Katie' Pau Life En France

Ma vie En France

Paris – Dinner with Charles July 8, 2010

Filed under: Travels in France — katiespaulife @ 11:12 pm

After my amazing (although rushed) tour of Versailles I arrived in Paris around 8 pm. Vanessa and I settled into our hotel room and at 9 pm I went downstairs to wait in the lobby for Charles, who lived in the states a while back and went to ECHS my senior year.

I recalled him telling me he lived near Paris, so about a month prior to the end of my stay I facebooked him and mentioned I would be visiting. Turns out he lived only 20 minutes away and could easily meet up with me via the metro. He met me at the hotel and asked me if I had eaten dinner yet. I hadn’t, so he offered to show me a street of great restaurants a couple blocks from the hotel. The street was very Parisian, jam-packed with cute restaurants that spilled out with patio seating onto the street, lighting it up and creating a great French atmosphere.

 

The dinner itself was delicious as always, I can’t even remember now what I ate, but I do remember talking about French food, A LOT. Charles kept asking me what I would miss about France and what I loved about it. Sadly I mentioned the cheese, pastries, meusli, yogurt, produce and other unprocessed, un-American goodies more than anything. I articulated my love of French cuisine to the point where he was actually said, “Yes I know, you like French food”. Haha, oh my American appetite!

 

There are many (non-food related) things I love about France, but I think the main reason I was  afraid to bring them up was that I was avoiding one touchy subject: my opinion of the French themselves. Finally he just blatantly asked me and I tried to delicately describe my overall experience, which I hadn’t completely figured out by this point. Upon reflection here at home I have had some interesting revelations, however at this time, I wasn’t sure how to put my overall unease with the French into words. I lived in their society for four months and still had no idea what to make of these people.

 

Much to my relief, when I did bring up something negative, Charles wasn’t offended at all. “He even said something as blatant as, “Yes, the French are rude. Very Rude”. Hearing a Frenchmen admit this was a bit of relief. And he himself despised the work ethic and strikes as much as I do. Since misery loves company, I eagerly complained about my horrid experiences in the service industry, as well as dealing with SNCS; he completely empathized.

 

Eventually I turned the tables and started asking him about his thoughts on the states. I was kind of surprised to hear he thought Americans are extremely fake. I later realized I had been thinking the same about the French. He didn’t appreciate many of the students at my private high school, because of how fake they were. Americans are rather infamous for smiling too much, apologizing too often and he felt we pretend to care about one another, but in a way that obviously lacks sincerity. I’m sure the school of Eastside Catholic did nothing, but emphasize that impression. Charles also mentioned that he found Americans to be rather stupid. He said each time he thought he could possibly date an American girl he would get to know her and realize she was, well stupid. Once again, the dating pool at ECHS was rather stereotypical for preppy rich kids. I know plenty of intelligent girls from the school, but for each one I could name off ten stupid ones. And this kid is very mature for his age, the entire time I felt like I was speaking to someone older than me, when he is actually two years younger.

 

I must say I appreciated his honesty. He was completely and utterly blunt with his views on American society. It wasn’t insulting, just interesting. It definitely got me thinking from his point of view. What a shock to be uprooted from a Parisian life and forced to move to the states for two years! I’m fortunate enough to have grown up in the same area. Even switching from public to private school was completely my choice.

 

After dinner we walked around the blocks for a while (fun fact – there is no word for “block” in French). Time flew by, as it always does with old friends. Before I knew it, the time came for him to catch the last metro home. His opinions on the US and France definitely lingered in my mind for a while and the discussion was a good conclusion to mon sejour en France.

 

I kept thinking about the French for a while afterwards, because there are few French people I genuinely like, (only this guy and one or two people in Pau). Not that I hated most of them, it was more of a consensual indifference.  Overall I’ve decided that I love French, but no so much the French. There was something about them I couldn’t relate to that just irked me…..

 

A couple weeks ago I figured out what it was. I went to get my eyeglasses fixed and spent a long time talking with the worker there, who was from Russia originally, but considers himself American after having lived here for twenty years. We started speaking about the French and he said he has a friend in Paris who has worked there eight years and still cannot tell whether or not his co-workers like him. “They are so fake” he told me, “you never know what they think of you”. At that moment it was like a light bulb clicked. I found the French just as fake as my French friend finds Americans. I cannot tell you what any of them thought of me. I don’t know if my French friends liked me, if my French friend himself considers me another stupid and fake American or even if my host mom liked me (towards the end I got the feeling she did not). That was it! I was irked by the fact that I didn’t know what anyone thought of me! No idea! What makes you more insecure than living in a country surrounded by people who you cannot relate to in that way?! No wonder I was so worn down by the end of my stay, Elly and Vanessa were the only true friends I made.

 

Despite this, I’m glad I studied abroad alone. Flying to France I couldn’t stop thinking about how I wouldn’t see a face I knew well for four months (That was before I knew I would meet up with Marco). I know it made my confidence stronger in the end, but it is not a voyage I would embark upon again.

 

I’ve been home for over two months and it is good to be back. I know I will visit Paris and other parts of France again – and it will be wonderful. I can’t wait to show family and friends the beauty of the French culture. For now though, I am going to enjoy and be thankful for my family, friends and the presence of home.

 

Adieu Pau et au revoir France!

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Chateau des… June 26, 2010

Filed under: Travels in France — katiespaulife @ 6:30 am

VERSAILLES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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So big I couldn’t even take a picture of the entire place….

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This is another blog of mainly photos. Not many words are needed to describe the awesomeness of Versailles…

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This was our final USAC stop before Paris. I buddied up with Vanessa throughout most of the castle. We did a hurried self-guided tour (We only had 3 hours to explore everything!). The castle was amazing, overwhelmingly huge, but we anticipated the gardens being even more awesome and rushed through it…

 

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They did not disappoint!

 

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We decided to rent bikes. Just walking to the rental kiosk took a ton of time!

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We biked around the grounds for an hour and saw a farm Marie Antoinette had built, as well as her own house away from the castle.

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I would love to go back to Versailles one day….if I ever do I’m renting a boat!

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Just when we were leaving I got in touch with my buddy Charles from ECHS about having dinner in Paris that night. I love meeting old high school friends abroad! Discussing my stay in France with a French friend who spent 2 years in America was a great and surprisingly refreshing discussion…I’ll write about that soon…

 

Chateau d’Amboise June 25, 2010

Filed under: Travels in France — katiespaulife @ 5:29 pm

 

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Fun Fact for those of you who went to Eastside Catholic: Doc has been here!

 

This Chateau was next on our USAC agenda. I had never heard of it and therefore had no idea what I would find when I walked  up to this tiny chapel that I would find inside….

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The tomb of none other than…

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Made my day!!!!

 

The rest of the castle wasn’t too extraordinary. Most of it had burned down in a huge fire.

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The black part shown below is all that is left of the original chateau:

 

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It did have some amazing views though!

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And a couple of interesting details on the inside….

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Including a chest with secret compartments!

 

And this fireplace was right outside the King’s room. Everyone would gather by the warm fire to gossip, so this little guy pictured on the right was put in place as a warning. The walls literally have ears.

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Pau, c’est fini! June 21, 2010

Filed under: Pau,Travels in France — katiespaulife @ 5:45 am

I ended my adventures in Europe with a USAC trip to Paris. My host mom dropped me off at the school bright in early and just as we were leaving the house I told her, “Je suis prete” with my suitcases in hand. She responded, “Tu es prete?” with a tone that seemed to affirm she knew I was more than ready to go home.

 

“Oui, je suis prete”.

 

Leaving Pau on the USAC bus,I seemed to be the only one who wasn’t torn. Girls next to me kept saying how bittersweet this parting was, well not for me. I smiled the whole bus ride out – Adieu Pau!

 

It was a good stay, but I don’t think I’ll ever return. There are so many other regions of France to explore!

 

On the way to Paris, we went through the Loire Valley. We toured two castles in the Loire and just before Paris visited Chateau des Versailles!

 

 

First Stop: Chateau Chenonceaux! Sitting on a river called: Le Cher – which translates to expensive = )

 

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Coincidentally the same day we visited this place, it’s photo was the Bing photo for the day!

 

Below is the inside of the hall that straddles the river. The day was perfect. Absolutely perfect.

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In addition to being built over the river, the castle had a moat, gardens and a labyrinth! Plus the forest behind the castle was full of lush green trees with the sun shining through….it was like something out of a movie. Vanessa and I almost expected Prince charming to come riding up on his white horse.

 

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The castle has been inhabited by 5 queens, no men allowed!

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And in the next picture we have one of the families who lived here. Does anyone else think this child looks demonic?

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And to top it all off there were rabbit holes in the forest behind the castle. They were huge – no wonder Alice fell ; )

 

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And there I go getting all picture happy again! I guess I have more than one blog left to write. Ahh well… I’ll get around to Paris eventually….

 

WSU Blog Squad #8 June 13, 2010

Filed under: Random Story,Travels in France — katiespaulife @ 4:02 am

I have been terrible with the blog the last month. There were 3 final blogs I wanted to write before I closed this, but I’m only on # 2 and it has been 5 weeks since my return!

This is the final prompt for the WSU blog squad:

8 Preparing for Re-Entry: Reflecting on How You’ve Changed

Many people describe studying abroad as a life-changing event. As your
study program abroad winds down, pick one example of how study abroad has
changed you and explain to us not just how you have changed, but why this
change came about. Consider this your “capstone blog” – something that you
can point to with pride and use to articulate to your friends and family,
even future employers, why your education abroad experience was more than
simply “awesome.”

This one is my favorite of the prompts. People constantly ask me, “How was France?” or “How was Europe?”. I never know what to say, where do I even begin? Surely my travels merit the typical responses of “awesome” or “amazing,” but if I give that reply am I really answering the question? And honestly, there were many extraordinarily unawesome parts to the trip. Lots of good times were had, as well as days of homesickness, awe-inspiring sights, horrible travelling experiences and interesting (for better or worse) people to meet.

I think travelling tends to strengthen one’s love for humanity or diminish it. I definitely like people less after going abroad. It kind of opened my eyes to how unintelligent the human race is and I’m a little less trustful of authoratative figures after being screwed on my travel plans so often. I also can’t think of a stereotype I had before leaving that was broken, but I could give you a long list of ones which were validated.To fully explain I would have to recount the numerous idiots I met (unfortuantely the vast majority were fellow americans), as well as the people who treated me differently because I was a tourist, people who treated me like an idiot for not knowing Italian or Spanish and the people who were just disrespectful to society as a whole.

I think the most pivotal moment in my new disdain for humanity occured when I visited the catacombs of Paris. When you enter there is a sign that says, “Please Respect The Dead. Do Not Take Flash Photos”.
In the very first hallway I hear this american accent and turn to see three tourists laughing loudly and goofing off. One says to another, “It says not to take pictures, but it doesn’t say don’t touch,” as he reaches out and pokes a skull. I hold my tongue and just walk away hoping a guard would find them. A little later on I see another guy flashing tons of pictures. I usually have no problem with illegal pictures, but seriously? In the catacombs?

A guard tells him “No Pictures” and he apologizes, but takes them again once he is a safe distance away. I then run into more and more loud and obnoxious giggling Australians and Americans. I had expected to come into a tomb of silence where people stared in awe and was met with people treating it as a haunted house. I see one guy pick up a skull to show to his girlfriend who screams at him and then bursts into laughter. I also run into the same Americans I met at the entrance who pick up a bone to examine it and toss it back on the pile. I wanted to say something, came so close to saying something, but held my tongue. I don’t know why I did, I shouldn’t have. I left the tombs livid with anger at how disrespectul people can be. The catacombs aren’t some dumb tourist trap, there are a part of history we are priviledged enough to access. Do people not realize the bones are real?

I expected studying abroad to make me more open-minded and gain a new respect for other cultures. Instead I came back a bit more racist and nationalistic. It sounds horrible to say, but if I’m really honest with myself that is the bitter truth. Studying abroad was an irreplacable and unforgettable semester. I refuse to ever sum it up as simply awesome though, it was an experience and if you want me to tell you more about Europe, I’d love to talk about it- just drill me with specific questions, because I can’t describe it as a whole any more than I can briefly tell you how my life has been.

*Also, this is not my final blog. I will be writing one blog about my final trip to Paris -a great end to my stay in France!

 

La ville Rose April 13, 2010

Okay….continuing on from the last blog, we arrived in Toulouse just before sunset.

 

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Being far from the Pyrenees, stones are expensive to ship here and thus most of the buildings are built out of bricks, which is a sign of poverty. Notice how this church was constructed with stones at the bottom and more and more bricks as it was finished? Apparently their budget ran low…

 

Oh, did I even mention we spent Friday night in Toulouse? Got to stay in a hotel Friday – nice break from the hostels. Than Saturday morning we had a tour of the town (really just a tour of 3 churches), which was very informative and pretty interesting overall. Not going to lie though, it is much, much easier for me to space out when I’m listening to French than English.

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One church had the feet of Saint Christopher (patron saint of travelers) in it. People could pray here and touch them for better feet (yep, I touched them). Elly said they looked more like monster feet than those of a saint!

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His body used to be painted here as well, but time (and dirty fingers) has erased it.

 

After the tour we had another giant lunch! The entree was good, but a rather heavy and American-like dish of mashed potatoes, mushrooms and chicken. I only took pictures (or stole from Kim, icr) of my favorite courses!

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Mousse

 

We walked off the mousse by exploring le jardin des plantes in the afternoon. I don’t know why they call it that though, seemed more like a jardin des oiseaux to me!

“This is like your heaven!” Elly said, with a bit of panic in her voice, because unlike me, she hates birds. The peacock freaked her out a bit – I thought it was awesome though, especially when it chased this poor little duckling into the water!

 

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And afterwards we crossed a couple bridges, went through another park and then into the shopping area.

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Got some free gum!

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And finally returned to Pau for the night. Great excursion!

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Carcassonne! April 12, 2010

Filed under: Travels in France — katiespaulife @ 7:26 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I wrote this blog last week, but I haven’t had time to post it until now. Just got home from Spain today, the specific blog entry was about Friday, April 2nd:

 

Had my final USAC excursion (aside from the upcoming Paris finale). It was to the medieval city of Carcassonne and la ville rose, AKA Toulouse. My main goal for the weekend was to get in contact with my French family. My dad sent me an email with more names and after searching online once more I discovered I have a relative in Toulouse! I used Elly’s phone to call him from Carcassonne and I got an answer so I eagerly/nervously asked for Renee. This guy said he wasn’t Renee and I had the wrong #. Followed this up, by trying to call my other relative who lives in Moissac, and the phone just kept ringing, ringing and ringing with no answer. One more attempt was made (without success) again later that day in Toulouse. I think I’m going to give it another shot from a phone in Pau, but it looks as if I will not be reaching my family.

Luckily, that was the only disappointing part of my day (well that and an unsuccessful hunt for ice cream). I hung out with Elly for most of the trip and (considering this was the day after our week long trip to Ireland and we still aren’t sick of each other) I think I’ve made an awesome friend through USAC. She rocks!

 

DSC02545 Out of all the cities from the middle ages, Carcassonne is the most intact (according to my program director). I loved the fact that people still live inside the fortress, but the outrageous number of souvenir shops and over-priced restaurants made me feel more as if I was in a counterfeit world of Disneyland than a medieval city. Because of this, I think prefer St Malo to Carcassonne, the history felt more authentic there and it is right on the Atlantic!

 

 

 

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And as with every USAC excursion, we were given a 3-course lunch! The starter was one of the best salads I have ever had:

 

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*stole this pic from Kim

 

The bread was delicious!! In the middle was a toasted slice with warm goat cheese on top. A lot of cheese for a salad, but it was soooooo goooood!

 

The entree was Cassoulet, but since it was Good Friday I ate with the vegetarians and we got a horrible entree. It was boring and bland, luckily I wasn’t hungry after that salad.

 

And dessert was pretty good….not sure what to call this though, some sort of cake with a pear inside:

pear dessert

*also stolen from Kim

 

After lunch Elly and I walked around the city and we ran into some USAC kids talking to a man who called himself, “The Golden Elf”. Definitely an insane dude dressed in a very bizarre outfit. He claimed to come from the North Pole and drew the group a map, which was solely a penciled X on a blank piece of paper.

 

It was amusing at first, until I realized he was completely serious and this USAC group was videotaping him and clearly mocking him with their questions. And I got the feeling he knew he was being mocked. Elly looked pretty upset by the whole situation, so we left the group and went to the bus a bit early.

 

Then we went to Toulouse and spent the night there, but I’ll write about that in a separate blog – don’t want to make this one too long! Kind of an awkward ending here, but I’m lazy

 

 

Oh yeah! Forgot to mention this place was filled with creepy mannequins everywhere!!

 

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(that was another reason I preferred St Malo! )

 

Oh and when I skyped my mom later that weekend, she said this was my 2nd trip to Carcassonne. So I must have gone when I was either one or four years old…