Saturday, April 3, 2010
Much belated updates
Sooooo... I've been wanting to make a post since Luke left, but have just been too occupied to write anything of quality. Luke's time here was a great one, but packed full of things to do. I left Poitiers to go to CDG the night before he arrived. I was easily able to find my hotel shuttle and I had dinner in a restaurant right next to it, which was insanely overpriced for a small piece of slightly cold chicken breast, green beans, bread, and dessert... like 11 euros. But you gotta eat. Or else it would have been a baguette and apple I brought along. I had a hard time sleeping that night. One of those nights where you think you just lie in bed all night just with your eyes closed. I think I woke up around 3 or 3:30 because Luke was supposed to land around 5:30. I got a text from him around 5:00. I headed to the airport and found him pretty easily, which was one thing I was concerned about. I probably got some stares in the airport when I practically attacked him right after I saw him as I walked around the corner. They don't really hug in France. Or jump on people in over-excited joy. Usually the most you get is the famous two-cheek kiss, which I gave him also. We went back to the hotel and I let Luke take a little nap before we went downstairs to have a buffet breakfast for less than 5 euros, which was very reasonably priced in my opinion... compared to the hotel we stayed at the night before he left, which was 20 euros for breakfast (I'll express my disappointment in this hotel later). After we checked out, we went back to the airport, where we got RER tickets (the region Paris train) and took it to Gare Montparnasse. From there we took the métro to our hostel, which had me a little confused because we had to find it from the opposite side of where I found it the last time I stayed there. We couldn't check into St. Christopher's yet when we got there, so we left our luggage in their extremely small luggage room. After ditching our idea to go to Versailles (because it would have easily taken half the day, is a trip to get to, and Luke didn't even really know what it was anyway), we went to the L'arc de Triomphe. We walked down the Champs-Elysées some. I originally planned to walk all the way down to the Place de la Concorde, but that was much further than I knew. So we just went into Louis Vuitton and walked past the Maison du Danemark, which absolutely necessitated a photo with Luke since he has Danish ancestry. I think by that time Luke was pretty pooped, so we went back to the hostel, checked in, and took a nap. That night we went on the Bateaux-Mouches, the boats which go up and down the Seine. I hadn't done that since 2006, and it's a nice way to see a lot of Paris' most famous landmarks. The next day we walked down some of the Canal St. Martin, which our hostel sits right next to. We just so happened to stumble upon a super cheap grocery store, which was pretty much a miracle for Paris. Luke bought a thing of juice and was drinking out of it as we walked. Very not french. Very Luke. Ha. Oh well. We made our way to Parc des Buttes Chaumont, a really beautiful park I happened to find out about during my research of what to see and do. After that we took the métro to the Canal St. Martin location seen in one of my favorite french films, Amélie. Unfortunately we weren't able to go stand on the exact canal bridge. We did get to see a long skinny boat make its way through the canal, and the guys having to run around opening dams in the canal and flooding sections of the canal so the boat could pass. It was hilarious to watch this duck who was obviously very confused when the boat began to sink with the water level. We went to Pigalle, walked past the sex shop in the film, and went to the erotic museum. Needless to say, that was a unique experience. Only in Pigalle haha. We stood outside Moulin Rouge and took some pictures. We couldn't afford the 90 euros per person show. Sad. Someday when I'm richer and older. We walked up the hill right beside it up into Montmartre, where we went to Café Les Deux Moulins, the café from Amélie, and had crème brûlée. I was in heaven. If you've seen the movie, you should know why. When we were done we booked it to Notre Dame to try to make it in time for the last group to go into the belltowers. Since I've never been able to find where you go for the belltowers, I ran inside to ask where to go, and the lady was actually pretty rude in saying "it's outside and around the corner but you're too late". I ran out there and it was pretty much right at closing time, and they'd already cut off the line. I was livid. Mostly because it was kinda my own stupid fault for not managing time better, and also since I'd always wanted to see it and had never been able to. And I really wanted Luke to see it since he loves the Disney movie. I felt bad for Luke afterwards having to put up with my adult temper tantrum, but I just wanted it to go right and this kind of stupid stuff happens to me all the time. So we just went inside and I could let the solemnness of the church calm my nerves. Luke helped a little bit too :) After that we booked it again to the Louvre. I read online that it closed at 6. We made it there by 5:15. When we got inside, I noticed none of the ticket booths were open. I asked information what was going on and they told me they w selling tickets at 5:30. I checked my phone, which had the exact time, and it was 5:20. I could have bitched and complained to them, but that would have done absolutely no good. I've just learned that in France, things close before they close, at which point I just broke down. I hate crying in public. Thank god for big black sunglasses. At least Luke got to see the lobby. Oh boy. The Eiffel Tower was next. I wanted to go up all the way to the top so bad. They stupidly had only TWO pillars open, one being the elevator, the other the stairs. Of course, the elevator line spanned the entire bottom width of the tower, and easily would have been a 3 hour wait. At this time of the day, my feet were killing me since I was wearing flats with 0 support. I almost convinced myself to suck it up and take the stairs but Luke talked me out of it. We stood beside it and I took pictures of him in his halloween french costume. Unfortunately he FORGOT his béret. We walked across the street to the crêpe shop and got a lemon one which we ate on the side of the river. On our way back to the hostel, we went back to the cheap grocery store and got some dinner food. We had every intention of going back to the hostel, taking a nap, waking up around 10 and going to a club next to the L'arc de Triomphe until around 3 or 4 am, but Luke passed out. I did too eventually. And I knew it would be complicated taking the night buses getting back and the next morning we had what should have been a train at 11:45 to go to Nice. The next morning we checked out, took the métro to Gare de Lyon, and when we arrived, we saw that our train wasn't posted on the departure board. I stood in the information line and asked what was up. The guy told me the train had been "annulé"... cancelled... and for unknown reasons. Maybe not enough tickets sold, but 9 chances out of 10 it was because of some sort of strike. That's how you get things done in France. The next one was in 5 hours. Thanks God... glad to know you don't hate me. So we sat for a little while trying to figure out what we were going to do. We decided to ask if there were lockers since we couldn't go back to St. Christopher's and expect them to hold our stuff after we already checked out. We paid almost 10 euros for a locker for our luggage and went back to Notre Dame, where we waited for I don't know how long... maybe a little less than 2 hours... to go up to the belltowers. We almost gave up on it, but we finally made it. I was pretty excited. The bells rang right when were on the crossing between the two towers, which I have a video of. Loud. I was just so glad we did actually have another chance to see it. That's pretty much the only good thing that came from a cancelled train. I got some pictures of Luke with the gargoyles and I got a video of him singing the song from Notre Dame song from the movie without him knowing haha. Precious. When we were done we walked past the birdman, who's always standing outside Notre Dame feeding the pigeons. And then we went around the outside of the church to admire the architecture. We tried the Louvre again. Went there with all these hopes of having another chance to see that too... but I forgot that it was closed on tuesdays. And didn't remember this fact until we got there. So tell me why there were so many people just chillaxing outside and what seemed to be people going in? Luke and I sat around the fountain around the pyramid for a while, then went back to the train station. By then it was almost time for our train. It was a little nerve wracking since we were told to just find a place to sit since we no longer had official reserved seats. But come hell or high water I was determined that we were going to get first class seats, since that's what I booked. Fortunately for the whole ride, no one got on the train to wave their ticket in our faces and say we were sitting in their seats. Luke slept most of the way, which was fine. He still wasn't used to the time difference I think. Meanwhile I had to call our hostel in Nice to tell them that we were going to be arriving after the reception closed. Thank god I took the time to print out the hostel info from the website I booked it with. We arrived at midnight, basically cutting us short of precious Nice-time by about 7 hours. The walk to the hostel wasn't bad at all, about 15 minutes. We had to use a code to get into the building and then a code to get our room key out of a safe. The hostel was very old, but charmingly so. I was happy with it. We got our stuff into the room and then took the 2 minute walk down the street to the beach and the Promenade des Anglais. There was NO ONE. Much deader than what would seem normal to me for France. People start to go out at midnight. The next day we basically just walked around. Went to the beach again and near the water, where I almost lost my flip-flop in the tide. We went to "Vieux Nice" (the old part of Nice) and walked through the streets. Bought 3 baguettes at a bakery, and Luke had one entirely eaten by the time we found a grocery store to buy things to make sandwiches. We bought ham, grated Emmental cheese, crème caramel things, and a cheap peach champagne which was delicious. We sat on the stairs going to the beach and had lunch. When we were finished, I took Luke to the park with the carousel which was right next to the hotel I stayed in the last time I was in Nice. I think after that we walked around some more then went back to the hostel where we took a nap again. In the evening we went back out for another walk. Found a decently priced grocery store where I made Luke buy a reusable grocery bag for his mom, because I knew she'd love it. That night we were going to give going to a club another go, but again we were too tired. The next morning we took the train back to Paris so we could go to Poitiers. This time Luke could see the Cote d'Azur coastline since last time it was night. In Paris we had to slightly hurry to take the métro from Gare de Lyon to Gare Montparnasse. As our train left Paris, it started to pour rain. That's another thing (one of the few) that went in my favor. Not being rained on in Paris. When we arrived in Poitiers, we took the bus back to where I live. And we had dinner in the RU ("Restaurant Universitaire"), which I think Luke was pretty impressed to get a decent meal for under 3 euros. We also met up with Caroline, a little reunion between fellow Ducks, which was nice. The next day we kinda had a late start, but went to Leclerc to get some groceries because I had almost no food, and later in the afternoon I took him to the university where we met up with Sophie and I introduced them. That went pretty well. We had the intention of going to Futuroscope after that, but it continued to be rainy and cold and I figured we'd try the next day. That night I took Luke around town some, near the river and such. I wanted to take him to La Grand' Goule which is a really awesome club very very close to where I live, but again we were tired and it was windy and rainy outside and it sounded like a better idea to us for me to just cook dinner and watch Amélie. The next morning we thought we could get up early and get to Futuroscope when it opened and get back by around 2. Yeahhh no. Way too tired and it was still rainy and cold. So we went to take a walk in the afternoon. I took Luke to Cathédrale St. Pierre and we went to this café Caroline recommended that had excellent hot chocolate. It cracks me up how they serve sugar with it here. Always... and despite being american and being used to everything being packed with sugar, I actually like it the way it is. We caught our train around 4:15 back to CDG. Got to the place where our shuttle was supposed to be, and it came, but it sort of pulled up, and as I walked up to it to get on the driver kinda of waved me away, turned around, and then parked on the side of the street for about 15 minutes. Then he let the people off the bus. I walked up to some people, a father and teenage daughter, and asked them in french what was going on with the bus. They were actually american and I sort of intimidated the poor girl at first haha. I actually can't remember the reason why he pulled over and just sat there, but then he came for us and we got back on the bus. Luke and I talked with the father and daughter on our way to our hotel. When we got there, there was only 1 girl at the front desk checking people in and answering the phone. Once we finally got up to the desk and checked in, we found out the pool closed in 20 minutes. I should note that the ONLY reason I booked this hotel and decided to pay the 20 or so more euros to do so was BECAUSE it had a pool, and I thought that would be a nice way to relax and spend the evening. Also, I swear I booked a non-smoking room, which was completely booked, so we had to take a smoking room. Nice. We got to our room, which had the air conditioning on (trying to air out the room maids?) The smell wasn't too bad but it was noticeable. We opened the window but that didn't help much. We decided to have dinner in their Irish restaurant downstairs with its ridiculously overpriced food. But we hadn't spent much on food the entire trip. I got some mexican thing and Luke got some chinese thing and we shared. I was not impressed. The quality was pretty horrible and the portions were tiny... but I guess you have to compare the american and european definition of portion size. I was surprised that the vanilla crème brûlée was decent sized. Later that night, Luke needed to try to get his tickets printed, so went to see how much internet was. EIGHT euros for THIRTY minutes. I've never ever seen internet prices that high. He found out he could just print it at the airport. I probably looked like a dumbass when I asked them if we were charged to even watch TV, but honestly I felt like we were going to be charged for everything we did in that hotel. The next morning there were 2 people at the desk both with lines, so Luke got in a line and I got in the other. I would have reached the desk first, but then as the guy in front of me finished, this indian guy came out of absolutely no where and cut in front of me. I figured maybe he was in front of me but standing to the side and I just didn't notice him, but Luke said he definitely cut. All he wanted to do was do a currency exchange for like a ridiculous little amount which took about 20 minutes. During this time the shuttle came and left. He saw me getting anxious and said "don't worry i'm taking the shuttle too" i said "yeah but it's gonna leave". I said to the guy at the desk that we were in a hurry and just wanted to check out. I felt bad for him because he was going as fast as he could and looked a little flustered when I said that to him. I didn't want to look like a total elitist bitch, but I was PISSED. I should have said something, but it caught me off-guard. So Luke reached the desk from his line first. They tried to charge us for our dinner again. We paid for it the night before. She kept listing the things she thought we had at dinner, none of which was ours. Luke showed her the receipt and it was ok, but still. Seriously, get your S together. Never ever staying there again. To catch the shuttle we had to run to a neighboring hotel and it almost drove off as we were running up to it. When we got to the airport, I found out that because it had turned to daylight savings time the night before, we were there an hour earlier than we should have been. I changed my phone's clock because I figured all the clocks in the room and the hotel hadn't been changed yet, and that my phone wouldn't automatically switch. After that things went pretty smoothly. I was just a little mad though because we got to security and of course it was packed but the line looked like it was going pretty quick, but Luke insisted that he go. But it was 2 hours before his flight. So we disputed that for about 15 minutes. After a difficult goodbye, I found a wifi center and paid 3 or so euros for 30 minutes of internet, which timed out and I didn't check my email to get the password to sign back in. So I paid 3 or so euros for about 5 minutes. Lovely. Then I went to the train station in the airport. And sat for about 4 hours. Got back to Poitiers and basically cleaned and felt alone for the rest of the day. Despite all the difficulty, I'm so glad Luke got the chance to come see me. I'll try to get videos posted after vacation when I can upload them from school with a fast internet connection. It takes me about 1.5 hours to upload about 30 seconds of video with my internet connection. Feels worse than dial-up.
But here's the link to all the photos on my facebook... my photos and Luke's photos.
Other news: Starting today, I have 2 weeks of vacation. I originally wanted to go to Italy for a week and then the UK for the next week, but quickly realized I absolutely do not have the funds for that right now. So I'm staying in Poitiers this week, so I can get some homework done, start going to physical therapy for my finger, and keep my hospital appointment for next friday. Now I'm thinking the second week of my vacation I might go to London and hopefully Dublin. Unfortunately I have to go alone, but that's ok as long as I'm not dumb about it. I've talked to a lot of people who have traveled alone and they say it's fine and sometimes even better than traveling with someone. I can't just sit in Poitiers the whole time and do nothing. I think I could maybe go to Italy after I get done with school in mid-May. Go visit my friends in the south of France, then go to Italy, then up to Germany and then go home. I will be completely satisfied at this point in my life if I can see England, Ireland, and Italy while I'm here.
Tomorrow I wanted to go with Lucie to Bordeaux to do some vineyard touring and wise tasting. But unfortunately I called to late to try to reserve a place and the woman told me she "believed" it was full. Bummmerr. So I'll just have to try again sometime before I leave France. A little spendy... 60 euros for the tour and the round-trip tickets to get there, but I think it would be a neat thing to see.
I'm officially legal. On the 31st I finished the process of getting my visa finalized. It included getting my lungs scanned to check to tuberculosis (yay for healthy lungs... something not so common in France), and then a nurse and doctor exam, where they did the normal stuff and asked me about my meds, past illnesses, family medical history, and pricked my finger for a blood sugar sample. Then I just gave them all the paperwork they wanted and they glued another thing into my passport. With that I've opened a CAF file, which is a thing with the government which will subsidize my housing, paying like 100 euros a month. I'll get a nice reimbursement check when I leave I think.
I had a german test yesterday which went a little better than I planned, but I think I really sucked at the whole "translate from german to french" part. The prof allowed me to use a dictionary, which helped a little. But translation from german to french is soooo hard. I told the prof I was considering dropping the class since everyone in it has been studying german for about 8 years... about the same amount of time that I've studied french. She told me to take the test and see how I do and then decide from there. So I don't know what's going to happen with that.
I start physical therapy for my finger on monday. Truth be told, I probably should have started it the week I got back from the hospital, but I got busy, then Luke was here the next week, and then this week just took some time to get Sylvie to call for me to get it started. It's healing pretty well though. All the stitches are gone and I think the scar is going to be pretty small. The problem now is that I can't bend it like I used to. I can write pretty well though. But that's what the therapy is supposed to fix. They said it would take 6 weeks to heal anyway. I'm supposed to wear the stupid brace thing they gave me, but I haven't been because I literally could do nothing with it on. And it's dumb to sleep with it on because my finger falls out of the little sling it sits in. I'm thinking that, like my hospital stay, the treatment has been a little over-done. I never got the pain medication, bandages or anti-biotics like they told me too. They said I would need a nurse to come to where I live every 2 days and redo the bandages. Not necessary. And I never had any real pain that would have made me need a prescription pain killer. And I kept it very clean.
Last night I went to a surprise birthday party for a thrown by a french girl for a french girl I met. They both are going to UO for a year in september. Meet a lot of french people and it was a pretty good night. I swore I wouldn't be there very long, but I ended up staying there till about 2:30 or 2:45 and walked home with Caroline. We got approached by a north african guy who I think asked us to get a drink, and we were both thinking hell no. Who honestly just sees people walk by and asks them to get a drink? You yourself have got to be drunk.. he probably was. Whatever... as long as you don't pursue us... do as you please.
So that's pretty much it for now.