Category Archives: Jacob



So it has been four weeks since our trip ended. The trip exceeded what I expected in almost every way. I didn’t really know what the trip would be like before we left. I wasn’t that interested in history/archaeology/foreign language before, but I saw the trip as a great interdisciplinary opportunity to try out these fields in a way that I learn best: experiencing it hands-on. I’m very glad I did this because I now know more about French history than I would have learned otherwise. I think it is harder to think about European history where we live across the Atlantic in a nation whose beginning was all about gaining freedom from European rule. Napoleon never walked on American soil. Being in France and seeing the places where historical figures lived, like Versailles, and died, like Place de la Concorde, made the history much more relatable. In the words of Professor Lancombe who lead the archaeology site, “Context!”

And being on a real archaeology dig? That was amazing. Where would I ever get that experience except on the Piette trip? I’ll admit it, the dig was uncomfortable and slow, but it wasn’t boring. It was great to see how the site operated and to actually work in the units.
I had never had French cuisine before, so eating in France was great. I was excited to try out a different type of food. In Paris, the dishes weren’t anything too unusual, although I hadn’t had those particular recipes before. They included meals such as veal, perch in white sauce, and turkey in wine sauce. When we got down to Sarlat though, the food changed drastically to goose and duck products, such as fois gras, duck confit, goose gizzard salad, and pâté. I was happy that I tried a few of these dishes, but I didn’t really care for them.
One thing I wish we did more of was speaking French. Mostly, we just ordered food in French. In Paris on a few occasions, when I ordered in French, the cashier would reply in English. I would keep talking French and they would keep talking English. It was somewhat humorous, but I imagine them all thinking “hey kid, it’s gonna be better for both of us if we just speak in English.” All of our tour guides spoke English to us, which was necessary because not all of the students on the trip take French. When we went to the cave at Mas D’Azil, the guide spoke in French. I was surprised how much I understood of what the guide said, and was very happy about it.

In my mind, the trip was very successful and I had a great time. Special thank you to the teachers and the friends I made on the trip!


Piette travels

This trip was an entirely new type of experience for me. As I said in my first post, I have never left the country before besides driving trips to Canada. I enjoyed being far from home immersed in a different culture. France is a European nation, and many things about it aren’t so different from life here in the US. There are some pretty obvious distinctions, especially in Paris, such as lots of crêperies, motorcycles, small European cars, and baguette sandwiches. Other things took a little longer to realize. I’m sure I would have found out a lot more if I spent more time in France, but this trip was the perfect length to get a good gist of it. People keep asking me if the people in Paris are as rude as they’re often claimed to be. I didn’t find them rude, but servers and cashiers definitely were more focused on their jobs and less on chit-chat.

La Defense from the roof of the MAN
La Défense from the roof of the MAN. The central arrondissements are out of view behind it.

The French do a good job of protecting historic places. This is shown in the large number of buildings that date back hundreds of years. Even the standard apartment buildings in the center of Paris all adhere to similar historical styles and have the same height. In Paris you don’t have tall buildings all over the place, which surprised me. When we went on the roof of the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, we could see far across the city. The only place with sky scrapers was the business district, La Défense, nearly seven miles outside of the heart of Paris.


Getting around Paris was mostly the same as traveling in any city. The Metro was essentially the same as the Boston subway. There were taxis (although apparently most of them were on strike) and buses, but all of our traveling was on the Metro, RER, or tour bus.

When we first arrived at the airport in Paris, we went through customs, which composed of a uniformed man in a booth stamping our passports. No questions. Arriving back in Boston, we had to fill out a lengthy slip (for restricted substances and declaration of goods), use an automated passport machine, and answer an officer’s questions. They were a little more relaxed about the ordeal in France.

I really knew nothing about French History (except what I learned in Dr. Blunt’s class!) or anything about prehistoric man. This trip was a great way to learn about these two subjects because we got the opportunity to experience them, for instance we visited historic sites and dug on an archaeological site.

Project progress

I got lots of great information and photos for my project in France. My project is the comparison of urban palaces with their rural couterparts, the châteaux. My final project will hopefully be an essay accompanied by some of my own photos.

The Conciergerie
The Conciergerie

On the first day in Paris, we went on a walking tour and saw the Conciergerie, a palace that was also used as a prison that housed Marie Antoinette before she was executed.
The MAN, to which we repatriated the Piette pebble, is housed in a gorgeous building called “le château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye”. It was originally built in 1122 by Louis VI as a fortress and completed by Louis IX.

Courtyard of the MAN
Courtyard of le château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye

In 1863, Eugène Millet converted it into a renaissance palace, and it was renovated again in 1962. The castle was initially built in the middle of a forest on the plateau of Laye as a military stronghold, but eventually became a residential building with a surrounding town.
We also visited the Palace of Versailles, which is a ginormous building. The palace had its beginnings as a hunting lodge (albeit a very fancy one) built by Louis XIII. Succeeding rulers added onto the original construction and made it into the distinctive palace it is known as today. It has been used by numerous powers in France as a headquarters or residence. When Louis XIII first built the hunting lodge, Versailles was only a small village. Under the French monarchs, the lodge became a large palace, and the Versailles became a city. Another urban palace we got the opportunity to explore was the Louvre. Although it originally was a fortress, it was rebuilt and expanded many times and became enveloped by the city. I found it interesting that le château de Saint-Germain, Versailles, and the Louvre all originated with some other purpose, but over time became palaces.

The walls of le Château D'amboise
The walls of le château D’Amboise

When we went into the Loire Valley we visited a few rural castles including the château d’Amboise and château de Chenonceau.

I have numerous great photos of the palaces and châteaux, so now my work is researching the two types of buildings. When we visited them, most offered pamphlets that gave brief histories. I need to do a lot of research to be able to do more comparison. I want to focus on the difference in the purpose and usage of the buildings.


Visiting the Louvre was one of my top things we did in Paris. The whole visit was amazing. Not only was the Louvre filled with some of the best paintings and sculptures ever made, but the building itself has a rich history and is absolutely gorgeous. The Louvre also was a palace, which is good for my project comparing châteaux to urban palaces!


My first photograph is of the Italian painting hallway which ranged from the 13th to 17th centuries. The paintings stretch all the way down the hallway, which is less than half as long as the entire length of the museum, just to put it in perspective.  It was interesting to walk the length of the hallway examining the paintings through the centuries. Of course while we were in the Louvre, we had to visit the Mona Lisa, which is in my second photograph.


Although the room had many paintings on the walls, it was obvious that Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece and the painting opposing it, Veronese’s The Wedding Feast at Cana, were the main attractions. Everyone wanted to get as close as possible to the Mona Lisa, which is no larger than the signs on either side of it warning people of pick-pockets, to take photographs of the most photographed painting in the world. This picture in my blog post is not a close up of the Mona Lisa, but one of the room containing it. I found the number of people who flocked to the painting amazing. Through the hubbub, I could hear small bits of conversations in many languages. People from all over the world were there to gaze upon Leonardo’s painting. Although some people were obviously just there because the painting is famous, others did seem to view it critically. So what is truly amazing to me is how people from many different nations and cultures have an appreciation for the same art. The visual arts, much like music, are a universal language that everyone can enjoy regardless of who you are. In my first photo, the museum visitors stretch off into the distance just as far as the paintings. The visual arts are very important to all of us. They preserve cultures by encasing them inside canvases and chiseled stone, whether it’s French sailing ships, Italian feasts, or Roman gods, but art itself also becomes part of the cultures. So before this post becomes too long and goes into territory that has been explored many times before by great minds, I wanted to summarize why these two photographs are so interesting to me. Being at the Louvre, I saw people from all over the world interested in the same things, in a way that I’ve never seen before, and I thought these photos captured that.

Some of my fellow travelers have thoughtfully incorporated meaningful quotes into their posts. So here is the first quote that popped up on a Google search for “Art quotes”

“A line is a dot that went for a walk” – Paul Klee

There you have it.


The only way to see the Bayeux Tapestry

You have tons of free resources: library books, internet encyclopedias, photo sharing, books on tape, your grandfather’s stories, etc. So why would you ever want to go to a place to learn about something? Why visit a historic battle site when you can watch a reenactment? Why go to Moscow when your aunt already went there and uploaded photos of her trip to Facebook? Why visit the Lincoln Memorial when you can just look at the back  of a penny?

One of my favorite things we did in the last few days was visiting the Bayeux Tapestry. Before we went, I saw small images from the tapestry in its Wikipedia article and other places online. When we arrived, television screens in the lobby played little GIF images of parts of the tapestry that made it look like the characters were moving. When we got into the room with the tapestry, it was amazing. The tapestry is huge, and none of the pictures I saw before hinted at how large it actually is.  It was hard to get a mental image of the tapestry before I saw it with my own eyes.

Not only is it hard to get an idea of the tapestry as a whole without seeing it in person, you can’t see the small details either. With any type of copy, either online or in print, you cannot lean in to study the stitching, closely observe the stains that have accumulated on it over time, or notice minute variations in the texture. The tapestry is not made of pixels or ink dots, and cannot be reduced to them.

The other aspect of seeing the Bayeux Tapestry in person is that it is an experience.  Being in the presence of such an old, important piece of art is a unique experience. Even if you don’t like the tapestry itself, its rich history is a reason in itself to visit it. You cannot fully appreciate artifacts like the Bayeux Tapestry without a firsthand experience of seeing them. The tapestry is housed in a dark room with soft lights to preserve its vibrancy. It is mounted on an island so that it runs the entire length of the room, and then the entire length back. We had audio guides to help us understand what was happening in each scene on the tapestry. Instead of seeing a picture and reading text about the contents, I was able to physically move from scene to scene down the tapestry, with the audio guide supplementing information. When the tapestry was in use many years ago, no one scrolled through a photo of it on the computer, they would have walked, much like I did, down the length looking at each scene. It was great to be able to lean forward and examine the workmanship and see the individual threads, and then step back to see half of the entire tapestry, but being there to acknowledge its history, instead of just being fed the information from a book, was also important to me.

I broke the hotel (but not really)

A small crêperie where we had our first food in France

Two days ago we left Paris for Normandy. We were only in Paris for four days, but it felt like a lot longer. Every day, from early in the morning until late at night we were busy. Our days were packed with visits to gorgeous churches, ginormous palaces and famous museums. The only time we stopped, was to eat lunch or dinner. For lunch every day we found a small café and ordered sandwiches or quiche. I have fallen in love with the baguette sandwiches in France (they are much more preferable to PB&J), although they are somewhat unwieldy to eat. Almost all of the dishes we have eaten for dinner are ones I have never had before, and it is exciting to try them. After dinner we went back to the hotel to have meetings, work on our projects, or write blog posts.

While admiring the beautiful streets of Paris, you might fall prey to the dangerous poles, seen here in their natural habitat
While admiring the beautiful streets of Paris, you might fall prey to the vicious attack poles, seen here in their natural habitat

Paris was a great city to visit. There are so many unique features to Paris, but I thought I’d share a few things that I didn’t expect. There is an abundance of motorcycles and scooters in the city, including weird, three wheeled ones called MP3’s. The motorcycles lane-split everywhere, which looks absurd and totally dangerous, but upon researching it, appears not to effect the number of accidents. Waist-high poles prevent motorists from driving onto the sidewalks. The poles are also placed in the middle of the sidewalk to allow delivery trucks to back up to storefronts. Walking home from dinner one night, I looked up at a sign for a brief moment and walked smack into one of the poles. Luckily it was one of the taller ones, as the shorter poles seem to pose a bigger hazard to males.

The Conciergerie: another urban palace we saw, but never went inside
The Conciergerie: An urban palace we saw but never went inside

On a more academic note, I have been gathering a lot of great information for my project, which is comparing rural châteaux to urban palaces. We visited three palaces in France: Le Château de Saint-Germain (which houses the Musee d’Archeologie Nationale), Versailles, and the Louvre. I’m really excited to go to the Loire Valley to learn about the châteaux. I will hopefully explain more in-depth into the progress of my project soon in another blog post.

I should explain the post title. At the hotel in Paris, I wanted to charge a few device batteries at once, so I plugged my power strip into an adapter and plugged the adaptor into the wall outlet. Turns out you shouldn’t do that, because the second I did, all the lights in the room went out. I went into the hall to find Michaela, Sam, and Ashley, as well as a woman from next door standing outside their rooms wondering what happened. After telling them, I went to the front desk to tell the night manager. Unfortunately he did not speak English and I didn’t know any of the words “plug”, “surge protector”, “wire” or anything useful in French. After a bit of hand gestures and poor French on my part, the man finally understood and came upstairs to flip the circuit breaker for our hallway back on. So I don’t think I will use my power strip again during the trip…

Onward to the Loire Valley!

10h counting down

I usually never have any dreams. Last night, however, I had two. In one I was frantically packing right before we had to leave, and in the other, someone didn’t make it past the TSA checkpoint. As soon as I woke up I checked that I had packed everything and made sure I didn’t have any restricted items in my carry-on. Despite my subconscious perhaps revealing the two parts of  traveling that I am most worried about, I don’t feel too nervous about the plane ride to France. What I do feel nervous about, is speaking French. I just completed second-level French, but my speaking skills are sadly lacking. I am excited to be able to practice French, and hope that the trip will increase my speaking skills. I’m also interested in trying out French cuisine. Now that I think of it, I have never been to an authentic French restaurant here in the US. Even if I don’t like it, I am excited to have the experience of trying it.

Last summer I stayed in Colorado for five weeks with twenty four classmates as part of the ACE program run by Phillips. The trip to Colorado was the furthest and longest time I have ever traveled away from my family and my home. I know this is nothing compared to many of the boarders who journey to Phillips, but I include this to put into perspective what the prospect of flying across the Atlantic, to a country that speaks a different language and has a different culture, is like to me. I will be three-fourths further away than on the Colorado trip and in a completely different environment than I am used to. I’m not too nervous about being in France, seeing that I will be with friends and great teachers, but I am anticipating it. I want these next few hours to just get a move on so that we can leave.

For my project, I will compare the urban palaces of France with their rural counterparts, the châteaux. I will look at how the two types of buildings functioned differently, and I hope to take lots of great photos of them during the trip.