The Hunt for Scones: London Round 2

Warning:

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If you don’t like British guys turn back now.

So the last week in February was “winter break” in France. “Winter break?” you may ask. “Isn’t that the same thing as Christmas Break?” Well while the two may be synonymous in the US, in France winter break is an extra break for either one or two weeks at the end of February!

 

Don't question it
Don’t question it

So I decided to take full advantage of this fortuitous break and head over to the UK and visit London and Edinburgh… and a couple places in between.

I actually headed out to London by myself and spent the whole day wandering the city alone since the girl I was travelling with had class that day and wouldn’t arrive until late that evening. But since this wasn’t my first time in London I wasn’t worried. So after I hopped off the train and dropped my bags at the hostel I immediately went to Covent Garden, a cute little shopping area to buy some of Whittard’s Vanilla Shortbread tea which has to be the best tea I have ever had in my life – and I’ve had a lot of tea!!

I'm serious about my tea.
I’m quite serious about my tea.

Then I walked to this tea room I had looked up earlier, fully intending on grabbing lunch and then tea and scones there, but then I chickened out when I walked up to it. This would be my first time ever eating lunch by myself okay?

If only I could've had lunch and tea with these guys.
If only I could’ve had lunch and tea with these guys.

So I decided to go eat at Wagamama, an Asian noodle chain restaurant that is absolutely delicious. They don’t exist in Paris so that’s how I justified it. And so I ate lunch by myself for the first time (in a foreign country at that) and I survived!

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I was feeling quite proud of myself and independant at this moment so I mustered up the rest of my courage and walked back to the tea room and finally got to try scones in England, complete with clotted cream and jam.

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I was in food and tea heaven.
I felt as fancy as Tom Hiddleston
I felt as fancy as Tom Hiddleston

Then after my leisurely (two) meal(s) I decided to walk all the way to Shakespeare’s Globe Theater since it included a long stroll down the River Thames:

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Then I took a guided tour of the place complete with various theatrics and a summer camp full of kids cheering to “destroy” the “dragon” that was “burning” down the theater.

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In the gift shop I stumbled across the Shakespeare manga collection in the gift shop and I just had to take a picture:

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I’ll admit it. I bought “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” It was too unique to pass up!

After making my purchases, I walked all the way back to the British Museum. Man that was a long walk! The British Museum was thankfully free and I arrived just in time for a guided tour/explanation of the Rosetta Stone which is a stele inscribed with an official decree in three languages: Ancient Egypt hieroglyphs, Demotic script, and Ancient Greek. Since we already had knowledge of Ancient Greek, this stone tablet allowed us to begin to understand hieroglyphs!

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This rock is over 2000 years old.

I wandered past lots and lots of mummies… including Cleopatra’s!! and then stumbled across an exhibition on English propaganda during Napoleon’s time! As a French major and a history fan I laughed quite a bit:

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Napoleon would be the short guy.

Afterwards, it was pretty late I went back to my hostel to wait for my friend to arrive! My first day “travelling” by myself wasn’t too bad, but I was definitely feeling starved for human interaction by that evening!

The next day I re-did some of the typically touristy things such as the London Eye and the Tower of London with my travel buddy… and I stumbled across this in the Tube:

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The secret’s out!!
Nevermind. They've clearly known about this power they've held over us for quite some time...
Nevermind. They’ve clearly known about this power they’ve held over us for quite some time…

After the London Eye we went scone hunting which led us to a saturday market full of food… But no scones.

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I ended up grabbing some cheap, delicious Indian food for lunch, because the Brits understand Indian food a lot better than the French do!

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Following our first failure to find scones, we continued the hunt for the next hour, until we finally stumbled across a place that had tea and scones. Then I was presented with this conundrum:

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To add milk, or not to add milk to my Earl Grey tea?

Well, I added milk and didn’t really taste a difference…

Sherlock would have approved though
Sherlock would have approved though

But the scones were out of this world! One was with dark chocolate covered cherries and the other contained an assortment of fruits like apricots and blueberries!

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After our little tea break, we headed to the Tower of London to see the crown jewels (Moriarty wasn’t there unfortunately) and then we we went to Baker Street for dinner and passed by 221B Baker Street to find, much to my surprise, that the museum was still open!

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Then we had dinner at Nando’s, a Portuguese chicken restaurant chain that once again, does not exist in Paris! They have this wonderfully spicy lemon and herb sauce and I couldn’t go to London without stopping by again!

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The next day was essentially my whole reason for going back to London:

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The SHEEP. Just kidding, that’s Stonehenge in the background.

I’d always wanted to visit Stonehenge, but to tell you the truth I’d never had any idea where Stonehenge actually was! Turns out it’s only an hour or so outside of London, so I bought a ticket for a day trip to Stonehenge and Bath and basically got on a bus and was taken everywhere!

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After our little jaunt at Stonehenge we travelled to Bath, the location of Roman baths (hence the name) which were considered sacred at the time because they believed a goddess lived in the natural hot spring.

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My reason for going? It was also mentioned several times in Jane Austen’s novels as a chic vacation getaway!

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Of course I couldn’t leave England without eating Fish and Chips at least once:

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And then the next morning I woke up to an owl tapping at my window holding a letter in its beak… so off I went to Kings Cross Station!

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I will be continuing my study abroad at Hogwarts University!!!!

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But before heading off to my “new school,” I took a trip to Scotland which I will describe in my next blog post!

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Back in America For an Hour

This past weekend Sweet Briar, the program I’m studying abroad with, took us on a day trip to Normandy to see the D-Day beaches and the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.

The land of the American cemetery was given to the Americans following WWII so I was technically back in the United States for a brief hour!

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Our professors even “allowed” us to speak English while we were there, except I forgot and kept speaking French.

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While there I realized that without the sacrifices of so many men and women, I would not be here in France today.

It is notoriously cold and windy in Normandy so the night before I had a conversation with my host family that went something like this:

Host Mom: “Emily, do you have a scarf?”

Me: “What? Of course I do!”

Host Mom: “No, like a real scarf and not just one that looks pretty? One made out of wool or something to keep you warm?”

Me: “Ha. No I don’t have one.”

Host Mom: “What about a bonnet?”

Me: “A what?”

Host Mom: “You know like a hat!”

Me: “Uh no.”

Host Mom: “Well what about gloves? Do you have any gloves?”

Me: “I’m from Texas…”

I'm sorry that I'm Texan and I don't understand the cold!!
I’m sorry that I’m Texan and I don’t understand the cold!!

Basically, my host family ended up lending me their ski wardrobe, which I was very thankful for because despite the clear skies and the sun, the beaches were still freezing cold and windy!

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Showing off my mittens

We were also accompanied by a couple of tour guides who didn’t really do much besides walk us down the beach and point out a couple memorials with all of the information about the landings written down on them.

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Our first view from the beach

We walked through the part known as Omaha Beach, where some of the American forces landed during the Allied invasion of German-Occupied France.

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I really like this seafoam

Then of course, no visit anywhere is complete without seeing and photographing the local inhabitants of today:

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Thank you hand, for distracting the cat long enough for me to snap a picture

Cultural Remark: French dogs are remarkably well behaved. Seriously, dogs get on the metro all the time and most don’t try to run after other dogs or show any interest in passing by pedestrians!

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Our trip to Normandy was in brief, very short. We spent about two hours total on the beach itself before we had to head back to the train station in Caen to catch our train back to Paris.

This past week I’ve also still been super busy with my internship here and a bunch of applications for internships and advising have come out recently so I’ve been working away on them instead of updating my blog like I should!

But I promise…

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A Busy Parisian Bee

Now that the first week of full classes has gone by I can admit that this is going to be a very busy semester! 4 days out of the week my schedule is packed and then the other three days I’m like this:

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What do you mean I’m in Paris? It’s cold!

This semester I’m taking 3 classes at Sweet Briar (the program I’m studying abroad with), 1 class at the Sorbonne, and I have an internship at the École Militaire. 

I intern there. (It's not a joke)
I intern there. (It’s not a joke)

My study abroad program finds internships for the spring semester students and so I’m working in a journalism/international relations office where I’m translating and will soon be writing my own policy analysis articles. I had to create a CV all in French and apply like normal, but now I have one of the undoubtedly coolest internships in all of France. I’m probably one of the dozen un-uniformed people there and I am constantly surrounded by generals and strange French working customs.

For example, you give handshakes at the office in France! (Which is weird for France. I’ve stuck my hand out several times only to be awkwardly stared at.) But of course if you’re a girl you shake hands and do la bise (French cheek kiss thing) which is typically the only greeting I’ve been used to here.

I just go with it
I just go with it

 

I might just be super lucky, but also the attire for the non-military personnel is decidedly casual (albeit French casual which is miles ahead of American casual any day).

Class wise, at the Sorbonne I’m taking the History of the Middle East in the 20th century, which is covering everything from the creation of Israel to the Arab Spring in 2011. Most Sorbonne classes are simply continuations of the previous semester so I was a tad bit nervous about not knowing what happened in the Middle East in the first half of the 20th century. Then the professor handed out the final exam from last semester and there was a big picture of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk so I knew I was going to be all right. (If you don’t know I did a big research project in Turkey last year and Atatürk was kind of the founder of the modern Turkish state)

My professor is clearly an expert on the subject of the Middle East, she’s easy to understand, and she informed me (the only foreign student in the class) that I will not have to take the final exam at the end of the semester.

That's one less exam I have to take!
Basically she’s 100% amazing.

For my Sweet Briar classes I’m continuing with the amazing grammar class and I’m taking the History of Art in France in the 19th and 20th centuries, which is basically a continuation off of last semester. (This is the same class where we visit the museums in person for class). I’m also taking the History of France and Europe in the 20th century, which I should drop because I only need to take 3 classes because of my internship, but it seems like a really interesting and useful class since I would get to know more about recent French history. (Which you know could be useful for an aspiring diplomat)

I’m also continuing to give English lessons to family’s kids a couple hours a week for a few extra euros. Gotta pay for my pastry and coffee addiction somehow! (Actually let’s be honest: I’m starving and saving all my money for the opera)

Oh also… It snowed this weekend. This Texan girl was like this:

"Are those actual snowflakes??"
“Are those actual snowflakes??”

(I had never seen snow fall before. It was a good day.)

Anyone want to hazard a guess from the gifs where I’m thinking of travelling next? (If you guessed England you would be right!)

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I am now a (beginner) French Pastry Chef!

I finally did it! I went to a cooking class with La Cuisine Paris a couple days ago and learned how to make croissants, pain au chocolat, pain suisse, pain au raisin, and then a bunch of other pastries I don’t remember the names of. Turns out they’re all made with the same croissant-butter dough so it was really easy to make a bunch of things when everyone had a slab of their own dough!

Pain au chocolat in the back, and something the teacher called a "basket" with the jelly in it
Pain au chocolat in the back, and something the teacher called a “basket” with the jelly in it

The entire class lasted three hours. The process of making the croissant dough is actually very complicated as it involves folding (like literal folding) a block of butter (yes that’s right) into the dough. However once you have the dough the hard part is over and it’s pretty simple to shape them into the correct shapes.

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Putting chunky sugar on top of these pinwheel things

I doubt I could ever recreate these on my own especially since the specific butter and flour would be difficult to find in the US, but I’ll probably spend a good week of my life this summer trying!

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Pain suisse: which has to be my favorite french pastry ever. That would be vanilla pudding/custard in there under all those chocolate chips!

At the end of those very labor intensive three hours, when the pastries came out of the oven we all looked a little bit like this:

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We were hungry.

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The end results! From left to right: pain au chocolat, those basket things, pain suisse (my favorite ❤ )

Then they brought us some tea and coffee and we all ate as much as we could!

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One of our croissants before I ate it

Then because there was still trays upon trays of croissants left, we were all given bags to take the remaining pastries:

So this is what happened
So this is what happened

All in all it was a successful morning and I can honestly admit I couldn’t even look at croissants and pastries the rest of the day!

I’m considering going back to the same place sometime this semester to learn how to make macarons (macaroons for all you English people) but it’s pretty expensive! But I suppose it’s worth the money to be able to tell people that I’m now a French pastry chef! What else did people expect me to learn when I came to France??

"Oh I don't know, maybe FRENCH??" -my parents
“Oh I don’t know, maybe FRENCH??” -my parents 

Moving beyond food: the first week of classes just ended, I snagged an internship, and even grabbed another pair of cheap opera tickets and went to see the German opera Ariadne auf Naxos! Stay tuned for a more in depth explanation 🙂

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New Beginnings?

Well finals started and then I took a trip to Spain and before I knew it I found myself back on the plane to go home for the holidays! And just like that my first semester studying abroad was over!

How did that happen?
How did that happen?

So I’ve spent the last 3 weeks reading English books, Netflix binge watching with my sister, and just generally spending time with my family.

My first semester studying abroad was great – not exactly what I expected, but still amazing nonetheless. I have to admit, it did get a little lonely at times (and I mean lonely for an introvert/ambivert) but I’ll chalk that up to not living in a dorm. I miss living with my friends terribly, but I just have to keep reminding myself that they will still be there for me in a year, whereas my next trip to Paris is quite undetermined after this year.

I got back to Paris two days ago and by a sad twist of fate I switched host families today and am now living in a giant apartment in the 16th arrondissement. It’s not as conveniently located as my last host family and I won’t have an awe-inspiring view of the Arc de Triomphe each time I go to the metro, but I’ll survive. (My budget will certainly be thankful that I no longer live off of the most expensive street in Paris!) The family has three kids who are all living away from home, but come back on the weekends. They range from 23 to 18 so hopefully it won’t be too difficult to get to know them!

Oh and also… my family has an ESPRESSO MAKER.

Real coffee!!!
Real coffee!!!

Essentially, I’ve been complaining about French coffee for the last 5 months since my last host mom had nothing but instant coffee. Which is fine if you’ve never tasted good coffee in your life. Or hate sugar.

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Classes for me don’t start until Monday, possibly… Not quite sure what classes I’ll be taking exactly, but I’ll keep you updated!

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