Katie' Pau Life En France

Ma vie En France

Interested in Study Abroad??? October 7, 2010

Filed under: Preparing to go abroad — katiespaulife @ 2:02 am
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I’ve gotten a couple e-mails from people who have found my blog and are interested in studying in France. A new site just popped up where you can search programs and places that other students have been to and reviewed:

http://www.studyabroad101.com

USAC sent all of us Spring students an e-mail asking us to review Pau. The site looks pretty new, but I haven’t had much time to check it out. Hope this helps someone!

 

Last day in Pau April 20, 2010

Filed under: Pau — katiespaulife @ 9:04 am
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Woot! Last day in Pau!

 

I have been restless this past week, Pau is alright, but I am excited to see Paris again!

 

I was supposed to go to Nice last Thursday, but when I went to the train station to buy my ticket I waited in line for an hour to be told me there was no way I could get there. No trains are going to Nice, because of…..well you know why.

I was so disappointed. Aside from Paris, La Cote D’Azur was top on my list of places to see. Saved it for April so I could go to the beaches when it was warm outside.  Oh well…..guess I’ll just have to come back  ; )

 

I decided at the station that even if I couldn’t get to Nice, I had to escape Pau. What would I do here for a week?  I had already seen all of what little there is in this town, aside from a mall and a forest with trails I had yet to explore. So I bought a ticket to Marseille and my train was set to leave at 8:30 am the next morning.

It seems that I was destined to stay in Pau though, because for the second time in my life I slept through an alarm. I’d gone to bed at 8 pm the night before and set my alarm for 5am so I could finish packing, clean my room and shower before I left for the train station.

 

I woke up at 7:25!

 

I packed for a week in Spain in a rushed 10 minutes, but even if I pulled that off again I still wouldn’t have had time for the 10 min walk to the bus stop, the 20 minute ride to downtown and the 15 min walk to the train station. I was so angry at myself. Sleeping through that alarm = 80 euros down the drain.

 

Realizing I wasn’t going anywhere I skyped Elly and have been hanging out with her all week. It’s reminiscent of being a kid; I have no phone and set up a time and a corner to meet my friend at every day. Not to mention, I haven’t had this much free time since elementary school.

 

My bus pass expired in Ireland and we’re too cheap to pay for the buses, so we always walk wherever we need to go. I’m glad I got new shoes. I spend at least 3 hours walking each day and one day it had to have been more like 4-5. My legs felt like jelly by the end of it, but it is a good way to walk off the yummy French food. Speaking of which, for my last day here I decided to walk to a bakery to get a pastry for breakfast. Settled on this guy:

 

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Oh and I feel like I’ve mentioned Elly in every blog lately! I haven’t forgotten my old friends. I walked to the univeristy to have lunch with Ravid and Sarah yesterday. I will miss them! Ravid said if I ever come back to France, to call her, even if we haven’t talked in 10 years. She also gave me a bracelet she bought in Israel! She went back to visit these past 2 weeks.

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These 2 ladies bid me adieu and told me to be young and crazy while I can! I am pretty certain they will be young and crazy their entire lives….they are both 5 years older than me and much crazier!

 

Last night I went to Kawita’s for dinner. One final delicious Thai meal….

 

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There were 11 people there and afterwards they all went to a goodbye party for another USAC student afterwards.

I thought it would be a but awkward if I tagged along for that so I went home, I needed to ask my host mom for a ride to the school Wednesday morning…something I had been dreading all week. I hate asking for rides, but the walk is an hour, there are no buses and I will have my giant suitcase with me.

 

The sky was so beautiful last night – so clear!

 

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Today I am going to finish packing, clean and say goodbye to Elly, then Kawita, Rebecca and Hiroka. I leave at 7 am tomorrow for Paris!

 

Barcelona!! April 17, 2010

Filed under: Spain — katiespaulife @ 7:56 am
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Okay, back to the subject of Spain, since I only mentioned San Sebastian….

In Barcelona I met up with fellow cougs Ashley and Lauren (who are also keeping blogs which I added to my blogroll). It was nice to see some familiar faces after a long bus ride where I couldn’t understand anything or talk to anyone. I like travelling alone, but I think in the future I probably won’t go to countries where I don’t speak the language without another person.

 

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Barcelona was a cool city. One and a half days there was not enough, but sadly I don’t think I will ever return – there are too many other places in the world to see. I was fascinated by all of Gaudi’s architecture, but I think Paris is a much prettier city overall (sorry Goonting!).

 

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Our first night there we went out for some awesome Spanish cuisine! Ashley got regular Sangria, but Lauren and I ordered the Sangria Cava Blanc. I’ve had my fair share of regular red Sangria in France, but this drink was incomparable.So delicious and very large!

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And some yummy yummy Paella! (Mom – your paella is still the best = )

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The waiter tried to convince us that this wouldn’t be big enough for 2 people – haha, I’m glad I stuck to my intuition and told Lauren it would be.

 

The next day I went to Park Guell, which was amazing!

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The best of Gaudi is of course the Sagrada Familia.

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This church has been under construction for 150 years and won’t be finished for60. Seeing other USAC student’s pictures of this place is what made me decide Barcelona was a must-see.

 

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For my second (and last) night here, we went down to this fountain for an awesome show (complete with cheesy American music) and saw the remnants of the Olympic games!

 

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Thanks to Lauren and Ashley for being great travelling companions and have a safe trip home next week!

 

Sous Le Soleil D’Espagne! April 15, 2010

Filed under: Spain — katiespaulife @ 6:47 am
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I LOVE San Sebastian! Just look how blue that water is! What a beautiful place!

 

My trip to Spain was rather complicated, but it started off with 2 nights in San Seabass on the northern coast. You might recall a blog I wrote when I went here way back in January on my first weekend in Pau. The weather was so stormy (and snowy!!) that I couldn’t do anything but the bars. This time I did everything else!

 

My first night there I met a girl from Quebec who I practiced French with and had a nice dinner of fruit, bread and cheese on the beach after dark. The bay was equally beautiful at night, with all the buildings lit up, but my pictures didn’t turn out well, so here is one in daylight:

 

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It felt so relaxing to just sit in my shorts at 9 pm with my toes in the sand as the Atlantic ocean washed up on this quiet shore. Not to mention I was eating the freshest strawberries from Portugal and had a great dinner companion! Sadly my dinner company was extremely homesick that night. We spoke of Quebec and the hunting trips she would take with her dad when she was younger, her big family back home and her tiny country village where no one speaks English. And of course there is a boy in the picture to add to the homesickness. She told me every place she has visited in Europe is so romantic (San Sebastian really was!) and she has a boy in Montreal she won’t see again for a long, long time. My heart really went out to her, because she is so nostalgic for Canada and won’t return until the end of July. However, it is true that there is no place like home, but I also think there is no place quite like San Sebastian!

 

The photos above and below were taken from the top of a funicular that led up to an amusement park for kids! There was a hotel up there as well, with views like this one:

 

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I wonder how much a night here would cost??

 

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Unfortunately the weather wasn’t this perfect for the entire trip. The first day it started off with pouring rain and winds. I tried to keep dry by going to the aquarium – which was awesome. It had one of those tanks with a tunnel where you can see sharks swim right over your head! Oh and the aquarium was at the end of all the docks so I got to see a lot of Basque fishing boats on the way.

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In the afternoon the skies cleared up a bit so I reunited with my Canadian friend and we climbed Mt. Urgull. Actually, “climb” is kind of a misleading word, we walked up a paved path – nothing too extreme for my flip flops.

 

Here are my only shots of the mountain and the Jesus statue on top!

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The horizon that evening was amazing! Never looks as awesome on camera, but it was a once in a lifetime kind of sunset – great to see from the top of Urgull! And across the way you can see that hotel.

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Another great thing about San Sebastian was the hostel I stayed in. The owner spoke only Spanish, but he still gave me advice on where to go, was kind-hearted and genuinely hospitable. After the freezing rain he gave the Canadian and I tea with lemon and when I returned from Barcelona he had seen that I gave him a 100% review on hostelworld so he grabbed my face and kissed me on both cheeks. That was a bit awkward for me…I feel like I’ve had so many random ppl kiss me on the cheeks here.

 

Anyway, I’m too tired to write more, but here are a few more pictures of San Sebastian. If you ever go to Spain you must visit!

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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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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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Weary from Walking April 12, 2010

Filed under: Spain — katiespaulife @ 1:50 pm
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I’ve just spent 6 days in Spain! Kind of a last minute trip that I ended up on, but a very good one. I was supposed to go to the Riviera this past week.Once again the French and their lovely strikes put a damper on my plans. I thought I would be stuck in Pau for 3 days because of booked hostels and no trains, but at the last minute I realized I could escape the country! San Sebastian was my savior!

 

I had already planned on going to San Sebastian Saturday night with 3 friends, so I didn’t want to stay there from Tuesday night through Sunday and bought a ticket to Barcelona and back .San Seabass ended up being heaven on earth  and I think my trip would have been just as enjoyable if I had stayed the full 6 nights. Instead this was my agenda:

 

Tues night – Thursday morning = San Sebastian

Thursday = 7 hour bus ride to Barcelona

Thursday night – Saturday morning = Barcelona

Saturday = 7 hour bus ride to San Sebastian

Saturday night – Sunday = San Sebastian encore!

Sunday (today) = one hour bus ride and afternoon in Bilbao

 

I’ll rest here for the night and travel all day tomorrow. Getting back to Pau will be a bit complicated…I have to take a bus back to San Sebastian, then a tram to Hendaye in France and then 2 trains. I just hope the strikes are over in France! As of today it was dependant on the train.

 

I had a great trip here, but I’m worn down from the bus rides and walking all over the cities. I think I need to see a foot doctor ASAP when I get home – my arches and achilles tendons are really messed up! I suppose I deserve it for not investing in good walking shoes, but the only ones with decent arch support are about 90 Euros!

 

My foot injuries are making it difficult to stay positive at this point. I probably should have gone home instead of to Bilbao this afternoon, but curiosity got the best of me. I walked around the city for a good 3 hours and saw most of the tourist map (except that I didn’t enter the famous museum in Bilbao, the idea of more walking plus the cost of 13 Euros made me decide against it).

Overall this city was probably the sketchiest one I have yet to visit. I knew that I wanted to be back in the hostel before dark, just to be safe. I was travelling alone this time and sans pepper spray. I saw lots of crazy people and in the three hours I spent walking around, I saw at least three people searching through dumpsters.

I wanted to walk more than three hours, because I didn’t see the garden and some popular streets, but at this point I feel like I have 2 voices in my head: one who constantly bitches and moans about how much pain my feet are in and how I am permanently damaging them and the other wants to see everything and walk until I cannot walk any further. I’m at the point where I’m praying to Saint Christopher and I’m going to get ice as soon as I get home to Pau!

 

On a positive note,  I finally hung out with people I met at hostels. Today I even met 2 girls with clam shells on their backpacks, which signifies they are travelling “Le Chemin de St Jacques”; a religious pilgrimage throughout France and part of Spain. I think I’ve written about it before, as it goes through Pau and St Jean Pied de Port. The pilgrimage has always interested me and I probably annoyed these exhausted girls with my many questions about their experience thus far. Unfortunately, they are cutting their trip short because of a foot injury and have to return home (which is South Africa for one and Switzerland for the other). One of them already did a third of the pilgrimage last summer and the other one just started it this year. They said that it was quite the experience, much harder than anticipated, but that there is a great sense of “walking the well trodden path” and a good connection with fellow travelers. They usually only pay about 5-6 Euros for board a night and some places are even donation only, such as one where they stayed at, which even provided huge dinner and breakfast for everyone that fellow pilgrims prepared.

 

I’ve also hung out with a couple Canadians and a Brazilian at the hostels in Spain, which has been a nice change. Up until this trip I felt I hadn’t gotten the real “hostel experience”. I’m going to bed early tonight (as every night in this trip) and tomorrow I’m hoping to head out early enough to spend a couple more hours in San Sebastian. Just cannot get enough of that place – you’ll see why when I put up pictures in a few days!

 

P.S. I sent out some more postcards last week and on 2 of them I signed my full name! Sorry about that guys, I’m so used to signing my signature on forms that it just kind of flows when I sign letters and cards. Such a bad habit, I promise I don’t mean to end a cheery postcard on a cold and impersonal note.

 

Sugar Binge March 18, 2010

Filed under: Travels in France — katiespaulife @ 7:18 am
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This week I have all my final exams. I’m done with the 2 extremely easy ones and I have 3 to go! Because of the testing, there was no school Tuesday.  I just had to show up for an oral exam that I was over by 11 am. Not wanting to waste any more of my precious time left in France, I hopped on a train to  take a day trip to Bayonne – the chocolate capital!

 

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I was very pressed for time when I arrived though – my train had been delayed at a stop for over an hour in some ghetto French town called Dax, because of an accident. I ended up only had 2.5 hours to explore Bayonne before catching the last train that would take me to Pau in time to catch the last bus home.

 

…..I miss my car sometimes

 

When I finally got there, the first thing I set off to find was the tourist office. I couldn’t find a hostel online, but I was hoping they would know of one nearby. I wanted to spend the night in Bayonne and head farther south down the coast to St Jean De Luz the next day. I also passed the public gardens on my way which smelled so good! Nothing beats the scent of fresh spring flowers!

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Unfortunately the tourist office informed me that there are no hostels in Bayonne – bummer! I decided to hustle and try to see as many of the sites as I could in what little time I had. I’d done a bit of research online and my program directors lent me a guidebook for the trip so I had a route all planned out.

 

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Oh and did I mention it was 70 degrees out with clear skies? Finally some good weather!

 

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The city has most of the original fortress, two chateaus and a decent amount of medieval houses. It made for a good walk.

 

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I also explored 3 or 4 churches, but this is the only one I really liked. Walking into it the temperature dropped about 15 degrees, it was a nice oasis from the heat.

 

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And the picture on the right is a “cloitre” in French. I had seen it online and went to find it, but the gate was locked Tuesday and I took this picture through the bars.

 

I saved the best part of my trip for last: Rue Port Neuf – the chocolate street. My advisors and a yearlong student (Leanne) told me I had to get the hot chocolate from Cazenave – one of the many chocolatiers on Rue Port Neuf. It ended up being a very pretty Tea Salon as well.

Bayonne 058 Leanne also recommended I get the special of toasts with my cocoa. I didn’t see what could be so great about toasts, but decided to try it. Leanne said it was expensive, but worth it.

Bayonne 060  I think the photo speaks for the hot chocolate. It was a dream come true for my taste buds. The toast on the other hand, was just really really buttery toast that cost 3 Euros. Considering I can buy a loaf of bread for 27 cents in France I don’t really think it was worth it. The chocolate made me feel fat enough without the buttery bread, but oh well, it was dinner.

 

Afterwards I bought some actual chocolates to save for a rainy day (or take back to the states with me if I can resist them!).  I got 3 truffles, a milk chocolate bar with sea salt and caramel, as well as a dark chocolate bar with spices. I think the latter will be similar to the Mayan/Aztec truffles you can get in the states.

 

After my hot, hand whipped cocoa I headed back to Pau and arrived just in time for the sunset =)

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Today my plan was to take a train to St Jean de Luz. I had no school so I went to the train station at 10 am and just barely got my ticket to Bayonne. From there I was told I would have to wait half an hour for my bus to St Jean de Luz.

Then the bus was delayed half an hour. 20 minutes afterwards it still had not shown up and I was told there had been some sort of “accident” delaying it. I was very very hungry and still annoyed from the train delay yesterday. I knew now that by the time I got to St Jean I would only have 2 hours to explore before taking a train home. I decided instead to see the sites I had missed in Bayonne yesterday.

 

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I replaced another meal with dessert! A gateau Basque with cream and blueberry filling. This is the only place where you can get one with blueberry filling! This cake was perfect, everything about it was just decadent. With it, I also had a macaroon. It was the first time I have tried the French macaroons and it won’t be the last. I didn’t know a cookie could taste cool and creamy. This bakery made the best French desserts I have yet to taste…mmm…sugar.

 

I also found the “cloitre” open today and went inside!

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I had studied on the train, on the blvd with my gateau and wanted to lay out on the grass with my notes. Thought it would be fine since I was the only visitor, but I got kicked off by the guy working there =(

 

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Afterwards I just meandered about the city. Went back to the tourism office because I knew there were gothic caves around that I wanted to explore, but unfortunately those are only accessible through the Saturday tours.

Other than that I saw everything I wanted to. Bayonne was fun, but I look forward to making it out to the ocean next time!