Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Romantic Cruise of the Seine (with broken down boat)

Saturday was meant to be a picture perfect day! I got plenty of sleep, so I was ready to spend the whole afternoon and evening away from our hotel. Agnes and Ali asked Emily and me to go back to Trocodero and barter for more scarves and Eiffel Tower keychains, since we were so good at it the last time. We were happy to help out--afterall, the Senegalese guys are my favorite.

When we got there, we saw tons of Senegalese guys, with their bags of merchandise and strings of Eiffel Towers, running away from the center of the plaza in a hurry. We tried to figure out what was going on. I asked one of them and he said that the police were there. I guess the police don't approve of them selling super cheap merchandise, when all the official stores around have the same stuff for higher prices. I really don't know where they get their stuff to sell...maybe illegaly?? Well, the guys didn't run too far and we were able to get some good deals for Agnes and Ali. I even got a bright pink scarf for myself, so putting that with my pink beret, I will look so French when I get back to school. Oh la la!!

At this time, I realized that I wanted to walk down the Champs-Elysees because I hadn't done that yet. I teach all my students the song Aux Champs-Elysees, so it is definitely a street not to be missed. I walked by myself--Emily and Allen took the metro--so I got to really soak up each thing I saw. There were all sorts of characters strolling down this most famous street in Paris. I watched the super sophisticated dressers step into Sephora and fashionable stores--one was selling a purse for 1000 Euros!! I also saw a weird guy dressed up as Spider Man running around, having a great time. I almost stopped for a McFlurry at the super chic McDonalds on this same street, but I was a bit late to meet the others at the Arc de Triomphe, so I had to save that for another time.

I got to the crossing to get to the Arc de Triumph. This arch is in the middle of a star of different roads. If you decide to brave it and drive around it, beware: you must be aggresive or you will never get out of the biggest roundabout ever!! I forgot for a second that a person cannot cross the street without getting hit by several cars at once and almost--I say almost--stepped out into traffic. Rather than get hit, you take the underground walkway.

I bought my ticket and met Emily and Allen as well as Dan right underneath the Arc. We took off up the stairs: 289 steps to the top. I could feel the burn after a hundred steps. It was fun to see the view of the city from the top.

Before our cruise of the Seine, we went for some delicious dinner crepes at Cafe Beauborg. They put onions, creme fraiche, potatoes and cheese inside. They really are to die for. We had a super funny server who called me Grettle since my hair was in braids. He left midway through serving us, however. Since servers here are paid by the house and not by tips, it really doesn't matter when they come and go or if you get good service because they will get the same pay regardless. The last lady who served us took a smoking break at the table next to us--puffed a whole bunch of smoke our way which I did NOT appreciate--before getting back to work.

The cruise of the Seine was beautiful. Emily, Allen, Dan and I got in a cute romantic boat all decorated with plants and flowers. The first monument that we floated by was the Eiffel Tower. It was glowing and so beautiful! It really is a fantastic structure. It was built in 1889 to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the French Revolution and has 1789 steps to the symbolic is that?? It was a picture perfect night. When we were half-way through our cruise, however, the boat started smoking. We started coughing from all the exhaust. Our guide said we needed to dock and switch boats. We then got on a HUGE boat with a new, really funny tour guide. It was perfect!! We got to see the whole first part of the tour again, as new people had signed up to go, and we actually finished it this time. This was definitely worth the price!!

Monday we went to a calm park called Bois de Vincennes. It was really nice after all the rush rush of the city. We rented boats and calmly paddled around a lake. Afterwards, we stepped onto a small island and relaxed in the sunshine. We played cards and had tons of fun. We were going to ride horses, but they were 2.50 Euros for 5 minutes. Instead, we just enjoyed the afternoon.

Tuesday was spent at Euro Disney. They had less rides than Disneyland in California, but I still loved it all!! I was the only one in the group who didn't get tired because it was so magical. There were some fun little touches that made this park unique from other ones. There were some really fun shows too, that were half in French and half in English, because of all the foreigners that come to visit. When we were all really hungry, we got some cute pizzas shaped like Mickey Mouse. Isn't that adorable? I was going to bring the boxes home, but I've already collected enough food packages as souvenirs. It is starting to look like I am a garbage collector!!

I leave France on Friday and definitely have mixed emotions. It will be nice to get home and into a routine again, but I will miss the life here so much!!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Jewelry Shop Pasteries and Catching a Pickpocket

This trip to Paris has definitely been different than my last trips. For one thing, my professor gave us all a book of 24 different walks through the city that take you past historical landmarks, walkways and bakeries that a normal toursit would never know about. For example, I have seen the Notre Dame cathedral and the Eiffel Tower several times over, but I never walked down the narrowest cobblestone street in Paris, where the Parisians actually go, until this past week.

On Tuesday, we took a walk called, "Nez au Vent: Nose to the wind: smelling all the different scents that Paris has to offer". This was a fun one. We began in the metro where you can smell a mix of unwashed bodies and wheel grease from the trains. What a place to start! Once we got out of the metro, we walked past a little flower market where we got all sorts of scents from different flowers. I could have stayed there all day. We were directed by our guidebook to a pastry shop by the artist Pierre Herme. This was the most chic shop you could find in the city. It has won all sorts of awards for presentation. The pictures I posted in this blog are Herme creations. He is famous for macarons--these are nothing like macaroons in the USA. He makes these small cake-like desserts out of the finest ingredients. There are all sorts of unique flavors from rose petal to olive oil mixed with vanilla. When walking inside, you are greeted by ladies in black coats and high heels. It feels super fancy. It actually does look a lot like a jewelry shop, where every creation is hand crafted. I splurged by pulling out 7 Euros for a small, marbled ice cream sandwich made out of melt-in-your-mouth pistachio cookies; luckily it was worth it. It was literally a piece of heaven to bite into. I wish you could all try these creations. They put them in a super sophisticated to-go bag and you feel like you are living the good life as you walk out the sliding glass doors. While us poor Utah teachers were eyeing all the creations and deciding which unique flavor to try out, a well dressed businessman came in and spent nearly 200 Euros on a box of macarons-to-go for his evening party that night. What a life!

We ended this Smells of Paris walk at the Fragonard Perfume museum and factory. There, we got to watch a demonstration on how they mix all sorts of scents and flavors to make French perfume. We all sampled some different ones and had a lot of fun, loving or hating the various scents. They are pretty expensive and since I already bought one when I was in France two years ago, I just enjoyed the presentation without wanting to spend on anything.

Dr. Erickson and Ali were tired after this walk, so they headed home. Emily and her husband Allen and I decided to take another walk through the Latin quarter. This was fun! I bought a cool board game for my classroom that can actually be played in English or French along the way. Half-way through our walk, the three of us sat down on this bridge overlooking the Seine river. As we were resting a bit, we noticed the pickpocket scam we had been previously warned about. There were two ladies working together. One lady had a weird ring in her hand. She would go up to various strangers who were crossing the bridge and show them the ring. "I think you lost this," she would say. At this time, the other girl--I think her daughter--would come up and try to pickpocket the person who was being distracted by the ring. It didn't work for the first tourist they tried it on. Emily and I stared the ladies down as if to say, "I know what you are doing!!" After a few minutes, three police officers came onto the bridge. The ladies tried to nonchalantly make their way off the bridge. Emily and I went up to the police officers. We told them about what we saw. We didn't expect much of a reaction because we had been told that the police didn't do much by someone who lived here. To our surprise, they were actually looking for these ladies after receiving a tip. Without asking for more details than their color of shirt, they picked up their pants and took off running, pushing people over as they chased them down. It was great to watch.

On Wednesday, Ali and I had a former student, Melissa, come visit. She was here with Utah State study abroad. It's kind of fun to see a French student continue on in her pursuit of French. We took her to see the Opera de Paris, since we read the Phantom of the Opera when I had her in AP French. That was fun. We then got a little picnic together of bread, cheese, fruit and chocolate--best French meal ever--and ate it in the Jardin de Tuileries. How relaxing. We ended the 2 hour French meal with some Italian ice cream. I love this life!

Thursday was also an eventful day of sightseeing. That night, I tagged along as a sort-of third wheel with newlyweds Emily and Allen to see the Eiffel Tower at night. I know I have done it several times, but I never seem to get sick of it. Before the actual visit of the tower, we stopped at the Trocodero to take some perfect pictures with an Eiffel Tower backdrop. There were several Senegalese guys everywhere, trying to sell scarves and mini Eiffel tower keychains. They said a keychain was one Euro. Emily and I are great at bartering together. We laughed and had fun with the guys. I love the Senegalese! We got so many good deals, you wouldn't believe. We talked one guy into 4 keychains for a Euro. The next one, we told him what price we got and he gave us 5 for a Euro. We had so much fun and got some pictures with them. One shifty-eyed Arab tried to sell me a painting of the Eiffel Tower and the Seine, and while he had it in my face, his buddy came around and tried to pickpocket ME!! Can you believe it??? Luckily Emily pushed me out of his way and saved my bag from ever being touched by his dirty hand. At that time, I was done bartering. We went to the Eiffel Tower and even though I was with a couple--they were very fun to be with--it was still magical for me. I think it is an amazing structure!

Yesterday we went to La Defense--the business sector of Paris with actual skyscrapers. There is even a Grande Arche at the end of the path, which is huge and faces the Arc de Triomphe.

Today we are going up the Arc de Triomphe and taking an evening cruise of the Seine!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Welcoming in the Tour de France

You can never get bored in Paris. This is my third time to the city and there are always new discoveries to be made. I love it! On Saturday, Ali and I decided to take a walking tour of the city, rather than hop on the metro, for the whole day. After grocery shopping, window shopping and strolling by some quaint cafés on a beautiful sunny morning, we went to the Jardin de Luxembourg. I loved it there! There were people everywhere enjoying the gardens and activities. It was so fun yet relaxing. Something for everybody.

One of the first things we saw in the garden was a small Statue of Liberty that Auguste Bartholdi used as a model for the larger one that France gave to the United States. We took a picture next to it, of course. We then went to a Guignol marionnette show that was taking place in a small theater in the park. The first three rows were all reserved for kids so they could participate in the show. It was so fun. It felt like we had been transformed back in time to Punch and Judy shows that I have only seen in the movies. These were the most high tech puppets I had ever seen in all sorts of costumes. They danced, moved, and got the audience to participate like you see at the Desert Star. Definitely something not to be missed!

On the rest of our stroll in the Jardin de Luxembourg, we saw everything from old men playing Boules to rows of people playing organized chess or cards to joggers, to stands that sell Barbe a Papa (Dad's Beard....Mmmmmm!!!! Really means Cotton Candy) and Crepes for all to enjoy. There are parts were you can sit on the grass and everybody does and other parts where they kick people off the neatly manicured lawns. Ali and I bought lemon sugar crepes and sat on the permitted sections of grass to enjoy them. Some young guys next to us pulled out their guitar and we loved the little concert, but the police quickly arrived to tell them to put the music away.

When we got home on Saturday night, I decided to save 10 Euros and wash my laundry in my bathtub rather than paying for a washing machine. It's not like I didn't get used to it in Brazil. I hung it up to dry on our balcony.

Sunday was a super packed day!! I wanted to start off by seeing the Bird Market. This is usually a flower market except on Sunday, where the vendors bring out live birds. We decided to get off on a later metro stop before church so that we could see it. Sure enough, there were birds all over the place: caged birds, free flying pigeons, bird food, all set up on a long street in Cité. We then walked to church and it was a great meeting. Afterwards, we rushed off to welcome in the Tour de France.

Now, in all honesty, I have never really gotten into bike races. However, the excitement present in the city that day got me all pumped up! I was almost temted to buy a yellow shirt and flag. We pushed through crowds of people to try and get the best view but some of them had been camped out since the early hours in the morning. We found a spot and waited for a couple of sign of the riders. We weren't sure exactly what time they would be coming in..sometime between 2:00 and 5:00. Ali and I were hungry, so we went to get a baguette with tomatos on it at the carnival nearby. Afterwards, there was a soft ice cream train--near impossible to resist. I chose vanilla and this delicious black licorice flavor mixed. Mmmmm!!! At this time, the Tour de France still hadn't arrived. We decided to choose another spot to watch it from. Ali said, "Why don't we take a ferris wheel ride? Could be fun. Maybe we will get lucky and see them from the top of the ferris wheel. Ha ha." It sounded like a fun idea, so we walked over. We debated on whether it was worth 6 Euros to ride it. Well, we finally decided to ride it after 10 minutes of deciding and could you believe.....we were on top of the Ferris wheel when all this cheering started happening. The riders were coming in!!! What timing!!! We took tons of pictures!! When we got down on the ground, we walked closer to the road to see them on another one of their laps (they take 13 laps in all around the city). I have to admit that I have become quite the fan of the Tour de France now.

Yesterday, we had class for an hour or so. Afterwards, we took off to discover the most famous bakery in Paris: Poilane. I know I always talk about food in my blog, but seriously, this bakery was amazing!! I got an applesauce filled fritter and it literally melted in my mouth. Amazing! For hundreds of years, they have baked recipes without preservatives and in a wood oven. Their breads rise without yeast, don't ask me how. You can get bread delivered to your house in the US for only 36 Euros each. A little pricey, but were you to try this bread, it might be worth it. I will definitely have to go back sometime before I leave this trip.

Last night, the 5 of us, even the married couple, went to the Single Adult FHE. Eduard, the leader of the single adults, lives right by the Arc de Triomphe in a super nice apartment. There were tons of Asians there--I spoke to a missionary from the states who was called to Paris France Chinese speaking. How would you like that for a call? There were lots of cool people that we met. We had tarts, chips, Orangina, Fanta, and played some regular FHE games. We laughed and had so much fun!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Belgian Fries and Cocktail Sauce

Here I am, back on Paris for another 13 days after our road trip of Northeastern France. The small villages and French countryside were really spectacular! On Tuesday morning we visited the Chocolate Museum and factory that is just outside Strasbourg. It was one of the highlights of my trip, but I really love factories as you know. They told the history of chocolate from its ancient beginnings in South America as a commodity more valuable than gold to its trip to Europe, where it was discovered to be even more delicious when mixed with vanilla and sugar. There was a tour of the story of chocolate where we saw little moving figures--kind of like the Small World ride but without being in a boat--such as mechanical French queens and officials as they discovered the magical chocolate drink for the first time. After the walking tour, a French lady gave us a demonstration of how they make chocolate elephants, race cars, bears and bunnies using molds and liquid chocolate. She had us taste test pure white chocolate, milk chocolate and dark chocolate. The milk chocolate is always my favorite. I was in heaven in the chocolate gift shop...cute bags with chocolate pictures on the front and an apron that I almost bought for my mom, but then I looked closer and saw it was poorly made. We all got a bag of chocolates to take home for free so I decided not to buy anything.

The city of Metz was not too far away. This city is found in the province of Lorraine. Remember that both Alsace and Lorraine were taken by the Germans on several occasions and consequently have lots of German influence. I decided that I love the German style: flower boxes in the windows, colorful houses, open window shutters. The Quiche Lorraine is from this province, so Ali and I set out to find a bakery and try one. We went to the tourist info center and got a map of the city first. We then proceded to take ourselves on a tour of the various cathedrals. The oldest church in Europe, dating back to 600AD is found in this city. We stopped at a Music and Dance conservatory to check it out. The thing I want to do most in France is observe a school class to compare with our schools in the USA. I am really going to try and do this in Paris, but most the schools are out for the summer. Big surprise, eh? This conservatory was the same way--a few private students came in but the classrooms were mostly empty. The two of us just showed ourselves around and Ali tried to find a bathroom inside (public restrooms are near impossible to come across in Europe unless you are in a café and have paid for something). As we were looking around, a man with a pegleg came down the stairs and said, "I don't recognize you two. What are you here for?" I told him that we were teachers from the U.S. and planning on telling our students about this consevatory as a place they could possibly come and study abroad. This got him so excited. He asked if he could get his coat and tell us all about it. Ali can be a lot more abrupt than I can and whispered to me that she wasn't interested at all in talking to this guy and all she really wanted was a bathroom. Well, she found her toilette and the guy came downstairs. He said he would like to take us out for coffee and tell us everything we would like to know. I thought we could at least listen to him for 5 minutes but Ali said we had SO much to do that we didn't have enough time. We let him walk with us out to the town square, he walked slowly and I tried to ask him lots of questions so that he would feel his time was not wasted. We ended up thanking him for his time after we got to the time square and left him there to take off on more adventures.

As we walked along, out of nowhere, a huge storm appeared and rained down SUPER hard on us. We got soaked!! We were supposed to meet our group for dinner an hour from then, so we ran through puddles back to our hotel to get our umbrella and change out of wet clothes. Wow, some storms give no warning! We met our group for dinner and decided upon a really authentic looking Indonesian restaurant. We all ordered shish kabobs with either chicken, beef or lamb. Allen, Emily's husband, however, choose grilled frog legs. France is definitely known for those. When they came out, I was glad it was him eating them and not me. He had such a difficult time ripping the flesh off the legs with his teeth. He said they tasted like chicken with an after taste of fish but were difficult to eat. They brought Dan his plate of beef kabobs and he started eating them. After a few minutes the server realized that he gave Dan lamb and Dr. Erickson had ordered the lamb. Rather than taking the plate back to the kitchen and bringing fresh plates for both Dan and Dr. Erickson, he took the plate where Dan had already eaten some rice, pineapple and a shish kabob and just handed it to Dr. Erickson. How unappetizing. This would never go over in the United States. Dr. Erickson looked a bit bugged, but what do you do? The server then brough Dan out a new plate. Part of the experience.

Yesterday, on our last day of the road trip, we decided to be ambitious and go through Luxembourg and Belgium before coming back to Paris. It was a super fun adventure. There wasn't much to see in Luxembourg, and it was drizzling--the weather here is so bipolar, you never know what to expect--but I took some pictures. We stopped at the first city after crossing the border into Belgium. Dr. Erickson gave us one hour to do whatever we would like. The 5 of us younger ones set out on a mission to find Belgian waffles and French fries (French fries were actually invented in Belgiam and they are world known for them). I stopped a couple of people in the street and said, "Bonjour! We are only here for an hour and were wondering where can one find the most delicious Belgian waffle and fries." They always laughed, thinking we were such funny Americans. Sadly, we found out that southern Belgiam is not as well known for hot waffles and the only waffle bakers were on vacation for a month. We settled for a patisserie that sold hard waffle cooky type things with sugar crystals inside. They actually were pretty good. We did, however, find the best fries I have ever eaten!! This fry shack had fries stacked up near the back walls. When you order them, they fry them a second time in a different oil and serve them with your choice of 5 different sauces. Mmmmmm!!! So hot and fresh!! I chose La Sauce Cocktail, which is a glorified fry sauce. I thought fry sauce was a Utah thing!! Best lunch ever!!

After these small trips, we visited Verdun, a huge museum and cemetary, dedicated to WWI soldiers. It was very sobering. We also stopped in Reims to see a famous cathedral where all the French kings were crowned before coming back home to Paris.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Watch our for Flying McFleury

Our little road trip away from Paris has been an adventure!! On Monday morning, the seven of us took off in two small cars to the city of Colmar. It was a 7-hour scenic drive through grenery and the Vosges mountains. We went all the way to the Rhin river, the border between Germany and France. This land between the Vosges mountains and Rhin river was sought after by both the French and Germans for years. The Germans claimed their border was the Vosges mountains while the French claimed it was the Rhin river. France actually lost this territory, the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine during the World Wars. Because of this dispute, many of the cities in this stretch of land have German names and you can see lots of German influence.

We went just over the border on Monday night for a dinner in Germany. Dr. Erickson wanted us all to get blood sausage and sourkraught but none of us were too keen on that idea. Instead, I ordered some delicious egg plant with a sauce of hamburger and cheese on top and oven baked potatoes on the side. It was delicious. Being a German meal, it actually seemed more filling than the crepes and salads we have been eating in France. But, like in France, asking for a To-Go box for leftover food is forbidden. Warming food up in the microwave the next day is seen as an insult to the chef. We all ended up finishing our dinners and even got gourmet ice creams for dessert. (I think I have had some sort of ice cream every day since I arrived in France over a week ago.) I was very full when I left Germany, but it was worth it.

Tuesday morning was spent discovering the Ville de Colmar. It was very cute and quaint. The 5 of us younger ones in the group (all late 20s) ran off to take pictures in the fountains, explore the markets and try to rent canoes or bikes, while the two older ones (Dr. Erickson and Agnes, in their late 50s tire more easily) wanted to see some war museums or sit on a park bench and rest. It was lots of fun. Dan is the only single guy in our group, so he took pictures with Ali and me, the two single girls, dancing under the Gazebo. It was tons of fun. They have a Little Venice there, so we went to put our names on the list to take the boats out. However, when we walked in to buy tickets at 11:00, the stereotypical French lady looked us up and down and said there were no open times until 1:30. We had plans to leave the city by 1:00 with the others, so we tried to explain our situation. On the whiteboard she was using, we saw that she could have fit us in. But unlike Americans who are out to make the next dollar, she didn't really care. This was her business and she didn't want to help us for whatever reason. She didn't budge. I tried to explain that this was our only chance to take the boats, and she said, "1:20" in an even more stern voice. We left to do some window shopping instead, and tried to remind ourselves that she was purely French and oh well that we missed it.

We saw some other small villages yesterday on our way to Strasbourg. Strasbourg was originally considered the Capital of Europe. It is rich in culture and atmosphere. I talked to an ice cream shop owner about that exact thing last night. He said that the people here are upset that they are named the capital of Europe when the government is doing nothing to help them out. They just got a TGV, super fast French train, station built here last year. He said Obama visited Strasbourg a few months ago (they love bringing up Obama once they hear I am American) and was let down by how far it has to go before it becomes a huge bustling city.

It has been a fun visit for us. We went out last night and saw some traditional German folk musicians all dressed up and playing in the town square. This morning, we took a huge tour boat tour of the city that lasted almost two hours. It was tons of fun. Afterwards, I got a McFleurry at McDonalds. It is my favorite thing at the McDonalds here. They added a crushed European candybar and chocolate. Mmmmm!!! I walked up to the balcony of my 4th floor hotel room to enjoy a soft breeze, delicious ice cream and a perfect view of the city. Sadly, after I had only eaten half of the McFleurry, a huge gust of wind came up and blew it off the balcony!!! Can you believe it? I couldn't see exactly where it fell, but I hope it didn't fall on the people who were walking down below. Oops. I guess I will have to get another one later today.

Tomorrow we are going to a chocolate factory and chocolate history museum not far from here. I love factories!! I had to beg Dr. Erickson to go. He is more keen on the war museums but we like factories and lively things. He said he will do what the group wants to do. He has been a super nice director for us to work with. He reminds us that we are doing assignments here for our grad credits, so everywhere I go, I take pictures of the French...French with their dogs, homeless people, old ladies biking around, bakery workers.... I will try to post them soon.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Bike Riding at Versailles

Here is a fact for you: Did you know that tennis was invented in France? Yes, it was. The scoring is kind of funny, isn't it? Love, love means zero zero to start. Well, that originated because in France they began the game calling out "l'oeuf, l'oeuf" which sounds like love but means egg---an egg looks like a zero. So the tennis players were really calling out zero zero. Well, tennis then came to the USA, where we did not hear "egg egg" but heard "love love" with a thick accent and it stuck. Today even the French say "love love" to begin a tennis match. Interesting, eh?

So yesterday morning we took off on the Paris metro to the Marche aux Puces, which is the most famous flea market. The first things we saw were so beautiful and colorful--bags, skirts, souvenirs, etc. for not bad prices hanging up. All the guys, mostly Africans, welcomed us into their shops, promising amazing prices. We got all excited, but Dr. Erickson told us that we were in the tourist trap section of the Flea market and to wait a little bit longer for the good stuff. After walking about 10 more minutes, we came upon a bunch of junky shops with old tools and what looked like dirty clothes in piles on the ground. He told us that that was where we could find REAL treasures. We young teachers all thought it looked like a pile of garbage--sure it was all antiques, but we didn't really know how to appreciate them. These vendors were French people and not really concerned whether or not we came into their small junk shops. One guy was smoking a pipe and blew some right into my face. I am not one for stuff like that, so we left our professor and headed back for the tourist trap. On the way, we found a nice guy who sold Nutella crepes. They were delicious. He was so friendly. He guessed we were Germans, but when we said we were Americans, he gasped. "But you guys are not fat like most Americans." It was funny how they stereotype us that way. Yes, there are more overweight people in the USA, but it shouldn't be a shock to see some normal sized Americans. He talked with us for 20 minutes about politics (favorite subject here) and movies. When we got back to the tourist trap section, we found the nicest Algerian guys who sold the three of us girls really cute tops in pink and green for only 3 Euros each. What a steal! I also bought a cute red elephant bag, but the coloring bled the rest of the day onto my white shirt. Oh well. I decided that I prefer bartering for cheap, usable stuff than digging through garbage for a treasure.

We left on the bus to spend our afternoon in Versailles. I love that place! The gardens were so beautiful and there was a musical fountain show from 3:30-5:30. They played classical music all over the enormous, manicured gardens while we watched the fountains dance in different patterns. It was very relaxing and a perfect day. Ali and I decided to rent bikes for an hour. We took them to Marie Antoinette's little village. It was so quaint with cute little houses, donkeys and chickens running around. Super cute!

This morning, we took the metro downtown to go to church. Relief society was first and very interesting. The teacher could barely speak French or English. She was all over the place in trying to teach us something. There were two Elders trying to translate the French into Chinese for a lady behind us and one sister missionary translating the meeting into French and English while the teacher tried to teach. The Asian teacher would look at a sister in the group and say, "Give your testimony!" She said that to Agnes, who didn't want to say anything. Then the teacher said, "What? You don't have a testimony?" Agnes tried to get some words out. Very different meeting. The Sunday school and sacrament meetings were a lot better. They were amazing! There were some cool single adults that we met who invited us to some activities and institute. Could be fun! We came home and made some Italian lasagna--actually, Dan made it--he served in Italy and wanted to show off his cooking skills, which was to die for!

Now we are packing and getting ready for our trip to Alsace and Lorraine. We will be on the road in cars for the next five days. We will even get to go over the border into Germany. I don't think I have ever ridden in a small car in Paris. Should be fun!

Friday, July 17, 2009

French History mixed with Italian Gelato

Each day here has been quite the adventure! I love it! Yesterday, the seven of us (5 teachers, one husband of a teacher and our BYU professor] met in the hotel for an hour of class before we got started for the day. It was exciting to meet up with friends and we all greeted each other in our loud, teacher voices. The reception lady glared at us right away and we had to remind ourselves that the French love quiet settings...we were imposing on their peaceful setting. We quickly brought our voices down to just above a whisper as there were other people around us and tried not to let the others see how excited we were to begin our great trip.

After class, we took the metro downtown to the LDS Institute building, which is found right across from the George Pompidou Modern Art museum. It is also found in the Gay quarter of Paris. Everything is painted with rainbows and Happy Gai signs. After the second part of our French history class on the Franco Prussian War, WWI and WWII--we are studying this so when we visit Strasbourg next week, we will understand its significance and how it got its German influence--we had lunch at a Happy Gai patisserie. The two guys who owned it were really nice. I got a croque-monsieur--a ham and cheese sandwich, grilled with lots of cheese on top. Mmmmmm!!!

We then took off to see the Carnavalet museum on France's history and then the Centre Georges Pompidou. This Pompidou museum is really cool looking from the outside. It has lots of colorful pipes and clear tunnels with escalators. However, the exhibits inside were not my type of exhibit at all!!! There were some weird and sketchy pictures and video that I was scandalized by and I couldn't believe parents brought their kids to see. I guess I just have to remind myself that we let violence pass in the USA and the French see nudity as okay. Anyway, that was the first floor. The second floor rooms contained works of art that were nothing more than an orange canvas or blue canvas or colorful paint slapped all over. Not my definition of art.

After that tiring art museum, Ali, Dan and I decided to try some Italian Gelato. Can I say that this stuff was to die for?!! Best ice cream ever!!! I got this chocolate orange cinnamon flavor that I think I am going to have to have every day now. I am already addicted. There was a guy working there who was a super nice, cute guy. I asked if I could take his picture [I am taking all sorts of pictures of French people] and he got all smiley. He said, SURE, and then waznted to see it afterwards. He said that he gets off work every day at 11PM and asked the three of us if we'd like to get a cafe with him. This could be an adventure, I thought. I asked him his name and he said, Frédéric. I about died!! Ali said before coming here that she was going to meet a Frédéric in France...what are the chances? We couldn't believe it. I told her it was destiny. So one of these days we are going to come back to see Frederic at 11:00 and take him up on his offer.

The last thing we did last night was get tickets for Harry Potter. The movie theater was packed and they kept us out of the theater until 7, the exact time our movie started. It was hot and sweaty while we waited and people were pushing to try to get to the front of the line. Inside the theater, some workers walked up and down the aisles, selling popcorn and drinks as if we were at a baseball game. A bit different from movies at home.

Today was also a packed-full-of-fun day! Ali and I accidently slept in until 9:00. I felt a little bad for keeping the group waiting. We took the metro directly to the Basilique Sacre-Coeur, the heart of France. Do you know the difference between a Basilica and a Cathedral? I didn't either, so I asked a nice French guy. He explained that a Cathedral is for a section of the town and performs ordinaces such as marriages and baptisms while a Basilica is for everybody and performs no ordinances. We paid 5 Euros to walk a tiny, windy staircase all the way to the top of the Basilica. There were 300 steps. There was a great view from the top, though several of the steps had little puddles of urine midway up. We were kind of grossed out by that, but the view made it worth it.

After our visit of Sacre Coeur and Montmartre, an artist section next to the Basilica, we stopped for some chicken and cheese crepes in the Red Light district, right across from the Moulin Rouge. We got tons of interesting scenery during that lunch. We were ready to go after a few minutes and took the metro again--don't you love the metro system?-- to the Hotel des Invalides. This was built by Louis XIV to house hurt soldiers and has Napoleon's tomb today. I think it must be the largest tomb in the world, it is enormous! It is funny to think that Napoleon was such a little guy too.

We then went to see Notre-Dame de Paris--beautiful! Made me want to watch The Hunchback of Notre Dame. We stopped at a little cafe afterwards and enjoyed people watching as we ate potato tomato crepes and drank water from tiny glasses. I got some good pictures of the French people eating dinner. The others in my group think I am a bit weird for taking peoples' pictures without always asking--I do ask lots of times--but they will make great conversation pieces to use in French class!

Tomorrow we are going to a Flee market and then taking a train to see Versailles. They have a Saturday afternoon fountain show so we are going to have a picnic there.