Month: May 2012

Paris oh la la!

One Thursday night I was being a big anti-social lame and then my friend Jenna messaged me on facebook and asked if I wanted to go to Paris, because the tickets were so cheap.

Yes, Audrey.

I visited the south of France when my older sister studied abroad in Aix en Provence, and since then I had always wanted to travel to Paris. I quickly responded “oui!”, got on the ryanair website and minutes later I had a flight to Paris. What had I been waiting for before if it was so easy?

Ohhhh, I remember….because It’s much easier to travel in Europe where it’s convenient and cheap, versus dropping a grand (at least), missing work, having jet lag etc. etc. etc…

Then for various and obvious reasons I started to work on my French via Livemocha.com. It’s a good website from what I can tell except for the minor detail that I received a message from someone who would like to do sex with me. The messages are supposed to be for asking questions about language so…he didn’t even say it right. What a loser; And no, I haven’t responded because until now I forgot that I was supposed to continue practicing my French. je suis busy.

“Boy those French, they have a different word for everything.” 

 

Lucky for us my Jenna has a FABULOUS family friend In Paris and we were able to meet up with him the first night for dinner. Tres awesome. He took us for crepes at a really cute restaurant and since it was late at night i’m not sure where we were at all.

I also thought I was more gastronomically knowledgeable to know that a crepe could have more than nutella and bananas on it….and that it could also be crispy as opposed to soft. hmmmm.

First Parisian dinner, a Vosges crepe!

 

After a great dinner followed by a delicious caramel apple crepe dessert, we headed out to see the Eiffel tower sparkle, and walk down the Champs Elysees.

My friend Jenna called her mom quickly and was telling her how wonderful everything was and that we were safe. Just as that was happening, I noticed a sketchy older man walking near us. I had been warned about “Taken” and gypsies etc. and brushed it all off only to find myself in what could be a Taken situation? uh-uh.

I kept my eye on him and then when my friend got off the phone she noticed him too and said, why is that man showing us his belly? I looked and it was more than his belly…. and for some reason my only instinct and thought was “run!” so we ran away laughing down the Champs Elysees for at least a minute until we were by more people. Of course more people meant at least one more weirdo before it was time to call it a night.

Weirdo #2 had a doormat with the British flag on it and he decided to grab our arms and walk with us for a bit, asked us if we’d like to step on his doormat and probably other weird questions that I have suppressed in my memory.

We made it back to our hotel in one piece, slightly aching from laughter, and full of good food and went to bed for a big day of walking ahead of us. Friday was our only full day in Paris so we had a lot on the agenda.

Our hotel was just a 5 minute walk from L’Arc de Triomphe!

We started walking towards some main sights with the goal of getting to Monmarte for lunch.

Best travel buddy/wife/husband ever.

 

Notre Dame

Louvre- mixed feelings on the glass triangle.

 

In our guidebook I read about a great place to eat, but since the book is in Spanish I interpreted bare walls as nude couples….(paredes desnudas). I feel really special about that now after studying Spanish for about 10 years and living in Spain for 8 months, but the restaurant wasn’t even open until dinner time so we settled for another cute looking place in the neighborhood that had a nice Menu del dia.

Lunch in Montmarte

lunch, s’il vous plait

juicy yummy chicken

mousse au chocolat. I’ve had better, but it looks pretty. 

After our delicious and reasonable lunch, we walked it all off on our way up to the Sacre Coeur where two men pulled us apart, tried to put ugly bracelets on us, and called me Lady Gaga. Relentless.

Americans in Paris

 

Sacre Coeur/ Sagrado Corazon/Sacred Heart. So.Many.Stairs. 

yesss

I know that the famed macaroons of Paris are from La Duree…and maybe another place too, but I think these ones were yummy enough. Sometimes, a cookie is a cookie. Plus, the main La Duree is currently being renovated, or there was a fire or something disastrous that prevented us from going. Womp.

double yesss

We walked for 2 minutes, let’s eat a macaroon!

Oh! Bonjour!

 

Just a flight attendant in front of the Eiffel Tower. 

After a full day of walking around we gave our feet a break and relaxed on a boat tour down the Seine. It tells you some interesting facts as you ride along in various languages. Luckily being sort of bilingual we realized that some languages get to know more stuff than others. For example in Spanish we learned that the Eiffel tower is one of the most photographed monuments in the world. And we learned that Portuguese offers the least amount of information possible. I’m not sure how it went for the 100+ Asian people on the boat, because I don’t know any of those languages at all.

Cruisin on the Seine with Asians and learning that boat tour translations suck. 

The back of Notre Dame. 

For dinner we saved some money and ate sandwiches in our hotel room and watched French survivor. We consider ourselves practically tri-lingual because we could understand who hated each other and who won the challenges all the time. We pulled ourselves out of our jamon coma in order to be tres chic and get a really expensive glass of champagne at Flute.

fancy drink night.

Our waiter loved us and really wanted a girlfriend to go see a museum with, but we kept the relationship at a few free glasses of champagne and called it a night again so that we could get as much out of our last half day in Paris as possible.

Merci, Adrian. 

After a whole day of  avoiding lines and entering any museums, our last day was dedicated to doing one final thing- seeing the Catacombs. We waited for about three hours, luckily in the sunshine to have a Parisian cultural experience. At only 4 euros for students, it was worth it. Not being claustrophobic also helps.

Round 50 of “would you rather….”

 

45 minutes of nothing but these creeps

If I knew more french I might have been more impressed by the interesting quotes about life and mort and such, but just seeing all the various formations of the neatly piled bones was sufficiently guay (cool).

 

The takeaway according to Parisians: Don’t live there, but it sure is nice to visit.

un beso

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A Spanish wedding

I got married! I just really wanted to make the process of getting into Spain easier, so I went all Kim and Britney and had a quick ceremony.

ja ja ja je je je. Totally kidding.

However,I was lucky enough to attend a wedding a few weekends back on cinco de Mayo. It’s probably one of the only one’s in my recent memories where there wasn’t talk of tequila, pinatas, tacos, and mustaches.

It was here in Logrono at Iglesia San Bartolome. It isn’t the biggest, or the most ornate, but one of the most beautiful in my opinion.

It was an afternoon wedding, which at first American me thought meant 2p.m and then I was like “Oh, I’m in Spain!” so it was really at 6p.m.

Luckily, I’m a genius and I brought an emergency “fancy event” dress because I plan things like that, and not things like more sweaters or walking shoes. But that makes it sound like I didn’t shop around for an entire week because I thought I could find an even cooler Spanish dress. The summary of that is: No. But I thank my patient date for trying to help me for an entire day of dress shopping anyways 🙂

I would just like to now make a shout out to Anthropolgie, where I bought this dress hours before my cousins wedding back home about three years ago. It has served me well.

I had to get a professional du, since i’m semi hopeless with my own hair. Curls.

Me and my guapo date

Felicidades! Throwing rice, flower petals, and popping out confetti

The ceremony was about two hours long with various moments of standing and then sitting again that I didn’t fully comprehend. I recognized some prayers but not enough to say them. I was mainly scoping out the other outfits and there was quite a range. Those closest to the bride went floor length, full out. Some people had feathers, and hats, but most importantly I felt appropriately dressed for not knowing anyone. Phew!

After the church part, all the guests headed into town to grab a drink or two before it was time to go to the dinner in Villamediana (a village about 10 minutes away). I of course ate a small lunch because I heard that there would be a lot of food, but I really should have not eaten anything for two days in order to prepare.

appetizer hour

The “cocktail” hour started about 9. Being in La Rioja, there was delicious red and white wine available as well as champagne. The appetizers/pintxos did not stop coming and I couldn’t say no to any of them. I was too busy eating and chatting to get any pictures besides this blurry spoon full of cod and peppers. mmmm.

mmm a spoon full of goodness

We all proceeded into the dining area that was the perfect size for more people watching, and talking.

Table 15

Who needs decorations, when the ceiling is like that?!

I liked that they didn’t bother a lot with themes, or decorations, or name cards (I mean, you get a table assignment and hopefully you sit by your date right?). They spent money in all the right places: Food, and drinks. If your guests can’t have fun with that, then you need new friends.

First plate, “salad”: Ensalada de perdiz, con jamon de pato

Second plate, fish: Merluza

Third “plate/thing”:Sorbete de Mojito- INCREDIBLE

Fourth plate, meat: Solomillo con foi, bacon, setas y patatas.

Dessert: Coulant de chocolate, helado de vainilla, arroz con leche.

Finally, coffee, tea, licor, chupitos….

During the coffee, tea, drink portion the bride and groom all walked around and delivered little presents to each guest- even me! All the men got a small shoe shining kind of kit and all the ladies got a mini watering can to plant forget-me-nots. Awwww. It was really sweet how they personally came by to talk to everyone (seriously, even me…). So Spanish.

We finished eating around…1a.m, which isn’t that weird for Spain, but I could barely move or breathe and it was time to dance!

As if….

The only thing I didn’t go wild over was the Deejay. At first I was happy that he played a lot of Spanish music because it was fun to see all the people dancing, young and old. But then I needed a little more beat to keep me going and the party faded pretty fast.

I had a great time and I hope the people of Spain keep getting married and keep inviting me.

When I told one of my teachers at school that I went to a wedding he said “Wow, you are really immersing into the culture!”

Yes, because previously you thought I had no friends, so it would seem like a big change. I said that last part only in my head.

Until next time when I share my travels to Paris!

un beso

sex toys, knives, and cracked toilets

This title might lead you to believe I turned into a European sex slave. Right off the bat: NO. I know some of you have seen “Taken” but I promise I’m not in that movie. Those 3 words/phrases actually all have to deal with life lately working at my two primary schools.

I don’t have a specific reason why I haven’t written a lot about my daily teaching here. One could subconsciously be privacy. Another is that it’s either boring or completely inappropriate; but now i’m caving because I feel that as my time here comes to an end I have a more succinct way of explaining some of my experiences.

1. Spanish children have the most elaborate pencil cases I have ever seen, and they never seem to have all of the things they need in them- namely PENCILS TO WRITE WITH.

2. I’m really good at reading stories.

3. It’s okay to tell a child they are a disaster. Their feisty-ness has it’s good and bad points.

4. I don’t know if I’ve made a difference at all…..

5…except that I’m certain all of my students know how to say “Hello Teacher Emma, you are very beautiful!” AND “I’m fine, thank you and youuuuuuuu!?”

6. Discipline: “put your hands on your head” “stand behind your chair” “Get out of here.” Yes, the hallway- the exact place where their foolish not paying attention self wants to be. Great.

 

Now for the juicy stuff.

Sex toys. Namely, the vibrating cock ring that was discovered casually during my 30 minute stint with a 2nd grade group. The “reason” she had it was because her father works at a pharmacy and….anyways, it gave the teachers a good laugh at break when we turned it on and watched it wiggle around the table.

 

Knives. Apparently, one day a Pakistani student brought a knife to school and whipped it out on someone during recess. This students teacher said she spoke with their uncle about the incident and their uncle was proud of them. Oh, my… Where does one go from there in the conversation? Seriously, someone tell me the answer because all I heard from the other teachers were low key racist comments.

 

Cracked toilet. How does a child under the age of 12 rip a seat off the toilet, and crack the lid in half? If you carry said toilet seat around the school and go into all of the classrooms with it asking, you will get a lot of creative answers. That’s what I witnessed today at school anyways. It was cool though because  before that I was only busy calculating all the shoes that I can’t buy and making weird faces caused by swallowing yawns, so I was just as thrilled as the kids to see the principal walk in holding something your butt is supposed to be on. I almost don’t care who did it, but I don’t want to get on the culprits bad side and wake up with a black eye and no hair.

I wouldn’t mess with Teacher Emma

I only need to survive 2 more weeks with the lil monsters, but I think after a week like this I’m ready for anything.

 

un beso

 

Dead ends and bogus umbrellas- Venice

Masks and costume shops everywhere.

From Florence, we kept heading north on our journey to Venice, for more camping and more rain. The afternoon we arrived stayed dry for us luckily, so we did a fair amount of walking and squinting over seriously THE WORST map I have ever known. Venice is tricky to navigate as it is because it’s windy, narrow, and street signs are scarce; and on top of that, the map we paid $2.50 for was written by an ant.

The new Calatrava bridge entering into the city

Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any of the restaurants that we heard about because of our lack of time and direction. However, we did manage to find some beautiful sights and interesting artsy shops along the way.

a cool studio/ store

Murano glass mini museum

The Murano glass museum was our main “museum-y thing” that we did in Venice. By this point we were seriously strapped for cash and anything that was free was worth going to. For students, this little adorable glass museum was for sure less than 5 euros. We also saw a Vivaldi violin exhibit that was free and of course to enter into St. Mark’s cathedral is free.

Saint Mark’s Cathedral and piazza

Bought this bad boy for 3 euros in Florence- what a steal!

duh

Where the streets are water (and have no names….)

Don’t bother with a gondola, just take this 2 minute 50 cent “taxi”

Our initial group dream before even touching down in Italy was to go on a gondola ride in Venice. Then we found out they were 80 euros. However, even hearing that didn’t stop us from dreaming about it and still semi-planning on it. We figured we could find some other cheap traveling “friends” and split the cost. By day 10 of vacation though….the answer was NO for all of us. It’s ridiculous anyways, especially when there are so many boats and water taxis and gondola “taxis” that are so much cheaper! We found out about a certain point where you can cross the water on a gondola for 50 cents because it’s one of the few areas with no convenient bridge. The woman at the tourism office stressed that it was not cool and only 30 seconds long. It was the best whole minute of being on a rainy boat ride that I’ve ever experienced.

Our final night was spent staying in our “tent” listening to kidz bop and eating trail mix and cookies. If that isn’t the perfect end to a romantic Italian adventure, then what is?

 

Time since vacation has been sailing and school has continued to have it’s fantastic and crazy moments. More on that next time.

un beso

 

Florencia. What-uhh? Pisa. Yes-uh.

Before my Italian adventure began a lot of people gushed about how fabulous Florence was. I didn’t have an image in my head because I did the least trip planning ever. Zero minutes of looking up what there is to see and do in Florence. In the end I discovered that it is in fact a fabulous city, world famous for….

1.Its renaissance style architecture

2. Boticelli’s “Venus” in the Uffizi

3. David

4. A lot of income, and fashion to spend it on.

and much more.

 

The original babe.

It rained so much during our one full day in the city that my feet later remained the brownish blackish hue from my shoes mixed with my tights for about two more days.

Day 1: Florence below us in the background.

Me pre-rain in front of il Duomo Cathedral.

I loved peeking down certain narrow streets and seeing vespas of all colors and styles, covered in an extra layer of rain drops.

sleek, slick, chic

This day was a waste of an outfit if you know what I mean. I was hoping to walk past a store like Armani and not look like I had slept under a bridge.

A traditional soup while the storm “passed”

But, all we could do was step inside a cafe for a bit and get some lunch before deciding that we might as well go to Pisa and see if it wasn’t raining as hard there.

In Pisa heading towards….

Who doesn’t take this picture in Pisa? Hipsters, probably.

I don’t know why this other awesome building next to the leaning tower gets no attention.

lean-y

Even though the skies look sort of ominous in my photos, it wasn’t really raining in Pisa, so our non-planned plan worked out perfectly. Most people think that all Pisa has is a tower.Children think it is a slice of pizza.  My conclusion is that it’s a cute city with other architectural and gastronomical surprises. I doubt you would need more than one day there, but there is in fact more than a tower that the soil has failed.

that cozy dessert feeling

Keith and a ray of sunlight!

We finished the day returning to and walking around Florence more, and made plans to go see the Uffizi bright and early the next day.

If you book tickets to the Uffizi museum beforehand it’s more expensive (16 euros I think instead of 11), which seems opposite of what should happen, but it saves you an hour or more of waiting in line. Being cheap and foolish, we waited, but we had to rush. I’d recommend giving yourself at least two hours inside to soak it all up.

Terrace area of the Uffizi

My final recommendation as far as food goes is to try out a sandwich or some french fries from any small vendor or kiosk that you see. They are well known for their “tripa” which is Spanish for intestines…and I forgot the name in Italian, but if you walk up to the stand ask them for a recommendation, they will tell you that sandwich because it’s really common and popular.

I tried it. That’s all I have to say.

We wolfed our sandwiches down on our way to the final train ride of the trip to Venice.

un beso

p.s- If you see this, eat it.

Yum!