Monday, May 7, 2012

La France

After the beautiful but lonely adventure that was Barcelona, it was such a relief to get into France where I not only understood most of what was going on around me, but I was also no longer alone.  It took 10 hours and 5 trains to get to Aubagne but I was so happy to be back where I'd lived two years ago and to stay with my host family again.

The first evening, I was reunited with Anne and Julien and the kids, Paul and Marie, and the pets, Lili, Bubulle, and Choco.  We ate dinner together and caught up on everything that had happened since I left.  The kids are two years older now and it was so crazy to see how much they've grown!  Still so cute though! 

After dinner we watched the French presidential debate on TV.  I don't understand much political vocab so I was a little lost but I could definitely read the emotions from the expressions and gestures.  It was really interesting to be there during this voting time and to experience some of the election with invested French voters. 

The next day I spent in Marseille, taking touristy pictures of myself (I was too cool to do that before when I lived there, haha) and visiting all the sites I used to frequent.  I was so, so happy to be back!  I ate a huge vanilla macaron (best thing in the world) and tried the most delicious cupcake ever at my friend from language school's new bakery.  (Who knew French people didn't know what cupcakes are?)  Then I met the family at the beach and we had a nice crepe dinner all together and with Anne's sister and brother-in-law as well.
(Vieux Port)

Friday I took a walk around the neighborhood with Anne and the kids and then we went into Aubagne city center.  Paul gave me an adorable tour of the shops and video rental store while Anne and Marie were otherwise occupied.  Then they left for the kids' sailing lessons and I got a spinach quiche from my favorite boulangerie and went to my favorite movie theater to see Le Prenom, a hilarious French comedy that I mostly understood.

Marie started taking violin lessons last year and so that evening I got her to play for me.  It turns out she's studying the same method I did so I knew all the songs she had memorized.  They had an extra violin so she and I played together and she was so super adorable!  Such a great memory :)

When it was time to leave for Switzerland Saturday morning, it was really hard to say goodbye.  I hadn't seen them for two years and who knows when I'll see them again.  Still, it was really great to revisit my old haunts and put my memories of that year into my current perspective.  J'adore la France!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Barcelona: Part 3

Today's definitely been my favorite so far.  I started the day with a visit to Casa Mila (above), an apartment complex designed by Gaudi, the same guy who made the cathedral from yesterday's post.  This was even better.  He designed it so it wouldn't have any right angles.  The roof is the best part by far.  I have so many pics of the weird chimneys and Barcelona from above.

Then I went to the park he designed, Park Guell.  Also very beautiful but quite a hike to get there plus everyone and their mother was there today.  (It's a Spanish holiday so we got the tourists and locals.) 

The pic below is me at the park in a spot where they filmed a scene from L'Auberge Espagnol, one of the best movies of all time and the reason I wanted to come to Barca. I didn't even know it was there and I was so excited!!

This evening I got a recommendation from the hostel receptionist and went to a legit Spanish restaurant where I finally had some tapas (specifically seafood paella and asparagus) which satisfied the need for veggies that I've been lacking. 

Well, the computer is thwarting my plans to post more photos and I really need to go to bed.  5:30 wake up call in the morning!  Blah.  Then Marseille by the afternoon.  Hooray!!!

Never mind, fixed the picture thing.  Still need to go to bed though.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Barcelona: Part 2

After about 11 hours of sleep last night, today seemed a lot more promising.  I started it off with a banana from the little grocery shop across the street and immediately went back to the harbor.  This time I was in a prettier area but still no sand.  I did, however, see a ship that I'm pretty certain is the Black Pearl.

Next I wandered up Las Ramblas, dodging tourists and drinking fresh squeezed mango/coconut juice.  I got lost (on purpose this time) in the twisty, old streets of Barri Gotic.  Then I accidentally went clothes shopping.  I didn't mean to, I swear.  European clothes are kind of my vice.  At least it's a pretty vice.

I took the train back to the hostel for a break and to plan the rest of my Barcelona time.  I also tried to work on my budget.  Ew. 

Then I went to Sagrada Familia, Gaudi's most famous work, a cathedral still under construction.  It looks like a sand castle and is really intricate and beautiful.  Gaudi seems to have been quite into curves and swirls and the inside was a writhing mess of awesomeness.  Probably my favorite cathedral I've been to. 

Afterwards I wandered up the street in search of food.  I ended up eating the second half of my sandwich from lunch and buying lemon cinnamon gelato (absolutely outstanding) while watching a movie being filmed down the street.  Probably should have eaten something a bit more substantial since I'm shaking now but that gelato was worth it. 

Now I'm in the hostel, resting my very weary legs (and feet and back and ... well I could just go on), and listening to people talking in at least three different languages in the internet room.  I'm ready to go back to my room but the Indian guy with the pick up lines has now moved into my room and I'm trying to avoid him.  May brave it anyway.  Sleep beckons!!  Hasta luego!


Hola from Barcelona!  I'm reinstating my blog for a month as I'm travelling again and therefore my life is interesting enough to write home about.  Also, I just don't want to forget anything.

I had a smooth overnight flight from Atlanta on Saturday night and arrived in Barcelona, Spain at 8am here (2am at home).  I'd only had about two hours of sleep so that was unfortunate.  But on the plane I was sitting beside a woman from this area who was really happy to tell me all about the places I should visit.  I also watched the 3D Glee Movie so that was cool too, haha.

Upon arrival, I came into the city center by bus.  At the bus stop, which was of course at the main plaza with roads going off in every direction, I got very lost for a few minutes.  I failed to mention that I'd been carrying around my carry-on backpack and regular school backpack since Atlanta.  As the hours had gone by, these had grown heavier and rubbed my shoulders raw.  Also, with a backpack on front and back, I took up a lot of room.  Just trying to paint a picture here.

So imagine this obviously foreign girl who looks like she hasn't slept for a week (remember, last week was finals) wandering around with a map and a wide load.  Then imagine this girl steps off a curb and is instantly sprawled on the ground.  Yeah, you just pictured me...  But don't worry, I'm fine.

Once I found the hostel (which is awesome), I had to leave my stuff in a locker and wait five hours before the room would be ready.  So I tried to walk to the beach.  I managed to find the Arc de Triumph accidentally (pictured above).  It was so beautiful out there!  That's when I remembered I'm super allergic to plane trees.

Eventually, after a sneezy stroll through a park, I found the harbor but no sand.  At that point I realized how far I'd walked, gave up on the beach, and sat down to watch some street performers do tricks with giant hula hoops.  Realizing I couldn't walk back, I figured out how to use the Metro.  Quite efficient. 

Back in the hostel, I ate lunch while chatting with two Indian guys who kept trying to use pick up lines they'd read in a book and one Scottish man who'd spent the last seven weeks biking from Nice to Barcelona.  Finally fed, I slept an hour and a half and headed out to find a restaurant a friend at school told me about.  I found it and went inside.  I then remembered I speak no Spanish and had no idea what to do.  So I walked out.  Instead I found a Middle Eastern restaurant.  From where I was sitting under the TV, I watched people watching Spanish dubbed soap operas over my head.

Back at the hostel, I took a shower (always my least fav hostel experience) and went to sleep at 9.  I then woke up at 12 when everyone came back from the clubs.  My room has ten beds and they were eventually all occupied.  I was also reminded it was coed.  Oh well.

So, that was my first day in Spain.  It's all a little fuzzy because of the exhaustion but it was definitely an adventure.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Jane Seymour

Yesterday was a day I've been waiting for my whole life. I know, this seems over-dramatic, but hey, I was a theatre major. I'm entitled.

I got to meet a movie star!

Jane Seymour is in town filming a movie at Smith Mountain Lake. She's recently written a book called Among Angels filled with her artwork and little stories and notes about angels.

Her people called my people (i.e. my manager at Barnes and Noble) last week to set up a book signing. It was really short notice but they managed to pull it off brilliantly. There were many more people there than I expected and we were selling her little books like hotcakes.

I was supposed to be working in the cafe so I wasn't sure if I'd even get to see her. As it turns out, they switched me to the cash register and I was working right beside the table she was signing at all night. It was amazing but super distracting.

Whenever there weren't any customers in line, I tried to watch what she was doing. But once she saw me watching and I felt like a stalker, so I tried to do that less.

The first thing everyone was whispering as she walked in was "She is so tiny!" And she is. Not only short but so thin. And gorgeous. She still looks just like Dr. Quinn!

She made a little speech before she started signing about why she wrote the book. Everyone in the store went silent and I think we were all a bit mesmerized by her English accent. It felt wrong to even make the noise of wringing up people's purchases, beeping them through the scanner, and stuffing them in the plastic bags.

I was in a serious state of hyperactivity the whole time she was there (and I crashed big time after she left) . Whenever there was nothing to do I was wiggling or tapping on something or talking non-stop. I'm pretty sure the girl I was working with thinks I'm crazy.

At one point I rang up the books of the woman who apparently drove Jane there. I didn't believe her and I thought she was joking so of course I made a fool out of myself. It turns out she was one of the investors for the movie. Oops.

We had so many excited people come through the line. I had one man with a magazine with her on the cover that he stole from his sister in 1984, tons of Dr. Quinn fans, some guys who loved her as a Bond girl, women who love her jewelry line, and a few reluctant men sacrificing their night for the sake of their wives.

So, by the end of the night, I was desperate for my chance to meet her and suddenly it seemed like it may not happen. She was getting tired, her hand was cramping, and she needed to rest before filming that night from 1am to 5am. Yeah, that's right, 1-5. What could they possibly be filming at the lake from 1-5 at night. Anyway...

I was freaking out. One of my co-workers said, "Just go. They should let you past (the security guards) and I'll cover for you here." So I picked up my book and camera and ran. They put me through the line, my manager pushed me to the front, I threw my camera to the assistant manager, and handed Jane my book. I said "thank you so much" and she said "you're welcome". She signed my book, we flashed our smiles for the camera, and I'm pretty sure as I was sprinting off back to my post, I may have yelled "I love you!!!"

Embarrassing? Maybe. But it's ok. According to my autographed book, she loves me too!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Happier Stomach

I've been having issues with my stomach since January. Issues like intense, long-lasting, ridiculous pain every few weeks or even every few days.

I went to the doctor in France to try to make it better. He asked if I was stressed (to which I replied "Of course, I'm living in a foreign country.") and then diagnosed this pain as the result of stress. The French are really big on psychosomatic illnesses.

I thought he was right at the time. It seemed to be the only explanation for this otherwise unpredictable thing.

I quit my theatre class (which involved me driving into Marseille during rush hour, convinced each time that that was the day I would die) and lived with the worry that every time anything nerve-wracking would occur, I would be in pain as well.

While I was over there it happened a lot. And it was miserable.

But then I came home. For the first few weeks, and even now, being at home was the least stressful thing I have ever experienced. I literally did nothing for days at a time. It was boring for sure, but not stressful. But still I had days of pain. I decided that this had to be dealt with.

So I went to my doctor. I described what was going on and she said she didn't feel like it was just stress. So we did blood tests and only came up with one slightly unusual thing. So she referred me to a specialist. He asked questions, poked and prodded, and then had me scheduled for a biopsy of my stomach.

I was terrified of the biopsy. The plan was to put me to sleep, stick a camera down my throat, and take out a piece of my stomach. Yikes! I'd never had anesthesia before and I was not looking forward to it.

It turns out that it was fine. Kinda fun actually. I remember parts of that day like they were a dream and that's kind of amusing.

But after all that, they didn't find anything wrong.

So I had an ultrasound. That was fascinating. I got a good look at my kidneys, spleen, and other various organs, but so far, it looks like everything is fine there too.

I am so frustrated! I obviously don't want them to find anything seriously wrong, but I know something is going on and I want to know what it is. But the pains have been a lot less frequent these past few months. What if the French doctor was right and it was just stress, or maybe something about the food, or some other random thing? Did I waste all this time and money on nothing?

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Family Reunion (And Poison Ivy)

Saturday marked only the second time I've been to my mom's mom's mom's side family reunion. This was the Clements reunion, the side where we're all related distantly to Samuel Clemens (i.e. Mark Twain). I can't help bragging about this, no matter how distant the relationship may be.

There I got to see 3 of my 4 cousins on my mom's side of the family. The oldest, Jacob, I hadn't seen in years. He's 15 now and taller than me, which totally weirded me out. I was so excited to see him and his little brothers.

He and I hung out most of the day talking, catching up, and making fun of each other for being old. I also forced him to eat a plum, took pics of him smashing a pinata, and generally attempted to irritate him in any way possible. Isn't family great? At the end, we escaped the reunion and took a walk by the road. He wanted to show me a creek nearby.

Had I known that his plans involved sliding down two vertical, overgrown banks, tramping through jungles of poison ivy, slipping on frog egg covered river rocks, and eventually ending up barefoot (the reason my foot now has a large, possibly infected, stick-induced hole in it), I may have chosen not to wear Birkenstocks and short shorts.

But besides the foot injury and the constellation of pink, itchy, poison ivy bumps covering my legs and arms, and some other random parts of my body that I can't figure out how they got there, we had a fantastic time. It made me feel like a kid again, playing in the creek with my cousin, just like when we were little. I love family reunions.

Now I have to go apply the itch cream. Stupid poison ivy.