Sunday, June 26, 2011

soak it up

The morning began with bells...five minutes of them. Living next door to priests (and their chapel) is a lot louder than I ever thought it would be.
This was followed by a trip to the open market down the street. There are tents lining the median at the center of Boulevard Raspail, filled with fresh produce and homemade pastries and flowers so fresh that their scents overpower everything else there. I passed the onion hash browns being fried to order on my right, passed the vat of fresh vegetables sizzling in butter on my left and headed straight for the muffins. Janna and I discovered this bakery tent last Sunday, and these muffins have since held the key to my heart. My favorite are the lemon poppyseed--they're soft but not crumbly, the lemon poppy seeds have the slightest crunch to them and there is fresh lemon zest in every bite.
...Did I mention that I really liked these muffins?
It really was the perfect way to wake up; knowing I'll never have that lemon poppyseed goodness again makes it even harder to leave Paris.
That's not all that makes it hard to leave, though. I'll miss spending nights by the Eiffel Tower with a bottle of wine and a blanket...

I'll miss the buildings, the architecture, the history that surrounds you wherever you go. There's just nothing like it in America.

I'll miss the simplicity of life here. People just aren't in a rush like they are back home--they make time to eat a 2 hour meal, to talk with friends and to take a stroll in Luxembourg Gardens during lunchtime.
At the same time, there are a lot of things I can't wait to get back to--most of all, my family. Skype can only suffice for so long!
The next few days are going to be filled with squeezing in absolutely everything we can before it's time to say au revoir: group dinners, climbing the Eiffel Tower (finally!), a final trip to Montmartre, a boat ride on the Seine River...I'll be soaking it all in--and maybe I'll finally smoke that long cigarette I've always talked about :) I'll let you know how that goes...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Christmastime in Paris

Okay...maybe it's just my Christmastime. Today begins the famous city-wide sale in Paris; it's like Black Friday, except it lasts for a whole month. Yes, you read right. A month. I would have been out the door the minute my favorite boutiques opened this morning if not for class. What's that about? Oh yes...I came here to study. Is it sad that I forget that on a daily basis?
Besides the shopping, the past week has been exciting, to say the least. For those of you who are in my parents' Sunday School class or are have been anywhere near my parents during the past week, you probably know about the sickness I endured over our group's weekend was less than pleasant, to say the least. But I am a firm believer in the power of prayer, and I find it no coincidence that my symptoms were all but gone the day after everyone started praying for me. So thank you to everyone who was a part of that--I am so overwhelmed and grateful for the way all of you have loved and cared for me. That's exactly what a church should be.
Back to our weekend excursion: We spent the weekend in Loire Valley, a region that is full of chateaus (that's French castles, for you). We visited three (incredible) chateaus and then spent the night in one that was literally in the middle of the country, except somehow 10 other girls and I ended up staying in cabins in the middle of the woods (aka, servants' quarters). But's that another story.
My fever/chills/nausea/other symptoms I'll spare you set aside, the weekend was great. I felt like I had traveled back in time! All I was missing was a huge gown and, of course, a prince. :)

I am quickly becoming more and more aware of how little time I have left in this city--8 days! That is why Janna (my roommate) and I decided to be super Parisian yesterday afternoon. We always see people sitting along the street at cafes, drinking their espresso and watching people pass by all day; it must not be hard to guess what we spent our afternoon doing. Though I would like to think we looked like any other Parisian girls taking a coffee break along Rue du Four, I know we didn't because we were smiling and laughing the whole time. (Side note: Parisians don't smile, and they definitely don't take pictures of their coffee)

Until next time, cheers! xoxo

Monday, June 13, 2011

So nice in Nice

This time a little over 24 hours ago I was in Nice, France. Isn't it crazy how traveling works? Within hours you can literally be on the other side of the world. Or on the other side of France.
In case you haven't already read my blog from the links I obnoxiously post on Facebook all of the time, six of my new girlfriends and I decided to take a little vacation to the south of France for a few days. Our train left on Wednesday evening, putting us in Nice around 12:00 a.m. We walked to our hostel from the train station (probably not the best idea we've ever had) and crashed the minute we got there. ...oh wait, we crashed after discovering that our group had been split up into two different rooms and came to grips with the fact that we would be sharing a bedroom and bathroom with 10 other strangers.
Did I mention I was new at this traveling abroad thing?
Luckily, we ended up with the coolest people in our hostel; there were literally people from all over the world. And they all spoke English--brownie points!
On Thursday we took a bus to Villefranche, a little beach that we heard was great to spend the day at. It might have been one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen, ever. Minus the fact that women (of all ages, might I add) were topless. Don't worry, I kept mine on. The sunburn that would have resulted would have been detrimental to my health.
Just look at the beauty...

 The view from where I was laying--does it get any better than this? 

And then I had seafood risotto at this cute little restaurant by the sea. After I pulled the shrimp's head off, of course. YUM!

On Friday, we were all feeling a little adventurous and decided to go scuba diving in the Mediterranean. Apparently you don't have to be certified in Nice to scuba? I know, it sounds sketchy. But we each got our own scuba instructor to go down with us--mine was literally on my back the entire time, guiding me through the sea life and making sure I was still breathing the whole time. See? Not sketchy.
From left: Spenser, Janna (my roomie), Jennifer, Nicole, Me, Mandi, and Abby
We were so excited to go! 

Our diving point

Who knew wetsuits were so hard to put on?

These are a few of the guys that were staying in my room at the hostel. A couple were from Canada, a couple from Maryland, one from the west coast--we lucked out!

Saturday brought an allergic reaction from...well, we still don't know. Probably the tuna that was on my Nicoise salad at lunch. Luckily I was able to get an antihistamine from the pharmacy and was back to normal in no time.
I told you it was scary...tell me I don't look like Violet from Willy Wonka when she turns into a blueberry. And this wasn't even the worst of it.

The last night brought me, Abby and Jennifer to Monte Carlo! It was incredible, but I was disappointed I didn't see Blake Lively and her boyfriend Leonardo DiCaprio there. That aside, it was the perfect ending to a fabulous vacation! (If only I could have afforded a Mercedes taxi ride home!..we took the train instead)

I feel so blessed to have the friends I do on this trip--L-O-V-E them!

I feel like I just crammed way too much into one blog post, but I just don't have time to blog as often when I'm exploring and scuba diving and eating my weight in Nutella--so sorry!
Until next time...xoxo

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

find yourself

I know I haven't really emphasized the school part of me being in Paris, but I actually am taking classes while I'm here (who would've known?). I just finished up my first class this morning and will start my second one next Monday after my vacation to Nice. And I have loved this class I've been in for the past 2 1/2 weeks. It's all about art and the symbols of Paris and how they affect human identity here. Well...that's what it was supposed to be about, but we ended up talking about what influences human identity worldwide as well. 
It's been really interesting to stop and think about this, to step back, to step away from myself and look at where I find my identity--where people as a whole find their identities, for that matter. It's intriguing, it's funny and a little scary at times, too. 
As a class, we've looked into art and music and historical contexts and religion and philosophies to note all of the ways in which human beings are influenced and then how they affect culture in return. My eyes have definitely been opened to things I've never really studied before: different eras of art and music, philosophical periods, French thinkers and writers and leaders who have had much more impact on my culture than I ever realized. At the same time, my eyes have been opened to all of the ways in which humans have tried to find their identities in everything but the ultimate source of who we are, God. It's sad and hard to understand, until I realize that I do the same thing on a daily basis. I may not have developed a philosophy on our existence that is separate from the Creator Himself, but I allow myself to find my identity in other things when I allow the desires of beauty or success or popularity to shape who I am. 
And as I've been studying the cultural context of human identity, I've been looking at myself a lot. Who am I? Whose am I? Why am I the way that I am, and how can I be different? How can I change the things about myself that have stemmed from an identity in something other than Jesus? 

"For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago."
                                               Ephesians 2:10

A lot to think while I'm exploring Paris and seeing so many incredible/beautiful/romantic things, I'm also thinking. A lot. I'm learning not only about this city but about myself. It's inspiring, it's exciting, and it's taking my mind to places it's never been. 
Until next time...just a few snapshots of the culture I get to be a part of here:


Saturday, June 4, 2011

can't get enough

Warning: this post may seem a bit scattered at first, but just be patient with it. It will come full circle by the end (I hope).
I've been in Paris for right over two weeks now--can time please stop flying? 
And while here, I've discovered some things that I never thought I liked but actually love; I've also noticed that there are things I never really thought much about but am seriously missing since I've been away. 

Pistachio gelato. An ice cream flavored after a nut sounds gross, right? Probably not to every normal person, but I have mental discretions with a lot of foods, so I can get pretty picky. But since I've been here, it's like I'm on a 24/7 mission for the best pistachio gelato I can find that day. YUM!

I never realized how much I loved pita chips and popcorn and all of those great snack foods you can munch on while you watch a good movie. Let me tell you...they don't have those here. Probably because Parisians don't need "snack" food. Why can't this city understand how hungry I am ALL the time? (Side note: my mom just sent me a care package, and I asked for some popcorn. Thanks mom!)

NUTELLA. Obsessed. I eat it on fruit, on bread, off of a spoon. I do not understand why America is not obsessed with it too. I plan on starting a Nutella Revolution when I get back.

While I love Paris fashion, I am just not used to dressing up everyday. It's hard!...
Correct that: it just takes more effort than I care to put forth. But I'm trying to take on the fashion aspect of this culture. And let me tell you, my wallet does not appreciate it. 
But how can you not buy clothes when the stores look this cute??....sigh....

I miss how it smells back home. This sounds weird, but good grief y'all...Paris has serious sanitary issues. I get a whiff of something terrible every 45 seconds. What I wouldn't do for some fresh mountain air every once in a while.

While there are pros and cons of living in a different city, I wouldn't trade all of this for the world. I'm so grateful to have parents who supported me and encouraged me to take advantage of such an incredible opportunity. I couldn't be more blessed! The only thing that could make this trip better would be to have them here to experience all of this with me. 
I told you I wanted to add some color to my blog, so here are a few pictures that sum up this trip so far.
the best of friends..
incredible food..
lots of wine..
walks/runs through Luxembourg Gardens...
lots of adventures on the metro...
and of course...

Au revoir!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

people watching

I told you I probably wouldn't be able to stay away from the Nutella long enough to write last night...although I will also place some of the blame on the fact that we decided to watch Saving Private Ryan at 9:30--which, by the way, took on a completely new meaning for me after visiting Omaha Beach over the weekend.

Yesterday I was able to check one more thing off of my Paris Bucket List: going to the French Open. Definitely one of the coolest things I've done. My sister told me that, apparently, Pippa Middleton was there yesterday too. Seriously? The thing is, even if I'd wanted to see her, I couldn't have because the seats she was in would have cost around 500 euros on the low end--not exactly in my budget. And if I could have seen her, I'm not sure that I would have wanted to because her newly-famous back side would have put mine to shame. 
To completely change the subject, I've been making mental notes of things I notice about Parisians. Some are admirable, some are not, and some are just strange. Let me tell you...
1. You will pass a pretty significant number of people on rollerblades on any given day. I kid you not, it's a primary mode of transportation for some. They fly down sidewalks on these things, expertly screeching to a halt at crosswalks and red lights. They wear them into the grocery store, onto the metro, everywhere. It's so strange, but it also makes a lot of sense. And I'm not going to lie, it sort of makes me want to be 10 again. 
2. Everyone dresses so well. Duh...I know. But they all look like they're about to go out for a night on the town, even at 9:00 in the morning. True life: I saw a woman who was probably in her 80s wearing 6-inch platform heels the other day. I felt so unworthy of fashion after I passed her in my penny loafers. 
3. They eat bread at every single meal and are still skinny...still. God only knows how they do it, but Parisians somehow manage to live off of carbs and still look great. It's probably because they walk everywhere, or maybe because their portion sizes are so much smaller. Probably both--probably two habits I should bring back with me. 
4. To continue from the last post, grocery stores don't have buggies; they just have baskets. I say this to imply that this may be another reason they're still so thin. They don't need these massive carriages to hold all of the food they're going to eat; they get only what they need and are done. Again...we could learn a lesson. 
5. When people eat at restaurants, they eat outside at little tables looking towards the street. I always find it extremely awkward when people sit beside each other rather than across from each other when they go out to eat in America, but somehow it seems normal here. They sit there, looking at out at the street, eating their carbs and smoking their cigarettes and looking anything but awkward.

I have more, but I'll save them. I also have more pictures, but my camera died...again. So I went to Le Bon Marche tonight and got more batteries--pictures to come tomorrow!