Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bastille Day! And Claude Monet

I was lucky enough to experience Bastille Day — a French National Holiday celebrated on the 14th of July every year to commemorate the 1790 storming of the Bastille to free prisoners, which marked the beginning of the French Revolution. I love the history I am learning here! So the French celebrate this day on the evening and the day of Bastille. On the night of July 13, they open thedoors of every fire station andthrow a ball. I had the opportunity to visit one a few metro stops up from my “home” and I was only asked for a small donation to enter. There were probably over 2,000 people dancing under lights and to music. The firemen were dancing around and the streets afterwards were filled with people, noise, and celebration. The following day there was a military parade that I missed unfortunately even though I ran in the rain to try to see it. I did get to see some of the aftermath and ran into some good photograph opportunities.

That night, after a few classes, some friends and I headed to the Montparnasse tower where we could see a 360-degree view of Paris. As we waited for the sun to go down, it got increasingly colder as we sat, talked and photographed. (It got so cold I purchased a hoodie). We had the perfect view of the Eiffel tower, where the fireworks were set off. When the fireworks began, the crowd that joined us on the tower were in awe of the show. My camera snapped, my eyes lit up and I enjoyed the celebration and appreciated Parisian history.

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to visit Givery, 50 miles from Paris, where the famous painter Claude Monet lived and created his impressionistic oil paintings. This was a fieldtrip with my photography class where I was supposed to, beforehand, pick a Monet painting and capture that panting in real life as a photograph. I chose 3-4 paintings to give me options and I finally picked a water lily composition that I feel that I capture quite nicely on film, as you see below. (Monet on top, my photo on bottom)

This week I also took a trip to the Sacre Coeur, a Roman Catholic church dedicated to the sacred heart of Jesus, where I scaled an infinite number of steps to reach the second largest point in Paris. Again, the view was stunning and the church itself was beautiful. I had myself a lovely crepe and a glass of wine and saw many recognizable places where the film Amelie was captured, which was exciting and added to the ambiance of the place.

Many amazing times here in the big P… can’t wait to come back one day already!

The architecture is inspiring, but I still miss Mexican food!

Last Wednesday we hit the halfway mark. I am holding onto every moment in this beautiful country and embracing every experience so that these next few weeks do not fly by. Yesterday I went with a group of girls to Chatres, an hour south of France, where I got to see one of the most famous Cathedrals and Crypts, known for its perfection of stained glass art. This was a beautiful small town and the Cathedral was breathtakingly gorgeous. Until then, I had never in my life lost feeling in my toes because of the overwhelming details of gothic architecture and stained glass. This only broadened my interest in France, as up until now I have only spent my time in Paris.

Tomorrow I am going on a field trip with my photography class to the Palais Garnier, an opera house that inspired Gaston Leroux in 1909 to write the Phantom of the Opera. This story is very dear to my heart so this field trip will be truly inspirational. The best part about this photography class is that the places I have been make it really easy to capture beauty. The true challenge is to capture the beauty that you see beyond what is right in front of you. I am forced to look deeper and find and record what stands out to me, not just what I see first hand. What is great about this is that I see more in a building than I would just passing by; I get to sit there and study it for a few minutes.

Professor Desmal Purcell is an amazing photography professor and I would highly recommend him and to check out his photography at http://desmundo.com/ . I purchased a photo from him the other day. He held a small exhibition at the Cite Universitaire and I fell in love with one that captured the history of Shakespeare and the famous bookstore here called Shakespeare Co. I have learned more than I even realize on this trip about art history, French history, English history, and so on. I feel like a limitless sponge soaking up knowledge that I never want to release.

This past weekend I also went to see the Moulin Rouge up close, which was fun. I also got to go on a mini trip with Prof. Purcell where we practiced night photography and I took a lot of photos that were lomography inspired. Last week I got to visit the Louvre. Here I got to see world famous paintings such as the Mona Lisa, The Raft of Medusa, and Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon I and Coronation of the Empress Josephine in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris on 2 December 1804. It was funny trying to see the Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa because it was behind glass, surrounded by security, blocked by rope about 10-15 ft away from the painting and with hundreds of onlookers trying to get their snapshot the most celebrated and widely reproduced work of all time.

I’ve recently come to a few starling revelations about my time here. First, it's now strange to hear English in public… I was on the metro a few nights ago and I heard a group of people speaking in English and I turned my head back real quick — shocked to be able to understand the noise surrounding me! Another is, I miss Mexican food. I spent over an hour last night with some friends trying to find a Mexican restaurant and to our luck, the one we found was closed. Almost everything is closed on Sundays in France, so I should have known. Anyway, as much as I love it here, I sure do miss having a Mexican restaurant readily accessible! I wonder what I’ll miss next week!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Falling in love...

I have spent 10 days in Paris, and already I have fallen in love. It happened to me on the metro, on the way to the Eiffel Tower… a man came on and started playing music, and I was looking outside the windows over the city. I was filled with a warm feeling that hasn't left me since.

I arrived July 2 — jet lagged, in bad mood, not knowing a thing about what I was doing and so forth and so on. Since my first day, I have learned a great deal of the French language, eaten the best salad of my life, and visited Jim Morrison's grave, the Sacre Coeur, Notre Dame, and the Eiffel Tower numerous times. I have gone to a piano bar and heard a talented pianist play Michael Jackson tunes, sat on a bridge and played guitar with accommodating French boys, and taken many wonderful photographs. I got to visit the Dali Museum, and an exhibition by an amazing photographer named Willy Ronis.

Classes have been really simple so far and I have enjoyed every moment of them. I met an American girl last night who has lived here for almost two years. She convinced me that it's realistic to live here and go to school! I would absolutely love that, and I believe it's at least an option I can keep in consideration for the future. There have been so many experiences that it’s somewhat of an overload of excitement for me. There are seemingly endless things to do here and I can already tell I am a different person after such a short time; I feel more educated with every day I spend here.

I have to walk everywhere and learn how to navigate the city streets using only "Franglais" (a slang term the French use for the combination of French and English). There have been some amazing Parisians that have guided me towards home when I have gotten lost and written down plenty of places to visit while I'm here. When I think about the next couple of weeks and what I still have to experience, it still doesn’t feel real. My room is really nice, although there is no air conditioning! The first thing I did when I got here was buy a mini osculating fan to help cool off. It doesn't get dark here until about 10 p.m. and the sun comes up around 6:30 a.m.; this leaves me with plenty of daylight to do anything I would like.

The freedom I have here is amazing. I have already made a ton of new friends and every day I make a new one, either through the program or a true Parisian! I look forward to the many future adventures as well as the knowledge I will gain about French culture and new photography techniques.