mardi 13 décembre 2011

Christmas Lights on the Champs-Elysées

Last Sunday evening I had the opportunity to see the Champs-Elysées all lit up for the traditional Marché Noël.  It was magical.  I'm not going to write much on this post, because I think it's best to just let the pictures do the talking in this case.

All the fountains in the surrounding area were decorated like this, with fake snow sprinkled around so it looked like a wintery fairlyland.

These brightly lit hot wine stands were all over the place, all festively decorated in a sort of Germanic style with lots of garlands and vintage style Père Noël posters.  Apparently the Marché Noël in Strasbourg is amazing, so maybe that's where the Germanic inspiration comes from...
Another common feature are roasted chestnut stands ("Marron" means chestnut and "chaud" means hot).

Some may say that this picture didn't turn out very well, but I like to think of it as an artistic portrayal of the hustle and bustle of the Champs-Elysées during Christmastime.

Do I need to explain what this is?

This was taken while literally standing in a crosswalk in the middle of the Champs-Elysées with traffic rushing past on both sides.  It was such a perfect perspective I had to get a picture.

dimanche 4 décembre 2011

Noyon Photos

I realized that if I kept waiting to have time to create an organized post with all the stories I want to eventually include I would never get the most important part (photos) posted.  So here they are, some photos from the Noyon trip which I will talk about more later!  Basically, we saw the (fairly famous) cathedral of Noyon, where Charlamagne may or may not have been crowned.  I'm not yet sure on that one.

Me, Haruka (Japan), Cathedral

Here you have the whole spectrum of emotions, starting with Amanda looking joyous and friendly and ending with me looking grim and forbidding.  I promise, I wasn't looking that way on purpose.  I guess my face just goes that way when I'm not thinking about it.

Some details of the Cathedral- by the way, those large chips you can see on the stonework aren't just from  age, they're bullet marks from WWI.

And here you can see one of my favorite aspects of French cathedrals- the gargoyles, or gargouilles as we refer to them here.   These guys are there to conduct the run off from the roof, so when it rains all the water pours out of their mouths. One thing I really want to do is go to Notre Dame de Paris when it's pouring rain, because apparently with all the gargouilles there it's quite a sight.

(P.S.  These are off Facebook, I didn't take them.  Credit goes to Amada Leibel for these.  I'll post the photos I took along with the organized post, when it happens)

100 Days

And after posting the banque alimentaire post I glanced at my countdowner widget and noticed that it said it's been 102 days since I've been in France!  So here's a little post celebrating the 100 day mark, although a bit belatedly.  It's gone so fast!

Banque Alimentaire

...Or food bank, for those of my readers who don't speak French :)

The Friday before last, I participated in a food drive with the Rotary club at a local grocery store.  We stood at the door and passed out bags to shoppers entering the store, which they would use to carry a few extra nonparishable items which they bought during the course of their normal shopping.  When they exited the store, we would be waiting with specially marked shopping carts in which they could put their contributions to the food bank.  I stood behind a shopping cart and said the phrase "Merci beaucoup, bon soir!" more times than I ever have in my life.

It was nice to do something for such a good cause, and I wanted to share my experience and a photo (below) on this blog to show that being a Rotary student isn't just about hanging out in Paris and eating lots of delicious French food, it also means contributing to your host community.  Any future exchange students who are reading this blog should know that your experience will be so much richer if you get involved with your community and always be conscious of the fact that you are a citizen of the world, and as someone living in a foreign country and town you should do something to give back to that country and town.

At the banque alimentaire, with some of the Rotarians I worked with.
...And I promise I will have the pictures up extremely soon.  Promise.

lundi 28 novembre 2011

I Got My Camera Back!

The title pretty much says it all.  I just finished organizing all the pictures I had on the prodigal camera, and now I'm going to do several long overdo posts about several events all at once...Loads of photos coming up!

jeudi 24 novembre 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Living in a country where the only reason anyone knows about Thanksgiving is because they celebrate it on Friends, I just want to wish everyone back home and all the other American and Canadian exchange students who are also feeling the lack of the holiday a happy Thanksgiving. 

I'll be celebrating Thanksgiving with my host family the weekend after next, due to various reasons including late mail, lack of ingredients, a sick host brother, and an absent host sister.  I explained to my host family how Thanksgiving is a time for family to come together, and we all agree that it would be best to celebrate at a time when it can be stress free and everyone is actually together, and the next time that is possible is next weekend.  I'll be sure to take lots of pictures (I will definitely have my camera back by then) so all my readers can look forward to photos of my French Thanksgiving!

jeudi 10 novembre 2011


Nothing extremely eventful has happened recently, just spending time in Paris, learning French, going to school...Life on exchange.  Every moment is worth noting, but after a while so many notable moments happen that you can't note them all anymore.  If that makes sense.  I guess this is just a general update, since I haven't written anything in a while and I don't want to be neglectful...So here's a sample of some of the stuff I've been up to.  Unfortunately, no pictures, because I STILL don't have my camera (Beauvais is a loong ways away). 

I realized the other day that on Thanksgiving I will have been in France for three months to the day, which is an interesting coincidence.  I've had a lot of rebounds tell me that things change after three months, so it'll be interesting to see if that's true.

Last weekend I spent a lot of time in Paris, in le Marais district with some other exchange students.  I got falafel there for lunch two days in a row, and the falafel there is the best I have ever tasted.  I believe the rumor that le Marais is the best place to get falafel outside of Israel.  Although, having never tried Israeli falafel, I can't say for sure.  Guess I'll just have to go to Israel and find out!

Last weekend I also bought a Paris map booklet which is exceedingly useful.  And also interesting...Is it weird that I like reading my map of Paris for pleasure?  It's just so fascinating to see how it's all laid out, and I think it's good to have a general knowledge of where stuff is.  I'm excited to get to know Paris better.  It's such a delicious feeling to know off the top of one's head which metro line is the best to get to the Louvre (It's Line 1, by the way), or how to walk from the Hôtel de Ville to Notre Dame without getting insane is that, getting to know stuff like that that only comes from spending time in a city?

I'll be going to Noyon, the town where Charlemagne and Hugh Capet were both crowned and where John Calvin was born, in the last weekend of the month.  Rotary is doing a trip there for all the Paris students, so hopefully I'll get my camera back then!  Then I will take lots of pictures of everything to make up for lost time.

I can't think of anything else to say, so I guess I'll sign off now.  Until next post!

lundi 31 octobre 2011

Long time, no post...

Many apologies for not posting in ages, especially considering that I've been up to all sorts of adventures since my last post which I have not shared.  However, I have an excuse...and it's very valid.  During one of my adventures, during which I took lots of pictures, I left my camera in the backpack of one of my Rotary friends, so I wouldn't have to carry it around and risk setting it down someplace and losing it.  And of course I forgot to get it back.  And Rachel, the friend with the backpack, happens to live on the extremely dangerous and forbidden RER train line D, so I can't just hop on a train and get it back.  However, I should be getting it back pretty soon, and as soon as I do I promise to upload all sorts of lovely photos of the lovely things I've been doing.  So expect a sudden burst of posts sometime within the next month.  Until then, suffice it to say that I'm having a lovely time and seeing lots of amazing things that I can't wait to share with all you readers! 

dimanche 9 octobre 2011


I started writing this post a while ago, but then had some difficulty uploading the photos, then forgot about it, so it's quite late...Sorry!  Here it is, finally...My Versailles trip.

I'm watching Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette; so it seems like an appropriate time to write a post about my trip to Versailles last Sunday!  It was a lovely day, perfect for being outside, so we spent the whole time walking around the gardens.  It was gorgeous.  We were there on a day when they had the fountains going, so we got to see the whole magnificence of the place.  Being at Versailles was like going to Paris for the first time for me in that it was a totally surreal, is-this-really-happening, I-feel-like-this-is-a-movie experience.  Especially later, as the sun got lower in the sky and started hitting the walls of the chateau, making the whole thing glow gold...It was incredibly beautiful.  But I don't need to tell you about how gorgeous it was, you just look at these pictures...

Crazy hair and a huge smile- a sign that fun is being had!

This is the outdoor ballroom in the garden...The fountain was decorated with exotic shells brought back from the Red Sea by the French Royal Navy of the time.

This is also at the ballroom...You can sort of see the exotic shells, along with the obligatory (this is Versailles) large ornate gilded thing.  And yes, I know it looks like I have no eyes...It was really  sunny, and I'm squinting in almost all of these pictures.

Again at the ballroom...And me in the middle of saying something...

Versailles, the gardens, the fountains, the glory


mardi 27 septembre 2011

Les Passages Couverts Paris

The Saturday before last I went with my Rotary club to see les Passages Couverts in Paris.  I know this post is a bit late coming, but I forgot my camera that day, so I had to wait for lovely people from the Rotary club to send me their pictures before I could post.  Thank you to Micheline for sharing the pictures I've posted here.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with les passages (as I was before I saw them), they are basically shop-lined streets covered by glass roofs and (of course, since this is Paris) decorated with beautiful art.  The tour guide of course said everything in French, which I couldn't understand because she spoke very fast, but the Rotarians were very helpful in doing their best to translate for me, and with their pretty good English and my very little French, I was able to learn some interesting things.  However, the most interesting part of the day was by far the beautiful art, so, without further ado, here are the pictures!

mercredi 14 septembre 2011

gqhhh; AZERTY

Trying to type on qn AZERTY keyboqrd is one of the ,ost frustrqting things I hqve ever done:  I've been battling the AZERTY transition up until now, but I've decided that as long as I'm in France, I might as well learn the keyboard layout so I can work on computers other than my own without taking five minutes to find the comma.  Since my computer obviously has the keys marked for QUERTY, this transition is rather difficult because I have to keep an AZERTY keyboard diagram constantly open in another tab and refer to it whenever I don't know where something is.

As I'm currently using AZERTY, this post has taken an inordinate amount amount of time to create, so I'm going to sign off now, but not before putting this out there...If any of my friends or family in the United States wants an idea for an easily mailable gift, next time there is an occasion for gift giving please send me AZERTY keyboard stickers!

Now, just for fun, I'm going to write a secret message by typing as if I was on a QWERTY keyboard but using AZERTY:

Thereùs q very zeird Qustrqliqn exchqnge student in ,y clqss qt school:  Her nq,e is Qnnie; she zill be in Frqnce for six ,onths; qnd this is q shout out to her1

Best zishes to qll fro, Frqnce;

dimanche 4 septembre 2011

Maison Van Gogh

 Okay, this is going to be a quick post with mostly pictures, because I really need to clean my room.  So basically, the day before we visited Paris my host mom and sister took me to Van Gogh's house, which is about 20 minutes from my house.  This is the house he lived in for the last 60 days of his life, where he did his best work and also where he died.  It was an incredible thing to be standing in the room where Van Gogh died.  I almost cried.  It was very intense.  We also walked around the village, Auvers-sur-Oise, which is quite gorgeous.  So, without further ado, here's the pictures!

Lovely corner of Auvers-sur-Oise...
Me, standing on a stairway in said lovely corner....
And Van Gogh's painting of said lovely corner!
The Hotel de Ville of Auvers-sur-Oise....
And Van Gogh's take on the Hotel de Ville of Auvers-sur-Oise!

Me in front of the Auberge Ravoux, where Van Gogh rented a room for the last 60 days of his life.  He lived in a small room upstairs.  
 I have a lot more pictures which I think I will post as I get the chance...Pictures just take so long to upload, and it's hard to sit for an hour on the computer to make a blog post when I could be doing so many other things here!

mardi 30 août 2011


Yesterday...I!!!  There aren't enough exclamation points in the world for me to express my happiness.  It was everything I imagined, and, considering that I've spent a lot of time building up Paris in my imagination, it's pretty impressive that it lived up to my expectations.  It was like being in a book or a movie. I knew that Paris had an extremely high concentration of beautiful historical landmarks, but the sheer amount was still staggering, when I saw it first hand...You could stand on the oldest bridge in Paris, built by Henri IV, and see the Eiffel Tower, the Conciergerie (which started as a palace, became the prison where Marie Antoinette spent her last few months, and is now a museum), the oldest public clock in Paris (600 years old, still working), the Palais Conti (former national mint), and Notre Dame de Paris, all at the same time.  And that's just what you could see from one spot, in the immediate area.  And even if a building wasn't historical or breathtakingly magnificent, everything was at least beautiful.  Even the brickwork on the streets was in a fish-scale pattern instead of just straight rows.  It's still hard for me to wrap my mind around the sheer volume of beauty.

Anyway, here's some chronologically placed pictures of my day:
The first big landmark I saw was the Eiffel Tower.  We rode the RER train into Paris, and in the area approaching Paris, the train is in a tunnel.  So we come out of this tunnel and suddenly, we're in Paris and THERE'S THE EIFFEL TOWER.  Just like that.  Then the first thing we did after getting off the train was go climb the tower.  I didn't get all the way up to the top, but I did get to the third level.  It was pretty amazing- you can see all of Paris.

Including this...

Me, I think on the second level.
From the (almost) top of the Eiffel tower, looking down...This one's for you, Sean.

After the Eiffel Tower, we walked around a bit.  This statue is one of many in the vicinity of the Eiffel Tower.

Me again.  Just to prove I was there ;)

Next, we made our way to Notre Dame de Paris, which was absolutely awe-inspiring.  It was massive, extremely old, and you could spend a lifetime just observing the sculpture on the exterior.  Just outside of this picture there was a very old statue of Charlemagne that looked like it belonged in Gondor.

If the outside of the church was amazing, the inside could only be described as magnifique.  The size itself was mind blowing.  This church is so big, it contains the main church and then at least a dozen chapels on the side.  Art covered everything, and the whole place was lit only by the famous stained glass windows and saint's candles you could light for a donation of 2-5 euro.  I didn't light a candle, but I did buy a Notre Dame medal for 2 euro.  This church is one of the most awe inspiring things I have seen in my life.   

Aaaaand...I saw this, and I was gone.  As my host dad said, "You saw "Shakespeare" and zip!"  I ran towards this store like my life depended on it.  This is a very beautiful bookstore, full of antiquarian and/or English language books.  Of course, the books are very expensive because they are in English, but it was very fun to look.

A bridge we saw while walking along.  I don't have pictures of this, but one of my favorite things we encountered while walking along was the booksellers selling mostly antiquarian books out of green metal stands on the sidewalk.  It was very classic Parisian. 

Next we went on one of the bateaux mouches, the boats that go on tours up and down the Seine showing passengers notable sites along the way.  The guide would repeat everything in French and English, so I was able to understand, and I learned some very interesting things.  We went under some of the most beautiful bridges in the world, each with a different mythology attached to it which the guide would explain.  Here I am with my host dad, passing by the Eiffel tower.
 These pictures show just a sample of the incredible things I saw while in Paris.  And, while I spent the whole day there, there is still so much more I need to see!  I hope to have the opportunity to visit this amazing (and, luckily, nearby) city many more times.  Merci beaucoup to Mike and Alizee, my host father and sister, for giving me an amazing experience of Paris.  Also, to give credit where credit is due, many of these pictures where taken by Alizee, who is an amazing photographer.  I took my own pictures, but hers are so much better I decided to use them :)

Thanks for reading!