Saturday, October 31, 2009
We also chose to go into one of the Gaudi houses. Sarah had taken a course at school on Modernist architecture so she knew a fair amount about Gaudi and suggested we go into Casa Battlo. Along with the entrance fee you also got an audio tour which did help to shed some light on what Gaudi was aiming for with his architectural and design choices. It's a pretty difficult style to grasp, I think. It's very much inspires by natural shapes, e.g. the swirl of a snail's shell but it's also so focused on the materiality of the items used to produce those natural effects. Very cool but fairly complex.
We stopped by the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art which had a few nice works of the Colorist school and of Abstract Expressionism but I was generally dissapointed. Too much of the museum was taken up with temporary exhibitions one of which seemed to just be about "modernism" and didn't really have any cohesive theme or goal to it. Gorgeous building though, very white cube with all sorts of ramps and glass windows.
While walking back from the museum, we passed a market that was just so utterly foreign to anything we have in the US. It reminded me a bit of the bazaars in Istanbul, but also had a very Iberian flair to it. Lots of of meats and porks and also fruit! So much fruit!
It was a quick trip, we had to leave fairly early on Sunday to get to the airport but we still made it back to Parc Guell in the morning where we just lounged and read books while soaking up the sun. I believe we probably appeared in 75+ tourists' photographs or the panorama. But, it was a great little getaway weekend. Sun and fun!
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
So, yes it's very easy to learn here. Even if you don't want to, (which of course I am ravenous to do so) you're going to learn. Another great thing for learning is the churches! Because there's not really a "campus" and basically I spend my days wandering around the whole city, sometimes there's nowhere to sit down or get away from the rain. So, I've taken up churches as a hobby. They're very calming and certainly fascinating! I like the Medieval ones because I can try out my new vocabulary in them. The Baroque ones are a little too "busy" (decoration wise... not people wise!) for my liking, but they're nice all the same.
And now, onto classes. I've had two of my three university classes so far. My class at Paris II Pantheon-Assas called Institions Politiques Francaises begins this week on Thursday. Mondays are my busiest day by far. I have five hours of class and then a two hour break and then two more hours. I begin my week with Art and Archeology of Egypt's New Kingdom, a 3rd year class at the Sorbonne. [There are three years of "license" or ungergraduate study at French universities. So a 3rd year class is like a senior level class.] And then in the afternoon I go to Art and Architecture of the Middle Ages: 11th-16th Centuriesm, a 2nd year class also at the Sorbonne, which meets Wednesday afternoons as well.
In Art and Archeology of Egypt, there are three "classes" with in the course. There's a TD (travaux dirigees) which is like a section in the US as there are less people in each TD than there are in the bigger course. The big course is called the CM or cours magistral. And finally there is a cours optional, which in this case for me is on the Pierre de Palerme, an important document in the history of the Old Kingdom in Egypt. In that class, we're actually beginning to learn how to read hieroglyphics, something that I with my penchant for 19th century British art never really thought I would get the opportunity to learn!!! In the CM and the TD we're focusing on the tombs of the New Kingdom, more specifically the 18th-20th dynasties. In the TD we have to do an oral expose with a partner, which I am absolutely terrified to do because it will be 15 minutes of speaking French in front of native speakers!!! But, I'm also really excited about how much of a challenge it should be. My subject is the tombs of the princes in the time of Ramses I to Ramses II. A key place for research will be the Sorbonne's library of Egyptology. How cool is that that there is a whole library for Egyptology and that I get to use it?!?!
My Mediaval class was pretty scary on the first day of the TD because we walked into the classroom (more on the classroom and the building later...) and were handed a packet of papers with drawings of churches and instructed to fill in all of the terminology. How in God's name am I supposed to know the word in French for tympanum? and altar screen? and ribbed ceiling vaulting?!? Well, I didn't know them when we started. But, by the end of the class, I had learned approxamately 250 new vocab words. The best part was that I realized that I really knew the words because I learned them by looking at pictures and hearing the corresponding words, not by looking up English words in the dictionary and translating. I've always believed, and am finding even moreso now that the best way to learn is to see something and to learn the word in French, so that your brain forms the synapse that a green leafy thing is an arbre, not that tree= arbre. It really helps when trying to form sentences, both in speech and in composition.
And now more on the classroom where most of my classes meet. It's on the 4th floor and there are no windows. Sounds terrible, right? Negative. Every single wall is covered in really strange high-relief sculptures of roman soldiers! Life-size ones too! It's very bizarre, but wonderfully awesome and entertaining. I love it. The building where I have class is not the big famous Sorbonne building on Rue Saint Jacques that faces the Place de la Sorbonne, that's where the Egyptology library is, but rather it is in the Rue Michelet Centre Pour Art et Archeology. So all the classes there are art history ones. It's really neat because there's such an artistic air to things, like the reliefs on the wall of my classroom and also the egyptian sculptures in the large staircase and the paintings in the large auditoriums.
That's most of the interesting information on classes. I love going to my university classes. My language class at APA and then the French culture one are both interesting but less exciting and new and different than the university ones, for obvious reasons. But still, I learn and learn and learn without ceasing.
Friday, October 9, 2009
Later that day we drove along the Route Des Grands Crus which is basically a drive through the vineyards of the best wines of the region. We stopped at a place that I wouldn't really call a vineyard and I wouldn't call a wine label either. It was a botteler. So basically, this place, Morin Pere Et Fils, doesn't own any vines of their own, so they buy grapes from other vines and then make and bottle the wine themselves. Sadly, in our visit we didn't get to see any of the process of wine-making, which I know fairly well from visits to Champagne and to Napa, but that other people would have found interesting. We did get to try some wine though. I was a little disappointed with the wine. I think it's just that I like heavier more robust wines and all they have in Bourgone is pinot noir which is a really light wine. Clearly I need to get myself to Bordeaux for denser darker wine! A trip for later in the fall perhaps?
On the last day, we visited Vezelay and the Basilique Sainte-Marie-Madeleine. Again, things had been so hectic that I hadn't really had time to do much research about the places we were visiting. My host family had lent me their Michelin green guide to Bourgone for the bus ride, but I hadn't looked much up. So, I was completely suprised to find out that Vezelay was a place, and the basilica specifically a building that we had studied freshman year at Hopkins in my first art history class ever!
We got a fabulous tour of the basilica by one of the monks who lives there, which was really interesting because he clearly had a very ecclesiastic approach to the church. A lot of focus was put on the pilgrimage aspect of the church's history. And in the tour we spent about 15 minutes talking about the tympanum over the main door of the atrium. And we studied that tympanum for three days!!! my freshman year. So it was really thrilling to see it in person. It's a very interesting piece, because it shows one of the first times that in bas-relief, there is a break with the face of the stone, as you can see in the picture, Christ's knees are pushing out forward toward the viewer.
It was a great weekend. Nice to get away one more time before the grind of classes began! Although the grind of classes isn't so bad considering I don't have class on Fridays... or before 2 pm on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. My Mondays are pretty killer though. More on classes to come!