Gardens: Giverny & Luxembourg


Yesterday I went to the house and gardens of Claude Monet.  I had been here before, but I enjoyed it and I figured another experience would be great.  Unfortuantely It was freezing cold, I don’t think the weather ever got above 50 degrees (farenheit).  The gardens were beautiful, although not as much in bloom as the first time I saw it.  The gardens exhibited every color except black.  Impressionism is all about light, what would black be doing there?? I was really surprised to see the asian influences in his work.  His entire house was filled with three types of art: photos of him and his family, painting in the impressionistic style that he had painted, and japanese art.  I spent some time appreciating the art work with my friend Fiona.  We decided that we like the ambiguity in the impressionism style.  There are never clear cut lines, but rather shadows and curvy brush strokes that leave room for ambiguity and interpretation. I also find it very calming.  She was able to point out some similarites between the japanese art and monet’s.  FOr example, there are people getting cut out of frame (in the background) of the japanese art, and impressionism is the first type of western art that illustrates this.  We then walked to the water lily garden.  I really thought it was unique that Monet chose to have green bridges. They match well with the green of the gardens, I would have never thought of green bridges.

Oh, the day before, I found out I passed my final exam for my intensive french class!  So I will not be required to take a French grammar class nor phonetics class for the semester! I also went on the bateau-mouche, which is a boat that goes on the Seine adn you get a tour of paris that way.  To be honest, it was super touristy and I had already seen it all by walking on the edge of the water myself earlier in the week.  For anyone traveling to paris, I suggest you save your money and take a stroll along the river bank instead. That night I went out with some friends for mexican food and margaritas (Don’t worry mom, I split the margarita with two other girls!) The mexican food wasn’t very mexican; however it was tasty.  Definitely more tasty that “mexican” food in Ithaca.

The next day we went shopping after our trip to Giverny (I apologize for the lack of chronology.  We went to St. Louis Island.  A friend told me about the adorable little shops there (since I was trying to find a gift for my host sister’s 14th birthday).  I was successful and got three cheap little things I can give to her on her birthday (18th of Sept) with a card.  I was very pleased with the cute little island.  I’ve walked over it every day to get to class, but never stopped before.  I also found Berthillion, which my host family claims to be the best ice cream of paris.

For the next 10 days, my host father has left for a trip to Belgium for his work.  So, the mother of my host sister is staying with us for the next ten days.  I had met her the week before and she was very sweet.  I’ve helped her cook every night and she’s really delightful.  She went to high school and college in California before moving to France and so she speaks English better than French.  Sometimes she slips into English accidentally, but I just keep responding in French.  The first day it was awkward because she was asking me if I liked specific foods, but my food vocabulary is pretty tiny besides the obvious foods.

Also, my host sister had her birthday party.  I always wondered if french people sing happy birthday.  In French class in high school we sang “joyeux Anniversaire” to the same tune as “Happy Birthday”  and in fact, that’s what french people do to.  Now if I haven’t mentioned before, French people don’t eat dinner until 8pm or later.   I found it interesting, they had cake at 5 or 6 pm and then had dinner later at 8pm.  Now again, the dad isn’t here but we’re in his home; anyway, I was shocked to see the girls painting their nails on the nice wood floors and white leather couch.  I’m not sure, but I think both made it out alive.  I sure feel sorry for whoever cleans up all the confetti, it’s even in the cracks in the wood floor. Also they listened to American music from about 3-4 years ago, I guess that’s what’s cool in France. OH and everyone rides scooters!! Scooters went out of style in about 2000 for americans, but the french loves their scooters.  Every child and young teenager has a scooter and rides it everywhere.  My american friends and I can’t help but laugh!

A woman during orientation suggested we write down everytime the French do something that shocks or surprises us.  I’ve been trying to keep a list going and so I apologize if the rest of this post isn’t as clear or cohesive.

The mother of my host sister (Diana is her name) told me about a wonderful organic market down the street from me.  So I went to check it out.  When I walked in, it looked like just one short aisle of vitamins, and I thought maybe I had misunderstood, however at the end of the aisle there was an optional turn which lead to another short aisle, and the store continued like this to make a very large maze.  I had no idea.  Nonetheless I find grocery stores overwhelming.  In addition to my limited food vocabulary, the things they sell are also very different.  For the first time I saw peanut butter and it even said peanut butter like an american.  I found that amusing. I also found quinoa milk; I didn’t know that was possible!  As I said before the French really care where food is from.  On each item it says where the food was grown/where it came from.  They put a huge emphasis on this.  As I was leaving, there was a window where the sun hit it just right and it made a rainbow trail.  This adorable little boy was following it and jumping on it and having a magical time.  He tried to show it to his mom, but she just said hurry up let’s go.  I adore little kids speaking french.  I think french sounds best in a high-pitched little kids voice!!

I wandered down the street the opposite direction than the way I usually walk.  I found lots of cute little stores and restaurants.  I went into one store with clothing that was sort of hippie-style and sort of my mom or grandma’s style.  What shocked me was the music. Now all french people listen to American music.  However in this store aimed for older women it played a song with an upbeat, cheerful, sing-songy tempo but the words consisted mainly of “f*** you”  I was shocked! I don’t think any of the women in there knew what it meant, they just liked the song because it was upbeat and american.

I turned the corner from the busy street of little specialty food shops and cute little clothing shops and found a man peeing on a side street.  He was just standing there peeing, a grown man.  I’ve never seen that before, especially in such a *public* place.  I actually heard an american from my program earlier this week say to never sit on the ground outside in Paris because this city is so old and it’s bound that some guy has peed there in its existence.

I was going to meet a friend later in the day, and so I just kept wandering down side streets for a while on my way.  I wandered into another grocery store and I was shocked by the prices.  There were bottles of wine for only 2 euro, that’s less than $3.  There was Président Brie cheese (that i’ve bought in california for $10) for less than 3 euro!! The prices are very different here.  Peanut butter, however, was the equivalent of $10 for a small jar.

I also tried my host family’s yogurt for breakfast the other day.  They tend to use yogurt for dessert, but I like it in the morning and no one was in the house to see me eat it and think I was weird.  It was natural yogurt, I wasn’t quite sure what that meant but I assumed it was not sweetened nor flavored.  I was right.  Oh boy, I had to put so much honey into that small yogurt to make it ingestible! I have no idea how they consider that “dessert.”

Everyone smokes.  Everyone, everyone, everyone smokes.  I was very lucky my host family doesn’t smoke.  I didn’t even think to put on my host family application that I am sensitive to cigarette smoke because it’s not as popular of a thing in america.  Nonetheless, I truly lucked out. People younger than me smoke too! I find it pretty sad.

There is a famous outdoor market (like a farmer’s market) just down the street from me.  It runs every wednesday, friday, and sunday.  I went this morning and was very impressed and only slightly overwhelmed.  It is huge! I ended up getting some apple-strawberry juice from some apple venders.  It’s pretty tasty, it tastes like strawberry jam with an apple juice aftertaste.  There were lots of fish places, and they would cover huge tables in slabs of ice, I’m talking ice slabs as long as the short side of a six lane pool.  There were big buckets at the corners to catch the drips.  There were meat places, and they have whole dead animals (skinned) rotating on big sticks being heated…. eww.  I also went to an olive vendor.  I asked if he had any kalamata and he said no.  I was shocked, how could an olive place not have kalamata olives.  So I asked if he had anything similar to kalamata, and he said no.  I was super confused.  Then he asked if I was american, I guess the accent gave it away, or my weird questions.  Then he asked if I’d like to taste an olive.  I pointed at the ones that looked like kalamata olives and he said “oh, you mean olives? yes we have kalamata olives!”  It turns out he thought I had been asking for kalamari!

This weekend is a special weekend of european patrimony.  So, there are really famous government and historical buildings that are open for tours this weekend only!! It’s basically like being able to tour the white house and all other big governmental buildings for free for one weekend a year.  I went with some friends to walk around the luxembourg gardens and we went through the luxembourg palace.  It was truly amazing, some people said like a mini-Versailles.  Can you imagine the president working in a gold-leaf library? I doubt he does, although I’m sure it’s nice.

We went to get some beverages after that, and one of my friends ordered a banana milk shake.  The ingredients were as follows: milk, banana, ice.  That was it!  Poor thing, the “milkshake” tasted pretty bad. Plus, this french café was next to a McDonalds (the french call it Mac-Dough) where we could have gotten an american style milkshake.

I also went to a french movie theatre! I was actually able to understand more than I had imagined!

Wow this is long, I’m adding a gallery of photos, so click away and enjoy!



Planning and mishaps

I scared my host sister today, because my tooth brush made noise. She had never seen an electric tooth brush before!  also, i learned that i live right by where Marie Curie discovered radiuim.

I apologize in advance for typos in this post.  I am at the EDUCO center typing on a french keyboard and the keys are all in different places and the computer autocorrects in French.

With the EDUCO, we get lots of fun excursions and experiences during our stay here.  For example tomorrow i am going to Giverny.  Later on in the semester, I have plans with EDUCO to go to Reims which is in the champagne region.  One of the best things about france is that it is so small that it is possible to take a day trip to just about anyzhere.  I am possibly the most excited about going to Metz , which is in Lorraine.  In all my european history classes we learned about two regions (currently in France) called  Alsace-Lorraine.  Throughout history these regions were claimed by Germany to be German and by France to be French. This became a place of huburius where both countries desperately want this land.  Needless to say this land has changed hands hundreds of time as France and Germany have butted heads all throughout history ( and with that changed language,currency,laws,etc).

At the end of this month I am going to the castles of the Loire Valley. And in December I am headed to Brussels in Belgium.  All of these are with EDUCO so I get to go for free or for super reduced rates.  Also, on each city I linked it to an info page, so click on the names of the cities.

Yesterday I went to Notre Dame with some friends.  It was just as magical as the last time I went.  We chose to go on a rainy Wednesday because it was not crowded at all.  Afterwards we sat in the middle and it was super relaxing.

I have had two french mishaps lately.  First of all the numbers on one side of the street are not necessarily the close to the numbers on the other side of the street.  I was looking for the number 60 and on the other side of the rue it was only 43 so I figured I had a  ways to go, but I ended up passing the building I needed because I couldnt see the numbers on my side of the road because they were too high.  I also went to a student restaurant during the hours it was listed to be open, after trying all the doors on the building and getting tempoorarily locked in, I learn thtat it was actually closed.

I also got thrown out of a convenient store for being American.  I was with a friend after dinner and  we were looking for an after dinner snack.  An American (old man) hears our accent and asks if we are american; then he immediately starts talking positively about Obama. I thought this wasnt a big deal but then the shop keeper overhears our american conversation and the old man starts saying some french really fast to the shop keeper, from what my friend and i can glean it is about africa.  Then the shop keeper tells us (rudely) to get out of the store (but not the old man) and we hadnt even said anything about africa.  We left that area quickly.  My friend and I think the shop keeper might have been libyan and it could have to do with the current libyan situation. Nonetheless it was a bizarre situation and we were happy to get out of there.

Tonight I am going on a bateau-mouche.  It is another educo event and i am kind of excited about it.  It is a little tourist-y but I think it zill be fun.  In some ways I feel like I am in between a true parisienne resident and a touriste.  It is a weird mixture of the two for the things I do.  I am more familiar than a touriste but not familirar enough to be a real resident.

I am sorry there are no photos in this post. I am at a bibliotheque with a weird key board and without camera.

First Class

I attended biochemistry at the university yesterday.   I have mixed feelings about it.  The professor was nice and the material was presented via powerpoint so with all the words written out I could understand (ex. protéine = protein).  The other issue with the class is that it’s not necessarily very broad.  There isn’t a class that covers all the bases of biochemistry that the courses in America do.  I kind of get the feeling that I’m going to have to take biochemistry in the spring semester at Cornell, so is it worth taking it now?  The other interesting fact was that they seemed to push for english immersion in this class.  In most french classes, everyone tries to avoid saying things that sound remotely english.  However, in this class they spoke about a “red shift” or “quenching”  instead of trying to find a french alternative.  The other issue I have with this class is that during the discussion sections (this doesn’t start until thursday), the prof will make students go up to the board and solve problems.  I’m pretty against this.  What if I don’t understand what she wants me to do (due to a language barrier), I could see problems arising.  I’m going to go to the discussion on Thursday before I make my decision on what classes I’ll take.  I’m considering not taking this because then I could make a schedule that is free on Fridays and Mondays, how cool would a 4 day weekend be??? Not to mention some of the fun excursions for my program take place on Mondays and Fridays… we will see.

I’m looking at courses in the following departments: sociologie, psychologie, biologie, histoire, philosophie, linguistique, et cinéma.  Most courses are only offered in afternoons, it’s weird!

I don’t have any responsibilities today and I’ve spent most of the time in my room figuring out schedules and sleeping.  I cooked lunch and I’m starting to question how much it’s worth cooking.  I can get a meal for 3 euro 10 at the university restaurants that will without doubt fill me up.  To cook a meal usually ends up costing at least 3 euro, plus all the time I spend cooking and doing dishes by hand (no dish washer), so I’m leaning more toward using the university restaurants instead of cooking in the future.

Some french mannerisms/dining tips:

  • hands should always be above the table when you eat
  • only children put napkins in their laps, not adults
  • restaurants are required by law to give you free water, but if you ask for water they can charge you and get bottled water, so what you want is “une carafe d’eau”
  • restaurants will assume you mean to tip (dumb american) a lot and take all your money , so ask for change every time, and then leave whatever tip (pourboire) you want afterwards, ask for “la monnaie”
  • in many cases, if french people hear an american accent, they will switch into english; however, most likely their english is worse than your french (unless you don’t know french of course)  so continue speaking french
  • waiting for the cooker of the food to eat first isn’t practiced here (at least not that i’ve seen)
  • dinner is almost always served AFTER 8pm.  I’ve seen people sit down for dinner at 11pm at restaurants and it’s completely normal
  • it is impossible to eat a meal in less than an hour. Cafés and restaurants are purposefully slow because it’s part of culture to enjoy your food and use it as a social outing
  • it is rare to see someone eating alone in public, people would rather not eat than eat alone
  • many offices close for 1.5-2 hours during lunch, because their food is so important to them

Here are some photos of rose-shaped ice cream/sorbet

Promenade à Paris

I was able to help a tourist!  There was a poor couple from australia that didn’t speak french and needed help finding Notre Dame.  I walked them about 1000 meters to a bridge where they could see Notre Dame and walk toward it.  It feels great to be able to give directions!

The supermarket was a nightmare.  The vegetables and fruits come from different locations (France, South Africa, etc) and I don’t know the names of most fruits/vegetables.  You have to weigh the item and type in what it is and where its from to get the price for that piece.  It was a nightmare.  You also have to pay for shopping bags, which it wasn’t much but I wasn’t expecting it.  The bags are poor quality and were tearing as I walked home.

The french educational system seems afraid of modern technology. They don’t list when classes are offered so I have to go to each of the secretaries and ask when the class is offered.  This is difficult because I have classes at 4 different universities and each university has multiple locations!  Science classes start this week, but the others don’t start for another week or two.  I went to the biochemistry secretary with a friend who is also from America and wanted to take the same class as me.  The secretary didn’t know of the EDUCO program and didn’t understand/believe that we were actual students enrolled in the university and it was a mess. We looked up the secretaries phone number and gave it to our program director to call.  By the end of the day I got an email from the program director saying I was in the class and had to go back to get the times for the class.  We returned the next day and got sent from desk to desk to desk.  It was a Friday afternoon and we could tell the secretaries wanted to get their weekend on the way.  Eventually we get a printout of the course schedule and… it’s ridiculous.  The class starts tomorrow at 2:45-4:45, but then the next week its on friday at 8:30-10:30.  The class meets on a different day each week at a different time!!!  French students ONLY take classes for their major.  SO everyone studying biochemistry takes the same 5 classes from the biochemistry department and they are arranged so they never overlap.  However, for us, we’re taking classes from multiple departments, so I’m going to have to be super careful to make sure I don’t overlap with this class.

After visiting the university, we saw a café/bar near the university called Indiana.  They had pictures of american indians all over as decorations.  We were too shy to tell them that Indiana had nothing to do with indians.  Nevertheless I found it hilarious.  It was after 5pm so all the drinks were half off and I ordered my first alcoholic drink.

On Saturday I met with some of my American friends.  We went for a walk over the whole city.  We started by walking next to the Luxemburg gardens.  Then we walked to Notre Dame, followed by the Shakespeare and Company book store.  This was a true jewel, it’s an English bookstore/library that was started by a friend of Hemmingway, and a famous place where tons of famous authors used to hang out.  It reminded me of Midnight in Paris.  Rumor has it that traveling students can work there for a few days in exchange for a place to sleep.  There’s an upstairs room with chess, a piano, type writter, beds, and places to sit.  I found it very relaxing!

Then we continued on walking down under the roads by the Seine which was delightful and only sometimes smelly.  We made our way over to the louvre.  We’re waiting until we can get in free.  Students can get in free Fridays after 6pm and the first sunday of every month.  Also, our EDUCO cards (ID Cards)  say that we are all art history students so we can get into museums cheaper! I also heard Versailles is cheaper with a student visa of at least 3 months so I hope to check that out sometime.

We walked to a cute little café and got some beverages. It was very hot!  I ordered Orangina and was surprised.  It was less carbonated and less sweet than in America.  My poor friend ordered the equivalent of lemonade.   What she got was some fresh squeezed lemon juice and some sugar packets.  IT WAS SO BITTER.  The idea was kind of a make it your own.  She had to mix it with water and add the sugar.  It never quite got sweet enough for my tasting.  It also was a lot of work and pretty expensive.  I think I’ll avoid ordering that.

We walked down the Champs-Élysées to l’arc de triomphe.  We walked underground and back up right underneath it.  The line was pretty long, but as residents of EU we might be able to go up on top for free!  We figured sometime later on (and not on a weekend)  would be better.  We finished by walking to the Eiffel tower.  It was beautiful as always.

After that I met a friend from my dance team who was visiting Paris (he’s doing an internship this semester at the UN in Geneva!) We went to a delightful crêperie!  Whew this is long, I’ll end here for now!



to smile or not to smile

I had forgotten to give my host family a gift the first day and a half, so I gave it to them yesterday morning.  They were very grateful for the gesture.  Hopefully they enjoy it too :)  I get breakfast every morning, but I have to make it myself.  I never know exactly what to do. I tried cereal the first day, but the milk has a SUPER HIGH fat content and tastes like butter in my cereal.  I might buy some nonfat milk (if it exists in Paris) in the future.  I tried a piece of bread yesterday with a banana.  That was alright.  I”m not sure what I’ll try this morning.

My host family keeps asking for my schedule, but I don’t have it yet and won’t have it for a while.  I am doing orientation events for the next two weeks, and I’m in the process of deciding what classes I want and then when and where they are.  I’m actually going to be taking classes taught from three different universities, so it’s pretty complicated.

Yesterday the French class focused the first half on relative pronouns.  I was surprised, Cornell teaches relative pronouns very well.  I was able to do well on that portion of the class AND I finally understand the proper usage of “duquel” well enough so I can use it properly.  I have a presentation today so I hope it goes well!  It’s on a poem (the English translation is pretty bad, but it was the only one I could find quickly).

This morning I’m going to the biochimie (pronounced bio-shimmy) department to talk about taking a biochemistry course.  It will be a métro ride with two transfers all by myself and I’m not super fluent in public transportation so let’s hope I don’t get lost.  I’m meeting another girl from the program there to talk to the department secretary.

Yesterday I tried one of the student cafeterias (Restaurant Universitaire) that I spoke about before.  It was the equivalent of 4 dollars for a small plate, a big plate, a dessert, bread and water.  I ended up getting a quarter of a honeydew melon, a personal pizza (pretty big too!), chocolate mousse, bread, and water.  Unfortunately I hadn’t seen the salad bar until it was too late.  I’ll probably go the salad bar next time.  Nonetheless the food was comparable to Cornell and super cheap!

After class I went to an ice cream shop with a few friends and then we walked to the EDUCO center to see what it looks like and ask some questions to the program team.  We chose the most exciting way to walk and got a great view of Notre Dame along the way.  The photos are from this walk.

(if you click on the photos they get bigger)


I was surprised in my class for two reasons.  First of all, the French have no problem embarrassing students infront of the whole class.  That rarely if ever happens in America.  Also grades aren’t private here.  They announce everything publicly, as if humiliating the students will make them try harder.  However the French have a way of separating the public self and the private self so their public self might get phased by it, but their private self will remain content.  Also, in class the Prof was explaining a grammatical concept and no one in the class understood.  I raised my hand and said I was confused and didn’t understand,  and 2-3 other students said me too (all in french of course) and she just kept going.  She didn’t seem to want to stop and explain so the class understood.  She never checked to see if we understood.  I was surprised.

Also, the French people don’t smile on the streets.  We were told to put on a French Face on the streets, a sort of scowl that exemplifies that you don’t care what others think of you.  If you smile on the streets (especially as a young woman to men), it gives the wrong impression.  Smiles are for with your friends and family only.