Thursday, February 24, 2011

Caligula and A Pretty Tasty Language

Today was an interesting day.
It's almost the end of my very first week of phonetics, and I think it may be my favorite class (partly because it takes place every other week). After being in college for a couple years it's been a little weird having the same class(es) every weekday instead of every other day or even once a week. And it makes my grammar class feel longer than ever (it's two hours). On the one hand, I'm picking up little things that I hadn't realized I'd even forgotten, like the forms of certain verbs and stuff. On the other hand, I feel like I'm back in high school, doing tedious exercises, constantly working with a partner, etc. I don't know if moving up a level would make a difference; I have a feeling I'd be just as bored and also extremely lost and confused. Sometimes I feel like I learn more French listening to my roommate, Imene, talk with her friends (which makes me really glad I have a roommate).
But I love my phonetics class! It involves a lot of repeating words, recording, and getting the sounds right, and I've discovered I like my voice a lot more when it's speaking French. Also, you'd think that just repeating words would be easy as pie (and a lot of the time it is), but sometimes it's pretty tricky. If you don't know the words, or aren't sure of the sentence, all you can do is try to remember the sounds and repeat them. I feel kind of like a baby (or a parrot) mimicking words and trying to speak for the first time, or even shoving random things in my mouth...why do babies do that? To see what they taste like? Something sensory like that. The point is, sometimes I have to learn not to think about the words and what they mean —which is a big deal for me, because I really like words— and kind of just focus on how my mouth has to move in order to make the sounds. It's certainly easier when I already know the words, but certain combinations are tricky. English is the only language I'm fluent in, sadly, and I'm not exactly great at picking up languages right away, but I do enjoy trying to speak them. It's like trying new foods. It almost tastes different to speak French. French is a pretty tasty language.

In the evening, after class was over, I went to see Caligula. After lots of confusion and rushing around the metro, my friends and I arrived at the Opera where the ballet was. That building is so beautiful, it's unbelievable. I thought I was starting to get used to all the fancy schmancy architecture around here, but l'Opera just put me in shock. And the ballet was excellent. I don't know the story, so I made one up:
There's this guy, Caligula, and he's a rich spoiled brat. He's always having these awesome, wild parties, and that's how the ballet starts, at a crazy party at Caligula's house. Everyone's having a great time and dancing like mad, and Caligula pulls some crazy stunts, acting like he's going to start a fight with this guy and then being like "It's cool bro" and they dance together.
But Fate- which apparently is four tall sexy muscly guys in white outfits- has something else in store for Caligula. They deliver this girl (who rolls across the did she know how many times to roll to get to the right spot?! It was amazing!) and she and Caligula fall in love and have the time of their lives...until Caligula wants something the girl isn't willing to give. She runs away, and Caligula goes back to the party, which I decided was maybe in his basement.
Then there's a rumble, and Caligula fights all the dudes at the party and ends up killing one. He disappears somewhere and when he comes back, all the girls and guys are partying like nothing happened. The next day they're all super hungover- you can tell because they're really having a lot of trouble getting out of bed. They get up, fall back down, get up, fall back down, and finally start to function. I'm pretty sure one guy pukes. Then Caligula kicks them all out and fools around with his manslave, who is this dude on a leash.
Fate kind of comes in and out of the story until Cal finally kills the girl he's in love with somehow, and afterward he can't live with the guilt, so he dies. Naturally. It was either that or alcohol poisoning.

(If you want to know the real story, go to google. Or even better, a library.)

I never thought about how much danger and trust is involved in ballet. People are holding each other up, throwing each other, even collapsing on top of each other. If someone misses their cue or falls when they're not supposed to, a real injury could happen. It's pretty impressive to see. I was also thinking, as I watched the performance, that there were a lot of yoga poses in ballet. I saw tree, a warrior series, cobra, plank and dolphin plank, even goddess.

After the ballet I talked to some fellow American buddies, took a picture of some French people, and walked home. Walking from l'Opera back to St Michel is pretty easy- it's basically a straight shot from there to the Louvre, and once you're at the Louvre you just cross a bridge and walk along the Seine until you reach the St Michel mouth, recognizable because of the fountain. Anyway, it's a really great walk, especially at night, because you see everything- the city all lit up, the Louvre, that famous ferris wheel and the Eiffel Tower in the distance, the Seine, and finally Notre Dame. It really blows my mind that a month ago, the best things I'd see on walk were umm...snow? A creek? The person I was walking with? And now when I go for a's, "Oh, there's the Musee D'Orsay. Hey, that's the light from the Eiffel Tower. Oh hey, the top of Notre Dame." It's a little surreal to be near so many famous things at once.

What to do in Paris? Walk. Walk at night. Oh, and if you buy fruit, eat it ASAP. I just had to throw away two moldy oranges that I was trying in vain to make last the week. French food is apparently more fresh and less injected with preservatives than ours is, so it tends to go bad a little faster.

On that note, I'd better me coucher or whatever. My feet are tired from walking, my brain is tired from failing at French, and I have a trip to Normandy on the horizon. I was hoping to do yoga tomorrow but I'd better do my laundry first...I've been doing it in the basement sink because the washing machines cost 4 euros (but the dryer is free)...and to be frank, I'd rather use the money for baguettes, berries and cocktails.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Pour Manger...

I'm really annoyed that my name isn't April, or else I could have named this blog "April in Paris" and it would have been perfect, like the Sinatra song. I'll have to leave that one to my friend April.
For now I am the Paris-ite! Absorbing all the culture, language and crepes of Paris at the city's expense. Well, not really. But you get the idea.
Here's the deal about this blog. When I post (I can't promise that'll be consistent), I'll try and do a bit about the day and I'll finish with some tidbits about Paris. And hopefully, at the end, you'll not only have the in on my Paris experience, you'll ALSO have an idea of what to expect in Paris, what to do, and how to do it.

To start, I just ate Moroccan cookies courtesy of an awesome new friend (my roommate's pal, Aliya) and they were delicious. The first Paris advice I will give you: Try the food, especially the baked goods.
Yeah I know, especially us Americans, all we think about (and perhaps all we're often thought of for) is our weight. The weight-battle, the counting of calories, the work-out plan of the hour, and the half-their-size magazine articles. But you're in Paris. You WILL walk it off; you'll have to just getting around the city. Maybe you'll even work it off at a Parisian gym or yoga studio. Or maybe you'll just eat a French salad later on in the day (just as delicious as anything else).
So try the food. Buy a freakin' baguette, because there are NO bad baguettes in Paris (although I did find a stale one once). Get some cheese, and don't forget the wine (because you can buy some really good, really CHEAP wine in Paris). If you go out, make sure you have some French fries. When are you going to be in France again? You're in the BIRTHPLACE of French fries, and let me tell you, they are delicious. In fact, maybe I'm insane, but almost everything tastes better here. The fruits and veggies, the yogurt, definitely the bread...even the McDonald's, which I'm ashamed to say I've eaten here.* I got it "a emporter" (which is "to go" in French) and took it into the Jardin du Luxembourg to eat; both Mcdonald's and the Jardin are right near where I live.
If you're in Paris for say, a week, and want to have most of your meals in restaurants...or even if you're in Paris for say, 4 months, and you want all of your restaurant meals to be relatively cheap and moins can find meals for 10 euros. Full meals, and they're still pretty good. Two of the things I really like about Paris is that menus are almost always outside of restaurants and cafes so that you can see what they have to offer before you go inside AND there's usually some sort of "formule" or "menu" attached to a price. As in, a restaurant has "Menu a 12 euros: entree et plat ou plat et dessert," and then you can get an appetizer and dinner for 12 or dinner and dessert. If you're looking for all three, well, I haven't been around long enough to give you tons of restaurant names, BUT I can give you an area.
Blvd St Michel and Blvd St Germain are both good places to find almost anything, clothes, food, comic books, banks, various metro stops, etc, and near the corner of the two boulevards is, oh look, another Mcdonald's, AND a touristy little pathway through some cafes and boutiques. If you walk through here you can find tons of crepes, paninis and gyros (all standard Paris street food...well, maybe not the gyro), and all kinds of different restaurants and bars to choose from. Whether you're in the mood for French, Japanese, or Italian cuisine, you can find it here, and you can find it cheap. You can even find, for 10 euros, entree, plat and dessert. I'll let you know which restaurants are my favorites as I find them. For the time being, I recommend the creme brulee for dessert.
And last but not least, if you are staying in Paris for a while, you'll notice that there are crepes every ten feet. Don't worry, after you've eaten like 40 within the first three days of being here, they'll become far less tempting and may even lose their appeal. But still, you know they'll always be there if you need them after a long day of wandering the streets of Paris.

*The food at "McDo" isn't that different here, but yes, a quarter pounder with cheese is indeed "le royal cheese," (if you don't know what I'm talking about go watch Pulp Fiction please) and I was really excited to order "le Big Mac avec les frites and le coca zero." They have yummy sauce for the fries AND they gave me a bendy straw. Bendy straws, as we all know, are superior, and therefore Paris McDo is superior.