Explorations of the past few days


Thursday
Somehow, made it back to Sacre Coeur, again.

I’ve gone through my planner and written in each art gallery I intend to visit for each afternoon I have free. And so I write the name of the art gallery and the metro stop, all without directions. The goose hunt for the intended spot of visit is all a part of the fun (much to the  frustration of the friends I often drag along. Who, you know, would be more comfortable if I had a general sense of where I was going. But hey, I’ve yet to not find what I’m looking for. And really, there’s nothing like the ol’ scenic walk.)

So yes, back to Sacre Coeur as it turned out Halles St. Pierre, a contemporary art gallery, is at the base of the basilica’s hill. But like, had no way of knowing that prior because the name of the museum and the metro stop was all I had written.

The exhibits at the museum were all, as art typical is, comments on society. I like that about art, art that makes you think.


Calamity (2011)
Ray Caesar’s Calamity (2011) was hung outside of the main exhibit. (For those interested, here is a link to his work on display.) It’s an interesting piece, one that reminds me of Fragonard’s The Swing. The Swing, shocking in its day, features a girl on a swing, her leg elevated allowing the male voyeur below a prime view of all above her skirt. In Caesar’s Calamity, the girl falls off the swing. Her legs are still spread, albeit mid- fall. But none is covered, a comment, I believe, on the evolution to the tarnished sense of values that infiltrates our society today. The slipper falls off the girl in this image. Slippers by the bed are typically symbolic of fidelity; in contrast, the missing glass slipper is a theme of fantasy love. And so I see the falling slipper as the loss of fidelity within the world of love.  

In comparison, Fragonard's The Swing
I wasn’t able to take pictures within the main exhibit, but I was taken to a piece featuring a figure of three girls. The girls’ heads and feet were painted in, but their bodies were transparent. A transparent soul, in a way. How much of who we are is a product of ourselves and how much of we are is a product of our environment?

The theme resonates with me. I’m here in Paris, in a country that, had I not moved away from at age 4, I would have grown up in. How much of who I am today would still be me had I grown up in France? It's a thought I think often. People can tell I am American by the way I act. Yet, I’m only American because I grew up in America. Had I stayed in France, I would blend in seamlessly. My French would have been beautiful, my English horrendous. Had I stayed in London, my English would have been gorgeous. And who knows? I may not have even known how to speak French.

Is who we are actually who we are?
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I grabbed an afternoon crepe after the museum, sitting on an outdoor seat of the café. The seat faced the road in front (um, invitation to people watch) and Sacre Coeur ahead. Location: beyond ideal.

Friday
St. Chapelle
I’ve gathered from my three weeks in Paris that the weather here thoroughly enjoys playing games. Sunny one day, sub- below zero freezing temperatures (by Florida standards) the next. Throw in some rain to the mix too.

But Friday, the cards were in our favor and high winter temperatures and sun were in the day’s plan.

Following Phonetics (which, I should mention, is right next to Notre Dame), I  set off for St. Chapelle. St. Chapelle is an incredible work of high- gothic architecture—stained glass in lieu of walls: a gothic architect’s dream come true.

I strolled through the city, passing through a market, crossing the Pont (bridge) Notre Dame, attempted but failed to take motion pictures on my SLR and eventually ended up meeting a friend opposite l’Hotel de Ville. We sat for a while, soaking in our gift of sun (three weeks without its strong presence makes you far more appreciative).

The scribbled agenda plans for Friday included a visit to Paris’s Chinatown. And so I dragged my friends along, set to find the Chinatown arch I was so sure existed. As it turns out, however, Chinatown arch does not, in fact, exist here. And the vibrancy of Chinatowns in all other parts of the world, also, has not replicated itself in Paris. Not a success, but on a positive note, I am glad we tried.

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Chabad of Camps Elysees is the only venue in the city that provides a weekly, organized shabbat meal. So of course, that’s where I went, bringing my two non- Jewish friends along with me.

It was a typical Chabad service, most of the prayers sped through, many done so as personal prayers. But the tunes and order were familiar, a factor I quite liked.

Dinner was lovely, a welcoming and inviting community of individuals from all across the world. (Rabbi: from Rio. Those at dinner: some from Baltimore, others from Israel, many from Morrocco. Not as many from Paris.) The meal was free for given our student status. Free, as in three, free massive courses. Kosher turkey and all. It’s a shame to go boxes haven’t caught on here.  

We conversed in frenglish as our table was largely bilingual. It's a fair way to have a conversation, seeing as their English is as good as our French.

Dinner finished at 10:30. My friends and I walked along the Champs Elysées, leaving a friend to go home and then continuing on to the Eiffel Tower. And that’s where my friend and I stood out front, watching the white bulbs sparkle (but actually, the Eiffel Tower just looks like its been electrocuted) as the time struck 10 minutes before the hour. We stood there and talked, forever. About life and religion, our future, the unknown.
 

I wear a necklace my best friends from home sent me for my 19th birthday. Pendants hang from the chain; Among the mini camera and the airplane and the globe hangs a mini Eiffel Tower. A small copy of the real, massive structure towering in front of me.

I've been blessed with all that's gotten me to where I am today. This is all real. This is my life, however temporarily. Yet, I thought as I stood gazing at the Eiffel Tower ahead, this life is only temporary if I choose it to be. Who really knows where life will end up taking me in the future.

Saturday
So I told a friend I’d meet her at a flea market at 11 am. But given 11 am was when I woke up, 1 pm was when I actually met up with her. Which, of course, is also the time the flea market was closing. We walked around for a little, eventually grabbing her a lunch at a boulangerie. (My house mother has been out of town so I’ve been trading in my toast breakfast for toast lunch.) There were no seats inside of the boulangerie so we stand outside under the bus stop. And when a bus came, I suggested we hop on board and just see where it takes us.

Food to go, French style.

We arrived at Chatelet 30 minutes later, a busy metro station as about a thousand lines run through it. I had wanted to go to Musée Marmottan Monet, an impressionist museum largely featuring Monet’s work. We located the proper route, which thankfully was not too far from Chatelet.

Marmottan Monet is a smaller, impressionist museum, held within what used to be a duke’s hunting lodge. The interior is decorated as if it were a home; the walls are a gorgeous tiffany blue with white cram molding decorations. There was a dining room table and stunning chandelier in what could have been the dining room, pots and vases placed on top of the cabinets, chairs (on display, not for sitting) spread across the space. We have art in my home, yet I never take time to walk around each room, gazing and analyzing each piece. But because the museum has the word museum attached to it, because I paid a set fee to get in, it automatically guides us to interact with the art differently. I don’t pay notice to the furniture in my home, or the colors of my walls. Yet, in a museum, it all plays a part in the way I appreciate art. The manner in which we interact with art is such a social contsruction. We’re lap dogs to society and for the most part, we’re trained to sit pretty well.

Sunday






My Paris and Civilization class (all six of us), in addition to two other friends from the program (so pretty much, almost all of my program), were set to take a day trip to Versailles. My teacher instructed us to meet at the St. Michel metro at 11 am. Of course, I, being the one who lives closest to the metro, was late.

We didn’t go inside the palace as all the original furniture had been moved out during the French Revolution and so it’s present day state is a complete reproduction. The gardens, however, are still intact, almost exact to the way Louis XIV left them.  

The gardens are massive—gorgeous, yet a complete fabrication intended to portray the great power of the king. We visited Marie Antoinette’s home (a separate mansion on the outskirts of the grounds), in addition to her “play village”—a not quite life- size small village in which she had her “bedroom,” her “ruin” (a dilapidated home… all fairy tales have to have something ruined) and her “animals.” During her free time, Marie would dress up in a milkmaid costume and play house in the village.

Really explains a thing or two.

The gardens of Versailles

Marie Antoinette's "play village"

_________________

I returned home late Sunday evening to an empty apartment as Madame is presently out of town. Not complaining as it gives me the freedom to use the kitchen. And as a home stay student, the kitchen has become the most wanted yet most inaccessible part of living in someone else’s home.

And so a new week begins.
The weeks: I swear they go by fast here. 

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