un aide-mémoire

My Life in France...Beyond Julia Child style

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Back in America

I am no longer in Montpellier, France. A;LKDJFALKDJFLKAJDFLKAJDSLKFJALKF. I’m only freaking out a bit. Actually, I’m doing pretty swell right now.  I’m so excited to be with friends and family that it’s not too heartbreaking.  The only weird thing is having English ALL AROUND ME.  

Highlights from my last, but oh-so-perfect week in la France:

1. Haribo Factory tour with Lorene and Marie Ann.  Came home with literally 10 1bs. of candy. Yummmmmm.

2. Beach. I have the horrible sunburn lines to prove that I spent the majority of two beautiful days on the beaches of the Mediterranean.  It was 75 degrees with a slight breeze and 0, I say 0, humidity.  Love.

3. Dinner with my host fam.  We went to a nice restaurant par la plage and I ate traditional French dishes: fois gras w/ bread, sweetbread (look it up) and kidney in a mushroom sauce.  Didn’t really know what I was eating till I looked it up later, but it was delicious.  Ignorance is bliss.

The rest of the time was spent packing, making a final round of all my favorite spots in the centre and hanging out with my host family.  I just want to say thank you so much to everyone who supported me this semester and kept me in their thoughts and prayers.  I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.  If anyone ever travels to the south of France, hit me up and I’ll let you know about some d-a-n-k places to visit.  

Gros Bisous! 

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An American in Paris

This is a piece created by George Gershwin that describes his experience in Paris as an American tourist.  You’ve probably heard it before in classic films.  Part one is supposed to invoke the feeling of driving through the city’s chaotic streets and part two is a pleasant stroll through the Jardin du Luxembourg.  It ends in a joyous and even triumphant finale.  

I went to a concert at the Corum, a performance hall in Montpellier, last night and this was the final piece played.  I have to say that if I had heard of it before, I would have said it was the perfect theme song for my trip to Paris.  You may not be in Paris, but through this song you can get a bit closer.  Enjoy!

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One week left

BAHHHHHH ONE WEEK LEFT!!!!! Not sure how I’m handling it.  Pretty sure I’ve decided to go down that short-but-sweet road of denial.  Despite the fact that the countdown clock has officially begun, I am super looking forward to this week.  Exams are finally DONE so I have 7 days of doing nothing, or everything.  The weather is finally nice (70 degrees, sunny and ZERO humidity) so I’m thinking beach, beach and peut- être more beach.  Actually, I’m pretty sure I’m going to the Haribo candy factory tomorrow with my host family and then later on I’m going to cook them an “American meal”: meatloaf, mashed potatoes and s’mores.  Marie Ann found real, American marshmallows, so we couldn’t past the opportunity up.  Should be interesting considering the fact I usually mix up the sugar and flour anyways, let alone the fact that I have to use the metric system.

In other news, today is a big day in France cause it’s the presidential elections.  Who will win? Holland? Sarkozy? The world will know in about 8 more hours. The way that voting goes down here in France is plus simple than aux Etats-Unis.  

Step 1: All the participating parties send their posters, platform info and voting card in an envelope to every house.

Step 2: Voters go to their local voting station (a 2 minute walk from our house).

Step 3: Voters pick up a blue envelope and step into a private voting booth to slip their voting card into the envelope.

Step 4: Voters put their envelope into a box, present their registration, sign the electoral register and c’est fini!  Très simple, non?

Should be interesting to see what happens! 

Mk well I’ve got to get back to relaxing in the South of France :p Look for one last post from me before je rentre chez moi!

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Final Stop

Aaaaannnnddd my last stop was Barcelona to see my friend Rena.  Did I really explore the city? Naw. Did I totally embrace the Spanish lifestyle for 3 days? Oh yes.  Rena was a gem and played tour guide, showing me all her favorite spots and the iconic sites of Barcelona.  Other than that we mostly picnicked in some grand parks, soaking up the long-awaited rays of sun.  It was finally 70 and sunny in Europe and I have the awkward tan lines to prove it.

My favorite parts? I’m so glad you all asked! Hmmmm, welllllll there was…

1. La Sagrada Familia by Gaudi.  It’s this huuuuge church and Barcelona’s most famous work.  It’s been under construction since 1882 and isn’t projected to be finished for another 50 years.  I can’t even really explain it, but I’ll post pictures.  Google it. And then go to Barcelona. Worth. It.

2. La Plaza Espana.  This is the area where a bunch of construction was done for the 1992 Olympics, so everything is beautiful of course.  At twilight Rena and I watched a water/light show that was to a Disney mash.  Nothing is more epic than watching the sunset over the hills of Barcelona while hearing “Circle of Life” blasting from speakers. 

3. The Barco v. Madrid game.  I just happened to be there for the only other rivalry I have found that can be compared to UNC and dook.  We went to a bar and witnessed the intense passion that Spaniards put into futbol.  Crrraaaazzzy. And the Spanish beer wasn’t too bad either.  

So yes. There is my spring break. My last three weeks in France (!!!) will be spent living “la vie quotidienne”, taking my exams and enjoying being with my host family.

Bisous! 

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Once again I’m gonna let the pictures paint a beautiful timeline of my time in Paris…it was a little less bright without Ann and Dan, but seeing Alexii (a best, best friend of mine) and reuniting with my Nice travel buddies almost made up for it!

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Pesto, Gelato and David.

So first stop on my two week voyage was Florence.  Despite the rocky welcome (3 am arrival…so much fun) it was probably my favorite place I went to.  Day 1 started off with a bang (literally) when Madelyn and I went to the Duomo, this GIANT cathedral, to witness the city’s Easter celebration.  What happens is this:

Step 1: Priest shoots rocket from inside the church.

Step 2: Rocket hits ornamented cart in the middle of the piazza. 

Step 3: Cart proceeds to explode in a semi-orgnaized state.

Step 4: Fireworks shoot out of cart for 20 minutes while every single Italian/tourist holds up their iPhone amid billows of smoke.

Needless to say the Italians are a big more flashy with their Easter celebrations.  It was great though and we celebrated the rest of the holiday by eating pizza, gelato and attending a beautiful international service in a small church where 30 voices sounded like 100 with the high ceilings.  

The rest of the week was spent walking the streets, eating at various restaurants and hanging out in the plentiful piazzas at every corner.  Oh, and we saw David.  Oh David. Michelangelo has ruined all other sculptors for me.  I stared at it for 30 minutes and then proceeded to swear he was about to step down from his podium.  So incredible.  

A couple of the days we gave Florence a break from us and went to visit the small town of San Gimingano that is between Florence and Siena and then also the cluster of small villages along the coast called Cinque Terre. 

Cinque Terre: A series of 5 villages on the cliffs of Italy, overlooking the sea.  All the houses are brightly painted and surrounded by vineyards.  You had to climb hella far to get anywhere, but the views were worth it.  We dined on pesto gnocchi and gelato to recover.  Between Riomaggiore and Manarola, the first two villages you come to by train, there is a path called the “path dell’amore” where hundreds of couples have fastened locks on the railings and then thrown away the key to symbolize their everlasting love.  There is also a tunnel where couples have proclaimed their love to their world on its walls while a man plays “My Heart Will Go On” on his accordion.  Romantic n’est pas? My favorite part was Caligula, the third village, where you have to hike up some 300+ steps to get to, but then you can see all 5 villages.  A-maz-ing.

San Gimingano: Best gelato three years running, beautiful views of the Tuscan countryside, charming rows of houses, 14 ancient towers shooting to the sky…need I say more?  Basically I’ve been dreaming of visiting Tuscany ever since my terrible parents left me to go see it years ago and I can now say that that dream has come true.  

The pasta was great, the gelato was fantastic, the cities were beautiful, but I missed France.  I missed the pastries, the bread, being able to understand the language and the scarves (jean on jean on jean does not equal my thing).  Good thing I was off to Paris next!

Stay tuned…

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SLEEP IN FOR FREEDOM!!!!

Helllllooooo Everyone!

So I have just returned from a two-week spring break (it was fabulous!) and I promise to post pics/hilarious stories/ramblings soon, but I first wanted to shamelessly plug something that has become quite important to me.  

This summer I will be returning to the States and then packing back up a week later and heading for D.C. (Mom is oh-so happy) to intern for a non-profit organization called Bridge to Freedom Foundation.  This is a group of dedicated volunteers that has come together to get victims from human trafficking back on their feet and functioning in society.  It does not aim to add another anti-trafficking set-up to an already long list, but to enhance the ones that do exist.  They have also begun partnering with local businesses to spread awareness of this too-harsh reality to the world.  

Well, this weekend is their 2nd annual Run for Freedom 5K and I would love, love, love if people could join me in supporting BTFF.  The run is this coming Saturday and I know that not many are in the D.C. area (read: all), but have no fear! There is a “sleep in” option.  How appealing does that sound?  Just click on the following link and a meager $20 could send a survivor of human trafficking to a college-prep workshop.  http://www.rootfunding.com/campaign/2167 

You can also get involved by checking out their website and learning more about the issue of modern-day slavery. http://www.bridgetofreedomfoundation.org/index.html

But wait…there’s more!  I am writing another blog!  Check this bad boy out to learn more about human trafficking around the world and in our own communities. http://bridgetofreedomfoundaton.blogspot.fr

I hope everyone had a lovely Easter and look for some pretty amazing pictures coming soon!