Sorbonne + Crêpes + Street Art + Petanque = Another Day in Paris

September 23, 2009

Yesterday was such a wonderfully disjointed day! I discovered my university (twice), ate crêpes (twice), took pictures of street art (several times), and watched older gentlemen play petanque in the park. And the weather continued to be extraordinary!

I had to wake up at 9, which seemed early because I haven’t been sleeping well lately. But it worked out all right, and I managed to meet Madame Hervier at the Sorbonne (the building on Rue Michelet) for a sort of orientation for foreign students taking art history courses. It was fairly pointless, but for me in particular it was not helpful at all. Sweet Briar has done a fabulous job of preparing us for everything, so no information was new to me. But there was MASS PANIC amongst the JYF students when the woman leading the orientation said that students could not take first-year level art history classes. Poor Mme. Hervier was bombarded with questions but I was the only student who wasn’t worried. For whatever reason, Madame Grée had decided that I would be fine in a second-year course, so I am the only one who isn’t now trying frantically to work out a new schedule. I feel bad for everyone else, but relieved that I can continue on as planned. The building itself is beautiful, and as I left (last, as always, after chatting with Mme. Hervier) I almost started to cry. This whole experience is so surreal and amazing to me, I can’t really believe that I’m here, studying at the Sorbonne in Paris. It was a moment of profound happiness and gratitude, and I had to take a picture of the building that brought this on before gathering myself and continuing with my day.

Sorbonne Paris IV, rue Michelet

Sorbonne Paris IV, rue Michelet

After my orientation I had lunch as usual, and bought a delicious crêpe with nutella from the lady who sells them in the Jardin. My friends all had to go to classes but my afternoon was free for a while, so I wandered through parts of the park that I haven’t yet explored. It is a very big park, so there are many different parts that look deceptively similar, until you see something you did not at all expect! I was walking through a new section and taking photographs of stickers on park benches (French street art contains a lot of stickers, I believe because you can mass produce them, you can put them in place very quickly-which means less chance of getting caught-and they can easily put a big message or funny picture in/on small spaces ( like trash bag holders or the backs of road signs, or benches). There wasn’t anything too exciting, but here’s some of what I found:



But then I found something even better than stickers on benches. I discovered where the men in the park play petanque!!! I secretly snapped a few pictures, and then I sat and watched them, and I even took notes! Petanque is basically the French version of bocce ball. There is a tiny green ball, and standing on the other side of the pit you roll/throw metal balls about as big as baseballs at the green ball, or at the other metal balls. The point is to get your ball as close as possible to the green one, and sometimes this means you try to knock another opponent’s ball out of the way! This is a very serious and very social affair. There are 2 yards, which contain the same tiny gravel/sand mixture as the rest of the Jardin, and they are sort of fenced in, with wooden boards along the edges to keep the balls in one place. The surface is uneven and leaves and twigs abound, so the men have to play around these obstacles! In between the two yards there is a coat rack where the gentlemen hang their coats and briefcases to keep them clean and out of the way. I watched a group of about 6 men, between probably 55 and 75 years of age who were all playing together. Several of them had thin ropes with magnets at the end which they used to pick up the balls without bending over, though I found this confusing, since some of these same gentlemen used a squat as their stance of choice when rolling or throwing the ball! Others stood straight, or bent over slightly, some were overhand, others underhand…watching all of the different techniques was fascinating! When there were two balls that appeared to be equidistant from the green one the tape measure came into play, and all of the men would gather around in a huddle to watch the one who was measuring. Occasionally arguments ensued, but they were usually resolved fairly quickly! As you can probably tell I spent quite a while watching, but I wasn’t the only one! The other onlookers were generally also older men, but a few curious people would stop from time to time. I cannot wait to go back and watch them again! Maybe next time I’ll be brave enough to ask if I can photograph them, so I don’t have to take pictures inconspicuously!

Judging the distance

Judging the distance

Later that afternoon I had another rendez-vous with Mme. Hervier, this time in front of the Place de la Sorbonne or the Old Sorbonne, where my English Literature class will be held. I had been amazed at the lovely exterior of the other Sorbonne, but this one was even more fantastic-I only snapped one quick photograph of the outside and one of the courtyard, because I didn’t want to seem too touristy and excited to the French students, but how could I not be excited?!

Place de la Sorbonne (I only got part of it)

Place de la Sorbonne (I only got part of it)

One end of the courtyard-sorry these are so crooked!

One end of the courtyard-sorry these are so crooked!

I registered for my class, along with the 3 other girls from JYF who will be taking it with me (it’s a master’s level 1 class, because we’re native English speakers) and that was it! Mme. Hervier also showed us where they sign up for sports through the school. I want to sign up for yoga, but I would need to get a quick physical first-it may be worth it though! My English class should be great-we’re starting off with reading Edgar Allan Poe, which I’m excited about!

After this I went back to the park with my friends and had another crêpe, this time with sugar and Grand Marnier! The woman noticed that it was my second for the day, and we talked about why I was in France and where I was studying. She said she’ll have to give me a free crêpe for being a loyal customer! While it was a little embarassing that she rcognized me again, free crêpes would certainly be worth it! A bientôt!


One Response to “Sorbonne + Crêpes + Street Art + Petanque = Another Day in Paris”

  1. JimmyBean said

    I don’t know If I said it already but …Cool site, love the info. I do a lot of research online on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks, 🙂

    A definite great read..Jim Bean

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