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Kathleen Davenport ('04) in front
of the Musée d'Orsay in Paris

This past summer I had the exciting opportunity to study in Paris with IES. My IES classes helped me discover much of Paris “off the beaten track” because classroom lectures were augmented with walking tours, museum visits, and site seeing around Paris. I took two content courses at IES that were an excellent way to see Paris, and especially to see sections I would probably not have visited on my own.

In addition to learning about Paris through my classes, much of my “education” came from living with a host family. Even though my family was fluent in English, they only spoke to me in French. They had three girls, ages 4-11, all of whom were welcoming and accepting of me and my Hope roommate, Amanda Dykstra. Our family dinners provided an excellent opportunity to improve my conversational French and learn about French customs, society, politics, and cuisine. Their apartment was located within walking distance to my classes and was also around the corner of an adorable street, Rue Daguerre, filled with outdoor markets and fresh produce.

One of my favorite aspects of Paris is the arts. The Louvre and Orsay museums are of course not to be missed, but I found it remarkable to visit wings or floors of these museums where tourists tend to be more sparse. In the Louvre, I thoroughly enjoyed the Napoleon III rooms, the Raphael series of Marie de Medicis, and the ancient Louvre exhibits since these sections contain beautiful art without throngs of tourists. Although Orsay is best known for its extensive impressionist collection, other excellent sections, such as the Art Nouveau exhibit, are often missed.

Some often overlooked museums include the Espace Montmartre, Jacquemart-André and Palais du Tokyo museums. The Espace Montmartre is a must for anyone who enjoys the work of Salvador Dali. It is set up to provide a “surreal” experience, complete with dimming lights, black walls, and the voice of Salvador Dali accompanying new age music. I also highly recommend the Jacquemart-André Museum, which was a private residence of wealthy art collectors. Their house with its art collection was donated to the state and contains the second best collection of Italian art in France, second only to the Louvre. A newer addition to the art scene in Paris is the Palais de Tokyo, which houses contemporary art. The space itself is interesting for its unfinished look, contrasted with modern lighting and cafe.

Of course, there is much more to Paris than looking at fine art. I was surprised by the amount of greenery in Paris, providing a nice escape from the concrete of the big city. The Bois de Boulogne is a Parisian favorite on the outskirts of Paris. It is a large wooded park with winding paths, lakes with canoes, picnickers, and a few topless sun bathers in more secluded areas. In the city, the Luxembourg Gardens and the Tuileries Gardens are ideal locations for lunch and people watching. Across the Rue de Rivoli from the Tuileries Gardens I frequented Angelina’s, a salon du thé whose specialty is their rich chocolat africain (hot chocolate).

On a final note, Paris is always full of life, but there are several unique events which only take place in the summer. Fete de la musique and Bastille Day are some of the exciting opportunities to get a taste of french culture. Of course, during the summer there are often strikes, but dealing with a slow metro and having performances cancelled the night of a show are little inconveniences that are well worth the rewards of studying in such an exciting city. The Tour de France is also worth dealing with some occasional summer heat. I treasure my picture of Lance Armstrong on the opening day of the Tour.

I highly recommend studying in Paris since the large city provides countless opportunities, but the small feel of each arrondissement creates a welcoming atmosphere. Bring good walking shoes, buy a “Paris par arrondissement” (fondly called the Bible of Paris by my friends and I), lots of film, and enjoy the City of Lights!