Adventures in Yonderland

A log of my adventures, both real and imagined.

Archive for the tag “france”

Update on Life

Haven’t posted in a while, but I assure you the adventures continue.

Transitions back have been far more difficult than I ever imagined. I’ve been fed up, pissed off with and unmotivated by the most random assortment of things.

Espresso is my coffee now. Everything else is water. (Not really, but I also can’t live without espresso anymore).

My idea of bringing alcohol to a party is wine. Why? France. That’s why. It’s also delicious. Blackberry Wine is the most amazing thing on the planet. Followed by whiskey. Followed by coconut rum (why didn’t anyone tell me about this stuff earlier, oh my god).

And I’ve been dating. For six months now (here’s the page I made, hope you love corgis as much as I do). And very soon, I will be engaged, preparing to graduate, finding a job, and setting out on a brand new adventure.

That is way more terrifying than anything else yet.

And that sounds great to me.

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Things I No Longer Understand Since France

1) Pancake mixes. (They don’t exist in France, so I’ve just been making them by scratch and it’s so easy!)

2) Gallons of milk. I mean, liters were working just fine and now I feel cowed by my own milk.

3) American alcohol culture. I just literally don’t understand anymore.

4) The lack of bakeries. Seriously though. Where the hell am I supposed to get pastries and bread?

5) Where’d all the cobblestone go?

6) How am I supposed to go places if I can’t walk there?

7) So…where did the espresso go?

8) You mean I can actually SEE my friends again? Wait. What? They live in the same time-zone? Woah man. One thing at a time please.

In the End There’s Only Love

Well my time in France is done for now and I am back home. As we all know, I will never forget my time there and it is so bitter-sweet to be home. I made some pretty fantastic friends. Friends from different countries, different states and all with the most wonderful views and experiences. I think that might be the hardest part about leaving. Leaving all those wonderful, fantastic people.

What isn’t hard is leaving French University. And that’s the last time I complain about it here! Because I will also miss just how jank the Fac des Lettres was. I doubt I’ll go into a building like it again!

I’m also going to miss this. My home street. The place I walked up everyday for a year. Cobblestones, a sketchy shisha place and the strangest lingerie shop I’ve ever come across.

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France, I’ll miss you. My friends, I will miss you more.

p.s. culture shock is really gonna suck.

It’s The End of the World as We Know It

Exams are done and I don’t have to deal with the French education system anymore! Woohoo! However, as good as it feels to be finally done with school for the year, it also means I’m done here.

So many goodbyes to be said. So many said already.

But in the meantime I’m running like a crazed chicken trying to do EVERYTHING before it’s all over. Including shutting down my bank account, which will be interesting. Oh the glories of French bureaucracy. You might be the one thing in this country I most definitely will NOT miss.

What We Were

June 6, 1944 was D-Day. It was the moment when America hit the ground in France and began the invasion that would lead to the fall of Nazis Germany.

And that moment marked France.

Listening to my French dinner family talk about it, I realized for the first time what that really meant. It was America’s glorious world moment. Not just because we won. Not just because we saved France from the Nazis. But because Americans, thousands of Americans, gave their lives to the beaches. To free France. All despite the fact that they probably didn’t have anything to do with France before that day.

We saved them, and paid with our blood.

And I think America remembers that glory and sacrifice. We remember how much thanks we received for coming to the aid of the Allies against the fascists. And I think that’s why we get involved in conflicts around the world now. We want that old glory back. We want to live it again.

But the reason we had it in the first place is because it was selfless. I mean, obviously we had a definite interest in doing it, but that glory of war wasn’t why we went in. And ever since, I think, it has.

We keep “bringing democracy” to people like we’re fighting the same old fight against first the fascists and then the communists. The only difference is we didn’t invade Germany or Russia in 1933 or 1917. We waited until someone else said, “We need help.”

Adventures

Having my parents and brother to visit me here was incredible. Tired as I was afterwords, it was well worth every second. The trips we did were fun, but honestly. It was good just to be together as a family and to show them where I’m living. Because, as I said before, this is really where I am living.

I got to introduce them to real hot chocolate. Which is basically like drinking hot pudding and is generally the most delicious thing ever.

I also went with them here. To Cassis.

Cassis, France

Yeah. If you haven’t gone. Put that one on your list. Or at least some Calanques somewhere.

Oh. And Montagne Sainte-Victoire. Because it’s one of the most amazing and stunning and arresting and generally awesome views I’ve ever seen.

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A Quiver of the Ending

Two weeks of classes left before two weeks of break and then two weeks of finals. And then home.

But it’s interesting. “Home,” evasive as it has been for me the past four years of my life, seems never to stop shifting for me.

When my parents came to visit, I noticed that this place has become my home. I’m not a tourist here. I do touristy things sometimes, but even then I return home to Aix. And that’s the thing about study abroad I most definitely didn’t think about or anticipate.

I’m not just a student. Or a bystander. Or “an American.”

I am a resident.

Castles: The Ultimate Adventure

So I have never had a more difficult trip. Just ever. Not to say it wasn’t awesome. But I got lost many a time, traveled alone and carted around my twenty-pound backpack everywhere because I had a hotel in a different city every day. And now that I’ve given you the background of this trip, here’s what made it all worth it. (From least to most favorite).

Blois Castle:

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The staircase here is awesome. Other than just looking really cool, it’s a testament to the fact that castles started becoming much less about actual security and much more about fan-fare. I mean, who would want to stand on an open staircase when people are shooting arrows and things at you? Not me.

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And this thing has got to be the most comfortable-looking throne I’ve ever seen! Especially after reading Game of Thrones, this thing is just the height of luxury. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to be king…

Chateau de Versailles:

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This is the Hall of Mirrors. It’s basically one of the coolest places ever. Lined with pictures of battles in which France was awesome (fun fact, the French aren’t really traditionally surrender-ers), it drives home the extravagance of the castle. Well, the famed extravagance. It’s basically what you would get if wall-paper, hundreds of sculptors and gold all got together and threw a gigantic party together. That lasted years. Straight. With no sleep.

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And this is an example of garden art at its finest. The entirety of this absolutely massive garden is designed to be full of surprises, and let me tell you. It is. You would never know that the garden part of this picture was even there until you were almost on top of it. It just looks like a lake in the distance. Total design brilliance.

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All those little flowers there are called Snowdrops. They are my favorite flower of all time. And there are HUNDREDS of them here! I about died. It was too freaking cool.

Clos Lucé:

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This was a really sweet place to visit. It’s the home of Leonardo da Vinci in France and where he died (right in this bed apparently). Especially cool because of just how much of the Clos Lucé I share with my dad. It was a really awesome experience.

 

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Amboise:

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I think this was by far the most beautiful castle I went to, even though it was also probably the smallest. I mean, this picture sums it up pretty well. Open gardens, a view out over the Loire, a refined and not over-decorated castle. It’s a place you might actually live in and there’s a lot to be said about that where castles are concerned.

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And this is one of the first throne rooms in France. Well at least in what we would consider a “traditional” throne room would be. François I actually saw people in this room, which was something of a first for the time. François I, by the way, was a total beast. Patron of the arts (he was the dude responsible for bringing over da Vinci), the start of the absolute monarchy (he rejected the supremacy of the pope over the king), and just generally a cool dude. He is, for the moment, my favorite French king. I’m sure at some point I’ll learn something awful about him though. He was, after all, a king.

And that was a quick summary of a really fantastic trip. Castles. I will always love you.

Off to New Adventures and Dreams…

Going on a castle tour in the Loire Valley this weekend. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Especially because castles are one of my favorite things about European history. There will be pictures, and updates, and hopefully adventures. And…eventually, I’ll actually get around to posting them. haha

University and France: Part 2

I know it’s been about a week, but I’m ready to start back up into this little mini-series! Please forgive me, I’ve got 18 1/2 hours of class in three days. Whew.

Okay! So. Once you finish Lycée, you theoretically take the BAC or which there are three. Math, Literature and Economics. Each BAC contains other sections (science, math, lit, etc.) with one major focus. I think the idea is to make sure everyone has the basic tools they’ll need in their areas of study.

Anyway, once you pass the BAC, you “apply” to a university. My understanding is that, with the exception of a few “Grands Écoles,” any university is required to accept you as long as you’ve passed the BAC. And this is where things take a turn for the jank. You see, almost all the universities in France are public. Which means for France that tuition is unimaginably low (at least for an American). I don’t have a statistic to cite, but I’ve heard Aix-Marseille is something to the order of 300 euros, Sécurité Social included (sécurité social is their health insurance. It has nothing to do with US “social security”).

So that means that the grand ol’ Fac de Lettres (the college within the University that I happen to attend) looks like this:

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Yes. I did just represent the entire school with a kind-of “worst-case scenario,” but I know my IU Bloomington friends probably don’t have any idea what it’s like to be in a university where the walls are regularly covered in graffiti that isn’t corrected for months, if it ever gets corrected. They are doing some wall repair and repainting, but good god. Look at where I’m coming from.

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The long and short of it is, largely free education can have some pretty interesting draw-backs, the state of the Fac being one of them. The others are coming up later. Don’t worry. I love reminiscing over the Fac.

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