24 January 2010


Hello friends, family, and all in between!!

I am bringing you my first update of 2010 and a long overdue account of Christmas in Paris!!
I'm sorry it's taken so long, but an update like this is rather daunting...

So, as most of you know, Robert came to visit me in Paris for his entire break! It was possibly the most perfect way I could think of spending my holiday. He arrived here on Dec 16 and left Jan 8. That's about 3 1/2 weeks of vacation in Paris!! Who doesn't want that?!! So, since we were given this great gift of time, we didn't have to rush to fit all the touristy things in. Instead we got to do them pretty much at our leisure (which is my new favorite way to do a vacation-- it was actually relaxing!)

Now a day by day account might be a bit much for his 23 day stay, but I thought I'd give you guys a bit of the highlights-
The morning of Robert's first full day here in Paris, we woke up and the world was absolutely BLANKETED in snow!!! Outside the window huge flakes were falling and everything was magically white.
I jumped up and down like a kid on Christmas morning. We bundled up in our winter finest and started the 10 minute walk to the Eiffel Tower from where we were staying. It was really a magical sight. It wasn't just a dusting of snow on the ground-everything was seriously covered!
And it was really coming down! We played in the snow by the Eiffel Tower, having a snowball fight. It was really cool that Robert got to see a side of Paris that most people don't. My host family (and other french people that I've met) have told me that it is rare for it to snow so much that it sticks here. It happens maybe once a year, but while Robert was here it snowed 4 or 5 times! (crazy global warming!).

Robert's trip pretty much consisted of the normal tourist fare. We visited Notre Dame-- very pretty in the snow, but unfortunately due to weather, we couldn't climb up to the top, which is supposed to have great views. We went to the Galleries Lafayette for some Christmas cheer-- they have amazing lights, window displays, and decorations, including a HUGE christmas tree that reaches about 6 stories up to the ceiling. The light display was also one of the most spectacular things to see. One of the things that I loved about Paris during the
holidays is that they really know how to be festive! Everything is lights, and Christmas markets, and wreaths, and trees!! It was sad when the holidays were over and things were being taken down :(

In the snow, Robert also got to see the famous Montmartre and Sacre Coeur. It was incredible because it really isn't something that people get to see every day. The day we chose to go was one of the coldest days Robert was here, and the cold was intensified on top of the hill. Our toes were frozen by the end of the day... it was actually a bit miserable. Robert's camera stopped working for a while because it was literally TOO COLD. haha. It was beautiful to see all the Paris rooftops covered in snow down below us though, and it was worth braving the cold to see something spectacular.

Of course, a good way to stay out of the cold is to go to some of the wonderful museums here in Paris and so Robert and I made our way to both the Musée d'Orsay for some impressionist art and the Louvre for some old classics. It's great just to be able to spend all day in the Louvre because we had all day to spend! We also visited the Arc de Triomphe and we climbed all the way to the top! And by climbed, I mean climbed.
The view from the top is pretty amazing because you're right in the middle of the Étoile, with streets jutting out all around you, splitting your view into the geometrically beautiful "Star" (étoile means star in french) as you look out to the Champs Élysées.
Another one of our favorite excursions was the the Père Lachaise cemetery, which is the final resting place of many famous french. Not to mention just pretty in general. We went on a rather mild but rainy day, which were the perfect conditions in which to visit a cemetery. All of the tombs are beautiful. Some date back to the 1800s whereas others were still shiny and new. They had war memorials as well, including a row of memorials for the jewish families that died in the Holocaust.
Some of the most frequently visited graves are Molière, Oscar Wilde, and Jim Morrison. Oscar Wilde's tomb is covered with love notes and kisses, so I just had to join in ;) We had some fun, but it is still a cemetery, so mostly we just took in its beauty. Some of our other favorite excursions of the trip were to the Bois de Boulogne, a park near my host
family's house that is 2.5 times larger than Central Park! We had fun walking around one of its lakes, which was frozen solid! And taking pictures.

Versailles was also on our must-see list, so we made our way there on New Year's day. It was freezing and beautiful. The castle's interior is just as stunning as the exterior, so after our (Rick Steve's Guided) tour we enjoyed wandering around the gardens and headed over to Marie-Antoinette's Domain. It was quite a full day of walking and taking things in.

One of my favorite days that we spent was one of Robert's last here. We woke up early in the morning and headed to the Eiffel Tower. It was quite a grey day and we had to bundle up pretty intensely, but there were practically no lines to get tickets and really no crowd! Paris looks beautiful no matter what the weather is, and it was great for Robert to get to see, on one of his last days here, just how much he'd gotten to know the city. He could look out from the top of the Eiffel Tower and point out monuments just as well as I could! I was very proud. I made a little Parisian out of him! A cool thing happened while we were up there. We went inside on the 2nd floor to get hot chocolate from the little café, and when we looked back outside, it had started to snow!! So we sat inside, sipping our hot chocolate, and watched the snow accumulate on the balconies. And going outside we got to see all the rooftops of Paris being dusted white. It was truly incredible to watch happen before your eyes. Here's a little before and after picture we took of the Champ de Mars :

I know that this has been a kind of haphazard retelling, but really there's no good way to do it. We did too much! So to wrap up the tourist portion: we visited the Pantheon, the Champs Élysées and Sainte Chapelle as well. Ooh! And the little Statue of liberty! Bet you didn't know there was one of those in France!... I think that's about all the monuments we visited.

Now on to the holidays. You really don't have to read all this. I'm writing it all down so that I can have a nice memoire of it when I want to look back :)
One of the things that Robert and I loved to do in the apartment that we rented was COOK! It was so nice to have a kitchen! So we made things like balsamic vinegar chicken, orange marmalade beef, rosemary chicken and cream sauce, chicken with apples and a white wine cream sauce... just to name a few. It saved us a lot of money, not going out to eat all the time.
On Christmas eve we made a Christmas meal complete with stuffing and gravy and cranberry sauce! Stuffing and Cranberry sauce were bought from an American grocery store that I love called Thanksgiving. Things are sillily expensive, but it has things like Jellied Cranberry sauce!! Who doesn't love that?! And we spent the evening watching Christmas movies! (The Santa Clause=me and my brother's xmas eve tradition, had to keep tradition alive!) I was hoping for a
white Christmas morning, but alas, the snow went to TEXAS of all places?!?! On Christmas day we made Guacamole (it's red and green... sort of!), chocolate chip cookies, and latkes (I was craving them and didn't get to make any for Hanukkah)! We took a Christmas day walk to the Eiffel tower... Pretty much just because we could. :P

Our New Year's Eve meal was the rosemary garlic chicken and cream sauce. Mmmmm. Since I'd been warned by many a Parisian not to be in the metro
anywhere near midnight, Robert and I planned to take the 10 min walk from our apartment to the Eiffel Tower to enjoy the festivities. (It was a good thing too because my host family on their way to a NYE celebration got stuck in the metro and ended up ringing in the new year in a metro car!!-- the metro is free on new years and it just apparently gets craaazy!!) So Robert and I stood at the base of Trocadero (we found a really prime spot!) with about 1million other people and watched the midnight light show that the eiffel tower put on. There were also some fireworks going off, but they were mostly just from people in the crowd because fireworks are completely legal here!
Me at midnight!

The crowds were immense, but it was really amazing to see the sky just lit up! It looked like it was practically on fire as we were walking back home!
It was a beautiful way to spend New Year's Eve. Almost as epic as being at Time Square...but I don't think it was quite as rowdy.

Ummm. Okay. Well I think that's it!! This is the longest update ever, but I had a lot to write about!! Gotta keep you guys all filled-in! Thank you so much for all of your Christmas and New Year wishes. I miss everyone so much and think about you all the time! I'm glad that I can share my life with you this way! Thank god for the internet :)

As for now, I am finishing up finals and getting on with new classes for the semester. Hopefully I will have a (short) update on that soon!

Bisous et Bonne Année tout le monde! (Kisses and Happy New Year everyone!)

*All photos credit of Robert Garrett and his awesome skillz
More photos can be found in links on my facebook profile or on Robert's! There are a TON of photos, please go check them out!!

31 December 2009

Bonnes Fêtes!!!

Happy Holidays everyone!
This is just a super quick update to let you all know that I'm still alive and thinking about you!
Robert and I are having an amazing time wandering around Paris together. We've accomplished almost everything on our list! :) There will definitely be a more detailed account of our adventures after break is over and I go back to (hopefully) having nothing to do for a while (I could definitely stand to have nothing to do right about now)

I hope you all had a wonderful christmas and are going to have a happy new year! I will be 7 hours ahead of you in 2010, ringing in the new year when it's just 5pm central time! how odd... Well, everyone have a happy and safe new year! And I will talk to you in twentyten!!!

gros bisous!

05 December 2009

Crunch Time!

Sorry it's been so long!! I don't know why every blog has to start with an apology, but really I am sorry.

Sadly, after returning from England my world has consisted of school, school, and more school. FUN!
I also had a little bout of the flu mixed in there which really didn't help things, but thanks to Dr. Daddy it got cleared up pretty quickly! Let me just say, being sick in a foreign country is not cool. Being sick in French is not cool. Looking down at your thermometer, seeing that it says 38 degrees and knowing that means that you have a fever and not hypothermia is not cool. Although rather amusing sometimes. Ugh, it really was a pain to have to speak French when I was feeling so utterly crappy. And trying to ask for things like gatorade and ritz crackers in french is not an easy feat either! (try it with a 102 degree fever and it gets to be even more fun)
Anyways, enough of my sickness.

I also had my first Thanksgiving not in the US... you know what it consisted of?? 6 hours of class, 2 papers due, and a presentation! My first Thanksgiving where I had any responsibilities other than stuffing my face. Sigh. It was weird. My host family asked me what religious holiday Thanksgiving is. haha. It was weird to explain to them, but it really is just a nice holiday of family, friends, food, and fanks (I mean thanks, but with all the f's I couldn't resist). I think every country should have a Thanksgiving! Who doesn't like to eat and be grateful that you have all this wonderful food to eat?! Anyways, since my 6 hours of class unfortunately take place in the afternoons and at night on thursdays (I'm done at 8:30 but get home around 9:15/30 because that's how long it takes to get back from school. bleh) I didn't do any celebrating on Thanksgiving day. :( On friday though, when I finished with class, I made myself some Stovetop stuffing and jellied cranberry sauce with a chicken breast and sat down to have my own little "Thanksgiving" lunch and watch an episode of Glee. Not too shabby I guess. (chicken was my turkey substitute as it is much more common here). The stuffing and cranberry sauce were bought at a little american grocery store around the corner from one of my schools, appropriately called Thanksgiving! They sell a lot of American must-haves like pancake mix, syrup, oreos, and of course, Thanksgiving fixins. All of it is pretty pricey since it's imported, but it's nice to know that those comforts are out there! They even were taking orders for homemade pies and whole turkeys for the big day! They also have a restaurant upstairs that I want to try sometime. It's open on the weekends and does brunch--either traditional american or CAJUN! I want a little taste of New Orleans back in my life! I'll have to give it a try and tell y'all how it is!

Now, what has been going on lately is me pretty much drowning in schoolwork. The deal is that here in France they don't give you work little by little with one or two big things (like midterms and finals in the US) instead... you do nothing for 2 months and then EVERYTHING is due at once. Now when you're not well informed of this as an American and you don't know the system, this results in major major crunch time that is a little bit less than fun. I know many of you have seen my rather distressed facebook statuses or even gotten a distressed phone call. Know that I am doing okay and keeping my head above water, but just barely. I mean, keep in mind that I am under all the pressure that my American friends in US Universities are right now, but I have to do it all in a foreign language as well as in a foreign system where sometimes the methodology just throws you for a loop! Typical finals stress is all that's going on.
For example, this week I have an essay and make-up test (from when I was sick) due monday, a 5 page paper for anthropology due wednesday, a 6-7 page paper for women's studies due thursday, and another essay due friday. (I was supposed to have another test on thursday but it got moved to after break!! WOO!) But thankfully the finish line is in sight!!! And what is waiting at the finish line, you may ask?
A winter vacation with Robert in Paris, France!! Who could ask for a better Christmas present than that?!?! Robert gets here December 16 (less than two weeks from today!) and is staying until January 8, so we are going to get lots of tourist-ing in! Hopefully he will get to know and love this city as much as I do! Maybe we'll even do a joint blog update to tell y'all of our adventures! haha.

I hope that everyone is handling the end of the semester reasonably well. (I'm trying to keep sane somehow, so encouraging love notes are appreciated!) I want you all to know that I am very thankful for each and every one of you who love and support me from so far away! I love the feedback that I get on the blog and every little note warms my heart and keeps me going! Big shoutout to Kristen McCurdy who sent me the sweetest and most thoughtful care package I have ever received. Thank you too to everyone who is reading France Revisited! My boss keeps emailing me to tell me that I have "fans" who leave me comments! I love that my family are also my fans!
Well, I bid you adieu for a while, while I try to finish up this semester! Hopefully I'll have lots of adventures to tell you about next time! Happy Holidays and Lots of LOVE!

17 November 2009


Hello All!

Hope everyone is still doing well without me! I know y'all are at a loss without me in your lives, but hopefully these peeks into mine help you to push through. ;)

So, what's been up with me lately is that I went to ENGLAND!! I got to speak ENGLISH! And see friends and it was altogether a fantastic trip. I just wrote a blog about it for the France Revisited site (which I hope you all have visited! I already have one blog up!) and hopefully it should be posted soon! If you haven't yet you really should go take a look at the site! It's really cool. And the extracurricular blogtivity section has blogs from me and a few other girls from my program. They're all good writers and have interesting and different perspectives on their time here.

Well, England was amazing. I left Paris on Friday morning at 10AM via the Eurostar train. (I had found a SUPER cheap fare-- 55 euros round trip!!) My trip got off pretty much without a hitch except that the customs lady was just a B*%$#. I had to fill out an immigration card since I'm not a member of the EU, and one of the things that they ask on the card is address where your staying. Well, I was staying with 2 different friends on my trip, and I knew neither of their addresses, so I left it blank. When I got up there, she asked where I was staying and I answered with a friend. She asked the address and I said I didn't know it. She asked why I didn't know it... which is a weird question that you can't really ever answer... and I responded that I just didn't know it. She said that I could be denied entry if I didn't provide an address and then she got all kinds of snippy and said "I wouldn't come into your country without knowing the address of where I was staying, WOULD I?" .... to which I responded "um I guess not???" Since when can you not go somewhere on vacation and decide where you're going to stay when you get there? Does everyone always book their hotel in advance? Anyway, I told her that my friends both lived in dormitories and I could tell her their schools if she liked, but she dismissed this, telling me that I could go through this time, but I was getting off easy... The weird thing is, Steph never had to provide an address when she took the same train service from England to visit me in Paris. Stupid customs... grrrrrr.

Anyway, the train ride was pretty boring. I slept most of the way, mouth agape, probably snoring. But woke up just in time to see the rolling green fields of England, as well as all the sheep!! I think seeing sheep in fields is way cuter than seeing cows, so I just stared out my window at them for the last hour of the train ride. When I got to England I met up with Steph A. from Tulane (I am using the last initial here to differentiate as eventually in this story there will be 2 Stephs). We went and got lunch-- I got some REAL thai food! With spiciness and everything!! So I was happy, and then walked around London a bit until I had to get on the train to Cambridge to meet William! (Will and I went to Country Day together for 13 years, so we're quite good friends. He goes to Cambridge, and this is his last year, so I was really glad to get to visit him!) The train from London to Cambridge is only about 45 min, so it wasn't bad at all. Of course by the time I got there it had started doing that wonderful England cold and misting thing, so that was cool. not. Will and his girlfriend picked me up from the train station.

Friday night we went to what is called "Formal Hall" at Downing College of Cambridge (Will goes to Jesus College, but we went to one of his friend's formal halls). Formal Hall consists of everyone getting dressed up (church attire) and the students wear robes (like a graduation gown kind of) and then you're served a 3 course meal that Will tells me is usually just glorified cafeteria food. This one was not bad though. We had duck for the main course with a vegetable medley and something that was kind of like mashed potatoes? All the students bring a bottle of wine as well which you pay 1 pound to get uncorked and then everyone shares. Formal hall happens a few times a week at each college. The students were asking me if we had anything like this in America and I just laughed... because we really don't. It was very old world.
Anyways, my time in cambridge wasn't too terribly interesting (at least not to write about. I had a lot of fun!) We went to a free museum that had a whole range of different kinds of art. We walked around the town which was very cute and seemed like it had a lot for the students to do. There are a lot of shops. We saw a man make fudge and then got to buy some. We went to a covered market where we bought german hot dogs (yummm) and I got to meet and have dinner with Williams housemates who were all really nice! I was supposed to leave to go back to london to meet my stephs, but as it turned out, the train service was not running because it was "remembrance sunday" which goes along with Armistice Day which was that wednesday (which we call veteran's day). SOoooo, I got to spend the day in Cambridge instead. (which was fine with me since I had commented on leaving that the trip had been too short! careful what you wish for!!)
Monday I made it up to London and met Steph D., a friend from camp who is from Sussex. We walked around London and saw all the usual sights-- buckingham palace, big ben, westminister abbey. We met up with Steph A. that night and took a ride in the London Eye-- the big ferris wheel where you can see all of London. It was very pretty at night, you got to see the whole city lit up! But it did not make for very good pictures... everything turned out blurry and silly. Normally I don't like ferris wheels, but the London Eye goes really really slow. Like you can't even tell that you're moving half the time. So that's how I was convinced to go.

Tuesday Steph A and I headed into London and did some shopping. Even though the dollar to pound exchange rate is absolutely CRAP, there is a very very cheap store called Primark that we went to where I bought a nice coat for 25 pounds (about $45). It was so crowded though that I couldn't stand buying anything that I needed to actually try on. That night Steph D. met up with us to go see WICKED!! One of my all time favorite musicals, that was playing on the London West End (London's Broadway). I really wanted to go see Phantom of the Opera, since London was the birthplace of that childhood favorite of mine, but tickets were more expensive, and it didn't seem to strike Steph A's fancy....maybe on my next trip to london! (for there shall be another!!) Wicked was amazing, just like every other time I've seen it. The funny part was that they all had british accents! It's odd hearing Broadway music sung with a different accent because that style of singing is just so completely American. I did like it though--the actresses who played Elphaba and Galinda had amazing voices. And of course I still found myself tearing up at the end of the first act...like always.

All in all I had an absolutely amazing trip with everything that I needed to give me that midsemester boost! Speaking of mid semester, I'm writing this to take a break from the work that I have due in the coming weeks. I have 2 papers and a meeting on THANKSGIVING DAY. how horrid is that?! I have never ever had anything due on thanksgiving in my LIFE and now I have all these things at once... sigh. I'm going to miss that holiday more than I'll miss Christmas I think. Y'all don't make me too jealous now, ya hear? Somebody better burn their turkey.

Sorry if this blog seems a little sloppy. I was just writin to let y'all know what's been going on and to tell you about my trip. The blog I wrote for France Revisited is much more polished. I'll let you know when it goes up. I hope that all is well with you! It would be great to hear from any of you, I miss each and every one!

All my love and gros bisous! (big kisses) xoxo

02 November 2009

France Revisited

Hey guys, I just wanted to let you know that I (along with some other girls from my program) will be doing some guest blogging for a travel website called francerevisited.com
The creator of the website, an Emory alum who has lived in Paris for the past 20 years, got in touch with our program EDUCO to ask for guest writers. Some of the girls blogs are up and you should definitely check them out. Mine will be up later this week or next.

The link directly to the blog is http://francerevisited.com/extracurricular so I hope you go take a look and enjoy!

And don't forget to take a look at my newest blog directly below this one!! Lots of love!

01 November 2009

quoi de neuf?

Hello friends. I really am sorry that I've been posting so sporadically... It's just hard for me to make myself sit down and do this, even though I'm on the computer a lot. It's actually quite silly. I owe you all a bit more than this...

Well, classes are... going. haha. They're very french- i.e. vague and often don't make much sense. I mean for one of my classes there is no syllabus or reading list and our only assignment is to write a paper about a cultural observance? hmm. History of Paris (my class at EDUCO) is the only one that we actually have work in since it's supposed to be more american style. My final course load is Anthropology on wednesdays (5-8 BLEH), History of women and institutions on thursday (2-5), History of Jews in 16-18 century europe thursdays (5:30-8:30 BLEEEEH.... class for 3 hours at this time of night is a HORRIBLE idea), and History of Paris friday (9-12). So overall not bad, and as you can see, no class mon and tues! This is when I get some of my english tutoring done.

I'm tutoring my 17 year old host sister (doing conversation stuff), a 15 year old neighbor (again, mostly conversation and reading some articles together), and then 4 delightful 10 year old neighbor kids (including my 10 year old host sis, marion). It's been really good. I try to talk slowly and clearly, without much accent. I did have to explain to both my conversation partners what the word "y'all" means....because I really can't delete it from my vocabulary. I inevitably use it at at least some point in the conversation. My explanation was that it's the same as the plural "vous" in french, which really does make a whole lot of sense. I also explained that they are never allowed to write this word in any of their papers or use it in class, but they can recognize it and know what it means.
With the younger kids, the lesson is a bit more trying. For one thing, I'm starting out doing the lesson in french while we build some vocabulary. They're still not up to par with the alphabet, so we're starting small. It's really tricky to do a lesson all in french and then switch to english for some parts! I end up saying some english words with a silly french accent, which is not what I'm trying to teach the kids at all! haha. I've tried to make the lessons a little more fun than just school work, but it's hard because the kids come to me on friday afternoons directly after school.... not exactly the easiest time to get kids to concentrate! And it seems that when I give them a game, they get too riled up!! I've got to find a balance. We've learned animals, fruits, and vegetables so far. I have them tell me a vocab word in french and then I ask for the english equivalent of it. After we've figured out what it is in english I have them write it out, spelling the word out loud with the english alphabet. I think it's a pretty good system. If anyone has any ideas, I would be very grateful for some help! The game I had them play was a type of pictionary. They would draw an animal (written in English) out of a bowl and they had to remember what it was, then draw it for their friends, if the other students could guess what it was, the drawer got a point for being able to explain the animal. They got very competitive though and kinda were bouncing off the walls. It's a lot to handle (but camp counselor kim knows what to do!) I've been perfecting my new french "teacher voice"... I've got the english one down thanks to many years out at camp with some crazy kiddos, but french was a bit harder to catch on to. I've gotten pretty good at saying "eh, théo! quest-ce que tu fait là!!" (oy! theo! what do you think you're doing over there! <-- oy was the closest noise I could think of to "eh"... although I guess "hey" works too). Another of my favorites is just giving the good ol' teacher evil eye. That one's universal :)

So, we are approaching the holiday season with the first of them all-- Halloween! It was a little bit depressing here, because you saw NO signs at all that it was halloween. No costumes, no decorations, no pumpkins. It made me a little sad. I just wanted to walk past a store front and see a ghost and some cobwebs in the window. My host mom explained to me a few weeks ago that they tried to do halloween here, but it just didn't really catch on. It's apparently only really for the younger kids, and even then it's not that big. It is harder here because there really aren't any houses that you can just walk up to and ring the doorbell. All the apartment buildings have a keypad (sometimes several different ones at different points) to even get in. Also, I don't know how receptive this crowd would be to little hoodlums ringing their doorbells asking for goodies. None the less, my friends and I went out last night, and found a small halloween scene. We weren't really dressed up (some were a bit)... I didn't bring much to france with me (I'm missing some of my favorite tshirts!) so there was definitely no room in the suitcase for a halloween costume! We just ended up going to a bar... they had raspberry beer that was really good! It tasted like a raspberry soda! (p.s. I can legally drink here... it's a really weird feeling even though I'm about to be able to legally drink in the US in only a few months.) It was a good night though!

Some french observations:
when I'm watching TV with my family, they CONSTANTLY are using the expression "n'importe quoi!" which I can't really translate precisely but I guess it means "anything goes"... literally it means "it doesn't matter what". but they use it in a context where it's like "oh they just show anything on tv these days" but they express all that with just that short little phrase. It can be when some guy's head gets blown off in one of their cop shows, or when they're making fun of Sarcozy on one of their political satires, or when there's some weird nudity in a french commercial. It's all just "n'importe quoi," always said with a bit of a chuckle and a shake of the head. Very interesting to me.

Also, metro observation: it has been literally making my day when someone makes eye contact with me and smiles on the metro! It's the little things that make your day a little bit brighter.

Phrase of the day: The higher the percentage chance of rain, the lower the percentage chance that I'll get out of my bed. That has been my motto today :) on the rainy sunday. Although I hear if that was y'all's motto back in texas, y'all would have been in bed for the last 2 months, eh? Hope y'all aren't drowning! Missing you all a lot.
(again sorry for the long gaps between posts... I'll try harder, I really will. Next update: ENGLAND! I'm headed there next weekend from the 6th-11th. Pictures and stories to come!)


oh, and P.S. "quoi de neuf," the title is the french equivalent of "what's new?"

11 October 2009

long time no blog

Hey guys, sorry it's been such a long time since I've written. I've been pretty busy, and I just haven't had enough discipline to make myself sit down and write. :( I apologize.

What's been going on with me is... well, everything! After a HUGE hassle and pain in the ass with the bank, I finally have my bank card, my secret code, AND my phone! WOO! Victory. My host family actually cheered for me when I came home with a phone yesterday. That's how ridiculous this has gotten. Well you see, what happened was the bank hates me... so they were supposed to give me my bank card "quelques jours" (which is the nice precise measurement of "a few days") after I got in all of my documents. So, four days after I turned in my documents I went to the bank, waited in line, and asked if they had my bank card. They replied that they did not have it back but to check again in "quelques jours"....so about five days later I go back.... No bank card. I'm told to call my banker. I call him, no answer. I email him, no answer. After another set of "quelques jours" I go BACK and ask for my bank card....it is not there, I am told it will probably come in next week and of course that I should call my banker. I call him, he doesn't know what the hold up is-- the only explanation he can give me is that in the last 3 weeks they've opened 300 accounts at this branch and they all have to receive their cards which come in 30 at a time, once a week!!! (is that not ridiculous to you?? that someone might be waiting 10 weeks for their bank card?!). So, I wait, and I wait some more. And meanwhile all of my friends who have opened bank accounts with Société Générale get their bank cards within FOUR DAYS of opening their accounts. So, after waiting I got back to the bank. I know what I'm going to be told, but I have a great and very frustrated speech prepared. As usual, I wait in line, head to the welcome desk, ask about my card, and the lady at the welcome desk (with whom I have become very well acquainted at this time) tells me what she always told me: that I need to call my banker to see what's going on. Well, I have my speech prepared now... which came out much angrier when I was rehearsing it rather than in real life. But I tell her, rather defeatedly, that to call my banker, I would need a CELL PHONE, and to get a cell phone, I would need a BANK CARD. So, wouldn't that be nice if I COULD call my banker, eh? GRR. So, long story short... I finally received my bank card TWO WEEKS after it was supposed to come in. (Their excuse as to why Société Générale's cards came in so fast? "Oh, they must not have as many customer's as us then... they're just not as good." Good one, BNP.) Anywho, got the bank card, but, what had not come in the mail? My secret code (pin #). It was supposed to be sent directly to me, but I NEVER GOT IT. So, until I get that, my card is useless. COOL. So, even after getting my card, I had to wait another FIVE DAYS for my pin # to get to me in the mail. (it came yesterday). This stupid ordeal has lasted me a month. But has taught me a lot of patience? Maybe? Or how to express my frustration in a foreign language? Lesson in French Bureaucracy? I don't know exactly what I'm supposed to take from this or why this was a necessary experience, but I guess I learned something? ::End rant about bank trials and tribulations::

What else has been going on is that my best friend from Tulane, Stephanie, who is studying outside of London for the semester came to visit me!!!! It was AMAZING. She got here on a Tuesday evening and stayed until Sunday morning. A) It was great to see her because we hadn't seen each other all summer and had bunches of stuff to catch up on (she works at a summer camp too, thus why we are kindred spirits) and B) we got to do all the great touristy stuff that I hadn't done yet!!

So, the visit consisted of lots of great food (like steph and I always love to do), some wonderful Parisian sightseeing, and Stephanie being confused most of the time. Did I mention that she does not speak a word of French? (Hence studying abroad in a foreign country that still speaks English.) We did work on teaching her to say "merci" which I ended up giving up with and telling her to pronounce "messy"... it works. We joked the entire time that she was my deaf mute companion, since she couldn't even order for herself at the restaurants we went to ... poor thing. Anytime I wasn't specifically ordering her food, she was convinced that I was talking bad about her in French. Once when we were walking home from the metro kind of late at night, a guy on the street started talking to her. He was saying "ma reine, ma reine, vous êtes si jolie" which means "my queen, my queen, you are so pretty" (French men on the street... creepers)... but steph wasn't getting any of this, so he continued on saying (in french) "what? you aren't going to speak to me?" At this point I told him "Well, she doesn't speak a word of french, so that conversation will be kind of difficult"... he walked away. But Steph was entirely convinced that I had told him some bad joke about her and that's why he walked away. haha.

My host family was so incredibly nice and let steph stay at the house with us. (I have found that the downside of living in a really nice neighborhood is that there are NO hostels nearby... only really swanky hotels.) My host mom even invited us to dinner on thursday night. No one talked to Stephanie in English (I'm not sure that they know enough to feel comfortable having a conversation), so she just sat there eating and looking confused. I at least tried to clue her in on the topic of conversation some of the time. Here again she thought that anytime I was speaking in French and referencing her, I was obviously making fun of her. I told that to my host family and they thought it was hilarious and suggested that I try it ;)

Our touristy fun started on wednesday with a trip to the Eiffel Tower! It was only 9 euros for the elevator ride all the way to the top, so we took that. The view is really amazing. At the top, they have panoramic photos pointing out the monuments that correspond with each angle of the view. It was a foggy morning, so Paris was covered in a haze, but it was still very beautiful. We also went to the second tier (there are only 3) to take some pictures with the great view in the background. They can be seen in my facebook album that I posted a few days ago! One of our favorite things about going to do touristy things is getting accosted by pushy vendors.... NOT. Ugh, they are sooo persistent, in your face, and they are absolutely everywhere! My least favorite are these guys that wait to accost you with string. Yes, string. They have several strands of pre-cut string in their hands ready to make their sell. What are they selling? Crappy friendship bracelets. What they do is they accost you with the string and try and tie it around your wrist where they make the bracelet. That way it's already around your wrist and you have to pay for it. It's kind of fun though because when they come up to me, I have my response ready: I roll up my sleeve, showing them my WAY more impressive friendship bracelets and say "non, non- je peux le faire moi-même!" which means "no, no! I can do it myself!"... it makes me feel kind of empowered to say that to them. They get caught off guard. It doesn't stop them from trying to convince me that no, their's is different, let them demonstrate.

Thursday, we made a trip up to Montmartre to see Sacre Coeur. We got to the metro station, and saw that there were elevators to go up (there are elevators at lots of stations, usually this doesn't really mean anything), but we decided to take the stairs. We start climbing up this spiral staircase, and we get to the landing, and then we start climbing another flight, and another, and another, and each time we turn the corner of the spiral, there is another flight just waiting for us. After the 9th flight we're laughing so hard every time we turn the corner to see more stairs, it's just getting ridiculous. We finally get out of the metro after more than 12 flights of stairs! Not small flights either... long winding spiraling flights. Apparently Abesses (the metro station) is one of the deepest in Paris at 36 meters (which I just looked up and is 118 feet). So, needless to say, when we got to the bottom of Montmartre and saw all those lovely stairs, we voted to ride the funiculaire (gondola) instead. We did walk down though! The view from Montmartre is absolutely lovely. You can see a beautiful part of Paris that looks like it's straight out of a scene from a movie. We walked around the area, taking in the different views, and also went inside Sacre Coeur, which is the beautiful church that on top of Montmartre. The inside is truly awe-inspiring. Steph and I talked afterwards about how if you were a peasant and you went to mass at a beautiful church like that, how could you not believe in God? Well, the vendors here were no less insistent than anywhere else. There are a bunch of artists that walk around with a sketch pad, accosting people to let them draw their picture. It's kind of sad, but I've gotten very good at pretending they don't exist... that must be difficult to be rejected so many times in one day. I wouldn't be able to do it.
After we came out of the cathedral, on the steps of the hill there was a crowd gathering. We went to see what was happening, and it turns out that it's a popular place for musicians to play. Everyone sits on the steps and listens. There was a duo performing, one playing the guitar and singing, one playing the bongos and doing back up. They were from Mexico City, but spoke English very well and played some Bob Dylan, the Eagles, John Lennon's Imagine, as well as my personal favorite, Oasis' WONDERWALL!! Steph and I were definitely singing along to that one. :) It made me very happy since that song reminds me of camp and great times. The best part about this concert was that directly behind the musicians was the spectacular view of all of Paris. It doesn't get much better than that.

Our last stop on the tourist train was the Louvre. Steph and I took art history, Renaissance to present last semester, so we felt like we would be missing out if we didn't go see the Louvre together. We took the requisite picture standing in front of the pyramid which you can check out on facebook as well. It was great to see some of the different paintings that we had studied, and we definitely felt very knowledgeable. Unfortunately, we didn't realize that the museum closes ridiculously early! We got kicked out at 5:30, before getting to see some of the most popular stuff that had been crowded all day like the Da Vinci's. The best part of the whole museum visit though, was that it was free!! If you are 18-26, regardless of nationality, you get in free (to most any museum) any time!! EDUCO also gave all of its students Louvre cards that say we're art history students, so we don't even have to stand in line to get tickets! We just flash the card and get straight in. Very cool.

That night, Paris was having its annual "Nuit Blanche" which is an all night kind of installation art festival. Stephanie, my friend Chris, and I got some food and went up after dusk to a park at Butte Chaumont to have a picnic and go see the art. At this particular park, which is on a hill, an artist had set up a bunch of swivel-head lamps in different clumps, winding all the way down a hill and along a creek. It was definitely an interesting sight. At the end of the trail of lamps was a lake in which an artist had set up a bunch of blinking red and blue LED lights... I can't explain it, but the effect was beautiful. The water was just constantly shimmering and blinking. There were also folded paper boats floating around with softer red lights in them too. It was definitely magical. As we continued, we saw a field on the side of a hill that was covered in opened red umbrellas. This was probably one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. It looked like a field of majestic poppies. Or pillows. The field was absolutely covered with them. I tried to capture this one with my camera, but as it was dark, I could only get the first couple of rows. It wouldn't show the depth to which the field continued. Some more art that we saw were some different spray painting portraits, and some break dancers. By this point it was getting late, and we were hungry, so I'm sorry to say it, I had my first taste of MacDo. (this is what the french call McDonald's). And actually it was quite an experience to order at a fast food restaurant. You try saying "chicken mcnuggets" in a French accent with out feeling stupid! Also there is so much slang that I don't understand and they talked so fast and it was really loud! So I was very surprised when we all ended up with what we ordered!! Although somehow we had all supersized our orders without knowing it... haha. It was quite the experience though.

All in all, Steph had a great visit, and I can't WAIT to go visit her in London! I've got several friends in the UK, so it's triple the reason to visit... not that I need too much more of a reason!

Well, I guess that's it for now. I will write back soon to let you know how class is going. My school just started this past monday, so I've only gone to one of each class. This week I'll probably have a better idea of everything.

À bientôt mes amis! I miss you all!! :) thanks for staying tuned.