Tuesday, July 24, 2012

An American Girl in Paris

This past weekend, our group traveled to Paris. We left early Friday morning, and stayed until Sunday night. We stayed in a nice hotel in the Bastille neighborhood of Paris. Below is a picture taken on the balcony of our hotel. 

After dropping our luggage off at the hotel, we immediately started sightseeing.  We went to Notre Dame, which was very close to our hotel. Then we took a boat tour on the seine.  As the boat approached the Eiffel Tower, we were all filled with nervous excitement.  I have seen so many pictures, but as we got close I realized just how magnificent it was in person.  Later, we went to sit under the Eiffel Tower at night.  Everyone was out sitting beneath the sparkling lights, drinking champagne.  When the tower lit up, we all got quiet.  It was extraordinary. Some people in our group even started crying.

            On Saturday, we went to the Arc De Triumph.  We took the stairs to the top, which provided my exercise for the day. 

After, we walked down the Champs-Elysees to see all of the high-end stores.  It is funny that on this street there is a Louis Vuitton, but also a McDonalds. Later we went to the Beaubourg area in Paris, which was also full of stores.  
This area in Paris reminded me of Soho in New York. 

I found numerous vintage stores, all priced surprisingly low.  I bought as many items as my growing suitcase would allow.  We were also in luck, because for the duration of July all of France has ‘Soldes’ or sales, so prices are marked down. That night, we had dinner at the top of the Pompidou Museum.  It gave us a breathtaking view of the entire city.  I ordered foie gras from a waiter dressed in a tuxedo; it was a special night!

            I can’t speak about my trip to Paris without mentioning more food.  I definitely ate my way through this city. I ordered all my favorites: Croque Madame, Carpaccio, Duck, and Moules Frites.  Please do not ask how I fit in all these meals, but I recommend all!

            Before I came on this to Paris, I was warned that Parisians aren't very friendly.  Yet, I did not find anyone very rude.  However, I recommend knowing a little of the language.  Yes, many people speak English, but you will be emotionally drained from all the attitudes you will get for not trying to speak French.  I am nowhere near a perfect French speaker, but they seemed to appreciate my effort. 

 Overall, I had an amazing time in Paris. 
I would move there at the drop of a hat. Yet, I was still happy to come home to sunny, warm, and welcoming Montpellier.     
 A bientôt! 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Belfast Murals: A Canvas for Peace

All murals were painted by artists in Belfast and the Bogside, Derry.

A wall is a simple structure. It doesn’t need to support anything more substantial and weighty than itself. A wall has a shallow foundation in the ground, and it’s purpose is always to create a division of space for practical purposes or esthetic reasons. Architecturally speaking, a wall is basic and easily built. It is an easy answer to design the flow of people between two points. The reason why a wall is built, however, can be a lot more complicated. Seeing the “Peace Wall” today in West Belfast made me realize just how powerful of a statement a wall can articulate, whether it’s from the murals and graffiti it contains, or its mere existence to begin with.

I love when art has the power to make me feel so deeply, even if it’s sentiments of alarm and disturbance. I was able to relate to the issues in Northern Ireland through a platform that I am familiar with, and this helped me to better understand how severe the problems still are. Art is incredibly influential in communities like West Belfast, where the public is so divided. The murals I saw today made me realize that art is a wonderful, powerful tool for healing as well as for propaganda. Adopting symbols like a red hand, swastika, cross, crown, or harp is another way of putting a stamp on your work to clearly mark what side of the conflict you’re on.

If there’s one thing that I can take away from the Belfast mural tour, it is that I am incredibly thankful that paintbrushes are being wielded rather than weapons. In a way, art is a creative and peaceful weapon that if used successfully, can make someone stop and question their own morals and perspective.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Bastille Day!

      On Saturday July 14th-Bastille Day, we had an amazing day of celebrations.
  We went to the town of Saint Guilhem Le Desert. We started the day kayaking in the river, and had a picnic on the beach. 

Next, we went to the center of Saint Guilhem Le DesertThis town was voted the second most beautiful city in France. Instantly, we were all in awe.

       Our group was among residents and other French visitors.  Everyone was relaxing, and eating outside at the various restaurants.  The streets were filled with people, yet it was so calm and tranquil. (We are still adjusting to speaking softer.)

As I wandered around this town, I was able to take some street style shots. 

 I love her retro dress/shoe choice!

 Those pants!

 A vision in cream! 

After staying the day in Le Saint Guilhem Le Desert, we came back to Montpellier for fireworks. The entire city was out celebrating in the streets. The next day, our group had a barbeque together to conclude the holiday weekend.  

Happy Bastille Day!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Galway Film Festival & Cork Literary Festival

Clockwise from Top Left: L.E. Orla, Wool Socks, Galway Film Fleadh, Gold Bangle,
Jasper Quinn, County Cork, 10DaysInDublin Festival, Sweater Sleeve, Galway.

Aside from soaking up the fashion scene in Ireland, I've been taking advantage of the wide range of summer arts festivals happening all over the country. The 10DaysInDublin arts festival was full of hilarious plays, dance performances, comedians, poetry slams, and concerts. It's run entirely by volunteers who are passionate about the arts, and I attended two of the multitude of events: a musical performance by a band called Bouts and a play entitled A Play for Bad Actors. Both venues were perfect backdrops for two magical evenings of live music and theater.

In my study tour to the Southwest of Ireland, the Literary Festival in Bantry, Co. Cork provided a sense of adventure and quenched the needs of my inner poetry nerd. I chummed around with tea and scones and the Irish Navy whilst listening to a reading by Jasper Quinn, a freelance writer who sailed around Ireland on a kayak and then wrote about his experiences. He was witty and hilarious, and knew how to make fun of himself. The officers in the Irish Navy on the L.E. Orla were kind enough to offer their ship as the venue, appropriate enough, seeing as the reading was about being out at sea. One quote that stuck out in my mind was when Jasper said, "Coming home means going out to sea." Many an Irish writer has written about Ireland from outside its borders, which was true for Jasper as well. I'm not sure why so many literary geniuses have felt the need to leave Ireland in order to properly write about it, but it's definitely a common theme. 

After Cork, we made our way slowly up to Galway for the 24th Annual Film Fleadh and saw a thrilling drama called Jump. It was the perfect art house film to see and I was completely drawn in by the plot, which followed eight loosely connected characters over the course of a hectic and fatal New Years Eve in Derry. I'll be visiting Derry and Belfast next weekend, and I'm curious to see what Northern Ireland is really like after learning so much about "the troubles." On my travels, I purchased a silver claddagh ring, a gold bangle, and the most comfy sweater I've ever worn. Aside from the many arts festivals, I had quite an outdoorsy adventure. I rode a pony up a mountain, scaled the steep cliffside of Skellig Michael, was mesmerized by the Cliffs of Moher, and found a peaceful, rocky perch in The Burren. After three weeks of living in Dublin and travelling to Cork, Kerry, Clare, Blarney, Cobh, Bantry, and Galway, the best way to sum up this journey would be to say that I've found the perfect balance of art, academia, and nature. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

First Days in France

            Bonjour! I arrived in Montpellier Friday July 6th.  I flew into Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris, then took a train to Montpellier.  I took the TGV train to Montpellier. I was unaware there were assigned seats, and later realized my seat was on the other end of the train.  After unsuccessfully trying to drag my large suitcase through the small aisles, I sat in an empty seat.  However, I had to move when I was scolded in French for taking someone’s seat.  Finally, I ended up sitting in the staircase in-between train cars for 4 hours. C’est la vie! It was not a comfortable 4 hours, but it provided a great view of the French countryside!

            After the train, Voila!  I was in Montpellier.  It is a beautiful French city located in the South of France, on the Mediterranean Sea.  I met the other students in my program, who are from University of New Orleans and Louisiana State University.  Everyone is friendly and adventurous! We have already taken trips to different towns in France, explored Montpellier, and started classes.  We are provided school lunch at the University of Montpellier.  It is delicious! There are meats, vegetables, fish, so much bread, cheeses, and wine! The wine is cheaper to drink than the water.  See picture below.

            We are always on the go, exploring Montpellier and other nearby towns.  There are not many English speakers, because Montpellier is a vacation destination for French people.  So, even the tourists speak French!  Everyone in the program is at a different level in French, some just beginning and some are fluent. However, we all make an effort to speak French to the locals, which warms them up. Already I have noticed many differences in culture.  Everyone is very quiet. So, when we walk as a group, we have to remind ourselves to quiet down, otherwise our voices echo through the small French streets.  I  also immediately noticed their outfits. From young to old, the people here have a distinct style.  Although it is very warm here, they still manage to look chic.  See picture below. 

       Overall, after my first few days j’adore France! I am excited each day to wake up and absorb this beautiful culture. Until next time, au revoir! 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Creative Quarter & Dublin Hipsters

Clockwise, from top left: Graffiti in Temple Bar, Lace necklace at the design center, Hand-dyed yarn made in Ireland, Bow's window display, Colorful, knitted coral reef at Trinity College, Wall art in a fitting room, Flowers for sale in the Creative Quarter, Visual merchandising in Bow, and Colman seated at his desk.

After almost two full weeks of living in Dublin, I no longer feel like a tourist. I'm listening to Irish music, going to concerts at intimate, local venues, shopping in the markets, chatting with Dubliners, and reading Yeats and Joyce in the rare case that I have free time in my flat. In my last post, I introduced the Creative Quarter and explained a few prominent trends that I've been noticing on the streets and in pubs, and it's time to add a new layer of perspective.

At this point in my study abroad experience, I've grown a lot more comfortable striking up converstations with locals and asking questions about their style. Colman (Gaelic for "Dove"), pictured in the center tile above, was manning a shop called Bow in the Creative Quarter this past Monday. I timidly approached him and asked if I could ask him some questions, and he immediately openned up about Dublin trends...or lack of. According to Colman, the Irish don't follow specific trends the way that Americans do. Instead, they're "influenced by the world." Some people, especially youth, tend to have a certain daily uniform that they adhere to, more or less. Others, who would be considered "hipsters" by American standards, would completely reject popular fashion and wear whatever suits their mood. Often, someone who doesn't care one way or another about the way they dress could be perceived by others as the most stylish person in the world. 

Colman said there's still an interest in high fashion and style icons from Paris and America, but for the most part, Irish people draw inspiration from the streets, culture, and life. They care less about what models are wearing in fashion magazines and care more about what the cool waitress did with her hair or how the group of fashionable pub-goers layered their tights and jean shorts. Regardless of the lack of following specific trends, I've still noticed recurring motifs of skull prints, American flags, and long fringe everytime I shop. The way in which the Irish adapt these popular motifs, however, is as plentiful as the number of clovers growing in the hills of County Wicklow. 

For more information on Bow, please find their e-commerce site via the following link:


That's all for now,