Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Gauls in Rome

Once again, I have only 30 minutes on the hostel computer, so I dont have time to tell you what I've actually been up to, only time for a short story. Two, in fact.

are for the most part very, very sweet, if peculiar. But so far, this rule does not hold outside of France.

When the girls and I were in a massive line for the Colosseum on Monday, a French couple ended up behind me and Liana. RIGHT behind us. It was very crowded in the line, but not Disney World crowded, yet this couple insisted on pressing up against our backs, using our shoulders as tables for their maps, and, worst of, constantly constantly constantly kissed each other. It was really noisy, gross, and obnoxious, especially because they stood so close that I felt like I was part of the action, only they weren't paying me.

We kept griping about how gross it was, and tried to push back against them without being rude, but nothing worked. After 15 minutes of having this couple all over my back and in my ear, I turned around and snapped "S'il vous plait, un peu d'espace!!" (A little space, please!)

They were taken aback, because they had assumed we didn't understand them, and I was taken aback, too, because they were in their 40s or 50s, way too old not to know better.

The man tried to offer me some lame excuse like "hey, it's really crowded, is this your first time in a line?" But I responded "Vous faites ca depuis quelque minutes!"  (you've been doing that for some time!)

Even though they were complaining under their breath in French, they were embarrassed and drifted away from our group, thankfully. Ugh.

No time for the other story, I'm sorry! It's equally annoying, and I had to get gruff in French. French people, like Americans, should not assume that nobody knows their language.

Today is our shopping day in Rome! HOOORAY! I plan on buying one dress and 10 cannoli.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Short Sardinian Story

while I get ready for the shuttle that takes me downtown Rome to visit the Vatican today, I want to tell you a brief incident from Cagliari. I have to dive straight in the middle, forgive me, because I know youll have questions. Will answer later!

In Cagliari, we made a friend named Giovanni, who invited us one night to an authentic home style meal. He also let us use his computer for a minute, which was a huge blessing, because Cagliari had no sun, no internet, and about as much English.

Im on his computer checking my email (sorry, there are no apostrophes or hyphens on this Italian keyboard) when Nikki walks in with something in her mouth.
"Im eating horse," she tells me.
"Well, is it good?"
"Its tough, but tastes all right" and she walks out.

Horse, I think, I can handle that. When we sit down at the table, Giovanni puts down a huge, enormous plate of pasta. He reaches into his fridge, and pulls out some sort of oil to drizzle over the pasta. It didnt look very sanitary. Then he artfully sprinkled on some parmesan and something red and grainy.

We all sit down to eat, and the pasta is delicious. Another traveler, Daniel from Miami, is also eating with us, and he puts a slab of horse on my plate. I was hoping to avoid it, but I figured that at least it was well done, so it wasnt going to kill me. It was pretty good, actually.

Were happily munching away on pasta when Giovanni thrusts the jar of red grainy stuff under Daniels nose and says "Smell dees"
"Smells pretty strong, what is it?"
"Eets feesh eggs."
And I break out in a cold sweat, because those fish eggs appeared to have been sitting in his fridge for quite some time, and were not properly heated before being added to our pasta. But it was too late, I had already eaten everything.

We begin to talk about traditional Sardinian food with Giovanni, and he mentions a very traditional cheese that has live worms in it.
"When eets fraish," he says, "the worms, they jump."
I had heard of this cheese before, even seen it on television, but I had misremembered it as being French. Daniel expressed great disbelief over this cheese, when suddenly, Giovanni remembered that he had a hunk in the back of his fridge. This should have been an alarm, and I would also like to take this time to note that the water in Sardinia is not potable.

He offers Daniel a piece with a little worm in it. Daniel does not want to eat, and is trying very hard to politely decline, but you cannot decline food from a Sardinian. He finally eats it, and declares that it is "2 to 3 times stronger than Roquefort". When Gio offers a worm free piece to Nikki, and she declines, I quickly snatch it up, in fear of having a wormy piece being offered to me.

It was indeed stronger than Roquefort, but less horsey. Not too bad. I say so.
"No," says Gio, "Eets not so good. Eets not fraish, eets old. Eet is from June."
Me: "WHAT?!"
"Yees, is from June. Eets okay, worms keep from being toxic."
And I was immediately sad because I had not told my mother I loved her before eating. I was positive I was about to reach the end of my culinary expeditions, along with all my other life expeditions, in some forgotten corner of Sardinia.

But, I made it to Rome, and so far, my stomach has been totally happy. Its probably all the cannolis.

Vatican time! Love you!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Sardinia Part 2

Cagliari is better than originally expected. Am currently in Rome, with very limited internet. I wish I could update, I have so much to tell. Unfortunately, it hasnt stopped raining since we left Nice. Really annoying, but everybodys  chipper all the same.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Nice Part Two

Brief update from the Villa St. Exupery Gardens hostel. 

Nice is gorgeous. The beach is really pebbly, but the pebbles are big and comfortable, and believe it or not, actually made my back feel much much better after 3 days of laying in bed and 2 days of traveling. The water is GORGEOUS, it's turquoise and shallow and inviting, but deceptively so, as it's still too cold to swim.

Yesterday, we saw Old Nice, laid out on the beach, ate too much ice cream, and, my favorite,explored Roman ruins. YEEEEEEEES. So happy. Ecstatic, even.

Getting tired of French food. It's delicious, but there's just no variety. Every sandwich shop has the same 8 sandwiches. Every restaurant has the same pizzas and salads. Every panini place has the same 8 paninis. I'm sure if I was willing to pay more than 20 euro for a meal, I'd change my tune, but that's not a good idea at the moment. 

I'm also really, really tired of French wait service. They take your order, they bring your food, and then they disappear for an hour. They don't even swing by where you can catch their eye. Because of this, I'm always thirsty, because my tiny little French glass of tap water never gets refilled, and the one, single carafe they bring for our table is gone in a few minutes between the five of us. Sigh. Megan says that's why tips are included in France, because otherwise waiters wouldn't get any money. They certainly wouldn't from me.

Caved the day before yesterday and I bought a chicken sandwich at KFC. Before you judge me, I haven't had a single bite of American fastfood or anything since I arrived in January, unless you count an ice cream. I was still off my feed, so to speak, all the way from Wednesday, Angers, to Sunday in Nice, and everytime I thought about a French meal option, I got queasy. I just couldn't take anything else diary, on a baguette, or with weird mustard sauce. So I ordered a small chicken sandwich, and it was fried, crispy, spicy, and everything wonderful about Colonel Sanders' fine establishment. Since that sandwich, I haven't been sick. Coincidence? Nay nay.

In a recent change of plans, we've decided to add another soveriegn nation to our destination list. Monaco is only a 3 euro bus ride away, so we're making it our afternoon day trip today. We won't be able to afford anything, we've already checked, but we can look for free. Between you and me, though, faithful readers, there's a 35 euro, 20 minute Ferrari tour that you can take around Monaco, 70 if you want to drive.  I would totally do that if I was solo.

Amy and I are headed to breakfast downstairs! More another day!


Sunday, April 17, 2011


Made it safely from Angers to Nantes to Marseilles to Nice. My hostel is wonderful, and all the girls arrived safely with me, but I am absolutely pooped. I woke up at 4:30 this morning and probably did 8 miles today.

Will update later. Love you!


Saturday, April 16, 2011


has arrived! be back in 2 weeks, faithful adventurers!


^what I plan to be doing during my break. plus beach reading and visiting Roman ruins. can't wait!

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Remember how I said I was so excited to make a big, American breakfast-for-dinner on Wednesday? Bad news, bears.

Wednesday, I was completely exhausted, probably because Tuesday and Wednesday are back-to-back 8:00 am classes days, and once I get up Wednesday morning (6:45), walk to school, and start class at 8:00, I have class for a solid 4 hours. I knew that I was kind of tired, but it didn't feel abnormal until the last 15 minutes of my Phonetics class, when all of a sudden I got really antsy and agitated that the professor was (to me) wasting time showing us Youtube videos of French slang (I think professors have a compulsion, here, to use up every single minute of alloted class time).

When I left class, I felt chilly, the chilly that you feel when you're really tired or about to catch a cold. I walked straight home and ate about a half bowl of soup. Madame B and I were due to walk to the bank to put my ring in a safe-deposit box, and luckily I squeezed in a nap before we had to go. When she called me, though, and I got up, I could tell something was wrong. Either I had woken up mid-nap cycle, or was coming down with a bug, but I felt really under the weather, and I could tell instinctively that the walk to the bank was going to hurt.

For an old lady, Madame B walks really fast. By the time we were in the bank vault, I could feel my body starting to shut down, and I just wanted somebody to show up in a car to drive me home, but I had to buy some sunscreen for my trip. I bought it as fast as possible.

I went home, collapsed into bed, and called Zachary like a pitiful weenie. He didn't pick up, so I texted him "Zack, I feel awful and I'm cold and tired and shaky and I have multiple people to feed in 4 hours!" I took two aspirin and tried to sleep. Everytime I'd wake up, I didn't feel much better.

About 5pm, I got a call from my Canadian guest, Laura, and she said that she was so sorry, and really really really didn't want to cancel, but she was feeling awful and knew that she just wouldn't be able to make it. I felt so relieved, and I confided that I felt awful, too, and I was so glad she had called and told me, because otherwise I would have tried to push on through. We laughed about it, and wished ourselves a get-well-soon.

I got on Facebook to see about telling my French friend, Abellia, that the dinner would be canceled, and then I saw that it was her birthday. I couldn't believe that she had agreed to spend her birthday with me, because we've only met once before, and I just couldn't cancel on her birthday, only 2-3 hours before she was supposed to arrive. Besides, I was feeling better, anyway, and it should have been less stressful with only one person.

I'm really tired, so I'll cut about two hours from this story: We're flipping the first pancake, and I just crash. I had to sit down. Then I had to open the outside door, because I was burning up. Then I couldn't catch my breath, and my hands were tingling, and there was an obnoxious whine in my ears. I told her, between breaths, that I was really, really, really sorry, because this was probably the worst-birthday ever, but I had to cancel right then and there. And she assured me that it was okay, not my fault, that she didn't want me to get sick and she wouldn't cry a river over it, but I felt so terrible that I just couldn't get my energy back. I had to leave all the mess in the kitchen, and she had to help me up the stairs, where I bumped into Madame and told her, wheezily, that I was sorry about the mess in the kitchen, but I got really sick really fast. Abellia said something in French about how I looked really pale, and Mme agreed, and Abellia helped me up to my room, where I flopped immediately on the bed.

That's where I've been since last night, drinking tons of water, not really sleeping but not really waking up, trying to figure out if my yogurt at the bottom of two flights of stairs is worth it (going down one flight to the bathroom makes me feel like puking. sorry, TMI), because I haven't eaten since yesterday lunch. I'm considering asking the Chinese girls for help, but it'll take forever to get the point across.

On the upside, I'm not missing many classes, but on the downside, I leave for Spring Break on Saturday. I absolutely have to get better. I've already bought all my plane tickets and train tickets. I think my fever is mostly gone, but if I wear myself out like I did yesterday, it'll come back with a vengeance.


Please keep me in your prayers, and if somebody has a free plane ticket from Raleigh to Angers, give it to my Mom, so she can come work her Mom-magic and make me better.

Monday, April 11, 2011

To Meet French, You Have to Eat French.

Tuesday, I get lunch with my French friend Claire. Tuesday night, I eat with the famille. Wednesday night, I invite my French speaking-buddy Abellia for an American style "breakfast-for-supper" dinner. It feels really weird to write dinner with two N's instead of "diner."

Wish me luck! I'm going all out, because my two freshly arrived Chinese house-mates might be eating with us, too.

Grits (hidden under the Yankee pseudonym, "polenta" at the grocery store)
Scrambled eggs
Fresh fruit
Real maple syrup (bottle cost 4 euro, I hope everybody is duly appreciative)
Orange juice

I think I should probably make coffee, but a) I don't drink it, and b) I don't know how to use the machine. Tant pis! I think Abellia is bringing a dessert, which is sweet. I also made chili earlier in the week, and froze a bag for Claire, because she was sweet enough to give me a ride to and from a French college-night worship service at the St. Madeleine. I hope she likes it!

Will update soon. Spring Break in T-minus 5 days.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Amie de Voyage

As summer approaches, so does my deadline to find a travel buddy.

With a buddy, I can go more places, stay out later, and laugh at mishaps. This is an artist's rendering of my summer adventures (hopefully in Scotland or around France) with a buddy:
that's right! I'll get taller, my hair will grow faster, and I'll have a natural tan. 

Unfortunately, most of my CIDEF friends (read: all the ones I wouldn't kill after a week together) are leaving pretty soon after school gets out. I've started branching out, asking if maybe they have friends, or friends of friends, who are hanging around Europe for a while. I plan on calling up my buddy Loran, who studied in Scotland last year, to see if she's got anybody she trusts that's looking for a fun break. So far, it's looking bleak, and all my US friends who would dearly love to come with me can't afford the plane ticket to Europe.

This is an artist's rendering of my summer adventures if I don't find a buddy:
at least I'll still be taller, right?

So if you know any nice lady under 30 (hey, I'll be lenient, 55) that would like to explore Western Europe this summer, give her my e-mail, won't you?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A Great Day in Angers!

I had been told all week long that today would be hot "tres chaud!", so I left my house to retrieve rent money at around noon wearing my blue dress. French people have a weak idea of warm. I'm not sure why they even have weather reports, because it doesn't affect French dressing:

Météo: Rainy.
French: Dark colors. Preferably black. Boots. Scarves.

Météo: Partly cloudy.
French: See above.

Météo: Sunny, warm.
French: See above. Add sunglasses to 1/5 of population.

Since it was a bit breezier than I thought, I changed into shorts and a longer sleeved shirt before I went downtown to find the carnaval. I walked all over the centre-ville of Angers, and nothing. There were lots of small children in costumes and people selling balloons, but nothing was going on. Confused, I met Amy and Liana and we walked about 85.7 kilometers (or 3 gallons, 4 ounces) to the Parc Balzac to try to find the mysterious, adorable red Scottish cows.

Turns out, they're not in the Parc Balzac, at least not until May, but the park was beautiful, with daisies and huge dandelions everywhere, little streams and bridges cutting through shady trails, and lots and lots of green grass. We made it waaaaaaay over to the Lac de Maine, where we discovered a) a swimming beach, b) wind surfing, c) a strange black pyramid building, and d) lots of French enjoying the sunshine (they do this by going shirtless or playing bocce [men]).

After confirming the current location of the red cows, we drifted another mile over to the Lac de Maine park, where there were lots of French people. We saw a little farmhouse, and in its fenced-in field were donkeys, two of whom were HUGE and shaggy. They scared me, actually. They were as big as horses, and had long, dreadlocked fur with huge, heavy heads. Amy tried to say that maybe regular donkeys had mated with the furry Scottish cows. Whatever Amy, April Fool's was Friday.

We sat down in a shady spot and were promptly approached by two young French guys (one burre,or Arab, and one French-African). I guess I shouldn't say 'we' were approached, because it was obviously Amy they were interested in. For some reason, she attracts them. Can't say I'm jealous. They wanted to "talk for two minutes," and then proceeded to sit down, ask for our names, if we had MSN messenger or Facebook (we feigned ignorance) and about the US. They weren't creepers, but they were intruding on our grass-nappage.

Totally pooped (we had been out and about in the park for at least 4 hours), we headed back into town and parted ways. On my way home, I heard a huge commotion in the Place du Ralliement, a big, pretty square. I followed the noise, and found-

I'm still not sure exactly what Angers' carnaval consists of, other than it was the coolest, most exciting, best parade I have ever seen. There were tons of people pressed about, lots of drumming groups, every single kid was decked out in a spiffy Halloween costume, balloons, confetti everywhere, big puppets, stilt walkers, various ethnic groups, face painted adults, and people being generally silly.

I had the best time, squished in with all those Angevines. The parade had a real community feel, and was really laid back, with entertainers and sideline-watchers interacting, hugging, taking pictures, or being attacked by confetti. I had an older man dressed like a soldier through a fistful in my face, and I was secretly pleased, because I got to be part of the party, too, though I got it all over me.

I took too many photos, and got some absolutely precious ones of the kids. Being a kid in France must be sweet. Snack time at 4pm is almost mandatory, the playgrounds have really fun, dangerous looking installations, and you only go to school a half-day on Wednesday.

I'm going to upload a photo page of the parade on my "faux pas" page, if you want to see it. It was so nice to have fun like the French with the French. I haven't gotten a speck of homework done today, but I think having a fun, away-from-it-all weekend was worth it.

Big Day in Angers

Supposedly there's a carnival going on downtown. Time to go investigate.

I hope to conclude the day by petting Scottish cows in the Parc Lac de Maine.