lundi 10 décembre 2012

Reasons I love France continued...

Here I will continue with some things I love about France...

Reason #4: Fresh croissants in the morning
 Sometimes, when I have class at 8 am, I don't have the energy or time to have breakfast at home. Especially now that I have started leaving extra early since if I get on the tram literally 10 minutes earlier its empty while if I go 10 minutes later I am packed in like a sardine for 5 stops... So instead of being a sardine (though the warmth is nice in this freezing weather) I like to stop at the bakery and get a croissant sometimes.  The first time I did this was the best because right when I walked in the door the baker pulled hot fresh croissants right out of the oven.  It made my day start off great :-)

Reason #5: Vin Chaud ie. Mulled Wine
The Christmas season is here which means Christmas Markets! Now I won't do a post on those yet because it needs its own reason and I haven't had a chance to go to all of them around Strasbourg yet and I am waiting for my cameras to get fixed... But Vin Chaud is amazing at the Christmas markets.  If you don't know, Vin Chaud is wine heated and mixed with spices and fruits, usually tangerines or oranges.  It warms the heart and soul in the cold.  They sell you the wine in collectors mugs that you can return at the end or keep (if you return them you get your deposit back, if you don't you just paid 1 euro for a really cool cup!) Strasbourg has plastic cups instead of the traditional mug but they are still pretty cool.  This year Strasbourg has I think 4 versions of the cup and of course I have to get them all. I am halfway there. :-)

Reason #6:  French bands that I have loved forever and finally get to see in Concert!!!
This year I have already seen 3 of my favorite French bands/singers and I will see one more in March!  I saw Aldebert, Emily Loizeau and Tryo.  They were all amazing (as I had assumed) and I am very happy to finally have gotten to see them.  Emily Loizeau is one of the first (maybe even the first) french CDs I bought when I first came to France and of course I had all her lyrics memorized.  Aldebert was one of the next along with Tryo.  Therefore they are all oldies but goodies in my music repertoire.  The best concert was definitely Tryo.  They put on a great show despite (or maybe due to) having been together for about 17 years.  Of course my favorite song "Desolée pour hier soir" played and I about went crazy.  In March I will be seeing Tété, who is also an amazing singer and who I happened to meet while in the Bahamas.  Maybe he will remember me!! :-P

Reason #7: French books
French literature has been around for a very long time and there are many great French writers.  I recently read the whole Count of Monte Cristo in French and it is now one of my favorite books.  I have also been reading a lot of other books in French (especially last year when I had a lot more spare time) It helps me learn some interesting vocabulary and also discover some good authors! My favorite book I have read recently is "Le Mec de la tombe d'à côté".  Its a translation from Swedish but it is a very very good book.  I just finished the sequel as well :-)

Reason #8: French movies 
Of course with the music and books has to come movies.  I need to watch more French movies but really it is hit or miss with them.  There are a lot of good French movies: "Le Dîner de Cons", "Bienvenue chez les Ch'ties", "Cap ou pas Cap", "Les Bronzés", and a lot of more recent ones also, but there are also a lot of very strange ones like one I saw recently "Dans la Maison".  Really did not understand where they were going with that… But I really do like French movies and need to take a lot more advantage of the fact that I live in downtown and there are movie theatres right around the corner from me.  However, those are not free, so I have begun to take a lot of advantage of the library where we can rent 3 movies and 3 documentaries at a time.  They really are amazing, libraries. J 

Reason #9: Théâtre National de Strasbourg
There are apparently 5 National Theaters in France: 4 are in Paris and 1 is here in Strasbourg.  Last week I finally got off my bum and went to see a play.  I went to see “Salinger”.  It was a very interesting play, and when I say interesting I mean I would have liked to understand it better.  It wasn’t that I didn’t understand the French, it was just that it was very symbolic and there were a lot of times that I couldn’t understand if something was really happening or if it was in someone’s mind, you know it was that kind of play.  But all in all it was a very cool experience, and the theater was really nice.  I will definitely go back.  

Reason #10: Cheese!!! 
I know I have done a blog post about this before but I really am a cheese addict, its bad.  I just thought I would show you how hard it is to quit this addiction! Here is an example of an ad in a grocery store magazine.  Look at how many cheeses and how big they are.  There are 4 full pages like this in said magazine.  And if you go to a grocery store there are entire aisles just for cheese! Its like they want me to eat cheese and get super fat! 

Ok I think that is enough reasons for today, I was on a roll!! But there are tons more so stay tuned! 

dimanche 18 novembre 2012

Reasons why I love France

This whole past week I have been walking around the city thinking to myself how happy I am here and how much I love this place.  France in general and Strasbourg specifically.  Therefore I decided to start writing down my reasons.  The following reasons are in no order, I am just going to write them down as I think of them.  So here we go!

Reason why I love France #1:  The pastries
I think I will never get enough of the quantity of pastries here.  I mean even if I had one every day (which would neither be good for my wallet nor my waist...) I could never taste all of the pastries.  Well I guess that goes for everything, including but not limited to the wine, beer, and cheese!! Ever since seeing a documentary on pastries I want to eat more so I can try ALL so I have begun again (slowly) my quest of tasting all the goodness I can. :-)

Reason why I love France #2: Wine tasting in supermarkets
Even though I have been here for awhile now and I am pretty accustomed to most things that the French do differently than us over in America, I am happy to say I can still be surprised.  Last week I went to a supermarket on a search for a turkey (a story for another time...) and was very surprised to find a man handing out wine samples in the  grocery store.  Given that it was the day of the New Beaujolais wine, it is not that surprising if I think about it, but something like that would never happen in the US!!! Also, despite what you may think, I unfortunately did not partake in this wine tasting.  I had tasted the Beaujolais Nouveau the evening before and was not in the mood for wine at 3pm...

Reason why I love France #3: Walking home past really old monuments and looking up and seeing the cathedral and realizing how old it is and how insignificant I am in this tiny slice of time
It really is amazing when I walk around the city.  If I don't think about what I am walking past, it is just a normal walk home along the river, past the downtown clothing shops and bakeries.  However, if I look around and think about all the things I pass just from my walk from school to my house it is insane!  I pass Place de la République which includes the palace where the emperor used to stay in Strasbourg and the National Theater of France (only one of which exists outside of Paris).  I also pass the Palace of Justice and the Opera as well as so many old buildings which are now apartments and stores.  I can also look up from many places along the walk and see the Cathedrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg.  Construction on the Cathedral started in 1170 and took 300 years to build.  It is a beautiful Cathedral if you ever get a chance to come.  But it is just crazy to think about how many people have passed by that Cathedral on their way to work, taking their children to school or even going to war. 

Ok those are all the reasons I will put for today, though there are of course many more. :-P

mardi 30 octobre 2012


Hello everyone.  It has been a very long time since I updated my blog.  Almost a year!!! I am terribly sorry, I get distracted you know...  I'll try to do better. 

I am now living in Strasbourg, France doing my Masters degree in International Relations.  I love this city and I am really happy to be getting a degree in French and taking classes in French again. :-)

 One of the churches in Strasbourg and the river that surrounds the center of the city

 The view from my apartment

 My apartment for the moment

 A view from the river on a boat at night :-)

Strasbourg is a very international city with a lot of important monuments and administrative building.  The European Parliament and the Council of Europe are here which is really cool.  Last week I went to a debate at the Parliament with some people from my classes.  We saw a debate on 'Parliamentary Responsibility'  Fun stuff. 

Last weekend we got the first snow of the year (and its October!!!! So early and so cold!!!)  So a few of us decided to go on a hike.  After almost missing our train (and by almost I mean we were running and jumping in the moving trains doors...), changing trains, and waiting for a bus that never came, we ended up doing a hike around the city of Munster.  The city was cute but the hiking was better.  It was so beautiful with all the snow and all the walking made it less cold. 
 The group in the train station before the hike

 On the trail

 One of the views from the top

We found a really cool restaurant at the top of our hike.  We had a many course meal including soup, salad, blood sausage, ice cream topped with schnapps, sauerkraut with meat, cheese, and finally dessert.  We split meals and we were still full at the end.  A great meal to give us energy for the hike down :-)

Now I am on vacation, going to be studying a lot and probably visiting some friends from last year. :-) They set up the big Christmas tree in the main plaza right next to my house so the Christmas markets and all the holiday stuff will begin soon!  Anyone that wants to come visit is welcome :-)

dimanche 4 décembre 2011

The holidays begin

It is December in France and the holidays are upon us full swing. The Christmas markets both in Sarreguemines and in Saarbrucken give us something to do all the time, complete with vin chaud or gluhwein in the respective countries. My roommate and I have been doing a lot during the week and the weekend. We have been meeting a lot of great people and we are never bored. Here are some tales of some of our adventures.

For Halloween we went to a haunted house in a citadel. It was great and they didn't have to do much to make it feel haunted since it was in the basement of a really old building. Halloween isn't largely celebrated over here, but some places do some things. We also carved a jack-o-lantern that turned out pretty nice if I do say so myself. :-P

We celebrated Thanksgiving twice, once in Germany with many people and once in France with less people but more Americans:

My roommate and I both like eating and sometimes we'll just go to a cafe and get a drink and a little somethin to eat. This was one such day at a tea house.

I haven't taken many pictures of the other stuff we do but we have gone to museums, made cookies at a friends house, had a few dinners with people, gone to the movies, discovered some of the 'night life' of Sarreguemines, done a little Christmas market shopping, decorated the house for Christmas and much more. We like keeping busy.

The ceramics museum in Sarreguemines

I have also been traveling around a little bit. Since I have been here I have been around near Strasbourg with some friends, to Belgium with another friend, and to Metz and Nancy. Its been a lot of fun.

The Pompidou Museum in Metz

The ocean as seen from Belgium. In the far distance is England but it cannot be seen with weather we had.

The car rally I went to with my friend in Belgium

Besides that, I have started running with a running group. We run at nights which is good for me and even better that I finally have people to run with. I get to speak French and get exercise :-D.

Also it is becoming more and more like winter. It rained this whole weekend but it was still a great weekend in general, complete with ice skating, italian food, christmas market, and fireworks with a friend :-)

mardi 8 novembre 2011

Cheese, Fromage, Queso, Käse, Formaggio ...

... you get the picture

One thing I love about France is the number of cheeses there are to choose from. We are all familiar with the popular French cheeses: Bleu cheese, Chèvre, Camembert, Brie, Boursin etc. But what I love is that there are enough cheeses and brands of cheeses here to try a new one every day!! Not necessarily only French cheeses either. Now, I don't quite have the funds for a new cheese every day, but I have been trying at least one a week since I got to France. Now I have decided to share some of these new cheeses I try so you can all follow along on my wondrous journey through cheeseland. Let's begin with the two most recent ones I bought:

Le Tomme de Savoie
This is a French cheese whose origins date back to before the 16th century when the peasants of the Savoie region (in the Alps in the east of France) started making cheese out of the skim milk left over after making butter. The word "tomme" is slang and it means 'cheese made in the high mountain regions'. Each household would make their own tomme, resulting in many different varieties. Even today, many different varieties still exist and the cheese can be found classified from 'light' to 'fatty'. The one I tried is great. The smell threw me off at first, it's a little strong, but the taste is smooth and a has a little bite to it. I would give it a 7 out of 10.

Le Rustique
This brand of Camembert is a newer cheese, dating all the way from 1992. It is also a French cheese and is made from pasteurized milk. Camembert in general is one of the most well known French cheese. It is smooth and creamy on the inside with a rind around the whole cheese that is rough and waxy. Some choose to eat the rind, some do not. My number one choice would be to put it in the oven for a little while and then eat the gooey cheese with some bread. But cold it works just as well. This specific brand was very nice, better than the last Camembert I had which was more generic. I would give it a 7 out of 10 as well.

Now these are only a fraction of the goodness to come this year. And of course no cheese is complete without bread or wine (or both) so be prepared for some fun. There will be more cheeses to come soon I'm sure.

As for the rest of life, it is going well. The weather has made another turn towards the cold (though it was really nice again this past weekend) and I am fearful for when it gets into the negatives. But I am prepared with my scarves and boots and extra pounds I will put on if I keep eating this much cheese... :-P

vendredi 21 octobre 2011

Oh Germany

What a strange feeling to be surrounded by a language I know nothing of. German, though slightly similar to English, is proving to be difficult for me. Yes I am taking a course, I live with a German speaker, the German border is a 2 minute walk away, and I go a few times a week across the border, but still I am floundering.
Example: Last night, at a bar in Saarbrucken I decided to overcome my fear of ordering in German. I went to the bar, ordered 2 beers for my friend and me and went back to the table to wait for my order, satisfied with myself and excited for my beer. A couple minutes later, what I had ACTUALLY ordered arrived: One beer and a croissant.... At least I got the one beer, unfortunately for my friend. :-/ I didn't even know bars had croissants!...welcome to Europe. Better work double hard on the German this week.

As for work, it is going well. I have started teaching, and my experiences are completely different every day, especially between the Collège and the Lycée. It has been fun playing games and talking about things like American recipes, music, and Halloween. I sometimes feel like a celebrity walking around town and hearing shouts of "Hello!" from people on the street who are my students. It really is a small town and I usually see them around semi often, however I have about 12 different classes so I don't know all the students yet.

I have found the forest, and I love it. It is beautiful this time of year, with the leaves changing colors and the early morning fog. The trails are perfect for hiking, biking, running. I have been running and going to the pool pretty often to cancel out the amount of bread and cheese I eat and just to get in shape again. Last weekend there was a 10k run in Sarreguemines. At the Collège we had a "team" of people who all participated and there was an all around good ambiance. I'm sure the good weather that day helped. :-)

Next week the school has a vacation in celebration of All Saints Day. We get a week and a half off, so I will be doing a little exploring and traveling!

vendredi 7 octobre 2011

As I woke up I looked out the window of the plane. Everything I could see was so flat in the early morning haze. However, in the middle of that haze, barley visible at first, stood a tiny triangular figure. And I realized that I awoke over Paris. The airport was less romantic, as they often are and the train station even less so. Nonetheless, I got to the city, found a hostel and called up some friends. I spent a few days in Paris before heading to what was to me my home for the next few months: Sarreguemines.

My first impression of Sarreguemines: It is adorable.

The main river near downtown

Here is a little bit of information about the town: Sarreguemines is a city in the North East of France in the Lorraine region. It is in between the cities of Strasbourg, Nancy and Metz but along the German border, north of all those towns. The nearest big town is Saarbrucken in Germany and Sarreguemines has gone back and forth between being a French and German city throughout history. There are about 25,000 people who live here.
It reminds me a lot of Chico in many ways: The small city feel, the fact that everyone is so nice, it has two rivers running through it (though the first day I crossed one of them and realized 20 minutes later that I was in Germany haha), there are great running and biking paths that at this moment are covered with colorful leaves that have fallen off the trees, and everyone knows each other.

Downtown on a Sunday, when everything is closed

I am here to be a language assistant, basically to speak English to Jr. High and High School students and make sure they understand what is being taught by the English professors. The first couple weeks I will only be observing, but after that I get to have my own groups of students and try to pretend that I speak no French.

The Jr High.

When I first got here, I was welcomed by one of the teachers at my school and he explained a lot about the city and hosted me for the night with his family. The next day I was reminded about French grocery stores and how much I love French cheese. :-) I also got to move into my apartment and meet my roommate, who is from Turkey / Austria and is the German language assistant. The apartment is amazing, with windows that let in plenty of natural light (unlike my dungeon in Aix) and it is spacious with a large living room and kitchen, great for dinner parties :-) It is also right on the Jr High campus so I have to walk a total of about 2 minutes to get to work, depending on which classroom I am in. That will come in handy in the rainy season, which is apparently all the time though right now we are in a very unusual sunny time.

Our living room

My room, well half of it.

It has been really nice outside, we have been very lucky.

A race with kayaks the weekend I got here

A really cute garden next to the river

The main river, The Saar.

Since we are so close to the German border, I decided to sign up for a German course at a local College. Sometimes I feel like I am not in France, by the amount of German that I hear around me. Most of the people here speak at least a little bit of German, though French is still spoken everywhere. I have not heard any English around town, which I am very happy about.

The differences between Sarreguemines and Aix-en-Provence are many, but I feel that this will be just as great of an experience though a completely different one.

It is also completely different from Club Med, where I have been living and working for the past year. I have missed cooking dinner and having a glass of wine while preparing the meal. I missed being able to go to sleep early and get up early and have a cup of tea. I missed having the time to read at least 1 book per week. All of these will be done many times throughout this year I hope. I am looking forward to perfecting my French, learning a new language and culture by being so close to Germany, and progressing personally in many aspects.