Wednesday, September 30, 2009

La Tour Eiffel

Fall 2009 - La Tour Eiffel

So over the past month or so, I've gathered a little collection of Eiffel Tower photos...I'm sure the album will only grow:

My friend Trevor's birthday picnic!

At night, the tower sparkles every hour!

...Still takes my breath away!

Combien? Vingt euros. Quinze. Dix-sept. Oui, d’accord.

Saturday September 26, 2009 - Swap Meet

Can anyone say retail therapy? Today, I went to the World’s Largest Swap Meet, or so I’m told. It’s just outside main Paris and is really easy to get to. Although I did not want to wake up at 7:30 this morning, I had a feeling it would be worth it. I went with two of my friends Julia and Lily; the perfect not-too-many people to still get things accomplished and be able stick together group. First things first. I did not bring a pair of tennis shoes, to France I mean, like at all. Now I didn’t anticipate this being a problem, I never wear tennis shoes except while at the gym, but I also did not anticipate the minimum of 800 stairs I do a day. Oh did I forget to mention that?! Yep, that’s right! On a very average nothing-to-see-here day, I counted. 803 stairs I counted. I only went to school, to my program office (to pick up a gigantic 15lb box of winter clothes, thanks Mom), and then back home I swear. Ladies, please hop on the next flight and you can live on bread, cheese, chocolate, and wine too…all you have to do is try to move around Paris each day. Holy cow! …Back to the shoes, basically my feet have been dying a little more every day. I knew I needed to buy real shoes, but naturally I’m not very good at settling. I can’t just buy regular-old converse like everyone else. No, I need the all black leather converse; hey once I have my mind set on something there’s no going back! I do a little research and back home they’re about $75; here, in a Parisian boutique, they’re 75€ ($110 yikes!). So… needless to say I’ve been holding off on that purchase until now. I found exactly the same converse I wanted for 50€ which is actually $73.35. Deal, Mmmkay! Then I proceeded to get really off track and bought two 10€ dresses and really pretty white blouse for work, a black leather jacket (20€!), some little black socks (in regular stores they’re about $6 a pair, ugh), and a pair of vintage Paco Rabanne sunglasses for a steal! Oh, and a pack of combs we split between the three of us. The craziest part: in central Paris, to buy a normal nothing-special-about-it comb will cost you about $9. What?!

Imagine the downtown L.A. Fashion District and multiply it by 100 = the swap meet. I don’t think we even saw a quarter of it…but we did manage to find the best lunch ever! Now, since I have this comparison going, when going to the fashion district, you don’t use the bathroom, you don’t eat anything from the vendors, and you shower immediately upon returning home. Now believe me, I did shower right away and did have to pay to use a bathroom, but the food was sooooo good (and so far, safe too)! My sister and I have a Quizno’s tradition in L.A. because a franchise is somehow regulated, right? Anyways, we found this little sandwich place, chowed down on massive chicken sandwiches, burgers, and fries! Dee-lish. Funny story: they will charge you an additional 75 cents, each, to sit at one of the tables. Students as we are, we decided to just eat on the go. Well, that was until the man tried to put my huge sandwich in a to-go container…read: Not happening. So he let us sit for free: Bonus!

PS this sandwich totally lasted for 3 meals!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Finale Dinner aka Red Meat At Last!

Friday September 25, 2009 - Finale Dinner

Tonight was the grand finale dinner of our orientation. We went to a really nice dinner at a restaurant on a boat on the Seine. We had to take the metro to the RER (the big trains) to a bus and then walk 20 minutes just to get there…but we had fun as a group! To start we had wine and some sort of mango-tasting cocktail. Our professors proposed many toasts before the meal began. PS I don't normally combine cocktails and professors in the same blog, ha, only in France!

The first course was a salmon tartar and salad. It definitely met my, um, sushi craving! It was definitely raw but really tasty mixed with onions, sprouts, and dill.

The main course was filet mignon with caramelized onions, potatoes, and more salad. It's official: I haven't had red meat in 5 weeks! I am not my doing part in the Irwin legacy, but I promise to do better.

Unfortunately, since we were such a large group we had to vote on a common menu and for dessert we had tiramisu instead of crème brulée! I mean, bonjoooooour, we aren’t studying in Italy for heaven’s sakes…but it was still okay. That just means I have an excuse to get one at the next restaurant I go to! Humph...But then again, I don't really look that disappointed.

Then time for karaoke…one of the professors sang a funny song and a bunch of people from our group sang too! Then upon leaving the restaurant, we depart on yet another journey to find the only open metro stop. About an hour later in my so-called “Paris go-to heels” I’ve nearly killed myself a half of a dozen times, we finally find the stop and low and behold I live off the same line; Grâce à Dieu I’ll make it home in one piece, minus my toes. See for yourself:

Good night!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

La Vie en Rose

Tuesday, September 22, 2009 - La Vie en Rose

For those of you who have been asking for an update, brace yourselves. The following isn’t exactly as pleasantly entertaining or lighthearted as usual.

As all of you know, Rema and I found a delightful apartment in the quiet chic 7th arrondissement. We were so excited to move in! It is a lot bigger than many of the other student-budget apartments available, so we have felt quite lucky thus far. Well, to start, we realized that the washing machine handle was broken rendering it unusable almost immediately after unpacking our bags. Then to our surprise, we discovered that there are exactly 4 electrical outlets in the entire apartment; one in the kitchen for the coffeemaker, one in the bathroom for the hairdryer, one for the internet box, and one in an awkward corner of the bedroom that was broken. Where do we plug in our various laptops, cell phone chargers, camera chargers, TV (more on that later), and microwave? I mean those are only slightly necessary, right? So…”Oh, Madame…” our landlord we call to ask about the washing machine and the electrical outlets. Okay, no problem! She will have 2 new outlets installed immediately and the washing machine next week. That was easy. Then we think, wait we are paying for cable right? Right. Um, we don’t even have a TV in here. “Oh, Madame…” We pick up the new TV a couple days later. Wait. Now that we have the TV we realize that we only have an internet box not even a cable box at all. “Oh, Madame…”

Finally, the new washing machine comes via our repairman, Georges. Yikes, our kitchen counter is too low, the machine doesn’t fit. “Oh, Madame…” We apparently must now have a new kitchen installed. One new countertop, one new sink, and some new cupboards later, the kitchen is complete! “Oh, Madame…” We don’t have any hot water. The hot water heater is thus replaced by my handyman Georges; we are becoming quite good friends by now.

Then, the new cable and internet boxes are delivered! Yay, we actually get to watch our French TV after having it staring blank in our faces for 3 weeks! “Oh, Madame…” All the instructions are in French… Okay, Madame’s son comes and installs everything; it is all set up but now for whatever reason the landline telephone won’t work…I’m a little too afraid to “Oh, Madame…” as of yet, maybe later. Madame is so far the biggest consumer of my calling card minutes. That is just depressing.

Well, the bathroom vanity was another problem. When we moved in we knew it wasn’t exactly esthetically pleasing but we can handle that right? Wrong, the light doesn’t function properly and apparently it is breaking some health or safety code or something. Away it goes, and here comes Georges to replace it with a very nicely lit and classy one! (Hey that was too easy, I’m a little nervous about it still.)

Oh and I almost forgot about the sofa bed! Remember how excited we were to have a sofa bed in the living room for guests! How convenient that would be! Oops, it’s totally broken, “Oh, Madame…” Georges came and replaced the frame and we have received stern instructions to not jump on it. So please, if any of you are planning on visiting, I only ask that you restrain yourselves from taking your excitement out on our brand spanking new sofa bed.

Okay, now I am a fairly reasonable, even-tempered, go-with-the-flow type of girl up until this point. However, when I wake up in the morning to find myself covered in bug bites, that is where I tend to, um let’s just say, draw the line. Bed Bugs. What. The. Heck. (Insert other colorful expressions here) Questions race through my mind: “Is this really happening?” “Only in third world countries, right?” I mean you’ve got to be kidding me.

Unfortunately not. 30 bites and 30 dollars spent on bug spray that apparently won’t help and anti-histamine cream later. I sit on my new sofa bed, scratching my neck, arms, stomach, back, and chin thinking, “Who wouldn’t want to live in Paris?”

To be continued…If I wake up tomorrow that is.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Saturday, September 12, 2009 - Fontainebleau

After a fun filled night of dancing and 2 hours of sleep (I swear the French Friday night doesn’t even begin until 1am; I can barely handle it), I jumped out of bed and literally ran to catch the bus for our group field trip to the small town outside Paris, Fontainebleau. Given this is an early Saturday morning, a total of about 14 out of 30 of us show up for out little day trip. I tried to get Rema up, but she simply responded with “I just can’t see myself getting up right now”. So diva, I love it! But I’m glad I got out of bed to go! The bus ride was a trip in itself. First we are on a normal Socal-looking freeway, then the countryside changes to agricultural fields and rural buildings that remind me of the central valley on the drive to my Granny’s house in Tollhouse, then to a lush landscape that looks identical to the roads in Michigan on the way to my Aunt Mae’s house with super green trees and grass. The town is about an hour away, and apparently a tourist destination…I was hoping to catch a glimpse of a French Red Hat Society but am greeted instead by a very enthusiastic senior group.

The Chateau is massive. There are ballrooms, cathedrals, bedroom upon bedroom, canals, private gardens, and public gardens; all gorgeous. It was a guided tour in French that lasted about 2½ hours …a little lengthy but fun overall. The best fun fact: the Royal families never bathed due to water contamination, so they have perfume rooms instead; yuck.

The chandeliers were amazing!!!! Just to give you some perspective, each chain link holding them up was bigger than my fist. The Chateau was pretty inside and out…no luxury too great for the kings of France…

For lunch, we headed to a Boulangerie and found a good deal on a sandwich, drink and dessert. Parfait! We then proceeded to walk 10,000 miles to our picnic destination which you can decide if the trek was worth it…(Yes!)

So after lunch, I decided to break off from the group and explore the gardens and the surrounding town a little bit (read: After I came back from the bathroom, everyone was gone)... In one of the gardens, there are peacocks and other birds, as well as, a super adorable mother and daughter combo, three teenage French boys sitting. In a park. Talking. without a single electrical device, (so bizarre), and super cute old couples wandering the grounds together. It always strikes me as fascinating to think that these people have this huge historical monument in their backyard; it’s a part of their everyday lives as opposed to say, the 405.

Look Mom, more Roses!!!

We had, in my opinion, way too much free time here. I still had 2 hours to go and was already searching for the bus. Okaaaaaay fine, I’ll find a quiet place to continue reading my 60 Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong book. And, it looks like I found just the spot right through here:

PS on the bus ride back to Paris, I passed out like a little kid at Western Christian Summer Day Camp, mouth hanging open, head bobbing, and everything. Cute.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Le Musée d'Orsay

Friday September 4, 2009 - le Musée d'Orsay

Today we had an hour between class and our meeting time at the Musée d’Orsay. Perfect, plenty of time to run home, change shoes, eat a snack, and meet the group right? Wrong. We were under the impression that the museum was “soooo close to our house”. We decided to walk instead of taking the metro (bad idea #1). I decided to look extra cute while wearing my ankle boots with heels (bad idea #2). We decided to let Natalie use the map book, while wearing heels, while walking instead of riding the metro (very bad idea #3). Now don’t get me wrong, I have been extremely reliable with the map up until this point…running between apartment viewing appointments, various offices, Kodak shops etc… But naturally, when it counts, we’re 20 minutes late after our tiny detour around l'Hotel des Invalides (for those of you who don’t know is HUGE). Our group is already inside so we have to pay to get in, in spite of having already paid in our group activities fees back in June… great. Once inside, this building is AMAZING! It is a converted railway station that could no longer serve its original purpose due to the much longer trains that were eventually used.

So, my professor hands me a 5 page packet with questions about items in the museum. Think back to third grade when you had to go to some museum that no one cared about so you had to find all these random answers to random questions just to prove it was educational = It was awful. Surprise! I actually wanted to see the museum! Imagine: "How many trees are in So-and-So's painting 'blahblahblah'?" I decided that if I was going to enjoy this experience at all, it was going to have to be by myself. Translate: I like art and want to actually look at it as opposed to the, um, more colorful opinions of some of my classmates… As I maneuvered my way around this multi-level-need-my-Dad-for-directions-museum, there were some amazing pieces that I managed to take pictures of during my wild goose chase like these:

This is one of my most favorite paintings. To see such famous works of art was for me, slightly overwhelming. It honestly took my breath away and made me feel teary. I know, completely wimpy, but I called my Mom (wimpy again, I know!) and told her when she comes we totally have an excuse to cry together.
Claude Monet "Les Coquelicots" -Bad photo due to stubborn Russian tourist in my way, go figure.

So after the thoroughly disappointing and somewhat expensive homework assignment/museum visit, I have decided that I have to go back to actually enjoy it, but then again, I didn’t really need an excuse anyways.
...Hmmm, I wonder if I should have bought some of those purple Van Gogh Iris ties in the gift shop as souvenirs? Classy!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Dedicated to Dad

Dedicated to Dad:

So for those of you who may not be aware, I have the a small reputation of being somewhat of a "face wash snob". Probably since the 6th grade, I have complained or stressed about forgetting my face wash on a camping trip or changing brands because this one dries my face out etc... And always, my Dad never fails to reply with "you should just use a bar of soap like me" and then I would squeal and scream over how awful that would be and how wrong he is...Well, guess what I have been using to wash my face over the past 14 days: soap. And not a high quality dermatologist tested/recommended bar; this is the free sorry-excuse for soap that I got at my hotel stay my first night in Paris...and my skin has never been better! Ha. Dad, I guess you were right after all...strangely it often seems to turn out that way eventually :)

And additionally, I shared with my class the link on Wikipedia to the Beatles songs in French by various artists that my Dad used at my Farewell Fete and I want to share it with you now, as well as, what has turned into my apartment's Paris theme song for the year:

And our theme song:


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Le Jardin du Luxembourg

Wednesday September 2, 2009 – Luxembourg Gardens

Every time I see a flower shop, which is every few blocks, I think of my Mom so... this one's for you Mom:

Today I had class in the afternoon, so I decided to visit the Luxembourg Gardens with Rema. Now up until today, we have walked around Paris and rode the metro for hours and hours evaluating french women and their clothing, feeling very dissatisfied for sticking out not only for our loud broken french accents but for our American wardrobes too! So, today we decided (and tried really hard) to look as French as possible…and then proceeded to be as touristy as ever during our photo shoot below:

While in the garden, we hear this loud alarm like what I have only heard in WWII Nazi movies…only slightly more frightening to hear in person… But none of the French people around us seem to be phased at all so I guess we are safe, right? Apparently, every Wednesday at noon the alarm sounds as a test; similar to the alarms on the TV occasionally back home…only here followed by sheer terror and panic-evoking thoughts of an approaching enemy attack. This will take some getting used to.

Just another Wednesday in Paris. <3

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Beginning of the PLP

Tuesday September 1, 2009

Well, today is the first day of September and our second day of class. I can’t believe I have only been here just over a week…it feels like a month considering everything we have done so far!

My professor for my PLP course is Madame Michele Druon from CSUF. She is smart and fun and I think I will learn a lot from her…I better if I’m going to make it. Ha. We had to start a daily journal (written in French of course) of our daily impressions of life in Paris. Hmm, as most of you are aware I have had many impressions already. We were also supposed to buy the text and workbook yesterday after class; the professor simply told us the title and the appropriate metro stop to use. Easy enough. Well, upon exiting the metro we see the famous yellow awnings for the Gibert Jeune bookstore. 4th floor she said. Right. Um, I think this had to be the equivalent to back-to-school weekend here in Paris because this place was insane! We buy notebooks that are unusually large (apparently European) and journals to use before beginning our search for the class books. We finally manage to find the so-called 4th floor and no such grammar book can be found. Rema asks the employee person and he points out the window at more yellow awnings…Okay fine. Upon our ridiculous exit charging through of the entire population of Parisian mothers and their children, we cross the street to the correct Gibert Jeune. Wrong again! This is the mathematical and science Gibert Jeune absolutely not the French as a foreign language Gibert Jeune! (in a typical, you’re an idiot tone) I of all people ended up in the math and science store is beyond me…it’s across the other street under those yellow awnings. OMG, I’m starving by this point but Rema and I promised each other that we would NOT buy food because we had some at home…finally found the darn book and workbook after about 40 more minutes searching in yet another non-air-conditioned French-scented building, mind you, check out and go home.

Whew, needless to say, I ate lunch and took a long nap!

Strangely, I woke up in need of one of these: (taste JUST like my sister Hillary's macaroons!!)

Or these:

Okay fine, I didn’t eat them all but we are saving all our change to buy as much as we want for Christmas! Yes!

Today, we had more classes and homework…I actually found a roomie as dorky as me! We came straight home and did all our homework even before we were allowed to check our emails; we love school! And all French classes!? I’m in heaven!

PS we had an “only in Paris” moment the other day I forgot to inform you about. I’ve heard that Paris has the reputation for having the best dressed bums; well, consider it fact. We were sitting at a café eating lunch one day and this man approaches us with the usual Styrofoam cup, and Rema says under her breath, “He’s wearing a Gucci belt”. And, I’m fairly positive I saw an Armani label on his slacks. If this is how the bums dress, we decided we should be the ones asking for a euro or two.