MUSEUM OF ANCIENT LIFE
Capstone Studio, Fall 2012
After returning from traveling with mother and father, I wallowed around Versailles and Paris dreading my imminent departure. The only UIUC student remaining in Versailles and without an apartment on rue Carnot to call home, I spent my final days at my french friend Claire’s apartment. I spent those few days visiting the few “must see” places left on my list, as well as visiting for the last time my staple destinations, mostly involving food. Baguettes from Guinon boulangerie, cheese, wine, pasteries, marche Notre Dame, ENSA-V, les ateliers, brass bands, Archi-danse, bananna nutella crepes, Pierre Herme macaroons, good bye for now. Au revoir la France, ma belle.
Dubrovnik, Stone, Mali Stone, Croatia.
Following our historically packed visit to Istanbul, mother father and I flew to Croatia to relax by the sea. Dubrovnik, the disney world of Europe, was slightly overridden with tourists, but beautiful nonetheless. Hiking and sunning on massive rocks on the island of Lokrum, a 30 minute ferry from Dubrovnik, provided a peaceful day away from the crowds. We also rented a car and drove up the coast to Stone, Mali Stone, and across the boarder into Bosnia. Unlike most of my other trips of the year, Croatia was the most “vacation-y” adventure, focusing on food, sun, and aimless wandering.
The beginning of my week traipsing around eastern Europe with mother and father, was filled with lots of food, spices, mosques, and did I all mention food? We visited all the major sites on the Golden Horn, including the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Cistern, the Spice Market, and the Grand Bazaar [among others]. We completed our trip with a ferry trip across the Bosporus to the Asian side of Istanbul followed by a delicious meal of sea bass and Turkish pastries eaten overlooking the sea.
Brussels provided Margaret and I a necessary distraction from the mass departure of our fellow Versailles friends who began their long voyage to the US the morning we left for Belgium. We stayed in our dear friends Susi and Antony’s newly opened hotel St. Gery [ http://hotelstgery.com/ ], where we enjoyed accommodations more than a few notches above our usual hostel stays. A palpable 32 person hole followed us as we wandered Brussels without our gaggle of frenchies, but the city did manage to lift our spirits with its waffles, “frites,” chocolate, and beer.
[Alexia, Margaret, and I at Centre Pompidou: one of many recreations of our first roommate photos in Paris]
With many days and no projects holding us back, we’ve begun to fill our time with all of those “I’ll get to it eventually” things to do in France. Our first stop: Giverny, France, the home town of Claude Monet. The afternoon was relaxing and full of flowers. We strolled around the gardens, Monet’s home, and surrounding town at a leisurely pace before heading back to Paris.
The following day was the beginning of the end for most, as the largest group of students prepared to leave that wednesday and a few other friday. We spent the day in true Versailles fashion by going to the boulangerie for pasteries in the morning, then to the market to gather food for our picnic, and back to the boulangerie for baguette [you must go to the boulangerie at least twice a day for optimal happiness]. The Versailles gardens gave a good showing for our last picnic: fountains flowing, music playing, and sunny weather.
Monday proved to be one of the most bittersweet days of the year. We decided to recreate one of the first days we spent in Paris at the beginning of the year when we were all still slightly reserved with each other. The group gathered together for one last day and night of galavanting around the city. We followed tradition by beginning our adventures at Sacre Coeur and ending it at the Eiffel tower. Unfortunately we did not climb all the way up Montmartre and then proceed to walk all the way to the eiffel tower, circling around two or three times, like we did on our first excursion. But, we did enjoy a day sitting on a hill with the best view of paris and a night under the sparkling Eiffel Tower. Our trip would not have been complete without the necessary sprint to the metro to catch the last train home only to realize VICK [the RER C metro line we took for every trip into Paris] was no longer running that night due to repairs. What followed was an almost indescribable hilarious run through various metro stations and everywhere in between. After running around like crazy people, we managed to avoid taking a taxi home and make it back to Versailles alive. A perfect day in paris proved to be the perfect way to say goodbye.
Tuesday was the last day in Versailles for most, so packing consumed most of the day. But everyone found time to get together for one last crepe dinner [last for everyone else….. Margaret and I are squeezing in one more crepe feast tonight]. One roommate less, our apartment seems empty, which it will be tomorrow when Margaret and I leave rue Carnot and Mme Barral’s oh so quaint apartment for good to travel with our families.
[Ulises, myself, PJ, Jean-Brice Viaud architect/professor extraordinaire, Margaret]
Relaxed and tan, we returned from Greece to our final stint at ENSA-V. The day after our return the SAPV staff hosted the class, along with some french and american guests, for a final exposition of our work from the year. Champagne bottles were popped and snacks were distributed as everyone perused the drawings, sketches, photos, and projects hung around the rooms. Our program director Alex gave a short speech and then left us to reminisce about our seemingly unreal year in Europe.
The following day we prepared for our final academic endeavor of the year, final reviews. The three weeks of traveling and sun numbed some of our fears of the much dreaded review process, but we still had some work ahead of us. The daylong event consisted of three review panels, which criticized [mostly constructively] our final design projects of the year. Of course my review happened to be the last one of the day, but surprisingly I was not terribly concerned until the new panel of judges for my afternoon group began to tear apart the projects before me. Luckily, when my turn to present rolled around the judges actually liked my project and provided criticism that I found helpful and in better taste than the comments they gave to other students [one reviewer actually told another student that an architect would never draw what they had drawn in their project]. To round out the year of “pots,” or little parties after school events, we all enjoyed a few more glasses of champagne and a spread of snacks as the realization that our year at ENSA-V officially ended. Students began to trickle out of the reception to begin the tedious task of packing, as the first set of students left for home [our “Etats-Unis” home…].
For one last soiree, almost all of our class returned to school that night for a party in one of the schools courtyards hosted by the student run k’fet organization. The brass bands played the whole night while french and american students enjoyed one last night together. Swing dancing , live music, red wine, and a beautifully warm night provided for a perfectly french ending to our american invasion of the french school.
Eleven long days of sketching and galavanting along the Amalfi Coast called for a much deserved vacation to of greek food and mediterranean sun. Six of us from the Italy sketch trip flew to Greece to stay in a house on the southern coast of the greek mainland in a small town called Artemida. We divided our time between the beach and Athens, frolicking in the sun playing frisbee on the sea and exploring the architectural masterpieces of the city. The first day we went to Athens it just so happened to be the ONLY day that the Acropolis is closed… basically ever. Due to the elections that day, we were not able to visit the Acropolis, but instead wandered the markets and museums. The following day we managed to get into the Acropolis as well as the olympic stadium, which were both spectacular in obviously different ways.
The amazing greek food definitely topped off the trip making it the perfect end to a long break. The produce in Greece was the best I’ve ever eaten, and I now understand why greek people eat so many tomatoes, olives, and feta cheese. Not to mention, the food was dirt cheap. We found gyros for 2.50 euros each and bags of strawberries for less. I already miss the food, sun, and incredibly welcoming greek people, but it is nice to be back in France finally after a month of absence. Now that Versailles feels especially like home, the end of my European adventures is approaching.
Athens and Artemida, Greece