Thursday, May 28, 2009
i had to say goodbye to aix on the 16th of may! it was very very hard to do. leaving the aixois (my french friends) was very difficult, plus my american friends, plus my host family, plus my city!!! it was an emotional day. I am very fortunate to have been with a family as amazing as the Meyers. They taught me a lot about SAVOIR VIVRE! that means "know how to live" : they definitely work very hard, but they are a very happy family. they spend a lot of time with each other and have fun together. although they work hard, they break hard as well. they love cooking for each other and drinking wine ! they love singing and dancing throughout the house after dinner! they love sitting outside on a sunday morning in their underwear eating tartines of fresh bread and drinking coffee! they love going for walks with their dog! they love reading the paper in their slippers on january mornings. i definitely understood that their lifestyle was not lazy but rich :)
one thing i will also note is that i think french culture is one of the hardest for americans to adapt to. french people are quiet, and keep their business to themselves. one example that sticks out in my mind is when I was locked out of Erik's apartment (for 15 minutes) in amsterdam. I was sitting on the sidewalk, and 2 people asked me if I was ok or needed help, in 15 minutes! In France, no one would have offered to help me because it is not their business. Any sign of emotion like anger or crying in public is not really socially acceptable in France. I remember this one woman was freaking out and crying and everyone was just staring at her. Another thing that is difficult is the obsession with image: being skinny, well-dressed, and good looking is very important for French people! Sometimes it got to be a little too much.
In the end, I stopped trying to hard to be French and embraced my exotic self! I mean, where else are boys going to tell me that I have a cute accent??
i turned 21 in france! i had such a great day! the weekend before my host parents let me have a bbq at my house, and my actual birthday my host mom cooked me all of my favorite foods. including a delicious cheese plate! YUM!! so i got to celebrate with family and friends! i am very lucky.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Sunday, May 10, 2009
my host sister, eve, turned 9 last week. you would think from the pictures she turned 29! She is a little diva; the only thing she wanted for her gift was a massage chair (and she got it!). But she really has a good heart and cracks me up. She wanted everyone to have a great time on her day! I got her a little bracelet and she said she really likes it, so I was happy :) Enjoy the pics!
this post is for my maman!!! who is the most amazing maman in the whole wide world! (now that i've traveled i can say that). i couldn't ask for anyone more loving and giving than her. how do you do it???
miss you mom ! love you! happy mother's day!
Saturday, May 9, 2009
what can I say about london! it was great! I got there on thursday, and my friend from Catholic who had an internship in parliament this semester gave us an awesome tour of the Parliament building. It was a little Catholic reunion in London, plus we got the hookup! Mark made some friends over the semester and we got to see things inaccessible to the public, like the chapel of st mary undercroft. This crypt-like church was where St thomas more used to come to pray! It was absolutely beautiful.
It was cool to see how the House of Lords and the House of Commons are a lot like our government in DC. The actual building was a lot older and more ornate, but there was the process bears some similarities (wonder why?). After parliament we walked around London and saw the street where the prime minister lives, Westminster Abbey, and of course BIG BEN! When we walked by Trafalgar square there was a free Pink concert going on!! We were really lucky that day.
On Friday I took a day trip to Oxford, which was AWESOME! It was pretty much my dream, because that is where they filmed most of Harry Potter. There were tons of people with really posh accents, and we saw a wedding taking place - English people really do where funny hats to weddings, just like in the movies! We had lunch at Jamie Oliver's restuarant in Oxford ; it was so tasty. I got a veggie sampler thing: it had breads, olive oils, roasted veggies, mozzarella and parmesan cheese, and a little salad. And not too expensive either! We ended the day at Blenheim castle, and wouldn't you know it, Jack Black was shooting a movie there with Emily Blunt (she IS really that skinny in real life). Jack Black seemed just like how he does in his movies in real life. Anyway, the castle was beautiful, even though we were star struck walking through it.
Saturday Matt's friends and him took me on a walking tour of London, starting the the market near Matt's house. We got all sorts of delicious food, and then saw Globe theatre, the Tate modern, Millenium bridge, and St Paul's cathedral. After taking a little siesta in Hyde park on the row boats (Matt is on the crew team so we'll let that be my excuse as to why I didn't help him row) we went home and got ready for a big night out on the West End! We got a drink at this awesome bar overlooking all of the city, and the weather was beautiful! There were tons of artists outside performing for all of the tourists who were walking by. Then we went to see SPRING AWAKENING! I didn't know anything about it, except for that it got amazing reviews in NYC. I found tickets for 20 pounds - I wish the shows in NYC were available for that cheap. The show had some heavy topics, but the music was excellent. I loved it :)
Sunday Matt and I got an English breakfast (he promised me I had to do it before I leave) : baked beans, sausage, bacon, ham, eggs over easy, toast, and tea! Heart attack on a plate. Then I went wondering around Notting Hill, which was beautiful, and to Harrod's. Harrod's was the most exquisite store I've ever been into, except for Galaries Lafayette in Paris. I got some tea to bring home for mi familia!
The only thing about London was that it had a lot of my favorite things from home - like normal sized coffee! It made me a little homesick, but I have to take advantage of my 2 weeks left in Europe!
Thursday, May 7, 2009
My mom sent me an email just before I left Amsterdam saying “maybe you should skip Liverpool”. SKIP LIVERPOOL!??! Are you crazy Elise? You who loved George? Who now has a crush on John’s son? You didn’t want me to see where it all began? I am so glad I went to this funky city!
First of all, Scousers are the friendliest and warmest people I’ve ever met! I was taken care of from the moment Jay met me at the airport! I was so happy to see my former co-worker from summer camp in his home city. We went out to dinner with all of Jay’s family and friends, and then I experienced the nightlife in Liverpool! It was so fun! Everyone was so nice and wanted to show me a good time. We went to the pub that the Beatles used to go to before they were famous, plus the pubs they played in before they were famous. Then we did some dancing! It was really cool.
The next day, Jay made me English breakfast and tea and we were off to explore Liverpool. We walked Matthew’s street, which is famous because of the Beatles. Then we went to St. Albert’s dock, and I saw all the government buildings. Along the way, I of course was amazed by everything typically English: red telephone booths, black taxi cabs, double decker buses, driving on the wrong side of the road, the word “cheers”, (still gets me every time). Liverpool is known for its cathedrals, so afterwards we went to the Liverpool Cathedral, which was absolutely amazing. So huge! We even climbed all the way to the top for the view. We could see the two football stadiums in the city, which are right next to each other. On one side is Liverpool, on the other side is Everton: the city is split into two!
For my last night I went to a pub quiz with Jay and his dad. I embarrassed myself horribly and fulfilled every known stereotype about the IQ’s of Americans. Does anyone else know the only American president to wear a Nazi uniform? On what part of the body is the diastema? I got one question right, about foreign affairs. But I promised Jay’s family that I am not as stupid as I came across in that quiz! I don’t know if they believed me, because when Jay’s parents talked to me I usually only made out about 25% of what they said. The scouser accent is HEAVY! Beware!
I had a great time in Liverpool and I was sad when Jay sent me off to London on the train Thursday morning. But I was glad I got to meet his family and friends and hopefully I can return the favor for him this summer in the US OF A!
i left barcelona at 3am and took a long journey to amsterdam! i flew into eindhoven, a city in the south of the netherlands (for all of you who have never heard of ryan air, it's a budget airline company that makes it possible to fly across europe for 30 bucks one way, but it was been described as flying "in a tin can of advertisements", and it costs money to go to the bathroom...you get the picture). a really nice dutch girl i met on the bus to the airport in barcelona drove me to the train station in eindhoven, and they have me a little tour of the netherlands!!! my first impression was great: very flat, clean, green, and organized! very different from barcelona. all of the young people are bilingual and most of the adults speak fluent english, so it was very easy to get around. then i took the train from eindhoven to amsterdam, which was great, because i got to see the dutch countryside before arriving in the city !
the city itself is gorgeous - the houses on the canal are exquisite, and everywhere you look there are fashionable people riding around on their bikes. literally, pedestrians are second class citizens to bikers. you have to be careful walking in amsterdam because it is easy to get hit by a biker! it almost happened to me my first few moments there. i got to erik's apartment, and right away he took me out on his bike for a tour! it was so cool! i got to sit on the back of his bike (haha he did all the hard work) and observe the beautiful day in amsterdam. i went out to lunch with his friend, and we had a fun time just catching up. the canals everywhere make it kind of confusing to find your way around because the streets look the same - but everywhere is just beautiful!
we picked up my friend at the train station and rented bikes - our first test as tourists. of course we failed miserably, hitting the locals and stopping traffic. it was literally a mental struggle every time we got on ! not to mention our butts were really sore at the end of the weekend...
saturday night me and my friend got indonesian food (which we read is famous in amsterdam) while erik had dinner with co-workers. it was delicious! all small trays of hard boiled egg, chilli sauce with little rice cakes, veggies in peanut sauce, goat, cabbage salad, rice, yumm. Afterwards erik’s friend had a little get together at his house. But this wasn’t any old get-together in Amsterdam: this famous dutch woman was there! And the house was a mansion! On the canal! Desiré is apparently famous in the Netherlands for her music – she also does the dutch voice of Jimmy Newtron! Ha! So it was very posh and me and my friend tried hard to fit in with the older successful professional crowd for an evening.
The next day we slept in and erik took us to burger meester: the best burgers in the whole entire world. They are gourmet! I got one with lamb meet, goat cheese, mango sauce, and who knows what else on it. Erik got a tuna burger, and Alicia got the special. It was so delicious. We said goodbye to Erik who had to work in Budapest, and did some museum visiting. We saw the VanGogh museum, which was awesome! It chronicled his life by time and also by places he lived, which was amazing because he lived in St. Remy, Auvers-sur-Oise, Arles, Paris – all of these places that I have been to and seen! It made the museum that more special to see all these famous works picturing places I had visited. The highlight of the museum was the special exhibit, which featured all of VanGogh’s nightscapes. We got to see Starry Night! After VanGogh we saw the house where Anne Frank was in hiding for nearly three years before being discovered and taken to a concentation camp. It was a very well put together museum, but clearly very sad.
On Monday we headed to the countryside to see some of the real Netherlands: TULIPS! There is a sort of amusement park of flowers called Keukenhof. It was kind of like a HUGE flower show, plus they had acres of gardens, a petting zoo, a windmill, and dutch ice cream! A dutch wonderland for grown ups! It was really beautiful and relaxing to visit.
Tuesday I wandered around all day observing before it was time to fly to my next destination for a Sandy Hill Camp reunion: Liverpool! I did not love Amsterdam as much as I loved Barcelona (maybe because it was colder and rainier?), but it was a beautiful city with TONS to do and see. I don’t think I could ever live there though, because legal prostitution and decriminalized marijuana really freaks me out. I obviously didn’t have any direct affects from it, but making a wrong turn and watching a 90 year old main bargain with a 20 year old prostitute in a g-string is not something I ever want to be used to. Although it was fun to see the faces of the grandma’s and grandpa’s on their tours when they realize they are standing in front of a prostitute.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
spring break 09! woo! just got home from an amazing amazing wonderful glorious trip through europe! visiting everyone i know! haha. I visited friends in barcelona, amsterdam, liverpool, and london. i saw so many beautiful things, met so many amazing people, just had an excellent time! and everyone i visited took great care of me and made sure i was eating the most delicious food and seeing the most interesting things. not one single complaint!!!
i took an overnight bus to barcelona on april 21st - and I was awoken by a policeman in spain at the border. "hola policia...tienes passaporte?" or something like that...haha needless to say i woke up fast! after leaving a few undocumented stragglers at the border (i felt really bad for them) i got into barcelona at 6am. this is one city that doesn't sleep! the metro was already full at 6.15 am. it was really cool to arrive just before the sun came up. my friend's apartment was amazing and looked out onto the city and the mountains behind it. after taking a little nap, i went exploring in the city with theresa's guide books. just down the street from her apartment was las ramblas - the most exciting street in barca. the street performers, artists, flower vendors, graffiti, (and unfortunately prostitutes late at night) make this street impossible to walk down! i stopped along the way at bouqueria de sant josep, and was amazing at all of the delicious fruits they had. fruits i had never even heard of or seen before! i got some guava juice for only 50cts and continued exploring. i ended up finding some people from israel and going on a free tour of the barri gotic with them! it was great to hear stories of catalonia from a professional - how they got their independence, why they speak catalan, etc (they have the same flag as provence! they all used to be under one rule). After the tour me and my new friends got tapas - they were delicious! Octopus, calamari, sardines, cheesy potatoes, shrimp, squid, and sausage. yumm :)
afterwards i went off exploring again, this time to the barcelona cathedral. it was so relaxing and beautiful there. the shrine to the old patron saint of barcelona, st eulalia, was there, and it was absolutely beautiful. because she died when she was only thirteen, they keep thirteen birds in the cloister of the cathedral all the time to remember her. then i went to parc de la ciutadella, which was made for the world fair in 1888. interestingly enough, gustave eiffel wanted to put the eiffel tower in barcelona for the world's fair, but the city thought it was ugly and settled for their arc del triompf. who knew it would be so popular??
that night i made dinner for my host and then we went to see fc barcelona play sevilla! WOW! incredible!!! one of the coolest things i've ever seen. catalonians are CRAZY for fc barca - and they have a right to be! barca is amazing at football! it was funny to see the difference between professional sports in both countries. at the stadium, they don't have any vendors as you are walking in. they don't sell beer at the games because people get too rowdy after drinking. they had people walking around selling sandwiches, and that is it! can you imagine!? arenas in the US are all about making $$$ and exploiting people in any way they know how...
the rest of my days in barcelona were spent checking out gaudi and montjuic (oh and sunbathing on the beach!! i have a little tan). gaudi was an amazing architect who created inspirational buildings all across barca. before going to barca, i thought that it was only gaudi buildings created in the modernista style. but most of the apartments and buildings are all modernista - creating a truly unique city. gaudi was a deeply religious man and loved catalonia. ironically, he had a fear of public transport and got run over by a train walking to church one day. he looked like just a pauper so no one even stopped to help him. he was in a poor man's hospital when someone realized who he was, but he refused to be transported. when he died a few days later everyone in barcelona came to his funeral because he was so greatly loved! he also loved nature and was inspired by it daily. when i went to parc guell, i literally thought i was in a movie! it was incredible! montjuic is a huge park on a hill/mountain that hosts some of the olympic buildings used in the 1992 olympics. it also holds the musee nacional d'art de catalunya - the old palau nacional! it was beautiful there, and i saw an exhibit on an artist from catalunya called sorello. i loved it!
to sum it up, barcelona was modern, beachy, laid-back, romantic, delicious, bohemian, and inspiring! I LOVED IT!
ok i am procrastinating studying for finals...but i have to write more later about the rest of my travels. less than three weeks until i return to the society of consummation! after traveling to different countries in europe i can really see how that description fits our country perfectly. i wonder how long i'll stick to my french ways of walking everywhere/only shopping at the marché/recycling EVERYTHING/never using too much electricity/not doing ANYTHING on sunday? would i be ostracized for riding my bike to acme?? uggh...the word acme makes me shudder. i don't even want to think about wine costing more than 3 euro...