WVU in Europe…France.

In March, I spent ten days in Europe with students and colleagues from West Virginia University. Officially, two WVU Art History Professors (Janet Snyder and Rhonda Reymond) were conducting GPS: France courses and WVU Photography Professor Michael Sherwin and I were along to help and do some research into our own potential study abroad courses.

We spent five days in France, most of it in Paris. Visiting Paris and researching stained glass there was the main reason for this trip. I’ve been to major cities all over the world, but nothing prepared me for Paris. You immediately get a sense of the historical importance of the city when there. Paris is like Rome in that you have these very important cultural artifacts nestled in the city. But unlike Rome, Paris has a grandeur that makes it different from every other city in the world. We packed in as much as we could, walking 6-8 miles a day! It was invigorating and inspiring, and we couldn’t have seen everything we did without Dr. Janet Snyder who walked us around town like a local Parisian.

We packed so much in and I took so many pictures, but this post is a VERY SHORT, SHORT report of what we did while in France.

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Of course the first thing we did after checking into our hotel was eat! Take away crepes were amazing!

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Seeing this happen, and hearing the typical accordion music all over Paris made me think of simulations in reality. Is this happening because this is what Paris sounds like? Or does Paris look and sound like this because of our expectations created by media simulations of Paris?

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We spent a good amount of time at Notre-Dame de Paris. It was a bit crowded, and because of that, it was hard to get a feel of the grandeur of the cathedral, but beautiful inside nonetheless.

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Obviously we spent some time looking at the Eiffel Tower

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The graffiti artist “Invader” was everywhere it seemed…

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Flower market…look at that orange tree!

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Spent MANY hours inside little cafes like these….

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We took at day trip to Chartres to see the cathedral there…THIS was an amazing sight to see. I am always taken back when forced to interact with something that is hundreds or a thousand years old. The Chartres Cathedral was everything the Notre Dame wasn’t. It was more reverent and felt more sacred, it was awe inspiring. I am so glad this was a part of our itinerary.

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We also visited a stained glass museum while in Chartres. The Le Centre international du vitrail, is a museum and cultural center devoted to stained glass. So many museums in France are housed in these ancient buildings that are amazing in their own right, sometimes you weren’t sure what to look at…the architecture or the artifacts?

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The only time in my life I will probably see an ALF themed stained glass piece of art…

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A quick visit to Sainte-Chapelle, crowded but awe inspiring stained glass. This cathedral definitely captures the grandeur one expects to see in Paris…

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On our first day we made a quick trip to the Musée des Arts et Métiers.

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Such an amazing museum, so much to see. This museum was dedicated to the history of mechanical inventions. There were rooms full of cameras, telephones, typewriters, etc…I was pleasantly surprised to see a room full of historical printing presses…

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And of course, we looked at art! We spent half a day in the Musee d’Orsay. Again, an amazing museum housed in a historic building, an old railway station. The museum has mostly impressionistic and post-impressionistic paintings.

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Great to see this Manet painting in person! “The Luncheon on the Grass“, such an iconic painting that I have studied so many times as a student.

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And this painting, “Portrait of Achille Emperaire” by Cézanne. This painting really threw me off, the use of text and stencils so early, I’ve never seen that before.

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Spent a few hours at the Musée de l’Orangerie. Dr. Janet Snyder observing one of Monet’s water lilies.

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We squeezed in a half day at the Louvre. If you have visited this museum before, you know that half a day is NOT enough time, it takes a few hours just to figure out how to get around!

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Ubiquitous Mona Lisa picture…the spectacle around the Mona Lisa is definitely more interesting then looking at the painting itself…

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The biggest surprise of the trip was running into my old friend Jennifer Anderson! I went to graduate school at the University of Georgia with Jennifer, and we have kept in contact since. She was just starting a months long residency in Paris on the day we went to the Louvre.

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Another great museum was the Pompidou. Although seeing tons of cathedrals, stained glass and ancient artwork; it was refreshing to see some good old fashioned contemporary art! Obviously the exterior of the building is the first signal that you are about to see something different in Paris.

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Some old friends…Warhol, I’ve always been fascinated by his electric chair paintings…

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Frank Stella…

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Cindy Sherman…

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Because we are in Paris, of course there was a comics exhibition at the Pompidou as well! We were able to see a retrospective of the comic “Gaston” by André Franquin. “Gaston” is a comic that follows the everyday life of this goofy character…and there was A LOT to see!

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The design of the entire exhibition was really spectacular!

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Again, a really dynamic installation…they definitely made this exhibition more than just a bunch of drawings lined up in a row…

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Singular drawings of the titular character…

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But there were a lot of original drawings to look at as well…which is the point of comics exhibitions like these…

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There really is something magical about seeing the original artwork from a comics page…

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IMG_4524And there was a reading room! Tons of comics from all over the world to read!

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Speaking of comics, I squeezed in some important research time in local shops. This particular shop Aaapoum Bapoum was recommended by a few friends, and it did not disappoint! In fact, we hit a bit of a comics district in this part of Paris. There must have been 5 or 6 comic shops within a few blocks of each other. Janet was such a trooper, putting up with my childish joy at all the options, and also waiting as I took too much time looking through back issues.

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Comics out on the front stoop.

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Did I mention there were comics to look at?

IMG_4117And when in Paris, one MUST pick up a Mobius graphic novel, in French!

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We made a quick stop at the newly reopened National Library of France. What an absolutely beautiful building! Who wouldn’t be inspired to do research inside this wonderful room?

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And finally, we made a quick visit to the catacombs…I had no idea what to expect before entering, but this was a little chilling, overwhelming, and obviously a reminder of our own mortality.

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The number of skeletons was the overwhelming part. I immediately got the sense of the cold hard fact that I am just one person in the continuum of billions of people on this planet throughout history. A very uplifting place to end!

Of course, this all adds up to about 5% of what we saw while in France. Again, I cannot thank all the hard work and organizing Dr. Janet Snyder and Dr. Rhonda Reymond did for this entire trip. It was amazing!

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