Why Does It Matter?


frenchwordle.png“I took French for 4 years and I don’t remember a word.”

There are so many “teacher rebuttals”  to this statement, it’s not even funny. This is the most common statement I hear as a French teacher whenever I say what I do for a living.

So knowing that my students will say – to me or to someone else – that they don’t remember any French, WHY DO I BOTHER?

Because the moments when they say to me:

“This, like, actually makes sense.”

“I love French culture”

“Madame! We learned French jokes over lunchtime!”

“This sounds like the coolest place ever.”

“You make traveling sound like something I could actually do.”

“I want to be like you.”

Are worth everything to me.

Dear Texas


image I’ve been here for about 48 hours and, I’ve got to admit, this state is like no other place I’ve ever been. Even in the airport, I was innocently running to the bathroom while I waited for the airport to unload my luggage. Another woman walked in at the same time and just started talking to me. I replied politely, but distanced. She continued to talk to me through the walls of the stalls. Who does that?? Welcome to Texas. Anyway, so I’m just going to make a list of some of my observations…with my own commentary.

– Power. Running water. Tv and internet. ‘Nuf said.

– Not everyone has a southern accent. I have been pleasantly surprised that I can understand what people are saying.

– There are nearly no crosswalks. So in angered revenge, I just wander leisurely across the street whenever and where ever I want. Like come on Texas, catch up with the rest of the world.

– The weather is beautiful. My friend told me it was hot, but compared to Saipan, this is glorious. I can actually go for a run or a walk without coming back drowning in my own sweat. It feels like freedom for my lungs and my pores.

– So many white people. More than in MA. Definitely more than Saipan.

– Not every radio station is country or Christian. I actually kind of expected there to be at least four different genre-based Christian music radio stations. The rest of them would be country. And maybe one pop station.

– Texas has a higher sales tax than Massachusetts. I did not expect that from the most conservative state in the country.

-The alcohol here is dirt cheap.

– In Massachusetts, there are Dunkin’s on nearly every corner. Sometimes there’s even two. In Texas, I expected to see a church on every corner…maybe even two. This is not the case.
image

– Texas is less vibrant than Saipan, even after it got hit by the typhoon. The sky isn’t as blue, the grass isn’t as green, and the trees feel more brown than the trees stripped of their leaves on Saipan.

Texas is an interesting place y’all.

Heaven on Earth: Le Parc de Bagatelle


On the way back to my house on the metro ride, I was planning on writing about a reflection piece about Paris, but as I downloaded my pictures from this afternoon, I decided to talk about my favorite spot in the entire world so far: le Parc de Bagatelle.

I’ve been here three or four times so far in my time in Paris, which is a lot. To some, it might be just another garden, nothing extraordinarily special in the grand scheme of Paris. But to me, it’s the Louvre of flowers, or maybe the Musée d’Orsay. I can stand in front of a flower much longer than I can stand in front of a painting. I spent half an hour today comparing rose smells.  The park de Bagatelle (which is also the Paris botanical garden) is everything I love about Paris wrapped up in one spectacular package. It’s where I feel the most at home; it’s the most heavenly place on earth that I’ve found in all of my travels. And it’s a hidden gem, spared from most tourists.

And it’s more than simply flowers. To get an image (or several) of what’s included in this park, I’ve compiled a short list:

– A little castle

Image

– Caves and waterfalls

ImageImageImageImage

– A rose garden

ImageImageImage

– An Iris Garden

ImageImageImageImage

– Peacocks. Lots and lots and lots of them.

IMG_7017IMG_5466 IMG_7010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

– Cats

IMG_7041IMG_7043

 

 

 

 

 

 

– A mini lake (or two or three)

IMG_5470 IMG_7033 IMG_7071

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

– Flower arbors and some other gardens of which I don’t have pictures.

IMG_7556 IMG_5486 IMG_7148

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are also free bathrooms on both ends of the park. Which is a pretty handy feature, and they’re generally decently clean and are supplied with soap and toilet paper.

 

America’s Highlights


ImageIt must have been a while since I’ve written a blog post since WordPress had logged me out of my account when I went to go write up a new update. This past week, I’ve had friends visiting in Paris–which has been absolutely wonderful!  But at the same time, as they’re wrapping up their semesters abroad, getting ready to go back home to the States, it’s making me realize that my time is coming soon as well. In just three short weeks, I’ll be taking my finals and then heading out for one last excursion to Lisbon before going back to the United States.

As much as I don’t want to leave, there are certainly some things that I’m looking forward to seeing and doing again once I’m back on American Soil.  I’m definitely excited to see my parents and family and my dog again, but besides all that, there are just some ‘American’ experiences that will make going home slightly less painful. So, in no particular order, here we go!

1. Bath and Body Works.  The French don’t realize what they’re missing by not having any of these. And they’re not anywhere else in Europe either. Apparently this chain of awesomeness is exclusive to North America….

2. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream.  Gelato is great, but when I get back, I’m going to have a date with a box of this stuff.

3. Momma’s burgers.   There’s something about a burger straight off the grill made with love from my mother that is just magical.

4.  Walking around barefoot. Not only will this be an excellent way to repair all the damage I’ve done to my feet this semester, I am so excited to feel grass under my feet again.

5. Belinda.  She’s my baby, my first and only car-love, and I’m so excited to be reunited with her.

 

Cardiff, London, Oxford, Prague, oh my!


So, after a week of traveling in Europe, I learned a lot of things. First of all, traveling stresses me out. You know, the normal stuff–how am I supposed to be affording this? (everyone tells you traveling in Europe is cheap, they’re lying.)  What if I miss my bus? (which I did…)  What if they don’t speak English? (or as I learned in Britain, what if I can’t understand their English?) Traveling brings on a whole slew of worries, frustrations, and difficult situations. But in the end, it does pay off.

Image

 

My first landing spot was Cardiff (via London).  Due to an unfortunate oversight on my part, I missed my first bus, and had to spend about 100 euros to correct that error.  Looking back, that experience probably had an effect on how I viewed the UK for the first 48 hours before I put it behind me. But after letting my nerd-self have a little time in the sun visiting the Doctor Who Experience/Museum, and setting myself back on the schedule I had originally planned, I felt a little better.

 

ImageOn the bus back to London, I had to endure about three hours of two young children who decided that the whole bus wanted to hear them scream and cry the entire time. I kind of forgot that’s what normal children are like in the rest of the world. I arrived in London and spent three hours trying to get to my hostel without spending 40 pounds (about 80 dollars). Finally, I was introduced to the ‘underground’ or ‘tube’, which managed to get me there relatively inexpensively.

The next day I committed to seeing London. I went into the tube station and the people were so friendly and helpful to my completely lost and utterly confused self. It was so strange having people be so smiley and willing to offer their assistance instead of waiting for you to ask for it. As I continued through the day, I realized that London doesn’t believe in self direction for tourists. Street signs are hidden in the strangest places and there’s no maps hardly anywhere!  So I wandered around a lot, kind of disoriented, lost, and just kind of staring at random buildings I passed by.  I did manage to make it to see Big Ben (which I found a bit anticlimactic) and into a huge crowd in front of Buckingham Palace.

After that experience, I was done with London (at least for the time being).  I took a bus into Oxford and met a friend who just finished a semester at the university there, and we wandered around looking at all the pretty buildings, and seeing the sights of Oxford. It might have been because I had a guide, but I definitely liked Oxford a lot more than London. So the next day, I went in again.  Despite England’s flaws, it was so pleasant to be in a country that values tea more than coffee! And who shares my punny sense of humor 😉

ImageImageImageImage

Now that I’d seen Cardiff, London, and Oxford, my friend and I took a flight over to Prague in the Czech Republic, where we stayed at a lovely hostel called the Czech Inn (hehehe!).  Wednesday, my friend and I headed out to see the sights of Prague. We walked up to the Eiffel Tower and climbed it, getting a fantastic birds-eye view of Prague. Then walked down to see the Astrological clock at the hour when all the saints tick around. Afterwards, we climbed the clock tower and got the most incredible view of the city at sunset, as the sun covered the city in a soft glow. It was completely magical.

ImageImageImage

And now I’m just back in my Parisian paradise, relaxing for the last couple days of my spring break.

 

The Loire Valley


The Loire Valley….the home of either my inner princess or my inner child.  Seriously, this area of France is filled with castles and ‘hunting lodges’ of the kings and queens of the past. For those who aren’t aware, a royal hunting lodge is actually a code word for a gorgeous castle. When I heard the term, I always thought of a cabin in the woods. But no, that is not what I’m referring to when I use the term ‘hunting lodge’ in this post.

So last weekend, I went to the region of the Loire with my study abroad program–ISA.  Early on Saturday morning, a group of 70 students climbed into two large buses and headed off to visit three castles.  The Loire Valley is about two to four hours away from Paris–depending on traffic and which city you’re visiting. As we drove through it, I noticed what a beautiful region it was–filled with fields of flowers and plenty of purple wisteria climbing over the houses. It’s no wonder that the kings and queens of France chose this spot to build their vacation homes.

IMG_5135 IMG_5214

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday. It was a beautiful day–probably around 75 degrees. I had brought my winter coat on this excursion because I thought that the castles would be too cold for just my leather jacket. But on Saturday, I was fine with just a short sleeved tee-shirt. We visited two castles on this gorgeous day.

The first castle we visited was the Château d’Amboise. Compared to the other castles I’ve visited in Paris, this castle was a bit of a letdown. However, Leonardo daVinci was buried in the chapel of this castle. I actually forget the entire story–I think he was moved for some reason, but there’s still a plaque there. The Château d’Amboise used to be far more impressive (I assume), but the majority of it was destroyed at some point in history so only a small portion remains there today.

IMG_5158 IMG_5192 IMG_5165

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next castle we visited definitely made up for the slight disappointment at Amboise.  Le château de Chenonceau.  This was my favorite castle I’ve ever seen in Europe so far!  The castle looked like it was the set for a Disney fairy tale movie. It had several beautiful gardens with perfectly arranged flowers. The interior was spectacularly decorated. This castle was the place where the queens and other ladies of the king would go to have a nice little vacation; it was the ‘hunting lodge’ for the ladies. One last fun fact: this castle is currently owned by Nestle.

IMG_5211 IMG_5221 IMG_5200

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to these castle visits, we also went to a winery to see the wine making process and visit a small museum of wine making equipment. After that, there was also a wine tasting provided, which was accompanied by bread, cheese, and a type of pâté. After that, we headed to our hotel in the city of Tours.

IMG_5252 IMG_5266 IMG_5272

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, the sun wasn’t shining, and it wasn’t as warm, but it wasn’t raining most of the time (just a light sprinkle as we were headed back to Paris). This day we went to the château de Chambord. This castle was actually the inspiration for the castle in Beauty and the Beast. It was built by Francis I for political reasons (apparently when you’re crowned king, you’re supposed to build something), but was never actually finished. Francis I was credited with the design of the double staircases found in this castle. They were created so that two people (cough cough, his mistress and his wife) could go up and down the same staircase without crossing one another.

IMG_5278-1 IMG_5289 IMG_5323

Normandy, Venice, and oh yeah, Paris too!


I suppose I kind of forgot to blog about Italy last weekend.  And even about Normandy from the weekend before that!  I have definitely been surprisingly lacking about all the fun thing that I’ve been up to in March. Well…what can I say? I’m in Paris!

So…to start at the very beginning (just to overview my March life), I went to Normandy to visit some French WWII sites and a museum. I was able to go to Omaha beach and Pointe du Hoc and see the bunkers. I wish we’d gotten to spend some more time at those two spots. I could have sat on the beach for the entire day!  It was absolutely beautiful, despite all the horrible things that happened. Still, when you see this picture, it’s almost hard to imagine it as a war zone!

omahabeach

 

 

The day after, we went to a monastery from …. a very long time ago. The 8th century?  It was at Mont Saint Michel. Definitely the most incredible monastery I’ve ever seen! Though, I have to admit, it was the first monastery I’d ever seen. 😉  However, as it stood watch over the sea, perched on a mountain with all of it’s fortifications, it was definitely a moment to remember. And since I had forgotten my SD card for my camera in Paris, there aren’t any pictures to try and describe it.

The weekend afterwards, I went to Venice, Italy with a friend of mine. We didn’t actually visit anything together, we went along our separate ways, but it was nice to have a travel buddy.  There, I visited the Island of Burano–which, if you ever find yourself in Venice, it’s definitely worth the commute out to the island to visit!  So much color!

What I noticed most about Venice is that it’s really been transformed into a tourist attraction. There seemed to be very little actual Italian culture there. It was like Disneyworld–a city of stereotypes. Every shop was selling either Venetian masks, Murano glass, or typical tourist stuff. While the city was beautiful, I couldn’t help but wonder when it transformed from an actual city to a tourist’s city. Was it ever home to real Italians?

1780206_10203619362587088_1617713299_o 1911029_10203619364347132_1832171307_o 10003686_10203619372987348_1706120177_o

10012680_10203619367147202_1858885144_o

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, for my Paris events.

So I went to the Centre Pompidou. Now, if you’re not familiar with Parisian museums, I”ll help you out–this is the one dedicated to Modern Art. I know that a couple posts ago, I commented that modern art seemed rather silly and infantile and completely ridiculous in light of all the art out there….

But after wandering through a museum of modern art, I realized that there’s a vast variety to it all. It’s kind of hard to classify all modern art as something. I went to a black and white photography exhibit–which was fascinating. The things that the photographer decided to take pictures of, I never would have thought to do. The color in all the paintings was refreshing compared to the Louvre which I’d visited a couple weeks back.

Basically, what I discovered is that I actually enjoy modern art quite a lot. Because to me, there’s a lot of difference between these two pieces:

IMG_3841 IMG_3836