Merci Beaucoup: Thanksgiving in Paris

I’ve been busy this month.

Me during the whole month
Me during the whole month

And I promise to post all about what I’ve been doing, including updates on all of my classes, including the one that meets at the Louvre every week, and all about this giant project that I’ve been working on all month long, but first I would just like to take a moment to celebrate the American holiday the only way I can in France, by saying Merci

Thank you to everyone who has supported me throughout this whole study abroad adventure! It’s not over yet! (Not even halfway yet wow)

To my parents who kept dropping not so subtle hints that they didn’t want me to go: I miss you too! And I’m super thankful to have parents that are supportive of their child packing up and living in another country!

To my roommates who begged me not to go away for the year, but still support me regardless: ❤ ❤ ❤

To all my grandparents and relatives who are keeping up with my adventures – your comments mean everything!

And finally, to you, my reader for coming along for the ride, thank you!

My dinner tonight was not American in the slightest, but I ate a ton and walked away stuffed so I guess that counts for something! Sweet Briar (the program I’m studying abroad with) was nice enough to take us all to a very nice restaurant to celebrate Thanksgiving. Here are the results:

Some sort of squash soup and croutons that were promptly dumped in.
Some sort of squash soup and croutons that were promptly dumped in.
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Lamb and potatoes? It was delicious
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Apple tart! Probably as close to pie as I was going to get

So there 🙂 I just wanted a quick post to thank all the amazing people in my life and show off food pictures because I’m jealous after looking at turkey pictures all day!

Have a great Thanksgiving everyone!

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Sorbonne Class Update: Presenting the Idea of American Hegemony

“Emily, who is presenting on the article today, is very courageous,” my French professor started, introducing me to the class. (He’d never bothered to introduce anyone before)  “She is an American student and I’m very happy that she is presenting this orally because most foreign students do the written assignment instead, so she is very brave.”

Please continue Professor
Please continue Professor

It was true. I was the only foreign student in the entire class who was giving an oral presentation.

But, if he said anything else, I was too nervous to notice as I walked to the front of the classroom and set up my presentation. Did I mention my presentation was all in French and in front of a classroom mostly full of native French speakers?

First slide of my presentation. Go America!
First slide of my presentation. Go America!

“So today I will be talking about the text we just read,” my voice sounded shaky even to my ears and I tried to enunciate my words clearly, in an effort to calm my voice. “The New World Order, written by George H. W. Bush.”

This isn’t the exact speech I read, but some of the same ideas are found here in one of Bush’s later speeches.

As I went on, my hands shook less and my voice evened out. Throughout the semester I’d noticed that most French students, when they presented in front of the class, used nothing but a sheet of notes and they occasionally wrote down important dates and names on the blackboard. As a foreign student, this was both extremely annoying and boring. Without something to follow along with on the screen I often ended up missing the most important information. For example, I’d write down the name of the event, but by the time I wrote it down they had already passed over its significance -rendering the name or date I wrote down almost useless! So I resolved to create a full out American powerpoint for my presentation, minus the English bien sûr!

Every important definition, point, date, and name was clearly typed out in my fancy presentation. I even included pictures.

Did the class like it? I don’t know.

But I did notice that it seemed that a much greater majority of the class was paying attention to my presentation that any other student’s. The real reason might have been that my American accent was interesting or maybe the fact that I was talking about American hegemony…

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Basically American Hegemony is the idea that America is the most powerful nation in the world and needs to act as a world policeman

 

Regardless, my presentation went splendidly. The professor added a couple other points at the end and then opened the floor for questions. By this point I wasn’t even nervous and eagerly listened to the question from a talkative guy a couple rows back.

“Why did the United States think that it was the only one who could spread democracy? There were plenty of other democracies at the time, like France and other European countries.”

I smiled. I had this answer down.

“Well even today in the United States some people have the idea -the ignorant idea that the United States is actually the only real democracy in the world. I come from Texas and there are some ignorant people who live there who don’t travel and don’t understand the world. When I talk about France with them they say ‘But France is socialist!'”

The entire class started laughing and I paused for a moment before continuing. “For some Americans socialism is the same thing as communism. So for them, the United States really is the only democracy in the world.”

Basically, I’m pretty sure I aced my presentation and got to make French kids laugh about a silly insight into American thoughts.

When I was doing research for my presentation I stumbled across this video… It should make you laugh and cringe at the same time. I definitely DID NOT share this with my French class!

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David, Gondolas, and More Gelato: Italy Part Two

Day two in Florence started off with a croissant and cappuccino at our hostel. Italian croissants are actually quite different from their French cousins as they are a bit denser and sweeter like brioche. (Here are some links to the first part of my vacation to Athens and then the first half of Italy)

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My cappuccino probably started out with a cute little heart in it… Then I added sugar.

Then we headed over to meet David.

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I was overjoyed. One more bucket list item crossed off!

Then we visited the Medici Chapel and haggled our way through Florence’s famous leather market before grabbing lunch at the jam packed  Trattoria Da Mario where we were thankfully able to find seats in the basement. I ordered the Tuscan pot roast which was a fantastic decision. The meat fell apart under my fork.

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Then when we were walking through the streets we stumbled upon another Grom, an Italian gelato chain.

Me spotting Grom
Me spotting Grom
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I got the crema come una volta again, sticking with my favorite creamy lemon flavor.Oh and that’s the Duomo in the background.

We wandered over to Santa Croce next and said hi to Michaelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli. (They’re buried there) and then ate some fantastic cannoli at this giant open air market in front of the Basilica that was there for a festival or something.

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Then we promptly worked off the cannoli by climbing up to Piazzale Michelangelo for a superb view over the city at sunset.

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I had some authentic Italian minestrone soup for dinner, partly because I had started to come down with a cold that day!

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Florence was probably my favorite city of the trip. It was significantly smaller than Rome, which was nice and I loved the Tuscan colors and vibe that surrounded the city. Also living next to Botticelli and David would not be such a bad thing!

The next day we took another train to Venice. Wow. Don’t ever believe people when they tell you that Venice is disappointing. It was everything I thought it would be and more:

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Don’t judge me, but one of the first things that popped into my head was actually a Pokemon movie I had watched years ago that takes place in a fictional Venice!

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My inner nerd had a ball in this city.

We dropped our bags off at our final hostel and grabbed some lunch:

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More pasta because well… Italy.

And no lunch would be complete without the dessert that follows:

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I don’t even know what flavor it is, but it was good.

Then we visited Saint Mark’s square, the basilica, and the Doge’s palace all at once. Thank goodness we were at the very end of tourist season because there weren’t any lines at all!

I guess the only thing that disappointed me about Venice was the lack of high speed chases going on. After watching The Italian Job I guess I had expected Venice to look like this:

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Picture from our gondola ride.

Then thanks to Yelp we found a “fast food” Italian pasta place that served their pasta in cute little to go containers like this:

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Sorry for the low quality picture! Streets in Venice are pretty dark

The next morning I had another latte macchiato:

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And then on the way to the ferry station we stumbled across a mask store where we spent at least an hour, trying on the various Venetian masks. They were all absolutely beautiful, but pictures were not allowed in the stores.

Next we caught a ferry over to Murano island, which is famous for it’s glass which can be found all over Italy. We followed the signs to watch a free glass blowing demonstration:

That's a horse.
That’s a horse.

We ate lunch on Murano and the restaurant’s specialty was asparagus risotto:

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Guess what I had for dessert?

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You guessed right. One of these was milk flavored, which honestly didn’t taste like much since I was sick.

However I was able to taste the cannoli I ate later that day!

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There was candied fruit on the inside!

I spent the rest of the day, wandering through Venice’s narrow, winding streets. The tiny streets seemed magical during the day, but downright dangerous at night as some of them would cut off into dead ends with no warning. Venice was wonderful to visit, but I don’t think I could ever live there.

For my last dinner in Italy I had more pasta:

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However, it was spicy pasta which did wonders for my clogged sinuses!

The next morning we left bright and early to head back to Paris. I have to admit, I was very glad to be back, especially since I’d been sick the last 3 days. Travelling quickly is efficient, especially for college students on a budget, but it sure was stressful having to change cities every two days.

Some final notes:

When you’re traveling:

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Every day is leg day.

Seriously. I don’t even want to think about the number of stairs I walked up to have “picturesque” view or see some ruins.

2. Gelato isn’t vegan:

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My inner nerd is running loose.

 

3. Italian coffee is so good it will ruin all other coffee for you:

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This is hypnotizing.

But actually, I was really early for class just the other day so I decided to have my first ever Starbucks in France. I got a mocha latte. I swear I couldn’t tell if it was just hot chocolate or if there actually was coffee in it. Conclusion: Italy ruined Starbucks.

My #basicbitch inner white girl is dead
My #basicbitch inner white girl is dead

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Macchiatos, Gelato, and Pasta: Italy Part One

The next part of my Fall break (from my classes at the Sorbonne if you missed my first post about my vacation in Athens) involved a Ryanair flight to Rome, which if you’ve heard of the famed budget airline, was not actually that bad! We immediately dropped our bags off at the hostel, (which had suprisingly given us a free upgrade to a private room so essentially we were paying 25 euros a night for a hotel!) and walked past this thing:

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Is this something important? Cause I just wanted a picture in Rome…

before heading to our first meal in Italy…

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Essentially fresh tomato basil pasta, but made even better with fresh, delicious Italian pasta.

I inhaled it.

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But actually

Next we wandered around the Colosseum for a little bit getting to see the other half of the ancient world. (first half = Greece)

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Then we walked around the area, stopping by the Pantheon and souvenir shopping before grabbing dinner at a pizza place:

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Those are thin slices of ham I think and it tasted a lot better than it looked I promise.

Then we dropped by Castel Sant’Angelo to relive Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons. (without the grisly murders of course) I highly recommend the book, but not the movie.

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That night we suffered from Rome’s 2 line only metro system and had to walk all the way back to our hostel. But there was a 5 star Yelp rated gelato place on the way which made everything better.

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Firsr gelato in Italy: Chocolate and Original Cream flavored which was amazing.

This was where I realized that I could never live in Italy. When I was deciding what to order I made it very clear to the vendor that I was allergic to nuts. He assured me that there were no nuts in his favorite flavor and let me sample it. It tasted fantastic so I asked for a scoop of it and a scoop of cookies and cream. Of course, even the vendor didn’t realize that Italians even put nuts in their cookies and cream gelato. Stupid biscotti. I had my medicine on me though and got some new gelato after explaining to the woman at the register that I would actually die if I ate the gelato. Thank goodness I never go anywhere without Benadryl!

Of course that could actually be said for Italy as a whole.
Of course that could actually be said for Italy as a whole.

The next day we woke up bright and early and beat the crowd into St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, but then had to wait an hour and a half to see the Sistine Chapel:

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It was a really long line.

The entire museum was just a massive river of people pushing through hallways full of art to get to the Sistine Chapel. The museum itself wasn’t actually enjoyable because of that, but the Sistine Chapel was stunning.

Basically Italian pasta = god.
Basically Italian pasta = god.

Then we checked out Yelp again for places to eat in the area and before we knew it we were sitting down at a restaurant that had “cheek fat” pasta on the menu. I blame poor translation.

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My cheeks and my cheek fat pasta. It was delicious and the “cheek fat” tasted a lot like ham.

We spent the rest of the day wandering through souvenir shops and various stately monuments for one thing or another. That’s the thing that struck me most about Rome. Rome was big and flashy in the classical sense. Everywhere you turned there was a new, majestic monument. I loved it! If only their transportation system was as advanced as the metro in Paris -I’ve been spoiled!

We had our daily dose of gelato from Grom, an Italian chain that is superb.

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Cafe and Crema Come Una Volta which was basically Grom’s original cream flavor, which has nothing to do with vanilla at all. It actually tastes lemony.

Then we headed back to the Pantheon for some Italian caffeine in the form of a 1.10 euro Latte Macchiatto. If it wasn’t for my nut allergy, the coffee alone would be reason enough for me to move to Italy. In Paris a decent latte costs around 5 euros!

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I only wished they had large sizes because after I scooped the delicious froth out with my spoon I was like:

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That was it for Rome and the next day we took a train to Florence and said hi to Fake David…

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Hi Fake David

Before heading to the famous deli All’Antico Vinaio that made me the best sandwich I have ever eaten in my life. When I stepped inside the friendly man behind the counter asked me what I wanted and I told him that I had absolutely no idea, but that I’d heard that their truffle sauce was good.

“Have you ever tried truffles?” he asked.

“No,” I said slightly ashamed, shaking my head. I don’t think I’d ever even seen it on a menu.

He cut me a piece of bread and slathered some truffle sauce on it. “Here try this and tell me what you think.”

It was a unique flavor, but delicious and I told him so. He then proceeded to make a sandwich putting in what he thought was best.

I'm not sure what's in it besides truffle sauce and buffalo mozzarella.
So I’m not sure what’s in it besides truffle sauce and buffalo mozzarella.

That entire sandwich only cost 5 euros. Totally made my day.

After that we headed into the Uffizi Galleries where I hung out with Botticelli and my favorite painting. (The Birth of Venus) Then we climbed the top of the Duomo’s bell tower where I was gifted with this magnificent view:

IMG_4013 We had to take a break after (those stairs were rough!) so logically we found some more gelato:

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If you haven’t noticed by now, gelato is to us what pie is to Dean Winchester. If it was ever nearing the end of a day where we hadn’t eaten gelato, the group would get antsy and start to look like this:

It's a necessity to life
It’s a necessity to life. Just like coffee.

We stopped by a cafe before dinner because the restaurant didn’t even open until 7 (silly Italians) and I ordered a macchiato expecting the typical tall, milky, coffee beverage and getting this instead:

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Basically an espresso shot with a tiny bit of milk.

A quick Google search later and I’d received my first lesson on Italian coffee. What I had just ordered was indeed a macchiato because an American macchiato (Starbucks caramel macchiato anyone?) is actually a latte macchiato, but we usually drop the “latte” when ordering.

When the restaurant finally opened I had some delicious ragout for dinner:

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Can you tell I really like pasta yet?

That was the end of day one in Florence and we headed back to our hostel too exhausted to even think about the supposed Turkish bath they had in the basement. Next time Florence, next time.

Stay tuned for the other half of Florence and then Venice: aka more pasta, gelato, and coffee!

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Athens: Cat Gods, Greek Frozen Yogurt, and Silly Photos

This past week was vacation time for All Saints Day in France. I’m not really sure what the holiday is exactly, but hey I’m not going to complain about a week of vacation! Sweet Briar didn’t exactly let us off of their classes, but when we heard that all Sorbonne classes were cancelled for the week, we all decided to skip the remaining classes and take advantage of valuable travel time!

When planning the trip I knew I wanted to go to Italy. It seemed logical since I had an extended break and lots of cities in Italy that I wanted to visit. Then one of my friends said they wanted to visit Athens and I created what some called “Emily’s Mediterranean Death March” as it included 2 days in Athens, Greece and 2 days each in Rome, Florence, and Venice. How’s that for some productive traveling? Don’t laugh but I was definitely sick by the end of the week – most likely with the build up of stress that came along with the title “Trip planner.”

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Hey there Athens!

I took an easyjet flight to Athens (I’ll write a blog post later reviewing the various budget airlines and travel tips) and after a hesitant metro ride to the inner city (everything was in Greek!) we finally made it to our hostel and dropped off our bags. Then we climbed the giant hill that towers over all of Athens.

Ignore my face and Zeus' temple in the foreground. I'm talking about that mountain looking thing with the Acropolis on top.
Ignore my face and Zeus’ temple in the foreground. I’m talking about that mountain looking thing with the Acropolis on top.

Lots of silly pictures ensued on the march to the top, full of “goddess” and “contemplating life” poses, but this one has to be my favorite.

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The Rice Owl in front of the Acropolis!

Then we wandered around the touristy streets for awhile and stumbled upon a Greek frozen yogurt shop and we had to try some. The yogurt is just one flavor (Greek) but you get to choose your toppings.

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Raspberries and white chocolate

Dinner that night was Moussaka. Now say that three times fast:

It reminded me a lot of Shepard’s pie as it was mostly a combination of potatoes and minced meat.

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It tastes even better than it looks

Then I’m not sure if this is a Greek thing (it probably isn’t) but the restaurant earned my eternal gratitude by giving us free dessert in the form of tiny scoop of ice cream in a shot glass.

This may not be Greek, but I love them for it
This may not be Greek, but I love them for it.

The next day we headed over to Zeus’ temple.

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Greek ruins are really impressive. I almost felt like I was inside a Percy Jackson movie and that Zeus and Athena were going to pop out at any moment, but the ruins were also a little disappointing, because they were well ruined. All that was left of Zeus’ temple was the few columns you see in the picture above, which left me feeling a little like this:

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Although I don’t think Hades would be too upset about the current state of Zeus’ temple.

I mean I know it’s unrealistic to wish that the ruins weren’t so ruined, but they were still really interesting, especially when we visited the Acropolis museum and got to see pieces of the Acropolis that had fallen off or had been stolen over the years. Then I got tired of seeing Greek ruins and decided to become a nice un-ruined Greek (uh Irish actually) statue.

Don't ask how I got up there
Don’t ask how I got up there

Lunch the next day was Gyros. I actually walked out of one restaurant we had tentatively decided on because they didn’t have gyros.

What? When I’m in Greece I need my Greek food!

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Check out that Sprite can.

Now there definitely weren’t as many stray cats in Greece as there were in Turkey, but these cats kept showing up smack dab in front of ruins, making them the most picturesque things in the entire city.

Here’s Hephaestus cat, contemplating the next mouse trap he will build for his home at the Temple of Hephaestus in the background:

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Hephaestus cat

Then there’s Zeus cat who is about to throw some lightning at me unless I give him some catnip…

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Zeus cat

And Athena cat is perfectly content to see that her temple still inspires about a million people a year…

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Athena cat in front of the Acropolis

I really enjoyed Athens and it was probably just the area I was staying by (right next to the Acropolis) but it almost felt too touristy, especially for late October. It was hard to imagine myself living there, as grocery stores were hard to find and we didn’t see much besides restaurants and souvenir shops that would indicate that people actually lived there. I loved the ruins though and would love to return one day and visit Delphi, Santorini, and other Greek isles.

To finish I would like to leave this extremely relevant video here in regards to both travelling in general and what I was imagining Zeus’ temple to be.

I’ll post about Rome, Florence, and Venice shortly!

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