Katie' Pau Life En France

Ma vie En France

Skiing in the Pyrenees!!! March 14, 2010

Filed under: Pau,Travels in France — katiespaulife @ 9:05 pm
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I finally made it to the mountains!!

 

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Beautiful isn’t it?!

I’m actually quite close to several ski stations, I think the drive was about 1.5 hours, but I know there is one just 20 min outside of Pau. Most of the length of the drive to this station was due to the windy roads at the end.

 

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My dad looked up the height of the peak I was on and I guess it is about as high up as the top of Whistler (So guess my estimation was way off on IM yesterday David…)

 

As you can see, there aren’t any trees on the slopes =( But just off to the side is a little forest at the same elevation as the ski lodge.

 

 

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The view was absolutely breathtaking! I can’t believe I skied in the Pyrenees!

 

And, making my Saturday even better, I discovered half my class wanted to go on the same day!

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Here I am with Sara (the Australian). I skied with her for most of the afternoon, but I spent the morning solo, because everyone else was taking a lesson.

 

I felt a bit apprehensive going up this chair alone….

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Curiosity overcame that though, because I really wanted to see if the mountain had a backside. Most of the runs on the front were pretty easy and I was hoping to find some challenging slopes like the runs at the top of Alpental.

And luckily it did!

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The back was awesome! The fresh powder was hiding here, but unfortunately a cloud settled right in the bowl in the afternoon – the air became thick, cold fog and my lovely powder got scrapped down to ice.

 

The front was very icy too! I hate going over moguls when I can feel a ski slipping, it is so unnerving!

 

Face of the mountain:

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And the backside:

 

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Plus I haven’t skied much since high school – so my form is horrible! I tried to keep your voice in the back of my head dad = ) Thanks for all the years of patiently re-teaching me how to keep in form.

 

Here is the very top:

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And a couple of my favorite pictures are from my very first run, which I later figured out was out-of bounds, but many people went down it anyway. They don’t mark the “out-of-bounds” areas as well here in France, but after skiing Alpental I’ve learned to be wary when I don’t know the slope.

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Oh and last, but not least, I saw “une source de l’eau chaude” for the first time! The chair went over the crest of a hill and it just popped out of nowhere!

 

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Heard the skiing back home in the Cascades was good too! The Pyrenees were beautiful and so different than what I’m used to! I noticed the French have some amusing ski habits. One being if you fall under a chair, every French person who sees you from the lift will yell, “Woah!!!” as they pass over you. And if you are standing in line for a lift while another lift goes over you, the skiers will tap their skis as they pass overhead to give you a nice snow shower.

I skied all day and returned home completely exhausted last night. Had a nice bowl of soup for dinner with my host mom and I could barely speak French. I went to bed at 9:30 and woke up hurting, especially my neck, caused by a rather painful, but amusing fall. Felt great to get some exercise other than walking. Spent all day skiing in the sun =) Oh yeah, I’m sunburned too – judging from the facebook news feed, my classmates feel the same. This has been an excellent weekend!

 

Damn Strikes! March 11, 2010

Filed under: Random Story,Travels in France — katiespaulife @ 11:02 pm

Had quite the morning here in France!!

 

I was leaving for the bus this morning when I realized my key wasn’t in my backpack. As my family and past roomies know, I am the master of losing everything. I searched all over my desk and through my bag for it – I was actually going to leave on time for the bus and this had to happen!!!

 

Patricia came downstairs and I worked up the courage to ask her if she had seen them. She helped me look, but to no avail. I scoured through all my clothes, desk drawers, inside my shoes, in the kitchen cabinets, in my bookcase, twice more through my backpack and under my blanket. Nothing.

 

I tend to absentmindedly set keys everywhere. For example, have any of you seen the commercial with the old woman who puts her keys in the cheese drawer? Her husband finds them and knows it is clearly a sign of Alzheimer’s.

I was 19 when I once found my keys in the cheese drawer, zip locked in a bag of shredded cheese. What will I be like if I live to be 80?!

 

After checking the shoes and bookcase, I told my host mom I was really sorry, but I couldn’t find them. I added on that I knew they were in the house as I used them to get inside last night and hadn’t left since. She told me not to worry, that she would be home for the day. She was very nice about it – I was so relieved!

 

By this point I had of course missed my bus and couldn’t remember if the next one came at 10:50 or 11:12, but I decided to be safe and leave the house at 10:40. I arrived at the stop to find the bus did not until 11:13. I also realized I forgot my IPod, which is my only way of telling time now that my phone is dead. I was not too happy with my memory at this point.

 

Not wanting to return home and tell Patricia I had left my IPod I started walking the bus route. The next stop had a bench and a clock, so I got out my journal and started writing. Soon it was 11:13. “The bus will be here any minute now!!” I thought. I was hoping it would not be late today, because a very sketchy hobo had just walked by me and stopped not to long afterwards to fix his shoe and then to stare. He was about 20 yards down the road just staring into the distance like a zombie. “Please don’t come back and talk to me” I thought, “please let the bus get here soon!”

After a couple minutes the hobo turned around and started limping in my direction. Damn. I pictured the bus arriving just as he was about to talk to me, but sadly my life is not like the movies and I was not saved. Instead, I had some crack addict start asking me for cigarettes. I told him I didn’t understand. I really didn’t – his words were so slurred I don’t think I would have if I spoke French. Among the slurring mumbles, “cigarette” was all I could make out. Luckily he didn’t pester me too much and limped away. That man wreaked though and his stench didn’t follow him for a couple minutes. There are always creepers at the bus stop.

 

Arriving to school an hour late I discovered there is a strike going on with the bus drivers. Why is there always a strike?! Fortunately, the rest of the day went smoothly! I booked my trains and hostels for Ireland and went to Kawitas for dinner! When I came home my host mom had made me a new key and wouldn’t even let me pay her back. Nicest host mom ever. I did end up finding it though, tucked between the mattress and headboard of the bed. I think I even know how they got there. Yesterday some kids played ding-dong-ditch on my house. After hearing giggles the first time I opened the door I re-locked it and went to my bedroom window. The zombie shutters were closed, but not locked so I hit behind them until I heard the bell ring again. I then opened the shutters and said, “Allo!” as a kid ran by me. I must have tossed the keys onto my bed on my way to the window. Thank god I found them!!

 

St Jean Pied de Port et Biarritz March 6, 2010

Filed under: Travels in France — katiespaulife @ 10:00 pm
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Had my second USAC excursion today!! We went to two towns; the first a Basque town named St Jean Pied de Port and afterwards Biarritz (same town I went to alone during the nasty windstorm)

 

The USAC students gathered at the University at 8:30 am to get on our charter buses for the trip.

 

About 45 minutes into the ride we stopped for a great view and got free Chocolatines for breakfast! Nothing starts my day off better than a perfectly flaky and buttery croissant filled with chocolate. Plus I got to eat it while enjoying this view!

 

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I can’t remember the name of the little village –or the history, but there was some story, told to me in French, about a Princess who lived here and was accused of murdering her kids and thrown into the river…from this point possibly….and somehow she lived…wish I remembered more than the vague details, but that is about all I know of this place. We only stopped for 20 minutes or so.

 

After breakfast I was a bit more alert and paid attention to the Basque history lesson on the bus. We were told we would be given a quiz in St Jean Pied de Port to fill out from memory and were allowed to get help from the locals. There were several “Basque” prizes we could win. My greedy ears perked up and I learned quite a lot about the Basque country in France for that quiz:

  • Basque country has 7 provinces – 4 large ones in Spain and 3 small provinces in France
  • Only 30% of French school kids in the provinces learn the Basque language in school, but 99% of the Spanish kids do. (The language is nothing like French, not sure how close it is to Spanish)
  • The Basque houses typical of France are white with red, blue or green shutters and roofs. The region we visited had red, but as you travel closer to the Ocean, green and blue become more prominent.
  • The red was originally painted with ox blood

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  • A typical Basque house would have 3 stories. The bottom floor is for the animals, who help heat the house. Middle level is for the family and the top is where the hay and straw would be kept as insulation.
  • I think I mentioned St Jacques Chemin in an earlier blog. It is a religious pilgrimage that passes through St Jean Pied de Port. There were many clam shells on doors signifying free shelter for pilgrims
  • St Jean Pied de Port actually got its name because it is the crossroads of two important trails. In addition to St Jacques, there is also a trail that goes from Hendaye (coastal town just outside of Spain), over the Pyrenees and to the Mediterranean! If you walk it 8 hours a day, the journey lasts about 2.5 months! How epic would that hike be! My USAC director Robinna hiked it for 5 days, from Hendaye to St Jean Pied de Port

 

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St Jean Pied de Port had a fortress, which we entered and climbed to the top of (picture of Vanessa above is taken at there) and the view was beautiful! This was the first village I have been to that is truly in the heart of the Basque country.

After the fortress, there was an hour or so of free time, during which I asked some tourists and locals for help with my quiz answers and researched Basque food and the provinces in a souvenir shop for more info. I added more than was required on the paper, mainly because the answers were easy to find and there wasn’t much to see in the town. After our free time USAC went to a ciderie for lunch!

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Above: Zaid getting seconds on the cider!

Our Basque meal the following courses:

1) Jambon de Bayonne – kind of like a thick prosciutto, served on top of a dish that you don’t find in the US. Best comparison is chili.

2) Confit du Canard avec pommes des terres – A fried duck dish my host mom has made a couple of times with fried potatoes on the side. It is too greasy for me, but everyone else loved it!

3) Salad – Lettuce leaves with vinaigrette. Simple.

4) Fromage and Gateau Basque – The cheese was okay. The cake was delicious!! It has an almond paste inside =)

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Oddly I didn’t like the cider. It wasn’t sweet like others I’ve had and  I prefer Apple Frost to the Basque cider.

 

Did I mention there was one waitress for our group of 80 people? Bussing and serving a multi-course meal was definitely a chore for her and lunch lasted a good 2 hours. I was very impatient by the end and ready to get to Biarritz.

It was beautiful the last time I went, but absolutely incredible today!

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I once again didn’t have time to get to that Museum of Chocolate, but I did go inside the Musee de la Mer (Sea Museum/aquarium). The seals were hilarious! This one had a rude awakening when his friend nudged him in the belly. His bark and panicked reaction reminded me of when you wake Roux up from a nap.

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Afterwards Elly and I walked around the beaches for an hour and a half, saw the rock of the virgin and went inside a Catholic church where Saint Eugene’s crypt is. All in all my day was perfect, but I’m about to go to bed and can’t wait to catch up on my zzzzzzzs!

 

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Oh, and forgot to add I got first place on the quiz and thus first dibs on the prize. Score! I now have a sweet Basque souvenir to bring home, but I’m not going to say what it is on my blog because I think it will be someone’s gift. I’ll put it in my FB album though.

 

 

 

 

Happy weekend!

 

~Katie

 

Lourdes February 14, 2010

Filed under: Travels in France — katiespaulife @ 7:00 am
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Okay, finally going to finish writing about my weekend….

 

Lourdes was the highlight – so beautiful!

My friend Kim told me the city was tacky, but I don’t know what she was talking about….c’etait magnifique!

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I don’t know if I have written this on my blog yet, but I actually have family in Lourdes, or at least I did at one point. Grandma Simone gave me the names of her sister and brother-in-law before I left, but I looked them up online in the yellow pages, within a 50 mile radius of Lourdes and they are no longer in this region. This was a must see on my list for the vacation because of that and I’m glad I went!  Lourdes is definitely different than any other town I have visited thus far.

 

This Basilica was incredible!!! And I just found out there is another one underground near this that I missed. How cool would that be to see?!

 

What makes Lourdes so sacred is the story of Bernadette, a young girl who claimed to see the virgin Mary 14 times in a grotto. Apparently she was poor and the grotto the virgin appeared in was in a place looked down upon for being ugly. You can still visit the grotto today and I was expecting to have to walk a mile into the woods to find it, but much to my surprise the church is actually built on top of it:

 

 

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The story of Bernadette was pretty interesting, because she was interrogated for 3 years in her late teens before the church confirmed the visions were real.

 

Also when she was 14 (I think), there was a day she went down to the grotto and flipped out. She started eating grass and smearing mud on her face, screaming at people she was doing it for the sinners…kind of an interesting mental image…uhhh….God works in mysterious ways??

 

The church has confirmed many miracles at the grotto since Bernadette and while I was there, people were walking up to the grotto, rubbing their hands on the wet stone and then on their faces and clothing.

 

Honestly, I’m skeptical about Bernadette’s story, but I went up to get a closer view and feel the grotto for myself. The rock was very smooth from being worn down with so many people touching it over the centuries; felt pretty awesome actually!

 

Ravid and I also wanted to see the chateau, but it wasn’t open on Sundays. We hopped a small fence and ran up a staircase to get a better view of it, but it just led to a locked door. As we were about to descend some people came around the street corner and we could hear voices below. Immediately we hid in the shadowy corners opposite of each other. She was across the entrance from me and as the voices disappeared she put her hands up in gun form and looked at me for permission. For a 25 year old she is so playful, ha-ha, I love it! I armed myself with my umbrella and we snuck down the staircase James Bond style. A car came around the corner right as I was getting over the fence and I got some nasty looks from the driver, but otherwise it was a successful mission.

 

I would love to go back to Lourdes one Sunday night to see the candle procession to the Basilica and check out the underground one!

 

Salles Adour February 9, 2010

Filed under: Travels in France — katiespaulife @ 9:35 pm
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After Biarritz I took the train East, passing Pau and arriving half an hour later at Tarbes. Ravid picked me up at the train station and took me to her place to spend the night.
One of the first things she said to me when I got in the car was, “Now when we get to the house do not be afraid,” I laughed and she insisted, “No, really, don’t be afraid. My mother-in-law is making pâté, so there is raw meat everywhere”.
I walked in to find Ravid wasn’t exagerating. Two women at the dining table were putting meat through this grinder and mixing it with herbs. Must have been about 3 or 4 very large buckets full of ground beef the “stuff” sitting around the dining room and kitchen. Fortunately, I’ve never been the squeamish type and after working in two kitchens I’m pretty used to nasty mass amounts of raw meat.
After talking to the women in the kitchen, Ravid gave me a tour of the house and village. We visited her host sister’s horse and I learned a bit about the buildings and history of Salles Adour. The simple irrigation system was pretty interesting to see and I loved walking along the stone streets, seeing the vilage “castle”, the church and the city hall where Ravid and Luic got hitched six months ago.

Ravid’s situation is kind of interesting…she is only married to Luic because she is Israelian and couldn’t get a visa unless she married her boyfriend. They had been dating for 3 years and decided, “What the hell, we plan on getting married eventually anyway!”

Presently they live with Luic’s family in a huge, old (were talking 300 yrs old) house. The relatives were all hospitable and kind. Luic was gone for the weekend, but I met everyone else and had a great time watching rugby with them, having my first apertif and another delicious four course dinner.

I was exhausted from Biarritz and slept like a rock that night. Ravid accompanid me to Lourdes the next day, but once again I will have to put that blog off till tomorrow. Sleep is calling, goodnight!

 

Biarritz February 8, 2010

Filed under: Travels in France — katiespaulife @ 8:17 pm
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My plane trip for last weekend was cancelled again! I was bummed, but decided that I couldn’t repeat the previous weekend. I had to stop wasting time in Pau and get out of the town. So, I woke up Saturday morning at 5:30 and arrived downtown at about 7:45 am. There were a surprising amount of people out and about. Some of the cafes and bakeries were already open, the sun had just risen, but was blocked by clouds and it was lightly raining. Walking along the stone streets with smell of a new rain and fresh baking pastries put me in a great mood for the new day. Mornings are so underappreciated.

The “centre ville” of Pau sits on a hill above the train station and you have to walk down a really steep hill or ride a tram down to the station. I chose the tram this time and caught it just as it was descending, crossed the street to the station and took a 2hr train to Biarritz.

My trip was very last minute and the night before I had been too lazy to plan it out. I googled Biarritz and knew of a couple tourist sites there, but I didn’t look up directions or the open hours. All of the towns I’ve been to thus far have had the train station downtown, so I figured I would just walk around until I found something interesting. I realized I was taking my chances with that plan and that was one reason I didn’t invite anyone along. My friend Kim was offended today when she found out I went somewhere without her, but honestly I sometimes prefer travelling alone. My main reason is kind of selfish; I just like to be alone with my thoughts and go where I want to go without having to make conversation or worry if my travelling companion is content. Plus, planning out a trip is exhausting and I didn’t want to be responsible for us getting lost, which is exactly what happened.

I got off the train and saw a sign reading “Musee du Chocolat –>”. There were some other signs, but I disregarded the rest and started walking in the direction of the chocolate. I followed these stupid signs into the suburbs for about 1/2 an hour. It was raining really hard and the wind blew my umbrella inside out about a dozen times (Why do always go to the coast during the storms?). Then the signs stopped as I came to a fork in the road. I got lost for another half an hour, backtracking and searching for more signs. I wanted to ask someone for help, but the only person I saw passed by me as I was cursing in English at a bus stop sign. He gave me plenty of distance as he passed and I didn’t feel like proving my insanity by chasing after him for directions. I had missed a bus by 10 min and another one didn’t come for 2 hours. At this point I gave up on the museum and walked to the beach. The storm had just passed and the beach was deserted. I spent a good half an hour enjoying the massive waves and a huge waterfront all to myself. At one point I climbed on some boulders to empty out my boots. I discovered that day that my pleather boots are not waterproof, on the contrary they retain water very well. Actually, I didn’t have anything waterproof so I’m thankful I brought my umbrella with me!

 

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On my way back I noticed a sign that gave the directions to downtown. It was a long walk and on my way I found a city map as well as the chocolate museum!! Unfortunately, I discovered it had just closed for lunch and didn’t open until 2. My train was leaving at 2:30 =(

At this point I was running out of time and needed to figure out the buses to get back. I waited at a stop and asked the driver if he went to the train station. He didn’t, but was kind enough to give me a free ride to an intersection with a stop for the proper bus. It was one o’clock now and I figured I could spare half an hour to get food. I went into a bar and had one of the best salads of my life: smoked salmon, mussels and shrimp in an oil dressing with parmesan, bell peppers, heaps of lettuce and tomatoes …mmm….I could take a train back there just for another salad.

 

After Biarritz I went to a small village called Salles Adour to spend the night at Ravid’s place. I need to go do homework now, so I will write about Salles Adour another time.

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Bordeaux January 25, 2010

Filed under: Travels in France — katiespaulife @ 6:15 pm

My first excursion with the USAC program was great!

 

I woke up at 5:30 am Saturday morning to take care of some homework before leaving to meet at the school at 8 am. I managed to almost miss the bus and had to sprint halfway to the stop. Then the bus driver took his sweet time and I had to run from my stop at the school to the building where my charter bus was and almost missed that too! I can’t handle these buses – I’m late so often! Its gotten to the point where I tend to take my asthma medicine every morning just as a precaution.

 

The buses were surprisingly nice and we drove about an hour and a half through the French countryside before we stopped in a small town to get Chocolatines (AKA Pain au chocolat). It was another hour drive after that to the winery on the top of a beautiful hill. It was gorgeous and we sampled 4 different wined and had a buffet lunch. I only drank 3 of the four because the last was an awful red that I just couldn’t stand. The “tastes” they give in Europe

are generous glasses at Januik winery and I was feeling quite well after my 3rd “taste”. At the end of lunch I bought a bottle of a special wine only made in Bordeaux and rarely sold in the US to take home with me.

 

Fun fact: Wine has been produced in this region since the 8th century!

 

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Above: Vanessa and I exploring the Chateau’s property after lunch

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Below: Owner, named Katie, sitting on the barrels (each one costs 600 euro!)

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After the winery, it was about a half hour drive to the city of Bordeaux. Bordeaux is one of the richest cities in Europe, because of it’s great location for trade. The name comes from “au bord de l’eau” or “along the water” and during the 17th century the city became a major trade center with the Dutch leading into the age d’hor (or golden age) of the 18th century.

 

I could probably tell you more about the history if I had gone with my program on the tour, but I opted to explore the city on my own (well, actually with Kim, Vanessa and Elly). Every building in Bordeaux is beautiful and we had a great time walking around. One thing that surprised me was the filth outside the famous Cathedral, St. Michel. I walked into the square and thought, “Welcome to the most beautiful city in France. Here’s some garbage, homeless people, dog crap and clothing on the ground to add to the magnificence of this church”

It smelled awful and there were some things so gross in that square I won’t even write about them, but the inside of the church was gorgeous and very clean in comparison.

 

 

DSC00713   < – One of the most famous city squares

 

 

After Bordeaux I went directly to Vanessa’s house, where Helene was having her birthday party. I tried to drink my new wine, but had eaten so much sugar that day I just couldn’t stand the sweetness. I tried to speak with as many of the people there as I could and met a girl who lives near Lourdes that said I could stay with her if I go visit. I don’t know if she was sincere in her offer, but I’m definitely going to text her to meet up for lunch or coffee when I make my way to the city.

At about 2:30 am we went out to a discotheque, which was okay. Not worth the 10 euro entrance fee though. We left at about 4 am and walked all the way back to Vanessa’s which took an hour! We had Helene’s friend Fabrice with us, but the streets were pretty quiet, well lit and seemingly safe. I almost walked the rest of the way home on my own, but decided I should just be safe and crash at Vanessa’s home.

I went to bed at 5:30 am, exhausted from a 24 hour day, but still somehow woke up at 9 am. I borrowed Vanessa’s map and it took me about 40 minutes to walk the rest of the way to my house. When I got home my host mom was eating breakfast so I joined her and then went back to bed. I’m now trying to fight off a bad cold and missed school today to stay home and sleep. Tonight won’t be exciting at all, seeing as I desperately need to work on a scholarship and a 10 minute speech I have to give IN FRENCH Wednesday.

Hope you are all doing well in WA!

 

Craziest New Year’s Eve Yet! January 2, 2010

Filed under: Random Story,Travels in France — katiespaulife @ 9:52 am

Damn last night was fun!

When my three friends joined me at about 8:30 last night the first thing we did was buy booze. Typical cougars (plus a couple zags). After returning our Roses and Champagnes to the hotel we ventured our to eat at a cute Basserie (Cafe w/alcohol) called “Le Luca”. I ate une salade nicoise while the others had steak et frites. Since it was a holiday and the first day of legal drinking for the rest of my life I also ordered a yummy “Russian Sun” drink of vodka, various juices and grenadine. Sarah and Emily got one to share too!

After dinner we went to the Eiffel Tower for the New Year’s celebrations. At the metro station we got our first French stalker of the night. He spoke to me in French about my wine and I said I didnt speak French very well. Then he and his friend decided it would be fun to tease the Americans (at least I hope they weren’t serious) by speaking to me very quickly. I’m not sure what he was asking, but judging from his smile and hand gestures that was probably for the best. I said, “I don’t know what you are saying, but I’m not interested” and then boarded the metro. His friend and him followed us on and were trapped one person behind me. They continued to harass me until a stop where a couple got off and Sarah ushered me into a seat and stood in front of it. Then they harassed our travelling compnion David. He doesn’t speak a word of french, but that didn’t deter them. I leaned over and said he was my boyfriend and spoke no French. They asked if we would like to have a threesome and I said no, then they gestured to all of us as if to suggest a six-way deal? Gross. We stopped trying to verbally get rid of them then and just ignored them. When we got off the metro we were caught in a giant sea of people pushing us out of the station.

As we came out of the mob I looked up and I could see the top of it: the Eiffel Tower! I’ve dreamed of seeing it for so many years now, it is so beautiful! The models and paintings cannot capture the magnificence of it. It is so industrial, but oddly very romantic at the same time. At least I think so, Sarah disagrees.

The tower was lit up and changing colors. We celebrated New Years on the street in front of it and at midnight it sparkled as we popped champagne and drank absinthe. Absinthe is disgusting.

We hung out at the Eiffel for about half an hour after midnight. It was one constant migrating crowd leaving and we thought we would wait it out. Bad decision. Eventually we were sick of fighting the mob as the edges were pushing against us and joined it to get to the metro. The plan was to go clubbing in the Bastille district. The streets leaving the tower were one huge party and we toasted people, filled a man’s Champagne flute and were ecstatic about our first night in Paris! Then something terrible happened… this nasty, oldish French guy grabbed Sarah and I in a bear hug. I tried to get us away by pushing Sarah through his arms. I saved her, but he grabbed my face and planted a big fatty kiss right on my cheek. So Gross. I yelled “Nooooo!!!!!!!!” as I shoved him off of me. Blech! My cheek still feels violated. That’s how much I love you Sarah, -it was basically the equivalent of (unknowingly) throwing myself in front of a bullet for you.

Shortly after the incident, we came upon our metro station. The crowds were packed about 100 yards out of the entrance. David and I even had to hop a little fence to get into the station. The Goonting sisters didn’t want to climb over in skirts (apparently they have more dignity than I do) so I grabbed Sarah and lifted her over . Then we went for Emily, but a Frenchman on the other side pulled her the opposite direction and we had to push him off. On the other side of the fence we waited in line for about 15 minutes and weren’t even to the gate when the same Frenchman came back to harass Emily. We kept telling him to go away and it took about 10 minutes before he actually did. The mob had pushed us out away from the entrance and as we gave up on the station Emily realized her wallet was gone! I thought finding it would be hopeless, but Sarah found it in a grate around a tree by pure luck.

Walking to the next station we found it equally full, in fact they closed the gates on us and stopped letting people in. The same scenario happened at the next station and as we were walking a guy grabbed Sarah’s champagne bottle out of her hand and tried to take off with it. She screamed, “Hey! That’s mine!” chased him a few yards and took it back.

On the way to the next station we were exhausted and hungry so we went in to a brasserie. We waited for a waiter about 20 minutes and were told they were no longer serving food. So we left and finally got a metro home, it was about 2:30 am and clubbing was out of the picture by now. At our transfer stop a couple French guys asked us where we were from and chatted a bit. They told me Pau is beautiful =) As we left the train, one leaned out and yelled that he loved me haha. I think I’ve received plenty of unwanted love from France in my first 12 hours!

All in all, my night was adventurous and will definitely be a New year‘s Eve to remember.

 

Paris December 31, 2009

Filed under: Travels in France — katiespaulife @ 6:01 pm

Je suis arrivée!

Got into the Paris airport at 11 AM local time this morning (2 AM pacific time). I had a layover in Amsterdam at 7:30 and was thoroughly disappointed by the amount of viewable English. I was told by my step-father the airport was easy to navigate through. That was a understatement. Not only was the airport  well designed, but all the signs were in English! Most only English! I was not expecting that. Not that I want to get lost, but at least give me the “challenge” of reading English under another language on a sign.

Paris to my relief had more French than English =)

I found my luggage and train very easily, but had a rather wierd moment when I went to buy a bottle of water. The man took my money, gave me change and my receipt. Then he walked away. I was very confused, but after 2 minutes of me standing there he realized his mistake, apologized en francais and gave me my l’eau.

When I got on the train I experienced a even more awkward encounter. As the train started, a man walked up and down the aisle laying tiny flyers on the blank seats next to passengers. I read mine and it said he was a refugee with four brothers who needed money. One side was English, the other French. It also had a little heart printed on it and a short blessing. I wondered for a minute how he could afford to print so many flyers and then decided I should save it to paste in my personal journal. I didn’t really have any reason except that it could illustrate the train ride from the airport. I put it in my bag and then realized the man was coming around individually asking ppl for money. He got to me and I declined to give him money as politely as I could. Then he looked around and asked for his flyer back. I’d stolen from a homeless man! Embarrassingly I opened my purse and pulled the little paper out. Luckily only a couple people noticed and observed the entire conversation. The man was very nice about the whole thing, he laughed and muttered something in French which I of course did not understand and walked away.  I thought, “Damn, I’m not even in the city yet and I’m already embarrassing myself as a tourist”.

Departing from the train was a bit challenging. First I missed my stop because this family was playing the accordion and singing so loudly I couldn’t hear the announcements. I got off at the next one and was a little confused finding my hotel. The train station was on the wrong side of the street on my map and my mom had kindly put a permanent ink dot where my hotel is located, but it was just one block off. Fortunately I walked in the right direction and found it straightaway.

Inside the hotel I spoke in French to the desk clerk and he in turn responded en francais =) He carefully explained to me when breakfast is served (and some other things I may have missed), gave me my key and directions to my room. I went up to the third floor, which was pretty shady, literally. There were no lights on but the exit signs. I managed to find my room at the end of the hall and passed out for four hours. When I awoke the skies were beginning to darken. I went out to explore for an hour or so: wandering le Jardin du Luxembourg and the street of St Michel. There are cute cafes, bookstores, and street vendors selling crepes everywhere!!

I noticed it was quite dark and there weren’t too many people on the street so I went back to the hotel to wait for Sarah, her sister and their friend. Their plane got in about 40 min ago so hopefully I will see them in the next hour!!