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Archive for February, 2012

À Perigueux

Hey there everyone, and greetings from Perigueux!

So, I finally got here last night, safe and sound, and the slightest bit tired.  Our train was supposed to leave at 2 yesterday afternoon, but instead it left an hour and a half late, making us miss our second train.  Thankfully, the French, although with terrible time-sense, are accommodating (well, most of the time…to French-speakers).  Three and a half hours later, we created a system of taking the bags off the train (there were about 40 bags in total), and we managed to do so in five minutes as opposed to 45 minutes, which is how long it took to get on the train.  Our second train was filled with butterflies in our stomachs, as Perigueux flashed on the screen as the final destination.  Those who weren’t nervous at all began to feel just the slightest bit worried.  It didn’t help that one of the bags up above, which I had helped put up, almost fell on a little girl.  Nor did it help that we were starving.  As the train stopped, we could see all our correspondants, mine being the first in the group.  I was welcomed by her and her parents, all of whom I couldn’t understand.  And so we left, 45 minutes to her house, at around 8:30 pm.  The ride was dark, and as she lives in the middle of nowhere, there were no buildings or anything around.  The cool thing is that I saw my first owl ever!  Of course it had to be in France, because that makes it so much better.  When we got to her house, I was totally expecting everything I saw.  The house is in the middle of the woods, with tens of hundreds of acres of land.  When I went inside, however, I was not expecting anything.  They have the most beautiful house I have ever seen.  It’s easy to tell that the family consists of artists, as various colors are spread out.  Their kitchen has defined red trees painted around, with various chair colors.  The rest of the walls are made of large white stones, and the upstairs (with steep stairs…eeeekk) has wooden panels up above from the ceiling.  I have to be careful to crouch when I walk upstairs, as the panels are rather low.  Most important of all, the smell of fireplace wood floats around in the air, and it’s such a refreshing smell.  I absolutely love it.

The family is of course tremendously nice.  Her younger brother is in his first year of English, as well as very talkative, so he insists on talking to me in English.  Her father tries to speak a bit of English for me, but honestly, I’m okay when they speak French.  My only problem is the speed at which they speak French.  The fact that they have an Indian correspondant is absolutely perfect, as there is such a great Indian influence on the decor of their house.  Cabinet panels are painted with scenes from India, created by Eleonore’s mother herself.  There are small temples of Ganesh and pictures scattered around the house.  And simultaneously, the outside makes me feel like I’m in Vermont.  All I see in today’s bright sunlight is rolling hills and lush plants.  On the 45 minute ride to Perigueux this morning, I felt like I was driving along the roads of Vermont.  In fact, Perigueux, in an odd way, reminds me of Burlington too.  The size is more or less the same, and although the buildings are old European ones, the quaintness of the town resembles where we live so much.  This, of course, makes me miss home a lot, but it helps that I’m here with 19 others who feel the same way.

We spent this morning at the Consule Generale, where I failed to understand even a single word of the Vice President.  Nevertheless, it was a time to catch up with all the French, and recreate our past friendships.  Later we head to Le Poivre Rouge, a restaurant that resembled Olive Garden slightly.  Finally, we head to the bowling alley, of all places, where I realized that all these years without bowling haven’t affected my game…I’m still terrible.  I did manage to get one strike, and end up in 3rd place on my 8-person team!  That’s how it’s done.

Right now, I’m back at Eleonore’s place, relaxing.  Tomorrow, I have to wake up at 5:45 to head out to Perigueux.  The entire group is taking a bus to Bordeaux, and spending the day there.  Although it’ll be nice and relaxing, we’re not getting back to Eleonore’s place until midnight or 1 am, or so.  But for the moment, it’s nice to sit down and just write.

We started yesterday off with a leisurely stroll around Paris, soaking in the last bits of this beautiful city.  My feet are personally dead, but yesterday was nice.  We head to a local market to grab lunch for the train ride (I got my usual baguette sandwich…mm mm mm!), and I made my last stop at the local grocery store, where I had managed to go every single day for one thing or another.  We said our final goodbyes to Francoise, our spectacular Paris tour guide for the trip, and forgave her for our feet sores.

I haven’t had time to blog about the days before.  But let’s see if I can go over the highlights.

Day 3, we head out to Versailles, which is obviously incredible regardless of the fact that I’ve seen it before.  Although I didn’t understand the rapid French of our tour guide, or the history in general, I really took in the architecture.  The main gates are made of real gold leaves, not paint, which is mind-blowing.  And the fact that kings and queens lived here is even more incredible.  There were many odd things that the royals would do.  One example: when the kings and queens would wake up, they would re-locate to the “public” bedroom in order to officially wake up in front of the public.  I thought this to be so bizarre, but I guess it’s because I’ve never personally seen a monarchy…

We continued onto the lush gardens of Versailles, extending out into the horizon.  My video blog shows all, so be sure to check that one out if you haven’t yet!  Francoise took us out to the back trails, where we strolled along a quiet lake, stopping to take pictures.  After the bustle of tourists, this serenity was amazing, and we continued on throughout the town of Versailles.

Later in the day, Francoise took us to an area around Bastille, where there were numerous boutiques with cheap clothing [unfortunately, we couldn’t go :(…..], to see the ugliest building in Paris.  This museum is constructed of tubes of different colors, so it looks like modern art, basically.  Unfortunately, it was ugly.  I did get to have my first crepe of the trip here, so the building became irrelevant soon.  Afterwards, we walked to our hotel for a little break.

Dinner on day 3 was at a cute restaurant on a street near our hotel, called Rue Mouffetard.  Most people tried Escargots for the first time, and I enjoyed mine for the second time.  We shared way too many laughs…so we couldn’t help being loud Americans.  But the night was spent in good company, with good food—and we spent the night talking and talking.

Day 4 was my dear, dear Louvre, which I enjoyed more than I had anticipated.  Yes, the Mona Lisa did give me the goosebumps I didn’t get before.  Even more than that, the mummy was frightening.  Actually everything is goosebump-worthy once you know the history of it.  There were a couple of pieces I particularly enjoyed, but our tour was far too short.  I got on the bad side of three random people, as I accidentally bumped into them and they gave me dirty looks.  I guess Parisians are not as quick at accepting apologies…

The rest of the day was spent shopping!  A couple of us looked around at a large department store called Printemps, and then headed to Rue Mouffetard.  Only getting to the road was difficult, as we had to take two trains.  After getting there, we walked for about 45 minutes, asking various people for directions on the way, before reaching the road.  But we realized what a small world it is during the walk.  A woman whom we asked for directions from asked us where we were from, and it turns out that her and her husband visited Vermont this summer!  I had difficulty understanding her, but we held a complete conversation, which was great.

Our last night in Paris was spent on a Bateau-Mouche, which means “Fly Boat”, as in it is a fly on water.  We happened to be stuck next to British boys who evidently had no respect for Americans, as many girls proceeded to flirt with them and they reciprocated with various jokes.  See, I don’t find myself to be an intimidating person, but one dirty look and I had them apologizing to me…but it was actually funny.  I just didn’t appreciate their narrow-mindedness. I mean, we have our jokes about the Brits, but we’re not about to say them to people we just met.  Plus, they were kind of ruining the beautiful ride.  We were on top of the boat, and you could see the sky, which unfortunately wasn’t clear.  Nevertheless, it was a magical trip.  I had bundled up, so I was thankfully not cold.  The Eiffel Tower glittered every hour, and we were lucky to see it numerous times.  For dinner, we celebrated two birthdays on our trip, with two substantial ages…18 and 60.  So all in all, it was a good day.  But we were all sad to see our last night in Paris crumble away.

So we’re back to Perigueux.  I managed to embarrass myself tremendously at dinner today.  First, I couldn’t get the salad on my fork.  Here, they usually cut their salad, so I tried it….but the entire family had fun watching me try to stuff an entire salad leaf into my mouth!  Second, I thought I knew my utensils, but I clearly don’t.  Nevertheless, they’re so nice about….yet, I’m still pretty embarrassed.  The food here in Southern France is definitely eccentric; they put cheese in everything.  That’s along with an entire course of cheese.  My eating capabilities are great, as you know, so I have no problem.  In fact, I noticed that I eat really fast, so I’m kind of working on that at the moment.

We’re heading to Bordeaux tomorrow, which is known for its wine.  Unfortunately, being underage and all, I can’t try any on the trip….but after Italy, I guess I don’t really like wine that much.  Hopefully I’ll keep updating!  [I have two more video blogs, but Youtube isn’t letting them upload…so I’ll work on it!]

À bientôt!

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Video Blog #2

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Oh Hey Paris

It feels so wonderful to be back in Paris, as all the memories are still imprinted in my mind.  But the start has been quite a rough one…and this will be quite a long post.

We stepped off our plane at 2 am VT time, me struggling with my massive handbag (overpacked–what’s new in that).  As we walked out with our tour guide, Francoise, we were told that the tour of Paris was about to start.  No hotel for us.  Frustrated and hungry, we embarked around Paris.  Most of us fell asleep in front of all the sights, unable to enjoy….like me….and others tried to stay awake.  The thing about teenagers, and traveling in general, is that the only way to stay energized is to move around.  Nevertheless, our wish came true as we arrived at the hotel, a cute little place.  Our freedom started as we were able to choose our own lunch destinations, though most of us chose the café across from the hotel.  20 American students, loud and obnoxious, walking in and asking for sandwiches in terrible French…is a bad idea.  We had fun, though…we were energetic and ecstatic to be in this beautiful city.

Paris, though I’ve been here before, as managed to surprise me in many ways.  For one, I’m seeing the city in such a different perspective than before.  Buildings look different, though I’ve seen it all before.  And because of this, everything is as amazing as the first time.  In fact, it feels like a movie.  As Edith rolls through my headphones (like I had said), and the Eiffel Tower breezes by, it’s like being in a typical French movie.  Every time I hear sirens, it reminds me of the Pink Panther….even more, smart cars remind me of that.  Someone on our bus said Paris resembles D.C., which is actually a perfect description.  It’s a more ancient and unique D.C.

After settling in the first day, we went out to the Notre Dame.  I’m not a big architecture fan.  I mean, it was definitely wonderful, but my exhaustion was dominant.  Our group of 20 students met together after Notre Dame, with our chaperones lost in the architectural beauty.  But the efficiency and closeness of our group has helped us tremendously.  As the day moved on, we walked to the flower market, and then to Montmartre, the art district.  The interesting thing about a large and close-knit group is that we make a powerful voice.  There is nothing more powerful than 20 whining teenagers…nothing at all.  Anyways, we were so tired that we really couldn’t whine that first day.  So we moped along the metro, clutching our purses (there was an incident about this…read ahead) and off to Sacre Coeur, a famous church on a hill that is French for “Sacred Heart”.

The last time I was in Montmartre, it was about 100 degrees and I was not happy.  But this time, I was tired, so I don’t think I could enjoy it too much either.  In the midst of miscommunication, we had to sprint up the million stairs with the impression that we were in a rush, when there was an elevator up the hill simultaneously.  Let me remind you that this was still the first day.

Before climbing up the hill, we ran into the first Parisian experience of the trip.  I was walking from the various souvenir shops when I saw a lot of our students in a group, listening to a bunch of the sellers on the street as they tied bracelets on their wrists.  Immediately, we realized the scam of the deal.  “It’s a gift from me to you!” really meant give us your money.  Before I could escape, one of them caught up to me, trying to cajole me into his scam for friendship bracelets.  As I literally fought off this scammer with my bag tightly held to my chest, and the support of my friends, I realized they hey, I can be strong.  In fact, it was ultimately my fierce voice and threat to walk away without paying that made him take off the bracelet.  Tip for scammers/sellers: ignoring is key.  The funniest thing was that our chaperone was the only one to fall for the scam.  Oh my.

As if we weren’t tired enough, it took us about 30 to 40 minutes to reach our unknown-restaurant where we had a reservation, walking through the Red Light District of Paris.  Nevertheless, as you know me, food relieved all the stress from the day.  As that rich Boeuf Bourgignon touched my tongue, my worries from the past 24 hours disappeared.  Walking back to the metro station was amusing, as nobody could walk in a straight line.  A few of us ran into some poles, and others drifted off in the midst of their steps.

On the metro ride back, we ran into our second Parisian experience, but this one was frightening.  Huddled around the pole in the metro, I noticed a rather suspicious looking man walking about.  Our tour guide, Francoise, spoke in clear English, “He’s ready to snatch” and I went stiff.  He walked “discreetly” around, but everyone on the metro was aware of his presence as murmurs went off about him and women hid their bags.  At the next stop, we noticed him step off our cart and into the other cart, where the other half of our group was.  Francoise followed him to warn the group, but a stop later, he returned, verifying his criminal-tactics (which were in fact very weak).  At this point, 10 of us were basically hugging each other.  As he walked by me and one of my friends, I stiffened, and I’m sure I would’ve decked him if he touched my bag.  That probably wouldn’t have been a good idea, but I would’ve done it from impulse…maybe.  Thankfully, we were safe, and Francoise was constantly assuring us that he wouldn’t be able to steal from us.  The reason I was especially frightened was that there was a man by the door motioning to his girlfriend to hide her bag.  I didn’t see the girl, so I thought he was motioning to the pick-pocketer to do something, which frightened me to an extent that I can’t even explain.  I was sure he must’ve been armed or something, but he wasn’t nearly that dangerous.  Soon after this misunderstanding of mine, he walked backwards through the cart, pushing an irritated and frightened woman, who was clutching her sack, to the corner.  He did this, I realized, out of rudeness rather than targeting.  He wasn’t, in fact, that intelligent to actually be a criminal.  Nevertheless, as we stepped off the metro, I was in nearly tears and my heart was beating out of its chest.  I was half-laughing, but I don’t know what came over me.  It was mostly my misunderstanding about the man and his girlfriend.  I just can’t imagine what I would’ve done if something were to have happened.  I guess my body will always be prepared to really fight if necessary, but that’s not a rational choice in a foreign place.  But I knew deep inside that I was safe, with a metro full of defensive people, and many objects that could double as weapons.  Thinking back to this, my heart is still beating….

Thankfully day two was much more drama-free and stress-free, but both never ceased to exist.  The day started off with a late start.  We were told to meet in the lobby of our hotel at 8 am.  The stress began when my roommate jumped up from bed at 8 yelling, “we’re late!  we’re late!”  Thankfully my 10-minute mornings for late school days prepared me for this.  At 8:10, I was in the lobby, baguette in hand from the breakfast room, and ready to go.

Okay, I’m becoming so French now.  I eat baguette four times a day.  The thing is, it’s not just a slice…it’s a whole baguette!  Breakfast is baguette, lunch is a sandwich on baguette, and dinner consists of baguette slices.  For snack, we pick up baguette.  It’s such a stereotype that the French walk around with a baguette in their hands or out of a bag, but it’s so true!  Even more, I’ve sported scarves in order to fit in.  Most importantly, I’ve spoken French everywhere, no matter what.  If they answer in English, I respond in French.  I even held a few conversations with shopkeepers!

Speaking of fashion, fashion here is a lot like what we wear.  The main things are long coats, boots, and side-hanging backs.  The actual French rarely wear berets; rather, it is the tourists who wear them, exclaiming, “Oh my gosh, this is SO cool!!”  Large wool scarves are in fashion, rather than run-of-the-mill Pashmina scarves.  Additionally, skinny jeans with long & deformed sweaters seem to be trending.  We checked out a lot of cute boutiques today, and we’ll be returning tomorrow.  So far, I’ve bought a long-needed black blazer, and a flowery dress.  I wore it out for dinner tonight, as we decided to go fancy, so I’ll post the picture on Facebook for those who are friends with me.

Back to the second day: we started the day with the Musee d’Orsay, a train station turned into a museum.  The most famous paintings are Van Gogh’s self portrait and Starry Night, as well as Monet’s Water Lilies. It was Van Gogh’s self portrait which gave me the same goosebumps that David did…(well David is incomparable, actually).  Nevertheless, it was just so eerie to see the work of this troubled man, who committed suicide from alcoholism and depression.  There’s one painting of his that had no straight lines, as he was completely intoxicated painting it.  But it’s beautiful, which sounds weird of course.  It is known to be his last painting before death.

The rest of the museum wasn’t as interesting, as most of the artists were unknown.  Monet is spectacular, as was his master, Manet.  A few posts later I’ll post some of the paintings that I liked.

Later, we had about an hour to grab lunch and walk around.  We discovered an absolutely beautiful bridge with locks chained to the railings.  Lovers of all kinds have written their names on the locks and thrown the keys into the Seine river, “locking” up their love forever.  As a hopeless romantic, I nearly died at this concept, as is clear from my million pictures.  Even more, the look of all the locks in random orders, glowing with romance, is heart-warming.  For those who were uninterested in locks, there are names scribbled across the bridge in different patterns and forms.

The day continued on as we climbed the Eiffel Tower.  My favorite part was to see one of my friend’s reactions, as she almost cried from euphoria.  Paris was foggy, but it felt like being on top of the world.  That is until I looked up, and my legs collapsed from underneath.

We finally found our dinner place, five minutes from our hotel.  It was a relaxed and chic place, with rugby on the TV and groovy furniture—almost like a sports bar.  This added a relaxing sensation to the day, as we massaged the knots out of our feet and backs…and shared a few good laughs and food.

It’s 1 am on day three, and I don’t have time to really write about Versailles and Bastille (which we did today).  I will, however, post this tomorrow!  I also have video blog #2 uploading at the moment, from Versailles.  I hope you enjoyed the first one!  If you didn’t…sorry.  I blame my awkwardness.  Anyways, hope you’re having a great vacation!  Keep coming back, and SUBSCRIBE!  (The usual, you know)

Love from Paris,
B

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First Video Blog!

Finally!  I apologize for the immense nervousness…

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First Impression

“This is really happening” was the first thought in my head as I stepped onto Air France, an Airbus 380, the largest aircraft in the world.  Even though this was the same aircraft I took to India, Air France is absolutely beautiful and spacious.  In fact, this is most likely the most comfortable flight I’ve taken yet.  Regardless of the fact that my stomach is filled with butterflies, someone important told me to enjoy every second of this incredible experience, and that’s what I plan on doing.  I mean, how often is it that you can become part of a culture?

Anyways, I’m determined to come through with this video blog.  As a novice Youtuber, I didn’t realize the time it takes to upload a video.  Not to mention, my tremendous awkwardness shines through in them.  I’m certain that broadcasting may not be my forte.

I have with me my music, the Hunger Games (finally) and my multiple notebooks.  Most exciting of all, I have an idea stirring in my head for a creative story, which I haven’t had in a while.

Okay, I’m excited.  Paris, Paris, Paris.  I feel like I’m in Midnight in Paris, listening to Edith Piaf and carrying a notebook in my purse.  Maybe I should take a night stroll and end up in the 20s!  I could meet Hemingway and Fitzgeral, dance a little, live life.  Actually it’s so bizarre, but I’ve taken a sudden interest in the 20s.  The fashion, fun–excitement of life…why don’t we live like that now?  I wish we were living in a golden decade, a time of freedom and enjoyment.

At this moment, we’re about to take off.  I’ve said this so many times, but I’m absolutely terrified of taking off.  Even though I’ve flown hundreds and thousands of times, there’s just that feeling of being 45 degrees in the air—mostly my fear of heights.  Once we’re in the air, all’s well.  This is the longest flight I’ve been on without my family, but thankfully I have my friends to fearfully grasp onto.  I actually am just despising flights at this moment.  After my scarring India voyage only a few weeks ago, this deja vu feeling is suffocating.  I feel like I might just be landing in Calcutta again, my grandparents waiting on the other side.  But no, this is really happening.

 

Added: okay, so this is the first thing I wrote on the plane….I’m about to post my day’s happenings soon…

 

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Plane Musings

Written on the plane ride

Paris bound!  It’s 1:47 am in VT, yet we’re buzzing around with energy.  With only one and a half hours left, I’m experiencing one of the most beautiful sights in the world.  As we look out the window, we see charcoal skies with stars.  As we look at the tail camera through our TVs, we see that ahead of us is the rising sun.  I honestly cannot explain this beautiful feeling.  It’s like we’re slowly flying into the sun–such a poetic moment.    The skies outside are progressively becoming bluer and sunnier.  For some reason, I always find such amusement from the skies.  I have numerous pictures of clouds on my camera, and numerous ramblings called poems.

Although it’s only been a 6-hour ride, it’s been endless.  I’m feeling restless–but the best part of traveling with 20 people is that there is always someone to talk to.  I feel like a child–eager to do something.  All I want is to walk along the Champs-Elysees and sing the song.  I want to turn on Edith Piaf and dance in front of the Eiffel Tower.  At 2 in the morning, my mind is wandering off on all tangents.  The worst part of flights for me is that I can’t sleep, so I take the opportunity to “contemplate” on a variety of topics.  The bad thing about me thinking too much is that I overthink things all of the time.  That can never be good…

Let’s see—in the past six hours, I have read one chapter of the Hunger Games, written at least five pages (yay!), and watched Bad Teacher.  Quick review: Bad Teacher is as bad as its name.  Maybe it’s my aversion twoards Cameron Diaz, but then again, the movie is pointless.  What we come away with is that bad people can break the law, lie about it, land someone innocent in trouble, live promiscuously, and live happily ever after.  Call me a mother, but this is rather—crude, would you not agree?  Not my type of movie at all.

Anyways, it’s exciting that I’ve been able to communicate in French with the flight attendants!  I’ll ignore the fact that I got a few smirks, but at least I tried.

Oh my, we’re about to land!  All civilization is covered with a bed of clouds so, unfortunately, we don’t really know where we are.  I’m just furiously scribbling every moment, so I’m sure I’ll get through my new notebook in a week or so.  It looks like we’re right above the Atlantic, about to circle into Paris.  I can almost imagine the Eiffel Tower peering above the clouds.  I can imagine the August Parisian streets, but February is so unclear for me!  I can’t picture Paris to be anything other than 100 degrees.  Nevertheless, I’m already feeling pangs of nostalgia as I breathe in Parisian air.

Oh, I just can’t get over how beautiful the skies are.  Early morning is the best time to fly, I’m convinced.  It’s the wonders of nature that we don’t get to see even in beautiful Vermont–which I believe has the most beautiful nature in the world.

Paris—what a dream to be in Paris once again.

More posts coming soon!

Best,
B

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We’re in Montreal!  It may not seem far, but it feels like the trip has just gone on and on….and now, we can all feel the nervousness within us.  This post will be a short one, as I’d much rather be spending time with all these wonderful people than be on my computer…like a workaholic.  But I have a video blog in the making, and I’ll be posting it in a matter of an hour, or so.  Be sure to come back to visit for frequent updates, and wish me a bon voyage!

-B

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