Thursday, November 13, 2008

My South European Adventure

I'll give you just a small synopsis. I'll try to remember as much as possible!

Trip 1: Barcelona
We arrived in the chilly airport about an hour outside of Barcelona. When we actually got to Barcelona we had a little walk to our hostel, but we got there. We stayed in a grody hostel that mom would have LOVED in a room that had about 14 beds and all were occupied... co-ed. Yuck. The showers STANK. But enough about that. We took our own little tours of the city and saw Goudi structures (a famous Spainish architect) we saw a house, a church, and another house by him. We tried to see a house at the top of a hill to see the whole city but it ended up MONSOONING on our walk to the bus. So much so that we had to stop and eat lunch at a delicious little Italian place. One day when it was nicer we went to the beach and stuck our feet in the Atlantic and felt home. We also went to the Picasso museum which was really cool. It had all his early stuff from when he was like 17 and it was CRAZY good. Little doodles from class were like masterpieces. A lot of his cubism stuff wasn't there but his later stuff where he went kinda crazy was and that was weird. It was cool to see the progression from basically Impressionism to his own crazy style.

Trip 2: Salamanca
We flew into Madrid and took a 2 hour train to Salamanca. Once arriving to our hostel (29359 times better than the Barcelona one- a quaint little 10 room place that was very quiet and in a prime place!!) we changed quickly and Mary Elizabeth met us and took us out! We went to a bar that is very popular on Monday nights because it holds.... A BEERPONG TOURNAMENT. That's right. Mary and I partnered up. Defeated our first opponents and loosing our second game. We got a lot of respect from the crowd though. We fumbled through the next day after a long night but toured around the small city and had Spainish food and waited for Mary to get out of her classes. She then let us use her washer (a necessity since we all only brought carry-ons under 10kg for a 10 day trip) and had cheese and crackers in her room then went to dinner. The next day we toured the Cathedral of Salamanca which was beautiful and walked around more and got lost and then found. That was the day we found out our new President- crazy. We went out again to a bar that had 4EURO OPEN BAR. In Paris you can't even get a beer for that much. Then we returned to the first place of Monday night and sang karaoke (my favorite). The song was not a usual karaoke song but it will go down in history- It's All Coming Back to Me Now-Celine Dion. Let's just say we were applauded afterwards. It's a night I'll always remember.

Trip 3: Porto, Portugal
Woke up early to catch a train to the plane to go to Porto. Got to our hostel which was somewhere in the middle of the other two: it smelled of gutted pumpkins, had two pictures in the room- one of a face of a cherub and another of Slyvester and Tweety partaking in shinanigins, 2 beds, and colder than the outside temperature. We relaxed a lot in Porto since we didn't know the language at all. We did a lot of walking around and picture taking. One day we went to the beach and laid on it cuddling close because it was pretty chilly. Kealan almost got hit by a bus but we try to forget that (she thought it was a one way street and didn't look left). We went on a boat tour down the river and also a wine tasting and tour. We tried the Port of Porto and it was very sweet and strong. The weather was not good not bad and chilly for the most part but at least it wasn't raining!!

I finally returned to Paris and I'm so happy to be back. The weather is beautiful in autumn and I'm so glad everyday I chose to study here and no where else.

Today I'm going to London to meet my friends Kristen and Steph, who are studying there, and also Mary Elizabeth will be meeting us there too! It's going to be so much fun and I'm excited to go to a bunch of museums and see the changing of the guards and so on.

I miss you alllllll. A lot. I can't wait for Sten and Veronica to come in one week!!! It'll be so nice to have family for Thanksgiving. You guys aren't allowed to have fun without us. Give Bandit and Buster a hug and kiss for me because I miss them horribly too. Also give a whistle to Spike! I love you all and I can't wait for Christmas!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Things I've Been Slacking on...

1. My blog. Sorry.

So many an adventure have transpired since we last spoke.
Another list (a little longer):
1. I went to Strasbourg. A land of meat. Lots of it. There were also nice canals and pretty trees and funny colored buildings with strange gutter systems. Not too exciting other than the German-French architecture and the GIANT Notre Dame de Strasbourg which is pretty breathtaking. It was cold and rainy and not too exciting. BUT before we left we visited a castle- cool. But not as cool as... drum roll please... Monkey Mountain. Yes, that's right. A mountain full of monkeys. And, yes, we did feed them popcorn. And, yes, I tried to make friends with one and when I thought he gave me kissy-lips I found out later that that was the face of aggression. Not friends so much as enemies. Whoops. Took the TGV back to Paris which was neat.

2. My friends Kristen and Steph (Villanova friends) visit from London. Did a lot of touristy things- Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Luxembourg Gardens, etc. Fun times had by all.

3. Victor and Wendy Sellier visit Anika Sellier in Paris. Fun. Great food. Great wine. Great times. I think it was the happiest I've been since I've been here when they were with me. I finally got to share my experience with the people I love the most and it meant so much to me! Plus I got a lot of wine that I didn't have to pay for. PS Mom can drink me under the table without blinking.

4. Mid Parent Visit Patrick Michael Murray comes to Paris, France, Europe for his first time. The four of us had a ball. We all had multiple double dates and multiple glasses of wine. We also had "une verre" (a glass... of wine? Not sure.) with my Lady. It was interesting, but fun? After Mom and Dad left Pat and I did the touristy things (again for me for the 3rd/4th times)- top of the Eiffel Tower (at night- 1st for me), Musee D'Orsay, Salvidor Dali Museum, Luxembourg Gardens, etc. Lots of fun and I was quite sad when he left.

5. Went to a crazy club for the first time during my Paris experience and... the last time. Didn't arrive to the club (Showcase, a club for young and often international students) until around 12:30 then left around 5:30 via cab. I was not in top notch state. But on the upside I saw Wall-E in french the day after. It was lovely.

That's all. I'm trying to plan a trip to Normandy for tomorrow right now. Then I'm going to Barcelona then Salamanca (MARY ELIZABETH!) then to Porto, Portugal for our week long break. Can. Not. Wait. Then I'm also trying to book at tripy to London because I found a super cheap flight. WOO! JET SETTING! I'm just trying my best to have fun out... here.

I wish you all could visit me and I could show you everything! Sten and Veronica visit in just a month! I'm really excited about that! Love and miss you all sooo much! Good job on getting on TV!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Karaoke Katastrophe

Thursday night Cassie (Villanova) and I returned to the wonderful St. Michel's Pub where karaoke is often found. My experience there previously was amazing and I thought I would share it with other friends. Well... This experience wasn't as amazing.
Cassie and I agree upon Bye Bye Bye by group NSYNC. An obvious choice. Unfortunately, (although it was DEFINITELY listed in the book) they did not have Bye Bye Bye by group NSYNC in their system. I regrouped with with Cassie and we made the next obvious choice Shout by group The Isley Brothers. A sure hit. After a few songs, we're up. We grab the mikes, smiles on our faces, hands at the ready, voices tuned. A few measures overture and the song begins "Shout, shout, let it all out, these are the things I can live without. C'mon, I'm talking to you. C'mon." Yes. Shout by group Tears for Fears.
Obvious dismay ensues. We attempt to do our best, but after the refrain I can go on no longer. I say to the DJ "Ce n'est pas le VRAI Shout" (It is not the true Shout) "C'est l'AUTRE Shout" (It's the OTHER Shout). Quickly, fortunately we think, the song changes to the Isley Brothers rendition and we sing our hearts out. We did the best possible, most enthusiastic version of Shout that was ever performed. Unfortunately, Paris is not familiar with Shout by the group Isley Brothers. We got a few laughs, a few stray "Shout!"s from friends and intoxicated on lookers reading the screen, but mostly we received disinterest.
Yes. We were kicked off mid song.
Yes. We left immediately.
Yes. I returned Saturday night with my Villanova friends and strangley my name was never called to sing the song I Want It That Way by group Backstreet Boys.
Cassie and I serenade each other while others go on unphased.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

My Grand School, Pigeons, and Africa

Here are a few pictures so you can get an idea of the type of place in which I am learning.

The Library. It is vast and very inconveniently placed directly behind the study area. Those are two of my friends posing.

The Computer Lab

Full of 3 Computers

The "Centre"

I get lost in it sometimes.
The Hall of Classrooms (4)
Picture Includes: front door, reception area, and a potted plant.

Getting slightly more used to living in Paris. Getting to know the area better and how to keep myself oriented and what have you. Yesterday my friend got pooped on by a pigeon. Really can't avoid that. I can read a map like it's my job though, which is very helpful, but not for avoiding the pigeons. I haven't done any touristy stuff really, but my friends Steph and Kristen from Villanova are going to visit me next weekend (they're studying abroad in London) and we'll do the Eiffel Tower and les jardins (gardens). I'm excited to see them.
We've finished making plans for our travelling adventures we just need to book the actual flights and such. Our destinations of choice are: Florence, London, Spain/Portugal (Barcelona, Madrid, Salamanca, Porto), and Prague. Excited.
My first week of classes went well! I graduated to French Grammar and Conversation 2! It was exciting for everyone, but mostly just me. I am also taking French Cinema, Muslim Presence in Europe, and 19th Cent. French Painting. I really am interested in all the subjects but I may or may not be getting credit for any of them towards core requirements or my major's requirements. I will get credit for electives?
Still making friends, French and American alike, and really just doin' my best. Nightlife is pretty consistant- dinner (at home-cheese, salad, bread, vegetable; at restau- sandwich...), on to a cafe where we have wine, or sometimes to a pub where we have beer. The Latin Quarter is always hopping and we can always find a good time there even when we least expect it (Ex: We passed a pub and heard NSYNC blaring from the doors, so of course we stopped in. 30 minutes and a pint later we're singing karaoke Africa by group Toto with the 30-somethings who came in after work. Fun.)
Questions? Concerns? Let me know.
You know you love me.
XoXo, Paris Girl

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Classes, Scary Nights, and Cheap Flights

It's been a few lonely days in the homestay. I get homesick sometimes because I'm not constantly surrounded by my friends in a hotel, but we're getting used to it. Classes started Monday (yesterday) so it's good to get distracted by that. Classes seem good. I may or may not have been placed in a too easy level of French grammar. I'm working on changing that. We'll see. I have no class Fridays which is spectacular.
My friend Kealan's host mom is gone for the week so she is in her homestay alone. She was kind of scared so I went over yesterday and we made dinner and had a bottle of wine. We then met some other of our friends by Notre Dame where it's hoppin' at night, with shops and cafes and what not. We walked around, a little reluctant to spend money, and people watched. At about 11:30, we decided to call it a night and went back to the metro. Kealan and I took the same line to one destination where we split and took different lines. While on my second line, I get a text from her saying she's being followed by a man. I call her to make sure she's ok. I tell her to just stay on the phone while she walks home. She gets to her stop and she's still on the phone with me and he's still following her.
All of a sudden, the call ends. I call her back- nothing. Again- nothing. Three more times- nothing. I rush to the metro lady behind the window and ask for the number for le police. She asks me what the problem is and I attempt to explain and she does not want to give me the number for some reason, maybe saying they won't be able to help me? I don't know, didn't understand. So I say- Just give me the number please! Finally I get it and call the police after trying Kealan again with no answer. I attempt to explain the situation to the lady on the phone in French= impossible with my bad French, my worry, and walking quickly home. I become frustrated and obviously cry. Finally they get a translator and he helps me out a little. They don't sound very helpful though.
I hang up with the police and call my friend Ben who we had been hanging out with and say "I LOST KEALAN!" and he calmly informs me that he just talked to her and she was safely in her apartment with the door locked and no man. I finally got a hold of her and the police had talked to her and everything and she was fine. She made a couple of turns and lost the man and apparently we just lost service in the first place and we couldn't reach each other because we were both calling each other. This all transgressed over a time period of about 45 minutes. All in all it was the scariest night of my life and I don't know if I will be staying out past 9 anytime soon.

In better news... We found flights to different countries for as cheap as 10 Euros!! It's crazy! We're trying to plan a trip from Paris to Barcelona to Madrid to Porto (Portugal) to Paris and the total cost of the flights is 74 Euros. Ri.dic.u.lous. But it doesn't really matter because the hostels will get us in the end. We're doing our best though! Any tips? Advice?

Download Skype for free. It's free calls computer to computer and we can webcam chat and even calling phones is really cheap from a computer. Download it now. Don't forget about me. Love you all. Sorry this is long.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Mme Valadon et moi

Today I moved into the lovely apartment of Mme Valadon. It is a humble apartment despite the chic district. It is very old Paris with antique-y furniture etc. It's very pleasant and museum like. I have a nice room that's a good size with a desk, boudoir, and 4 drawers. It's the perfect size. There is another American here living as well. Her name is Hannah and she's from San Diego. She's friendly and we went on a walk together to explore a little.
Mme Valadon is an interesting lady. She speaks a little English but uses it sparingly so as to help me learn. She made me lunch today when I arrived after showing me the Saturday morning market. She made a shredded carrot, basil, and vinegar salad. It was followed by a fried piece of chicken with cheese in the middle which may or may not have been taken out of a box. We also had bread and cheese, and fruit for dessert. The only rules of the house are as followed:
1. Do not answer the door.
2. Do not answer the phone.
3. If asked, tell neighbors we live with her and nothing else.
4. No guests.
5. Lock everything when leaving.
Also we are to inform her if we will not be returning to the house or if we will be going somewhere out of town. Understandable. She corrected my note that I left and gave me a plug thing. I like her, but she makes me nurvus. Nurvus.
Don't forget about me. I don't want her to be my real family....

Friday, September 5, 2008

My Homestay and My Last/Best Field Trip

On Tuesday we found out where we will be living for the next few months. Some were lucky, some not so much. I would consider myself lucky. I'm living in the 16th Arrondissement. My teacher says it's the "tres chic" (very chic) part of Paris. Wikipedia says "the 16th arrondissement is commonly thought to be the richest part of Paris, and features some of the most expensive real estate in France". Excited. My host family is a woman with 3 children who no longer live at home. The youngest of which is a 23 year old male who will be going abroad by the time I get there. So it will just be me and the lady. More importantly, I have internet access. Yes. That's right. She has the "weefee" or as we Americans like to call it "wifi". We will have to take taxis to our homes and pay for them ourselves. Ugh. Taxis.
On Wednesday I went on what most might consider the best field trip. Ever. The day was rainy and grim and I was not looking forward to trouncing about the 18eme Arrondissement in Paris. Little did I know what was ahead of me. Our first stop was a Fromagerie (a "cheeserie" if you will). We were educated in french on the different types of cheese: cow, goat, sheep, old, young, etc. We were also given some delicious and some stinky samples. Our teacher purchased a few cheeses and we were on our way again. We then came to a wine shop. We were each poured a sample of wine and instructed how to taste it by the owners. It was at the common drinking hour of 10:30 AM. Our teacher purchased a couple bottles and we were on our way again. Next we came to the Boulangerie (bakery) which sold the "best baguette in Paris 2007" which is served to the President everyday. I bought the most chocolately delicious pastrie I've ever eaten. God sent I believe. My teacher purchased some baguettes and we were on our way to our final desitnation: next door. The chocolaterie. We learned about the macaroons and the petits bon bons. We were allowed to buy some if we wanted and I bought some delish bon bons.
We then returned to the "centre" or our school and we had a feast. We cracked open the wine and the cheese and the bread and had a little party in our classroom. I had a couple cups of wine with my teacher which loosened me up for my 30 minute evaluation with her. It was great. All in all a great educational experience. Paris.
Move in day is tomorrow. I will keep you all posted. Love and miss everyone!