A trip with CEA brought us to Fontainebleau - basically an old hunting town for royalty outside of Paris. After a couple hour hike in the woods, we had a really excellent lunch then explored the Château de Fontainebleau, which is actually the castle & lands the Château de Versailles was created to out-do. And compared to Versailles, Château de Fontainebleau is almost understated. 


de Croatie

So yes, I went to Croatia literally a month ago but I finally got around to editing all of the pictures and, due to the desire to procrastinate on finals work, totally want to write a blog about them! Long story short, Julia and I went to spend the weekend with Caitlin in Dubrovnik, and thus the roommates are back together again. Unfortunately, I never wrote a post about meeting up in Barcelona in early October so I can't put a link in to that... but here's Caitlin's!

Caitlin and me on Lokrum Island
I left Paris on Thursday evening with a layover in Zagreb (Croatia's capital). I'm just chilling, standing in line at security to get into my terminal, when I hear somebody shout my name and Julia is standing on the second level yelling down to me - pretty wonderful to see this lady's face smiling down at you.

Getting safe passage back to Dubrovnik someday!

Julia and me at Lokrum Island
We get to Croatia, meet Caitlin at the bus stop from the airport, climb about a million stairs (to be repeated many times), arrive at her apartment, and crash - though I will literally never get over how beautifully wonderful her apartment is. Ever. If you don't study abroad in a tiny studio shared by 2 people in France, you cannot understand. On Friday we go to Lokrum Island and hang out with lots of peacocks, then check out the pretty chill Dubrovnik bar scene.



So last Saturday we decided to take a day trip to Versailles. It happens to be the last stop on RER (aka train) C, which is basically like a commuter train to the suburbs of Paris. What that means is with our navigo passes (public transportation passes) we can go to Versailles for free on weekends, even though it's in a zone that isn't covered by our everyday passes. Anyway, so yeah: transportation to Versailles was free which was pretty sweet, and only about an hour commute.

When we arrived Jordan and I decided not to go into the castle - she had already been and I plan on returning with the CEA program later in the semester. Jamie and Jordan's friend from home Madelyn took a tour of the castle and met us in the gardens.

Before catching up with them, we went through a small labyrinth, almost rented boats to chill on the water, and hung out in the forest alongside the gardens, which for a Vermonter and Washingtonian, was pretty essential to our well-being. I actually cannot express how comforting the smell of trees is after a month in the city!


les villes de deauville et trouville

So last Saturday, CEA students awoke at 6:45am to make it to a train station by 8:20 to be lead off on a mystery adventure we knew nothing about. We arrive to learn that we were taking a train to northern France in the Normandie region to the coastal towns of Deauville & Trouville. A 2 hour train ride later, we arrive in Deauville with 20 euros to spend and about 7 hours to enjoy the area - which we absolutely did!

After a walk through the Deauville market, we got lunch (crepes, of course, because they're known for their savory crepes) and brought a bottle of hard cider we got from a nice man at the market (which they are also known for) to the beach and chilled for a while next to the ocean. 


CD& TD Reunion!

So Caitlin, aka college roomie bff is studying in Croatia this semester in the beautiful city of Dubrovnik. Before going there; however, she decided to visit her good friend Ségolène from Belgium who lived with the Douglass family for a year during a foreign exchange program. As I am in Paris, they obviously had to come to visit me! (& the city and sites I suppose, but mostly me.) It was actually even nicer than I expected to have them visit - I think the hardest part about studying abroad has nothing to do with "studying" or "abroad," it's really just being away from the people you love at home.

Unfortunately, while their trip was plagued with some awful pests, (find out more on Caitlin's blog here) we did see some of the classic Parisian sights, and I took my first trip up la tour eiffel!



les catacombes de paris

So this happened a couple weeks ago, but with school starting up life has been pretty crazy here in Paris! One of the things I was most looking forward to seeing while I was here ware the catacombs - aka 6 million skeletons stacked in old quarries underneath the city.

Long story short, the quarries had been dug for centuries to get limestone out of the ground for construction of parisian buildings. Those which were exhausted of their minerals were basically forgotten about until they started crumbling down and either had to be filled in or better supported.

Around this time, (late 18th century) cemeteries in the city began getting too full. This hadn't been an issue before because predeceasing the rise of Christianity in the country, people were buried outside of the city. However, hundreds of years after they had to be buried in sacred soil, there wasn't enough room for them anymore, considering Paris was already overpopulated by the living. And these full graveyards started becoming serious health hazards for the city. Transferring all of Paris's dead to the tunnels took from 1786-1788.

From 1788-1810 the tunnels were merely bone repositories, until a renovation rearranged the skulls & femurs into their current configuration and used tombstones as decorations.

So yeah, check it out! Also, check out the bar 'katacombes' in Montreal modeled after the parisian catacombs.


les Français contre les Américains

So there's obviously a reason that Americans and the French don't quite click right away and we get these stereotypes of the French being cold and Americans being obnoxious. And, of course, it all starts with the typical American mom and the typical French mom.

Picture an American mom going to the park with her child, she's probably wearing her yoga pants and lulu lemon jacket, while her baby is wearing bright colors (obviously never black or grey, why would you put depressing colors on a happy baby?). The stroller has the newest, greatest safety mechanisms with a 5 point seat belt for the child so he doesn't bounce around too much when the stroller hits cracks in the pavement, as well as lots of things the baby can play with and spots for mom to put her Starbucks. They get to the park, she takes him out of the stroller and says things like "we're here! oh we are going to have so much fun! you can play over there and over there and over there and just have fun! I'll be watching you and taking pictures for daddy!" So the child starts playing and after a little while he falls and comes back crying to his mom, who immediately says something like "oh sweetie it'll be ok!" and magically kisses the pain away, then sends the child back out to play because they have to leave on a 'good note' - he has to be having fun when they leave, they can't leave when he's upset over falling.

So now let's look at the French mom. She's pushing a stroller, potentially smoking, wearing normal clothes for women - aka has gotten back into her skinny jeans and is wearing an outfit to compliment the fact that she is a woman. When a French woman becomes a mother, she still remains a woman, while when an American woman becomes a mom, she has to become Supermom! and loses the sexy side of her womanhood.

So anyway, she's dressed well, maybe a little sexy, and her child is wearing an outfit - not necessarily conducive to running and jumping and playing like American clothing for children is. When they get to the park, the mom undoes the seat belt (which was just for show anyway) and says to the child, "we're here. You can play there but not there, over there is for kids bigger than you and you will fall if you play there. I will be here watching you." (note: watching them to make sure they don't do something wrong, not watching taking pictures for daddy or grandma.) So the kid plays and goes over to the big kid area and falls. When he comes back to mom crying, she says something along the lines of, "mom was right, huh?" or "I told you so" and waits for acknowledgement from the child that she, obviously, knew best. After that has been established she will take care of cleaning/bandaging whatever needs to be done. If the child keeps crying and making a scene, she will first make him sit and calm down. If that doesn't work, they go home because it is entirely inappropriate for the child to be crying in public.

In France, children bend to the adults' world. In America, adults bend to children's needs. (AKA toys for kids to play with in stores/restaurants, it being inappropriate for a salesperson or waiter to ask a customer to leave because of the noise their child is making, etc.)

So based on these childhoods, they compare Americans to peaches

& French to coconuts

Americans always feel the pressure to be outgoing, outwardly happy, welcoming, and always having fun, whereas the French are more reserved and tell it like it is. e.g. France has excellent customer service - for the French. They don't want a waitperson to come over all "Hello!! My name is Meghan and I'll be taking care of you tonight. Our specials are...... and I really love the ......... and please let me know if I can help you in any way!!" They want them to simply take the order, bring the food, and leave until the check needs to be paid. They would hate that person returning every 5 minutes to make sure they are doing absolutely A-O.K.

Americans tend to have a lot of surface friends; we meet people and within 5 minutes of talking add them on facebook and like their statuses, but we have very few close, close friends. We find it easy to communicate with people on the surface level (like how a peach is soft on the outside), but find it difficult to talk about personal matters and get emotionally close to people.

The French have very few surface friends. Because they are colder and more reserved on the outside, they find no enjoyment in hanging out with lots of people they don't know well, whereas once they do become friends with someone, they are friends for life - you know, because they're all soft and milky on the inside.

One final distinction is the fact that the French have a little 'm' and a big "M" looking out for them - their biological family(/mother), as well as the government. Because the French government is so involved in its people's lives, the French feel much more secure with maybe not getting a job right after school and moving home with the parents instead - hell they don't have $100,000 of student loans to pay off so why not? There is not at all the same stigma here about losing a job or moving back in with the family, they don't always have to be moving forward and achieving things in their career to feel content and successful.

So yeah, this is totally not as well explained as it was to me but maybe this will help you as it did me in understanding the French and why peaches and coconuts don't always brush up against each other without some bumps & bruises..



So this whole week we have been going through orientation, which for us early-starters has seriously been a week long review of an orientation we had in 1 day, so it hasn't been too eventful. However, today we had a bus tour around the tourist sites of Paris and I (of course without my camera) got these snapshots with my iphone:


Mon anniversaire, rock en seine, et 'La mécanique des dessous, une histoire indiscrète de la silhouette'

Alors. After my post on Thursday I went on a wonderful champagne tasting cruise along the seine departing from the eiffel tower, thanks to Forrest: the best boyfriend ever. The champagne was amazing, obviously the views were spectacular, and I met this wonderful couple to enjoy the experience with - and get some tips about where to visit outside of Paris.

first glass!

our champagne expert - who was actually sweedish & came to france to study wine!

the love bridge! lovers place locks along the sides.



So I know it's been a couple of days, but you have to forgive me because today is my birthday! (even if it doesn't feel like it because I'm in Paris living a dream world anyway...) My birthday present? Finals! We had our summer term final exam aujourd'hui, but I'm trying to forget about it. In an hour and a half or so I'm off to go on a river boat champagne tasting cruise on the Seine (qui commencera en face de la tour eiffel) which I have to imagine is going to be wonderful. Thanks Forrest! Then tonight we're, of course, going back out to Oberkampf for some drinks & birthday celebrations!

Yesterday we had a day-long scavenger hunt that brought us to all of Paris's fun, big, important monuments (and slightly made me realize why the french hate them so much & think they're obnoxious). Although cruising along the seine was a nice way to go about Paris, I am a firm believer that scavenger hunts ruin the fun of seeing and enjoying things - not that we won't be returning, but of course I didn't want to stop and take lots of wonderful pictures of le louvre or go inside notre dame because we just had to get to the next stop of the scavenger hunt! That being said, here are some snapshots I did take: