Sunday, January 31, 2010

je reviens

I've officially been in France for one month! One down, five or so to go. Lourdes this weekend was a lot of fun, and I returned back here to discover the internet had returned -- a miracle! Pictures of our adventure soon.

School starts for REAL tomorrow, ugh. But at least I bought a BAG OF MEDELEINES (like a bag of chips, but more French!)

Friday, January 29, 2010


So...I was probably being just a little emotional in my last post. I was in a really bad mood after class yesterday.

I should clarify -- it's not that I'm not willing to do the work, obviously I know that I have to. It's just that I haven't really had to concentrate on school work in so long, that the idea of having to truly use every ounce of concentration is completely exhausting. But it will be okay.

The Magic Flute last night was definitely a experience. I saw approximately half of the show -- when they say "reduced visibility", they are not exaggerating. The Grand Theatre is really amazing -- it's straight out of the movie Marie Antoinette. And I got a good view of it because from my seat I had a better view of the rest of the audience rather than the stage, but it's a really beautiful theater, so it wasn't at all the end of the world.

And even though I couldn't see what was going on on half the stage, I had a surprisingly good time. I recognized music that I haven't heard in forever, which felt successful, AND I understoodthe majority of the French subtitles, I think.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

une grande probleme

OKAY. So, I am NOT homesick, but the things that are lacking in my life here are finally starting to dawn on me.

First of all, you can't eat in the school library here. I don't know about you, but I don't even begin to think about studying at UCI without food & coffee in my hands.

Also, both the cafe near my house AND the school library close at 7PM. I don't think the reasons why this upsets me really needs explainations.

Also, food here is REALLLY expensive (not at school, LUCKILY, but everywhere else). For a culture that drinks coffee all of the time, it sure is expensive. I have yet to find hot chocholate for less than 2 Euro 60, which is something like 4 dollars. It's ridiculous.

The other thing I miss is classes that I understand. As I've alluded to before, I'm taking the Methodologie class offered by the UC Center. It's supposed to help us learn how to think differently by learning how to form an essays the way our French classes will require. It is, in theory, an excellent idea. My problem is, however, that I can't understand the French, so I can't even begin to understand the content of the class.

Today, we had to show the professor our rewritten versions of the introductions she had already corrected for us. I literally have no idea what's going on, so I've just been turning in paragraphs that don't really make sense to me, but that are closer to what she wants than (possibly?) and American intro would look like. Anyway, after correcting mine today (I didn't understand her corrections, obviously, because they were in French), she finally told me that I had a French vocabulary problem (duh). She recommended a specific vocab book for me to buy, and then she asked if I planned on taking my History courses here, at the actual University, or at DEFLE, which are the classes taught in French but for foreigners. I told her the University, and she said that that would be a problem (obviously! I apparently learned, like, no vocabulary in my previous French classes).

But this is all really confusing, because when I took my DEFLE placement test, they placed me at the same level as almost everyone else (including my friends who are really good at French, and who were in the advanced ILP course). The level I placed at is designated as the one where they think we can handle taking classes at DEFLE or at the University, so I don't know what all of this contradictory information means.

I REALLY do NOT want to be at DEFLE (which I went to, and it wasn't easy either) with all foreigners. I also don't want to take Methodologie anymore. On one hand, I know that being in the class can only help me with my grades for my real classes -- but on the other hand, I'd rather do badly at a class that is too advanced for me, than do badly at a class that I should be able to understand but don't. My friends tell me my logic doesn't make sense, but I don't like feeling clueless in a classes designed specifically for the UC kids.

And I can't ask the professor for clarification, because I don't understand her explainations (they are, as you probably guessed, in French).

The schedule of the History classes finally came out, at least. I'm going to go to as many as possible the first week and see what I can handle. I'm trying to prepare myself for the possibility that I won't be able to handle any of them. In that case, I haven't exactly figured out what I'm going to do -- I probably shouldn't be letting this little secret out, but I can technically not pass any of my classes here, and still finish at UCI within four years, so....I guess what I mean is, I'm not worried about the effects of not doing well, but I AM worried about being miserable until the end of the semester. It seems like in that case, it makes more sense to just chill in France until whenever instead of being in school, right? OBVIOUSLY, this is all rhetorical and irresponsible, but....if it comes to it, I doubt I'll learn anything by being in classes that I don't understand one word of. I'm sure many of you will disagree with that, and you can tell me so.

The other thing that's starting to hit me, is that I've been reminded that somewhere in the middle of my Sophomore year of college, I suddenly lost the ability to truly study and do work like I had been able to do before. My grades have still been fine, but something definitely changed. And here, when I think about what reading a book in French means, I literally cannot picture myself doing that. That's the other thing -- all of the people in my program, even the non--French majors, have had to read one novel or another in French, but I have NEVER had to, so the idea of doing so much work is literally incomprehensible. Literally. Really -- do they expect me to go through word by word with a dictionary? There isn't enough time in the world for such things. I LOVE LEARNING, but I will definitely admit that I am NOT willing to do the work that goes along with it most of the time. It's unfortunate, but it's the truth. I just don’t know what this means for me and my classes here, but I suppose I will find out.

I don't know. I think Methodologie and my recent lack of internet has put me in a bad mood.

BUT, my friends and I have reduced-visibility tickets for the Magic Flute tonight at the opera (8 Euros!), and I'll be in Lourdes Friday night through Sunday, so all is not completely lost.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Yeah, so, when the internet is out chez moi, life is difficult. Yesterday I was so bored that I went to bed at 9:30 PM.

There's a coffee shop ten minutes away that has free WiFi, so I've been living here in the mornings and after school. Life is getting expensive because of this, unfortunately.

This cafe is actually chain -- it's called "The French Coffee Shop", and they are EVERYWHERE here. It's really comfortable, though, and the bathroom is nice, though, so I can't really complain. BUT, IT CLOSES AT SEVEN PM. Ugh. How does France expect me to watch Desperate Housewives and Big Love (shadily, since neither Hulu NOR works in this country).

My life is difficult. Also, my university hasn't released the times for the History classes yet, and they start on Monday. My life is very difficult.

Friday, January 22, 2010

du cafe

Today, I went back to the Musee D'Aquitaine to finish looking at the Medieval stuff and then to go upstairs because I hadn't been there yet. It's pretty cool, because it's a really nice, really big building, with really well laid out exhibits, all about history that happened WHERE I WALK HOME FROM SCHOOL EVERY DAY. The little plaques practically read: "Oh, and you know that square you go to all the time? Well, this really cool [insert either Roman, Medieval or Baroque] BUILDING/THING/EVENT used to be RIGHT THERE". But then, because that isn't enough, a well-preserved fragment of the thing the plaque will be referring to that used to stand where I pass by everyday will be RIGHT THERE IN THE MUSEUM IN FRONT OF ME. I don't know how they managed it, but the Musee D'Aquitaine has everything. And it is a LARGE, two-story building, full of real stuff, so I'm relatively impressed with it. Like, you know those big, BIG, round windows way up high in cathedrals? They have the skeletony-remains of one, mannny feet across, just sitting there. And also, you know how Romans in Bordeaux wore leather sandals? They have those too, still well-preserved. It's kind of amazing.

I ended up leaving earlier than I planned, just as I reached the upstairs Baroque stuff, which was frustrating, but it was okay because the museum is free, and because my friends had called telling me they were getting coffee, and I wanted coffee, and too see them (obviously).

I've come to a decision about "coffee" in Europe. Before I left, everyone was always telling me that, "Ooooh, coffee in Europe is so great!", but actually, that was a lie, because they don't drink coffee here, they drink espresso, and it's expensive as well as gross. But the latte I had at the cafe with my friends was amazing. What I really have been wanting is a cappuccino, but I can't find one for less than 3Euro50, PLUS I ordered one at this brasserie the other day, and they gave me espresso with WHIPPED CREAM on top, and ever since I've been kind of paranoid.

In the mornings (and, sometimes at 11AM, and then also at night) I make coffee with the French press that I brought, so at least that's okay. But the other thing is that it's hard to find regular (i.e. non-espresso) roasts in the supermarkets I've been in. I've been making my French press coffee with espresso, and that actually tastes fine. It just means that whatever immunity I had to caffeine before I came here is not going to disappear anytime soon.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

billets de train

I just bought my ticket for my first excursion out of Bordeaux! It's one of my friends birthdays next weekend, so six of us our going to Lourdes for two nights. Everything was cheap (errr, cheap for me, because I don't actually see my credit card bills). I bought my 12-25 card (that's literally what it's called) for 49 Euro, which gives me between 30 & 60% off train tickets that start in France (cool, huh?).

The tickets to Lourdes were 15 euro each way, and my friend found an apartment-style hotel that sleeps six, which is costing me 20 euro (but that's for two nights, so that's good).

I figure, it's cheaper than going almost anywhere else, and it's not too far away (2.5 hours), so it will be a good first-travel-in-Europe experience.

I'm really excited to go, because I like Catholic things sometimes. EXCEPT that on Trip Advisor, the #1 thing to do was, obviously, the Saint Bernadette stuff, which also happened to be listed as the ONLY thing to do there. My host mom told me that's it's only fun for people who are very religious. I'm not very religious OR very Catholic, soooo.........I don't know if that's a bad sign, but I figure, we'll all be together, so we'll have fun one way or an other.

Also, I want a shirt that says "I went to Lourdes and all I got was this stupid t-shirt".

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

des petits eglises sousterrains et les grands cathedrals

I've officially been in France for 20 days! It feels like I've been here forever, in a good way, but these 20 days have passed incredibly quickly, which I suppose is also a good thing.

I finished my Intensive French class. I don't know how I did on the written final, but my almost-impromptu 5 minute oral report on the French Revolution went surprisingly well (I think I may have written about that earlier). Yesterday we had a separate test that was mandatory for all of the non-native French speakers, and I don't think I did too terribly. The oral section was kind of bizarre in how little the tester expected me to say (she kept cutting me off after two words), but I was actually using grammer that I had learned in the intensive French class, so I guess it was worth something.

On Saturday they loaded us onto two buses and took us to Saint Emilion. It was very cool, I recommend it. The little historical/toursity part is centered around an old underground church with magic water, and that was cool. No pictures though, because for some reason that part is privately owned. I understood our French guided tour, too, so that was a success! Then we got back in the bus and they drove us to a wine factory, which was boring because there were echos so it was hard to understand the guide, plus I have yet to progress to understanding French chemistry terms. But then they gave us Grand Cru afterwards, so everyone was happy.

(It was raining, heavily, in Saint Emilion allll day).

(Saint Emilion was a hermit apparently).

Also, the other big news is that my cathedral was finally open when I happened to be nearby!

It was bigger inside than I expected. There were around ten people inside total, and I've obviously never been somewhere like this so relatively alone, so it was kind of a bizarre experience. I haven't had the time or energy to really look around at every detail, but it's obvious to me so far that Saint Andre ie every bit as beautiful and impressive as Notre Dame. But probably better, because it doesn't seem to attract the same crowds.
Also, it's apparently the church where ELEANOR OF AQUITAINE MARRIED KING LOUIS, and also, even cooler, THE CHURCH WHERE RICHARD II WAS BAPTIZED!!@#$%^&* (I obviously chose the right city for my study abroad time).

On Sunday four of us when to Utopia, the indie movie theater (within walking distance!) that plays films in their original language with French subtitles. Here's a blurry picture of the outside of the theater:

Yes, this IS the movie theater that was converted from an old church. So cool. The seats are red and velvety, and the ceiling of our theater was ornate, and there were statues and paintings and Latin on the walls.

We saw Bright Star, because it was in English. It was a good movie, and MAN did those people know how to write. Obviously, anyone who can write letters like that is GOING to be famous, never mind the poetry. But it was also incredibly depressing, and I don't recommend you see it if you are having any issues, in general. It was probably for the best that I didn't see it alone, because I would have been a mess.
But again, it was a good movie.

We started Methodologie class today. It's put on by the UC program, taught by a French person, and it lasts all semester but the goal of the class is to teach us to write like French students are supposed to write, which is apparently very different than we've been taught so far. It's frustrating though, because I'm pretty sure I KNOW the technical stuff she taught us today, it's just that I don't understand what she's actually saying, because, like everything here, it's in FRENCH.

I'm getting over my cold, knock on wood.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

les choses importants

Today, I found the four things I had been needing most, all within a period of 10 minutes:

1. A new umbrella, after my old one turned inside out while the handle SIMULTANEOUSLY BROKE OFF at Saint Emilion today.

2. Mini tissue packets my my nose, because I have a cold, and for some reason my host family does not own tissues.

3. A large bunch of Clementines for 1 Euro 90, because I'm sick and I've been wanting them desperately.

4. A lint roller for my new black coat, which attracts EVERYTHING. Especially today, when I was soaking wet from the rain and I picked up a cat.

So, it was a good day.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

la parapluie

It looks like I'm not wearing a skirt, but I am. As long as it stays above 40 degrees Fahrenheit here, I am wearing a skirt and tights every day. Also, I probably need a new umbrella soon.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

bonnes choses

Dear Etats-Unis,

I like you a lot, obviously, but unfortunately I'm going to have to live in Bordeaux forever because it's too cool here. First of all, they eat more carbohydrates here on a daily basis, and I kind of prefer that. Also, people dress better.

ALSO, you can to walk EVERYTHING that's cool. And there are trams to take you to the things that you can't walk to. Also, the History of Aquitaine Museum here is free for students.

The other thing that's better about Bordeaux is that here, I live within a short walk of a massive, old cathedral. They just don't have those in Southern California. There are other old things nearby too, like monuments and statues that are just lying around, waiting to be looked at. Also, Southern California doesn't have a movie theater within walking distance of my house that plays independent films in their original languages (with subtitles in French) that was converted from an OLD CHURCH. I'm sorry, but you just can't compete with that.

There are definitely things that I don't love about Bordeaux, like my ILP intensive language course. But even today when I gave a badly prepared presentation on the different stages of France's government during the French Revolution, I did a better job than I expected to do. At least, I think that's what my prof said.

Also, they eat a lot of sandwiches here, which is important. And today, there was a puppy running around on the tram. So, USA, when you start having puppies and other things on public transportation, in addition to the other things I've mentioned, then I will consider coming back eventually.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010


I'm not even going to try to be nice about it: My intensive French class SUCKS. You know how once people reach a certain age it's just not as easy to learn a new language? Well, I'm pretty sure I'm past that age for me.

In high school, I was good at it - I always understood everything and I always had one of the highest grades in the class (and this was with the harder teacher, not the teacher who didn't speak French). At UCI, my first French class wasn't easy, but I still managed to get an A. I took a short break, and even though my next class was the same level of difficulty and with the same teacher, there was a noticeable difference for me in my understanding of the language. I waited a year to take my last French class, which was probably a bad idea, but still got a B in that class, though I will definitely admit I didn't know what was going on for a lot of it.

They put me in the lower level review class here (totally acceptable by me), and it's stuff that I've learned from my very first course in high school, to things like the subjunctive tense, which I learned in my last class. My previous courses were also taught in French, by native French people, but......for some reason, this is so much harder. As I was telling my parents via Skype the other day, every time I go into class, I'm UNLEARNING what I already know. Ugh.

I am completely aware that a good French class should be taught in French. But.....if my two teachers are definitely aware that everyone is getting really bad grades on all of the homework, doesn't it possibly make just a little sense to explain the complex technicalities of the French language in English, even for just a minute? It's not that I think I'm incapable of re-learning these concepts -- I don't can't learn them IN French. You know how we're always taught (in life I mean, not in French classes specifically) that when giving a definition of a word, one shouldn't use that same word in the definition? I feel like it's the same thing for these review courses. If they care so much about us learning the technical stuff to prepare for our real classes, then maybe they should explain it so that we actually understand it. I'm pretty sure I only catch 1 out of every 10 of my teachers' words, anyway, but that's also because I just don't recognize the vocabularly they're using to explain things, and since looking up things that I don't know how to spell is stupid and takes too long, what's the point, right? Right.

...The French people that I've met here have told me that I'm better at speaking French than I think I am, which is a little comforting. But I know for a fact that what I can't do is UNDERSTAND spoken things. Also, I've definitely LOST any sort of an accent I picked up in even French 1 in high school. I don't even know how to ask questions in correct French. It's really bizarre. I feel like 4 months of classes might not be enough to learn the language because there has been such a mental block in my brain since my course in Spring 2008, which kind of sucks. Whatever. School is stupid anyway.

Also, I literally CANNOT IMAGINE being in classes taught in the French language, where the context is not about French (my real classes start February 1st). I'm not being modest -- I literally don't think I can handle that. This is actually something I'm worried about. Sitting in classes where everyone is speaking a language that you don't is boring, and as I've said before, understanding spoken French seems to be a bigger problem for me than most people here. I don't want this study abroad semester to be a waste (I ended up choosing France because I wanted to learn a language), but I feel like it's not going to be possible to learn as much as I had hoped, because of the small amount I understand at present, which definitely sucks.

But at least my birthday was reallly good! I'm glad that I get to say I turned 21 in EUROPE :)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

la ville

Sooo, like all new things, Bordeaux has taken a little bit of time to get used to, but I have officially decided that I like it here A LOT. At first, the fact that it was going to take me at least 40 minutes to commute to school every morning, as a combo of walking and the tram, made me not happy, but I've realized that 1) the commute is NOT bad, and 2) I live super close to downtown, which is super awesome, and which makes hanging out with people much easier because I have to depend on the trams less for non-school related things.

Also, it's MUCH more urban and city-like than Irvine or Burbank, but it's also apparently very small, and I have yet to feel lost. The main mode of transport here are the city trams, but it's great because the stops aren't too far apart from each other, so it really doesn't matter if I accidentally take the wrong one (like I did yesterday), because it's ridiculously easy to just hop off and walk in the opposite direction for 2 minutes to find what I need. As someone who gets nervous about getting around by myself, the fact that I feel super comfortable here means a lot. And it's safe, too. I walked home from a friend's birthday get-together at 1 AM last night for 20 minutes and it was fine.

Also, I adore my host family, and my room is excellent.

I have a canopy, which I have always wanted at home.

I have a couch, and a poster of someone with really nice fake eyelashes that I'm kind of jealous of.

There were France guidebooks when I got here, and incense.

I have a big desk with a map of France, a nice view, and a radiator.

The sunglasses and the postcard from Versailles are mine, but the room came with the seashells.

And of course I have a dresser.

So things here are very good. Joana, my homestay mom, is a vegetarian and an amazing cook. We eat a lot of good food all of the time. She's really great about making sure I stay warm in the cold spell too -- she lent me her boots the first day I was here, and she is always making sure that I'm carrying an umbrella just in case. She's a jazz musician. Her ten-year-old son..I don't know how to spell his very friendly, and the very first thing he every said to me was to offer me ice cream when I met him on my first afternoon here.

Also, right now the Soldes are going on, so downtown (mostly Rue St. Catherine) is super busy. France's government doesn't allow things to be on sale during the year -- this is the store's only opportunity, so EVERYTHING downtown is 50% off. It doesn't mean a lot of us, because the dollar is still so weak, but it's convenient to have arrived now, because everyone in my program is realizing that warmer clothes are needed.

Right now, all of the UC kids are taking French language classes to prepare for real classes, so that's what I've been busy with. We start our 6-8 hour days this week.

So, I'm happy. Musee D'Aquitaine today.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

il neige

I got close to ten hours of sleep last night (I could have slept more), but I had to wake up eventually because I'm being picked up by another UC student who is going to take me to Orientation at the University today.

Anyway, I was in the kitchen making coffee when I realized that those unusually large rain drops weren't raindrops, but snow! I'm wearing two pairs of socks as I type this.

Also: I don't know how to "Follow" other blogs. I think I made one successful attempt, but I can't find the option to do so on most of the blogs I'm trying to follow. Can someone tell me how? Merci.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

des libraries, des cathredales & du cafe

OMG. Yesterday was definitely an adventure.

First of all, Pascale went to work yesterday, so it was my day to venture into the city alone. I was nervous, but ready enough. I left around 9:20 this morning, armed Pascale's cell phone, with her work phone number so that I could call her if I needed help on my adventure. We agreed that since she got out of work at 4PM, she would call me then and we could meet up somewhere depending where I was at the moment.

I had decided the night before that a good way to have some sort of a plan for my day was to follow Rick Steves' tour that began with Notre Dame and ended with Pont Neuf (but I knew that I probably wasn't going to see everything anyway). If you don't know me terribly well, you don't know that I have absolutely NO sense of direction, which was probably the thing that made me most nervous about my first time venturing out into a big city for the first time on my own (not solely Paris, I mean -- I've never spent any time in any big city alone).

I got to the RER station easily (this was lucky. It's RIGHT by Pascale's apartment, and I've walked here multiple times since arriving, so getting lost here would have been a bad sign). The RER isn't the Metro, but it connects to the Metro. I got on the correct train, which took me all the way to the St. Michel-Notre Dame Metro station (again, luckily). I probably took the wrong way out of the station, because it took me really far from Notre Dame, BUT it led me past Gibert, the bookstore that Pascale had recomended I try to find. Seeing Gibert was the first good sign I had, because I had only just begun my day, and seeing something semi-familiar made me feel more confidant, even though I hadn't actually been looking for it when I found it. It was a really nice new & used bookstore, except that it made me extremely sentimental, so I didn’t stay too long. Everything in France makes me sentimental for things that are far away.

After Gibert, I found Notre Dame not too much farther away. It was really cool, obviously. And big, and there were a lot of people, but it wasn’t so crowded that it was hard to get around. The only problem was that I’ve already been to St. Peter’s Basilica, and, well, you know. But Notre Dame was very beautiful.

The next thing on Rick Steeve’s tour was the Memorial for all of the French (the Mémorial de la Déportation )who were deported by the Nazis, which I was definitely interested in seeing. I found this one easily, too. The guide made me turn off Pascale’s cell phone, which I did, and then I walked down into the memorial. It’s not the type of thing that takes a long time to visit, because there’s nothing to read, but it was worth seeing. 200,000 French people were deported by the Nazis during World War II, so there are 200,000 lighted crystals in honor of them. There’s also The Tomb of the Unknown Deportee inside. The memorial is bleak, but good.

I came back upstairs and turned on my phone, but I didn’t know that the phone required a password after being turned on, and Pascale had forgotten to tell me what it was. It wasn’t the end of the world, because I figured I would just return to the apartment before 4 o’clock so that I could call her at work before she tried to call me.

Rick Steves then told me to visit Ile St. Louis, which I didn’t feel like doing because I was anxious to do the other things on the tour. I still followed his directions and his map to get towards the Latin Quarter, but apparently that wasn’t enough for him, because he could obviously tell that I had skipped his precious Ile, and proceeded to make life a little bit harder for me after that.

I found Shakespeare & Company soon enough (which had an excellent atmosphere, but I didn’t stay long because I didn’t want to buy books in English with euros). I eventually found my way to the Latin Quarter, after some difficulty. My main goal was to eventually reach Saint Chappelle.

The Latin Quarter was very colorful (IF it was even the Latin Quarter that I was in). Rick Steves claimed that I woud be able to find lots of cafes, but obviously that was only revenge for skipping Ile St. Louis. There definitely were only expensive-looking restaurants with foreign food, so after being confused for a while about which street to exit on for St. Chappelle, and being colder than I’ve ever felt, I eventually made my way to St. Michel and coninued on that.I was less nervous now because it’s a big boulevard, and the one with my RER station, so I knew that I was at least headed in SOME direction.

After many minutes of walking with no sign whatsoever of what I was looking for, I decided that I hadn’t been imagining it: Rick Steves did NOT want me to find this church. I really wanted coffee for warmth, so eventually I found a good-enough looking place (I would have given anything to have ducked into one of Paris’ Starbucks to avoid the cold, because at this point my fingers weren’t able to move a lot, but I waited for a real café because Starbucks would have made for a stupid first real day in Paris. To make a long story short, I found a place filled with French people, so I knew it wasn’t too touristy, where I paid an embarrassing amount of money for the most comforting cappacino in my life.

After this I walked on, accidentally found the Pantheon, but decided to skip it for Saint Chappel, IF I was ever going to be able to locate it. While looking at the Pantheon on a new map, I found Rick Steves’ secret: He had known all along that Saint Chappelle was actually back across the river right next to Notre Dame, but after the whole skipping-Ile-St.-Louis thing, his map had led me in the completely OPPOSITE direction. UGH.

I finalllly found the Palais du Justice (which is where Saint Chappelle is located, where a gendarme told me how to enter the church, walked for ten second, and saw a sign telling me that SAINT CHAPPELLE WAS CLOSED. You win this time, Rick Steves.

I spent some time in Gibert again on my way out of the city, found the RER station, luckily got on the correct train to get back to Pascale’s, locked cell phone in hand (I was still completely freezing).

I got to her door and tried the key, but it wouldn’t open. I kept on trying, with lots of different combinations of turns, but no luck. It was almost 4 o’clock now, and I was getting nervous because I didn’t want Pascale to be worried when she called the cell phone that I couldn’t answer.

I knew the lady across the hall was home because as I arrived, she opened her door to let someone in. After trying the key a few more times, I knocked on her door to ask for help, but she couldn’t understand what I wanted, so she never opened the door at all. I figured it was a long shot anyway. I probably wouldn’t let a stranger in to use my telephone personally, but all she really needed to do was to help me with the key.

I tried for a LOT longer, but still no luck. I wasn’t too worried, because I knew that at some point at night Pascale had to return, eventually. I just felt bad that she was probably trying to reach me and couldn’t.

A while later, a younger guy came up the stairs, knocked on the woman’s door across the hall, and she let him in. Before they could close the door, I asked if he could just help me use the key. I told them in bad French (but he responded in English, so I think he knew what I meant) that I was staying with Pascale, but the phone I had didn’t work, and neither did the key that she had lent me, and that was just wondering if he could help me use the key correctly. He looked like he was willing to help, but then she started arguing with him, loudly. They closed their door where they continued to have a long, loud argument, that was so loud I would have been able to ubderstand it through the door, had she been screaming less and if my understanding of French was better.

Five minutes later he came out, asked for more clarification about my situation, while she stood back glaring at me. He finally took my key and opened the door for me right away, which was embarrassing, but I didn’t care because I was so happy to be back in the apartment and away from them.

I heard Pascale outside ten minutes later, where she was standing talking to her neighbor. Apparently the neighbor had called the landlord on me, because I looked so threatening even though I had a key, and not a lockpick. But whatever.

So all in all, I made it out of Paris alive, didn’t get arrested for breaking & entering, and ate French Chinese food for dinner with Pascale! It was a successful adventure, and now I'm in Bordeaux.

Monday, January 4, 2010

a demain

So, I had a LOT to say about my adventures alone in Paris today, but we just did the math, and basically I'll be waking up at 5:30 AM in order to catch my TGV in time. And then...Bordeaux! All of this means that I really want to go to sleep instead (my parents insist that I blog every day, haha. Love you guys!).

I'll post about Notre Dame, freeeezing cold temperatures and unpleasant neighbors as soon as possible. Bon nuit!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

versailles & chambord!

Yesterday was Versailles. Versailles is very big. Pascale lives in the suburbs outside Paris, so it was only a 20 minute drive. There are a lot of things there.

(Ceilings like this, for example).

It wasn't very crowded when we got there at 9AM, but there was definitely still a line. When we left at 2 something, the line was ridiculous, and it wasnt even summer, AND that wasn't even going to give those people enough time to explore. So the place is popular, I guess.

It's cool because they shot the film Marie Antoinette (which I love) AT Versailles, so it was fun being at all of the places in the movie.

(Hall of Mirrors!)

(Cool Gardens!)

(Me, with big windows).

We also went to the Petit Trianon, which is actually HUGE, and also the Grand Trianon, which is interesting because it's currently furnished with stuff that's more Napoleonic than Marie Antoinette-ish. Both are very nice. They were a REALLy far walk from the main palace, though, so Marie Antoinette obviously lived here when she was REALLY tired of Versailles. Then we walked over to her farm, which was super picturesque, like something one would find in Disneyland. Again, this section was HUGE, but still very cute.

The whole day was really great, but my legs have never hurt so much. On the way back, we stopped at the train station for a second so Pascale could show me what to do when I take the TGV to Bordeaux on Tuesday, and when we stepped out of the car, neither of us could walk. So we know we got some exercise!

Today was reserved for Chambord, which is about an hour away.

The photo doesn't really do it justice, because in person it's obviously more detailed than this. The top remind me of It's a Small World After All at Disneyland, which all of the stuff at the top. It belonged to Henri IV, and then primarily to Francis I. It was really cold. I think I felt colder today than I have ever felt in my entire life, even colder than in Yosemite with actual snow. But Chambord was really cool. There are salamanders everrrrywhere, because there were Francis I's bizarre emblem (something about being able to protect themselves well).

(I think....this is the updated version used to guide visitors, not Francis I's original salamander. I think).

So, yesterday and today were very eventful! Last night we watched Marie Antoinette (in French), and it was REALLY cool seeing the places that I had just been.

I'm adjusting really well to the nine-hour time difference, except that I keep waking up in the middle of the night for a while.

The city tomorrow!

Friday, January 1, 2010

cemetieres et crepes, mmmmm.


Today was really good, because I ate a croissant and bread for breakfast! Then Pascale drove me to Saint Remy, which is another neighborhood. Inside Saint Remy is an old castle (haha, I just accidentally typed "est" instead of "is". Go me for learning French!), which was also made into the first national park in Paris (or....something like that). There was no one there, because it was New Year's Day, EXCEPT for an old man carrying baguettes, no joke.

THEN we took the RER and the Metro into Pere La Chaise cemetery, which I was have been waiting to visit ever since I heard that it existed. Pere La Chaise is big. And cold. But it was really cool, especially the monuments to everything. There's a whole row of monuments dedicated to specific nationalities who died fighting for France, and there are individual monuments for the specific concentration camps. I almost gave up trying to find these, because Pere La Chaise is soo big, and I was soooo cold, but Pascale made us continue looking. It was a good thing, too, because they were probably my favorite part. I put a stone on the Auschwitz memorial. They're interesting because they all have lots of skeletons all over them -- they don't skimp on the imagery.

(me in front of the "Aux Morts" thing, which the living turning into the dead, or something).

(Some of the Concentration Camp memorials)

(Pere La Chaise is very big! Apparently 44 hectares!)

Then we took the Metro to town hall, which was very cool and ornate, and then we ate at my first ever restaurant in Paris! (except that Pascale says I shouldn't really consider it my first restaurant here). I got a crepe with cinnamon and espresso. Tres bien.

Versailles tomorrow.