09 décembre 2009

31 mai 2006

bridges

I was running along the bridges for the last time, with the wind in my hair

and I realized that in what I thought were nightmares when there was something chasing me, maybe I'm never running away after all, but rather, I'm running towards something...

my last whole day in France!!

Can you believe it??

I finished my exams on May 26. What a relief!! I had an intense 3 weeks or so of writing papers and studying for tests. I spent one week studying about 5 nights in a row until 5am every night for my grammar test. Luckily it was just what I expected on the test so it was worth it.

I did a "dossier" (like a research project sort of paper) for my art history class on my section of town called "La Guillotière." It actually has quite an interesting history, since it was originally not a part of Lyon back in the 18th cent and earlier. It has its own personality based on the fact that it was a city of transit... Ok well I found it interesting. And now I can tell you all about the streets and stuff like that :)

Since then, I have been sleeping...reading...running...packing....buying souvenirs.... It is really not all that exciting to tell the truth! But I am going out for dinner tonight with the roommate so that should be nice :)

It has been a very interesting trip and I will miss many parts of it, but I will be glad to return home to my friends, school, and family. Speaking of which, I just learned a new phrase in Swedish (of all languages, right?)..."Borta bra men hemma bäst" which means "Good to be away but best at home." I think it is a good one to know :)

See you all June 8 !!

23 mai 2006

Another notable cheese moment in Lyon

I open a new package of St Nectaire cheese to find a curious green coloring on the top of the crust. I ask my roommate, "does this moldy part on the crust look ok to you?"

"yeah, it's fine. I mean it's not like you eat that part anyway." I take my French-girl certified cheese back and look at her quizzically.

"What? you don't eat the skin?"

"Ummm...no. do you?"

"well yeah, why not?" The eyes are bulging out of her head.

"What?! Even on Gruyère, you eat the skin on that??"

"Well...sure," I shrug. She is obligated, by French law, to instruct me otherwise.

"It's what people do, you know, in France, when the plate of cheese comes around the table. you always take the crust off before eating it!! Do you know how many people have touched that while they make the cheese??" I shake my head; I never noticed this. Or I haven't eaten enough cheese with French people.

"Do you mean to tell me you've been in France this long and you are still eating the skin on your cheese?!!!!" I'm in for a rude cultural awakening now.

"So, uh, how are you supposed to eat it?" She opens her mouth to start to explain but then she just shakes her head, grabs my cheese, and demonstrates slicing off the crust, neatly trimming off the hard bits on the three crusty sides of the rectangular slice.

"Darn. I rather liked the crust. Now my cheese is all limp and formless." I poke at the naked cheese. She is not bemused at the rude pokes I am giving France's finest dairy product.

"I mean, you can eat it if you WANT to. Wait, I have my crust from my cheese earlier today, it's in the garbage but I can get it for you!" I resist but she doesn't listen. She pulls cheese crust from the garbage can and flings it towards me and it lands on the floor.

"Here, want this?"

16 mai 2006

examens = blah

So now it's exam time. I finished a paper after working on it around the clock this weekend. I have another two tests and a project to do still. It's rough. I've been sitting in the library all afternoon long, while the sun and the passerby are outside. I hate being trapped in like this while there is a whole foreign land out there! Kind of sad :( I just want to get through to the 26th!

so here's my schedule for all who are interested.

now - May 26: exam period
May 27-30: packing, saying goodbyes
June 1-7: visiting Ove in Sweden...spending a couple days in Stockholm and then visiting where he lives in Uppsala. cultural differences hilarity promises to ensue.
June 8: Flying back home to the US
June 12: Moving in to Charlottesville for the summer

11 mai 2006

a nice weekend :)

I had a pretty great end to the Month of Awesome before the Three Weeks of Exams began. Ove (my favorite swedish boy) came to visit. It was great :) We relaxed and hung out, walked around Lyon, I showed him the all the major sights around here. He brought some yummy swedish food and some funny movies (and himself)...so I got some culture in my weekend too. Definitely one of the best weekends so far. I can't wait to go back there to visit him the first week of June :)

The Story of Needing to Weightlift Just To Eat
We spent awhile wandering around for a cozy restaurant. Not an easy task as the boy is picking in choosing a restaurant when treating a girl :) We finally stumbled upon a place near Rue Merciere (which as I just learned the other day in class used to be a prostitution district until in the 60s and 70s they decided to complete reconstruct it into a restaurant district and make the buildings look more uniform...interesting huh?). The only thing this particular restaurant served was something called tartine. Not really knowing what that meant, we decided to give it a go anyway (we have adventurous bellies). Out comes this delicious looking toasted french bread with brie, honey, and walnuts on it. I'm about to pick it up with my hands when the serveuse whips out a fork and a knife for each of us. I'm talking like steak knife here, folks. This was no easy task...the toasted bread was pretty solid. Moral: "tartine" actually comes from the old French word for "impossible to cut through, muscles required to eat your meal...not for the weak!!"

Photo Op:
Instead of posting pictures on here (huge pain), I'm going to put them on another site. Just click on the links and you should be able to see them.

Pictures from the Parents' Visit to Lyon

Corsica - Ajaccio and Calvi

Corsica - Bonifacio (the south)


Corsica - Porto Vecchio (the west)

03 mai 2006

my many travels...

Well, it has been a crazy past few weeks! I have been to Spain (Barcelona to visit Christen), my parents visited Lyon and we went to Paris, and I went to spring break in Corsica (island in the Mediterranean that is a part of France).

A few highlights from each trip...

Spain:
I went here over Easter weekend. Christen was a great tour guide! I got to see a little of everything by walking through the city and even stopped by the beach :) The architecture is amazing - Gaudi practically owns that city. The Picasso museum was small, but interesting, with a timeline of all his important periods.

The best thing was all the wonderful food! We had paella, churros with chocolate, and plenty of tapas (including those yummy patatas bravas)! Unexpectedly we ran into her host mom after we went to a Catholic mass on Easter. Host Mom would speak in Spanish, Christen would translate... so there was lots of smiling and nodding until I knew what the question was! They took us out for apertif and tapas afterwards - it was a perfect day to sit at a cafe and laugh at language barriers!

Parents visit to Lyon:
I was glad they could come visit me! They hadn't made a big trip overseas in quite some time, so they were long overdue anyway :) I showed them all the important things in Lyon (Vieux Lyon, the Presqu'ile, Fourviere, the Roman Ruins, etc) and we ate out at plenty of restaurants. It was really beautiful weather for once so they came at a great time! It was cool being the translator - I knew how they felt cause of my weekend in Spain. It was nice to be on the other side of that for once! Then we went to Paris for the weekend - so yes, spring time in Paris! It was great. I got to see the Louvre (I went to the wing with French paintings, which was considerably less touristy than the Venus de Milo section, thank goodness), Notre Dame, the Centre Pompidou, Jardins du Luxembourg, among other things! My mom and I even walked up to the first level of the Eiffel tower! Paris was so much more pleasant with the sun shining and being able to walk around instead of getting stuck in traffic. I would definitely go back and do more things there :)

Picture link coming soon.

Corsica:
Oh my, where can I begin!? Well we (Louise and I) started in Marseille cause that's where we had to take the ferry from. Marseille is gross and dirty and there is nothing to do there, so we were glad to go to Corsica by contrast :) The first place we went was Porto Vecchio on the eastern coast. It is a nice little village in the hillside - not very touristy at all. There were a couple of beaches a few minutes drive away. We didn't have a car, so we had to call a cab, which was actually interesting because it was this funny old Corsican guy who liked to give a tour of everything we drove by. Corsican is like French with an Italian accent. The first day we went to the beach of Palombaggia - which has lots of big red rocks and blue water. Its right next to a nature preserve called Tamariccio which has a trail through the woods and then big granite rocks on the water. So basically you can hike around for hours :) The next day we went to another beach called Santa Giulia. It was like a tropical beach on a postcard and nice and secluded. The water was freezing but I went in anyway, of course! It was just so clear blue and inviting, and I was hot from taking a nap in the sun for two hours anyway! The nightlife of Porto Vec was not exactly hoppin'...I think there are maybe about 50 young people total on the entire island. That was okay though, cause I was always tired at the end of a fun day!

Anyway, so as there is not much of a train system around the island, we took a bus down to the southern tip to a place called Bonifacio. It's another port city, but it's considerably more of a tourist attraction, and by this I mean that there is a handful of tourist kitschy restaurants around the port and in the old town. Still not overrun with garish places :) This was one of my favorite places because there were so many beautiful things to see in a day.

We took a boat trip to a little island nature preserve off the coast called Ile Lavezzi. I was really amazed - the colors in the water were sparkling green and blue, but the best part that is made entirely of granite rocks and hiking trails. So for about 2 hours I did nothing but walk around and take pictures of everything and climb on rocks :) I saw so many little lizards! Not to mention the bees. There are hundreds. You can practically hear the island buzzing from a kilometer a way.

Then when I got back to the mainland I went hiking around the cliffs on the shore ...this was one of the most amazing views I have ever seen in my life. The sun was setting over the mountains and the citadel...just spectacular, with yellows and pinks in the sky and sandstone cliffs on the shore. The trail along there is really great cause you can go to the top of the cliff and then back down to the bottom so I got to stare up at how high I had been!

Then we went up to the north part of the island, but it took all day. We had to wake up and catch a bus to Ajaccio (in the middle of the western coast) at 6:30am. We were trying to get to a town called Porto, but with the bus system not being as convenient as we had hoped, we changed our plans to go to Calvi instead which is where our ferry was leaving from. Anyway, so we had to spend a few hours in Ajaccio. This was kind of boring because it is not pretty at all. It's totally built up and touristy. We walked around aimlessly, walked by Napolean's birthplace, and then resorted to going grocery shopping at Carrefour when all else failed. At least I picked up a few souvenirs though :) Then our bus finally left for Calvi. It was actually supposed to be a train...and they failed to tell us that it was actually a bus. So we wound our way through the little mountain road in the middle of the island. Very mountainous, very pretty when it stopped raining. A good day to travel really, cause it was one of the only days that wasnt all that pretty.

Anyway, finally made it to Calvi. This was a cool place, I probably could have stayed there longer cause it seemed like there was a lot to do. There was a hiking trail by the beach, lots of boats and sailing in the port, mountains, water, trips to nearby places, a cute little area downtown with plenty of shops and restaurants... a little bit of it all! We went on a boat trip to this place called Scandola island, because the guide book raved about how great it was (basically "you're on the next plane out for being dumb" if you missed it). We should have known from all the old German tourists on the boat that maybe this was not totally our thing... It was okay, but we didn't understand why it got 3 stars!! It was just a boat trip around an island of red cliffs...not really all the wondrous flora and fauna I was expecting. People-watching the other tourists was more exciting ! We did see a goat climbing a cliff and some dolphins though. That was alright. Later at night we met up with a couple of other American students in our program who also happened to be in Calvi - we got a nice dinner at a restaurant and then went out for the best ice cream ever. Yum! Always memorable when you only eat out every so often. We caught the end of the big France soccer game - Paris won (Lyon wasn't in it...sadly). it was nice to meet up with the other girls and hear about all the stuff they had been doing too.

ooh and the next day i went scuba diving! i was so proud that i did that! It was cold and cloudy but awesome nonetheless. We got suited up in wetsuits and sped out into the water on a boat. Then I jumped into the water and put on the scuba gear :) It was a little hard to get used to the breathing at first! It was even a little scary to think that I had to breathe only using this little apparatus under many meters of water! But then I got used to it and it was fun! I saw lots of rocks and fish and plants!

Sadly we had to leave...we stopped overnight in Nice. It was great to walk around and see that city again and have the great ice cream there but it wasn't anything like all the nature I had been seeing. So definitely I will have to take more nature vacations and not see anymore big cities!

Wow, ok, I am quite tired of typing. thanks for reading!






09 avril 2006

Fourviere

*obligatory image of protesters right outside my window*

It was an absolutely gorgeous weekend here in Lyon. I didn't have anything to do on Friday, so I went for a little hike up the hill of Fourviere.

View of the basilica from partway up the hill. Hurrah for green things! Cloud count=0.


That long street in the middle (the vertical one) is the street that I live on! Cloud count = still equal 0.

Woohoo, I love looking out over the city! The section with the red roofs is the Presqu'ile (downtown, middle of city). The part past that is the Rhone river and then the Part Dieu with the big pencil building (commercial area = shopping :P ).

Tower of Lyon. Not really worth approaching any closer. Clouds? no.

Yay, so high up! See how pretty it is? Totally worth the hike.

Man looking over the side, all pensive like.

Cloud count= why even count? Ohh! really cool thing about this picture. If you look between the clock tower and the basilica, you can see a tiny white dot....That's the moon.

Little more of the greenness around the hill :)


Ah, yes, the trail through the park. That's more like it. I think I must have walked by about every romantic couple in France during my little hike up the hill (sigh), but they're not in the picture :P

So basically, if you haven't been up here yet...you should:)

I'll take potpourri for $1000, Alex...
super random paragraph of things that have nothing to do with each other: Still no classes. Sigh. I started reading a book for my thesis project instead. It's fantastic - it's called Les Ombres Mortes (Dead Shadows) par Christian Roux (french detective noir author). I'm excited because the french dept advisor really seemed to like my idea and was very supportive of all that, even extending the deadline for me. My group of friends here is starting to invite more french people to our dinner soirees, which is a good thing, it's like fun times with French and English slang. we had a lot of fun with making sushi last night, so I think that's one thing I'll take home with me :) Classes start Monday, wow, tough having a Sunday that's actually like a ...Sunday. Running buddy and I are finally getting to the middle of our training, they've got us running about 2 miles straight now. Never did that before, so woohoo. Trying to get plans together for this summer, which means apartment hunting- through - email. Go for the place close to my job or the place with the super sweet amenities? hmm. Also -starting to think of fun things to do for this summer... it's going to be hard to top my italy summer and my camp echo summer, but I think I can do it :)

02 avril 2006

Week 3 without classes

With President Chirac's proposed changes to the CPE law, and the unions still not backing down until they get exactly what they want, we may have week 4 of no classes this Wednesday (they're beginning to talk of tutorials for us international students). The proposed changes: the contract is only for 1 year, and employers have to tell employees why they are getting fired. Last night we saw a group of protesters blockading cars from driving down the road - it's starting to affect more than just university students now.

Having no classes makes it hard to even get in an academic mindset, honestly. Wednesday night, I went to a bioethics lecture on the value of suffering. To my dismay and surprise, I found it very hard to follow along after being out of classes for so long. I'm concerned that my academic French listening skills are falling by the wayside here. However, it did prompt a very interesting discussion between Lisa and I afterwards - we succeeded in sticking to French the entire time, good for us! Speaking of um, speaking (teehee), I gave directions to a couple of lost strangers in French the other day! successfully! without them asking me, "you are English?" yay! So...gold star for me?

The Story of How I Came Up With My Thesis Topic
So there's an international noir festival here this weekend: film noir, detective lit, anything else that merits the name noir. Freaking out about this since I absolutely loved the film noir class I took a couple years ago, I decided to check it out. On my way, I encountered a African dance ensemble performance in Place des Terreaux, but that's neither here nor there, that's just awesome :D Today they were having a book fair with lots of French noir novelists and even some cartoonists. I stopped to watch that for awhile because the graphic novelists were signing their books with full-page caricatures of each person! If I were a comic book fan I would have been all for getting that but I'm not :P Browsing around a bit, it dawned on me. If I was looking for books to do my French thesis for next year on, this was the perfect place! Where else would I get this opportunity?? I noticed that a lot of the books had some sort of "voyage" in them - so picking this as my central theme, I picked up 4 novels (Les Ombres mortes, Arret d'urgence, Le Train vert-de-gris, et Un Voyageur solitaire est le diable), 2 of which were signed by the authors ! One of the books even takes place on a train departing from Lyon. So excited about this! I've never had any books signed before!! And I can't wait to start reading the books and define a more specific direction for my thesis. This is great. I would never be able to do something like this at UVA, they certainly don't offer any classes like this in the French department! I just have to talk to a faculty member now and see how to make it feasible. But this is a step in the right direction :D

Also, a little shout-out for the Pierre de Bethmann sextet. They put on an incredible jazz concert tonight at the Opera de Lyon Amphi-Jazz! Definitely more of a modern jazz sound, probably the best one I've heard yet. It was just so richly layered and evocative - especially thanks to the chanteuse whose voice was more of an instrument than a voice! I really liked the sound of that fender rhodes (electric piano). also with alto sax, tenor sax, bass, drums, guitar. I'm lucky I got to see it - I got there just in time and snapped up a ticket from someone who needed to get rid of one, otherwise it was sold out, and with good reason!

Today's ponderings: How would you describe a color without using any visual words whatsoever? How would you describe a visual world entirely by using sound? Is music supposed to represent another sense such as vision or emotion, act as a metaphor, or is it to be created and appreciated on its own merit? (Best answer gets a gold star? and a hug? and some crepes?)

Gourmet stylings of the week: Asian food. The Asian market is like crazy ridiculous with all sorts of stuff I have never seen in my life, so now I have to try it :D So you know when someone makes you try a food, but then you can't ever find it in stores and it drives you nuts cause it was that good? Well that was me and lemongrass shrimp thai ramen in the 12th grade. And what do you know, they sell it here in France. so w00tOMGITOTALLYBOUGHTSOMEANDRANHOMEANDMADEIT.

29 mars 2006

Current events in Lyon

The Strike continues:
Classes are still blocked at Lyon 2, for the most part. Classes are still being held at some of the smaller universities in town, but as I go to the main one, no such luck. Others have gotten into the building through underground passageways, but class attendance in those cases is pretty low.

Today was the big nationwide demonstration. It marched right past my apartment - apparently it was at least a mile long! It started at around 11:30 and went on for a couple hours. According to my sources, the unions are supposed to meet with the prime minister soon. If he concedes on some points, we can expect an end to the blockades and demonstrations. If not, we can expect more of the same. Tomorrow there is an "assemblé générale"at noon for the students as well. Tomorrow will mark week 3 of classes being impossible to go to for me.

As for exams, the "make up weeks" are supposed to absorb those missed classes. I'm not sure what will happen to mine since half my classes are just papers/projects anyway. They say that we won't be leaving any later than expected, but who knows what will happen if it continues like this.

UVA's Plans for Lyon
:
The University wants to set up an official program office here. This means that instead of our program directors working out of their home, they will have a separate office. They do deserve something like that for the amount of work they do for us.

However, UVA wants to expand it into a lot more than that. They want to do more handholding, set up more assistance for students who aren't as good in French: more international student classes, more English options. Frankly, if that's your case, you shouldn't be here for a semester. You're going to be one of those kids that gives study abroad a bad name. If that's you, take the summer program taught here by UVa professors. They also think we need a "common space" with a living room, kitchen, office. I disagree. We already hang out at each other's apartments with Americans. Secondly, I think we have all done fine getting all of our info together, so it doesn't need to be in a central spot. Granted, it was frustrating at first, but it's really not that hard to turn in a few papers or find an office. Builds character.

If UVA wants to encourage more students to study abroad, they should think about ways to decrease our program fees and encourage foreign immersion, not increase them by adding on offices and redundant hand-holding services that aren't worth the cost.

The Story Of An American Bagel In Lyon:
A group of us (2 Americans, 1 German, 1 Venezuelan, 1 Mexican) tried to check out this American-style bagel shop in town. Before you get all "that defeats the purpose" on me, it was sort of interesting to see how American cuisine is represented abroad anyway. unfortunately the store had closed 40 min before we got there. So, with all the other places in town closing or too expensive, we resorted to Plan Z, McDonald's. It was an American soiree after all. Hadn't been there in probably...a year? Who knows. The fries tasted a little different, less salty and oily. The burger had dijon mustard and no ketchup pre-squirted on it. There was the pomme-et-frites sauce that tasted like tartar sauce without the relish. It was a lot of food all at once, and I felt pretty gross afterwards. I can't imagine what it would have been like in the true American style with portions about twice the size.

We went to the weekly catholic prayer group afterwards. I had a lot of things to think about, especially after talking to the christian missionary guy at the hostel we stayed at this past weekend (oh yeah, it ended up being a christian hostel, randomly). i'm probably not the most religious person out there, but I think going once a week gives me a lot to think about, it's good.

At the hostel this weekend, I met a group of french exchange students from Anglophone countries. We had a nice little "french as a second language" conversation going on in French. They seemed to be having a lot of difficulties finding french students to talk to (Even more so than I do sometimes!), and it was pretty evident in their speaking style (Think "je ne sais pas" instead of "shè pas".) But it's nice to be able to make the effort with them and learn about their different experiences!

Ok, that's enough updating to hold my captive audience over for awhile. Time to get some sleep! Plenty to do tomorrow - checking out the AG, running some errands, seeing if I can get to my class building even, going to a bioethics lecture, are all on the agenda. Take care guys!

Mon Anniversaire de 21 ans!

I spent a great weekend celebrating my birthday in Amsterdam. Here's a little photojournal of the fun times...

The Story of Four Girls In A Male City

Amsterdam - so beautiful by night. This is what I saw when I arrived! It really is amazing. It's all lit up like a Christmas village.

Christen and I out celebrating the bday!

Emily and Karissa, Christen's roommates from Barcelona. They were so much fun!

Sunny day in Amsterdam! Haha, this was about the only time... This is some random museum. We didn't go in though. We had just come out of the Van Gogh museum, which was interesting, but kind of depressing at the end. No Van Gogh nights for us, we'll leave the absinthe and ear-cutting to the tortured artists.


Enjoying what was seriously the most amazing waffle ever. Tulips? Nah. Go to Amsterdam for the waffles.

Four girls in a male city. There's a red light district, dutch beer brands everywhere, the stores only stay open til 6pm (guys get tired of shopping), and all the stores are men's clothing anyway. We're making a movie.

The house that Anne Frank hid in with 7 other people...now a museum. It was pretty moving...but also a little saddening at the end. Amsterdam, Dark Museum Capital of the World.


Me and Christen along the canal on my birthday! PS, what is with me and this yellow sweater? I think I am wearing it in about every picture there is of me in Europe. Don't worry, I have other clothes. I think.

Prinsengracht canal...of course we had another name for it...

Karissa and Emily, the two beauties in the pink scarves

Amsterdam in the late afternoon

The Story of All the Shrimp Balls You Can Eat For 7.50 E
Four American girls, standing outside the Chinese buffet. "Should we go in?" "Do we want 7.50 worth of Chinese food?" Before we make up our minds or walk away, this tiny Asian woman opens the door and rushes us in. "Come in! Come in! Only 7.50! All you can eat! Try it! Try anything you like! It's all good! We have rice, egg roll, vegetable! Anything you like! Here! Try this shrimp ball! It's good! Eat as much as you like!" We reluctantly take the fried shrimp balls she force-feeds us. It tastes ok. "Come on in! Come! Sit down! You try anything you like!" We shrug and choose a table. Christen isn't so hungry anymore: "Why is she so pushy? Why does she want us to eat here so much? There's something not right about this!" Asian lady comes back. "You want buffet? It's good, try anything you want! You take plate!" We look back at each other, unsure. "Yes, try it! Come here! Come back with me! You try dumplings!" We are dragged to the back of the restaurant to the dumpling table. She opens the basket that says "not ready yet!!!" and hands Karissa a dumpling and walks away. "No! don't eat that! put it back!" we hiss. "no, not back in the basket! in the trash can!" (conveniently next to the dumpling table). We hurry out of the restaurant, leaving the pleading Asian woman behind in our dust. 10 minutes later, there is a bad aftertaste of overly salty shrimp ball in our mouths. But 7.50 left in our wallets, and probably a distinct lack of cat-meat related food poisoning.

The Story of All You Can Eat...But No More for 9.50
We apparently can't get enough of dubious Dutch-slash-Pan-Asian. We ended up having dinner at the chinese buffet where you can eat all you want in an hour. But if you leave anything on your plate, they charge you another 9.50. And they also have a cat running around the restaurant. And no TP in the bathroom. And four very, VERy loud obnoxious American girls. What a hilarious night.

Well, that's enough stories for one entry.

Upcoming Plans (don't you love this part):
1) Sweden is off. Plans to go Spain to enjoy sun instead.
2) Mom and Dad
3) Corsica and Nice & nearby villages. No further west than Marseille, probably. Southwest France will be for another weekend.

21 mars 2006

le printemps est arrivé!

The story of why we sang Aretha Franklin songs in the street:
Happy Spring everyone! It is beautiful in Lyon now. The sun is shining, it's warm enough to not have to wear a scarf (although it's recommended still to be stylish :) ). If you can measure spring by when you don't need a jacket anymore, it has definitely arrived because I didn't need one when I went running today. Man, running in the warm spring breeze is the best thing ever. Actually, running in the warm spring breeze in France is the best thing ever. In fact most things in France this semester are the best thing ever. So much elation going on in my head right now...

The story of what happens when you have a student discount:
I finally got myself to the Musée des Beaux-Arts (museum of fine arts) yesterday. Free student admission, I just waltzed right in! It was not spectacular, but still very nice, very much the "city fine arts museum" that many French towns seem to have. I browsed through half of it before they closed, seeing mostly paintings. There was something I found interesting - a series of paintings that this one artist had worked on for most of his career, and each painting went along with parts of a long poem that he wrote. Other than that, just your average offering of religious and impressionistic works. I didn't get to see the floor with antiquities, that will be for another day!

I turn 21 in 3 days!! Stay tuned for The Story of Four Girls in Amsterdam.

The story of why I am trying to contain my excitement:
Finally, I have decided when and where I am going to be traveling next month. Before it was just up in the air, now there is actually a plan! REALLY super excited about April. It is going to be the best month yet!
Upcoming Plans:
1) Sweden, ie, The Story of Laura trying to tell Ove things in bad Swedish and it being really kinda hilarious.
2) Parents are visiting! ie, the Story of Laura Being a Translator For the Week.
3) South of France/Corsica for spring break with Louise, ie, The Story of Two Girls vs The Island Folk.

20 mars 2006

The Story Of...

It certainly has been a week of ups and downs.

The story of how the past week turned into an honorary vacation:
The CPE demonstrations are turning everything into a bit of chaos and confusion. I haven't had class for a week now. Granted, I only have it 3 days a week, but an unexpected vacation like this is surprising, to say the least! It hardly feels like a vacation when we are waiting on a day-to-day basis to hear if there are classes. The break is nothing to complain about, but I would like to have my schedule and my education back soon. Why would they do this, you ask? From my understanding, it is not enough for them to demonstrate in the streets, they must interrupt a government function (like university classes) to make a greater statement to the government. A very interesting time period in France, I must say! But no, there is no violence in the streets in Lyon, and the demonstrations are even a little "fun" to watch. I will keep you all posted.

The story of how our apartment turned green:
It was another great weekend here in Lyon. I didn't get to go to Annecy as hoped, but it will be there another weekend. On Thursday, I could have been moping around the house all day (that's another story), but instead I went out with Caro to buy some beautiful plants for our apartment. We got fresh herbs (chives, cilantro, mint, and basil seeds) to eat - so scrumptious - and some flowers and leafy plants as well! Botanic is a fabulous wonderland of greenery! We really did have to drag ourselves out of that store. So I um, "grow up," haha (I will be this Friday!!), I've decided I will have a big garden full of lots of plants and flowers.

A story that ends with "and then I found 5 euros!":
Louise and I are right on schedule, for our preparation for the Lyon 10K. I'm looking forward to getting more into the training. Go team "...Et Puis J'ai Trouvé 5 Euros!" (By the way, to clear up any confusion, AHEM, that's for you Givanni, Louise is a girl's name..."So, um, do you have a new boyfriend? I see you are hanging out with this Louise guy a lot." Haha!!) Anyway. Saturday, instead of running around the bridges by the river like usual (that gets old), we decided to run up and into the park so we could go to Botanic (haha, yes, again) afterwards. I always enjoy a change of pace and more nature on a sunny day. At the store, we spotted some clay, unpainted pots next to some pretty painted ones. "Dude, why buy those when we can paint our own?" So more plants, more pots, and a paint-finding mission later, we have some beautiful pots, and they are called "the blending of earth and sky" and "the blending of sea and fire." Green/blue and red/blue for you less poetic ones out there.

The Story of How St. Patricks Day got celebrated by Canadian folk:
St Patrick's Day is not really a huge deal in France, at least it wasn't when we went to see some French friends of Olivia's at the local, um, Danish, pub. (I think they were a little confused on the concept.) There was no wearing of green, just a few "Irish" hats and bright orange wigs. Interestingly enough, there was a Canadian flag in the Danish pub on the Irish holiday.

The Story of Me Going To the Theatre 5 Minutes Before the Show:
In theatre news, I saw a good play on Saturday night, called Le Jeu de l'amour et du hasard (the game of love and "hazard"/gambling), by Marivaux (18th century, if i'm not mistaken). I was really excited that this was in Lyon at le Theatre de la Croix Rousse because I read this last semester, and it was one of my favorites. This particular production was much different than how I had imagined the play! The set was VERY minimalist, with only some unpainted wooden backdrops, doors, and a staircase. Lots more dramatic falling on the floor and romantic approaches than I would have imagined! Add some more singing and you would have had an opera. Now I know what French theatre is really supposed to look like.

The Story Of Upcoming plans:
The Netherlands with Christen to celebrate my birthday! Hello Amsterdam!!

11 mars 2006

The "On verra"

A decision was reached. We went out in the rain, after la fete chez les voisins didn't work out (trop de monde!), to Ayers Rock Cafe. 2 bridges of walking later, Wet Jacket and Drippy Purse go home, leaving Soaked Pants and Bleeding Mascara to persist on to the café. Sketchy I and Sketchy II greet us with an offer to warm up with dancing with them, but only them. We refuse by pretending not to understand "juh nay parle pass?". The sound of conversations only 5 inches from our ears and sweaty bodies pushing past us turn us off in search of more ambiant surroundings. Soaked Pants becomes Growling Belly, and the only kebab shop still open welcomes us with its meat pockets of absolute scrumptiousness and free espresso for being such good patrons. No-Longer-Growling-Belly and No-Longer-Bleeding-Mascara now satisfied and dry, we "non, nous sommes americaines" our way through questions of our nationality, questions of if there are Turks in the States, and questions (offers, rather) of international friendship. A good night, with plenty of promise for future good times.

Running news:
It is decided. Laura and Louise Attack the Marathon de Lyon! (louise attack is a french band...) 10 K (thats about 6 miles)...wish us bon courage!

10 mars 2006

the march birthday countdown begins...

So my birthday is officially in 14 days!
To celebrate, I'm going to the Netherlands with Christen (plus a couple of her friends are tagging along). We decided that was the best place since it will cost about the same for both of us to go and neither of us have been before! I'm really excited about the trip! I've been making a lot of "big trips" and saving my money on the weekends in between instead taking random little trips.

Anyway, the past few weeks I've been trying to focus on my classwork (semi-successfully) and doing fun things with friends (snow and sleet not holding us back ever!).

In religious news, last week I went to a church group at a local Catholic church (the one next to where they are building the department store. Classy, France, classy.) with a couple of my friends. The group is all in French, but it is not all that different from the ones I've gone to at UVA - songs, a priest, prayer. I actually understood most of the religious vocabulary - I didn't realize I knew that many religion-related words in French. I'll probably go again next week.

In political news, In French people are obsessed with demonstrations news, there has been a LOT of fuss of over the CPE that the government is passing. There are two sides to this...the bad part is that the young people here think that they will get fired after two years without any good explanation, the good part is that it is aimed to reduce unemployment and the amount of time that people spend doing internships after college; if you don't get fired, you have job security for a long time. But people are scared that they will be fired for things like getting pregnant. At Lyon 2, a lot of students have been on strike, busting into classes and stopping them (not any of mine though) , marching down the street along with other civil groups. My question is, would this law make employers more or less selective in hiring? The French students don't seem to ask that question, they are just focused on protesting, concerned that they will be fired without reason. Funny thing is that the employers don't seem to have anything to say about the CPE...

In athetic news, I've never been a runner - In the past I never understood the appeal of it...I always preferred to rollerblade, walk, ride my bike, or go to the gym. But since I have neither wheels nor an expensive gym membership here, combined with lots of free time, running has suddenly sounded a lot better these days :P So my goal is accomplish THIS within 9 weeks' time. Getting started was actually pretty easy...I've finished week 1 without getting discouraged one bit. Very few women run in France...and if they do it is on Sunday afternoons. So if I can run in France, I can get myself to run anywhere. That's why difficulties are there, right? Yes. It's perfect here too, the amount of time to walk down to the river is 5 minutes to warm up, and to make it around a few of the bridges and back takes exactly 20 minutues. Plus it's quiet and scenic there :)

Anyway, so I mention this to Louise... turns out she was doing the same plan last year! I couldn't believe it.
Louise: "so one day I was looking up couches on google, because we needed a new couch for our apartment, and I found the Couch Potato workout...so then I thought, forget the couch, I'll go running!"

Definitely much more interesting than how I started running. But on that note, we're going to run this together in the following weeks ...and THEN....the Lyon 5k. We're going to do it and we're going to get t-shirts and show them off at home along with our mad running skills. That's right.

In musical news, I did see a PHENOMENAL Mozart concert (Mozart's Requiem) at the Opera de Lyon. I was absolutely blown away - I had chills. The orchestra was impeccable, their interpretation was moving, and the chorus had an incredible blend. If I had had a seat, which I didn't since I had standing room tickets, I would have been on the edge of it :P

On that note, I've been listening to a lot more French music - *mostly* hip-hop and r&b - K-maro, MC Solaar, Tryo, NTM, Corneille, Amine, among others. Along with re-organizing my music collection :P

In news of coincidences, Caro and I discovered that we were actually at the same festival/concert at UVA two years ago (when she was visiting her cousin in the states!). That's so crazy, imagine, my future France roommate at Springfest and I didn't even know it!

In cheese news (YES THERE IS CHEESE NEWS. Just when you thought news could NOT possibly get any better), my new favorite is Saint Felicien - a soft cheese, a little bit softer than Brie, that's made in the Rhone-Alpes region - the kind I tried was probably made from cow's milk but it's also made from goat milk. Aged for at least 2 weeks.

In other gourmet news, I discovered that fennel and curry are best friends and taste excellent roasted in the oven with other spices and bouillon. Also great are crepes with caramelized clementines. Not to mention powdered soupe forestiere.

Alright, time to get some more of this work done...and maybe a random birthday party upstairs? On verra!

08 mars 2006

Winter Break in Normandy and Paris (part 2)

"Hmm want to go to Paris tonight?" Yes, so just like that, on a Wednesday night, Greg and I packed up and headed for the city. Greg's buddy Antoine (they have been friends all their lives) was gracious enough to host us in his apartment right outside the city in nearby Suresnes (pronounced something like "sue-wren" not "sirreznuhs"). And yes, you can TOTALLY see the Tour Eiffel from his apartment.

Yep. Definitely in France.

From his apartment at night...It sparkles every hour.

Greg, me, and Antoine. I hang out with Parisiens, dude.

Thursday, Greg and I went to the Tour Eiffel! It was a very cold cloudy Paris day, but I didn't let the horizon-obscuring fog stop me from having a good trip up to the very top! (we took the elevator...) On the 2nd level you can walk outside (it was cold and there were some flurries), but on the very top it is all glassed in so I didn't feel the dizzying height so much. Check out the view!

If you look closely you can see where the names are engraved.

Yay! I made it to the top!

La Seine



My new favorite picture of me ...


We also drove by the Arc de Triomphe and down the Champs-Elysees.

Lights from crazy Parisien drivers around the Arc de Triomphe.

On that note, driving in Paris is NUTS. There are no lines really. You just drive whereever you want "as long as you don't block or bother others," says Greg. Even on the highway. Lots of drivers have a GPS, he says (although my roommate disagrees), so no one even knows where they are going. Pedestrians don't cross the road...they run, clinging on to dear life, hoping their legs will carry them across the street before they are ecrasé by a maniac in a Peugeot. It was fun though...I like adventure :)

That Friday, I saw Versailles (the palace right outside of Paris)... the overwhelming monstrosity that angered the French when the king spent all of their money on it but now brings in millions of dollars of French tourism. it is truly "la gloire de la france" or whatever it was that was inscribed in stone on the front of the palace. inside we saw the Treasures of the Court of Saxe (meh...just some pretty things owned by royalty) and of slightly more interest, the Grand Apartments and the Hall of Mirrors. There's lots of historic paintings (including some depicting when the French helped the Americans in Yorktown during the American Revolution!) and ornate furniture, thrones, etc. The Hall of Mirrors was partially under renovation, so I didn't get to see it in all its glittery wonder. It looks out onto the grand expanse of gardens all around the palace.

We walked around Montmartre, the old artistic part of Paris for a little while. Check out the twilight sky. It just makes you want to draw lots of pastel pictures, doesn't it?

The square in Montmartre where there are lots of artists and creperies.

I'm not sure what's more French, this cathedral or the fact that Greg is eating a crepe.

As far as nightlife in Paris goes, we went to a student soiree one night and a latin-themed place the next. The student soiree was like nothing I have ever seen (I really shouldnt have to say that though, this is like my entire trip!) They had a variety of things...a live band, dj music, then a fashion show put on by students (with both guys and girls struttin' their stuff), then some student music acts. I thought that was pretty entertaining. Perhaps Greg will send me his pictures of that soon. The latin-themed place was VERY trendy and just magnificent (about 3 stories high I think!) with a beautiful staircase going all the way up to the top.

You can't go to Paris without going to at least one museum. The museum of choice was the Musee d'Orsay (free student night, score) with its many impressionist paintings. It was actually a train station back in the day. Ohh and check out the most beautiful room EVER.

Isn't it magnificent?

I had a fun trip, getting to be a little more relaxed because I was with French people and not tourists. I can't wait to go back (probably with Mom and Dad when they come visit) and see even more!