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!

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D’ou viens-tu Cotton Eyed Joe? February 15, 2010

Filed under: Pau — katiespaulife @ 10:00 pm
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There is a 2 week long carnival taking place in Pau right now. It’s actually almost over and I only saw a small sample of it, but my goodness the French are crazy!

The carnival here takes place right before Lent and it is basically an excuse for everyone to be sinful before the fast. The king of the Carnival is a jolly, huge fat man who eats and drinks excessively. He has a doppelganger mistress and a very thin, unhappy wife who is basically his opposite. There are a many other characters, but when I went to the carnival none of them were present.

I heard the most interesting stories about the Carnival from my bus buddy Angie who went the weekend before. While she was talking on her phone at a parade, some men put a burlap sack on her head, kidnapped her and set her on the kings throne where she was screamed at in French by the king’s wife. She also was spanked by a man dressed as a priest with a cross and the poor girl definitely left  a little traumatized.

 

If you are wondering about the sacrilegious aspect of it, the priest was there because everything is inversed for the carnival. Good becomes evil and everything sinful is good. Also men dress as women and vice versa; it is quite the spectacle. There is one other element/celebration that is even more disturbing than this, but I’m not going to share on my blog since everyone in my family reads this. It is very very disgusting, but if you’re curious as to what could be worse than a priest spanking a tourist with a sacred symbol, ask me on FB and I’ll tell you

There have been many celebrations, but unfortunately I have only been to one of the three balls, which took place Friday night. So many people were dressed as freaks – I loved it!! I went with my classmates and we danced for 2 hours to the live band there (which played way too much American music).  I saw an old guy dressed as a bloody butcher, a nun, priest, 2 trannys (maybe 3…wasn’t sure) and a ton of unidentifiable freaks. One guy had a backpack that was a stuffed animal raccoon- coolest accessory ever!

While we were dancing poor Jessica had a random French guy sneak up behind her and cover her eyes. She flipped out, but he moved on to creep on other girls and was later attacked by the “maybe tranny”. He took a lot of kicks where it hurts and slaps to the face before that was broken up. Considering his alcohol intake in addition to this, that man probably had a terrible Saturday!

That fight in itself was worth going to the carnival to see, but the real highlight of the night occurred just as we were about to walk out the door. Everyone had just put their coats on when “Cotton-Eyed Joe” came on. Cooper and Jessica were the only other Americans there and we all threw are stuff down and ran back out to the floor. I don’t think I have danced the “Cotton-Eyed Joe” since 6th grade, but Cooper has it mastered! A few French people tried to copy us and this one nasty wasted guy got way to close to Jessica and I. I think he was trying to do the dance, but all he did was stumble and get in the way of my lasso space!

 

As soon as our American line dance was over, we called it a night and went home. I had a 3 hour test the next day, so I was relieved to get to bed at a decent hour. I’m going to the Carnival again tomorrow…stay tuned for more craziness!

 

My Week January 22, 2010

Filed under: Pau — katiespaulife @ 9:09 pm
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I wrote about Monday last night, so I thought I would fill you in on the rest of the week before I go to Bordeaux today!

 

Tuesday I had my first day of Business French. The class itself is alright, but by the time I get to it at 5:15 I am mentally drained from my other French classes and just want to go home and relax. I’m not used to having school from 9 or 11-7:15.

 

Wednesday I went by myself to this rehearsal of “Mamma Mia” by a group called the DramaFreaks solely to meet French people. My acting skills are mediocre, I cannot carry a tune at all and I was hoping to work on stage crew. However, the cast itself has 7 ppl, only 2 of which are men, at this point they can’t even put on a play. I was pretty useless to them and just watched them dance and sing and then told them which parts of the dance were the worst. I’m going to keep going to the rehearsals to meet French people, but I’m bummed it wasn’t a bigger group. 

The DramaFreaks ended at 8 and I had 2.5 hours to kill before I met Vanessa at the bar for Karaoke. I was planning on doing hw at the library, but I found it closed (closes at 6? crazy!) and the entire campus was deserted! It was really sketchy; felt eerily empty and dark.

I finally decided the only thing there was to do in this part of Pau was go to the movie theater. So I went to see Avatar in 3D (and French of course)! Unfortunately the French have more previews than we do, as well as an intermission in their movies.11 pm rolled around it still wasn’t over! I told Vanessa I would meet her around 10:30, so I gave up on finishing the movie and left to go walk to the bar (with pepper spray in hand mom!)

The bar was only a  10- 15 minute walk and when I arrived Vanessa was outside, smoking and talking to a French guy named Thomas. I said “Bon Soir Vanessa! Ca va?” and then he said, “She’s French! Tu es Francais non?”

“Non, je suis Americaine”

“Oh well you speak French really well”

“haha no I don’t! Just wait until you hear me talk more!”

He didn’t comment on my French skills for the rest of the evening =)

Vanessa speaks less than I do, but I’ve met quite a few French people through her and her host sister Helene. I’m pretty excited for Karaoke every week because of this. I want French friends to parler avec!

Karaoke itself was insane. I actually sang a song with three of my friends there. Never again.

Afterwards, the girls and I went to a nightclub which was alright, but I cannot dance at all! We were there for quite a while and I was happy to finally crash at Vanessa’s at 2:30 am.

 

Thursday nothing significant happened. Crashed as soon as I got home from my business French class. Brain just couldn’t function anymore.

 

Friday I went to the soldes one last time and bought 3 shirts as well as a very warm scarf for 31 euros! Bon Marche? I think so! Then I came home and had dinner with my host mom and met my host brother who is home from school for the weekend. Tried caviar for the first time! Wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be – but I don’t think I’ll be buying it myself anytime soon!

My mom made pasta for dinner, but all they put on it is cheese. No olive oil, sauce or anything. I suppose that is healthier, depending on the amount of cheese you use. And yogurt is just a dessert here….which I have no qualms with! Love yogurt!

 

Now I am off to Bordeaux with my program! When I get home tonight I’m going to Vanessa’s for the birthday party of her host sister Helene. So today should be a good opportunity to taste some awesome wine and meet more French people!

 

School January 12, 2010

Filed under: Pau — katiespaulife @ 6:00 pm
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So I think I wrote that I tested into a higher level than I thought I would, but here is how the system here works. The levels are as follows from easiest to hardest:

Debutant
Elementaire 1
Elementaire 2
Elementaire 3
Elementaire 3b
Elementaire 4
Intermediatiare A
Intermediataire Ab
Intermediataire B
Advance 1
Advance 2

They announced at the beginning we shouldn’t panic if we are placed in elementary french and were above that at home because elementary here doesn’t have the same meaning as in the states. I think they just say that because ppl don’t realize how elementry their French actually is.

In addition to our language classes we also have a choice of electives. One of the electives is a business course taught in French, a film class in French and others are English. I didn’t pre-register for business French at home because it said you must be at a minimum 300 level for French and I took 202 last semester. I was even more upset on my first day because they announced a French tourism class being taught with business French as a pre-req. It would’ve been so perfect for my major!

Much to my surprise I actually made Elementaire 4 and will qualify for the business French class!!! I’m so excited! It is a business class taught in French about conducting business in France =)

By the end of my stay here I should ideally be at Intemediataire B, which isn’t fluent, but hopefully I will be able to hold adequate conversations on topics aside from the weather, time, ect…

I’ve had 3 days of classes so far. Each days is a total of 4 hours of French lessons and I’m enjoying it a lot. I am definitely one of the weaker (if not the weakest) students in the class, but I understand everything the teacher says and feel I am in a good place to learn. About half my class are Americans with USAC and half are other foreign students. We have a girl from Austalia, a girl from Sweden, a boy from England, a boy from Algeria, a girl from Israel (who was in the millitary), a Japonese girl, a girl from Thailand and a girl from South Africa. Maybe more….I can’t remember off the top of my head. A lot of them have lived all over the world and I’m looking forward to talking with them outside of class.

Outside of class I feel like I hang out with the Americans far too much, but it is hard to talk to French people. Most of them are so cold. Kim and I did meet a student studying English last week who spoke with us and I’ve met a lot of other foreign students. Yesterday I spoke to a chinese student in French. She doesn’t speak English and it was a very strange feeling to converse with someone knowing that I couldn’t fall back on my native tongue if I lost my place. Her accent was very strong, but I understood most of what she said to me. I also met a girl at the bus stop last week who goes to high school here. I saw her on the bus today with a friend and started talking to them. My french is so horrible her poor friend could barely understand me. She said she spoke a little Spanish and could understand poor spanish accents fine, but was hopeless with English accents. As we were talking a few mormon missionaries got on the bus. Upon hearing us talk one asked me, “D’ou viens-tu?” I told him I was from the USA and he asked which state, so I said Washington, near Seattle. He then called his friend over who is from Bonny-Lake and goes to UW. What are the chances?! He’s been in Bayonne for over a year now and wasn’t pleased at all when he found out where I go to school. Sadly our conversation was cut off there by my bus stop, but I walked home blasting my 80’s music on my Ipod and feeling much more at home here in Pau.

*Note – I’m really lazy about spell checking so please forgive my grammar and the spelling mistakes which have been steadily growing as I mix up French and English words (for example, I almost wrote Algerie instead of Algeria)

 

San Sebastian January 11, 2010

Filed under: Spain — katiespaulife @ 8:01 pm
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Sorry about the last blog, European keyboards mess me up.

Arriving in San Sebastian I was pumped to climb Mt. Urgull and see the giant statue of Jesus and check out some of the cool churches. Unfortunately there was a huge storm in San Sebastian and the weather was changing from howling winds to pouring rain and snow flurries. Apparently it only snows there once every 20 years. Lucky me. I did see the statue from the highway (it’s enormous) and it was lit up at night and looked wicked! Walking around the city felt as the French would say, “as cold as a duck”, but the architecture was very impressive and I could see huge waves rolling in from the Atlantic under the bridge we crossed. The city is right on the ocean and I think that was the first time I’ve ever seen the Atlantic from this coast. “The Other West Coast” as my fellow traveller Mike Johnson called it, was beautiful. I would love to go back this Spring if I have time to see the beach, climb the mountain, ect… basically everything else San Sebastian is known for aside from it’s nightlife.

Saturday night, I rushed through my last blog and then went to find my group who was eating Paella. They were all finished and there was a ton left when I arrived, so they offered me some. I put a scoop or two on a plate and tried it, it was good, but not as good as my mom makes it. Then they split the bill which was 77 euros for 8 of us and I had to pay 10 euros for just trying their dinner!! I wasn’t too happy, plus some of them had ordered drinks which were probably on the bill too!

After getting ripped off at dinner, we went out to get more ripped off on alcohol. The bars were packed, even though it was the off season and finding one with room to stand was difficult. Three of us were staying in a mixed hostel room with a guy from Barcelona and a Swede. They were flying solo so I invited them along with us. By the end of the night the Swedish guy probably thought I was a moron haha, because I asked him how long the train ride is from Sweden and I confessed I didn’t know Luxembourg was both a city and a country. The looks on his face for my stupidity were pretty priceless though and I suppose it wasn’t as bad as when Michelle asked Marco where Italy is.

The Spanish guy, Alex, took us barhopping along the main street. He was hillarious. We passed a McDonalds and he yelled, “Look it’s your embassy!”. He was also shameless and spent the night hitting on each girl, hoping to score with an American. None of the girls in our group were into him at all, which made the situation even more amusing. This was probably due to him acting very very flambouyant. If he had been American I would’ve been convinced he was gay. The Swede (whose name is Rickard) and I were watching Alex salsa with my friend Vanessa at the first bar and he points at Alex and asks me, “Is this what Americans picture when they think of European men?”

Alex is a European stereotype, but Rickard was one too. Alex was the suave, slightly creepy guy with the cheesy lines (“Try this shot, it’s sweet like me”) and Rickard was the overly senstive, blue eyed scandanavian. We were listening to some American pop song in a bar when he began to tell me how it reminded him of a friend he had who was like a little brother and made him want to cry out of homesickness….really man? The best part is he was completely serious and wasn’t remotely intersted in any of the American girls. He was nice and a good conversationalist. He told me how much he loved Obama, but how ashamed he was of the peace prize and said he blushes every time he thinks about it. He also commented to me after an hour or so in the first bar that it was now full of men. I said, “hmm, you’re right….thats kind of scary”. “You should be scared” was his response and taking his advice I gathered the group to go to the next bar.

[By the way, I should add we did have two guys in our USAC group…it wasn’t 6 girls and 2 random European men]

The second out of many bars was very rustic looking. Red Bricks lined the walls and built the bar. A bronze tile on the floor went matched and made the Spanish atmosphere tangible. There I tried this basque liquor which was the smoothest shot I’ve ever taken. It was very sweet and yummy! I also tasted Sangria for the first time and had a mixed coke and wine (surprisingly delicious). We met ppl from all over the world that night, including other Americans, a French speaking woman from somewhere besides France… and even an Irish guy. At first the Irish guy didn’t believe I was American and said, “Thats what all English speakers claim! What are you really?”, “Okay, I’m Canadian”, “Oh no! Thats the worst!!!” Vanessa was drunk and then picking up on the accent yelled, “You’re Irish!! We’re American, we love accents!” I yelled, “Shush Vanessa you aren’t supposed to say that!” “Oh really?” he said, “I own my own farm ya know”. <— Nicole if you're reading this, I thought you would love that haha!

Vanessa is incredibly funny and I loved spending the weekend with her. Plus, she has a boyfriend back home, so all her comments were in good fun and it was nice hanging out with someone who wasn't looking to hook up with a European guy (Not that most girls are, but a few can be). She did drink far more than me though and thus at 2:30 or I said bye to my group to take her home. She was tired and had gone outside by herself to get some fresh air. I found a creepy Spanish guy trying to speak french with her while she was backing up against a wall trying to escape. I whisked my hand around him, grabbed her arm and pulled away saying, "Time to go!! Elle ne parle pas francais, bon nuit!"

We went back to the hostel and passed out in the beds only to wake up a few hours later at 8:10 am to get an early train back to Pau. On the last train home I spoke with this woman born in San Sebastian for an hour and a half about her world travels. She was awesome!! She has been everywhere! Off the top of my head I recall her telling me about Hong Kong, Tokyo, Thailand, Australia, London, Dublin, Rome, Bruxelles, Paris, visitng New York 4 times, living in Canada, Barcelona, Seville, travelling the states, Lourdes, Lyon, Nice, Marseilles, Lilles, and more! She knows France like the back of her hand and gave me over a dozen cities "I have to go to". Unfortunately many of them are in the north which is hard to get away to for a weekend. The lady now lives in Lons, the town just outside of Pau I'm in! She gave me her number, e-mail and name, repeatedly telling me to call her if I ever need anything. She also wants to take me shopping at les soldes or get coffee!! It was great to meet someone with such a passion for world travel and she gave me a lot of advice for my stay in Pau, including how I can find my residents in Lourdes online!!

This weekend I'll probably take it easy in Pau, but next weekend I'm going to a winery in Bordeaux and St Jean-De-Pied with USAC on saturday. I might take a day trip to Lourdes Sunday since I'm so close and try to track down some relatives!!