Sunday, June 6, 2010

Hot Chocolate does NOT translate in Spain: My Barcelona Adventure PART TWO

Sooo I am sorry to leave you hanging for so long, it has been a really rough couple of weeks and I haven't had much time to write this, but here is part 2 of my adventure in Barcelona!

After our AWESOME bike tour we decided to head back to Las Ramblas and visit La Boqueria,. one of the largest outdoor(ish) public markets in the world. It is HUGE! It has anything and everything food-wise that you can think of. All different types of fruits - normal and exotic, every single kind of vegetable, ice cream, gelato, gummy candy, chocolate, assortments of nuts, pastries, different types of breads, smoothies, steak, beef, pork, pig heads and pig hooves - yes pigs feet blech, lamb, fish, seafood, hot food, cold food, Chinese, Italian, Spanish, French, you name it they got it. It was so overwhelming but so amazing at the same time. I wanted some of everything! It was so colorful and amazing! After staring longly at the copious amounts of gummy candies, chocolate, and other goodies we spied ice cream. We were absolutely obsessed with the ice cream/gelato (yes gelato) in Barcelona. It wasn't exactly ice cream time in Paris yet because the weather had be so darn cold and the ice cream looked amazing that we had to get some! I mean, they put chunks of fruit in the ice cream, they layer on chocolate, etc. It just looks so pretty in the freezer case that we can't pass it up! In fact we had ice cream every single day, save for 1. Well I didn't, but the other girls did. It was our lunch one day...it was a major ice cream addiction. Remember this addiction for the future. Anywho, we spotted a really cool looking ice cream stand in the market and decided to get some. They let us try several samples and they were all so good. This is where it all started to go down hill. I had just placed my order and had pulled out the money to pay when suddenly I felt something splat on my hand and my bangs. I look in my hand and an broken egg was just chilling in my hand. I started getting really upset wondering who the heck throws things at a market when i turn to Beth. She is staring at my wide-eyed and was looking up. That's when she said those awful words "Erin... that is not an egg...I am pretty sure a bird just pooped on you." Sure enough, I look down and see the disgusting green a little bit on my shirt. I. Got. Pooped. On. By. A. Bird. I started freaking out, hey that is normal, and the woman behind the counter gives me a tons of napkins after seeing what happened. I then had to give her the disgusting, pooped on 10 euro bill, because I had no change, for my ice cream. She was NOT happy. But what was I supposed to do with pooped on money?! I am not putting that back in my purse! So we get our ice cream and beeline to the back for a bathroom for me to clean up in. It was not a good moment in my life. But, the ice cream was some of the best ice cream I have ever had in my life, so that made up for it. We walked around La Boqueria a little bit more then decided to go back to the hotel because I reallllly needed to change and wash my hair. We ended up falling asleep and taking a nap because the sun and bike ride took a lot out of us. We woke up around 9 and decided to get ready for our big night out on the town! The metro in Barcelona runs 24 on Saturday nights (GENIUS! Paris could learn a thing or two) so we didn't have to worry about transportation.

Several of Courtney's friends had studied abroad in Barcelona before, so they gave us a list of things to go to - and first up was The Black Sheep for really cheap sangria and free popcorn! It was actually kind of a cool place. There were tons of students there, lots of foreigners, and had a tavern-esque type feel to it. We sat there for awhile, chatting, and enjoying our popcorn. As you can see, I got a bit of sun from the bike tour - WOO! Earlier that day our 2 awesome guys Bubba and Jay told us about this really cheap bar called Ryan's Bar, so we decided to head over there for a bit since we were super close to the area. This quickly became our favorite bar. It is an Irish Pub, meaning they have pub food, aka cheese fries! These weren't normal cheese fries, but they were still soooo good, especially since we hadn't eaten dinner and were quite hungry. Well as the night gets later, there is an Australian boy, an Australian girl, and a Dutch boy by the bar with 26 mixed shots of the house special. TWENTY-SIX! Courtney and I being nosy headed over there to see what was going on - maybe a birthday or something. They were super nice and funny and gave us some shots (woo!) The guy Aussie was Rory, the girl's name was Natalie, and the Dutch guy...I don't know. It was kind of hard to understand him and once he rank more it got even worse. He was so excited when he found out I was from Chicago (I just say that to not confuse people) because he and his father are HUGE Bears fans. Or as he called them "The Behz" it took 4 tries but I finally realized "The Behz = The Bears." We talked about the Bears for awhile. It was really interesting hearing a guy from the Netherlands perspective on them. Unfortunately, as he drank more, it became a lot less easier to understand him. I just nodded and agreed occasionally and smiled. Rory and Natalie were just straight up hilarious. I have met so many Australians while abroad and they are just so awesome! They are always in a good mood and don't sweat the little stuff. I want to go to Australia, not just for the mean koala bears, kangaroos, and baby-stealing dingo's ( :( ) but the amazing people that live there. It must be a happy place. Ok, Australian spiel is over, but it will return in my Geneva blog. Later on in the night, their friend Enrico, who worked for the bar came an joined us. He was from Indonesia. Somehow we got on the subject of money and Rory pulled out some Australian money and Enrico pulled out Indonesian money. Foreign money is so much cooler compared to ours! I love the symbols on ours, especially the dollar, but foriegn money are DIFFERENT COLORS! Pinks, blues, purples, oranges, reds, etc. It is legit monopoly money. I mean, who doesn't like colored money?! It was just a lot, a lot of fun and we met some really nice people, But alas, much, much later in the night the bard had to close and our new friends walked us to our metros and we parted ways. It was a wonderfully fun night in Barcelona.

The next morning was Easter and Beth diligently rolled out of bed somewhat early to go to Easter Mass. Courtney and I, on the other hand, decided to sleep in :-/ in all fairness I doubt there is a Methodist Church in Spain, but Courtney and I need some rest. We finally rolled out of bed as well, much later, and got ready to meet Beth for lunch. We went back to the harbor because Courtney and I had scoped out some amazing restaurants along it. We reallllly wanted paella, a traditional Spanish rice dish. We found the cheapest restaurant, that was still sooo expensive, but soooo good. In Spain, you unfortunately have to pay for bread (what a joke right?) AND you have to pay for water. Well, we paid for the bread, but I had a 1.5 liter bottle of water in my purse so we just snuck water out of that when we were thirsty. Illegal things in every country mom, every country. :) I ordered the vegetable paella and Courtney ordered paella with loads of different seafood in it. This has been on of the most delicious meals I have had in Europe. IT. WAS. AMAZING! I definitely want to learn how to make paella and make it all the time next year in my apartment. And, while it looks like only a little, it is soooo filling. I couldn't even eat it all! We were having such a good time, chatting and gossiping that next thing you know it is 3 hours later! AKA time to order dessert! At this point, it had really started to cool down and get super dark with what appeared to be a storm brewing, so I ordered some hot chocolate. The waitress didn't understand me, so we tried explaining it again. She gave us a weird look and said they didn't normally do that, but they will try. We all just assumed she meant they usually don't serve hot chocolate when it gets this warm or something. No. Definitely not. She came back with a steaming cup of hot chocolate = literally melted chocolate. It was like a cup of hot fudge sundae sauce. What am I supposed to do with that?! I attempted eating it, it was awkward. So we took the bread and started dipping it in there, which made a lot more sense. We could not get over what just happened, and it became the running joke of the trip! These things always happen to me (stay tuned for Italy!) So, note to self and others: be careful when ordering hot chocolate in Spain, sometimes it does NOT translate. As we are chatting, suddenly out of no where there is a clap of thunder and a monsoon hits! Literally, a monsoon. If you see the difference between the two pictures from when we started lunch to when near we ended, it was ridiculous! It literally poured for an hour. Barcelona doesn't really now how to handle rain either. People were running and screaming, traffic was at a standstill, and since we were at an outside restaurant, it started to flood, and they were literally filling up giant pots and buckets to try and prevent it. It was crazy! We even took a video (posted below) to sow how crazy it was raining! Beth really wanted to go, because at this point we had been at the restaurant for 4 hours, but Courtney and I thought she was crazy and we wanted to stay until it ended. It finally stopped and we left to walk around the city for a little while. It was getting late, and we were all so tired, so we decided to head back to our awesome hotel and hope in the hot tub, sauna, and steam room. It was so, so, so relaxing. We stayed in the rest of the night, gossiping and playing games, typical girls.

The next morning was Monday, our last day in Barcelona :(. Luckily, the hotel was willing to keep our bags for the day while we ran around one last time. We went to Las Ramblas one last time to see the ridiculous street performers and go to La Boqueria one last time, but alas it was closed :( so instead we walked around a little bit more and visited this giant fountain that is at the beginning of the street - yet we had no idea (oops!) It was swarming with pigeons, so needless to say I didn't like the place very much, and instead focused my time on trying to kick any pigeon that got in my way, and divebombing if a pigeon flew over me. After the fountain, we decided to head to our favorite street "Ferran" because it is a lively street full of shops, Irish pubs, and it leads to the street that Ryan Bar is on, which we headed to one last time to get some food and one last pitcher of Sangria. The sangria was absolutely awful, something we had not remembered from 2 nights before, but I ordered nachos (woo!) and Courtney ordered a burger so we were quite content nevertheless. After dinner, we ran back to the hotel to use up the last remaing half hour of internet we had bought that weekend, before heading off to the airport where we would be sleeping at until our flight at 5:30am...


Oh, right...yes we slept at an airport that night, at least attempted to sleep at the airport. The airport itself is actually a really, REALLY nice airport with guards all around. It was really entertaining watching the guards circling on Segways making sure everyone is ok and there are no problems. Since Beth didn't have class until 2am she was the one who had to stay up and keep guard of our stuff. Well, throughout the day we drank 2 liters of pop to keep ourself energized. So mix that with the fact that I am an insomniac and light sleeper, I obviously couldn't sleep. However, Beth did not know this, so she was sitting there singing to herself and I took pictures until she noticed, hehehe. I tried to go to sleep again, but alas, could not, so when I looked up, instead of singing, beth was now DANCING throughout the airport, Skipping, prancing, Irish-stepping, everything. It was so entertaining to watch, until she finally realized I was watching. It was 3 am at this point and I realized I was not going to fall asleep at all, so I relieved Beth of her duty, since she was dancing around trying to stay awake, and I stayed up until 4:30 when we went to wait in line for Courtney to check in her bag. They changed our flight to 6am, which we were annoyed, but other than that everything was fine. I slept a bit on the plane and we arrived in Paris around almost 8am and we waited for a bus for forever to take us from Orly to Paris. Poor Courtney had to work from 9:30 to 5 that day. I still don't know how she made it. I ended up going home and napping until Romantisme that day. I ended up not going to Cinema, because I had a meeting with Dr. Costello after I received a pretty interesting email from him about my host family.

I am going to stop there, since this is long yet again, but next blog will be about the move and other things... Until then, AU REVOIR!

video

Monday, May 10, 2010

My lovely visit from Aunt Julie & TOUR DE BARCELONA! Barcelona part ONE

Proof I rode a bike.

A long, long, time ago in a country far, far, away... I went on vacation. Literally. It has officially been a month since I went to BARCELONA, SPAIN, or how they say there BarTHelona, ETHpagna. But just to be mean and make you wait a little bit longer I am going to describe my week leading up to it.

Monday was back to the grind and I had Art & Architecture. It was our last class before our big exam on the 12th because we got Monday off the following week because it was the day after Easter and I attend a Catholic university here in Paris. So we covered A LOT of new material in 3 short (and by short I mean painfully long) hours. After class I had host family dinner, which was a bit awkward since the whole me using the stove debacle (still oops!) Tuesday, aka the longest day ever, was Romantisme which I couldn't pay attention to as usual, and Cinema. I actually LIKED this film compared to the others we have watched in this course. Except the ending, but all French movies end abruptly or weirdly. When I got home I received a letter from the Office of Immigration stating they received my confirmation that I was in France. Unfortunately, I got yelled at for receiving mail at my host families home and my host mom said I am never to receive mail at her apartment. How strange. Things were getting even more awkward and worse. :-/

And now Wednesday!! Wednesday I have only Theatre, BUT my professor was performing in a play this week in Avignon so class was cancelled (woo!) so I got to sleep in AND my Aunt Julie came to visit me that day! She lives in London so I do not get to see her a lot so it was wonderful getting to see her! She was staying at this adorable hotel near Saint-Germain Des Pres so I headed over to that area around eleven (I haven't visited it a lot before - it is very swanky) and we chatted a bit and decided to grab a bite a cute cafe around the corner. I had the most wonderful cheese omelet and salad. It was quite a dreary day, but the rain was holding of thus far, so we decided to walk to my school so I could show her around. I showed her where my Illinois Program in Paris classes are, then we walked through the Luxembourg Gardens to get to the Institut Catholique. We almost made made it but suddenly it began to Monsoon, as I now learned it tends to do here since I have been caught THREE times in one, so we ran and hid inside a little Chinese restaurant. The worker there didn't seem to happy that we were seeking shelter in her restaurant so I bought a coke...but she still wasn't happy. After the rain slowed down, Aunt Julie and I quickly left the restaurant and I showed her my school. After, we caught the metro to go to the Centre Pompidou. Now, you all remember that I do not like modern art AT all, but I thought I would give it a try. There was a very interesting English artist that had an exhibit there for awhile that my aunt wanted to see. Well apparently half of France and the world wanted to go to the Pompidou this Wednesday because the line was RIDICULOUS. We both didn't want to wait in a line so we went to the free Brancusi sculpture museum outside of the Centre Pompidou. Constantin Brancusi was a very interesting Romanian modern sculpture. He didn't stick to clay or marple, but used bronze, and metal, and wood for his sculptures. It actually was quite interesting - different, but interesting. Another monsoon hit, so we decided to sit in the museum for awhile (it is very small) before heading back to her hotel to rest for a bit. We accidentally went in the wrong direction on the metro and ended up at the craziest metro station I have ever been at. The entire station is made out of copper - like the walls are covered with it and the chairs are covered with it! I had never been on the line before so it was interesting to see. We got back to her hotel where we checked our emails and the hotel printed out my boarding pass for BARCELONA for free. Sooo nice! After, we headed up to my aunt's room where there were snacks and champagne chilling in a basket waiting for us. I told you - swanky! So we drank some Champagne and both read for awhile because we were tired. After our little rest we decided to head to this restaurant named "Le Christine" near Saint-Germain Des Pres. We were waiting for Giovanni, my aunt's boyfriend of a long time, but his plane from Italy was delayed. We ordered a caesar salad to split while waiting for Giovanni and a bottle of red wine (I am becoming such a connoisseur of wine while being in France! Or so I like to tell myself) and I usually don't drink red wine but it is good! Giovanni finally got to Paris and made it to dinner 45 minutes later and we had a wonderful meal. I had this steak thing with mashed potatoes. SOOO good. And the company was even better!I also had my first souffle with Grand Marnier! Grandmarnier is a type of liquor as I now know - I dont understand how people would want that in a crepe blech! It was great to see and hang out with my Aunt Julie and Giovanni. It had been so long since I had last seen them. The meal last 3.5 great hours, as any real French dinner should, but unfortunately I had to get going home and Aunt Julie and Giovanni had a really early flight to India the next morning and I a flight to BARCELONA the next night, so we decided to call it a night. The next day was Thursday, the first of April, so I had my awful literature class. I luckily didn't have to drag my luggage to class like I did last time. I was sick earlier that morning, hence why I didn't go to the Chopin museum for Romantisme, so I somehow convinced Beth that I was no longer going to Barcelona because there was no way I could fly in my state. She started freaking out and then I yelled "April Fools!" I have never seen her go so pale in my life. I am mean. After class we ran home to get our luggage and then headed to the Orly Bus to take us to the Orly Airport! Fun Fact: Mom you love these "activities" but the bus never validated our ticket so we didn't have to buy a return ticket from Orly when we got back from Barcelona! We essentially got a free bus ride woo! 2 hours later we were on the plane to

BARCELONA! Courtney had flown in early and was already relaxing at the hotel. We stayed at a lovely hotel called Abba Garden, which I guess is technically in a suburb right on the outskirts of Barcelona - but there is a metro stop 10 minutes away so it wasn't bad at all! I found it on Priceline because all of the hostels in Barcelona were booked for Easter Weekend. This hotel was awesome! It had a pool, a sauna, a hot tob, etc. It was midnight by the time we got there so we decided to stay in and chat until 3 am to catch up with each other. The next day we decided to hit the town. We passed through this lovely garden (pictured on the left) everyday we went to the metro stop. It was beautiful and very different than any Parisian gardens. our first stop was Las Ramblas, the most well-known street in Barcelona. It has tons of cafes, restaurants, shops, hotels, and street-performers galore! Just look how packed it was on a Friday at like 11am! It was amazing! Right away we saw there were TONS of ice cream stores so we of course had to go get some ice cream! That was our lunch for the day, and let me tell you, it was the best lunch! After spending some time looking at some of the street performers and flower markets we decided to head over to the Barcelona Cathedral cathedral that was very close by because it was Good Friday and Beth wanted to go to Good Friday Services. Like most things in Europe, this cathedral was under construction and the scaffolding got in the way of my photos. There were TONS of people there getting ready for the outdoor service. Beth being a good Catholic stayed while Courtney and I went to find a cafe nearby while Beth was at the service. This is what Courtney and I do best. We go to cafes and can talk for hours, literally hours. Remember that one Sunday where i was gone from noon to almost midnight, eating tons of different foods? Yep, that was with Courtney! After drinking a really good lemon slushy drink thing we decided to walk towards the harbor. We past a lot of really good looking restaurants, which we made note of to come back to another day. While walking around we ran into Beth! The service had ended so we decided to walk around the harbor of Barcelona. It was absolutely beautiful! We sat down for a little bit right near the water and then decided to go to the giant mall that was on the a bridge over the harbor. Nothing caught my eye, but Beth was enamored with an awesome coat from Mango. She didn't buy it that day but we came back on Monday and she bought the coat! Beth is not one to splurge so it was great to see her spend money on something she really loved and that was for herself. After the mall we decided to head down to the beach (!!!) It was beautiful and had the most amazing sand sculptures I have ever seen! We walked a long way down the beach and found a row of awesome bars and restaurants right on the beach! We were starving at this point so we decided to check out this Italian restaurant. Yes, and Italian restaurant in Spain. It was 6:50 and apparently the Spanish don't eat until much later so we had to wait until 7 to enter the restaurant because that is when it opened. Courtney ordered seafood paella (remember paella,) Beth ordered a cheese pizza, and I ordered a sausage and mushroom. It was delicious! And of course we are in Spain, and what is Spain known for besides their daily siestas (naps)? SANGRIA!! Courtney and I decided to order a pitcher of Sangria and it was the best Sangria I have ever had. It was my first time having Sangria, but it was by far the best of the entire trip. It was a wonderful dinner over, however we did learn that they charge for bread AND water in Spain. What the?? I guess we are spoiled in France and the U.S. with our endless amounts of free bread and free water! After dinner we walked around a little more around the beach then decided to call it quits for the night because the next morning we had our amazingly, awesome...


BIKE TOUR! Courtney had gone on a bike tour around Paris and had the time of her life and had heard there was one in Barcelona too! We were running a little bit late, and basically had to run to the square where it was starting, but we got there just in time! We were greeted by 2 hilarious Aussies who have been living in Barcelona for awhile and new everything there is about it. It was a 4 hour bike tour around all of Barcelona that showed us most of the main touristy things and some not so touristy stuff! Poor little Beth had to have little kid's bike because she is so small (hahahahaha) but unfortunately her seat was broken so she had to adjust it every 5 minutes - it was actually quite entertaining. Our first stop was the original castle where the Kings and Queens of old Spain lived - aka King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella who commissioned Christopher Columbus! After, we headed to an amazing music hall in Barcelona. The outside detail was beautiful and my pictures do NOT do it justice, because the roads are sooo narrow in Barcelona that I couldn't get a good angle. Next up was the Arc of Triumph! Yep, that is right, there is an "Arc de Triomph" in Barcelona. In fact, there are a little over 300 "Arc de Triomphs" in Europe, Paris' is just the most well-known one. The one is Rome was the first one ever. Betcha didn't know that! I certainly didn't know there were 300! After the Arc, we went to the most magnificent garden, with a ginormous fountain and sculptures of elephants...yep elephants. It was absolutely beautiful and looked almost like a jungle in some parts. We then rode off to the Bull Fighting Arena! Bullfighting, or Tauromachy which comes from the Greek word tauromachia "bull-fight," (see parents! I do learn things!) is despised and like by many Spaniards. After a fight, the bull is killed :( and because of this a vote was made to ban Bull Fighting. However, the people of Barcelona didn't like that so they are still continuing bull fighting. This is much like the anti-smoking bills. The Spanish government has passed anti-smoking laws in public places (restaurants, bars, stores, etc.) FOUR times. FOUR! It works for a little while then everyone blows of the law and starts smoking again. A new ban was supposed to go into affect in April - we shall see how long this one lasts! Our next stop after the arena was La Sagrada Familia - the most well known church in Barcelona, if not in Spain. It is the most ridiculous church I have EVER seen in my life. Antoni Gaudi designed the plans for this church and he was nuts. Seriously. It started in 1882 and it is still under-construction to this day and isn't expected to be finished until 2026 (yeah right!) 100 years after the death of Gaudi. There is a giant fake Christmas looking tree above the door, grapes decorating the tops of towers. Gaudi was hit by a tram in Barcelona and left on the side of the road because people thought he was a beggar. He was taken to a hospital where nobody recognized him. He was finally recognized and someone offered to take him to a nicer hospital, but he said no and that "he belongs with the poor people." 3 days later he died. He is buried underneath/in La Sagrada Familia. In 1938 the blueprints to La Sagrda Familia were destroyed by anarchists in the Spanish Civil War. Now, this part I do not know if it is true or if our guides maid it up, but supposedly these 2 guys believed that Gaudi HAD to have created another set of blueprints and that he would be kooky enough to hide it somewhere around La Sagrada Familia. They scoured the place and couldn't find it and finally decided to check his grave and there they were clutched in his hands. Would definitely be a cool/creepy story if that is true! After La Sagrada Familia we sped down to the beach to hang out for a little while, get lunch, and Sangria! Yep Sangria and bike riding. After that, our wonderful tour had to end :( so we said goodbye to our new Aussie friends and headed to Las Ramblas to go to La Boqueria!

This blog is getting EXTREMELY long like my Sweden blog so I am cutting this blog in half *gasp!* But no worries, i will write Barcelona part Deux tomorrow so I won't leave you hanging TOO much! Until then AU REVOIR!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Technology. Can't live with it. CAN'T live without it.


Soooo I honestly was planning on writing a blog much sooner than this (believe me, I promise!) but good ol' technology decided to get in my way. My computer broke. The graphics card gave out on me and I had to take it into a repair shop in Paris to get it fixed. That was a fun experience. I learned some new technology vocab from this experience. Thank goodness they were able to fix it because 3 other girls have had to get new computers entirely. EEK! I got extremely lucky. There must be something going on with the electrical conversion or something because for 4 computers to have all these problems (they all started with a black screen) so hopefully no more computer problems from here on out!

Anywho, I know I am wayyyyy behind and this blog is about the week after SWEDEN and going to Foutainebleau and Vaux-le-Vicomte. I arrived back Sunday around noon and I was EXHAUSTED from pulling an all-nighter the night before so I came home and slept a lot of the day. Monday I had Art and Architecture BUT it was cancelled for the day (woo!) so instead of going home and working on my Romantisme paper that was due the next day, Alla, Beth, and I went to the Luxumbourg Gardens because it was nice and sunny out and talked for a couple of hours. We then went to get a crepe and went our separate ways to go do homework. The Romantisme was a bit harder than I expected. It was about Victor Hugo's "Notre-Dame de Paris" (Hunchback of Notre Dame) but it wasn't even the storyline of it (No Quasimodo or Esmerelda) We read his descriptions of Notre-Dame (he is verrry descriptive) and explain why it relates to Romantisme. It was hard and I kind of made up things - hopefully it will be ok. Everyone else I talked to did the same thing. Wednesday we did some book shopping for our classes, some window shopping, and then Caroline, Ashley, Beth and I went to Starbucks to plan Spring Break! My second week here I bought a 5 euro umbrella. It broke within 30 minutes of me using it. The third week a brought a sturdier umbrella - so sturdy that it does not fold up and is quite large so I forget I need to be careful with it. At Starbucks I knocked over, not one, but TWO glasses they had on sale with my umbrella. Oy. Vay. I was sooo embarrassed but luckily the workers were very cool with it and told me "I wasn't the first, and I won't be the last." OOPS! Remember my umbrella. Thursday for Romantisme we went to Eugene Delacroix' home/museum (!) I like Delacroix so it was very interesting to see how he went through several phases in his life and started painting in different styles. He was never precise with his brush-strokes, which is a big part of Romantisme. In 1832 he went to Morocco and after his travels is when his style started to change and he started painting different things than he had in the past i.e. lots of exotic animals and African people became his subjects for awhile. It was very interesting! That night we went to go see a play for Theatre called "Fantasio" and it was at the Comedie Francaise. The building is GORGEOUS and right next to the Louvre. Our seats were awful - we could see perfectly fine, but the seats themselves were sooo uncomfortable. It was also really hard to folllow the play because it was in French and they spoke soooo quickly. I just made up my own dialogue and plot instead. :) Friday we had theatre class and nothing too exciting happened there.

That day Beth's friend Larry was coming to visit because it was U of I's spring break so we decided to go to Baby Bottles again. Ok, it isn't called Baby Bottles - I just never remember the name! I know what street it is on but that is it. Beth, Larry, Alla, Colie, and I all met up at the metro station to go the Baby Bottles. Brian and his friend Dale were supposed to meet us, but Brian ended up getting extremely lost and didn't get there until an hour later, but the restaurant wouldn't keep our reservation so we had to go in without them. We felt bad but they found a really good dinner down the street - so it ended up working out. This time we ordered cheese fondue AND meat! It was delicious and an overall good time! After dinner, we still wanted to enjoy everyone's company and had no desire to go home yet, so we went to Larry's hotel (he was staying at the Marriot - hello swanky and huge) and chatted and hung out for an hour or two. We ended the night (somewhat) early because the next morning we had to be on the bus bright an early for the Chateaux (Castles basically) Fontainebleau and Vaux-le-Vicomte.

When I woke up Saturday morning, really early I might add, the weather was so dreary and rainy. Go figure we would be spending most of the day outside exploring guide of the inside
the castles and whatnot. Our first destination is Fontainebleau, which is an hour and 15 minutes outside of Paris. This is where the kings of yore, and Napoleon, lived before Versailles became the grand Palace. When they weren't at Versailles, they were at Fontainebleau. Dr. Costello gave us a tour of the outside and we had an audio tour. The building to the right was just the kitchens for Fontainerbleau. Those. Are. Kitchens. You can imagine what the palace is like if those are the kitchens. Fontainebleau isn't as grand as Versailles, by any means, but there was a lot of interesting history in this chateau! Like I said, today was gloomy, and of course while we were outside doing th tour it was raining. But thankfully I had my handy-dandy umbrella! Except not. I get inside and we start the audio tour when suddenly I am tapped on the shoulder. Some employee said my umbrella was way too large and I had to check it in. What?! I had to pay 2 euro to check it into some locker. I was NOT happy. My stupid umbrella strikes again at causing a disruption. Back to the chateau:There was a room filled with all these plates that had important places, events in history, people, etc on them. Every inch of the room was filled with plates! There is also a "Hall of Mirrors" which is where the inspiration for the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles came to be. My favorite room in the chateau was Marie Antionette's "White Room" everything was white and pretty! Also, Fontainebleau contains the last throne of France - Napoleon's thrown! It is quite small...but then again so was Napoleon :)

After Fontainebleau, we hop on the bus and drive to Vaux-le-Vicomte which is a a cheateau built for Nicolas Fourquet NOT a king or emperor. A picture of it from the gardens is the first picture on the blog. Nicolas Forquet came from a wealthy family and was a politcal man (he was the financier of Louis XIV) and wanted a majestic home for himself, so he built Vaux-le-Vicomte for himself. After it was finally finished he had a huge party and invited the king to see Forquet's new humble abode. Louis XIV was so jealous of this luxurious palace as well as the grand party that was held, that 3 weeks later Fourquet was arrested and imprisoned for the rest of his life for treason. He only got to live there for 3 weeks! How sad! first off was lunch at the chateau. It was quite expensive (seeing as there was no restaurant or grocery store near by to buy food hence why they could jack up prices) and I had rabbit for the first time. I honestly didn't know it was rabbit. I need to start learning food names or actually pay attention because that is how I ended up with shrimp pizza bread once because I for the word fro shrimp. It was delicious though! So I didn't mind, besides the fact I was eating a poor little Bugs Bunny. The sun finally started to appear after lunch so Larry, Beth, and I decided to check out the gardens first. Oh. My. Goodness. These gardens were AMAZING! Vaux-le-Vicomte and it's garden werer the inspiration for Versailles, acutally. Louis XIV loved the chateau that much. There are flowers, and trees, and fountains everywhere in the back yard, and it expands tons of acres. My pictures cannot even do this place justice. Bet, Larry, and I were having way to much fun in the gardens. hiding behind shrubs, pretending we were fountains (yes, you read correctly) oh and riding on golf carts! Because the gardens are sooo large and because there is a very famous statue of Hercules/Zeus 40 minutes away from the chateux but still in the garden (by walking) they rent golf carts. We are making the like hike to the statue, when suddenly Adam, a kid from the program, comes whiuzzing by on a golf cart and yells for us to get on. So we did. We come across 2 others and we tell them to get on too. We start driving up to the statue and pass 2 more and we tell them to get on! That is 8 people on a golf cart...and the weight limit is 800...yep you do the math! It was a BLAST. Maybe a bit unsafe, but who cares! We were so paranoid about getting caught though, but luckily we never were AND we made it to the statue! It was getting close to the time we had to leave so Larry, Beth, and I rushed back to the Chateau (on the golf cart of course) and went inside real quickly. We literally went through 5 rooms because there was a big concert going on in on of the rooms, so we couldn't get past it. But oh well, we got to see the gardens which were the best part of the day! In the picture to the left is Sean, our graduate assistant on the trip, and Beth. The picture on the right is John, Me, Lena, and Adam on the golf cart!

After visitng the chataux, we came back to Paris for a little rest and then a bunch of us went out to dinner at an Italian restaurant that has a great deal for pizza, wine, and a dessert. It was delicious! A bunch of the people we went to dinner with were going to the Tim Burton Movie Festival, 3 movies in 1 theater starting at midnight until 8am and then everyone got breakfast. I wanted to go but no one wanted to see the movies I wanted to. There were 2 rooms, one showing 2 Batmans and Sleepy Hollow, and the other was showing Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice, and Mars Attack. Well i have never seen any of the movies in theater 1, but everyone was going to theater 2, so I passed. Instead, Beth was feeling quite sick and tired, but she didn't want Larry to not have fun in Paris so she went home and I took him to an Irish Pub that a bunch of us go to a lot. He works for the IT department down at U of I, in the athletic department, so I learned a lot of stuff about what goes on in the athletic department and sports and what not. It was very interesting! Sunday I hid in my room all day and did work, 1.) because I had a lot and 2.) my host family came back from vacation early and found out I used the stove (oops :-/) so i didn't want to press any buttons at the time.

That is all for now, but next blog is BARCELONA!!!!! I know you all have been waiting for that! until then, AU REVOIR!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

IKEA, Skype, Volvo, Moose. What does that mean? SWEDEN!

*DISCLAIMER: This blog is the longest blog in the history of all blogs! I apologize and give you full permission to take eating breaks, nap breaks, potty breaks, work breaks, etc. whilst reading this...just come back and finish it!

I am horrible at blogging. I really, really am. It makes no sense either, because I LOVE to blog. (In case you couldn't tell with my ridiculously long posts) But they are ridiculously long because I don't write them as often. If I wrote them more often, they wouldn't be as long, you readers wouldn't get as bored halfway through and quit reading or want to gouge your eyes out, man it is a chain of events. I need to take a less from Ashley, who updates all the time and is very good at managing her blog (shameless plug - she is one of my followers Ashley I. you can read her adventures too!!)

Anyway, before I get to my fantabulously amazing weekend in Sweden, I will describe the boring details of my week leading up to Sweden. Monday was L'Art et L'Architecture where we learned more about famous churches around France. I also had my first experience with a French doctor because I thought I had bronchitis, but apparently I had a severe upper respiratory infection eek! They gave me, count it, FIVE medications. They French give out medicine like candy here, no joke. But hey! They helped! Tuesday I had Romantisme (meh) and after I had Cinema where we watched a horrible, horrible French film that I wish he would have warned us about because it was quite graphic. I am not liking these French films so far, they are completely different than American films, and often just end *poof* when you least expect it. Oh, and they are usually really sad or disturbing. I don't get it. This is my friends cinema course ever...maybe I should have taken one in English before attempting this class because symbolism and such goes right over my head. Wednesday was Theatre, and I came home to pack for SWEDEN, which I had to take my lovely carry on bag to Victor Hugo's house the next morning for Romantisme. He had quite a large estate situated near/in my favorite part of Paris - Le Marais! I actually was quite interested in visiting his house and they still have everything he used while living there including his stand-up desk where he wrote EVERYTHING. He could only write standing up. Fun fact: Victor Hugo slept with over 1000 woman - woah there Hugo. He was the Benjamin Franklin of France! Another fun fact: He wrote at least 12 letters a day - A DAY. If you know Victor Hugo (well not personally, duh, but his style) he is not one to keep things quick and short. he is like J.R.R. Tolkien and will spend 25 pages describing something - literally. That is a lot of writing in one day. Also he almost always wrote a love letter to his wife. I want my husband to write me love letters everyday, but he does not get to sleep with over 1000 woman. Sorry. Sad fact: His poor daughter drowned after falling out of a boat shortly after her marriage. I think Hugo might have been nearby to see it? (not sure) but she was his prized possession, and his writing became much darker and sadder after this point in his life. So sad. Ok, sorry I found this to be very interesting but you readers may not - but HEY MOM AND DAD see I am learning something! After Romantisme was the class that shall not be named (Contemporary Literature *shudder*) I dislike this class with a passion, but I got to leave halfway to catch the metro/bus to

SWEDEN!!!!!! Okay the metro/bus didn't go to Sweden, obviously, but the metro took me to the bus station, which would take me to Beauvais Airport, which would take me to SWEDEN! There were definitely some hitches though...I arrived 45 minutes before everyone else...so I walked outside and sat at a bus-stop for 40 minutes until heading back to the metro station to meet the others. I was greeted my Kirsten, and Alla 5 minutes later. The time is 5:00. The bus to Beauvais leaves at 5:35. We were still waiting for Maya and Mari. We get a call from Mari...she forgot her boarding pass. Oh. God. Miraculously, Maya prints it off and is here by 5:20, but where is Mari? We can't reach her! 5:26 she gets off the metro and we BOOK it to the bus station to buy our ticket. We get the last 5 seats on the bus (omg!) The bus ride to Beauvais is 1hour 20 minutes, aka awful. We get to Beauvais, they lie to me about buying water to get my money so I have to chug it at security, and finally we just have to wait to board the plane. While queing to enter the plane celebrity style (we walked up stairs to enter the plane, and walked down stairs to exit the plane) we asked this cute couple to take a picture of the 5 of us (Maya, Alla, Mari, Kristen, and I.) They ended up actually being from Stockholm and had been travelling for the past 3 months and were our ages exactly! We took Ryan Air, which I am never taking again - it is soooo not worth it, so we get to choose our own seating, so the cute couple, Kristofer and Maja, sat across the isle from Alla and I and made a list of things for us to do in Sweden! We finally land in Sweden (MOTHERLAND!) but there is catch, we have to take another 80 minute bus to Stockholm. No worries, we talked with Kristofer & Maja the entire way, about anything and everything and Kristofer invites us to see the Sweden hockey game on Saturday. Sooo nice! We exchanged numbers, emails, and facebooks and then parted our ways. We were all extermely exhausted and don't have a map of Sweden, so we just take a cab to our hotel.

Our hotel is NOT a hotel...it is more like a dorm... the beds were tiny and we were sneaking 5 people into a 3 person bedroom. Yeah... the floors were ice cold tile, so people couldnt even sleep on the floor. Alla and I became close friends that night haha because we had to share a bed. We both didn't get much sleep, but Sweden is an adventure! The next morning, Friday, we got up early to make breakfast (hey we at least got breakfast!) and then headed out for a verrrrry long day. We decided to walk to Old Town, which is literally the Old Town of Stockholm, in the heart of the city. Stockholm is a very pretty city, it has a European feel, but almost a Eastern European feel (from what I have seen in pictures of Eastern Europe, or how I perceive Eastern Europe considering I have never been there) the colors are much different than western Europe, and there are some major architectural differences. I loved it! Paris is very clean cut, lots of whites, greys, baiges, marble, stone, with black accents. In Sweden, buildings were red, yellow, orange, yellow, (as you can see in the picture) it was very cool. After visiting old town, we walked to the the greatest view of Stockholm...supposedly. We got a little lost and didn't know exactly how we were supposed to get up to this "great view." We did lots of backtracking, and climbing of stairs, but we found our own "great view" and it was beautiful, despite being a dreary day. After walking around some more, we grabbed lunch at this building, which I still do not know, and we all had some MEAT! The French, don't eat a lot of meat, certainly not every meal, and not everyday. We all ordered this steak thing, with cheese in the middle (no joke!) and smothered in gravy with potatoes on the side. OH AND SALAD WITH RANCH DRESSING! I miss ranch dressing. It was soooo good and a nice step up from a sandwich! After getting our fill, we take a hike around the city, we literally walked around the entire city because the Baltic Sea, gets in the way of a straight path to where we are going and they don't have a bridge, to visit the open air museum. Fun fact: (I am just full of them today!) Stockholm had the first open air museum in the world! It is also one of the largest! It was called "Skansen" I joked that if you put a "W" and an "I' ("Wi") in front of it, it was just like being home! Get it...WiSkansen..Wisconsin...Ok I will stop. It was actually really neat. They took really old things from all around Sweden, like farms, shops, mills, ruins, etc. and placed them on display in this museum. Sweden is known for their glass blowing, and I had never seen that before, so we walked into a shop and BAM they were sitting there blowing glass! It was really neat. We then walked to a shop that had a pretzel hanging above it - YES A BAKERY! They were selling traditional pastries, using an old stove from the early something-100's. After, we passed a traditional little kids park...and of course we could not help but play in it for a little while. I mean come on, who passes that up! Up next: THE ANIMALS! Why yes they have animals at Skansen too! They have Bison, and Lynx', and BEARS oh my! And Elk, aka MOOSE! Moose are important, please keep note of this. They also have the furriest little ponies/horse ever. Like shaggier than a Clydesdale...I have never seen anything like it. They also have wolves, which I absolutely adore, but they were not into us that day. We howled at them...they just stared and laid back down. Sad day. Sweden also apparently has WOLVERINES! None of us have EVER seen a wolverine so we were soooo excited to see one (hello Logan?! X-Men reference, just laugh). We looked, and nothing was there. Where was it! Then this toy/food comes flying out of a cave followed by a
squirrel? Wait that is the wolverine? It was tiny! Ok, not as tiny as a squirrel, but still smaller than I expected! It was about the size of a lynx I think, but I still got to see a wolverine so that was cool. After the animals, the park was getting ready to shut down, so we ran to the gift shop and I got myself a traditional horse that they hand paint and create right there at Skansen! Sweden is very famous for these horses as well. The picture to the right is what they look like, but don't worry I am not lugging THAT thing home, I got a small miniature horse! It was just a really cool experience to know this is where part of my ancestry comes from and I got to learn a little bit more about our history (not my family's per se) but general Swedish history. I never thought I would have the chance to come to Sweden, and I am so glad I did!

After Skansen, we weren't finished yet! (like I said longest day ever!) we walked around some more and went to get dinner...and a Greek place no less, and after we went to ICE BAR STOCKHOLM! It is a bar...made entirely out of ice...from Stockholm. How. Cool. Literally and figuratively! We had to wear these ridiculous, giant parkas and mittens before we were allowed inside, because it is always kept at around 28 degrees Fahrenheit. It was actually a really neat experience! Most people are like why the heck would you want to go to an ice bar?! For the experience! Everyone is dressed up in ridiculous, blue parkas, dancing around trying to keep warm, and drinking from ice cups. Who wouldn't want to do that?! We lasted the full 40 minutes, because you are given a 40 minute slot, and last 5 more minutes before we decided we had to go. We walked, yes more walking, to our hotel and passed out for the night. I got my own this night woo! We literally walked around the entire city of Stockholm, possibly more than once. Easily 7 miles? give or take? No wonder why my pants were falling down at the end of the day - woo!

The next morning (omg this blog continues!?) we got up for breakfast again, and headed to Old Town to go to the Royal Palace to see the changing of the guard. The weather was MUCH better this day. It was sunny and gorgeous...although the wind was quite chilly. So we lined up, we were one of the first ones, and waited 45 minutes to see the changing of the guards. It suddenly got a lotttt colder in those 45 minutes, and the changing of the guard was about 20 minutes. After the changing of the guard we ran into the palace for warmth, and to do a tour. We started in the Treasury and got an English tour (woo!) They have crowns, swords, and thrones dating back to the 1100's! And everything in the treasury is still used today! It is the only monarchy that still uses these things. The monarchy has no real power, just like in England, but it is still a very important part of Swedish society. The crowns were absolutely beautiful. One had over 600 diamonds in it. YES SIX HUNDRED. Crazy! After the treasury tour, we ran to the "Royal Chambers" and did a tour through the portion of the palace that tourists are allowed to see. It is called the "Versailles of the North" because the architect absolutely adored Versailles, but he made it his own way. The marbles are all Swedish marble, so it is darker inside than Versailles. I learned a lot, but I won't bore you with the details (this blog is WAYYY to long as it is) but it was really fascinating! Throughout the tour, Kristofer & Maja (remember them?) tried to reach us, but Alla's phone was on silent, so we contacted him and met up at this restaurant. Unfortunately it was 3:30, and the hockey game was at 4, so he decided to watch it at a bar, and we decided to eat some traditional Swedish food because we were starving, so we went our separate ways...for the time being. We went to this cute little restaurant in Old Town, and got ourselves some SWEDISH MEATBALLS. We had to, we were in Sweden! They were sooooo good. And lingenberries in Sweden are 10 times better than lingenberries in the U.S. I LOVED THEM. They are also super good if you mix them with potatoes. I do not eat potatoes unless fried or mashed, but with the lingenberries I gobbled them up. Delicious! If only there was Swedish sausage...but apparently that is considered a "cheap meal" in Sweden. Whodathunk Dad? We literally had a 3 hour lunch and then decided to walk the streets of Old Town for some souvenirs, because obviously I hadn't bought enough already (I had 1 horse, 2 gifts, 1 shot gloss, and 3 post cards at this point) Kirsten and I had been searching for a true Swedish flag all weekend. Most of the stores sold this cheap looking blue & yellow flag, that wasn't the true blue of Sweden. We finally found a store that had a real flag. I couldn't pass it up! It is going up on my wall in my apartment next year - so excited! After, we decided to start heading towards our hotel, and possibly stop at a pub along the way. While we were crossing the bridge one last time from Old Town we all looked up and saw the most breath-taking view of Sweden. I attempted to capture it (located in the first picture at the top) but this picture does not do it justice. This was the moment we all fell in love with Sweden. A man was playing beautiful music on his guitar nearby, the weather was wonderful, everything was peaceful and serene. It was amazing. After 15 minutes of taking it all in and taking a gazillion pictures we start to head back when Kristofer texted us! He wanted to meet us at a pub and hang out with us for a little bit, and the night was young so why not! We hopped on the metro - SO NICE! 100x better than Paris' metro - and went to his district of Stockholm and went to a "cheap pub" for a drink. After the drink, we went back to Kristofer's apartment to meet his family - soooo nice! We hung out there and he showed us some awesome Swedish music and we hung out for awhile until heading to his friend Harry's apartment to hang out. In hindsight it probably sounds like a bad idea but there were 5 of us and we had never felt safer. He introduced us to his parents for goodness sake! Swedish people are also the safest people in the world - you think I am joking but I am not. There are no guns, and the only "crime" in Sweden is from immigrants who move to Sweden and have problems with other immigrants. Crazy isn't it?! So yes, we went to Harry's, or as we called him Harry Potter because he loves Harry Potter and started whipping out spells. It was amazing. He even let us draw a scar on him - which I am not too sure if you can see on him, he is on my left, and Kristofer is on my right. Anyways, the night progresses on and we realize there is no point going back to the hotel and sleeping since our bus left for the airport at 5:00 so we decided to hang out with Kristofer, Harry, and Harry's friend Rubin for the rest of the night (Maja couldn't come because her friends took her out because they hadn't seen her in 3 months, sad but understandable) and we just started taking pictures galore. Hence, how moose came out. We would take 3 to 5 pics on a timer and on the last one Alla would shout "MOOSE!" and we would all put our hands on our heads line antlers. Funfact: Moose figurines and stuffed animals are EVERYWHERE around Sweden. She was fascinated by this fact, hence always calling moose. It became the joke and phrase of the trip, and by the end of the night even all the guys were yelling moose when we took a picture. It was ridiculous, fun, and one of the best nights I have had in Europe so far. At 3:30am we thought it probably would be a good idea if we get going back to the hotel to get our stuff, so the boys walk us to the bus stop and take us to our stop, then Rubin walked us back to the hotel and waited until we got our stuff, then snuck us onto the metro (oops I did something illegal in Sweden - I jumped a turnstyle...with a suitcase. Gotta live a little! Sorry mom & dad) And got us safely to the spot where we had to catch the bus. We actually were quite early and caught the 4:30 bus...that left at 4:50am and got to Skavsta airport in no time. We were allll exhausted and drained, and just ready to go home to our beds at this point, but we all agreed this was the best weekend ever. I will have memories that last me a lifetime. We are so lucky to have meet such nice Swedes, Kristofer and Maja, who were so willing to help us and wanted us to have a good representation of their city and country. Most Parisian's are not like that. I don't think we would ever get such an experience in Paris, but hey maybe I am wrong. All I know is I definitely want to go back to Sweden.

Ok this blog is wayyyy to long so I will stop. Next blog is about Fontainebleau & Vaux-le-Vicomte! Still gotta wait for Barcelona, sorry. Until then AU REVOIR!!!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Let's Do the Time Warp Again!

**DISCLAIMER: There might be a few offensive things in this blog today. It is only to explain what one is supposed to do or say at one of these shows. Sorry!

So I am officially 2 weekends behind on my blog - NOT OK. I have so many things I need to blog about, so many details I have forgotten, and I know my few, faithful, wonderful (I could keep going) readers aren't happy that I have taken so long! Sooo sorry! But I am back and equipped with more crazy adventures! I still will behind after this blog, but hey, I am trying!

So, basically I am going to skip over my week of classes, because nothing exciting really happened in class. I am still as lost as ever in my literature class on Thursdays - like I actually have no idea what is going on. I just read the reading, try to understand, and just let her talk her heart away while I zone out and day dream. There is an Algerian girl in my class, whose first language is French, and even SHE is lost in this class. I rest my case. For our excursion in Romantisme this week we visited a Jesuit cathedral called Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis in Le Marais (my favorite part of Paris!) before visiting the Musée Carnavalet. Usually we meet at 10:15 for our excursions, but that day we were supposed to meet at 11...so a big oops on my part I got there at 10:00, so I just walked around Le Marais, for a little bit in search of a bagel, but alas I did not find one :( I actually preferred it Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis to the actual museum. It is very worn from the outside, but the inside is absolutely beautiful, and it actually houses a somewhat controversial painting by Eugene Delacroix (! did you know that Mom??) After that, we visited Carnavalet. Like I said, I wasn't as impressed as I could have been, but I think it was because of how the museum was set up. I believe it used to be a palace, or super nice home, but it looks like they just slapped the paintings on to these walls with no order or anything. Things were crooked, everything was uneven, varying sizes. The rooms had no scale whatsoever, and being slightly OCD that bothered the heck out of me, and I couldn't concentrate on anything besides the fact everything was disproportional. The rooms themselves were really pretty, so I will give them that. Thursday night, which we have proclaimed "Movie Night", a group of us went to see the movie "La Rafle." No, it does not mean "The Rafle" but in fact "The Round-Up." It was about French Jews in Paris who were "rounded-up" during World War II and sent to a concentration camp in France. This movie was absolutely phenomenal. I didn't understand half of it, because there were no subtitles, but I got the gist of it. Absolutely amazing. Heart-wrenching (I cried I will totally admit it, and I don't usually cry in movies!) I had no idea half these things happened here in France during WWII and was shocked. I also liked how the director wasn't afraid to portray a bad side of France. Most countries do not like to publicize the mistakes their country has made in the past, especially the French. This film should honestly be up for the foreign movie Oscar, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone. It is not your typical (used loosely) WWII/concentration camp movie. SEE IT! (with subtitles)

Now, on to the good stuff! Friday night I went out with Ashley, Caroline, and Erin, to this very famous/touristy fondue restaurant in Montmartre. It is very well known for serving there wine in baby bottles. Yes, you heard me correctly. Baby Bottles. I have NO idea how this tradition started but everyone, young and old, love that it comes served in baby bottles! This was my first time ever having cheese fondue, so I was super excited, and it definitely did not disappoint. It was a little bizarre because of course I was expecting cheddar...but I am not in the U.S. anymore they do NOT have cheddar here. I don't know what type of cheese it was actually...they just gave us an endless amount of bread to dip into (which was bad for us, but yet soooo good) The restaurant itself is verrrrry small for being such a touristy place, we were quite shocked, and even though we made a reservation we still had to wait almost a half hour, but the wait was definitely worth it. The atmosphere was so fun, the company was amazing, and the wine and cheese was great! We were sitting next to the "currency wall" where people write messages on their countries currency and then put them up on the wall - being cheap Americans we of course had to put up a dollar bill with all of our names, as a momento (I APOLOGIZE FOR WHAT IS WRITTEN ON THIS DOLLAR BILL PLEASE DO NOT BE OFFENDED. It is used as an endearing/funny term, not rude or demeaning!) It was just a lot of fun and definitely a place to go if you want to do something touristy and different!

After fondue, we decided to hit the Paris night scene because we haven't really experienced it yet. We went to the 6th arrondissement to go to a bar called The Frog and Princess but it was PACKED! Like, lines out the door! So we went to the Irish Pub across the street called Temple Bar. It was crowded, but luckily we were able to at least walk in to it. Right away someone comes up to us and starts speaking in English (woo!) apparently this is a big hang out for American students. We met this guy from Ohio who goes to West Point who is one of only 2 students from his program here in Paris. I couldn't imagine coming here without the other 25 or so in my program!! I would be so lonely! Anywho, we stayed at Temple Bar, then finally made it over to the Frog and Princess bar. Overall it was a great night out with some of my favorite girls!

Saturday I decided to check out Chinatown with Courtney and Beth. It is located in the 13th arrondissement. It is nothing like the Chinatown of San Francisco or New York. Unfortunately I was not pulled in to so back room, or in some creepy basement, and offered stolen goods from ships, like Coach, Louis Vuitton, Prada, or Gucci. I wish I had been, but alas I was not. I guess I will have to wait until Florence to have my chance at that! Chinatown was a cool place besides that. We went in to an authentic Chinese grocery store and I saw things I have never seen before in my life! It was sooo interesting...and scary. I wouldn't eat half the things they were selling, but it was very cool to see. The offered shrimp flavored chips...ew? After we went to get some Chinese food. I must say, I am slightly disappointed in French Chinese food. I miss American Chinese food so much - it is verrrrry different here. The French lack a lot of flavor in their life, meaning they HATE spicy things or things with lots of different flavors going on. Chinese food here is kind of bland to fit the palettes of French people, unfortunately. That is also why there are no Mexican restaurants here. They are actually opening a Chipotle here finally! But in July...after I leave. Go figure :( Anyway, after Chinatown we rushed home to get ready for

ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW!!! I was a "Rocky Horror Picture Show Virgin" because I, along with many in our group, have never seen Rocky Horror Picture Show. It was QUITE the experience let me tell you. The movie itself is quite interesting, but every Saturday night at this theater in Paris, these actors dress up and act the entire show out while the movie is playing. It was HILARIOUS! They first started off the show with this tribute to the Village People, I have no idea why, but why not! Nothing starts a paty like the Village People and the YMCA, Macho Man, and others! They also taught us all the lingo we have to shout when certain characters' names are said, (I APOLOGIZE FOR THIS AS WELL) but when they say "Brad" everyone in the audience must yell "Asshole" and when someone say's Janet's name, everyone must yell "Slut!" Crazy, eh? They also taught us how to do the "Timewarp" dance -so easy, I am a pro now, and willing to teach when back to the states! What they didn't prepare us for is the fact that during the 2 wedding scenes rice is thrown (I seriously had enough rice in my pockets and purse to feed me for a week!) and during the raining scene water is dumped on the audience! So besides the fact I was sopping and had rice cooking in my pockets, it was a great experience (ok I loved having rice and water tossed at me, won't lie!) I will tell you though, this was one of the most hilarious, raunchiest, ridiculous things I have ever seen in my life. They act this out EVERYWHERE around the world (seriously they showed us the "Sweet Transvestites of the World" video where they have RHPS (Rocky Horror Picture Show - see I am such a pro now I can use the abbreviation) clubs all over the world) but they are definitely more raunchy here. I mean hello, it is France. They definitely couldn't get away with half the things they did here, in the states. No way. But this was definitely an experience and totally worth the 8 euro! Overall this weekend was a MAJOR success! Sunday I did absolutely nothing but homework, homework, and more homework... I have so much work to do here, I have no idea how it all adds up! But don't worry, i am doing it Mom & Dad...ish!

Well, that is all for now, it is 2 am here (oops!) but next blog coming up is about my favorite place ever STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN!!!!!!!!!!!!! Until then. AU REVOIR!!!!!!