My trip to Belgium marks my last voyage outside of Paris before my time here is done. I wanted to provide a summary of all the voyages so if you’re interested feel free to click on any of the town names and it will direct you to that blog post!
B. Giverny (Real-life impressionisme)
D. Loire Valley (Castles, Cheese and Wine)
F. Amiens ( Tallest and most asymmetrical Cathedral)
H. Versailles (Castle that led to French Revolution)
J. Berlin (Bread, Beer, and Bikes in Germany!!)
L. Chartres (Stained Glass isn’t just for cathedrals)
N. Reims (Champagne)
P. Prague (part 2, part 3) (Disneyland for Adults in the Czech Republic)
R. Metz (If France and Germany had a child)
T. Bruxelles (Waffles, Chocolate, and EU Parliament)
I went to Belgium on Friday!! This was an EDUCO semi-sponsored event. We arrived took a short train right into the center of the city. We started by walking through the Grand Square and cute passages (and it was snowing!).
Then we took a tour of a museum of Comic Books. Now this might sound crazy to American readers, because in America Comic books are mostly just superheros and kinda weird. However, in Belgium (and France) comic books are considered an 8th type of art (to go along with sculpture, painting, singing, theater, etc) afterall it’s drawings WITH WORDS. Needless to say they are a big part of the culture in belgium (and France too). We learned all about TinTin and Smurfs (both of which originated from Belgium!). We also learned about the cartoon Natacha which started as just a comic about a woman (a new idea) but eventually turned into an “erotic” comic after a few years. The museum had a special room for adults only that our guide took us to. There was a funny “no children” sign outside.
For lunch I tried a sandwich made with brie and sirop de liège. Liège is a town in Belgium, and the “sirop” is sort of a mixture between jam and syrop and it is pear flavored. There also were some chunks of pear. The sandwich was delicious!! I also tried a brownie, which looked like a muffin, but was super tasty.
Next we went to the “Parlementarium” which was a super cool interactive museum explaining the history and functions of the EU Parliament. Unfortunately, our guide got lost on the way to the museum so we only got about 15-20 minutes in this huge museum so I was frustrated. I actually was super interested in this museum (and political science is far from my normal interests). There was a huge map of Europe on the floor of one of the rooms. There were these little podiums on wheels and you’d take it and place it over a major city in one of the European Union countries and it would give a short historical/cultural message about it. I learned quite a bit, I thought I’d include some random facts. Croatia is anticipated to be added to the EU in about 6 months. Norway is the only Scandinavian country who is not part of the EU (I’m actually not sure why). And, many of the EU countries have not switched over the euro (and likely won’t). It verified what I learned in the Czech Republic: the Czech Republic is part of the EU but they refused to sign one of the financial measure of the EU so they remain on their own currency instead of the Euro. There are also 14 vice presidents of the EU!
Next we had a meeting in the actual EU Parliament building! Unfortunately we couldn’t go into famous room where all their meetings are held (something about construction and safety…I didn’t understand completely). We had an employee give us an informative lecture about what the EU parliament does and the ways their meetings are held. Each member always speaks in their native (first) language and then it is translated into 23 different languages instantly for everyone else!! They also allowed us to ask questions. While this isn’t my domain, many of the students in my group are taking an EU class right now so they were very quick with lots of questions.
Lastly, we had some free time in the city. Without a doubt I wanted to go to the famous Christmas Markets!! I tasted so many great Belgian specialities. I tried waffles (of course). I actually prefer Liège style belgian waffles over the Bruxelles style (which is more similar to what we eat in America). The Liège style has almost a sugar coating on it, and they are smaller…. mmm so tasty! I also tasted french fries which were originally made by a French man who lived in Belgium. They had 15 different sauces we could put on our fries…. ketchup is the only one that sounded reasonable in my mind. I also got some belgian chocolates to give as gifts to people who have been especially helpful for me in my time in Paris.
My first final exam!!
I just got home from my first final exam and I’m in the post-exam rush so I thought I’d crank out a blog post!! My exam today was in History of Subsaharan Africa in the 19th century. This class has only two notes: a paper and a final. All I have to do is pass these classes. In France all grades are out of 20. And for me a 10 is passing. In most classes the mean for the class is around an 11, or a 12 if the professor is generous. Also, scores between 18-20 are never handed out… they don’t exist. So that being said, I need to be around the mean of the class (full of french students who are native speakers….) While this may sound scary, I actually beat the mean on my first assignment in that class getting a 14.5 on the paper (the highest score in the class was a 17 which was gotten by one of the americans from my program!).
Now for some context: this is the first final exam I’ve ever taken at a college level in a humanities class!!! So I was pretty nervous. Over the past weekend I summarized all my notes into a study guide and it was 30 PAGES!! Nonetheless I worked hard and memorized most of it so I felt super prepared for the exam. I go in and on the front page of the exam there is a box that says : check this if you’re not a native french speaker. I chuckle and mark the box. I’m super grateful because the exam grader will hopefully go easy on my multitude of grammar mistakes. The first part of the test was to put things on a map of Africa. It asked us to mark the Nile and the Niger, and then a few states that existed in the 19th century. The next part of the exam was a question that said Tell me everything you know about the Boer War . Now I studied the Boer war in high school and wrote a huge essay on it, so I barely even had to study this topic so I cranked out that essay first. The next question was Tell me everything you know about Sierra Leone. Again this was relatively easy because it was one of the main British colonies that we had studied in class. Finally we had a mini-dissertation that was on The Blacks and Whites in Africa in the 19th Century . I was shocked at how broad the topic was. Literally I could write a French-style dissertation on practically anything I learned in the class. I structured out the essay in the French style, and used my section stems that I’ve been using all semester. The French style dictates what it’s going to tell you, then tells it to you. Then repeats what it is going to say, then explains it. I find it rather repetitive and odd, but I’ve got this style down after writing a few papers. I do have to say that my essays were not super in depth… they should be enough to pass and prove that I know how to write a paper and I paid attention in class, but they weren’t magnificently profound essays.
So I definitely over-studied. But to be honest, I loved the class. This goes down as one of my all-time favorite classes in my college career. I’m positive I passed this class (seeing as I only needed a 5.5 to average to a 10 out of 20).
Well I still have a 15 page paper for my film class. I have a 3 hour final for my sociology class. I have a 10 minute oral exam (prof asks me questions, I (hopefully) answer them), and a 1.5 hour analysis of text for psychanalyse….
I’m pretty nervous for my psychanalyse class because my entire grade is based off 2 hours on my last day in Paris… and the class has been super all over the place without much cohesion… hopefully I can pass that class!!!
SNOW!!! So I saw snow for the first time this winter with a trip to Metz! Metz is located in eastern France near the German Boarder. This town has actually switched hands between France and Germany many times so the culture and architecture and cuisine is a hybrid of the two.
I came prepared for the cold, snowy day with three sweaters, but some of the other members of the group unfortunately were not. We started with a tour of the city. Unfortunately some things were closed because it was a monday. We continued to see a cathedal. I’ve seen SO MANY cathedrals in the past few months, but each one has its idiosyncrasies. This cathedral was fully decorated for Christmas! It also only had 1 rosette which is rare. Furthermore, many of the stained-glass artwork was done by a Jewish man (and nonetheless almost all of them were portraits of Jesus). There was live music coming from the organ during our visit.
We went for a nice lunch. They served us both bread and pretzels with our meal (remember what I said about French and German culture). I had a dish that was a mixture of potatoes and onions and cumin (which I thought was a Mexican spice…?) baked with Munster cheese. Munster cheese comes from the French town Munster ( not to be confused with the non-cheese-making German town Munster ). So I had Munster cheese in the same region as Munster The dessert was a tarte made of Mirabelle which is a yellow-colored plum/prune.
Throughout the day we saw and went to a few Christmas Markets!! They are adorably decorated with bright colors and holiday cheer! I was surprised by the various things being sold: everything from jewelery to oysters to nougat to iphone cases.
We finished our day with a visit to the Centre Pompidou of Metz (a sister museum to the Centre Pompidou of Paris… In Paris it’s actually connected to a library which I wrote about in a previous blog post). This museum is full of temporary exhibits of modern art. We started on the top floor. We walk into a hallway and men hand us flash lights… then we walk into the exhibit and it’s a large pitch black room. We quickly realize it is a photography exhibit on the walls and we are to look at it using our small flash lights. This exhibit had a truly unique effect. It was very isolating, since you could barely see and needed to use your own flashlight to personally see each piece of photography. The artwork was very intriguing and I spent the most time in this exhibit. It was almost all black and white photography which went well with the black room. The next floor was very very bright and white. It was art work of Sol Lewitt, an American who studied at Syracuse University! He was fascinated with lines and his work was re-created from his plans by art students. There were many rooms with different interpretations of lines in black and white. The last exhibit was of a theatre by picasso, unfortunately it was hard to follow because I don’t have a background in his life history.
So today I went to a perfume museum and got to make my own perfume!! We started with an introduction to five different types of perfume and what scents are at their base:
- Eau Fraîche – citrus and neroli
- Chypre – Patchouli and Mousse oak Moss
- Fougeres -lavender and vanilla and cachemire wood
- Orientale – vanilla and patchouli and sandalwood and ambre ciste
- Floraux – tons of different flowers
I paid attention to each of the demos and smell tasters and quickly decided chypre and fougeres were my favorites. I wasn’t a huge fan of the neroli smell in Eau Fraîche, the Orientale was just too too toxicly strong, and the Floraux smelled a bit like a grandma.
They lined up about 50 different bottles with concentrated scents in each one. From here they gave us sample recipes to use or tweak with the concentrated scents to make little 5 ml sample perfumes. I smelled through the majority of the 50 different bottles and came up with my favorite: Jasmine! SO whatever I was going to make was definitely going to have jasmine. I tried making a Fougeres by roughly following a recipe but omitting the smells I didn’t like and adding in jasmine and I loved it!!! Then for my next demo I followed a recipe exact for a chypre that contained jasmine and I liked it, but prefered the fougeres (I’m not a huge fan of patchouli).
Then we transfered our favorite sample into a large 50mL bottle. So here is my (not so) secret recipe for my very own perfume for the 5 mL :
- 2 drops citrus
- 3 drops lavender
- 3 drops vanilla
- 6 drops cachemire wood (to give it the fougeres scent)
- 5 drops jasmin
- fill container with ethanol to the top (so it will evaporate and leave scent on you)
This ratio was of course multiplied by a lot for the 50 mL bottle. We also got a visit through the perfume museum. We learned that scents usually have a head, body, and base so there are scents that last about an hour, about four hours, and a few days… so the perfume will smell different after different amounts of time after being applied. We also learned where certain scents come from around the world. And we learned some perfume traditions: a woman would put a dot of perfume on the right cheek to say she was taken but on the left cheek to say she was available. She would put a dot of perfume on her lips to say she wanted to be embraced and a dot of perfume on her chin to say she couldn’t be embraced today, but maybe tomorrow.
Then of course they took us to their show room and tried to sell us their products… They were super expensive!!! I’m super grateful for this EDUCO opportunity. I only paid 10 euro and I will have wonderful perfume for a very long time (with my big bottle and the sample trials)!!