Posted by: Flannery | April 27, 2011

The American Church in Paris

Hello my American-type chums! Here’s a mundane life update: Brad and I have picked a church! For the last two Sundays we’ve gone to the American Church in Paris, which is along the river in the 7th arrondissement. It has been a wonderful change of pace from only hearing French lectures in class. I don’t have to sit on the edge of my seat and make sure I catch every single syllable…I can just sit back, relax, and enjoy my native language. And hear about God! It’s a win-win. Also the church is GORGEOUS. So really it’s a win-win-win. Win. Win. Anyway. It’s a great place. Here are a couple pictures from Easter Sunday:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I hope everyone at home had a wonderful Easter!

~Flannery

Advertisements
Posted by: Flannery | April 17, 2011

Spring Break in Rome!!!

Hello faithful readers, I’m so sorry for leaving you in the dark for over a month! Our life here is totally settled now, so there are less and less interesting events to blog about, unless you want to hear about what we make for dinner haha. Here’s an update about Brad’s and my spring break trip to Rome. Throughout the week I kept a running Word document where I jotted down what we did each day so that I wouldn’t forget…and now I’m just copying and pasting that onto this blog. Forgive my laziness, but hopefully this gives you a feel for how the week was!

Day 1, Friday:

We got up at 4 in the morning, left the apartment at 5, made it to the airport for our flight at 7, landed in Rome at 9, and got into the center of Rome by 10:30. We ate McDonald’s for lunch at the train station, walked to our B&B which is appropriately called “Mr. Frills”, dropped our bags, left and went to Santa Maria Maggiore church. Then we moseyed to the Piazza della Repubblica, came back around and had gelato, came back and officially checked into our room, went to dinner at a little place near our B&B, I had a “typical Roman pasta” and Brad had a pasta with lobster! Yum.

Day 2, Saturday:

Today was our day for the Pantheon neighborhood. Trevi fountain, St. Ignazio di Loyola, Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Ponte Umberto I, shopping streets Via del Corso and Via Condotti, Spanish Steps (didn’t even realize what they were at first, walked right past and got gelato, THEN were like “oh I bet those were the Spanish Steps”….good), little more window shopping, home to relax for a second, out to dinner to a place called Angelino which felt like this woman’s kitchen instead of an actual restaurant. I had ravioli, Brad got spaghetti that was sort of spicy, we accidentally ordered a side of greens that was like vinegary collard greens and we choked them down so that we wouldn’t offend the lady haha. We thought it was going to be like cheesy broccoli! Oh well.

Day 3, Sunday:

Got up and went to the National Museum of Rome, which had a bunch of old statues and was basically a collection of specifically Roman art. Gorgeous! Then the top floor had frescoes and mosaics, and the basement had some collections of old types of money, jewelry that belonged to wealthy Roman families, and then randomly a mummified 8-year old girl?? Weird. Anyway, cool museum. Then we wanted to go to the Baths of Diocletian, but they were closed today for some reason. We walked one block over to whatever that church was, and then we walked back around and ate lunch at this little place near the Piazza della Repubblica. Brad got pasta and I got pizza, delicious! Then we headed back to the apartment to sort of recoup and then plan out the rest of the day. We decided to head over to the Ancient Rome neighborhood and see the Colosseum. Then we got pizza to go for dinner and brought it back to the B&B and skyped with our parentals!

Day 4, Monday:

Vatican City. We saw the Vatican museum, which culminated in the Sistine Chapel. This sounds terrible, but I was a little let down!!! Everyone makes such a huge deal about it, and it is impressive when you look at it and think “Wow, ONE guy painted all this!” But past that, it’s pretty much just a boxy little room with painting on all the walls and ceiling! It didn’t even feel like a chapel, because there weren’t seats or anything in there for worship—just hundreds of museum-goers being shuffled through, all trying to take discreet pictures that aren’t technically allowed. (Of course, I snapped a quick pic of the part of the ceiling that has the Divine Spark!) Anyway, after seeing the majesty of most of the churches in Rome, the Sistine Chapel didn’t look like a whole lot. No marble, no statues, no mosaics! But hey. It’s a must-see anyway. After the museum, we tried to go to St. Peter’s Basilica but we got turned away due to my apparently-way-too-revealing-dress (it was like 3 inches above my knees) (AND I WASN’T EVEN WEARING HEELS)(….I looked great). Anyway, I was quite peeved, so we just went home on our huffmobile. We happened upon a new restaurant that night, which was wonderful! Brad got gnocchi and I got spaghetti alla carbonara. Yum!

Day 5, Tuesday:

Went back to St. Pete’s Basilica. GORGEOUS, loved it. It was worth it getting turned away the day before, because this way we had tons of time to see the church, and I was so glad! We toured all around inside the church, which is absolutely massive and has a really beautiful Michelangelo statue in there called Pieta, then we climbed the dome, then we swung back around and walked through where all the popes are buried. Said hey to JP2! Then on our way back home we went back to the Baths of Diocletion, since they were closed the first time we went. Sadly, after walking around in there, we realized that the “Baths” are really just a church where the baths USED to be. So that took some imagination, but the church was beautiful! For dinner that night we went back to the place we went the first night. The waiter there sort of looks like Stanley Tucci, he called me “bella” and referred to Brad as “boss,” and they had a really fantastic house wine. So we went back for round two!

Day 6, Wednesday:

Roman Forum—the area of ruins right past the Colosseum. Saw all around those ruins and then walked through Palatine Hill and got a good view of the Colosseum. Climbed up to Capitol Hill square, and then realized we were right at the Vittorio Emanuele monument! So we got a little snicky snack and then climbed up the monument, and then we took the elevator to the top and had a gorgeous view of Rome!

Day 7, Thursday:

Ostia Antica. Took what is basically the Roman RER a few stops outside the city to a little town called Ostia Antica, which we discovered when we got there was basically just more ruins and a museum. This one was cool though because it had an old Roman amphitheater, which is still used for concerts today, and around it there were tons of beautiful umbrella pines (which Brad is convinced are just normal trees that have been pruned haha). Overall it was a cool little excursion. We had lunch at the museum’s little cafeteria, and then got gelato and ate it in the theater! Then we headed back into Rome, stopping at the Pyramide metro stop to see a pyramid and to go visit the Protestant graveyard in the area. Keats and Shelley are buried there! It was a beautiful cemetery, with lots of gorgeous landscaping and lovely statues, and also quite a few random cats! There’s a group of volunteers that cares for the stray cats in the area, and so now they’re sort of informally part of the graveyard/pyramid site.

Day 8, Friday: Came back home to Paris! Discovered on the flight that young teenagers act like young teenagers in spite of any cultural differences you might expect. You would think French teenagers would be sort of quieter, more aloof, maybe even more mature than American youth, right? Dream on…we were sitting right in the midst of a group of young Frenchies who insisted on walking around the plane to talk to each other, opening the overhead compartments to rustle around in their bags, playing music OUT LOUD, and just generally shouting across the plane to each other and being obnoxious. Funnily enough, we were sitting in front of a different school group on our way THERE, and discovered the same phenomenon! I think it’s pretty safe to say that pre-teens and tweens are the same all over the world! Anyway, despite a fairly noisy plane ride, we had a safe trip back to Paris and a conclusion to a lovely spring break 🙂

So that was our trip!! We took something like 600 pictures, which would take about a hundred years to post on this blog, so feel free to go to Facebook and look at Brad’s albums “Roma, Italia” and “Rome, part DUO” to see our pictures. Thanks for reading!

Posted by: Flannery | March 17, 2011

Weekend in Provence and Brian’s visit!!!

Hey everybody! Sorry for the long break between posts, I’ve been running around like crazy! Here’s what’s been happening:

Last weekend I went on an excursion with my program to the south of France, specifically the province of Provence. The first town we visited was Aix-en-Provence. It was fantastic!! I got up on Friday morning at the crack of dawn and got to the train station at about 6:45 in the morning. We loaded up onto the TGV and spent about 3 hours riding down to the south. We arrived in the train station and then took a bus for about 20 minutes into the actual town of Aix. It was such a cute little city!! It was much smaller and cleaner than Paris, and it felt really safe. The people were nice too! I think the South of any country is just a little more relaxed and friendly 🙂

Once we arrived and checked into our hotels, we split up for lunch. My friends and I went to pretty much the first cafe we came to, since we were so hungry, and it turned out to be a great choice! Their bread was amazing, as was the aioli that some of the girls got–that’s apparently a specialty of that region. After lunch we went exploring/shopping for a few hours (I bought some postcards) and then went to our respective hotel rooms for a little chill time before having a guided tour of the town. Shortly into the tour, I realized that my friends and I had accidentally seen most of what the tour guide was showing us when we were walking around earlier in the day! So that was a little redundant, but of course it was nice to have the guide explaining what everything actually was. Then after the tour we had dinner at a little Italian restaurant, and then later we went out to experience the night life of Aix-en-Provence! Verdict: pretty tame. But nevertheless we had fun, and I always enjoy spending time with the people in my program!

Saturday morning I got up and joined a sizable group who was going with Anne-Marie (our program director) to the markets of Aix which are open on the weekends. First we saw the flower market, which basically looked like a town square that had bloomed overnight–there were so many flowers!!! It was absolutely gorgeous, everything was so vibrantly colored and also pleasantly scented! It made me want to garden, even though I know next to nothing about when/what/where to plant things, much less keep them alive. So I settled for taking a bunch of pictures lol 🙂 After the flower market we progressed to the section that was more of a traditional farmer’s market, where people brought their fruits, vegetables, baked goods, honey, and even homemade goat cheese. Again, I was floored by how fresh and beautiful everything was! I never thought there was a day when I would look at a table full of cabbage and carrots and deem them worthy of a photograph, but that was the day! Everything looked great, and I even tried a strawberry and a sample of goat cheese (not together) and they were both fantastic. I also bought a little pot of honey and some sachets of lavender (grown right there in the south of France!) to send home to my mom.

After that, the market shifted more toward textiles–there were stands of clothes, gloves, bedspreads, napkins/aprons, and bags lining the streets. Provence is apparently known for their vibrantly colored fabrics, and I definitely saw that both in what they were selling and in what everyone wore. In Paris the default color is black, but in Aix, there was no default! Everybody was dressed in bright colors and it fit in perfectly with the sunny days and warm temperatures. So, going with the flow, I bought six really pretty dinner napkins, each with a yellow background, several sprigs of lavender, and one big bright red flower in the middle! Again, these are for my mom 🙂

Then my friends and I hoofed it up a huge hill to see Paul Cezanne’s workshop. He lived in Aix, although the French didn’t care for his art at the time he was painting. They thought it was “too modern,” and as a result, America snapped up most of Cezanne’s works, and now the town of Aix doesn’t own any of them! They had his workshop preserved very well though, which was fun to see. They even had his coats hanging on the pegs just as he would have left them at the end of each day! Very cool. So after that little tour, I headed back down into town to catch the bus to Cassis. Pretty much our whole program went on this little side trip, because Cassis is a coastal town and we were all eager to see a beach! After an hour drive, (10 minutes of which were spent on a terrifying mountain road about 3 inches from the edge of a cliff) we arrived in Cassis. Anne-Marie took everyone to a perfume/soap shop that makes all their products using scents that are naturally in the area. Even though they were limited to natural scents, that turned out not to be a limitation at all. There was a huge variety of soaps and perfumes, and each one of them smelled so real! I could really tell that they weren’t just manufactured in Bath and Body Works headquarters haha, it was great. So I got a little soap, and then a bunch of the girls and I sat down in a little harbor-side cafe for ice cream. Then we headed to the beach! Even though we all had pretty substantial footwear on (I was wearing socks and heeled boots haha) we tore all that off, rolled up our jeans, and played in the Mediterranean! It was cold but definitely worth it, as it was the first time to that ocean for most of us. So after playing around and taking some silly pictures, we loaded back up on the bus and headed back to Aix.

 

The next day was Sunday, our last day until we headed back to Paris. We got up and checked out of our hotel and loaded on the bus to head to Marseille. In my mind Marseille was supposed to be this gorgeous beachy sort of city, but I was totally wrong! It’s really a port city, so its only main attraction is the port. Everything else was a bit lame sauce. BUT my favorite part was the church that is apparently one of the symbols of Marseille—it’s a church called Notre Dame de la Garde, and it was beautiful! It’s situated right on top of a huge hill, and you can pretty much see it from anywhere in the city. We took the bus up there, and after climbing a bunch of steps up to the actual church, I turned around and was greeted by the most unbelievable view. It was GORGEOUS!! And what’s cool about the south of France is that a panoramic view includes a bunch of stuff—it’s not like in Florida where you just look out and see the ocean for miles and miles. In the south of France (both coastal cities we visited) you could look out and see the ocean, but also the city or port that was right on the water, and also huge mountains in the distance! It was really neat, because it challenged my typical expectations of “the coast,” where everything just kind of slopes off into the water. There were huge rocks, and jagged cliffs, and boats all over the place, and it was great! So, not only was the view pretty, but the church itself was really intriguing. Instead of being a big dark cathedral with stained glass, like many of the churches in Paris, this church had mosaics covering the entire inside. Also it must have had big windows that I just didn’t notice, because it was really bright inside. Anyway, so there was lots of light and the decorations inside were really vibrant. As one girl in my program described on her way out, “Have fun in there, it’s so gaudy!” But I didn’t think so! It was a different style from the typical old European cathedral, but it was beautiful in its own way. I wouldn’t have minded going to church there! I did linger for a while and tried to catch what the speaker was talking about, but I couldn’t figure out much more than just when he said “Jesus” haha.

 

After that church, we went to the beach to relax for the rest of the afternoon. Like I said, the beach was so rocky! It was really different, but in a good way. It felt more natural than sand, in some ways! After hanging out at the beach for a while, we got on the bus and headed to the train station, and then we rolled into Paris at about 9:00 that night. It was a great weekend!

 

Then this past week, Brian visited for spring break!!! We had so much fun, and we hit all the high spots of Paris in terms of sightseeing. The top of Notre Dame was one of my favorites! I had never climbed the tower before, but I’m so glad I did. Even though it was over 400 steps to the top, it was totally worth it! The cool thing about Notre Dame is that you get both the panoramic view of Paris, which is always lovely, but you also get to be up close and personal with really famous parts of the church. I think I was probably four feet from several gargoyles at one point! And then you get to shimmy yourself through this TEENY door, and on the other side of it is the huge bell! It was really amazing to see, because that bell has been hanging in that tower since the 1500s. So yes, that was one of my favorite sites of the week. And we tried several times to go to Sainte Chappelle, but the line was forever long both times we went, so we bagged it. I’m determined to see that church before I leave though, because I didn’t see it the first trip here and it’s supposed to be gorgeous! Anyway, some other highlights of the week: buying art from street vendors on Boulevard St. Michel, having dinner at a café on the Champs-Elysées, drinking some delicious and authentic Champagne, seeing the Eiffel Tower light up from the top of the Arc de Triomphe, and so much more! It was a great week.

 

And now Brad and I are eagerly awaiting the arrival of our siblings!!!! Maddie and David will be arriving at the crack of dawn tomorrow (Friday) morning, and we’ll do all the touristy stuff again! I’ll try to post as soon as they leave and give an update on all the stuff we see/shenanigans we get into! (Just kidding Mom, there will be no shenanigans.)
Until then!

~Flan

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Posted by: Brad | March 7, 2011

Fries, Waffles, and Chocolate

So, I went to Brussels with my study abroad program to visit the European Union and the European House of Commerce. We took classes at both locations. I learned some interesting things about how European governments are organized and it was interesting to be in the official buildings. Moving on- I am pleased to report that Brussels is easily up there with my favorite cities!!! I was expecting Brussels to be boring because most people told me, “there are not many things to do there.” That’s not exactly true. Brussels is definitely smaller than Paris or London, but it has a culture that made me feel more at home than London. Remember when I posted about how some aspects of London reminded Flannery and me of a U.S. city and made us feel more at home? We thought it was just because the main language there was English. What is cool about Brussels is that I had the same feeling, even though the main language in Belgium is definitely not English. They speak an interesting mix of French and German depending on the area. Even some of their school districts teach classes in both languages. In Brussels, people tend to speak both languages because it is the capital, and the city has such a cool mix of cultures to go along with the two languages. There is a distinct flare of German culture that is completely absent from Paris, and there is still a French feel to the city as well. One of my favorite things that people said was “s’il vous plait” after everything haha. In Paris, that phrase is used to say “please,” but in Brussels they use it to say “here you go,” “here you are,” etc. I was so confused at first, but then I got used to using it. The way people use that phrase just goes to show how nice everyone is in the city. The first night, some of my friends and I walked around the main square that used to be a huge center of commerce in the city. There were thousands of restaurants, and all of the hosts would try to welcome our group in to eat. We had reservations with our program so we politely declined all of them. Again, they were all so nice and genuine when they tried to convince us to stay to eat. One guy even offered us dancing if we stayed to eat by saying “you all want to (something that sounded like ZUNGA ZUNGA)” haha. While we were walking around and refusing the offers from the restaurants, we stopped to get my favorite food of the trip. WAFFLES!!! It was so good! I got mine with chocolate, whipped cream, and bananas. I ate it in about one second, and then I proceeded to the chocolate store. Following my chocolate buying, I went to dinner where I got this beef dish that reminded me of pot roast. Apparently, it was a Brussels’ specialty. It was definitely pot roast though. The fries that went with it were excellent as well. After dinner I was so ridiculously stuffed that I went back to our hotel and went to sleep. The next day we did the second half of our government building visits and went back to Paris. It was a short trip, but I definitely got a good feel of the city. It seemed really livable. There was a great mix between the old traditional architecture and the new modern buildings. They have trams that run right in the middle of their streets, and above the streets there are thousands of power lines for the trams. It looks like a spider web of cables, and it adds to the good mixture of old and new. I could definitely go back!!! Until after Brian’s visit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ~Brad P.S. Sorry about the lack of pictures. In true Brad fashion I forgot my camera at the hotel. I have about 7 that I took on the bus haha.

Posted by: Flannery | March 2, 2011

136

136. That’s how many steps I have to climb to get to my grammar class.

My kingdom for an elevator!!!

Posted by: Flannery | February 27, 2011

“Do you find French wine…sexy?”

Hey everyone! Sorry for the long break between posts, but this post should get you all caught up on what’s been going on!

Last weekend I got up on Saturday morning (Feb 19th) and went to the Eiffel Tower with my program. It turned out to be sort of a non-event, because it was super rainy and foggy…I couldn’t even see the top of the tower because of the clouds! But it was fun to go up into the tower, since I never had before, and even though we didn’t go to the very top we still had a pretty great view from the second floor. Brad and I are waiting to go the very top until Brian gets here, (even though we haven’t confirmed that with him yet, but, we’re doing it haha) so that should be fun! So that was my Saturday morning, and then I went over to Brad’s apartment with crepes in hand from the little street vendor just outside the metro stop. We ate lunch, then headed off to Musée Carnavalet where there is currently an exhibit of vintage Louis Vuitton trunks and other types of luggage from waaaaay back when the brand first started. It was SO cool, and there was a lot more than just the basic trunk! There were little toiletry trunks that had teeny drawers for anything you could imagine, and even some that were specifically for every little dish of a tea set! It was all super cute, I really enjoyed it. And we went at a great time too, because the exhibit closes on February 28th, so we got to see it before it closed. So yes, yay, good touristy Saturday, very fun 🙂

Then Sunday morning (Feb 20th) I got up and went to Versailles with my program! Again, almost a non-event, because I’ve been there before and also the weather was gross. And since it’s February, the gardens weren’t really looking their best. But despite all that, we had a fun guided tour so I learned some new things, and it was fun to hang out with everyone from the program! After touring the palace, we took an obligatory spin through a small part of the gardens, took a few group pictures, and then headed back to the bus. We drove back toward Paris and got in about 2:00, so it was quite a morning!

Then Monday I had class, which was quite mentally exhausting (not really hahaha I only have one class on Mondays) after which Brad and I had a chill afternoon and then made a really authentic French dinner of……drumroll……..BURGERS. In a pan. On the stove. THEY WERE DELICIOUS. It was really a taste of home haha, we had burgers with cheese (I suppose some would call those “cheeseburgers”) and chips, and it was wonderful. We’re really getting the hang of cooking here, and even though we haven’t really ventured into anything super complicated, we’re keeping ourselves well fed and most of it tastes pretty good too! Anyway so yes, burgers on Monday night, success.

Tuesday I had class again, and I also had my first “conférence” which is basically a lecture type class on a specific subject of French culture. The one I started on Tuesday was called “Géographie culturelle et sociale de la France,” and it was a total mess!! The teacher wasn’t there, so there were 4 other random people who just made announcements and talked about other classes and, like, pointed at maps. It was weird, but hopefully when our real teacher is there it will be a little more coherent. After class I met Brad at the metro stop Denfert-Rochereau and we headed off to find the Chanel store 🙂 We ended up in a really lovely part of town, walking along the Jardin des Tuileries and popping into some really nice clothing stores. We saw one of the Chanel stores (we found out later we STILL hadn’t actually been to the main store, but alas, we’ll get there one day haha) and we also peeked in the windows of Dior and some others. After we had our fill of window-shopping, we stopped in a little café for hot chocolate and coffee. It was a wonderful and relaxing Parisian afternoon!

On Wednesday, I had class again, and another conférence. This one was called “Poésie et chanson” which means “Poetry and song.” This class was a bit more cohesive than the one on Tuesday, because the real teacher was there, but it was still a little confusing and I felt really intimidated at the idea of listening to them speak such fast French every week, with no outline or anything to follow, and then having to take an exam on whatever it was they said all semester! But I tried not to worry too much, and after I left class I got a ham and cheese baguette sandwich and met Brad at the metro again, this time to head to the Louvre. Brad had never been before! So we moseyed over to the Louvre, waited in line forever to get our free student tickets, and then started to explore the museum. Naturally, we started with the wing that houses the Mona Lisa (“La Joconde” in French) and we also saw the statues of Venus de Milo and Winged Victory. I had fun showing Brad around, because I had a guided tour of the Louvre as part of my orientation activities, so I remembered lots of fun facts to tell him while we were looking around. So, we hit the high spots of the museum and then we left, because we figured we’re going to be back with Brian and Maddie and David, so we shouldn’t see it all in our first trip!

Then Thursday we didn’t do anything super exciting, after I got out of class (which was MUCH better on Thursday, and made me much more optimistic about the rest of the semester class-wise) I got a sandwich and then Brad and I headed to this store called FNAC, which is sort of like French Best Buy. We were searching for a Rick Steves guide book, because we’re starting to plan our spring break to Rome!!!! But we ended up not being able to find it, so we just ordered it off Amazon later lol.

Then Friday was really fun! I only had one class and then I brought home some lunch for Brad and me. We hung out during the afternoon, and then at around 9:00 we headed over to the dorms where most of the people in my program live (I’m one of only like 6 people who live in an apartment). So we went to the dorms and hung out with everyone from my program, they had all just ordered pizzas so we all sat around and talked and ate for a while. Then we went out!! Brad and I were really excited, because we before that night we had yet to venture out into Parisian night life together! So we ended up in the 5th arrondissement at a place called The Fifth Bar (original haha) and had a great time with everyone from my program!! Eventually it was getting pretty late, and since the metro stops at 2:00 in the morning and doesn’t start again until 5:30, we decided to leave. Brad and I got a Nutella and banana crepe at a crepe stand that was still open, and then called it a night.

Then Saturday was our wine and cheese tasting!!!! We booked it last week with a company called O Chateau, and Saturday was the day. The first portion of the day was spent at the O Chateau wine store/bar location, which was really snazzy! And it turns out, they just opened that location about a week ago. Since it was so new, there was a cameraman and a reporter from some local French TV station wanting to do a story! Our sommelier, Olivier, asked Brad and me if we would mind answering a few questions for them, since they wanted the story to specifically focus on wine and how it’s perceived by young people (French or American, they didn’t seem to care). So of course we said yes, and the reporter lady proceeded to ask us questions about our relationship with wine (almost non-existent until yesterday) and if young people in America were interested in wine (…no). She also asked us what might be my favorite question I’ve ever gotten thus far in my life: “Do you find French wine…sexy? Do you zink ze French wine ees, for young people, sexy?” It was hilarious, because Brad and I were like “Umm…yeah?” Hahahaha it was great. So then she thanked us, took our names and ages, and later she asked us those questions again downstairs during the actual wine tasting, and this time in front of the camera! It was pretty hilarious, and so random! Anyway, by the time we were done talking to her, it was 12:00 and time to head downstairs to start the tasting. More people had arrived, and we all settled around a big table that was set with plates, forks and knives, and three wine glasses each. Our sommelier introduced himself, and then asked us all to go around the table and do the same. We had a really international table! There was a British couple (who were actually celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary that day, so cute!!!), that couple’s oldest son, then their French son-in-law, then two Norwegian women who work in Paris, their Scottish friend who had come to visit for the weekend, then another Norwegian couple, then Brad and me, then a lady from Australia who’s currently living in London, and then an Irish couple! It was really cool to be around people from so many different areas, and everyone was so nice!! After we introduced ourselves, Olivier poured us champagne to start out with. It was called Monmarthe (not to be confused with Montmartre, which is an area of Paris), and it was SO good. We learned that champagne is traditionally made of three types of grapes: Chardonnay grapes, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. The first champagne we tried was a little heavier on the Chardonnay grapes, and it was really delicious. Then we tried two white wines, the first of which was fruity and the second was more nutty. Olivier taught us what all you can learn about a wine before you even taste it—you can swirl it around and look at the legs, (the little drippies down the side of the glass), and depending on how fast/thick the legs are, you can tell the sugar and alcohol content of the wine. For example, slow legs means less sugar, thus a drier wine. Then we talked about clarity of the wine, and he showed us how you can look at the meniscus by tilting the glass and putting your hand behind it. So at some point during all this information, people set the table with bread and cheese and meat, which we all proceeded to devour. We tried 5 cheeses, but he didn’t talk about them very much. They were all delicious though, and my favorites were the goat cheese and a really mild Camembert. Then we tried two red wines, which I didn’t like as much as the whites. They were a lot more flavorful and seemed a little heavy…they would probably have worked better with a full dinner or something, but with the cheese and bread I liked the white wines better. Anyway, so then Olivier talked about the different wine regions of France while we all polished off the cheese and the rest of our glasses. Eventually we were done, and we ended up getting about 45 more minutes than we were supposed to—it should have ended at 1:30 but we didn’t leave until about 2:15! So that was really nice, it was such a relaxed afternoon. So then we had free time until the second part (the “Champagne Crusie”) started at 6, when we went down to the Seine right near the Eiffel Tower and got on a boat. Since we had our special O Chateau tickets, we got to sit in this little private room at the front of the boat. There was only one other couple there, and the sommelier, Remi. There was also one random lady by herself, sitting in the very back of that section of the boat. It turns out, that lady was Remi’s wife! She came along because they were going to go out afterwards to watch the France-England rugby game with some friends haha. So anyway, it was essentially just us three couples! The other couple was living in London, but the lady was originally from Dublin and the man was from Scotland. Oh, and Remi’s wife was originally from Australia, which is where she met Remi, and she moved here to Paris to be with him!! So cute. Anyway so we had another very international group, and since it was smaller this time we had a lot of good conversation with them! It was so much fun. And of course, since it was a champagne cruise, we tasted 3 champagnes while floating down the Seine. The first we tasted was the same champagne we had at lunch, the Monmarthe, but I was happy to have another glass because it was quite tasty! Then the second we tried was a champagne with a more even balance of grapes. The Monmarthe had more Chardonnay grapes in it, but the second one had an equal balance of all three. It was still very good, but I didn’t like it as much as the first one. Then the third we tried was a rosé champagne, which I didn’t even know was an option! Apparently all you have to do to make a rosé is just soak the white juice with the red grape skins, but only for a few hours so it takes in a little bit of the color, thus turning out pink. (To make a red wine, they soak the juice with the skins for several days so it takes on a lot of the color.) Anyway so after tasting those three champagnes, having some lovely conversation (with native English speakers lol!), and seeing the Eiffel Tower glitter at 7:00, our big wine day was over. It was such a great experience, and we learned a lot too!! We headed home to have a casual dinner (a chicken and cheese crepe for me, a Subway sandwich for Brad haha) and that was our awesome Saturday!!

Then today we had brunch at a cafeteria called Bullier, and then took a leisurely stroll around the Luxembourg gardens. It was really lovely! The grass is really green and there are some flowers planted even though most of the flowerbeds are empty right now. And of course, since it’s a park, there were lots of tiny kids and several puppies all running around having fun despite the chilly temperatures, so that was cute to see. And there were tons of joggers!! I didn’t think Parisians ran outside, but apparently they do because there were joggers everywhere in the park today! So that’s exciting, I’m sure you all know that I can’t wait to get out there jogging hahaha. Then we took a bus home (the bus between Gare du Nord and Porte d’Orleans is bus line #38) and here we are! I’ve been typing this post ever since. It’s taken me hours. I hope you all enjoyed it J

So yeah, there was my week!! I hope everybody back home (Nashville, Charleston, Winston-Salem, everywhere!) is doing great, Brad and I miss you all!!!

Thanks for reading!

~Flan

P.S. Get excited for the next few posts, because Brad and I are about to take trips with our programs! On Thursday and Friday, Brad will be in Brussels, Belgium. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, I will be in Provence, France!!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Posted by: Flannery | February 18, 2011

Does anybody even look at these titles?

Hey everybody! Since Brad covered the post about our trip to London, I’m going to fill you in on what we’ve been doing in our own city! Last Wednesday evening, after we made dinner, we decided to venture out toward a Parisian monument staple–the Arc de Triomphe. We took the metro to a stop near-ish the Champs Elysées, and once we got oriented, started heading down that street toward the Arch. Since we weren’t hard core shopping (the Champs Elysées is one of the glitziest, hence one of the most expensive, shopping streets in Paris) we mostly amused ourselves with the window displays of all the big name stores, like Louis Vuitton and Cartier. Eventually we got to the end of the street where the Arc de Triomphe sits, and crossed the street to it. After some intense study of the little sign about prices, we decided that we could in fact go up to the top for free since we have French student ID cards! So we sort of fumbled with those at the ticket desk, and actually had to show the lady our TENNESSEE drivers licenses to verify our age, and we still got tickets for no charge!! Technically they’re only supposed to go to EU students I think, but apparently this lady wasn’t much of a stickler. Anway, so we got our tickets, hoofed it all the way up what felt like 2000 steps (I was dying) and finally made it to the top! It was freezing, but the views were unbelievable. Also since it’s not tourist season, there were only three or four other people up there, so it felt like we were on a private visit! Then we realized that it was only a few minutes before 9:00, and since the Eiffel Tower lights up all sparkly every hour on the hour, we waited in the cold for a few more minutes and got to see it light up from the top of the Arch! It was so beautiful and romantic, even though my ears/nose/fingers were numb from all the cold wind up there!! So that was very cool, and then we walked back to the metro to head home–but not before stopping in McDonald’s for a little dessert! Now before you all roll your eyes going “I can’t believe they’re in PARIS and they got dessert at MCDONALDS,” let me just tell you, it’s almost a completely different restaurant here. They have an entire separate display case for their pastries/macaroons/tartes/eclairs, and they all looked amazing! We got two hot chocolates and a little round chocolate tarte, and it was all quite delicious. So that was our first touristy night out in Paris!

Then we went to London over the weekend, where of course we were shamelessly touristy (like, taking pictures of our fish and chips, and getting all turned around on the Tube) and we had the best time!!!! One thing that really stuck out to me was how they phrase things so differently in British English. During the intermission of Wicked (during which I spent about 10 minutes thinking the show was completely over, but that’s another story haha) I went to go find the bathroom. The line was unbelievably long, almost out to the lobby, and I was so surprised that I said the lady in front of me “Oh wow is this the line for the bathroom?” and she said yes. And then almost every lady that came up behind me phrased it as “Oh lord, is this the queue for the ladies’?” And then our language differences became even more obvious when I answered the lady behind me “Yeah this is it!” And she said “Gosh, what is it about these places, they never seem to have enough LOOS!” It was awesome. She was so English, I half expected her to ask me if I wanted a Jammy Dodger and tell me she liked my fringe (hahahaha Maddie). Anyway, so London was fabulous and I LOVED Wicked, and we had an amazing time 🙂

Now that we’ve been back in Paris for a week, we’ve just been going to class and cooking a lot and making some plans to explore Paris more. I started to have some real cultural immersion when Brad took me grocery shopping on Monday. We went to a Carrefour right down the street from Brad’s apartment, and attempted to pack enough food for our American-sized appetites into a French-sized grocery basket (it got super heavy haha). It was actually pretty easy to find everything we needed, and so far we haven’t had much trouble finding things that we’re familiar with! You can still buy lunch meat, even though they only sell it in packages of like four slices. They also have chips and fruit and canned green beans and tortillas and all sorts of things! So we successfully planned and purchased enough food to make dinners for the week (one of those dinners was tacos, which was WILDLY successful, soooo good!!). The only main differences between a Parisian grocery and an American one are the size, both of the store itself and of the quantities of food you can buy there. I don’t think the concept of “family size” every made it across the pond, so we’re stuck buying normal sized containers of juice like once every five days lol. And the store itself is a lot smaller, but other than that it felt familiar like any other grocery store! But then there’s the bonus of having a huge bin filled with amazing cheeses, marked with a huge sign saying “2 euros,” which I don’t remember seeing the last time I was at Publix…at any rate, Parisian grocery shopping= huge success!!

On Wednesday night we decided to venture to our local movie theater to see Black Swan (it just opened here last week). That was quite an experience, because again, it was a lot smaller than our movie theaters in America. The lobby, that is. The line went out the door (even though it can’t have been more than 15 or 20 people long) and the concession area was TEENY. We discovered that the Parisians either bring their own food to the movies or they just don’t eat at the theater, because we seemed to be the only ones who bought popcorn. Another interesting thing–our popcorn had sugar on it! It tasted more like caramel corn than the movie popcorn at home, and it also tasted really fresh. Another discovery–the French apparently don’t do a lot of previews. You know how if you go to a theater at home, there will be little ads or trivia questions or commercials scrolling by on the screen until the real previews start? Well we just got a blank screen until about 5 minutes before the movie was supposed to begin, and then we saw an odd mix of French and American previews with French subtitles. And then the movie itself also had French subtitles, of course, because the sound was still the original English sound. I was thankful for that, because I didn’t want to pay for a movie and then hear some French woman talking while Natalie Portman’s mouth moved!

One more touristy thing that we did this week was go to Les Deux Magots for dessert (after making a frozen pizza from Monoprix at my apartment for dinner). That café is well-known because it was one of the hang outs of some ex-pat American writers like Hemingway. We got their amazing hot chocolate, which is literally just melted chocolate and milk, and we also got an apple tart thing with a teeny cup of ice cream on the side. It was fantastic!!

So those are pretty much the highlights of the last week. Also, I signed up for the rest of my classes. I’m in a grammar class that’s 10 hours a week (2 hours a day, with Monsieur Gautier), and I also signed up for three conférences, which are like lecture courses. The topics are Social and Cultural Geography of France, Poetry and Song (French ones of course), and also 20th Century French Theater! So those should be awesome, and then I’m also taking a phonetics course that’s 1 hour a day, 5 days a week, but that class doesn’t start until March 30th. And I think that’s pretty much it!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

P.S. I forgot to mention, that rose was from Brad for Valentine’s Day 🙂 And it’s sitting on the kitchen table in my apartment, in a wine bottle (appropriately, the wine was a rose wine haha) and it’s next to our fruit bowl full of tangerines! Shout out to Cara Beth haha, that was one of my first orders of business when I moved in, I was like “Okay ladies, we need a bowl to put fruit in” lol! Anyway, that really is all for now. Thanks for reading!

~Flan

Posted by: Brad | February 17, 2011

London England EEEEEEEEEE

So I realize it has been a little more than a week since either of us has posted a new blog, and in blog years that must be close to 50. So here is a little update. This past weekend as you read, Flannery and I went to London to see Wicked!!! We had an amazing time!!! On Friday, we took the Eurostar from Gare du Nord in Paris to St Pancras in London. It was my first time to ever travel by train (with the exception of subways/metros). It was quite an enjoyable experience. Security was easy, and the train itself is extremely nice. They have tons of food that you can buy in their dining car, and it is really cool to just travel along at 200 miles an hour and feel perfectly fine walking all over the train. Once we arrived in London we had an exciting time trying to navigate their underground system. Apparently the line we were supposed to take (The Victoria Line) was having extreme delays so we decided to take the Circle line that goes around the city. We asked the attendant there if it was open because some of lines close on the weekends, and we heard our first British accent “The tube is only closed on the weekends.” We almost laughed in his face because it caught us so off guard. It was so strange coming from a country where they speak a different language. Both of us really had to adjust to hearing English again in public. I think that is part of the reason why we felt like London was more familiar than Paris. It just seems more American. Everything from the architecture to the language made us feel more at home for some reason. After arriving at the hotel from the underground and watching our FIRST ENGLISH SPEAKING TV SHOW IN A MONTH we promptly went out to explore the area we were in. We were pleased to find out that we were located right in the heart of the theater district close to Buckingham Palace. The Apollo Victoria Theater where Wicked was playing was almost right across the street. Of course once that was discovered we moved on from exploring the area to exploring our food options. We were pleased to find the ever-sophisticated Pizza Hut…. We promptly ordered a large stuffed crust cheese pizza and ate all of it between the two of us. We really felt like Americans then haha. The next morning we enjoyed the breakfast at the hotel, and we walked to Buckingham Palace. It was beautiful, but I must say the French have the Brits beat in terms of palaces in my opinion. Versailles was more jaw dropping. However, the guards really made Buckingham Palace unique. Their crazy hats and walk was fun to watch. Did you know that you can tell where the guards are from based on their uniform? Each guard has a plume and set of buttons that designates where they are from. From Buckingham Palace we walked to Trafalgar Square, and we went into the art museum. It was interesting. The pieces seemed more modern than the ones at The Musée d’Orsay in Paris. After the museum we decided to take a Big Red Bus Tour around London. IT TOOK US EVERYWHERE!! Parliament and Big Ben, The London Eye, The London Dungeons, Cathedrals, Harrods, etc. It felt like we had seen the whole city by the time the day was over!!!! A highlight of the tour was where we stopped for lunch. We both ordered fish and chips and mushy peas. Again we ate it all!!! It was the best fish and chips I had had in a long time. After we got off of the bus for the last time, we were at Harrods. Thus, we spent some time along the nicest shopping street in London. Every expensive store was conveniently lined up to peer into. Our favorite was definitely Harrods!!!! I’ve never seen so many things in one department store! After Harrods we walked from the shops back to our hotel that ended up being 1489324723879 miles away. My heels in particular were quite bruised. BUT THE DAY WASN’T OVER YET!!! We got dressed for dinner and Wicked!!! Both of which were fantastic! It was Flan’s first time and see Wicked, and it was my third. The girl who plays Elphaba, Rachel Tucker, was probably the best I’ve seen!!! Her voice was so pure, and she really had great tone and control. I was never worried about her voice giving out on some of the more demanding high parts like I was when I saw Wicked in Chicago. It was such an awesome show, and it was a great finish to the weekend!!!! The following day we just hopped on the train back to Paris after visiting platform 9¾ of course! It was a weekend I’ll never forget!!! Since then we’ve just been hanging out and going to class. Last night we went to the Black Swan! They have American movies with French subtitles so that’s really nice. The theater is a few blocks from my apartment and it is easy to walk to. We had such a good time seeing the similarities and difference of the movie theaters. Shout out to MOM because I thought of her the entire time I was there, since she is the reigning queen of all things movie. Sorry about the length of this post, but it required some detail haha. Next week I’m on my first winter break so I’ll be roaming around Paris doing all of the touristy things. We’re taking a wine and champagne class which should be fun!!! Thanks for reading!

 

~Brad

 

Posted by: Flannery | February 7, 2011

Cirque d’Hiver Bouglione and Montmartre

So when I last wrote, I was about to go the circus here in Paris. It was so cool, and surprisingly really different from the circus in America (which I just went to about 3 weeks ago with my family). At the Ringling Brothers circus, there were TONS of performers, and since it’s called a “3-ring circus” there were obviously 3 rings, all with something going on in them at all times. At the Cirque Bouglione though, there was one ring. At most there were 10 performers in the ring at a time, and that only happened like twice throughout the entire show. And even when there were more people in the ring, their routines made it very clear who the audience was supposed to watch at each time. It might sound like that would be boring, but it wasn’t! It was actually a lot more relaxing than the American circus, because it was still impressive but without being overwhelming. So it was very fun! I have TONS of pictures of it, but I’ll only put up a few.

Then Sunday, Brad and I went on a walking tour of Montmartre, which is the area of Paris where the actors/dancers/other artsy types tend to settle. It was very cool, but also extremely steep–it felt like every direction we walked, we were walking uphill! It was worth it though, because after seeing Picasso’s workshop and some little parks and famous houses, we eventually made it to the Sacré Coeur. That church is SO impressive, inside and out. Our tour guide told us that it’s made from a certain kind of stone that gets whiter with the rain (something about the stone being porous and taking in the water?) so that was cool. And then inside it was beautiful, both structurally and because of the service going on. There were so many singing nuns!!! It was awesome. So then after that we walked down to a little creperie for an early dinner, and then headed back to my apartment for a relaxing evening.

Now it’s Monday afternoon, and this morning I’ve just had some more orientation and now we’re watching a movie called L’Auberge Espagnole. After this, my roommates and Brad and I are making our first foray into Monoprix to actually buy groceries for our apartment–all we’ve really been snacking on at home is just spoonfuls of Nutella and slices of baguette. Which honestly, I could probably do for the rest of the semester! But we’re going to buy some real food, stock up on some pastas/meats for dinner and yogurts/cheeses/eggs for breakfast. And that’s pretty much all the news from over here for the last few days! Basically I’m keeping myself alive, not getting lost, and haven’t gotten mugged or anything, so I would consider the first week a success! I’ll start classes this Friday, which I’m sure will be interesting, and then this weekend Brad’s taking me to London to see Wicked!!!!! Yay 🙂 I’ll be sure to take lots of pictures!

Until next time,

~Flan

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Posted by: Brad | February 6, 2011

From Versailles to Gyms

Hey everybody! A lot has happened since I last made a post to the blog. I went to Versailles, FLANNERY GOT HERE!!!, classes started, and I joined a gym so I don’t have to run outside in the freezing cold haha. We’ll go in that order. Versailles was amazing!!!!!! I’ve never seen so much gold in my life. Everything from the banisters of the king’s bedroom to the front gates is covered in gold leaf. I was kind of dumbstruck. We were fortunate to have a guided tour of the palace, and we got to go into some of the rooms that were off limits to the other guests. My favorite room was the chapel where Marie Antoinette got married NBD. It was so beautiful with all of the marble and artistic detail. (There are pictures on facebook) I learned that they actually still hold services in the chapel, and they recently replaced the pipes on the organ in the chapel. It is apparently used quite often for music concerts because there is marble everywhere, and the acoustics are amazing. In fact, there is French marble throughout just about every room in the palace. According to the tour guide, all of the marble is French marble that comes from the Pyrenees (the mountains between France and Spain). This is because King Louis XIV wanted to push towards being completely independent from Italy and that included competing with Italian marble. I thought that was cool. I’m definitely planning on returning to Versailles when it warms up so that I can tour the gardens! I got a brief view from the hall of mirrors (my favorite part of the palace) and I can’t wait to see it when everything is in bloom.

Following my weekend trip to Versailles, Flannery arrived in Paris (as she explained in her blog) and I started classes. Classes are an interesting one for me. I decided that it would be “culturally enriching” to take classes at two places, three with my program IES and two at an international business school in Paris. My classes with IES are wonderful! They are very straightforward and similar to those I take at home as far as how they are managed. My favorite is a luxury marketing class that includes a field study.  I can only imagine that the field study will include looking at some really cool expensive things that nobody in their right mind should ever buy! I’m excited to find out what they are when we go next Friday. My classes at Negocia on the other hand have given me my first moment of culture shock since I have been in Paris. Upon arriving in Paris, I learned that Negocia is more or less a three year French business school for French and international students. The French government runs all universities, and Negocia is no exception. That means there is a large building with a lot of amenities, but that also means things are very “French.” Classrooms and class times change every single week, they have no syllabus, and even though classes are in English many students are not fluent. I feel for the French students because it is advanced English. There are many business terms that would be difficult to understand if English was not your first language. My personal favorite thing that has happened at Negocia was in my international marketing and communications class. The class was originally scheduled for three hours a week on Tuesday. Upon arrival on the first day the professor says, “This class is too big. We are making two sections. You are in group A. The class is now just an hour and a half.” I about passed out. Where in the world is it acceptable to get the same credit for a class when you are going to it half of the time that was originally scheduled? Apparently in France haha, it should be interesting to see how it goes! We start presenting a project that is 40% of our grade in two weeks. (should be easy as most students can’t speak fluent English). I’m excited to experience all of the other little differences that come with studying at a French school.

Ok finally I’ll end this post. I know it’s ridiculously long, and I’m sorry about that. I joined a French gym which was funny because I had to go to a French doctor to get a document saying I wouldn’t die if I worked out. (it’s called a “certificat medicale”) Of all my French speaking tests that whole doctor/ signing up process was a real gem. Let’s just say I feel comfortable speaking poor French to just about anybody now haha. You can communicate quite well with pointing and facial expressions if you have to! So in summary: I love all of my classes, and I’m excited to see how all of them turn out. FLANNERY IS HERE! And I can’t wait to explore the city and travel with her. We are planning to take a Parisian wine and cheese class within the month =D. That’s our latest plan. We also plan to go to Italy for our second spring break since we have two of them. Ohh and as she reads this blog she is actually finding out for the first time, along with everybody else, that we are going to London in a week to see Wicked! SURPRISE! So be on the lookout for a post about that!! Until then! Thanks for reading.

 

~Brad

 

Older Posts »

Categories