Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Signs of Spring are finally coming!

( photo of Bois de Boulogne above )

I am so excited to report that I've seen the sun more in the past week than I had in the entire month of February; it makes me extremely happy. Today even started out pouring, however the skies cleared for a bit during the day. Spring is coming and I couldn't be more ready :)

Things are going great with my host family. They always offer to help me with my French, they show me the ways of a "French household" (how to set the table as they do, how they set out everything breakfast-related the night before, so it's ready for everyone in the morning, etc...). I can't wait to make some of my favorite foods when I get back to the US so everyone can try them! My host mother often makes simple but yummy soups as the first course (here, the first course is called the entree) that I'd like to try! I want to bake them some chocolate chip cookies or something, so they can have a taste of my cooking - maybe soon!

School is going well also; my classes are challenging, but not too difficult (yet...) as long as I budget my time properly. That being said, now that it's warming up a bit and precipitating less, I can't wait to really get out and explore Paris without having to be hidden under an umbrella! This past weekend, my friend Claudia had some friends visit, and we went with them to the Notre Dame and to Marais and Montmartre. I have already been to those places, but Montmartre especially is a place worth going several times. The view from the top of the hill is too amazing! I am planning on going to the top of the tower of Montparnasse, which has a 360-degree view of Paris and costs less than the Eiffel Tower. Another plus is that you can see the Eiffel from there! I am going to try and go at sunset too, for the best views. Maybe this week!

I am honestly starting to freak out about how fast time if flying by. I have already been here almost a month and a half, and I have not seen or visited nearly as many places as I would have liked. All that is changing as I whip out my various guide books (all handy in their own ways) and plan my itinerary. There are some places, such as the numerous gardens, that are best saved for when it warms out and there are actually flowers in them! I can't wait until then :)

--> View of the Eiffel Tower from the hill that is Montmartre. Amazing!

I visited the Bois de Boulogne (a series of gardens in Paris two and a half times as big as Central Park, to give some perspective) withe a few friends recently, and everything was still GORGEOUS even though there were no flowers yet! We went on a sunny day and walked for several hours until we found a nice spot to have a late lunch and people-watch, one of my favorite activities, being a Psych major and all. There was a pond where you can rent boats for 10 euro an hour (plus a 50 euro deposit...the reason we weren't able to use one. We didn't bring 50 euro to the garden, silly us!). There were tons of dogs and people and even some ponies! We had a bit of trouble finding the bathrooms though. I can't wait to go again when it's even nicer out and find the les Cascades (cah-skahds, en francais :] ) or waterfalls.

Here are a few more things I have been noticing about France that you might be interested to know:

1)French students from the Sorbonne like to have manifestations, or public demonstrations, at least once per week. You can tell which days it is because there are hoardes of police cars, vans, and yes, police buses, all over the place. The police walk around with shields, rubber-bullet and tear-gas shooters, and other scary items. They very rarely have to use them, but I like to stay away just in case. Some of the manifestations are like parades, with balloons and drums and everything, and some we have to walk through on our way to class (see pic - yellow things are drums/signs)

2) French people, at least my family, loooove plain (called "nature" in French, sounds a bit more appetizing that way I think) yogurt! In French, it's called "yaourt", pronounced "yah-ort". They have it for snack and for dessert almost every night, often mixing in some jam, honey, or sugar. I think honey is my personal favorite, and this is something I will definitely take back to the US with me, mmm!

3) When you go to Montmartre and climb the many steps up to the Sacre Coeur Cathedral, there will be many men and women trying to quickly pull you to the side and make a string bracelet at lightning-speed, put it on you, and proceed to try and make you pay for it. This all happens very fast, as I've seen people being hustled out of their money when they had no idea what the person was doing. Thankfully, I was forewarned of this and kept my hands in my pockets. But at Montmartre, there are merchants everywhere trying to sell absolute junk!

I always think of tons of stuff I want to say when I'm walking around, but when it comes to writing it down, I always forget! I'll save some for the next blog, I suppose!

I am going to a pop concert by the artist "Benabar" with my study-abroad group tomorrow. It should be interesting! I have listened to some of the music already, and I kind of like it! I also have tickets with a bunch of my friends to a France vs. Lithuania soccre ("foot") game which I cannot wait for. I am not the biggest sports fan, as many know, but how could that not be a good time??

Ok time for homework, which seems to be piling on by the day! Also, it was very surprising to realize that Marist is already to midterms by now. Eek! Time to get to the serious sightseeing!!

A plus tard!
--->View of the Arc de Triomphe from the beginning of our walk through the Bois de Boulogne :)