Two Weeks in Paris: Lana Del Yay. And six million dead bodies (Days 7 & 8)

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be surrounded by six million dead people? I can’t say I have, but I certainly found out the answer this weekend.


Look at all the bones in that picture. They’re real, actual human bones that used to be living, thinking, walking people just like you and I. And now they’re just a pile of touristy bones.

It might not seem like a big deal right now, hell you’re only looking at a pile of femur’s, tibia’s and skulls piled up like jenga on a computer screen. (If you don’t know what those words are then it’s time to brush up on some human anatomy folks).

But, when you’re walking through what is essentially a mass grave for more people than currently live in the country of Switzerland, it’s quite hard not to end up in a rather uncomfortable conversation about death with yourself.


Have you ever seen so many bones?!

Death is something I’m insanely uncomfortable with, to the point where I used to sit alone in a dark room and cry about it, or later try and come up with some bullshit rationalisation about how I’ll live forever.

This is one of those situations where being an atheist is everything but an advantage.

While the experience of walking the catacombs hasn’t made me any more comfortable with the thought of me being a pile of bones one day, it has left a lasting impression on me and is something I think everyone of the twenty first century should consider doing.

As a society we’ve become so disconnected from the idea of being deaded, that when it does happen it’s even more of a slap in the face.

I’m so not the person to talk on this, but I like to think that some day I’ll become self assured enough to be okay with the whole dying thing, and experiences like this can only help.

However, ENOUGH DEATH.  Especially when you’ve got LANA DEL RAY TO TALK ABOUT.



This weekend was Fete la Musique in Pairs, which essentially means the streets get transformed into gigs on every corner and revellers dancing the night away with a bottle of wine in each hand.

There are also a couple of organised gigs too, including one with with the beautiful Lana Del Ray, which was at the Opera and entirely free. Well apart from the three hour queue and the horrendous sunburn to my boob area.

But, it was all TOTALLY worth it and she’s gorgeous and beautiful and I think I’m in love.

For fear of this turning into a totally mundane list of things I did today, I also visited the Sacre Coeur and had a totally awesome meal that actually came with vegetables.

Real actual vegetables that aren’t leaves. I mean, it isn’t a revelation on the scale of life and death (see my earlier posts) but it sure did feel pretty damn good.

Waiting for Lana

Waiting for Lana



Cocktails are legit

Cocktails are legit




IMG_0718 IMG_0722

Two Weeks in Paris: My goldfish saw me naked (Day 6)

I’ve never really considered myself an arty person, and if anything the last week has proved this undoubtably. Then I discovered art with saws and polystyrene.


Today (well, last Friday, but let’s not talk about my inadequacies with timing) was quite possibly the best and most intellectually stimulating day I’ve had all year.  No one tell the CfJ please.

If anyone had told me a few days ago that animal studies was well interesting, yo, let alone it even being a thing in the first place, I would probably have sniggered politely and gone back to my gin. How wrong can a gin-oholic journalist be. Derek Ryan, you’ve changed my life.

For all of you still puzzling over the idea, Animal Studies (it’s so cool it deserves to be capped up, trust me) is an interdisciplinary subject that explores the way humans interact with animals and the relationships we have with them.


Animals at the Jardin des Plantes

If you think this all sounds a bit bizarre, it gets worse. Some dude called Derrida kind of kick-started the whole thing by questioning his relationship with his cat, after it saw him naked. Which is totally an odd experience I’ve had with my goldfish once.

Do animals notice when we’re naked? Do they even know what naked is? Do animals have language? Should we be eating them or putting them in zoos? Aren’t we really just the same at them?


I love it when a seminar just descends in a good and honest debate, so was so pleased when this was today’s outcome. I can’t even tell you what I think about zoos or veganism anymore, but I sure enjoyed trying to work it out.

Following the debate of the century we went for a class trip to the Jardin des Plantes, which was the first civil zoo in the world and ever so slightly uncomfortable following the ethical debate we’d just had.

We also experienced the Grand Galerie de l’Evolution where Gill and I spent a long time trying to work out exactly what the children’s learning screens said in French.


I think we need to learn French

Never did I ever think I’d be Paris trying to work out to play evolutionary spot the different with plants in a foreign language. You live and learn.

Today was also the day of the social event where you don’t actually know anyone, as we greeted some runners from the University of Kent.

Yep you read that right. They actually ran all the way from Canterbury to Paris. And there was me feeling exhausted after taking the Eurostar.

Finally, in the evening we made our way to the Palais de Tokyo where there was an art exhibition going on. And €1 drinks.

I’ve got to be honest, I was dubious. I’ve had some amazing art based experiences this week, but I can’t help feeling that I’m beginning to become “arted-out”.

I’m not, as is obvious, a visual arty type in any way shape or form and I tend to spend a lot of time walking around exhibitions pretending to see meaning in something I don’t or using up a lot of brain energy that could be used for gin consumption.

But, this exhibition had saws, polystyrene, printers, pens and pretty much everything you could ask for to run around and be like a child again.

The whole concept of the do-dah was that it was a free space. You were free to add, choose or destroy as you please, or just sit down and watch a weird video about red, green and blue colours.

I know some of the group got a bit agitated when they discovered there were in fact rules in this “free land” (no writing on the banners or standing on the chairs you wild kids), but for me, I think it just helped reaffirmed my views on art.

I think, if anything, I’ve learnt this week that art is something that can only be appreciated when it sparks an emotion or though in you or you can interact with it. And, for me, running around with a saw is interacting. Looking at some modern art is not. #revelation


At the Palais de Tokyo


Eiffel up close


Eiffel selfie


Let’s hit this joint







Two Weeks in Paris: I hate cattle herders (Days 5)

Blog fatigue; it happens to the best of us, and normally when you reach day five of of any given blogging project.


I’m not going to lie to you. Today is actually day eight of my Parisian adventure, but it just so happens that I’m a lazy sod who’s exhausted, behind on paid work and all outta enthusiasm. So I’m still stuck writing in day five.

In an effort to rekindle my burning flame of journalistic endeavour, I’ve opted to bunch days five and six together, like happy friends who don’t want to be parted. That and I don’t have an awful lot interesting to say about day five.

I’d also like to immediately point out that this doesn’t mean day five was a pile of poo – on the contrary we received a fascinating talk from Stefan Goebel on the significance of Versailles before travelling to the palace about half an hour outside Paris.

However, as a historical lecture on the importance of the palace, I don’t think there’s anything intellectually stimulating I could add, save giving you a run down of exactly the facts I learnt, which would be pretty dull for y’all over there. Anyway, that’s what Google’s for kids.

It was undeniably interesting to look at history through paintings though, namely those of Anton von Werner, who did a shedload of paintings of the proclamation of the German Empire, each with a slightly different emphasis than the others depending on the social context at the time.



It was like an academic version of spot the difference, with a meaningful message of “perceptions of history can changes bucket load depending on the context you’re living in at the time and what you’re trying to achieve with your work”. It sounds obvious, but it’s a slightly scary thought.


The Palace at Versailles is undeniably an incredibly ornate building with a huge history and a lot to take it, but the sheer number of visitors is probably the only thing that’s going to stick in my memory for any length of time.

The phrase cattle farming comes to mind. And not in a good way, just in case my imagery is ambiguous.

When you can’t move for neither love nor money, or even a rich tea biscuit and a cup of rosy lee, a building really does lose its sense of identity. You can’t get a feel for it historically or architecturally. Which is a massive shame. And makes me really, really sad.

I get that I’m a tourist coming to see this stuff too, which makes me sound like I’m mega hating on myself, but rather I’m mega hating on the cattle herders, so to speak.

I can’t help but think everyone in the palace today would have had a much richer and rewarding experience if they had staggered entry to allow for breathing room.

Sure, you’d have to wait longer in line or maybe even book in advance, but surely that’s better than battling the overriding feeling you’re going to drown in a sea of sticky bodies every second of your existence. Which, as I mentioned, is pretty sad when you’re in one of history’s most important building’s ever.

To make up for this wave of sadness I decided to try some new cultural experiences and got a Japanese takeaway. In France. Rad man.

Actually, screw this. I’ve totally said some cool, interesting and funny things in this blog and 600 words is totally enough to justify a post of its own. Show’s over folks.

Best ice cream ever innit

Best ice cream ever innit


I made friends yo

I made friends yo

From the outsideys

From the outsideys



More ceiling funzies

More ceiling funzies

Ceiling frescos were about the only thing you can appreciate properly as people cant fly yet.

Ceiling frescos were about the only thing you can appreciate properly as people cant fly yet.


Two Weeks in Paris: Penises are everywhere (Day 4)

Yes, you read the title correctly and yes I’m talking about a part of the male body that’s most commonly associated with urinating and having sex.


Once again I’m writing this blog a day late – but not a buck short – (get me for cultural references), so hopefully you’ll join me in my self-indulgent quest of food and deep and meaningful ponderings.

If you’re looking to catch up you can also read my Paris back catalogue too. It’s great fun, comes with free cookies and will definitely move you to tears. Sadly I’m unable to offer a money back guarantee at this time.

To return swiftly to my click bait title, today will always be seared in my mind as the day of the penises. Luckily enough – or not depending on your perspective – these weren’t real in the flesh erections, but part of an exhibition of the work of American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.

As a photography novice (you’ll notice that novice and uneducated is a recurring theme of mine at this summer school), I had no idea what to expect from his work, except our lecturer had said we might find some things “uncomfortable”.


The exhibition was held at the Grand Palais

As it turns out, a lot of Mapplethorpe’s work focuses on exploring the photography of the body and pushing the limits of pornography. Which means a lot of naked people and a lot of fetish gear.

I was genuinely surprised how much I enjoyed the exhibition. Partly because I don’t really get art and really struggled with Monday’s modern art and conceptual architecture and partly because a lot of people’s reaction of penis pictures is understandably YUCK EW BLERGH.

Firstly, I seem to have learnt that obscene pictures of genitals really don’t phase me and secondly good art, for me, is something that sparks a discussion.

I am looking for perfection in form. I do that with portraits. I do it with cocks, I do it with flowers.

(Mapplethorpe, 1985)

While I appreciate the idea behind some of Mapplethorpe’s work; that beauty and perfection can found just as readily in the human body as in a flower, I had some inherent uneasiness with his work, and not just because someone was sticking a finger up their penis for the sake of art.

Mapplethorpe says he’s looking for perfection in the human form, which is just as easily found in sexual photos as pretty daisies, but why is this perfection only found in slender woman or big-cocked, toned men?

If we can find perfection anywhere surely it’s just as easily found in a someone whose boobs are slightly sagging, are older, or just so happen to have a few lumps and bumps.

I took solace in the fact his pictures of woman did show them with pubic hair, which SHOCK HORROR isn’t an abomination, but I couldn’t help but think his definition of perfection was somewhat different to mine.

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Food came with the friendliest service and freebies at the end!


To see me ramble on for half a page on penises you would probably think I spent my whole day looking at them but that actually couldn’t be further from the truth.

Other exploits included a creative writing seminar, a wander around Paris encompassing the lovelock bridge and the Louvre, a fantastic gourmet burger bar, a trip to the British Ambassador’s residence and a book launch at Shakespeare and Co.

I really felt like today was the best day I’ve had yet. I appear to have actually connected with people on more of a true friendship level, going beyond the mere “what do you study and you live where” and even broaching the holy grail of hugs and dropping my faux posh accent.

I also felt I connected much more with the lecture of creative writing; much like journalism it’s a way of channeling people’s stories and telling them to the world, something I’m truly passionate about and came with some interesting ideas such as the Metro Poem where you compose a poem on your journey.

You may only compose when the train is in motion and scribe when it’s at a station and sounds like the best way to spend a tube journey in rush hour.

The desk at Shakespeare and Company

The desk at Shakespeare and Company

The same lecturer also happened to be launching a book that evening in Shakespeare and Co, where he also spoke extensively about his work as a reviewer.

As part of this he explained about how he would always strive for positivity in reviews, and would turn down books he felt were not for him.

I couldn’t help but felt this defeated the point of an honest review and was a deception to the reader.

Surely reviewers should undertake all work they are qualified to do (bar conflicts of interest) in an objective and constructive manner, not present a happy “EVERYTHING IS ACE” ideal?

We also stopped for tea at the British Ambassador’s residence, which was a privileged experience. I even braved a cup of tea, despite the yuck as it’s not every day you get invited in to the ambassador’s house.

I also stole some wifi and took a selfie in the toilet, but we won’t talk about that.

Toilet selfie

Toilet selfie

The Louvre

The Louvre


Housey House

Housey House

Happy Faces

Happy Faces



Two Weeks in Paris: I don’t want a job, so I won’t get one (Day 3)

Sometimes I worry that my thighs are getting too fat or my stomach jiggles a bit too much for comfort. Then I remember that food is really fucking awesome. Especially food in Paris.


I’ll be straight with you; this blog post is going to focus entirely on amazing food you don’t have and self-indulgent realisations I’ve had about myself in the last twenty-four hours. I know this kinda deal isn’t for everyone so take this as your exit clause if you’re looking for super cute cats.

Alternatively, if you’re wondering who the hell I am, what I’m doing and why I’m writing this, you should probably head on over to the first of this series, which I started the other day.  The crash course version, however, is that I’m a journalism student who is spending two weeks in Paris, and the food here is insane.

Lunch today consisted entirely of things I would never order separately, or indeed together if I was ordering for myself. Yet, even for a person who doesn’t really like cheese, I must confess the goat’s cheese and bacon salad I had today was possibly one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.

It was followed by two macaroons,IMG_0567 again something I would never bother to order at home as they’re quite small and have a low chocolate content. Turns out I’ve just been eating really shit macaroons before.

Aside from fine dining, which is especially fine when you’re not paying for it, I’ve also had to time to reflect on a couple of truths about myself. You know the sort; you knew it anyway deep down, but you never actually admitted them to yourself. Deep man.

Today’s lecture was on the changing nature of elite’s in France during the era of the revolution and while history is far from my specialist subject, I felt much more comfortable than attempting to find meaning in modern art or conceptual architecture.

One of the points which most resonated with me was the question of how to make a new, shiny and better future, without looking also at the past and understanding what went wrong.

Yet while looking at the splendour on show at the following visit to the Legion of Honour Museum, I couldn’t help but feel there is a fine line between an appreciation of the past and simply stagnating in it.

I’ve spent my whole academic career with people who want to devote their lives to their studies and I’ve always felt like I should keep up the pretence of wanting to do the same. Yet, while I do genuinely enjoy reading for pleasure, seminars such as these and learning as much as possible I’m overwhelmingly driven by a desire to go out and do things, as opposed to trying to answer the bigger (or smaller) questions out there.

I’ve always known I’m tied to my work, but I’ve always tried to pretend I’m a secret academic too. And, in those weird, frank conversations you have with near strangers, I’ve today accepted that I’m not, but that that’s also totally okay.

Looking at rows and rows of beautiful robes and ornate medals also makes me feel a little sad inside.  There’s so much beauty, and so much time invested in their creation, and all for the sake of elitism or religion. I wish people would just want to make beautiful things for the sake of making beautiful things, or to share beautiful things with world. Surely that’s an incentive in itself?

Finally, continuing my frank conversation with my newfound stranger-friend, the conversation inevitably turned to what I want to do next. “I don’t want to get a job yet”, came my standard, well-rehearsed reply, “I want to do exciting things.” To which my stranger-friend simply said “well don’t then”. And perhaps in order to be happy, it really is that simple.

Eiffel Tower at night

Eiffel Tower at night

Two Weeks in Paris: Architecture Isn’t Just Drawing Lines (Day 1 & 2)

So, I’m in Pairs and this is the view from my terrace. And this is my blog all about it.


Hi! For those of you who don’t know, my name is Jem. I’m an aspiring journalist at the University of Kent and due to graduate in a ridiculously short about of time, but still no closer to working out what I actually want to do next. For the meantime, I’m in Paris.

To continue in the theme of twenty-something clichés I’m writing this blog to help me remember my time in this gorgeous city and perhaps work out what I do with my life. But mainly just to be pretentious and show off.

I’m here for two weeks on a University of Kent 50th Anniversary Scholarship, which means I get to study about a lot of things I know nothing about and see a lot of sights I probably know nothing about, with a group of 16 other people who, helpfully, I also nothing about.

We arrived in Paris on Sunday, June 15th, after an arduous journey of buses, trains, running through Maidstone and telling strange men that no, I can’t give you my number, I’m moving to Paris. Technically not a lie.

IMG_0561So, here I am, and the view from our terrace is absolutely gorgeous. Shame about the crane though.

We’re staying in the Foyer International des Etudiantes. It’s a student hall right in the centre of the city and it’s got beautiful rustic furniture, a lovely terrace and toilets that don’t have a sink with them, which is weird.

Since getting here, I’ve been relieved to discover that all of the people on this trip are, in fact, lovely people, and not, as I had feared, axe murderers.

I’ve already seen some beautiful and amazing things; The Notre Dame Cathedral, a bridge with lots and lots of padlocks on it (not the lovelock bridge though) and the Shakespeare and Company bookstore, which was a favourite haunt of amazing people such as James Joyce, Ezra Pound and Ernest Hemmingway.

We’ve eaten some pretty awesome crepes at a small restaurant that serves cider in bowls, and to be honest, I’m pretty convinced that drinking out of bowls or bottles is the way forward. We also went to a restaurant which was quite frankly pretty poo.

10407220_10152491140850575_6030605842456819052_nHere’s a picture of Jayna and I looking decidedly unimpressed that our food appeared within two minutes of ordering, was essentially raw and very very tepid. There comes a point where one can only drink wine and laugh.

Sightseeing aside a large part of this trip is the lectures we are receiving and the first day of the programme focused on architecture and the work of Bernard Tschumi.

I’ve never even had the slightest inclination towards a career in architecture, so was fully prepared for the fact this might be quite hard, especially considering I have no knowledge in this field at all.

While I probably still can’t explain that many finer details to you now, the lecture and following visit to the Tschumi exhibition at the Pompidou Centre has blown my perceptions of the subject wide open. Turns out architecture isn’t just about drawing lines, building and then hoping it won’t all fall down.


This is one of his plans, which I stared at for a very long time.

Bernard Tschumi has done a lot of work as a conceptual architect and the idea that spaces are shaped by the events which could happen in them. So, when designing a building, perhaps you should think about some of the possibilities that might happen within it; the man dragging his suitcase along the stairs, the woman staring out the window or even a murder that’s yet to happen.

I apologise (sorry, not sorry) if this all sounds very basic and rudimental, but it took a very long time for me to wrap my head around the very basics of some of his plans and left my brain aching so much I had to drink a whole bottle of wine afterwards. Meaning my head still ached the morning after. Logic.

Also, I saw the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night and it was beautiful.


View from the top of the Pompidou Centre


Shakespeare and Company Bookstore


A poster, kind of summing up some of Tschumi’s ideas



The Pompidou Centre from the outside

The Pompidou Centre from the outside

My face at the top of the Pompidou Centre

My face at the top of the Pompidou Centre

No caption required.

No caption required.

Notre Dame

Notre Dame