Thursday, January 29, 2009

Le petit ville de St. Paul

            Yesterday we visited St. Paul, a little medieval village with little alleyways that remind me of why I love Europe.  After visiting a modern art museum, and realizing I remember very little from my Art History courses, we entered the fortified city and finally had the crepes we had been craving.

There was a quaint little chocolate shop (and by quaint, I mean expensive) that had 26 kinds of chocolate candies, each stamped with a different letter of the alphabet.  “C” was filled with caramel, “T” was filled with thyme, and “J” with Jasmine.  The herb ones weren’t so great, but the concept was too cute to pass up.   

             I’ve been trying to avoid taking pictures of scenes that I won’t need to scrapbook. But, in an effort to fit into the tourist stereotype (and because I can’t resist capturing beautiful scenery that doesn’t exist in the States) I took way too many pictures of St. Paul and the view from atop the city walls.  They’ll make good living room decorations some day. 

            Later, we went to the grocery store to stock up on our 2 Euro bottles of French wine since the city decided to strike again.  Every public building is closed.  These people already get 8 weeks paid vacation and they’re still striking.  I should work here. 

Tonight is a night of soirees:  Chinois Soiree for dinner, and a crepe soiree at night.  A party just for crepes? I love this country.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

En Italie pour aujourd'hui

            This morning I woke up and said, “I think I’ll go to Italy today.”  No, not really – but that’s kind of how it felt.  I was pretty happy after waking up at 11:30 (first time I’ve slept in this whole trip) and everyone came to tell me we were leaving in twenty minutes.  I hadn’t expected the plan to pull through.  But, after raci

ng down to brunch (I was pretty upset I missed the omelets) and grabbing a pain au chocolat to go, we were headed for the

 train to Italy. 

            We got off in Ventimiglia, a small Mediterranean town right over the French border.  It’s amazing how you can stand on the shore of this little Italian town and see France from the shore, but you’re surrounded by a completely different culture.  The language, the architecture, the food – all we had to do was take an hour train ride and it was as if we were in the heart of Italy.

            Since it was such a spur of the moment decision, we arrived in the town during siesta, the midday “nap” w

here all of the restaurants are closed.  To top if off, it was Sunday and all of the stores were closed.  We traveled over the border just for pizza and gelato and who would have thought you couldn’t find and open pizzeria or gelatteria in Italy?

            We couldn’t complain, however, since the sun was setting over the sea and we had the perfect view.  We eventually did track down some Italians enjoying gelato and with my scarce memories 

of the Italian language, and the boys’ Spanish, we were able to communicate enough to find an open shop.  My cioccolato e caffe held me over until we made it to a little café at seven o’clock, when all of the restaurants re-opened. 


       The pizza, the Chianti, and even the water were the authentic and exquisite cuisine that we came for.  W

e were not disappointed.  And the Italians are so much more relaxed than the French; they made 

us feel right at home.  They could care less that we didn’t speak 

a word of Italian and that we tourists didn’t belong in such a quaint little town.  They were happy to chat and share their good culture and cuisine because even they know it’s the best in the world.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cafe Francais

 I was very disappointed that they don’t offer cappuccinos in the university café.  I wanted some real French coffee.  So, on my breaks I’ve been drinking le chocolat chaud (hot chocoloate) which is good, but tastes kind of like Swiss Miss (what’s the cultural experience in that?).  But today after class I decided to give the café au lait (coffee with milk) a try.  Luckily, they drink coffee like the Italians so their coffee is just watered down espresso.  Add milk and you get a European latté.  The little things in life that make you happy…. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Vive Obama?

Last night we hunted for a bar that would show the inauguration.  We went to many bars and pubs in search for a channel in English.  The first place was a little pub where no English was spoken (the kind I like).

             Now, the French aren’t known for their friendly nature.  Everyone knows this.  It is a borderline stereotype with some truth.  While they aren’t overtly happy and accommodating, they do have a level of kindness that, in a way, can surpass American culture. 

I ordered a rum and coke, and as far as bartending goes, the French are definitely more generous.  I think the rule here is three parts alcohol one part soda.  Anyway, in a state of excitement over who knows what, I tipped over my glass which was probably only half full (or half empty, depends what mood you’re in).  The bartender quickly rushed over and cleaned it up as I repeatedly apologized in French, embarrassed at fulfilling a clumsy American stereotype.  In less than a minute, he sat another drink (still generous on the alcohol content) right in front of me without a word.  Although he wasn’t a social guy and didn’t speak much more than a grunt nor crack a smile, this was a nice man.  This is just the French way.

Another one of the cultural differences we were warned of, even in London, was that in Europe, businesses don’t have the “customer is always right” mentality.  Several bars refused to change the channel when we asked (we were the only customers there).  So, we ended up watching the inauguration in French for most of the time.  Anyway, we ended up walking towards Italy (no lie, we were told if we kept walking we would reach the border in two hours).  Ironically, we stopped at a Chinese restaurant.  I had my first glass of good French wine (I sprung for something that was more than four Euros per bottle). 

             On the walk back, one of the boys in the group kept yelling “vive Obama!” or statements along the lines of praise for our new president.  I was worried that they would hate us (we’ve already told several people we’re Canadian).  Surprisingly, the most common reaction was “Oui, vive Obama!” Some people near the music festival even waived American flags. 

Another stereotype destroyed.

le pain et le vin

  The food here is not what I expected.  Out first meal was chicken wings and French fries (mind you, French fries are Belgian).  They might just be catering to Americans but today I had the same thing.  The dining hall is interesting too – you have to get there exactly when mealtime begins and you get your salad and they bring you your meal.  They serve you and clean away your dishes.  I’m not sure this method would work in America.

            So, needless to say the food is just alright so last night while we were hunting for some towels (I know, it took a long time for me to get that shower ) we stopped to eat at a café.  There’s a music festival here right now (Cannes, city of festivals) so there’s a lot of Americans around.  The waitress didn’t speak English though so we got to practice our French. Ironically, I got a pizza but it was still pretty good.  So were the wine and the crepe.  

            I saw the ocean for the first time.  Unfortunately it was dark and rainy so I didn’t make it on the shore.  But once we got back we got some more French wine and hung out with a group in the boys’ room.  Not a bad night.

            I had my first real French class today and it was better than I thought.  Taking things I already learned and learning then to perfection can’t hurt. And luckily my professor doesn’t fit into the French stereotype of an angry American hater.  The class is three hours every day with a fifteen minute break spent in the café drinking le chocolat chaud.  Not bad.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


And so it begins… I just got to Cannes after three days in London and I’m tired and dirty.  But since I’m in southern France at a university on the beach, I really shouldn’t complain.  I haven’t seen much of Cannes yet – everyone just rushed to their computers after having no technology for the past three days.  (Sorry Mom, I tried to call but it was too expensive.)

            I think Cannes will be better than London, despite the fact that I have to take classes here.  London is nice but it’s like an awkward limbo between America and classical Europe.  They speak English, although at times you have no clue what they’re saying.  They have the same customs, but there are little things that can offend them.  French culture is a little bit more foreign, but it’s also more obviously different.  I am nervous to speak French though.  I’m not sure why.  I guess it goes back to me not being confident in my ability to speak it, hence me being here to try to get fluent.  I have a placement test tomorrow though, so I guess if I’m “Intermediate” and not “Advanced” I’ll get over it.  I’m praying the classes in Paris are a joke (I’ve heard rumors that go both ways.)

            Oh well.  For now I’ll just focus on finding a towel, which was not supplied for us in the dorm.  Although, the room is a lot bigger than I thought it would be. Considering how small our hotel room was, the dorm room looks very similar to an American one.  The closet is a little smaller and I still don’t know where to put my suitcase but those are minor details (I’m really sporting the optimism this trip).  The college is very European – a big open courtyard surrounded by fancy walls.  Unfortunately the boys got the big rooms with the balconies. 

            Anyway, it’ll take some adjusting but I think I’m doing okay with it, especially since I’m so busy.  I really miss my family and my boyfriend and little American luxuries, but I knew all that going into it.  For now, I’ll just try to find my towel and hope that’s my biggest obstacle 

Monday, January 5, 2009


So instead of trying to email anyone who's interested (and probably many who aren't) I decided to set up a blog.  Even though I hate that word, partly as a result of my mass communication courses, it seems practical to document my journey overseas for anyone to read at their leisure.  That way, if you don't want to know you don't have to and if you do, you can keep tabs on me right here.  It's a win-win: I don't have to rewrite the same email six times and you only read when you want to.   
Also, in years to come, I'll have a day by day documentation of what is hopefully (crossing my fingers) one of the best trips of my life.