An Alsatian weekend

Hamilton in France students had a weekend excursion to Alsace in November. Located in Eastern France, and close to the German border, the Alsatian region offered students the richness of its history and the pleasures of its gastronomy.


Our first stop was in Strasbourg, where we spent two days. We walked through the city with a guide who told us everything about the beautiful cathedral and the history of the city. The architecture is one of the finest high examples of Gothic architecture and one of the tallest churches in the world. The city has shifted from being in German territory to French several times over the centuries. Students enjoyed the holiday decorations and the markets. The city is usually thronged with visitors during winter as its Christmas market is world famous, but the market was still being set up and it was not too crowded.

Strasbourg cathédrale

The group had diner at the restaurant “Au Dauphin” located just in front of the cathedral. They tasted a typical regional dish, “choucroute” made of charcuterie, sausages, potatoes and sauerkraut (brined cabbage), and it is gluten free! Tasty vegetarian dishes were also served, like the “tarte flambée” with cream, onions and vegetables.

Riquewihr vin

We departed on the next day to explore the “Alsace wine route” and discovered the beautiful city of Colmar. On our way, we saw the European Parliament, unfortunately closed on Sunday. While in Colmar, students visited the Unterlinden museum with majestic paintings of the Renaissance. They also had lunch in the cozy restaurant “La Brasserie des Tanneurs” where they all tried the traditional “tarte flambée”, which is another typical dish in the region. It is similar to a pizza, but it is flatter and made of cream, onions and “lardons” (small bacon bits).


We headed to Riquewihr in the afternoon, where students visited a wine maker at the “Zimmer” wine cellars, and three types of wines. The city is on a hill close to the Vosges mountains, and it was brightly decorated with holiday ornaments. Students strolled through the city and took a lot of pictures.


Testimony of Fred Guo (Williams ’19):November 18, Hamilton in France brought us to Alsace and it was my very first time. I really enjoyed the trip as I have been looking forward to going to Alsace since arriving in Europe.”

“It was really nice to visit Strasbourg since I have also been taking a class on the EU parliament and to visit Strasbourg meant I would be closer to one of the seats of European democracy! Apart from that of course, Strasbourg was very charming. We have had the great fortune of at least seeing the decorations for the Christmas markets. The streets were filled with decorations, stuffed animals and lights that were ready to be lit up. We also had some pretty good food at an Alsatian restaurant that is just next to the main Cathedral of Strasbourg. It was magnificent! The structure was tall and red and definitely reminded me a little bit about Game of Thrones when I was there.”

“If you are ever in Strasbourg, you cannot miss it! (literally, because it is also very tall!). We then visited Colmar, and the whole experience was also very charming. Before even arriving in France, I read articles online recommending tourists to visit certain towns and cities in France apart from Paris, and Colmar was definitely on that list”.

“Even though it was winter, the colors of the architecture and the Alsatian atmosphere was palpable and enjoyable! Be sure to visit it too for Christmas if you ever find yourself in France! As a student from Tulsa, Oklahoma representing Williams College, it was definitely an eye-opening experience and one that I am very grateful for especially with the spirit of Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up! Vive la France.”

After filling their heads with happy memories, the group returned to Paris by train that evening.

Watch the video of their trip: 




A royal trip!

By Morgane Guillou, program assistant for Hamilton in Paris.

We went on our first week-end field trip to the famous Châteaux de la Loire in the southwest of Paris. Our trip included the visit of several Renaissance castles (Azay le Rideau, Chenonceau, Chambord) and the abbey of Fontevraud, not to mention a wine maker’s cellars in Chinon where we tasted the Loire Valley wines. The group spent the night in the medieval village of Chinon and we had lunch in Amboise, the city where Leonardo da Vinci spent his last years at the behest of the King, before coming back to Paris by train.

Sans titre

Hamilton students posing in front of the Château d’Azay le Rideau


  The group posing in front of the château d’Ussé, said to be the inspiration for La Belle au Bois Dormant (Sleeping Beauty)

oui oui Bridget Horwood (Colby ’19) enjoyed the Château de Chambord

oui oui oui

Students at the vineyard, waiting to taste the wine

Fred Guo (Williams 19’) tells us in French about his favorite castle in the region: « Le château de Chenonceau était mon préféré par son architecture sur le pont et ses jardins fleuris. Le mobilier était très original, on peut sentir l’atmosphère de la Renaissance et le drame entre Catherine de Médicis et la maîtresse du roi Diane de Poitier pour qui ce château a été construit. Le site n’était pas trop touristique et on se sent voyager dans le passé. Chenonceau était pour moi le château le plus magique et le plus charmant de tous ceux qu’on a visités. »

yes yes yes

Students posing in front of the Château de Chenonceau

Thomas Parker (Hamilton 19’) tells us in French about a historical detail that marked him during our visit at the Abbey de Fontevraud: « Je me souviens de la visite qui m’a le plus frappé pendant notre weekend à la Loire. C’était la visite à L’Abbaye de Fontevraud, où le corps de Richard Cœur de Lion (et quelques autres) était enterré(s). La guide nous a expliqué qu’il était possible que quelqu’un l’ait déplacé pendant la Révolution française ; donc son corps n’est peut-être plus enterré à cet endroit. Mais je trouve incroyable que le corps de ce roi connu, qui a vécu il y a plus de 900 ans, soit resté dans cette abbaye au moins jusqu’à la Révolution. Rien ne rend l’histoire aussi réelle que ce genre de détail pour moi. C’est ça l’histoire : vraie et viscérale. »

yesRam et Julian at the Abbey de Fontevraud

yes yes

Students return to Paris by train

To further know about this weekend, watch this video:



Back to school in Paris

By Morgane Guillou, program assistant for Hamilton in Paris.

Hamilton in France students have started their academic adventures in France and we have collected in French some of their first impressions.

Students are from five different NESCAC colleges, including Hamilton, Williams, Grinnell, Colby and Scripps Colleges. They will tell stories about their experiences along throughout the year on this blog.

Before settling in Paris, they spent their orientation week in Biarritz, France, and in the French and Spanish Basque country, to discover the culture and lifestyle of this fascinating region.

The city of Biarritz is by the sea on the South-West of France, 25 kilometers away from the Spanish border. The group stayed there for a week with professor Krueger. They enjoyed fresh air of the sea, the beautiful streets and landscapes of the region, and wonderful classes of French with local faculty.

They also visited Bilbao in the north Basque country of Spain, where they visited the Guggenheim Museum. In the French Basque country, the group learned how to cook a gateau (cake) Basque with a Chief pâtissier from the region. They also visited the village of Espelette, which is popular for its pepper that students tasted.

 chef photochef photo 2

After the orientation in Biarritz, students travelled back to Paris where they met their host families and started their Paris life. They visited their campuses before the beginning of classes in various Parisian universities and at Reid Hall, where Hamilton in France courses are located.

Continue reading “Back to school in Paris”

Dana Holloway ’18 shares her experience of studying English-language literature in Paris

On Thursday mornings, I walk into my school just off of Boulevard St. Michel in a beautiful old building. It used to be the royal school of drawing back under Louis XV, and entering the enormous carved stone entrance feels like going back in time. Crossing the secluded courtyard and climbing the stairs brings me to my classroom, an impressive room lined with bookshelves of English literature and dominated by a gigantic round table. Early comers discuss in French their plans for the weekend or the amount of work they have as they wait for class to start. When our professor enters and the class quiets down, she begins the day, saying:

“Alors, on va commencer with the oral presentation on Virginia Woolf…”

And with that shift from French to English, my brief language respite for the week begins.


This semester, I am taking an English-language literature class in La Sorbonne Nouvelle’s “Monde Anglophone” department. The course, named “Réécrire l’histoire,” focuses on the links between history, memory, and representation through the works of T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, and Pat Barker.

Because I’m a Literature major at Hamilton, the HiF program allows me to take one literature class in English to help me meet major requirements. However, more important for me than the credit was the chance to study English-language literature from a French perspective. I was curious to see if the French approach to these texts was different, and what it was like studying these texts among non-English speakers.

What I like most about this course is our depth of study for each work. At Hamilton, we are often able to cover multiple authors, books, and periods over a semester. However, instead of quantity, the French pedagogical system seems to focus more on quality, with us taking several weeks to discuss each work. For instance, we spent more than four weeks discussing T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land alone! This slower pace took some getting used to, but I’ve come to appreciate how much better I understand the texts when I take more time to consider them. Our lessons are also heavy in literary theory and poetic terminology that are completely new to me, which has been excellent for gaining more tools with which to study literature.

The other students in the class are all French students pursuing Master’s Degrees in Anglophone Studies. As someone who now fully understands the difficulty of reading and thinking in another language, I am continually impressed by these students’ grasp of English and ability to articulate their thoughts, often with very elegant British or Irish accents! Many of the works we are reading take a lot of time and attention for English-speakers, such as The Waste Land and To the Lighthouse, so I admire these students’ mastery of such difficult material.

But while the language might be familiar for me, there are still many aspects of the French education system that took some time to get used to. For instance, instead of continuous, smaller assignments, the classwork consists of a single oral presentation of 25 minutes and a written final at the end of the course. The professor publicly comments on each student’s presentation, not hesitating to criticize weaker arguments or missed points. This course is also dominated by the professor’s lectures rather than comments from students, despite the round-table environment and small class size.

My course in the “Monde Anglophone” department has far surpassed my expectations, and it is one my most interesting and engaging courses in Paris. It has been a surprising mix of the familiar and the foreign, which has introduced me to new ways of looking at texts. For Literature majors in the HiF Program who have the opportunity, I would highly recommend this experience.

by Dana Holloway

Hamilton in France, par Maria Lazgin Ciercielli ’18

Maria Lazgin Ciercielli ’18 est étudiante à Hamilton College, et elle nous raconte son experience avec Hamilton in France cette année. De l’école internationale de théâtre Jacques Lecoq au studio 104, elle nous fait visiter les lieux de Paris qui constituent le décor de son année d’échange à Paris. Entretien.

En route vers l’Alsace !

9h25, Gare de l’Est : départ en train vers l’Alsace ! Il y a deux semaines, les étudiants de Hamilton en France sont partis en direction de cette contrée de l’est de la France pour y découvrir son histoire et sa gastronomie.

La première étape était la ville de Strasbourg. Après leur arrivée à la gare, et après avoir déjeuné, les jeunes américains ont été faire une visite guidée de la ville à pied. Cela représentait pour eux un grand changement par rapport à Paris, au niveau de la taille mais aussi par rapport au fait que Strasbourg est moins “industrialisée”.


La  ville de Strasbourg comporte beaucoup de bâtiments typiques de la région, avec notamment des maisons à colombages. Il y a aussi de nombreuses rues piétonnes, et la présence du tramway permet à la ville d’avoir une atmosphère relativement tranquille.

Certains quartiers de la ville sont caractérisés par une architecture très allemande. A l’époque où la ville appartenait à l’Allemagne, elle était censée représenter la grandeur de l’empire allemand. En outre, il s’agit d’une ville où la population est relativement jeune, et où beaucoup d’étudiants étrangers viennent faire leur échange universitaire.

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg

Un des bijoux de la ville est sa cathédrale. Elle est très impressionnante et présente la particularité de n’avoir qu’une seule tour. La construction de la deuxième tour a été annulée car elle menaçait de faire effondrer la cathédrale à cause du sable qui se trouvait dans le sol.

Le soir, le groupe est allé manger au restaurant « Au Dauphin ». Là, ils ont eu l’occasion de manger une choucroute, un plat typique de la région. Il s’agit d’un plat constitué de feuilles de choux qui ont fermenté, servies avec des saucisses, de la charcuterie et souvent des pommes de terre. Le plat a l’avantage de ne pas contenir de gluten !

Dîner à Strasbourg. Au menu : choucroute !

Le lendemain matin, départ en bus cette fois-ci en direction de la route des vins. Sur le trajet, les étudiants ont eu la chance d’avoir une vue panoramique sur Strasbourg ainsi que sur les institutions européennes avec notamment le Parlement Européen. Ces bâtiments où se réunissent les responsables européens sont très modernes et offrent un contraste avec Strasbourg.

Après une première étape sur la route des vins dans le village de Kayserberg, le bus s’est dirigé vers le village de Riquewihr. C’est là que les étudiants ont eu l’opportunité de faire une dégustation de vin à « Zimmer », une cave à vin qui fait également restaurant. La dégustation offrait trois vins différents, en allant du plus sec au plus doux.

En attendant la dégustation de vin…

C’est aussi dans ce lieu que le groupe a déjeuné. C’était l’occasion de manger une tarte flambée, qui est une autre spécialité de la région. Le restaurant avait une décoration assez originale, puisque des trophées de chasses étaient accrochés aux murs, tels que des têtes de caribous et d’élans.

La pluie était aussi du voyage sur la route des vins.

La troisième étape était dans le village de Ribeauvillé. Cette visite était un peu écourtée par la pluie et par le train qu’il fallait prendre à Strasbourg pour rentrer à Paris. Mais cela a permis aux étudiants de pouvoir apprécier pleinement les grands espaces de vignes qui caractérisent ce pays.

C’est aux alentours de 18h que le groupe est reparti en direction de Paris. Le trajet en train entre Paris et Strasbourg se fait en seulement une heure quarante-cinq, et il permet de découvrir un visage de la France bien différent de celui de la capitale.

Le trajet entre Paris et Strasbourg ne dure que 1h45.