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Ahhhhh Paris….what an amazing weekend!! I LOVE PARIS.

Because of the grève, we had to leave Wednesday instead of Thursday, which was completely okay with me – that meant a whole extra day for sightseeing! We left Wednesday shortly after lunch – and got onto our train without problem. The train ride lasted about 5 hours – pretty nice that you can get from Cannes to Paris in 5 hours or less. We arrived in the evening, and just checked into our hotel and called it an early night so we would be ready for the next day full of touring.

We woke up for breakfast at 8am so we could start our tour at 9am – and the breakfast was included in the hotel. Each morning, we would have a half a baguette (perfect – crunchy on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside) with butter, jam, cheese and nutella…along with some fruit, orange juice, and your choice of tea, coffee or hot chocolate. It was delicious and a great way to start the day. Next, we started our Revolutionary tour – for our class on the French Revolution, we played a game in class where we each assumed a historical figure. For our tour of Paris, we had to choose a site that was significant to the French Revolution and also to our historical character, and then present the site and explain the significance. We had about 10 sites to get to, all spread throughout Paris, and Beth had budgeted this tour to take 3 hours. Some of the places included the astille, the Champ-de-Mars, the Tuileries, Place de la Concord, the Palais Royal, and more. Some sights don’t exist today (like the Bastille and Tuileries), but the important thing is to be at the spot. Instead of 3 hours…it took 6! I don’t think Beth took into account the actual distance between sights and how long it takes to walk that far…in addition to moving along a group of 10 people, some of whom walk very slowly. It took us 1.5 hours to cover the first 2-3 sights! Beth outlawed stopping to take pictures and made us keep walking at a good clip. By noon, we had to stop and get lunch and then Beth conceded to taking a bus a few times. By the second half of the tour, everyone was really sick of it and was getting really annoyed and ready to be done. It would have been a good tour if it would have been more condensed. It ended at Notre Dame, and I wanted to just stay there but we had to return to the hotel room quickly – luckily it wasn’t too far from Notre Dame.

Leah, Laura and I headed back to Notre Dame right away so we could tour that before we were going to meet some others at the Eiffel Tower. Notre Dame was great! Luckily, there wasn’t much of a line so we got in right away. It was so cool to be there – I grabbed their claendar in case we would be able to come back for Mass or vespers sometime over the weekend. We took pictures outside at point zero – all distances in Paris are measured from there and it’s right outside Notre Dame. Also, if you touch point zero, you will return to Paris :) I thought it was funny that in front of this super famous old church there are a ton of dancers, jugglers, musicians, flame throwers – all sorts of stuff! Touring Notre Dame didn’t take as long as we thought, and we still had quite a bit of time before we had to be at the Eiffel Tower, so we decided to try to get into Sainte-Chapelle, which was close by.

 

 

Point Zero! I guess that means I'll be coming back to Paris - thank goodness!

It was getting close to closing time, and Sainte-Chapelle is known for having long lines, especially on sunny days, because it is famous for its unrivaled stained glass. We hopped in line and only waited about 15 minutes! Sweet. We got in and immediately went to the Chapelle Haute – which is where the amazing stained glass is – and it is so beautiful! The altar area is undergoing restoration, so we didn’t get the full effect, but it was still amazing. The whole chapel was built in only 6 years (while it took 200 years to build Notre Dame). It was built to hold the supposed Crown of Thorns – the King Louis IX paid 3 times as much for the Crown than for the building of Sainte-Chapelle! There are 15 windows of stained glass that tell over 1,000 stories from the Bible – from Genesis to Jesus’ crucifixion. Today, Notre Dame has the Crown of Thorns (and it’s only shown on Good Friday and the first Friday of the month). I made sure to buy some postcards on the way out that show the full effect of all the windows.

Then it was time to go to the Tour Eiffel! We decided to walk – not the best idea! We definitely should have taken the metro, but we hadn’t taken it before and decided we would see more by walking (which we did) but the soreness was starting to set in, as we had been walking for about 10 hours straight at this point). We made it to the tower a little after 7pm – just as the sun was setting. As we walked up to it, it lit up! It was so pretty. La Tour Eiffel is just massive, and it seems to take forever to actually get to it – becoming monstruously kind of scary big the closer you get. We didn’t find our friends there, and didn’t want to spend too much time looking since we were so excited to go up the tower. We figured they might have gone up already since we were late, and we hopped in the line for the stairs. Taking the stairs is much faster and cheaper – though it was a lot of work, the views were gorgeous!!! You can see the whole city, and it was amazing to see La Ville Lumière all lit up. What an experience. Pictures didn’t turn out well – so I took videos instead. We went all the way to the top (900 feet in the air!) and it was really windy and cold, so I was glad I was wearing my winter coat. Leah was only wearing a sweater, so we just snapped a few pics and took a quick tour around the top before hopping in the long line to go back down the elevator. We were so exhausted at this point – 12 hours of walking catches up to you. We got off the tower and headed to the closest intersection and hobbled into a pizza/pasta place. I had some great spaghetti carbonara and then we metro-ed it back to the hotel, where I feel asleep before my head even hit the pillow.

The next morning, I woke up and was definitely feeling the soreness from the day before. My knees felt really sore (and just started to recover today). Pretty much everyone was going to Montmarte/Sacre Coeur, which was not on my list of must-see’s, so I originally wasn’t going to go, but I didn’t want to spend all day by myself, and Leah and I had some common sights to see afterward. So, after breakfast we set off in a big group toward the metro. We reached Montmarte and first saw the Moulin Rouge! We took a few pics and walked to Sacre Coeur. That area of town was quieter – I prefer the area close to the Seine; more touristy, but the Seine is so pretty and everything is lively there. Sacre Coeur was huge – and had some great views of the city from there on the hill. We couldn’t take pictures inside, so I bought a postcard instead. It was a pretty quick walk through.

Des billets gratuits! Free tickets!

After Sacre Coeur, Leah, Laura and I headed to the Musée de l’Armée, a military museum and has Napoleon’s tomb. We actually got in for free! Museums have a student rate and a student of the E.U. rate. Since we have long-term visas and now live in France, we are technically students of the E.U. – and we got in for free at every museum we visited!

 

The area that holds Napoleon’s tomb is very elaborate and ornate – 26 lbs of gold on the ceiling! His tomb is surrounded by French war heroes, and he is inside 6 coffins! A little excessive. His tomb is surrounded by statues – each representing one of his military victories. What an ego. We also passed through some of the exhibits – including the Revolution through Napoleon, WWI, and WWII. We saw some of the uniforms of the National Guard which was really cool to see because that actually means something to me now that I have been studying the French Revolution. There was so much information in each of the exhibits – too much information for us exhausted tourists to take in, so we just wandered through looking at stuff. At the end of the exhibit, I said Bonjour to the guard as he was saying Au Revoir to me, and we had a little conversation. He asked if I was Canadian – which is cool because that means he thought I actually speak French! (well I do…but not fluently yet!) What a good compliment – I love being complimented on my French, it means I’m making progress!

Napoleon's tomb

We decided to go to the Musée Rodin next since it was right next to the Musée de l’Armée. Rodin is a really famous sculptor – right up there after Michelangelo. I loved this museum – when it comes to art, I much prefer sculpture or photography. There was also a lovely garden there, even with lounge chairs so we got to put up our feet and rest a little while – which was fabulous and very necessary! We relaxed in the garden and looked at some more sculptures before heading off to meet the group at the Louvre. We were a little late because we walked and were still really sore, but it was all fine. I had no idea that the giant glass pyramid is actually the main entrance to the museum – cool! The Louvre is MASSIVE – and really overwhelming. I was surprised by the diversity of their exhibits – there is just SO MUCH STUFF there. I headed up to see the Mona Lisa right away – and it’s true what I’ve heard. It’s a bit underwhelming. It’s small, behind a pane of glass, and surrounded by huge crowds. I also went to see the Venus de Milo, and then wandered through the Egyptian and Oriental exhibits, since I found those much more interesting. I even stopped at the café there for a little while because I was so hungry I was not going to make it til dinner. We went to dinner back in the Latin Quarter, nearby our hotel and I had a great dinner of salmon with crème brulée for dessert – delicious! And again, fell asleep immediately.

The next day we had all day free and we split up for the day because we each had different things we wanted to see. Laura decided to come along with me for the morning – and we started at the Deportation Memorial. It’s a memorial to the 200,000 French people deported to work/death camps, who did not return. The memorial is very well done – it was created to somewhat represent the environment the deportees were in with really tall walls, small spaces, and dim lighting. The memorial has 200,000 crystals to represent each deportee who did not return (overall, less than 3% did). There were a lot of good quotes there, the eternal flame of hope, and the Holocaust reminder: Pardonne, n’oublie pas. Forgive, but do not forget.

From there, we walked to the Musée d’Orsay – Laura really wanted to go. I was indifferent, but wanted to go more to say I’ve been there, and to see some of the really famous paintings. We waited in line for 30-45 mins, but got in free! Laura went nuts flitting from exhibit to exhibit. I saw some of the more famous paintings, and then sat down for about 40 minutes because I was already feeling exhausted. After the Orsay, we walked to the Arc de Triomphe. The Champs-Élysées was really crowded, and the Arc de Triomphe was huge! It’s really detailed and decorated. It took a while to figure out how to actually get to it, since there are no crosswalks to cross the giant roundabout circling it. We realized there’s an underpass to get there. We paid our respects to the unknown soldier and took some pictures. Then we split up – Laura wanted to see another Monet exhibit, and I wanted to see the Musée Carnavalet – a museum of Paris’ history. I took the hotel room key with me and metro-ed it to Carnavalet. It’s housed in an old hotel – really pretty with the ivy climbing the walls. I walked through the exhibit until I reached the Revolution period. Some of the Revolutionary stuff was cool – it was mostly knick knack-y stuff but it’s cool that it all means something to me now. I saw stuff like a replica Bastille made from real stones from the Bastille, Robespierre’s membership card to the Jacobin club, some of Robespierre’s hair that was cut off his decapitated head, a child’s guillotine toy, etc.

I decided to walk back to the hotel to lie down before our Bateaux Mouches river boat tour down the Seine – I was so tired. I got back to the room and thought, I should get my alarm clock….but it was so far away and I was so comfortable…I conked out. And startled awake at 6:40pm – and we were supposed to meet at 6:45pm! AGH! I grabbed my stuff and ran off to the metro – but unfortunately the stop I needed did not connect well at all. I just decided to get off at Assemblée Nationale and walk – and I didn’t make it to the Bateaux Mouches until 7:15pm. They would all be on the boat by then, so I went there just in case, but didn’t see anyone. I checked with the ticket counter to see when they would return – 8:10pm – and I could go to dinner with all of them. I was a little upset at first about being late and missing it, but I got over it quickly by telling myself – hey, I’m still in Paris and I’ll have a good night. And if I don’t find them, I’ll have dinner on my own just fine. So, to wait until 8:10, I crossed the street and bout a Nouvel Obs (a magazine) and looked for a cafe to get some tea. I stopped at a place and told them I would sit outside and wanted some tea. I read some of my magazine, but 15-20 minutes later, I was still waiting for my tea. Seriously? It’s just some hot water and a tea bag. It was about 8:05 by then, so I just got up and left. I didn’t see anyone getting off the boat that pulled up, so it was time to continue on my own. I took the metro back to the Latin Quarter and to find some dinner there – there are tons of restaurants to choose from. I found a cute little hole-in-the-wall traditional French cuisine place. I got some good people watching in eating by myself and spoke French with the staff. I had onion soup, lamb with fries, and apple pie with ice cream for dessert – all for 12.5 euros! Gotta love the menus – the fixed formula where you choose your 3 course meal between a set of entrées, a set of plats, and a set of desserts – all for a fixed price. From there I just walked back to the hotel, and after talking with Leah discovered that I had just missed them at the Bateaux Mouches! Turns out they didn’t make it onto the 7pm boat, but the 7:30 one instead. But it was still a really good night – the part that made it so good was knowing that I can navigate Paris totally on my own – I love having that kind of independence.

The next day, we accidentally got to breakfast an hour early. Daylight savings time happened and we forgot to set back our clocks! The hotel even had put up a sign reminding us which I saw, but forgot about it by the time I got upstairs. We got to sleep a little more before we all had to leave for Versailles though. We took a train to Versailles – took about 30 minutes. We got to the Chateau, and the lines were ridiculous. We had to wait in line for tickets first, and then in a different longer line to get into the Palace. 2 hours of waiting – UGH. We finally got inside – and it was beautiful in the fact that everything was so elaborate and over the top gaudy that it was actually pretty. I liked Versailles, but also hated it – it was ruined by wall-to-wall crowds, long lines, and a really out of place art exhibit. I have no idea why they agreed to show plastic bright colored cartoonish Japanese art in a French palace – why would you do that to Versailles?? It ruined the ambiance. We also had to wait in line to get into the garden, since we happend to come on a day they were playing music in the gardens. It was a pain, but the music was nice, and the gardens were beautiful! We were more than ready to leave by 2pm – so we took the train back, and had a late lunch/early dinner at an Indian restaurant. It was really good – and made me really excited for India. 2 months from now, I will be there! YAY!

Just a small part of the long line to get into the palace

One of the Japanese art pieces...see what I mean?

Hall of Mirrors

le jardin

Leah and I had decided we wanted to go to vespers at Notre Dame, and Laura decided to come along. We perused souvenir shops until it was time. We made it to vespers just in time. We were a little worried because they were using incense, and Leah’s allergic to it! Luckily, Notre Dame is so big it just dispersed. The organ was amazing and we all definitely wanted to stay for Mass afterward. The whole time I just couldn’t believe I was actually in Notre Dame for Mass – it was awesome. Mass was said by a cardinal too – I think that’s the highest “ranking” officiant I’ve had Mass with. Mass was in French – and I understood it all. It was an incredible experience. We walked around the outside taking pictures, and were going to go see the Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Élysées all lit up at night, but Leah was kind of high from the incense, so we just got a crêpe (pour moi, avec confiture – with jam) and called it an early night.

And Monday, our last day in Paris, was my birthday! How many times in my life can I say I woke up in Paris on my birthday? Awesome. I’m 21 – and now legal to drink everywhere! After some breakfast, Leah and I headed to the Jardin du Luxembourg. It was SO BEAUTIFUL  there – one of my favorite things in Paris. It was so fall-like, which I’ve been missing since Cannes is not fall weather at all. It was great for people watching: we saw little kids feeding ducks, tons of joggers and people doing tai chi, people playing tennis and chess – it was great! We went across the street and bought some birthday beignets (kind of like a bismark donut, but better…) and they were delicious. Raspberry…mmmmmm. It was so peaceful there. I just wanted to stay there all day – not go back to Canes! We stayed as long as we could…then mosied over to some souvenir shops. I bought a mug for myself :)

can't we just stay here?

After that we had to leave Paris :( Cannes is so lame compared to Paris! We made it to the train without problem and made it back just fine – save for the fact that the train ahead of us hit a wild pig! I didn’t know there were wild pigs in France. We had to re-route and were delayed about 45 mins.

What an incredible weekend – I saw SO MUCH for 4.5 days: Notre Dame, Sainte-Chapelle, Tour Eiffel, Louvre, Musée Rodin, Musée d’Orsay, Musée de l’Armée, Musée Carnavalet, Deportation Memorial, Sacre Coeur, Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Élysées, Versailles, Jardin du Luxemboug…oofta! I also learned I took 675 pictures! I loved Paris – and I am so glad I’ll be back there in a few weeks – Nov 20 – to show around my friend Kate, who is studying abroad in London. And now…only a few days until ROME! I’ll leave for Rome on Friday and will come back on Sunday. WOO!

Loving life – I am so blessed.

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I’m surprised that it has already been a week since my last post! Time is flying by now that my days are full of class, theatre, and tutoring! Let’s see if I can remember all that has been going on…

Last Sunday, we took a mini excursion to the nearby cities of Antibes and Juan-les-Pins. We woke up early and took the first bus headed for Nice (which stops on the way) and stopped first in Antibes. I liked the feel of Antibes – it’s surprising how a city only about a 10 minute drive away has a completely different vibe. We headed straight for the Sunday market – full of fresh food (even a whole roasted pig) and flowers. We stopped at a little cafe, where I had some tea and a croissant – yum! I was happy they brought me my own little tea pot again – so cute! Next, we all headed out as a group to the Picasso Museum. I always wish that I understood art more…I feel like I would appreciate it more then. I just don’t understand how some his drawings are considered great works of art when they are very child-like…like a fish and lines drawn in crayon. I keep trying to understand art, but I think I just have to cut my losses and realize it’s just not for me. I liked another exhibit more…it was a more modern exhibit that used superimposition of text on pictures – a lot of it was very dark but I feel like I got more out of this artwork.

The Picasso Museum

After the Picasso museum, we went back to the market and the nearby streets in search of something for a picnic lunch. I stopped at a little panini stand with some of the others and had a club chicken panini – very delicious! A thing learned about standing in line here: push your way to the front! Don’t be afraid to assert your place in line because others will just run you over if you don’t. We had a lovely picnic next to the Picasso museum before we headed to Juan-les-Pins, where there was supposed to be a huge end-of-the-season clearance sale at all the clothing stores. Mickey and I perused for a little while, but didn’t find anything we liked, so we stopped at an ice cream shop and headed to the park. We enjoyed relaxing on the park benches and talking before we headed back to Cannes.

When I got back to Cannes, I only had about a half hour to rest before I went to meet the family of the girl who I will be tutoring! It was just completely wonderful how everything clicked!!
He met me here at the College on Sunday night – picked me up in his SMART car! I was really happy I got to ride in a smart car, they are so cute and it has been a tiny dream of mine to be in such a tiny little car. He – Franck – was incredibly warm and friendly right away, plus he complimented my French! That’s one of the highest compliments – to be complimented on your French from a native! He said he was really surprised at how good my French was in the emails I sent (though I checked them like 5 times!). He was really easy to talk to, and I was just so happy with myself that I was actually speaking French and it was working and I wasn’t making (too many) mistakes! We got to his house and met his family and they were just as wonderful! They were all really happy and excited that I was there and were so welcoming. I met his wife, Souad, and they have 5 kids (!) David – 19, Nina -18, Sara – 14, Eva – 11, and Samuel – 7. I’m going to be primarily tutoring Eva, and I’m going to be helping her with her homework in all subjects – math, science, geography, reading, and history. She’s in an all English school now, and I think reading is the most difficult subject for her (which I totally understand, that’s what happens when you study another language).

Leah and I at Morrison's

And I’ll also spend a little bit of time each week with Sara, just have like an hour of conversation with her and explaining any grammar she doesn’t understand. So, we worked out that I will be tutoring on Tuesdays from 6-7:30 and on Fridays from 3:30-6:30. Fridays isn’t the most ideal since I would have preferred to have Friday afternoons to jump start traveling, but it will be so worth it. AND he’s going to pay me! I would do it without pay just because it will be such a good experience, but I definitely appreciate the extra euros (15 E an hour!!!!!). SO PUMPED. It all just works so perfectly – the bus picks me up right outside school and takes me to only a few blocks away, they’re really excited to have me – Franck said I could even stay for dinner after the lessons!!!! I am so happy about that, and so excited that I will be able to spend time with a real French family! Could this get any better?? I think not! I think this whole experience will really enrich my time here and make it more like I was hoping it would be – really connecting with the culture.

Just look at that backdrop! Antibes

I just had my first lesson on Friday with both Sara and Eva and this coming week will be my first full week of tutoring. I was happy that the first lesson went well. I walked to their house instead of taking the bus since it was so nice out and I figured I should familiarize myself with that area of the city a little more. Again, they were very warm and welcoming to me. I even got my first taste of home-cooked French food – a piece of apple pie that was delicious! My hour with Sara went very well – her English is pretty good and explaining the grammar was easy. The time with Eva was a little different since we covered more subjects, but overall it went quite well, and her English is very good for her age. I only felt bad when I had to explain math – my least favorite subject when I studied it, and I haven’t done math in a few years! I understood the problem and how to get the answer, but I had a very roundabout way of explaining it. I hope she understood like she said she did! I’ll have to work on my math explanations. I left a little earlier than we had scheduled since Eva was very tired after a several-day field trip with her school, and I took a nice long walk home by the beach.

I didn’t do a lot this weekend – went out to our favorite pub, Morrison’s, on Friday as a little goodbye for some friends who left the Collège yesterday. Saturday, Mickey and I headed into Cannes to do a little shopping – he bought some things for Christmas gifts, and I bought some scarves! The weather is getting a little chilly on some days, plus scarves are très chic here and will dress up my plain black sweaters. I also got to spend some time chatting with Karl – appreciated and enjoyed every minute of it! And, even though it’s October, the weather is still gorgeous! I even spent a few hours on the beach today :)

Otherwise, my classes have been taking up most of my time. Like I’ve said before, we virtually have no homework here (it’s a joke compared to what we have to do for homework at CSBSJU), but we have really long class periods so we’re in class a lot. We still have class on Mondays and Wednesdays for Beth’s class (our prof from CSBSJU) and her class is on the French Revolution. We are playing a game in class that has to last 6 class periods (only 4 left to go, thank goodness) where we are each a historical character from the Revolution. Some of us have names (like Mickey is King Louis XVI, and Evans is Layafette) and some of us don’t, but all of us have our own agenda and ideology. We each have a little packet that tells each of us our game objectives…and my character is a Jacobin (leader of the Jacobins was Maximilian Robespierre) so I’m pretty radical left and don’t want anything to do with the king and believe we can establish our own system of government.

strike a pose!

The game situation is that we’re at the critical point of the Revolution where we are in the middle of writing the new Constitution and all of us are able to “rewrite” history if we wish – we don’t have to do things according to what actually happened. It is a good idea for class (because unfortunately you actually have to READ and know wth you’re talking about) but it makes class so stressful and intense! We’ve had 2 sessions of the “National Assembly” where we debate parts of the proposed constitution and it just gets really intense since there are people with really incompatible ideologies. in addition to the meetings, we have to write newspapers  that talk about our views of what’s happening. I’m the editor of my group’s newspaper, so Tuesday night i was up til about 1:30am compiling everything, thinking, “Well THIS feels more like CSBSJU.” I’m glad there’s only 4 more class periods left and we can have a less stressful class again.

Leah, Me, Shawn, Evans

Tuesdays and Thursdays I have Societe Francaise, with Sylvie my grammar teacher, and Wednesdays I have Cinema class.  We filmed most of it our female-version-of-“The Hangover” movie yesterday, and have a few more scenes to film next week. Then, this coming Wednesday we’ll compile and edit everything. It’s only going to be about a 2 minute movie, and I’m sure we will put it up on youtube so everyone can watch it. Wednesdays are really long for me because I’m literally in class all day, from 9am-7pm. On the flip side, no homework but still, 9 hours of class in one day is too much.

The harbor in Antibes

And, theater has finally started! It’s actually not so much rehearsal time right away – but I think we will still have to rehearse more once the actual show comes closer. The director, Patrick, is also the director of the college, and he writes the play every year, and writes in parts according to our French ability. So far he’s only given us the first 4 scenes – he’s  still writing and rewriting the rest of it. The story is about these 4 roommates, and they kind of stumble along this elixir that will make you tell the truth. My character’s name is Sophie, and she’s the mean and self absorped roommate. I don’t mind playing a mean character though – those characters are more fun to act!  I’ve only had one real rehearsal so far, and Patrick just kind of tells us how to say the lines – it’s hard right now to read the lines and tell what kind of emotion he’s going for, so it’s helpful when he just tells us! The play is less about our acting, and more about improving our French – pronunciation, enunciation, projection, and intonation. So, I should be speaking wonderfully when the play is finished!

Leah and I on the terrace at the Picasso Museum

Other than that, I’m still trying to plan a few more trips. Some friends were planning to go the Loire valley and see all the marvelous chateaux this coming weekend, but it’s just not going to work out for me. Since I couldn’t leave until late Friday night or Saturday morning because of tutoring, it just would be too expensive for the actual time spent there. Instead, I’m planning to visit Monaco this coming weekend, which will be nice. I’m going to make a full day’s trip out of it, so I’ll see the castle, the Ferrari dealership and the casino, Monte Carlo. It should be a good trip! I’m really going to try to set up a trip to Cinque Terre for the following weekend, though finding train tickets has been difficult. I think I’ll stop by the train station sometime on Tuesday to talk to someone there about it, because the website is very confusing. And, I’m a step closer to finalizing my trips to Paris and London to meet up with my friend Kate. Can’t wait for all this traveling! :)

Love to all at home!

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I had 2 really amazing days this past week – a kayaking excursion on Thursday and a trip to the Gorges du Verdon on Saturday! On Thursday, 7 other people in my group and I headed out to Palm Beach for some kayaking on the Mediterranean. We had a guide, named Adrion, who paddled along with us and made sure we were going the right way! He didn’t speak much English, but we managed to communicate pretty well. Shawn and I shared a kayak, and we paddled toward the Iles des Lerins – we stopped at a beach on Sainte-Honorat for some swimming and then paddled over to Sainte-Margarite. We explored the island a little bit – it was absolutely beautiful! And it was so nice to be out and the weather was perfect.

Our troubles started on the way back. We had already been out for about 4 hours and we were starting to get hungry and the sky was getting cloudy. We started to head back, but it was much more difficult this time! The waves were much bigger and the wind kept blowing us off course. Poor Regina and Leah capsized under a huge wave! Luckily, they can both swim well and didn’t lose anything too important to the sea! We all made it back fine – sore, exhausted, and hungry but all agreed it was a blast and definitely worth it! :) Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my camera, so I don’t have any pictures.

My second adventure was to the Gorges du Verdon. The Collège organized this trip, and Leah and I went along with about 20 other people on a bus. The bus made its way through the tiny winding roads for 3 hours up to the Gorges – a recipe for motion-induced nausea for me, so I was very thankful that I had taken motion-sickness meds before getting on the bus. In any case – the stomach-churning bus ride was worth it for the amazing views of the Gorges! Leah and I had a picnic lunch before we headed down to the lake, Lac-Sainte-Croix.

We rented a kayak and headed down the lake onto the river and into the Gorges. It was absolutely amazing! The Northern Minnesotan in me was so happy – it was incredibly peaceful and so refreshing to be out in nature and away from the glitz of Cannes. Who would have guessed I could find this in France, especially the Cote D’Azur? We kayaked for about an hour and a half, paddling with no rush, and taking the views. It was so difficult to get a picture that really appreciates how massive the Gorges are.

Look down to the bottom of the picture and you can see some people. This picture only somewhat appreciates how big the Gorges are!

After the peaceful trip down the river, we headed to the nearby village, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. It’s a very small town that is naturally divided by a small stream and a little waterfall, and it’s known for a particular kind of ceramic made there. It was very relaxing to wander through this village without an agenda, and to sit back and appreciate the blend of nature and history. Leah and I hiked all the way up to a tiny church near the top of the Gorges, and we could not stop taking pictures of the amazing views!

Other than that, I have been settling into life here more and am getting used to the routine and slow pace of life. Another horde of Americans arrived the other day (about 40 students, who will be here for 2 weeks) so the school feels definitely American-dominated right now! I am starting to get a little more homework for classes, but I don’t mind because it is nothing compared to the normal workload back at St. Ben’s. I am excited for this weekend – we will leave on Friday morning for our tour of Provence! We will be visiting Arles, Avignon, Pont-du-Gard, and Les Baux. I can’t wait!

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Bonjour!

I’m in France!! That was my first thought of the day as I woke up this morning in my dorm room…I’m actually here! I’m finally in France!

After about 15 hours of travel, I arrived in Cannes to find some of my group members waiting for me! A driver shuttled us to the College International de Cannes, where we are living and will be taking classes. Cannes is beautiful!! Palm trees, sunny, stucco buildings with terracotta roofs, and the gorgeous Mediterranean Sea :) Once we reached the college, we found our rooms:

Half of my room - my bed and one of the desks...There are 2 beds, 2 desks, a couple closets and a sink. I will have a French roommate beginning in September.

The view from my bedroom! That is the courtyard of the College - and if you look through the palm trees, you can see the Mediterranean!

My first view of the Mediterranean! There's the harbor in the background and there are mountains on the opposite end of the beach

We only had enough time to set down our bags before we headed out to see the beach and explore Cannes! The beach is wonderful – and only a two minute walk from the College. It was challenging to stay awake after all the travel and jet lag, but we all managed to stay awake until about 10:30pm or so – about 3:30pm back at home!

Today was our first full day here, and we ventured out into Cannes to buy some

The city of Grasse in the background

essentials (shampoo, soap, etc) before brunch. After brunch, we took the city bus to Grasse, a nearby city that is famous for perfume. We had a tour at the Perfumerie Fragonard, and took our time wandering through Grasse.

When we returned, we took a dip in the Mediterranean – very refreshing! Overall, a great first day here and I’m so excited that I’ll be here for 4 months!! There is so much to do and learn! I have not been speaking French very much yet…it was a little overwhelming trying to respond in French while I was so jet-lagged.

I will write again soon (with a little more detail – sorry!) when everything starts to settle down, but until then – à bientôt !

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I can’t believe it’s already here. The Big Day.

Tomorrow.

The last few days have been busy – trying not to forget something important, saying goodbyes, and packing like a maniac! So far I’ve managed to stuff everything into my 55L backpack and carry on – but it’s still a tight squeeze. Have I always had this much stuff??

It’s still not real yet. And reality probably won’t sink in until I land in France, settle in, and slowly realize “oh yea, I’ll be here for 4 months…” I’ve been preparing for study abroad for so long that it’s a bizarre feeling to finish preparing, and just be ready to leave….

J’ai hâte, mais aussi, je suis un peu nerveuse. Je serai en FRANCE – et je dois parler en français. Je ne suis pas prête pour parler en français tous le temps…mais je n’ai pas de choix ! Et pour cette raison, je suis confiante que j’apprendrai rapidement. Mais alors, je suis prête pour mon voyage ! Ce sera une grande aventure de ma vie…

Click here to check out my first story for The Lost Girls! :)

Am I nervous?

A little.

Excited?

Incredibly.

Ready for this crazy journey to begin?

Absolutely.

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ten days.

I am now only 10 days away from the craziest year of my life.

What am I getting myself into?

For those of you who don’t know what’s going on, here’s a brief overview:

  • I’m about to spend my junior year of college studying abroad. I’ll be in Cannes, France from August until mid-December, and I’ll be in Kolkata (Calcutta), India from December until May.
  • While in France, I’ll take classes and live at the College International de Cannes with 10 fellow CSB/SJU students. All of my classes will be in French, and I’m even going to be in a play! When I’m not in class, I’ll travel around France and the rest of Europe, drink a lot of wine, sample a wide variety of cheese, and soak up some of that Mediterranean sun. Life will be rough, I know.
  • I’ll be back home in Minnesota in the middle of December, and will be home for about 2 weeks, just long enough to be home for Christmas. Shortly after Christmas, I’ll head to India.
  • While in India, I’ll live in Kolkata with a host family and attend St. Xavier’s College with 12 other CSB/SJU students. My classes there are not necessarily linked to my majors, and I’ll learn about Indian history and culture, Indian literature, and the Bengali language and culture (Bengali is one of the main languages in Kolkata).
  • One of my classes in India will involve volunteering at Loreto Day School, where we will work with the “rainbow kids,” who are underprivileged children, typically from the nearby slums, and attend the school for free.
  • The details for India are still yet to be confirmed, as I am going on the first semester-long trip! In any case, I should be back home in Minnesota in early May 2011.
  • Throughout my travels, I will also write some stories for The Lost Girls, a travel website for women. I will post the links to those upcoming stories on this blog.

(Et aussi, pour mes amis qui peuvent lire français, j’espère avoir une petite partie de chaque blog post en français ! J’ai besoin de pratiquer et maintenir mon français durant mon voyage, et ça sera très utile, spécialement quand je serai en Inde ! J’espère que je ne fais pas beaucoup d’erreur)

I’m only 10 days away from beginning this amazing year! Stay tuned…

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