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10

May

Paris, Part 2

Well…the least I can do is post about Paris!

This past weekend the whole group went to Paris for the weekend. Madame Eades, our director, organized this trip.  It was a blast. We took a plane there, checked into our hotel, and then we were off!  Jamie, Emily, and I took the metro up to Monmartre neighborhood to see the Sacre Coeur. We climbed a bunch of stairs but finally made it up to the top. It was amazing to be there, but I could tell that we were getting “Europe-spoiled” when the comment, “It’s just another church” came out.  Oh well.

We then headed over to a famous little courtyard where all of the Impressionist painters hung out before they got famous.  There were a bunch of those guys who draw sketches of people and everytime I passed one the person being drawn looked at me intensley and pleadingly as if to ask “Does this picture really look me?”  I gave a few reaffirming nods just to satisfy their curiousity.  The three of us then met up with Christine.  She worked with my high school friends Kim and Carolyn at a restaurant back in KOP and we had only met a few times, but I was of course smitten with her because she was French. I didn’t know her that well, but she was super nice (just as I remember) and she took us around Monmatre and showed us the last vineyard in Paris and the beautiful (and mad expensive) neighborhood.  We got a cafe and some water at this one cafe and the three of them bought water. I joined them in purchasing water after checking out some cheese.

I saw the Moulin Rouge—much to my disappoint, there is no giant elephant. Emily and Jamie went off and Christine and I went to the Opera and just so happened to arrive a time when it was open and free!! Inside was incredible, it was so ornate and one of the most beautiful buildings that I’ve ever seen. (Note to self: when I am rich, throw a party in the Paris Opera)  We were even able to see a bit of the rehearsal of the show that was going on that evening.  What luck! We then headed to the La Madeleine, another church, were we saw…yet another rehearsal. This time of a Senior Citizen Choir.

Emily and I then christened our room, and with the help of Jamie, pushed the beds together in preparation for a previsioned pillow-talk. After a minor detour, we finally boarded a boat trip along the Seine.  Perhaps one of the most beautiful and incredible things that I’ve ever done.  Seeing the city at the night and from the water is just another incredible dimension of Paris.  It was nuts too—all along the Seine we saw tons of Frenchies our age just hanging out picnicking, dancing, and hanging out along the side of the river.  There was so much life and the three of us had that “why didn’t we study in Paris” conversation… but of course reaffirmed our love of Nice. The best was that at midnight the Eiffel Tour lit up with a bunch of flashing lights…our very own Paris à Minuit.  Please divert your attention to Facebook for some incredible pictures. 

The next day a bunch of us went to Versailles. Please add to my list of breathtaking moments that I’ve had in Europe.  Ornate, exquisite, insert over the top adjective here.  After hearing about Versailles through all of my years of French and of history classes, it was so surreal to finally be there. Totally nerding out, I know, but it was surreal. The one room that I was dying to see was The Hall of Mirrors.  I did a report on it my Freshman year of High School and now finally got to see it—Madame Kellett, expect another email!  The gardens were immense and Louis XIV even made his own canal in the middle of them…you know, just a huge, freakin’ canal. Kelsey, Emily and I ended up renting a row boat which consequently became entangled in some duckweed. A big merci to Monsieur Capitaine Kelsey for getting us out of that. I got my row-boat on as well.  After realizing that we had been walking around Versailles for 7 hours (and still had not even seen everything), we headed back to our hotel, reassembled as a group, and took our train back to Nice. Paris, until next time…

27

Mar

I’m Back..

So…it’s been a little while since I posted, so I’ll be playing a bit of catch up, but for right now I’ll fill you in on this week first.  Well, first I’ll say that I’m alive and overall I’m enjoying France. Check.

This was past weekend was the birthday of Hélène’s nephew, Luca. So Wenfei (roommate), Ian, Ian’s friend from home Chuck, Wynn, and his mom all went over to Catherine and Christophe’s places (Helene’s sister and brother in law).  Ian and Wynn lived with Helene last semester so they were invited too.  The family really enjoys Americans because they themselves are very into American culture.  The party was in their apartment with all of their friends, where an interesting mélange of French and English was spoken.  I believe the highlight was when Luca’s cake was brought out…well, it was more like a freaking 5 foot long eclair that took 2 people to carry in!  (Picture pending, as usual.)  I erupted in laughter because this was perhaps the best French stereotype I’ve seen as of yet, just a giant eclair. (*Disclaimer: this is unusual, please don’t think that the French economy is built upon the giant eclair business even though that would be great).

Unfortunately the night life isn’t the absolute best here sometimes so it doesn’t really stand out, necessarily.  It’s strange here in Nice, it’s either a hit or miss in terms of the night life until all of the tourists come later…and by later I mean starting around now.

Sunday Kelsey, Kathleen, Allie and I went to Eze. A beautiful little town on the coast that has an incredible view of the Mediterranean. The view is from the Exotic Garden which rests on top of the old chateau-city.  The old castle has the typical winding, tight  streets with stone roads and everything.  Eze has a thing called Devil’s Bridge with a strange old wives tale tied with it (http://www.webstore.fr/eze/village/ang/legend.htm).  After you’ve read the story: PETA, get on that! 

After checking that out we asked a cop what else to do in Eze and he replied “Rien,” which means “nothing.”  Love these candid French cops.  Some older ladies suggested to walk the amateur path that Friedrich Nietzsche would walk when he vacationed in Eze.  Well these ladies must have been Olympians because it was a pretty hectic and rocky path down the cliff—no wonder Nietzsche was so angry all the time!  But we made it and it was well worth the hike.  That night we saw the film “Les Femmes du Sixieme Etage,” a very strange French film.

We all enjoyed our hiking adventure so much that we decided to seche (skip) class and hike the paths of this town called Biot.  Allie’s host mom did not give us the best directions to get there so we had to walk past a mile or so of closed down (for the winter) amusement parks.  It reminded me of every episode of “Are You Afraid of the Dark?”.  On our way to Biot there was a random Bonzai Museum that cost money to enter (no, merci) and an “art” museum with solely the art of this one French artist.  The art wasn’t the best in my opinion; however the highlight was how there was an exhibit in the museum about the actual physical creation of the museum and the museum’s enfancy.  It was a museum about the museum! (Or at least the first exhibition was). Got a good laugh out of that. (Note to self: create a museum about the history of other museums. Good way to make money).  Biot was a cute little French town and the hiking path was along a shaded river—definitely worth it.

Ate dinner with Emily’s parents on Tuesday night which was great, full of dart-board teeth, talks of gallivanting around Paris, and marriage pacts at the age of 40. See you back in the US, Wilson’s!  Thursday I went to see Albert Camus’s Caligula at the Nice Theater with Emily, Paymon, and Isabelle. Odd show. Long show (2.5 hours without intermission).  After that a bunch of us went to an Erasmus event at then a night of dancing at Candy Club.

Allie came over Friday night for dinner to avoid one last night of awkwardness with her host mom.  Saturday Gabby and I spend the day in Sanremo, Italy. Definitely a cool town with a great market full of clothes, jewelry, etc.  We walked along the port, tried some foccacia bread, and successfully interpreted Italian directions from a police officer. Whereas in France most people speak at least 2 languages, we noticed that many Italians (and Helene confirmed this) only speak Italian. Even though the two countries are right next to each other, the languages are very different.  Thank the sweet lord Gabby understands a little Italian and knew some basic words.  The only I knew was “gratzie” meaning thank you, which I acquired from Euro Trip.  The man who sold us gelato made a point to correct it to “gratzia”—thank you gelato man, and a shake of the fist at me for taking language lessons from Euro Trip.

Last night was Amaia’s, our Dutch friend, birthday.  A bunch of went to her hostel and celebrated there then went dancing at Checkpoint. Happy birthday, Amaia!!

13

Feb

It has been much too long since I’ve blogged, but it was another amazing week in France. On Monday we all took our placement exam, which was incredibly difficult. I wasn’t too concerned because I knew that I wanted to be in a lower level because my French is well…coming along.  I went to a museum of Art Naif, meaning it was created by people who had no formal training. Not only was the museum free, but the art was crappy, as to be expected. I still felt cultured.  However, we learned that public bathrooms are not common here at all! (sorry Rich, you would be out of work in France)  You have to pay anywhere from 20 centimes (ie. cents) to 35 centimes for a bathroom!! WTF!

On Tuesday Kelsey and I attempted to go the Matisse Museum, but discovered that Nice enjoys taking Tuesdays off, and it was the only day that the museum was closed. So, we went to check out the Russian Cathedral located on the other side of town. It was incredible. It’s the largest Russian cathedral outside of Russia, and has a…unique story.  The mother of one of the Russian tsars asked her son (the tsar) to commission this church for her first fiance who had died in Nice.  So basically the mother asked her son to make a church for his potential Daddy #1. No one ever said Russian history made sense.  That night I probably went out or something.

On Wednesday the group took a trip to Grasse, France where much of the perfume in the world is made, meaning the entire town smelled distinctly of roses. Mmmmmm.  We checked out how perfume is made, and I may have bought a perfume for a certain somebody.  Madame Eades, our UMD professor over here, brought us to her friend’s apartment in Grasse where we ate all kinds of food including pissaladiere.  Hélène made another incredible dish that night called daube: beef and pasta with vegetables.  SO good. 

Thursday a bunch of us took the bus to Monaco, and it was incredible! Jamie, Emily, and I broke apart from the group for a bit and ate at a small sandwich place, where our waiter was a small British boy who spoke only English to us even when we spoke French to him.  We affectionately named him Oliver Twist.  Hope he didn’t hear us.  We asked him to suggest a place to get gelato and he suggested the Hagen Daas in the mall nearby. Monaco in the winter: apparently not a great place to practice French or get gelato.  Fail.  The whole city (i.e. country) was immaculate and the buildings were so ornate, including the Monte Carlo Casino which we were able to check out.  Then we headed to the Royal Palace which was on top of Le Roche, or the Rock.  Paymon informed me that the original Grimaldi entered Monaco with his friends pretending to be monks, then took out their swords, killed the rulers,  took over and have been ruling ever since.  He told me that the Grimaldis were much nicer today.

Friday: I found out that I got into the First Level, meaning I’m taking basic French classes.  My class times are mainly in the afternoon, which kind of stink, but the school chooses what times our classes are based upon what level we get into.  Friday night a bunch of us went to a bar and the I met up with Jen and Ena to go the High Club. Basically the most European club I’ve ever been too in which everyone was impecably dressed.

Saturday: Slept and watched Glee. Also, got to talk to Dad and Stephanie. Happy Birthday, Pops!!

Sunday: I met up with Danny Baer at his place in Antibes and had raclette made by his host-dad, Franceso, perhaps the nicest man on Earth.  Raclette is melted cheese on potatoes and different types of meats and hams.  There is a machine that heats up and you put a piece of cheese on hot plate inside of the machine. When it’s all nice and melted you take it and pour the cheese on the meat and potatoes. Incredible. We also had a different alcohol for each course. Aperatif, or pre-meal drinks. Wine with the raclette, and champagne with the home-made tiramisu. Ahh!!  Franceso took me, Danny, and Sammi (who so nicely agreed to accompany me) on a quick car tour of Antibes.  What a cool guy.   The night ended with me showing Hélène, Rocco, Pauline, and Wenfei the Glee mashup of “Thriller/Heads Will Roll.”  All enjoyed…except Rocco who was getting cranky, but is now over his cold which he had all week.  I would say it was a pretty good week.  Classes start tomorrow, here we go!This is a raclette machine. You put the cheese on the little holder and wait for it to melt.  The meat spread here is similar to the one that I had.

07

Feb

La Premiere Semaine!

My first week here has been incroyable!  It’s been nuts so that’s why I haven’t had time to post, but here we go, let’s see where I left off:

Everyday this week we had pre-class at «le fac» (university), where we went over basic French information to prepare us for our placement test on Monday.  Yeah, so after realizing how poor my French is I very much so want to be put into the Premier Etage.  Studying for the exam is therefore not necessarily in the cards…  Our teacher, Laticia, was the most French looking girl I’ve ever seen and was awesome.  Class included learning new vocab and putting on skits in French.  Kelsey and I put on a stellar performance as a progressive couple who were high (défoncé) and had to be scolded by our daughter, played by the very lovely Ena. SO French…

We took a bus tour of nice led by Christian, a teacher at the University, in which we saw the entire city and learned the history of Nice.  I understood perhaps 10% of all he said, so please refer to this cite if you are interested in the history: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nice,_France.  I appreciate the efforts of my personal translator, Emily Wilson.  Merci.  We went to an old Franciscan church and also saw the ruins at Cimiez.  Our bus went up to a mountain where we got an amazing view of Nice!

I got my bus pass and had to mail my OFII (immigration) form which was terrifying for me.  Speaking in French to real business people was nuts. The post office lady wasn’t the friendliest, by the woman at the bus line was helping me with my French and even gave me a complimentary calendar, which is still in my book bag, as a parting gift.

Everyday we’ve been walking around exploring new parts of the city and eating unbelievably good French food.  The best meal I’ve had so far has been my lunch for the past few days: fresh baguette with cheese. Ahh! The best.  More food info to come…  This one super market near our director’s house has the most unbelievable baguettes

On Friday the group took the bus to St. Paul-de-Vence, an old medieval citadel-city that was unbelievable. Small, windy streets, the whole smear. Amazing pictures to come.  We went to a Chagal museum there as well.

Cutting my loses how I have not posted earlier and moving on to this weekend. Jen, Ena, Kelsey and I explored the port of Nice and learned that we are all weirdos and have bonded over that fact. Met up with Sam at Le Place Garibaldi pour some glace (ice cream), yum.

Today was amazing. Hélène, Pauline, Wenfei and me went with some of Hélène’s friends up to a mountain near St. Paul de Vence. We had a French/Chinese picnic since some of Hélène’s friends are Chinese. So I ate pissaladiere, which is onions and anchovies pizza. SO good and it is authentically niçoise. I also had fried rice with duck…SO French. Then we hiked, stepped in sheep pooped, and discussed French politics with Lamon (?). Finished up the night eating crepes and watching clips of Glee songs at Hélène’s sister’s house in Cagnes sur Mer. The best.

30

Jan

Day Deux

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Well…finally in Nice! Traveling seemed to take no time at all but yet it seems like it was ages ago already.  Dad and Stephanie dropped me off at Dulles, where I bumped into Emily Wilson and her parents.  So apparently my big bag was too heavy to even take on the plane, so in a huff I had to purchase another bag at the airport and take weight out of the other bag to get to 32 kilograms…about 70 lbs. Yea, I packed a lot of stuff.


Most of us in the Maryland program met up at the gate and all mingled until our flight.  The flight was pretty uneventful: conversing with flight attendants with British accents, watching the Social Network, and oh yea, drinking FREE alcohol on the flight from Dulles to London.  Whaa!?!  I know, right.  Speaking of alcohol, it was everywhere in Heathrow airport, and vendors were just giving out free mohito samples…definitely not in the States anymore.  (I’ve just begun referring to the U.S. as the States…it happens). 

 

After we got our luggage at Nice Airport, Dr. Eades our UMD resident director introduced us to our homestay families that were all waiting for us.  At first I thought that the handlebar mustached man wearing an Australian outback hat was my new host-father, but then I saw Hélène (we’re on a first name basis; pronounced AY-LEN) and Rocco waiting for Wenfei and me.  I was disappointed to learn that we were not part of a crime-fighting family, but pleased to learn that both Hélène and Rocco were super nice and sociable.  Speaking in French as a way of real communication and not part of some French class exercise was strange, yet I was surprised how easily it flowed.  Of course I had to ask Hélène to “Repetez, s’il vous plait” several times, but things were working out pretty well.

 

We took a couple of buses back to rue Raimbaldi where we got to chez nous/our house.  It looks like something out of a French movie: old architecture, small streets.  Of course there’s (nude) oil paintings, books, and artsy things everywhere, including a captivating oil canvass of Elvis.  SO French!  Rocco is a character, has no fear speaking with us, and informed us of his love for Les Simpsons, which we watched in French.  We’re already Facebook friends.  Hélène, Wenfei, and I all went to pick up Pauline from her father and then went grocery shopping: fresh jambon/ham for crêpes that we had for dinner, with our choice of at least 7 different jellies. Yum.  Pauline was at first shy, but she warmed up real quickly.  I think everything she says is adorable even though I only understand every other word she says.  FYI, the kids loved making the Jell-o, thank you, Sarah Williams!

 

Wenfei and I explored the city of Nice, where after passing a shady Indian restaurant Wenfei informed me that, “Budha protects all Asians.”  Good to know.  Then we called it a night.  This is the coolest place and it still feels like a dream to be here!  Bon nuit!!

 

First cultural lesson: Salutations

 

Someone you’ve never met before: handshake

Friends:

—girl to girl; guy to girl: kiss

—guy to guy: handshake

 

Hugging does not fly in France.

28

Jan

La France!!

I can hardly wait, tomorrow is the day where I leave to study abroad in France! I came to college knowing no one, but knowing two things: one, that I wanted to join a comedy group (check) and two, that I wanted to study abroad in a francophone country (pending…).  So basically what every male college student looks forward to..

It’s one of those things that hasn’t fully hit me yet.  I’ve been talking about going abroad for awhile and it was my main identifiable activity on Parent Panel for Orientation over the summer, because all OAs are in a million clubs and living-learning programs and I needed someone to distinguish myself.  Talking about it never seemed real though. The whole experience has happened in levels of realizing that I’m going away: purchasing tickets (not real for me, but real for my dad’s wallet), sub-letting my apartment (it’s all you now, Trey), watching everyone go to class on Monday and not me, and now making this tumblr.  Setting up my grandparents’ Skype was and informing my grandmother “that yes, the technology had been around for years” was a part of this too. 

Already going through a bit of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) with this whole snow storm, but not too concerned because I’ll be in FREAKIN’ FRANCE. I’m excited to meet my host family: Héléne Arnaud, and her two kids Rocco (9 yo) and Pauline (6 yo). And I found out this week that another UMD-Nice student, Wenfei will be in the apartment too. I’m going from only child to co-big brother in France, and I’m so up for it! Check out the picture that Héléne sent me of les enfants: it’s either Halloween or I’m join the French version of the Incredibles: I sincerely hope the latter but I’m so excited to meet them. 

Dad just handed me some burnt bacon…gotta go…next posting from Europe!