Done with Junior Year…what?

There you have it folks. As of 2:30 pm this afternoon, I took my last exam of the semester and now am free and done. It was tough for a while, that’s for sure. I usually like finals week at Bates, because everyone’s in the same situation and the only thing to do is study. But here, in Paris, the rest of the world doesn’t come to a crashing halt for exams– it was really difficult to focus and work hard! BUT, I survived. I took two exams at the Sorbonne, three exams with my program, and wrote an art history paper… which means I’m free!

But… I still have 11 days left in Paris. So what does that mean? Commence bucket list: Paris edition. All of my friends and I have compiled lists of things we want to do before we leave: things that we never got around to, things that sound cool, things that are so quintessentially Paris that it’d be a crime to leave without doing them. We’re comparing notes and putting together an incredibly epic plan for the next week that will keep us busy and happy, no regrets!

Step one, today, after my exam, I went to the Musee de l’Orangerie. Before the Musee D’Orsay opened in the late 80s, the Orangerie, which is at one end of the Tuileries gardens, housed most of the impressionists works. Now, however, it is home to incredible waterlillies painted by Monet and presented in giant white oval rooms with specific lighting that make for a peaceful but powerful experience. The permenant collection was also interesting: my friend Cora and I discussed our feelings on Renoir (both still lifes and portraits) as well as Cezanne and le Douanier Rousseau. The little art history knowledge I’ve gained since being here has certainly come in handy– there’s nothing more satisfying than looking at a painting and being able to say something true and maybe even insightful about it.

Here I am in front of one of Monet’s works!

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The Budapest Weekend, or, How I was briefly penniless in Hungary

Last weekend I had the opportunity to visit Budapest, Hungary, where Bates runs a short term class on Central European theater and film. The course description is : A study of Hungarian, Polish, and Czech theater and film, focusing on the impact on these arts of the social and political changes of the last fifty years, from the Polish and Hungarian uprisings of 1956 to the rebuilding of culture in the region following the collapse of the Soviet Bloc in 1989. While in Budapest, students view films at the Hungarian National Film Archive and attend performances of central European theater at the International Contemporary Drama Festival and the Hungarian National Theater. Visits to theater and film centers in Prague are also included. Sounds kind of awesome right?

This kind of short term course is a great option for Batesies who don’t want to commit to an entire semester abroad. These students spend 5 weeks, instead of 5 months in a foreign country, but still get exposed to a new language and culture.

As a student who is interested and active in theater at Bates, though not the theater department, I had many friends who were on the program, including one of my favorite professors, Kati Vecsey. So, though it was an expensive plane ticket, I decided that my last weekend trip while abroad would be to visit Hungary. What a great weekend I picked: Kati was able to get me tickets to go along with the class to shows. Friday night we saw Otello at the Opera house, (which was sung in Italian and subtitled in Hungarian) and Saturday we saw an incredible production of Moliere’s Misanthrope (which was also in Hungarian, and I’d never read it, but it was amazing nevertheless).


Travis, Danya, Michelle and I during one of the THREE intermissions at the Opera


Michelle, me, and Danya outside of the Opera (with a few special guests making cameo appearences)


Michelle and me out to dinner after the opera. Budapest was similar to Zagreb in that there were many pedestrian streets filled with restaurants and terraces. YUMMY. I had gnocchi.


The mighty Hotel Budapest: their home and classroom for 5 weeks


Look it’s a castle! Okay, so right nearby here happens to be where Katy Perry shot the final sequence of her music video for “Firework.” True confessions? It was one of my favorite guilty pleasure jams last semester so I FREAKED OUT when I heard it was nearby. Bummer of the century: they were setting up for some weird wine tasting or something so it was all closed. At least I got to take a little peek…


There I am! Solo shot, as per usual, just for you guys. Beautiful view beside some ancient ruins near the castle.


Here Danya acts as proof of where we dined for lunch: on a boat docked on the Danube. So classy, albeit a bit windy.

So I spent a wonderful weekend visiting my friends in Budapest, seeing amazing productions, even had a dinner with Kati (dreams do come true!) ! However, here I will note something that happened while I was away that is a problem that befalls many world travelers, and it was bound to happen at some point: my debit card got cancelled.

Throughout my time in Budapest, I’d been attempting to take money out from ATMs with no luck. I assumed at first it was a problem with the legitimacy of the ATMs, but soon realized something was wrong. So I called the bank (using google voice, duh) and found out that two weeks earlier, my card had been cancelled due to some fraud suspicions or something. Without notifying me. You’re probably thinking, wait, how did you not notice your card not working for 2 weeks? WELL, my parents were visiting me! I was being taken out to incredible meals! For the first time since coming to Paris I wasn’t obsessively counting pennies and taking out more money than I wanted to! So I didn’t notice…until I was penniless in Hungary. But, I was with friends. And they helped me out. And I made it home safely. And had 30 euros to my name for a while, but I called the bank every day and I now have a new card that works! Hooray! So, like I said, unfortunate but inevitable occurrence,  but I feel very lucky that it happened while I was surrounded by people who supported me.

Ok. Finals week in France. Harder than Bates, because the world keeps going on here. There’s PARIS things to do, like have a picnic in the park, or sit by the Seine. I don’t want to study for 4 exams or write my paper! But I must. So here I go…

T-Minus 2 weeks till the US. whew

Taking Tests (en Francais)

Yikes. What I can only assume is midterm season in the french semester is upon me. This… is cause for alarm. Because frankly, taking these tests is HARD. Harder then Bates midterms, but only for one reason: that I’m not familiar with the system. At Bates, I am a meticulous planner. I do so many things (clubs, plays, classes, etc) that every minute must be planned out perfectly. And I thrive because of it! Being able to plan out exactly when I’ll brainstorm for a paper, when I’ll outline it, when I’ll draft it, when I’ll submit it for notes from the professor, and when I’ll pass in a final copy helps me live day to day without worry, knowing that I’ve planned and I’ll be able to complete my work satisfactorily and on time.

Things are different here. Mostly due to my unfamiliarity to their system, their way of thought, testing process, I feel helpless at times to ensure my success. Last Tuesday I took my first devoir sur table, which was a three hour in-class essay. All we knew before getting there was it would be on Diderot’s La Religieuse; even when another student asked the professor if it would be about the story, the author, or the political climate at the time of writing, he just laughed and told us it could be on anything! I read the book, in English and French. So in my studying I wasn’t focused on memorizing each happening in the story of a young woman and the terrors she faces while being shuffled from convent to convent. What I instead directed my attentions towards was the structure.

The professor had taken a lot of time to detail the “plan” — an outline/draft that French students write before recopying everything onto a final draft. This plan has a fully written out intro and conclusion, three large sections (a statement in favor of the thesis, a problematic against it, and a resolve) and within each, smaller subsections outlined out with examples. I took this very seriously; I worked hard on my plan because I assumed we had to pass it in, otherwise why would it be so specifically taught? If it was just a rough draft, couldn’t it be done any old way that worked? Next thing I know, there is only 15 minutes left and I’m barely recopying my second paragraph. I start to freak out. I’ve never had trouble with time management before. I barely could understand what had happened– I was convinced that the clock hadn’t been adjusted for daylight savings time and I had, in fact, an hour and 15 minutes to go. No dice. Frantically cutting and scribbling my conclusion, I was the last to pass in my pile of papers. My professor came up to me, and with a laugh said “All you American students do the same thing! You don’t need to pass in the plan…” I must have at this point been so entirely dumbfounded and sad looking, because he asked me, with kindness, if I’d finished. When I stammered “kind of” he looked at me for a few more seconds and then (THANK GOODNESS) said “you know what, why don’t I just take the plan too, just to see.” ***these conversations all happened in French, but I translated for you, dear readers.

I just really messed up. I didn’t manage my time well. I wasn’t used to that type of test. The time snuck up on me. I’m not upset– I’ll get what I get. But at least I know how to better manage my time (ie don’t put so much effort into the plan) for the next one!

Next up: tomorrow morning I have a reading quiz on all of the books for my comparative lit class. Spent my day today doing a lot of reading. Bring it on, Sorbonne!

Zagreb: The Full Story

So in my delirious traveled-out stupor of last week, my post regarding my weekend trip to Croatia was not very informative. Although I like to think those pictures were pretty nice, right? More on the Plitvice National Park later. I suppose I should start at the beginning…

Croatia was never a place I expected to want to visit. I don’t even know that I knew it was a destination before this year. Once I started obsessively looking up trips around Europe, however, it began to pop up on my radar. Mostly because the flights round trip were 50 euros. This low-cost airfare suggested a trend that it might be a cool and cheap destination, which, let me tell you, after living in Paris for over two months… cheap would definitely be a welcome alternative. Two of my friends suggested we take the trip, and we booked on a whim. Our flight left Friday morning at 8:30 am and we would return Sunday afternoon. A pretty good size weekend!

When I went to Copenhagen, my first real student travel experience, I certainly was a little freaked out by how many logistical matters there are to keep track of– I was suddenly very much aware of how lucky I’d been to have my father’s meticulous plans in the past. Anyways, there’s things that I hadn’t even considered; for example, the necessity of public transportation functioning during the hours when you need them too. Getting back to Paris from Copenhagen at 11:30 on a Sunday night almost stranded us halfway home– we hadn’t realized that making all of our metro connects would be problematic. So, when my flight said the gates closed at 7:40 am, I went into planner mode. I checked all the hours of all the trains that it would take me to get out to the airport. I actually caught the very first RER train at 5:35 AM– now that’s commitment. I’d also planned ahead to ensure that I had the proper coins to pay for the 9 euro airport train. They don’t take cash and the vendors nearby are very rude and will not help with change.

But anyway, we all made it in time, and got on the plane and passed out for the brief, hour and a half flight. We were slightly worried when, during our descent in Zagreb, we couldn’t see anything that remotely resembled a city. But, we threw our hands up and got on the airport shuttle bus in the high 50 degree weather with smiles on our faces, happy to be on the adventure. Now, we obviously don’t speak Croatian, and while many people do speak English, not everyone does. A theme that arose early was that of being totally lost and confused. Once we got to the tram station, we knew what tram to take but couldn’t for the life of us figure out where to buy tickets. After about 25 minutes of running around this teeny two story station, we finally figured out that the news stands sell the tram tickets and after taking out some local cash, or “kuna,” we bought tickets and boarded the tram.

The city was so lively! The sunshine seemed to have brought everyone out into the streets. The tram took forever to get to our stop because there was so much pedestrian traffic blocking the streets. Unsurprisingly, we had a lot of trouble finding our hostel, and stood right across the street from it for a half hour stressing out about being in the wrong place in a foreign country with no phones or maps or anything. Then we just checked again. Yeah. Our bad. The hostel we stayed at was on this street:

It was called the Hobo Bear Hostel, and it was actually really cool. We were traveling just the three of us, but we got a room for 4 people all to ourselves. We dropped off our bags and went to go walk in the beautiful pedestrian streets in search of lunch. It was so gorgeous! We were thrilled to be out there with everyone else. We had trouble picking a place to eat though, as most of the street-side cafes sold only drinks. Here’s a sample of the street we looked on

We eventually found a place selling authentic and CHEAP Croatian food, which means heavy on the meats. We sat down outside and chatted with our waiter throughout our meal; each time he addressed one of us he said “Lady?” It was too cute. Here’s Linda and Catherine sitting at lunch

We walked all around for the afternoon– it seemed to be the popular choice for the afternoon activity in Zagreb. We made our way to their cathedral which was unfortunately under construction at the time. But it was still very beautiful.

The inside was very ornate and pretty too. We met a history professor who spoke English and described for us some cool facts about Zagreb and the cathedral. It was pretty nice. We headed back towards the central square, Kaptol, and were enticed by delicious ice cream cones that everyone seemed to be consuming. We had to try some as we sat in the sun drenched square.

We walked around for the rest of the day, but when our legs were tired and our feet hurting, we headed back to our hostel to recharge. We had woken up at 5 am that morning, after all. We had made reservations at what tripadvisor.com rated as the number 1 restaurant in Zagreb. It was Croatian/Italian food and it was so good! We all indulged in three course meals because it was so cheap we couldn’t not! I had risotto for my first course, then pork stuffed with cheese and artichokes and a pumpkin sauce, and then finished off with a blueberry panna cotta: vacation. Here’s the dishes!

It was definitely a one way ticket to delicious city. We felt kind of lame, but after eating it was almost midnight and we all confessed we’d rather go to bed early and be fresh for the next day. But, it was definitely for the best, because we woke up early to go to the national park! See previous post if you want to look at stunning photos of snow and ice covered waterfalls tucked in the Croatian countryside. That was certainly an all day affair– we got back to Zagreb around 7:45 and after all the transport to our hostel and changing and preparing for the night, we left for dinner around 9:15. We went to another spot on that same pedestrian street and it was so good, so cheap, yet again. At this point, we were a little at a loss for how to approach what we hoped to be a really fun Saturday night in Zagreb. Well, we ended up seeing all ends of the city with some students we met who toured us around to all the cool places. We ended up going home at 5 AM!! …And our flight left at 10:45 the next morning. Our original plan was to be out of the hostel en route to the airport at 8:30, and then we all groggily woke up at 9. Yikes. Lots of running. Lots of confusion. Lots of “WE’RE NOT GONNA MAKE IT!!!!” Though it did seem like we were destined to get stuck in Zagreb forever, we made it on our flight. Hooray!

It was such a wonderful trip, such a necessary little break from the hardcore expensive metropolitan Parisian lifestyle. So if you ever have the option to go to Croatia— GO!!!! Your wallet will like you, you can see beautiful waterfalls, and you can sample delectable meat-filled pastries. MMMM.

Pictures of Waterfalls

No, this isn’t REALLY pictures of waterfalls. Well, it is, but more than that: here are the first round of photos from my weekend in Zagreb, Croatia! Stories and descriptions to follow some other time when I’m not so tired. Now: see the incredible sights at the Plitvice National Park in Croatia.

 

 

Traveling through Europe, casually

Lately, I’ve been making a lot of travel plans. I don’t often give myself reason to go on trips– I have trouble justifying the costs of a vacation when you could save money at home. BUT, I am abroad and I do have access to all these wonderful places, so this semester I’ve been putting my frugality on the back burner and embracing all the travel opportunities I can. At this moment, I have so many things to look forward to! My calendar looks packed from here on out and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve become such a whiz at finding cheap flights and scouring hostelworld.com to find the best places to stay, some might say it’s becoming obsessive. But, hey, I’m traveling, I might as well enjoy it as much as possible.

Here is a brief look into my upcoming trips:

March 11-13: Going to Zagreb, Croatia with two friends from my program. Have no idea about what we’re doing. Not familiar with the city, the country, or anything. It was, however, the cheapest flight on easyjet, and we were itching to get out of Paris for a weekend. Dispatches with news from this trip will follow.

March 26-27: Headed to Normandie for a night with my program. Signed up last minute, but it will definitely be worth it. If for no other reason than that it’s payed for by my program already… Mmmm, free things!

April 8-20: The EPIC Spring Break. Destinations include: Rome, Florence, Arezzo, Lisbon, Madrid, Alicante, and Barcelona. It was a genuine nightmare figuring it all out– getting from Lisbon to anywhere else in Spain was impossible unless you traveled through Madrid, which wasn’t on our original itinerary. We had hoped to go to Granada, but it was too difficult logistically. Alicante was a last minute decision, but it seems promising, mostly because there will be beaches! This is another mission with the same girls who I traveled to Copenhagen with, so we’re all looking forward to going on another trip.

Photos and updates when these trips happen, I promise!

Le Petit Dejeuner, or my thoughts on Breakfast

I wouldn’t say that I’ve always been a breakfast person. Well, at least, not in an indulgent way. Cereal in the morning was usually my routine, beginning in elementary school and continuing through high school.

This changed when I got to college. For one thing, I didn’t always make it to breakfast. Okay, I’m going to be honest and say it was a rarity for my first two years of college to have breakfast in the morning, and now, I find that outrageous. Because, dear readers, I’ve fallen in love. With breakfast. Part of this stemmed from lazy Sunday mornings at Bates walking over to the Pop Shoppe, a diner in Lewiston, where I would order two egg over easy with cheese, white toast, and a side of corn beef hash. Typing that order not only makes my mouth water, but also makes me slightly homesick (bates-sick? diner-sick?). Anyways, I began to appreciate again the glory that a morning meal is. Breakfast can make a rough morning a great day. This sounds like a public service announcement but it isn’t, just my raw thoughts on an under-appreciated meal.

Anyway, the location change to Paris this semester has caused my breakfast habits to adjust a little. Here, I eat breakfast at my host family; they leave me the makings of a traditional, simple french breakfast and I eat at my leisure when I wake up in the morning. This consists of tartines, which is yesterday’s bread (so it’s a little hard) with butter and jam, and coffee. Simple, but I find myself looking forward to it as I’m falling asleep. The bread here is so incredibly good, they deserve the reputation. My host family probably goes through four or five baguettes in a day; there’s two parents, three children and me, and we all want bread, and lots of it!

Tartines are great, but on the weekends I like to get out and try some new things to satisfy my hunger. Last weekend, I met with my friend Hannah for brunch at Bastille and, without any idea where to go, we set off in search of sustenance. The first corner we hit was a hip little cafe that had a big sign out front for BRUNCH that was pretty extensive considering it cost 16 euros. We went in, and it was a good choice. Here’s what we received:

YUM! It was apparently an very “English” breakfast, but it delivered all sorts of wonderful things so I was a very big fan.

Today, I went off in search of a similar brunch with my friend Alyssa. We met at St Michel, and set off in search of delicious inclusive brunch, but didn’t have as much success. Everything we found was at least 20 euro and very touristy, so we settled on a sit-down creperie. Guess what? It was not a let down. I was quite pleased with my “Chevrette” crepe– goat cheese, creme fraiche, honey and walnuts, with mixed greens on top and a hot chocolate. Heaven.

I could really get used to this…

I’m sorry if my new found hobby of taking pictures of all the delicious food I eat is causing problems, though the only one I could foresee is jealousy…