Je suis allée à Londre!

Translation: I went to London!

YES London. Although I love visiting places in France, it was so nice to go somewhere that I didn’t have to work to communicate with people! It was my first time ever travelling without an adult (I know, I am an adult! But I mean with someone who is responsible for all of the complicated travel-things) and I was so thankful that I was able to do this in an English-speaking country. I love speaking French, don’t get me wrong, but there is just something comforting in knowing that if there is a problem, you will be understood by the people around you!

So…last week Thursday, my friends and I left Grenoble at 7 am to catch our 10 am flight in Lyon. We took “Easy Jet,” which is a British airline that travels to major cities all around Europe. I would highly recommend it for anyone looking for cheap flights, but be forwarned, the planes are pretty small and rough on take-off and landing!

We had to get on the plane outside!

 
We got to London around 10:30 (there is a 1 hour difference between Grenoble and London) and took an “Easy Bus” into the heart of the city! After eating lunch, we checked into our hostel. It was the first time I had stayed in a hostel with other people in our room, so I was pretty nervous! Thankfully, there were no issues with this…we had four other people in our room, three of which were also American students studying abroad!
 
We finished all of this around 4, a bit later than we had hoped, so we nixed our plans to visit the British Museum that evening. We instead went straight to the British Library and Kings Cross. For anyone who doesn’t know why Kings Cross is important to me, it is the location of Platform 9 ¾, the famous Hogwarts Express platform from the Harry Potter series. I know, I know…I am such a nerd…but that is just who I am :)
 
When we got to Kings Cross, we had no idea where the Platform was. We knew that they had moved it outside of the actual station because there had been too much commotion near platforms nine and ten, but there were no signs or anything saying where to go. We were debating on whether or not we could pluck up the courage to ask someone where it was, when we found it! Thankfully we didn’t have to be the people who were searching for Platform 9 ¾…
 

The St. Pancras Hotel...it was on our way to Kings Cross and was too pretty not to show you!

 

So...this is Kings Cross! Not the same building they use in the Harry Potter films, so it was slightly disappointing.

I was sooooo excited!!!!

 

Inside the British Library! It was so cool...there were so many old books!

 
After the British Library, we promptly took the “tube” or the metro to the theatre where we were going to see…duh duh duh daaaaaa…. WICKED! I know, how did we afford that? Well, we sat in the veeerrrrry top of the theatre, that’s how! We ate dinner at a pub before the play. I got the classic british meal of “Fish n’ Chips.” Although the picture doesn’t look very appetizing, it was really good!
 

Yum. Peas...

 

YAY! Wicked!

 

I almost bought these...but I figured that I didn't need to see facial expressions :)

 

The stage was so cool...that dragon was even able to move!

 
The performance was incredible. There are really no better words to describe it! If you ever get the chance to see Wicked…don’t pass it up!
 
After taking the tube back to our hostel, we prepared for our day of walking by going to bed on time! Unfortunately our roommates didn’t return until 2 in the morning and were not very good at being quite while they got ready for bed! I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep, let’s just say…
 
On friday, we spent the day near St. Pauls Cathedral, exploring all of the sights. Instead of describing all of it in a story, I am going to list what we did, and then give you a “picture tour” of all of it! I am pretty sure it would take you a day to read if I included all of the little details, so think of this as if you are walking the same route we did…
 
Friday:
Tower of London (not inside, it was too expensive!)
Tower Bridge
Monument to the Great Fire of London
The London Bridge
Shakespeare’s Globe (once again, not inside…)
The Tate Modern Museum (Modern Art…)
Millenium Bridge
Old Bailey’s Courthouse
St. Pauls Cathedral
 

The Tower Bridge!

 

The view of Tower Bridge from London Bridge!

 

London Bridge...waaaaayyy less impressive than I expected seeing as there is a song about it!

 

Shakespeare's Globe!

 
 

Anyone recognize this bridge? Yep...it was destroyed at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince!

We had lunch at the best place ever. Eat. I got tomato soup and salt and vinegar "crisps." This place has to come to the U.S.

 

The view of St. Pauls from Millenium Bridge!

 

I loved this random yellow door...

 
The front of St. Pauls. It was so much bigger than I had expected!
 

The ceiling of St. Pauls. Sorry for the awful quality...

Just a note…we walked past the cathedral during the afternoon, but we didn’t go in until later in the evening for the “Evensong” service because it was too expensive to go in when there wasn’t a service…not that I didn’t want to go to the service! On the contrary, it was one of my favorite parts of the day! The Men and Boys choir of St. Pauls lead the service, and they were simply amazing. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures of the inside of the cathedral…I snuck one from the inside of my purse…which is why the quality is so terrible!
 

Everyone needs a typical telephone booth picture, even me!

 

Old Bailey's Courthouse...the judges and jury still wear white wigs during the trials!

 

My first British Policemen on horses...I was really embarrassing and had to take a picture :)

 After we left St. Pauls, we had to find somewhere to eat dinner. The whole weekend, we ate foods that we were not able to find in France. Friday night, it was a burger! There is no way to find a good burger in France, so we went to The Gourmet Burger. It was really good! I got one with horseradish and Portobello mushrooms.

My first burger in three months!

  After we ate dinner, we took the tube back to our hostel area and decided to get dessert at the pub close by. We encountered some really great singing…done by russian? german? men…not really sure what language they were speaking :)
 
The next morning, we headed out for another day of exploring! We took the tube to the Hyde Park station and started our morning there…
 
Here is the list of our destinations for saturday:
 
The Marble Arch
Hyde Park
Speakers Corner
Serpentine Lake
Apsly House
The Wellington Arch
Buckingham Palace (and the Changing of the Guard)
Victoria Memorial
Trafalgar Square
The National Gallery
Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament
The London Eye
Westminster Abby
The British Museum
 
Whew….what a long list!! Well, here are the pictures from the day! Enjoy the tour :)

We started out at Hyde Park! Speakers Corner, where there are usually people on soap boxes sharing their opinions :)

 

Unfortunately, on a Saturday morning it is not very busy...

 

We walked around the beautiful park for a while...it used to be King Henry VIII's hunting grounds!

 

Serpentine Lake separates Hyde Park into two sides...it was really pretty :)

 

We were taking pictures by the lake, when suddenly we were surrounded by runners!! There was a race in the park that we didn't know about :)

 

This is the road known as "The Mall," which leads to Buckingham Palace! The color of the trees were so beautiful.

 
 

Arriving at Buckingham Palace for the Changing of the Guard :)

 

The Guards arriving to the Palace Gates...

 

The Parade of the Band arrives next!

 

As we walked into Trafalgar Square, we could see Big Ben in the distance!

 

My Lunch #2, from another restaurant that NEEDS to come to the U.S...this time I got roasted red pepper soup with my crisps :)

 

The National Gallery...home to a great collection of impressionist art!!

 

Trafalgar Square!

 

The countdown to the summer Olympics in London has begun!

 

There was a guy in the Square drawing all of the Flags in the world, and people were donating money to their flag...so we gave some American Dollars!

 

We ate scones with clotted cream and jam in front of Big Ben :)

 

Big Ben!!!! And my new poppy pin, which is what people in England wear to remember Armistice Day.

 
 

Westminster Abby! Unfortunately, I wasnt able to take any pictures inside...so sad!!

 

The view of the London Eye and Big Ben from Westminster Abby

 
Well, that was a marathon of pictures! I know they were all pretty grey, but that is how London is! Thankfully it didn’t rain all weekend! In order to get into Westminster Abby, we attended the Evensong Service there too. It was even better than the one at St. Pauls! They had a men and boys choir just as St. Pauls did, but there was more scripture reading. I absolutely loved it.
 
After we had finished seeing the sights for the day, we ate dinner ate a pub. I got steak pie because it is a British classic :) It was pretty good….but the picture is not very appetizing, so I will spare you. We walked around for a while after dinner because it was Guy Fawkes night, and there was supposed to be fireworks, but we decided to turn in early. We had to get up at 2:45 be ready to check out at 3:30…our plane left from the airport at 7, so we had to leave really early! Unfortunately, my alarm went off an hour before it was supposed to because I hadn’t changed my clock back…my friends were not too happy with me when we figured it out…we went back to bed for an hour (not that I fell asleep again) but we agreed that if I hadn’t woken us up for those extra ten minutes, we probably wouldn’t have made it out in time! We took a double-decker bus (eeeekkkk!!!!) to our “easy bus” that would take us to the airport. It was surprisingly busy around town at 3:30 in the morning…there were a few times where our bus was completely full! So crazy….
 

My first double-decker bus!!

 
 Our bus ride got us to the airport just in time to make it to the gate before it closed. I was a bit stressed, to say the least, but obviously I am safely back in France, writing this blog! Overall, the best “first trip without adults” ever. Although I do wish that I could have shared my experience with my family…
 
Hope you enjoyed the incredibly long post!

Bien à vous,

Marie

 
 

La Bouillabaisse et Les Bateaux…

Translation: Bouillabaise and Boats

I know what you are thinking…”Marie…you didn’t translate the first word! What in the world is Bouillabaise?” Well, I did translate it. Bouillabaise is a French soup that is a specialty of the city that I visited this weekend: Marseille.

On Thursday night, we took the train to the sunny, southern city where we would be staying for the weekend. The first thing I noticed when we arrived: it smelled like fish. Marseille is right on the coast of the Mediterranean, so the main ingredient in Marseillais cuisine is fish!

We stayed in a Hostel that was close to the bay, Hostel Vertigo. I would highly recommend it for anyone planning to go to Marseille. The rooms were by far the best ones we have stayed in so far! The best part, however, was the character of the buildings. The decorating in the common rooms were so cool…

Our awesome common room…
 
We went on a walk around the bay, which was filled with sailboats, and ended up at a…um…psychadelic cafe (?) for crepes. I don’t really know how to describe this place. The pictures I took are a little blurry, but I will post one just so you get the idea. The cafe was decorated with vines and mythical creatures, as were the menus! I am pretty sure that the creatures were trolls….and fairies…but I don’t really know. The crepes were amazing though, so it was worth it!
 
What a terrible picture….wow…but you had to see the vines. Doesn’t it remind you of the Rainforest Cafe?
When we got back to our hostel, our room was pretty warm, so we wanted to open our window for the whole night. Only, our room was on the ground level and the window was pretty accessible to anyone who wanted to climb in. We decided that we were going to open our window, but set out an “alarm system” if you will, so that any intruders would wake us up. We were pretty sure that it wouldn’t be needed…but here is the result:
 

It doesn't look like much, but we tried it out! They items were placed veerrrrry strategically.

Thankfully, we didn’t need our alarm at all.
 
On Friday, we took a boat to Isle d’If, which holds the castle/fort where the legendary Monte Cristo was imprisoned. It was really cool to see all of the cells that were once used for french prisoners! It also had a really great view of the French coast! My pictures didn’t quite capture the beauty because it was a bit early and some fog was still lingering along the shore.
 

16th Century architecture... The blue waters of the Mediterranean...

 

Not a bad view from a prison cell...right?

 
We then had the day to ourselves. Some of us went up to the Basilica of Marseille, which was absolutely beautiful. It was completely different from any other cathedral we have seen so far! The sanctuary was decorated with hundreds of miniature sailboats hanging from the ceiling. It was really quite beautiful, especially with the colorful frescos on the ceiling of the bell tower!
 
So pretty!
 
After we had explored the Basilica, we went to lunch and spent the afternoon in the part of town around the bay. It was such a beautiful day!
 

Not a cloud in the sky!

 
After we had visited some shops and a manger scene museum (a trade that Marseille is well-known for is manger scene or “crèche” making), we decided to go to the beach! It wasn’t very warm out, and the water was freezing (even when compared to lake Michigan) so we just waded in so that we could say that we have been in the Mediterranean :)
 

Even in October, there was a lot of people bumming on the beach!

 

Yay! I have officially been in the Mediterranean!

 
We went out to dinner after we had finished at the beach. We ended up eating at an expensive for us/cheap for Marseille restaurant, where I got the tuna steak! I figured that I should eat fish while I am in a town that specializes in fish! It was perfect. I also got a melon and prosciutto salad with feta cheese, which is now my favorite salad in the world.
 

I could eat this every day!

 

Yum. It was so good.

 
On saturday, the whole group took the train to Avignon, where we visited the Palais du Pape, which is the Castle of the Pope. It is a museum now, but the Pope once lived there! We also saw the Pont d’Avignon, which is a famously unfinished bridge. The rest of the day was spent wandering the charming city. It isn’t very big, but I would highly suggest going there if you ever go to France! It is truly the essence of a french “ville.” The streets are narrow, the buildings are old, and the people are so nice!
 

Inside the Palais du Pape...

 
 
 

Me on the Pont d'Avignon!

 

The pretty carousel that was at a random intersection...you never know where you will find one in France!

 
After we had spent the day in Avignon, we returned to Marseille to get dinner. I ended up giving in and getting a “cheap” Bouillabaisse. We were told that it wasn’t worth getting a cheap version because they wont be very good…the “real” bouillabaisse costs 50 euros minimum per person. Yeah…I spent 17…sooo I would say that mine wasn’t top quality. It tasted pretty good to me, but I am sure that it could be improved :)
 

Yum. I really liked it...

On sunday, we packed up our stuff and left for Aix-en-Provence, another smaller southern France town. Unfortunately, it was a Sunday, so most of the town was closed down! We wandered around the older part of the town for most of the morning, until we found an outdoor market! It was so cool, there was fresh produce, meats, breads, cheeses, olives and spreads, and wine all packed into a little square. My friends and I decided that we would buy stuff to picnic for lunch. It was perfect! We had an avocado, strawberries, goat cheese, bread, and cherry tomatoes! Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a park, so we had to eat it on a bench by the road.
 

Using our legs as plates!

After lunch, we only had a short while before we had to leave for the train station, so we decided to get some ice cream and relax. I got chocolate and pistachio. It was my first pistachio ice cream…and it is now my favorite flavor!
 

Yummm.

 
After our ice cream, it was time to leave. We headed back to the train station, where we left for Grenoble.
It was our last group trip! So sad…

Bien à vous, 

Marie

 
 

Un Week-end À Paris…

Translation: A weekend in Paris…

Before beginning this post,  I would like to apologize to my friends and family for being lazy and not posting something for the past week and a half. I don’t have any excuse except that I was procrastinating…I could say that I have been bogged down with homework (we learned the french translation of bogged down in my translation class today: s’enliser) or that I was busy exploring France, but I didn’t go anywhere last weekend, and was very capable of blogging. I just didn’t feel like it :)

On the way to Paris!

Alright, now…Paris! Yes, this past weekend was spent in “La Ville-lumière” or “the City of Lights.” We took the TGV from Grenoble to Paris on Thursday morning, and arrived three hours later in Paris. We took our stuff to the hostel we would be staying at, and then went on a walk through “Vieux Paris” or “Old Paris.”

We began by visiting a street that was very close to our hearts:

Yay Calvin :)

 
We walked to le Jardin du Luxembourg after seeing Rue Jean Calvin and got to see all of the Parisians lounging in their park of choice. There is a small pond at one of the entrances, and sitting by the edge were two old ladies in hats. I took a picture of them because the whole scene looked like a Renoir painting. Perfect impressionistic picture.  When we left the Garden, our Professor bought us ice cream from one of the best places in Paris (or so they claim)…I got dark chocolate and raspberry :)
 

Palais du Luxembourg

 

The Gardens!

 
After our ice cream, we headed over to Notre Dame! It was so busy and hot, but the cathedral was too beautiful to care! After facing the crowds inside the cathedral, we headed back to our hostel for dinner. With our rooms, we also were able to eat breakfast and dinner in the cafeteria (the hostel was much more like a hotel with a restaurant…)
 

Notre Dame!!

 

Inside the Cathedral

 

Pretty.

 
I love this part of the Cathedral…my picture doesn’t do it justice
 
After our group had finished dinner, we all took the tram over to the Eiffel Tower. It was dark when we got to the tram stop, and as we turned the corner, there it was! The tower was alight and absolutely beautiful against the dark night sky. I am pretty sure it took us a half hour to reach the actual tower because we kept taking pictures :)
 
When we got there, we had to wait in a long line to get to the elevator.  Thankfully we are paying enough tuition that we had tickets to the very top…and thankfully, our professor had bought our tickets in advance. There was an even larger line for tickets, and I think that we would have been there until  1 am if we hadn’t had our tickets in advance!
 

This is what the Eiffel Tower looks like at night! Isn't it beautiful?

 
The ride to the top was a little bit scary, but definitely worth it. The view of Paris was breathtaking…I am not going to post any pictures of it though, because none of them turned out. So sad. The view of the Champs Elysees was beautiful, and the Arc de Triomphe was lit up in the distance. Sorry I can’t do any better than a description, but I am telling you…the pictures would just ruin this blog post :)
 
On Friday morning, we ate breakfast at the Hostel and then went to the Arc de Triomphe as a group. We had museum passes for the weekend, which got us into over 50 museums and monuments in Paris. (Definitely worth the price if you ever go to Paris, I checked!) The pass allowed us to skip the long line that was already forming…I hate to be that person, but at the same time, it was really nice to not wait in line for an hour!
 

This is me at the top of the Arc...can you spot the Eiffel?

 

l'Arc de Triomphe!

 
After we had finished admiring the Arc, some friends and I went to find a place for lunch! We took the tram near the Louvre, because we were headed there after lunch, and we found a nice restaurant with decent prices! Little did we know, that restaurant was Lebanese! It turned out to be one of the best meals I had in Paris. I am not even sure what was in any of it…but it was good.
 
It was so good…even though I have no idea what I ate :)

 After we had finished our delicious lunch, we headed over to the Louvre! Wow was it busy…thankfully, our handy-dandy Museum Passes allowed us to skip ALL of the lines. Again. Yay. We started out in the French art section and then moved onto Italy and Greece, which are all generally in the same “wing.” We saw The Crowning of Napoleon, La Jacond (aka the Mona Lisa), and Venus de Milo. I feel sort of bad, but we were only in the Louvre for an hour and a half, maybe two. It was just too busy to be able to really enjoy the art, so we left to go to the Musee de l’Orangerie, which is an impressionist museum.

The Louvre! So cool...

The Crowning of Napoleon

On our way over, we stopped in the Tuileries Gardens for some ice cream…which was definitely needed because it was so hot. It was so fun to sit and watch both Parisians and Tourists walk by, and you could definitely tell which was which! When we had finished our ice cream, we went to the Musee de l’Orangerie. It was probably my favorite Museum we went to. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the Louvre, it was just nicer to be able to sit and look at a picture without having people shove you aside with their elbows :)

My favorite part was the Monet exhibit. They were featuring Monet’s Water Lilies…I could have stared at these paintings for hours:

Monet's Water Lilies...that lady totally walked into my picture as I was taking it...thanks a lot lady...

 
After our afternoon of art, we decided to take a break and hang out in the park by the Eiffel Tower so that we could get some good pictures of it in the daylight. We discovered that it is actually quite popular for young people to go hang out here! 
 

Eiffel Tower!

 

I was rockin' the french style sweater that day...what class :)

 

Up close it is even more beautiful!

 
We returned to the hostel for dinner, and that evening,  we took a boat tour of the Seine River. We got to see the Académie française, who act as “an official authority over the french language” according my professor, the Eiffel Tower, and Notre Dame. (Along with many other things…) It was really fun to see all of the buildings alight; it’s so different from what you would see during the day.
 
On Saturday, my friends and I had the intention of going to Versailles in the morning, and then returning to central Paris to explore the Quartier Latin. We borrowed our professors “Rick Steves” book on Paris so that we knew how to get there. As we read the section on Versailles, Rick Steves advised that we plan on being at Versailles for eight hours to fully appreciate the whole of the estate. Well, we scoffed at the idea…until we realized as we left that we had, in fact, spent eight hours at Versailles. (9:30-5:30ish)

Welcome to Versailles!

 

So pretty!

 
We ended up visiting the Gardens first. They were absolutely beautiful…and in addition, it was “music in the gardens” day, so we got to enjoy classical music while we strolled along the pathways. We made our way to the back of the gardens, where there are the Grand and Petit Trianon Chateaux…which is where Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette would go for a little “vacation.” The Grand Trianon is made completely of pink marble, and is absolutely gorgeous. Before we went in the Chateau, we had a little snack by the canal. We had intended on bringing a picnic along with us, but we could only find a boulengerie (or bread store) near the train station, so we just ate some bread.
 

The gardens were like a maze :)

 

Enjoying our picnic by the canal...

 

The Gardens of the Grand Trianon...

 

The terrace of the Grand Trianon

 
We also visited the “village” that Marie Antointette had built  so that she could go there and pretend she was a commoner. There was a little farm, complete with animals and crops, so that she could go and escape from the life of a queen.
 

Marie Antoinette's Farm...

 

The gardens at Marie Antoinette's Farm

 
After trekking through the gardens for about four hours, we treated ourselves to lunch at one of the many cafes that are found outside the castle. I stuck with a true french classic: Croque Madame.
 

Yum...my first Croque Madame :)

This is the view of Versailles from the Gardens...

 

Posing in front of the fountain... my travel buddies!

 
Finally, after our long morning in the Gardens, we made it into the actual palace. Wow. That is pretty much all I can say. This palace is so extremely extravagant and beautiful that there are no other words to describe it. I can’t imagine living in such a beautiful place. One of my favorite parts was the view of the gardens from the windows. I know that  I was supposed to be focusing on the interior beauty, but it was hard not to notice both!
 

The Chapel...

 

The Hall of Mirrors...

 

Marie Antoinette's bed...wow. I know...

 

The view of the Gardens from the Hall of Mirrors...

Wow. This post is so long…
 
One train ride later, we were back at our hostel eating dinner. We had planned on going to a ballet at the opera that night, but it ended up not working out, so we just went to a cafe to people watch. It was actually “La Nuit Blanche” which is when all of the museums in France are open all night and in Paris, there were a bunch of art exhibits and stuff going on. Unfortunately, my friends and I were so exhausted from being out in the heat and walking around that we were falling asleep by the time it was 11:30. We took the tram back to the hostel and went to sleep, while the rest of the city was just getting started :)
 
On Sunday, a group of us went to Mass at Notre Dame. We ended up getting there a bit early due to the fact that Sainte Chapelle was not open until 10 (we were planning on stopping there first…), but we were surprised to find that there was a half and hour of singing before Mass started. The two women who lead the congregation were phenomenal. It was probably the best Mass I have been to.
 
After Notre Dame, we took the tram to Montmartre…we still had our professor’s Rick Steves guidebook, so we decided to take the “Rick Steves walk” of Montmartre. We figured that he hadn’t failed us yet, so we even ate at his recommended restaurant. That was the best decision we made that day. We all got salads…but these were not your average salads. They came with “frites” on top…which is like the French version of French Fries…
 

My smoked salmon salad with garlic frites :)

When we had finished our lunch, we climbed the stairs to the Basilica: Sacre Coeur. This cathedral is unlike any I have seen so far in France. It was stunning against the blue sky!
 

Sacre Coeur...

 As we were walking through the neighborhood, we found this adorable poster…A french child, who had lost their stuffed animal, had posted fliers all over the street with a picture of the toy and an email address…In french “Doudou” is the name for your toys…usually for a stuffed animal or even a blanket that you sleep with…

Poor Kiki...

 
I think that Montmartre was one of my favorite areas of Paris. It is really beautiful, with small cafes and art studios and the prettiest apartment buildings in the city…until you get to the bottom of the hill, that is :) Once you reach the main streets at the foot of Montmartre, you find the red-light district…and Moulin Rouge!
 

Moulin Rouge...I love that movie :)

 
That night, we went to a movie with our professor and his daughter, Anna. We saw “La Nouvelle Guerre des Boutons,” which is about a rivalry between two groups of young boys during World War II. It was so good…and I actually understood what was going on!! Yay! After the movie, we decided to go to a Jazz cafe that was in one of the famous “cellar cafes” in Paris. There was live music and even swing dancing! (I just watched…) It was a great way to spend our last night in Paris!
 
Monday morning, my friend, Jess, and I went to Notre Dame to try to go up the towers…unfortunately, the towers were closed until 11, and we didn’t have the time to wait two hours in line. Instead, we went souvenir shopping before we met our other friends for a picnic in the Luxembourg Garden. We had a classic French lunch of bread, cheese, and fruit while we watched a PE class from the local high school do their running through the Gardens. Very entertaining :)
 
After a bit more shopping…or maybe you could just call it “looking at things we can’t afford,” we went back to the hostel to get our stuff. We took the TGV home on Monday afternoon, weary and worn from our awesome weekend in Paris.
 
Seeing as I am sure I have shattered the record for longest post ever, I am going to stop now.
 

Bien à vous, 

Marie

 
 

Dîner et le Théâtre…

Translation: Dinner and the Theater!

This past Friday, we went on our first big trip of the semester! We packed our bags and went to stay in a youth hostel in Lyon. We took the train to get there, and it was a lot of fun to be on a european train! It was much cleaner than the train that I took to Chicago this summer. We stayed near “Vieux Lyon,” which means “Old Lyon,” and it was very beautiful. It is so surprising to me that old, deteriorating buildings can be so beautiful. I loved walking around on the narrow cobblestone streets.

We arrived in Lyon and walked to our hostel, the Auberge de Jeunesse. It was pretty nice…I guess…for a Hostel…the only problem was that it was by a fairly busy street, so we had a hard time falling asleep that night. After we settled into our rooms, we took a “tour of the city” (that is the title our professor gave) which began with some roman ruins. The most prominent part of which was a large amphitheatre, that is still used for play performances and concerts during the summer.

The "bleachers" were made completely of stone! It was so cool.

 
 We continued our tour with the Basilica in Vieux Lyon. It was so beautiful! We spent some time inside the church, and when we left the building, the sun was beginning to set. The light on the Basilica was so gorgeous.  We also got a great view of the city, because the Basilica is situated on a hill that looks over the whole city.
 

In french, Basilica is "Basilique"...when you say this with a french accent, it sounds like Basilisk...yes, another Harry Potter reference :)

 
 

So Pretty!

 

I love this picture :)

  
 
The building with the rounded roof is the Opera House
 
After visiting the Basilica, we walked through the city a bit more before we were able to eat dinner. We walked through some allies that went between apartment buildings, but the cool thing was that they were only open to the sky at the center of the buildings. In the middle, there were pretty courtyards with some doors into apartments. 
 
I loved this front door…it was in an alleyway…the cleanest allyway I have ever seen!
 
 We ate at a traditional Lyonnaise restaurant and had foods that were Lyon specialties. We were actually able to choose from a few choices, which has not happened a lot because there are so many of us. Usually we all get the same meals to make cooking easier for the chef. I got a “salade Lyonnaise” for my first course, salmon and green beans for my second course, and Panna Cotta for dessert! Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of the dessert until I had eaten half of it! It was too good to resist :)
 

Yum...my favorite part was the poached egg!

 
 

This was the best salmon I have ever had.

 
 

Half eaten Panna Cotta...not so pretty...

 
Dinner took us almost three hours to complete, so we went back to the Auberge after we finished. As noted before, we didn’t sleep very well due to the rowdy crowds and traffic outside our open windows. Why not close our windows, you ask? A very logical question…but it was so stuffy in our room that most of us couldn’t bear the night without a breeze.
 
The next morning, we ate baguette and nutella for breakfast and went off to visit some museums. We got to the first museum before it opened, so we went for a little walk and discovered an antique market! We had so much fun walking around looking at the old books, china, silverware (real silver!), and lace dresses. We found the cutest baptism gowns, and I almost though of buying one (who wouldn’t want their child to get baptised in an antique, lace, FRENCH gown) until I saw the price… 98 euros. I kid you not, this dress was 98 euros.
 
Antique Market

When we had finished browsing, we went back to our first museum: Musée des Miniatures et décors de Cinéma (I don’t think you will need a translation for this one…) The first couple floors were dedicated to props and decor that had been used in famous movies throughout the past couple decades. There were props from Zorro, Batman, The Chronicles of Narnia, Mission Impossible, X Files, and many more! It was very cool to see what things actually look like, I was surprised to see how many of the swords and weapons used were actually rubber (like Zorro’s sword!)

 

This is one of the two hundred Minotaur masks that were used in the Chronicles of Narnia! So cool!

 
 

This is the gun that was used by Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible 3!

 
 
My personal favorite, a raven from Harry Potter!

The second museum we visited didn’t allow us to take pictures, but  I wish we could have! It was dedicated to the history of silk making, which was apparently very important in the Lyon area of France. There were many different kinds of silk material and clothing, as well as oriental rugs that were made of silk products. My favorite part of the museum was the exhibition on clothing from the renaissance era. The dresses were so beautiful! I am pretty sure that the best part of our visit happened at the beggining…we walked into the museum and the person at the desk talked to us in french. I know this seems insignificant, but immediately after we were done, he started talking to a different group in english…he didnt even try french with them. What does this mean? We didn’t look like Americans to him!

After we finished our morning of museums, we decided to do a little shopping…I actually didn’t plan on buying anything. Note: Never go shopping in France if you don’t plan on buying anything.  It wont work. I ended up getting a cute sweater (not another one, I know) and a skirt! Oops…so much for not spending anything on clothes until Paris…

 That evening, my friends and I went to see a play. None of us were sure what the play would be about, but we knew that it was based on the poetry of Arther Rimbaud. Some of the other students from Calvin had studied some of his poems in the French Literature class at Calvin and though that it would be pretty interesting. We went to the theatre at 6:30 to get our tickets, and had planned on eating at a restaurant in the remaining two hours before the play started. Unfortunately, we had forgotten the golden rule for french restaurants: The don’t open until at least 7 pm for dinner. Also, we were unfortunate enough to be at a theatre that was “off the beaten path” for tourists, so the restaurants in the surrounding area didn’t open until 8 due to the fact that only local people usually ate there. At this point, it was nearing 7 pm, it had started to rain, and we could not find anywhere to eat. We walked around for at least a half hour before we found a miracle: a small bistro was open before 7. Sadly, it was also a bit more expensive that we had hoped to spend…but as it was our only choice, we suffered through our mushroom risotto and chocolate “moelleux.” It actually turned out to be one of our favorite meals so far! 
 

Our free appetizer was olive tamponade!

 
 

Moelleux au Chocolat with raspberry sorbet :)

 
 We quickly ate our meal and barely made it back to the theatre before the play began. It was very bizarre, as most french performances are, but it was also very interesting. There were only three actors and two musicians in the whole performance, and the three actors were all playing a different “part” of the poet Rimbaud. It was (I think) an interpretation of his poems…and even though I didn’t understand most of it, I was able to get the general idea from my friends who had studied his poetry before.
 
On sunday morning, a group of students (including me) went to Mass at the Basilica. It was really cool to hear Mass in French, and I actually was able to follow what was going on! After Mass had finished, we went off to find somewhere warm…it was really cold and rainy on both saturday and sunday. We ended up in a small cafe, where we got hot chocolate and croissants. I am just going to note that my friends and I agreed that sunday was a “struggle” for me. I pretty much lost all sense of coordination for twenty-four hours.  The struggle began here…I was wearing my brand new sweater when I spilled at least 3/4 of my hot chocolate on the table and myself. Yes. I was completely embarrassed, but the worst part was that the people working at the cafe completely ignored my spill! They just kept taking orders and walked right by…I don’t know about you, but I am pretty sure that I have spilled something before, and right away there is someone there with a towel or something…but oh well. We went back to the hostel, and I changed into something a little less wet and sticky.
 
After that little adventure, I wanted to go and find a building that my dad had told me about. He was reading one of his (many) architecture magazines the other day, and discovered “the orange cube.” It was just recently built in the more modern area of Lyon, and he thought it would be cool to see. Being and architects daughter, I was actually very keen on finding this building. Thankfully, I had some friends who were willing to sacrifice their last afternoon in Lyon to look at a building. (Actually, I gave them many opportunities to say that they didn’t want to go, so it must not have been that much of a sacrifice :) )
 
We took the tram out to the general location of the building and began our search. I need to note that we were searching for this building in the rain. So right about now, I am feeling very guilty for making my friends come on this search.  I had the address of the building that I had found on the internet, so we were pretty confident in where the building was. A half hour later…we were not so confident. The supposed street address did not exist (so we thought) because the road ended at number 25…we were looking for number 42. We started wandering around until we asked a man if he knew where a big orange building was…have you ever tried to ask a stranger that? It is pretty random…but so was his response:
 
Jessica: excuse me, sir…but are you familiar with a big orange building in this area?
 
The man: Um…orange? are you sure it’s not purple? (WHAT? where did that come from…)
 
Jess: No, I am pretty sure it is orange…
 
He actually knew where it was, so we took his directions and we found it! I was so excited when I found it that I started jumping up and down…it was at that point that a car driving down the road stopped and a guy pulled out his camera to talk a picture of us….yeah. Anyways…we made it, and here is “the orange cube!”
 

It was so cool...

 
 After we had finished at the cube, we went back into “Vieux” Lyon for lunch. Due to the fact that we spent so much on dinner the previous night, we ate crepes from a street vender…they were so delicious…and messy. My ham and cheese would not stop oozing out of the thing crepe walls.
 

So good!

 
 
 We left our hostel for the train station around 4, and we took the train back to Grenoble. The train was so busy, and I almost didn’t find a seat, but I found one next to a couple of strangers :)
 
I am so excited, because I must really look like a native grenobloise…when I was switching from the tram to my bus, I was stopped by a frantic student trying to find a certain street. Sadly, I didn’t know where it was… but the only thing that matters is that she stopped me rather than the other people who were getting off the tram. Yay! I am now officially able to say that I can pull off looking like a french student.
 
Wow…this post is now 2089 words. I think I should stop now!!
 

Bien à vous, 

Marie

 
 
 
 

je crois que j’aimerai ma vie en france!

Translation: I think I will like my life in France!

Of course I will miss my parents, siblings, and friends but….I can’t say that I am going to miss them too much! It is so hard to be sad that I am away from home when I look out my window and see mountains. MOUNTAINS! They are so beautiful.

I have been taking the bus and tram to my orientation class in the city (yes the bus! my first time ever!) and I cannot believe that I get to see this while en route:

Not the best picture, I know, but aren't the mountains great?

 Since monday, the group from Calvin has been meeting to have orientation class in the morning and then we do something fun in the afternoon. In between sessions, we are able to go around the city and find lunch! I have to admit that this has probably been my favorite part of the day, because I am able to eat what true french people eat on their lunch hours! (Don’t worry mom and dad, I am being frugal). On monday, I ate a “Panini Nutella” which is pretty much Nutella on a baguette that is cooked in a Panini grill! So good. Tuesday, I ate a “Panini Chevre Jambon” which is goat cheese, ham, tomatoes, and basil on a baguette, again cooked in a Panini grill. Yum. Today, I had the best lunch of all. Quiche au Saumon. Yes.  A Salmon Quiche. Guess how much it was…2 euros. Yes, I kid you not, this Quiche was just 2 euros… 

Yum. Need I say more?
 After lunch, we went to a museum that was located on the side of a mountain. We had to walk up approximately 250 stairs to reach the entrance of the museum, it was so tiring, but so worth it! Look at this view!
 

This is the edge of the city, by the river Isere.

 The inside of the museum was both an exhibit of the lives of the people who live in the alps, which was very interesting, and also of the lives of the sisters who lived in the Abby. I was not allowed to take pictures of the first exhibit, but the Abby was very pretty. 

The ceiling of the Chapel…Baroque style, right Dad?
 My favorite part was probably the cloister, though. The garden was really pretty, and I loved the vines climbing up the sides of the buildings.

So pretty.

  Well, that’s all for now! It’s dinnertime here in france :)

Bien à vous,

Marie