Unofficial Travel Guide

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It’s hard to believe that my time in Paris is almost over! I’ll definitely miss the delicious pastries and crêpes that took over my diet for the past month. I figure it’s only fitting to write a blogpost on my favorite experiences and learning opportunities I’ve had in Paris. Maybe this unofficial travel guide will come in handy for future Caroline or for anyone who plans on traveling to Paris.

On the banks of the Seine.

Favorite place for ice cream:

  • Berthillon on Île Saint-Louis–get the pear and honey nougat flavors!

Best place for inexpensive, American-sized coffee:

  • Franprix

Best place(s) for an afternoon picnic:

  • Parc Montsouris, on the hill overlooking the lake
  • The quais of Île Saint-Louis
  • On the lawn in the Jardin du Luxembourg, across from the fountain with boats

Best place to watch the Bastille Day fireworks:

  • Pont Mirabeau–If you walk there along the Seine from the Pont du Garigliano tram stop, you may encounter a cover band singing Rage Against the Machine’s Killing in the Name.

Best place for inexpensive breakfast:

  • Café Crêperie Rouge Pomme on Avenue du Général Leclerc–only 7.90 euros for a coffee, juice, a basket of bread with jam and butter, and a sweet crêpe!

Best place for a croque madame sandwich:

  • Café du Rendez-Vous

Favorite museums:

  • Musée d’Orsay–Impressionists galore!
  • Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine
  • Musée du Louvre
  • Musée de l’Homme

Best views of Paris:

  • From the patio area in front of the Sacré-Cœur
  • From the top of the Centre Pompidou
  • From the top of the Eiffel Tower

Favorite day trips:

  • Provins
  • Normandy
  • Versailles

Most frequented grocery stores:

  • Monoprix
  • Franprix

Favorite parks and squares: 

  • Parc Montsouris
  • Bois de Vincennes
  • Jardin du Luxembourg

Spookiest (but coolest) experience:

  • The catacombs

Favorite area for architecture:

  • Neighborhood of Le Marais (also a good place for falafel!)
  • Provins

Areas with the most restaurant options:

  • Latin Quarter
  • Denfert-Rochereau area

Favorite cemeteries:

  • Père Lachaise
  • Passy
  • Montmartre

Favorite candy:

  • Honey flavored gommes véritables from Maison Moinet on île Saint Louis

Favorite place to get a baguette:

  • Paul bakery for 1 euro! Stays fresh the longest.

Area with the most bookstores:

  • Left bank, near the Seine, in the area between Blvd. Saint-Michel and Rue Saint-Jacques

Best area to shop for gifts and treats:

  • Île Saint-Louis

Tips and findings:

  • Download the Paris Metro app. It automatically tells you the fastest ways to get between stations, as well as the nearest metro stations to you. It’s easy to plan routes with the paper maps, but it’s nice to see how long it’ll take to get to where you’re going.
  • Don’t freak out if you get lost…just look for the nearest metro station and you can reorient yourself to the station near where you are staying. Zane and I once wandered randomly around Bois de Vincennes and ended up in the Zone 3 suburbs. We had to walk a little bit to find a metro station, but we made it back!
  • The Navigo pass is really convenient if you are staying awhile and plan on using public transportation because it works on the metro, trams, buses, and RERs. I think you might even be able to rent a bike with it, but don’t quote me on that.
  • Petite beurre cookies with chocolate are ADDICTING.
  • Monoprix has a lot of tasty, cheap pre-made meals.
  • Buy a fan if you are sensitive to heat…I found mine at Darty in Les Halles. Kind of expensive, but worth it.
  • If your cell phone service provider doesn’t provide international coverage, buy a burner phone or a French SIM card (which is what I did). 3 gigs has been enough to get me through the month.

Thank you, Prof. Smith, for an amazing month in Paris!

July 29, 2017

In pursuit of coffee…

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One of my defining characteristics is my (slightly) problematic addiction to coffee (even though I physically can only handle 2-3 cups max without bouncing off the walls…). Sometimes I go to bed thinking about how great my first cup of coffee will taste in the morning. However, while in France, I’ve had to adjust my coffee drinking habits a bit. You know what they say though: when in Rome [Paris], do as the Romans [Parisians] do!

My beloved coffee vending machine. So many choices!

Caffeine Differences in Drip Coffee and Espresso

One of the first things I noticed about the coffee-drinking habits in Paris is that a lot of people drink espressos rather than black coffee. Unfortunately for me, I enjoy drowning my large coffee in flavored creamer, which is impossible to do with espresso. I’ve had a few espressos during my time here, and while I enjoy them, their tiny size means my coffee-drinking experience goes by faster. I then asked myself, “What is the appeal of a tiny espresso?” Answer: the concentration of caffeine per ounce.

I did a little research into caffeine content in espressos versus 8oz. of drip coffee, and I learned that espressos are served in much smaller amounts because the caffeine in it is more concentrated per ounce. This makes it possible for people to drink a lot of espressos throughout the day and not become super wired. Typically, I consume one to two 8oz. cups of drip coffee per day back in the States, and I expect it to keep me awake for the rest of the day (note: it does not). Drinking espresso would provide me with little boosts throughout the day that could prove more affective than only drinking drip coffee in the morning.

Social Differences in Caffeine Consumption

Usually, I drink coffee in the morning while eating breakfast or on the go while I’m rushing to class. Occasionally, I’ll meet a friend for coffee. I’ve observed that Parisians drink either espressos or smaller cups of coffee while they sit outside cafés and talk with friends. This seems like a much more relaxed and social approach to daily caffeine consumption than in the U.S.

Sidebar: I’ve also noticed this relaxed, un-rushed approach with meals. People take their time to really enjoy their meal, and they don’t end up asking for a leftover box.

My Silly American Moments

I’m the type of person who doesn’t like to stand out when visiting new places. I prefer to watch what native people are doing so that I can model them and not insult anyone with my American ways. In France, unless it’s breakfast time, it’s typical to order coffee for dessert after a meal. However, on a couple of occasions, I’ve forgotten this fact and ordered coffee for during my meal, only to hear a confused “Maintenant?” (Now?). All of my waiters/waitresses were nice about it, but I felt very silly once I realized my deviation from typical coffee-drinking habits.

My takeaways:

  1. Espressos are nice because you can drink a lot of them throughout the day and not get wired.
  2. Take a moment to slow down within your day and drink coffee with with your friends.
  3. Coffee is a nice way to conclude your meal.
July 25, 2017

Art Nouveau At the Musée d’Orsay

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Going into our class visit to the Musée d’Orsay, I had heard of Art Nouveau but had never really been exposed to it in furniture design. As soon as I saw entered the Art Nouveau galleries, I was instantly hooked on how much the furniture reminded me of what I’d seen in fairy tales. The dark wood is reminiscent of a cozy cottage in the forest, while the spindly, curving lines show craftsmanship and whimsy. The fireplace surround and the panelling on the walls are made to appear built-in, which is emphasized by the dark color of the wood that adds visual weight and sturdiness to the features. Because of the craftsmanship involved with Art Nouveau, the furniture was likely only accessible to the wealthy.

The Art Nouveau movement looks similar to the handmade, natural, wood designs of the Arts and Crafts Movement. However, the curving lines of Art Nouveau are reflective of the new capabilities of iron and the era of industrialization. The awning below is a representation of industrialization because glass and iron were the most popular building materials of the time. The glass panels of the awning allow light to pass through, while also protecting you from rain.

Art Nouveau is a style that was popular in not only furniture, but also in architecture, jewelry, art, and more. The iron panel was part of a balcony, and features the same spindly, floral design as the furniture and the sides of the glass awning. My favorite example is the “Metropolitan” sign designed by Hector Guimard. For some reason, the font gives off a spooky, Halloweentown vibe…

Note: If you are viewing this in the HISP 470 aggregator, click into the pictures to read the captions. I’m not sure why they aren’t showing normally…

July 19, 2017

Finding Beauty in Modern Architecture

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While reflecting on our trip to Bercy, I remember being surprised by the stark exterior of the Bibliothèque nationale de France (National Library of France). As someone who gravitates toward classical architecture rather than super modern architecture, I did not initially like the look of the library. Designing the buildings that comprise the library to look like open books was clever, but the library still did not give off the same warm, inviting vibes like that of the New York Public Library. However, my appreciation for the library grew after experiencing the building as it was meant to be experienced–from the inside.

After ascending the steps to the deck area between the four buildings, I discovered a sunken forest of evergreens in the center of the library (a striking contrast to the glass buildings surrounding it). I was surprised to see that part of the library itself was subterranean, providing people within an amazing view of the trees on all four sides of the forest. Entering into the space and seeing the forest from the inside filled with me with a sense of awe.The design of the interior, with its high ceilings and glass walls, its separate spaces for quiet reading, and its cafe for a mid-day caffeine fix created a comfortable atmosphere. The vitamin D from the sunlight made me feel calm and relaxed. The perfect mood for settling down with a good book.

There were also tables outside for people who wanted to chat and enjoy lunch next to the trees, as well as an exhibition area displaying huge globes from the 17th century. Every space I encountered felt like it served a purpose, and I think that’s one of the reasons I left the library with a sense of satisfaction.

While I initially disliked the modern design of the building, I have a new appreciation for it because of the purposeful space and the relaxing atmosphere it creates within.






July 15, 2017

Museum Education at the Cité de l’Architecture & du Patrimoine

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During the spring of 2017, I took a museum education class with Prof. Turdean, where we learned about interpretation, learning theory, and the implementation of educational strategies in the museum world. Ever since, I’ve paid more attention to how museum educators interpret information, and to the overall accessibility (both intellectually and physically) of exhibits.

Last Sunday, July 9, Zane and I went to the Cité de l’architecture & du patrimoine in the Trocadéro area. My favorite gallery displayed huge, full-scale plaster castings of famous French monumental architecture from the Romanesque period of the 12th century through the 18th century. Most of these castings were made prior to 1900 and come from French public and religious buildings.

Right off the bat I was impressed by the castings from an educational viewpoint because they allow visitors to see details of features that may not be visible when they’re on the buildings themselves. There are also interpretive labels and plastic interpretative pages in numerous languages that further explained the features. Multiple computer screens are placed throughout the gallery that allowed the visiter to virtually maneuver through and around the building from which the feature came from. The mix of written word with full-size, 3D casts appeals to individuals who are strong in linguistic and spatial intelligence (Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory). In fact, a strong point for this gallery is its use of multiple intelligences.

The exhibit also appeals to bodily-kinesthetic, spatial, and logical-mathematical intelligences by including two build-it-yourself models of an arch and trusses. The stations consist of ordered, written instructions that correspond to numbers on each wooden piece. Parents can also easily facilitate younger children’s experiences by explaining directions and modeling how to complete the structure. A similar activity using these three intelligences is a puzzle meant to demonstrate how stained glass is assembled.

My favorite activity was an interactive game that required the visitor to help Viollet-le-Duc restore Notre Dame Cathedral. The game is interactive because it provides feedback to the visitor based off of how he or she plays the game.  In addition to being a fun game, visitors learn about the structural aspects of buildings and how Notre Dame was modified by Viollet-le-Duc. This game also appeals to bodily-kinesthetic and spatial intelligences.

Another interesting part of the gallery was a table explaining the process of creating stained glass. The information was presented in three ways: written steps, 3D object steps, and a video of the stained glass process. This appealed to auditory and visual learners.

Overall, employing multiple interpretative techniques makes information more accessible to many types of learners. The museum educator(s) at the Cité de l’architecture & du patrimoine did a great job of presenting information in many different ways, while still making learning enjoyable. I’ll be sure to file away these neat interpretive techniques and use them as models for other museum education work.


July 12, 2017

Days 4-11

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I’ve been slacking on the whole daily updates thing, so here’s an overview of the last week.

Day 4

  • Ile de la Cité & Ile St. Louis
  • Amazing nougat & honey and dark chocolate ice cream on Ile St. Louis. I also enjoyed sitting along the banks of the Seine like a true Parisian.

Day 5

  • Le Marais–Translates to “the marsh” because the land is low-lying and prone to becoming marshy, which, historically, had made it an undesirable place to live.
  • Place des Vosges–A beautiful planned square surrounded by arcaded buildings and containing lots of benches and a few large fountains. Victor Hugo lived in a building overlooking the Place des Vosges.
  • Opera Ballet at the Opéra Bastille

Day 6

  • Had a tour of the Musée du Louvre. While the Mona Lisa was smaller than I expected, it’s definitely a must-see, iconic painting.

Day 7

  • Went shopping at the Forum des Halles.

Day 8

  • Palace and Gardens of Versailles–I actually enjoyed the gardens much more than the (very crowded) palace.

Day 9

  • Explored the Cimetière de Passy with Zane. A lot of beautiful mausoleums and grave markers.
  • Visited the Cité de l’Architecture & du Patrimonie with Zane.

Day 10

  • Jardin du Luxembourg–I was particularly drawn to the universality of the space (there was a place for everyone within the park).
  • Hot chocolate and treats at Dalloyau.
  •  Église Saint-Sulpice

Day 11

  • Learned about the Place de la Concorde, Les Grand Boulevards, and Les Grands Magasins.
  • Visited a Grand Magasin (department store) called Printemps.
  • Toured the Opéra Garnier.
  • Chilled in the Parc Montsouris across from the Cité U–saw some children riding mini ponies!
July 11, 2017

Self-cleaning toilets and other cool things…

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I’m really loving Parisian urban design and technology. Some of the first cool things that I encountered were (free!) public toilets that cleaned themselves after each use. They look kind of like space pods and are scattered throughout Paris. While they still smell like bathrooms (i.e. not pleasant), the fact that they are so readily available, are self-cleaning, and cost nothing to use makes them very appealing for cities in the United States. I visit Washington, D.C. frequently, and if I needed to use a restroom while in the city, I’d either have to duck into a free Smithsonian museum or bite the bullet and purchase something in a restaurant to justify using their bathrooms. Imagine how great it would be to have these free toilets in D.C.

A public toilet.

Now that I’ve sufficiently covered public toilets, I’ll be less weird and talk about some other neat things I’ve seen throughout Paris. Example #2 are Wallace Fountains, which are public drinking fountains implemented in the 19th century to provide free potable water to Parisians. The water comes down from the top in a continuous stream and is cycled through the fountain, which prevents disease. The caryatids (the women holding up the top of the fountain) prevent people from using buckets to collect water and to ensure that there is enough water for everyone. Wallace Fountains have been very useful for me because I can easily refill my reusable water bottle on the go. Not only is this option convenient and free, it’s also environmentally friendly because it encourages the use of reusable water bottles.

Wallace fountain.

Another cool urban design feature I’ve come across are these double-sided benches pictured below. Note how there are no arm rails, which allow for more efficient use of the seat, and the space between the two seats prevents people from bumping into each other when they’re sitting down. Additionally, the wood parts are easy to replace when maintenance is required, and the flatness of the wood seats allows you to rest your drink on it without the drink falling over. I really want one of these for my backyard at home!

Bench in the Place des Vosges.

How many times have you been super thirsty or hungry using public transit? Paris metro stations have you covered. In every station, there are vending machines that sell snacks and beverages. They even sell Orangina (how cool is that?!). The DMV area’s 100+ degree summers call for these vending machines in the metro stations to ensure that riders remain hydrated. The machines take both cash and credit, which is especially useful today when many people don’t carry a lot of cash. I didn’t get a picture of the machines for fear of looking like a dorky tourist, but everyone knows what a vending machine looks like.

Vending machines in the Saint-Michel metro station.

The most recent innovation I’ve stumbled upon are these public exercise machines on the quais of the Seine. I’m not sure if you have to pay to use them, but they’re a great idea. Also, what a view!

Stationary bikes along the Hôtel-de-ville Quay.


July 8, 2017

Days 1-3

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In addition to longer, more detailed posts, I will also be posting lists of activities that we did on each day. These posts will be kind of boring, but they are useful for me in keeping a record of my trip.

Day 1-Travel day

  • After a layover in Brussels, I finally made it to Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.
  • Took the RER B to the Cité Universitaire de Paris, my home for the next month.
  • Settled into my dorm, Maison Deutsch De La Meurthe.

Day 2

  • Coffee and croissants with friends for breakfast
  • Lunch at the Café du Rendez-Vous
  • Tour of Sainte-Chapelle, a High Gothic style chapel built between 1242 and 1248 and a part of the royal Palais de la Cité.
  • Boat tour on the Seine
  • Dinner at Crêparie du Cluny

Interior of Sainte-Chapelle

Day 3

  • Bought my French SIM card–yay for 4G!
  • Architectural and historical tour of the Quartier Latin
  • Visited the Musée national du Moyen Âge, aka the Musée de Cluny. The museum houses the famous tapestry, La Dame à la licorne, as well as a Roman frigidaire. This building was originally used as a Roman fort and then as a medieval chapel.


July 3, 2017

Symbolism in Paris

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One of the first things Prof. Smith taught us was that the architectural details on Parisian buildings literally tell you what the building is used for, and they can also symbolize important values and social messages. Some symbols are more obvious to decipher than others.

The globes on either side of the window reflect the fact that this building is where one goes to study geography. (Institut de Géographie, Université de Paris)

The text above the windows say “zoologie” (zoology) and “méchanique” (mechanical). (Université Paris-Sorbonne)

Paris coat of arms. Note the ships, which are reflective of the phrase written below it (“Fluctuat Nec Mergitur” or “tossed upon the waves but doesn’t sink”) and the fleur de lis, a symbol of the French king.

The scales on the entablature of the Palais de Justice are visual representations of the judicial purpose of the building and convey to the viewer a sense of power that must be respected. Additionally, swords can sometimes symbolize French royal power. Source for meaning of the sword:

The symbolism on Parisian buildings is a reminder that buildings can be used as visual representations of culture and values. It’s a neat concept to have the purpose of the structure so clearly and permanently portrayed, especially in comparison to structures like the one below, where the only indication of the use of the building is a sign. Without the sign the building looks like it could be used as an office building or for residential purposes (it’s actually a hotel).


As I continue my travels in Paris, I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for more symbolism on Parisian structures.

July 3, 2017


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Hello everyone!

This blog will be used to document my study abroad trip in Paris this summer. Through UMWs HISP 470: Preservation Abroad program, I will be spending the entire month of July learning about historic preservation, architecture, and planning in one of the most iconic cities in the world, Paris! Only six more weeks until take off!

Until July,


May 22, 2017