Last Saturday, students enjoyed a day trip to Parc de Sceaux, which is in a southern suburb of Paris. We took the Réseau Express Régional (RER) to get there. The RER is a hybrid suburban commuter/rapid transit system serving Paris and its suburbs. The original château de Sceaux built for Louis XIV’s Minister of Finance, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, was demolished after the French Revolution. However, a few of the original buildings remain standing - the Pavilion of Aurore, the Orangerie (greenhouse), the stables (which now houses a museum), and some of the outbuildings. The son of one of Napoleon I’s generals built another château on the property and restored the gardens.
The tour guides explained the difference between jardins à la française (French gardens), which are based on symmetry and the principle of imposing order on nature, and jardins à l'anglaise (English landscape gardens), which presented an idealized view of nature. After the guided tour, students had a picnic lunch. Then, students took advantage of the perfect weather to either play soccer (le football) or take a much needed nap (une sieste) after a busy week of language classes, cultural activities, and navigating the métro.
The next day was July 14th, which is la fête nationale française (the French national holiday). The students had a free day to explore Paris and/or spend time with their host families (familles d’accueil). Many had the opportunity to view the fireworks at night. Interesting note: as it doesn’t get dark in Paris at this time of year until after ten in the evening, the fireworks didn’t start until after eleven o’clock.