Saturday, May 26, 2012

Travel day

Took the 8:45 TGV train from Paris to Avignon.

The in-train magazine had an article interviewing Marion Cotillard about her work in De Rouille et d'Os, the movie i saw 2 nights ago. I read half of it and only understood about half of that.

Slept on the train

We visited Gordes, an middle-age village built with stacked stones and mostly no cement (pierres seches). Every little nook in that town is beautiful! I had to force myself to stop taking pictures so i could enjoy it. It's built on mountainous terrain, so the streets wind in every direction; it's really cool.

The foliage in Gordes was incredible; so many flowers and trees i'd never seen, and just naturally growing!

I've noticed that street signs use a different font than they do in the US. A subtle difference, but it throws you off a little bit. The number 9 looks a lit like a g, so '90' looks like 'go'. Also, in ads and flyers and things Im still seeing way to much use of Comic Sans. A church bulletin in Gordes, a metro station sign in Paris, and just business signs in general all have shown CS.

I like listening to kids speak as they walk by: they speak slowly with a limited vocabulary, so i can usually catch 100% of what they're saying.

Lots of churches have permanently sealed-off windows, for whatever reason. The Panthéon had that, but for an air of secularism. Idk why churches would have that. (PS although France is a secular republic, the church steeple in Barcelona is topped by a rooster, which i apparently a symbol of the republic).

Apricots are kind of a big deal here, and I don't mind.

There's a type of cookie called sablé, which literally means sandy, or sanded.

Maybe i'm just noticing it more here, but there are lots more language-neutral signs here. Instead of words, they'll use images. Like when leaving a city, the sign just has the city name with a red cross across it.

Recycle bins here are giant, like smart-car sized!

Toilettes don't have flush levers, they have flush buttons. Also the light switches are large and flat, and te lock-turners are smaller and rounder. Lots of little arbitrary differences.

Arrived in Ubaye Valley. Barcelonette is nicknamed "Barcelo."

We had dinner with some locals tonight, and I didn't have much to talk about w the old lady sitting across from me. She asked about my LSU shirt, which said "geaux lead retreat", and pronounced it like we would pronounce "joe", but with a softer 'j'. Explaining what leadership meant was difficult, but i said "le contraire de suivre." Not sure if she got it, but some other lady said that she recognized the word "leader" from the Tour de France.

We slept like groundhogs (french expression)!

Independent day in Paris

Catacombs, some italian restaurant, the Louvre

Saw the Catacombs with Hailey S, Mary, and Catriona. Liked it, if only b/c we could actually go inside and we had plenty of time to enjoy it! There were lots of femurs. A disproportionate amount, actually. Photography was difficult but luckily my camera goes to ISO 3200. Smiling in pictures next to human remains feels weird.

Another menu mishap at the italian restaurant for lunch: the daily specials were printed with a receipt machine, in all caps, so there were no accent marks, and I tried to order "pâtes de Champagne," while what it really was was "pâté du campagne." I'll take a little credit for that mistake. The paté was good anyway, and it came with moules and chocolate mousse, both good!

Took the metro to the Louvre by myself. Wasnt wearing bright colors for once, so I actually blended in w the natives! Two highschool-aged girls were making eyes at me on the train, and told me au revoir when I stepped off. My next train was mostly empty and this lady made eye contact with me. I asked her, "ça va?" to be polite, and she looked around as if to say, "who is this weird guy talking to?" awkward train rides ensues...

The Louvre was... hard to explore. From the underground ticket-buying area, all the Louvre entrances seemed to be marked 'Sortie'. I thought I was going crazy for a minute. I finally got in after the sassy french workers there told me that i was, in fact, standing right next to the entrance. I didn't bother mentioning the "sortie" signs.

After getting lost in the oriental history section, I figured I needed an audioguide, so I went back outside rent one. Apparently being an American student doesn't get you a student discount and being 20 doesn't get you a jeunes discount (au contraire des Catacombs).

It was a while before I saw any paintings. Lots of Egyptian/Greek/Sumarian/etc statues and relics. This giant column topper was really awesome; it took up half the room, an the diagram showed that there were hundreds of them in this old palace somewhere east of the Mediterranian. Must be a pretty giant palace! Mona Lisa was nothing special, Coronation of Napolean was pretty cool, and in general I was just excited any time I saw a painting that was different (i.e. not just another depiction of a Bible story).

Like in the cathedrals, I was just blown away by the sheer AMOUNT of art. It would take days just to glance at each item in the Louvre, much less learn what it's all about. And appreciating it all probably can't be done in one lifetime. Even the walls, the smallest corners in the edges of the puniest hallways all have intricate hand-carved designs in them. How? Why? No one in their right mind would have ever created anything like this museum, this city! The only explanation is egotistical or power-hungry emporers (notably Napolean, pharoahs, early Popes...) with practically unlimited power over their poor underlings.

The days seem longer here. Idk if that's from being farther north or what.

Tried a 1664 (beer brand); i give it a thumbs up.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sightseeing day 2 in Paris

La Sorbonne (université), le Panthéon, le Senat, Saint-Sulpice, Sacré Coeur, La Place du Tertre

I don't know why we went to La Sorbonne... We literally just stood in front of a building, and they said it' a university. Borrring!

I presented le Panthéon, which was bigger than it looked in pictures. Wish we had time to go inside...

Le Senat was also not Very exciting, but at least we got to sit in the breezy Luxembourg garden, in the shade.

We ate lunch at Pomme du Pain, which is kinda like Subway. I tried to order this little Strawberry-pie-looking thing, and the handwritten sign seemed to say Jarte: des Fraises. I had bever heard of jarte before, so I ordered it and got some funny looks. Apparently it really said "Tarte des Fraises" (literally "strawberry pie"). I felt stupid, but looking back at it the sign clearly said jarte, not tarte. Their fault, not mine!

Saint-Sulpice was like a smaller Notre Dame, but with this astrological obelisk thingy that was in the Da Vinci Code (an is surrounded by signs warning that the info in that book is totally wrong). I was surprised that such an anti-astronomy institution like the Chuch would have made something like that.

Sacré Coeur was more of the same, except you have to take more stairs to get to it. I felt a little bad touristing through this place where people were legitimately trying to pray. Also there is a gift shop literally inside the Church,; presumably where some pews used to be. Isn't there a bible story about Jesus hating this sort of thing?

Stained glass windows are impossible to photograph well without my good camera. Both my point-and-shoot and my iphone do exposure bracketing, but not by more than 1 stop in each direction.

La Place du Tertre is a little neighborhood/quarter/pickpocketville behind Sacre Coeur where they have a whole block full of really skilled artists selling paintings for around 100-150€, as well as way too many touristy postcard shops selling I-heart-Paris shirts. Hailey and I used our 40 min of free time to look for Montmartre's first vineyard. It wasn't much to see, but we found it. We also found a Salvador Dali museum (after getting a little lost), but had no time to go in. Oh well.

Moules Frites for dinner... The mussels were pretty good, but the fries were nothing special. I've found i really like goat cheese. Weird, huh? But it's really sweet and has a cool texture. Protip: if you want lots of food, have dinner with a group of 9 girls; none of them eat a whole plate, and leftovers go to the guys :)

Carla, Bernard, Haley and I saw "De Rouille et D'os" (literally "of rust and bone") at the cinéma after dinner. We didn't have a Pariscope so we had to run around to like 4-5 cinemas to find the soonest showing. The cinéma lobby had way more snack choices than an American one (e.g. Ice cream, serve-yourself Haribo candy, or sugared popcorn). But still expensive :\ The ads and previews were also quite different from those in the US. They felt campier, but idk if that's just bc the style is new to me. The ads are much more subtle and watchable, and the trailers have more variety (it's not all action movies and romantic comedy trailers narrated by the same voice). The Coca Cola ad ha a surgeon general's warning saying to only use it as a snack and not a meal, for the sake of your health. Carla said that's required for all non-meal food item ads. The film itself was very good (as I find most of the French films I see), but had about 4 too many paraplegic sex scenes (5-6 altogether). It had English songs in it (e.g. Katy Perry's "Fireworks", and some Bon Iver), as many French films do. Carla said that's a big avenue getting French people to learn English.

Also: unfortunately, Comic Sans exists here as well.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sightseeing day 1 in Paris

Fontaine de St Michel et Quartier Latin, Notre Dame, Centre Pompidou, the Louvre, and l'Arc de Triomphe, and le Tour Eiffel

We didn't go into the art museums, just Notre Dame and l'Arc de Triomphe.

My favorites: Notre Dame and l'Arc de Triomphe. Both are much bigger in person.

It's starting to sicken me that so much intricate, priceless art can be concentrated in one place (be it Notre Dame, the Louvre, or Paris in general, or France/Europe in general). From a steictly utilitarian viewpoint, the art would have more use if spread around... One cathedral doesn't NEED 40 stained glass windows, and a façade with thousands of statues, each of which could stand as a work on it own. Plus, nobody can walk through a single place an appreciate everything that is there; it's just beyond the limit of human comprehension. Just looking at the outside of the Louvre, there are so many statues that I can't imagine any single person knows or even cares about all of them. Of course, i'm not saying disassemble Europe, or DO anything for that matter; after all, isn't the absurdity herementioned a work of art in itself (and a pretty powerful one, too, to elicit such strong views from me).

I noticed some famous mathematician/scientist/engineer names written on the Eiffel Tower: Lagrange, Navier, Ampere, Legendre, Poncelet, etc. Bernard said these were the engineers who worked on the tower, so it's doubtful that the men they represent are the same as the men behind the famous names, but still, it's a neat coincidence. Also there were like 50 names... How many engineers did the Eiffel Tower take???

Boy, we walk a lot. Apparently if you can see it, you can walk to it, so everything is "juste à côté." my feet/legs/knees hurt!

I have not seen a single pickup truck in all of my walking (a lot) through Paris . Bernard said even in the countryside they are extremely rare, because it rains too much here (?). His more credible explanation was that European cars must be small to match the streets that were built before automobiles. The US, on the other hand, can build its streets to match whatever gigantic trucks the automakers churn out, b/c the roads were constructed after the incention of cars.

Took a night cruise along the Seine.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Première journée à Paris

Cab driver took us to our "youth center" (govt-funded hotel-ish thing which isn't technically a hotel or hostel), le FIAP. He complemented my French, and identified some french car brands for us: Citröen, Renault, and Peugot. Found out that "citron" is not a word used for cars that are 'lemons'. That'd be bad for Citröen...

Our first adventure out into Paris was a bit scary; i had so many things to worry about, and was prime pickpocket prey, especially on the métro, where i was still figuring out how to work the money belt.

Lunch: tartin chaud (champagnoise or something like that), with Côte du Rhône vin (1st alcoholic beverage that i legally purchased), and i sampled some fromages: camembert, bleu, saint ___, and _____.

Jardin du Luxembourg: they werent kiddin about French gardens bein rigidly geometric; some trees were even cube-shaped

Saw Notre Dame and le Panthéon; they look bigger in real life.

Mango ice cream

Almost all of our speech (~85%) is in French!

Finished the night off w a round of beers in the lobby

Monday, May 21, 2012

North Carolina airport

The market exchange rate is $1.28/Euro, but the airport rate is $1.46/Euro. Don't worry, i'm not that desperate (yet).

Also, in NOLa I saw a pretty heartbreakin scene of a family saying goodbye to a soldier. His daughter asked to come along, and his mother was holding back tears.


Airports are difficult enough in English

Had my passport checked 3 times bf realizing i was walking in a circle

Everyone i speak french to speaks English back to me

Was lost for an hour

My voltage coverter won't fit in the recessed outlets and the plug adapter keeps falling out

French military walking around with guns

Cell and data networks (airport wifi + "orange f") are showing up on my iphone but are unusable. ???? Très aggravant!

Waiting at Starbucks for mes copains

Edit: CDG airport wifi is pay-per-use apparently. c'mon, really?!?

Edit: 10am (3 hrs after arrival) finally got in contact with Taylor, whose flight was delayed. Julie still MIA.

À l'aeroport!

My suitcase weighs in at... 48 pounds! 2 more pounds and there would've been a fee.

Some kid wearing a helmet was screaming bloody murder for about an hour and a half while his guardian/caseworker was trying to drag him onto the plane, and some lady was having the most hilarious argument with an airline worker ("I just dropped 600 buckeroos on a flight..."). Ahh, airports...

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Printing issues (again)

The plan was to print my assignment(s) for the trip today, and with the abundance of available printers it shouldn't have been a problem.

But the library is under construction, my printer is out of ink, an our stupid wifi printer at home is a stupid wifi printer. Took a USB stick to Office Depot and got one doc printed but my Pantheon flyer was corrupted. Apparently my usb is a document killer b/c this happened to my paper and powerpoint a few days ago. Either that or Helvetica is corrupting my documents (does it do that?). Went back home, converted my Pantheon flyer to Arial, and emailed it to myself for printing in NOLa. Wish me luck.

Valise et sac-à-dos

C'est tout!