Katie' Pau Life En France

Ma vie En France

Carcassonne! April 12, 2010

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

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Cork April 5, 2010

Filed under: Ireland — katiespaulife @ 9:49 am
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I spent a total of 6 days in Ireland; divided equally between Dublin and Cork. Before my trip I had about 3 Irish people tell me to see Cork or Galway, but not Dublin, because Dublin isn’t the “real Ireland”. So I convinced my travelling companions, Kim and Elly, that we should spend 2 nights and 3 days in Cork.

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Dublin, may not be the “real Ireland”, but at least in Dublin there are things to do! Cork was fun and a cute Irish city, but aside from bars, the market and a butter museum, there wasn’t anything downtown that tourists could partake in. It would have made for a good day trip, but 3 days gave us too much time to be bored. We spent first and last of our days there exploring the city, seeing the churches, the market and enjoying the atmosphere of Ireland.

 

The 2nd day we took a tour to Blarney Castle. Now that made the visit to Cork worth it. Blarney is the coolest castle I have ever seen (in my opinion, even way more awesome than Carcassonne)!

 

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Elly and I loved this place! The castle and surrounding gardens had so much to explore- if you ever go to Ireland, Blarney is a must see!

There is of course the infamous Blarney Stone which bequeaths the gift of eloquence, but did you know there are also “witch’s steps” at Blarney? Supposedly if you close your eyes, concentrate only on a wish and  walk backwards down the witch’s steps, then back up again, it will come true. Elly and I both did this, but try as I might to focus only on one wish, I couldn’t help thinking I must look like the girl from the ring to everyone above me:

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Before coming to the castle, I had heard rumors that drunken locals pee on the stone every night and because of that I wasn’t sure if I would kiss it. Elly and I  even considered asking the workers if they sanitize it, but by the time you reach the stone you’ve been through so many locked gates, spiral staircases and dark passages that you know there is no way a drunk person could make it here. Plus there are sanitizing wipes and gel at the work station of the guy who spots you when you kiss the stone. To reach the stone you have to lie on your back and bend backwards over a hundred foot drop while holding these two bars for support! The spotter doesn’t actually touch you, but it was definitely comforting to have one there, especially when you have short legs like me! (I could feel them slip a bit….eek!)

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At the spotter’s work station there was also a radio playing. Right as Elly and I went to kiss the stone, “Here Comes the Sun” came on the radio! Made the experience perfect!

 

Oh and did I mention who we ran into at the Cork hostel? We were waiting at the bus stop to go to Blarney when this guy walks up from the hostel to wait for it too. I looked at this guy stupefied for about 5 seconds before asking, “Are you Canadian?”

It was the same Canadian we met our first night in Rome! The one who made all the anti-American comments and hung out with the stupid Australian and American girl! He didn’t recognize me and Elly didn’t recognize him, but I will never forget the faces of those three idiots.

Elly and I were astonished and he just said, “yeah, this has happened to me like 3 times already,” obviously not as impressed as we were. Maybe it’s because we’ve been making fun of him for the past 2 months, but this made our day. I demanded a photo this time:

DSC02354 Probably isn’t very nice of me to put this on the internet….but he’ll never find it right?

 

He came with us to Blarney and met 2 more American girls that were definitely into him. I don’t get it.

 

He made a few more anti-American comments over the day and told me that he thinks the Harry Potter series is really about the holocaust.

 

ugh….Canada.

 

Medieval Normandy! April 3, 2010

Filed under: Travels in France — katiespaulife @ 11:56 pm
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I mentioned in an older blog that I visited Mont St Michel. Thought I should share some more pics and info with you all before I write about my recent trips to Ireland, Toulouse and Carcassonne.

 

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My friend and classmate Renee accompanied me on an overnight train to Normandy France after our last Friday of school. Because of delays, total travelling time amounted to about 12 hours. To make the journey even more intolerable, I apparently didn’t book the reclining seats, so my night was very uncomfortable. They leave the lights on and people are noisy until about 2 am. I got about 4 hours of sleep on the way there, zero coming back. I’ve learned my lesson for future overnight trips.

 

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Have I told you people are allowed to take their dogs everywhere in France?

He was so cute and well behaved on the train.

 

When I finally arrived in Normandy it was exactly as I had pictured France before my journey abroad. (I think it must be from playing so much Medal of Honor on my xbox in high school)

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Renee and I stayed at a really quaint hostel that was in a 200 year old house owned by an old British couple. They were very anti-England and I didn’t want to press them with questions about what made them move to France, but if anyone has any ideas as to why they would hate England let me know! I’m really curious!

 

A great bonus to the hostel was a free breakfast and free transportation to Mont St Michel and the train station! We arrived in town at 12:30 and were at the abbey by 1:30!

 

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The first chapel was built here in 702 AD, but since then it has been built and rebuilt upon, along with many additions to the site that have now nearly covered the rocky island!

 

I love being somewhere with a rich history – Mont St Michel was amazing to learn about. If you are interested in this monument, leave a comment and I’ll add more about the construction, what wars it went through, when it was an abbey of monks, when it became a prison, ect.

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Renee and I walked around the ramparts a bit and then climbed to the very top to see the old Abbey!

 

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The main part has turned green over the centuries, but I thought it added a mystical look to the inside. Plus, it was windy and rainy that day so hearing the elements beat against the top of this church on a mountain made for an incredible experience!

 

The cloisters, just outside this Abbey, were equally beautiful!

 

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After about 5 hours exploring Mont St Michel, we returned to the hostel for the night. We went out for dinner and a drink at a local bar which happened to also be owned by English people from the same family!

They were very friendly and gave great service (unlike most French restaurants). I asked them what there was to see in the village and the bartender told me of a couple small sites. I woke up at 7 am out of habit the next morning and spent an hour and a half walking around the countryside. What a great way to start a gorgeous day!

 

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The bartender also advised us to spend the next day exploring the nearby coastal town of St Malo. I’m so glad we took his advice, because this is the prettiest French city I’ve been too! Even more beautiful than Biarritz!

 

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It is an old medieval walled city right on the coast of the Brittany border!

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And there are a few islands you can walk to when the tide goes out. Renee and I walked to one with a fort on it! We couldn’t go inside, but just outside the gate I found a wicked rock formation you would have loved to see dad!

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We walked around the old part of the city all day and stopped at a fancy creperie for lunch. I had a Galette for the first time, specifically a “Galette Bretagne”.

Bretagne = Brittany, a region known for it’s seafood, and a “Galette” is a savory crepe made with buckwheat flour. …..mmmmmmm……

 

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What a perfect weekend away. This was my only chance to see the North of France; I’ll have to come back another time to see Lille and Strasbourg!

 

I’ll post a blog on Ireland soon! Happy Easter!

 

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Summer!!! March 23, 2010

Filed under: Pau — katiespaulife @ 5:13 pm
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I had my class this afternoon! All done!!

 

The way this program works is French classes go for three months and then the other classes (literature, culture, ect) change from occurring once a week to take up the remainder of the schedule.

 

That is with the exception of business French, which also ends now. Lucky me!

 

So…I am starting a 5 month summer break off with a trip to Ireland, followed by more travelling around France and Spain and then an awesome internship waiting for me back home.   Damn my life is good.

 

We celebrated the last day of French with a lunch where everyone brought a food from their culture.

 

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My contribution was rather lazy, but at least I tried to keep things healthy!

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Jessica brought homemade Reese’s, which were to-die-for!

 

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It was an awesome last class! Now back to teaching myself French =( Going to start off by reading a book by Voltaire and continue writing my journal in French. Oh yeah, did I mention I filled up my entire journal? Finished it a couple weeks ago:

 

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Had to brag, because all though I’ve filled up a few journals in my life I have never diligently kept one. And the last third or so is written almost entirely in French, horrible horrible French, but French nonetheless!

I insert English when I really can’t express myself or am impatient to get a point across, but I feel like keeping this journal definitely helped my writing.

 

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Bought a new one to use for my last month or so. My blogs will probably be few and far between from here on out as I don’t know how often I will get internet. Also won’t be on Skype btw the 25th and 3rd of April because of travelling, but I’ll probably post another blog tomorrow or Thursday on Mont St Michel, which I visited last weekend!

 

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~ Katie

 

The Lupine Lady March 19, 2010

Filed under: Random Story — katiespaulife @ 1:20 pm
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One of my friends from WSU and Hazen is studying French and Arabic
in Morrocco for the semester. She is keeping a blog for the WSU blog squad as well. Here is the link:

http://madisonaherman.wordpress.com/

I skimmed over her blog this afternoon and the very first entry caught my eye:

“The other day I read a children’s book that my grandmother used to read to me when I was little. It is called “Ms. Rumphius” but I always thought that it was called “The Lupine Lady”. It is funny how you remember things differently when you are a kid. It is a great book you should read it if you haven’t. In the book, a grandfather tells his granddaughter that she must do three things travel to far away places, live by the sea and do something to make the world more beautiful.”

Coincidentally my grandmother used to read me the exact same book. It was always a favorite of mine; right up there with “Rainbow Fish”. The beautiful story is complimented with soft, pretty illustrations that seemed to match perfectly with my grandma’s voice. In the end the granddaughter grows up and accomplishes all three things of course. For the latter, she makes the world more beautiful by planting lupines all over the sea coast she lives on.

I have so many great childhood memories spent at my grandparent’s home. The smell of the freshly cut wood in the basement, making my first batches of cookies, runnign through the woods in the backyard, eating a pound of pasta with butter and parmesan (I would eat an entire package as a kid…god I love tortellini), looking out the windows into the tree tops of the evergreens and of course, being as nosy as I am, sneaking into the old bedrooms to look through pictures, letters and antiques in the armoires.

I’m so fortunate to have had such a great childhood. To all my family members who read this blog, thanks for everything and I look forward to seeing you this summer!

Now I just have one more exam left ( a fake French job interview) and then I’m going to go downtown with my friend Renee to get drinks on the blvd of Pyrenees as we wait for our 11:30 train to pull into the station just below the blvd. Have a good weekend!

 

Funny Story about french men March 18, 2010

Filed under: Preparing to go abroad,Random Story — katiespaulife @ 7:05 pm
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Okay, this is completely irrelevant to my travels, but this is a great example of how sleazy French boys are (Courtney be careful next Spring!).

 

I may have told a few of you about my friend with both an American and a French boyfriend. We’ll call her “Valerie”, just to be safe (this blog is on my Facebook).

 

Valerie met her French boy back at the beginning of the semester when he had a girlfriend named….”Elaine”. He broke up with this Elaine mid-January and hooked up with Val when she was fighting with her American boy. Her and the American made up eventually, but she just couldn’t let “Fabio” go. She’s been torn btw the two all semester and I’ve been rooting for Fabio, urging her to break up with her American boy or at least choose one!

 

Fabio was a great guy at first, took things slow and kept telling her how he would move to the US for her, blah, blah, blah…

 

Then last week he took another friend of mine (who is French) out to dinner. We can call her “Becca”. He confessed his love for Becca and told her he just wanted to be with her. Using lines such as, “What would you do if I kissed you in front of Val and Elaine?”, ect.

 

This is a true story.

 

Becca made their friendship boundary clear, but told Val about the dinner.

Later that weekend Val gets drunk at a party at Fabio’s house and passes out in his bed. She wakes up in the middle of the night and he is next to her. Then he gets up to use the bathroom or something and Val sees Elaine is on the other side of the bed!!

 

She confronted Fabio about it the next morning and he just said, “Well she was drunk, I didn’t want her to drive home…”

“Then why not the couch?”

“Bed, couch, same thing!”

 

Needless to say that relationship is over. I feel bad for Val, but I cannot stop laughing – had to share!

 

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