Tuesday, March 30, 2010

nothing nicer

Thursday night I spent the night with Nathan and Betsy in Lyon. I had a 6:30 am train Friday morning and couldn't get there in time for it from Trévoux. It was really lovely to see them again (they're engaged now- yea!!!) before heading down south. Thanks again, you guys!

Why did I pick the earliest train to Nice? So I could be reunited with my mom as soon as humanly possible! Three months is way too long to go without seeing your mommy. This is no new revelation. If I was back home, I'd be calling her at least three times a day. Although... now that I think about it, that has happened on Skype too! I love my mom! And this reunion was long overdue. If you remember, I was supposed to meet her and my dad in Nice back in January, but their flight got cancelled. But Nice wouldn't stand for it and we wouldn't either! So- ha! Before noon, I was running into my mom's arms in one of my favorite cities in the world. Oh hugs! Hugs all around! I sure miss hugging! Kissing on the cheeks be damned! I'm going to be a hugging monster when I get back! Anyway, Friday generally consisted of warm fuzzies, random grocery shopping, gelato-ing on the beach, and Mom dropping her french fries in her Coke. Giggle fits!

Saturday morning Mom went back with me to the Chagall museum. I absolutely loved this place. It's not really Mom's taste, but she was a good sport about it i.e. there was a "He must have been on drugs" comment in front of every painting. Then we headed over to the Parc des Arènes de Cimiez and the adjacent monastery gardens that look out at the sea. I had forgotten what the sun feels like, so it was really nice to stroll around outside! Then we breezed through the Matisse museum, which was totally worth it in the sense that it was free. In honor of my sister Emily, we went and had lunch (reunion #2: bagels!) at Emilie's. Then. Then we stepped into the Galeries Lafayette (the easiest way to describe it is as the Neiman Marcus of France... not that I frequent either except for this experience). Splurging came to a whole new level for me. Yikes/yea! Dinner... what else can I say except that somehow a french fry ended up in my wine? This trend needs to stop plaguing us!

Sunday we were thrown off a bit by Europe's own spring forward. But we still got up early for the fruit and flower market. It was incredibly busy and packed. We spent a long time there and at one stand in particular. I will not specify at the risk of ruining some beautiful surprises. Then it was lunch time. And thanks to this particular lunch time, March 28th can go down as a day that will live in infamy. I took Mom to l'Abbaye, which is where I had mussels for the first time with my friends, Dad, and his copilots during Toussaint. I would omit certain details, but I feel like I need to take a page out of Bridget Jones' Diary and, as she says, tell "The truth. The whole truth." So here's a genuine rundown of exactly what happened once we took our seats. First, it should be noted that our waiter is the same one I had last time and he was rather attractive. Which meant, all confidence in French went flying through the window. But, no matter, we still got our bottle of house wine i.e. la pièce de résistance. I don't know how it happened. Was it the sun? Was it the wine? Was it the guy? Was it the fact that I wasn't paying for anything? Needless to say that a whopping two (tiny French) glasses later I was three sheets to the wind. And then we climbed Castle Hill! How did we do that?! Mom... Did I miss something? It's very possible! But before I knew it we were at the top looking out on a stunning scene.

It was an incredible weekend! I'm sad it's over. And I'm missing Mom already! Thank you, thank you, thank you for coming to visit and for all the American pirate's booty you brought me! I'm so glad you came and I'm so glad you approve of Richard Armitage! xoxo

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

one more, just for good measure

Oh why not? What's one more teacher's strike, eh? Yep, today is another one. This makes for a ridiculous five day weekend... in Trévoux! Thanks to the strike, I was only supposed to have one class today. But it seems I woke up at 6 am for nothing because I didn't even have the one!

But all is not lost. It's been a rather nice day, actually. First, I got my books Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Far from the Madding Crowd in the mail! I've been absolutely itching for them ever since I ordered them. I've already had a cup of tea and read a few chapters of Tess. Really, just daydreaming away over here... *sigh*...

Then I went to check the mail and I had it! A letter from my good friend Kendall back in DC. I can't remember whether or not I've talked about this, so forgive me if I already have. This letter bears particular significance because... A few weeks ago I made my technical students, the only group I see every week, write letters to three of my friends in the USA. Some of my Furman friends and I all keep a private blog together to help stay up to date on each other's lives. I had asked if any of them would be willing to do a pen pal exchange with these students in the hopes of practicing their written English. And to my and the class's excitement, Kendall, Alex, and Amanda all volunteered. So this is the first letter I've gotten for the boys to the read. Perfect timing too because I have their class tomorrow! I can't wait to see their faces and see what silly things they'll say or ask in response this time! Should be interesting i.e. last time they asked what they thought of French men and signed things like 'french kiss' under their names. The more awkward the better!

In other news... I'm meeting my mom in Nice this weekend!!!!!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

flying by

Like on any Saturday morning stuck in Trévoux, I got myself up early to go to the market. And it was there that a few things came to my attention...

First, there was a llama.

Second, I have determined that the best pain au chocolat in town comes from the one and only pâtisserie in town. This makes sense, I guess, as they specialize in making chocolate. They also have a killer brioche au chocolat, which I'm about to devour.

Third, time is running out! I realized that that was my second to last time going to market since I have less than a month and a half left here/the rest of my weekends are all planned out. I have twelve days left at work. Twelve. Possibly even eleven because there's a teacher's strike this coming Tuesday. It's crazy! I remember when I arrived here back in September and how long and impossible the road stretching out before me seemed. I thought to myself, 'Now you've done it. You've really gone and picked the worst possible path for yourself.' But, you know, God works in mysterious ways. I've learned so much and I'm really grateful for it. I can look back on this and be proud of the work I did and be happy that I took a wild stab at this adventure. And I can rejoice that it's over!

Fourth, "I'd really like to get out of this rain and watch more Masterpiece Theater!" Obsessed!

Monday, March 15, 2010

la petite Venise

For once in my life all of my transportation ran smoothly last Friday! Not a single hiccup! It's a pretty big deal! After a four and a half hour train ride- complete with a PB&J, excessive amounts of Ryan Adams, and falling asleep/probably drooling on the window- I finally arrived in Colmar, a little town in northeastern France.

It was much warmer than anticipated. And by that I mean I was still wearing long underwear, but oh well. The sun was shining and Sarah and I hit the ground running. First we went to the Unterlinden Museum, supposedly Rick Steve's favorite. It's amazing how many details you notice after taking an art history class. Like any mature 22 year old, we pointed out these details to each other in our old art history teacher's hilarious drawl. Afterwards we picked up pretzels from a street vendor. Colmar has a bit of German influence as it's so close to the border, especially the cuisine. And, by golly, we were going to profit from it! We walked around town snapping all kinds of pictures as we tracked down a good choice for an Alsatian dinner. Sauerkraut and cider. Then we splurged on an American dessert and split a banana split. Yum, yum, yum.

Not to drone on about local food, but my gosh... Saturday morning we found a boulangerie that made massive streudels loaded with bavarian cream. Oh. My. Gosh. Every time we took a bite, we sighed in delight and got covered in powdered sugar in the process. If I had to pick one and only reason to go to Colmar, it would be the streudel.

Colmar is called "la petite Venise" or the little Venice of France. More like petite petite. The canal is only 2 blocks long, but who's counting/disappointed. I'm sure it wouldn't be such a let down if it was nice and warm with all the flowers in bloom. Cute. But small. Small small.

After spending about 10 minutes discovering all there was to see in little Venice, we went to lunch at a little Alsatian restaurant. I was intent on trying tarte flambée, a local specialty. It was the size of a pizza, but the crust is incredibly thin. I got mine "au nature," so I could try it the way it's generally intended. It had a crème fraîche base and was topped with onions and bacon. Definitely a pleasant surprise.

The rest of our time was spent introducing Sarah to Robin Hood (love it!!) and planning out our spring break, which is a mere four weeks away. Our first week is yet to be set in stone, but we went ahead and made all the necessary reservations for our second week/last hurrah. Hint: we'll be going out with a bang... or should I say bubbly?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Paris (again and again) till the bitter end

I know, I know, this weekend I took another trip to Paris. Maybe this seems excessive to you... but if you had friends there/didn't have to pay for a hotel, wouldn't you go overboard too? The great thing was that it felt so much longer than usual because I managed to get there Thursday night. The kids Brita au pairs for were still on vacation, so we arranged for me to get there as soon as possible so we could hit the ground running on Friday... Which naturally turned into us staying up till 3 am catching up and drinking a one euro bottle of champagne and consequentially sleeping in till one in the afternoon. We're 22. I make no excuses. Friday consisted of the usual bread-and-cheese picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower. Brita and I are big fans of doing this, cheesy as it may seem, and it has become a non-negotiable tradition for us no matter how cold it is. Then she took me to two of her favorite haunts: the American Library followed by a fun night at a local pub, The Bitter End.

On Saturday we went to l'Orangerie. My handy dandy education pass got me in for free, but I will happily pay up again and again to see it. It's a tiny museum in the Tuileries gardens that was specifically designed to showcase Monet's water lilies. Monet has been my favorite ever since I visited his house in Giverny back in 2007. The man was a true genius and it was absolutely staggering to stand in front of these huge panels of water lilies. I could have stayed there all day. But Brita and I had crepe stands to dodge (it is nearly impossible to cope with the fact that I gave up Nutella for Lent when they're unloading tub after tub of it in the streets) and dinner plans to make. We met up with some of Brita's au pair friends and had a nice 3 course dinner in the Latin Quarter during which I finally got to try tartiflette.

Sunday we indulged in one last late morning/afternoon before our work weeks began. We spent the "day" walking through the Marais district. The great thing about the Marais, besides it being trendy and cute, is that lots of stores are actually open on Sundays. Let me repeat that in case you didn't catch it... French stores open on a Sunday. Unheard of! To celebrate a great weekend, my love of Paris, and the fast approaching end of my program, I splurged on a ring at a neat boutique we found. Yea!!
Then we went to Berko, the cupcake place that I found last fall. I had pistachio and, let me tell you, my taste buds are still in withdrawal. But then... Then came the highlight of the weekend. A happy coincidence had found me on the Hillsong website a week earlier and to my even happier surprise I discovered that they have a campus in Paris. So we went to the 4 o'clock service. It was incredible!!! Absolutely everything was in both English and French. We sang in French (they were all Hillsong songs, of course, so if you only know English you're still good to go with the subtitles) and the service was delivered in English and translated into French. I have never witnessed anything like it and what a joy it was! It was so refreshing and God was definitely moving! I really hope I can go back again before my time here is up! So thank you Brita for a great weekend!

And so I'm back in Trévoux... womp womp! But my students are as cheeky as ever and they kept me thoroughly entertained today with their pronunciation of 'recyclable.' I came home to a cup of tea, baked a quiche, caught up on The Office (oh my gosh!!!), and am about to snuggle into a reading of North and South. I confess that I watched the BBC adaptation first, but the book totally has me sucked in. I can't put it down and I'm more than a little in love with Mr. Thornton. It doesn't help me that Richard Armitage plays him in the film. Ugh! Was I born in the wrong era? I'm starting to wonder... Otherwise, I'm very much looking forward to this weekend in Colmar with Sarah!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

as per Aunt Suz's request...

I give you an update on the daily destruction of the paper chain countdown. Taking down 15 rings after winter break was probably more of a thrill than it should have been...

And with that, I rounded a corner of the room!

That leaves 57 days total, 20 workdays.

Otherwise, not much going on here besides correcting some heavily French accented Shakespearean English. "Thou" is not pronounced "zoo." This somewhat less glamorous fact of life will not change no matter how many times you try, just in case you were wondering! Oh, and I'm going to Paris Thursday night to spend the weekend with Brita! Life is good! Miss you much! xoxo