Monday, November 28, 2005

International Friends

Here are some folks who put up with me occassionally: Andy and Tino, me and Eva, Eva, Tino, Jessica and me.

Holiday Weekend

Well, Thanksgiving was a bust. I think I can safely count it as the 2nd worst day of my life. Retrospectly, it still seems like an incredibly horrible day. I woke up from a 2 hour night sleep and the day got progressively and aggressively worse. I hope to never repeat anything like it again. However, the rest of the weekend made up for what I will now refer to as "Black Thursday". I spent some of the weekend with friends, consumed much great wine and ate enough for an army. Saturday it snowed in Paris and of course, I did not have my camera with me, but it was beautiful. I woke up and saw huge snowflakes falling. It was terrific! I do think I am going to love Paris in the wintertime

Monday, November 21, 2005


Well, winter has finally arrived in France, and yes, it is very cold. I celebrated its arrival by trying the Beaujolais Nouveau and running through the streets of Paris at 2 in the morning. I do think I will like France in the wintertime. I went to the Galeries Lafayette on Saturday and saw the most amazing Christmas tree I have ever seen (I think it could compete with the one at Rockefeller Center), and bought Christmas presents for the family. I hope to send them this week, but haven't actually figured out how to send boxes home, or for that matter, even where to buy boxes. So for those of you reading this (mainly family) I am thinking about you and have bought you real Paris presents, but you might not get them until next year. I also volunteered to serve Christmas dinner at the two American Churches in Paris, but neither one wants me, so there goes that idea. I plan on eatting at the Hard Rock Cafe for Thanksgiving and then having a dinner with my friends on Friday. If anyone would like to donate ideas or recipes for Thanksgiving, that would be great! I hope everyone has a nice holiday weekend and, if you can, eat some extra pumpkin pie for me.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Weekend in Normandy

I went to Normandy this last weekend. Friday, the 11th, was a holiday, so my German friends and I decided to get away from Paris. I am really glad we went because Normandy made my list as the #2 reason to love France. It was beautiful.....cold, but beautiful. We spent a lot of time walking on the beach and driving through sea-side towns. Honfleur, Deauville and Etretat were are three major stops. Honfleur is a busy, little town where many people from Paris visit during their holidays. Deauville is much bigger and has a 'big city feel' to it. It has a rather large casino and many resturants that cater to tourists. Etretat is located alongside large cliffs and is also a large tourist town. I liked each of these places, but was mostly just glad to get out of the city for a weekend. On our way back, we stopped at several D-day invastion sites. Driving was a little terrifying in Paris and the toll bridge charges were way too much (I think we paid about 25 Euros just to drive on the highway the first day and then 10 Euros the following days just to cross the bridge.). It was nice having a car for the weekend though, because we got to see a lot more things than if we had just been on foot. However it was not nice paying for gas (over 40 Euros to fill up). If you are coming to France, you really must go to Normandy!

D-Day Battle Site

I was lucky enough to see some of the actual D-day landing site and I must say, this one was the most impressive. The Army Rangers scaled 100 foot cliffs to overtake the Germans at this site. It was a stroke of military genius, amazing training and luck, but the Rangers were able to secure this post even with several initial setbacks. Amazing! As a thank-you, 30 acres (the entire site) was giving to the American government, so for about 30 minutes, I got to stand on American soil in France.

American Cemetery

The American Cemetery for the people who lost their lives during the D-day invasion is amazing. I am only posting a few pictures because it is mainly a bunch of grave markers (crosses and the star of David). A chappel and a few really nice memorials dedicated to the Americans who landed on the shores of Normandy dot the landscape as well. It is a very respectful and peaceful place and gives due tribute to those killed in battle. The most emotional part is reading the comments in the guest book in the reception hall.

Etretat Cliffs at Night

The cliffs at Etretat were even more beautiful at night. We arrived with only about an hour of daylight left. Unfortunately, it was cloudy that day, so we did not get to see the cliffs at sunset, but we did get to see them at night. The view of the town from the cliffs was also amazing. It almost reminded me of a Christmas card.

Cliffs of Etretat

Everybody has probably seen a picture of these cliffs, but nothing can aptly prepare you for there manificence in person. They are fantastic. The wave slapping on the rock beach are deafening. Standing between the two largest cliffs and hearing the waves is such an unique experience! Of course, I had to climb up and down and around and through the cliffs. It was exhausting, but a worthwhile experience.

The Promenade of Honfleur

This is the promenade of Honfleur. A walkway bordered by the sea and a lovely garden built for and by the children of Honfleur, it gives a terrific view of the open bay, the town, and the hills surrounding the town.


These pictures are from Honfleur, a sea-side town in Normandy. It is very quaint town, busy with tourists even in the cold month of November. I did not get to spend much time here, but I think most of its charm springs from the small shops selling homemade candies, wines, beers, preserves, etc., the miles of beautiful beach, and the view of the bay.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Things to Love About France

I know I tend to complain about France and the French so occassionally I will post things I love about France. The Eiffel Tower is at the top of my list because it always catches my eye. Although it is made of metal, from a distance it looks like a completely natural part of the Paris skyline. The French might not agree with me, but I think it is the best part of Paris. I have to stop and stare everytime I see it, especially at night. That is why it is reason #1 to love France....

Exciting Plans for the Weekend

Good news concerning the riots; it looks as if they are calming down. There was a sharp decline in burnt cars last night. The helicopters fly overhead about every 20 minutes throughout the night and I think that may deter many people from acting like fools. Anyway, I am keeping my fingers crossed for a quick resolution.

In other news, I went to a play last night. Tartuff, created by Molière in 1664 (?), is comedy about an imposture who befriends a few members of a family and wrecks havoc with the other members of the family. I would give a better synopsis of the play, but as it was in French, I only understood about 8 percent of it.

But the best news of all concerns my weekend plans. Eva, Jessica (the Germans), and I are going to the beach. Nevermind that it is the coldest weekend of the year, we are going to have a lot of fun. We rented a car, a Puegeot (which hopefully is french for indestructable) and are going to drive to Honfleur. It is in Normandy and is about 2 hours away from Paris. Unfortuantely, I will be driving and I must admit, I am not looking forward to it. Navigating through Paris just seems like a nightmare. I am sure we will manage and have a wonderfully cold weekend.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

A Break from Complaining

These pictures show some of the positive aspects of living in France. These lovely views can be found about 2 miles from where I live. My German friends and I rode on bikes on Saturday to get away from the ugly site of the burnt vehicles. Eva took these pictures as we were riding. It was a really lovely day, perfect for riding bikes and taking pictures. It made us forget about the riots momentarily.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Trouble in France

France is the country of lovers, right? Not so. For those of you who thought I was exaggerating about living in the ghetto, let me just fill you in on the recent developments. In last two weeks, a girl was pushed to her death from her window(not my dorm, but another student's residence down the street). She apparently invited a few guys back to her room and for some reason they decided it would be good fun to push her out of her window. At another student's residence, a fire started in the parking lot and damaged the building. As if this wasn't enough fun, riots started in the Paris suburbs a week ago. I LIVE IN A PARIS SUBURB. The police cannot control these riots and they are spreading. My roommate and I thought we were relatively safe in our neck of the woods, but this morning around 5:30 we heard two explosions and then a bunch of noise. It was so loud that it shook the walls. We didn't want to investigate the noise, so we just stayed in our rooms. This morning when we got up, we decided to look around. We went to the emergency exit and saw that two vans in the parking lot had exploded. They were burnt to a crisp and were obviously responsible for the explosion. The parking lot is only about 15 feet away from our rooms. Now we are both a little worried as we do not have a contingency plan for escape if something like this happens again. We have bars on our windows so if a fire spreads to the hallway, we are stuck and will have to die in this horrible, horrible country. It isn't really that bleak, but still cause for a little worry.

Burning Vehicles

The locals decided to have a party last night and these two vehicles are the result of the celebrations.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Germany Vs. France

Before I start, let me say some good things about France. First of all, there are some really beautiful sites to see in France. Also, there are many great foods, such as a large selection of cheeses, yogurt and bread. Finally, public transportation is almost always prompt. That being said, I will now explain why I like Germany better.

Most importantly, in German the people are friendly and, if they do hate Americans, do not feel it necessary to tell visiting Americans their feelings. Next, Germany is so very, very clean. In addition to having beautiful scenery, it has to be one of the cleanest countries in the world. They recycle everything! Third, the people are not small; they are comparable to Americans in size and, for the first time in 2 months, I did not feel like I towered over everyone. Most importantly (for traveling Americans), just about everybody speaks some English. I know, English speakers are lazy and think everyone should speak English, but honestly, if somebody just wants to go on vacation, they obviously cannot become bilingual before the trip. Germany is the one country I have visited where the people do not make you feel like a moron for not speaking their language. There are so many more reasons to love Germany, so many in fact that I cannot list them all, but these are the highest on my list.

My welcome back to France was less friendly. I traveled by train, the Thalys, and it is a 4 hour trip from Cologne to Paris. I was quite loaded with stuff because I bought a few essentials in Germany such as lotion, shampoo, peanut butter, etc., so I got out of my seat about 20 minutes early to gather everything and to get out of the way. I was standing with my very heavy backpack and suitcase at the door of the train for about 15 minutes when this lovely FRENCH man pushed me out of the way, stepping all over my feet in the process, just so he could stand by the door. Traveling makes me cranky anyway and this just sent me over the edge. I started thinking about how much I hated France and most French people and how much I already missed Germany. I tried to just blow it off, but it was really eating at me, the rudeness, the smelliness, the dirtiness, etc. When the train finally stopped at Gare du Nord (not the safest place in Paris), I was really fuming. I was trying to get off the train, when another nice FRENCH man decided I was not moving fast enough so he shoved me so hard I fell down/off the platform with my suitcase and very heavy backpack. Yes, Angela, France welcomes you back with open arms........