Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Je pense donc je suis en grève

Wednesday December 16, 2009 - Je pense donc je suis en grève.

This quote is too-stereotypically plastered on a poster on one of my buildings at the university. It means, “I think, so I'm on strike”.

Well it was bound to happen sooner or later: the (in)famous French strike. Now, I been living in Paris for almost 5 months now (wow, btw) and until this point there have only been transportation strikes for other trains besides mine. (Other types of strikes naturally exist all the time such as the Post Office Strike or the Museum Strike and I heard the Eiffel Tower was on strike too awhile ago…no, really!)The RER A (one of the big trains that run through Paris and into the suburbs) has been on strike now for a little over a week or so and apparently I am losing my fresh-perspective for blog-worthy material. See, I just thought it was a pain, not news to anyone until I talked to my Dad on the phone…thus, per request, the French strike report!

On a normal school day, I take my metro line to a bigger station to switch to the RER to get to class. This takes about 45 minutes porte à porte or door to door. My first commute during a strike: 2 ½ hours. I heard that 1 out of every 2 trains was running, so not a problem I just left early for my 1:00pm class. Well, when I arrived at the ghost town aka my RER station I became aware that 1 of 2 was running during rush hour. Oh. So, back to the metro I go to switch to a different metro that will take me as far west as possible and from there take a bus (you can start laughing at this point). When I finally get to that station, about an hour into my commute time, I find that there are exactly 22 buses, twenty-two buses, that depart from there. So, I stood there looking at this map that is INSANE, all the while freezing mind you, and finally walked away and asked someone in a uniform. So, I managed to wind my way around the massive station/underground city to find my bus; which I did! And then continued to stalk the other riders to see if any of them were headed to my destination…I found some! Aaaaaand followed them. Oooon the 10 minute walk from our stop to the university. Heeheehee…

And, PS there is a much simpler way to get to school that I now know so no worries about me walking in the dark to a random bus somewhere. But that reminds me, did you know it is dark in Paris? Like the sun comes up at 8:30am and sets at 5:00pm! That means almost all of my walks to and from the metro station to my apartment are in the dark; it gets confusing! Is it morning? Where am I going? Is it 3am? Did I set my alarm right? Am I going to work or school? What color are my pants? Wait, no that really happened…I didn’t know I was wearing gray pants instead of jeans until I got into the well-lit metro station. So much for be some glamorous Parisian; I guess the first step would be to turn on the light when picking out my clothing! Duh.

I’m almost surprised that I don’t get lost or disoriented more often. Today, Rema and I went shopping in an RER station…that’s right an underground multi-level mall in the middle of Les Halles, a tangled meeting point for 3 RER trains and 5 metro lines. We managed to find our way in, buy Christmas dresses, and then find our way back out again…I feel sorry for tourists! 

Sunday, December 13, 2009

12/12 = Mon Anniversaire!

Saturday December 12, 2009 - 12/12 = Mon Anniversaire!

(So, I totally just started this blog in my head in French…so I’ll be sure to translate for my Anglophone followers!) Yesterday was my 21st birthday! Celebrated in a city where it doesn’t matter, but I managed to cause enough trouble! Lol, me? Trouble? …Well at midnight, my roommate forced a celebratory glass of wine at me and I opened a present from home! Then I slept in, did some homework (I know I stink at being a rebel), opened another present, went baaack to sleep, ate a pain au chocolat for breakfast, no wait, lunch, no actually dinner by American standards! And opened another present while waiting for my Californians to wake up! I loved talking to my parents and sister for awhile!

Let me please tell you, I can't even express how incredibly SPOILED and LOVED I feel!! A few days ago, I received a thick envelope from my parents in the mail filled with colorful cupcake cutouts with notes from everyone wishing me a happy birthday…pretty much all of France is convinced I have the greatest Mom in the world and they couldn’t be more right! THANK YOU!!!!! All of you, SO much! Je suis vraiment touchée; as the French would say, I am truly touched!

So last night, after putting on my new sweater dress and Juicy Couture earrings from my parents and applying my new Benefit Hoola from my sister, I headed out with a few friends to le Vrai Paris, a chic and warm Parisian restaurant in Montmartre. After consulting with Alex (the one who brings the stinky cheese to my house) about the menu, I decided to order a Queue de Lotte; “it’s a fysh, verrry goood”… and some white wine of course! It was my 21st birthday after all! So this so-called fysh, was very good, but it was the consistency of crab or lobster and had a somewhat hard shell/exo-skeleton(?) Just for background information, the French love to know just how “fresh” their food is (ie going to a farm in person and picking out a live animal to eat for dinner the next day and enjoyment of watching the whole process) Whereas me, I typically don’t like food that still looks like the animal it was (ie a cheeseburger does not look like a cow versus I can’t eat shrimp well, because it still looks exactly like a shrimp…) Back to my dinner, while eating I kept wondering what this fish looked like! Unfortunately for you and me, I googled it…Just be thankful I chose the cartoon illustration to share. OMG.

My first California-legal glass of wine:

My lovely friend Joanne from England joined us for dinner and brought me the cutest cupcake! A REAL cupcake! It is from Berko, a cupcake shop in the Marais. It had white cake and raspberry flavored hot pink frosting…I definitely have to take my cupcake-baking sister there when she visits!

After dinner, we decided to get another drink nearby. Rema and I both got fruity grapefruit cocktails that were super yummy…Now you are all witnesses, I have had exactly 2, t-w-o drinks so far, therefore I have no way of explaining my tumble down the Metro stairs a half an hour later; I blame my crazy-slippery ankle boots and overall clumsiness, but it is quite the coincidence... And yes, some may use an injury scale to determine just how “successful” a 21st birthday is; I however, do not use my number of bruises as bragging rights. Luckily for your enjoyment, my trusty roommate Rema had the camera ready to catch me in action. This is me rubbing mes trois genoux (my three knees: two normal knees, and the third swelling out of the side of my ankle). The best part: read the caption above my shoulders. It is a disclaimer. On an alcohol advertisement. It says “l’abus d’alcool est dangereux” which you guessed translates to “the abuse of alcohol is dangerous”. GREAT. TWOOOO drinks, really?! So as I limped home, in the dark, 28⁰, on my birthday, clinging to my bag and my cupcake, I couldn’t help but think, man, all I really wanted was a hot fudge sundae anyways…

Hahahahahahaha, oh man!

I think I'll go back to my standard cake and ice cream in the future; this whole 21st birthday experience is obviously not for me!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Buns & Thighs: Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday November 26, 2009 - Buns & Thighs: Happy Thanksgiving!

Hello everyone! As the number of days between now and Christmas decrease and the inches of my waist increase, I am becoming highly aware of the, eh hem, effects of my pasta-bread-cheese diet. (“Thanks France”) Therefore Wednesday November 18th marked day one of my 30 Day Challenge. Perfect timing; I can start the foundational training for my triathlon! I really want to do one this summer when I get back to the states!

My plan: a) stretch and run 5 times a week, b) work out my arms, abs, and buns every day, and c) no pasta, bread, or cheese. Now, I KNOW that this last one sounds insane and ridiculous, but believe me, I have no problem avoiding those at all…it’s the dessert I can’t go a day without; it must have something to do with being an Irwin… Anyways, of course the wonderful mother that I have told me that I am perfectly fine the way I am and should only worry if I was going to ask her to mail me new pants! Well at this rate, I will need new pants by Christmas! Thus, the Challenge has begun! But, to be perfectly honest, I can’t complain…when I wake up early to run the only motivation I need is to remember WHERE I get to run! The little green patch right in front of the Eiffel Tower on this map is where I get to do my laps. Can’t complain, right? I get to run with a bunch of other Parisians who look oh-so-severe and intense and turbo and scary…today I just looked at the ground. Needless to say, it was my best run thus far! Ha!

For my French Civilization class, we visited the Musée Carnavalet on Saturday. It displayed the History of Paris through paintings, cartoons, figures, and artifacts. It was really interesting and we actually wanted to see everything! Ironically, there was this one painting that caught my eye. It was of this red-faced jolly looking man leaning over a huge casserole dish with wine at one elbow and bread at the other. I joked, “Oh look! It’s me!” Then, I just happened to come across this article online from the New York Times mentioning this very painting!

I also took many other pictures of pieces that I really liked…I think I might take all of my visiting American tourists here for a visit!

This one reminds me of pictures of my glamorous Granny:

So as you fill your happy tummies today (since it is Thanksgiving) eat an extra serving of sweet potatoes for me and get ready for my Mid-Summer 2010 Thanksgiving Celebration; it is my favorite holiday and I have MANY things to be thankful for after all…each one of you included!

Psaumes 139:1-18 (grâce à/thanks to Madame Driscoll)

Éternel! Tu me sondes et tu me connais, ²Tu sais quand je m’assieds et quand je me lève, tu pénètres de loin ma pensée; ³Tu sais quand je marche et quand je me couche, Et tu pénètres toutes mes voies. ⁴Car la parole n’est pas sur ma langue, que déjà, ô Éternel! Tu la connais entièrement. ⁵Tu m’entoures par derrière et par devant, et tu mets ta mains sur moi. ⁶Une science aussi merveilleuse est au-dessus de ma portée, Elle est trop élevée pour que je puisse la saisir. ⁷Où irais-je loin de ton esprit, et où fuirais-je loin de ta face ? ⁸Si je monte aux cieux, tu y es ; si je me couche au séjour des morts, t’y voilà. ⁹Si je prends les ailes de l’aurore, et que j’aille habiter a l’extrémité de la mer, ¹⁰là aussi ta main me conduira, et ta droite me saisira. ¹¹Si je dis: Au moins les ténèbres me couvriront, la nuit devient lumière autour de moi; ¹²même les ténèbres ne sont pas obscure pour toi, la nuit brille comme le jour, et les ténèbres comme la lumière. ¹³C’est toi qui as formé mes reins, qui m’as tissé dans le sein de ma mère. ¹⁴Je te loue de ce que je suis une créature si merveilleuse. Tes œuvres sont admirables, et mon âme le reconnait bien. ¹⁵Mon corps n’était point caché devant toi, lorsque j’ai été fait dans un lieu secret, tissé dans les profondeurs de la terre. ¹⁶Quand je n’étais qu’une masse informe, tes yeux me voyaient; et sur ton livre étaient tous inscrits les jours qui m’étaient destinés, avant qu’aucun d’eux existât. ¹⁷Que tes pensées, ô Dieu, me semblent impénétrables! Que le nombre en est grand! ¹⁸Si je les compte, elles sont plus nombreuses que les grains de sable. Je m’éveille, et je suis encore avec toi.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Gray Day Full of Light

Sunday November 15, 2009 - Père Lachaise Cemetery - Notre Dame

Quite the picturesque Sunday afternoon! Today the skies were gray, the air was crisp, the leaves were falling and my favorite exploring partners were ready for a new adventure, so we headed to the Père Lachaise Cemetery. There are many famous figures buried there including Georges Seurat, Gertrude Stein, Guillaume Apollinaire, Honoré de Balzac, Frédéric Chopin, Moliere, Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, and of course Jim Morrison. The cemetery is massive and surprisingly beautiful, though you won’t find me there after dark…yikes!

We then headed to a café outside Notre Dame for a warm bite to eat. Now, I realized that I had never actually been inside the Notre Dame Cathedral as sad as that is… I highly recommend visiting on a Sunday evening about 5pm. The mass service is just starting but they still allow tours in the outer foyers of the cathedral. We basically got to stroll through at dusk when the huge chandeliers are lit up and the choir is singing. It was so impressively picturesque and peaceful. Take a look:

Look Mom, the famous rose windows!

Bonne soirée tout le monde!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The American Church

Sunday November 8, 2009 - American Church in Paris: Feels Like Home

So enough about red meat, let’s talk food for the soul. As you know, I live in the 7th Arrondissement home to not only the Eiffel Tower and Parc du Champs de Mars but also the American Church in Paris. How “lucky” is that?! …Hmmm, I kind of think the Big Man Upstairs might have had something to do with it… The church is beautiful!! My whole Grace family would definitely appreciate it, and it is located on the Quai d’Orsay right on the Seine River. Location, location, location.

So I guess one might say that I should be going to a French church to fully immerse myself into the French language, but I can’t help it! It feels like home!! The first couple of weeks that I was here, I was in temporary housing (remember the hostel without internet and scummy bathrooms) and I didn’t get a chance to attend a church service during that time. When I moved into my apartment and realized how close I was to the American Church, I was thrilled. The funny part is, the first time I went I was actually freaked out that all these people were smiling at me. Oh wait, they’re Americans. Duh. But, I was surprised to see how quickly I adjusted to the French street culture of not smiling in public, ever. So of course being the old lady I am I adore the traditional service with the hymns backed up by a massive organ. There is a contemporary service on Sunday afternoons that I just tried today and loved it too! We sang all modern worship songs that I know all the words to. I don’t know; I think for me it’s something therapeutic to wake up on a Sunday morning and get ready for church. It reminds me of home and soothes my homesickness. It’s only a 15 minute walk, but I usually take my time to enjoy some solitude with my Father.

You can see more about the church and some photos on their website.
And PS, these photos were taken back in September...and it hasn't been quite that sunny since!

Friday, November 6, 2009

La Rochelle

October 23-25, 2009 - La Rochelle Weekend

Rema's aforementioned french boyfriend (the one who brings stinky cheese to my house) kindly invited us to go to his hometown for the weekend; the coastal town of la Rochelle. Ironically, in high school we had to do a french project on a french city and I was assigned to la Rochelle...who would've known that one day I would be freezing my buns off and soaking wet due to the simple fact the the ocean is literally "in the air" right on la Rochelle's very own beaches!

There were TONS of seashells! I was going nuts.

PS Rema is deathly allergic to shellfish. Therefore this photo: hardly funny...due to the fact that I would have to be the one to inject her emergency EpiPen OMG...

We went to the biggest aquarium in Europe: SO fun!

More seascapes...

The bridge to l’Ile de Ré, an island in the Atlantic Ocean right off the coast of La Rochelle.

On the island, the weather was beautiful and sunny (and dry, lacking all that wonderful ocean air)...I loved being in nature again! Paris is pretty but it's not exactly natural (ie manicured forests, really?)

If anyone can identify this creature that does not have any sort of skeleton, tentacles, or substance other than gush (eww), let me know!

Hello Slug! He was about the size of my head! (and squishy, we tested)

Au revoir La Rochelle!