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Today was my nineteenth birthday in Paris, France. That means April 1st/Poisson d’Avril/April Fool’s Day.
You can slap me with a fish (and Florie slapped me with a whole bag of them) if this weekend wasn’t one of the most spectacular weekends of my entire life. My last day of being 18 was just as phenomenal as my first day of being 19. Here’s what happened:
At five o’ clock in the morning on Friday, I woke up, threw some stuff in a duffel bag, and met my friends in the lobby so we could haul our luggage to the Menilmontant metro stop in pure darkness. Not very often are the streets of Paris completely silent, but at 5 o’ clock in the morning, it’s as if the whole world becomes still.
We arrived at Gare de Lyon, set down our things, and found Melanie Satterwhite (our chaperone who carries herself impeccably well and I aspire to be as graceful as she is), Cindy, and Xavier, and then our favorite upperclassmen showed up (Nadrah, Audrey, Erin, Sika…that whole gang of crazy kids). From the first minute, we were in hysterics. Of all the people who could go on a trip together, I honestly feel like we had a really wonderful group.
I laughed so much this weekend (to the point of tears, sore cheeks, and sore stomachs) that I don’t even feel that guilty for the inordinate amount of cheese we ate. But let me first elaborate.
I love trains. I love being in transit, in a big, comfortable seat, with the French countryside gliding past the window, and having nothing to do but stay occupied; read a book, listen to Florence & The Machine while looking out the window, or sleeping on your friend’s shoulder. So that’s precisely what I did, sitting next to Sofia. Anna, Elodie, and Jaime sat in the four-seat arrangement thing behind us, and between my short naps, I heard their chatter that made me silently smile to myself.
After three and a half hours, we found ourselves in the lovely, gorgeous, heartbreakingly beautiful south of France – with its skies as blue as a Mediterranean ocean, completely void of a single cloud, and its sunshine that puts you into a hazy state of sleepiness, and its pink cherry trees that frame the snow-covered Alps.
We were in Annecy.
We clambered off the train, excitedly awaiting our next adventure. Muddling our way out of the station and towards our bus, we loaded in our bags, and then turned to the village.
Thus, Nadrah began applying lip gloss, I started to make fun of her, “I can’t deal with this right now..” moments, and Erin and Sika started cracking jokes that made Jaime and me practically fall over laughing. Despite my feeling somewhat nauseous from the motion, we had a very nice tour of Annecy, with a tour guide who looked just like a little Edith Piaf. Sofia obviously took a secret video of her from behind while we were walking. We also go to stare at some woman’s house (because it isn’t painted or something) and she got excited, opened the window, waved to us, and started holding up her snake-like dog. I thought this was absolutely hilarious. My shoulders were shaking from trying to contain the laughter. We were shown the river, which was apparently formed (according to legend) by three angels who cried from the heavens, and we were led through markets, out onto the most gorgeous lake in the entire world. There we were, standing in absolute sunshine, it t-shirts and shorts, with backpacks on our shoulders, staring out at blue, blue water so pure that you could see everything underneath, and far away in the distance, the Alps shot up into the sky, covered in snow.
It was the most beautiful paradox.
Of course, while we were walking through the markets, we lost some of the crew – Elodie, Sofia, Nadrah, and Jaime. Sika had to go back and search for them in the middle of the tour. They were distracted by the food, evidently. Comme d’hab.
Jaime helped carry my backpack like a slave (heehee, love you, Jaime, because I know you’ll read this) because I wasn’t feeling well. Jaime’s the best. But I finally started feeling better just in time for lunch! After briefly perusing a souvenir store that sold wolf/gofer backpacks and keychains, we picked out a restaurant in the sunshine with the sweetest waitress ever. We got pizzas, salads, and Nadrah ordered a bowl of cheesy, potatoey stuff that bubbled it was so hot. It looked delicious, and my salad (with goats cheese) was also scrumptious. Jaime, being Jaime (who I love), ordered the kids’ menu of a steak haché with grenadine and ice cream in a little tub for dessert.
That was just the beginning of the cheese, though.
We went back to the lake to marvel at its beauty a little more before getting onto the bus and making our way to a tiny little cheese farm. On the way, though, our bus overheated, and we had to stop. Sofia was so tired that all she could do was laugh. We eventually had to escape the bus and wait outside for it to cool, where we discovered that we were practically in a windstorm. We could not fathom how it was so warm inside the bus, and yet, so cold outside. Sofia and I sat in a gazebo and laughed at the hilarity of the situation for a while, before returning to the bus, and taking a nap. It was pretty funny because Sofia pulled the curtains closed to keep the sun out (which are bright pink), then put her sunglasses on and leant back in the chair. She looked like a little diva! We also couldn’t stop laughing at my “cheeses” face, which involves my looking a little bit like a mouse. I think you had to be there, but nonetheless, it needs to be recorded.
The views were absolutely phenomenal as we drove through, up a mountain, with the bus driver going along at an alarming rate, so it was quite exciting. The whole time, Erin and Sika were making Jaime and me crack up like crazy. Put those two together and they’re unstoppable. Jaime and I decided to call them “The Clementine and the Black Grape” and give them a TV show, with Jaime’s job being the person who holds up signs like “applause”, because she’s the one who is best at being a good audience. Truthfully, though, those two bounce off each other when they speak in the most hilarious way. It was the most entertaining weekend of my life because of them. Erin and Sika, you guys make my day.
At the little cheese farm, a cute, super-happy woman with rosy cheeks brought out plates of cheese, glasses of cider, and brioche with blackcurrant jam and honey for us to eat in a cosy little room. We sat with some of the upperclassmen, who kept us thoroughly entertained while we devoured a ridiculous amount of cheese. It reminded me of Heidi – all this cheese and the Alps. I remember reading Heidi when I was younger, and how the cheese made her healthier so that her cheeks turned rosy and red. I loved that part.
Then, we were separated into groups, and my group was taken downstairs into a little cheese cellar where we learned that some cheeses at Franprix should not ever be bought. We also learned how cheese was made, and it was actually really interesting. I have a new found respect for farmers who make cheese – it’s an intense process.
Then, we were taken into a barn-type thing where all the goats are kept. The guy telling us about them was hilarious – whenever a goat made a noise, he’d speak to them like they were a human. When one farted, he yelled at it to say sorry, and then it bleated a little bit, so everyone laughed. The goats jumped up on the fence a little so we could pet them. In the back, a bunch of baby goats were being kept in what looked like a trough. Very cute. We were then led around the back to where a goat was hanging out, waiting to be milked. And guess what..? That’s right. WE MILKED THE GOAT. I had been looking forward to that moment all trip, and we were finally going to milk the goat. So, we all took turns milking it, but that’s not all that happened. As soon as we were done milking, we were told to bend down, and the farmer guy squeezed milk directly from the udder into our mouths. It was warm, and it was an experience. That’s all I’m gonna say.
We were set free after that, so we went into another barn, where we discovered pigs and a cow that randomly decided to start bounding around crazily and chasing after us. Everyone rushed out of the room, and once safe, we all started laughing. I turned around to Jaime, and she was completely buckled over in laughter. Then, she pointed up the hill and, through her laughter, said, “Sika!” I looked up at where she’d pointed, and there was Sika, with the most distraught expression her face (and Sika is known for her insane expressions) all the way at the top of the hill. Never in my life have I seen someone run so fast away from something. Actually, I take that back. Once, while playing soccer at school with the Shahrins and Ralph, we were attacked by a swarm of bees, and Ralph ran away so fast that we didn’t even notice he was gone for a second there. But this was just like that time, and those two times are the fastest I’ve seen anyone run away in my life.
After that traumatic episode, we were carted back onto the bus, and, after almost rolling off the edge of the mountain in the bus, we were off again, back to whence we came (Annecy). We got to our hotel, a little building right next to the most photographed building in Annecy, situated just next to the canal, and we got our keys. Jaime, Anna, and I were rooming together, so we had to drag our bags up five flights of stairs because we’re not lazy and everyone was using the elevator. Once in, we had just enough time to change clothes so that we didn’t smell like goats, and then, we were outside in the glorious street lights of Annecy, ready for our fondue dinner.
That’s right, more cheese.
I think NYU France took up most of that restaurant. We were served big pots of stringy, bubbly fondue, with bread to spike on long forks, accompanied by an assortment of cold meats, salad, and potatoes. For dessert, we had oregano ice cream in some kind of cakey stuff. It was yummy to me, though Erin and Sika weren’t feeling it that much, I’m guessing. I told them they at least had to try to enjoy it, and I could see they did – vague attempts at broadening our palettes. But when Erin had made it halfway through and had started turning the same color as the ice cream (a vague shade of whitish/green), I decided I’d better help her out. By the end of that meal, we were absolutely stuffed, and so full of cheese we could hardly bear it. In fact, when they first brought out the desserts, I cracked a joke that it may be cheesecake. At first glance, we really did think that it was cheesecake, so we were utterly relieved to discover that it wasn’t. Too. much. cheese. As Sofia would say, “Cheesed out.”
While at dinner, we made a plan to do something rebellious. I felt it was appropriate being that it was my second last day of being 18, and I had to do SOMETHING rebellious before I turned 19, didn’t I? So, we figured that once we’d returned to the hotel, we’d all go out at midnight and jump into the frosty lake at Annecy. A few short moments later, we all gathered in the cold air outside, towels at the ready, and made a shameless walk through the village to the water’s edge. We bumped into our chaperones getting a drink, but all they did was laugh, give us the thumbs up, and wish us luck. We were jumping into water that is just recently-melted snow from the Alps. 8 degrees celsius during the day, probably less than that at night. On the count of three, Erin, Jaime, Anna, and I jumped into that icy pool of iciness.
For an instant, I felt nothing. Then I felt rock. Oops. But almost as soon as I felt rock, my legs went so numb I could feel nothing. Something in my brain started to scream, “GET OUT! GET OUT!” Sika had been lecturing me, in her Carribbean accent nonetheless (getting her mommy on) “Not to go in that water, you hear?”, but there I was, scrambling out because I was afraid I was going to turn to ice. But once out, we all thought the entire affair was hilarious, and though my feet still couldn’t feel the ground on which they were standing, I felt immensely happy and free. We wrapped towels around us to start the warming up process, then began to head back. On the way, we discovered Anna had a bleeding foot, so we had to patch it up with band-aids and cream back at the hotel, but as Anna said – “Still so worth it”.
The next morning, we lazily awoke and went downstairs to our breakfast of fruit, cereal, croissants, and yogurt. Then, it was back to the bus to start the day once more.
First stop, another farm up a mountain for more cheese, believe it or not. More animals, too. Cows, this time, all lined up in a row, gushing pee all over the place which put us all into hysterics. We saw how they were milked and things like that, and then we saw some more demonstrations of the making-of-cheese. We were led into the room where the cheese is kept and aged, and there were just rows and rows of pure, white cheese. Even though were were cheesed out, as it were, this cheese was mild and tasty enough that when they brought it out to us, all neatly cut up on china plates and set on a table at the top of the mountains with a gorgeous view, it actually tasted good enough that I went in for a second slice!
We lazed about in the sun. I started calling Nadrah my Grandpa Muhammad as a joke that you have to know Nadrah to understand.
Then, we traveled from the top of a mountain all the way down to the bottom – another lake – in the town of Talloires. This, my friends, was just as heartbreakingly beautiful as Annecy, with clear, clear water, the mountains, the pink cherry-blossoms, the yellow flowers, the green, green grass, the wooden docks. Everything looked like it had been brought to life out of a painting. We were given free time, so we all went to get ice cream, strawberries, chips, pixie sticks, and things like that from a nearby grocery store, then we walked down to sit in front of the grass, on the deck, feet in the water, mountains overhead, for a picnic in the sunshine. We lazed about eating, laughing hysterically, dozing in the sunshine… Erin and Jaime even jumped in the water again – fully clothed – while being watched by some french jeunes who were particularly judgmental, but who also later climbed up a pine tree. We went for a walk on a pebble beach nearby, too. All in all, it was a sublime afternoon in the sunshine with the most wonderful people in the most beautiful place.
With sun-kissed skin, windswept hair, and chapped lips, we very contentedly made our way back to the bus. Time for paddle boating – the last event of our trip!
Back to Annecy! We all got on various sized boats on the lake we’d looked out at a few hours ago as we ate our picnic on the dock. I got one with Sofia, Jaime, Elodie, and Anna. At first, Sofia and I pedaled, and then Jaime and Anna jumped off to swim before we rotated the pedaling. To be out on that blue, blue water was phenomenal, and we had a great hour of basking in the sunshine, dipping our hands in the water as we glided along, laughing at funny things that happened, rocking the boat on the waves of other boats bobbing past. When we finally had to get off, we sat down in a park, then crossed the bridge back into the village to get ice cream (I got two scoops in a waffle cone – nutella and speculoos flavored..mmmmmm…)
Finally, it was time to head back to the train station, all bags in tow, to head back to Paris.
We got things to snack on at Relay, then clambered up the stairs to wait on the platform, climb onto the train, set our luggage down, and prepare for another three and half hour train ride back to Paris. We all cracked open our books – “The Princesse de Cleves”, Machiavelli’s “The Prince”, and “As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning” being a few of them. Bent spines, sunshine coming in through windows, sitting in a four-way seat thingy again with Elodie, Sofia, and Jaime, feet propped up on each others’ seats, we were content.
But our drowsiness made the train ride begin to feel long, and slowly the books started closing, and we felt we needed to get up and move. The train was also delayed by an hour for some odd reason. Jaime and I decided to go say hi to the upperclassmen, who were sitting opposite the chaperones, to listen to their tales of how they were playing MASH. We did it again for me and Jaime. Apparently Jaime’s going to be a dog food chef, and she’s marrying me with a mustache. I feel it’s accurate.
We went to get crocodile candy from the train’s cafeteria, which, according to Erin, looks like “Zenon”…a Disney Channel reference I don’t have the culture to understand very well, but I think the name gives you a general idea. It was incredibly futuristic.
So then, with gummies at the ready, we re-joined the upperclassmen to complete the train ride home with some more hysterics.
Then, back to the metro and back home.
Jaime came over at three minutes to midnight, because we were going to wait for it to be my birthday together. As soon as my Mac read “12:00 AM”, Jaime hugged me and yelled “happy birthday!”
She brought me tea and a little match that we used as a temporary candle. It was so sweet. At midnight exactly, I also received a message from Charlotte on my phone. I couldn’t believe that in Norway, she was sitting there counting down the minutes, too. I love her to bits to bits to bits!
…and then it was my birthday..but there are enough words in this post for now. First, pictures, and then, a story of my birthday.
Let me say this, firstly. I am so full I’ve had to change into sweatpants…and the last time I ate was for my massive lunch more than five hours ago, sans any more food since then. So evidently, lunch has had a lasting effect on my tum and me.
But let me start at the beginning.
Today was our first day trip of the new semester! Where did we go?
Well, I don’t have a wonderfully geographic sense of anything (I’m useless with directions – ask my mom…or anyone for that matter), but I know that if you drive in the direction of Charles de Gaulle Airport and keep on going, you get there somehow. See? I paid a tiny bit of attention on the bus!
We all met in the lobby around 9 to head to Trocadero so we could board the buses. Florie quite dramatically announced that it was -8 degrees celsius outside, so we all immediately layered ourselves in every jacket/sweater/hoodie/undershirt we could find, threw on about 5 scarves, two hats, earmuffs, gloves, five pairs of socks, boots, and two pairs of pants.
What I actually wore: two pairs of pants (that part wasn’t a lie), about 4 long shirts, a humungous dress/robe/knit thing that does not have a name I guarantee you (kind of like a woolen sleeping back with arms), my coat, a scarf, my hat, my gloves, my boots. Regular amount of socks (=1 pair).
The reason for this was that we were aware that things get colder as you travel further out of Paris and into France (particularly going north), so who knew how cold it was going to be? Plus, the tour of the Abbey we were going to was undoubtedly going to be outside for most of the time.
So we bustled onto the metro despite morning traffic, and found ourselves at Trocadero nice and on time. As we were making our way around the big traffic circle there, we walked right past the classic view of the Eiffel Tower (from Trocadero looking down), and it was definitely one of the most glorious sights I’ve ever seen. The sunrise, now white, was coming up just behind the tower, illuminating the shiny tiles and gold statues of Trocadero, and creating a big, towering, silhouette of La Tour Eiffel.
Cameras came out everywhere. Including mine, of course. The resulting image will be posted above.
After this majestic grandchild-story moment, we found ourselves on the bus. We spotted Nadrah and Sika and that whole motley crew in the back, taking up the five seater, so we all plonked ourselves in that general vicinity. I started off trying to get some reading done for Cultural (we’re reading Erec and Enide), and I made quite a bit of progress, but then got incredibly car sick. So that got tucked into the seat pocket, and instead, out came my iPod. Sofia fell asleep, I stared out the window, looking at the plains and little stone houses of untouched French paradise. Even as we pulled out of Paris, I realized how much fun looking at Paris is from the view of a bus.
You’re just a little bit higher than when you’re walking – almost level with some of the tall statues, the colorful trees (some bare, because it is winter), and the classic French architecture of apartments in the 16th. Paris is so typique sometimes.
A little bit of history (source: the little informational form Laura handed us when we were on the bus) – *clears throat* “Saint Louis founded the Abbey of Royaumont in 1228 and stayed there many times. Monks lived there until the Revolution, after which the community was quickly reduced from 120 to about 20 and then 10 monks, while the buildings were abandoned. Starting in the 16th century, Royaumont was headed by a series of abbots, many of whom took a liking to it and made it their summer residence. The last abbot, Cornut de Ballivieres, built a magnificent palace, but fled before its completion.
The church of Royaumont was destroyed in 1792. The new owner of the Abbey, the Marquis of Travanet, used the stones of the church to build workers’ quarters in the park for the cotton mill which he installed at Royaumont. While the old architecture was mistreated for the sake of the factory, a Romantic taste for old ruins and the social life of the new occupants attracted the Paris upper-crust bourgeoisie. In the second half of the 19th century, sisters from the Sainte Famille de Bordeaux undertook the restoration of the abby, guided by the idea of rebuilding the original Gothic architecture and working for the glory of Saint Louis.”
Pretty cool stuff. Even cooler because in Cultural we’re studying texts from the Middle Ages, and in class the other day we were just going over some information from our massive Bible of an Art History textbook, which happens to talk about Louis and how he straight up bought himself a bunch of Jesus’ relics, including his crown of thorns. Because he loved it so much (as did everyone then, since owning a relic was today’s equivalent of having the Olsen twins’ cash multiplied by seventy-five), he decides, “Hey, let’s build the entire Sainte-Chappelle!” just so he could house these thorns that were probably just pulled of a bush somewhere in Constantinople. But you know. At least wonders of architecture like the Sainte-Chappelle exist, because it really is beautiful. I need to actually go and see it – it’s not far from here. All I’ve seen is Notre-Dame (all the time because it’s one of the things I use to orient myself, besides the Seine, Eiffel Tower, and Sacre Coeur), and they’re supposed to be pretty similar.
But L’Abbaye de Royaument, a more simple creation, is still quite incredible. It had this beautiful pond just out front, frozen over from the cold. We went to the site where the church used to be, walked under its exquisite arches beside a courtyard, and were thankful to enter a room filled with stained glass windows, tapestries, and statues, just so we could escape the cold.
Even with gloves on I had to keep my hands in my pockets the whole time. Later, in the bathroom, Natasha realized that if you stuck your hands underneath the dryer, your fingers could defrost. Soon everyone was doing just that. Not long afterwards, people’s boots were coming off so toes could be defrosted as well.
We were all extremely excited when our tour was over and it was finally time to FEAST! Not just because we’d all been anticipating this meal for approximately two weeks, but because we were just dying to get warm again!
We ate slap bang in the middle of the Abbey, and it looked like a castle. I feel like we always eat in castles.
Four courses of the most delicious nourriture anyone could ask for.
Pictures above, of course!
I sat at a round table with Elodie, Sofia, Iszy, Florie, Brianna, Amelia, and Natasha. We stole bread off other people’s tables, the wine went fairly quickly (both red and white – ooh la la!), and I almost melted inside when I took my first taste of the pistachio ice cream we had for dessert. We talked about hypnosis and going to New York’s NYU (as in, the main campus), and how soon we’ll have to figure out housing arrangements and all that. Every now and then we’d go visit Jaime, Costanza, Breezy, and everyone else who were at a table nearby. At one point, I ended up on Jaime’s lap and Sofia took a video of us doing that thing where one person puts their hands behind their back, and the other person does the hand gestures for them by sticking out their arms. Jaime was the hands, and I was the person. It was amusing.
Before we knew it, we were back on the bus. Everyone fell asleep now.
I tapped Ray who was sitting in front of me to show him how Sofia kept rolling off my shoulder while she slept. Poor thing. So cute! I took a video.
Costanza and I metroed home together (yes, “to metro” is now a verb), and then I came to my room and just flopped. I told Evan a couple hours ago that I’d intentionally run every day this week (and will be running with Les Belbows tomorrow and Sunday) just so today all I had to do was eat and flop.
Eat and flop I did, everyone. Eat and flop I did.
Last year, my musical prodigy, Taiwanese, and “Miss Princeton” friend Melissa told me I had to stay away from rabbits.
Since then I’ve loved Chinese New Year and it’s rules and regulations, as well as the general celebratory cheer that its Presque worldwide parades bring. I’d never been to a Chinese New Year parade before, but thanks to Breezy, I can now cross that off my to-do list.
Paris is now officially cold. Freezing, in fact. So after a lot of on-and-off metro hopping to locate the parade, watching the crowd gather for quite some time, and grabbing some tea at a nearby Quick restaurant, we were only too excited when we finally saw dragons flying down the streets of Paris.
We’d all dressed up in preparation for this day. Well, Breezy dresses up every day, but Sofia (who looked quite a lot like a Russian Babushka doll) had on read pants to represent China, while I had gone ahead and put chopsticks in my hair, and Jaime had used her makeup skills to give me cat eyes.
The parade was a lot of fun! A small crowd gathered around some dancing dragons and furry-headed creatures, which slowly made their way up onto stage surrounded by red lanterns. Drums played; there was music, and it we all had a really good time, despite the cold! At one point, one of the more hilarious things that’s ever happened to me in my life occurred. It’s hard to describe, but I’ve added a picture below in order to clarify (thank you Sofia Lizza for taking these ones- they were much better than my own). See the picture of the little boy who’s sideways in the crowd? He was originally peeking over his mom’s shoulder – she was facing the stage. Next thing we knew, this kid had eased himself sideways, and was now staring at Daph directly.
We didn’t notice for a while, but when we did, we all jumped a bit. He was sideways! Then he started crying, and mom realized her child was sideways and half crying at a bunch of oddly-dressed teenagers.
We rounded off our celebrations by heading to our usual restaurant – a dumpling place up on Belleville, to eat Chinese food and really call it a good, festive day.
Then, it was time to head home and get prepared for the arrival of our first Monday back at NYU Paris.
I feel warm, stuffed, and content. Tonight was I night I will never forget.
All day today (and the whole time we’ve been in Paris, practically) we’d been anticipating this dinner. In fact, in French class, Mdme Reychman talked nonstop about American Thanksgiving food for 45 minutes, and we all got pretty hungry.
Tonight, we go to do what most people will never, ever experience in their entire lives.
We ate Thanksgiving dinner on La Tour Eiffel.
I’m just going to let that sink in for you.
It was truly the perfect combination of French chic and American deliciousness. We were taken up to the first floor in an elevator, marveling at Paris getting smaller and smaller. 200 students and faculty took up the first floor. Elodie and I sat right next to the window – Paris’s streets, the Seine, and the famous Eiffel Tower carousel were below me on my right. We watched the boats go past, all lit up.
The food was American but with a French twist. We had pumpkin soup as a starter. When I first put that in my mouth, I had to close my eyes and just take a deep breath before continuing. I thought it was probably one of the most delicious things I’d ever tasted. Then, the main course came and I had to re-evaluate. This was DEFINITELY the best thing I have ever eaten, full stop. It was stuffing surrounded by Turkey, all carefully French-designed, cranberry sauce and gravy on the side. Then, there was this garlic/potato/tomato thing (which sounds strange, but read on), and as I put it in my mouth, I honestly had no idea how to express my emotions. It tasted so wonderfully delicious. It was like a piece of heaven descended and landed on my tongue. I fell onto Jaime and went, “MMMM!!!” Dessert was something that looked like a pumpkin-pie tartlet, but it also kind of tasted like pecan-nut pie, and on top, there was whipped cream and a stick of white chocolate.
At one point, Elodie spoke a few words I couldn’t agree with more: “Food. The French got it RIGHT.”
Here we were, eating amazing food, surrounded by an internationally diverse group of amazing people, chatting with our professors (like when Hogan came to steal our unfinished wine), telling stories, reminiscing, and laughing so hard we cried, our stomachs ached, and our cheeks were in agony.
If you were in search of pure happiness, joy, and friendship, it could be found on the Eiffel Tower tonight.
We were on it while it sparkled.
It was such an incredibly unique experience, and looking around, I felt a satisfying sense of familiarity and belonging. It’s amazing how, just three months ago, we arrived in Paris, frightened by this new city and tentative about forming our first friendships. Tonight, I looked around the room, and I realized how we’re now pretty much a family.
We floated back down the streets of Paris, laughing to ourselves, wine warm. I am thankful for Paris.
“Right now the weather is perfect for ping pong, but it would also be awesome to play ping pong in a snowstorm.”
— Evan Knight (our awesome RA)
“Paris is always a good idea.”
— Audrey Hepburn
I realize that my blog has become more of a hiatus than a blog, so here are my most sincere apologies. I just keep having a lot to write, and then I procrastinate, and then I end up having more to write. But it’s a Sunday morning, my window is open, and my laptop is in front of me, so I’ll begin!
By the way, I’m really upset because my browser randomly refreshed and everything I typed (which was almost to the end) erased. So I’m typing it again now.
The past week has been a whirlwind of Conversation Starters for Cultural Foundations, our first Social Foundations paper on Plato, going to cafes to get work done, writing memoirs, reading Medea and then having an in-class debate – with a jury and everything – on whether or not her actions were justified or unjustified, art history textbooks the size of the Bible, and even a Hemingway walking tour organized by our Writing professor. After getting lost once or twice, and taking the metro to the wrong station, Jaime, Emma, and I arrived at 27 Rue de Fleurus (the old apartment of Gertrude Stein) on Wednesday morning to begin our Hemingway Walking tour. While we were waiting for the rest of our Writing class to assemble, someone came home and entered in the code to the building. Professor Longworth caught the door with her foot, and then ushered us in saying, “Go ahead. I’ll watch the door, but you guys should have a look around”.
We gazed in wonder at the little courtyard lined with green pot plants and quaint studio-like apartments stacked on top of each other, thinking to ourselves, “Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein were here!”
We also visited the park in the Sorbonne where Hemingway used to go, and we saw his apartment and then, around the corner, his writing studio. We walked along his morning route, past the coffee shops in the sweet little square by his house, where there was a water fountain, and also where we stopped for some pain au raisin. We stopped briefly in front of the pantheon to wait for Frederico who had been left behind (flaneuring again, as usual), and we took a picture for Cultural Foundations to be uploaded onto Atlas: we’re learning about Greek Architecture.
Over the past two weeks, I’ve had two job interviews. The first was with a family who will just email/call me if/whenever they need help if the parents go out at night. The other one I have a weekly job for.
When I arrived, I was drenched and soaked with rain. When I’d left for school that morning, it was honestly a sunny day, so my umbrella was left at home. Bad idea. By the end of the day, my shoes were wet and squelchy, and my hair was dripping all over the carpet. I was taken aback by how nice this family was, though. I stumbled up to their apartment, came in, and the little girl’s dad looked at me and said, “Would you like something hot to drink?”
I almost hugged him.
Mathilde is three years old, and her dad chose me, of several applicants, to play with her and teach her English once a week, and I’m SO grateful. She understands English perfectly – her dad speaks it to her and her mom lives in the US and visits her every two months or so. She won’t speak it, though, because she knows everyone can understand her French. I can understand her French, too; “Papa! Je veux faire pipi!” and “Papa! J’ai fait pipi toute seule!”, but I’m supposed to pretend I have no clue what she’s saying so that she speaks English to me. I love her. She has cute little blonde curls and these big blue eyes. When I first came in, I bent down and told her how cute she was, and she just opened her arms wide and HUGGED me!
Then she wouldn’t let go of my leg.
Her dad sent me an email this week telling me that, since my visit, she’s said two sentences in English, one of them being, “It looks like a chicken”.
Last weekend, Jaime and I, along with a select few others (only 15 of us went, I think…but that included Amanda, Fatima, Estela, Eddie, etc.), went on a trip to Dordogne. We had to be at Gare d’Austerlitz by 6:30, so we all took a taxi there because the metro lines weren’t open yet. We stacked up on snacks for our 4 hour train ride plus a 2 hour bus ride. Jaime and I laughed and listened to music and slept and attempted homework. Outside the window of the train, I saw the built-up Paris become countryside as the sun rose up into the sky. Our trip was organized by two professors; one who Jaime has dubbed (due to not knowing exactly what to call her) “Lady Professor Beth Epstein” and the other who we know only as Barbara. They were a fun pair. There are some things from this trip I would most definitely love to post on my blog, but should probably stay between Jaime and me. But I’ll say that they involved baguette eating, staying up late and laughing hysterically at night, then thinking we were in trouble when Eddie knocked on our door, and above all, a certain “Unicorne?”. Don’t ask.
The purpose of our trip was to see cave paintings, and it was the most spectacular thing I have ever witnessed. We went to three caves – one of them was on the property of a farmer, and he personally took us inside the cave and showed us what was painted and engraved inside. In another cave, we all got onto an electric train and moved through slowly, freezing cold, but in absolute awe of everything that was around us.
One of the tour guides told us that people have the misconception that cave art is juvenile – the work of uncivilized people. But it’s art.
He pointed out to us, in one painting of horse, that the front leg and back leg showed three-point perspective. He said, “We agree that this was discovered during the Italian Renaissance. But then we see THIS.
Human knowledge isn’t linear. It was discovered by the cavemen, and then REdiscovered during the Renaissance. We knew, we forgot, and then we learned again”.
All this was said in French, of course.
We also learned how the cavemen used the natural shape of caves to show the form of the animals – a bump located in the same place a hip was, or the horse of tail a part of the wall. They used little torches to light their way, so some of the engravings, with a torch light shining head on, are absolutely invisible, but when shone from the side, an image appears. They are complex, and sometimes they take a long time for your brain to recognize, but when you do, you automatically let out a little “Aah!” sound. They’re that amazing.
There was one drawing of a horse, but it didn’t have a solid line for its stomach. The guide explained to us that, when there is a fire lit below the horse, a dip in the cave wall casts a shadow which causes the horse to have a stomach, and as the flame flickers, the horse appears to breathe.
They used to walk through the caves, holding their torches, watching the animals move around them – kind of like a 3D movie.
Common belief is that people lived in the cave, but there is no evidence of this. They were more likely sacred places. On the wall of one cave, we saw a drawing of a house, chimney and smoke included.
I’ll also mention that the house was depicted as a DUPLEX. So much for a barbaric and unsophisticated race.
Other than our cave expeditions, we also explored a little town, had a degustation (where I tasted the most DELICIOUS truffle kir!), ate 3-course breakfasts and dinners, and stole everything at the breakfast buffet (jam jars, apples, baguettes) so that we didn’t have to pay for food at home.
Our cave trip was really magical, and I’m so glad we went.
On Wednesday, it was too cold for me to sit in the courtyard and I’d just bought myself lunch so I couldn’t go and eat it in the library.
So, I decided to plonk myself at a table next to Breezy and Florie in the common room – which, incidentally, we’ve discovered has a fireplace and we’re hoping they’ll start lighting it now that the cold is setting in. Anyway, here’s the conversation -
Florie: Hey, Alice! Are you coming to Faust tonight?
Me: No..I used my sign up for the ballet.
Florie: They have extra tickets! Go to the student life office!
My heart leaped five feet in the air, and I hurtled up the stairs and into the SL office. I found Laura on the phone, so I went up to Ivy and before I could even say anything she replied, “Tickets? Don’t worry, we have loads. Just wait for Laura to get off the phone”. A minute later, I walked out with a big, thick piece of paper explaining the opera and its acts, and a shining 75 euro ticket.
It was evident that word had got around when, as soon as Jaime and Costanza came out of class, and Sofia arrived at school, they came running through the halls like an African stampede.
So that night, we found ourselves watching Faust. I haven’t seen many operas, but this is undoubtedly the best one I’ve seen. Catchy songs (which it has been criticized for, but personally, I think it’s a goodquality) and the most intricate set and costumes. The set was basically all in gold and white, with glass that got smashed and books and balconies. There was a dome in the bottom right hand corner that had little trees growing it in. At the beginning, upon the famous line, “Rien!”, Faust wrote a big “Rien!” on a glass board, and it came out in pink luminescent ink, remaining there for the rest of the show.
It was all in French, and this is the first opera I’ve seen that doesn’t have the English translation written above the stage. This made me happy, because you can hear and understand at the same time, and that makes the world of difference.
It was long, though, as operas are. At one of the intervals, Jaime and Costanza were so hungry, they literally waited for some people to stop eating, LEAVE THERE FOOD ON THE TABLE, and from behind me I just heard Jaime shouting, “Go, go, go!”
They stole someone else’s food.
Yup, that’s what happens when you can’t afford high-priced opera house food.
This weekend has, so far, been really enjoyable. Thursday night, we all went to Sofia’s room to make French onion soup, and it was DELICIOUS! We smothered it with cheese and bread and watched Eurotrip all snuggled up under a blanket with our steaming bowls of soup and white wine.
Brittany and Sofia went to Dijon to ride bikes and go truffle hunting (not jealous..) on Friday, so, Costanza, Jaime, and I went to a cafe at Montparnasse for some hot chocolate. We ended up there because Jaime and I really, really needed our Imagine-R cards (that were supposed to be mailed to school, but we hadn’t received them). So, we found the office, and the guy at the counter was really, really helpful. He printed our Imagine-Rs right there for us, so now we no longer have to worry about buying anymore Navigo reloads for the metro! Then, we went to the cafe. When the waiter brought out our drinks, he brought out a plate of cake for us, too, saying, “C’est un petit cadeau pour vous” – “A little gift for you”. SO NICE! I love that cafe now. I’m going back. He was the nicest old man in the world.
We didn’t get much homework done, but we did enjoy sitting in the window, our chairs facing the Parisian streets, and watching the sun move across the buildings as we sat in the warm coffee shop the entire day. We talked about our Halloween plans and what we’ll dress up as, all of which I will reveal in due time.
That evening, Costanza had her babysitting job, so Jaime and I went to the gym, and then she and Elodie came to my room so we could get ready to go to a party with Raymond and his French friends. We thought this would be a good way to make some French friends and get some French conversation going. When we got up to the 5th floor, we almost chickened out, and we were practically back in the elevator when Ryan, Matthew, Steph, and Komal came up the stairs. Now that we had more of a posse, we had the courage to go inside. It was really a lot of fun!
We did have a bit of French conversation, and learned their party ways. They have all these songs that they sing, but we didn’t know the words so we just sort of smiled and waved. We ate pizza and I ate cheese cubes, and overall it was a good night. Elodie (due to her nearly constant state of “narcolepsy”) and I got tired, so we headed back to our rooms.
Yesterday, we all slept late, and then we all did homework. I cleaned my room, and now everything is in an orderly state (thank goodness).
In the evening, Elodie, Breezy, Eddie, Ray and I decided to go out for samsa, but the Uzbek restaurant was closed, so instead we got Indian food – naan, vindaloo, samoosas! Yuhhhhm.
Then, I met up with Costanza, Jaime, Elodie and Sofia (who was home!), and our plan was to be all high-class and sophisticated and go to a French bar for a drink. Halfway down the road, though, we decided to go to an Epicerie, buy three boxes of cookies and a bottle of rose wine, and head back home to snuggle in bed. We all realized that we’d rather be all cuddled up together eating cookies than at a stuffy French bar. Sorry if I’ve crushed anyone’s dreams!
In other news, I’m really excited because I’ve been elected onto the NYU Paris student council, along with Steph, Fatima, Sofia, and Costanza. I’m in charge of publications and those kinds of things.
Everyone is really suited to their job, and our first proper meeting is next week.
To end off, here is a quote from Professor Hogan (the Hogmeister) during last week’s Social class:
‘I’ve only ever heard one song by Miley Cyrus. It IS the climb. I saw it on a plane. There was this hot guy in a cowboy hat going, “Yes, Miley! It IS the climb!” I dunno if they get together…I felt sick. I had to turn it off.’
I’ve lived in Paris for approximately one hour, have seen about four roads (maximum), and already, I’ve had to stop myself from buying everything in every second boutique, buying even one of the 10982374 Vogues they have for sale on magazine racks, and told myself, “Alice, you will have plenty of time to take photographs in the next year”.
But it’s just so beautiful! The roads are small near the temporary apartment we’re staying in, but lined with orange and red trees, whispering the approach of Autumn. There is a little balcony in my bedroom, which has spotty pink bed covers and a little bookshelf, and in the kitchen, the kettle is boiling to make tea.
After this, we’ll most probably set out to find a place to eat a late lunch/early dinner (depending on exactly how late we leave it), and I most certainly want to locate the nearest macaroon shop. Or pastry shop for that matter. And the Notre Dame Cathedral is literally a few blocks away. From the window, I hear people singing French words across buildings to one another, and shoes and flowerpots are placed neatly on windowsills overlooking the road.
Bicycles are everywhere. I’ll soon buy my own. A pink one with a basket (dream bicycle) that I fully intend to use to ride to school every day.
Accomplissement Du Jour:
A few minutes ago, my mom asked me to go to Monop down the road to buy tea. I got there, chose the tea, and went to pay. I started speaking to the lady behind the counter, and she completely thought I was French. That is, until I spoke for a long period of time and she heard my accent is ridiculous. But for a moment there, I felt AMAZING!
It finally decided to set. The sun, I mean. Outside the window. Behind beautiful building after beautiful building.
At 9 o’ clock p.m.
Today, we went exploring. We visited the Notre Dame Cathedral, I got a baguette for lunch from the most beautiful of shops in the world (with giant meringues and beautiful little cakes), and we walked down the oldest street in Paris. When I got my baguette, it was accompanied by a pineapple drink. This is why two little bees decided they’d make a visit to our little table on the roadside.
Top Three Shop Discoveries:
- A tea shop that is literally lined with shelf after shelf after shelf of every tea you can possibly imagine. It’s magical.
- A store with all these ballet things in it – including the most beautiful white costume that reminds me a lot of Black Swan (the good parts), and at the back, there is a shelf with more satin pointe shoes on it than I’ve ever seen in my entire life.
- This old book store that sells back issues of Vogue that are absolutely ancient. It’s incredible what’s inside there. I haven’t had a proper look, but I intend to as soon as possible.
The weather’s been kind of mad. One minute there’s sun, the next minute there are raindrops tumbling out of the clouds above. It’s not heavy rain, though.
Winding Roads and Patisseries
My mom and I set out to find my apartment (successful) and then, via the Metro, my college building (successful). I was also delighted to find that about a one or two minute walk down the road there is a big plaza that houses a Starbucks, a Zara, AND an H&M. Shamelessly, my mom and I decided to duck out of the rain that randomly decided to come down, and passed the time in H&M buying the loveliest clothes. My mom is to blame for most of the stuff, actually. I was quite conservative – probably because I know I can come back there anytime I want for the next year. Win! Then, we had dinner at a Chinese restaurant a little further down the road. It was really good, and there was a lady there who noticed my poor mom trying to pronounce “du riz” and started speaking to us in English. She had a little dog that patiently waited for her under the table, and she made it do all these tricks.
There are people playing accordions everywhere. Next to the river and on the Metro.
Sussed out the RER today by taking a day trip to Versailles. One day is not enough.
We visited the Chateau there, where Louis XIV entertained his nobles and all that. The palace also has the biggest garden in the universe, and it’s beautiful. Then, over in a corner, is where Marie Antoinette used to pass the time. It was lovely. We walked until my legs felt like they’d fall of. No joke.
But we saw golden gates and flowers and pink marble. There was even a Laduree right outside.
Food of the day: A teramisu ice cream that was yuhm; a Caesar salad which was also yuhm; this little hot chocolate cake thing my mom ordered after dinner, and that, my friends, was heaven.
I remember loving, adoring, getting so excited about car washes when I was small. You know, the ones when you sit in the backseat of the car and watch the soap pour onto the windows and those big green things thud against the doors repetitively. Then, the moment when you came out the other side in a sparkly, clean car, wishing it was dirty so you could do it again. I haven’t been through a car wash it years. I don’t think it’d be any less exciting.
* * *
I applaud you for your symbolism and your ability to make absolutely nothing happen in a play, and yet, still you keep your audience captivated. However, the most spectacular thing about you, I believe, are your AWESOME GLASSES! You wear those things with quirky, weird-person pride, old chap!
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A Cinderella Story
This morning, I was not my best. I had stayed up half the night sneezing and having asthma attacks. Additionally, for some obscure reason which I cannot explain, a zit the size of Jupiter decided that, sometime in the duration of the night, it was going to make a home for itself on the edge of my nose. Thanks, old chap. Anyway, I woke up late, stumbled out of bed and into a pair of jeans I’ve worn too many times and a hoodie that droops all the way down to my knees and the sleeves go over my hands. Half brushed hair and a cup of tea later, I was in the car, driving to school. That’s right; school. SCHOOL. In the middle of the holiday. Now THAT, my friends, is dedication. Ms. Kat was holding a study course for AP French kids, so we spent the day going over grammar and talking in French about the fact that her fish looked like it was going to die, and other such things. We could only get in the back of the building, so PJ gave me a ride on the back of his motorbike/scooter thingy which was SO EXCITING! Emily showed up after us and got locked outside in the rain. I looked down the hallway and at the end of it, I just see Emily standing outside shivering and with a look of “Help me”. Poor thing. Thankfully, she brought us cake, which we enjoyed with cups of tea. How delightful! My day got progressively better, because after that, my mom took me to get my prom dress. Of course, Elsie came along, and Kayla and Alina also accompanied us. Kayla and Elsie decided to behave abominably, rushing in and out of changing cubicles and lying on the floor. Anyway, I tried on a number of dresses and hopped from store to store. Finally, we walked into a shop, and the first thing I saw was a blue dress that was all poofy with silver sparkles. It looked like a mix between Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland, and I thought to myself, “I want THAT!” …BUT I was still roped into trying on a hundred others. There was a light orange, flowy, long one that was very beautiful, and I almost went for it, but then… …then I tried on the blue one, and that was it. Done. Sold. Finished. I now have a prom dress that is AMAZING. It’s hanging in its little plastic case on my cupboard right now. Eeeeeeep!