A group of Rockhurst students are traveling to France June 17-July 16 to study the language and take in some of the culture. They will spend some of their time in Paris as well as Montpellier, a university town in the south of France. The itinerary includes the Festival of Music and the Bastille Day celebrations. The group is accompanied by M. Kathleen Madigan, Ph.D., professor of classical and modern languages.
More images will be added as the group continues its adventures through France. Check back again soon to view more photos.
From left at Louvre museum/Pyramid: Luciano Garofalo, Laura Koch and Alexandra Burr.
Laura Koch engaging in service learning at a middle school in Paris.
Ali Burr in the Luxembourg Garden; the French Senate is housed in the Palace there.
Enjoying the panoramic view of Paris before visiting the Basilica of the Sacred Heart (Sacré Coeur) in Montmartre.
Luciano Garofalo, who is planning to enter the Society of Jesus after graduation, at the Chapel in Montmartre, Paris, where the Jesuits took their first vows.
At the Musée d'Orsée we enjoyed many of our favorite impressionist paintings, including Degas' dansers.
We visited the French Tomb of the Unknown Soldier before climbing the Arc de Triomphe for a view of the Champs Elysées and the city of Paris.
At the Place du Tertre in Montmartre, artists draw portraits, paint and sell their work.
Taking a break and looking intellectual at the Deux Magots Café next to the Café de Flore, famous stomping grounds of existentialist philosophers Sarte, Camus and De Beauvoir.
A view of Les Invalides (where Napoleon is buried) from the gardens in front of the Rodin (sculpture) Museum.
One of the world's most famous sculptures, Rodin's "Thinker".
We attended Mass at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.
After the major sites of Paris, a picnic at the Vincennes Castle with live music for the Festival de la Musique on June 21st was just the thing on a lovely evening.
We went to the Gare de Lyon train station to take the TGV (train à grande vitesse, fast train) from Paris to Montpellier, a university town in the south where we will be taking French classes.
After arriving in Montpellier, we met our families at the train station.
Eagerly, we checked out the location of the Institute where we are studying (green doors) the day before classes started on the lovely Rue (street) St. Guilhem.
After our first day of classes and a lecture on the French press given by the Director of the Institute, we went on a guided walking tour of the city of Montpellier.
The Arc de Triomphe de Montpellier at the original city entrance, not an imitation of the one in Paris because built before then!
We attended the end of the year show at St. Odile kindergarten and primary school. It is a Sacred Heart School and we were invited because one of our students went to a Sacred Heart High School (Laura Koch, in St. Charles). Here a little French sailor prepares for his performance on the stage!
Here we are with classmates from the institute where we are studying in front of the Montpellier Opera House, a popular meeting point.
The impressive aqueduct in Montpellier, the city where we are studying.
The Esplanade Park in Montpellier is always lively with families taking time out at the park for children, students meeting in groups for a picnic or singing, and booths with crafts for sale and live music on Friday evenings at the Estivales (summer festival). One Friday afternoon a group from Burkina Faso danced there spontaneously as they worked their way through town as part of the Montpellier Dance festival.
Here is another shot of the school show at St. Odile's that we attended, to give you an idea of how they put it together outdoors.
Here is a glimpse of the beauty of the Botanical Garden (Jardin des Plantes), started for the students of the reputable Medical School of Montpellier, founded during the Middle Ages, where the author Rabelais (creator of Gargantua and Pantagruel) studied.
The water lilies of the botanical gardens in Montpellier are worthy of a Monet painting.
Montpellier offered a free week of music nightly our first week here in June at the Place St. Anne, including la chanson française, concerts by students of the Conservatory of Music, the building of which is just behind musicians here, and on the last night, good ole' New Orleans jazz.
In the city of Nîmes, about a half an hour away from Montpellier, we visited the Roman amphitheatre (les arènes), pictured the gladiators there, and watched as they worked on a stage for a contemporary concert.
You can't be in France and not stop for crêpes, both for lunch and dessert.
During our excursion to Avignon, about an hour from Montpellier and where the summer theatre festival is held, we explored the Palais des Papes, where nine Popes resided.
Roman ruins, especially when high up, are as good a place as any for a French cat siesta. Laura managed to make friends while simultaneously listening to the audioguide of the amphitheatre.
The Avignon Bridge made famous in the song: "Sur le Pont d'Avignon, on y danse, on y danse...tous en rond."
Here is the Church at Saintes Maries de la Mer in the Camargue region, where it is believed that Marie (Mary in English) Salomé, the mother of the apostles James and John and Marie Jacobé (aunt of Jesus, sister of his mother Mary) spent the end of their lives with their servant Sarah close to the oratory. The black Sarah is venerated by the gypsies.
The beautiful cross of Saintes Maries de la Mer represents faith, hope and charity and the connection between earth, sea and heaven. De la mer means "of the sea", which is seen in the anchor.
One can even see the Saintes Maries de la Mer Cross on bumper stickers, along with the white horses running free for which the Camargue region (to the east of the Languedoc Roussillon region where we are staying) is famous.
The statue in the Church of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer known to the gypsies as Saint Sarah.
The view from the top of the Church at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer.
The statue of a white horse, for which the Camargue region is famous, stands in the middle of the town of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer.
We have been spoiled by access to many beautiful Mediterranean beaches and rivers; here is the ocean front at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer.
Here is a typical white house at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer.
Some of the real white horses of the Camargue, here tamed for riding.
Back in Montpellier, the chess championship in the Esplanades Park is on! Tables for checkers are also set up here.
What is believed to be a relic of the Holy Cross in the Church of St. Guilhem le Désert, a stop on the pilgrimage trail of St. Jacques de Compostelle (Santiago in Spanish).
Flowers lining walls of the lovely town St. Guilhem le Désert.
To the right through the arches of the Abbey Cloisters you can see the Lavender of southern France.
We spent all day on Saturday, July 5th on an excursion to St. Guilhem le Désert, where we visited the Abbaye de Gellone, a monastery where St. Guilhem (in Occitain, William in French) stayed from the years 806-812. It is believed that his cousin, Charlemagne, gave him part of the Holy Cross, now a relic in the Church. In the nineteenth century, many sculptures were acquired by the American G.G. Barnard, which are now on display at the Cloisters Museum in New York.
We sampled some regional products, including the Tapenade of Provence made up of crushed olives, anchovies and capers.
The Pilgrim's Gate entering St. Guilhem le Désert on the Chemin de St. Jacques, one of the four principal pilgrimage paths.
The gorgeous Garrigue (Mediterranean brush vegetation, rock, etc.) landscape, made famous in the films Jean de Fleurette and Manon des Sources.
If you look up carefully you will see a rock castle. Legend has it that it was occupied by a giant who held the town captive, but who was later overthrown by Saint Guilhem.
A painting welcoming visitors to Saint Guilhem le Désert.
One of the narrow streets of St. Guilhem le Désert.
The area is covered with vineyards.
You guessed it, with all the vineyards around, we had to visit a French wine cave, in this case the famous St. Saturnin one where wines are produced, aged, bottled and distributed.
A representative of St. Saturnin wines talks about the particular make-up and qualities of four different wines.
We sacrificed ourselves and finally agreed to sample just a bit of each.
Luc ("Looch") showed a fellow student who had just arrived the night before around town, including the tram ticket office and Monoprix, a good place to buy groceries and a bad place to be if you don't want to be tempted by those famous French pastries.
Our last excursion in the south of France took us to Aigues Mortes, a fortified port town reinforced by King Louis IX which has been known for its role in salt (used to preserve food before refrigerators) mining since the Middle Ages.
In Aigues Mortes we climbed the tower, la Tour Constance, that served as a prison for the Huguenots (Protestants) during the sad time of the Wars of Religion. The top of the tower offered a happier and panoramic view of the community. Following, you'll see a series of views from the top so you can get some of that complete view of the area.
In this direction to the right you can see the salt that has been mined. La crème de la crème du sel, the finest salt, is from the Camargue and is a popular regional product.
In this direction you can see the canal.
And in this direction you can see us with our guide Matthieu!
In Aigues Mortes we also visited a grand Maison de biscuits et de bonbons, a cookie and candy store, where they gave us a souvenir box which will last, to console us about the cookies and candy that did not.
A guide in the candy and cookie store told us about the ingredients used in those wonderful products, including many from the south, such as almond, honey, figs, fruits, aromas, etc. Chocolate olives were surprisingly good!
After Paris and New York, the major exhibit of the French realist painter Courbet was in Montpellier while we were there and we had a guided tour of it in French.
We saw the Courbet exhibit at the Fabre Museum in Montpellier, one of the south of France's best, with a collection of twenty pieces of the black canvases of Pierre Soulages, a living artist, in addition to a major permanent collection of art throughout the ages housed in a former 17th century Jesuit college, 18th century Town Hall and 19th century extensions.
Our last night in Montpellier, the Institute organized a gathering at the Maison Internationale, followed by a dinner and dance at a local club. The following morning, we had some time for last glimpses of Montpellier before boarding a train for Paris. Here are the Opera House and Plaza decked out with flags in preparation for the Bastille Day celebrations.
The Saturday morning market in Montpellier offers fresh produce, clothing, etc.
We'll miss walking down this street, la rue St.-Guilhem, to the Institute where we had classes. But since our trip to the village of St. Guilhem the name means a lot more.
The bakery across the street from our school was a familiar sight.
We had already seen this train schedule board when leaving Paris for Montpellier, so knew what to look for, but that did not take any of the suspense out of waiting to see which platform we'd have to get to for the train back up to Paris; the platform is announced in the column all the way to the right, and getting there and finding our voiture (wagon) is an adventure.
The sky and landscape put on a good show as we whizzed by in the fast train, leaving the vibrant south of France.
Saturday night in Paris we went to the Latin Quarter to see Ionesco’s play “The Lesson” which has been playing at the Huchette Theatre for 51 years.
After the theatre, we walked around the Latin Quarter with a French friend, Anne Boutten, and stopped at the Shakespeare & Co Bookshop opposite Notre Dame Cathedral, associated with the writers who gathered at the original one in the twenties; other expats later helped to form the movement that led to post WWI American literature. Gertrude Stein and Hemingway met through the store, and the current owner still helps writers and organizes Sunday readings.
Then to top off our Saturday in the Latin Quarter we went to the Caveau de la Huchette, a jazz place that Professor Madigan went to as an undergrad. The evening featured the Richard Raux Jazz Group and some seasoned dancers.
We enjoyed the music and Luc, who plays the saxophone, checked out their technique.
On Sunday we had some time to relax at museums in Paris before getting ready for the Bastille Day parties. Visits chosen included the Catacombs, the Museum of Decorative Arts and the Orangerie Museum, closed in 2000 and reopened in 2006 and featuring the Water Lilies (Nymphéas) by Monet, a film about his struggle with these paintings and other artists such as Renoir, Picasso and Matisse.
The 14th of July is the National Holiday in France, the day of the taking of the Bastille Prison, but the French celebrations begin on the evening before as announced by this banner. Sunday evening we went to the most popular one in Paris put on by the firemen (les sapeurs pompiers) of the 4th district, the Marais district where Victor Hugo lived.
We left at 8pm for the party starting at 9pm, because we knew there would be a line to get in. A band kept us entertained while waiting. When we left, there was still a long line of people winding around the corner and down the street hoping to get in.
The decorations at the party were creative, including the fire truck on the roof.
The ambiance at the beginning was relaxed, with more and more coming in later but in some areas enough space to dance to a variety of music from a waltz to salsa. This party was on the national news the next morning.
The morning of July 14th was parade time! We passed the Arc de Triomphe and stopped at a pastry shop before finding the right place to stand on the Champs-Élysées
Even those less interested in the tanks had to admit it was neat seeing President Sarkozy go by to take his place beforehand to view the parade, and an air show featured military jets streaming the blue, white and red of the French flag. But the sapeurs pompiers, the firemen who put on the parties, stole the show and got the most applause.
The international crowd taking pictures provided as much entertainment as those in the parade.
The Invalides, the hotel built by Louis XIV to house disabled veterans and now the French Army Museum was free on Bastille Day.
Here are some of the miniatures at the Army Museum, the most notable the second from the left on bottom row in Napoleon's clothing; the actual military outfit is also on display.
Napoleon's tomb rests below the Dome and the Saint-Louis Church.
On the evening of Bastille Day, we headed to the Eiffel Tower for a picnic.
The metro was a bit crowded on the way back from our field trip to the concert and fireworks; this was the line to get on, and we had an adventure finding an open station.
We had another free day in Paris after the festivities to visit one last museum (how to choose?) or shop for souvenirs and gifts. Here is a window near the auditorium where they once had fashion shows at the Printemps Department Store, which was established in 1865.
The Printemps Department store is just behind the famous Garnier Opera.
Bright skies greeted those who made the trek to Versailles.
And the geometrical, trim French gardens of Versailles with forest, canal and lots of play areas were as inviting as ever.
Le Petit Trianon and the Domain of Marie Antoinette (featured in the film Marie Antoinette), though still undergoing renovation, recently was reopened to the public.
Our last evening in Paris we gathered for dinner at a restaurant specializing in French cuisine. Among our selections: oysters, mussels, French onion soup, boeuf bourgignon. Sigh...
For our finale, we took a Paris boat cruise and saw some of the monuments by night that we had explored before such as the Louvre and Orsay museums, but also some additional ones like the Institut de France where the French Academy is housed and the Institut Arabe.
In honor of the start of France's six-month presidency of the European Union, the Eiffel Tower was lit up in blue with the yellow stars of the EU flag. We bid our farewell to France here, as it was the end of our program. It's hard not to look back, so if you want to see more, let us know and we'll post a few more photos as our encore last glimpses of our trip.
One of the first places we visited was the Town Hall in the Marais District.
Whose photo got taken here?