First, the conference and the entire reason I was there: it was strange, but went well in the end. You know those conferences where it seems as if there are two groups attending - the grad students and the established academics? It was like that. Even at the banquet we had two "kiddie" tables of grad students and one prof at each of those tables. It was really hard to mingle the two groups together. Most of the profs kept to their group, unless they knew one of us grad students, at which point they might talk to us for a bit and then scurry back to their group. It was kind of strange. Some of the other students were saying that they felt really uncomfortable trying to approach the profs because, as always, grad students tend to feel like we have nothing to offer in establishing a relationship with a prof and that the prof is always thinking that we want something from them, when really, a lot of times, it's just a matter of hero worship, perhaps with a bit of wanting ideas from them, too. I'm (too) far enough along to let that bother/stop me anymore, but even I found it a little intimidating to try to talk to some of them because of this gaping divide between the groups.
I presented during the last panel on the last day, which is never ideal, but was fine. The question session for our panel got monopolized by an exchange between one of the panelists and an audience member, to the point where the moderator made the decision to end the session in order to stop the exchange from getting more heated. It wasn't terribly heated, but neither side was backing down and the moderator wanted to avoid a train wreck, basically, which was a good idea. That left me with no questions asked at all, so I really was clueless as to how my paper was received. They laughed at the funny bits I put in and clapped at the end, but was it the compulsory clap everyone dreads? I didn't know. It turned out not to be a compulsory clap, as I had four or five profs come up to immediately afterwards and tell me that they liked my paper, thought I had a great avenue for further research, suggested some secondary sources to help frame my work for the next step, etc. One prof, who I've known for a few years but have fallen out of touch with, even went so far as to say how impressed he was not just with the topic and the research, but with my delivery and that I really kept people's attention, even without a dreadful PowerPoint (the speaker after me had an impressive slideshow and I did not - not much to show, really, and I don't like pointless PowerPoints), and even made them laugh. A few of these profs are on the board of the JST, so now they know me and my work and I'm hoping that helps when they get my fellowship application next year. That was the whole point of going to this conference, after all.
So, the fun stuff: oh, the churches! And pastries! And wine! And food! I don't know where to begin, so I'll just show you some pictures.
Best meal (fondue and wine after the conference ended):
Favorite Versailles picture (that's right, I'm driving a golf cart around the grounds):
Favorite Louvre picture (I was more impressed with the architecture than some of the fan favorites because fighting the crowds to see the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, Winged Victory, and The Lacemaker - while worth it - was exhausting and annoying and I had to leave after only a few hours there or someone was going to get stabbed):
Favorite of-course-this-would-happen-to-me moment (getting stuck in a canal lock for 45 minutes while on a canal tour because someone cut a wire overnight and the lock was broken and a specialist had to be called to repair it WHILE we were in it):
Favorite church (oh man, this one is hard, but I'm going to go with St. Etienne du Mont partly because I had to work so hard to get in there as it had hours that conflicted with my schedule - the nerve!, though Sacre Coeur, St Paul et St Louis, St Pierre, and so many more make it really hard to chose):
Favorite attraction overall (again, this is tough, but I'm going with the Opera Garnier because the guided tour was fantastic, it is stunningly gorgeous, and, not least, I love the Phantom of the Opera)
Just look at the ceiling by Chagall! Parisians hated it at first, but I loved it. It's an ode to the glory and beauty of Paris and music and dance - how could you not love it? (The picture doesn't do it justice, so don't judge it by this!)
Did I mention I love the Phantom of the Opera? I really, really do.
Ok, that's it for now. I have a dissertation to write!