Category Archives: Elizabeth

Archeology Surprised Me

Of all the things that surprised me on this trip, in addition to how much better French supermarkets are compared to American ones, I never thought I would love the archeological aspect of this trip the way I did. In all honesty, my main motivations for coming on this trip were for the French language, culture and history, and archeology and prehistory were really secondary considerations that were just parts of the package Piette deal. So maybe it was just due to my minimal expectations, but I was absolutely amazed by the prehistory we experienced on this trip. Walking through caves like Niaux and Mas d’Azil, or in the case of the Rouffingac cave taking the cave train, felt surreal. 
I became so interested in the archeology aspect of Piette that I actually ended up centering my trip project around it. At the different prehistory museums we visited, I paid special attention to the displays of prehistoric women figurines in order to study how the image of the “ideal” woman differs between prehistory and today. We saw female figurines in the National Prehistory Museum in Les-Eyzies, in the National Archeology Museum in Saint Germain-en-Laye, and recreations in all of the cave gift shops that we visited. I observed that nearly all of the figurines looked like they were pregnant with exaggerated hips, stomachs, and breasts. My project still has a long way to go, but I noticed that this commonality puts an emphasis on fertility in a way unlike modern images of women do. I’m looking forward to further developing my project back in the US, now that I’ve gathered evidence from across France. 

Becoming a French First Grader 

On Wednesday we visited the Chateau du Clos Lucé, the house and gardens of Leonardo da Vinci. We were given some pamphlets in English to help guide us around the house, the basement with replicas of da Vinci’s inventions, and eventually the gardens that housed working models of some of these prototypes. But instead of using the pamphlet, I found that the most effective way to learn about the house was to become a French first grader. You see when we entered the house, there was a group of French school children on a class trip that entered alongside us. However, their class visit warranted a type of guide that our visit did not: an energetic young woman dressed in medieval clothing that took the children on an interactive tour throughout the house and museum. And as it turns out, the level of sophistication that you use to explain things to first graders turned out to be perfect for practicing my level of French. So as the school group and guide moved through the house, I “coincidentally” moved with them, eavesdropping on the guide’s explanations and practicing my language comprehension. I learned a lot from the guide, and was quite entertained by the way the children interacted with her. The guide would show the kids a painting and a student would exclaim “c’est pour de vrai?!”, which means “that’s real life?!” When the guide asked why da Vinci’s signed his name backwards, one child shouted out “Because that’s how you write in Italian!” (I later learned that da Vinci wrote backwards because he was left handed, and writing right to left instead of left to right prevented him from smudging the ink that he wrote with). I also learned from the tour how many of da Vinci’s inventions were predecessors to machines that we use today, such as the bicycle, the airplane, and the parachute.

After touring the museum, the entire Piette Fam (which is what we’ve dubbed our group, short for the Piette Family) went out to the gardens to embrace our inner first grader as a collective. We played with the prototypes in the gardens and eventually all ended up at a playground in the middle of the garden. Our time at Clos Lucé left me wishing I could stay in da Vinci’s gardens and be a French first grader for just a little longer.

Fun in the Louvre 

On Sunday morning we were given two and a half hours to explore the maze that is the Louvre. In order to use our time efficiently, the group of us devised a small scavenger hunt in which we tried to find famous works of art, such as the Winged Victory and Mona Lisa, and take selfies with them. As we moved from one scavenger point to another in smaller groups, we adopted a slower pace to appreciate the exhibits along the way.

As we were moving in search of the Venus de Milo, Alex and I found ourselves in a magnificent display of ancient Egyptian and ancient Mesopotamian art. We stopped at another fairly famous piece, the Human Headed Winged Bulls from Mesopotamia. Looking at the Bulls, I thought about how we revel at what mankind can accomplish with such advanced technology nowadays. Today we can get a message to someone on the other side of the world in seconds and print 3D pacemakers that restart human hearts. But looking at the massive and intricate Bulls, I thought about how amazing man’s accomplishments were without technology. The Bulls are over four meters tall and intricately carved out of two single blocks of stone over 2500 years ago, essentially made with just a blade. That’s pretty awesome too. 

I’ve also added some pictures that I made into a collage of us in one of the sculpture sections of the Louvre. I think it’s safe to say we enjoyed our time there.


 

Monet’s Waterlillies

After spending yesterday morning lost in the maze of the Louvre, we took a quick visit to another museum in the afternoon, the Musée d’Orangerie, where we saw eight wall length panoramas of Claude Monet’s original Waterlilies. Apart from being stunningly beautiful, one of the most common observations I heard from my peers while looking at the paintings was that they were surprisingly calming. Sitting on the couches in the gallery surrounding by these incredible paintings was like a form meditation. It was a nice way to relax and reflect upon our first four packed days in Paris. Today we are leaving Paris for Normandy and stopping at Giverny, the site where Monet painted his Waterlilies, along the way. After seeing the paintings, I cannot wait to see the landscapes in real life. I can imagine that they will be just as beautiful and calming as the paintings we saw yesterday.