MsVirginiaGal Went to Paris

Here is an article written by Virginia Gerrish, an Historic Preservation major, on her trip to Paris this summer. Enjoy!


By the title of this article, one can rightly glean that I, MsVirginiaGal, did indeed go to Paris. I went as a student of the Preservation in Paris class, under Professor Andrea Livi Smith’s tutelage and guidance for the entire month of July. We were seven rag tag American innocents willingly throwing ourselves into a mix of other like-minded jet-setters (hah!). From the moment the plane bounced on the runway till wheels up for our return, we walked, danced, sang, photographed, gawked, ATE, drank (some), WALKED, shopped, learned, ATE, WALKED, wrote, traveled, sat on the metro, WALKED the metro lines, learned some more, went to many museums, WALKED, ATE, laughed, blogged, journelled, and did I mention I WALKED till my feet bled. The purpose of our adventure was to learn about preservation practices in Paris, but really we learned so much more. Speaking only for myself, the four plus weeks in Paris were a life-changer/enhancer.


I, like my classmates maintained a blog: The blog still exists for anyone interested in reading about our adventures in Paris, but I am going to focus on only one of my blog entries titled. “My Christmas List for Warrenton, Virginia” To bring the focus back to UMW though, I will retitle and reword the article a little. Voilà, it is now “MsVirginiaGal’s Christmas Wishlist for University of Mary Washington.” And now here’s all she wrote:



MsVirginiaGal’s Christmas Wish list for University of Mary Washington


We went for a walk in Bercy today (East side of Paris), and we talked about urban renewal. Bercy was at one time a huge bottling and distribution center for France, until the government decided it could make more money by selling seals (taxes) at the point of origin. Unfortunately, it meant that Bercy became a depressed area, but the positive side of a depressed area is a more affordable rent for lower income citizens and/or immigrants. In the 1980’s, President Mitterrand’s government began an urban renewal project which is still being developed and will be for quite some time. The good news about  ‘SLOW’ development is that it won’t push out as many lower income people creating horrible displacement issues. If people do need to relocate, there is plenty of time, like years, and the government can help to find a better place to live. Additionally, slow-growth helps to avoid gentrification, not that it can be completely avoided. Listen, the poor have to live somewhere. It’s much better if they can afford to pay the rent and be productive citizens than to be pushed out and then become dependent of the government for subsidy. Bercy has done an amazing job of breathing economic life back into a depressed area without overly burdening and displacing its citizens.


There are things I saw today and that I have seen every day since arriving and studying in Paris that I would love to drop onto the University of Mary Washington campus. Note: that’s what our founding father, Thomas Jefferson, did after his stay in Paris. So I’m going to list my favorite ideas from Bercy and show you how it might be implemented (rightly or wrongly) at UMW. A girl can dream! So dream with me.



bercy bridge

I would place this pedestrian bridge over Rt 1 and UMW. People can walk, ride their bikes, roller blade, skate board, what ever, but they would know freedom from the tight noose of Rt 1! I realize one already exists, but this is definitely more amazing.


I’ve heard a rumor that there is a pool at UMW, but without confirming it, I know this one is cooler. It floats on the river. First, we need to get a river to move through UMW so we can float this baby! How hard can it be to rechannel the Rappahannock?


OMG…why don’t we have a community garden already?? This can go right in the middle of Ball Circle, and I would add a dog park somewhere on campus too.

frank ghrey

Frank Owen Gehry, Architect for this building, The Cinémathèque Française, It’s a movie theater and library archive for French movies. UMW needs this! I propose we turn the new Convergence Center into a grand movie theater and then start an annual film festival.


This is a waterfall fountain in the Parc de Bercy, children were playing in it! I think we can fit this behind Lee Hall towards Sunken Road!   In the winter, it could be converted for sledding use as well. Perfect.

wallace fountains

There are about 50 of these amazing water fountains around Paris. They are mostly painted green, but this screams, “look at me, cuz I’m fab!” Definitely, UMW needs four or five of these.



This is not a good picture of the forest at the center of the National Library of France, but the point is they have a forest in the middle of their four building library! We have a library already. I propose we plant mini forests, coppices, or thickets wherever there is a space.


Here’s a mock up of the library building with the forest at the center. Notice how the buildings resemble open books? We can do it!


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