Archive for July 2008

Lame, cliché, whatever – I was inspired:

I love that Paris is a walking city.
I love the view onto boulevard Saint Michel from our window, and the views from the terrace.
I don’t like walking up and down 100+ stairs multiple times a day…
but I love what it’s doing to my legs.

I love that the Notre Dame and the Seine are just down the street,
but not the way the Seine (and particularly the tunnels next to it) smell(s).

I love getting crêpes or falafel (or other cuisine) from street-side vendors,
and the variety of different foods available here…
but I’ve discovered that it’s hard for me to live without carrots, hummus, and peanut butter (or some form of peanuts).

I love being able to order a glass of wine or a drink at a bar,
and the shopping opportunities here (just in time for soldes!)…
but not the exchange rate between the dollar and the euro.

I love that there is so much to do here,
but not that even six weeks isn’t enough to do it all.

I love our NaviGO passes, and our cartes bleu,
and the Euro currency system of €2, €1, and 50¢ coins (I had about $18 in change yesterday – no joke).

I love the location of the Foyer on boulevard Saint Michel in the 5ème arrondissement
but I don’t love the omnipresent McDonald’s restaurants and the fact that they seem to be perpetually busy.
I love the simplicity of metro system,
but not how hot and steamy the RER always is (gross!).

I love going to art museums for art history class,
and going to see interesting remarkable monuments for French history class.
I love my French Lit professor’s passion for what she teaches,
and getting dressed up to go out to ballets and plays at Parisian opera houses and theaters (in French!)

I love the beautiful, intricate architecture and the history here.
I love the sunny weather here and the absence of humidity.

I love not having to worry about making multiple trips for groceries,
and not having to drive – I really appreciate the public transportation system here.

I love the friends I’ve made on this trip…
but I miss the ones across the pond beaucoup.

I love that there’s rarely a dull moment,
but not that time passes so quickly.


This past week has been absolutely crazy, and it looks like the coming one will be no different. Last week, along with classes and related outings to various museums and other landmarks, we went to the Opéra Garnier to see a ballet, and on Friday we took a day trip to two castles (chateaux) and then a wine tour and tasting! At the Opéra on Wednesday, we saw La Dame aux Camélias. It was wonderful! The costumes were beautiful, the dancing was exquisite, and the Opéra itself was so ornate and impressive! After we got back to the Foyer, we went to a bar nearby for a bit, and I discovered a delicious drink called the indigo – rum, coconut, banana and delicious!

Thursday was low-key, just classes and hanging out on the terrace in the evening. While we were there, we made a new friend from UNC who had finished a program in Paris two weeks ago and had been traveling around Europe since then. It proved to be a fortuitous and beneficial meeting, as he gave us “insider” tips on what to do and where to go around the city, and we made tentative plans to hang out the next evening.

On Friday, we took our field trip(s) to the chateaux! Throughout the day, we experienced various stages of weather, as well as interest and excitement. The day got off to an interesting start before it even began (if that makes sense at all) because one of the two boys in our program got locked out of his room (although he did have his key… long story short, his roommate is a deep, deep sleeper and the locks here are a little funny) so he had to spend the night on our floor. My roommate and I have decided to adopt him, along with another girl in our program who hangs out in our room a lot… we’ll probably take some family portraits in front of various landmarks. 😉

Anyways, we got off to an early start, leaving the Foyer not-so-bright but early at 6:45 in the morning. It took us 3 hours on a charter bus to get to the first chateau – Chateau de Chambourd; I’m pretty sure we all passed out within the first 20 minutes of the trip. The chateau itself was quite impressive – it was the largest of its time, and built not for any sort of defense purposes, but just to house the king and his buddies (about 2000 of them) when they went hunting. After it was finished, the king spent a total of only 72 days in the chateau, which kind of seems like a big waste of energy and resources, but hey, if you’re king, you get to do that sort of thing. The castle is massive, yet it still has amazingly intricate architecture. It also has a double helix staircase, which necessitates that the ceilings are very high, which makes it quite impractical and inefficient to heat the castle, so it’s pretty cold. It probably didn’t help that it was wet and rainy at the time of our visit, but still it is July, and I wouldn’t like to think about staying there in the dead of winter.

By the time we got to the next chateau, the Chenonceau, the clouds had cleared a bit, and the weather was much more pleasant. The Chateau de Chenonceau is located over a small river/stream, and is surrounded by nice gardens, which I didn’t have time to visit. It was much smaller than the Chambourd, but I also found it much more attractive – probably due to the weather, the gardens, and the fact that it was decorated (instead of the empty Chambourd). In order to get to the wine tasting on time (Madame was worried we wouldn’t make it), we left the Chenonceau a bit hastily and continued on our way. Eager for the wine tasting, we took a quick tour of the winery (conducted in French), along which I found this:

It basically says that wine is quite beneficial for diabetics

We tried several different kinds of wine. The first two were actually champagnes; a sec and a demi-sec. The sec was very good, but the demi-sec was a little too sweet for me. I was actually kind of surprised that I favored the champagne sec because prior to this, I haven’t really liked champagne at all. Next, we sampled another white wine, sec and demi-sec, and lastly, a red. I ended up buying a bottle of the champagne sec as a souvenir to take home and share with the fam. 😉

After we had all made our purchases, we boarded the bus again to return to Paris. We saw wind turbines on the way back, which I got pretty excited about, and a little snap happy – but I got some really cool photos! It was super cool to see them, and I don’t see how people can claim that they are more of an alleged eyesore than coal mines and mountaintop removal and other ugly un-environmentally friendly energy sources, but that’s a topic for another post.

After we got back to the Foyer, a group of us went out to a bar on rue Mouffetard that our UNC friend led us to. It was a lot of fun, and we ended up making some Norwegian friends, which ensued in a rather intense (but enjoyable) political discussion.

Saturday morning involved a group of us first running various errands on the way to Chatêlet metro stop, from which we traveled to the flea markets in Clignancourt. I’d been looking forward to going to the flea markets, and it was certainly not a disappointment. There was so much to see (and buy!), that it was quite overwhelming. I did buy one gift for a friend, but I’m planning on returning in the near future now that I’ve scoped it out and know what to expect. After we had finished circulating the market, we were famished, so we got lunch and I had my first crêpe chocolat, which was actually nutella and bananas. Delicious! 🙂 Next, we headed over to Montmartre to see the Sacre Cœur, which was simply magnificent. It was truly awesome, and all of it was very impressive – the size, the architecture, the stained glass, the art, everything! Not to mention the fact that the Blessed Sacrament has been on display there continuously since August 1885, which I find to be pretty incredible.

Our UNC friend decided to spend another night in Paris, but unfortunately, the Foyer was booked for the night. Instead of going up north to spend the night in a hotel for €40 or sleeping on another Foyer resident’s balcony, my roommate and I agreed to let him spend the night on our floor. A bunch of us went out that night to drink along the Seine, and we met up with our new Norwegian friends again. After a while, we headed over to a discotheque in the Latin Quarter, where we stayed until 3 a.m. (!)

The next morning, we left the Foyer ISO some form of nourishment… dreaming of a delicious American-style brunch, but “settling” for some delicious Italian pizza. After we ate, we wandered the streets for a bit, and stopped for some Starbucks – which is ridiculously expensive over here. I almost got something to drink there, but decided against it – I’m trying to do the whole cultural thing and minimize American influences. Unfortunately, McDonalds’ are rather prevalent here, and everyone tells me that it’s so much better here, and they have delicious salads. So I’m going to try to stick to my guns on this one, but we’ll see what happens…

We took the rest of the afternoon pretty easy, and our UNC buddy left us around 4 to do some last sight-seeing and hop on a train to Nice. Our plans for the night vascillated between going to the much-anticipated “Bal des Pompiers” and a house party of a French friend whom we met last week. While both sounded promising, I had been looking forward to the Firemen’s Ball ever since I got wind of it, and there was not a chance that I was goign to miss out on this opportunity. In the end, our entire group, minus four people – three of whom were traveling – got dressed up for «la fête». We headed over to the Seine first, where our Norwegian friends joined us. From there, we took the metro to where the party was happening, right next door in the 6ième arrondissement. As we exited the station, we were promptly greeted by a long line wrapping around the block. Dismayed yet undeterred, we were reassured by two British girls that the line was moving rather quickly, and that it had only taken them about 45 minutes to reach where they were, and that we could buy drinks at the café while we waited. We proceeded to spend approximately the next 2 ½ hours inching forward, until we reached the entrance. (Remember my red pumps? Yup, I was wearing those.) However, we were in good company, and we did enjoy ourselves, both in line and once we got in the party. It was essentially a huge dance party, which is just my scene. It was wild and crazy and so much fun!!! Most definitely worth it.

Amazingly, five of us were able to rouse ourselves at 8:30 this morning to go into the 8th district to see the parade (but not before fueling ourselves with baguettes and coffee). It was pretty cool to see, and we relocated a few times from street to street to see. There were even parachuters! After that, we wandered around the 8th district for a while and did some window shopping. I found an absolutely delicious perfume that I’m going to buy for myself. We went out to a Chinese restaurant for lunch (don’t laugh – it was recommended by one of our professors!), and then did a bit of grocery shopping. My roommate and I made dinner (a delicious apple and walnut salad) and ate it on the terrace, which we will be returning to shortly to watch the fireworks display for «le 14 juillet». The view from the terrace is superb, and it’s going to be quite a show.

… I never thought I would finish! That’s about all for now, à bientôt!

My camera works, and words cannot adequately express my delight. : D Pictures to come later.

It is (EDIT: was) Friday morning in Paris, and that means that we have been here for over a week! It’s kind of hard to believe. It didn’t feel like the week was passing so quickly, but now it’s almost surprising that Friday is here. I’m going to attempt to review all the details that I skipped out on/glossed over before.

As I mentioned before, we did some brief exploring on Friday, visiting the Luxembourg gardens which are right across the street from us, and walking down the street to the Notre Dame. I got really excited when I saw it because its been the background on my computer desktop for several months now, and we approached it from pretty much the same angle that the picture I have was taken. I can’t relay in words how impressive and striking it is! It is really amazing how much detail there is on such a grandiose building. I feel like I could stare at it for hours! I really like looking at the gargoyles because they’re pretty cool. They just don’t have architecture like this in the States!

Later on, we went up to the terrace to enjoy the view and watch the sunset. The view up there is amazing, and when I get my darn camera working again, I will try to post the pictures. You can see all the way to Montmartre, where the Sacre Coeur is! We watched the Eiffel Tower light up and sparkle, which just made me giddy with excitement because it’s hard to believe that we’re truly here, seeing all this with our own eyes.
After that, most of the group went out to a pub, but my roommate and I were just exhausted, so we turned in for the night.

The next day, we had more orientation for a few hours. Towards the end of it, we heard music and commotion in the streets, due to a gay pride parade passing by on the boulevard Saint Michel. After we were done with orientation, we ran up to our rooms to put our things away, caught a glimpse of the parade outside, and immediately ran back downstairs to watch and join in the festivities taking place outside. It was absolutely nuts!!! There were so many sights and sounds and colors to take in! It was crazy and wonderful, and I really wish that my camera was working so I could upload the pictures!!! Because really, there is no sufficient description of everything that we saw, although flamboyant is a good word that comes to mind. 😉 There was great music and dancing and just flat-out celebration in the streets. Buses, floats, dancers, trucks, trannies, cyclists, you name it. Participants in the march were promoting everything from pride, acceptance and safety to clubs, drinks (Pepsi was giving out special cans of diet cola – they call it “Pepsi/Coke light” here, instead of “diet”), and other festivals and events. One of the more poignant sights was one troop of people walking together, wearing pink or black t-shirts. Many of them were holding signs that read, «Je suis positif. Et toi?» I found it very thought-provoking and rather touching. AIDS is really an issue that we generally don’t like to talk about, even though it is a devastating epidemic that requires a lot of attention, and action in order to address the situation, and do all that we can to remedy it. It was definitely the least rambunctious of the displays, but probably the most profound.
After that, we grabbed dinner at a café, and then proceeded to purchase wine at a small grocery store and headed on over to les Jardins de Luxembourg to enjoy it. The park closes at 9:45, but at approximately 9:30, the guards start a “whistle brigade” to start clearing everyone out. After returning to the Foyer to get ready, we went out dancing. The club that we went to was empty when we got there, so we started the party and had fun by ourselves until others started trickling in. We danced up a storm, and were pretty much soaked by the time we left.

My roommate and I got crêpes at a café down boulevard Saint Michel, called «Crêpes à GoGo». It was my first true French crêpe, complete with a café au lait. Delicious! After that, it was time for our last round of “Orientation”. We took the metro to the Chateau de Vincennes, where my camera promptly died upon arrival (and has refused to be resuscitated, much to my chagrin). It’s a very impressive castle, and I wish I had more than the one picture I took outside. Anyways, we went on a tour of it with our French History professor (who teaches at Southwestern University) and a very long-winded and monotonous tour guide who took herself very seriously. The castle was pretty cool though, and there was a superb view from the top. After a quick lunch, we took the metro to the Bois de Vincennes, a nice park complete with pony rides, a small carousel and various other playground toys for children, a lake with row boats, and a neat little cave on an island. We took out six row boats and paddled around for a bit. It was a gorgeous day, so there were loads of picnickers and sunbathers. We had a lot of fun, and it was so picturesque – there were even swans!

We’ve been watching the Eiffel Tower light up every night, too. It never fails to excite me, especially when it starts sparkling! hehe. But on Sunday (30 juin), it started lighting up blue! Quoi??? Turns out, it’s because Sarkozy is now the president of the European Union for the next six months.

Ah, again, I was too ambitious in my goals: what I wanted to be a review of the week turned out to be a review of the weekend… Not to worry, I will get to review the events of this past week (eventually). Until then, bon soir!

Here’s what I want you to do: go on over to Six Until Me, and read this interview. It’s between Kerri and a non-diabetic co-worker of hers, after an experiment where he “lived” with diabetes for the day – testing blood sugar multiple times, wearing a pseudo-pump, considering what foods will affect your blood sugar and how, etc. It’s very interesting and I highly recommend it! And let me know what you think!

Last night I dreamed about peanut butter. Omgosh I miss it!!!

I’ve decided that I can’t go five more weeks without it, so I’m making it my mission to find some here…

So, I was overly ambitious when I dated my first post, expecting to be able to journal the events of each day. I have abandoned this goal, and from here on out, I’m just going to relate the highlights.

I’ll backtrack tomorrow, but right now I’ll stick with tonight’s activities.

After a delicious nap and waking up to discover *gasp* my computer has a wireless connection!, a bunch of us decided to make dinner together and eat (and drink) up on the terrace. We made pastas and salad and ate baguettes that we bought earlier at the grocery. Yum! After that, we were going to go to Les Jardin de Luxembourg, but we left the Foyer ten minutes before it closed (it’s right across the street), so the nine of us decided to go down to the Seine and socialize there. There’s another park there, but it was closed too, so we sat ourselves down on the sidewalk for a few hours. We passed the evening talking, laughing, enjoying our wine and sangria, and watching the sun set along the Seine, and the tour boats (and yachts) float by. There was another group of young French people nearby, and we overheard them singing “Yellow Submarine”, and joined in with them! Later on, they approached us, telling us they had a “gift” for us – and sang us a song about the Champs Elysée. It was definitely the highlight of the night. 🙂

C’est tout for now, Bon soir!

July 2008
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