Saturday, March 29, 2008

paris in one day... it can be done (kinda)


today was a great day! we got to do all my favorite things not including any art museums...

we started out with a stroll along rue cler. it was monday so you know what that means, but being paris there was still enough activity to make it worthwhile. after a little café and croissant we headed to notre-dame to start out rick steves' historic paris walk. this time i made sure we walked all of it and didn't miss the latin quarter like kathy and i did. we grabbed a gyro along the way and it was delicious! we continued passing sainte-chapelle, palais du justice, cité métro stop, la conciergerie, pont neuf, and lastly the louvre. dad couldn't believe how huge it is!

after that little tour we rode the métro to montmartre and sacré-coeur. the view of the city is great, but of course the afternoon rain was rolling in, covering the skyline in a gray haze. as the rain fell harder we decided to stop for a glass of wine before heading to the eiffel tower for the sightseeing cruise.

it's so incredible how the atmosphere of paris has changed in the last weeks. walking on the streets all i hear is english, lines have begun to form at popular sights, and even more con-artists are out in full force!

the cruise was wonderful even the second time. it was altered a little but to be longer and provide more information. towards the end this one boy kept going up to the guide and interrupting her as she sold booklets and dvds. she chewed him out hardcore. it was awesome!

for dinner we revisited the latin quarter and chose from two different "menus" which is actually like a set of choices for entrée, main dish, and dessert - la carte is everything they serve and you can order whatever you want but it's more expensive.

even though our "menus" came with dessert we had to stop at the famous gelato place, amoriano. we got a small cone but could choose as many flavors as we wanted! she made them into this beautiful flower design and it tasted even better than it looked!

tomorrow we're off to beaune for the real wine region of france!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

let it snow let it snow let it snow


it's snowing in strasbourg! i walked outside (very early to catch my train) and there it was, falling softly and covering everything in white. joyeuses paques!

yesterday was a busy one! i woke up for breakfast, but didn't need an alarm because my lovely roommates made even more noise than the day before from 5:30-7. it was ridiculous! i saw the soccer boys and wished them good luck before heading off into the city. at breakfast i also met a nice girl from sanfran who was studying in grenoble.

saturday is market day so i checked out the book and poster selection then the food market which included seafood, meats, fruits, veggies, cheeses, etc. then i hit the museums, which really weren't that great honestly but interesting enough to make me visit. also, it was freezing and i'd done enough wandering for the two days before.

so i studied archeology, decorative arts, fine arts, and the history alsatian life. by the end of all that i was done! somewhere in between i stopped for lunch - pizza with olives, asparagus, artichoke, mushrooms, and bell peppers. between that pizza, the wine, and the museums i was exhausted but determined to visit two stores: un noel en alsace and au paradis des pains d'epices. the first is a year round christmas store (other than jan & feb... even christmas needs a small break.) so of course i was ecstatic. the other is a tiny bread shop that makes ginger breads in many various flavors. i bought a sack of what i think was their regular gingerbread and a bag of creme brulee easter eggs.

after walking petite france some more i headed back for a much needed nap. as much as i wanted to call it a night, i knew i still had to have the alsatian specialty for dinner - choucroutte, or saurkraut. i chose a restaurant called la petite venise near the water in petite france. it was very cozy and the food was good too!

i guess i lost track of time because when i got back to the hostel it was about 10:30. the soccer boys were in the same spot, the game room right by my bedroom, so i had some beer and wine with them before getting ready for bed. they won 2 or 3 matches, which is good apparently! after my shower i walked in to a party in my room. there were about 7 people, boys and girls, in my tiny 4-bed dorm room. they were a mix of french, spanish, green, peruvian, and that might be it. emmanuel, who took the bed above mine, was french, but spoke english and spanish. she was very nice in a crazy kind of way!

luckily they ended the party and i went to bed, but didn't sleep well due to a 3am phone call from dad telling me he missed the flight in philly and wouldn't arrive in paris til 1:30. so now i am sitting at the laundromat next to our hotel waiting on him which actually works out.. i have no clean underwear after today! (sorry if that was tmi!) but the funny thing is that i was wearing my jeans without thinking and they desperately needed to be washed. since i was alone in the place i decided to pull a changeroo right here, where really the whole world could see me because the entire front of the place is windows. i don't think anyone saw me, but if they did then they sure got a show! anyway write more later tonight...

later the same night:
well dad finally got here... almost 12 hours late. after missing the flight in philly he was sent on british airways to london. of course mother nature decided it was time for a blizzard so he was stuck in heathrow and could get to paris until about 5pm. needless to say missed easter mass at notre-dame and walked around the st-germain area of the latin quarter then looked at notre-dame.

for dinner we feasted! marinated muscles, leg of lamb, beef bourguingon, wine, wine, wine, and and creme brulee.

on our way back to the hotel we ran into gewwa and her boyfriend at the little corner store. i had met them earlier at a cafe when i was waiting for dad. she is from spain and he is from mexico. they met because her sister was doing a conversation exchange with him. dad and i were about to buy some more wine but decided to get a drink together somewhere instead. they are so much fun and dad and i can't wait for the wedding in madrid! lots to do tomorrow since we missed out today!

good friday?


good friday. i'm really not sure why it's called this. somewhere in my years of catholic school and religion classes i'm sure i learned the reason, but now, years later, i have no idea. it should be sad friday or mourning friday. i mean isn't this the day christ was crucified? not until today did i realize the influence of catholicism in this country. everything was closed. i mean this was worse than sundays and mondays! this of course is everything except for a few restos and churches, of course. so i spent much of the day in notre-dame de strasbourg.

they were showing the video of l'horloge (the astronomical clock) for free sot hat was a plus. the video explained how it worked and explained some of the paintings, and described in detail what would happen at 12:30. about 5 minutes after the video ended, the show began! it was actually pretty interesting, and to think about the amount of time it must take to make something so intricate!

afterwards i made the challenging ascent to the top of the narthex... 332 stairs! i realized, or i guess solidified, that i have a fear of heights. as i took each step my grip on the handrail tightened and the dizziness grew. it's not really a fear of all heights, which is a good thing considering my job will require me to be very high in the sky. it's more a fear of heights just where i can feel the outside maybe? i'm really not sure how to explain because i don't completely understand...

so i continued to walk around the dead city and finally found a place to stop and eat. i had this plate with brats, salad, and fries and felt like that required a beer instead of wine, wilfort or something like that. i can't remember the name, but it was good! originally i looked for something without meat, but i just couldn't find anything appetizing and i wasn't going to spend money on something i didn't really want. so there i sat, eating my forbidden meat on a lenten friday, drinking my beer, staring out the window at the front of the cathedral... ironic, n'est pas? every time i looked out the window the church was mocking me, scorning me for my dining choice. after lunch i grabbed a waffle dipped in chocolate, not as good as i expected though. i walked around some more but became too bored and couldn't feel my limbs any longer so i decided to take a nap at the hostel.

my nap was going great until tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum walked in... i don't know there names because they didn't speak english or french. first they couldn't get the door to open; i swear they tried to break it down. after making plenty more racket once they got in, they finally left the room and i saw the sun come out so i decided to get up. i went back into town and this time there were more people out even though things were still closed. i continued to window shop, this time finding new places and making notes to return tomorrow. i stopped at a cafe for some hot tea and read a little more of my book. i swear elizabeth gilbert is one of the smartest people ''i know.'' after a salad (which had more sausage) i came back to the hostel.

sitting in my usual spot in the game room, i was surrounded by teenage boys who eventually came over and started talking to me. they are soccer players from belgium and in normal-hormonal-teenage-boy fashion they tried to get me to go to their rooms, asked me if i had a boyfriend, invited me to their soccer tournament, etc. i finally gave in when they asked me to take a drink at the hostel bar. i met their parents, drank, and watched them play some weird card game. their cards are very weird too by the way since their words aren't king, queen, and jack... it makes sense, i just never thought about it.

they were entertaining to say the least and i know i will be seeing them tomorrow so that's something to look forward to!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

le 20 mars continué...


arriving in strasbourg was very smooth. we got in late but i wasn't on a schedule so that wasn't a problem. i bought my ticket for sunday to paris then i bought my bus pass for the next three days. i was taking care of everything, talking and listening in french, and i felt like i was finally getting the hang of it! i even made it on the bus which for some odd reason i was worried about...

the hostel is really nice and i'm on the ground floor this time instead of the 4th! bad things are there is no place to do laundry, no kitchen area, and the bar is only open one night that i'm here! after getting situated i took the tram into town.

strasbourg is absolutely gorgeous! so far it is my favorite place with it's alsatian charm. i saw the cathédrale, place kléber, and la petite france. since it was already pretty late i just walked around and tried to orient myself.

for dinner i ate at a resto called la boucherie. it was decked out in all red and white stripes (like checkered but a little classier!) my food was really good. i had a salad with toasted bread and chèvre (goat cheese.) then i had curry chicken and rice with of course red wine to drink. i finished off the night with café crème. they kept bringing me easter chocolates and i didn't complain because they were delicious. the funniest thing was the paperweight they brought with the check. it looked like they took whatever that dish is where you eat the marrow and cleaned/dried the bone and used it to hold down the check and cash.

only two more full days alone and it really has gone by fast... this has been such a great experience for me so far and i feel a million times more comfortable that the first day. in the states it's weird to go eat alone unless you have work or something to read. now i look forward to doing things alone and taking time to reflect on my day and just think without interruption. even though i'm so excited to share things with my dad, i've really come to appreciate time to myself.

screw your knee...


i'm on the train to strasbourg and had one of those "i'm actually in france" moments. looking out the window i see beautiful landscape - lush green grass, flowing rivers, and large patches of trees - along with petites villages everywhere, quaint and charming mike manosque. everything is as i imagined except two things: i think france has more graffiti than all of america and it's smaller than texas alone! also, you know how sometimes on the outskirts of small old country towns there are those homes that look like they are trying to start a junk yard? well france has those houses too, and the idealist in me didn't except that i guess. either way though it's absolutely beautiful.

tuesday mel came over for lunch then charisse and i did some shopping in town. we saw the BEST mullet EVER! then the three of us met for coffee and tea before before catching a ride to aix-en-provence with one of the teachers they both assist. this time i could actually see everything we were passing and as everything else, it was beautiful. (last time i was in an aisle seat on the bus with a large man blocking my view.) mel pointed out her favorite parts of the drive - an orchard with perfectly aligned rows of trees, and this place where it seems like four different regions are colliding, fields of green grass and flowers, cliffs, trees, and a river all in one spot.

in aix char and i walked around while she pointed out buildings, fountains, and shops that we would visit the next day. we grabbed some fresh bread, cheese, yogurt, and wine before heading back to mel's. mathilde had stayed with her the night before and made a big pot of soup so we ate that along with the other things we picked up.

char and i went back into town with the intention of getting adult beverages but she opted for hot tea and i got hot chocolate. when we got back to mel's she was talking to her boyfriend patrick on skype. he lives in vancouver and they've been together for EIGHT YEARS! he taught us all a new phrase "what's crackle-ackin?" which is i guess like "what's up?" this added to the phrases we learned earlier from mel. at the end of fraggle rock they say something in german that literally translates to "that's the end of the show, and if you didn't like it, then screw your knee!" so our new phrase is "screw your knee!" there were others that i don't remember, but i did learn that no one in austria really knows about the sound of music! it's just an american thing apparently.

anyway wednesday we shopped all morning and met another assistant lauren at a place called book in bar which is an english bookstore that serves food and drinks. the plan was to take the 2:30 train to manosque, but we missed it. i felt bad for char because she wanted to make it back for yoga, so we did some more retail therapy and got gelato.

we took a bus and got back in time to meet another assistant jessica for dinner at barbotine. i had a crêpe bolognaise which had cheese, tomato, and beef inside. then we all got dessert while these guys were harassing us. it was funny, but left us a bit confused especially since we were in manosque!

i was sad to leave charisse, we really had a great time. hopefully she will come to avignon to meet dad and me next weekend. for now i rest up for strasbourg. it's hard to believe dad comes in three days!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

and the award for perfect hostess goes to...


i arrived in manosque sunday to visit charisse. she is someone i know through merz and we've been exchanging messages on facebook since probably september. manosque is a small town, quaint and very charming. charisse lives here as an english assistant for six classes. it's hard to believe this is the first time we've actually met because we get along so well and i don't feel any awkwardness at all. she is the greatest hostess, very concerned that i am comfortable and enjoying myself. i am just pleased to be here in france!!

charisse met me at the train station in manosque as she was dropping her friend madeleine off. i had taken the train from nice to aix-en-provence then the bus to manosque. we walked to her house which is the epitome of a provencial villa! this house is so french it's incredible. i will post a picture when i get back to the states.

we snacked a bit, but then went into town for tea and coffee. almost everything was closed since it was sunday, but i still got a feel for the little town. we prepared a fresh healthy meal of salad and pasta with some olives for an hors d'œuvre and my new favorite cookies for dessert, petites ecoliers.

her roommate mathilde is very sweet and seems so innocent. she is from france, born and raised, and is studying anthropology.

yesterday i went into town and studied french while char taught her first two classes. we met her friend mel for lunch. again almost everything was closed since it's monday and the french n'aiment pas travailler.

while charisse taught her last three classes i worked on my travel plans for thursday, e-mails, and (ugh!) credit card/banking responsibilities. yes, i said it. even though i am here in this beautiful carefree country i still have to face reality and pay my bills!

mel, whose name is melanie!, is really beautiful. she's a german assistant here in manosque, but lives in aix. tomorrow we will stay with her since char has wednesday off and we're going to do some shopping and sightseeing in aix. mel is from austria, but i haven't told her about my obsession with the sound of music, nor have i asked her if she knows the von trapp family.

after char got off work we bought my train ticket at the station and went to hyperU, the french version of super target or walmart, but with more food than anything else. i am amazed at the cheese selection and decided if i ever live here i will have to challenge myself to try each one. it will be like julia roberts in runaway bride deciding how she likes her eggs prepared!

dinner, wine, and chocolate cookies - we had a relaxing st. patty's day since it's not too big here. (sorry stevieK) if i had been in paris or a big city it would have been different, but we will have a post-st. patty's celebration tonight in aix!

i've already decided i don't want to come back to the states. life just feels so right here! i am sure it would be different with a job and responsibilities, but i still feel like i should have been born european! the longer i am here the more sure i am about moving back... and i promise y'all can come visit!
bonne journée!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

you are so sweet.


yesterday was filled with walking but nice is smaller and everything is closer. i started out in cours de saleya, the main town square in vieux nice, where the daily market is held. rick steves guided me through the old part of town and then i stopped for lunch. the market is incredible though - gorgeous flowers like i've never seen, large boxes of every spice imaginable, farmers' fresh fruits and veggies, oils and soaps, candies, art and other knick-knacks.

outside by a fountain and beautiful church, i are the best gnocchi while the church bells rang and the midday cannon went off. shooting the canon is a daily tradition in nice because it is said that sir thomas coventry complained to his wife about never being able to eat at a decent time so he would fire the canon at noon to remind her to serve lunch. after eating this great meal i of course had to get gellato and then head for the beach. i walked to the musee des beaux-arts where i fell in love for the first time of the day. he was la securite and kept watching me as i walked through the exhibit. finally he started to talk to me and our conversation was a mix of french and english. never got his name, but i'll call him etienne. the art was mediocre - some really good and some really boring. i actually liked the sculptures a lot, which normally is my least favorite part of an exhibit.

from there i walked to the other side of town along the promenade to collin du chateaux, a hill on top of which used to be a castle. it isn't there anymore, but you can climb stairs to the top and get a great view of baie des anges. this was where i fell in love a second time, andrew from australia. he is a photographer. andrew and his mate tom-tom are travelling europe and he smelled like heaven. i asked him to take my picture and we talked for a while before i continued up the hill and he went down to find tom-tom.

as i walked through the park i hoped he would magically reappear, but instead i found the other side of nice and was easily distracted by the view of the port. i'm not sure why but they fascinate me!

thinking it was much later in the day i headed down. when i saw that it was only 3:45, i stopped at a beach restaurant for sangria and a pitcher of water. i finished part one of my book then headed for the hostel. two new girls were in my room, ariane and sophie from montreal. they are absolutely adorable! we decided to go to the opera together today so i told them i'd stay another night.

they went on to do their own thing for dinner and i went to do my own - dinner at il vinoino, where i fell in love the third time. guillaume, my waiter. when he wasn't busy doing his job he was talking to me - he knew english which made it easier for me. as i left he gave me his number on the restaurant's business card and said he wanted me to meet him after he got off work, but i was tired so i texted him (sorry, mom!) and he said he'd call me today.

now back to the restaurant because let's be honest, i love food and wine more than men... even french men. (food and wine is just so much more reliable!) i love this little french/italian restaurant. sitting at the counter i could watch the cook prepare the food which is always entertaining to me! i had a glass of red with my steak and saffron pasta followed by a heart-shaped tiramisu (i'm pretty sure it doesn't normally come in that shape!) haha... it was all very good!

anyway, today i've been with sophie and ari... eating, shopping, relaxing on the beach. we weren't able to get opera tickets so later we're going to a bar to watch the rugby final! not sure if i'll see guillaume, but it's a definite possibility. i don't think he owns a vineyard but i can look past that fault.

(at the end of the day)
today was a beautiful day - not so much with the weather but because of the people. like i said before, i spent the day with sophie and ariane. they are soooo much fun! sophie has these bursts of energy and a great spirit about her. ariane has the kindest heart. as louise said "they really are a double act!" (you'll meet her later.) sophie and ari are best friends and they're taking this four and a half month trip together through europe.

after being very unsuccessful with the opera tickets we spent some time by the beach interrupting people who were making out, reading, writing, and enjoying the view. then we did a little grocery shopping so we could make dinner together.

the three of us went to a bar in vieux nice to watch the france v. wales rugby game. france lost but sophie and ari were secretly happy because they wanted wales to win. we didn't actually pay much attention to the game, but when we did we were usually commenting on the awkward positions they get themselves in. instead they planned my wedding with guillaume. they will of course be my maids of honor, giving the toast which will be all about how they were there to see our love blossom. then we will have a gelato bar and crepe stand, in true nicoise fashion. there will be beaucoups of beer and wine of course!

back on the ranch... or at the hostel, the kitchen was super crazy. everyone was making dinner and i was just in the way as usual. this is where we met louise and renee. louise is from the UK and renee is from cali/seattle. they teach english in a small town on a fulbright scholarship and travel together on the weekends.

for dinner we ate couscous with sauteed vegetables and red wine while we shared pictures and stories. sophi and ari have this habit of inventing imaginary friends and boyfriends and they come up with "stories" and "events" about their relationships. they date canadian hockey players, naturally, and it is an absolute riot to listen to them one picture i showed them was a building along the promenade lit up at night. spontaneous sophie said let's go!

and we were off, but not before stopped for gelato because now it is a tradition: when in nice, one must get gelato before going to the beach. it was in vieux nice, sitting on a bench with our sugar rush on a cone that we ran into louise and renee again. they had just left a bar and were unsure of their next move so we invited them to walk the beach with us.

so the five of us set out, and boy it was interesting! we got cat-calls in french amongst other languages. at one point a speeding car stopped right next to us and two men got out, one yelling in french "where are they? where are those men?" luckily the other one kept saying "they don't know" then they left. very strange.

it really was a great night and i will be so sad to leave them. girls, you are so sweet. (sorry inside joke - not sure why it was so funny to us, but the note on the hostel fridge was talking about writing your name and departure date on your food so it would not get thrown away. at the end it said "you are so sweet" and then was signed by one of the employees.)

tomorrow it's off to the little town of manoske to meet charisse who is kind enough to let me stay with her for a few days!
a bientot!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Nice is nice


i made it to nice in one piece! l'auberge de jeunesse was easy to find and by the time i got here i only had to wait about 15-20 minutes to get into the room. even though it shut off every 30 seconds and you have to push the button again, it was one of the best showers i've ever had; i think it comes in second to the shower after we got done with our 5 day canoeing/camping trip, remember that rel??

after my shower i needed food, but i was past that point of hunger to where you just don't feel it anymore and it almost makes you sick to think of eating. but i did, eat... i had a tarte avec saumon et des épinards. i could definitely tell it was spinach but if it hadn't been for the smell, i wouldn't have known until the last couple bites that there was salmon in it. it tasted so good though, especially sitting on a rock ledge surrounded by fountains and [instert synonym from glo here] blossoming flowers. i walked through vieux nice as the market was closing for the day (i'll be back there tomorrow) and made sure to get some gellatto along the walk to the beach.

the mediterranean is gorgeous!! the water is so azure, the brightest blue i've ever seen! i just sat and licked my cone, watching the people play and walk by as the sun set across the horizon. unfortunately the low clouds at the hill top blocked the view but hopefully tomorrow will be better!

i walked along promenade des anglais and noted all the ritzy hotels - you know, my hostel really isn't that different. HA!

dinner was at milo's on rue de la france. since i had a late lunch, i ate a salad, bread, and wine on the patio. the weather here is perfection! then i made my way back. i have all day tomorrow to tour nice, maybe visit a museum or two... tonight i sit in the common room of the hostel with my beer and read the book that could easily be my life story eat, pray, love.
bonsoir mes amis!

c'est la vie??


well i'm on a couchette train... but it's not the one i'm supposed to be on, going to nice. this chouchette is staying right here at gare d'austerlitz instead of going to nice because as my freaking luck would have it, the first time i ever take an overnight train, the first time i ever take any train, the overnight trains decide to go on strike! however i don't discover this until i get to the train station with all my belongings and have already checked out of the apartment. i threw away sabine's number because i thought i wouldn't need it. the worst part about it was that at the train station, in front of God and the rest of the world, being my emotional self, i started to cry.

after sitting for a little while, waiting for mom to call back with sabine's number, i went to exchange my ticket. the girl at the window was so nice. she asked me why i was crying, if it was because of the strike, and i said i just don't know anybody and have nowhere to go. "is there a hotel nearby?" she said "you really have nowhere to go?" i thought she was going to take me home with her with the way she looked at me, but then she told me the station had a couchette train for people to sleep on. she was so nice, closed down her booth to walk me to the check-in area, talk to the other station employees, then make sure i got on the train ok. she said "you're from texas? that's why you're so sensitive." i'm not sure what that means, but i was thankful for her help.

the first one on the train, i was worried about being bored and now i wanted to sit and cry in relief, but just then two russian girls were brought to my room - if you could even call it that - oxana and linea (not sure of spelling!) linea spoke more english than oxana, but both knew very little. they did however know disco and jokingly asked if i wanted to go. they shared with me their sunflower seeds and storebought pains de chocolat, which were gross and nothing like the ones from my boulangerie, but i ate them anyxway since i hadn't eaten dinner. we talked, or at least tried to... about paris, familes, jobs, and where we were going in france. then we tried to sleep - this was worse than the plane except i could lie down. the sounds of the station continued late into the night and my mind would not stop racing. if i was worried about oversleeping, my fears were calmed by the lovely early morning, and i mean early, activity of the station? nevertheless i am on my way to lyon/nice and when i got to my seat i was postive i was accidentally in first class, especially with all the businessmen around me. good luck finding a husband sans shower, yesterdays makeup, and unbrushed teeth... i couldn't even find my breathmints!!! at least the first is a way of life here!



first thanks to everyone for their comments! i love knowing that my blog is actually entertaining for some :)

i spent the night reading at royal jussieu with a glass of wine and what i guess is the french version of apple pie - one thing we actually do better in america! guess that's why it's "american as apple pie!"

my new book eat, pray, love is really really good. i think i can definitely identify with the author except she could afford to travel for an entire year. (feel free to send donations if you'd like to help continue my travel fund and i'd be more than happy to keep this blog going for as long as i am supported!) some things she writes though are my exact thoughts only more creatively worded!

packing up my things tonight i realized i'm really going to miss this place! i know i'll be back but i've gotten so used to the apartment, local cafés, allimentation store, boulangerie, and crepe/panini stand, and internet café.
au revoir 5th arrondissement!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

le PETIT moulin rouge...


i ate a croissant and had cafe in the apartment this morning. clothes were still wet so i had to wear my black pants and flats, which is fine because maybe i fit in better this way.

after getting ready i made my way to montmartre, but this time it wasn't raining! i went up the funiculaire, which was like a gondola that carries you up the hill to sacre-coeur. the view was beautiful! there was a boy dancing in the square in front of the church and people were crowded around watching, cheering him on.

the interior of the church was peaceful as it should be. despite all the people around the loudest noise was the click-clack of my heels on the marble floor. i sat for a while admiring the altar then made my way to place du tertre.

artists had stands set up everywhere, selling sketches, oil and watercolor prints. the afternoon rain came down and i slipped into a crepe cafe for a late lunch. i chose fromage et champignons with un verre du vin rouge. when i cut into the crepe i saw ham and mushrooms and started to eat it anyway, but the young waiter was so nice that when he asked how it was i sent it back for cheese instead of ham. this would have never phased me in america, but i'm still worried about pissing off the french, so it was a big step for me!

after sitting a while i decided to make my way/attempt to find le moulin rouge. of course, i got lost. this time though i had a map! as i came to the corner of one intersection a beautiful italian boy asked me if i knew where the moulin rouge was and i told him i was going there too. (he was with une belle femme though ans as it turned out she spoke better english than he did.) we walked together and sighed with disappointment as we came upon our destination...

it was soooo small! there was no magical ambiance as in the movie and ewan mcgregor did not jump out and sweep me off my feet singing ''all you need is love...'' brandt - you would have been extremely disappointed as well, but at least you can be happy i thought of you all the way here in france!

we took pictures separately and then the girl (latenia??) then i said ''ciao'' to her and pepe, sadly because they were very nice!

walking into metro blanche a man turned around and said ''vous etes tres jolie.'' he was from tunisia and also spoke english. i felt a little bad saying no to his invitation for a cup of coffee but not bad enough... he was definitely not my future french vineyard-owning husband! now i'm off to read my book at royal jussieu with some wine!
a bientot!

an american girl in paris


well i made it through my first day alone - it actually wasn't bad! i slept in to the sound of rain pattering comme une berceuse. once i decided to get out of bed, i tried tackling the washing machine. we really take so much for granted in the US, but they are honestly things that aren't even necessary. i think the word i used before was overindulgent... we're spoiled.

after making sure the washing machine wouldn't explode, overflow, or something of the like, i went back to roayl jussieu for cafe au lait and a croissant, even though by this time it was noon thirty. the same lady from yesterday was there - short, blonde, a little overweight, and very cheery - the perfect grandmother aside from my own grandma gay! i noticed today a picture of a cow above the espresso machines, very odd. it wasn't even the cartoon kind! but the guy worked those espresso machines and i can easily say starbucks has nothing on him!

at this point i decided to make my way towards gare d'austerlitz, letting myself get lost along the way. i could have taken the metro but have gotten so used to walked that i figured ''why not?'' i got there only to find the information desk closed. come to find out later i should have looked around for the actual ticket office - you live, you learn!

''defeated'' i left and let myself get lost again, this time finding a beautiful park ''jardin des plantes'' near the museum national d'histoire naturelle. i sat for about 30 minutes reading rick and enjoying the view. once the wind and clouds rolled in though it was time to move on. i continued to become even more lost, finally giving in and pulling out the map to find my way home.

before coming up i stopped at the crepe stand across the street for a crepe chocolate-banane. oh mon dieu! it was amazing... i had to call mom to brag! after switching the wash and some phonechat with merz (HAPPY BIRTHDAY BTW!) i decided to take the metro to the gate, only to find the information desk closed - again! this time i asked around and found out that i needed to go to the ticket office. i made my reservation for a night train to nice! when leaving i looked at a map to find my way without getting lost. the great this is i still made some discoveries! for one, i found some osteriches! (don't worry i took pictures which i will eventually post!) i also re-found an internet cafe from earlier in the day where i posted my first journal entry - and all the ones from today.) the keyboard was tres difficile to get used to and after 1h30 i realized they had an international keyboard so next time i'll ask to use one.

by this time it was dark so i stopped by the hang my wet clothes from the wash then made my way towards historic paris. walking along the narrow, busy streets i felt like i was in the middle ages or at least some decade past of paris. i stopped at a well-known english bookstore and bought eat, pray, love and a collection of poems by e.e. cummings - both of which would have been much cheaper in the states but they will forever be momentos of my first night alone in france!

i walked along the lit up notre-dame towards ile st-louis, wanting to get ice cream at the famous berthillon, but it was closed, as much of the rest of town. i walked home looking for a market to get some cheese and fruit for a small dinner, but decided to stop at the sandwich/crepe stand across the street when i saw everything closed. i had un chevre chaud dans l'apartement avec vin rouge.
maintenant, je me couche!

kathy's last day... :(


today was one of those days were even the best laid plans don't work out. the heavens did not shine upon us, but instead opened up and let us have it!

we started at a new cafe almost right next to our apartment with croissants and cafe au lait. the man sitting next to us spoke english and told us he had lived in the states for 20 years working for the UN. i was hoping he still worked there and could get me a job, but malheureusement he is retired. he was very nice and we talked about san fran, country music, and the fact that hemmingway lived right up the street from our apartment! we said our ''au revoirs'' and ''bonne dimanches'' then made our way towards montmartre... and the rains came down, down, down. we missed out on seeing moulin rouge, but found a wonderful oil painting store. the owner (i guess) was very kind and their cat's name was minou. i will definitely try to get back to ''montmartre art studio!'' he even told me i spoke with a great accent!

after having enough of the rain, kathy suggested that we go to le bon marche for some indoor shopping. unbeknownst to us, the large department store was closed! alors we decided to make our way to the picasso museum, knowing it would be open. we shopped to eat at la tartine in le marais area. it was delicious! i had an eggplant sandwich-like thing and kathy had [french] onion soup. (while she was trying to decide what to order she made the comment that she wasn't sure about it because she had never had just regular onion soup... i had to remind her that i'm sure they don't call it french onion considering we're in france!)

quiz time! quiz time! where was french onion soup first created? in paris! it is actually one of the only foods paris is known for. other than that, the food in paris is a hodgepodge of the other regions and other countries.

the picasso museum was actually pleasing and holds the largest collection of picassos in the world! we made our way back home to rest for a bit, then it was out to les champs-elysees for kathy's last night. we walked our area for a bit first though and found most stores to be closed. lucky for us, l'arc de triomphe et champs-elysees are touristy enough to warrent staying open even though the french don't like to work. kathy got her souvenirs including a stop at the choclatier ''maffrait.'' i got my first macaroon - coffee flavored - and it was good!

it started pouring again and we jumped into george v cafe. i had bouef bourguignon. kathy had spaghetti. then we shared a crepe nutella-banane and each had a cup of delicious hot chocolate. the waiters were cute, and flirting with me according to kathy, but the best part was the couple next to us. the woman only spoke french, but the man spoke french, dutch, germain, and a little english. he has been studying for 25 years and reads every day but because he never speaks it, he has a hard time. i thought he did very well but in typical french fashion, he was ashamed of his imperfection. they really were wonderful and helped me practice a lot!

we talked about politics and i was taken back to my french classes when we studyed the false impression of the french, stereotypes, and their origin. in comparison our country is very young so the french see us as naive. my new friend told me he thinks that the USA as a country is un enfant and really it's true. i wish i would have gotten their names, but we'll call them lucas and sylvie - she gave me my first french faire la bise.

just call me grace...


well today was one for the books! one would think that as a former dancer i would have a little bit more grace, but one would be very very wrong!

we started out with a walk through the latin quarter, where we are staying. the first site on the list was the pantheon, memorial for many deceased who have had an impact on france, both famous and unknown: voltaire, emile zola, marie curie, victor hugo, and many others. the upper interior was of course exquisite and dtailed. connected to the end of 220ft cable, suspended from the center dome, is focault's pendulum which he used to display the earth's rotation. the crypt below was eerie to say the least but at the same time i felt a sense of greatness around me.

after leaving there we made our way to place de la sorbonne to view the main entry of the university and have a rick steves recommended lunce. our first choice, the bakers dozen, was closed, so we chose the one next to it, l'ecriverian... i think. i had a croque-monsieur and kathy had another omelette - she ventures out a lot! on the way our i decided to make a scene by knocking over the glass mustard jar. ugh! i was mortified as glass shattered and mustard splattered. our waiter looked at me with such disappointment but the little man that came to clean it up was understanding and tried to comfort me.

happy to leave, we ''had to'' stop at the gap and then we continued towards luxembourg palace, home of the french senate, and gardens. before arriving though we stopped at a shoe store so kathy could buy her paris boots!

after strolling the gardens we dropped the boots at the apartment and headed to two more art museums. l'orsay was the 1st stop and by far my favorite. degas, cezanne, gauguin, monet, manet, pissarro, renoir, sisley, toulouse-lautrec, and van gogh - of course my favorite! we were so disappointed to make our way to l'orangerie after this... after cafe and vin rouge though we set out for the much smaller and disappointing museum. the best part was the 2 oval rooms covered in huge paintings by money, a design requested by the artist himself. i felt as though i was actually in his art comme mary poppins!

shortly after entering we were ready to leave and make our way to la tour eiffel, yet again, but this time for a sightseeing boat cruise of the seine. before arriving i prooved my grace once more... i set kathy's camera on a stone ledge so we could take a picture with the timer like ever other tourist. as my stupid luck would have it, the wind/bad karma blew it over. somewhat luckily it fell towards the street instead of backwards into the river. unfortunatley it broke. we could look at pictures already taken but could not take new ones. of course kathy's attitude was it's just a camera and mine was utter remorse. after my 2nd clutzy move of the day i was in a foul mood to say the least and fearful of breaking something else - bad things come in threes! the boat cruise cheered me up though a little bit. the tour guide spoke at least five languages to perfection and i. was. envous!

cold, exhausted, and hungry we made our way home, stopped to eat again at the cafe across the street. another long day and i am ready for bed. but as a side-note, i can understand why paris is called the city of love. not only do i fall in love on average every 3.2 minutes with guy, monument, park, museum, but also, everywhere you look there is a happy couple kissing, embracing, walking hand-in-hand. they are surrounded by at least 2 million people, but are so alone with each other.
paris, je t'aime!

better than christmas lights...


we slept in this morning til 9h and started out vers 10:30h, stopped at a cafe for petit-dejeuner. my croissants were even better than yesterday! kathy had a cheese omelette, which was also good... but really, the croissant. were. indescribable! i ate mine with strawberry jelly and they just melted in my mouth. the outside was flaky and pieces just fell into my cafe au lait. the inside was just so soft and chewy. (stevie k you can expect an in depth description in the future.)

after a late breakfast we were headed for point zero, the exact center of paris and the point from which all is measured. the bronze plaque is about 30 yds in front of the entrance to notre-dame, the facade of which is absolutely beautiful. (anyone have some other synonyms for beautiful because i am using that a lot?!)

entering the church was unbelievable. after studying the architecture it was hard to believe i was actually there in person. the detail was stunning. in the middle of our walk the priest started giving a mass - i can't wait to be there for easter sunday!! we continued on to the deportation memorial, as recommended by rick himself, but unfortunately it was closed for lunch. this memorial is dedicated to the 200,000 french who were taken to nazi concentration camps. it is designed to make you feel as if you are actually a prisoner in one of the camps. continuing along the seine, we admired the view, les bouquinistes, and historic paris.

the next stop - sainte chapelle, where the stained glass panels were so intricate and absolutely breathtaking. we passed the palais de justice noting the revolutionary phrase ''liberte, fraternite, egalite.''

the line for the conciergerie was trop long so we decided not to go in, but thought fondly of marie-antoinette and the relic collection in her cell. we continued walked to the seine rive droit crossing at pont neuf (''new bridge'') which is actually now the oldest bridge in paris.

from there it was time to tackle le louvre. (jessy i took beaucoups des photos so do not worry!) with our museum pass we were able to enter a line-free side door. difficult to navigate we found the most important works - mona, venus, and madonna - getting a little lost along the way. we exited through the glass pyramid and i swear angels were singing. coincedently enough we then headed in the direction of l'opera garnier, stopping for a bite to eat at an itialian place before entering les galleries lafayettes. kathy searched for boots unsuccessfully before we made our way to the top for la terrasse to enjoy a view of the paris skyline per merz's instructions!

more shopping ensued at h&m then les printemps. if you think the galleria houston is overwhelming you should visit these paris department stores. even kathy said ''i gotta get out of here!''

since evening was approaching we made our way to trocadero for a nighttime view of la tour eiffel. it gets dark later here so we stopped for a cafe and creme brulee. sitting outside we were able to people watch and enjoy the city. after finishing, we made it just in time to see the lights come on and sparkle like twinkling christmas lights, only waaaay better - and you know it has to be good if i say it's better than christmas lights! people were all over trocadero enjoying the view as the reflection showed in the pool below.

even though it was just about 20h we were beat from the busy day and made our way home to rest for yet another busy day... we have to fit everything in before kathy leaves!
bonne nuit!

cherchant le chateaux


(started out the day with our first parisian croissant - i'll describe that in detail another time for you mr. kroll! just be prepared because it was fantastic.)

aujourd'hui nous avons vu le chateaux de versailles. c'etait tres jolie! trying to get there on the other hand was difficult! i knew we were supposed to take the RER C but i didn't realize there were different trains and taht outside of Paris RER C split on both sides of versailles.

luckily we met a couple, debbie and phillip, from denton! they were looking for the chateaux aussi. chancement i can speak enough francais to get by and despite the trains' determination to get us lost, we found the chateaux with a little help from out friend josette, as we shall call her since we never did get her name. she was sent from Dieu, j'en suis sur! we started talked to her at viroflay - rive droite, which is a stop nowhere to be found on my RATP maps. never ever ever ever get on the L train because it apparently doesn't exist unless you're lost, from america, and are trying to reach chateaux de versailles. josette helped us though. she didn't speak english but I could converse enough to know she was at least going our same direction and we could follow her. the last stop on the L train took us to versailles - rive droit and we wanted rive gauche - chateaux. life could be worse though! josette and i walked ahead while kathy, phillip, and debbie walked behind. we passed some great little shops and the food/pastries looks delicieuse! the 10-15 minute walk was pleasant (at least for me, maybe not kathy...) and we were able to see much of the town - the sights, sounds, smells were like a fantasy and to try to describe it would simply do no justice!

the chateaux was grand-large and beautiful beyond belief despite the construction blocking much of the facade. we lost debbie and phillip at the beginning (kind of on pupose) and went to the cafe for a snack after our adventurous morning. after a quick cappuchino we started into the state apartments and discovered that the only rick steves tour on my iPod was the historic paris walk, so for today we would have to guide ourselves. the interior was beautiful, especially the hall of mirrors and the queen's quarters. we then toured the gardens via les petits trains which took us to le domaine de marie-antoinette. my favorite part was le hameau, which she had built to escape the horrible treatment of royal life. we saw the petit and grand trianon then also the grand canal. apres le tour we make out way towards the train station - this time we couldn't get lost! i got some postcards from the TI then we had to get some food! we looked for a rick steves' recommendation, but found el rancho tex-mex - i know, we did not come to france to eat tex-mex but we were seriously starving - and we had to be the judge of that! the chicken and cheese quesadillas were actually tasty but the doritos and ballpark nacho cheese did not pass the chips and salsa/queso test. nevertheless the waitress was very friendly and it was right by the train station.

we made it back to the apartment to rest before our soir-sortie! (while we were resting merz called me which was such a pleasant surprise. the funny thing is that it was via skype - merz you're so asian!) vers 20h we headed for le paradis latin for dinner and a parisian cabaret show. the food was wonderful, prepared by graduated of le cordon bleu and the show was spectacular! we has great seats. the dancers were very talented, as was the main singer. the show started as a walk through time: 1920s after WWI, 1950s after WWII, 1970s after mai 1968, and 2000s... all times ''we needed to party!'' we really has a great great time! the man next to us was good looking and was having a much better time than his date. we did notice that he had a severe twitch. it was very obvious, poor thing, but we talked with him after the show and i decided i could look past it if only he would ditch his date. confetti at the end and balloons signaled le fin and we returned to rest for another busy day demain.
a bientot!

Monday, March 10, 2008

le first post

bonjour mes amis!
sorry it has taken so long to post, but kathy and i have been very busy enjoying the sights and sounds of paris. i have been writing in thebeautiful journal resa gave me every night so that i can post when i get time. i only have 20 mintues and beaucoups de pages of writing so i will start with day one and see how much i can get done!

let me start by saying the keyboards here are very weird and will take some getting used to. i will try my best to spell and use punctuation correctly but can make no promises. second let me add that i will be writing my dates the way the french do (day/month/year) so faisez attention!

it's hard to believe we're actually here in paris. i've ben dreaming of this trip my entire life - or at least as long as i can remember! the city is overwhelming... not completely sure of the language, definitely unsure of direction, and knowing only one other person is a little intimidating. (just added another hour because this is taking forever to type) i'm very nervous about the days after kathy leaves. part of me thinks i was crazy to stay for an entire month, but hopefully i'll feel a little more comfortable after the next few days! i also hope smaller plavces aren't as difficult to navigate (street-wise... i have the metro down... at least once we're inside!) so enough about my silly insecurities...

we left DFW at 3:10ish and flew to philly, which is one of the greatest airports i've seen! kathy did some shopping, naturally! we even shopped at gap! what kind of an airport has a gap inside? the plane to paris was much bigger than the first, but not much more comfortable - glad i'll be working for continental and not US Airways! kathy and i watched martian child (she fell asleep while i fought hard to stay awake because i've been dying to see it.) we had a nice man next to us who was greek, and boy howdy do they grow them big in greece! after the barely successful attempt to sleep we opened our eyes to the european sun. i seriously felt like debra messing in the wedding date. all we wanted was coffee, but for some unknown reason our entire section got skipped. leave it to kathy though to save the day. she marched down the aisle and brought back two cups of coffee, cream, and sugar.

let me make note here that the french are tres handsome, even if they don't practice our overindulgent custom of daily showers! i swear i couldn't turn my head without seeing another prospective husband. the only question left is "does he own a vineyard?" a "no" may still be negotiable but to a "yes" i'd simply ask "when can i move in?"

the airport was not too bad but it sure was a lot of baggage schlepping, especially since we decided to take the RER and metro to our apartment to save money. needless to say, kathy will be paying for a taxi on her way back and dad, you really should take the hotel up on their offer to retrieve you. i speak enough french to get by AND i've been studying the metro/city layouts for quite sometime and it wasn't easy. we did make it though and managed to escape the con-artists trying to get our money.

we found the apartment in no time and sabine was there to greet us. i love her by the way - very friendly lady and also very intelligent. once we made it through all the paperwork she left and kathy and i cleaned up a bit. mind you we had been traveling all night, barely slept, and were starving due to the lack of an edible breakfast served on the plane. we went to a nearby café and that's when "nervous stomach" (as olivia calls it) hit me. i could barely eat my ham and cheese on a baguette because i kept thinking "what have i gotten myself into?" i'm completely fine with my fairy godmother here but after she leaves i might lose it. i should add this was still at the beginning of our day so i am much better now!)

after a very light lunch we re-entered the metro to head to plqce de la concorde. we glanced at the louvre and musée de l'orangerie before heading towards l'arc de triomphe via champs-elysées; we saw many of the couture fashion stores, but only from the outside because we could only afford to window shop or "faire du lèche-vitrines" which translates officially to "window-licking!" we pulled a rick steves, walking into a café like we owned the place to use les toilettes sans paying; i was very proud. at l'arc we met three girls from holland who took our picture in return for me showing them how to get to la tour eiffel using the metro. we got off one stop early at passy to walk towards the tower fro, trocadéro across the seine. it was beautiful but we were just wishing it was dark and the lights were on. we got cappuchinos (mine had whipped cream making it a capp. chantilly) and walked through champs de mars, stopping at a bench to enjoy the view and rest our tired feet. we decided to make our way back, but had a bit of a problem finding the metro entrance, which is why i'm a pro once we're inside. finally i asked directions from a policeman - les flics are everywhere which is nice in these situations - and he was very helpful. once back in our arrondisement we ate at a different café also just aross the street from our apartment. this one was much better and the waitress spoke english whiched helped!

back inside our cozy but not very warm apartment (i will take time later to explain in detail) we showered and prepped for bed while watching buffy and gilmore girls in french! pour demain we're off to versailles then headed to the paradis latin cabaret at night.

à bientot!