Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Best Friends in Paris

This weekend, Jenna and Hannah, two of my best friends from camp, came to visit Rebecca and me. It was truly an incredible weekend. How did we get so lucky to get to spend a weekend together in Paris? 

Thursday night, Rebecca and I picked up Jenna and Hannah from the train station. On my way over, I was hit on by two men. This doesn't often happen so I was quite taken off guard. The first instance happened while I was standing on the platform of the metro by my apartment. I was listening to music when the man next to me leaned over and started talking to me in French. I, of course, said sorry I don't speak French. He asked if I spoke English and I said yes. He then proceeded to tell me that I was beautiful for him and then said if I wanted to show him some fun, he would like that very much. I said thanks for the compliment but told him no thanks for the fun. The second instance was when I was waiting outside the train station before Rebecca arrived. I was sitting on a bench when a man came over and started speaking to me in French. As always, I said I don't speak French and he said perfect, that he's looking to make some English speaking friends. He then told me that he was meeting some people in the bar down the street and didn't want to go in alone so he invited me with him. I told him I was actually waiting to pick up my friends and he said it was fine and asked the girl on the other side of the bench instead. 

Seeing Hannah and Jenna walk through the turnstiles was unreal. Rebecca and I both screamed and we all hugged. It was quite the moment. We went back to my apartment to drop off their stuff then all went out for a midnight snack which consisted of meat, french fries, and crepes. Friday, I unfortunately had a lot of things to take care of. I met them part way through their day to say hello at the Louvre. As we were sitting and talking, I realized I couldn't find my phone. After a few minutes, I looked behind me and saw that the phone had fallen into the fountain. It wasn't the nice fountain with all the water flowing out of it, it was the disgusting fountain that wasn't running and the phone had fallen into a little crevice. We asked a security guard to help us whose arms weren't long enough and had to run around the outside of the museum looking for someone to retrieve my phone. Lucky for me, the phone survived and is doing fine. That night, we went out for a fun dinner at Restaurant Chartier, which has the best vibe, and then out to Cafe Oz for a crazy night of dancing. As we were at the bar, I realized that it was the first time we had all gone out together. We felt like such adults. 

Saturday was an incredible day at Versailles. None of us realized it was going to be in the middle of a town. We all thought it was going to be secluded in a countryside but it wound up being down the street from a Starbucks. Lucky us since it was a freezing cold day. The palace was amazing and we are all ready to move in whenever there's an opening. The inside was grand an beautiful and the sun was setting outside as we were passing through the Hall of Mirrors. We took some fun and cold pictures in the garden after the palace closed. After Versailles, we headed to what Jenna calls her favorite meal of all time. We went to a tiny fondue place that services you wine in a baby bottle. Sort of a strange concept, but just kind of their thing. We were squished at a long table with a bunch of other people. The walls are covered in graffiti and we all desperately tried to find someone related to us. We found a few Santa Barbara, sorority, and travel related things. I SWEAR I saw an IU trident written on the ceiling, but other than that, nothing that applied to any of us specifically. Rebecca had made plans for us to go out that night to a club she had registered us for, but we were all pretty tired from Versailles and spent the rest of the night cuddling in my bed. Couldn't have asked for more. 

Sunday was a lovely day as well. We went to Sacre Coeur, Montmartre, the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs Elysees, Laduree for incredible macaroons, and sat at Trocadero staring out at the Eiffel Tower.  Hannah, unfortunately, had to leave on Sunday, but Rebecca and I had Jenna for an extra day. Monday, we went shopping, had falafel, and said our goodbyes to each other and to an amazing weekend together in Paris. 

This is the secret part of the blog post that you'll only get to see if you had read the whole first part. This trip is turning into something so unexpected. I was thinking I would be having fun every day, loving life, and going crazy all the time. But this has turned into a journey of self discovery. I may not be backpacking my way through Southeast Asia or working with orphans in South America, but I am learning so much about myself and growing so much as a person. I had no idea soul searching could happen on its own in a first world country. I've found housing and moved into an apartment in a foreign country, planned four trips to other foreign countries, and so many more things, all things I never knew I was capable of doing. I've experienced my first anxiety attack and felt emotions I never knew I had. So many things have happened that I never ever expected. I have just under two months left here. I wonder what's in store for me. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Stephanie Lia Barcelona

This past weekend was my trip to Barcelona, Spain with Lia and it was absolutely incredible. We took a bus to the Orly airport. Because we didn't have to check bags (we only brought our backpacks like good little study abroad kids) we were let into a shorter line directly to security. Since we had arrived at the airport unnecessarily early and the Duty Free shop was the only store in our terminal, we decided to look at every single chocolate option the shop offered before making our decision on which one to buy. Lucky for us, we settled on a lovely option that was, to our delight, on sale!

As soon as we landed in Barcelona, we were ready to see the town. We checked into our hostel around midnight and were shown around to our rooms by an extremely nice girl. We couldn't stop talking about how nice she was the whole trip. After putting our stuff in our lockers, we immediately went to meet Lia's friend Debbie at one of the most interesting places I think I've ever been. It was a bar in which you would pay the bartender three euros and receive a glass. In this glass, you could pour in as much of whatever you wanted. Alcohol, juice, soda, whatever you wanted. Not only that, they also gave out an unlimited amount of popcorn to all the tables. Most of it ended up on the floor or on the table, but definitely a nice gesture. The bar was filled to the brim with Americans and the locals from Barcelona. I met people from all over the US, even some who I had mutual friends with. It's so crazy how I can go to the complete other side of the world and still meet Jews who know my Jews. As we were being herded out of the bar, the old lady owner gave everyone  a bottle of water. It was so motherly and kind!

Unfortunately, I didn't sleep too well in the hostel. Lia and I wound up in separate rooms. Lia was in an eight person room and I was in a six person room. In my room, there was a guy who was snoring so loudly, I didn't ever get to fall asleep. I tried waking him up three times. Nothing. I tried putting music on my ipod and squishing my head in my pillow, but I could still hear him. I decided not to let my lack of sleep ruin the trip, which brings us to Saturday.

Saturday was a great day. Lia and I started at the Barcelona Cathedral, which I've seen paintings of here in Paris at the Musee d'Orsay. Seeing the subject of paintings I've seen was really interesting, really being able to understand the details of the building that went into the paintings. After the Barcelona Cathedral, we went to Parc Guell, the whole reason I wanted to go to Barcelona. The architecture and colors are amazing. The view of Barcelona and the ocean was just as lovely as the park itself. We then went to lunch and the Picasso Museum. The museum was a little underwhelming and the staff didn't seem to like me too much. When I showed the woman at the desk my student card to buy my ticket, she went over to another woman, talked to her for a bit, showed her my card, and came back and sold me a ticket. Strange. Then, another woman who took my ticket gave me a weird look. After tearing my ticket, then Lia's ticket, she once again looked back and me and gave me another weird look. Lia and I weren't actually sure what was going on, but we made it through the museum just fine.

Also, the same weekend, about three people I know from home were going to be in Barcelona for the weekend. One of them was Rebecca, my closest friend from pre-school, who is also studying abroad in Paris this semester. I was waiting all weekend to run into her and on Saturday night I was walking through the metro and saw her from across the hallway! It was crazy!

Sunday, however, was definitely the highlight of the trip. Debbie met Lia and me at Sagrada Familia. We waited in a long line for over an hour, but it was completely worth it. The church may be one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to and will ever see. From the outside, it's a little bit dark and intense, true to the gothic style. But inside was unbelievable. The room is massive, filled with white and grey stone and stained glass windows everywhere. Gaudi studied light and believed that too much light is overwhelming. He, therefore, designed the building with the intention on letting in just the right amount of light. I purchased an audio tour and leaned so much. Without it, I probably would have just blown through all of the things to see in a little under an hour. But with it, I was able to spend three hours learning and really seeing the church and all the little details Gaudi put his heart and soul into. I hope to be able to return to Sagrada Familia one day, as it isn't scheduled to be completed for another 30 years.

Overall, Barcelona was a great experince. I loved the vibe of the city; everyone seemed to be having such a good time there, study abroad students and locals. The trip did, however, make me miss and appreciate Paris a lot. I'm so lucky to have the opportunity to be here and excited to finally be able to check off one of the destinations on my list! Love on top. Hearts.

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Friday Story

Today, I am going to Barcelona! I'm so excited, I can't believe it. My first big trip of the semester.

I really wanted to write this post for one reason. Today, as I was leaving class, I saw six or seven young men undressing on a street corner. Only in their underwear, they proceeded to all attempt to fit into a glass phone booth.

Looking forward to blogging about Barcelona! Happy Friday everyone :D

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Big People, Small World

I am sorry how long it's been since I've blogged. It's not even as if I'm busy. I spend far to much time on Facebook and DEFINITELY have had the time to blog, just haven't gotten around to it! 

My friends Amanda, Dana, Lia, and Anna-Lee all share an apartment about a half-hour metro ride away. Their landlord has yet to set up internet for their apartment, so they're over a lot. It's mostly just Amanda and Lia, and mostly just Lia nowadays, but when everyone's over, it's a ton of fun. We all just sit around, trying to do homework, talking and laughing about all the silly things that happen to us as foreigners and kibbitzing (gossiping) about the goings-on of Paris. Last Tuesday night, when Lia and Amanda were over, we talked about how we hadn't been to the top of the Eiffel Tower yet. So, we decided, we would go Wednesday night. And we did!

As you can imagine, Paris was beautiful from up there. It was insanely windy and rainy but it was still tons of fun. The best part is, now that we've been in Paris for a while, we can recognize things from up so high. For example, the neighborhood of our school, Sacre Cour, the big metro stations. It's really quite amazing how the city is laid out. I took some pictures from the top but my camera doesn't do too well in the dark. It looked like the Peter Pan ride at Disneyland, with all the cars moving as little lights (you know what I'm talking about) and it felt like being a giant seeing everything so tiny, like I could just pick up Paris and put it in my pocket! What I really loved about all this is that we wanted to go, and we went. We just decided that we wanted to do something and we did it. I really need to start doing this more often. Not only is it amazing that I can just head up to the Eiffel Tower on a regular Wednesday night with my friends, but that I really do have the opportunity to do all of these amazing things, I just need to decide to go out and do them. I really hope that this is something that translates into my daily life when I return home from Paris. 

I'm heading off to Barcelona this weekend. One of Lia's best friend from school, Debbie, is studying abroad there. The crazy thing is Debbie and I both did the same Jewish retreat program through high school, we have the same birthday, know a lot of the same people, both live in Orange County, yet we didn't meet until she visited Paris this weekend. There is no doubt that we've crossed paths, but so interesting that we didn't meet until now. It really is a small world!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Disneyland Paris

I didn't feel the need for a creative title today. Disneyland Paris is eye catching enough! Sunday's trip to the park was so much fun, I will do my best to put in into words.

On a quick side note, photos and blog of the apartment will be coming soon! Just need to clean up a bit, decorate, and then take the photos for your viewing enjoyment.

Back to Disneyland.

Today's blog will be filled with lessons. If the lesson receives a "Pass," Disneyland Paris has done something better than Disneyland (in California). If the lesson receives a "Fail," Disneyland has beaten Disneyland Paris. This is not to say that if Disneyland Paris receives more "Passes" then "Fails" it is a better park than Disneyland. Nothing can beat Disneyland. There are just some aspects of Disneyland Paris that are quite smart or deserve recognition. At the end, there will be a summary of the lessons and the mark received by Disneyland Paris. Furthermore, the objective of the lesson will be in bold. Like so. Let's begin.

We took the train right to entrance and excitedly danced to the ticket booth. There are two parks in Paris. The first one is just the normal Disneyland park, and the second is called Walt Disney Studios. Our plan was to save money and just buy tickets for Disneyland, but they had a student deal (Lesson #1: Pass) in which one ticket for both parks was 62euros. Just Disneyland would have been 61euros. So we paid 1euro to add the second park. What a deal. 

As soon as we entered, I honestly could not contain myself. I was an avid Disney goer from 8th till 12th grade, annual pass and all. I felt right at home and started snapping photos of everything in sight. I'll spare you. We immediately got down to business, mapped out our day, and began (as every good annual pass holder knows to do) with Space Mountain FastPasses for a little later in the morning. The first ride we hit after that was Indiana Jones. Much to our surprise, it was completely unlike the one in California. It was an outside roller coaster, with a loop (Lesson #2: Pass). I was quite thankful, as the Indiana Jones back home scares me quite a lot. 

Words over the photo so you can't steal a good copy
Lesson #6: Pass
We then moved on to Pirates of the Caribbean, which I am sorry to tell you does not contain Jack Sparrow (Lesson #3: Fail). The ride had three drops, none of which occurred at the beginning (Lesson #4: Pass). 

Our FastPasses were finally ready, and we headed over to Space Mountain. This ride was actually amazing. It is so much more thrilling than the one in California. The line is a lot more entertaining, the theme of the ride is better, AND there's a loop! They, do, however, take your picture at the beginning of the ride (Lesson #5: Fail). Pictures of faces mostly lacking in emotion and showing confusion as to why this is happening. 

After Space Mountain was Star Tours. They don't have the new ride yet (Lesson #7: Fail), so it was kind of like a little throw back. After having been on the new one at Disneyland, it was strange to see the same film for the ride again, in French, of course. (Forgot to mention, in case you didn't know, lots of stuff in French, but still had fun!)

I'll stop boring you with this play-by-play of everything that happened and jump right to our transition to Walt Disney Studios park. We were quite impressed by how fun the park turned out to be. We couldn't quite decide what to do first, so we hopped on the Studio Tram Tour (Lesson #8: Fail) of a Disney backlot. Sounds cool, right? Not exactly. We waited in line for 40 minutes for a waste of a ride. They showed props from Dinotopia (no one knew what that was), Pearl Harbor, and some other stuff no one knew was Disney, or maybe they're not. I won't spend too much time on it, so that's enough.

We wandered around Toy Story Playland (Lesson #9: Pass) before heading to Crush's Coaster (Lesson #10: Pass) which was the coolest ride I've ever been on in my entire life. You sit in a turtle shell and coast through the East Australian Current with Crush while the turtle shell turns and rocks back and forth. As soon as we got off the ride, we were all freaking out about how incredible the ride was. Lia and I feel bad for anyone that never gets to go on the ride. Which is most people. 

After that, we went back to Disneyland for a great rest of the night. One of our favorite parts of the whole park was the entrance to Adventureland, which was Aladdin themed (Lesson #11: Pass)! We took a bunch of silly photos. If you care to see them, go ahead and check Facebook. Kind of just wanted to give y'all an idea of what the Aladdin entrance looked like!

We spent the rest of the the night exploring the tree house and the rest of the park. We went on Space Mountain one last time and watched the fireworks, which included a great show projected on the castle. It really was a magical day. Lia, Maggie, Amanda and I had such a fun time and are so lucky to have gone! Oh and this photo...

Couldn't ask for more <3

And that's it! Please keep reading my blog and I hope you're enjoying my adventures. A bientôt!

As promised, a recap of the lessons:

Lesson #1: Pass
Lesson #2: Pass
Lesson #3: Fail
Lesson #4: Pass
Lesson #5: Fail
Lesson #6: Pass
Lesson #7: Fail
Lesson #8: Fail
Lesson #9: Pass
Lesson #10: Pass
Lesson #11: Pass
Pass: 7  Fail: 4
Definitely passed :D