Martin's Blog

French Lectures

Posted by Martin Orr on Sunday, 20 September 2009 at 15:52

I had my first lectures in Paris this week. They are much longer than Cambridge lectures: 2 or 2.5 hours per lecture. And you have one lecture in the morning, then the same course again in the afternoon. (In Cambridge lectures are 1 hour, you have about 3 different lectures in a day, and they are only in the mornings.) I had this every day this week, so that was quite a lot. For the first three weeks there are some introductory courses, which take place every day. When term starts properly in October I will only have 2 or 3 days of lectures per week.

The two courses for which I had lectures this week were Algebra and Geometry, and Complex Analysis. The first is all stuff I already know from Part III. Sometimes it is interesting to see it taught from a different (more geometric) perspective, and sometimes it is just boring. The Complex Analysis one is not really relevant to what I am interested in, but I thought I would go along just to broaden my knowledge.

The lectures are all in French, but the lecturers speak reasonably clearly so that is rarely a problem. Reading what they have written can sometimes be harder, and they don't write full sentences on the board as lecturers usually do in Cambridge. That means that I'm not learning how to write maths in French as I had hoped, and I often don't know what to write to fill in the gaps in what they wrote on the board.

There are about 18 people attending the lectures. The audience at the Algebra and Geometry ones is quite international. I think I am the only native English speaker, but the majority of the audience are probably more comfortable speaking English than French. There are more French people at the analysis lectures.

no comments Tags france, languages, lectures, m2, paris

Arrival in Paris

Posted by Martin Orr on Saturday, 12 September 2009 at 15:49

On Wednesday I arrived in Paris. I am here to do the second year of a masters (French, and all other Bologna Process-compliant, masters are two years) in number theory and geometry, at the Université Paris-Sud. Getting here without flying was quite a journey - I got the ferry to Stranraer, train through Scotland and England to London, then stayed overnight with someone in London. I got the Eurostar the next morning, followed by a 40 minute journey on the RER (Paris suburban train).

I live on an island in the river Yvette. It is not very obviously an island, since the river is pretty tiny and the island is ten times the width of the river. Despite the river being so small, it is in a big valley. The university goes up the north side of this valley, and above that there is just trees. Most of Paris is somewhere over the other side of this ridge, so you wouldn't really know you are on the edge of a big city. The towns of Bures-sur-Yvette (where I live) and Orsay (at the other end of the university) go up the south side of the valley. Orsay is 15-20 minutes walk away, and has slightly more shops than Bures. There are a lot of big, quite mixed, trees everywhere.

Today I climbed up the through Bures to the top of the hill, where you come to Les Ulis, a New Town-style suburb with a big shopping centre. According to the map, this is the very southern edge of Paris - after the shopping centre you come to the countryside. It took me about an hour to come down from Les Ulis, probably longer to go up, although I didn't really know where I was going either time.

I have spent the past few days learning my way around and sorting various things - registering with the university, opening a bank account, etc. I don't understand everything that people say to me, and sometimes I have trouble explaining myself, but the people I have talked to have been very patient.

1 comment Tags france, paris


Posted by Martin Orr on Monday, 18 August 2008 at 14:34

My final night was spent in Cherbourg, from where I got the ferry back to Rosslare. I had most of a day in Cherbourg, but because I had to lug my big rucksack around with me I wasn't able to do very much. I wanted to visit the museum of the sea, with centrepiece a decommissioned nuclear submarine, but there was nowhere I could leave the rucksack. So I just wandered around, enjoyed being near the sea and sat in the ferry terminal - which, like the Stena terminal in Belfast, didn't really feel like it was designed to be walked to.

no comments Tags france, holiday


Posted by Martin Orr on Friday, 15 August 2008 at 20:47

After leaving Limoux, my next stop was in Tours, near the low end of the Loire. This was quite a bit further north, so pleasantly cooler than Limoux and Barcelona. It was a quiet and pleasant city. Its most famous feature (for me anyway!) was as the home of St Martin. His tomb was a popular pilgrimage site from the Dark Ages onwards, although the huge church over it was completely destroyed in the French Revolution. The tomb was rediscovered later in the 19th century and a new smaller, but still large, Romanesque basilica constructed. The Gothic cathedral is rather less impressive. I also got a nice surprise of free entry to the Musée des Beaux-Arts, because it was the first Sunday of the month.

no comments Tags france, holiday


Posted by Martin Orr on Wednesday, 13 August 2008 at 20:26

After Barcelona, we went to visit some friends from Belfast, who moved to the south of France a couple of years ago. They now live on the edge of the town of Limoux, near Carcassonne. We were joined here by Clare, and I stayed for four days. This was a much lazier stay: life involved lots of meals outdoors and swimming in their pool. We also on two evenings drove to nearby villages to watch dancing performances in the streets - such free cultural activities, laid on by the local government, seem to be common.

We had one more active day, when we visited the Cathar castles of Peyrepetuse and Quéribus. My guide book describes these castles as "romantic", but I don't think there's much romantic about castles that were built because you would be burned at the stake if you were caught. They are perched right on the top of rocky mountains, and there is quite a bit of a walk up - so at the second one I stayed at the bottom, while Dad and Clare went up.

My photos from the holiday are now online. There's not very many, after removing bad ones, none from Barcelona and Limoux since Dad and Clare were taking plenty, and none from Nîmes because my batteries died.

no comments Tags france, holiday

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