Even though I had been to Paris before on a trip with my brother, the one week I spent there trying to explore as much as I could was never going to be enough to experience the 145 year old city of lights I had learnt to admire from a distance all my life. Having the chance to go one more time gave me the opportunity to understand not only how Paris works as a city but also to appreciate her history in context with the rest of Europe and the world.
On the D-day, I rendezvoused with the rest of the group at Ashford and instantly realised why we were chosen for the scholarship; they seemed like the most charismatic individuals to accompany me on the trip.
I woke up after a brief sleep on the train heading to ‘Paris Gare du Nord’ (built between 1861 and 1864 and deemed the busiest station in Europe), to get a sneak peek at what the French country side looked like. I must say that I was quite disappointed to realise it was nothing different to what I was used to seeing in England. Early in the afternoon, we finally arrived at the student hostel situated very close to Luxembourg before being treated to a traditional French dish, ‘The Crêpe Suzette’. It was the first time I had ever had one, and I loved it. It was the perfect start to a series of amazing eating sessions that would last the duration of the time I was to spend in Paris. That was the best part of my stay.
We went through a rigorous study of French history based on the theme ‘REVOLUTION’. We started off with a French historic time line starting in 1701, through the ‘French revolution’, and ending at 1870 with the complete abolition of the monarchy. These lessons were the main focus of our daily 2 hour lectures, which were accompanied by a subsequent excursion in the afternoon to a building/place/street, relevant to the topic of the day; including Le louvre, and the Red Light Districts of Paris.
The most controversial was the ‘Musée de l’histoire de l’immigration’ where I felt the artefacts were terribly undermined and exhibited to suggest a lack of care and enthusiasm. In a nutshell, I went to Paris once again as a tourist, but I can say for a fact that I came back to England, firstly realising how small a great city like London was in comparison to its other economically strong counterparts around Europe and beyond was, but also with a deeper understanding of Paris and France (historically, architecturally and geographically). We also had the chance to explore Paris’ hidden gems for ourselves during the evenings and weekend – and man, did we explore!
I also mustn’t forget to mention the amazing tour guides we had; Frank Mikus, Ana de Medeiros and Dr Nikolaos Karydis. It was easily the best 2 weeks of my life in the last 10 years or so, and the best part was that it was all paid for by the scholarship.
By Paul Daramola – Stage 2 BA (Hons) Architecture student