Study Tour to Paris: Part I

By Tiffany Eng

It is Monday the 16th of March, and the conservation students of West Dean are up bright and early for a very special occasion. It's the day we leave for the Paris Study Trip! Full of nervous excitement, we receive our packed lunches from the lovely kitchen staff and wait in the college entrance for the coach to arrive. We wonder if this experience will transform us into un-recognisable super-conservators; so to mark the occasion a big group photo is taken in front of the college lawn. The people not so keen on photos (vampires) hide in the back of the group. The sheep smile for the camera indulgently.

Eight o'clock, the time of our departure, nears but there is no coach in sight. Eight thirty arrives and I worry that we've all gotten the date wrong. The clock chimes another fifteen minutes, and then another fifteen minutes, and look! to the west! bus 'ho! Bursting through the golden gates of West Dean, the coach, in all its cobalt glory, arrives. We load up baggage and pile on the bus with the grace of newborn ducklings. We set off. Paris! See you soon.

Bus bus bus bus stop for lunch bus bus EUROTUNNEL.

For those who haven't been in the Eurotunnel, it is actually quite exciting in the way that only mundane and yet frightening things can be. Directed by the guy in the hi-visibility vest, we enter the train car; a space age silver tube.

The thirty minute underwater tunnel trip is a strange experience, because apart from the slight rocking movements, there is no change in scenery to be seen. The dim industrial lights and the warm recycled air makes everything feel surreal.

We emerge from the tunnel, and it is suddenly three weeks into the future. (Just kidding). Arrival in Calais, France!

Bus bus bus LOUVRE-LENS.

Associated with the Louvre, the Louvre-Lens is a satellite gallery located in Lens, France. It is a low aluminum and glass building surrounded by conceptual UFO landscaping and it houses various museum items loaned or owned by the Louvre. We enter the main gallery-La Grande Galerie (alternatively, La Galerie du Temps); a 3000m2 space that displays the art. The space is open plan, so most of the pieces can be seen from all sides, and the paintings are hung on freestanding walls. It is set up like a timeline, and walking down the length of the permanent exhibition takes you from antiquity to the modern age. The walls are bare with the exception of etched tick marks, marking the passage of time as you follow the exhibition.

I like how the floor of the gallery gently slopes downward as you near the present day. In the basement there is a glass storage area that shows some of their undisplayed artworks.

Also in the Louvre-Lens is a cafe (where I buy a grapefruit soda, because I forget how to order coffee in french), a gift shop, and a learning resource centre for visitors, though we don't stay long enough to linger in these areas. We leave the Louvre-Lens reinvigorated after the long ride and head back on the road for the hour's trip toward our final destination. Onward troops! Onward to the promised land!