Saturday, February 18, 2012

the most photogenic food

Yesterday we treated ourselves and went to Ladurée for the famous French treat: macarons. I had waited until I could go to Ladurée to try them, as Ladurée is the best known tea room in the world for their macarons, and I wanted to have the best for my first time. It was worth the wait, they were delicious, as was the tea I had and my friend's hot chocolate. It was quite the luxurious afternoon as we spent at least an hour at the restaurant and then window-shopped some of the most expensive stores in the world: Chanel, Valentino and Hermès, among others. It was a wonderful little afternoon ♥

the tower and the needle

Studying abroad, or any foreign experience for that matter, is said to be a time of self-realization and reflection. It is a time to learn more than what can be learned in a classroom. Lately, my reflections have been about home. This seems unlikely; I should be thinking about what is here and around me, however the things I love about Paris keep reminding me of the things I adore about home, namely Seattle.

I will be the first to admit that Seattle, technically, is not my home. I was born in Southern California, raised in Bothell, grew up in Snohomish, and go to school in Pullman. Of these "homes", Snohomish and Pullman are my true homes: here is where I find my family, my friends, my favorite memories, the restaurants I love, and the streets that I drive. However, I have found that most people have a city that by geographical default they find themselves connected to. In Northern California this is often San Francisco, on the east coast it may be Boston, or for those further north, New York. In the midwest people call back to Chicago or Madison. Naturally, in the Pacific Northwest, the city 25 minutes south by I-5 is home: Seattle. The Emerald City, if you will.

And what a beautiful place it is. Don't get me wrong, I love Paris. The history, the beauty, the culture and the food, is all exquisite. I cannot think of many cities that could rival what Paris has to offer, which quite frankly, is everything. In spite of this, or maybe because of it, the things I love about Paris have highlighted the things I love about Seattle. The tiny cups of espresso on sidewalk cafe tables call back visions of large, white paper cups warming hands each morning; the even and elaborately-designed buildings send my mind to bunches of evergreens peeking over houses' rooftops; dozens of bridges over the calm Seine bring the sound of rushing rivers from the dark grey mountains lining every horizon; the finely-dressed people make my heart yearn for flannel, Vans sneakers and crew-neck sweatshirts; the people's eyes staring straight ahead with a such a strong sense of purpose splashed across the surrounding face spark wishes for the laid-back, friendly vibe of a smile and a hug, when the response to the question "What should we do today?" is just not that important. We'll figure it out as we go.

I cannot compare the two places, it would be impossible. I cannot call one better than the other, it just wouldn't be fair. The beauty of each city is so unique and its culture so different I would be moving backwards in my quest toward cultural competence if I made any judgments whatsoever. All I know is when I see the Eiffel Tower, I have the Space Needle in the back of my mind. What I know is that while falling in love with one city, I'm rediscovering my fondness for another.

It just might be the most beautiful experience I have ever had.

Monday, February 13, 2012

don't forget your scarf, and other lessons

Friends, I would like to inform you all that while you dream magical little Parisian dreams that it is not exactly paradise. A few lessons I have learned recently:
  1. Even the most beautiful places in the world have cold spells, and Paris is one of those places. For the past week and a half I have not left my apartment without wool socks and a scarf around my face, it is freeeezing!
  2. Walking down the sidewalk is an adventure and not because of the fabulous window shopping: dog poop is not picked up here and hopping around it is a skill that must be perfected.
  3. While studying abroad in Paris, one must not forget to study. This one is self-explanatory. As was my incomplete French assignment last week.
  4. Expect the unexpected. In other words, when entering an old prison museum to see Marie Antoinette's cell, expect to be greeted by a strange, animal-themed modern art exhibit.
I have finally begun checking things off the list of touristy Parisian destinations: Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle, the Eiffel Tower (1, 2), Pont Neuf, La Conciergerie, and Les Invalides (Napoleon's Tomb) to name a few. The weather this past weekend was beautiful and sunny, perfect for these events. I also found one of the famous love lock bridges. It is such a romantic place, I would love to return someday with my own special someone to place a lock on the bridge.

My most exciting piece of news: I'm going to Greece for spring break! My roommate & I are planning a trip to Athens, Mykonos and Santorini. I couldn't be more excited! There is lots more travel planning to come as well: Bordeaux, Normandy, and possibly Germany or Spain. I'll keep you all updated. Until then, au revoir!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

beer, fries, chocolate, and waffles

This can only mean one place: Belgium. Last weekend our program took us to Brugge, Belgium for our mystery trip. I was so excited to return to one of my favorite cities. I was in Brugge for 3 or 4 days in 2008 when I traveled to Europe with my high school, and it was impossible not to fall in love with the cute buildings, the winding canals and delicious food.

I am convinced Brugge was made for cold days, as all their famous foods warm you up from the inside out and the canals are more charming when frozen. Our program directors set up a 3-course lunch at De Halve Maan (the Half Moon) brewery to warm us up complete with a delicious beer. I spent the afternoon revisiting my favorite fry stand, winding through a beer festival for a bottle of the famous Delirium brew (known by its logo: a pink elephant), stepping into shops for chocolates and a souvenir, and a last stop in a tea room for Belgian waffles and hot blue grey tea.

Despite train problems due to weather, the trip was a fabulous surprise! Another post coming tomorrow about ma vie Parisienne!

P.S. the links throughout will take you to my Flickr for photos!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

ma vie à Paris

Sacré-Cœur Basilica

Hello, all! I'm going to be doing a slightly different format for my posts from now on. I will definitely be posting once or twice a week, but I will be including fewer photos with each post. Most posts will probably only have one or two photos, the reason being that the internet here in the apartment is generally very slow. My roommates & I are all on in the evenings which doesn't help the case, and uploading my photos takes a lot of time away from me, and bandwidth away from my roomies. I will however work on updating my Flickr by next week and will provide a link in each post for that so you can see some more photos, and those of you who are Facebook friends with me can see all my photos there! (If we're not Facebook friends, and we've talked before, go ahead and add me!)

A quick update on what I've been up to: honestly, not a whole lot. Last weekend was grey and gloomy making sight-seeing feel unappealing. I want to see the Tour Eiffel in sunlight (or maybe covered in snow, as the forecast predicts?) not under a cloudy sky. I've mostly been trying to settle into my life here. Daily concerns of mine have included what yogurt to buy at the grocery store (still a mystery), which boulanger to buy my baguettes at (the pink one on the corner of Oberkampf of course), and figuring out that damn alarm on the iPod that has the wrong time zone settings (way too many menus to sort through). Also, just in time for my first classes, I have a cold :( All is well though, I'd rather be sick now and get it over with, than later when my life here has picked up and feels settled.

My one sight-seeing opportunity recently has been to the Sacré-Cœur in the Montmartre district of Paris. This basilica up on the hill overlooks the city and is quite an impressive structure. No pictures could be taken inside but I found the outside more beautiful, and the view was incredible although it was a little foggy (of course the sun would go away by the time I climbed all those steps). Montmartre has a lot of cool shops as well that were fun to peak inside. It is definitely a neighborhood I'd love to explore again.

I'll write again at the end of the week to talk about my classes, and a few other details of life in Paris. On Saturday our program has a mystery tour, all we are told is to bring our passport! Our guess is they'll be taking us to Belgium or Germany, and its probably going to be a smaller town. Either way, it should be really fun, I'll be excited to see more of Europe outside Paris!

Au revoir mes amis!