olives and peanuts to munch on. Tips are usually included with the price of the food, and many places offer fixed price menus—one price for an entrée (appetizer,) plat (entrée,) and usually a drink or dessert. Doggy bags and take out boxes do not exist here—food should be savored, eaten leisurely, and finished. The French are in no hurry to get the check. This is a little tricky to adjust to since I’m not used to blocking out time in my schedule to eat time-consuming meals—I’m a typical eat-on-the-go American—but it is also refreshing.

4. What does a typical French lunch look like?

In France, lunch is a much larger meal than dinner. Usually, diners have a small appetizer and a sandwich. I love crudités, cheese and vegetables or meat or fish on crunchy bread, but croque monsieurs (hot ham and cheese) and croque madames (hot ham and cheese with a fried egg on top) are also popular). Sandwiches often come with a small salad (usually just lettuce, which is also strange to get used to) with dijon dressing or frites (French fries). Of course, lunch contains at least one glass of wine (here, soda is often more expensive than wine!) and ends with an espresso. A few interesting side notes: French fries here come with chicken or steak dinners often and are considered a proper side to nice meals. They also have much less salt than American fries. Also, the French love cream sauce, which is fresh and delicious but also probably cancels out the health benefits gained from low sodium content…

5. How often do Parisians drink wine?

Parisians drink wine like Americans drink coffee. Here, coffee can be pricey, but wine is incredibly cheap (The opposite of American prices). Coca-Cola (which here comes in a charming glass bottle and actually contains REAL SUGAR) is more expensive than a verre du vin. The French love to have a glass of wine or two with lunch and dinner, but they drink the wine, like they eat their food, to savor it. They drink leisurely, for the taste rather than the effects, and French wine also contains a lower alcohol content than American wine.

6. And finally, a question I found very interesting: Are there other ethnic cuisines that are popular in France, similar to how “Chinese food” is popular in America?

Sushi and Japanese food are very popular here. Not many restaurants serve any types of food that aren’t French or sometimes Italian, but there are tons of Japanese places throughout Paris. And contrary to ethnic cuisines in America, the food isn’t molded to French standards; it is relatively authentic. Another popular dish is, of all things, the hot dog, which is a little dressier than typical American hot dogs but still an interesting choice for the French. Overall, however, France is definitely not as much of a melting pot as the U.S.

Thanks for reading this post, and make sure to check back for my next report!

À tout à l’heure!

 

 

Culture Shock

Standard

Salut!

I’ve been in Paris for almost a week now and had some time to adapt to the different lifestyle and atmosphere in France after an initial culture shock. Thinking about Europe and especially France in my mind before coming here, I pictured everything as very similar to the way things are in America. Everybody running around frantically, carrying an abnormally-sized coffee in one hand, smiling to strangers on the street, driving bright cars, dressed casually. I guess that says something about my ethnocentric view!

While France and America do have a lot of similarities (they’re both Western first-world countries, and the U.S. stemmed from Europe), I have noticed many interesting differences that at first made me feel unsure and homesick, but now only add to the charm of Paris. I’ve also heard about a lot of stereotypes about Americans that don’t just classify us as an overweight nation that runs on instant gratification, which is always refreshing. In this post, I’ll begin by detailing some differences between French and American culture, and then explore some interesting American stereotypes!

Premier, everything here is so efficient. (In the words of Dr. Roget, the Temple professor on the trip, “I am always impressed with the French combination of efficiency and total inefficiency.”) I was immediately impressed at the airport by the smoothness of it all: every sign was written in French, English, Spanish, and German, and sometimes Japanese as well; a train that ran on electricity whisked me and my flight companions off to baggage claim, which was so simple to navigate; and even the restrooms were efficient—faucets empty into one long, horizontal basin, and the French use loops of cloth towels or air hand dryers (that actually work, and work really well) instead of disposable paper towels. Automatic doors here are thinner and more sensitive, and are cut in half, each half of the door swinging outward, which allows more people to get through faster than a door that slides to the side when opening (You’re probably all terribly bored as I gush over automatic doors, but I promise they were cool). Transportation here is also efficient — I’ve never seen so many energy efficient cars in one city, and there are charging stations throughout the streets. Cars even look sleek; all are boxy and square, and seem to come exclusively in black, gray, white, and silver. Once in a while I’ll see a dark blue car and do a double take. This is one aspect of France that I do not find completely charming — I miss cars in bright colors that have a little personality.

A French license plate on a white car, one of approximately four available colors for cars here.

A French license plate on a white car, one of approximately four available colors for cars here.

The city is also very clean. Rare is the piece of litter or the smell of urine in a Metro stop. (A big contrast compared to Philly!) This is all relative, however—my roommate and I befriended a girl named Lovisa from Sweden in one of our classes, and have been hanging out with her a bit. Lovisa claims that Paris is incredibly dirty compared to her native Stockholm, so I can’t even comprehend how wonderfully clean Stockholm must be.

Lovisa and I (and my roommate) enjoying a delicious homecooked meal at her Parisian apartment!

Lovisa and I (and my roommate) enjoying a delicious homecooked meal at her Parisian apartment!

The French are also very chique themselves. They dress a little nicer than Americans do (and especially nicer than the average American college student). Sweatpants, leggings, and even sneakers are deeply frowned upon. The French also never wear shorts, and it’s a dead giveaway that someone is a tourist if they’re dressed in them. (I’ve gotten very good at guessing people’s nationalities based on their outfits.)

Manners and measures of politeness are also different here. In America, a simple, “Excuse me,” will do as an opening to a question, but in France, you’d better engage in a few minutes of small talk if you want to ask anyone for directions, help in a store, or other inquiries. Sometimes a simple, “Bonjour monsieur/madame. Ca va?” will be enough; other times the person will want to chat for longer (a great way to practice your French). Also, in the U.S., it’s considered polite to smile at a stranger on the street or in an elevator if you make the dreaded eye contact. It took a few taken aback French strangers for me to realize that this is not the case in Paris!

Another aspect of French culture that I really appreciate is the luxury associated with eating or drinking. Back home, everything is “on-the-go.” Here, a meal takes at least an hour and a half, and usually longer. The French take time to savor their food, and the concept of a “doggy bag” does not exist. Shopping is also quaint and charming, but took some adjusting, because no one store sells everything. Fruit must be bought at a separate store from bread, which is sold at a separate store from non-perishable groceries. In France, there is no such thing as a Target or even a Giant; everything is specialized.

There are many more differences between French and American culture, but I digress—it’s time to discuss American stereotypes.The first thing Lovisa, my Swedish friend, ever said to me was, “Are you American?” Apparently we’re easy to spot, and there are a lot of us in Paris. I always thought that the rest of the world did not really like Americans, but Lovisa says in Sweden and other parts of Europe (she’s traveled a lot) we’re considered very friendly and welcoming and that we “smell like flowers.” I was very pleasantly surprised! There are definitely negative aspects to being pegged as American however. Many French shopkeepers or locals will automatically speak in English if they think you’re from the U.S., or take on a patronizing attitude, although I haven’t encountered too many rude Parisians. I’ll sign off for now, but stay tuned for my next post about my time in Paris!

À tout à l’heure!

 

Bienvenue a Paris!

Standard

Bonjour everyone!

Let me start with an introduction. My name is Halana Dash and I’m a Temple sophomore from Abington, PA. My study abroad trip to Paris this summer marks my first time outside of the U.S. (except for a disastrous family trip to the Canadian half of Niagara Falls involving carsickness, a 3 am fire alarm, a lost wallet, and an expulsion from a museum…but I try to forget about that.)

I’ve studied French since seventh grade, and I think every serious French student dreams about visiting France—it’s a pilgrimage, an essential experience. At least I did, but maybe that’s just because I grew up on Madeline and The Aristocats and am obsessed with The Lost Generation. Paris has always been in the back of my mind.

In high school I pictured myself traveling to France much later than the summer after freshman year (!!!) and it still feels a little surreal. Just eighteen hours ago I was on a plane to Paris, my dream destination, gushing about my excitement for the trip to my very patient seat mate. My fear of planes and heights and horrible traveling accidents did not even surface!

I had grand perceptions of Paris, mostly over-romanticized things from books and movies. In Paris, I would walk along the Seine in the rain, sit in cafes where Stein and Fitzgerald and Dali used to talk, eat fresh baguettes every waking minute (I wasn’t 100% wrong about the baguettes). As an undeclared sophomore, I also had this naïve and cliché vision that Paris would strike me with inspiration, and suddenly I would know exactly what to do with my life (and my liberal arts degree). We’ll see if this comes true—since I’ve never left the Philly area for a long period of time, a change of scenery, in one of the most inspirational and cultural cities in the world, might be just what I need to finally find a major.

On a more practical level, my trip lasts four weeks and consists of taking classes at the Sorbonne, a famous French university, exploring the city with my fellow Temple travelers, and taking lots of touristy pictures (although a tourist did think I was a native Parisian today, so I must be doing something right). I am living at the Foyer des International Etudiantes (a hostel for female students during the year, and for international travelers in the summer months), which is right down the street from the Sorbonne in Paris’ Latin Quarter, on the Boulevard St.-Michel ( a very pricey area hotel-wise, but a very cheap option for student housing). The Foyer was founded in 1906 and rebuilt in 1928, and has a lovely rustic, vintage, and quaint Parisian feel. Each room is slightly different and everything is made out of old wood. It also features a single communal toilet for each floor, showers with lovely see-through doors, and extremely thin walls, but unbelievably these only add to the charm. The library and rooftop terrace also offer stunning views of the city.

ImageImage

 

Image

My charming double room in the Foyer, stunning rooftop view of Paris, and one of many small cafés lining the streets.

 

Classes don’t begin until tomorrow, July 3rd, so I’ve had a few days to get used to my jetlag and, more importantly, my neighborhood, which features les Jardins du Luxembourg (the famous Luxembourg Gardens), the Sorbonne, the River Seine and Notre Dame, and many other landmarks and is lined with charming cafes that can be described only as Parisian. In my next post, I will detail more of my everyday observances, especially the differences between American and French culture—merci for reading!

À tout a l’heure!

 

 

Dresden and Week 3 in Leipzig

Standard

 

 

Image

 

Steve and Webb read up on Dresden on the train ride there.

Image

We spent a day in Dresden, mainly in the beautiful Altstadt. There were street performers of all sorts everywhere.

Image

Steve and David joke around as we pause our tour in the Markt area of the Altstadt.

Image

Dr. Waskie showed the group through the city, stopping at each important building to tell us a little about its history.

Image

The ceiling of the Frauenkirche, which is actually a reconstruction. The Frauenkirche was almost reduced to rubble after World War II, but now stands tall in the middle of the Altstadt.

Image

Steve and Dan climbed to the top of the Frauenkirche.

Image

Back in Leipzig: Last week there was a protest at the university against the cutting of some programs, such as archeology. The protest ended up including about 7,500 students. It was really inspiring, but also a little sad for me; we have been dealing with similar problems here at Temple (namely the attempts to cut the African American Studies program) and protests against our program cuts are not nearly as large. It seems that civil unrest is more widespread here, and people aren’t afraid to protest against what they believe is wrong. I feel like in the US, we often just take what we are handed with the mindset of “oh, we’ll never be able to change it.” It’s really a shame.

Image

Johann Sebastian Bach’s grave in the Thomaskirche. As a music theory major, I’m a huge admirer of Bach, who spent the last 27 years of his life here in Leipzig. The day I took this picture I also visited the Bach Museum across the street from the church.

Image

This guy was spotted in the Connewitz neighborhood, laying in the middle of the sidewalk on a sunny day.

Image

Dan, Webb, Steve, and Alex in the hallway after classes ended for the day. Tonight the US is playing against Belgium in the WM, and Dan is already prepared for the game!