Friday, December 21, 2012

Five Things: Lia and Amanda

This last post is dedicated to my two best friends here in Paris. Lia and Amanda have been amazing friends since I met them. Let's tell the story of how I became friends with each of them.

One of the first nights I was here, there was a group of people getting together in a room at the Cite U to hang out and meet each other. I was supposed to meet someone at the center building and we were going to walk there together. Without phones, it was quite difficult and we wound up not finding each other. I went back to my room and received a Facebook message from Lia saying we should try and head over together, so we agreed to meet up. I was walking to the other side of the Cite U and all of the sudden I here someone quietly say my name. I looked to my right, and there was Lia! The rest is history.

Amanda and I were walking back from a night out with friends. We were walking from the metro and first realized we were in the same building, then the same floor, then realized we lived right next to each other. We were neighbors! It was so funny when realized our rooms were directly next to each other and we hung out all the time after that.

These two have been with me since the beginning and I am so lucky to have them in my life. They have helped me through good times and bad times, but I owe so much of this amazing semester to both of them. They talk all the time about how I don't mention them enough in blog posts, but here you go, you two! I love you both and know we will be friends for a long time. Try not to miss me too much when I'm gone but I know Paris has more in store for you. Thanks for everything.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Five Things: The Metro

All of my friends know that the metro system is one of my absolute favorite parts of Paris. I love the system so much. I'm not sure if it's the brilliance of it, how much fun it is to ride, how grown-up I feel making transfers and following the pack of rush hour people in and out of the system, or how it takes me anywhere I want to go in Paris. My NaviGo (the monthly metro pass) is one of the greatest investments I have ever made. I take the metro anywhere from two to twenty times a day, maybe more, but not a day goes by that I do not use it. I feel like the coolest person in the world when I swipe my NaviGo and walk right through the turnstiles. I will definitely miss that.

This map is my best friend. I use it all the time and feel no shame. I keep one with me at all times, sometimes more than one. The information desk in each metro stop gives them out for free and I've collected quite a few since I've been in Paris. It may look complicated, but within a week or so of living in Paris, you, too, would be able to navigate the metro!

My metro stop is Dugommier on line 6, but my favorite line is 4. Maybe it's because it was the first one I used when I lived near Porte d'Orleans during my first month, but I love how it goes right through the center of the city and the way the route looks on the inside of the metro cars. My school is also on line 4, at the Saint.-Germain-de-Pres stop. I really am going to miss the metro so much. I could get anywhere in the entire city of Paris these past four months with just a swipe of my pass. The city was mine.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Five Things: Traveling around Europe

One of my absolute favorite parts of my semester in Paris has been the ability to travel around Europe. My original plan for my semester abroad was to go to Washington DC for an internship program. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that was not what I wanted from my semester abroad, and it was hardly a semester abroad at all. I wanted to see Europe. And I absolutely have. I have traveled to Barcelona, Florence, Pisa, Amsterdam, London, and of course, Paris. I have seen so many incredible sights and experienced so many different adventures. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Five Things: The bakery downstairs

As my time in Paris is coming to an end, I've decided to write a few last blogs to feature the five things I will miss the most about this incredible city and this semester in general. There are other amazing aspects of my experience I will miss of course, but these are a few of what I'll miss the most.

The bakery downstairs right outside of my apartment has been one of my favorite places since I moved into this apartment. It may not be the best bakery in all of Paris, but it is absolutely adorable and I have fallen in love with their bread and treats. Besides the fact that it is directly next door to my apartment, they have such great food and are so nice to me. It took a while, but the lady knows that I always want une tradition, which is basically a fancy baguette. She sees me walk in, gives me a smile, and grabs one from the basket behind her. I then give the nice woman my 1.15€, give the homeless lady that always sits outside the bakery some change, and start eating the tasty bread on my short walk home.

By the way, the bakery is open every day except Wednesdays. I don't usually like Wednesdays.

When I don't purchase une tradition, I usually treat myself to a pain chocolat aux amande. This is definitely my pastry of choice. A pain chocolat is basically a chocolate croissant, but when made into a pain chocolat aux amande, they add powdered sugar and almonds which makes for a perfect mid-morning snack. I wish I could take a million of these home with me so I never run out. YUM ----------------------------------->

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

London, baby!

This weekend, I went to London with Lia and Amanda. London was my last trip of the semester and it was quite exciting crossing this final destination off of the list I made at the beginning of the semester back in August. 

I'm going to make this post short and sweet since a play-by-play of the weekend seems unecessary. We saw the Parliament building, Big Ben, had tea with my friend from IU, Kelsey, rode a double decker bus, went up the London Eye and the Tower Bridge, and saw the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London. I, of course, took my Harry-Potter-Lover photo at Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross and fawned over the Harry Potter goodies at Harrods department store. As far as touristy things go, that was the gist of our weekend. They were all great sights to see and someday I'll return to buy all of those Harry Potter goodies. 

The best things, however, occurred on Sunday, our last day in London. Lia and I decided to get friendship piercings. Amanda held our hands, so she counts, too. That night, we went to a bar that was basically empty. They had karaoke and I decided to sing "Somebody to Love" by Queen, one of my signature songs. Both of those things I have been wanting to do for a long time and I'm so proud of myself for doing them. No matter how much my mother may hate the piercing or how few people were there listening to me sing, I had a blast. I was so happy that I finally found the courage to do both. Getting the piercing was super scary but the karaoke was fine, especially since so few people were in the bar. But the best part was that I did them. Two things I was scared to do, I just went out and did them and it was amazing. I'm so thankful for Amanda and Lia who helped me through all the fear and silly nerves and and grateful to them for watching me sing and cheering me on. And Happy Hanukkah!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Jukebox the Ghost

On Tuesday night I saw Jukebox the Ghost in concert. Since Jonathan played their song "Hold It In" for me one day while we were in the car, I've absolutely loved them. They were in Indianapolis this year, which was a huge bummer for me since I was in Paris. However, their Facebook page informed me that they were coming to Paris!

They were the second opener for a guy named Allen Stone, who I've never heard of, but I bought a ticket to the concert nonetheless. Since I've been in Paris, Jukebox the Ghost has really become one of my favorite bands, one of my favorites that has all the members living (unlike The Beatles, another one of my favorites). My friend Amanda so kindly came with me and it was really a great night. I even tried my best not to be a weird, annoying fan. I think I succeeded. 

I snuck up to the front and was standing right in front of the guitarist, Tommy, or he may have introduced himself as Tom. I knew all the songs and most of the words to all the songs. It was so much fun to hear some of my favorite song played live. After the show, they were at the merchandise table so I went to introduce myself and had a nice chat with them. Since I already have all their albums, I asked if they would sign my ticket, and they did. The ticket also says nowhere that I saw them so they added the name to it. I talked to Tom(my) first and when he realized I was American and that I had came to the show specifically to see them he said he had seen me in the audience and was confused as to how I knew all the words and was singing along. Made more sense after I talked to them. I met Jesse the drummer and talked to Ben the pianist, too. Ben went to piano camp at Indiana University (where I normally go to school), which is pretty funny. I told them that Jonathan hadn't let me go to Outside Lands with him to see them and they called him an asshole. (Sorry, Jonathan. Maybe you can redeem yourself someday.) Super funny. I took a picture with them and as I was leaving, Tommy said, "Bye, Steph!" What a great night and so happy to have seen them live!

Jesse, Ben, me, and Tommy

Monday, November 26, 2012

Completing the Trifecta

For those of you who don't know, there is a well-known Jewish camp song entitled "Wherever You Go (There's Always Someone Jewish)." In this song, there is a line that goes as follows:
Amsterdam, Disneyland, Tel Aviv
Oh they're miles apart
But when we light the candles on Sabbath eve
We're sharin' the prayer in each one of our hearts
I went to Tel Aviv in 2008 with my trip to Israel, I have been to Disneyland countless times, and on November 16th, I was given the honor of completing what has come to be known as the Jewish Trifecta  by visiting Amsterdam.

This semester, five of my camp friends and I are all studying abroad. Hannah is in Rome, Ali is in Florence, Jenna's in Dublin, and Rebecca and I are in Paris. Unfortunately, Rebecca was unable to join us for this trip, but I met Hannah, Jenna, and Ali in one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to in my life.

Once I arrived at the airport, I took a train into Amsterdam's central station then a tram to our hostel. Immediately, I couldn't believe my eyes. The tram ride over completely blew me away. I felt like I was in a fairytale land. It was as if Disneyland Main Street was every single street I was passing. For some reason, Amsterdam has a reputation for being the place study abroad students can travel to legally smoke marijuana. Along with this reputation comes the expectation that the city might be a bit run down and sketchy. On the contrary, Amsterdam is not only one of the most beautiful cities I've ever seen, it's one of the most clean and incredibly safe.

On Saturday the four of us took a free walking tour and my eyes were opened even more to the beauty of the city. We had an incredible tour guide. His name was Julian and he had been living in Amsterdam for about three years with his Dutch girlfriend who he had met back home in Australia. I learned more from Julian in that three hour tour than I ever expected to. He explained the history of Amsterdam, some interesting facts, but most importantly, he taught us about Amsterdam as a city of tolerance. You can be whoever you want to be in Amsterdam. Whatever religion you practice, politics you follow, things you believe in, it doesn't matter. The four of us felt like we were in some sort of dream world. I believe more than anything in the idea of tolerance and live and let live and my friends and I were blown away that we were in a city that believe so much in what we also believe in. 

Prostitution is legal in Amsterdam and smoking marijuana has been decriminalized. The city has put it's efforts into cracking down on hard drug use and has almost completely ridded the city of crime. Some of this made me uncomfortable but Julian put it all into a perspective that helped me understand things in a completely new light. 

After learning so much from the tour on Saturday, we headed out on our own. We wandered the city, ate good food, and just enjoyed each other's company. We visited Anne Frank's house which was amazing. The house has been turned into a museum and all of the furniture has been removed. They do, however, have her original diary in a glass case which was incredible to see. It was so strange being in the place Anne Frank and her family lived in for such a long time and a place that's known around the world.

This semester has been particularly hard for me but being with my friends was a comfort I so needed. Being in Amsterdam (and all my trips this semester, in fact) have taught me that there is so much more to life than we realize sometimes. I am extremely guilty of getting wrapped up in school and forgetting that having fun is just as important, if not more important, than work. The tests we take, assignments we complete, and essays we write are so minimal in our lives compared to what is out there. There's an entire world to be explored and tons of people to meet. I am more than lucky to have the opportunities that I do to see so many places and learn so many things. No matter how difficult this semester has been academically, mentally, and emotionally, I have gained so much. As I move into my last month here in Paris, I make a promise to myself and to all of you reading this that I will keep everything in perspective and continue to have fun. Much love.