The Construction of French Cultural Identity in the Pantheon

By Alexandra Womack

Pantheon 1On May 27, 2015, a somber procession made its way to the Pantheon of Paris. It was bringing the coffins of four members of the French Resistance, including two women, Germaine Tillion and Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz–whose coffins were symbolic, as they contained dirt from their gravesites—and two men, Jean Zay and Pierre Brossolette. Although the whole world may not have been watching, it seemed that much of Paris was there in person. Our class was fortunate enough to also be in attendance, watching along with several thousand French men and women as history was made right before our eyes. Tillion and de Gaulle-Anthonioz, along with compatriots Zay and Brossolette, are not the only members of the Resistance now found in the cool darkness of the crypt—they join Jean Moulin, an administrator and a resistor during the German occupation of the country who died after his capture and torture by German officers. Originally laid to rest in Père Lachaise Cemetery, Moulin’s remains were transferred to the Pantheon in 1964. The interment of Tillion, de Gaulle-Anthonioz, Zay, and Brossolette was a celebration of the spirit of the Pantheon 2Resistance. These four heroes present new faces that promote the ideals of the motto “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité,” which dates from the French Revolution.

The presence of both Moulin and these four resistors gave all of us a unique chance to experience how cultural memory persists in France, and especially in places such as the Pantheon. The idea of these lieux de mémoire, or “places of memory,” is a foreign one to me; I can think of only a few places in the United States that act as a receptacle for our collective cultural memory in the same way as the Pantheon does for France. The French actively establish these “places of memory” and continue to maintain them through times of war and peace, abundance and strife. I was vividly reminded of this when I stepped into the building for the first time, three days after we had watched that stately procession. In Photo from Rosethe echoing space, it seemed that all aspects of French spirit shared space—Sainte Genevieve, patron saint of Paris, watched over us from great murals splashed across almost every wall; a marble statue that dominated the far wall of the building depicted intellectuals and soldiers alike seeking the attention of Marianne, who stood triumphant over the words Vivre Libre ou Mourir, “Live Free or Die.” The Pantheon of Paris lacks overzealous grandeur, despite its eclectic style; it is made beautiful not by its decorations but by the uniform message of cultural pride and remembrance that it presents. I was really moved by our visit to the Pantheon and it was an honor to be in the presence of the tombs of the people that France considers great enough to honor forever; of all the monuments and the places that we visited, the Pantheon was definitely one of the most moving.

Exploring Lyon

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The smellier the cheese, the better it tastes!

 

The Miners study abroad program took a trip to spend a day in the city of Lyon with other students from our IFALPES school. This is the second biggest city in France and is very different from other places we have visited. We were able to see a big street market for antiques, visit a variety of shops with cheese or pastries, enjoy a cultural festival, explore two beautiful religious establishments, and check out some Roman ruins.

A focal point of the city is two religious buildings that are in eyesight of each other. The photo 1Cathedral Saint Jean is at the bottom of a steep hill, nestled in with the rest of the city. The Basilica of Fourvière graces the top of a cliff in a very spectacular way. The climb up to Fourvière was intense but worth the visit. The basilica has beautiful mosaics, and since it is at the top of a large hill, it gives one the chance to get really familiar with the layout of the city because the views are spectacular. Our tour guide spoke only French, but the longer I am on this trip the more I understand. He explained some interesting information about the basilica’s architecture and art. Later during our visit of Lyon, we walked though the narrow streets with interesting shops in what seemed like complex medieval mazes. We got to see and hear the inside scoop on the city—tagging along with a local guide leads to the best surprises.

The longer I stay in France the more amazed I am about the gorgeous churches. I was able to hear a mass in French at the Fourvière Basilica. I was stunned by all of the mosaics, paintings, and even just the floor plan of the basilica.

IMG_5560Walking across the Roman ruins of an ancient amphitheater is truly remarkable. Step on the stones, climb on to center stage, hike up to the very back, and imagine the grand Roman productions that took place there. Those Romans knew what they were doing with architecture and planning because our group tested how one could simply talk at center stage and others can hear what is being said fairly high up into the amphitheater. The aisles and seats in the amphitheater have clearly stood the test of time for centuries. I can only imagine seeing a stage production and hearing people sing in this ancient ruin back in the day.

What has been wonderful about this whole study abroad excursion is that there is structure but at some points we have some time to explore on our own. Ashley and I partnered up to walk around Lyon. While on a journey back to the bus to take the group back to Annecy, we were side tracked by a huge cultural festival. People from all over the world dressed up in their finest and truly painted a picture of how diverse Lyon is. Many beautiful faces and costumes with dynamic music were parading through the streets. Various art objects, food, and goods were onIMG_5633 display to reveal a colorful feast for the eyes. My particular favorite was the Chinese dragon diving through the crowds and some women dressed up in huge gowns.

All in all, Lyon was a great sample of yet another diverse city in France with excellent food, culture, architecture, and museums. It was a perfect Saturday well spent, away from language class in school. Getting French taught on site, using local dialect and slang, leads to great leaps of learning. It is an excellent aid to the grammar lessons at IFALPES and very beneficial.

Here are links to the IFALPES school we attended and to the IFALPES Facebook page that has all kinds of fun anecdotes.

 

The View

By Rosamond Hoyle

Rose AnnecyI grew up for a time in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and I visited the Andes in Peru when I was 11. I am familiar with the beauty of mountains but I had no idea just how stunning and subtly different the Alps in Annecy would be: the immense blue-green lakes winding their way through the valley, the far-off peaks still crested with snow as sunbathers spread themselves out over the beach, and the light blue haze haloing it all.

While the scenery is beautiful, one of my favorite parts of the Annecy leg of this tripRose 2 Annecy is the chance to see some different French culture. This was especially easy since we are staying with French host families. My host family lives up on the side of a mountain with an amazing view overlooking the lake and the town. It was very hard learning to live with them at first. Between the language barrier and figuring out the ins and outs of their household, I first thought that I would hate living with a host family. After the struggle of interpreting and then getting over all the eccentricities that come along with living with another family, something that accompanies living in a foreign situation and not just with a foreign family, I began to truly enjoy my time in Annecy.

Rose 3 AnnecyThe efficient bus system can take me anywhere I want to go in the city. In the end, this is not necessary because, each day after class, we wander the same scenic centre ville for hours; shopping in little boutiques, walking and swimming in the lake, and eating ice cream almost every day. Annecy is like something from a storybook. The old cobblestone roads wind their way around churches and canals, all leading the to lake cradled by the mountains.

As the days have passed I have gotten used to riding the bus, going to school, and living with my host family. The scenery however, I could never get used to. Even during my last week here, the view as I ride the bus down the mountain to school in the morning still takes my breath away.

 

A Whole New World

By Darci Graefser

20150602_120215This morning I was reminded that today officially marks the halfway point of my France study abroad experience, and honestly, it is very bittersweet information. I do not think that anyone could have accurately warned me about how much I would miss home: my friends and family, a language that I am fluent in, and just the overall comforts of being in the culture I know. However, at the same time, I wish I could have more time to learn here. I feel like my French is improving immensely with each day that passes, and even beyond that, I believe my sense of cultural appreciation is continually growing.

My first night in Annecy was very difficult for me. I arrived at the train station and within minutes was whisked away, taken to the home of someone who was a stranger to me. At first, my brain had a very difficult time processing all the French that was20150603_151555 coming at me in rapid-fire mode and I was overwhelmed. I quickly learned that my homestay mom spoke no English, only Italian and French, and realized, just as quickly, how difficult a language barrier can be. I was lucky to be paired with such a wonderful host who is very patient with me when I struggle and is helping me to understand by explaining things in different ways until I comprehend them. However, it can be very frustrating at times when you are asked a question, have many thoughts about the topic, but lack the words to be able to convey that message. For the first few days, I found myself limited to yes/no answers and felt like I could not express the real me.

20150602_115812Thankfully, since I have arrived in Annecy, communicating has become a lot simpler. I am not sure if it is from becoming more familiar with the language through my classes, my host mom speaking slower, or some mixture of the two, but it is definitely a breath of fresh air. While I am here, I am taking a language intensive course at IFALPES and in my opinion, this is an incredible school. There are students in my class who are from all over the world (Japan, Ukraine, Germany, Libya, and Venezuela, just to name a few) and have come to learn French here in Annecy just like me. Since none of these countries share a native language, the only way we are all able to communicate with one another is through French. To me, this is amazing since we are continually putting our studies into practice with others whose French is at the same level as our own. Also, I think it is wonderful to be meeting friends from all over the world who are going through the same experiences as me and to learn how the culture here in France varies from the culture of our various home countries.

When the train started going through the outskirts of Annecy, I began to wonder if I had accidentally dozed off. I would not have been surprised if all of the sights around me were just a dream. The green mountains and sparkling blue lake made me feel like I was living in a fairy tale. Even now, nine days after I have arrived here I cannot get over the lakefront view with the mountains in the background. If you look towards the peak of the mountains, you can see snow. This is such an unbelievable contrast from the gorgeous 85-degree weather we have been having here. Since I have arrived in Annecy, I have made sure to walk to the parks in front of the lake each day and just take in everything around me. There is something magical about walking through the ‘centre ville’ with the multicolored buildings, gorgeous flowers, and sparking canals surrounding me that leaves me no doubt that Annecy is the most beautiful city I have ever seen.

From Paris to Annecy

By Ashley Crannick

IMG_0829I have officially finished my first week in Annecy! What an amazing adventure so far. In the beginning, I was a little timid about staying with a host rather than living alone or with the group that I came here with. Living with a stranger in a foreign country isn’t exactly the most comfortable situation in my eyes; however, living with a host has greatly improved my comprehension of the language and given me a different cultural outlook of the French people! I admit that the first couple of days it was tough to adjust. In Paris, I had a lot of people speaking English to me, so coming to Annecy was difficult because I had to completely immerse myself in the language and keep up. [Read more…]

Friday in Paris

By Katie Werth

IMG_0794Friday in Paris [May 29] was an incredibly fun day! We met one of Mme Langston’s friends, Drew Flanagan. He gave us a very interesting lecture on colonial expositions in Paris, which occurred in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He took us to the Bois de Vincennes where some of these events happened and explained the process, which consisted of taking people from colonized areas, making an exhibit that looked like their “natural habitat,” and then putting them on display so visitors to the exposition could see how the people of those regions lived. We went to the Musée de l’histoire de l’immigration, a museum located near the park that gives you a good idea of the kinds of people who immigrated to France. They had a really cool fashion display that showed couture fashion and its changes through the past century. After the museum we went to an area in the park where there was a lake. We were attacked by geese, or at least I was. After one came and stole my bread off of my leg, Drew grabbed someone’s backpack IMG_0801and heroically scared away the geese by swinging it at them. It was quite comedic. After lunch we went on a long walk through the Bois de Vincennes to get to the Jardin d’agronomie tropicale, which was designed for the 1907 Colonial Exposition. It was very cool to see the old structures and to think about how they were used. Drew explained how the people who were on display there would be dressed in very stereotypical clothing and then would perform an act such as basket weaving. It was a tiring day from the long walking and the heat, but it was also an amazing time.

Just Another Parisian Day on a Beautiful Monday!!

By Julie Glenn

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Julie at Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame and the Latin Quarter were the first places the Miner crew visited. They are in an older section of town and if you look down the streets you can see how narrow they are, with the cobblestones still in place. This is a chance to truly get the feeling of what medieval Paris felt like because many of these types of neighborhoods were torn down to make room for wider boulevards, especially during the nineteenth century. The streets are very beautiful and are lined with many cafés serving a variety of food. Flowers can be seen hanging off of some balconies and there seem to be flower stores on every corner. The French have an appreciation for fresh flowers and a love for fresh pastries. Israeli, Japanese, Parisian, and Italian are just a few of the types of delicious cuisine that you can find in Paris, which illustrates how diverse the city is. The Latin Quarter in Paris got its name because of the nearby university (the Sorbonne)—in the past, the students who attended spoke Latin.

Notre Dame is a beautiful Catholic cathedral that has Gothic attributes. Many beautiful stained-glass windows and arches are apparent throughout the building. Unique architecture with buttresses allows for the cathedral to have very high walls. Many people might be familiar with this cathedral because of Victor Hugo’s novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Julie gives a presentation on the Luxembourg Gardens.

Julie gives a presentation on the Luxembourg Gardens.

Today, we also took a walk through the Luxembourg Gardens in the 6th arrondissement of Paris, which were commissioned by Queen Marie de Medici in 1612. We had a magical experience of enjoying the well-manicured gardens, observing the site of the queen’s palace, and watching the local French children play with sailboats in the fountain. We strolled among a variety of statues, many of them of prominent women. There are 106 statues in total. Throughout Paris most of the statues are of prominent men that had an effect on Parisian history, thus it was a unique attribute of this particular garden to have so many women.

As the Missouri S & T Miners strolled along the romantic park we came upon the Orangerie du Sénat, a large building situated next to the Queen’s palace. We entered an inspiring photography exhibition produced by photographer Marie-Hélène Le Ny. It was called Infinités plurielles and included portraits of 145 diverse women scientists whose specialties include chemistry, history, astrophysics, philosophy, and biology, for example. These researchers or engineers are described in detail with the important work or research they have conducted. Le Ny’s goal is to inspire other women to reach for the stars and try to make a difference in this world, too. The France 2015 Miners Abroad group is a diverse group of women and we all connected with several of the stories the Le Ny’s portraits told.

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Our group got to meet artist Marie-Hélène Le Ny.

As we were walking through the exhibit the artist of the exhibit came and chatted with us. We were able to practice a little French and connect deeply with a woman on the other side of the world. She may speak a different language than we do but the message and struggle is the same. It can be a tough world out there but it is important to hold your head up high and push through tough struggles to reach important milestones. Our troupe of Miner women took silly pictures with her and declared that we would carry on the message to be strong and become leaders in the world by pursuing our interests with passion. Here is a link for the artist where you can read more about her: http://www.mariehelene-leny.fr

 

À tout à l’heure!

Exploring Paris on My Own

By Ashley Crannick

Inside Versailes

Inside Versailles

Americans like to think that they know France.  Before I came to France, I had an idea in my head that the French people were rude, smelled bad, had overwhelming accents, and ate mounds of cheese.  America had created these stereotypes through the infamous Pepe le Pew and bad accents in movies, but a lot of what I thought France would be like has already been proven wrong in my first week here.  Although some stereotypes that Americans have of the French can be applied in situations, there is a whole different world to France than what is portrayed in the States.

I decided to come to France early alone as a way to build my navigation skills and confidence in myself as a traveler.  Haunted by jet-lag, I got off the plane and began my journey in this enormous, beautiful city.  My first impression of France began as soon as I got onto the train to reach my hotel.  Looking out the window, I could see signs with French words such as boulangerie and épicerie on these intricate, elegant, tan buildings that held symmetry throughout the city.  The city seemed so fast-paced, with people running to get onto the train at the stops and holding conversations at a quiet, yet speedy pace, and cars zipping around the streets trying to make every green light that they could.  I thought of all the movies I’ve seen that portray France; none of them could capture the extraordinary feeling of being here.  IMG_0309I was so proud of my navigation skills until it came to finding my hotel.  I walked the street back and forth about twenty times with all of my luggage until I finally found my destination!  After taking what was going to be a brief nap that turned into a long, deep slumber, I walked to a nearby café and had an experience I will never forget.  While sitting with my bubbly water (I had thought that carbonated water was the only water offered in France because I had misunderstood the server, but I found out later that was not true!), I had an experience I’ll never forget. The people in the café were all chatting, when suddenly the bartender started humming a song.  Then suddenly, everyone started singing together and the entire café was filled with music.  I felt like I was in a movie with some sort of impromptu musical scene!  It was really cool to see the community get along so well and all come together over a song.  Even I started to sing along once I caught on to some of the chorus!

La Fontaine St. Michel

La Fontaine St. Michel

On Saturday, I went to Versailles, where I got to explore the old castle that French kings once lived in.  The palace was absolutely stunning, and a place that I’ll never forget.  The gardens were so enormous. I got lost multiple times; however, I did not mind getting lost at all, because every time I took a new turn, there was another beautiful sculpture, fountain, or work of art for me to become mesmerized by.  It’s hard to put into words the beauty and elegance that the Palace of Versailles holds.  It is just one of those places that people need to see for themselves.  I went to a restaurant for a well-deserved meal after walking around the gardens and palace for a good six hours.  The server there could tell I wasn’t from around the area, but she played along with my poor French, and she actually talked with me and taught me a few words that would be useful in a restaurant setting.  The people in France are extremely friendly!  I headed back towards my hotel and actually stopped by the same café to say bonjour to my new friends.

Ashley and Darci

Ashley and Darci, just before our group dinner

That Sunday, the rest of the study abroad group arrived in the city.  With my luck, when I tried to check out of my hotel, my credit card did not work, and I ended up running late to the group lunch because I had to call the bank and fix the issues.  However, I did make it in time for the check-in at the Generator hostel that we are staying in for the week.  I was really nervous coming to the hostel because other than my friend Julie from class, I had only met the other girls on the trip at the pre-departure meetings.  Thankfully, we have a wonderful group of girls, and I have had such a good time with them.  We left for dinner around 6:00 p.m. and went to a lovely restaurant in the Latin Quarter.  This was the first time that I had seen the Latin Quarter, and I was absolutely speechless looking at the Fontaine St Michel.  The sophistication of the details of the fountain and the elegance that it brought to the city was breathtaking.  Madame Langston gave us a history lesson about the fountain, and I that’s when I got really excited to learn more about the city.  I had seen landmarks like the Fontaine St Michel online before, but a picture does not do the real thing justice.  We walked a little by the Seine River, which provides another beautiful view of Paris, and continued as a group to dinner.  The restaurant was absolutely wonderful, with fresh flowers, a friendly staff, and terrific food.  I thought it was very interesting to be able to experience the differences between French dining and American dining.  The French eat dinner very leisurely with multiple courses in order to promote time for conversation and enjoyment.  I had such a good time bonding with my new friends that I’ve made on this trip!  I am so grateful for this opportunity to study abroad, and I cannot wait to see where this trip will take me.

 

Thursday in Paris: Markets, Memorials, and Memories

By Rachel K. Miller

Rachel1Exhausted from the prior events of the week (and from being squished into people from the ceremony at the Panthéon Wednesday), the day began too early. We marched on to the Bastille Market and Katie gave a thorough presentation on the history of the area. The market is filled with small street shops and vendors that sell everything from fresh produce to cooked meals to scarves to shoes. I also saw stands for kids’ toys and stands filled with beauty products, which was interesting. Like most of Paris, each stand was individualized and sold specific items.

After that, we went to Père Lachaise Cemetery, which is a gorgeous and famous cemetery. Rose gave her presentation on its history and gave a list of those she recognized that were buried there.Rachel2 This is the graveyard where you pay your dues after your death in order to remain there. I would imagine the family plots are bought out in advance, but there was a wall filled with holes and small boxes where it could be surmised that the urns were removed. While we were there, we saw the graves of Guillaume Apollinaire, Edith Piaf, Chopin, Oscar Wilde, and Jim Morrison. There were also memorials for those involved in political turmoil. While many of the memorials were for WWII, I saw at least one from WWI and from other wars that France participated in.

BateauNext we went to the Shoah Memorial, which is a memorial for the Jews and others who suffered genocide during WWII and related events. There were many photos and artifacts from the time period and illustrated timelines with the events leading up to and ending WWII and to the creation of the museum. I was surprised to find out how many of the memorials in Paris were created after much time had passed since the events had occurred.

After a bit of free time, we went on a boat tour on the Seine. It was a lovely tour with views of the Eiffel Tower and other main sights of Paris. It was nice to be able to relax and view Paris without tracing it all out by foot. It was a nice finale for the day with beautiful weather. Perhaps a little cold on the boat, but nothing a good Parisian scarf couldn’t handle.

 

Wednesday in Paris

By Rosamond Hoyle

Warding off the jet lag, we started off our Wednesday morning at a little café Rose2next to our hostel, Café des Dames. As we finished up our coffee and croissants, we heard on the news that that evening, President Hollande would be speaking at a ceremony, adding four Resistance fighters’ remains into the Panthéon (a crypt for famous French citizens): Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz, Pierre Brossolette, Germaine Tillion and Jean Zay. (The women’s families did not want their bodies exhumed, so their coffins are symbolic and contain soil from their gravesites.) We were all super excited to be in Paris during such a historical event so we decided to Rose1change our plans for the day and go see the ceremony. As a group of girls, we were particularly interested because the Panthéon only has one other woman (Marie Curie) who was added because of her own merits and it was very special that two new women were being included.

[Read more…]