Friday, April 22, 2011

A REALLY Long Post With Some Possibly Useful Tidbits (and lots of italicized words)

Tidbit 1: The candy stand by the Odeon metro stop is actually pretty good. But be careful- like everything else in Paris, it's expensive!

Next, a bit on ice cream-
Today I walked all around Paris and ate way too much ice cream. I had, throughout the day, chocolate, coffee, mango, bubblegum, and blackberry. The only one I didn't like was the supposed blackberry, which tasted more like the cranberry sauce generally eaten at Thanksgiving dinner. It wasn't TERRIBLE...but it wasn't good, and I'm likely never going back to that particular ice cream place (I don't remember what it's called, but it says "GLUP" on the sign and it's right off of St Germain/St Michel) even though their bubblegum ice cream was good. Overpriced ice cream that doesn't even taste good is basically one of the worst, saddest things you can inflict on a person. AVOID GLUP.

Otherwise, I feel that today was very Parisian.
This afternoon, after a brief discussion of travel over the break with some friends in my foyer, I was late meeting another friend at Centre Georges Pompidou. I walked over because it was a beautiful day; it's basically summer at the moment. No idea if it's global warming or just how it goes here, but just like Sinatra said, April in Paris is definitely something worth singing about. I wore shorts and a halter top and was still warm, and back home, it's probably snowing.
Life is good.
Don't be too angry, folks back home- I hear it's going to rain here, for the entirety of May.
Anyway, I walked to Georges Pompidou, and as I walked, I got ice cream at Amorino (SO delicious- a small cone for 3.50 and as many flavors as you want), cotton candy Hotel de Ville (I know, poor nutrition, but when will I ever again have the opportunity to walk the streets of Paris eating cotton candy?! I've already missed the opportunities to ice skate and rollerblade), and later on, an Orangina. Because it's all delicious, and I'm on vacation.
I got to Pompidou and sadly couldn't find my friend (which was my own fault. Apparently the French are always late- I wonder if they have these types of problems?). Eventually I went into the museum's bookstore, where I bought a journal.
Tidbit 2: Pompidou has one of the best gift shops as far as cool writing/drawing supplies and posters go.
The journal I bought today has Dali's Meditative Rose on it.
I love roses, I love meditation even though I'm not very good at it, and since visiting Madrid (the post is forthcoming) I'm finding more and more that I love Dali, even though he's a flipping weirdo. Also I love writing, in case you weren't sure.
Tidbit 4: The big cobblestone area in front of Pompidou is also pretty cool. There are generally street performers playing instruments or putting on a show or making these enormous bubbles, and today there were vendors. Venders?

After I left the bookstore, I bought a present for someone special (an imaginationeer extraordinaire, artist in all mediums, and rescuer of guinea pigs that I'm very close to) in front of the museum, and then went off in search of tattoo parlors (just kidding, Mom- but for those interested, there are tons of tattoo parlors around Pompidou and Chatelet) and food. I ate and wrote at a place called Le Cyrano. And yes, I ate there because of the name. I really need to watch that movie, with Gerard Depardieu?

I even communicated with the waitress completely in French. I was feeling very Parisian indeed. I still make so many mistakes here that I go into absolute shock whenever I realize I understand what people are saying.
Now that I've spent some time in warm, sunny Paris, sans having to go to silly silly classes, I don't know how I'm ever going to leave. Although I can't deny that I miss my family. And driving. And most importantly, my cat!
Tidbit 9: And I WAS missing Sex And The City and Family Guy until Anna introduced me to this website- If you're abroad where Hulu doesn't work, this is the website for TV shows, man.

What I love about a walk in Paris is that it can become anything. Lunch, a visit to an old church or museum, the day you saw something amazing, the day you found or learned something you never knew existed. The day you met the love of your life! Or at least, the love of your life in the form of a pair of shoes or a trench coat. They love their trench coats here. You're also likely to find old buildings with iron rail balconies, gardens, a good market. My walk today became a pursuit of Place des Vosges. Another great thing about France (tidbit 12): everything is pretty packed in and there are signs everywhere for nearby landmarks— Place des Vosges is this way, Picasso museum that way—except THAT museum is closed for a while, or I'd LIVE there.
On my way to the Place, I ran into Musee du Carnavalet, a free historic museum that was once somebody important's house.
Free? I thought. Pourquoi pas?
It was a lot like a tiny and much less crowded Versailles. Beautiful paintings, woodwork and furniture in all the rooms. Part art gallery, part garden, part house. You see that kind of detail and extravagance, and you think, "No wonder there was a revolution."

Stupidly, I forgot the disposable cameras I bought yesterday, so I don't have pictures of the museum or Place des Vosges. But let me assure you that, like all over freakin' Paris, there are huge paintings and huge mirrors all filling up huge rooms, and outside there are lots of flowers and perfectly-trimmed hedges. Also there was a cute pillow shop nearby that I wanted to buy from, but I need to have room in my suitcase. (Bitching alert) My 3-day-late-arrived, wheel-less suitcase. Thank you Delta. Way to lose a once-loyal customer who's only going to be flying MORE in the future.
I didn't see every single room in the museum, but there were several I really liked. One had a cool painting of a girl dressed in black with a bored-looking pet Cheetah. Another room had all this iron artwork hanging on the walls and from the ceiling, with lovely stained glass windows in the background. I went to Place des Vosges soon after. It's a pretty little square park somewhere in the Marais, surrounding by old pinkish housing that I recognized immediately from a postcard. There's a fountain in each corner.

Today made me remember just why I came to Paris. I haven't traveled enough yet to say for sure, but I just can't imagine that there's another city like it. Before I came here, I asked so many people what the best things were to do in Paris. They all said, "Walk," and they were right.
I realize now that this experience will not make me fluent in French. It will not make me any more chic or any less awkward, and it won't make me a fashionista. But it will make me marvel at the world, it will make me hold my head a little higher, and it will make me say "Pardon" with a French accent every time I have to push by somebody. It will change my life, and I can't imagine not having come here.

Oh, and Paris Tip of Today: If you order a crepe and the crepemaker makes it incorrectly the first time around before either of you realize it (you know, he puts cheese on it instead of egg or something), you will likely get both crepes for the price of the one you wanted. It's happened to me twice. Crepemakers get distracted, apparently, and I don't always watch them closely enough.

So now that I'm done rambling about Paris, I should mention that I have one last Barcelona/Madrid post to type up (the first two are under THIS post, if you haven't checked them out yet). I just wanted to get back to Paris before I posted anything more about Spain. What I'll say now, though, it that both Barcelona Central Garden One and Sant Jordi Alberg (I think that's the spelling) Hostels are excellent, fun places to stay for the budget traveler. You will feel welcomed and you'll meet some really cool people. Also Lagan Backpackers in Belfast, Ireland is good, and I've heard from Pam that there's a place in Prague called Sir Toby's that's pretty good. I'll try and put together a list of good hostels before the blog is over.
I recently found out that I have an extra week of travel before I leave, and I've been thinking about going to Nice and then back to Barcelona. I missed a lot of Gaudi, the Picasso and Dali museums, and a zoo and aquarium. Barcelona is a really, really cool city and I'd recommend it to anybody.

Lastly, this has nothing to do with anything. I was going to post the clip of Rush Limbaugh being a radio announcer in Blue Harvest, but I couldn't find it, so here's this instead.

Friday, April 15, 2011

From my travel journal: Burns, Beds, and Barcelona.

April 14
It has to be said that generally, hostel beds are good only to the weary traveler. You've been traveling all day, by plane, by bus, on foot, then seeing sights and staring blankly at maps and guides, buying necessary supplies and gathering names of good restaurants, and by the end of the day, maybe after a good show and a drink of the local ale (sangria, in Barcelona's case), all you want to do is pass out. At the end of a day like that, tap water is like the sweet nectar of a desert oasis and a hostel bed is like a cloud. But after that first night, and maybe some subsequent naps, your energy slowly catches up to you, you get used to the place, and you realize that hostel beds are crappy, glorified cardboard boxes.
Okay, so they aren't that bad. But they're enough to make you appreciate a softer mattress once in a while.
At this place, though, the bed isn't too bad. Maybe it's because I'm still tired, but I don't think so...I'm awake enough to be aware of the talking down the hall, the guy coughing next door, even enough to wonder if the noise outside will bother me tonight. Last night I lay right down, decided that the traffic sounds made me feel right at home, and I passed the heck out for almost 7 hours straight only to be awakened by my bladder. Also, earlier this evening, after 7 hours of walking (admittedly there was some view-staring, bus-riding and paella-eating too) I took the heaviest one-hour nap of my life. It was perfect. Siesta's an excellent tradition. In fact, I've been trying to compile a list of healthy habits one can find scattered throughout the world's cultures. Siesta has a lot to do with temperature, but naps are helpful at that time of day (around 2 or 3 pm) in general.
Inspired by talk of siestas, I tried to think of healthy French cultural habits. Smoking? Definitely not. Baguettes? Not so much. Arguing? Maybe for the mind... Walking and eating fresh food each day? Bingo. The Germans have the environmental stuff fact, the general favoring of smaller stuff in Europe is probably helpful to both the environment and our waistlines. Well, not mine just yet, but I'll get there. Everything in moderation, right? Including fruity mentos, which I've been eating TONS of. And today I ate Paella, which is delicious, but I couldn't even finish it! What is the point of this big American gut if the actual organ is too small to handle a pan of good paella?! I ate it on La Rambla.
I love La Rambla, mainly for the mercat (market, even though I always think meerkat) that sells all kinds of fruit juice there. I love all things fruity (take that as you wish). So far I've had mango coco (FAVE), mango and papaya, and fresa, I mean, strawberry and something or other, maybe coconut. The strawberry was a little overpowering, but it was still yummy. It's hard to pace myself with all this good food everywhere. If I just don't eat for hours, then have a big meal, I feel not only full but like I'm gonna die. That, I think, is a good lesson for a traveler to learn, unless you're a traveler with an iron, bottomless-pit stomach. I can't say I'd mind having one of those.
Pam and I had a good liberal discussion with some new friends tonight. One girl was Lauren, who gave us lots of valued info, including The other was Louise, who is Australian and traveling Europe until she eventually settles in London. Man has she traveled a lot! I was so jealous. She recommended Buenas Aires (sorry if I spelled it wrong), then she and Pam raved about Argentinian food. All I could think of was the end scene of the book Hannibal, which was a good enough indication to me that I may very well be heading to Buenas Aires next.
Er, that is, after Russia. And Switzerland. This world is too dang full of things to see and too empty of money to see them all!

I AM missing Paris a little. In fact, during the very little downtime we've had, I've been writing down little things I want to do for my Paris Staycation. Maybe a traditional French breakfast somewhere, a Croque Madame and a cafe for lunch at Les Deux Magots, a stroll down Champs Elysees...
But like Paris, Barcelona is amazing, so full of things to see. Colorful, lively, even the sidewalks are kind of pretty. Even the shape of the city blocks are a little different. And Gaudi architecture is colorful, whimsical, beautiful, alive, dreamlike. Sagrada Familia was unbelievable. Parc Guell was adorable. Like Flamenco dancing, Barcelona seem powerful, passionate and beautiful. I'm just so glad to be able to be here and see it all, and to finally have seen the Mediterranean!

April 15

That's what I think when I look at my face. After two hours on the beach with the protection of my made-for-albinos-SPF 50 sunblock, I look (and feel) pretty baked. We didn't even do as much today as we did yesterday, but by 5 or 6 Pam and I were both pooped. We didn't even want to go inside Sagrada Familia anymore, we just wanted a nap.
It was a good day, though. Beach, Rambla, paella and fruit juice. The best paella place on La Rambla has a sign on top of their display menu that says THE BEST SANGRIA. I finally got to see and feel the Mediterranean. Sadly, it was too cold to really swim, although I may have if we'd stayed longer lying in the sand. Oh well, I'll just have to come back! Feeling pretty drunk off the sunshine (and maybe a little from the sangria I had), so I think I'll take a nap before I update!


Sorry if this gets repetitive, it was typed and written a little out of order. I'll put up a better update later on.

April 13- As I'm typing this I am sitting in the common area of an awesome Barcelona hostel (seriously, this place is pretty great) next to my friend Pam as we do all of our various internet errands. I'm pretty much done with mine so rather than type a whole post tonight im just going to write up some important bits and crash, because I'm SO EXHAUSTED AAAHH.

La Rambla (the famous street) is the place to be, great street performers, some even better than in Paris...costumes, sound effects. Really annoying= these guys who sell little doodads that sound like dogtoy squeakers and make your voice really high and obnoxious. They're every few feet on La Rambla, and they're nearish to the beach too (as well as other attractions). Like in Paris, there are guys selling flowers to couples, usually trying to hand it to the woman while getting man to pay. TapasTapas was a good place to eat, need to try this chicken/seafood/rice concoction called paella...awesome mercat (market) on La Rambla where the deeper in you go the cheaper (and probably more delicious) the fruit juice drinks are. Today I had mango and coco(nut) flavored...was utterly delectable. Gonna drink at least one every day. Also there is cool candy, lots of fruits and veggies, and fish, meat, cheese....all kinds of food, very crowded, very tempting. Barcelona is beautiful, palm trees, architecture, really pumped to see Sagrada Familia and other pieces by Gaudi. Saw a really great flamenco show, so powerful and passionate, was totally drawn in. It was all organized by the hostel = just another great thing about this place. Have definitely had good luck with hostels. The Irish one gave me free hot breakfast and later on, beer, and this one gives me discount Flamenco shows and apparently free live music tomorrow night. Pam's a great traveling companion too, and an excellent navigator. Nice to hand the reins over to someone. And it's been pretty easy finding our bearings here, too. Tomorrow= Parc Guell and Sagrada Familia.

Sagrada Familia is this huge, crazy, unfinished cathedral that Gaudi designed. The hostel guy says they might be finished by 2030. The detail in the architecture is just amazing. Photographs don't do it justice. Apparently in the gift shop of the place sells a video that professes to be in like ten languages, but when you put it on, it's just silent. So...beware of that, I guess.

April 14- Had the most scrumptious paella on La Rambla today. Pam had mixed, with chicken, seafood, pork and rice, and I had paella del senorita, which just meant all the seafood was peeled (because I'm lazy and I don't want to see the shrimp's eyes). We sprinkled some lemon juice on and it was even MORE delicious! Then I tried mango and papaya juice, which isn't as good as mango and coconut in my opinion. Also, I made a note of OVERRATED CANDY in my journal. The candy's pretty tasty, but way too expensive, so make sure you are buying something you either REALLY like of have been dying to try.

To avoid getting pickpocketed I've been putting money in the side of my bra, but it seems like as long as you're attentive and careful it isn't terribly difficult to avoid getting robbed...just be watchful in the many crowded areas of the city.

We also went to Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell and got a double dose of Gaudi's crazy drug-induced (not a fact, just our assumption) architecture. Journal at the end of our Gaudi adventure: It's 6 pm, I've only been out since like 11:30 and I'm freaking exhausted. We walked to Sagrada Familia and back, then took the bus (bus 24 is the one) to Parc Guell to walk around, see the view of the city and the Gaudi designs. I don't think he'll outdo Sagrada Familia....for one he's dead, plus the thing is still under construction...but Parc Guell and the various houses around the city are pretty amazing. There's a lot more I want to do and see- the Block of Discord (three awesome houses), the Picasso and Dali museums- but after tomorrow we leave for Madrid. I'd love to just stay and do everything, but I may as well see Madrid while I have the chance.

I think that at the end of the semester I'm going to do a post about hostels. This one ALMOST beats the one in Belfast, but not quite...the shower was a little too temperamental and there isn't free breakfast. The atmosphere is quite friendly though, homey and comfy, there's a decent kitchen and a deck, you get a really good map that they mark up for you. I can't decide which is better. There are a lot of things I haven't seen yet, including the Agbar building, which is the resident water company's building. It looks like a beehive to me, but when Pam pointed out another way to observe the shape I couldn't disagree. Seems like every country has to have it's phallic symbol. Eiffel Tower in Paris, Agbar building here, that thing in Berlin that I can't remember the name of...and it seems like Dublin had the smallest one. It's basically a really big needle. Sorry, Ireland.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Cochem and SMEEPS

My weekend in Germany went by in the blink of an eye, and I can't help wishing I'd stayed at least one more night. My friends/cousins there are Americans who live this hybrid German-American life that's really interesting to me. Whenever I go (which is only twice now but I have a feeling there are more visits to come) I get a little bit of the US (as in, speaking English, talking about my family, eating Jif peanut butter) and a little bit of Deutschland (eating bratwurst on brotchen, speaking teeny tiny bits of German, riding on small German roads through big German fields). I knew nothing about Germany before last summer, when I first came to visit, and let me tell you, if all you know about Germany is that they were the bad guys in World War II and that they went through all that Berlin Wall craziness, you absolutely must go! It's such a beautiful place, with huge fields and forests laid across miles of hills with little villages nestled in every few miles. There's also a ton of windmills and a pretty strict environmental policy, which I really admire. My mom and I were joking before I came to France that I should have gone for a semester in Germany to learn how to be clean and efficient...but instead I was going to France where I'd learn to drink wine every day and to always be fashionably late. I might regret that pretty soon...I'm currently on my way to becoming the Pillsbury Doughboy, and that's only because I'm not tall enough to be the Staypuft Marshmallow Man. If I'd gone to Germany, I might instead have become the Energizer Bunny!
Anyway, the best thing about this particular visit was probably that I got to meet a highly anticipated baby. The last time I saw him he was just a big baby bump, so you can imagine how pumped I was to finally meet him in person. He seemed happy enough to make my acquaintance as well, and enjoyed chewing on my sweatshirt strings. He was pretty much the cutest thing ever, but then again, so are his older brothers. These kids are destined to be heartbreakers someday.

I also was lucky enough to go to a small German town called Cochem. My cousin, Anna, had heard of an Easter Market there, and since we'd never been to one before (let alone one in Germany), we decided to go. Cochem is right on the Mosel River and tucked into this deep, beautiful valley. To get there we drove downhill for 5-10 minutes on this woodsy, windy road on which we kept passing clearly psychopathic, suicidal (or maybe superhuman) bikers. Once we got there we ate a delicious nutritious lunch of bratwurst on brotchen with fries and sauce, which was later followed by a too-big-for-me ice cream cone that I ordered because it was so darn cheap, at least in comparison to Paris prices. Let me tell you, if there's anything the Europeans do right (and there are many, many things), it's ice cream. I also bought a tiny bottle of milky pink liquor that is supposedly peach-flavored. Guess I'll find out!
After we wandered through the market and looked briefly into some shops, we walked up a big hill to the castle.
NOTE: Every worthwhile place in Europe has a castle, apparently. Unless you're in France, in which case if there isn't a castle (or a chateau), there is likely some huge and beautiful cathedral.
The view from the castle in Cochem is utterly breathtaking. Sadly I didn't bring a camera, but here's the idea-

We were only in Cochem for a few hours, but we could have stayed for days due not only to sheer beauty but also to some pretty cool activities in the area. There was a chairlift that went up the mountain nearby, tons of vineyards and places to taste and buy wine, a 9-euro, two-hour boat tour, and of course lots of small, winding cobblestone roads to explore. The entire time we were there I felt as though we were walking through a painting or a movie scene. Especially when, up at the castle, this tiny blue VW Bug came out through the gates to drive a brand new bride and groom down the hill. Another thing about Europe- lots of weddings and wedding pictures everywhere, whether on the Seine or at the Tour Eiffel in Paris, or in a German castle in Cochem or Heidelberg.
The night after our Cochem visit, my cousins and I made Smeeps (a name coined by Zak Roser)- that's S'mores made with Marshmallow Peeps. Quite delicious, AND easy to make!

Now that I'm back from Germany, I've got to prepare for Barcelona, but all I've been thinking about is 1. how freakin' tired I am for absolutely no reason, and 2. how much I want to go to a place that is both German and French. I love both cultures (I think at some point I'm going to have to just admit to myself that I love ALL cultures), and since they're neighbors they've caused some of the surrounding territory to, well, take sides. Anna's friend Ann mentioned places in Switzerland and Belgium that have distinct German and French sides. I would absolutely love to have only a street to cross in order to cross completely into another, that is, as long as it's in a friendly, willing manner and not some sort of Berlin Wall situation. Train tickets to Switzerland are ridiculously expensive, so I'm either going to have to look into plane tickets or just wait until I'm in Europe again. Oh, and I'll be here again. I'll find a way. I just found out that one of my best friends is studying in Russia next semester...
If I post tomorrow, it'll likely be about Versailles. Otherwise, I'll update again after Barcelona!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Bit About Ireland

When I went to Ireland I brought a tiny little journal with me, you know, to write about the trip, but now that I'm reading it most of it says stuff like "Where the hell ARE they?" because I spent an hour or so trying to get in touch with the friends I was meeting. (Let it be stated at this point and time for the record that they DID end up in the hotel lobby at the appointed meeting time and I luckily saw them amidst the St Patrick's Day crowd because Bobby is so tall.) To give you an idea of just how boring it is, here's like, a summary:

"So here I am in the CDG airport waiting for it to be time to check in."
Then I talked about how I didn't check in online and I ate Mcdonald's twice that day, so I felt pretty horrible. I use that to make a joke about the hurling match I'm going to see with my's all pretty painful to read, actually.
I mention some songs from my Ireland's three I really like by Gaelic Storm (thank you Lindsey and Danielle for recommendations)-

Then I offer opinions about my study abroad program. I'm not going to post those yet because I'm planning to save that for one BIG post at the end of the trip/blog. I consider getting a tattoo in Ireland, then about getting one for every country.."Maybe not in Korea. Or Africa. Or Japan." I talk about Milka Bars, which I recommend you try if you're ever in Europe. Even though you'll gain like 60 pounds, they're just SO DELICIOUS! (I've stopped eating them for a little while though, my trip to Barcelona is coming up.)
I made a note to mention the "no syringes" sign in the French airport bathrooms. Okay, it's more of a know, a drawing of a syringe behind the circle with the slash through it, just in case you were thinking about throwing your syringes away in an airport bathroom.
I feel like this part might be useful though-
"At the gate now. Man, that security was nothing. And the guy didn't even look at the right boarding pass. No WONDER my bag got lost in the beginning (FYI Delta lost my big suitcase when I flew over for the semester...I flew easyJet to get to Belfast, though)- airline people don't look at dates! This is not reassuring. Hopefully no terrorists fly to Belfast.
The bathroom was really first thought was "Wish I'd brought my camera!" Then the next was "Yay white toilet paper!" (toilet paper in my foyer is pink) followed by "Gee, a toilet seat would have been nice." And no, I didn't go into the wrong bathroom...toilet seats seem to be optional in France. In fact, in a village in Champagne I had to use the kind where you just stand over a hole. It was pretty glamorous.
Then I go through a kind of Rebecca Black segment and say all the stuff I "gotta do" before I see my friends the next day. There was no "Flight to Belfast" sign near the gate, but everyone had Irish accents so I figured I was in the right place.

Anyway, once I got to Belfast I spent the night in a hostel called Lagan Backpackers. It was pretty great, a four-star as far as hostels go. I walked to the bus station the next morning at like 730 am and caught the 8am bus to Dublin. It was all remarkably easy, thank God. Once I got to Dublin, I took a taxi to my friends' hotel and it wasn't long before I encountered large groups of older people wearing huge felt hats that I realized were supposed to be huge beer glasses. I wished I had my Irish feather boa- my friend Danielle bought me one when she went to Ireland a couple years ago. A while after I got to the hotel, I finally spotted Bobby and got hugs from everyone. It was almost like they were all really happy to see me, which made me decide that I should go away more often!
We went to the hurling match (hurling I guess is kind of like field hockey and lacrosse? I didn't pay the closest attention). There was a guy in the audience holding a huge sign with a bible verse number on it, but I haven't checked to see which one it was yet. Then we went to Temple Bar (which is apparently important and well-known...I know absolutely nothing about the land I look the most like I'm from) and I don't know if I've ever seen more people in one place in my life. Tons of drunk people, beer cans everywhere, singing and dancing and yelling. The bar itself was packed wall to wall...we were smart enough not to go in. We spent the day wandering around Dublin, drinking, and, in Kim's case, singing and speculating what a horse thinks. The weekend went by really fast, and before I knew it my friends were on their way back to the States. So, one free hotel breakfast, a hotel bar of soap and towel, and a French Miyazaki poster (THANKS BOBBY!) richer, I hopped on a bus back to Belfast. And on the way out of Dublin I saw this awesome Guinness bridge!

I don't think it's actually called the Guinness bridge. But look at it. It's like a gift from the Beer Gods. On that note, let me just add that Guinness isn't my chosen Irish beverage. I'm more of a cider girl myself. But both are worth trying while you're there. My friends even got to go to the Guinness Brewery! I can't say I was able to do that, although we did visit the Mercier Champagne caves here in France last weekend.
I spent Saturday exploring Belfast and spending lots of money. I bought an Official Titanic Swim Team T-shirt and a delicious Skittles milkshake at this awesome place that has about 150 different flavors of milkshake. (Which reminds me, I have yet to try a Nutella-flavored milkshake. Better add it to my to-do list.) At the recommendation of my dear friend Lorie, I went on the Black Cab tour with some Australian girls I met at my hostel. The Black Cab Tour is a ride around Belfast in a cab while an Irishman tells you about the various murals in the Catholic and Protestant communities, and describes the results of the conflict between the two, those who are heavily involved, etc. It was really interesting.
Sorry for the half-ass blog post, but it's late, I'm tired, and tomorrow I'm leaving for my weekend in K-town. Bonne nuit tout le monde.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Je me suis promenee...

I know, I lied about posting more often, and what's worse is that I'm leaving Friday to start my spring break (which lasts TWO weeks. SCORE!). First I'm going to K-town (that's Kaiserslautern, Germany) to see a darling cousin, and then I'm off to Barcelona with my friend Pam who is not only awesome but also happens to speak Spanish (SCORE!). After that I may just stick around Paris and enjoy the city without any classes hanging over my head. I even have a Paris-area checklist I still have to finish (here it is, if you're not interested just skip it):

La Madeleine
Musee Rodin
Bvd St Germain
St Sulpice
Gardens around Tour Eiffel
Musee D'Art Moderne
D'Orsay again
Hotel Matignon
Palais Royal
Place Vendomes
Champs Elysees
Pere LaChaise
The Marais (St Paul, Place Vosges)
Montmartre: Moulin Rouge, Cemeteries, Dali, Amelie Cafe, Sacre Coeur again

On the other hand, there's a bit of summer I can use to do all that, and I could try to take a train to Nice or La Rochelle instead. Nous verrons I suppose (we'll see).
Anyway, since I don't want to blog about about the hangover I had this weekend (not yet anyway) and I still need to put together Ireland/Normandy/Tours/Champagne posts, I thought I'd post something small: a normal, every-day walk through Paris.

Typical Walk in Paris

You walk outside. Maybe you're holding a 40 cent cup of coffee or tea, which you drink very carefully. You look around, take it all in and smile for one or both of these reasons- 1) It's sunny, 2) You're in Paris.
You cross the street and almost get hit by a car. You maneuver around slow-moving people, moms with their babies, old ladies, middle-aged men in suits, and parked scooters. You look at shoes in windows as you pass and sigh when you realize that the pair you want costs about 3 nights in a Berlin hostel. You consider buying a Bretzel (a big heart-shaped soft-pretzel sprinkled with deliciousness) but earlier you ate a huge apple croissant thing that the lady recommended because they were out of Chausson aux Pommes, so you promise yourself one on Friday.
You check out the prices of sandwiches in various shops for future reference. You stop to look at a building/church/dress/some flowers/someone's great shoes in awe.
You walk by someone who stares at you. You look back at them confidently and after they pass you self-consciously check your reflection in the window of a Smart Car.
You cross the street to avoid a crowd of people/a line of students outside a Rue Vavin bakery/the temptation of Amorino ice cream/the homeless guy who yells to people as they pass. You kind of wish you just had bananas or something to hand out to the homeless people. You're really glad that there don't seem to be jay-walking laws in Paris.
You almost get hit by a bus.
Someone stops in front of you, rudely halting in order to light a cigarette, or maybe they're just standing there with a group of friends. As you push by impatiently you make sure to say "Pardon" the French way, remembering in horror that time yesterday that you said "Sorry" to someone.
You coo at cute (read: all) dogs and little babies. Two adorable children are hopping around, playing on the sidewalk and when they hop close to you you smile at them or laugh. Then you check to make sure they didn't rob you.
You wonder if some guy you pass is Russell Brand/Jaoquin Pheonix/that guy from Glee/Robert De Niro/a model. Maybe you wonder why they're blocking off the Pantheon today and repeat the question in French in your mind. You say "salut!" to a passing classmate.
You wonder who told the Europeans that mullets are still okay.
You adjust your posture in a shop window and the next time someone stares at you, you assume they're admiring you're strong spine.
You see this awesome red scooter and you wish it was yours even though you'd probably get hit by a bus or knocked off a bridge if you tried riding one around the city.
Maybe you almost get hit by a speeding police car.