I am forever a northern girl. I really don’t know why I decided to study in the south of France when in the US, I hate the south. I love the cold, to the different personality of the people in the North. I don’t really know how to describe it in words, but there is a different vibe from different regions.
I was able to breath in much of Normandy’s air during my 20-30 mile bike journey, and let me say it is the freshest air my lungs have every felt. From their fuzzy cows, country sides, cute houses, to their beaches, it was breathtaking.
So here is my bike journey I took to visit my great Uncle Andy, my family’s WWII hero.
My first stop was buying flowers for his grave. I stumbled upon the cutest florist shop, who was ever so helpful in making me something! I chose a tiny Christmas tree with a little present and red flowers.
I then stopped at the tourist office for a map ! She was also very helpful and showed me what is the best way to bike around the Normandy beaches. Although I didn’t listen to her because she showed me small roads to go on, instead I choose the busy roads. The reason behind this was that is was dangerous for me, but I was nervous that I would get lost on no-named roads with no signs pointing me in the right direction.
My reason behind renting a a bike for 15 euros was based on price. a taxi would have been incredibly expensive, and I didn’t want to do a tour. The tours were also expensive, and I wanted to spend more time in the cemetery and small towns than in the beaches. Even though it was a struggle for my wine and baguette diet, I would totally do it again. I was able to see and breath Normandy.
I left about 10am, and had to be back at 5:30 before the shop closed. I had no idea how long it would take me, if I would get lost, or caught in a 20% chance of rain. So my journey there I was incredible persistent and nervous to make good time. So I choose the busy road option (still isn’t busy as an American road) and looked for signs that said Port of Bessin or D-day. I headed out to Port of Bessin, because from this point I knew I would have to go left, and the ocean would keep me on path of going straight.
Port of Bessin was beautiful-it was all that I imagined an European small town by the ocean would be. These pictures are from my journey back when I knew I had time to stop and take pictures.
Through all my traveling, it is not the food I remember, or the things I buy, but the people I meet. I will always remember the old woman I met waiting in line for the bathroom in Barcelona, who no matter how many times I said “yo hablo espanol un pocco” she still talked to me like I was fluent, and for some reason I understood everything she said-and then how she called me bella and introduced me to her son. In Paris, I will always remember the person who asked me what perfume I was wearing, or the guy at the souvenir shop who said I spoke French well and wanted to know about Avignon. Well a person I will always remember in Normandy is a kind old man who pulled over his car while I was taking pictures with a donkey. I assumed it was his donkey, but he actually stopped because he was worried about me. He told me he noticed I had a map and a bicycle, and that it was dangerous for a young woman to ride along side the road. He then helped me where to go, and from this point I was only 5 miles away ! He showed me where he lived on the map because he was proud of his town, it was really nice !
The destination- Normandy American Cemetery
I am the second person in my family to visit my great Uncle Andy, which is truly an indescribable feeling. Like many of the heros that died in WWII they were just young boys. It wasn’t until I was waiting in the train station back to Avignon when I saw a young French solider-that I realized my Great Uncle Andy was younger than me. When I visited his graved and talked to him, I wasn’t imagining a 17 yr-old boy like he was. This makes him even braver and more of a hero, because it was his choice to enlist in the war. This also makes it harder on my family because it was my Great Grandma who had to sign off on the enlistment. I couldn’t have picked a better weekend to visit-the weekend of Thanksgiving. I am thankful for my Great Uncle, and all men and women who fight for their country. It was a wonderful reminder of how we got where we are, and how much we have to be thankful for already.
I was sad to leave Normandy-when I graduate in hopes of teaching English abroad-I will defiantly be looking into Northern France.
I finally experienced Paris- the capital of Francophones. I was a little bit nervous to experience Paris for the first time because it is such a held high destination. I told myself don’t expect too much, and nothing too traditional in French sense-but I was totally wrong. Even with souvenir shops around most corners, the people are still traditional. You will still see regulars at cafes, butchers, or bakeries who are ordering their weekly baguettes. It is the city of love, and I savored every eye contact with every handsome gentleman. (:
My journey starting at 6am on a 3 hour train ride onwards to Paris-I got there at 8:30 am-a decent time to have a full day. First stop was my hostel, to check in and drop off my luggage. I stayed at St. Christopher’s Inn-people I met at the Barcelona hostel suggested this one. I was silly and booked the wrong one (yes there are two in Paris).
The one I wanted was right in the center of Paris-and I booked the one further one out. The positive of this is I broke my fear of figuring out the metro system. The negative of this, the Paris metro is expensive- 1.70 for one ride-although if you plan it right you can connect trains at one stop-and this still counts as one swipe because you never leave the metro station. My advice would be plan on spending way more money than you think because of this metro !!! You will want to use it to get around.
After the hostel I went straight back to the metro and started my day of being a tourist- My second day of Paris was dedicated to shopping ;)
First tourist stop-Le Louvre ! You can take one of the metro lines right to the museum. That metro stop has a little mall inside, and you’re right under the glass pyramid-the iconic symbol for the Louvre. The entree fee for the Louvre was 12 euros, if I had my French social security card from my school, I could have gotten in for free (but the French aren’t so good with that paperwork stuff hehe). There are three sections to the Louvre based on the time period/medium. I wanted to see the Mona Lisa right away, because I knew I would be too anxious if I tried to enjoy any thing before that. It’s pretty easy to find, because you can just follow any group of very obvious tourists looking for the same thing lol. In the same room as the Mona Lisa, right across from her, there is a painting covering the entire wall. I found this a little funny that so many people were amazed by the tiny Mona Lisa, when there is this enormous work of art that is breath taking right in front of it.
I did a little project while I was soaking in some art…Dogs in Le Louvre. Because 99.9% of the time there is a dog in the corner of the painting, so I took a picture of all of the ones I liked lol. (pictures to come)
I really enjoyed my time at the Louvre, but it is true what everyone says, there is no way you can get through it all in one day. I was there for three hours, and I did not see all of it. You sort of get lost and start taking stairs up and down until you reach where you started. By doing this, I am pretty positive I skipped a lot of sections. But I am happy to say I can now name a favorite artist, be a dog art whiz, and say I’ve been in Napoleon’s apartment.
Second tourist stop was the Eiffel tower. On my walk over I stumbled upon the Christmas Market !!! Avignon even has a Christmas market right now. This European way of shopping for your loved ones totally beats America’s electronic and clothing sales. There were lots of crepes, hot win, cheese, and dried sausage. Some of the art goods were Matryoshkas, painted ornaments, jewelry, or scarves. I caught on to the fact that only the food goods are legit in being made in France. I didn’t buy anything thing because I plan on stocking up at the Munich markets. I loved seeing all the decorations though !
So I made it to the Eiffel tower. During my walk over to the Eiffel tower (in one of the richer neighborhoods) it was the time kids got out of school. So I saw all of the caretakers. I thought it was interesting that all of the caretakers were non-French.; some American, Asian, or African women, holding the hand to a little kid with a real fur coat and expensive shoes.
Side note: It was a gloomy day in Paris-which in my opinion is the perfect atmosphere.
After the Eiffel tower I headed onward to the touristy distracts by the Louvre. I fell in love with all of the Christmas decorations.
For dinner I was planning on eating at Gentle Gourmet Cafe (a fancy vegan restaurant) but when I got there they were closed ;( I knocked on the door and they told me it was a private party for Thanksgiving for a vegan meet up. They had no more room for reservations ;( I made a reservation for the next day, but because of the time, and dealing with the metro to get there, and leaving Paris at 7 for Bayeux I didn’t make it. Sarah’s a sad girl. I got a picture of it so that sort of counts ??
That night for Thanksgiving I ate at the hostel-cheap and it’s nice to be around people on holidays. They had a really American bar and restaurant, and all the people who worked there spoke perfect English-but I noticed a lot of them were American or some other nationality other than French. I got a falafel wrap and rum and coke for my Thanksgiving meal lol ! They had the football game on, and were going around pouring shots down people’s throats in celebration lol ! Oh hostels are so fun if you find the right one !
I went straight to bed afterwards-so I could wake up early for a fullish day before I left for Bayeux. I checked out, but luckily I could pay for a locker to store my luggage as I toured around before I left. At 8am I headed to Notre Dame for the mass at 9am. Sadly when I got there, there was no such mass at 9am like online said
;( I still got to tour Notre Dame, which might have been my favorite stop in Paris. The neighborhood it was in was just as gorgeous. I also high enjoy gargoyles because they remind me of my dog.
So now all about my Parisian shopping day ! I researched a few stores I HAD to go to. I few pet store-to find my dog a tres chic collar, vintage stores, and other French/independent stores. The dog pet stores weren’t as special as I hoped-the collars were the type I could buy at Pet’s Mart. The home goods store Merci ceased to exist when trying to find it on the map, so didn’t make it to that ;( I DID MAKE IT TO ONE STORE THAT RULED ;) KILO SHOP ! It’s a thrift store that sells cloths by the weight ! The clothes are tagged with a color, and that color tells you how much per kilogram. I bought a plaid scarf and plaid long skirt for 30 euros per kilogram-it came to 10 euros !!!!! Score.
Sorry it’s been awhile, blogging has deemed itself as a task because I have been too busy to want to collect my thoughts.
This weekend was made of school work and plans with my homestay. Friday afternoon, I went to my first french theatre performance ! Only 10 percent of the show was speaking dialogue, and I was still confussed = French art problems. Although I was lost, I enjoyed the performance for it had a quirky ambiance-and a bit creepy. The story was about a girl who lived in a mental hospital (which I didn’t realize until the end) who had a man puppet. The man puppet was fabricated out of muslin, with a simple face, nothing realistic, so you can see why it was a bit creepy. The scenery was all set in blacks, whites, and off whites-with powder tucked away in some of the props-so when she used them-a fog would appear as part of the action. To sum the story up, the girl was lonely and crazy, for at one point she gave birth to a balloon and rubbed it all over the man puppet.
Along with experiencing my first theatre, I also experienced my first soufflé, made by Catherine ! Her cooking is always super, but this dinner was extra special because we celebrated the coming of winter. After the theatre on Friday, we were suppose to go to a coming of winter celebration with Batiste’s school, but sadly it got rained out. Batiste’s school has the tradition where every year for winter the kids create lanterns that they will light during the night in a forest celebration ! The lanterns symbolize warmth and life, in the hopes that this year’s winter will carry some. The school also makes a huge pot of vegetarian soup and bread for all to share ! So saturday night we light lanterns in the kitchen and made a warm ambiance for the soufflé !
The hardest part of learning another language, is that you can’t BS it. I’m sure I could make my way through France living with the simple phrases of <<oui, non>> <d’accord>> <<merci>> and <<putain>>, given some circumstances hehe. But muttering these words, without any idea of the context, are just noises.
I want the French to comprehend my personality and opinions, from what I say. I simply do not want them to know an answer to a oui or non question. This is what makes it difficult, and a little frustrating. I do have those days where I wake up on the wrong side of bed, miss my dog, or haven’t had enough coffee, and I feel as if all my French went out the window. In conclusion, language needs the fuel of passion.
As an obstacle as this is, it also makes learning a language more special. Everyday I am constantly learning something new, and that is something I am incredible thankful for.
Even if an 8 year old corrects my grammar while I am speaking mid sentence making me want to go in my room and cry and never say another word again, I am constantly learning. Live everyday as a challenge to yourself.
I picked up some used books today…I feel like my coolness should be concerned with the amount of excitement I have for learning about mushrooms. It’s a beautiful vintage mushroom book filled with 250+ color images of every mushroom known to land. oooi!
This Sunday, my adventures outside the hexagone called France begins! I have been planning trips to be a world traveler, but also, to make use of my expensive plane ticket that got me here in the first place. I may also be procrastinating my flight back to the US as long as I can :p
My travels have been planned out by the holidays, because of breaks, but also to remanence of a year with the MOST amazing holidays :)
Halloween ~*~ Barcelona
Thanksgiving ~*~ Paris
Christmas ~*~ Munich
New Year’s Eve ~*~ London
I am off to Barcelona for 6 days! Currently practicing the 5 years of Spanish that was once soaked into my brain, but sadly, it may have been rang out. Being so close to Mexico in the US, much of what I think is “Spanish” is actually the culture in Mexico (burritos-chips&salsa-Dios los Muertos-Frida) So I am excited to learn ! I still wish I will be able to find a burrito, because my food pyramid in the US seemed to always be in the shape of a burrito :p Here in France, you will find a Kabaab food cafe on EVERY corner. This is due to their many immigrants of that delicacy. To me, I can’t help but giggle because in the US we have the burritos on every corner, due to our immigrant population. Funny how things are different, yet so alike.
~*Any tid bits of advice in any of these travel destinations would be oh so appreciated.*~
One advice I kept getting informed about is that Barcelona is swarmed with pick-pocketers. My Chicago street smarts will be in full-play hehe.
A program with my University held a day trip to Uzès, France where I would explore the Haribo factory, the streets of Uzès, and the Pont du Gard. The day started with a 35 minute bus ride from Avignon. I have concluded that the size of the car does not matter, and the French roads will make me car sick no matter what. >.< But I made it to Uzès without reliving my espresso from the morning. Oooo-ray ! I was welcomed by a giant bear and marshmallow statue into Haribo land! For some odd reason I thought Haribo candy was Spanish, but it is in fact German. The German company was founded in 1920, most famously known for their gummy candy and use of the black licorice flavor. The factory was adorable, a place that all one can imagine magical treats come from. It was filled with candy molds, ingredient facts, to even candy related fashion. The rooms that told the history of the ingredients (anise, sugar, gummy) were scented as the flavor !!! My favorite part was seeing all the old advertisements and packaging.
At the end of the tour we hit the gift shop, where the American students got crazy looks from the French, Italian, German, and British students. As I stocked up candy for my family I explained “We don’t have this candy in in the US!” Yes we have the gummy bears, but do we have the sour cola flavored spaghetti?! NO so be excited friends and family.
Uzès’s street life was back dropped by gloomy weather. I feared that I was going to get drenched, but at the end of the day the overcast weather worked to my advantage. The town breathed of fall. Walking down the street you are covered by huge trees, with their fallen leaves scattered all over the cobble stoned roads. This and the gloomy weather inspires one to get cozy with an espresso and warm baguette. Perfect no? :) The locals were among the friendliest, if not the most friendly French people I have come across in my adventures. Oh and so were dogs! I met the cutest Frenchie, who ran up to me as I was kneeling down to take a photo of him (dreams do come true).
At last, I took in the amazing scenery of the Pont du Gard, which is the oldest Roman aqueduct. If that doesn’t compel you enough I over heard a tour guide say something about Harry Potter being there.
Throughout the journey a certain eclectic atmosphere carried with me. From the tiny colorful details of candy, to the gloominess of the weather, to the raw beauty of the Provencal buildings and nature. I hope you are able to relate through the organization of my photos. <3
I am starting to question why every food I consume doesn’t come in the form of a tarte? It’s aesthetically and appetizing pleasing. The Tarte aux Pommes was in the morning market at Les Halles. The second tarte, Tarte aux pommes et prunes was made by Catherine, sans gluten et sucre, et vegan!!!! So divine. The coffee to the right had soy chai milk in it, which I found at the most adorable BIO store.
For those who don’t follow me on Facebook, I had an important life event of having my first crêpe salée of bretonnes (stuffed with champignons and tomatoes) Paired with cidre, which is like an apple champaign. It’s tradition to drink this with crêpes bretonnes. :)! super
And don’t you fret…I have been expirementing with wine as much as I have with the tartes. This one was from Corse !
Ce soir, I babysat Batiste. Catherine and her boyfriend are both divorced parents, so it’s hard for them to see each other. The hopeless romantic France is making me be, feels bad for them. And to be honest, I didn’t have any plans for Saturday night :p
You should let me babysit your child, i’ll let them play with fire~*~*
I wanted to do a Halloween craft with Batiste primarily to share some of my culture, but also to make the home feel more at home. I pondered Pinterest for a unique and easy supply list to decorate a pumpkin. Voila ! Melted crayon pumpkins! How hard can that be? Two things I didn’t think would be different than the US, but crayons? Yeah those aren’t everywhere. I came up with the conclusion that the French are salty we used their word for <<pencils>> Secondly, a normal size pumpkin will run you 25 euros. I didn’t want to go with paint (messy and boring) so I searched and searched for crayons. I finally went to an upscale children’s bookstore and found some! I then went with two itty bitty pumpkins for 2 euros :)
-I was explaining my pumpkin situation to Claire my French roommate, and how I was shocked at the prices. I then explained how pumpkin flavor is in our cakes, soups, to even in our coffee during Autumn. With wide eyes her response was “You mean you drink coffee with your pumpkin cake”
I did buy lighters for the project, because in my mind that was safe. But, Batiste never used them before so he liked the matches. Whenever his fingers would get a little bit hot he told me it was okay because he cooks with his Dad. lol Before you think I am the worst babysitter ever we wetted the ends so the matches didn’t flame up all the way!!!
So speaking of Batiste’s father he is a chef of an amazing restaurant. As a thank you for watching Batiste I got to eat there tonight. Batiste’s father Stephan is also amazing! He’s the avid antique collector I hope to be one day. He puts all his treasures in his restaurant, and he has the story to every little piece.
-He has one of the props from the movie Dark Shadows with Johnny Depp. The opening scene where Johnny Depp is entering the family castle, there is a special shadow effect made by a pufferfish light, and he owns it!
-He has one of a set of 5 statues, where the other 4 are in Van Gogh’s home in Provence, France.
-He has a pair of 70s platform boots. They are leather with the British flag on them. There are has several pictures of the drummer of The Who and David Bowie wearing the same ones.
-Countless other history lessons were taught tonight, from coffee grinders to hats from The Little House on the Prairie.
For the menu he pulled out a vintage chalk board and went threw all the plates of the night. I went with the tapenade (olive paste) salad and Indian plate (spinach and masala) :) Seriously super. I told him I was full for dessert and he insisted on a tiny version of the creme burlee-of course a tiny version means getting it with a cute cut up brownie and orange reduction.
I also played many games at the restaurant with Batiste.