Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
See I told you I would update more frequently now.
Plus I have a lot of catching up to do.
Last post I ended with a story of how we almost didn't get inside the house and had to sleep outside right? Yes right.
Alright so we made it through the wilderness.
Oh yes we made it through.
(5 points to anyone who can guess which song I'm quoting there)
We made it inside the house and we were all starving.
Oh I forgot that part in the last post! We hadn't eaten dinner yet when we arrived around 8pm and had stopped at the Penny market in the big town on the way in and spent very little on a ton of food. The only problem was that all of it needed to be cooked. So we were pretty excited when we actually got into the house and could make ourselves dinner.
Luckily in my group of friends there are a couple of us (myself included) who like to cook and cook for people. We aren't half bad either if I do say so myself. So for most of this trip we came back to the house and made ourselves dinner at night because we are all college students who don't have that much money to spend on extravagant dinners out.
Anyhoodles, there was a funny blunder in the grocery shopping by one of my friends. When we were at the penny market we all kind of split up to grab different stuff and one of my friends comes up and shows us these two big bottles of "wine" that are only 1 euro a piece. Now I didn't look at them carefully because I trusted him to be able to determine wine from other things. So we bought it and when we got back to the house we realized he had made a little mistake. Yes it did say "red wine" in italian on the bottle, but that other little italian word next to the red wine meant vinegar. Yes we had bought 2 big bottles of red wine vinegar. We were lucky in two aspects though: 1. They were only 1 euro each so it wasn't like they were expensive and 2. The guy who had made the mistake was the first one to try it and figure out that it wasn't wine, but vinegar. Though I don't really know how he couldn't have smelled it before he drank it and figured out it was vinegar. That was a stench.
The next day, when everyone in my group woke up abominably early. Seriously, these people are all my age or younger, you would think they would know how to sleep in and wouldn't wake up at like 7:30 in the morning and TALK LOUDLY. If any of you know my sleeping patterns you know that unless there is something pressing and important to do, I will sleep for a long time. So when my friends finally came in around 9 AM to get me to COOK POTATOES for breakfast because apparently no one can do them like I can, I was a little annoyed.
I bet your wondering how I cook my potatoes that wowed my friends so much. I must admit they are delicious but very very simple to make. And before this occurrence I had already taught them how to make them about 5 times. What kind of potatoes do I make? Roasted potatoes. With Garlic. And Salt. You cut them up, mince some garlic, put 'em on a tray with olive oil and throw them in the oven for a little while. VOILA! Roasted potatoes!
Really... (by the way I'm shaking my head as I type this)
Anyways sorry about that little rant there.
After breakfast, which was pretty delicious, we got in the cars and drove down to Gragnola. This little town about 10 minutes down the mountain that actually is big enough to have some stores and a post office. We went down to look around and then go to this pizza place that Maya's grandmother said was really good. The town was gorgeous with a river and random open rooms full of furniture. And seriously after a little while of walking around it seemed like the little old men came out of the woodwork to talk to us. They didn't even care that we spoke no italian. They just wanted to talk.
Here are some pictures.
we found this little set up wandering down a lane. Decided to pose.
River walking with Molly, Megan and Danielle!
Now is the story of how we met our 40 year old italian friend Christiano: While we were in Gragnola and after we had taken these lovely pictures above we decided to go find that pizza place. It was around lunch time and so when we went in we were told that they were only serving pasta at the moment and only two different kinds of pasta. We came out and were like ok let's just come back tonight when they are serving pizza. As we were milling around outside the pizza place and mostly playing with this little dog we nick named "fivi" the owners of the dog came out to talk to us. They told us the reason why the pizza place wasn't serving pizza was because they were still getting wood for the ovens. We thought this was reasonable and kept talking to this man and his mother. The man was Christiano and it was pretty funny talking to him because he spoke some english, but only a couple words and phrases learned from the internet. We asked him how to say some things in Italian and he was very jolly.
When the little old men of the town came out of the wood work to talk to us Christiano was there as well and all the old men were telling Christiano that he should pick one of us girls to marry, but all Christiano would say is that he liked being single and didn't want to marry anyone. We ended up seeing him a couple other times when we stopped in Gragnola on the way back up to her grandma's village.
Oh and little tidbit about my funny friend's. My roommate called Gragnola granola the entire time we were there. Also there was another town we passed with a really long name that started with a P that she just called Pandamonium. It was pretty good.
Alright enough for this post.
French word for today: les champignons= mushrooms
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
It's been a while and I have excuses, but the point is that now I have internet in my apartment and I will be posting more regularly.
Now where to start because there has been a lot that has happened.
I think I will do this in installments because all that's been going on recently has been school and more school.
So this post will be about my trip to Italy!
The last week in September we had a break between when our PLP (preparatory language program) ended and the actual school year began. I have a friend whose grandmother lives half the year in a house in Tuscany and she invited me and my group of friends to make the trek down to spend the week there.
It was a pretty intense trip especially since there were 9 of us and we rented two cars to drive down. Just driving there was an adventure, only one of the cars had directions (don't ask me why) and the car with directions totally and utterly failed at caravanning. So we ending up taking a few scenic tours of some places in the complete opposite direction of where we were going not only in France, but in Italy too! We finally gave up after a while on the other car's ability to guide us and bought a map and followed it.
Finally after many a long hour in the car, we made it to her grandmother's house. It was like something out of a movie.
First of all it was on top of a mountain in the middle of the Tuscan country side.
Second, it was in this tiny tiny village of about 50 people that was I don't know how old. Seriously, it had a turret.
I have a funny story about that little plaza right outside the turret.
When we finally got to the village in Fivizzano (that's the name of the area not the village) my friend Maya still had to go and talk to this woman to get the key to her grandparents house since they had recently gone back to San Francisco for the second half of the year. Well as you might have guessed Maria, the woman we were supposed to get the key from, was no where to be found. We even had this woman from the village help us even though we spoke no italian, whatsoever and of course she spoke nothing but italian.
Here is an illustration of just how small this village is, the woman who just happened to see us walking by trying to find Maria's house came out and showed us where it was. When Maria didn't answer she showed us to the village bar, where Maria usually is, but still no Maria. So she took us over to Maria's mother's house because sometimes Maria watches T.V. with her mother at night. All of these places were no more than 2-5 min walks away from each other if that.
I hope I have now convinced you of how truely teeny tiny this village was and is.
Anyways so after all this walking around with this woman and awkwardly trying to understand anything she was telling us, we still hadn't found Maria and had no idea where the key to the house was. After this realization half of our group proceeded to look for an alternate way into her grandmother's house (let me put a disclaimer here that NOTHING illegal was done on this trip... that we are aware of). The other half proceeded to gear up for sleeping outside for the night on the plaza next to the turret. It was quite a beautiful night actually, if a little cold, with a clear sky and you could see the entire milky way. Gorgeous.
Luckily for us though just as we were almost finished gearing up one of the others came up to the cars and told us we were saved! Maya's grandmother's neighbor was home and opened the front gate for us and we found the key under the mat in front of the house door! No sleeping outside for us!
Honestly sleeping outside wouldn't have been bad, but it was the end of september and I don't know if you know, but the end of September on the mediterranean means it's still Summer weather so none of us brought anything remotely warm enough to wear to sleep outside.
So we have a lot of history with that plaza up there. We almost spent the night on it!
Alright it's pretty late here and I have class in the morning so I will continue this Italy story tomorrow and let you read this portion while it's still daytime where you are!
French word for today
le couloir: Hallway
Thursday, September 17, 2009
I still don’t have internet in my apartment. Now I have to figure out who was the last person who lived here to get internet so the phone company can open the right line. So complicated.
Anyways, what did I do this weekend?
Leeeet’s see. I actually got up to go the big market that is by house on Saturday morning. It was an hour of bliss. I spent almost 20 euros on delicious fruits, vegetables, roast chicken, fresh pasta, jars of olive tapenade, and cookies. It was pretty bad of me to spend that much, but I really didn’t have any food and it was all so fresh and cheap compared to the supermarket which is usually the only place I have time to go to. There is a smaller market everyday in a square near my school, but it is over at one o’clock and that’s when I get out of my class. It is all very sad I know. The markets the markets. Oh man I can’t wait for tomorrow though because a long with the food market on Saturdays there is also a clothes/household/everything else market right next to it on Tuesdays/Thursdays/Saturdays. I’m going to get a leather bag for 20 euros! I am going to miss all of these markets when I go back to the US. We should definitely change our culture to have them.
Speaking of culture, my roommate and I were just talking about a main difference between America and France today. We were sitting at a restaurant/café around 5 pm and we ordered some coffee and although the place serves food it only serves food at the hours for lunch and for dinner, the rest of the day it’s open, but you can only get drinks. This is the same at almost all of the restaurants around Aix and probably true for most of France. I really could not see this flying in America. If you serve food at all you should be able to get it anytime of day. Although I guess America is a country on the go so we don’t have time to either wait around for the dinner or lunch hour or to stick to a routine. We are also a country of convenience and capitalism which is very much not France. If Americans will eat at anytime of the day and a restaurant can make money off of them then it will be done. Also, we want whatever we want when we want it. I’m not bagging on America or anything. I just think the differences are interesting.
Another thing I did this weekend that was pretty exciting is go to this club fair on Sunday. On the big main street in town a bunch of organizations and schools came out and set up booths. It was mostly dance schools, sports schools, political organizations, or music groups. There were a couple of things that were interesting though. There is this one group called “Mind the Cave”, they are a group of foreign students and they invite other foreign students to get together once a week to have dinner and talk and things like that. It’s only 3.50 euro for dinner! They also go on excursions and the like. My roommate and I are thinking about going. Another organization I thought was pretty cool is this organization that matches up foreign students with French families and the families take you out to dinner, teach you stuff, take you on outings and generally be like a host family except you don’t live with them. It’s pretty exciting and I signed up for it because it would be really nice to have a family that would show me aspects of French culture that I would never see living as a student with an American roommate and it’s without the home stay price. So I’m definitely going to do that. Also, there was this relatively cheap group voice class that is 30 euro a month for a once a week class. The teacher seems really nice too. She was telling us about how it’s a group thing to let people get more comfortable with singing first and then if they want to sing out on their own. I’m really excited about this one because even though I switched out of the voice major I really do miss singing all the time and singing with a purpose. It should be fun. Another interesting part of the fair was the Capoiera dancers. Capoiera (which I might be misspelling) is a Brazilian dance that looks like you’re fighting without touching one another. I really want to learn because it looks like fun, but I really don’t want to pay for it. There were also a lot of different schools offering salsa, tango, latin dancing which sounds really fun, but I’m sure I want to pay for it or make that commitment. So I have a lot of different stuff I can do around Aix that isn’t just school. It’s pretty exciting.
After the fair on Sunday my roommate and I decided to explore our neighborhood a little bit more. See Aix is composed of the center, which is the old medieval part, and then a road that circles it and outside that road it’s more like suburbs. My apartment is just on the edge of the center of town about a block away from the main road that goes around the center. We hadn’t really explored anything outside of the center of town yet because most everyone lives in the center and that’s where school is. Well we decided we wanted to find out what else was in Aix and ventured out a little bit. It was really interesting actually and we really liked it because the center of town is really really touristy and outside the center it is pretty chill. We decided that it was such a nice day outside we didn’t want to go back and sit around our apartment and set out to find a park. My roommate molly is pretty magic and she must have been drawn to the park because where I was going to turn down this one street and go back toward the center of town she had us go another way and we found a park! Then we walked down the street right next to it and found it was the street that goes right next to our house! We spent the afternoon there on a blanket watching clouds, listening to music, reading, taking pictures. It was so nice. We were actually so happy at one point we just started spontaneously laughing.
This week I've had the flu and had a fever for about a day, but now I'm all better. Luckily it wasn't the swine flu. The French are freakin out about it. They have signs up everywhere telling you how to deal with a flu, wash your hands, cough into your hand or arm, stay home for a little while. They are also playing it on tv and making it so some public service employees can’t deal with the public anymore so they all don’t get sick. It’s pretty crazy and they are really serious about it. Weird eh? Oh and btw I was just kidding about maybe having the swine flu. I honestly don’t think I have it so no freaking out over there!
Alright I think that is enough for this post.
French word for today: envoyer- to send
Oh this is probably a good thing to add, if anyone wants to send me a letter my address is:
1 bis rue d’Arpille
13100 Aix-en-Provence, France
Please don’t send packages here though because then I will have to go to the post office to get them. If you want to send me a package let me know, I’ll give you an address where you can send them.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Bonjour tout le monde! (Good day everyone!)
I know, I know it’s been a while. I still don’t have internet in my apartment though. My roommate and I went to Orange which is the main internet/cell phone/television/everything provider in France and it turns out we needed a lot of things that we didn’t have yet. The main one being this little slip of paper that proves we have a French bank account called an RIB and we can’t get that till everything we need to do to open a French bank account is completed. I had to wait until the bank sent me a letter that I had to sign for to prove that I live where I live. Even though I had brought my lease with my name on it and my signature, apparently that isn’t enough. BUT it came yesterday and I went and signed for it so hopefully tomorrow I can go and get that RIB, a check from the woman who helps out our program (neither of us have any French checks), and then go and get internet. Oh man has this been complicated, even though when we signed the lease our landlord was like “Oh just go to Orange and it will be simple” he obviously was WRONG.
Anyways, that is my excuse for not writing a blog post in a while because I’ve been waiting until I had internet in my own house. I have been using the internet in my friend’s apartment, but that’s not really the time I want to be writing a blog post, you know what I mean?
Alright enough of that talk. On to a new topic, how about my trip to Monaco? Yes that sounds great Marie. Good.
So, last Saturday I went on a trip to Monaco. It was very fortuitous since the week before this trip my roommate and I had been watching the Monaco international circus competition on TV and saying how we needed to go to Monaco. For those of you who don’t know, and shame on you, Monaco is a beautiful, tiny, principality on the French Riviera completely surrounded by France. It is the richest and most densely populated country in the world. Although that was pretty easy for them considering it’s about the size of L.A. County. I went with a group of friends through this man who offers tours to different places to student groups and the like. It was about a 3-4 hour bus ride from Aix to the hill overlooking Monte Carlo. This is where the prince’s palace is and the aquarium and things like that. We walked around and it was very touristy, all souvenir stores and restaurants. The views though were gorgeous, so much so that it was all sort of surreal. You’d walk down a lane and suddenly you would see something like this:
Funny story, while we were standing there looking at this view a seagull flew up and landed right in front of us:
One of my friends is terrified of birds and took one look at this bird and bolted while the rest of us teased her by talking to the bird and taking pictures of it. All the while the seagull just stood there and stared at us. She kept screaming “Stop taunting it! It’s going to attack!” It was pretty hilarious.
We were there for two hours and then got back on the bus to go down the hill to Monte Carlo. Monte Carlo is the place where the Formula 1 race happens and where the super fancy, high roller casino is. Really there is a dress code for the casino and everything. Also, the casino was the first place in Europe I’ve seen where you actually have to be 21 to go in. We strolled down to the beach (which is just as gorgeous as you would think the French Rivera to be) and got something to eat and then half of my friends stayed at the beach while the other half walked up around town looking for the casino. While looking for it we bumped into this church that was so gorgeous it looked like something out of a movie that you never would think existed in real life. Here is an unedited picture I took of it:
After we were in the church for a little while we wandered in the direction we thought the casino was and found it! It’s in what’s called the “casino square” according to my friend who is obsessed with the formula one race so he knows a lot about Monte Carlo. We didn’t try to get in to the big casino because the way we were dressed we knew we wouldn’t get in, but we did go in to the “casino americain” which was just a couple rooms filled with different types of slot machines. It was very Vegas. We were going to play just one slot machine just to so we could say we did, but you had to get tokens and that was just too much work, we didn’t want to play that many slots, so we left.
I did end up buying one thing in Monte Carlo, a fan with a drawing of Grace Kelly on it. Oh yes that is another bit of Monaco history. The American actress Grace Kelly married the prince of Monaco (the prince rules in a principality) and ruled with him for a while until she was killed in a tragic car crash in which the other woman, who was driving and rumored to be the prince’s lover, survived. The people of Monaco love her though.
After the casino it was time to go back to the bus and I slept all the way back. And that was my trip to Monaco!
One weird little tidbit about today, I was walking to and from the post office and I kept seeing all of these teenagers running around wearing trash bags covered in whip cream holding whip cream cans and paper plates. I wonder if it was a special event today or just teenagers being weird.
Another weird thing that I apparently missed on Sunday was a parade of pilgrims marching through the town with their horses. They were still cleaning up after the horses on Monday and man was there a smell.
Oh and if you want to look at pictures of my apartment there are too many to put on here but I will put one up:
And the rest you can see if you have a facebook, here’s the link:
Also, an anecdote that shows how nice my landlord is:
So tonight my roommate was doing the dishes when all of a sudden there was this torrent of water gushing out of the cabinet beneath the sink. We had no idea what was going on and looked into the cabinet to see this little open spout pointing upwards out of the main pipe. Water kept spurting out of it and into the cabinet. Now I was wondering what the point was of an open bit to a sink pipe as I was trying to mop up all the water. The weird thing was that it hadn’t happened before and when we tried to run water about a minute later it didn’t happen again. Well we were still like “maybe we should tell the landlord anyway, since it did flood our kitchen a little bit”. Our landlord lives right above us so my roommate and I walked up there and rang the doorbell (which kind of sounded like a cat dying it was strange). My landlord’s wife opened the door and even though we had never met her she was so excited to see us and invited us in enthusiastically. She called her husband out and made us sit down and asked us what was up. As if they didn’t mind if we had just come up to talk to them about nothing in particular. So we told them in broken French with much gesticulating (they don’t speak English really at all) that the sink was broken and spurting water all over the floor. He didn’t understand exactly what was happening because, you know, we both don’t speak each other’s language very well so he came down to look at it. He looked at it and was like “oh ok tomorrow morning at 8:30 I’ll have a plumber over to fix it, don’t worry about the mess I’ll clean it up” all in French of course, but I understand people speaking French better than I speak it myself. Then he asked all worried “is everything else ok?” and we were like “yes of course! This is the only problem we’ve had” and he was so glad it was adorable. Then he asked if we wanted to come up and have something to drink with his wife and we politely refused because we had things to do. And then he invited us to one night come over and he would teach us how to make the French food of the region! Cakes!, he said, Marvelous dishes! And no we would not just eat we would help him cook! Think about it and let him know when we want to come! It was adorable. I can’t wait. I love the French people and their hospitality.
Anyways, that’s enough for now. Hopefully I’ll get to post this tomorrow. I went strolling around the neighborhood today and found this pizzeria/bar place with free internet! It’s just around the corner! I’m excited.
French phrase for today: peut-être. It means “maybe”
UPDATE: I have internet! Well I bought internet and now we have to wait a week for the phone company to open our line, but hey! It's on it's way!
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Sorry this is a day late and it's not even going to be a complete post.
School just started yesterday and I've been super busy with that and moving into my new place and such.
Plus I will be without internet for a couple days so you will have to wait even longer for my post.
To make it up to you the next post will arrive with beaucoup de photos. D'accord? Ok?
Oh that will be your french word of the day
Literally means in accordance
is used as "ok"
Monday, August 24, 2009
I am here! This town is beautiful and it’s really solidified my love of classic architecture. The center of town is the mid-evil part. Little winding streets that twist and turn and then all of the sudden open up into a courtyard of a grand old house with a fountain or a big square with arches and a marketplace. There are so many hidden little things that I don’t ever think I will see it all in a year. You know it’s so amazing I don’t know if I can describe it in words. I think we will have to wait until I take some pictures.
I also went to Marseille on Sunday with a bunch of people and went to the beach. I feel like the architecture in Marseille is really at odds with itself. You have big project-like apartment buildings mixed in with centuries old buildings and multi-million dollar high rises. It’s like Marseille can’t decide what to be, but it likes being in the middle. It’s a lot more urban than I imagined it would be and I would not like to be walking around there at night. No sirree bob that is one place you leave before sunset. During the day though you can go to little beaches and swim in the Mediterranean sea. The sea is so salty you can just bob around getting away with barely treading water. Compared to the pacific ocean it is about 10 times warmer. So gorgeous. It’s weird being in France because the beach was actually pretty small and really crowded, but it didn’t really bother. I guess because most people were sunbathing to maintain their so tan they look like they’re black complexions. Let me tell you that was not an attractive look for some people.
So the dealio is when we get here we basically have two weeks to find a place to live for the year while living in an apartment hotel with all of the other people in the program. You have a couple different options for this. You could live in a home stay with another family and live by their rules and pay their price, you could find a French person in Aix looking for an American roommate, or you can get an apartment with either people from your program or by yourself. I decided that home stay wasn’t for me for a couple of reasons: I didn’t like the restrictions the host family would put on me, the houses are usually out of the center of town (which means I would have to take a bus or bike into town to get to school… do not envy those people in the dead of winter when the mistral is blowing brrrrr), and it is much much more expensive then the apartments. I also decided that trying to get a French roommate wasn’t for me because they are few and far between; I got to Aix late so almost all of them were already gone, and I had already promised a peer that I would get an apartment with her.
So that brings me to living with Megan. We haven’t found a place yet, but we are on the trail. It is a little more difficult because she is on kind of a tight budget. Whereas most two bedroom apartments in Aix go for 500 Euros a month plus utilities, that is really stretching her budget to the limit. (The exchange rate on a Euro is currently around $1.50, you do the math). So we have looked at a couple places not with very much success. Tomorrow though I think we are going to see a place that if it is nice we will take. It’s getting down to the wire and we really would like this stress over with so we can focus on other things, like school. The place we are seeing tomorrow is supposed to be a big two bedroom with actual bedroom doors, on the first floor that is close to school and a laundry mat. Hopefully it’s adorably cute with a normal sized kitchen. The place we saw today had a micro kitchen that I swear if I was about two sizes bigger I would not be able to fit into. Plus it was up about 5 flights of stairs. Do not envy the person who has to drag their suitcases up their stairs.
Alright I think I will end this post with two clarifications:
#1 I know you probably noticed I mentioned getting here late and you wonder how that happened. Welllllll, I really don’t feel like telling that story so you are just going to have to wonder at the mystery.
#2 You may be wondering what the minstrel is that I don’t envy people walking in. The mistral is a wind that comes down the river valley from the Alps every winter. It can get up to 90 mph blowing down from the snow topped mountains of the alps you can just imagine how cold that gets.