Thursday, April 26, 2007

3 girls, 2 guys and a manual transmission

Thursday, natallie and I randomly decided to go to Normandy the next day. When I mentioned my plans to the other imbas, jamie, sara and pfaff decided to jump on board. And that's how it came about that I volunteered myself to drive a manual transmission van 220 kilometers to the D-day beaches. Even with the navigation system on the fritz, we made it out of Paris alive. Anyone who has ever driven with me will tell you that I drive like a grandma. I always have, always will. My hands are white-knuckled and glued to the ten and two positions. Anyways, i was a little nervous about getting out of Paris but we just followed the signs and everything was fine. We arrived in Caen around one and after driving around the city for half an hour trying to find the tourist office, we just parked. This is us trying to figure out how to pay for parking. How many imbas does it take?Finally found the tourist office after deciding to ignore the signs which pointed not in the right direction and got some brochures which were basically of no help. We saw a lady with all of her hair in one dred lock which was pretty much the sickest thing i have ever seen.
After a quick lunch, natallie volunteered to drive and subsequently keep me sane, since pfaff has a tendancy to backseat drive with comments such as, "by the way, we seem to be off our route," and "geez, are you really only going 120? HA." We headed towards Omaha beach. It was absolutely beautiful. It was also pretty hilarious to see Jamie re-enact the storming of the beach. The water was cold, but that didn't keep some crazy tourists from stripping down to their skivvies to take a dip. We were too late to get into the cemetery, but we did see some people wind car racing or whatever you would call such a thing.

After that we drove to bayeux to see some churches and have an amazing traditional normandy dinner. Then, the navigation system finally kicked in, but only enough to direct us towards the round about at the arch de triumph which is eight unmarked lanes of mayhem that no one should ever drive in. scary! And natallie was driving, which was good cause you can't tell when she is freaked out, so we were probably relatively more calm than we should have been. But we came out alive, so all is well.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

An Outpouring of American Love aka Things Not Found In Paris

This past week, I went with Natallie to London and Dublin for some sight-seeing, beer drinking, leprechaun-loving, hostel-staying fun. We arrived in London first and after getting the third (and fourth) degree from customs, we were allowed in the country. Our hostel was a pleasant surprise. It was a new, clean renovated victorian mansion with free internet and the best breakfast ever (basically more than just toast). Awesome. We went to the tower of london and did the beef eater tour which was way cool and gory. Our guide gave us all the details and really painted a picture of what it must have been like for Anne Boleyn and Thomas Moore to walk. I was amazed that the military men who give the tours have to take a four hour test every day for six months to make sure they know everything there is to know about the tower. yikes. We also did the london eye which is a giant ferris wheel with enclosed pods that rotate as you go around. I had fun trying not to be afraid of heights. Not worth the money in my opinion, but it was still pretty cool. We also tried out camden market. It was amazing. It had everything from clothes, hats, socks, souvenirs to furniture and whatever else you could think of buying. We literally walked for four hours and still were not at the end of all the stuff being sold.
Saturday, we headed for Dublin back to the euro and away from the 2 to 1 dollar to pound exchange rate. At the airport, we decided to check out the duty free store and while searching for perfume natallie and were approached by two sales people. They were sooooo excited to meet us. They said, "Oh my god, are you american, that's so cute, we love americans and whenever they come into the store it's like CHRISTMAS. so, can we give you some freebies? perfume, bags, lipstick samples?" It was the exact opposite of the basic parisian reaction to americans and was really refreshing, plus i got a free lip gloss and a handbag. The moral of this story is, if you're ever feeling down, go visit emma and brad in the perfume section of the luton airport.

Then on to Dublin, where the love continued to flow our way, although it was mostly in the form of drunks and old guys. We went to the oldest pub in Ireland called the brazen head and natallie got basically molested by an old guy named Paddy who informed me that i was a true irish woman and that all i wanted was a bit of land and to pop out some wee ones. Paddy knows, he could see it in my eyes. Due to the high BAC, he was only slightly taken aback when I informed him that that was not exactly in my plans right now. Then we ran away from Paddy under the guise of having to meet more friends out or something. I basically looked at my cell phone, said look at the time and yelled that excuse over my shoulder as we sprinted away. go team.

Next we came across "Moo on the Loo" who is someone with a paper mache cow head who sits on a toilet in the middle of the street and you can take pictures with him for some loose change. Which i of course did. On the way back from the bar, the fun had just begun. I noticed coming towards us, was a very very large woman with her very very large breast in a very very large white lacy bra hanging completely out of her shirt. Being the good samaritan that I am, I walked up to her and said let me help you with that and yanked her shirt back into it's proper position. She said oh my god thank you so much, i'm a school teacher and what if the parents could see me now. Natallie and I laughed and tried to walk away, when large and in charge's slim male companion bear hugged Natallie and said, "Oh my god, you're american that is so cute can i hold you." and then proceeded to hold her until i told him large and in charge had left him. then he scampered off.

Oh, but the night was not over yet. It was around 1 in the morning and we returned to the hostel to find our roommates (two undergrads studying in paris, just like me) already asleep. Now I will tell you that I was so hopeful that we could be friends when i met them. They seemed smart and nice. So, when we got ready for bed, I tried to be extra quiet. But what really happened is I tried to put my pajama pants on, tripped over the legs of my own pants, tripped over the chair, knocked it over and fell half naked and butt first into my potential friend's suitcase. Now, i don't know what your parents taught you, but putting your half naked hindquarters in someone's belongings is not the way to make new friends. The girl, sleep mask still on, leapt out of her bed and offered me a hand out of her suitcase, which was good because not only was i stuck, but i was so frozen in horror and in an effort not to burst into hysterical, self-depricating laughter that I couldn't get up. Needless to say, the next morning, I pretended to be asleep while my roommates packed their things up to leave.

After that, Natallie and I went to the Guinness brewery and wandered around Dublin. All in all it was a good time.

In school news, I took my french language test today and I think it went pretty well. I had an interview on thursday and I did it all in french which made me proud. However, the lady told me that my resume was impressive, but she didn't think my french was good enough to be able to do the job. Sadness. Well, i did the best i could. Keep your fingers crossed that i will get an internship in the next 20 days or so. otherwise, I don't know what I'll do. Although, i'm tempted to dress up as marie antoinette and wander around versailles taking pictures with people for tips under the guise of an "entrepeneurship project." Leave any suggestions for other internship opportunities or entrepreneurship ideas:)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Choose Your Own Adventure...or Torture, whatever the kids are calling it these days

Well, Sydney left me all alone, but I did overcome my sickness enough to take a picture with her.

I sometimes wonder why I torture myself with the french language, especially when I have to do something as scary as try to find a job! I know I'll be a better person with great skills at the end of this journey, but the getting there is tough sometimes. Last week I had my very first interview in France. It was one of the more excruciating experiences of my life. I prepped myself all night and all morning before getting on the train to go to my interview for an internship with a technology company. When I arrived, I got on the elevator and pressed 4 and nothing happened. The doors closed and the elevator went down and someone else got on and still i was pressing for. Luckily, the lady who got on had a magic key and she took me to the fourth floor where my interview was. I got off the elevator and immediately found myself in the middle of someone's office cubicle. There was nowhere to sit, so they got me a chair, so that I could sit in the middle of the workspace while i waited for the guy to come get me. He finally came and the interview started. He asked me if I wanted to do it in French or English, and I said English, which was silly, but I was so nervous at that point, I was close to tears. Needless to say, the interview was not my best, but it wasn't horrible. I haven't found out yet if I got it, but it would be an interesting job and I would have lots to do and lots to learn. I realized as I left that I am terrified of being away from the comfort zone of school and having my friends from the program around. It's definitely going to be tough once I'm in the french working world, but I bet my french will get a lot better:) Anyways, I have another interview with a pharmaceutical company next week, so wish me luck because this one will absolutely be en francais.

In other news, Natallie, my roommate from Chicago, is the latest person to visit me. It's my school vacation right now and we have certainly kicked it off. Yesterday, I picked her up from the airport and we went on a fantastic boat tour of paris. Today, we went to the champagne region (the city of Reims pronounced Rahnce) for a day trip. It was absolutely incredible. It was a beautiful day and we got to tour the pommery caves. The outside looks like a castle and the actual cellars are old Roman chalk caves that madame pommery herself switched into interconnected cellars that hold over 20 million bottles of champagne. We also saw the world's largest cask that holds 75,000 liters of champagne. Yum! We even got to taste some.

Sara and I cheers!

The other neat place in Reims was the Cathedrale de Notre Dame where 26 french kings were crowned. The first was Clovis in 498 and the last was Napolean Bonaparte himself. The tourism office is actually in the ruins of the Cathedrale and for just 12 euros we got a bus pass, a champagne cave tour, free museum tickets and a box of special pink cookies that are supposed to be eaten with the champagne. It was one of the best trips I've had yet and I bought a cheesy magnet to commemorate it. hooray. Next stop, London and Dublin.