A day in the life of Creed Gardiner
Architecture studies, Yale University
CUPA Summer 2023
Though I didn’t ever spend Un dimanche après-midi sur l’île de la Grande Jatte with Georges Seurat, Sundays in Paris were invaluable days of reflection and refueling. After sleeping in, I’d wake up and have breakfast. Most Sundays, I ate the same breakfast I ate during the week: black tea and baguette with butter and jam. If there were stale pieces of baguette from the weekdays, I’d wake up to my host mom making Pain Perdu. I prefer the smaller pieces of Pain Perdu with more pudding-like insides and crisp outsides to the mushy pieces of sugar bread called “French Toast” in the US.
After le petit-déjeuner, I’d swipe my NavigoPass at the Javel-Andre Citroën stop and board the 10 toward the Gare d’Austerlitz. I wanted to take advantage of my student ID, and its free ticket to many museums. The Musée d’Orsay and its collection of early 19th century academic paintings saw me the most. At the time, there were two requirements for a painting to succeed in Paris’ infamous Salon. Paintings had to have a perfect savoir-faire, rendering each form, object, and person as realistic as possible. Paintings also had to remove their subject from reality; a Venus was accepted because she was a Goddess and an ideal, whereas a nude of a young Parisian was considered voyeuristic. I wanted to sketch academic paintings for their incredible savoir-faire, hoping to acquire my own mastery of drawing.
Drawing in Paris was surprisingly social. When I went to a café on the street, servers would often profile me (correctly) as an American and speak English with me. While sketching, my interactions with Parisians were the opposite; Parisians approached me, speaking French when I sketched, and they’d engage in conversation much more than servers. As I sketched Un combat de coqs (1846) by Jean-Léon Gérôme, a woman asked why I chose that piece (to improve my drawing technique) and if there was any hidden meaning (the cock fight represents lovemaking). When I drew Dante et Virgile (1850) by William Bougereau, a boy asked if I knew the setting for the macabre painting (Dante shows Virgile the terrors of the 8th circle of hell). When I wasn’t talking to visitors, sketching was a great way to shed the worries of the week.
After some sketching, I would enjoy a long lunch, something I don’t often do back home. One Sunday, I sat outside a café near SciencesPo with a friend for over two hours. The French pace of meals was as lenient as I had hoped; specifically, many Parisian restaurants taught me patience by taking over half an hour to pick up the check. Other Sundays, I would grab an affordable lunch to go from Franprix, and head to the Parc André Citroën. There, multiple families would picnic, profiting off of the shade. Though I was alone, I enjoyed the fragrant air and warm breeze. I would read books lended by my host family, chapters required for French, or articles for an upcoming Modern Art History essay. The vast lawn, small stream of water, the airborne balloon, and grand bushes created the perfect setting to recharge.
Then I would return to my host family’s apartment. On Sundays, we’d watch shows as we ate dinner. Though I loved dinners throughout the week where we’d share conversations about politics, life, school, art, and, of course, family drama, Sunday dinners were special. Sunday nights were the only time when my host family would watch TV. In the first episode of Lupin, I realized that I needed subtitles to entirely understand shows in French. After watching Lupin, Loin du Periph, and La Vie Scolaire –and getting hints of what was supposed to be funny from the laughs of my host family– my comprehension improved miles.
Sundays in Paris taught me to slow down. They taught me to care for myself. Most importantly, they taught me to enjoy any simple pleasure: sketching, socializing, watching French media, or, of course, eating.