Monday, April 8, 2013

Mont Sainte Victoire


Sorry it's taken me so long to write! Yesterday I climbed Mont Sainte Victoire just outside of Aix. The hike took about 5 hours total with a small break for lunch. It was an incredibly beautiful day and a beautiful mountain. Everyone we came across was extremely kind and most people said Bonjour! as we passed, contrary to their usual unfriendlyness. There were many older people on the trail one couple we saw on the summit must have been about 80 years old.  There were also a lot of dogs and children which makes me think that families just go up the mountain for an afternoon hike and lunch.

 Lake Bimont at the base of the mountain

Today I went to a small lecture in the afternoon with a special guest speaker who was part of the French Resistance from 1940-1944 during World War II. His name is Monsieur Jacques Dodeman and he used to forge identification documents in Toulouse when he was 14. He bought cardboard for the backs of the cards and stamped the cards with stamps from different towns that already been destroyed so the owner could not easily be questioned. People needed new identification cards after Germany had occupied France in 1940 for many different reasons including if they were Jewish or if they were a boy over 18 since they could deported to Germany for work. He talked of a young man named "Fri-Fri" who stayed in his apartment from time to time and would leave at night to bomb different buildings that the Germans were using in Toulouse. Later M. Dodeman discovered that Fri-Fri was working for the "special operations unit" that Churchill had secretly put together. M. Dodeman said that he forged maybe about 500 identification cards over those four years and he hopes that maybe he saved a few lives. It was a beautiful lecture and I feel so lucky to be in France and hear from him first hand.



Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Je ne care pas


I've spent the past couple weeks being slightly depressed about my french skills or lack of. And so, I've decided that I really don't care if I say things wrong anymore or I say things in "Frenglish". I'm just going to go for it because I'm tired of being stressed that something will come out wrong. Honestly, everything I say comes out a little wrong.

One night last week my host mom had her friend over for dinner. They were having a nice little conversation about where they used to work together and I didn't really have much to add. Then we started talking about the weather so I could chime in. The friend then proceeded to ask Arlette questions about me and Arlette would answer for me. I would then turn to the women and ask her a question to keep the conversation going and again she would pose her question to Arlette has if I wasn't there. HELLO I UNDERSTAND YOU. Let's not skip over the American just because her French is slower than you'd like. Sorry for the inconvenience, let's have a little patience people.

Today the School of Political Science next to IAU was hosting a blood drive. I would have loved to donate but I don't exactly think I would be allowed me being American and all. Anyway, in the little waiting area outside in the square the school had set up a place for food and relaxing. So after you give blood you could sit down, have a snack and smoke with your friends. Yup that's right. Smoke after you give blood. I think there was even some hamburger grilling going on at one point. It made for an interesting scene.

It's my favorite time of day, dinner time! Alas, I must run.

Until next time,


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Barcelona Part Dos

Hola again,

My second weekend in Barcelona was jam packed with adventure. I can't decide what I liked best or what was the most interesting. High on my list would be the Sagrada Familia Cathedral and the Barça soccer game. Just walking around in 60 degree sun was the best gift of all.

During my trip I learn a bit about the politics of Catalunya, the province where Barcelona is located. This area of Spain wishes to be its own country, they have their own language called Catalan (which is kind of a mix between Spanish, French and Italian). At the soccer game no Spain national anthem was played and all of the commentary was done in Catalan. There were political chants of independence sporadically through out the game as well. And apparently, the Barça team has its own soccer camp that trains players from the age of 13. They are practically bred to play soccer.

Here are some pictures of my trip (more are on facebook). The fountain show in front of the museum of art (below)

 My new favorite dream car. Ford Cobra
 Just chillin with a Ferrari

Stained glass windows of Sagrada Familia (above)

 Sadgrada Familia (above)

 The Olympic Stadium and the Barça Stadium

Adios amigos

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Barcelona Part Uno


Barcelona was an excellent place to be last weekend. It was so much warmer than I am used to in Aix. Tess and I actually sat on the beach with the palm trees for quite awhile. The city is very international so we didn't really interact with my locals and we didn't need French or Italian since the employes of any restaurant or store speak at least three languages.

Funny little story: I don't ever use a metro system since I don't live in a city that has one. Alas, navigating the system in Barcelona was pretty challenging at first and not speaking any Spanish didn't help. Barcelona's metro system is actually straight forward and logical compared to many other cities. Looking back now, it was a fun cultural experience to know what I was doing or how to ask for help.


The hotel we stayed at was very cute. The hanging plants and the view of the locals out our window  added to the Spanish charm of the place.

My grilled squid dinner that I had at a restaurant called La Poma on La Rambla
 Some really awesome fruits at the market. I think they are native to Spain. They taste a bit like kiwi mixed with strawberry. At the markets there were all sorts of dried hams, spices and of course lots of seafood. (see facebook for more pictures)

There is a lot of Gaudi architecture in Barcelona and I was lucky enough to see some of it in the Gueil Park. It's a mixture of gardens and buildings with mosaic elements on the hill of El Carmel in the Gràcia district of Barcelona.



Florence was an incredible city. I'm glad that I chose to do two cities during winter break instead of three or four. There is a lot to see in Florence rain or shine.

Florence is truly a city of art and old old history. Older than I can really wrap my head around since the Roman history isn''t relevant to my life most of the time. Needless to say my favorite part of the trip was seeing The Birth of Venus by Botticelli and Michelangelo's David.  And yes, I know that's a little cliché but these works are the most famous for a reason. They were beautiful and perfect beyond belief. And SO BIG. When I saw the Mona Lisa at the Louvre a few years ago I was shocked by just how small it was. So I was surprised that these masterpieces were so grand.

The food was excellent. I have come to like goat cheese and olive oil. I'm not sure how I'm going to live without them when I return home. The gelato was even better than I ever thought ice cream could be. The best kind of pasta would have to be gnocchi, an egg shaped pasta that is made with a mix of pasta and potato.

The fake David outside of the Uffitizi (below)

 The view from the top of the Duomo
 The river Arno

 Inside the Duomo

Friday, February 22, 2013

Marseille and my week


Even though I only spent a few hours in Marseille I'm excited to go back. When I was there last weekend I saw the markets, the port and the fish market. I would really love to go back and see the fort and Notre Dame - Marseille, which is up on a hill overlooking the city.

 Frenchmen playing Boule in Jordan Park in Aix

 My elephant friend in Marseille
 The fish market. Some lobster from Marseille! Each fishermen was lined up on one side of the port with his fresh catch right off the boat. They were cleaning and cutting the heads off the live fish as they sold them
 Sailboats in the harbor of Marseille

The fort from the opposite side of the harbor

Today, my french class and I went to Aix's library called Cité du Livre. We saw some beautiful books from medieval ages and newer. We also got to see the original declaration that was posted in Aix when the treaty with the United States was made during World War II. The library has many different genres of knowledge. There is a video library and an art library as well within the same building. The building itself is an old train station as you can see from the architecture that has been adapted to function as a library.

Another cultural adventure happened today. The fridge stopped working and so Arlette called up her neighbor to come look at it. Apparently, electricians and plumbers are very hard to come by in France because none of the young people what to take up those professions. So this little old french guy comes over and pulls the fridge out of the wall and starts trying to plug it into every plug he can find. As far as I could tell, the fridge worked in the oulets on one wall but not the wall it needed to work on yet the microwave was working on all the walls. So no one know what's going on. Watching my host family handle a petit crises was such an interesting experience for me.

In my creative writing class on Monday, we went to Vendôme park to write and observe. It used to be the home of the Duke of Vendôme's mistresses in 1665 but now it has been turned into a museum and public area.

Shout out to Tess! I can't wait to go to Florence in two days!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013



I know I haven't written in over a week so you all must be dying. Last weekend my friend Mike from UNH came to visit me in Aix and Marseille. He is studying abroad is Barcelona and wanted to see a bit of France. We spent all of Saturday walking around Aix and eating French pastries. My favorite is Mille Feuilles, which means 1,000 leaves. I wrote a whole paper on it for creative writing because I was so moved (below)

I am beginning to realize that Aix is a bigger city than it feels. It is very safe but I didn't realize 100,000 people lived here. I've really only seen the downtown area of it because I live so close to the school. It was nice to get out and go to the parks or just sit and eat a crepe on a street I had never been before.

My new favorite TV show is Les Ch'tis à Las Vegas. Just hysterical. It's just like Jersey Shore except with French people in Las Vegas. Gotta love terrible TV. I have no idea what they are saying most of the time but I can usually just guess based on content.

One of my favorite things to do is eat out at a restaurant (or just eat). I love trying a new dish or dessert. I had duck yesterday for lunch and it really did taste like chicken. Just juicier so you probably wouldn't like it so much if you're a-strictly-white-meat kinda person. My American friends and I like to have dinner together occationally but usually there is a little problem with our check. In europe, you don't ask for separate checks so we have to work out the payment together. Somehow we have always end up getting what we think is the wrong change. I don't know if it's because we are obviously American or we just don't know how to count (very possible). It has been a petite problem.

More on Marseille when I get the pictures!


Monday, February 11, 2013

Everyday Life


NERD ALERT. I'm going to talk about my classes so if you're not interested or don't want to hear me gush about how great all my books are then feel free to stop reading.

I am taking four classes, two in English and two in French. My favorite would have to be French Civilization, even though the entire class is in French, I really enjoying straining and pushing my focus every second for that hour and a half. Last week we briefly cover some of France's history and culture by identifying clichés. Now we're digging into French politics, which I must admit I wasn't all that excited for but I realized it's the debating and lying part of politics that bothers me, not so much the systems themselves. Anyway, France has somewhere around 12 political parties with all different viewpoints and shades of gray. Their left party (gauche) is similar to the American Republican party in that they believe in big government and not a lot of change or taxes. BUT the left party is ALSO all for social progression and reform like gay marriage for example. They are also called the "socialist" party. Confusing. The opposite side (reminder: nothing is completely opposite), or the right party, is for the states and adores taxes but with social issues they are against change. The only thing everyone seems to agree on is abortion. Everyone is pretty much okay with it. STRANGE since that's a hot topic in the states. Once you understand the parties, during the election, France has somewhere between 10 and 22 candidates. Yup. Enough on that topic.

So the next class I have in French is Advanced French II. It's terrible. Right now we are reading articles in magazines or newspapers and then the whole class discusses and debates about them. This is all fine and dandy if your French speaking ability is great -- mine's not. The last time I took French was a year in and a half ago. It was a very hard class so yes, I know a lot and I've been taking French for a long time but because it's been so long I don't remember how to speak. The only thing I've got going for me is that my vocab is better than most people but I can't put a sentence together correctly...

Classic Literature is just what it sounds like. We read books like The Odyssey and Herman Melville's Billy Budd etc. and I have a crazy wack professor who wears glasses with one circle lens and one square. He spends most of the class going off on different stories about religion or philosophy. ZZzz

And lastly Creative Writing. It's not my forte. I like the professor a lot and so far, she has really explained writing in a way that I can understand what I need to do. That whole "doing" thing isn't quite polished yet. We write for twenty minutes and each class and we are starting to edit some of the drafts that we have created. Maybe by the end of the class I'll produce something that is worthy of sharing..yeah probably not! On the bright side, we have talked a lot about France itself and the people here in Aix and we're going to the THEATER to see The Wizard of Oz in March. That's how the professor won my heart.

Here are some pictures of my everyday life in Aix.

Happy 93rd Birthday to my Nana!

This is my room:
                                                                                        The stuffed tomato dinner we had last night:
 My cute little terrace attached to my room

 Brick design in the middle of the road close to my school leading into downtown

The doorway on the far right leads to a staircase and to Salle Lynch where I have Creative Writing on Mondays and Wednesdays.

 The library from the doorway

 Another building where I have Classical Literature on Tuesdays and Thurdays (below)

 ^ This is the lounge/lobby of some of the professors offices

 The Institute for American Universities (right) This is the main building of the university on la rue de Bon Pasteur. I have both of my French classes in the main hall.

^ The French Political Science University next door to the American University.

 A small road (chemin) on my way home from school (left).

The Cathédrale Sainte Sauveur across from my university (right).

The avenue where I live ^