Monthly Archives: May 2006

April showers bring May…. more rain & new adventures!

Hey there, kiddos!

Classes ended on Tuesday and I have finals tomorrow and Saturday… so obviously I decided the best use of my time would be to send you all another update 🙂 This is another long e-mail, so here’s the link to the pictures. They are on facebook, but you don’t need to be a member to see them.

Speaking of finals, the french system is really silly, in my opinion. When they write exams, the goal is that you will be able to fill in about half the answer, not that you will be able to answer everything correctly. In other words, a 100% is not the the thing to strive for, a 50% is! Tomorrow I have an oral exam where I have to read aloud a text and answer then answer questions in an interview format… in French. On Saturday, my exam, which apparently makes up 70% of my 10-credit class grade, is scheduled to take three hours.

There’s a part that has grammar, but it’s not grammar you can study for. They can ask “what’s the noun form of clear?” (clarity). WTF? Then there’s this thing called a dictee that they loved to do. The teacher reads a text and you have to write it down without ANY mistakes. That means all the accents have to be there, every letter of every word… it’s out of 20 points and every time you make a mistake, that’s another .5 off… The last section is a “resume”, where the teacher reads a text of let’s say, 30 lines and you have to sum it all up in 10 lines. Again, all of this IN FRENCH. Ugh.

Anyway, let’s start from the beginning… I got back from Spring Break and the next weekend I was off again. This time to Perigord, a region in the middle of France, known for its foie gras. I did try it, but I didn’t think it was anything special. We went to the Lascaux caves, which have ancient cave drawings, and to a chateau formerly owned by Josephine Baker, an American who came to Paris and became famous as a singer and a cabaret performer. The trip was organized by my program and on Saturday night, my friends (Erin and Jeff) and I bought a big bottle of whiskey. This was a weekend where many of you were off at formals. Well, since I went away for a weekend, got drunk in a hotel room and smooched a boy, I’d say it was my own little formal. 😉

The next week, my mom came to visit me. We flew to Bremen, Germany, for the weekend, where my grandma’s two sisters and their families live. Has anyone heard of the story about the Bremen Musicians? Well, they’re from Bremen, Germany. I used to watch the movie when I was little, so I was excited to see them… ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bremen_Town_Musicians) Dinner on Friday and Saturday night was ridiculously, stereotypically Russian. We had caviar and cow tongue and lots of fatty food. And my family forced me to take vodka shots. Also, my family owns a nightclub, along with some casinos, in Bremen, so on Saturday night I checked out “Russian night”. It was open bar for me, since I’m a member of the family, and some Russian guys hit on me. The “discotheque” stayed open until 6am and my mom found me the next morning, passed out in the bathroom. Oops. The other exciting thing was that my great-aunt’s house was ridiculous (I can’t think of another word, the whole weekend was just ridiculous) – inside, there was a pool, a sauna and a tanning bed!

My mom and I returned to Paris where we did touristy stuff. I finally visited Musee Rodin, which I really liked. It has different sculptures. My favorite is Le Baiser, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Kiss_(Rodin_sculpture)), which shows a couple intertwined… kissing. Maybe being in Paris for a semester has gotten to me?

The next weekend I went to Troyes, (pronounced twah), where my exboyfriend, who has been teaching English there for the past year, lives. It’s a really, really small town and it convinced me that pretty much all of France, other than the coast, and Paris, looks the same. It’s all country, with small towns, with wooden houses… and cathedrals that resemble Notre-Dame.

My ex-boyfriend came into Paris the next week for his birthday. I finally got to walk around the Luxembourg Gardens, which were beautiful! Probably my second favorite place in Paris, after the Eiffel Tower. We went to see The Da Vinci Code. (I thought it was okay, and it was really cool to be able to recognize a lot of the places in the film, but I didn’t like Tom Hanks. Also, they had French subtitles for the English parts, but no English subtitles for the French parts, which was interesting…)

Then, Ben, aka Baconstud, my best guy friend from Maryland came to visit. We did a lot of the touristy stuff again (Notre-Dame, Eiffel Tower). We also went to a bread festival that was going on, had a picnic in the park – bananas, nutella, wine, cheese and bread – , and I got to most of Musee D’Orsay, which has a lot of the famous impressionist paintings. Monet and Van Gogh are there. Ben’s friend took us to a vegetarian rally (I felt like such a fake).

So, that about wraps it up for now. In between classes and visitors I’ve managed to go out almost every night. (Also, Jeff and I discovered after Spring Break that Highlander, one of our usual bars, will broadcast Red Sox games, which start at 1am our time, if we ask. Gotta get my Red Sox time in!)

I really am having the time of my life and it’s sad to see this coming to an end. I’ll save my reflections for after I leave Paris, next thursday. I’ll be back in the states on June 26th . I’m going to some Greek Islands, Prague and Amsterdam before I leave Europe. I’m planning a trip to College Park (maybe July 20th??), so let me know if you’ll be in town!

Congrats to all the graduates! Enjoy the beginning of your summers! Stay in touch!

Bisous,

Julie

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Spring Break 2006!

Hello Boys and Girls!

I know it’s been forever. Now, in addition to not having an Internet connection I no longer have a laptop, so I really am cut off from all of civilization. I’m warning you all now that this e-mail is kinda long, so if you just want to look at the pictures, they are at http://umd.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2034729&id=5700154 it’s hosted by facebook, but you don’t have to have an account to view them…

Anyway, spring break has come and gone. It was a crazy ten days of travel to Lisbon, Madrid and Barcelona…

Lisbon couldn’t have been more different from Paris. Paris was cold and rainy the morning we left, but Lisbon was absolutely GORGEOUS. Lisbon is very hilly (apparently seven hills) and our first adventure (after meeting up my friend Liz from high school) was climbing up to St. Jorges’ Castle, with an amazing view over the whole city… We also visited Jerónimos Monastery, built in an architectural style unique to Portugal, and visited the Belem Tower, which sits on Lisbon’s bay. Our last night there we saw a fado (translated it means destiny or fate) musical performance. It’s kind of sad poetry set to music and the style originated in Portugal in the 1820s. We obviously also took in the local culture at night 😉

Our craziest adventure happened our last morning in Lisbon, when my friend Beth and I decided to go to the beach before catching our flight. On the way back on train, we tried to save some money by not buying a ticket. This was all fine until the conductor came on the train to check for tickets (and give out heavy fines to those who didn’t have them) My bright idea was to go to the back of the train and hope that our stop would come up before the conductor could make his way to us. It soon became obvious that that wasn’t going to work, so my second genius plan was to get out at the next stop and run up to the front of the train where the conductor had already checked tickets. It would have been amazing if it had worked, but alas we couldn’t get back on the train fast enough… We bought tickets, got on the next train, and then HAULED ASS all over hilly Lisbon to try and catch our flight. We made it to the airport ONE MINUTE before check-in closed!

Then it was onto Madrid. I have to admit, we probably couldn’t have picked a worst time to visit – It was the week before Easter and pretty much everything was closed. Our first night there, Beth and I attended a seder at the equivalent of a Jewish Community Center. The synagogue had a guard at the door and we were interrogated before being let in. We caught the tail end of services and for the seder, met a bunch of American students… Everything was in Spanish and Hebrew, but the tunes for the songs were the same. (“Wherever you go, there’s always someone Jewish…”)

We visited a LOT of cultural sites in Madrid: the Royal Botannical Gardens, the Prado Museum (it contains the famous Velazquez piece, Las Meninas, as well many of the Black Paintings by Goya), the Reino Sofia Museum (modern art – it includes many Picasso pieces, including the Guernica, also has stuff by Miró, Kandinsky, Dalí, Bacon…), the Royal Palace….. and we drank a LOT of Sangria. We spent Good Friday in Madrid and there were a lot of crazy processions for Easter…. People walked around wearing the white hoods the crusaders wore (which is where the KKK got the idea from). Karen (my big sister from ZTA) met up with us and off we went to Barcelona…

Our flight to Barcelona was at 7 in the morning and when we got there, we were all dead but our hostel wouldn’t let us check-in. So I had my first sleeping-in-a-park-like-a-bum experience. At least it was sunny out…. In Barcelona, we walked down les Ramblas, which is the street in Europe where you are most likely to get pickpocketed. We also made it to the beach… our last time at the beach, Beth and I went topless. Hey, when you’re in Barcelona, do as the Barcelonians!

Barcelona is Gaudi’s city, (an architect), and I absolutely fell in love with the buildings he designed. He has a sort of Art Nouveau style and his stuff looks like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. The Sagrada Familia is a modern church built in the style of ancient cathedrals – that’s to say that it’s very contemporary looking, but once finished, it will have taken over 100 years to build! He also planned Parc Guell and the apartment buildings named Casa Batillo and Casa Milo, which are just so cool…

So, I’m sure you are all sick of reading by now… My spring break was a lot of fun and you can bet I’m getting ready from Spring Break 2007!!

Hope finals are going well! To all you graduating seniors, congrats! Stay in touch!

see ya,

Julie