Friday, June 17, 2011

bob and mary go to france.

dear reader.. i must beg your pardon. i didn’t realize how difficult it would be to blog without a computer! and even when i did have access to a computer, i didn’t have time to really sit down and write. so, here i am.. with many days behind me and nothing to show for it on here! whoops. make a cup of tea, pop some popcorn, turn on your answering machines.. this post is gonna be a big one.

monday, 30 may 2011

arrival day!!! the parental voyage to france finally took place. they had a LONG day of traveling (flights changed, airport transfers, etc) but they finally made it. as a fortunate coincidence, my dear friend andrea was arriving at charles de gaulle aiport at approximately the same time as my parents! since they were going to be on the same train, i asked her to meet up with them and kind of guide them to angers. it worked perfectly! i hadn’t slept much the night before, as i had stayed up very late packing and cleaning and saying bye to people. i got about 3 hours of sleep before i woke up to see claire off at the bus stop! then i got another hour and a half before danielle knocked on my door to put her stuff in my room, since her check-out appointment was super early. she actually stayed in my room for her last night, since she had to leave for the airport at 6h on tuesday! i took another brief nap until about 10h and then got up to keep cleaning, etc. danielle and i went into town to do shopping for dinner and eat lunch around 13h. at 15h30, we met andrea and my parents at the station. it was such a great moment.. really happy to see them, and kind of surreal that they were actually there. andrea and danielle went their separate ways to take care of things while i brought the parentals to the nearby hotel to check in and drop the bags. we rested for a little while and then went to meet andrea for a late lunch at my favourite café – la gourmandise, on the plaza with the maison d’adam and the back of the cathedral. we had sandwiches and drinks (with ICE!) and talked for a while.

once we finished eating, we walked around town for just a little while before hopping on a bus back to belle-beille. i had plans to make dinner for everyone one last time in the belle-beille kitchen.. except the kitchen on my floor was closed. lame. we cooked one floor down. lots of people came and it was really fun! our final fajita night.. sigh. it was weird without my main 4th floor crew there (jessie, emma, shane) but i still enjoyed it. ;) we cleaned up and gathered my bags to bring back to the hotel. i gave danielle my keys for the night and said goodbye to her.. sad!!! the bus took forever getting back to the hotel, but we finally made it and pretty much collapsed into bed. mom and dad slept hard after missing a night’s sleep on the plane and going hard all day! i couldn’t sleep very well for all the noise next door and the worrying in my brain about nearly everything.

tuesday, 31 may 2011

7am came much too soon. we had to wake up early to go back to belle-beille and finish everything up before my check-out at 11h. dad helped me bag up all the ‘donate’ stuff and we took it downstairs to the secret closet where all the extra stuff is kept for next year’s residents. i also gave the desk attendant (minijupe) all the extra cheese i had in my fridge. we walked the other box of stuff over to the international office on campus so i could show mom and dad what school looked like. we dropped it off, said happy summer, checked out the library and headed back to the res. i stopped by andrea’s room to say goodbye to her, and we took some stuff to the secret closet for her. once that was done, all i needed to do was clean some more. that tiny room ended up taking forever to clean!!!! it had to be flawless though. i had gotten nearly everything done the days before, so all that was left in the morning was to clean out my fridge and wipe down the counters and the bathroom once more. i thought i’d done a pretty excellent job, but the cleaning ladies showed up and made me redo the counters and get a tiny spot off of the baseboard in the bathroom. sigh. they charged me for a missing outlet cover that i had never possessed, but since i hadn’t filled out my ‘state of the room’ form in january, i couldn’t prove i’d never had it. oh well. they took my keys and i said goodbye to that sweet little shoebox of a room. double sigh. it was actually really sad.. too many goodbyes. i did get a little bonus when minijupe stopped me on my way out and waved my fine for the missing outlet cover.. she must like cheese more than i thought! i put my parents on the bus back to the hotel with my bags and stopped by the secretary to get my security deposit back…. in CASH! woooo! that’s always nice. 

the reason i didn’t go back with my parents was because i had to bike into town one last time, to return my sweet bike! i had my (jammed-full) backpack on, so it was a moderately tough ride. rachel and laura were with me because they were heading to the train station to go on a bike tour in dijon! i said bye to them at the hotel and stopped in the room for a rest. once i’d regained my energy, the three of us went out to run some errands and explore the city some more. we first went by the bike store, where i gave back my bike for good. the next stop was the bank, where i signed a mysterious form and also made a deposit from my bank of america account to my bnp account. we got some sandwiches and snacks from la gourmandise and ate lunch on the cathedral steps… so lovely. since we were so close, we went and did the chateau tour as well – an excellent choice! the gardens looked great, and i think mom and dad enjoyed standing in a 1,000 year old fortress! we checked out the apocalypse tapestries and walked around the entire perimeter of the walls. after the chateau, we stopped by the post office so i could buy some stamps for my collection. jessie met up with us at the hotel later and the four of us went out to dinner at an awesome french-food restaurant misleadingly called ‘la cantina’. we sat and ate for a long while before saying goodnight to jessie and walking slowly back to the hotel. i severed many ties with angers that day… dorm, bike, bank (kind of), friends leaving… it felt very odd.

wednesday, 1 june 2011

HOW CAN IT POSSIBLY BE JUNE?! ugh. time is faster in europe, i swear. wednesday was our day trip to villandry, a chateau about an hour away from angers. we woke up and ate a rather-overpriced hotel breakfast before getting ready to go. mom had asked if we could visit this chateau after seeing the world-renowned gardens in a coffee table book about gardens that i got her for christmas a few years back. luckily for her, i’d already been planning on taking them there! perfect. the transit, however, was less than perfect. there is a shuttle that runs between tours (the nearest big city) and the chateau… in july and august. otherwise, you can either get a cab (which includes drive there, wait time, drive back.. easily 100 euro), rent a car, or get off at the nearest tiny train stop, called savonnieres, and walk. we took the third option. it was about 5k from the train stop, but thankfully, a girl and her dad picked us up about 30 meters into our journey and drove us there! bless them. the chateau itself was gorgeous, but the real star of the visit is the garden. or, rather, gardens. because there are so many!! it is a huge estate filled with different landscaping… and it was breathtaking. i know my mom really enjoyed it! we took loads of pictures, which will be posted in about a month when i finally get home to my laptop. we DID do the full walk back, but we left with such a head start that it ended up being perfect. we stopped in the village of savonnieres and ate some awesome pastries before finishing the last leg of the journey to the train station. after a 30 minute wait, we got on our train back to angers. for dinner, we got chicken sandwiches from the rotisserie down the street – YUM. they were enormous though.. i couldn’t finish mine. after dinner, we took a walk around angers so i could say my final goodbyes to the city itself. i was sent off with a gorgeous sunset.. viewed from my favourite spot on the cathedral steps. lovely. we went back to the hotel where i took a bath (heavenly!) and read a bit before bed.

thursday, 2 june 2011

bye bye angers! we got up around 8h again to get all of our stuff together and check out in time to be at the station by 9h. jessie met us at the station to say bye, which was sad, and we were off. it was weird to know that i will probably never see that city again… but i was so preoccupied with transporting ALL of our luggage (which was an impressive amount) that i didn’t have time to really be upset about it. we made a rather stressful transfer in le mans, thanks to a delay in our train’s arrival time, but thankfully we all made it, with all of the bags. we got to caen, our next stop, at noon and were met at the station by our couchsurfing host emilie and her mom. angels sent from heaven. her mom was there to provide the extra car needed to get all of us and our luggage to the apartment. thank you monique!! emilie’s boyfriend julien was gone for the weekend, so emilie hosted us all by herself. they live in on the third floor of a corner building, the first two floors of which are occupied by a baker school. and yes, the building smells like bread. awesome!! unfortunately, we were there on a holiday weekend, so the school was never open. the apartment was so nice!! way big for french standards, and really cutely decorated. emilie had dinner cooking for later – beef bourgignon. DOUBLE YUM. she sat and talked to us for a while, showed us a map of the city, and then walked us to the most central point of the city. from there, mom, dad, and i did a 3 hour walking tour of the city – we saw the fort (including william the conquerer’s old place), the cathedrals, a few other churches, the city hall, some great architecture, and ate some awful kebabs. by the time we got back to the apartment, we were exhausted!
dinner was such a treat. emilie had invited a friend over to join us – mathieu, who works as a tour guide for the normandy beaches! perfect!! he chatted with my parents while i helped emilie get dinner ready. she had planned a big “typical normandy” meal for us – and the full deal, too. some little finger foods and an aperitif, a paté entrée, the beef bourgignon (which was incredible), a cheese course, an apple tart for dessert, and calvados as a digestif. full on french meal status achieved! mom and dad were great about trying everything.. i was so proud. after dinner, mathieu gave my dad an itinerary for our tour the following day and we said goodnight.

friday, 3 june 2011

despite a rough night for dad’s guts, we woke up ready to take on a full day of normany touring! having stayed at emilie’s place as well, mathieu drove us to the car rental place, where i successfully picked up the car i’d reserved for us online. we were on the road by 8h30, heading to the furthest point for the start of our tour. during the visit, we stopped at saint-mere-eglise, utah beach (where dad pulled a general patton and “stormed the beach”), point du hoc, omaha beach, and finally, the american cemetery. i think it was a really excellent day for my parents… more than a bit of déjà vu for me, considering i’d done the exact same tour exactly one year beforehand. but my favourite part was seeing them all excited, so it was worth it. plus, you can never get sick of that cemetery.. it’s amazing. we returned the car at 17h45, right on time and 5km over our limit. the guy waved the overage fee and we walked back to the apartment… with a few rest breaks. we took emilie and mathieu out for dinner at a nice restaurant near the fort. we sat outside and enjoyed each other’s company until nearly 23h.. and it was just barely dark! by the time we got back to the apartment for the night, we were all VERY tired.

saturday, 4 june 2011

saturday was another transit day.. we woke up around 9am and had an awesome breakfast with emilie. once we got all packed up, emilie’s mom and sister came over and helped transport us and all of our stuff to the station. we took the 12h37 train to paris, arriving around 15h. upon arriving at the gare st. lazare in paris, we walked with all the luggage to rental apartment, which was about 15 minutes away on foot. i had found our temporary parisian home through a site called, where people can list their apartments and rent them to travelers. sometimes, people manage several listings for the various owners, sort of like an online realtor. it’s a much better alternative to hotels, especially if you can get a good deal! i had found a different apartment initially, but when there was a mix-up with the owner, the “realtor” found us a new option. it’s a 5 minute walk from the opera, and it is literally within a stone’s throw of the galeries lafayette. if you know paris, you know this is a killer location. it was SUPER hot on saturday afternoon and we were in a big shopping area.. so it was a tough walk. we were met by natalie with keys to the flat. there was a slight confusion about the number of people staying at the flat.. the woman i’d been talking to the whole time had thought there would only be two people staying, even though at one point in our conversation, i literally said “there are three of us.” so, i was a little surprised that she was surprised. but we sorted it out and there were no lasting problems! natalie left us to settle in and we enjoyed the comfy couches for a while. around 17h, we went out for a wander in the neighborhood. we walked around, looking for a place to get groceries along the way. as it turns out, there was a grocery store less than a block from our place! convenient. :) we got some essentials for the next few days and stuff for dinner. while i checked my emails, mom made spaghetti for our first parisian dinner. lovely! after dinner, we went down to the champs elysees to see the arc de triomphe and eat some laduree macaroons.. win! we had an awesome walk around the area and then hurried back to the flat, just barely beating the rain home.

sunday, 5 june 2011

sunday was tough on the old feet.. we walked a LONG way, all over paris. we started out from the apartment and walked to the musee d’orsay, passing by the madeleine church and the place de la concorde. our goal for sunday was to visit some museums, since all museums in paris are free on the first sunday of every month. unfortunately, that was the plan of about 10,000 of our best friends too. the lines were WAY long, and even if they had moved quickly, the museums would have been too crowded. we decided to punt the museum idea and do a seine walk instead, from the muse d’orsay down to notre dame. we stopped and got sandwiches at sidewalk café, eating our snacks from home alongside the baguette sammies. it was a gorgeous day, which made for a lovely picnic. before heading to notre dame, we got to do something i had actually never done, which was visit sainte chapelle. it is an incredible 13th century chapel built on the same island as notre dame, but not as part of it. in fact, when sainte-chapelle was constructed, notre dame already looked like it does today! crazy. the thing that makes sainte-chapelle so special is the panoramic stained glass windows, depicting several stories from the bible and the lives of some saints. really, you just have to see the place to understand how overwhelming it is. i was so happy to finally get a chance to see it.. third time’s the charm! from there, we went to see notre dame, which i think the parentals really enjoyed. it’s amazing to think that something can be so intricate and massive at the same time. i dragged mom and dad to my favourite place on earth – the bookstore shakespeare & co – where i bought a copy of the screwtape letters and just soaked up the awesomeness. since we were on the right side of the river and kind of in the neighborhood, we took a walk to the gardens of luxembourg, meandering our way through the little side streets and just admiring the atmosphere. there was a cute little band playing in a bandstand in the park, so we sat and listened to them for a while. we took the path to the metro stop that brought us by the pantheon and the church next door. we didn’t go inside the pantheon, but it’s still pretty excellent to see from the outside. i stopped in a boulagerie and got a few little quiches and a baguette to complete our dinner, and then we took the metro home. there were no grocery stores open, so we just had the quiches for dinner, with fromage frais/muesli/honey as a side and some bread. after dinner, we walked down the street to sit on the opera steps and watch a distant lightening storm. we stayed out late enough to see it all lit up and then i made mom and dad hurry back, because i was nervous about how dark and scary the sky was looking, with clouds coming towards us really fast. we juuuust barely beat storm home – second night in a row!

monday, 6 june 2011

on monday, we got up and walked to the train station for our early train to giverny! thanks to a stupid mistake on my part, our tickets ended up being 30 euro more expensive, because i forgot to validate them at the station.. so when the conductor came through the car, he charged us 10 euro for each unstamped ticket. ugh. that was frustrating, and in conjuction with the rainy morning, i was in a bit of a bad mood. we got to giverny finally and visited monet’s house and gardens. it was nice to get to go back there after 3 years, and there were lovely flowers in bloom – poppies and water lilies in particular. the weather cleared up a bit and we ate lunch at a really neat restaurant called the ‘hotel baudy’, where american painters used to stay when they came to visit monet back in the early 1900’s. i finally got to see monet’s grave, which i hadn’t seen last time. we looked in the little church before heading back to the bus stop where the shuttle came to take us to the train station. we rode the train back (with validated tickets) and then went back to apartment for a nap. we went back out afterwards and stopped in monoprix for snacks and lunch meat. we ate a quick dinner before heading out for our evening at the eiffel tower. we started at the trocadero, which is a plaza across the seine from the tower, to get the best views of the tower before walking over and going to the very tippy top. it was pretty sweet, and i know they really enjoyed it! we stayed on the tower for a while, seeing the views from all sides and each level before we went back to the ground. we walked back across to the trocadero to watch the tower twinkle, took some pictures, and then rode the metro home. while we were out, the apartment owner, marc, had returned, so we met him and visited for a while before finally retiring to our rooms for bed.

tuesday, 7 june 2011

tuesday was our last day in paris. in order to take full advantage of it, we were up and out of the apartment by 8h45 after a quick breakfast. since sunday’s museum plan fell through, we took the metro to the muse d’orsay to start our day. the line was relatively quick, so we were in by 10h. We saw pretty much everything inside, making sure to see all the art we could. i love the orsay, because it has all the impressionist art. my mom got to see lots of the pieces that her art class kids imitate, which was really cool. we had a museum lunch snack and then finished our tour of the museum before heading to the next stop. we had purchased dual tickets to the orsay and the musee de l’orangerie, where monet’s giant last works are displayed. we walked all the way over there only to discover that the orangerie is closed on tuesdays. another stupid mistake on my part.. so that was disappointing. we punted that idea and left to explore the tuileries garden, in front of the louvre. since we had packed a light lunch, we sat by the fountain and ate our ham baguette sandwiches and peppers. we walked home the long way, stopping to check out the madeleine church on the way. it was a little rainy, so once we got back we decided to abandon the original sacre coeur plan. instead, we spent the evening organizing the bags, talking to the owners of the apartment, and just hanging out. after months of standing on its last leg, my laptop finally gave up the ghost. i guess it was good timing, considering the parentals were bringing it back to the states on wednesday. i used marc’s computer to do some final planning and check my emails. i took a cold shower (lame) and washed my hair.. so that mom could trim it. i swear, i could feel the difference even though she only took off about an inch. she walked with me to the train station to buy my ticket to brussels for the next day. we stopped to get just a few things for dinner and then headed back to the flat. we ate the rest of the spaghetti for dinner and then staged the bags for the morning before heading to bed.

wednesday, 8 june 2011

parental departure day. we woke up early, got all our stuff out the door, and nearly had a collective heart attack when the last load of bags got trapped in the elevator. dad broke in and freed them, and we headed to the airport shuttle stop near the opera. we were at the airport by 9h45, so there was plenty of time for them to sort through the check-in business. we sat and talked for a while, and then said goodbye around 11h. they went through security and i headed to the charles de gaulle train station..

next post: belgium and luxembourg!

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