“Vous Avez Rencontre le President, Mademoiselle?”: Journees Europeennes du Patrimoine

September 21, 2009

This last weekend I decided to do something different. I was looking for quiet and time to myself, so I had  two small excursions to buildings that were open for the Journees Europeennes du Patrimoine. This was a tradition started in France, which now is held across Europe. For one weekend a year, France opens various government buildings and monuments and museums etc. to the public, generally for free. It is actually a very popular and very wonderful idea. The French take their families and friends to see and appreciate things that are normally off limits, and it is a fantastic cultural and educational experience!

I felt sort of funny walking around by myself, because I don’t think that the majority of visitors are in my age group, and I know for certain that there are not many young people who go by themselves! However, I appreciated having some time to just appreciate the building and its surroundings without socializing. I’ve spent so much time with my friends here in Paris that I wanted to try out complete independence and solitude for a few hours. That’s how I found myself enjoying a sandwich on the edge of the large fountain, watching the children play with boats on the water, and then wandering around the French Senate! (and later that weekend, l’Hôtel de Pomereau, which is the gorgeous building where my host brother, Tiburce, works).

I explored the Palais du Luxembourg which as I mentioned in a previous post, houses the French Senate. The outside is lovely, and I look at it almost every day, since I always eat lunch in the Jardin!

Palais du Luxembourg
Palais du Luxembourg

However, just like most French buildings, the inside is where everything is really gorgeous! I love that in France they use old palaces and homes for very modern purposes, but they tend to keep the decor and even as much of the furniture as possible, only changing what really needs to change in order for the space to be functional. I haven’t spent much time in D.C, so I cannot say that the French buildings are more beautiful than the American ones, but I do know for sure that our buildings were never Palaces for a queen who missed her native Italy and wanted to recreate it in France! As soon as I walked in and saw the grand staircase with its incredible ceiling, I was overwhelmed, but in a good way!

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I know you are all probably sick of hearing about the ceilings and the light fixtures, so I won’t say anything. I’ll just insert a few pictures. I have a feeling that when I go home to the States I’m going to want to paint my bedroom ceiling. The crick in my neck from staring up so often really is worth it, when I can see things like these rooms:

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But it didn’t end with the ceilings, there were so many other lovely things! Tapestries, furniture, gardens, and the room where the French Senate meets! I loved it all, and I am sad that it is only open 2 days a year, because it is something I would love for everyone to be able to visit! I’ll haphazardly post my remaining favorite pictures but I won’t comment any more, since they pictures explain things better than I can anyways!

I want a library just like this one! But smaller... I want a library just like this one! But smaller…
The Jardin seen from the Palace-can you imagine this being your view every day?
The Jardin seen from the Palace-can you imagine this being your view every day?
Where the Senate meets
Where the Senate meets
Just one of the tapstries on the wall
Just one of the tapestries on a wall
A Roman mosiac given to France by the Tunisian government (if I translated the plaque correctly) A Roman mosiac given to France by the Tunisian government (if I translated the plaque correctly)

I finished up the day by visiting some of the smaller buildings around the palais. They have various official purposes, and the title of this entry (translated) “Did you meet up with the President Mademoiselle?” comes from a friendly guard attempting to make conversation. I was so wrapped up in my own thoughts and so surprised to hear someone address me that all I could do was emit a tiny surprised “non” and a nervous laugh. I realized two seconds later that to be appropriately witty in return I should have said “yes, and he says hello!” but alas, it was too late! Maybe next time…

Now to change the topic completely, I suppose I should update everyone on what else I’ve been doing these past few days! Friday night several of us attempted to go out, but we learned that not having a specific place (or at least street) in mind makes it quite difficult to have a nice night. We wandered for such a long time that when we finally ended up at a café near Notre Dame we had only an hour to sit before catching the metro home. It was still fun to just relax and observe French nightlife, but I learned the hard way that night that the French cannot make chocolate chip cookies or brownies. Those simple American classics are best in America, go figure!

Saturday night we were all either busy or exhausted, so I had a quiet evening at Aisha’s apartment with Andy. Aisha lives with a family, but they were out of town for the weekend and gave her permission to have friends over, so we cooked a proper French dinner! Upon telling my host mother this later she corrected me and said that cous-cous is NOT French, but I told her that while we did eat cous-cous, we also had the proper French courses, which is not normal in America. Dinner every night in France consists of (in generally the same order) the main course, followed by salad, bread and cheese, dessert, and then a piece of fruit. My friends and I were proud of how well we were acclimating to French life even when it was just the three of us, and after my explanation I think my host mother was pleased with me too! We even listened to some of Aisha’s host family’s French cd’s! Though they also had a lot of Bonnie Raitt, strangely enough!

Yesterday was quiet, but it was still nice, and the weather was glorious! Sundays are the hardest days as a student away from home, because they are family days in France as well as in the States, and as funny as it is the thing I miss most is just hanging around the house with Mom, Dad, Brooks, and of course Dixie! As it was I had lunch in the Jardin with Andy, but instead of the usual sandwich we had crepes with egg, ham, and cheese, which while not the same as one of Dad’s famous omelets, were still very good! I visited where Tiburce works and met Aisha for hot chocolate and créme brulee later that afternoon at a café near her apartment. I came home to a dinner of duck, potatoes, bread, a very good cheese, and homemade yogurt, and I got to talk to Mom on skype, which was by far the best part of my day!

The big news is that my classes are finally starting! My Sorbonne courses don’t start until I believe October 5th, but I had my first Sweet Briar course today! It is primarily focused on writing, but also on speaking, and just helping us with the French language in general! Madame Mellado said that she has three goals for our course; improving our grammar, enriching our vocabularies, and eliminating anglicisms from our speech! The third thing is a very big problem for students of any language, and it is in my opinion the hardest thing to master. I frequently speak to my host family in French words, but not the French language! For example, everyday sayings “out of sight, out of mind” are of course different. If I directly translated that phrase the French would not understand, but I learned the French expression today, which is “loin des yeux, loin du coeur” (far from the eyes, far from the heart). There are also two different ways to say “as” in French, and while we have one word for different purposes in English, the French don’t understand if you use the incorrect French “as”. In a nutshell, translating English into French words does not really work. If this sounds confusing or doesn’t make sense, I apologize! To kind of understand just go onto a website for a foreign country that is translated into English. You’ll think the mistakes are hilarious, until you’re the one making them! None the less, it only really makes sense when you place the two languages side by side, as my professor did many times today. She is really smart and animated and I am already (obviously!) learning many useful and interesting things after just the first day!

I have been in France for almost a month, and while the newness is starting to wear off, I am starting to feel more and more at home in Paris. When I hear English on the street I am always surprised and disoriented! My French has hit a bit of a wall, and all of us students have given up on speaking French together for the time being, but I know that it will cycle back around. Having classes really helps, and I know my brain will give in and accept French eventually! I just hope that it happens soon! A bientôt!

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2 Responses to ““Vous Avez Rencontre le President, Mademoiselle?”: Journees Europeennes du Patrimoine”

  1. Aunt Terri said

    Would you like me to ship some home-made chocolate chip cook cookies? A familiar taste from America. Love you!

    • Victoria said

      OH my goodness I would LOVE that!!!!!!! The French can’t make cookies-at all, and I miss them desperately! I’ll send you my address on facebook asap!

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