Monday, November 30, 2009

just so you guys know, pictures from my moms visit can be found at:

So after my mom left, I went to Bruges with my friend Julian which was GORGEOUS! The city was beautiful, I have to put up pics soon... It really is like an old city that never changed. So we walked around, not really any particular cites, just beautiful old buildings. There were also quaint canals with little tunnels and people on little tour boats... Conveniently, there was also the Belgian Beer Festival! haha- quite the nice surprise to stumble upon. We tried all kinds of Belgian beers for really cheap! Sour beer (which was really bizarre at first), red beer, poppy beer... and we met tons of beer connoisseurs... theres a pic of me on this guys beer blog (with a ton of other pics from the beer fest). im the last one. google says the caption says: "As always, I shall close with a beautiful lady wants to pose
my digitaalke.This time a young woman fresh from New Zealand" The pic is bad b/c i was so shocked/embarrassed but its soooo funny! (He thinks im from new Zealand b/c my friend was from Australia)... We were really sad to leave. I loved Bruges!
The next day I hung out with my Australian friend again (julian) and his flatmate Bridget (also Australian)...we went the the Petit Palais. We first tried to go into the Grand Palais to see a Renoir exhibit, but the line was over an hour long! So we walked across the street to the Petit Palais. The 2 Palais were made in the late 1800s, right before the 1900 worlds fair in Paris. They were meant to show off the greatness of paris... The Petit Palais is free (except for the special exhibition of F. Pelez) but the free part is huge. There was also an exhibit that was really temporary of dolls made by haute couture designers for UNICEF and they were going to be auctionned off the following day (it was only a 4 or 5 day exhibit)... there were also a lot of impressionist and post impressionist art- it was too big to see it all. there was also a beautiful garden to sit in... then we walked around for half an hour and had lunch in a cafe. Bridget when home b/c she was tired, so Julian and I went to a bar to watch some australian rugby match between Australia and Ireland... It was a tie- Julian was so depressed they did win! haha apparently its a big deal...
The next day was my first full day at work. Awful. But me and some co workers went out for lunch which was nice. We had sushi. I had to have it on the cheap, so I had like basic salmon rolls. pretty good. with miso soup. about 6 euro ($9)
I invited the other American intern to go out to beer and wings night that night at a Canadian Bar. Shes so cool. Of course that Friday would be her last day.
The next day I had a medical exam for my visa. Then I went to lunch at a diner called Breakfast in America and had a huge cheeseburger and milkshake... mhmmmm...
On Fridays I go out with work at 1 before I start, which is nice since it lets me practice my French and meet my coworkers... Its nice, but usually super awkward since everyone is in their late 20s-late 30s... Most people don't actually talk to me (its less of a novelty to them that I'm American unfortunately)...
Then that night I met Julian b/c he would show me where to get the amazing French macaroons that are famous to give to Mary Beth's host family (to be explained in a min)... I had a crepe on the go for dinner from this stand called "les meillures crepes a Paris" or something (lit: the best crepes in Paris)- it was amazing!
Then I left for Grenoble. it was a direct train and I got to sit in first class! I was in a single window seat facing an empty seat in an area that was glassed off from the other 1st class seats! I had soooo much space and it was sooo quiet! When I got there, Mary Beth, whom I've known since middle school and is studying in Grenoble, and her host father picked me up. It was so nice that they came and got me so late on a Friday! And they let me stay with them for free in Mary's room! They loved the macaroons and said that they knew the store where i got them from :) So mary and I chatted for a while then passed out. The next day we got up "early" (10am) and went hiking up this beautiful mountain! Grenoble is surrounded by the Alps- so beautiful! There was even snow on the tops! and I could see the highest mountain, mont blanc, in the distance! Such a fun and beautiful city! Then we had lunch at Mr. Taco's (lol) and went back to her place to shower. Then we met Marys friends for some kebabs (lol again) and met up with more of her friends at her friend's who lives in a dorm! it was sooo tiny but so fun! we ended up going to a bar, and of course Mary's host-brother was there- she was soooo embarrassed... apparently thats the bar the highschoolers go to- oops! It was still fun, and we got to speak French to his friends (the 2 girls that were in his group were really fun!) Then we went home after a good night :)
The next day we woke up at 9am to go with Mary's host- mom and host-mom's friend to go to the Sunday market... I go earrings and 2 hats (in the course of the trip i also got tan boots, tea for a friend, and a souvenir bottle opener! everything was so much cheaper there!). Then I had lunch with Mary's family! It was enormous and soooo tasty!!! I was shocked at how warm the family was so me, as if i was their own family! Then Me, Mary, her host-cousin, and her friends met up and went to the Salon du Chocolat... mmmmm... though smaller than the one in paris, it was a lot cheaper and still really fun! Then I went to mary's to chill b/c I had to start getting ready to leave :(... So we chatted with her host mom (btw, none of them speak English, so it was always in French)... When I had to say goodbye i was so sad I cried! I really loved them! They told me I could come back anytime, which was sooo sweet!!!
Gotta run! 1 more update and I’ll be all caught up!

Friday, November 27, 2009

omg can't believe how long its been... I feel like I JUST went to the Loire... so much to say…
ok so I left off with the Loire
On Monday I went to l'Orangerie... remember how I said I went to Monet's gardens? Well this is where Monet's Water lily paintings are! So I think I really got to doubly appreciate the paintings... Also downstairs there is a post-impressionist wing with a wide range of paintings including Renoir, Picasso, Gauguin, etc. So beautiful. When you're upstairs looking at the Water lilies, the museum seems small. But it's not at all once you get downstairs! Took me quite a long time to see it all! And there’s also some remains of the foundation of a fortress that used to be there from the Middle Ages which I thought was really neat... you see things like that everywhere! Metro at Bastille, Cluny Museum, and Louvre Museum... stuff left from building centuries old! Incredible!
Tuesday I met with Monique at her apartment for a French chat... that went on for 2 hours! It was really nice, we talked about French history and I learned a little more about her, like how she used to be an actress and now she sings in a chorus, and she invited me to her Christmas concert! I hope I can go and it's not when I’m in Manchester for Christmas...
On the 3th I had my first girl scouts meeting with the girls... didn’t realize it would be from 10:30am-5pm! You don’t realize how seriously long that is until about 3pm and you want to just die or take a nap! First, you go to church (nice way to distract the kids til 12)... then we had lunch (I went to a bakery down the road and had eggs and chicken- funny because I asked for ham and cheese, but never the less it was amazing!), we play games like tick tack boum which is the French version of hot potato but with more running (really fun- my fav!)... One girl played guitar, sang American songs, all the little kids thought I was so cool for knowing all the words, and one girl was so cute and followed me around the whole afternoon. But did I mention that there are 27 girls and only 3 or 4 of us and by “us” I mean teenagers… it’s so exhausting!
Then my mom and Martha came! So now this is Mon Nov 9th, and I met them at their hotel and took them to near where I have my classes. Gave them a cool little tour of the Latin Quarter area- Cluny Museum (roman ruins), then the actual Latin Quarter which its fun narrow streets and restaurants, the Saint Michel Fountain, up Boulevard Saint Michel to the Pantheon, St-Etienne-du-Mont (a church with the oldest rood screen (?) in Europe and the oldest organ in Paris, but we couldn’t go inside b/c it was Monday and it was closed on Mondays), the Sorbonne (tourists normally can’t get in- guards are often very strict), the Luxembourg Gardens, and finally to the building where I have one of my classes and at the top there is a really beautiful terrace where you can see the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, and just a really beautiful panorama of Paris. Then I had to go to work, but after work I met them and we went to see La Boehme at the Opera Garnier which I thought was really cool. We bought tickets from scalpers (which is hilarious/stressingly difficult). The play was beautiful- singing was amazing and stage was incredible!
The next day we went to the Rodin Museum which was so fun! It has a really nice museum inside and a cool outdoor garden. It was very beautiful and calming. Then I had to run to work again.
The Next day we went to Chantilly. Chantilly is an hour or 2 outside of Paris where there is a cool chateau. The guy who built the chateau (Duc d’Orleans maybe?) thought that after he died he would be reincarnated as a horse, so he built these amazing stables that are like penthouse living for horses! The chateau was also really cool with gorgeous gardens and hundreds of works of art- so much art it was overwhelming! When we walked back to the train station we got to walk through this beautiful park with the leaves falling and everything- gorgeous!
The next day was Chartres- a huge, ancient cathedral, one of the oldest in Europe! First we walked through the cute town, and then to the art museum that’s there. I liked the museum because it had these cool masks from the revolution with descriptions of punishments such as “condemned to die 6 times” and the masks were of people who were killed. There were also suits of armor which I thought were really neat. Then we went to the cathedral and met Malcolm Miller, a Brit who has lived and breathed Chartres for the last 50 years or so. He gives tours 2x a day, and he was so interesting and really knew a lot. After we ate lunch in a cozy family-run restaurant across the street from the cathedral.
When we got back from Chartres we had a drink at Tour Montparnasse, where at the top is a beautiful panorama of Paris. You can see the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, Arc de Triumph… it was incredible! Then I had to run, because it was my friend’s birthday and we were doing something special… We went to a restaurant called Dans le Noir where you eat completely in the dark! You can’t see a thing! At first I really hated it: they make you walk through this completely dark room and you can’t see where you’re going and they lead you to your table but it’s scary because you keep thinking you’re going to bump into something or someone! Your waiter is blind, and I think this is supposed to bring about deaf awareness. They give everyone the same meals, and at the end you get to guess what you ate. I don’t remember well, but I didn’t really love it. One part was stuffed fig, and there was a salmon (that was super good- I wolfed that down!) and I think the dessert was good, but I’ve blocked out of my mind all the bad stuff (I left still feeling hungry lol). It was interesting to talk to your friends in the dark, since you couldn’t see them, I tended to imagine them anyway. We had fun, though it is definitely not something I would do again.
The next day we wanted to see Sacre Coeur. We walked up to Sacre Coeur and went in (I’ve never been inside) - it was really neat. Sacre Coeur is interesting because it has an odd mix off Roman and Byzantine Catholic architecture. It also has an amazing view when you stand in front of it by the steps. It was really beautiful inside and we started listening to a mass. Then we left and walked to a small church called St. Pierre which has a colorful past and was neat to look at. Then we were at the cool square where all these artists and restaurants are and we sat and had a coffee. Then we walked down the hill towards the metro. We saw another church, more modern, but I cant remember what it was called. Then walked down to the Moulin Rouge. Then we walked down, down, down to Gallery Lafayette. Inside there were really beautiful Christmas tree decorations, and it was nice to look at the expensive clothes. After that we went to my place for lunch. We stopped at the super market and bought some cheese and things. My room was too messy to eat in (oops!) so we ate in the kitchen. We got to Skype with Dad, Grandma, and Grandpa, which was good. Then I packed all my things b/c I was going to sleep at their place b/c tomorrow they were leaving and I was going to Bruges with a friend. We from there went to Notre Dame, which was cool b/c there was a choir singing and then a mass or something. After, we went to the Louvre because it’s open late on Fridays. We went to Napoleon III’s apartments which were really neat, and I know my mom and Martha loved it! It was beautifully decorated, so amazing- bedrooms, dining room, ball room, etc. All tucked neatly away into the Louvre! Then we saw a Watteau painting that I had done a project on, Winged Victory, Venus de Milo, and, of course, the Mona Lisa. It was so nice to get to go since I haven’t had the chance to go yet! Completely wiped, we went and had pizza and pasta at an Italian restaurant near mom & Martha’s hotel. Then we finally crashed at the hotel… and that was just 12 days! I’m now only up to Nov 14th! I'm 15 days behind! But I have to start writing a paper for French… maybe later I’ll take a break and press onward!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

so I've fallen behind again, which is bad bad BAD b/c now i have to tell you about TWO weekends where i went away! haha poor me!
So the moliere play was awesome, and i was lucky that i sat next to someone who could understand, b/c i didnt understand much of the french since it was old french...
Then i went to Nice! The train ride was at 9am and took 6 hours... i slept for 3, and then when I woke up, I spoke to the girl next to me who lived in Nice (we spoke in French!). The train went along the coast and it was gorgeous!!! I got to see Avignon, Marseille, Toulon, St Raphael, and Cannes before finally arriving at Nice! It was sooo hot when I got there... I went to the tourist bureau and got a map, then went to my hostel to get my key and pay. Then I dropped my bags off and hit the beach, which was a 5 min walk and where my friends were. The water was sooo warm and crystal clear! (my first time in the mediterranean!) The beach was also really rocky... Then me and my friends had some snacks that I brought and walked along the boardwalk that lines the beach (Promenade Anglais). Then we went to the hostel got changed and went out for dinner. We all really wanted seafood b/c we heard it was really good there...I had pasta seafood... soo good. we ended up spending 3 hours there! then we wanted to go to a bar (for some reason, my friend was craving an irish pub) so we had a pint, but my friend had a few too many mussles and now she didnt feel well, so it was kinda hard, b/c the 2 other guys and I wanted to go out and have fun. It's also not a really busy city once the high season passes. I've herd its outrageous in the summer...
The next day I woke everyone up early... we had an omelette near by, and then walked to the matisse museum, which was sooo cool b/c the house was flat, but it had the trompe-l'oiels (trick of the eyes) that made it look like it had carvings in the ceilings and balconys on the walls... We also walked through a park that had these really cool olive trees, which i've never seen up close, and some Gallo-Roman ruins...
Then we walked down to the old town. passed the modern art museum, town hall, and a cool church... there were also these parking lots that i guess they didnt want to be a sight for sore eyes so they built parks on top of them which was cool... then we ate in the old town, went to the beach and then i climbed up to the top of where there are ruins of an old fortress and an amazing view where you can see all the way to the alps! it was aweesome! then we went to a free museum (i mean, everything was free so far) called Musee Massena... some rich guy donated his estate to the city, and its really really gorgeous...
then we had dinner at a kebab place, which was awesome... then to the train :( quite a whirl wind trip!
at the station (9pm) we met an austrailian, and after talking to him, found out that his seat was right next to my friends!!! so for the 11hour overnight train we had a pretty fun time (although very uncomfortable sleep)...
the next day, i slept until work. then work & class and then righ after class a big group of my friends met up and we went out for beer & wings in a candian bar... and guess who was there?! the ausrailian! haha my friend had facebooked him and invited him :) we had such a blast!
tues, wed, thurs were not so fun, though on thurs i met up w/ some people (the austrailian again too! ha!) Fri i had a presentation i nailed... fri night i went to a halloween costume party! so fun i was supposed to be "80s" but i really just wanted to wear this dress i bought, so i looked really ridiculous (the austrailian backpacker was there again lol- we clearly liked him a lot, he was super cool)...
Then me and my friends got up early the next day b/c we went with our class to see the loire valley!!! so I've written a lot, so let me make a quckie summary:
~Chambord: beautiful, going on bus there you could see the silouette in the distance as we drove up this rocky road lined by a forest on both sides. amazing.
~Blois: cool b/c you could see the different stages where it kept being added to by different kings- medieval, flamboyant (1498-1503), renaissance, and classicism. It was also beautiful and full of history- the duc de guise and catherine de medicis died here, and the medeival hall held the estates general in 1576 and 1588
~Chenonceau: so cool, over the water... very cool! there was a kitchen with all these cool cake shape things... we played games in the maze that was there too
~D'Azay le Rideau: this one was probably my fav. it looked very castle-y and had a really pretty garden that looked amazing with all the falling leaves
~Villandry: this was also amazing, had really cool catholic art in it. also a cool kids room, and a keep where you could have an amazing view of what my teachers believes to be "the best garden in france" it was awesome
sooo it was a really long, fast-paced 2 weekends!