Un Autre Royaume

March 19th, 20th, 21th

“Death must be so beautiful…to have no yesterday, and no tomorrow. To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace.” Oscar Wilde

In the past few days, I ventured back in time. I visited to another world within Paris, the realm of the great deceased. On March 20th, I went to visit the most famous and most visited cemetery in Paris and in the world, Père Lachaise. Père Lachaise takes its name from the confessor of Louis XIV, Père François de la Chaise. A garden graveyard built on the side of a hill, Père Lachaise is not just any ordinary graveyard, but a city of the dead with its own winding streets named after famous people laid to rest there. Père Lachaise is the place set apart for all Parisiens dead or alive. To be buried Père Lachaise, one has to be either a citizen of Paris, or to have died in Paris. For the living Parisiens, Père Lachaise is their favorite location for a walk (the French really likes promenades in graveyards for some reason).

Given the numerous great spirits laid to rest in this cemetery, I decided to follow the guided tour laid out in Anna Erikssön and Mason Bendewald’s book Meet Me At Père Lachaise. As I walked down the winding roads following the instructions in the book, reading about the life stories of the famous deceased, I felt myself transferred into a much more peaceful world. I felt like if I was quiet enough I can almost Molière and La Fontaine discussing literature or Chopin playing music. I couldn’t help but be filled with great awe and respect for all who has given their lives to making our world as beautiful and rich as it is now.


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some of the famous graves at Père Lachaise: Chopin, Abelard and Heloise, Jim Morrison, La Fontaine, Oscar Wilde, Balzac, and Molière.

Earlier on March 19th, I went to Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris and Sainte-Chapelle on the île de la Cité. 

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Notre-Dame de Paris



Finally, today I visited the Musée Jacquemart-André in the Belle-Epoch bourgeois townhouse of the art collector Edouard André and artist Nélie Jacquemart designed by famous architect Henri Parent. This museum is also one of my favorite smaller museums. Not only does it boast of a great collection of paintings, sculptures, artifacts, and decorative art collected by the couple through their travels around Europe and the world, the architecture of the house itself can be considered a masterpiece (in fact, I liked this townhouse better than Palais du Versailles, which is a little bit too ornamented for my taste). I was struck with awe by the amazing work the couple has done for the art collections in France, both acquiring important paintings themselves and helping French museums with their fund and donations. At the same time, I can’t help but admire at the design of the spiraling staircase positioned in one side of the house, the retractable walls of the reception room, and the exquisite winter garden.

Finally, I had the luck to enjoy the temporary exhibit of female French-American impressionist artist Mary Cassatt. She was a great friend of Edgar Degas, an important member of the impressionist movement, and spent part of her childhood in the Philadelphia area in Pennsylvania. She was a great advocate for presentation of women in paintings and particularly enjoyed depicting the subject of maternity and the tender relationship between mother and child.


Les Meilleurs Malheurs

March 16th, 17th, 18th

Things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end, if not always in the way we expect. — J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

The weather in Paris is becoming very cold again and it started snowing this weekend. While it’s exciting to see some snow at Paris, it is nonetheless a bit of a bad news for a traveler in foreign city who relies on the public transport and on her own feet. Thus, these past few days I’ve deliberately chosen to remain inside and visit some more museums. Despite the freezing cold weather, I’ve made some very heart-warming discoveries.

This past Friday, I spent an entire afternoon at the Louvre Museum (yeah, I went again). Instead of browsing through the entire museum looking for must-see masterpieces, I decided to slow down and take the time to look at the collections I’m interested in more closely. Thus, the entire afternoon, I remained in the French/European sculpture and Etruscan, Greek, and Roman antiquity departments. Aside from being amazed the numerous priceless masterpieces in these departments, I was most pleased to find part of the medieval collections from the Musée du Cluny (Musée national du Moyen Âge). Musée du Cluny, a museum constructed on the remains of a Roman bathhouse and dedicated to medieval history, is the museum I wanted to visit the most on this trip to Paris. Yet, unfortunately, this museum has been closed for renovation until mid-July and I was not able to pay a visit during this trip (I did get to see the remains of the caldarium and the tepidarium outside the museum). Fortunately for me, I can still see part of this museum’s collection thanks to its cooperation with the Louvre to transfer part of its collection to the Louvre for temporary storage. As I wandered around and marveled at the medieval works of art, I remembered J.K. Rowling’s famous quote from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end, if not always in the way we expect.” Sometimes, what I deemed as bad luck might bring pleasant surprises at the end of the day. 

I was soon to discover that the same is true for my visit to Versailles on a snowy Saturday. I was a little bit disappointed that I wasn’t able to walk around the gardens at Versailles because of the heavy snow. Yet, at the same time, if it weren’t for such a cold day, I wouldn’t have enjoyed the best chocolat chaud at Angelina’s nearly as much!


Sunday, I decided to give myself a break from traveling non-stop and only went out near noon to visit Musée Marmottan Monet, which turned out to be one of my favorite smaller museums at Paris (which is a huge compliment considering it’s Paris, a city filled with museums). I really enjoyed the works of Monet and other impressionist artists, especially temporary exhibit on Corot.



Paris, Je t’aime

March 13th, 14th, 15th

“When spring comes to Paris the humblest mortal alive must feel that he dwells in paradise” — Henry Miller

The last few days, the weather at Paris is becoming gradually warmer. Despite the occasional light shower, I’ve been able to enjoy Paris’ warm sunshine and pleasant light breeze. The places I adventured to in these past few days ranges from the grande and magnificent Palais Garnier (L’Opera Garnier) to the petit yet casually chic lesser-known private museums like Musée Gustave Moreau, Musée Cognacq-Jay and Maison du Victor Hugo. I got a feel for Paris’ artistic atmosphere through promenades through the artist districts Montmartre and Le Marais. I was also able to discover a little about French perfume and tea industry at the Fragonard Musée du Parfum and the Musée du thé of Mariage Frères.

March 13th

Originally, I wanted to see a ballet at L’Opera Garnier, but since the show I wanted to see, Orphée et Eurydice, does not premiere until the night I’m leaving Paris, I am not able to fulfill this hope during this trip (saving it for my next time at Paris). Despite that, I’m still stunned by the gorgeous interior of the great opera house. The shining halls of the opera are adored with numerous paintings and sculptures of famous dancers, singers, playwrights, and directors. The whole place has such a royal feeling that its name Palais Garnier is a rather appropriate description. Walking on the grande staircase in the opera house, I feel like I’m not just a spectator, but an actress part of a grand production, just like Charles Garnier has envisioned. FullSizeRender 53.jpg Continue reading “Paris, Je t’aime”

Une Excuse d’une “Mauvaise Touriste”

March 10th, 11th, 12th

“Not all those who wander are lost”– J. R. R. Tolkien

I would admit at the beginning that I’m not really good at traveling. I’m not good at planning my day ahead of time and I’m even worse at following my plan throughout the day. Also, I never have the best luck when I’m traveling: I would arrive at the bus stop to find that my bus has just left; if I decide to turn left at a crossroad, I would soon discover that Comédie Francaise (the place I’m looking for) is in the opposite direction; if I decide to not bring an umbrella today, it would definitely rain, but if I did bring one, it never rains; in the worst case scenario, I’ll finally arrive at a place I longed to visit to find it closed for the day or even the season. When I travel, there’s simply too many unexpected “accidents” and too little time to plan ahead for all of them. I will admit that many of these accidents happened because of my own fault: because I’m really bad at navigating, or because I forgot to check the museum website for open hours. Yet, there are times when nature plays tricks on me, like today when a heavy shower hit while I was enjoying the sun and the statues at Jardin Tuileries. IMG_7145

A statue at the Jardin Tuileries just before the storm

Yet, I would say, despite my lack of skill and general misfortune as a traveler, I do possess one important gift: making the best out of my situation. For example, when the sudden rain forced me to alter my plan to enjoy the Jardin Tuileries, I found myself not distressed, but glad that I could take some time to myself and enjoy a pot of tea at the small café in the garden. When I found that I have run out of time to visit another private museum today, I found myself happily wandering into churches that are not even on my original list of places to visit. To be honest, these impromptu visits often bring me the most joy and excitement.

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The impressive dome at Église Notre-Dame de l’Assomption (the church I wandered into)FullSizeRender 36FullSizeRender 37
Interior of La Madeleine


My favorites at the Musée de l’Orangerie

I believe these accidents and wandering is the best part of traveling alone. Because I’m not afraid to be lost and to wander, I can travel to a broader horizon without getting afraid. I wonder and discover, knowing that I’ll find my way at the end. And perhaps, I will find a new part of me on the way.

Weekend adventure to Fontainebleau
Some Gallo-Romain artifacts at Château de Saint-Germain (Le Musée d’Archéologie nationale)IMG_7054.JPG


Alexandre Dumas père’s study


Exterior and interior of Alexandre Dumas père’s house Le château de Monte Cristo

I’m grateful to be in Paris, a city where I can wander aimlessly and still be awed. I’m even more thankful for having enough time to “waste” in such a breathtaking city!



Aux Grands Hommes (Et Femmes)

March 8th and 9th

“And while I understand and feel/ How much to them I owe,/ My cheeks have often been bedew’d/ With tears of thoughtful gratitude/…/ My place with them will be,/ And I with them shall travel on/ Through all Futurity;/ Yet leaving here a name, I trust./ That will not perish in the dust” –Robert Southey

March 8th and 9th, I went to pay homage to Paris’ two most iconic sites for art and literature: the Panthéon and the Musée d’Orsay.

The modern Panthéon in Paris is named and (partially) modeled after the famous Roman Pantheon in Rome. The name “Pantheon” means, in Ancient Greek and Latin, (temple) to all the gods. rome-pantheon

Continue reading “Aux Grands Hommes (Et Femmes)”

Les rencontres fortuites

March 7th

” The last time I saw Paris, her heart was warm and gay, I heard the laughter of her heart in every street café”–Oscar Hammerstein II

Today is my favorite day in Paris so far! Nothing can better describe my day more than “full of chance encounters”. It was raining on and off the whole day. After morning class, I went to see a temporary art show about the early career of the Renaissance painter Tintoret at the Musée du Luxembourg. Since there is no permanent exhibition at the Musée du Luxembourg, I was fortunate enough to be in Paris and near the museum on the first day of this well-curated exhibition about a true Italian master. FullSizeRender 5.jpgFullSizeRender 4.jpg

My favorite works in the exhibition

After this fortunate encounter, I headed to the Latin Quarter. I originally planned to have a light lunch at the Shakepeare & Company Café after browsing through the collection at the famous bookstore Shakespeare & Company. Yet, as I got off the métro at Saint-Michel square, I was immediately engrossed by the numerous bookstores in the region. I wandered freely among the shelves, looking for a familiar or interesting title that catches my eye. I especially liked the second-hand book section because there particularly, I felt like a true wanderer and traveller: I was looking for something I don’t know yet, a familiar name, a beautifully adored cover, but even more so for a sense of personal connection with the stranger who owned and loved the same books I now enjoy .It is because of the possibility of these unexpected yet pleasant encounters with people and things in a foreign land and the incredible bliss I feel when such encounters happen that I long passionately for solo journeys to unknown places.

Over the days, I have gradually become better at the practice of becoming a “true Parisian” not just a “rushed visitor”. After picking up a few old books, I decided to sit down for at the Shakepeare & Company Café for some afternoon tea and leisure reading. Even on a rainy afternoon, the outside seats truly offers the most pleasant experience and the best scenery. Sitting under the shelter of huge outdoor umbrellas, casually sipping tea and reading a good book, I can see the famous Notre-Dame de Paris when I raise my gaze from the book from time to time. It is truly an inspiring and refreshing leisure unique to Paris! No wonder so many elite writers, philosophers, artists came to live in Paris to find novel ideas!FullSizeRender 5.jpgFullSizeRender 6.jpg

tea at Shakepeare & Company Café

Afterwards, I visited two churches really close to each other but of very different styles: Église Saint-Sevérin and Église Saint Julien le pauvreIMG_6486.JPG

One of the many stunning stained glasses at Eglise Saint-Sevérin


The more tranquil and modest Église Saint Julien le pauvre

After all these days in Paris, I have found my self much more comfortable with the local lifestyle and much more closer to my ideal of wandering solo traveller looking for adventures, surprises, and exciting encounters!


L’avant scène

March 5th and 6th

“We must all do theater to find out who we are, and to discover who we can become.”–Augusto Boal

Yesterday was the first day of my classes with the Alliance Française. This week our theme for the class is the theater, which cannot be more convenient for me because I plan to attend a play at the famous Comedié Française this Sunday. During the first class, we covered many vocabularies related to theater (the personage in the troupe, places in the theater, parts of play). As a person who had not worked in a Westtown theater production, I was only a little surprised to find that I don’t even know the English word for many of the vocabularies. As a result, I had to look up the English word for “the person who moves the props between scenes,” “the person who help the actor get dressed” etc. before trying to figure out the correct word in French theater. This means that I have to spend more time finishing my homework, but at the same time, I learned so much more about the different parts that go into a successful reproduction of a play and feel so much more prepared for my adventure to the Comédie Française this Sunday.

ff13492aecbb1830c8c37a588862e1df.jpgThe favorite idea I’ve learned from this first class is that “une pièce de théâtre n’est finie que jusqu’a les comediens le presentent aux spectateurs” (a theater piece is not finished until the actors present it to the audience). This quote emphasizes the important role of the director and the actors’ reinterpretation of the original script. In a piece of theater, the playwright only sets up the “body” for the personage, but it is the actual production and the people who participate in it that gives the characters their spirit. The life experience the actors, the metteur en scène, and the individual spectator can change the meaning of the play a lot. At the same time, our interpretation of the play can tell us a lot about ourselves. Thus, the quote, we must all do theater, as actors, as directors, or as active spectators to discover who we are and who we can be.

The same principle of active participation and interpretation can also be applied to my adventures in Paris. Paris is different for each visitor and inhabitant for it is so diverse that everyone can draw an unique connection with Paris. Given my interest in humanities, my encounter with Paris is more an exploration of Paris’ history and culture. In the past two days, I’ve explored Abbaye de Saint-Germain-des-PrésÉglise Saint-Sulpice, Musée national Eugène-Delacroix, Jardin Luxembourg, Cimetière du Montparnasse, Musée Bourdelle etc. Because of my interest in languages, classics, and history, I payed special attention to the Latin inscriptions in the churches and cemetery I visited and was especially grateful to be able to do a complimentary guided tour in French about Eugène Delacroix’s oriental studies at the Musée national Eugène-Delacroix. IMG_6348.JPG

Middle: Latin inscription on the tomb of Descartes


Interior of Église Saint-Sulpice

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palace and garden of Luxembourg


my favorite work of Antoine Bourdelle at Musée Bourdelle

The past few days Paris has offered me many pleasant surprises. I’m super excited for my future adventures at Paris!


À Paris, Tout Sera Mieux

March 4th, 2018

IMG_6336.JPG“A walk in Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of Life”–Thomas Jefferson

To be honest, today might not be the best day to travel to Paris. Philadelphia has just seen its largest snow storm of the year, and in Paris, it started raining. So, I started my 42 hr day by worrying about whether my flight would be cancelled like those of my fellow classmates were the day before. When I finally boarded the 7-hour flight, I worried my French skills wouldn’t be able to hold up enough for me to survive in Paris, whether my horrible navigation skills would get me lost in the meandering streets of Paris, and whether I would get along with my host family and my classmates. Yet, when my plane landed at the Charles de Gaulle airport, a strange, warm force began to calm my racing heart down a little by little. A really small yet comforting voice whispered, “Tout sera mieux.”

Truly, everything did become better. My host family came to the airport to pick me up and we road back to the central city on RER (my first time on a French metro train, check). We conversed casually during the ride and during lunch. My French is holding up to the test so much better than I expected and my host family is more kind and welcoming than I could describe with words. They would teach me new vocabulary, phrases, and slang, correct my little grammatical and pronunciation mistakes, repeat and paraphrase when I don’t understand, and they even gave me a thick stack of tourist guides, pamphlets, and maps to help me plan my stay in Paris.

After an extremely delicious and relaxing lunch, I decided to scout out the classroom where I will take class for the next three weeks and to take advantage of the free admission at the Louvre Museum the first Sunday of every month from November to March. My host family lived in the Quartier Latin (the best district to live in for culture lovers) on the left bank of the Seine, right around the famous Sorbonne, the oldest university in France (the Quartier gets its name from the language of instruction, Latin, of the prestigious university in the Middle Ages). Because of my convenient location, I decided to take a walk in the rain instead of taking a bus and a métro again. After all, Paris is rated the best city for a promenade.

IMG_6305.JPGRain dripping from the parapluie, feet tapping on the cobble road, eyes wandering, nose taking in the fresh air washed by the rain, heart filled with indescribable bliss, I started to find my pace among the Parisian streets. I loved how nobody seems to be in a great rush, nor trying to procrastinate. I loved how any unintentional picture of a random corner of the road gives off an unaffected elegance and beauty. At Paris, no one is trying to imitate someone or to be someone they are not. Yet, everyone and everything strives to become their best selves, and thus, the city is collectively striking, irreplaceable, and free. A promenade along Paris’ streets lets me see the history and beauty of the Latin Quarter and the Seine, gets me to my destination, the Louvre Museum, but most importantly, moves me to find my own rhythm and my true self.


Rendevous à Paris

February 28th, 2018


“Why Paris? Paris needs no reason. Paris is its own reason.”—Maureen Johnson

Hi everyone! My name is Summer, a member of the Class of 2018. This is my fourth year at Westtown and I’ve been taking French courses since Freshman year. For my senior project, I chose to go to Paris to further my knowledge of French culture and language. I’ll be staying with a local host family and studying with Alliance Française for three weeks, March 4th to 24th. I chose to go to Paris for its many historical sites, museums, palaces and parks and for its unique lifestyle and gastronomy. I’m really excited about taking classes with Alliance Française because I will be studying in the Latin Quartier where the oldest university in France, Sorbonne, is located. Also, I want to step out of my comfort zone and test out my French skills I’ve been working on in class for the last four years.

Collège de Sorbonne

More specifically, I plan to do these things while I’m on my senior trip:

  1. Make an effort to talk to my host family and Parisians I meet in French to learn more about their daily lives
  2. Take classes with Alliance Française in the morning to further my knowledge of the French language
  3. Visit historical sites and museums in my free time in the afternoon
  4.  Try as many traditional (and good) French food and Parisian food as I can
  5. Go see a play in the Comedié Françaisecomédie-français.pngComedié Française
  6. Take weekend day trips to visit Versailles, Fontainbleau, Château de Chambord
  7. Make use of the TGV, metro, bus and other public transports in Paris as often as possible
  8. Do a cruise on the Seine
  9. Visit the markets, boutiques, bookstores in Paris (Shakespeare and Company)
  10. Spend an afternoon in a Parisian cafe.

I’ll add more to this list once I’m in Paris.  See you in a few days!