Friday, October 9, 2009


The program that I am doing here in Paris is called APA (Academic Program Abroad) and part of the progrm is a cultural component. We go to the theatre and to concerts to learn about French culture. We also got to go on a three day weekend trip to Bourgone! (Also known as Burgundy.) We stayed near Dijon and travelled around the area over the course of the weekend. One of the best things about being in Bourgone in October was the fact that all of the leaves were changing! As we drove through the countryside, it was so refreshing to see the leaves changing on the trees AND on the vines! I don't think I realized that the vines would change color the same way that trees do, but it was really pretty.

The first day we visited the Abbaye de Fontenay which is a great Medieval abbey and accompanying buildings. Something really great was that we were given a tour in French. It was really fun to learn all sorts of architectural terms and religious terms that are probably going to come in handy for my class on the Moyen-Age (more to come on classes later though!) The abbey was nice, it was very plain though and lacking in any sort of ornamentation as it is a Cistertian abbey. So, I was a little disappointed that there were no tapistries or paintings. There was one statue! Just one. But still, there was a lovely river (that my friend Rachael sadly dropped her camera in! We thought it was God cursing her, as she then proceeded to have very bad luck the rest of the weekend. Don't worry though, her luck has turned and a new camera is in the mail to her as we speak. )

We spent our two nights in a thing that I'm not sure if it should be classified as a hostel, a hotel, an inn, a convention center, or a stable. It was called La Bergerie, which means sheep farm. And I think that's what it actually was, an old sheep farm that had been converted into a hotel for large groups. So that was a little bizarre. The did serve us delicious family style dinners with traditional French recipes, like boeuf bourginon. The sheep farm did seem a bit like something out of a horror film, but luckily I was tired enough to put that idea out of my head and fall asleep easily!
On the second day, we went to Beaune a small town to the south of Dijon. We visited the very famous Hospices de Beane there. I didn't really like the Hospices. It's basically an old hospital of the state. It was pretty and all, but I found it less interesting than the abbey and then the Basilica we visited on Sunday. At the Hospices though, we did get to see a very famous altarpiece by Rodgier Van Der Wieden. I hadn't even known it was there! So it was a great suprise to round the corner and see it! Also another suprise was seeing a friend from Hopkins who is studying in Strasbourg for the year! Her program was doing a nearly identical trip around Bourgone so we ended up bumping into them three times over the weekend!

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!

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