Afraid to Fall: Day One
The flight from Pittsburgh to Paris was uneventful and so was the flight from Paris to London – with just a minor hiccup of staying in the air 20 minutes longer because of the storming weather happening below. In circles the plane flew as I eagerly looked out the window in hopes that somewhere in the cloud cover there was a break to see London at a bird’s eye view. There wasn’t.
As soon as the plane touched the ground, we grabbed our bags and were immediately introduced to our tour guide, Vincent, and Janet (our temporary bus guide for London). Within an hour I had seen Big Ben, the London Bridge and more! I couldn’t wait to walk around on my own.
The tour bus stopped at the Tower of London where I was free to walkabout and to discover the history permeating within the site. Having only an hour was unrealistic and to get a true feel and understanding of the place – you would need half a day at least.
I should note the ground is cobblestone. Meaning it isn’t flat but extremely uneven and very difficult to walk on if you aren’t use to it or just plain clumsy. I fall in the second category.
In fact, last May when I was in Berlin, Germany I fell badly enough to warrant a trip to the hospital and was on crutches for the rest of the trip. Crutches and cobblestone isn’t any easier mind you.
My fixation on the cobblestone is one of apprehension. As I hurriedly raced around the exhibit I found my mind constantly focusing on the stone ground! I would stumble and catch myself from falling and mentally check to see if I had any damage.
Within the allotted hour, I saw the crown jewels and the White tower. First, if you have watched Sherlock on BBC, the jewels aren’t out in the center of a vault. Instead, there are several displays of different objects that are classified as jewels – everything from Elizabeth II’s coronation gown to a solid gold punch bowl. What most would assume as the royal jewels are the crowns and jewelry, those items are located between a moving platform, so no one person can stand and look at the jewels for no longer than a few seconds.
I made it unscathed but the reminder of the possibility of what loose, uneven ground can do has made me wary. Even in flat comfortable shoes can cause a fall.
However, even my fear of falling couldn’t truly distract me from the amazing buildings and structures around London. Walking up and down streets while heading to and from dinner was a pleasure.
At dinner, three courses were served with a fish dish (I’m not sure what it’s called but it wasn’t fish and chips) followed by chicken mashed potatoes and veggies. Desert was crème brulee, which was so good.
By the time dinner was finished a soft bed was all I needed. Jumping six hours ahead does do something to you – even if you sleep the entire way on the plane. It just isn’t a comfortable sleep. Well that’s all for now.
The Bakery and BBC Sports
Barbara Schofield on “Current Landscape of the British media” at the Bakery for a lecture hosted the first media trip. Her presentation was about the abrupt change in British Media due to a scandal with key players in the journalism profession hacking into cell phone to get information. It found that journalists were using phone hacking to get information on officials or the royal family. That changed when a 13-year-old girl disappeared and the media use cell phone hacking to get the latest scoop. In the process of hacking the young girl’s phone the journalist deleted some of the information that was crucial to the police investigation. Prior to this moment the phone hacking was “acknowledged” but with the interference of the police investigation – a deep look was taken in to how the media was getting it’s information.
The investigation of phone hacking and the key players ended up becoming bigger than anyone could image and has negative impact on the British media. The public and the government are now concerned that the British Media’s system of self-regulating has failed and a government hand is needed to keep media professional in the right. There has also damage to the reputation of journalism and a new pressure on the ethics and regulation on the media system. Certain newspapers (especially those not apart of the scandal) are against more regulation because of the impact it would have on the freedom of the press. However, the public is for a new system of regulation and less reliance on the press self-regulating.
Schofield also presented information on the newspaper industry. It seems everywhere there are declining numbers in newspapers. People have now many outlets to consume information without having to pay. Papers that are struggling to survive are The Guardian and The Independent. However, there are papers at the same time that are doing well such as the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail. Many newspapers are going to an online platform and there is still that question of how to receive a profit in this new content.
Also at the Bakery was James Probert who works as a researcher for BBC Sports. Probert discussed how his career path and how he ended up at BBC Sports. His originally studies at university were not media or journalism and he sort of “fell” into journalism when BBC was looking for runners. From here Probert nudged his way into the BBC fold by being “present.” He came not just for his job but also would go back to the studio to shadow other professional in the office. Eventually a job position was open Probert applied because he was being proactive in his role.
Probert’s experience brings attention to the fact that not everyone goes to school for is what he or she will do in the work industry. Instead, many times it seems people fall into the career of journalism or media rather than choose. While there are people who do follow that path of journalism school then applying to a newspaper or broadcast station, it also opens the realm that just because one when to school for journalism mean that one HAS to go work in the media world, but that there are other opportunities out there and so long as one is proactive and truly passionate about the work it can be achieved.
Social Media roundtable and The Guardian
The first media trip for May 13th was a social media roundtable provided by Kathleen Donnelly, Senior Lecturer in Public Relations, Birmingham City University and is also a native Pittsburgher. She was able to have three different media professionals: Pamela Mounter, Chartered Institute of Public Relations,
Rebecca Kerry, Global Customer and Shopper Marketing intern and student Birmingham City University, and Anton Perreau, Battenhall Agency.
Each had something different to offer. Pamela talked about technology like social media is an enabler – a tool to be used to help do something not an output. Pamela also went on to describe how international business now have a better to become more interconnected and create an open space for communication within its different locations across the globe. Rebecca described the brief period she spent at Unilever and much time, effort, and creativity go into a social media campaign. Anton is part of new company taking Britain by storm with it innovation and proactive approach. He described how the job role of a public relation needs to be reevaluated and given a fresh new position because the old one doesn’t allow for there to totally cohesion between all branches of a business. It was amazing how each had found a niche in the media world and showed public relations is not just a means to end but a way to truly promote better communication and education between company and client and between company and worker.
A quick walk across London and we arrived at our second media site The Guardian where we talked with Roger Tooth, Photography Editor and Margaret Holborn, Education Coordinator. The trip to the Guardian was primarily to talk about photojournalism.
Margaret told us about the history of the Guardian. Originally known as the Manchester Guardian, it was founded in 1821 as a middles class liberal paper. CP Scotts started it and when he died he left it to his sons. Sadly the oldest died in an accident and in England there is a death payment and the youngest son had a choice to make: he chose to walk away from the paper, which is how the Scott Trust owns the Guardian.
Having on staff photojournalist seems to be a thing of the past because people who decide to go into this field work at several different papers as freelancers because he or she is able to get more work consistently. Roger stated that is how began as a freelancer and because of the people he knew and some luck he was happy to say that he was able to work for the Guardian. Roger is in charge of selecting the photos that up online and in paper edition and the managing of all the photos that come in. All the photos are digital and go in a program where they are tagged and managed through the cutlines. The Guardian actually subscribes for the photos from UKPA (a picture agency) and through freelancer. The Guardian does have some photojournalist on a contract but mainly photos are found through the agency. The day we were there over 14,000 pictures were turned in – just for that day. In the paper edition of the Guardian it has an entire spread dedicated to one photo. There is a bigger push on the website end then the paper end. However, the photos that are in paper have had more time spent on them then one online. In fact, Rodger stated pictures get put online so quickly that it isn’t always possible to edit them all.
Free Time in London
The Gardens or more like giant parks are known as the Lungs of the city. The Gardens in London are amazing. Here in such a big city there is such a huge concept of having trees and an escape from the city. These parks and garden aren’t just pea size patches of green but giant fields with perfect places to sit in the grass under a tree or on a bench near one of the many ponds or lakes that are featured in the area. It was such an amazing pleasure walking through Kensington Guardian or in Regents Park and it was slightly cool be like the locals and just relax and enjoy nature.
The British Museum
The British Museum houses amazing artifacts of the past including the Rosetta Stone, Easter Island statue Hoa Hakanani’a and Horse from the Mausolem of Jalikarnassos. There was simple so much history. In the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh there is a room dedicated to large masks of pieces of architecture and the like, but here in the museum everything was real and I couldn’t contain my self from seeing everything in the Egyptian room to Rome and Greece to North America. I simply had to see it all and I did. While the group I was with only had a few hours I made sure to see both the big famous pieces but also the ones that I simply was interested in.
The London Eye
The London Eye is something everyone should do. Yes it is a touristy thing to do, but how many times do you plan to be in London? It’s okay to do these kind of things because what better way to see the city from a bird’s eye view and capture some great pictures. It takes thirty minutes to go around, but it seems quicker because essentially you’re in a giant bubble where you’re continuously walking around to snap photos of major building (like the Big Ben which is just across the Thames) and waiting to get to the top at the same time. The time our group went was right before sunset, so we saw a commination of day and night view of the city, which was just amazing.
“Mind the Gap!” – London’s Underground
One thing I have noticed in traveling abroad is there a larger emphasis on public transportation. I have been to many places including Germany and Japan and there is a strong push for good public transportation that is both fool proof and reliable.
London’s Underground commonly known as the Tube is a dream for public transportation and really quick to learn and navigate. On top of that, it is amazingly clean for something that is used everyday from 5a.m. to 12a.m. continuously.
In the beginning Vincent showed us and went with us on the different places we went to or showed us. However as each of became more confident we would go off on our own. It was an adventure on its own because there is a certain knowledge to know which direction one is going, which train to get on, how many stops to take and get off and then once off the train to get out of station and get on street and know where to head off. I’ll admit that the group I was with, we didn’t always plan everything out, which added to rush of adventure and being in a foreign city.
One particular instance is when we were in search in of Chinatown. Ironically, some things in London are really close and while we planed how to get to the right area we forgot in our haste to plan which direction to go. However, we managed to stumble into it and have a fun time doing so.
The Tube allowed us to explore the city with efficacy, we could quickly go to one end of the city to the other with the ease of a few stops and transfers, but it was worth and it was an experience in and of it self.
Travel Day: The Chunnel, Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower
I said my final goodbyes to London in the wee hours of the morning – 4:30 a.m. to be exact. By this time your body is use to being sleep depraved even if I slept the entire way, which helped. But your body is out of whack because of the time change, different sleeping arrangements and food. So waking at 4:30 a.m. does win you any brownie point with body instead it’ll get back at you later. In this case it was falling asleep on the Chunnel.
The Chunnel is a train that goes under the English Channel and connects London to Paris within a few hours and (since we are from England to France) a hour jump in time. So while I was excited on taking the Chunnel, I fell asleep as soon as I sat in my chair and I can honestly say the only memories of the Chunnel are blurry at best because I was asleep.
Once off the Chunnel, the bags were packed on the bus and we headed for an immediate tour of Paris, which is vastly different from London. London had a mix of old and new, but in Paris everything is old and well preserved.
We stopped at Notre Dame and all I can say is that the pictures I took do not justice to this amazing Cathedral. 200 hundred years it took to create this building and by the end of 200 years they decided to stopped because they believed it was good enough – so technically Notre Dame is not completed to how it was originally designed. Another interesting fact is that Notre Dame was painted in color, which has obviously faded away with time. Just thinking of how it would of look back then makes me wish there was time travel to just have a look at the Cathedral. We had free time, so we grabbed lunch in the Latin Quarter experiencing a first French dining experience.
After we went to the Eiffel Tower. First I don’t think many people realize how big the tower is. It is huge and takes up so much space. It is such an interesting piece of architecture. Vicente told us that it was part of the world fair exhibit and the people of Paris did not like because it was so modern and normally exhibits were taken down after the fair. However the Eiffel Tower had a redeeming quality, it is tallest structure in Paris, so they stuck a Radio antenna on the top and that is how the Eiffel Tower was allowed to stay.
It is amazing to see all these famous sites and to hear the history because while traveling abroad there is always something new to learn. It is nice to stop and appreciate the stories that these famous building and site have to offer.
It’s been a few days into trip and having left London, I felt mildly comfortable in my “traveling-abroad skills.” But the thing about London is that everything is in English. Yeah, the words – some slang may be different but ultimately we’re both speaking a similar language.
In France there isn’t that “I-kinda-know-what-I’m-doing.” It’s more of a “I-hope-I’m-doing-this-right-but-I’m-really-just-guessing.” I think this mind set is because of the language barrier. I only took Spanish in high school and college and while people say there are similar – the pronunciation is different. Sure, I can read some French do the similarity, but hearing is completely different.
Luckily, a lot of people speak English or know enough to get message across with variations of wild gestures of pointing and words in each other’s language.
The first meal I had in Paris was part of the group, so I didn’t have to worry about language or ordering. No that happened the next day for dinner. Emily and I decided to try one of the many outdoor bistros that are in the artist district just a bridge away from the hotel.
Not exactly sure how the service and ordering is done, we did the same thing we did in London: walk in and hoped for the best. An older gentleman approached us and gave us a table outside on the street and gave us menus.
In France, food is to be savored and eaten slowly while enjoying conversation. So waiters / waitress leave you be. So after some time passed an older woman appeared and in rapid French she asked something. In a moment of panic I sputter if she spoke English. In a huff, she quickly flipped through the menu to the beverage page and pointed. Giving my response of tap water, she seemed to disapprove of the fact neither Emily or I wanted wine.
Everything on the menu was in French, there were no helpful English translations and while being only in Paris for just over 24 hours I was able to pick out safe words like “poulet” or chicken. Taking a leap of faith, both Emily and I order food that we weren’t exactly sure what it was, but that’s all part of the experience.
Later, I would try the same process again just the next night. Except this time there were consequences for not understanding the language.
Saturday happened to be Museum Night, which mean all the museums are free entrance. It so happened that we also had tickets to the Louvre but we also wanted to go to Musee d’Orsay. In between, it would be dinnertime. So Holly, Corinne and I set off for a restaurant to eat at. Looking at the menu from out on the street, I saw they had Lasagna with goat cheese (Corinne was able to translate). It sounded good. We walked in and order and had no problems until the meal was placed in front of us.
It looked delicious and quickly took several bites until my ears and throat started immediately itch. The only time that happens is when I eat pine nuts. I then studied the lasagna for any signs of this pesky nut and there in a green paste commonly known as “pesto” which gave me my answer.
All things considered, I never expected there to be pine nuts in Lasagna. I looked to my fellow companion and stated I needed to ask the waiter if there were any nuts in the meal. Grapping the waiter’s attention was easy, but asking about allergies was not. Apparently I butcher the French language and he was able to understand what I was asking at first until I broke it down in English.
He left to ask the chef and return staying there was NOT any nuts in the food. I thanked him and I ASSUMED it was in my head. It wasn’t in my head. I took a few more bites with that hope but continued to feel worse. So I stopped eating the lasagna and moved on to the salad and bread.
Corinne went off to a look and see if the pharmacy next door had Benadryl, but it was closed. However, by the time she got back I was beginning to feel better and Holly had mint gum that helped settle my stomach.
Later after we went to the museum, Corinne had Benadryl to use just in case there were pine nuts in the food. However, while we were at the second museum Corinne seemed to think it might have been the food because she ordered the same thing.
In any case, it all worked out. However, in this moment I realized how important language is. The next time I travel out into a country where English is not the primary language I want to make sure I have some level of basic language so that I say things like “I’m allergic” without destroying the language so much that they can’t understand what I’m saying.
For this media site, we were separated into two groups because of the how many students and the limited space. However it was worth it because we were able to talk with the president of Ketchum Paris Philippe Beteille. He explained the company was 90 years old and has five practices: brand marketing, corp, health care, technology, and food and wellness. Beteille explain how public relation is a difficult job in Paris because the people of Paris are taught to be skeptical and critical of what they are told because they require a lot of proof in order for them to make a decision. He also explained that is in constant work with his own people in Paris but with other offices in the world. It astonishing see the passion that Beteille put into his work, he was truly dedicated to his work and putting in the best effort. His advice to us was to have a mutual respect with our coworkers because it helps the process.
The AFP is similar to the AP that we have in the US. We had the privilege to talk with Angus Mackinnon, Paris Correspondent and Deputy Head of the International Service and David Millikin, Director of AFP North America. They explained there is a paradigm shift especially with revenue and how they have had to adapt. What made this media site different from the rest was how they begun to ask us question like how we read news, where we go when looking for information. It was one of the moments where both professionals and students were gaining information to help one achieve some goal.
At France 24 we were guided by Sylvie Rottman, Senior Producer,
Françoise Champey-Huston, Deputy Director of English Service and
Benoit Laporte, Deputy News Director. They explained how they managed between three languages: French, English and Arabic. Since France 24 had expanded to several languages it able to report on certain topics because have created a balance that some top crisis places have deemed fair, which had landed them interview with two very different sides.
France 24 is in 177 countries and has over 240 million viewers and it has same programing translated exactly for each language. Sometimes because of culture or language there is some different program but they try to keep everything the same.
At France 24 I learned to importance of language and learning a second language. By learning a second language one is given a larger vocabulary and another to express something. It also expands to possible job opportunities. It made realized that learning a second language is something achievable but it also something very difficult to do and will take time to fully accomplish and is a new goal I have made for myself.
I doubt when Walt Disney created Dislandland in California that it would expand across the globe and become an international company. At Disneyland Paris we had Irma Smits, Press Events and Production, Martine Stuben, Public Relations Director, Stéphane Cunnac, Senior Publicist and Damien Vayne, International Press Relations Representative teach us the struggle of introducing Disney to France.
While in the US, Disney is a source of magic, wonder, and childhood. In France, it was originally seen as a source all things bad and the standard that made Disney so successful in the US did not work in France or to Europe.
So a new strategy had to be created for a different audience on a culture level. It took about five years before a solid system was created that worked for Europe. They focused on three parts reputation, corporate image, and product. Originally called Disney Euro people were not associating with name because money in Europe is Euro. The name was changed to Disney Paris. In addition, where Disney in name sells in the US, in France they need to have sponsors from celebrities to help promote a positive image. Even today, they struggle with negative side but continue to work on promoting a positive image but custom making a brand that works for a different culture. It remarkable the amount of strategy put in order to create a huge change within five years.
To Normandy we go!
Normandy Invasion Beaches
We left Paris and headed to Normandy to visit the landings in Normandy. Traveling via bus, we made our way along the coast stopping at Omaha, Arromanches Pont du Hoc and the American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-mer.
It was an interesting experience seeing these sites. Some places like Omaha beach you couldn’t tell that anything ever happened on the beach but others had huge chucks of the earth were missing in an unnatural way despite the fact that the grass had grown in the places where bombs were dropped.
The place that struck a cord with me the most was Omaha beach. I mention how on the beach it self you wouldn’t be able to tell what happened because time and the tide had taken any traces, but go up the hill and the cemetery and tribute to the fallen soliders were there. I don’t know how many white crosses and stars of David were there but suffice to say there many – too many. It was heartbreaking in a way words fail describe. To know that many families had to decide to have a son, brother, husband to be laid to rest an entire ocean away is hard choice to make. However, the grounds and memorials honor those fallen soldiers to amazing degree. The care and maintained area provide a sincere resting place for those men. It was such a privilege to go and to show respect.
Mt. St. Michel
The one event I was excited for it rained. It was light but as the day would progress I would be completely drenched despite having a raincoat on.
Mt. St. Michel is basically a giant castle on island. While the amazing structure looks like a castle it is actually a monastery turned prison turned hat shop turned historical tourism site. Despite the rain, the entire venture was a dream. I love castles. I saw a couple castles while in Germany and Austria and while Mt. St. Michel is not technically a castle with a lord – it falls in the same category becasue of the amazing architecture.
The interesting story about Mt. St. Michel is it was created because the bishop was visited by Archangel Michael in a dream telling him to build him a church; however the bishop didn’t think the dream was real until the third time when Archangel Michael poked a hole into the bishop’s forehead. When the bishop woke in the morning and saw the hole in his forehead he knew the truth and the church built, which overtime expanded to what it is today.
Vicente took use though the major of parts of the building show and pointing out the major and historic points of the building. After we were free to explore and just then the clouds cleared and the sun came out.
All was good until we decided to leave. Torrential down pour does not even describe the water that fell from the clouds and we were on an island with the English Channel not but a few miles away. The combination of salt water, wind, and rain left all of soaking wet as we walked quickly to the bus to take us off the island (which was not close but a ten minute walk). No one had made it without getting wet and we quickly dashed to the bus to take us to hotel, only to wait because the driver had gotten lost.
Despite all this, Mt. St. Michel was remarkable site to see.
St. Malo is an old fortress and buses are not allowed inside. So in a way St. Malo is also a mini version of a castle that we got to stay at. This is our last day in France and the last of the trip – not including the flight back home. It was such fun and sad day because of that fact. Vicente showed use the area and the church. But the true highlight of the day was dinner. All of us at the beginning of the trip knew a few people but by the end all of us had become good friends. We thanked Vicente for all of his work. It was a good time, but after dinner all of went out on to the beach, where we place our feet in the English Channel.
Originally the idea was to say that it was something that we did. However, northern France in May at night isn’t exactly known for its warm tropic water. It was cold and when I say cold I mean the artic had a baby and then some. Despite the refreshing chillness of the water, we all had a good time talking and walking and exploring the beach on our last day.
The Trip home
I am not from Pittsburgh, so my flight home had me separate with the larger group in the airport in Paris. By this time I was ready to go home, while I love traveling I’m not a fan of flying and I was about to get a whole new reason to hate flying beside being in the air without so much a parachute (not that it would help me if something did happen). Nevertheless, in the small airport we left from had us on a SMALL plane where the propellers were OUTSIDE of the containers found on the larger planes. While in the air it was easy to feel the wind suddenly push the plane to the side. However the worst was yet to come.
Four hours into the long haul flight from Paris to Philadelphia I got airsick to the extreme and ironically there was a large tour group of senior citizens who made it their mission to help feel better, which I honestly say I am grateful.
So that is how the flight went, and while I was sad to leave. I was very happy to have my feet on the ground.
This trip taught me so much about myself in way that was different then the last time. In Germany my crutches had handicapped me and it prevented me from exploring and trying new things. But this trip I was able to learn, explore, and have fun (even if the way home wasn’t ideal). I realized that I want to travel more and learn more about international relations. It was such a pleasure to spend time with my classmates and to go to all the media site and culture sites because while this class offers the ability to interview and chat with media professional it also give the ability to become a new person with a bigger and brighter understanding of the world and the many ways media can be accomplished.