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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A busy month in Paris…

Posted on October 5, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

First of all, thanks everyone who commented on my last post. I love y’all!

Obviously, I may have perhaps dropped the ball a bit in blogging this month, but I’ve been busy exploring Paris. Can you really blame me? Just kidding!

Honestly though, this month has been crazy busy and also really calm. I feel like I’ve finally settled in with my host family and I just finished my first week of real classes after surviving through a hellish month of orientation at two different universities. I’ve also taken my first trip outside of Paris, with my program, to the Loire Valley, but more on that later.

And now, a crazy long post with lots of pictures (there are way more on my flickr, if you’re interested), about what I’ve been doing for the past month. When I last left you, Champagne and I had pretty much just visited the Eiffel Tower. Since then we have:

Eaten pain au chocolat while strolling through the gorgeous Jardin du Luxembourg on a gorgeous Sunday morning. (I think I may have to make this more of a habit.)

Seen Notre Dame (the day before the Pope visited, so it was crazy and covered in scaffolding). I anticipate a return trip to hear the bells ring at night fall.

Visited Versailles and seen the super cool Jeff Koonz exhibit there. We had an amazing picnic to which we brought pastries from Ladurée, this amazing patisserie near Sciences Po.

I went on a sweet night time cruise (which I have a great story about…ask me if you’re interested) of the Seine and made new Sciences Po friends.

Gone to the Louvre (which I sadly have no pictures for, but will later as I have a sweet student card(!) that lets me in free when ever I want).

Spent a weekend in the Loire Valley, visiting many chateaux, bonding with our fellow Smithies, eating so much fondue, having a blast at wine tastings, entertaining our associate director’s adorable son, François, and going on a 13 km bike ride around a forest, afterwhich I promptly got incredibly sick and spendt most of the last week in bed.

We also went to Nuit Blanche last night, which actually turned out pretty crazy and I’m going to try to blog about later this week.

And now that I am a for reals Parisian university student, at not one, not two, but three universities, I’m pretty busy with classes. Here’s what I’m taking for the semester, just in case you’re interested (with both French and English titles so you can be impressed at my mad language skillz):

  • Changement global et développement durable – Global change and sustainable development
  • Langue et composition I – Language and composition I
  • Phonétique – Phonetics
  • Femmes et politique: régression ou révolution – Women and politics: regression or revolution
  • Mai 68 – May 68 (if you don’t know about the student revolutions in Paris of May 68, wikipedia it because they are wicked interesting and started the student revolutions in the US of the late 60s/early 70s)
  • Danse moderne – Jazz
  • Danse contemporaine – Modern dance (hopefully, this is not totally official yet)

So that’s pretty much what will be keeping me busy until the end of January/beginning of February. I promise I’m going to try harder to be better at blogging, especially when cool stuff has been going on. I also have a couple of posts floating around about stupid and embarassing language mistakes I have made as well as French fashion. There is also a potential question and answer session about what Paris is really like coming up. Comment if you would be interested.

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First day in Paris…Le premier jour à Paris

Posted on August 30, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

So much has happened in the last 48 hours, I don’t think I can even capture it all, but I’m going to try to while its still fresh in my mind and my journal. Champagne and I ended up being on the same flight as 8 or 9 of the other students in our group. After a very annoying flight (we sat on the runway for 2 hours!), we finally made it to Paris at around 9:30, or as Parisians would write, 9h30, which is the way I’m writing time from now on because it’s easier and I need to get into the hang of it.

After a very long bus ride and a not quite so long bit of wandering around Montparnasse, we got to our hotel at around 12h30, only to discover that the rooms that were supposed to be ready at noon wouldn’t be ready until around 3h. So, a large group of us dropped off our luggage and Champagne and I decided jetlaggedly to go in search of some lunch, specifically a crêperie she had seen on the bus ride into Montparnasse.

Well there was a bit of difficulty finding the crêperie or any reasonably priced French food because Montparnasse is quite an ethnically diverse neighborhood, though we did manage to find some really cool Indian, Chinese, Pakastani, Tibetan, and Japanese places we wanted to try. We ended up running into a couple of girls from our program who had found this cute Italian place called Pizza Roma. After much wandering (jetlagged, I’m telling ya), we ended up deciding to get pizzas there, which we quite delicious. We also managed to order everything in French and our waiter mostly understood us. I also had my first legal glass of white wine, which was quite exciting.

After lunch we wandered around Montparnasse a bit more, we decide to go back to the hotel. Our rooms were finally ready, and Champagne and I took much needed showers and I took a much needed nap, after making plans with the others in our group to meet up around 8h to go to dinner.

After meeting everyone in the lobby, we decided to go explore more of Montparnasse, specifically the Place Denfert-Rouchereau. The group of 18 soon realized that it was going to be impossible to find a place with a table for all of us, so six of us went off to a place we had seen before called Chez Papa, which we chose mainly based on the sweet picture of the old possibly Jewish man. However, at six people, we weren’t able to get a table, but we will be back.

So we wandered around side streets a bit more and ended up at this adorable little crêperie called La Belle Ronde, where we made a pact to try and get no one to speak in English to us the entire night. This actually worked and the waiter even joked with us in French. We then ordered 3 25cl bottles of wine for the table, and you can imagine where the evening went from there…just kidding. Champagne and I each had these delicious crêpes with melon, proscuitto and crème fraîche. The table split a chocolate and hazelnut crêpe for desert and then headed out to meet up with the people we had split off from earlier.

The entire group decided to go out to a bar to take advantage of our new legal drinking age status. We ended up in this tiny little place called Smoke that had a hilarious Asian bartender with the habit of dancing around the bar to ABBA as he served drinks. I had a kir, which is white wine and cassis, aka the signature drink of Paris, and it was delicious. Around midnight, we decided to head back to the hotel, which somehow was quite nearby as we had been walking in circles and called it a night.

Next up, maybe even tonight, the first day of the program and meeting my host family.

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On the road again…

Posted on August 28, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: |

I’m officially on my way to Paris!

Actually, I’ve been on my way since we left my brother’s school yesterday afternoon, after saying goodbye to my dad and brother. My mom, the boy, and I drove to Houston, stayed the night in a hotel, and got up at 4 am to take me to the airport where after several tearful goodbyes I finally went through security and got on my flight.

As I write this, I am waiting for the dear MlleChampagne to arrive at the Philadelphia airport where I am, because by some random chance of fate and no planning on our part we ended up on the same flight to Paris! Hopefully this, along with the pleathora of snacks I bought from Whole Foods, will actually make the long transatlantic flight bearable.

I don’t know when I’ll post next, but look for something about our flight/first day in Paris sometime Saturday or Sunday.

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