Sitting on a cornflake Sunday, Jul 12 2009 

Saturday morning I think we did the best at waking up and getting around. We didn’t have any definite plans so we were a bit more relaxed and able to take our time getting ready before heading out to our last day in Prague.

After breakfast we made a short list of the things we wanted to see in Prague before leaving. Re-visiting the Prague gardens around the castle, the John Lennon wall and the Petrin Tower were all on the list. By consulting the map we decided to start with the wall and then visit the other sites. We were a little off in how far the wall was from the Metro stop so we actually started at the gardens. They were beautiful and we took about 60 more pictures of the same view of the city. Granted, it is a beautiful view of a beautiful city but I think we just might have a few too many pictures (I’ll have some up as soon as I get home!). The gardens were so pretty and really fun to explore, but the Czech weather got the better of us and it started to rain after about 45 minutes. This time we only had 2 umbrellas so we left pretty quick. Czech weather is pretty tricky and by the time we made it down the hill to the street the rain had stopped.

Prague Castle sitting on top of the hill overlooking the city.

Prague Castle sitting on top of the hill overlooking the city.

The view of the city from Prague Castle.

The view of the city from Prague Castle.

Since we were pretty close we went to the Lennon wall. I had seen a little picture in the guide book and immediately decided I had to see it. The wall is a continually changing memorial to John Lennon and the Beatles and the impact/change they had on the world. After Lennon’s assassination, Czech citizens began leaving favorite quotes and other tributes on the wall. Today it is still possible to visit the wall and write something special to you. Seeing that wall was my favorite part of Prague and I never cease to be amazed by the impact those men had on the world. Their songs were a little glimmer of hope in a very scary and dark time. They were so diverse in their music and managed to touch so many people in so many countries in so many generations all over the world. It’s amazing to me.

One of the many elaborate tributes to the Beatles on the Lennon Wall.

One of the many elaborate tributes to the Beatles on the Lennon Wall.

I left my mark on Prague.

I left my mark on Prague.

When we left the wall we went to find some lunch. Choosing an eating place is always a little tricky because we all have different wants in a restaurant. We finally found one and all had goulash… again. It was good as usual but it was still goulash. From lunch we went on to Henry’s Bell Tower, the last major Prague monument to see (other than Petrin Tower, which we skipped because of the rain)  but it wasn’t really anything special. The best part of the bell tower was it’s proximity to our apartment so it was easy to hop on the tram and go home for a bit. Jaclyn, Katie and Andres ran to the grocery store for a few things while Sarah and I just chilled in the apartment and did some packing before dinner.

The others came back and we all headed out for dinner. Because the Czech food is pretty heavy and we’d been having a lot of it we decided to go to a pizza place pretty close to the apartment and we were all glad we did. The pizza was delicious, I got jalapenos on mine and it was amazing, I’ve really been missing spicy food! The others all got genuine Budweiser beer, which actually originated in the Czech Republic. I never knew that it wasn’t an American beer, I guess you learn something new every day.

Originally we’d planned on going out for our last night in Prague but instead we decided to stay in and hang-out because we didn’t want to risk missing our flight in the morning. We all just drank some wine and goofed around, definitely having a good time. Prague has been a blast and I’m a little sad to leave but Ireland is going to be just as much fun!

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Paris was so sad to see us go she cried…again Tuesday, Jul 7 2009 

Tuesday Jaclyn got up to go in to IES to take her last final and I got around to go in to the final picnic they were providing.

Lunch was a blast, it was a great way for everyone to chat and discuss plans for the last night in Paris. Afterwards we all did a little bit of last minute shopping and then we headed home to do last minute packing. Katie came over with her suitcase because she’s leaving it at our apartent while we travel because her family is going on vacation too.

The grand plan of the night was to have a final picnic at the Eiffel Tower with everyone but the weather did not cooperate. It rained off and on all afternoon/night so we decided to go to a nearby fondue restaurant instead. It was the best decision yet! The food was delicious and we all had a blast! There were 8 of us there and it was amazing! I was the only one that had been to a fondue place before (thanks Tom & Deb) so I guess that made me the resident expert. I tried not to screw it up too hard.

After the fondue place, the gang headed to the Bastille to meet Meaghan, Emma and Harrison for one last hoorah. We all went back to the Indian restaurant we visited a few weeks ago and had one last round of drinks and chats together before saying good-byes. It was a little difficult, I’m not going to lie. It’s going to be so strange not to see the same people all day every day for the rest of the summer. At least I’ve got an extra week of travel with some of them to help soften the blow.

On that note, the rest of the updates are going to be few and far between, if they happe at all. Katie, Andres, Jaclyn, Sarah and I leave bright and early in the morning to head to Prague and after that it’s on to Ireland. I’m hoping we’ll have computers with internet at the hostels so I can update the blog but if not I promise to do retrograde posts when I get back to the States. Thanks for following along with me through Paris and I hope everyone enjoyed reading this as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it!

Finally finished with finals and then it was farewell to our fabulous family Monday, Jul 6 2009 

Okay, I’ll apologize right now for that ridiculous title, I just couldn’t help myself with the alliteration.

Monday morning I got up with Jaclyn and fixed a quick breakfast before heading to IES to start my finals. They went about as expected, Contemporary France was vague and more difficult than it needed to be and Impressionism was a breeze. I literally was just given 4 pages to talk about the art of Monet as much as I wanted. Hooray for easy finals!

After the tests, Jaclyn, Katie, Harrison, Andres, Emma, Meaghan and I headed to Andres’ (and everyone else’s) favorite gelatto place to celebrate being done (or close to done for the grammar kids) with classes and tests. This time we went big and got way too much ice cream bu tit was worth it. I’m really going to miss that stuff!

Once we could move again, most of us headed to St. Michel because a few still wanted to do some souvenir shopping. Harrison finally found a few things he’d been wanting and Jaclyn found the grammar book she’d been looking for. I guess that made it a successful trip. From there I left Jaclyn, Harrison and Andres to study while I came home to start packing…

I really hate packing and this was especially difficult. Because we’re traveling extra and leaving our big bags behind I couldn’t exactly pack my big suitcase because I’ll have other things to go in there and I still have to buy a bottle of wine or two to bring home too. Overall it’s a nightmare and was the bane of my existance for a couple of hours.

Luckily, it was soon time for dinner and that was a great distraction. This was our last family dinner and it was so sad! Mme. Chalufour made us quiche again, I think she knows that’s our favorite. After dinner we got some recipies from Mme. and just sat and chatted with the family while watching some TV. It was a really relaxed night but I’m going to miss them. M. Chalufour kept inviting us back anytime we want to come and they both told us to recommend them as a host family to any other MU students we know that come on an IES program. I’ll definitely recommend them to anyone! Being with this family made my stay here so much easier, they’ve been so friendly and welcoming that I felt right at home. Hopefully I’ll come back to Paris and visit them again someday.

All Venezuelan stories have sad endings Saturday, Jun 27 2009 

So Thursday was Katie’s birthday. We went to Contemporary France and I got her a pain au chocolat (remember-croissant with chocolate baked in) and Meaghan brought her a hot chocolate cake thing. That was fun to watch Katie eat because it was a too hot to pick up with her hands but she didn’t have a spoon so she had to use a small plastic cup. Not the best idea but it still tasted amazing so it was okay.

Impressionism had another excursion so again we had a lot of extra time between classes. I actually had to run home because I’d gotten roses from Ben for my birthday and they needed to be put in water. When I got back to IES (fasted Metro ride ever) Harrison, Andres, Meaghan, Katie and I got lunch at our favorite bakery and then just wandered around close to IES for a while. Us girls went in a few shops to look at the sales and Meaghan found some shoes while Katie and I found jackets for less than 20 euros, it was a good shopping excursion.

When the boys had to head to class, the three of us got on the Metro to head to the meeting point for our excursion. This time we went to the Rodin Gallery. It was pretty awesome. I’d never realized just how much his sculptures broke from the classical idea of sculpture. He rarely used marble and his figures were hardly ever the perfect, smooth, beautiful creations from the classical era. Instead he focused on movement and human form and left rough edges. His “Gate to Hell” was a very intresting piece that is based on Dante’s Inferno. Rodin did such an incredible job showing all the levels of hell and the anguish of the people stuck there.

After the museum I had to go home because Jaclyn and I had dinner with the Chalufours. I got home none to soon because just as I walked in the door it started pouring down rain. I’ve never seen such hard rain in Paris before, I felt like I was back home for a minute. This was bad news though because Katie had wanted to take some wine and maybe some desserts to the Eiffel Tower and sit outside and relax for her birthday.

When dinner was over Jaclyn and I called to find out what was going on. It turned out Katie had talked to a friend of ours from Mizzou who’s been studying in Paris since February. Stephanie had gone to dinner with Katie and some others that didn’t have family dinner and Stephanie said she had a friend with a big apartment where we could all hang out. Jaclyn and I met up with them at their cafe and off we went.

The apartment was the perfect size for a big group and Stephanie’s friend (also an MU student) and her French boyfriend were super nice. Everyone just hung out there and enjoyed some wine for quite a while. Eventually though, just when we thought things were winding down, Stephanie asked if we wanted to go out for a while because she knew a really great club with good dancing. Now there’s nothing Katie likes more than dancing so of course we went. At this point though, one of our new friends, Marissa, was feeling her wine. (Marissa and her younger sister Taylor are really fun and we hope to hang out with them more in the last week or so.) For some reason, Marissa was convinced she was Venezuelan like Andres and could speak “Venezuelan” as well. When we got to the club and got in she thought she needed a beer too and needed to be on the dance floor as well. That was a bad idea so Harrison and I kept her preoccupied by asking her to tell us a Venezuelan story. She told us one about a boy and his coconut that went out on the ocean in a boat and sank. All Venezuelan stories have sad endings she said.

Before too long the sisters went home. The rest of us stayed for a while longer. Katie, Jaclyn, Meaghan, Emma, Andres, Stephanie and her friend were having a blast dancing while Harrison and I held down the fort. Eventually though I was tired and we all decided to go home because we had to be up early the next morning. When we got outside we realized it was raining again…harder than before. It was a truly bonafide thunderstorm going on. We saw lighting and heard tons of thunder. Somehow we all managed to grab cabs and get home without being completely soaked, just 80% or so. Off to bed we went to sneak in about 3 hours before we had to be up for the IES excursion to Giverny!

Hands down, best birthday ever! Thursday, Jun 25 2009 

Okay, turing 21 in Paris was the best birthday of my life!

The day started bright and early as usual since I did have class. I’m pretty sure it was also the first time in my life that I’ve had to go to school on my birthday since I’m a summer baby but it wasn’t bad. Jaclyn finally gave me back my birthday cards and they were worth the wait! I loved them all and it really made me feel good to see cards from  home. Melissa’s was hilarious! I don’t know where you found a French Hoops and Yo-Yo card but it rocked!

When I got to class Katie had bought me a pain au chocolat (a croissant with chocolate baked in) and Meaghan tried to buy me coffee but the machine was broken, it didn’t matter though, it was the thought that counted. The others wished me happy birthday when they got their for their class and it was great!

We didn’t have Impressionism like normal, instead we had an excursion that started later so we had several hours to kill. To pass the time we went to the outdoor market again so Meaghan and Katie could get some scarves and Ann came with us. After they got scarves we decided to go shopping because it was the beginning of the big soldes, or sales, in Paris. For the next 6 weeks pretty much all clothing in all stores will be marked down by 20% to 60%, it’s pretty much amazing!

Our visit was fun and so was shopping. I got some cute clothes that I can’t wait to wear at home and be able to tell people I bought this in Pairs 😉

Jaclyn and I had dinner with the Chalufours and that was by far the best part of the day. They went all out!! With dinner I had a glass of wine for the occassion and then after dinner it was cake time! They had gotten me two cakes, one was a delicious chocolate mousse heavenly thing on a pastry crust and the other was a raspberry custard with a flaky pastry base, so good! They even put candles on them spelling out 21 (but they set them down backwards so I turned 12 again but o well). I made my wish and we ate and it was delicious. They also gave me and Jaclyn both copies of one of their company’s books based on the American Revolution and they bought champagne! After dinner M. Chalufour gave me the cork and he’d written the date, Paris, Bon Anniversaire (happy birthday) and my name on it. It’s the best souvenir from Paris I could ever ask for. My family here rocks!! (the one at home does too!)

Finally it was time to go out! I wanted to go to a jazz club and the guide books and the Chalufours both recommended one in the Latin Quarter called “Caveau de la Huchette”. I called the gang and we all decided to meet at the Metro there to go to the club.  It was amazing! I loved the quite, mellow atmosphere. It’s one of the oldest jazz clubs in the city and is in an actual basement/cavern on the street. There was live music and we managed to meet the singer totally by accident. He was marvelous and everyone had fun. Everyone else got some beers but I’m not a fan of beer so instead I had a Bailey’s while we just relaxed and chatted. We’ve all been really tired lately so just chilling was perfect!

Eventually we realized though that we all had class in the morning and we should probably head home. Jaclyn and I hopped on the Metro with Katie and by the time we got to our stop it was Katie’s birthday, hooray!! Tonight (Thursday) will be more fun I’m sure! The last surprise of my birthday were the roses I received this morning, they’re beautiful and I’m leaving IES right now to go home to put them in some water!

This wine tastes like a Christmas tree Sunday, Jun 14 2009 

Friday started off with a trip to Park Monceau for Katie, Meaghan and I. Harrison, Andres and Jaclyn had to go into class because their class was cancelled on Tuesday. As usual the other girls ran while I did some sketching. I’m fairly happy with how the rose I did turned out but next time no flowers. I need to diversify.

After that the other two went home to shower and went home to trade in my sketch book for my camera and then it was off to IES to meet the others, but Meaghan didn’t come because she had things to do before the ballet she was going to. The first order of business was lunch, we decided on the university cafeteria and Martin tagged along, that made things interesting. Lets just say he has very strong opinions that aren’t always what everyone else would think and he likes to express them.

The original plan was to go to the catacombs after lunch but we decided to scrap that because it costs money and was something we could do between classes some day. Instead we set off on another walking tour from Katie’s book. This one took us through historical areas from the Revolution.

We saw the church St. Germain and learned that over 200 killings took place right in front of it in a three day period during the Revolution. After that the tour was supposed to take us to several historical buildings but we couldn’t find them because the book sucked. We did learn that the area used to be the book center of Paris but then the rent got too high and companies like Christian Dior bought out the buildings from the bookstores. Sad.

L'eglise St. Germain (Church of St. Germain)

L'eglise St. Germain (Church of St. Germain)

Inside the church

Inside the church

Prayer candles inside the church

Prayer candles inside the church

The Chrisitan Dior store that replaced one of the most famous bookstores/publishing houses in Paris

The Chrisitan Dior store that replaced one of the most famous bookstores/publishing houses in Paris

We did find one bookstore so of course we had to go in. I’ve been searching for a copy of “The Scarlet Pimpernel” in French ever since I got here and I thought this store looked like a good place to find it. They didn’t have it but they were really helpful and gave me the exact title in translation and  the shop wasn’t a total bust because I found some books by my favorite author, Italo Calvino, in French! I’m super excited about them!

After that we headed to Sacre Couer. It was incredible! Jaclyn was already at the top so we climbed up there to meet her. Let me tell you, that’s a lot of steps! I’d like to see Sylvester Stallone run up them in victory! The view from the top was incredible, all of Paris was laid out before us! Inside the church was gorgeous too. I’d love to show you pictures of that but pictures inside the church are forbidden so I respected that rule.

Sacre Coeur

Sacre Coeur

This street preformer was insane! He didn't so much preform in the street as he did on a light pole above the city!

This street preformer was insane! He didn't so much preform in the street as he did on a light pole above the city!

The view from the top of the Sacre Coeur

The view from the top of the Sacre Coeur

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After Sacre Couer we walked the grounds and found a pretty garden that gave a great view of the back of the church, sweet! Then we headed back down to the main street level. Harrison had dinner with his family so the rest of us headed off to find dinner. Somehow we wound up back in the Latin Quarter. Go figure.

Andres found a Hispanic restaurant so we gave it a try. It wasn’t too bad but it wasn’t great either. I was happy to finally have some spicy food again though.

From there we decided to get some wine and go hang out on Le Pont des Beaux Arts, a bridge across the Seine just for people where it is common for groups to just hang-out and enjoy a drink and the view of the river and the Eiffel Tower. When buying the wine I saw one that was a Greek wine and thought it sounded interesting so we got it. Big mistake. It was the last bottle we opened and while I opened it perfectly, it tasted like a Christmas tree. It was horrible! Needless to say it did not get finished. We tossed it and called it a night. That bridge is awesome though and I think we shall be hanging out there some more. The view of Paris at night with the river and the lights was just perfect!

The view of Paris at night from the Pont des Arts on the Seine river

The view of Paris at night from the Pont des Arts on the Seine river

Apparently I’m really good at saying the Spanish word for “puddle” Friday, Jun 12 2009 

The French are just as bad at generalizing Americans as they say we are about generalizing them. Our Contemporary French teacher is usually pretty cool but Thursday she just made herself sound like a jerk because she kept saying how Americans don’t really have standards and are okay with everything–basically she thinks everyone in America loves everything and nobody has an opinion on anything. Some people were pretty offended so we did our best to correct her on this and hopefully we got it through to her in a respectful way.

In between classes we did the usual lunch thing, except it was extra exciting because Harrison went and picked up our rugby tickets! We are now officially going to a scrimmage between France and England on Saturday night! The only down side is the entire program found out about the match and so now nearly 20 people are going, o well though, we’ll still have a blast! When Harrison got back we went to a bakery to get him some lunch and ended up all getting coffee and bread with chocolate chips baked in (genius!) and chilling until class.

Impressionism was fun, we’re starting to get more comfortable in that class too and everyone is talking more. The more and more I see of the movement and understand it better the more I love it. I really don’t care that some of the “more cultured” people in our class think Impressionism is the most overrated art movement of all time, I think it’s wonderful!

After class we hopped on the Metro and headed to the Latin Quarter to hang out for a while. A few other girls came with us so our group was a little expanded and it was nice to hang out with some new people for once. Everyone chilled at a little club for a bit during happy hour and then everyone but Andres, Katie, Jaclyn and I left to have dinner with their families. That’s when the 4 of us set out to find dinner.

After walking all over looking for a cheap dinner that we could all agree on we finally settled for a bit more expensive place on the condition that they give us free drinks. It was good but the only expensive meal for the week, if not two weeks for us. After that we headed to the Eiffel Tower to chill for a bit and Jaclyn brought a bottle of wine for us to share under the Tower. It was fun and we just sat around chatting.

Somewhere along the way the Spanish word for puddle came up, which is “charco.” According to Andres (and I think he’s pretty accurate being from Venezuela) the “R” is supposed to be rolled, something us girls can’t do. He was getting very frustrated because Jaclyn kept saying “charcoL” and he tried to explain there is no “L”. Just for grins I gave it a try and surprisingly he said I got it right! Then Katie tried and she couldn’t get it quite right either so he admonished the two of them by saying “Come on, even the Hillbilly can do it!” I’m not quite sure what to think of this new nickname but I am pretty proud of my ability to say Spanish words, you never know when I’ll need to warn someone “Hey watch out for that charco!”

Bomb de terre, frites Saturday, Jun 6 2009 

When we got back to the city we spent about five minutes deciding what to do with the rest of the night because it was only 6pm.

Emma wanted to go home and shower so she did that and the rest of us decided to find a place for dinner where we could just sit down and relax since we’d been on our feet pretty much all day. After looking in our guide books we decided to go to “People’s Paris,” which also happened to be back in the neighborhood of the Bastille, where Meaghan lives.

So we hopped on the Metro and headed that direction. We got there and after walking around for about 30 minutes searching we found a cafe that wasn’t too expensive and grabbed a table. We all ordered our food and a bottle of wine for the table. The wine was good, I’ve been trying a few different types here as the others are ordering them because I’m in Paris and I figure why not? This was a white Muscedet and it was really pretty good, I had one glass and really enjoyed it.

During dinner the Roland Garros was on and the entire place was buzzing over the close match between Federrer and Del Porto: Federrer won. Harrison and Andres tried to explain just how the game works to me and Meaghan, I sort of get it now and I think Meaghan’s got it. After tennis was over the soccer game came on. We were all just having a good time sitting around chatting and they weren’t in any hurry to get rid of us at the cafe so we chilled.

After a while Katie got a headache so she went home but Emma came so we were back to 6. Over the next several hours we got coffee (me) and beer (Andres, Meaghan and Emma) and just chatted. At one point Meaghan was sharing different styles of pounding fists, including one where you pound the fist (the potato) and then after contact open up the fist and spread the fingers (the fries.) She then translated it to French, which was pomme de terre/frites. Emma heard bomb de terre/frites and she and I really liked it so that’s our style now.

The soccer game ended and we were still there just chilling. Jaclyn traced everything on her placemat and then turned it into an origami rose and gave it to the waiter. He loved it and wore it around the cafe. They were super nice there and we really had a great time with them. Before we knew it it was midnight and we’d been there for nearly 7 hours! As we were talking about leaving our waiter came over with a tray of shot glasses filled with what he called “Bastille water.” It was really green apple vodka and they were on the house for being such a fun table. I figured I was in Paris, I’ll be 21 in 2 weeks and it was free so I said cheers with others and took it. It was my first shot and wasn’t too bad.

After that we decided it was time to head home. It was after midnight and we all had a farily long Metro ride home (except Meaghan and Emma who just lived up the street.) The other four of us headed to the Metro station and parted ways to take our separate trains. It was another great night in Paris! (even though we didn’t hear “YMCA”).

How is it that twins turn 21 six hours apart? Wednesday, Jun 3 2009 

Wednesday was Meaghan’s birthday, her 21st birthday to be more specific. That made the day super special and everyone knew it. Meaghan also has a twin brother, he’s in Virginia, on EST, therefore she turned 21 six hours earlier! There are actually several of us having birthdays over here so it’ll be fun!

Contemporary France was a movie day today. I fully believe that French films are hit or miss, they’re either super good or super weird/bad. This one was super weird. It had no plot and no real ending, we all pretty much just laughed and made fun of it the whole time as this girl looked for her lost cat all over Paris. The cat ended up being behind the stove for 12 days. I’m not kidding.

Between classes Meaghan, Katie and I did our reading for the next day’s Contemporary France class and learned just how many political parties France has. We already knew that the political system is extremely complicated. I don’t know how anyone here can be an informed voter! There’s too much information!

Instead of actually eating lunch us girls just walked around and did some more window shopping. Because it was Meaghan’s day we went where ever she wanted. We ended up going in several stores and trying a few things on but nobody actually bought anything. Actually, that’s a lie. I bought an umbrella because this weekend is supposed to be cold and rainy. Super.

After lunch we had Impressionism and it was so cool today. We learned about how Japanese art influenced the early Impressionists and how that helped set them apart. I never knew that happened but looking at the two together I can so see it. It was awesome! So many things make so much more sense now! I just love that class more and more every day!

When class was over it was time to have some fun for the birthday girl. Katie bought a couple bottles of wine and we borrowed a wine opener from the shop owner. He was super nice and helpful, I think his establishment will be the store of choice for the next 6 weeks. We then hopped on the Metro and headed to Les Invalides, where Napoleon is buried.

That place is pretty awesome, it has its own moat (except there’s no water anymore, just grass). We took some pictures there. Besides our usual 6, we had a newcomer, Martin (a frat guy from MN with many layers). The church at Les Invalides was beautiful, the natural light was perfect for pictures! Afterwards we headed towards the actual tomb but discovered the ticket office closed at 5:30 and it was 5:34. I thought Harrison was going to cry.

Les Invalides

Les Invalides

Yep, those are canons guarding the moat.

Yep, those are canons guarding the moat.

The entrance, the flag was at half staff in honor of the passengers of the lost AirFrance flight.

The entrance, the flag was at half staff in honor of the passengers of the lost AirFrance flight.

Who could that be? Maybe Napoleon? It is his tomb after all.

Who could that be? Maybe Napoleon? It is his tomb after all.

Beautiful natural light on a beautiful old organ.

Beautiful natural light on a beautiful old organ.

After that we walked to the Eiffel Tower, very close, to drink our wine in the grass there before Jaclyn and I had to go home for dinner. It was very surreal, sitting in the grass drinking wine out of plastic cups, but it was a lot of fun. I’m really happy we could make Meaghan’s birthday in Paris a little better.

Jaclyn and I were really worried we were going to be late for dinner but all was good. Dinner was fun, it was another great family affair. After dinner we watched the news and Jaclyn and I helped Flore write a cover letter and format her resume for an American job application. Very impressive! I’ll be very surprised if she doesn’t get it.

Just one more day of class this week!