So what have I been up to…

Posted on November 4, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , |

Apparently my attempt at updating a post once a week has turned into something more like once a month, as was pointed out to me by my dear friend S (not the same S that is the Boy, another S). There are several reasons for this, the first being that I have been a bit sick with a two bouts of bronchitis in a month. Something stupid is going on with my lungs and it is really starting to piss me off. I’ve also been crazy busy alternately being crazy with school and crashing into intellectual idiocy watching America’s Next Top Model in an attempt to recover. (PS – The way they play French music every time Marjorie comes on and Tyra tries to speak French to her is totally wack. Way to stereotype, ANTM.)

Well first off, I went to the Loire Valley from September 27th to the 28th. We left Paris at 7:45 and got to Château de Chenonceau at 10:45. I actually liked Chenonceau the best of all the châteaux we visited for several reasons. First of all, Chenonceau was inhabited by Henry II, who very interestingly kept his wife, Catherine de Medici, and his mistress, Diane de Poitiers, in the same (not very big) palace, essetially practicing institutional polygamy. He even snuck a D into his monogram (see below).

The H is for Henri II, the C for Catherine des Medicis, his wife, and the D is for deuxième (the second), but is really for Diane des Poitiers, his mistress.

Chenonceau is also really interesting, because, though you can’t see it in the pictures, it is essentially a bridge over a river (Google image it, for serious). During World War II, Chenonceau marked the line between occupied territory and the resistance and the owners of the château

After Chenonceau, we drove to Clos Lucé, the last home of Leonardo da Vinci, which was smaller but really cool. I would have much rather lived there than in one of the huge châteaux. I unfortunately have no pictures, but it was gorgeous. Alix and I walked through the garden, which was especially gorgeous. After Clos Lucé and a bit of exploring of the nearby town, Amboise, we all went to Château de Chaumont, which apparently has gorgeous gardens, but the group of gals I was with decided that instead of visiting them, we wanted to collapse in the comfy cushioned carriages outside and have some major girl bonding, which was so much fun and way better than weird experimental gardens.

After Chaumont, we headed over to a wine tasting. The Loire Valley is not one of the major wine producing regions in France, but it apparently can produce some good wine. Unfortunately the wine we had was not spectactular, but this was made up for the tasty fois gras and chevre with wine jelly they were serving with it. The evening of deliciousness (or as a friend called it “Smith trying to make us all into fat alcoholics) continued with dinner, where we had four amazing kinds of fondue. My favorites were a Camembert fondue with apples to dip into it and a chevre fondue with honey and thyme. We spent most of the evening entertaining, François, the nine-year-old son of our amazing associate director. We had a private room below the restaurant and basically decided to throw a party. It was amazingly fun and will probably go down as one of my favorite memories of France, all of us trading tastes of whichever fondue was in front of us, drinking wonderful wine, and playing several rousing games of concentration with François, as well as ultimate rock-paper-scissors among ourselves. Really, really amazing. I love Smithies.

All of this was followed by a round of Irish Car Bombs at a Irish pub we passed walking home, where Alix made friends with the sketchiest guy on the planet who was a American bike tour guide who had lived in 16 countries in 16 years and got hit on by his French lesbian friend. The next morning we got up (and got a quite tasty hotel breakfast) and drove to Château de Blois, which is basically four very different buildings built connected together. All of the following pictures come from the same square, just different sides:

So that was Château de Blois. There’s some cool interior pics on Flickr if you’re interested. In the afternoon, we went to Château Chambord, where I went on a hour and a half bike ride around the gorgeous grounds (and saw horses, I miss horses!). It was a blast, but I’m pretty sure that’s how my cold turned into bronchitis the first time around.  On the way home, we watched (but I mostly slept through) this really good movie about a French man studying abroad in Spain that I’m going to make everyone back home see, called L’Auberge espagnole. Here’s some pics from Chambord:

October 4 was Nuit Blanche, as I mentioned in a previous post. Here’s some cool pictures from Champagne and I’s adventures at Montparnasse:

I was in Normandy from October 24th to 25th with my wonderful program (which is full of lovely ladies). It was pretty fun but involved lots of driving. Normandy is all country and ocean and rain, very much like England. Saturday we left Paris at around 8 and didn’t get to Normandy until 11:30. We saw a movie about the D-Day beach landings (which happened in Normandy) and then went to Arromanches, a little sea side village.

After Arromanches, we drove to the American cemetery which is near Omaha Beach.  It was sad, but neat. It’s modeled after Arlington Cemetery and looks pretty much the same, as you can see. I was especially touched by the graves marked “known but to God.”

After that we drove some more (we drove something like 7 hours during the day) and got to Bayeux, where we saw the Bayeux tapestry, which dates from the 1070s. It was pretty amazing, but I have no pictures, cause none were allowed, for obvious reasons. We had a mediocre dinner at our hotel, after which a couple of us went out the one open bar we could find in the tiny town we were staying in and had a rather rousing game of “never have I ever.”

Sunday was way more fun. We went to Mont-St-Michel, which is actually kind of hard to describe, but is basically an peninsula that is sometimes an island with a giant 1000 year old abbey built on top.

We had a wicked long tour (2 hours!). There are tons of pictures on my Flickr if you’re interested in seeing more. I especially enjoyed the walk up (except for a mild asmtha attack and no inhaler with me), because you could really get a sense of what a medieval village must have been like. After the tour, a group of us went out for crêpes and cidre for lunch, which were delicious. Champagne and I split 2 gallettes (whole wheat savory crêpes), one with chicken, cheese and potatoes and one with tomatoes, mushrooms, ham, cheese and crème fraîche, and two crêpes, one with raspberry coulis and some sort of tasty marzipan inside and one with apples, caramel and almonds. Delicious lunch and totally worth blowing my food budget a bit.

After Mont-St-Michel, we started the drive back to Paris. We stopped in a little touristy town on the ocean called Honfleur, which was amazingly adorable. Some people went to a museum, but Alix, Jaime, Rachel and I decided to shop for caramel and cider to take home. I ended up with one sparkling dry cider, one sweet cider and one pear cider, and some apple caramel jelly for my host family. At Honfleur, because Smith is awesome and because we had some leftover money, our directors took us out for more crepes and cider. I finally got some hot cider (it was raining like mad and hot spiced cider tasted like the best thing I’d ever had) and had a delicious cider jelly/creme fraiche crepe. So tasty! On the way back, we settled in to watch Le Poupée Rousse, the sequel to the Auberge Espagnol, and drove the 3 hours back to Paris. All in all a pretty good trip.

This last weekend (October 31 to November 2) was spent having a series of indulgent events and then recovering. My wonderful darling, Jamie, had the benefit of being toute seule (all alone) this weekend and thus threw us Smithies a dinner party, filled with delicious food (which she talks about on her blog if you’re interested). We had a wonderful time, consumed copious amounts of champagne and “ghoul-aid” punch that C and I made complete with marachino cherry stuffed lycee “eyeballs” and proceeded to have a Disney sing-a-long (I Can Show You the World, anyone?). It was a hit to say the least.

(Alix and Rachel serenading each other – This is what happens when you put a bunch of ex-theater kids ina  room together.)

(Me and fellow lovely Tylerite Abby)

I spent most of Saturday chillaxing and enjoying being inside on a very cold rainy day. On Sunday, C and I went to Cimitière du Montparnasse to see the flowers set out for Toussaint. We even saw the grave of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre, as well as several other very cool tombstones.

After walking around in Montparnasse a bit, we met up with our friend Alix to go to the Salon du Chocolat, which is about as awesome as it sounds. It’s basically a huge exhibition of chocolate. There was much tasting, and we definitely got our 12 Euros worth of delicious.

So that’s what I’ve been up to. I’m planning on pulling a nuit blanche (all nighter – literally, white night) tomorrow night and staying up all night to watch the election results come in. There’s a party (with O-Bagels!!!!) being thrown by the American Dems in Paris, which I’m pretty psyched about. It goes from midnight to 6 am. Then I’m off to a party at Sciences Po from 6 am to 9 am. Then I meet with a class group to practice a presentation we have on the role of women in the 2008 elections at 10 am. I’m done with class at 12:15, and I’m gonna come home and crash, since I don’t have class until 2 pm on Thursday. Sounds like a plan, huh?

Oh, and another bit of exciting news, the boy is coming to Paris from December 11th to December 17th. This means you Austin people get less of him at Christmas, but honestly, I matter more than you, so :P. (Except for his family if they’re reading this…). I am super psyched and promise many a good story to come.

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