October 13, 2015

Walking in the footsteps of Vincent Van Gogh at Auvers-sur-Oise - A WICE Paris Café Talks event

About a month ago we had a lovely visit to the town of Auvers-sur-Oise, a picturesque town not far outside of Paris. Its beautiful setting inspired Vincent Van Gogh to creating some of his most beautiful work.  

 Vincent Van Gogh's oil painting of the Auvers Church located at the Orsay Museum, whose work was never a "photographic  resemblance"... but rather based on ..."our modern taste for color".... 

This oil painting is one of the 80 paintings Vincent Van Gogh made during his short, 70-day stay in Auvers-sur-Oise. There we also visited Van Gogh's attic room at the Auberge Ravoux where he died on July 29th, reportedly from a self-inflicted gun-shot.

125 years after his death, the mystery about Vincent Van Gogh lives on.

Church at Auvers-sur-Oise in September, 2015.  © Elizabeth Rand 

In 2012, American, Pulitzer-prize winning authors of Jackson Pollack, Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith claim in a biography entitled: "The Life : Van Gogh”  that he was accidentally or intentionally murdered by a 16-year old French boy. This claim is refuted in a book published in 2012 by Alain Rohan ("Vincent van Gogh: Aurait-on retrouvé l'arme du suicide?").

What counts for the people of Auvers is that Vincent be remembered for the beauty of his works, some 900 paintings in only a period of ten years.  Shortly  before his death he wrote his sister Wilhelmina that he wanted his works, especially his portraits to "appear  after a century to the people who are living then as apparitions . .."

© Elizabeth Rand 
 © Elizabeth Rand

Our next Paris Café Talk get-together  will take place on November 22nd at 3 pm at the at the Café Maure of the Grande Mosquée of Paris 75005. After a successful visit to the Mosque in June, 2015 now, guest host, Sondess will take us behind the scenes to discover the ritual involved in the preparation of the Aroussa, the bride. And we are sure to go home with some Oriental beauty secrets. 

October 7, 2015

Upstairs At Duroc: The Launch Reading

We invite all WICE members to attend the Launch Reading for the new issue of WICE’s literary journal, UPSTAIRS AT DUROC. Join us at this FREE EVENT to celebrate the publication of Issue # 16 of a lively magazine plum-full of poetry and prose by writers living in Paris and elsewhere, and put together by a devoted staff of editors operating out of the WICE office! 

Come hear a reading/performance by some of the contributing writers, maybe buy a copy of the journal, and have a drink before/after the event in the bar on the lower level right by the Canal St. Martin. The reading will be upstairs in the Salle de Danse, but please enter from downstairs.

Readers for the evening will be: Carole BIRKAN, Dylan HARRIS, Pansy MAURER-ALVAREZ, Jody POU, and Chris TYSH. 

For complete details and author bios, see our website: 

When: Thursday,  October 15, 2015, 8 PM

Where: At the arts center Le Point Ephémère
200 Quai de Valmy
75010 Paris
Métro Jaurès

September 23, 2015

Discovering the Power of Listening: Volunteering at SOS Help

The WICE Blog is presenting this guest post to spread awareness of this important service to expats in France.

By Rachel Mead*

I first contacted SOS Help – an English-language listening line based in Paris – to find out about its volunteering opportunities just one year ago, but I feel it has permanently and positively changed my ideas about listening.

When I started the training, I expected that most of the people calling up would be in crisis and acutely distressed. What I quickly learned was that while the callers are generally experiencing some form of emotional strain, their reason for calling and their way of speaking about it varies hugely.

People call about wide-ranging issues such as loneliness, financial difficulties, unemployment, difficulties integrating into French life, physical and mental health concerns, bereavement and relationship difficulties. While it’s true that the callers are sometimes distraught, even suicidal, they can also simply want to let off some steam or even treat their particular situation with wry humor.

The helpline really is for anyone experiencing any kind of difficult life experience.

SOS Help is neither a religious nor a political organisation and the other listeners I have met are from a range of nationalities, ages and backgrounds.

Twice a year, SOS Help holds recruitment information sessions at The American Church in Paris for people who live in the Paris region and can commit to at least 15 months with the organisation. They also need to be able to commit to three shifts and one ongoing training meeting per month.  

The next sessions will be held on:
Tuesday, September 29
Thursday, October 8
Wednesday, October 14

For people who want to get involved but can’t commit to that length or amount of time, the organisation also recruits supporters to set up fundraising events, help with publicity or in the general running of the organisation. 

Before training begins, every listener goes through two interviews: one with an experienced listener and the other with a professional psychologist to gauge their suitability for this kind of role.

June 16, 2015

Theatre in Paris…With English

Around the World in 80 Days
Theatre in Paris
In pursuit of joie de vivre, people come to Paris with their own unique combinations of places to see and things to do.  Gourmet meals, fabulous wines, museums, monuments, shopping, and an endless supply of sidewalk cafés, all of these choices are anchored to some degree to the quest for the French experience.  But at the end of your stay, if you don’t speak French, it’s easy to feel like you’ve somehow missed out on that inner circle connection with the locals.  Theatre in Paris is helping to bridge this gap by making it their business to bring great French theater to English speakers.   

Traditionally for non-French speakers, cultural night life in Paris without any language barriers consists of going to concerts, ballets, or operas.  However it’s quite possible that you’re going to wind up seeing a Russian principal ballet dancer, a visiting Czech orchestra performing German-composed symphonies, or an American soprano headlining one of Mozart’s operas in Italian.   Although you may be seated in a beautiful historic French building, you could easily see a similar performance in New York, London, or Vienna.  

So how does one access authentic French culture, without being fluent in French? 

New kid on the block, Theatre in Paris, has stepped up to the plate to provide an excellent solution to this age-old problem by using supertitles.   A large screen at the top of the stage displays the play’s dialogue in English, rendering great French plays linguistically accessible to English speakers.  And with over 300 theaters in Paris alone, going to see plays is an integral part of French culture.   Thanks to Theatre in Paris, English speakers can now sit alongside French people and take part in this cultural experience.  

This service can also be a source of respite for those French learners who have a good enough grasp of the language to venture out to French language events.  No more sitting in embarrassed silence when everyone around you bursts out in laughter, compelling you to feign comprehension with that meek delayed smile.    All of the slang, shortened words, and rapid fire French is all written out for you in plain English.  With this new service, you get to just sit back and enjoy the play like all of the Parisian locals sitting next to you.   
A Farewell Dinner
Theatre in Paris

Theatre in Paris is not about creating plays for an English speaking audience.  They actually select the most popular and successful French plays already in production, to which they add their supertitle service.  These plays are in fact the current hit plays that have already attracted crowds of French people.  With French actors, French playwrights, and venues historically significant to French theater, you can rest assured that you’ll get an authentic taste of Parisian cultural life.

In addition to the supertitles during the performance, Theatre in Paris provides an exclusive welcome to the English speaking attendees.  A guide greets everyone before the show and describes the cultural and historical context and significance of the play and of the theater. This introduction ensures that the viewer will be able to fully appreciate any cultural references or how the play relates to French society.  The guide explains all of this, of course, without giving away the plot!

Check out the current plays of Theatre in Paris:

Read here for more information about Theatre in Paris.

***Stay tuned for WICE’s Fall lineup of courses and events, when we’ll offer exclusive Theatre in Paris evenings with special perks for WICE members.  

Post by Veronica Kugler

May 11, 2015

A Night at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées

When was the last time you took advantage of WICE’s numerous member benefits? As the spring semester draws to a close, we’d like to point out a few not-to-be-missed deals available exclusively to WICE Members.

Fans of classical music, rejoice!  At the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, the end of the season does not mean a shortage in œuvres.  Instead, the theatre is busy most days a week hosting recitals, ballets, concerts, and operas.  What better place to take in the Philadelphia Orchestra’s version of Brahms, Beethoven, and Strauss than in a French National Monument?  The building itself is one of few in France to be constructed in the style Art Deco.  Its plain, reinforced concrete appearance shocked the French public, who was unused to such architecture during the time construction was completed in 1913. 

Countless classical music acts have set foot inside the vast auditorium.  Karl Boehm, Pierre Boulez, Claude Debussy, William Christie, Charles Münch, to name a few chefs d’orchestre.  The world’s largest orchestras have graced the halls – France, Vienna, Berlin, Cleveland, Boston, and Saint Petersburg.  As for the chanteurs, Luciano Pavarotti, Cecilia Bartoli, Natalie Dessay, Roberto Alagna, and José van Dam do not even begin to scratch the surface.

Want to know more?  Hop over to the Théâtre’s blog, where they feature articles on what goes on backstage two hours before showtime, interviews with artists, and much more.

So what’s left of this season?  How can one get their dreamy night-at-the-opera inside this Monument Historique?  

27 May: Philarmonia Orchestra. WICE Members purchasing tickets get 30% reduction. Ticket prices are 59€, 45€, 31€, 21€ instead of 85€, 65€, 45€, 30€

19 – 20 May: Russell Maliphant Company. WICE Members purchasing tickets get 15% reduction. Ticket prices are 47€, 35€, 25€, 17€ instead of  55€, 42€, 30€, 20€

30 May: Philadelphia Orchestra. WICE Members purchasing tickets get 30% reduction. Ticket prices are 66€; 51€; 38€; 21€; instead of 95€; 74€; 55€; 30€

1 June: City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. WICE Members purchasing tickets get 30% reduction. Ticket prices are 66€; 51€; 38€; 21€ instead of 95€; 74€; 55€; 30€

Reservations* available by telephone, Monday – Friday, 11h00 until 18h00 – 01 49 52 50 50, or by visiting the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées ticket box with the code, open Monday – Saturday, 12h00 until 19h00.  Call WICE Front Office for the code at 01 49 66 75 50

*Offer based on seat availability. Not to be used in conjunction with other coupons, promotions, or offers.

April 24, 2015

2nd International Forum on Domestic Violence

Please join us for this upcoming informational session to raise the general awareness about domestic violence:

This Thursday evening, May 7, a WICE-sponsored event, the 2nd International Forum on Domestic Violence for the English speaking community will take place at the American Church of Paris.  It has been organized by WICE volunteer and Board member, Jill Bourdais (read here for more info about Jill) whose other volunteer commitment is to women who are being or who have been abused in their partner relationships.

Some 40 English speaking women have attended her free victim support group meetings over the past few years.  Recent official statistics estimate that one out of ten women in France is subjected to domestic violence, and some 170 of those are killed per year by their abusers. Many abused women are fearful of pressing charges, and this informational forum will focus on what actually happens when women try to use the justice and social systems to get help for themselves.  Several lawyers, a court-approved psychologist, the head of a shelter, and possibly a judge will be among the panelists.

The event is free, but registration is requested at: parisdvforum@gmail.com

Time:           6:30 -10 p.m. 
Date:           Thursday, May 7, 2015

Location:    American Church of Paris
                    65 Quai d’Orsay ,75007 Paris

For more information, please read: 2nd International Forum on Domestic Violence.

April 20, 2015

Mixing Pleasure and Business

One week in sunny April, I was invited to attend WICE's French 1 Beginner language course.  Below is my experience as a student for a day with Muriel Lunetta.

Among countless of French classes in the nation’s capital, how does one choose? There are countless of things to consider: size of class, costs, level, and certification, not to mention the humanistic criteria that can’t help but creep into one’s psyche whenever signing up for something new and unfamiliar. 
Although usually classified as “secondary criteria”, these “humanistic” metrics tend to be the most defining characteristic of our experiences and manage to define whether or not we repeat an action.  Have you ever gotten a negative vibe from walking down a street in Paris?  When this happens to me, I seldom return to it, and if I do, it’s months after this has happened.
Personally, I yearn for comfort, friendliness, and a generally welcoming atmosphere whenever walking into something new – a job, a class, or a party.  Meeting Muriel Lunetta at WICE’s French 1 Beginners course left nothing to be desired.  Last week, I attended her class as a special guest.  It was equipped with five chipper and keen students, one professor, patient yet commanding of her craft, and workbooks and textbooks.
From the moment I walked in, jokes were flying and the ladies were exchanging pleasantries.  I felt as if I was at a social event!  Muriel turns every question into both an educational experience as well as a practice in self-reflection.  She pushes each student to speak in French, no matter their level, and patiently corrects them if need be. 
I have attended my fair share of French courses, in Paris and various other cities.  The care of personal attention that I witnessed in WICE’s French course was unparalleled.  Each person in the class was familiar with the others, which explains why students were keen to help each other out. 

Social aspects aside, it is worth nothing the instructor’s capabilities.  Muriel Lunetta earned her Master’s in Arts in French as a Foreign Language from none other than the Sorbonne.  She boasts more than twenty years in foreign language teaching experience. When searching for a way to practice your French in a convivial, approachable ambiance, look no further than WICE. 

WICE offers a range of language courses as well as French-English conversation groups, year-round, at every level and background. Find out more about the WICE Language Department here.

April 13, 2015

From Volunteer to Student: An Inside Look at Make-Up of the Femme Fatale

As a WICE Volunteer, Brandi Lunn tells us about her experience of switching hats from Visual Arts Program Director to student in one of WICE's Make-Up courses.

Visual Arts Director
Brandi Lunn
My original purpose of joining WICE was to meet people. I was new to the city and without much of a social circle and I had yet to master the French language. When I stumbled upon WICE, I had hoped that it would offer me an opportunity to make some new friends and speak English amongst them.

At the time (I joined WICE at the end of April 2014), many of the courses were winding down for the summer. While I was jotting down ideas of classes that I hoped to take in the fall, I noticed Volunteer section and sent in an application and hoped for the best.

Photo by Brandi Lunn
What many potential volunteers may not know is that the path to securing a role within WICE is a long one. Once your application is received you attend an orientation meeting. Next, you meet with the Director of the department you’re interested in volunteering with. Finally you meet with the rest of the team to learn more about the responsibilities of the role and how your skills will compliment the organization. By the time you’re officially crowned ‘New Volunteer’ you’ll have already met a large number of amazing colleagues along the way. You’ll also be so busy excitedly exploring the facets of the role and getting down to work that your original dreams of taking a course at WICE seems to fade away… at least that’s what happened to me.

April 6, 2015

Guest Blogger Series: Learn How to Make the Most of Picturesque Paris

As part of its Guest Blogger Series, WICE welcomes Member and Volunteer Isabella Grepp to share her experience in the Cultural Studies Department’s Online Communications Workshop series.

I was invited to spend an afternoon with one of our newest courses here at WICE, the “Smart Devices as Tools of Creative Expression” series. From these seminars, participants discover how to maximize the use of their smart phone and its camera.

Living in a foreign country is a special experience, something to remember throughout a lifetime.

My great aunt lived in a large number of countries during her younger years. Today, she is close 90 years old, but she still tell us tales of being an ambassador’s wife in places such as Libya, Hong Kong, Nigeria and many more. What if she had the same opportunity of sharing her special moments and beautiful views as we do today? To think of how many of those beautiful memories would be lost forever the day she is no longer with us!

In today's technological society, we have the option to capture that beautiful sunrise we see through our Parisian window every morning; instantly capture a once-in-a-lifetime moment you pass on the street; even share our everyday lunch! What is even more amazing is that we can instantly share them with our loved ones we left back home, and they can share familiar moments of their lives. Today, we are lucky in that we don't lose our memories and what we loved.

The problem many of us have is that all this new technology is still quite foreign to us. It’s a jungle of different phones out there, all with many different functions and applications; and having to dig into and learn all this can see quite daunting.

This is where Nancy Jochimek and Alastair Arthur come in. Nancy has a long background in communications, including social media, public relations and branding. She is a strong believer in the new ways of communication and wants to help people learn how easy it can be to share their memories using everyday tools. Alastair Arthur is a world-renowned portrait photographer and his work has been featured on the front page of Fuji X magazine. Armed with knowledge in both photography technology and art, together, they form a strong team.

We started the course by meeting at the WICE Office in the 15th, close to metro La Motte Picquet Grenelle. We were a decent size group composed of all different nationalities and time spent in Paris. It is quite funny and different to see my classmates with their phones in their hands, as it is usually something that is forbidden in class. But in Nancy and Alastair’s class, it is all about the phone. We go through all the different functions of Instagram – the filters, their names and how they can be used. “What was the best funcion of ‘Earlybird’ again?”

Alastair then presents us the challenges of the day: He has made a 4-level challenge, where only the truly brave will reach level four.
1. Take a selfie with a creative touch.
2. Take a photo of someone else
3. Take a candid street photo of someone else
4. Ask to take a street portrait of a stranger.

We then exchange numbers as we plan on splitting up into two groups – one for a more general overview with Nancy and one more advanced together with Alastair. But first we head over to the metro and travel to the famous Bir Hakeim bridge. It is a grey and windy day and we wander across the bridge together, taking many photos of both the surroundings and ourselves. Selfies are a must at a location like this!

After half an hour we eventually split up into smaller groups of five, where I tag along with Alastair and the other lovely ladies. We walk across the bridge to Passy, where you have beautiful architectural views of homes as well as over the Eiffel Tower and the Seine. Here we met a professional photographer and he was happy to stand model for us as he worked. We also experimented with different angles and shapes of photos as a way to capture what we want to show the most in a picture.

As our ears started to turn red from the cold wind, we slowly started to walk back towards the 15th and Beaugrenelle. On our way there we passed the tiny Île aux Cygnes and The Statue of Liberty.
We met the other group at a café and discussed our photos of the day. Over tea and coffee, we shared what we had learned of the different photo editing apps you can download to your phone . Alastair recommended Snapseed and Tinttype. The first is a version of Photoshop, made for smartphones by Google, and can help you edit your photos in more ways than Instagram on its own. The later imparts a vintage feel to your photographs, making them more personalized.

Overall it was a great day and the students took many beautiful photos, most of which can be seen on Instagram under #wiceparis. There will probably be another workshop series starting again before the summer. They’re not to be missed!