Wednesday, April 27, 2011

and off we go!

hey everyone!

this is going to be a quick post, because in an hour.. i’m starting my journey to SPAIN! i’ll be catching the bus from my dorm to the train station, getting on a train to the airport in paris, and flying to barcelona. :) by the end of this day, i’ll be sleeping in a whole new country!

the last week has been filled with as much friend time as possible.. when i get back from this trip, several of my good friends won’t be here. :( it’s been really hard to say goodbye.. i feel so close to all of these people and i can’t imagine what it’s going to be like when i can’t run down the hall and scratch on a door in the middle of the night. plus, i’m going to miss all these canadian and irish accents! i actually had a bit of a panic-attack break-down sort of thing the other night, thinking about this whole ‘parting ways forever’ business. it’s so tough. but i’m doing my best to make the most of every moment – and i know that goodbye doesn’t mean forever with these people. there’s no way.

easter sunday was FABULOUS here in franceland. i biked into town in the morning to meet my friends andrea and jane (and andrea’s parents) and attend easter mass at a beautiful old church. the stained glass was making reflections on the pillars above the altar, and the slightly incensed air and smoke made the whole thing look like a painting. it was interesting to see the differences in what an easter service at a french catholic church was like in comparison to what i know the easter service is like at rolling hills, my church at home. after the service, i biked over to the only store that was open to pick up a few things for easter brunch! we did the full thing, just like for my birthday last week. it was delicious, and so fun to meet/spend time with andy’s parents!

after brunch, i worked on a few things for this trip – there is a lot of preparation that goes into a 2 week excursion to the mediterranean! :) i skyped with my parents and drew as well. since lent was officially over, i had planned to make an awesome easter dinner – i ended up deciding to do an orange-glazed chicken with spring veggies and pasta salad. it was REALLY good – jessie, rachel, and danielle ate with me. my vegetarian life is over! i’ll definitely be eating less meat now, but it’s good to be back. :)

rachel and i will be meeting up in about an hour to head to the train station.. i’m about 95% packed and ready to go! but here’s some BIG NEWS; we’ve started a video log about our travels in europe – it’s a youtube channel called TheEuropeanAdventure. watch the intro video to learn more, and subscribe to catch us at the 
next stop!

off i go... :)
x jill

Thursday, April 21, 2011

teenager no more!!

first off, i’d just like to thank the many, many people who made my 20th birthday so very special. it was a birthday i’ll not soon forget!
here’s what my weekend looked like.. :)

thursday, 14 april 2011

i had two exams on thursday – my LAST two! they were both translation tests, french to english (aka the easier kind!), so there was no studying involved. how can you study for a translation exam? you can’t. once i finished those tests at noon, i was freeeeee! i came back and chilled out for a while, doing some planning and requesting couches for my upcoming trip. the evening was spent cooking with friends and hanging out. my friend shane had a visitor for a few days – his best friend from ireland, named rowan. they showed up around 8pm and we all stayed in the kitchen, talking and goofing off. around 10:30, we went over to say goodbye to lucy, one of the girls from the UK, who went home on saturday. when we got over there, though, everyone was going out! as it ended up, me, jessie, claire, shane, and rowan biked into town to hang out with everyone at this bar called ‘okapi’ – it was PACKED with students, because thursday night is student night. we had fun though! it was a slow bike ride back, and we finally got home around 2:30. i pretty much passed right out – so tired!!!

friday, 15 april 2011

friday was my first “birthday excursion”. joined by five of my friends (rachel, newton, claire, ariel, and laura), i took a bus to a chateau about 18km outside of angers, called the chateau brissac. it’s actually the tallest chateau in the loire valley – 7 floors! we arrived in brissac, which is seriously small, around noon and went straight to the tourism centre. the plan was to have a picnic and walk around until the chateau tours opened back up at 2pm. the women told us to try the bakery/butcher in the town plaza, unless we wanted to walk 2km to the supermarket. we bought baguettes, cheese, and salami and had some great little sandwiches! well, i just had bread and cheese.. only one week left of my vegetarian lifestyle!! but yeah, lunch was great. it was a little overcast, but we had fun regardless. after lunch, we walked all over the town, killing an hour. after stopping for some hot chocolate, we made our way over to the chateau. for 8 euro, we got a private guided tour of the chateau, a free wine tasting, and access to the huge gardens! not too bad. the building itself was beautiful – extremely detailed carvings, classic fairytale architecture.. after seeing several chateaux in my time here, i would definitely say it was the most “beauty and the beast” looking castle i’ve seen so far. :) the tour was cool, too. we got to see the main reception room, the sitting parlour, the “ballroom”, the dining room, the king’s bedchamber, the grand theatre.. it was AWESOME. the coolest part was that the noble family of brissac (the duke and his family) still live in the castle! they occupy 10 of the 204 rooms. how neat is THAT! we spent the whole day looking for laszlo, the 16 year old future duke of brissac. :) after the tour, we went and had our little wine tasting before going to play around in the gardens for the afternoon. we had a great time taking silly pictures and sitting in the grass. around 3:30, we left and went to finish our walk around the town before taking the 5:20 bus back to angers. the walk didn’t take that long, so we ended up sitting in the sun again for about 30 more minutes near the bus stop. it was so lovely though.

after a few different buses, we made it back to campus and headed right to superU to get stuff for dinner – we had decided to do a big fajita night! so i bought some things, and got cooking around 8:30. since shane’s a real vegetarian and i’m not eating meat for lent (and because meat is expensive), we just made veggie fajitas. but i made guacamole and we had some other toppings, and the whole result was super delicious! it’s such a great feeling when you cook for lots of people and then at the end of the meal, literally all the food is gone. i love it. we hung out in the kitchen some more and then once the night guard came to close it up, we moved to shane’s room. i stayed for about 20 minutes of ‘the shining’ and then headed to bed. not my kind of movie, and i was so tired!

saturday, 16 april 2011

about 2 weeks ago, i signed up for a ‘daytrip to the sea’ excursion that the international office had organized.. the trip had places for 50 people - for 10 euro, we got to visit 4 cities/sites, get dinner, AND it included transportation! seriously, it was a ridiculously cheap trip. the spots filled up in like 3 hours, but luckily natalie, claire, rachel and i got spots. we met the tour bus at 8:45 outside the school and hopped on for an hour and a half ride toward the atlantic. our first stop was in a preserved village called ‘kehrinet’ – a tiny, tiny place in the middle of nowhere, with about 18 thatch-roofed cottages and some animals. it was really cool to see what those little villages looked like centuries ago! it felt even MORE like beauty and the beast. (i realize that i make this comparison all the time.. but seriously, you can’t understand how often i feel like i’m living in the movie over here!) we walked around looking at the restored cottages, marveling at the fact that thatch roofs actually work, and checking out the artisan shops. after an hour and a half, we all piled back into the bus and headed to the next stop, about 30 minutes away. it was a fortified city called ‘guerande’ – all contained within fortress walls. we got there right in the middle of the saturday market, which automatically means AWESOME LUNCH. we got baguettes, some brie, and roasted potatoes. the girls got some meat for the sandwiches, and i got spinach. and we sat in the sunshine in a courtyard in front of the church and ate one of the most delicious meals i have consumed here in france. there is literally nothing like a market lunch. i am going to miss it so much. i bought raspberries for dessert, which i ended up putting on the waffle that i bought later (see the picture). DELISH. after lunch, we explored the city some more before lying down in the grass for a little nap. at 3pm, we hopped back on the bus – this time on our way to do a drive-through tour of a city called ‘le croisic’ – with gorgeous rocky beaches. our last touristy stop was ‘la baule’. according to our guide sheet, it is the “most beautiful beach in europe”.. i beg to differ. they also said it was the longest beach in europe, which i’ll believe – it was like 12km long. the little town seemed pretty ritzy – i got the feeling it was a pretty standard “rich people come here in the summer” kind of beach town. it was cloudy, sadly, so we layed on the beach for just a little while and then walked around until ti was time to get back on the bus at 6:30. on the way home, we stopped for dinner at what was essentially a mall food court, except they only had one thing to eat. i didn’t get the fish – just veggies and rice. the dessert was this weird marshmallow cube thing in some cream sauce. the bus ride home was long, but i just listened to music. we finally got home around 10pm, and i was EXHAUSTED. i talked to my friends on my floor for a while and then went to bed bed bed.

sunday, 17 april 2011

i didn’t even set an alarm on sunday. i just wanted to sleep. i woke up around 11, feeling wonderful. i worked on some couchsurfing stuff for a while and then showered, etc. i worked on third year writing stuff and layed out during the afternoon, and then went over to my friend rachel’s room around 6pm.

rachel is a youtube guru – she has two channels (one in french, one in english), where she posts videos giving people fashion, makeup, and just all around style tips. she has nearly 6,000 subscribers! a few weeks ago, rachel had a great idea.. she wants us to do a “european adventure” channel, where we document our summer travels. so.. we’re doing it! on sunday, she gave me a little makeover and we took pictures for our channel. it was a lot of fun. :) after the photo shoot, we made dinner and hung out for a while, planning some video ideas and talking to people. i came back to skype around 11pm. i got to talk to my best friend, also named rachel, who lives in california. and then, i skyped drew at midnight – officially my birthday! :) we talked for a while, and then shane came to invite me to a movie night in his room. when i walked in the door, about 6 of my friends started singing ‘happy birthday’ to me! so sweet. :) shane has a blow-up mattress, so his tiny room can actually fit like 10 people for a movie night – stadium seating! we watched the movie ‘snatch’ – always great. afterwards, shane put on his ‘virtual fireplace’ recording and played guitar quietly. it was so lovely – natalie said later it was the most ‘at home’ she’d felt since she left winnipeg. and i know what she meant.. it was just so comfy and nice and awesome. around 3am, i finally roused myself from my semi-sleep state and went to bed.

monday, 18 april 2011

birthday!!!! all my monday classes finished last week, but i still woke up early (painfully) to go to the store and get some things for BIRTHDAY BRUNCH! several of my friends came over around 10:30 and all contributed to a freaking fantastic birthday breakfast. we had crepes (and nutella, strawberries, kiwi, bananas, and whipped cream), french toast, cinnamon apples, eggs, potatoes, juice.. it was amazing. and the best part was that we ate it ALL! yummyyy. after brunch, i hung out with friends and said goodbye to shane’s friend rowan. i took a post-brunch coma nap for a bit before heading over to rachel’s for our girly get ready party at 5:30. i had made a reservation for a big group dinner that night, so a bunch of us got makeovers from the makeup queen herself, rachel martino. and we all dressed up and it was so funnnn! we took the bus into town, stopping by the fountain at the cathedral steps to have a little photo shoot. it was kind of like prom, actually! haha! we hopped back on the bus and got to the restaurant right on time. they had the back room set up for us, because the reservation was for 18 people. i think it ended up being 15 people total! shane had ANOTHER friend named danjoe come visit on monday – he arrived just in time for dinner! and, one of the girls from last semester came back to visit, so she joined us too. :) we had a great time – the food was delicious (and not too expensive), everyone looked beautiful, and it was just a fantastic night. we took one of the last buses out of town, and i scurried upstairs to skype my parents before my birthday was officially over. GREAT DAY!

tuesday, 19 april 2011

no class, still. spent the morning catching up on sleep and then the afternoon working on travel plans. dinner was salad and soup and time with friends! after such a weekend, i needed a quiet night. :)

wednesday, 20 april 2011

yesterday was awesome. i got up and went to class (haha) at 10am, but he only kept us for like 10 minutes. long enough to say that it was the final class, and to ask if the exchange students would be interested in attending a dinner next month. wahoo! that meant that summer officially started yesterday. HOLLAAA! i came back and worked on more travel stuff before going over to superU with emma, shane, and danjoe. we came back to eat lunch, and then shane, danjoe and i biked over to the lake nearby to chill out with some people for a while. we even had a soccer ball, so i FINALLY got to play some soccer. it was marvelous. around 7:30, we made our way back, stopping by the store to pick up some wine for danjoe. we came back and i skyped drew for a while.. around 9pm, i made a quick dinner and then got ready for our GREASE SING-A-LONG party!! about 10 of us dressed up in 50’s clothes and watched grease together. it was shane’s idea, and it ended up being SO fun! i haven’t laughed so hard in a while.. we were positively belting out those songs.. high notes and all. some people left after grease, but a few of us stayed and talked/half-watched ‘rocky horror’ for a while. i finally went to bed around 3. this whole staying up late thing is starting to become a habit! luckily, i start traveling soon, so i’ll get back on track. :)


the rest of the week is going to be travel-preparation! i’m happy to spend a few more days with people in angers, as several of my friends will be gone when i get back from this next trip! rachel and i leave for barcelona on the 27th, and will be gone for just under 2 weeks – staying in barcelona for a week and then the french riviera for about a week as well! we’re so excited! :) 

ps - see pictures of this weekend here. and my pictures from bordeaux are finally up as well! :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

a week in the life..

in retrospect, i feel like last week was a pretty good illustration of life here in franceland. well, partly. minimal classes, lots of hang-out time. here’s a summary...

monday, 4 april 2011
art history – the last class before the exam.. professor didn’t quite finish the lecture, so he said he’d just lecture before the exam next week. great.. now i have to make sure i catch every little detail, because it’s all fair game for the exam during the same class period – no time to go back home and research/verify, etc. stressful. we covered a lot of stuff, too. yikes.
nap. computer time. lunch.
langue française class – i’d already given my final presentation, so now all that’s left is to sit and listen to other people’s exposés.. an hour and a half later, my brain was dripping out of my ears and i’d revised my summer plans 14 times.
grocery shopping at superU with my peoples.
conversation workshop – brutally boring. it’s not really much of a conversation class if we get in trouble for talking...
dinner with friends, as usual.
tuesday, 5 april 2011
no classes on tuesday.. wonderful day of relaxation. slept in, worked on some homework, chilled outside, studied for my culture exam. i’m going to miss my little weekend-in-the-middle-of-the-week next semester when i go back to the real world..
wednesday, 6 april 2011
translation in the morning.. it’s always painful when the professor calls on 10 exchange students in a row, and they’re all absent. thankfully i had my work done, so when he finally got to my name, i had something to contribute.
techniques of french expression – again, i’ve already given my final presentation, so i just had to listen to other ones. more interesting than langue française class, but still pretty brutal.
culture – final exam! which took me approximately 14 minutes. once we finished, my friend andrea invited me to join her and a friend for an evening out – they were planning on going to a restaurant in town that specializes in soufflés. a few weeks before, our culture professor had given us a list of 12 restaurants in angers, all of which i vowed to try. since the soufflérie was on the list, i happily accepted the invitation. decision EVER. soufflé has to be on my list of most delicious creations on the planet. i had a goat cheese and broccoli soufflé that i can only imagine was sent from heaven, and then the three of us shared a chocolate soufflé for dessert. i must learn how to make soufflé. i must.
thursday, 7 april 2011
happy first birthday to my favourite little baby boy, baker wiley cooper! his mom, charlotte, was my french teacher (and subsequent role model) in high school (and life), so i have a special place in my heart for that kid. i even got my tattoo the day he was born! so happy first birthday to my tattoo as well.
i just have two classes on thursdays – a two hour block of translation from 10-12. since it’s french to english translation, it’s pretty easy for me. i love to hear the different english options that the students and professors suggest for various french phrases. sometimes, they’re better than my translation, because oftentimes you get so caught up in the translation aspect of the work that you forget how you actually speak. for example, at one point i said ‘furrowed her eyebrows’ instead of just ‘frowned’. or, better yet, i said ‘make her spirit rest at its sides’ (what?) instead of ‘keep her mind from wandering’. see, direct translation just gets messes everything up. anyway, those classes always entertain me.
after classes are over at noon, my weekend starts. i went back to my room to get a few things done before biking into town to run some errands. i went to the bank, a few little bookstores, the cutest knick-knack store ever, and then bought a baguette and layed out by the fountain to read in the sunshine. it was a glorious afternoon.
as i was walking around angers, i was very nearly overcome with a seriously strong urge to write. except i didn’t have a journal.. so here is what my heart was saying on thursday afternoon;
                dear friends and family back home.. i have been lying to you. i don’t just live in france. i live in paradise.. where the sun doesn’t fully set until 9pm at night. where women in their sixties wear mini-skirts and stand in front of store windows, checking out red strappy heels because they have the figure to pull them off. where every decent café has outdoor seating if the weather is even mildly pleasant, and plazas become huge, open seating areas on sunny days. where every flowerbed overflows with a tasteful array of colours and species – pink tulips mixed with purple and white pansies, deep orange poppies blending with bright yellow buttercups. where baguettes are 75 cents, and always fresh. where people are always chic, but never overstated – they just care about how they look, and it shows. where travel is cheap enough to go somewhere every weekend and still not break the bank. where classes end in mid-april, and grades are based on tests taken and presentations given throughout the semester – no finals. where people take pride in their language, because it’s beautiful. where dogs are allowed inside stores and restaurants, because they’re always well-behaved. where lunch breaks are an hour and a half long. where bakeries are more like art galleries, with little masterpieces on display, each unique and delicious. my friends – this is france, and it is wonderful.
friday, 8 april 2011
three day weekend, every week. i’ve said it before and i’ll say it again.. it’s a hard life. slept in again (this is becoming a bad habit – but for me, sleeping in is like 10am..), answered some emails, had a spa afternoon, listened to some old music and succumbed to nostalgia for the afternoon. there had been plans to go to a barbeque at the lake for dinner, but people ended up not leaving until way too late, and i was feeling a little under the weather, so i stayed back and made curry to clear my sinuses. and then my friends came back, saying no one was there. we hung around and talked for a while, convincing the desk attendant man to leave the kitchen open late for us. he’s an angel, i swear – such a nice man. i stayed up entirely too late skyping my sweet boyfriend, but it was well-worth it. :)
saturday, 9 april 2011
epic lie-in.. woke up at 11 and got ready to go meet my friends downtown for a picnic! i packed my little lunch (peanut butter and honey sandwich, carrot / red pepper sticks, apple) and took the bus into town. we ate in a little pavilion in the middle of a big park – there were SO many people there! it was a beautiful day, so everyone was out doing their own picnic-y thing. we got some ice cream and then hopped on a bus to the edge of town for our guided tour at the cointreau museum! cointreau is a very famous orange liqueur, invented and still produced here in angers! for less than 9 euro each, the six of us got to watch a film that told about the history of cointreau (and showed REALLY cool film footage of angers from the late 1800’s/early 1900’s!), tour the factory, learn about the advertising campaigns, AND do a taste-test! the ‘degustation’ was totally the best part, even though i don’t really like the taste of cointreau. we walked into the “bar”, which was super snazzy and chic. we had our own little couch and chairs, set around a table already set with glasses and ice. we got to try THREE different cocktails (well worth the 9 euro at this point) – straight cointreau on ice, a bubbly mixed drink, and the classic ‘cointreaupolitan’. plus, we got a little plate of snacks. we seriously felt SO fancy and glamorous! once the tour was over, we headed back to town and i grabbed a pain au chocolat from my favourite bakery before catching the bus back to campus.
dinner was great – a guy who was here last semester came back for a visit, and since he was always cooking for people last term, he made fajitas for everyone saturday night. i had mine without the chicken (two more weeks of vegetarianism... two. more. weeks.) and they were still delicious! after fajitas, we all went out to a bonfire for a while, where emma and i had a wonderful girly chat before being interrupted and hit on by two seedy french dudes. “ze best way to learn fuhrench is to ‘ave uh fuhrench boyfran.” oh really? thanks. “vith ze fire, eet ez hot, but vith you two here, whoo! i am burning.” yeah, he went there. i was amused for a while, but ended up getting tired and leaving around 1:30am. i came back and went to bed – sooo tired.
sunday, 10 april 2011
happy birthday DAD!!! super sad i wasn’t home to celebrate (and eat cake.. sigh) – i hope it was a lovely day. i spent all day studying for my art history exam – typing up notes, reading handouts, researching vocabulary, inserting pictures. by the end of the night, i was feeling pretty confident. since the last test was so bad, i was determined to show my professor what’s what. this time around, i knew what kind of test to expect, so i felt much more prepared. i made a really good salad (lettuce, goat cheese, apples, avocado on the side) and had a wonderful time having girl talk with my favourite floormates – emma, jessie, danielle, and paola. we even got to try a brazilian dessert called brigadiero that paula made – little balls of chocolate covered in sprinkles – yes. i went to bed after a skype sesh with drew, feeling a little apprehensive but ready to go.
monday, 11 april 2011
and that brings us to today. i woke up a little early to read over my notes again, and headed to class. true to his word, the professor lectured for about 30 minutes before calling out the exam.. which wasn’t like the last one!! the jerk! he didn’t do a SINGLE vocabulary word, which i had so painstakingly studied. sigh. thankfully, i knew the answers to all the questions he asked, for the most part. i may have missed a detail here and there, but i got the majority for sure. and, he DID include things from today’s lecture on the exam – but i’d caught everything, so that ended up being pretty easy. all in all, i feel good about it.. i just hope he doesn’t diss my french level again. BUT- i never have to go back to that class or see him again, so i’m putting it out of my mind. what’s done is done, right? joy. :) i came back to a letter from my sister in the mailbox and a song from drew in my email. gotta love that.
this week is my last week of ‘cufco’ classes – the courses i take that are specifically for exchange students. today, i have my last ‘langue française’ class and my last conversation workshop. i seriously hope my professor doesn’t keep us for the full three hours in langue! there is no way she can.. surely. yeesh. and we’re all supposed to bring food to conversation class, so hopefully that just means a hang-out party! the rest of the night will probably be made up of chilling in the kitchen and maybe watching a movie. this is pretty much my last week of classes, so the semester is definitely winding down! yay!! :)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

a weekend for the ages.

first off, i would like to address a topic/question/concern that has been brought up to me several times since i started this blog. that question being, of course.. “why don’t you use capital letters?” there are several reasons, but in brief; 1) i type fast, and for a long time. hitting shift at the beginning of each sentence is inefficient, and i dislike inefficiency. 2) i punctuate. you obviously know when a new sentence has begun, because there was either a period, question mark, or exclamation mark to signify that break. i quite like punctuation for that very reason. 3) it’s a stylistic choice. i prefer the way my posts look this way... it seems more uniform and aesthetically pleasing to me. 4) i DO use capital letters... for emphasis. (see what i did there?) by withholding the capitalization of letters until i really need it, i feel like my literary voice is more audible in my writing. 5) as a follow-up to #4, when i read capital letters, the voice in my head SHOUTS. (did yours?) 6) does capitalizing the first letter of each sentence actually mean anything? it’s not like the words are different. :)
sorry that was kind of rant-y, but i figured i’d clear that issue up. :)
well anyways, back to business. settle in, because this post’s gonna be a long one.. this past weekend was probably one of the most singularly unique weekends i will ever have. in my life. here’s why;
friday, 1 april 2011
i was going to try to make a funny april fool’s joke here, but i’ve got nothing. april fool’s day in france is called ‘poisson d’avril’ (april fish) – and is a holiday during which school children run around slapping smelly fish stickers on their friends’ backs and giggling triumphantly. so we didn’t really celebrate it. instead, my friends jessie and claire came with me on a fabulous weekend getaway to bordeaux! i’ve been wanting to visit bordeaux for a while, and i was so happy to have friends come with me! we left angers around 9:30am and traveled southward via train. it was about a 4 hour journey, through some seriously beautiful countryside. we arrived in bordeaux around 1:30, greeted by blue skies and sunshine.. starting the weekend off right! we followed the directions that our host had texted to me earlier, and made our way to the apartment where we’d be staying friday and saturday night. as we’re walking down this small side street, looking for number 19, i kept getting distracted by the enormous and very old cathedral that was literally across the street. like... apartment on the right, cathedral on the left. not too shabby of a location, to say the least!!
we were only in the apartment for a few minutes, just to say hi to the girls who’d be hosting us and to drop our backpacks off. we set off around 2pm to find some food and explore. we ended up making it about 50 feet, before deciding to eat at a cafe about 4 doors down from the apartment. they had terrace seating, right on the plaza in front of the cathedral, so we sat down and had some lunch. it was even warm enough for bare arms, bless that sunshine! we enjoyed our meal and then checked out the inside of the cathedral.. there were new stained glass windows (from the 60’s) that really reminded me of the animation from the beginning of beauty and the beast. it was awesome. we left and kept wandering around town until we came across a tourism centre. they gave us some ideas of stuff to do in and around bordeaux, stocked us up with maps and brochures, and saw us off. since the weather was so beautiful, we walked down to the riverfront to relax on the grass for a while. it was here that my earlier-formed hypothesis was confirmed... bordeaux is a hipster city. there were so many young, hip, indie-looking people! at cafés, by the river, walking around.. it was nice to have a little connection back to the hipster-swarming campus of belmont. :) after our little pause, we walked back down the river to the apartment, stopping for a little ice cream snack at the place next door. when we arrived back at the apartment, we sat and talked with mathilde (our host) and her friend enoco for a while. they’re both from the pays basque, which is a region of france that borders spain and has a very distinct culture. they even have a different language (basque), which i heard mathilde’s friend marie speak later. we had been invited to go with mathilde and enoco to a concert later in the evening, so we all decided to eat together at the apartment. marie came over, and we had a vegetable salad, green beans / peas, bread / cheese, and waffles with nutella for dessert. deeeelicious!
around 9:30, we all walked over to the concert venue, which was about 5 minutes away on foot. the show was actually a benefit rally for a local feminist group, raising money and awareness for victims of domestic abuse. suffice it to say, this evening was probably one of the most unique, if not THE most unique, evening ever. we wound our way through tiny alleyways, finally arriving at the venue, which was the size of a small apartment, but had a “stage”, bar, and lounge outside. it was called the athénée libertine, and had all kinds of murals and posters and propaganda on the walls, all supporting various activist groups. my favourite part was the wall behind the stage, which was covered in over 30 hand-painted portraits of the most influential feminists in history; simone de beauvoir, judith butler, etc. we arrived during the second set out of three, initally questioning our decision to come at all. the “band” was just three girls in ‘zorro’ costumes, banging away on instruments and yelling into the microphones. that, combined with the overwhelming smell of smoke and sweat, made for a rather unpleasant first impression. but luckily, they were finished within a few minutes of our arrival, and we had a chance to talk to some girls working the “merch” table – they had t-shirts and pamphlets and patches, all for sale for however much you wanted to give. i bought a patch and a pamphlet that details all of the portraits on the wall. after a few minutes, the third set began. all i heard at first was an electronica-pop beat coming from the speakers.. and then i saw the group. it was comprised of two girls, both of whom were wearing baggy jeans and graphic tees. each girl was rocking a boy haircut and some black-framed glasses, and one had a flat-billed hat that said “whooo!” on it. honestly, they were two of the most androgynous humans i have ever encountered. they could have easily been pretty effeminate boys. anyway. they started their set, which was a series of conversationalist rap songs, discussing oppression in the workplace, harassment, and female empowerment.. from what i could tell. it’s hard to keep up with french rap!!!  the second to last song was actually an air-band lip sync perfomance of some 90’s punk song from the tony hawk pro-skater 2 soundtrack. seriously, one girl played air guitar while the other girl mouthed words that i suspect she didn’t even know the meaning of. the singer even crowdsurfed! just launched herself into the 40 person crowd. i was amazed she didn’t hit her head on the ceiling. the whole time, jessie, claire, and i were just laughing and signing along and cheering with the rest of the crowd.. it was so hilariously fun. but the grand finale came when the girls did their a capella encore (in english?) and started in on the final song. apparently it was pretty inspiring, because one of the girls took her top off, which started a chain reaction... suffice to say, they were definitely girls, and i am fairly positive i will never again in my life witness a french feminist naked rap battle. probably.
so, that was pretty hysterical. we left around 11pm, still slightly in shock, and feeling very empowered as women! bedtime couldn’t come early enough, though.. it had been a long day. we got back to the apartment, made up our futon bed (and claire’s little mattress bed on the floor) and got ready to go to sleep. the apartment was awesome, except the location (right next to the cathedral/plaza) stayed pretty lively on a friday night.. so it was noisy allllll night long. i think there might have been a marching band outside at 4am, but i’m not positive. claire went for a run at 7:30, and there were people just leaving the bar next door.. yikes. note to self: next couchsurfing trip, bring ear plugs!
saturday, 2 april 2011
jessie and i woke up around 8:30 when claire came back from her run along the river. we all got ready and then left the apartment to go sign up for our afternoon tour of wine country! we walked back over to the tourism centre and tried to get places on the tour.. but it was full. :( i felt really bad, because claire was super excited about it and i had told her that i didn’t think the places would fill up.. otherwise, we would have gotten our places on friday. the saturday tour went to the médoc region, but i had read so much about this town called st. emilion and how it was the jewel of bordeaux wine country.. so, in a moment of spontaneous planning, i asked the lady about just buying train tickets to st. emilion and doing our own tour. she said it was super easy, and it ended up being cheaper than the other tour. sweet! she even helped us pick out a wine chateau to go visit and called them to make the reservation for us. so we got our information and then went to find some breakfast. this super nice café had a buy one, get one brioche sale, so we got two loaves of brioche and went to eat them next to the river, sitting in between two flowerbeds. it’s a hard life. after our little brunch, we walked back to the apartment and decided to go to the market just outside the door for a while. we walked around this HUGE saturday market – fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, sea food, sweets, bread, homemade pastries, olives... and that was just the food section. the other two-thirds of the market was filled with stalls selling clothing, fabric, jewelry, shoes, random knick-knacks... you name it. we had a great time exploring. i bought a really cute dress for 5 euro (score), jessie bought some food for later, and claire got this precious little antique jewelry box.
around 12:30, we dropped our stuff off at the apartment and made our way to the train station. it was about a 20 minute walk, down the riverside in the bright sunshine. we got there, bought our tickets (8 euro return trip, thank you very much!), and headed out to the platform. the train was this cute little local car, not one of the big, fancy TGV or TER trains. it was kind of like a flashback, retro train. anyway, we were on the train for around 40 minutes, watching as the view from our window went from urban to suburban to vineyard. when we finally got off in st. emilion, it was kind of like a scene in a movie when the bad guy kicks the main character out of the car in the middle of the wildernes.. other than the station and a few random buildings, it was just vineyards for as far as the eye could see. no sign of a city, really, just one house per property. we took some pictures, met a couple from portugal, and then walked up the hill to our chateau destination. luckily everything in st. emilion is accessible by foot, because walking was by far the prettiest part of the day.. as we walked up the hill towards the chateau fonplégade, i couldn’t help but think about how surreal the experience was. but i had that feeling a lot on saturday. we got to the top of the hill, only to realize that we were pretty much the only people there. at all. the girl who was working opened the door and welcomed us inside. i can’t describe how beautiful this property was – the land, the buildings, the décor.. it was gorgeous. we set our bags down and followed our guide outside. the tour we took was just 15 euro – and it was private (just the three of us), given in french, and lasted about an hour. she walked us around outside, telling us about the history ownership of the vineyard. as it turns out, the property was purchased in 2004 by an american couple from california.. they already have another vineyard in napa valley, so they spend six months of the year in each place. i can’t imagine their life except for i bet it’s AWESOME. we then went inside the distillery and saw all the barrels of the 2009 and 2010 wine fermenting, plus the giant production room with the huge barrels that smelled so good. we even got to peek at the owners’ private wine cellar – it reminded me so much of the movie ‘the parent trap’. actually, this whole day reminded me of that movie. anyway, after the tour, we got to have a little ‘degustation’ – tasting. we tried four of the vineyards most popular wines, including the most prestigious and expensive one. even though i don’t really like wine, i felt so fancy! the guide walked us through the process of properly tasting wine, and then did the whole ‘it has a very brown, floral aftertaste, etc etc’ bit. i’m not sure how something can taste brown, but these people knew how to make wine. claire was so inspired that she even bought a bottle to take home and save! after we said goodbye to our guide, we walked up the hill to the little fountain at the top of the vineyard to sit and have our snacks (and a dance party). that was another one of those “i can’t believe i’m doing this” moments.. we were having so much fun. once the strawberries and olives were gone, we scrambled over the back wall of the vineyard (a huge shortcut) and made our way to the teeny, tiny village of st. emilion. (click that link and read the history - amazing!) it was about a mile and a half away, walking down this dusty, gravelly road that wound its way through endless rows of vines. we finally rounded the corner on the tiny village (approximately 2,000 inhabitants) that makes i’d say 98% of its money from tourists visiting the vineyards. every other shop was a wine ‘cave’. we looked out over the rooftops for a while and then made our way down a STEEP road to the main plaza, where we sat in the sunshine at a cafe and had a mid-afternoon snack. our waiter was a total jerk, but everything else was wonderful so i can’t complain! after lunch, we wandered around a little and then made the slow journey back down the hill to the train station. all in all, the trip to st. emilion was about 7 hours of blissful, surreal, time-machine-to-the-past wonderment. DEFINITELY better than a 53-person tour bus to a completely different, medieval-village-less area for 31 euro. sometimes, things just work out better than you could have hoped for.
after a FULL day of walking and sunshine, a short train ride back to bordeaux, and the 20 minute walk from the train station to the apartment, we got back and pretty much crashed from exhaustion. mathilde had left a note saying she and enoco were out for the night, and for us to feel free to eat anything in the house (they’d stocked up at the market). sweet. we made omelettes and had baguettes with cheese and homemade jam (peach and apple – YUM). after dinner, i took a hot bath (gotta take advantage of a bathtub when i can!) and then the three of us just hung out for a little while before getting ready for bed. there was no way we could have topped friday night’s experience, and we were just way too tired to go out again. mathilde called and said they were coming back with friends, so we could sleep in marion’s room (since she was gone for the weekend). we transferred all of our stuff, and just barely heard them come in before we were all out like lights for the entire night. what a day!
sunday, 3 april 2011
the last day of our weekend excursion in bordeaux proved to be not as sunny and warm as the first two days had been.. which was alright, considering we left around noon. we got up early to go to the market again and replenish the fridge after saturday night’s omelette-fest. except unfortunately the sunday market didn’t have the food section.. lame. so we walked around for a while, saw another gigantic cathedral, found a café for our breakfast, and then stopped in a bakery to buy breakfast for mathilde and her friends instead (croissants, brioche, etc). when we got back to the apartment around 11am, they were all still asleep. so we wrote a note, left the bag of goodies and the keys, and made our way to the train station. the journey home was uneventful, except for when we had to actually get up and find our real seats, because we had just chosen three seats together. the train got more and more crowded with each stop, since that train was going to paris. but we only had to wander around for a little while before we found three more seats near to each other. and then a few train transfers later, we were back in angers. it’s nice, having a place that feels like “home” to come back to after a weekend getaway. and it’s even better to have such great friends to “get away” with. :)
for pictures of this trip, check my facebook album ‘barefoot in bordeaux’, coming soon!
alright, i’ve decided that i’m going to double post today – just so this entry doesn’t get any more obnoxiously long than it already is! so stay tuned for another entry, quickly forthcoming!