- Chantez et vous trouverez votre chanson -

Life isn't about finding yourself.  Life is about creating yourself.
     -George Bernard Shaw

It is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves- in finding themselves.
      -Andre Gide

Friday, September 19, 2008

French Lesson of the Day

Ohhh the mistakes we make when speaking in a foreign language.

Last night I got together with a new friend in Paris that I had emailed earlier this week. He was a lot of fun and we had a great time. We met at the Centre Pompidou for drinks on the top floor at the outdoor lounge and then went to dinner at Chez Chartier, a well-known Parisian cafe where they write your order on the tablecloth...reminded me of The Italian Oven (but French-style). Anyone else remember that place? It was like, my favvvv restaurant when I was 9 years old.

He knows how to speak English, and I know how to speak French, so it was a good match and we switched back and forth all night between the two languages. Once we were a few drinks deep and comfortable with one another, he explained to me that the email I originally sent him was a little innneresting. See, at the end of the email, after explaining who I was (a good friend of his friend) and that I would be in Paris from such-and-such dates, I said the following sentence: "J'ai pensee que nous nous rencontrons pour un cafe ou aller au restaurant/lounge, etc. quelque apres-midi ou nuit bientot." Loosely translated to mean, I was hoping we could get together for a coffee or drinks/dinner one afternoon or night soon.

The problem is that in English, the words "evening" and "night" are basically interchangeable, but in French, "soiree" (evening) means one thing, and "nuit" (night) means something very different, haha. In other words I sounded like a dime store hooker!!

I'm so glad I sent basically the same email to all of my friend's friends in Paris (sarcasm). Just fab. I'm like the foreign exchange student in Can't Hardly Wait... "Would you like to touch my penis? I am a sex machine!"... no idea that I was saying something bad.

Ohhh, you live in a foreign country and you learn. :)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

TOPLESS! and other independent French woman things...

Ahhh Nice, how I love you.  Nice (pronounced like "niece" for all you uncultured folk out there, ha), is in the south of France along the Mediterranean Ocean and one of the main cities of la Cote d'Azur, or the French Riviera... meaning it's gorgeousssss.  And, Nice happens to be near the Italy border, so throughout the town, and especially in Vieux Nice (the old quarter), both French and Italian are spoken, and the food is a yummy mix of French and Italian influence (my two favorite kinds!).

I hopped on a train in rainy and chilly Paris (not without many lines, questions and struggles to figure out the best travel deal for my time in France and Europe), and arrived five hours later in paradise.

I became independent in Nice.  I bought a single train ticket and booked hostel arrangements one day before, hopped on a TGV train, and went to a city I had never visited without knowing a soul in town.  

I did things I had never done before... I ate my first meal out at a restaurant by myself, which has previously kind of terrified me.  I don't like walking into bars by myself, even to meet up with people, let alone sit through a 3 course meal alone.  I think deep down I feel like everyone is looking at me thinking, "Oh look at her, she's a loser that can't find anyone to have dinner with," when in reality I just need to realize that people don't care that much about my life, haha.  I see French women sitting by themselves at cafes all the time, so I decided to embrace the moment and be French.  I brought a book along, ordered from the prix fixe 3 course menu, relaxed and ate a great Nicoise meal.  It was... quiet.  Quiet but pleasant, and not nearly as terrifying as I thought it would be.

Speaking of being French, I went topless, too! ;)  It took me a day and a half to work up the courage, but I decided to be free on my last day at the beach and whipped my top off to give the "girls" a little Mediterranean sun, too.  Too bad it was windy and a little cloudy... I ended up leaving the beach only maybe 20 minutes or a half hour later.  But I still did it!!

Nice was also my first hostel experience.  Not so bad.  I stayed at Hotel Baccarat: a 5 minute walk from the train station, and about a 15-20 minute walk through town to the beach.  It was a plain room with 3 bunk beds and a small bathroom, and kind of reminded me of college freshman dorms.  And I even made friends!  Our last night, the group of guys and girls in our room went out to the bars together and I ended up swimming fully clothed in the ocean in the middle of the night.  Nothing like a good exit!  Our lovely bar night also ensured that the train ride back to Paris the next morning felt fantastic... complete with salty hair and a hangover.

I love summer, the beach, being young, and traveling... do I really have to go home at some point and find a job again?  What a downer, haha.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The One Week (and then some) Update:

What I learned (in short) from my first week in Paris:

The architecture in Paris is prettier than most American cities hands down...probably because most of it has been around longer than our country.  It's hard getting along in your second language, but rewarding when you realize you can get along.  In some ways, big cities are all alike in that they like to make your life difficult.  French creepy men just don't get the hint.  The kindness of strangers is a-maz-ing.

So, I've been out of the country for about a week...a little longer.  For the most part, I've stayed with a friend of a friend in Paris.  It was great because I avoided the touristy hotels and got the grand tour from a girl that has lived in Paris for years.  So what did I do?

Well, I poked around and got lost for the most part, haha.  But, that's okay.  That's why I plan to be here for almost two months.  

My first day, I walked around and followed the shadow of the Eiffel Tower until I found it.  

The second day, I passed out due to jet lag.  One day lost; whatever.  

The third day, I went running around the Champ de Mars (the park surrounding the Eiffel Tower), visited the Musee D'Orsay (finally!!) and saw the Sacre Coeur and Montmartre by night.  

During the weekend, I relaxed, walked around the markets, le Marche aux Puces (flea market!) and the Catacombes.  The Catacombes were eerie to say the least.  It was actually my third attempt to see the Catacombes, but I was very pleased to finally see them.   See, the first time I attempted the Catacombes was Summer 2005, when I did the summer study abroad program through good ol' SJU.  I took the Metro to the site only to realize they were closed on the day of the Fete de la Musique, a city-wide music festival every summer in Paris.  My second attempt, just one day before I actually made it (last week), I left too late and they capped the line before I could get to the gate at 4pm.  I was disappointed, but I made it the next day in plenty of time.  And, though it was super-touristy, I was to >thisclose< to femurs and skulls from the 18th century, and that's pretty damn cool.

And now?  Now, I'm in Nice, on the French Riviera, and loving every moment.  I leave tomorrow morning, but I wish I could stay here longer, and I wish it could be summer forever. Updates are soon to come :).

Thursday, September 4, 2008

I have arrived!

Bonjour mes amis!

I made it to France(!), but not without a few bumps along the way of course.  Traveling is never as easy as you'd like it to be.

I left my apartment in Queens on September 2nd at 1pm, and finally arrived at the apartment in Paris at 12 noon on September 3rd.  Whew it was a long trek. 

First leg of the journey was getting to Newark airport from Queens while hungover, fun times. My friend was nice enough to drive me and thank godd we didn't hit traffic.  Once by myself at the airport, my nerves fully kicked in, so I paced around a lot before finally deciding to take the plunge and go through airport security (no turning back now!).  

My flight was with Lufthansa (a good airline, I recommend it) and I had a quick layover in Dusseldorf, Germany.  Of course, as I'm beginning to realize every flight out of New York is, we were delayed on the runway for like, forever (number 19 to take off, ughhhhh), so as soon as I got off the flight in Germany, I had to book it to the next gate for my Paris flight, which was already boarding.  So, obvi, since I was in a rush, the customs line took forever and they decided to inspect my bag.  But, I made it in time and even had a seat in the emergency exit aisle (extra leg room, woo!).

Once at CDG, the airport in Paris, I had arranged for Paris Shuttle to pick me up and drop me off at the apartment.  In theory, it's really simple.  You set everything up before you leave online (www.parishuttle.com), and once you get off your flight, you call their toll free number from a pay phone in the airport and they tell you the meeting place for your van.  They pick up up to 6 people at a time and drop everyone off at their hotel and/or apartment.  In reality, it didn't work out so easily for me.  First, I couldn't find a pay phone and I was afraid they would leave without me.  Ha!  Once I got outside at the meeting point, 3 different van drivers passed up myself and a few other travelers claiming they were full and we didn't have reservations.  I waited about an hour before a van was able to take me.  Then, of course, I was the next to last to be dropped off, so I got to circle around Paris 4 times through traffic before arriving.

Then, oh then, there are the lovely quirks of old apartment buildings.  The friend of a friend that I'm staying with was already at work when I got here, so I was left to my own devices to get into her place.  I had difficulties opening the old door, which was embarrassing since the Paris Shuttle van decided to hover until I got in.  Once in, I had six flights of stairs to master with my 48 lb. suitcase, haha!  Somehow I made it to her floor, although I realized around the 3rd level that the railing was very shaky and I should absolutely not lean on it with my weight as I pulled my luggage unless I wanted to end up splattered below.  And the last obstacle...her front door. It almost got the best of me.  Tired, frustrated and absolutely exhausted, I could not get the door to open to save my life.  I had the key...but the door wasn't budging.  I didn't know what to do.  Tears started welling...

I worked up the nerve to knock on a neighbor's door one floor down, only to be barked at in French by some crotchety old woman to leave her alone.  I retreated to the entree of the building (left the luggage upstairs, though...no wayyy I was doing that climb again) and hoped for someone to walk in that could help.  A different neighbor offered me her cell phone and I was able to call my friend and get some advice on the door, and voila, it opened instantly of course.

So needless to say, traveling can be a lot of fun, but it is not always roses.  But, what can I say? I'm now here in Paris enjoying my life :) 

The apartment I'm staying in is right near the Eiffel Tower, so I plan to go on a bit of a jog soon around the Champ de Mars, the park surrounding the Eiffel Tower.  I actually got dressed and tried to head out about a 1/2 hour ago, but the main apartment door gave me trouble again, and I gave up for now, hahaha.  I really need to get a handle on these French doors, they are proving to be quite the contender.

I'll write more soon, hopefully once I've conquered the doors.  Ciao!