Sunday, August 26, 2012

It's a long seriously. It's a LONG story...

Barcelona, Spain
October 2011

 I woke up around 8, Mary had already woken up and was halfway through getting ready. My foot was still hurting and it wasn't like we got a lot of sleep that night since we got to the hostel really early in the morning. I think we only slept for 6 hours. Either way, I decided I was going to limp around for the day. We found a pamphlet about a free walking tour around the "Old City" of Barcelona. Jeff, Mary and I booked it to Plaza Reial where the tour people would meet. Because of construction it took us a while before we got to the metro. Writing this very much in retrospect, I can say I do appreciate the greater amounts of metro stops there are in Paris, though I still think that Barcelona has one of the best metros that I've been on. The cleanliness and modernness really stack up some points. Anyways, back to the tour. Jeff, Mary and I and another handful of people were led by this very lively, middle-aged Spanish man to explore the Gothic Quarter, the old Jewish Quarter and some government buildings, churches, etc. The history in Barcelona is so rich and fascinating and it was great learning it from an energetic and charming tour guide, who at the end offered tips and recommendations for places to eat at, since by the end it was lunch time, and the three of use were quite ready to have our first Spanish meal.
Plaza Reial

We walked to a resto called "El Foro"; it was a beautiful and sunny day by the way. After we were seated and given our menus, we were crestfallen to see that everything was in Catalan! The local language of Catalunia in Spain. It took us nearly 10 mins to semi-decipher the menu, but when we began to order, rather hesitantly, the waiter quite politely took my menu and flipped it over to the Spanish side. We were all really, really embarraased by this and laughed at ourselves. We re-evaluated and corrected our orders. I had a green broccoli soup which was creamy and tastey! Afterwards I ate black pasta that had shrip and mussels which was delicious! Lastly for dinner (yes, we hadn't even had the main course yet!) I had the Spanish version of duck a l'orange; and since lunch is the biggest meal like in France, we also had dessert. Sadly I made a poor selection and basically got chocolate pudding. I don't remember what Mary got, but I remember it was fabulous!
After flagging down the waiter to finally bring the check (which took abnormally long), we went to find the beach! We wandered for a while but soon started heading the right way. At one point we could see the Marina and Mary and I got really, really excited! I cried out "I CAN SEE THE BEACH!" and this Indian man with his son next to me said calmly "I see it too..." We spoke as we all made out way and he was a tourist too (go figure) and used to live in WINNIPEG! Score one for me and the Peg! HA!
After getting half wet in the Mediterranean Ocean (well...Mary and I did, Jeff barely got his toes wet, lol) that was when we went looking for a convenient store to purchase some necessities, like shavers for Jeff, and shampoo for those of us whose original bottles were thrown out by security at the airport in Beauvais. While at this convenience store, a Polish woman who spoke English (who was also clearly a tourist), came to me and asked about some laundry detergent. Guess what? She used to live in Winnipeg too!!! 2 Points!
 We didn't really know how we got to the convenience store, and didn't really know how to get back to where we were on the beach, where we knew there was a place to eat called "Las Migas" which we hoped to reach for supper. Before trying to find Las Migas, we visited Plaza Catulunya which was gorgeous with many fountains and surrounded by a more modern Barcelona.
As we passed the Museum of Catelunia, my foot was hurting really, really, really bad and it felt easier and better to run, so I did. I ran for a good 150m then stopped so Jeff and Mary could catch up. Once they were within 30 ft or so from me, I began to limp slowly forward along the Marina. It was night time and there weren't many lights in this area. 5 mins passed by when I finally got fed up with Jeff and Mary for not catching up yet. I turn around and with horror couldn't see them anywhere, not even at the corner of the Museum where the Marina began. I hobbled back and forth not understanding how in the world we got separated. Of course I forgot that I had turned my phone off because the battery was almost dead, so I couldn't receive Jeff's calls. I was near tears and played all kinds of scenarios in my head when finally, on my 2nd hobble back to the Museum I saw them. They had been just as scared as I was and as soon as we were close to each other we threw our arms around each other and didn't let go for a while, overcome with relief and promising each other to never, ever let something like that again.
Near where I got lost.

By the time we got to Las Migas, it was closed, as most things were by that time. We passed many restaurants on our way to a metro stop, but we never went in any of them. One plate of lobster at one of them cost a mere 97 euros...We hopped on the metro back to our hostel. Near it we found a diner that was open and serving tapas. I ordered meatballs and it was cheap in every respect.After our assez-filling dinner we got back to the hostel to discover that 3 of our roommates in our 8-bed room were French. Moreover, one girl named Cloé Pierzo was studying in Beauvais! Of all places!!! We chatted for a while then they went out, while we were physically and mentally drained. It must have been around midnight that we all got tucked in and fell asleep.

- Fin-

Day Trip to Paris

Paris is always an adventure, and no two days are ever the same.

My day trip to Paris on Jan 27th was no different, and in a word, amazing! The day started off perfect with the promise of sunshine for the day. Mary and I took the 11:37 train, it was a Friday and I had the day off while Mary had one morning class. I, inspired to be more French-like, bought a baguette and croissant amandes (croissant with almond paste inside, to DIE for!) for the journey. While heading towards Paris we came up with a list of things to see and do.
A building that reminded us of Barcelona.
Our first stop was Montparnasse to do a little shopping, and to see the roof-top garden over the Montparnasse train station. We went into a handful of stores, H&M being the main one we were trying to get to. Sadly I didn't have a great shopping day, but considering how much I had already spent (Soldes were still going on --a nation wide winter sale), I was perfectly happy with one purchase I made that day: a black beret that cost me under 7 Euros from UNITED COLORS OF BENETTON. Mary was finally able to get some new pants and also 2 tops. We spent a little more time shopping than planned (we girls are infamous for that after all...) but when we were done we went in search of the roof-top garden of Gare Montparnasse.
The way to get to the Jardin Atlantique is by an elevator that goes up a floor. The elevator had, however, a very misleading button which pointed down instead of up and it confused Mary and I for a while. Winter is not the best time to go see gardens, though there were some plants and flowers, most had died and been pulled out or trimmed away. But it was still really cool and we spent an hour there exploring it and imagining how much more awesome it would be in the spring or summer time.
This is a shot from when we arrived at the Eiffle Tower while it sparkled
We left hoping to catch the sunset while at the top of the Eiffel Tower, and while heading towards a metro stop we decided to get some Vin Chaud. It was by far the largest cup of vin chaud we had ever seen! It was quite yummy and we were quite rosey-cheeked and cheerful afterwards. As we got close to La Tour we knew we would miss seeing the sunset from the top, but were pleased to see it sparkling upon our arrival. It was the closet I had been to the Eiffel Tower while it sparkled. Once the sparkling was over we got in line with the rest of the tourists. Sadly, after at least half an hour in line we noticed a sign about the very top of the tower being under construction, therefore closed. We were quite déçu :(
A bakery that looked straight out of a fairy tale book.
So we decided that we should find a place to eat dinner at a peaceful pace in order to catch the last train back to Beauvais. My bladder was about to burst so after crossing part of les Champs de Mars, I hopped into a resto to use the washroom. When I came back out Mary had her map laid out, trying to see if we were close to (what we fondly call) Neily's Moroccain resto. Then something extraordinary happened...
I walked over to Mary and at the same moment an older french gentleman was walking by and glanced over at us. He noticed Mary, myself and the map. Being close to the Eiffel Tower made it all the more obvious we were not locals. He immediately asked if we were lost, we assured him we weren't and were simply looking for a place to eat. He began telling us how we shouldn't eat in that area because all the restaurants were unnecessarily expensive and that he could suggest some places to eat that were not too far. This man spoke to us entirely in French when he realized we could understand. He had a grocery bag with a baguette sticking out (a demi-baguette actually) and a hat, so french! He explained how to get to le Café du Marché then asked where we were from. He had traveled through Canada (''C'est un pays pour les jeunes'' he said) and when Mary said she was from NY he began speaking in English howhe had worked in New York for many years when he was younger. After recapping the directions towards the restaurant, we parted ways. It was a shame we never caught his name, because it was thanks to him that we discovered a wonderfully affordable and delicious little resto where we enjoyed a very lovely dinner indeed.
Sadly we did not have time for dessert as we had to get back to Gare du Nord to catch the train. The trip back home involved some reminicing of the day and both Mary and I agreed that we had experienced, yet another, magical day in Paris.

~ Cheers!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Fail yet Success

I failed miserably at keeping a blog while I was in Europe! In fairness though, I did put in a few updates in my diary and in January 2012 I bought a "Life Book", as my friend Mary would call it, aka a Travel Journal, in which I wrote a decent amount of stories of my adventures.

But before I even begin to recount (which will probably only be in brief) the most wonderful 8 months of my life in Europe, I want to first address the To-Do List I created before coming to France. A list I actually completely forgot about at some point and only remembered it when I rediscovered my blog and read my posts.

I'm going to go over all 25 goals I had made, and tell you if I succeeded or not, and any other comments such as my reaction to how my past-self thought. Okay, here we go.

1) Walk with a baguette sticking out of my purse to eat while exploring Beauvais

 SUCCESS! I most certainly did this, and more than once! Honestly, bread in France is like air, and it is something I definitely miss now that I'm back. Baguettes, croissants, sandwhich (French-style!), and pastries...I will talk more about that in another post.

2) Go to the top of the Eiffel Tower

 SUCCESS! You'd think this was a given, but I almost didn't make it! 8 months in France and I didn't go up the Eiffel Tower until the DAY BEFORE I LEFT! Crazy, I know. But it was just always there, and I kept thinking, ''I have time''. I did try before, twice. First time the Summit was under construction, and the second time my friend and I got caught in a terrible downpour (after being in line for over an hour). But, I made it, even though I was in GREAT lack of energy from non-stop traveling and caught a cold. I almost didn't go at all, but I'm glad I forced myself. It was a beautiful moment and a great way to say good-bye.

3) While in rural areas, take a picture ANYTIME I see sheep!

 SUCCESS! This rarely happened in France, but it happened frequently while in the UK and Ireland. And I can call upon the testimony of my friends Lowri, Jeff, Mary and Shiana, that I most certainly took any and every opportunity to take a photo of a sheep.

4) Spend enough time in the Louvre to see the entire museum (even if it means coming more than once!)

 FAIL. I'm gonna go with fail, but if my stupid self back then knew what my smarter self knows now, it would take about 3 months for me to see every single work in the Louvre if I only looked at everything for 30 seconds. BUT I did go inside the Louvre. Once. And saw the Mona Lisa, so PARTIAL SUCCESS? Yes? I think so. I walked around the Louvre a good 3 times. Love that place. First time I fell in love with Paris was while crossing Le Pont Des Beaux-Art (aka the Love locks bridge) towards the Louvre.

5) Go to the Palace of Versailles (try to dress up in a dress that day)

SUCCESS! Also did this on the day before a left France! Did it the morning before I went up the Eiffel  Tower. I felt miserable when I went though. It was gorgeously sunny, but ridiculously hot! And I had the cold, and exhaustion from constant traveling (which entails little sleep and loads of walking). But it was great, and I was so excited to see Marie-Antoinette's ''village'' and farm. I had wanted to see it since I read the book The Bad Queen (I mentioned this in my first post I believe) and it was really amazing to see a place that you read about.

6) Try new cheeses!

SUCCESS! This was a given. I actually kept track of most of the cheeses that I tried in France, I present to you that list: Tomme de Savoir, Saint Nectair, Saint-Floretin, Cantal, Fromage Pur Brebis, Comté, Émmental, Camembert and Gruyère.

7) Attempt to drink French wine for lunch or dinner one day

 SUCCESS! Oh, I definitely drank French wine more than once! This was pre-liking wine Liz talking. I tried red wine, white wine, wine rosé, champagne, cidre, and other things I don't remember the names of.

8) If possible, use the Bike-Taxi system at least once!

FAIL. It's not as simple as hopping on and taking off, and just no. I will definitely do it one day, and if I ever live in Paris than I will definitely try to do it, but I was not ready for that.

9) Ask a British royal guard if the Queen is in (Buckingham Palace) today?

FAIL. Unfortunately, they no longer post guards outside the gates of Buckingham Palace. So, really, this should be a SUCCESS because the point is that I was in LONDON!

10) See L'Arc de Triomphe

SUCCESS! Pff...that was one of the first things I saw in Paris. The first monument I took a photo with.

11) Find and explore ancient Roman ruins in France.

MOSTLY SUCCESS! I only did this in Lyon, basically every other city didn't really have any ancient Roman ruins. I will have to go to Nice and other cities to see more...whenever I feel like seeing more ancient Roman riuns again...I was not overly excited about the ones in Lyon since I had been in Rome a few weeks before and got my fill of roman riuns to last me quite a while.

12) Go to 7 Castles or more, doesn't matter what countries they're from

I actually remembered about this goal for most of the time I was in France, though near the end I forgot about it. Now I won't count castles that I went IN, but at least got really close to (and was too poor to go in it). So here we go:

- 2 castles in Wales (*names to come later when I edit the post)
- 2 castles in Scotland (although I did see at least 1 other but from a far distance from within a tourbus) The Stirling Castle and the Edinburgh Castle.
- 1 or 2 in Ireland (*again names to come later)
- Palace of Versailles (it counts!)
- 1 in Rome, the Castello somethingorother...

I have to double check my photos and bustour pamphlets, but even if I'm short 1 castle I'm going to call this one a SUCCESS!

13) Investigate different phone box booths, asking for the Doctor

 This is is just silly, but I will say SUCCESS because I did find my original Police Boxes while in London and Scotland, and even saw, briefly, one in Glasgow that looked almost EXACTLY like the Doctor Who T.A.R.D.I.S.

14) Dance on London Bridge

 If I had remembered about this particular goal, at least the dancing bit, I would have danced on London Bridge, but I just walked on it instead. I'm still calling this a SUCCESS!

15) Sing Ave Maria in Notre Dame (if allowed) - make sure I practice before hand

...What the hell was I thinking? Clearly I watched Sister Act WAY too many times! But I will call this a SUCCESS because A) I did go inside Notre Dame and B) I did sing inside with the service!

17) Go to the Bell Tower of Notre Dame if possible!

FAIL. I shouldn't have gone on a Sunday, and even before I visited Notre Dame, many of my American friends had down-talked it so much that it almost didn't seem worth visiting, so my ambition to go up one of the towers was quickly forgotten. It's a nice cathedral! Though, definitely not in my top 5 favorite.

18) Chartres Cathedral. Enough said!

SUCCESS! I was SO happy that I got to go up Chartres with my two best friends Mary and Jeff. It was a day trip and it was a memorable one. 

19) Find a big hill in Scotland, climb it, and yell "FREEDOM!!!" from the top

Again, I forgot about this goal, but I will say SUCCESS because I climbed up Arthur's Seat, a big hill in Edinburgh. And the point is: I went to Scotland!

20) Sit at the top level of a double decker bus!

Unfortunately I never got to ride the bus system in Englad! FAIL! I know! But I did ride the Underground a few times. Definitely need to accomplish this one day though.

21) Perfect a type of English accent and speak in it all day for one entire day while in British Isles 

 Again...something really dumb. I will say this though, my Welsh friend Lowri always said that my English accent was really good. Therefore: SUCCESS. I'm so glad I didn't actually follow through with this...that would have made me such a prick,

22) If I can't find a Nun in traditional clothing, find a large picture/poster of it and take a picture with it

SUCCESS! Although I'm kinda cheating since I was not in Europe yet, but when I was in Minneapolis airport on my way to Philly, there was a group of nuns and I took a picture with them :) I was pretty excited to have something off my to-do list so quickly!

23) Go to a Doctor Who museum. I haven't googled to see if there is one, but I bet there is!

FAIL! Even though I was in Cardiff, Wales, the museum was under construction while I was there. Also, while in London my friend Helena and I tried to find the WhoShop and failed miserably :P

24) If possible go to France's neighboring countries: Spain, Belgium, Brussels, Italy, etc.

You can tell how dumb my previous self was when I name ''Brussels'' in my list of countries...
 MOSTLY SUCCESS! I did go to Spain (one of the greatest adventures EVER), Italy and Switzerland but that was it for directly neighboring countries. I did ALL of the UK though, and they're right across the channel. I really need to go to Belgium though, and now that my good friend Jeff will be living practically on the border with Belgium, I will have a very good reason to go when I'm back in Europe!

25) Take pictures with statues of famous historical people, even if I don't have a clue who they are.

SUCCESS! I definitely took picture with plenty statues and busts of famous people, however they were all people I recognized and knew. I believe I did Shakespeare, the man who wrote Don Quixote,  George-Sand, and many writers and the like.

I was really happy to re-discover this To Do List and realize that I had, for the most part, succeeded in completing it!

I also received a week or so ago, a letter from my ELA teacher from grade 9, Ms Dudek. It was a letter I wrote to myself (when I was 14) and a list of Life Goals I had set for myself. I was able to check some things off, but I felt that a 20 year old me could write a better Life Goals list, so I updated it.

Making goals I think is a great thing to do. It's great to look back at them, and while you might not ever accomplish them all, it's a wonderful feeling knowing you accomplished some, and you get to reflect on life a bit and see how much you've been able to see and do, and it encourages you to keep making goals, and goals help feed your dreams, which you should always have and never stop reaching for.

~ Cheers

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Mini Late Update

This was written early October, but I never got to update the blog on time, but I figured I'd share it anyways before I go on about what has happened more recently during the last weeks of October and early November.

Early October--> School's been great so far. I like most of the classes, some of the kids I just love. Life in Beauvais is quiet and quaint, and I'm really enjoying the French small-town life style, though the other assistants and I frequently keep a tally of "points" which go to either France or America. For instance, "Delicious bread, France: 10 points" or, "Small elevators (in France), America 5 points". You get the point ;P
The only thing I can complain about Beauvais is how quickly it went from really hot and warm weather to really cold and brisk. Because of the sudden change I'm now sick with a cough which is a terrible thing for an assistant who's job is to speak English :P
 There's also these awful, horrendous stairs I have to climb to get to the top of the hill where I live. Well I don't have "have" to but when you come in from Centre Ville (downtown) and cross the bridge the stairs are RIGHT there. It's either get home faster by climbing up 108 steps or taking the long way around and climb up the hill and get home slower. So, needless to say, I prefer to get home quickly. It's a good exercise at least and hopefully it prepares me for my trip to England/Ireland where there may be many hills and stairs to climb. 

Maybe you don't quite understand why these stairs are so daunting to me, but here's a reminder of the fact that I come from the prairies, the tallest hills we have are man-made garbage hills and we don't climb them except in the winter to go tobogganing!

Well that's the end of that incomplete update. A more complete, interesting and detailed blog will be coming soon! Hopefully tomorrow.

~ Cheers!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Quand en as the French do!


I've been in France for 4 days now, spent my first day in Paris with a family who are friend's from my dad's highschool. Crazy awesome coincidence that they hooked up through Facebook several months ago and arranged for me to stay with them any time I'm in Paris!

I came to Beauvais on the 29th, and it's all been very pleasant and great! The English teacher who was my main contact from the school, Anne, was very kind and helpful, giving me a whole box full of kitchen supplies, a bit of food, a cellphone! (a really really really old one but hey, it's free!) that just needs to be activated. I also got pillows, blankets, sheets, baking supplies, plates, cups, etc. It was great! I really like my foyer, although I could complain about a couple of things, but overall it's comfy enough. It's only a 7 minute walk to Centre Ville, so everything important is in walking distance, which is usually the case in a small town, which is what Beauvais is, but because it has a giant catheral it's considered a ''city'' lol.

I've been learning new things about how things are in France pretty much every day, and people have enjoyed them when I posted them on facebook so I will share them with you. Any assistant reading this who has either already been to France or has arrived at least a couple of days ago, will have learned these things as well:

French Lesson 1: Toilets are separate from sinks and showers. REALLY awkward, because as North Americans we are very much used to washing our hands as soon as we go to the bathroom (at least I hope we are...) but here you come out of the toilet...and there's no sink. I either then go to the "wash" room and wash my hands at the sink there in my room, or go to the showers next door from the foyer bathroom.
Lesson 2: If you don't say "bonjour" to the people who live in your building/neighborhood they will look at you funny and think you are rude. So for goodness sake say "bonjour" to every stranger you walk by! Granted, this rule probably doesn't apply for Central Paris, but everywhere else, if you say hi no one will think you're weird. Also, after 12 you say "Bon soir", but you don't say "Bon nuit" in the evening or night unless you're saying good-bye.
Lesson 3: Those bowls are not for cereal, and when there is no cereal it's not for your bread's for your COFFEE! They're usually white and sometimes even have the words "coffee" or "café'' on it. Although in restaurants they serve in ''normal'' cups. Espressos come in tiny shots.
This last lesson is a given, Lesson 4: French bread is THE BEST, hands down! But if you don't eat that baguette in two days...use it as croutons for your salad :P
Anyways, back to what has been happening; I`ve met many of the assistants in Beauvais, really glad there are many. Thus far I'm the only Canadian, a little sad pour moi :( . But this Thursday we'll be going to Amiens and spending the day there for Orientation. Hopefully meet some cool people there as well to maybe visit on a weekend or something.
I went to a small, small church in Beauvais today, Evangelical. It was a really great experience. I was so glad that my pastor back home did studies on Abraham's life throughout the entire summer, because today the pastor in Beauvais was talking about one event in Abraham's life that involved his nephew Lot, and I was able to understand ALOT at the beginning, then after the sort of ''re-telling'' of the story was done, I was able to understand about half of what he was saying, which is great because this means as I keep going I'm going to learn so much more!
This afternoon a large group of assistants, from our foyer, from the all-girls foyer and 3 girls who live in their lycée, went to watch «La Guerre de Buttons» which turned out to be a kids movie. It was a pretty good movie, really nice...but oh my gosh...could hardly understand even HALF of the words they were saying...that said, I'm now gonna look up a bunch of words that I heard alot during the service and the movie to see what they mean!

I start school tomorrow, lol, I mean I start working tomorrow :P At 9:30 am I have to be at the school and hopefully I get my schedule!!! And hopefully I finish early so I can open my bank account! Really need to do that.
Wish me luck as I work with JR High kids...oooh boi.
~ Keep in touch!