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Paris Travel Course FAQ


I am writing this in response to some of the questions that have been submitted over the years regarding the Paris Travel Course (French 525). Here are my answers to a few of those questions:

Q: Do I have to speak French to be a part of this program?

A: No. There are two tracks: French and English. Typically, at least half of the students in each group are on the English track.  Students majoring in history, history of art, political science, and other fields find this course appealing, and can do their individual research projects on a topic of interest to them.  Some have even arranged credit toward their respective majors with this course.

To participate in the French track, you will need the equivalent of 4 semesters of college French or instructor’s consent.   

Q: Where do we stay?

A: Our “home” in Paris is the Hôtel Bellevue et du Chariot d’Or, a cozy two-star hotel located in the 3rd Arrondissement just off the Boulevard de Sébastopol with easy access to two metro lines.  Built in the 1860’s, this is an old style hotel with a spiral staircase wrapped around a tiny elevator. The rooms are spacious (by Parisian standards) and comfortable, each with its own full tiled bathroom.  It is 5 to 10 minutes on foot from Beaubourg (le Centre Pompidou) and Les Halles, and 10 to 15 minutes on foot from the Seine River and the Ile de la Cité (Notre Dame, etc.)  Directly across the river is the Latin Quarter.  Students often walk from our hotel to the Latin Quarter for dinner.        

Q: What does the program cost?                                      

A: Students stay in double or triple rooms with private baths. Program cost depends on which room you get, airfare, total enrollment (the larger the group, the less the program costs per person), and the prevailing exchange rate.  This year I estimate that a student in a triple room should expect to pay between $1,900 (at full enrollment) and $2,500.  This estimate includes hotel (and a good breakfast), tuition, all transportation in the Paris area, and course materials.   Airfare is extra, and typically runs between $550 and $700.  Beyond that, all that remains out-of-pocket is lunch, dinner, telephone calls, and souvenirs.  The optional day trip to London on the Eurostar (Chunnel train) adds about $100.  Nearly all students opt for this trip.

Q: How much should I figure for food?                                      

A: Depends on your appetite. Paris is actually not that expensive if you know where to go. If you prefer to keep it cheap, you could easily get by on $20 a day eating in modest restaurants (remember, breakfast is included in the package price), $10 or so if you eat in a restaurant once a day and fix the other meal yourself (a sandwich, fruit, and beverage, for example.)  There is a handy little “Superette” (grocery store) near the hotel, as well as an inexpensive carry-out deli.  There is also an inexpensive self-service cafeteria and several crêpe stands near the hotel.  I provide the group with a list of suggestions.

Q: What is a typical “class day” like?

A: We usually meet at 9:00 in the lobby of the hotel after breakfast (earlier for certain excursions) and head for the metro station. We visit one or two interesting sites, and sometimes have lunch together as a group. Often, we are done at lunch time and the rest of the day is free. Other times, we have another site visit in the afternoon. There are a few evening activities, such as an after-dark cruise on the Seine River, and dinner with Parisian friends of mine on Montmartre.  We will also have a day trip to Versailles to visit Louis XIV, and another to Jouy-en-Josas, a beautiful place out in the country, to visit a wonderful family and sample some terrific food.  
   
Q: What do we study?  How much study time is involved during the stay? Are there any
      tests?

A: This is a course on the history of Paris.  You will learn of the city from its origins as an obscure fishing village inhabited by the Celtic Parisii (hence the name of the city), to its place as one of the world’s greatest cities.  Your first lecture will be in the Arènes de Lutèce, the partially restored Roman arena in a residential part of the city that most tourists never see.  (Yes, Paris was once a Roman city called Lutetia.)  Did you know that Paris was invaded and sacked by the Vikings in their famous Drakkar longboats not once but three times? Imagine studying the history of the city while living in it.

I would estimate that one to two hours per day covers all the assigned reading. (You will receive a course packet with all assigned readings.)  Of course, you can do that reading in a cozy Parisian café or on a bench along the banks of the Seine, and what you learn in your readings come alive as you stroll about the city!
There are five lectures over the three-week period, most offered on-site.  Lectures (in English) cover and reinforce the readings and last from one to two hours. There are three quizzes, one each week. They cover the readings, lectures, and site visits. Most students ace them.  I keep the material to a manageable level to allow you more time to explore the city.

Q: Are there any free days?

A: Yes. There are three free days, scheduled back-to-back to allow travel for any interested students.  Students often head to the beaches of the south of France or Spain for a good sunburn, or Switzerland for hiking in the mountains.  Many opt to go to Eurodisney, a one-day jaunt. Brussels, Belgium is only 1 1/2 hours away by high-speed train.  Amsterdam, Holland and Cologne, Germany are four hours away, as are Geneva and the Swiss Alps.  (All such travel must be arranged with the permission and assistance of the instructor, who reserves the right to refuse travel to certain areas.)  There are also wonderful French resort cities on the sea just north of Paris, or you can simply savor the beauty of Ile de France (Paris region) with long walks.  I provide an extensive list of suggested free-time activities.

Q: Isn’t three weeks in one location a bit too long?

A: This is a question I hear every year. We do a few day trips, such as Versailles and the optional trip to London. Paris is so vast, offers so much, that on departure day you will realize that 3 weeks wasn’t nearly enough. Those “14 countries in 21 days” packages look tempting, but you end up with countless hours on a tour bus and a blur of memories. Time is strictly regimented, and you never have the chance to get the feel of a place. With this program, you will get to know one fascinating city very well, and actually feel a part of it. Your Carte Orange transit pass (covered in estimated cost) allows unlimited travel within about an hour of central Paris. 

The best endorsement I can offer are the following unedited comments written by a student on her course evaluation form at the end of the program:

This was an awesome trip. By the beginning of the second week I was comfortably navigating the metro on my own and starting to feel at home in Paris. I already had a few favorite hangouts, and felt more like a Parisian than a tourist. It was so cool to step out of the hotel for a short walk and see so many wonderful things. Coming back to the Bellevue every evening seemed like coming home. Time has never gone by so fast. Tomorrow we are going back to the States, but I don’t want to!  I haven’t even left yet, and I already can’t wait to come back.

I have been to nearly every European capital, but for me not one of them can compare to Paris.  I invite you to find out for yourself why so many people consider it the most beautiful and appealing city on Earth.


Dr. David Vanderboegh / Modern Languages & Literatures / davidvan@creighton.edu / 280-3033 



© 2006 All Content; David Vanderboegh