Hot Jazz

Sorry for the lack of updates lately, I can no longer steal my internet from the Casa Fernandez, so I need to figure something else out.

This weekend has been rainy and cold. I refuse to wear a coat, so don't be surprised if I catch pneumonia. Coats are for wussies and people who have never hiked to class in 10 feet of snow with gale-force winds coming off of Lake Michigan. Hoo-ah!

I tried to go visit the Musée D'Orsay after class on Thursday, but it was a free day, and the museum was full with pushy tourists. So I couldn't admire any of the paintings without getting elbowed by large German women. Being far too delicate for such an aggressive and Deutsch-speaking crowd, I left before viewing any of my favorite paintings.

After that, I headed over to the Jewish quarter in Le Marais to look at some of the shops and to try Paris' world-famous falafel. Most of the well known places (like L'as du Falafel, recommended by Lenny Kravitz, or so says the sign in their window) were closed. Probably for some Jewish holiday I'm not aware of. So I stopped by another stand, and may have gotten food poisioning... My hommos and eggplant pita was pretty good, but an hour later I felt really dizzy and nauseated, and had to cancel my happy hour plans to go home and pass out.

Also, my dinosaur of a camera bit the dust. Good bye, old friend. You always kind of sucked, but thanks for the memories.

So, to make up for that disaster of a day, I planned a jazz club outing for everyone who wasn't getting crunk at Oktoberfest this weekend. I had been around Rue des Lombards before, on the trip to France I took with the BHS French department, and remembered it for its oddball nightlife. There are several Irish, Australian, goth, and gay bars around which makes for a colorful crowd. There are also a few jazz bars, so I suggested that we go look around and pick one we liked. We ended up at Le Baiser Salé, which translates into "The Salty Kiss". Thierry Fanfant, a bassist who comes from a long line of Guadeloupean jazz artists, and the rest of his quartet were playing, and it was a lot of fun. Their style was a sort of Afro-Caribbean jazz. They sat our group up front, so I was right next to the pianist, who was really excellent. I've attached some of their songs, so you can take a listen. I much prefer the live version, however. The club was intimate, warm and full of happy, singing and dancing people. It really put me in a great mood, and I was very impressed by the musicians. All and all, a really fun night, and I'll definitely back to see some of the Monday night jam sessions, which are free! I love free.

Also, fashion week starts on Tuesday??? How did I not know this? I'm going to try to get into some of the shows. Maybe STITCH can get me a press pass?

la macaque par Thierry FANFANT

be green par Thierry FANFANT

be green par Thierry FANFANT


Elizabeth Gilbert

"This is a good sign, having a broken heart. It means we have tried for something."

"I was full of a hot, powerful sadness and would have loved to burst into the comfort of tears, but tried hard not to, remembering something my Guru once said -- that you should never give yourself a chance to fall apart because, when you do, it becomes a tendency and it happens over and over again. You must practice staying strong, instead."

"There is so much about my fate that I cannot control, but other things do fall under the jurisdiction. I can decide how I spend my time, whom I interact with, whom I share my body and life and money and energy with. I can select what I can read and eat and study. I can choose how I'm going to regard unfortunate circumstances in my life-whether I will see them as curses or opportunities. I can choose my words and the tone of voice in which I speak to others. And most of all, I can choose my thoughts."

"Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings.

"Faith is walking face-first and full-speed into the dark. If we truly knew all the answers in advance as to the meaning of life and the nature of God and the destiny of our souls, our belief would not be a leap of faith and it would not be a courageous act of humanity; it would just be... a prudent insurance policy."

Though I make fun of this book/movie ("Oh, rich white ladies and their problems!!"), I think I'm going to go see Eat. Pray. Love. or Mange. Prie. Aime., as the posters in the Metro say. I'm turning into my mother (or Oprah), but this Elizabeth Gilbert woman might know what she's talking about.


Are you down with the RATP? Nope, you know me.

Never cross the RATP (Paris' CTA), they are ruthless.

Justine and I took advantage of the Journees du Patrimoine (This weekend, buildings owned by the French state not normally accessible to the public were open) by visiting the Chateau de Vincennes, built by Charles V of France, from 1340-1410. Well, King Charlie didn't build it himself, but you know what I mean.

On the way back into the city, I had to buy another set of metro tickets. Instead of waiting in line, Justine suggested I just follow her in through the turnstall, because it was a Sunday, and no one would be watching, and her friends do it all the time.

Of course, as soon as we passed through, we were approached by a stern-faced RATP employee who wanted to know what in the world we thought we were doing. Justine went into the famous French pleading mode I read about in Polly Platt (which normally works like a charm on men, she insists), but this woman would not budge. Even when Justine begged her to "look at me, like a human being". Zero tolerance. Stone cold. 50 euro fine.

Justine insisted on paying, so I just feel horrible. That was the most expensive metro ride ever.


Cheating on Lucy

This is Jean Monnet's (The Father of Europe, not the impressionist, you silly goose) dog. At least, it lives at his house, just outside of Paris. So cute!


Solo in the 16th

Even in a city of millions of people, it's still possible to feel pretty lonely. I mean, not all the time, and I'm not whining for your pity, or anything. I was just making an observation.

Today I was extremely exhausted. I'm not sure why, I didn't go to the Integration Party for Sciences Po last night, even though I bought a ticket. 11pm-5am on a school night? My, my. However, one of the French students told me there will be a "mariniere" party on a boat on the Seine in early October. As you can see in my profile photo, I am big on sailor stripes. They are kind of my thing.

My lame-ness (or not?) paid off in the end, as I was able to answer my professor's question that she uses to trick Americans. (Q: Where did the idea for seperation of powers in government come from? American Answer: The American Constitution, Correct Answer: Montisquieu) Wow wow wow, this makes me sound like a terrible snobby uptight person who hates all fun times and only prides herself on answering obscure questions about philosophers. Maybe this is who I am. I might as well embrace it. But, no! No, it isn't. I like to have fun just as much as anyone else. I just think my definition of fun is a little different.

Now, the Onion just wrote an article about study abroad that pretty much accurately describes most student experiences. This program is probably one of, if not the most, rigorous that Northwestern offers, and carries quite a bit of prestige, so working is not optional. So, I'm not really looking for that kind of study abroad. I don't want to travel around every weekend, or drink until I'm drunk as a skunk. I DO want to know Paris like the back of my hand, I want to learn, and I want to make good friends, American and Parisian.

Sometimes I do feel a bit lonely all the way out here in the 16eme arrondisment. It takes a while by metro for me to get anywhere, I have dinner at home at 7:30, and then the metro closes again at 1:30 or so. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for Sonia's hospitality, and her insistance for me to use French at all times, but sometimes I'm a bit jealous that a lot of our group is in a more centralized location. And at the same time, as much as I love my fellow Americans, I'm itching to meet some French friends too. Plus, I have a lot of time on my hands, with no job or extracurriculars (yet, I think I might check out the SciencesPo choir/orchestra tomorrow) to keep me constantly busy. It's still early, but I'm waiting for the pace of things to really pick up! And filling my free time with shopping is a terrible idea for my bank account, so let's hope something comes along quickly.

My cell phone is in working order now, and I can call anyone I want to, so I really shouldn't be complaining. I just think I spend too many Parisian nights in my room studying, when I could be in some café studying, perhaps with another human being.

I'm going to definitely make more of an effort to organize meetings outside of school, starting this weekend. Sunday I'm meeting up with Justine and some of her friends to visit President Sarkozy's palace/residence.

I've had a good week so far, it's just lonely when you're tired, alone, a bit sad and worried about family at home. But this too shall pass!


The Real World: Paris

Lately, I've been getting some complaints that my blog is boring (Angelica). To remedy this, I've finally found time to breathe between inhaling flaky pastries to write a blog post for you all. How generous of me, I know. :-)

So far, Paris has really blown me out of the water. Last time I was here, for 3 days as a sixteen year old, I came, I saw the monuments, and I left with photo-perfect memories. Living here is another animal entirely. It's soooo different, like...a real city? Who would have thunk it?

I am absolutely amazed at how many young people are out and about...all the time. Day or night, there are huge groups of kids, in high school, or college-aged just loitering about, hanging by the Seine, or on bridges, or on street corners. Sometimes there is alcohol, sometimes not. My friend Justine says that this is partly because Parisian youth have lots of money and little supervision by workaholic parents, which make sense. I suppose rich American teens do the same thing, but inside family homes, since the police wouldn't look kindly on large public congregations of young people or underage drinking.

Paris also seems much more diverse to me than it did four years ago. Maybe this isn't statistically true, but since I'm actually living here, I have noticed all the ethnic minorities and their integration (or not, regrettably) into Paris, instead of monuments and palaces. It is interesting that some non-native French are considered completely assimilated, but others are not. Recent European immigrants or 3rd generation Black French do not seem to face the same difficulties as Arab immigrants, for example. All citizens are supposed to be considered French, and that's all, no hyphenated labels here (statistics on ethnic origin are not kept by the French Republic). But just because race and religion are officially ignored by the state, doesn't mean ethnic and religious prejudice doesn't exist. Whether the struggle of ethnic minorities in the suburbs is a class issue or a race issue, it's still a major problem in France.

But not all of Parisian life is troubling. Hardly. Trust me, this is coming from someone who just had dinner in the Latin Quarter, and then just swung by the Louvre for a few hours for FREE. I am just blown away and thankful that I am able to do such amazing things. In the past few days, I've ordered my first cocktail (a mojito, and just 1. Mojitos are very trendy in Paris, btdubs.), visited the most AMAZING department store (Le Bon Marché) that I've ever seen. I've visited the first of the trifecta of Parisian burial places, De Passy (Manet, DeBussy, Fauré). Pere La Chaise (Wilde, Morrison, Piaf, Chopin, Delacroix, Callas, Proust) and the Pantheon (Voltaire, Hugo, Curie, Monnet, Dumas), I'm coming for you. I've sat on café terraces or park benches with views of the Eiffel Tower, reading for class and sipping café crème, so happy to be in the most beautiful city in the world. Life is pretty good, here and now. I like it. Classes are great, and I love Sciences Po already. I'd like to branch out somewhat from our Northwestern-English bubble, though there are so many amazing people in my program! Justine has offered to invite me to meet her friends, who go to another grande école in Paris. I'm also considering where to go for Toussaint, a long break I have from school at the end of October. If you have any suggestions, let me know! Or if you know any good Parisian jazz clubs.

And as Blair Waldorf says, you can't let anything prevent you from jumping into the belly of the beast, which is Paris. Gossip Girl premieres tonight, I'm a little excited.

Also, there are new photos below. I'm not a photographer, I'm sorry, and I don't take many, but hopefully you can get some idea of what I'm up to.

Strolling through Paris


J'ai un problème...

Tomorrow there will be a huge strike against pension age reform, with two million Frenchmen expecting to take part, and I have to find some way to make it to class at 10:15... Google tells me it's about a 50 minute walk, which is a little ridiculous. Trying to take the metro will be too risky, with only a 1/3 of trains in service. Apparently the buses will still be up and running, so we'll see if I can figure out a route.

It's a huge no-no to be late to class, especially if you have a French professor. All this trouble because they're planning to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62! My goodness. Can't the French be happy with their 35 hour work weeks and 7 weeks of paid vacation?

Agrandir le plan


To Normandy and Back Again

I'm currently writing this update from the Starbucks terrace on my street. I know, an American at Starbucks. How typical. But seriously, this is the only place I've found with stable Wi-Fi. I'm tired of pirating my internet from "Casa Fernandez" and "BERTRAND" at the apartment.

Anyway, I returned last night from our orientation trip to Normandy. It was a nice trip, and I was glad to meet and get to know everyone in our group. The first day required us to meet at the Opera Garnier at 7 AM, and after that we were swept away to Normandy, birthplace of impressionism and very good apple juice. Our first stop was the World War II memorial and museum in Caen, and after that we were herded by bus around to an endless parade of different war memorials, cemeteries, and D-Day beaches. It was a somber day overall, mostly devoted to the American and German cemeteries, death, war and destruction. The countryside was beautiful, on a brighter note. It was a bummer to have to spend a whole day focused on negative things like casualties and battles, even though they are admittedly an important part of American history.

After our grand tour, we found our hotel in Caen, a city that was rebuilt after being destroyed during the war. Unfortunately, it still was extremely sad. I think one of my classmates described it as something out of the Eastern Bloc. She was absolutely right. Depressed neighborhoods, Concrete buildings, prostitutes everywhere. After throwing our bags in our rooms, we hit the town in search of dinner. At a small restaurant right next to our hotel were two young men who harassed every woman who walked by, shouting "Mamma Mia, do you speak English?" or "OH MY GOD. OH MY GOD". Usually French men restrain themselves to a silent check-out or a double-take, but these two were notable exceptions.

After escaping our harassers, a small group of us wandered through Caen's near-empty streets (on a Friday night) and found a tiny Iranian restaurant. I had the Moussaka (I have no idea if this is what it's actually called in Persian, but it tastes similar to the Greek dish) and some rose wine. (we don't know the people at the back table in the photo, by the way. But don't they look friendly?)

The next day was much more my speed. We got up and left Caen around 9 to visit two resort towns near the sea, Honfleur and Deauville. Honfleur is a busy little town, with hilly and narrow streets lined with old buildings, and lots of seafood restaurants boasting mussels and a great view. The Saturday morning market was in progress, so instead of getting lunch at a pricey cafe, some of us bought chicken, cheese, fruit, and bread from street vendors and had a picnic by the marina. We had a lot of time to spend in town, and were left to do our own thing, which I appreciated.

Our next stop was Deauville, site of the Deauville American Film Festival, and Coco Chanel's original boutique. No Meryl Streep sighting this year, I'm sorry to report. The town itself was quite impressive with beautiful villas, expensive shops and chocolate shops, and the largest beach I have ever seen, filled with unimpressive men in impressively small speedos.

Now I'm back in Paris, about to start the school year tomorrow morning. I can't wait to be on a schedule so my Parisian life can get going! I'm sort of worried about my French oral skills. Sometimes French people tell me that my French is good, and other times I'm stumbling over my words and feeling totally inadequate. I don't think I did very well on my French class oral placement test either... I froze up when the examiner was asking me questions. In my defense, they were pretty strange, for example: "What did you do when you were little?" and "How do you feel about Facebook?". My answers: "Uh....I went to school???" and "Uh...it's good??? " I guess I've only been speaking for about a week after a LONG period of inactivity, but still, not good. I suppose if my French class is too easy I can switch out, but I should have known to elaborate a bit...

In addition, I'm experiencing a bout of culture shock. While I was wandering around my neighborhood, looking for cafes, the post office, and the supermarket, I noticed that being in Paris doesn't feel like a vacation anymore. I realize now that I'm not going home for a very long time, and it's me up against the French world, which is making me feel sort of hesitant and scared. This is strange because in normal circumstances, not much intimidates me. I want to live like a normal French person/student, so hopefully I'll snap out of it soon!

My photo album of the trip can be found in the post below this one, so check that out!

Trip to Normandy (Photos)