Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dear Random Stranger,

My chest is not public domain. Passing by you on the sidewalk is not an invitation for you to grab me. So, next time keep your paws to yourself, sicko, or you'll find your weak-sauce hind parts in the filth of the Parisian gutter.



Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Salmon and Sauteed Veggies with Fines Herbes Tofu...

... is what I'm eating for lunch. Right. This. Second.

It's really good.
Hope you had a great holiday weekend!

No More Pencils, No More Books...

... you all know how this finishes, right?

School is done.

I took four tests last week:
1) French Cinema
2) France and Europe (politics)
3) Phoetics
4) Written exam (grammar, conjugation, essay, reading comprehension, listening comprehension)

and today I ACED my verbal French exam. It consisted of choosing from a hat one of 8 texts the teacher had decided upon, preparing in the back of the room (with a blank text--not my own, and no dictionary) while another student had their exam, and then sitting down with two professors, reading out loud to them, and then giving a summary of the text, my own thoughts, and answering any vocabulary questions they had for me.

The student before me struggled a little bit with knowing the vocabulary for his text, and they asked him a lot of questions, so that's what I expected for mine. But after I read a sample of the text, my professor said, "Okay, the time is yours."

That's it?? The student before me at least got a, "Okay, so what do you think of the relationship between these two characters?"

So, I just talked for a few minutes. Essentially, here is the idea of the text and a general idea of what I said:
My text was from the Lettres Philosophiques by Voltaire. This particular letter was about how the willingness of British subjects to be involved in commerce created additional liberties for them as indiviuals, helped the State at large to progress, and even helped the mighty British navy to become what it was at that time.
Voltaire compares this to the Germans, who he said were too obsessed with discovering and proving their noble ancestry to be involved in business affairs, and the French, who he said could buy a title for the right price, then spent the rest of their lives thinking the most important information they would need to know was what time the king arose and retired, all while looking down their noses at the merchants.

His point was that even though the merchants in France might be ashamed of themselves because they hear themselves spoken of so degradingly all the time, they were doing more to help the country progress than the "powdered" courtisans.

Interesting, no? I thought it was, anyway.

After I gave my schpiel, the two professors said, "Very good. Really, very good. Ummmm..." and then they looked for vocabulary to ask me about. But, sneaky like I am, I had purposefully used all of the difficult words in my summary, so they knew I understood them.

So, that was it. They thanked me and sent me on my way.

Yep, I'm awesome.

(Well, today I felt awesome. Ask me about my conjugation skills some other time.)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Back to that Family Vacation: Salzburg

After Strasbourg, we drove 'the scenic route' to Salzburg, Austria. It took longer, but it was so beautiful.

We walked around Salzburg for an hour or so after arriving in the evening (just to get our bearings), and then after enjoying a wonderful breakfast (I'm convinced Austria and Germany do breakfast the best. It will take some serious convincing to change my mind.) we went back into town for the day.

Here are some of the highlights:

The gardens (and fountain) featured in The Sound of Music where the Von Trapp children learn to sing. (And we absolutely did have our picture taken drinking 'tea with jam, jam and bread' while standing on the outer rim of the fountain. But I don't have that picture.)

In the background of this picture, you can also see the castle/fortress that is one of the main touristy sites.

Some street. Don't remember the name. The only thing I remember is that each store had to have a stylized sign hanging out perpendicular to the storefront.

When we went to the castle/fortress, there were some different implements of torture. Most made me squirm, but though I still found it inappropriate, I thought this "Mask of Shame" was kind of interesting. I wonder how effective it was as a punishment...

There was also a museum of marionettes.

Some of the marionettes were creepy...

The fam in the castle complex.
Down in the city, there's a cemetery that you might recognize...

If you thought to yourself just now, "I know! It's from the Sound of Music--this is the part of the convent where the nuns helped the family hide!" then you'd be partly right. That part of the movie was based on this cemetery, but it was filmed on a set, not on location.
The oldest street in the city. Part of its medieval charm is how narrow the street is.

On the same medieval street. I could live here, couldn't you? (If you spoke German?)

Salzburg is a really beautiful city--very charming, and very pedestrian-friendly. It is also surrounded by gorgeous countryside and very close to... mountains!! Oh, mountains, how I love you.
So, that's a wrap for Salzburg. I'll just leave you with a sunset view over the river.

Up next: the lovely, accessible-only-by-a-tunnel-or-ferries Alpine town of Hallstaat.

Friday, May 22, 2009

An Off-the-Cuff Marriage Proposal

So, my Egyptian-Italian friend almost propsed to me last week. I guess you could call it a pseudo-proposal. Or a mostly-proposal. I don't know. A partial proposal? I don't have much to compare it to.

"I would marry you--I'm ready. Would you accept me as your husband?"

Followed by:
[shocked--but brief--silence]
"I'm sorry, but no. I can't marry you. I want to be married in the temple of my church so I can be with my husband for eternity. That's what I've wanted since I was a little girl, and it's something I'm not willing to give up--not for anyone."

This led to a brief discussion about my belief (and his hesitancy to believe) in an afterlife. This is where the language barrier gets really annoying. It's hard enough for two people who speak a common language fluently to be on the same page (and I don't mean agree--I mean wrap their mind around what the other person is saying and understand where they are coming from) in regards to things like an afterlife or eternal marriage, but throw in the fact that I speak French at the level of... let's say... a 5th grader, and it becomes a little more challenging.

So, all in all, last Wednesday was supremely surreal.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Strasbourg for Easter Mass and Free Hugs

On the 11th of April, Ames and I took a cab to the airport. We were running just a few minutes behind, but I thought our taxi driver would make up the difference. I don't remember if he did or not, because all I remember is that when we got there, Mom and Dad were waiting for us, all of their luggage gathered, patiently waiting for us. They had been their for an hour because their flight got in really early.

Sheesh. (Although, hooray for Delta. And, frankly, it makes me that much more likely to buy tickets on the direct flight next time I fly to Paris.)

We got our rental car, plugged in the navigation system after figuring out how to power it with no working cigarette lighter, and headed towards Strasbourg. When we arrived we just bummed around the hotel, because it was late enough that we didn't want to bother going into the downtown area to see sights.

In the morning, we went into town. Here's what we were able to enjoy:

Correct me if I'm wrong (please), but I think the style of the architecture is Art Nouveau. Please note that I'm 28 and this year is the first time my brain registered that Art Deco and Art Nouveau are different. Yep, I'm lame.

However, I must admit that I'm a big fan of Art Nouveau design. Not necessarily all of the prints of random women that you see all over the place (at least in Paris), but stained glass, woodwork, architecture, and iron work. I came across several lovely examples (assuming I've correctly recognized Art Nouveau) over Easter vacation. Some in Strasbourg as you can see, as well as an awesome building in Prague, and then a surprising Art Nouveau room in a museum in Paris I went to with Mom and Dad when we arrived back to Paris.

(The jury is still out on Art Deco, mostly because I can't seem to wrap my mind around what it is exactly. It seems like it covers a really broad spectrum.)

I digress. This lovely library isn't all we saw. (Though, before moving on, I want to point out that the script above is a series of names of French authors. I thought that was a nice touch on the exterior of the library. Here we have J[ean] de la Fontaine and [Jean] Mabillon.)

[Edit: I was having a hard time putting these together logistically, because in my head we walked farther past the library to get to the cathedral, but in Strasbourg, we parked right next to it. Turns out I have serious memory issues. Library = Reims. Cathedral = Strasbourg. Thanks, dad!]

Okay. Moving on.
The cathedral is really beautiful.

And even though it's completely irritating to visit these beautiful places and see scaffolding all over them half of the time, the results of the cleaning and restoration work are amazing.

Just look at the difference between the portion that has been cleaned and the portion that hasn't.

The interior of the cathedral was beautiful, as well. I didn't take very many pictures because they were in the middle of a gorgeous Easter Mass.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that I was barely able to contain my emotions after hearing the organ play and then listening to the Hallelujiah Chorus in that beautiful setting. And when I picked up a copy of the program, across the front of the program was this beautiful scripture from Matthew 28 (5-6):

"Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here for he is risen as he said."

I think the cumulative effect of the beautiful atmosphere, the gorgeous music that celebrates the Resurrection, and Matthew's testimony was almost too much for me to take in.

Here's a little taste. (And remember, they are singing in French--so the Hallelujiah's will be nice and clear, but the rest will probably be a little more difficult to decipher.) The acoustics aren't a dream, but obviously the best acoustics were in the part of the cathedral reserved for those actually participating in the mass.

(The video absolutely doesn't do justice to the sound OR the beauty of the light that was shining through all of the stained glass. Hm. I guess you just had to be there. *Smirk*)

The town itself was very charming--especially the area just around the cathedral.

And the locals were very warm and friendly. :)

All in all, I thought it was a very worthwhile stop.

Monday, May 11, 2009

On the Other Hand, Movies are a Different Story

And I want to know which ones you've seen since January that you liked.

Ready? Go.

(Do you guys go to the movies? I keep seeing ads for American movies here, and I don't want to see them dubbed in French--that just seems weird.)

Did anyone see the Wizard of Oz remake? Is that American? Or is it French and I'm just making things up now?

I Also Haven't

watched TV in about 3 months. I don't miss it.

(Though I'll admit that every once in a while I'll catch up on American Idol online. But I'm not going to lie... I don't really care who wins.)

Instead of getting trapped back in the habit of watching tv really often when I get home, I'm going to:

-take up tennis with my friend Angie
-take those painting, drawing and dance classes I've included as part of my 101 things in 1001 days
-study for the GRE
-spend time in public parks and in the mountains
-walk more places
-ride my bike more

Is it Weird

that I'm a little bit nervous to take up driving again when I get home?

I haven't driven a car for almost 4 months now...

But today I missed having one. I needed to get laundry detergent, but the grocery store on the corner didn't have any liquid detergent. (And I would have purchased powder--ick-- but I don't know if it would mess with my landlord's machine, so I didn't dare.) This means that I had to walk 10 minutes in the annoying overcastness that is covering Paris to the other grocery store for a $10 bottle of laundry detergent. (Which, by the way, only costs like $3.50 at home). This wouldn't normally bug me, but I have a cold, so I'm all irritable, sniffly and tired already. Walking all over my chilly neighborhood just so I can come home and do laundry wasn't my idea of a super fun evening.

"Oh, please. Cry me a river, why don't you?" you're thinking. I know. It's not the end of the world. All I'm saying is that it made me miss my car.

I still think I'm going to walk to the grocery store when I get home. Go, grocery chariot, go!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

End of Week with Amy

Ames and I also spent an afternoon walking around on the Ile St-Louis. I highly recommend it for some great ice cream and fun shopping.

After the Ile St-Louis, we just walked along the river and came across a few interesting things.

I love this building. What a great old advertisement. (At least, I'm assuming that's what it is.)

Isn't this view of the river and the cathedral awesome?

THE Academy. They decide what happens to the French language--for example, when new words come into existence in English, the Academy decides whether to simply adpot the English word (such as e-mail), or create a French equivalent (courriel).
From Wikipedia:
The Académie consists of forty members, known as immortels (immortals). New members are elected by the members of the Académie itself. Académicians hold office for life, but they may be removed for misconduct. The body has the task of acting as an official authority on the language; it is charged with publishing an official dictionary of the language. Its rulings, however, are only advisory; not binding on either the public or the government.
Ames and I also walked along the Champs Elysees. This is the lower portion of the Champs Elysees, towards the Place de la Concorde. There is a park on either side of the street with some wandering sidewalks and beautiful flowers. The trees were all blossoming, so we stopped to take some pictures. I think this one happened by accident, but it's my favorite because I think it's so sassy and cute. (Ahem. This means I think you should click on it and view the bigger version so you can see Amy's expression. I love it!!)

Thanks for coming to visit me, Ames! I loved spending time with you!


Giverny is lovely. Home of Claude Monet, the impressionist painter, Giverny is a charming tiny village nestled into a lovely green countryside. I'm not going to lie--if I was independently wealthy (or somehow able to find a job in this teensy town), I would move there.

This is the cafe where Amy and I had lunch after touring Monet's property.

The food was great, but when I asked if they had apple juice, the waiter gave me a really confused look, which made more sense when I saw this:

Monet's property is gorgeous. It includes two huge gardens, one a little more structured and manicured--full of flowers. The other is a little more natural looking, though it is obviously very well maintained. This second garden area includes the famous pond of lily pads and the Japanese bridge. (And surprisingly, a little forest of bamboo.) And of course there is the main house, with it's peachy-pink stucco and green trim. I love it all.

Pink blossoms on a tree.

On the property they also keep chickens, apparently. I could not figure out for the life of me why they were BURROWING themselves into the ground. Anyone know anything about this? I thought maybe the hens would do this to lay eggs in and keep them all cozy, but since at least one of the chickens pictured is a rooster, I don't think I'm right.

Ames in the garden.

A tulip in the first garden.
Me on the Japanese bridge (with a nice old lady).

Amy on the Japanese bridge (with a super clueless man).

Trees make me happy.

Back by the pond with the famous lily pads and weeping willow, Ames and I camped out on a bench and decided to try our hands at creating impressionist works of art with oil pastels and blending sticks.

This is my attempt.

This is (almost exactly) the perspective we had from our bench.

Surprise! Along with the Japanese bridge you will find a small bamboo "forest" in the second garden.

Back in the first garden.

I'm working on getting more comfortable with manual settings on my camera, so some of the exposures are off, but I think you can get the general idea of the beauty of this place. If it wasn't covered with tourists, it would be an extremely peaceful place, so I can see why it appealed so much to Monet and inspired such beautiful work.
If you enjoy Monet's work and have the time and desire to make a short day trip out to Giverny, it's definitely worth it to stop by Monet's house and then grab lunch or ice cream before heading back to Paris. There isn't enough to keep you occurpied for more than a couple of hours, though, so I wouldn't expect to spend a whole day here.

Notre Dame de Paris

Amy and I walked by Notre Dame, but didn't go inside.

We also stopped by once at night to grab a couple of pictures.

Such a beautiful cathedral.