Friday, June 26, 2009

Free Day

Yesterday was a free day and everybody could do whatever they wanted. Several people went to Versailles, the old royal palace and the recommended option. To get there you take the light rail out of town. Students were comfortable enough to do it on their own. I took a day trip to Normandy. It was a very long but amazing day. Others took advantage of the fact that the annual sale has started in Paris. Louis Vuitton is smiling right now.

Everybody seems to be finding their own favorite things to do. One group goes almost every night to watch the light show at the Eiffel Tour. It is really fun. Others like to go dancing (having gotten recommendations from last year's group.)

Today we learn about the North African immigration to France complete with a lecture from a professor here in France.

I am looking forward to it. The weather has gotten a little rainy so we are now going to get the full Parisian experience.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

June 24, 2009: Giverny

We had great weather today for our trip to Giverny. We started the day with a stop at the Orangerie, a small museum, close to the Place de la Concorde, where some of Monet's huge waterlily canvasses are displayed. While there, we watched part of a great film about Monet's work at his home in Giverny. Then, we hopped on the Parisvision bus and went to Giverny, where we saw "the real thing" --in particular, Monet's Japanese garden. I think everyone enjoyed it very much. It was a bit hot, but that is better than rain. Speaking of which, I think we're due to get rain tomorrow afternoon and it will continue until the end of the trip. I'm posting a few pictures from our day in Giverny.
Yesterday was an important day as we literally sat were Sarte and friends sat and talked about important things. Today is one of the hightlights of the whole trip. We will see a film about Monet, then see his Waterlily paintings at L'Ongerie Museum. We will then visit the pond that is the subject for the painting. The pond is really one of the awesome places in the world, in my humble opinion. We will try to post pictures.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Martyrium / Napoleon's Tomb, etc.

These pictures were taken yesterday, June 22, at Les Deux Magots. The students had an assigned discussion. We have a really great group this year and are enjoying every student!

Today (June 23), the group went to the Martyrium and had a talk by a French Jesuit priest. The Martyrium is important because it is where the patron saint of France, St. Denis, was martyred (beheaded). Also, it is the place where St. Ignatius Loyola and his friends from the Sorbonne made their first vows. We also went to Napoleon's tomb and the students were sent to the Rodin Museum and the Pantheon. We had a wonderful Italian dinner at a neighborhood restaurant.

Day Three

Today we did something a little different. We travelled by train to Chartres, a town about one hour outside of Paris that is the oldest intact Gothic Cathedral in Europe, complete with some spectacular stained glass windows. It was huge, and I was amazed at the engineering skills and the craftsmanship involved. Some of us went to mass. It was first communion for the children the neighborhood. The mass was in French and the Cathedral was packed. It was awesome to think that that people have been gathering to pray for more than 1000 years in that spot. There is an old town around the Cathedral so there was plenty to do for the entire day.

It was great to get outside of Paris and see a little of the country side. And we had wonderful crepes for lunch in a quaint little restaurant.

Some students went to the Eiffel tower when we came back and watched the light show.

(It turns out that the placement of the m, the a, and the period are the most annoying switches in the French keyboard.)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Day Two

Day two of the trip was a very busy day. In the morning we visited the Musee de Orsay, which has all the impressionist paintings. We had read a book The Judgment of Paris about the Impressionists and discussed it online prior to the course and the visit made the discussion and the book all the more real. Emile Zola was one of the main proponents of the Impressionists and his name was mentioned several times in the audio guide, which was very cool. Often the guide voice would say--When this painting was first relased at the Salon, Emile Zola said....and so on.

After lunch, we went to visit Zola's tomb.

After visiting Zola's tomb and learning about the Dreyfus Affair, we briefly stopped outside the crypt where Loyola and the 7 original Jesuits made their initial vows to each other. We then . climbed Montmarte and visited the Church of the Sacre Coeur. Lots of walking. And the walk through the Pigalle district to get there was quite eye opening. Some very raunchy billboards, indeed.

I already can't remember what we ate for dinner, but eating together has been one of the higlights of the trip. The students are having the opportunity to eat a lot of different foods and we really get to talk toeach other.

This was a full, full day and most people crashed at the end, I think.

Day Two

On Friday, everybody was pretty good about getting up on time. The rooms in the hotel are very small (the hotel is unrated so you can imagine) and it is not too quiet. There is no air cnditioning soyou have to sleep with the windows open. It has been cool, however so that is good. The hotel is clean and the people working here are very nice. One or two even speak some English. Okay, one) Still some of the students got some sleep, I guess. Everybody is making their adjustments and having a bunch of high school kids from England isn't making it easier but it ismore fun. Actually, the hotel is pretty typical for these kinds of trips. A couple of our students have had experiences with similar hotels when they were in high school.

The first stop was the Louvre. Everybody got audio guides and off they went. The guides were new and very sophisticated. Of course, I could not get mine to work correctly. Despited the challenges with the guides, everybody got to see the must-see exhibits--the Mona Lisa, Venus di Milo, the statue of Nike, etc. I never can find my way in the Lourve. For such an incredible museum, I wish the authorities would invest a little bit into signage. (They are changing the exhibits. The audio guide frequently did not match to the paintings currently hung.

After lunch in the museum cafeteria (it was a little pricey), we went to the Museum of the City of Paris. It was all in French and most people ran through it as quickly as possible (nobody bowled me over as they ran out--thank goodness for small favors)

Many of the students then took naps to feel more rested for the evening. We ate dinner in a great Chinese restaurant in the neighborhood. I loved it. For some, it was the first time they ate Chinese food! Most of the students went to the Latin Quarter at night.

First Days

The first couple of days of the trip have been great. Everybody arrived relatively on time and we made our way into Paris on the light rail in two groups without a problem. The students explored the neighborhood while I waited for some of the students who had come in early to arrive. After everybody had checked in, we immediately headed out for a walk through the Marais district (the old Jewish quarter), stopping at two Holocaust memorials, and then making our way to the Cathedral of the Notre Dame. Notre Dame is always awesome and it looks even etter right now because a project to clean th facade was recently finished; We had dinner that night in the Latin Quarter. The food left a lot to be desired but it was fun. When we returned to the hotel, some of the students decided to go out for a while to a local spot in the neighborhood. They did stay out too late. Even they were tired.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Students Arrive

The first group of students arrived and were met at CDG without a problem. One of my students, Kiko, was basically the last one off the plane so I was very happy to see her. The students are now exploring the neighborhood as we wait for the second group to arrive and for our rooms to be ready for check-in. This keyboard writes in a French accent. The travellers are tired but in very good spirits. Tonight, we go to the Notre Dame and the Latin Quarter.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Night Before

The students should all be on their way to the airport, as I write. Today we scouted some places that will not be on the trip next year as well as taking dry runs for some of the events this year. We went to the Louvre and then walked out with taking in the exhibitions, which took a little will power. We had a wonderful Chinese dinner. The students will have the opportunity to eat there later in the week.

We are still working out our telecommunications set up. Dr. Nell purchased a French Sim card that doesn't work. The hotel does not enable outbound calls, even with a calling card. I have to use pay phones on the street. Jeez, what a throw back.

The students are arriving in several different waves. Hopefully everybody's planes will be relatively on time. Tomorrow, we will stop at the Cathedral of the Notre Dame, the Memorial for the Deportations, which is our main meeting place, and a few other places on our way to a nice French dinner in the Latin Quarter to start our trip.

We are not going to blog everyday because we don't want to spend too much time on the Internet.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


First of all, this is a French keyboard so I am excused from all typos. Weather is great. Hotel is in good location. Small rooms but that is to be expected. ATM worked Estonian cellphone works. Blog works. The World is a small place. Started to plan dinners. We will eat Greek; Turkish; North African, Italian. France is very multicultural cuisine wise. We are excited.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Leaving for Paris

I leave for Paris tonight. Right now I am remembering how much I don't like to travel by air. Too many moving parts. Too many things that can go wrong. As I have gotten older, I have gotten more anxious about the whole process.

I go through the same cycle with travel all the time--right now I am trying to remember why I ever want to go anywhere. But I am anticipating that I will have a good time when I get to Paris and hopefully, will be able to do it again next year.

But for now, it is on to the Philly airport for departure.