A Travellerspoint blog

Twentyfourth Birthday

Santé! Cheers! Prost! Salud!

overcast

It’s scary how quickly birthdays seem to approach each year. I think this year was especially baffling to me because I realized that I have been here since September! Amazing how quickly time flies…

I woke up and started getting ready for class as normal, yet when I opened my bedroom door; I found it covered in signs. The signs said “happy birthday” in German, English, French and Spanish(Gulia was not happy that the Italian one was missing, but she sang to me in Italian to make up for it.) I was touched that my roomies woke up early to decorate my door before going off to class! It reminded me how we would always decorate our friend’s rooms and/or apartments for their birthdays at Grand Valley. When I finally got to my class, all of the students started singing happy birthday to me in English. The teacher somehow found out it was my birthday and told them about it all, as well surprising me with a box of French chocolates.

The ladies in the lunch room also must have known it was my birthday, because they just happened to serve an amazing rice dish with mussels and sausage which I happened to love! After a big lunch there, I headed back home to chill before meeting a friend in town for ice cream. I thought it was a bit weird that my roomies didn’t want to get ice cream with us, but figured it was their loss and headed off to town with my friend. When I returned a couple hours later, I discovered a huge surprise dinner waiting for me complete with salmon, a Lyonnais specialty dish and chocolate fondue! Now I’m not dissing birthday cake, but birthday fondue is pretty spectacular, especially when the chocolate was imported from Austria by your Austrian roommate.
surprise birthday dinner and chocolate fondue!

surprise birthday dinner and chocolate fondue!

So we dined and chatted and opened presents and talked about how we couldn’t eat any more, until I noticed that if we didn’t get going we would be late for the dance show at the theatre! The Ballet Jazz Company of Montreal was performing at the theatre in town, so Paty, Silvia and I bought tickets. After walking up to the third balcony, then going back down to the main floor because the usher lied to us and then returning to the first floor balcony, we finally found our seats and sat down. It was a bit hard to see at times, but the dancers were truly spectacular! The way they could control their muscles to allow them to stand on the very tips of their toes, while holding their leg above their head is incredible. After all my years of dance, I still don’t think I could do that.

My birthday was completed by some lovely phone calls and skype sessions with friends. Thanks to all of you who called and sent cards!

Amanda’s birthday celebration round two:

Part two started off with an international food party at a friend’s apartment. Everyone had to bring a dish from their own countries. It was hard to find food that was typically American, besides hamburgers and hot dogs, so eventually I settled on peanut butter cookies and pancakes. (Yeah yeah, I know pancakes are from Sweden, but pouring maple syrup on them makes them American for this party. Besides, no one can deny that they are a favorite USA breakfast food.) I went to a huge grocery store in a nearby town to get the supplies for my American delicacies. The grocery store reminded me of Mejers and although my friends thought it was too big, I felt like I was right back at home as we searched the aisles for different food items and occasionally each other when we got lost. We then returned back home to start cooking.The PB cookies were my first attempt at baking here in France, and I must say I did decently well. Of course, I made sure I intentionally burnt the first batch as a customary sacrifice to the cookie gods, but I was quite pleased with the way the rest of them turned out. pb cookies, chocolate french cake and pancakes

pb cookies, chocolate french cake and pancakes

The rest of our meal was accompanied by German pastries with ground beef in side, a French onion and bacon tart, dried ham, and lots of bread and wine! There was also a surprise chocolate birthday cake for me hand made by a friend! To top of a wonderful evening, we went out dancing at a pub in town. It was wonderful to go out, let my hair down and just dance around for a bit with friends. I was reminded that French people dance a bit differently than we do. They tend to kind of just bop around from side to side, while Americans get a bit more into it. As usual, we started the dancing, and pretty soon the dance floor was crowded with people. We sang along to the songs we knew and swayed to the songs we didn’t. I learned a French line dance which I promptly forgot after the song was finished. By the end of the night I was exhausted, but I suppose that is what four hours of dancing nonstop will do to you!

French Pub Dancing

French Pub Dancing


All and all, I was overwhelmed by how wonderful this birthday was. I received a ton of emails, messages on facebook, phone calls and love from around the globe. My friends here made sure my birthday was fantastic and full of surprises. If the beginning of my 24th year is a preview of what this year will be like, it’s going to be a pretty darn good year!

Posted by jauntypag 15:31 Archived in France Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Reflection

Just a tiny break from the French day by day entry.

sunny -6 °C

(Details of my Christmas abroad have also been posted! To read them look at the last two entries. Sorry for the delay!)

In France when people see each other for the first time after the New Year, they greet you with a kiss on both checks (as normal) and tell you “meilleurs voeux” which means best wishes. Since it will be quite a while until I see those of you reading this again, I send internet air kisses your way and wish you all a very wonderful New Year filled with all of the joy and happiness you deserve. Meilleurs voeux!

I was overjoyed by the Christmas/New Year’s eve cards I received in the mail and thank everyone for the warm thoughts they sent! Although it is true that I am highly enjoying my time here, it would be a lie to say that I did not miss home and miss talking to all of you. Living away from my friends and family is difficult, no matter how much I love it here. Do not think that I have forgotten you. Your cards, blog comments, emails and letters are always a pleasant surprise and usually make my day when I see them waiting for me. Although I cannot see who looks at this blog , I can see how many times each of my entries is viewed. I am stunned to report that each entry is viewed approximately 300 times, some almost reaching the 600 mark. Whomever you are reading this; I thank you for your interest in my French life and hope you find this blog at least a bit entertaining. I would love it if you left a comment with your thoughts!

While writing this I began to think about this past year and all of the events which took place. I often find it difficult to remember all of the things which happened throughout the year, so at the beginning of 2009 I started to keep a list. I listed every month and underneath I wrote the good events which took place. I read about doing this in a book once and always wanted to try it, so I gave it a shot. I suggest you try it as well. It’s not that difficult to do and looking back at it is a great way of reflecting on the year gone by. I thought I’d share a tiny bit of my 2009 with you:

Happines in 2009
January: I was told by one of my students that I was the best student teacher they've ever had and that I made learning Shakespeare fun. (talk about a compliment!)
February: Long lunch at Wealthy Street Bakery with a friend before she moved to Korea.
March: I had three amazing out of state job interviews and job offers.
April: Graduation from GVSU!!
May: Wore mustaches to the Hopcat Bar to celebrate Cinqo de Mustacho with two of my favorite girls.
June: Watching my baby sister graduate from high school.
July: Finally got my placement of where I would be living in France. Roanne here I come!
August: Sara-rose and Bryan’s wedding.
September: Left SCS to live in France for 8 months! Time for a new adventure!

Sadly, I did not continue this once I moved to France, but though this blog I have a pretty decent account of the good things which have happened here.

Looking back at this made me laugh and smile about all of the great things which happened this year. It’s hard for me to believe that a year ago I was wondering if I would be hired for this job, and now I am “living in deep France, no longer as a tourist but as a part of the community”, as I was told by the director of assistants in Lyon. Truly amazing to see how things change and how much difference once year can make!

Off to explore a crêpe restaurant with some friends. Maybe I’ll add this to my “Good things of 2010 list!”

cinqo de mustacho

cinqo de mustacho

Posted by jauntypag 10:27 Archived in France Tagged events Comments (1)

An Introduction to France

Mom and Emily Come to Visit Me!

sunny

St. Hoan le Chatel

St. Hoan le Chatel


The final part of my holidays was spent playing tour guide and applying all of my French translating skills when my mom and my sister came to visit me! I am pretty sure I resembled a wobbly little puppy greeting its owner for the first time when I saw my mom and sister walk through the arrival gate. I couldn’t believe that they were actually in France and standing right in front of me! After many hugs, I took them back to my home town of Roanne so they could get a taste of the non touristy French lifestyle is like. The first night they were quite tired and Emily succumbed to Jet lag by falling asleep on my bed at around 7:30 while mom and I stayed up and chatted for a bit. The next day we went off to the little town of St. Haon le Chatel to have dinner with some friend who I met through my roommate. I had previously visited this little town when my roommate was invited by Michelle, a lady she works with, to come and experience the town’s Christmas market. When Michelle and her husband out that my mom and sister were coming to visit they immediately decided that they must come over for dinner and see the town. So Michelle came to pick up my mom, sister and me and gave us a tour of the medieval village. It was a rare opportunity for my mom and Emily to see a true medieval town which has never been altered or changed at all. All of the houses look like they did when they were first built, and while walking around the streets you often expect to see someone dressed in medieval garb walking down the cobblestone street. After our tour we went back to Michelle’s house and had a huge dinner with Michelle, Erick and Erick’s two daughters. Erick even brought out his guitar and played us a couple of songs which mom absolutely loved! The generosity of these people is truly amazing. Anyone who thinks that French people are rude and hate Americans needs to come and meet Michelle and Erick.
Michelle leading the way on our walking tour,

Michelle leading the way on our walking tour,

The next day I showed mom and Emily around Roanne a bit and took Emily to the little shopping area which I knew she would love. We then grabbed our bags and headed for Lyon for the New Year! We did a bit of shopping in Lyon and found Emily a new suitcase since the wheel on hers broke. A super nice French guy in the store helped us pick one out and even changed the price on it so we got a better deal! I showed mom and Emma around the city and walked them until they thought their legs were going to fall off. European cities are much more accessible to those who choose to walk around them, but mom and Emma were both pretty tired after walking around all day. (lets face it, American’s just don’t walk as much as Europeans do. All of my friends here were shocked to know that I own a car in the U.S). To celebrate the New Year, mom and I went out for dinner while Emily slept off her Jet lag in our hotel room. We came back to the room and greeted her with the noise makers and party hats that my dad sent to me to use for New Years!
New Years Eve Lyon

New Years Eve Lyon

To start 2010 off on the right foot, we went to the city of love and lights for four days, AKA Paris! Mom and Emily had never been to Paris before and I was excited to show them the sites. We saw the Eiffel tower, the arc de triomphe, sung along the Champs Elysees and did a whole lot of shopping. Emily also requested that we see the palace of Versailles so we took a day trip out there to see it. I was a bit nervous to figure out how to get out there, since if you take the wrong train you will end up in some random French city, but thanks to the help of the nice guy at our hotel we figured out the trains and spent the day at the sun king’s castle. Emily loved the hall of mirrors and got some great pictures of Marie Antoinette’s gardens. Due to the chilly weather, we only stayed in the gardens for a tiny walk and then headed into the city to find a place to eat.
Under the Eiffel tower

Under the Eiffel tower

Champs Elysees with all of the Christmas decorations

Champs Elysees with all of the Christmas decorations

hall of mirrors in Versailles

hall of mirrors in Versailles

During our trip in Pairs, I made sure that mom and Emily had the true Paris experience. Meaning they had freshly made crepes from a little restaurant on the Champs Elysees. They got to see the Eiffel tower glowing bright gold and glittering at night while we drank hot chocolate and hot wine underneath it. We took the metro all over the city like true Parisians. They had little French coffee’s which mom never really got used to (When you get a coffee in France it comes in a cup a little bit bigger than a shot glass and only comes with sugar on the side, no cream. Mom was not a fan of this but was satisfied by the free tea that we had in our hotel room). I tried to give them the best experience in Paris that I could. We shopped, we ate, we discovered and we enjoyed our time together.
Crepes in Paris

Crepes in Paris

The only real negative experience we had was when we were in a shopping mall in Lyon. Mom wanted to take a bit of a break since she was tired, so she sat on a bench in the mall while Emily and I went in a store. 15 mins later she came rushing into the store saying that some French guy started yelling at her in French. She pointed out the teenage guy to me and the two girls he was with. To frankly state it, I was pissed that some French teenage guy trying to impress his girlfriends by yelling at my mom ruined her impression on how nice French people are. Normally I just ignore it when people do things like this, but I was shocked by how rude they were. So I went up and confronted them, asking them in French if they had a problem with my mom and why they started yelling at her. They started apologizing and said that they didn’t mean to scare her and were just trying to ask her to move over. The guy apologized profusely to my mom and made me translate what he was saying to her. I did notice that the guy had an empty bottle of some kind of alcohol in his hand, which I’m sure didn’t help the situation.

Despite this immature teenage guy, I think my mom and sister had a good experience with the French culture. Everyone else we met was extremely nice and accommodating towards us. They had no problem giving directions and were extremely polite. We also had great weather for the trip and didn’t even see snow until the day that Emily and mom flew back to the U.S. From my point of view, it was a successful first time in France for the girls and I have a feeling that they might be a bit more interesting in traveling now. The travel bug strikes again!
Metro Girl

Metro Girl

Posted by jauntypag 09:44 Archived in France Comments (1)

Happy Christmas to One and All!

The Holidays in London

snow

Posing infront of Parliment

Posing infront of Parliment

Shortly after I returned from my visit to the south of France, I was on to the second part of my holiday adventure. Since a plane ticket back to the U.S.A would cost me more than my rent for the entire time I am in France, I decided to stay in Europe for Christmas. Yet rather than spending it alone in my apartment, I was invited to celebrate London style, with my friend Vanessa who is currently living there. So I hopped a plane to England to spend Christmas with Vanessa and her two other holiday visitors; her mom and her sister!

When I arrived, the country was in a bit of a meltdown because of all the snow they got. All the new reports were about how awful the weather was, flight delays (thankfully mine was on time), the treacherous roads, and how everyone had no idea what to do about the snow. They had about an inch of snow on the ground and some ice on the roads. Obviously, coming from a place where we often have to push off 2 feet of snow from the cars in the morning, I didn’t see what the big deal was, and luckily I had no problems with my transportation to Vanessa’s apartment. I was in London for about a week with Vanessa and her family, so of course we had lots of time to explore the ins and outs of this great city! We went to St. Paul’s Cathedral (where princess Diana was married) and got up front seats to their Christmas service. I tested out my ability to eat noodles with chopsticks at an amazing restaurant we found down town. Vanessa used her bright smile to get a free upgrade for our seats to “Wicked” so we were sitting front and center. I sang along to the lyrics of all the Lion King songs as we saw the play. We went shopping at Harrods on Boxing day and actually bought some purses. It was also really cool to observe all of the different ways which London celebrates Christmas. Example: at the changing of the guard, there was a band which played Christmas carols for at least 20 mins. Even though it was quite cold and the ground was a bit icy, everyone danced along to the music and sang quietly under their breath.
Acting like Royalty in fron of Buckingham Palace

Acting like Royalty in fron of Buckingham Palace

On Christmas day, we woke up early and went to Hyde Park to see the Serpentine Swimmers dive into the icy pond at 9am. This is a Christmas tradition has been going since 1864 and draws a huge crowd of spectators every year. I suppose that if someone gave me a million dollars, a room full of daffodils, a brand new car that would never break down, an ice cream Sunday and a flying pig that would take me to Jupiter, I might consider doing this. It was super cold that morning and swimming across the pond in a little speedo would not be my idea of a good Christmas morning, yet there were a great deal of people lined up to dive into the water dressed up in Santa clause hats with matching red bathing suits. We made it to the dock just in time to see the first people dive in. There were some young adults doing the swim, but most of the group consisted of older men in their 70’s who came out of the water completely red because of the cold. I have to say I was quite impressed that they would do this, but all of them seemed to love the clapping they were greeted with when they finished swimming.
Serpintine Swimmers on Christmas morning

Serpintine Swimmers on Christmas morning

We walked back to the apartment thinking of hot chocolate and going back to sleep for a bit. Later on in the day, we went to Trafalgar square for their Charles Dickens walk. Our guide took us on a two hour walking tour of the city and pointed out different places made famous by the famous author, like his favorite restaurant, a house where the poets, playwrights and authors of that era had huge parties, and even threw in Benjamin Franklin’s house for the Americans in the group. It was kind of cool to spend Christmas day actually walking around instead of stuffing myself with roast beef and lying in front of the fire place. Missing the annual Christmas eve party at my aunt’s house and Christmas dinner the next day was difficult and a very bizarre feeling. When I saw the picture from those events the first thing I thought of was “Wait, why wasn’t I there?” Thanks to the marvelous invention of Skype, I at least able to talk and see my family through web cam. Vanessa’s mom came prepared with reindeer antlers and flashing red noses which we all put on before talking with my family to show them that even though we were far away, we were still in the Christmas spirit!

Posted by jauntypag 09:40 Archived in England Comments (0)

A Visit to Monsieur Noir and Madame Rose

The story of the Cote d'azur

sunny

She boarded the train heading towards the land of the never fading sun and turquoise waters. With a ticket in her hand and an ipod providing the soundtrack for the journey, she headed south towards the French Riveria. The interior of train became warmer as the sun broke out through the clouds and the girl was suddenly flooded with memories of her previous time in the south of France. The water, the food, the calm attitude of the people all came back to her. As the train chugged along the coast, the tranquil Mediterranean caught her eye and she smiled knowing that she would soon be at the Cote d'Azur.
st jean cap ferrart

st jean cap ferrart

Waiting for her at the train station was the famous Monsieur Noir and Madame rose. These friends from home dressed their part by wearing all black (monsieur noir) and all pink (madame rose).Although they were all Americans, they greeted each other the French way; with kisses on the cheeks and cheerful “Bonjours!” The group moved out of the train station and found a perfect spot for lunch. The girl soon found herself walking down familiar streets. She remembered the times when she was a student there and spent her time walking down the beach with gelato in her hand and the sun on her face. But now the city looked different. A tram ran through town caring passengers and tourists all over the city. The massive fountain in the center of town was subdued by a huge Christmas market, completely with ice skating rink, Ferris wheel and little shops. Her favorite lunch café had its doors permanently closed and a wooden “for sale” sign nailed to its windows. Yet as the girl wandered through town, looking at her old apartment and favorite shops, she was overwhelmed and overjoyed to be there once more.

Monsieur Noir and Madame Rose knew Nice well. They had lived there for quite some time, and were now vacationing in a town nearby. The girl stayed with them in their apartment by the sea. She arrived at the apartment to find yellow tulips awaiting her in the bedroom and a beautiful view of the sea from the balcony. Madame Rose made a lovely dinner which was followed by wine and conversation. “Here”, monsieur Black said with a smile to the young girl, “you shall be called Brzezette”. And from then on, that was her name.

The young Brzezette, Monsieur Noir and Madame Rose traveled the coast during the next couple of days. Monsieur Noir and Madame Rose took the young Brzezette to Italy to buy fresh tomatoes at the market and to stare at the odd fish for sale. They drove to tiny towns high in the mountains to look down in awe at the Mediterrian Sea and discuss art with local bartenders. They walked through the lavish seaside neighborhoods where movie stars couples like Brangelina vacationed. They walked through markets full of fruit and flowers. They tasted the sweetest wine and Madame Rose made exquisite food. The young Brzezette’s taste buds were tantalized by new foods like rabbit, foie gras, quail eggs and the oddly named (but deliciously tasting) Merda de can. The young Brzezette soon became wrapped up in the warmth of the sun, the mystifying beauty of the water, and the hospitality of her hosts.
swordfish head, ventimiglia Italy

swordfish head, ventimiglia Italy


marzipan at the Nice market,

marzipan at the Nice market,


foie gras with stake for dinner!

foie gras with stake for dinner!

One day for lunch, the Young Brzezette, Monsieur Noir and madame Rose met Muriel in Nice for lunch. The young Brzezette had spent a month living with her amazing host mom Muriel while studying in Nice and was delighted to see her again. Muriel smiled as she embrassed the young Brzezette in a true meaningful hug. They walked through the streets with the click of Muriel’s chartreuse boots leading the way to the restaurant as everyone conversed in French. During lunch they reminisced of old times and talked about new events. They laughed and smiled and were sad to say goodbye once the meal was finished. The young Brzezette was beyond thrilled to see her old friend once again and as they said goodbye, she knew that it would not be for the last time.
seeing Muriel again

seeing Muriel again

Just as it always does when you are having fun, the time flew by. The young Brzezette soon found herself once more at the train station saying goodbye to her fabulous hosts. As she got on the train she thought of the counties and towns she had visited in the past couple of days and how much she enjoyed her visit to the south. Although Brzezette knew that she would miss the startling aura of the water, the constant laughter of her hosts and the wonderful visits to new towns, the spirit of adventure did not leave her. It beckoned her forward, reminding her of the next adventure which was to come…
Brzezette, Monsieur noir and Madame Rose

Brzezette, Monsieur noir and Madame Rose

Posted by jauntypag 15:46 Archived in France Comments (0)

(Entries 31 - 35 of 55) « Page .. 2 3 4 5 6 [7] 8 9 10 11 »