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!