Friday, October 28, 2011

Salle Illinois

Ah, for all you Versailles alums, remember this room? Salle Illinois? Hours and hours spent here in crammed quarters with 40 other students for EVERY class. Now that the school's renovation has been complete, the UofI kids no longer have class here, but will soon get use this as the Annex, or place to work, check out books, get supplies, etc. Yesterday, Adam, Prof. Lapunzina, and I made a huge dent in the clean out project by getting a ton of stuff sorted, thrown out, put away etc. (this being the before photo). God, we were finding equipment from professors who taught back in the 60s along with 1000s and 1000s of slides (oh all those slides!) And oh yes, tons of slide rules and t-squares still in their shipping packaging from students who even studied with we're thinking, man, look at all the money wasted on shipping! ha (not something a parent wants to hear, i'm sure ; ). Old class photos started showing up as well including those back before color was cool, but man, talk about all this history in this place! All the people who have come through these doors and left with their own stories to tell. And of course, besides the dust in the closet, we were also finding out a few skeletons in the closet from the program itself. Ooh, so much gossip on the administrative side of things ; ) So weird to think that we've now reached that status of admin vs. student with the privilege to now be let in on all this once-secret info.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Are there bears in France?

The key question for this weekend: are there bears in France? We'll let you know if we survive this camping / adventure / wine tasting / road trip weekend!

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Last Almond

I meant to post this, naturally, the Sunday before Bridgette's arrival in Paris. However, somewhere in the midst of trying to get ahead on my grading and cleaning the apartment (because I need to keep up this persona of a tidy-freak male, ha!), I forgot to do so.

Anyways, this was the final chocolate-covered almond. During our time apart, those several weeks seemed like a long time, but now looking back, consuming a box-full of almonds over almost two months wasn't so bad. =)

I'm glad it's over though. Much to look forward to!

Coupé la tête! (Cut off the head!)

....Yes, a phrase we actually did pick up, as well as something quite well known to French history. Sorry Ms. Antoinette! As noted earlier during a history field trip Adam and I tagged along with last Friday, we were reminded of the insanity of ruler Robespierre during the late 1700s in Paris with his goal to purge France of all traitors...or merely anyone who was around to execute. It got to the point during this so-called Reign of Terror where there were 100s of people dying each week, including, yes, our favorite gal who supposedly (though some disagree) coined that most beautiful phrase, "Let them eat cake!."

As noted earlier, though, Adam and I wandered about this weekend to check out our neighborhood marchés (markets). On Saturday, we found a small one about a 10 min walk from our place in which we successfully bought a whole chicken, some fruit, and une grosse tranche de citrouille (a big slice of pumpkin...for some traditional pumpkin soup). The chickens were so fresh, it looked as if they'd just been plucked that morning. Most even had their heads still attached, and of course, out of politeness, our friendly chicken vendor simply asked, "Coupé la tête?" ahhhhhhh, Oui,?! One less thing for me to deal with in the kitchen. Too bad they didn't have a mini guillotine on the table. It would have been kinda of funny in a very demented, way ; )

In any case, Sunday dinner never tasted so good!  It's so great to be able to step back and really appreciate the simple things in how happy a successfully baked chicken can make you! Winner winner, chicken dinner : )

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Saumur: City Hall and

(Continuing our field trip...)

After our morning visit to the chateau, we walked down the hill for a guided tour of the city hall. Our guide was excellent, had much information to share, and was able to show us inside to view some of the highly detailed interiors:

He then joined us for a short bus ride along the Loire for a visit to Notre Dame des Ardilliers. If I have the legend correct, a peasant found a statue representing The Pietà around the middle of the 15th century, and multiple times the statue was taken from the site, lost, and then re-found at the same location. So people gave up moving it, and simply built a church around it, despite the ground being full of clay (the spot is near the river). The French word for "clay" is something like "argile," and over the years that transformed into "ardilliers," hence the name of the church.

One thing I found interesting about this church is that it has many unfinished pieces, such as the pediment shown above (the triangular part above the columns). This simply has big blocks of stone ready for a sculptor to do his work, but the church has no records of what the intended scenes were to be, and this in addition to the extreme cost of such work leaves things incomplete.

More pics.

Things continue at Chambord.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Je suis ici!

 Hello all. And yes we are both alive : ) Been taking the past few days to get acclimated and become a little less nervous about wandering about barely knowing the language. Here you will see an exhausted photo taken after a long overnight flight and layover in Dublin...trekking home on the train from the airport to chez nous (our home) in the 15e arrondissement. The apartment is just perfect; tiny, cozy, and efficient. It really helps simplify life when you only have the bare essentials lying around and a few items in the fridge to cook with. Less decisions, yet more frequent shopping for sure! I've been to the store almost every day now picking up enough to carry home and get us through another meal or two. Today, Adam and I will attempt our first outdoor market to stock up on some fresh edibles for a great Sunday meal. More to come from that soon.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Château de Saumur

(Continuing from our visit in Tours...)

The next morning (I think this puts us at Friday) we had a bright-and-early start with a quick intro to the history of Saumur from Tricia, which led us right to the castle in town. Ya know, 'cause French cities have those on occasion.

The Château de Saumur was originally built to defend against invading Normans in the 10th century. Then it got destroyed, built again, burnt, gifted, turned into a barracks, a McDonalds, a prison, and eventually transcended to where it is today: a tourist mecca that inspired Walt Disney. Okay, some of that I made up, but more of it is true than you may suspect (prison: yes; McDonalds: not so much).

With the cloudless skies and finally ample time, the students relaxed, explored, and had quality time with their sketch books:

The field trip continues here.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Saint Gatien's Cathedral

(Continuing our field trip from the Vinci Conference Center...)

If you haven't noticed, we had perfect weather for this weekend. Cloudless blue skies every day.

To wrap up our afternoon at Tours, we walked over to Saint Gatien's Cathedral, another structure built over several hundred years due to fires, financing, wars, etc. You would have to zoom in on the high-resolution version of the above image, but you can see many slight ornamental and detailing differences between the two towers. The north tower (if I'm remembering correctly) was built first at the very start of the 16th century, followed by the south tower several decades later, and even this change in time was sufficient to warrant new details and an upgraded facade.

One of the most striking aspects of the church is the organ, a massive thing placed just below a beautiful rose window at the south end of the transept.

As usual, more pics here.

And the field trip continues here.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Vinci Conference Center

(Continuing our field trip...)

We stopped in Tours to see the Vinci Conference Center. This building took us back to 1993 when Jean Nouvel designed this structure-with-a-baseball-cap that overlooks a major intersection of the city.

I think this played a key role in the weekend to keep things balanced with the many "old" places we were visiting (churches, abbeys, cloisters, that sort of thing).

One of the interesting aspects of the building is that it hangs the interior assembly areas, and therefore provides column-free, multi-level interior spaces.

That shiny "ceiling" is actually the belly of a large auditorium. Kinda cool huh? And of course, more sketching:

More pics here.

And the field trip continues here...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bye Bye HED

Today marks my last day of work. Sad to say goodbye from everyone who's taught me so much these past 3.5 years, yet so exciting to know that a week from now, I will be far far away living this whim of a dream Adam and I had joked about doing for so just run away to Europe to take a break from life. It's so weird to think we actually made this happen and he's already there living it.

Yesterday the office took me out to lunch as a final goodbye, and it was such a surprise to see so many show up. It's those little things that makes a girl fee kinda good about herself.

Au Revoir HED. Thanks for Everything : )

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pont de l'Europe

(Continuing last weekend's field trip from the cathedral at Orléans...)

To finish our morning in Orléans, the bus dumped us out in from of the Pont de l'Europe (Bridge of Europe) where we had a few moments to scarf lunch (mmmm, memories of raspberry tart), take some photos, talk about the bridge, and sketch a bit.

It's a Calatrava bridge, the same designer / engineer that did the Milwaukee Art Museum. His bridges seem to be staples for European cities, and they're so iconic that they've become a brand. So goes the way of the starchitect. But this was likely the first such bridge the students had seen, and they seemed to really like it. And by crossing the bridge on foot, they experienced the details and rhythms that make these bridges so attractive.

Click here for more pics.

And the field trip continues here.

Friday, October 7, 2011


Being a backpacking junior in college living in Europe seemed to be a good time to let my hair grow long. Really long...

That was almost ten years ago. I'm all growns up now, so I believe there's a small expectation for me to keep my hair in a reasonably professional state. Don't let this fool you; the French (at least in this world of an architecture school) have a broad range of accepted hair styles  both on their head and on their faces.

A google search turned up this page and this page for reference. Study time.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


My life is now packed into one suitcase. I'll be going to live with my cousin in River North for the remainder of my time here in the city, then heading back to Springfield next week to do the FINAL pack. I've never been so sick of packing in my life! Moreso because there's really no unpacking involved. No settling. Always this feeling of limbo. I'm tire of playing limbo. I'm ready to hit the stick, fall to the ground and be kicked out of the game. At least at that point I know I'll be able to go home and unpack for good.

Less than two weeks and counting.

Faire du Camping!

So I’ve been constantly listening to a new podcast called ‘Coffee Break French which covers a variety of topics in little 20 minute snippets….enough time to learn with your latté, as they say. In any case, to my surprise…it all just seemed way too ironic…the next lesson was about going camping. The EXACT item I was about to do just a day later. Creepy ironic, I thought to myself. So yes, as my time here in America comes to a close, I chose to squeeze in just one more trip to try out the new tent and get a heavy dose of serious down-south American hillbilly culture.  VP, Martha, and I all headed to the Red River Gorge, KY to meet up with climbing buddies, Andrew and Allison, and it was such an amazing, gorgeous (yes, roadsigns do say ‘Red River Gorgeous’, ha) weekend. It was severely hard to pull ourselves away to get back in the car to head home yesterday to go back to our daily grinds. Andrew and Allison, on the other hand, have been living by their own grind for the past few years. We all look at them in wonder and awe as we say, how do they do it? How do they get by? Those two have been driving around the country, living out of their car, camping, working odd jobs, whatever…just to make ends meet so they can live by their own rules, see new places, and most importantly, climb. Sounds a bit romantic in a sense, but unrealistic. But then again, they are proving this can, in fact, be a reality, and the rest doesn’t matter as long as you find what you love to do and do whatever it takes to do it. I feel like my destiny, here, isn’t too far off, as I’m quitting everything in life here in Chicago, and just moving away to figure things out, but unlike those two, I know I’ll at least have the comfort of running water and electricity.


We had our first long weekend trip recently. I have many photos to dig through and edit, so I'll try to leave a post when more are available.

Our first stop on the trip was Orléans to see the city's cathedral. Click the photo above or here to see more!

I think the students loved it. In contrast to Notre Dame in Paris, this one has far more light, stained glass, and is generally more extravagant. It has close ties with Joan of Arc, so her image shows up around the church often. Like most cathedrals, this was built over several hundred years around wars, fires, pillaging, bombings, et cetera, so one can see some variation in styles between pieces that were designed and built in different centuries.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


According to my calculations, there are 14 chocolate-covered almonds remaining in the box. Two more weeks until Bridgette's arrival. This has been the longest stretch of time we've been apart, and it's made me think of other couples I know. Some have managed to survive a multi-year hiatus from the relationship altogether. Some went several months working through a long distance connection. And there are some who've never been separated longer than a weekend.

Distance is no fun, but it does help remind us couples why we put up with each other. I've been asked several times over the past 5 weeks, "are you lonely?" My answer has always been, "No, not really. But I miss my better half immensely." Life feels weirdly lopsided without her.

I cannot complain. We're incredibly fortunate to have this opportunity to live in Europe and to be able to do it in a comfortable way. (We're not exactly hitchhiking or living out of a car.) My thoughts go out to my coupled friends affected by jobs, family health problems, this sluggish economy, our incessant wars, or any of the uncontrollable chasms that force their way into a relationship.

Bridgette and I are lucky.