How many times have you heard the saying, ‘a picture speaks a thousand words?’ If that was really true, I should have about half a million words to say (I’ll let you do the math). Last weekend, I returned from my solo spring break trip to the Loire Valley and a few cities in the south of France. While I left Paris with a full right pocket, it was conspicuously empty on my return journey. Any guesses as to why? Yes, I lost my phone on the train. Unless someone turns it in, it’s gone girl! Because of the modern times we live in, I also lost my camera, map, alarm clock, and of course, music! Let’s just say I wasn’t too thrilled on the last couple days of my trip. My main concern was that all my pictures from my travels were gone. I know, I should have backed them up…yeah that hindsight is crystal clear. But enough about the negative! Just know that these few pictures are the only ones you are getting from my spring break. They're pretty good for an amateur though, right?
I think you know that j'apprends le français (I am learning French). I am studying in France after all! While my professor is great, and always has us practice speaking in French, 2 classes per week is not quite enough. Because my famille d’accueil (host family) knows English pretty well, I had been cheating a little bit, and not practicing French as much as I should have. This is why my spring break in la vallée de la Loire was incredibly helpful, in addition to being beautiful.
Ever since I was young, I have been fascinated by knights, castles, and kings. When my professor showed us some pictures of the châteaux (castles) of the Loire valley, I immediately said, “I’m going there on spring break!” Although I went solo on spring break, I had ample time to practice my French. In the Loire valley, I stayed in an Airbnb with a couple who spoke almost no English. While we couldn’t communicate perfectly or very much in depth, they told me I improved dramatically over the time I was there. They insisted on driving me to and from the train station, and even invited me to have une raclette with them for dinner.
Instead of all the pictures I originally had, I’ll just briefly describe my excursions. I first explored the chateau Blois, which was right next to the town I stayed in. The châteaux Amboise and Chinon were impressive—packed with history. After château Chinon, I obviously had to stop at the crêperie and order a crêpe flambée. The owner and waitress were more than happy to talk to me (in French) about my studies in France. Château Chenonceau is gorgeous as it stretches out over the river, with gardens on either side. The real stunner though, and my favorite château was Chambord. It impresses, as the largest chateau in the Loire valley. I didn’t meet many other travelers on my trip, because of the time of year it was, but I met an American family on top of Chambord and took a picture for them.
If you want to see an amazing ancient city, visit the city of Carcassonne. The walls surrounding the city tower over you, and there are multiple paths to enter. You can walk all around the city on the ramparts and tour the chateau. Inside the city you find chocolate shops, restaurants, and nice views (Château Chinon my favorite views though). The city of Nimes is so warm and inviting when you arrive, probably because it is in the south of France. It took me a while to get my bearings, as many streets are curved and confusing, but after a while even I could get around. Make sure you visit the Jardin de la Fontain, as it is an impeccably designed garden, great for relaxing.
I guess all this is to say you should branch outside of Paris and Bordeaux when you visit France. I still need to go to Euro Disney while I’m here, as well as visit more museums in Paris. This weekend I am working on my core project for the semester, in which I give a presentation in French!
Bonnes Pâques (Happy Easter!)
Je n’ai pas écrit (I haven’t written) in quite a long time! I have been practicing my French though, at least as much as I can. As I’m writing this, I am remembering that my friend, Andrew, forced me to write a New Year’s resolution. While I have not been talking to someone new every day, or speaking French quite as much as I should be, I think the days where I meet two dozen people almost make up for that. I’ve also been going to a group in my IES program on Mondays where we speak in French (as much as we can) and have a conversation. My French comprehension is my weakest aspect, so I think this will really help over time.
In Luxury Brand Management, I am learning all about luxury brands and goods, and the paradoxes of luxury. Do you like to be kept waiting in line for your McDona—sorry—Chick-fil-a? I thought as much. With luxury though, time and making someone wait is a good thing. Everything that is normally bad, like poison, high prices, and limited quantities, is turned on its head and seen as good in luxury. Would you buy a $900 lipstick? I sure wouldn’t. That is at the very top of the luxury pyramid, where the prices border on absurd. I’m know I’m never getting there, nor do I really want to.
I’ve made some French friends at Novancia Business School, who I would definitely love to get to know better. Already we’ve gone to l’exposition Louis Vuitton at the Grand Palais. Alas, many of the French students don’t like their accents. I always insist that Americans (especially me) LOVE French accents. Beautiful. Sexy. Musical. I think you get what I’m saying. Do you agree?
Let me know in the comments just how much French accents mean to you.
I would write more, but I’m leaving early in the morning for spring break in the vallée de la Loire!
Yesterday we celebrated La Chandeleur here in France. Traditionally, the French eat crêpes every February 2, 40 days after Christmas on La Chandeleur, which can be translated as “Candlemas.” La Chandeleur stemmed from a few pagan traditions, before it was rebranded as a Christion holiday. The story goes that in the 5th century, the Pope began a candle-lit procession in Rome, where they would hand out crêpes to pilgrims that day. The French superstition says that when you toss the crêpes in the pan with your right hand, while holding gold in your left, you receive good luck.
I think I love this tradition…well I love crêpes, so anything that lets me eat them is sweet (Actually not all crêpes are sweet, as some are made of hearty wheat with things like ham and cheese in them.) I love all crêpes! Ok, that’s not entirely true. The other day, while I was at a Crêperie with two of my friends, I asked for ‘un crêpe au chocolat noir.’ I’m obviously not great at French yet, so when the waitress asked, “coco?” I responded, “Oui…” thinking she must mean chocolate. Yeah, she didn’t. By the way, ‘coco’ is the French word for coconut…as I found out. I’ll just come out and say it: I hate coconut! Thankfully they were understanding enough to give me a new crêpe, without coconut this time. In summary, I love almost all crêpes.
I have not made my own crêpes yet, but my host mom did and they were delicious! Here is a recipe for you to try if you would like to enjoy your own homemade delicious
French pancakes. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/crepes-recipe.html My host mom put rum in the batter, something this recipe suggests for sweet crêpes.
There are so many avenues you can pursue with your crêpe making. If you want something sweet, you should spread some Nutella, a very French topping. Add a sliced banana on the Nutella for a healthy yet delectable taste. La confiture (French fruit preserves) is amazing on anything, especially la baguette and goes perfectly with a crêpe. Crêpes flambées are almost as incredible to watch as they are to eat. Experiment and try all your favorite toppings. I really hope you cook some crêpes! Then you can feel like you’re in Paris for La Chandeleur!
Share with me the results from making your own crêpes! (Share the crêpes too)
P.S' I passed my first 'French quiz!
Je vais écrire aujourd’hui! (I am going to write today!) Scratch that. I’m writing now!
For the last week and a half, I’ve been living in my host family’s house in the 12th arrondissement of Paris. Before I came to Paris, I was expecting to be living in a little apartment. While it is technically an apartment, my family’s house has a rather large downstairs, as well as a basement (mostly to store the wine) and an upstairs. My room here is actually larger than my bedroom at home! I have a housemate as well, another student in the same program, which is pretty awesome!
I had no idea what to expect, but thankfully, my host family is amazing! As I am just beginning to learn French, hearing them speak French has been, and will continue to be extremely helpful. They tell me the French translation to English words and vice versa, and help me to pronounce French words I am struggling with. I’m beginning to be able to pick out some words they are speaking in French, and I know it will keep getting better with time and practice.
You know I can’t write this without talking about food right? My host mom is an amazing cook. She feeds me way more often than she should, and it is always delicious French cooking. Just to make you drool, I’ll name of few of her delectable dishes. We have feasted on airy soufflé, crispy, yet moist croque monsieur, and authentic un gratin de jambon (look it up) made with biting bleu cheese (du fromage).
Speaking of cheese, (which we do a lot) the majority of cheese in the US doesn’t even compare to the cheese here. Yes, much of it is made with unpasteurized milk, but it is also much fresher. I always hated bleu cheese, but I tried it here on my baguette, and while incredibly strong in flavor I like it! Even my host family said that American bleu cheese is not very good! I guess I converted to the dark side. No really, Star Wars is extremely prevalent in Paris. They even have a Star Wars exhibit (read advertisement) in le Louvre!
Already, I have learned a great deal of French. My professor teaches differently than we are used to—self-described as the Scandinavian method of teaching languages. I’m sure it will pay off, as you would be hard-pressed to find a Swede or Norwegian who speaks less than three languages. I can already see that I am making progress, and her students in the past have had unbelievable success. She is all about learning to speak and listen, not just read and write, which makes all the difference. I probably know as much French after 1 week as my first 2 months of Spanish back in high school. Or should I say I need to remember that much by tomorrow morning. Studying obviously will play a role in that, so I’m going to get to it.
Find out if I pass my quiz in my next post!
I finished my first week in Paris!
I spent my first four nights in a youth hostel. When I initially arrived in Paris, I had trouble figuring out the RER trains (as do some Parisians) but arrived safely at the Generator Hostel in the 10th arrondissement. I am starting to experience French culture, while meeting many people from different cultures. Along with French students at the hostel, I talked to people from Switzerland, Brazil, Korea, and many other countries. While it was sometimes hard to communicate because of the language barrier, that almost made it better. We had to pay attention to the other person and think about what we were saying. I am still incredibly impressed when people can communicate in three, or four, or even five languages. I made friends at the Generator that I hope to connect with again during the semester.
My Californian roommates made great partners to travel all around the city with. A piece of advice to anyone staying at a hostel is to make friends with your roommates! Rather than traveling alone or just with your friends you came with, you get to meet fellow travelers and talk about your past experiences, while making new ones together.
Regarding all the touristy things I did, you will see my pictures, so I don’t have to bore you with every activity. The Louvre was incredible though, with insane gold-covered, marble ceilings to compliment the artwork and artifacts inside. If you thought it would take days to see the whole Louvre, let me enlighten you. We spent about seven hours in the Louvre and saw about 95% of it! Not to brag, but we walked for over 15 miles that day… Although, if you want to read every sign and analyze every painting, it would probably take you a month of walking the Louvre.
The Mona Lisa is a little overrated. Don’t get me wrong—it is a great painting, but there are countless more impressive works of art, including those by Da Vinci himself. Personally, I loved seeing and learning about all the ancient Greek artifacts, which brought me back to my childhood where I read Greek myths nearly every day (Disney Hercules Anyone?) Many of the signs teaching visitors about the museum’s displays are in English as well as French. This allows us monolinguals to further enjoy the Louvre. If you are a student in the European Union you can get into all the museums for free, so remember that!
If you know me, you know that I couldn’t spend all my time seeing la Tour Eiffel and Versailles. Of course I went shopping! Yes, I bought black skinny jeans at H&M. I have to blend in and look Parisian, right? Don’t worry, I’ll represent America well in my two fashion classes in Paris.
Have you ever tried a Nutella crêpe? You have not lived until you have eaten one (especially one with bananas!) This was only a small taste (see what I did there?) of my first week in Paris. Stay tuned for my next post about my arrival at my host family’s house and the start of my semester!
Oliver (French pronunciation of course)
I am flying to Paris today! For those of you who don’t know, I am studying abroad in Paris for the spring semester. This is my first time ever traveling outside the US, so I can hardly contain my excitement! Since I was about 8 years old, I have wanted to travel to France. As I am now “in college,” my love for croissants is no longer the primary reason for my desire to travel to France, though that definitely contributes.
I love French language, as well as French accents, so I am pumped to take French classes in Paris! While I wish I already knew French, I’m sure I will pick it up quickly. My New Year’s Resolution is to talk to someone new every day in France, using as much French as I can. Hopefully I lose my American accent. I don’t just mean when speaking French, but when speaking English too! How awesome would it be to have a French accent? Exactly. Too awesome to put into words.
I know this was a really short post, but I have to leave for the airport.
Until next time, Au Revoir!
À bientôt (See you soon)