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Almost. What a better way to start the morning off than to come out of the shower seeing a room filled with smoke. I mean, THICK smoke. I mean, first I’m thinking This is a lot of smoke. Right after that I am thinking Do I really have to run out of here in my shower towel? Hope not. Haaaaazel???! “It won’t STOP…”  O_O  What won’t stop?? “The microwave is forever spewing out smoke!” What did you DO?? “I tried to cook breakfast.” Translation: she tried to reheat the leftovers – Au Flambé. Lol. Don’t know why I was laughing, considering this may very well set off the fire alarm soon and I don’t really wanna know what happens to people who force-evacuate a hotel. And I didn’t want to stay long enough to find out. So we opened the windows all the way, turned on the fan, grabbed our stuff and headed downstairs real quick-like. By this time the smoke had started to roll out into the hallway of our floor and it smelled really really bad.  So as we ventured downstairs. Actually. You know what? Let me tell you about some great customer service. No I am not being sarcastic. Yes, this was  in France. So the guy at the check-in desk had tolerated our amazing Frenglish and helped us to find a place to go to for the day, train times, routes, etc – we decided on the Mediterranean seaside town of Cassis, south of Marseille. The main attraction here are the Calanques – these great, huge cliffs against the water that you can view from boats in the water, and where people climb.  It is supposed to be beautiful, so we all discussed times in which to head out and take the train, which train, which way. We also needed a place to stay for the night but this place we had just stayed at was just a little more pricey than we would like, and we mentioned this to the man but there was not much he could do… so we said Merci and bid him farewell and started heading down the road with all our things when we hear behind us “Excuse meee! Mademoiselles!!” And we see the check-in man (who in all the kindness in the world, is not very fit) running after us. Lol, so we stop and listen and he says that he has just spoken to his boss, and explained that we were two young ladies on a budget and he was able to procure us a low-price room for another night! Which means we could put our stuff back in our room and not have to carry it around at the very least, and we were grateful. He explained that this was his last day working for the hotel, and he showed us the hotel that he would be working for next, very proudly. It was gorgeous and we were very happy for him, and said that although we would love to stay there, it seemed a liiiiittle out of our price range.  So as his last day/request he called in a favor as he was going out- and how many hoteliers do you know would run out after you to make your day with a sweet bargain price? Not many. Okay and yes he was also trying to make a little more money on his last day, but his efforts were appreciated.

So! We head off to the TGV (superfast train) station in the Aix village and head about an hour or so to get to the Marseille switch-over station. Trains are actually pretty fun, especially when you get to pick up some pastries to take on the train before you head out (and almost miss your train for sake of snacks). hmmm.. what happened on the train ride… Hazel and I talked and I defended marriage. It is pretty interesting to talk to someone with such a differing viewpoint, on a lot! We have fun, ha. They become more like debates, not extremely heated ones, but fun ones. So finally we reach Cassis, and step out… walk a little out of the station and think we have made a very wrong move. There is… nothing there. One dirt road, some brush, a few little houses here and there… where ARE we. So we think for a little bit, walk along the road playing the “smell this plant – is it a spice?’ game – which was fun. I brought back a bunch of wild rosemary for dinner that week. Anyways, we decide to not go towards the direction of the dark tunnel with no pedestrian walkways and head down until we come to an actual road! From there we are starting to feel a little more hopeful, ha ha. We end up passing by a vineyard and walking to the house where we think it says they sell their wine. But, no… we get very weird looks indeed when these people wonder why we are coming up to their house (sorry! maybe you should take down your sign if your vineyard is not functional anymore!) but we saw some olive trees and a few grapes – not sure what varietal. There was this pretty cool pathway between two rows of trees for a while that we followed until we got to an actual vineyard where we got to taste the wine (and buy a bottle!). From there we figured we were very close to Cassis as we came across more and more evidence of civilization (cars, a small store, some bigger houses… SIGNS!). Cassis has a lot. In the way that as you walk through it, the atmosphere changes as it goes from flat rustic vineyards, up windy hills to bigger houses with views of the village below, then down to the fishing village by the water, where you can see the high cliffs right up against the water nearby.  Another thing… it was very cold and windy once you got closer to the water when the sun was just beating down on us as we walked through the vineyards. The fishing village was beautiful, boats docked right up against each other, and the little shoppes lined up in a similar way. Hazel and I decided to take an hour boat tour to see the calanques as we were told that it was “the only way” to truly see the high cliffs was from the water. We took space at the front of the boat (I love speedboats) and felt the refreshing breeze blow by us as we headed towards the calanques. What was really interesting was how we were able to see the people climbing the cliffs! crazy. The calanques were magnificent, they make you feel so small, yet so great to be able to witness such a marvelous creation so much bigger than yourself. By the time we were back on land we were chilled, so we stopped in this hot chocolat place … they had every. flavor. Sooo… so good. It’s like the hot chocolat from the movie chocolat, with the extremely thick, delicious… that just poooours into your mouth… hit the spot. There were these really delicate candies, and assorted colorful gift boxes, very cute.  After that it was out the door and a race to get to the train… so we hiked up the hills, over the mountains, across the vineyards, and back on the train to Aix just as the sun was setting.

Moustache!!!

Oh I will get to “Moustache” as he is affectionately called from his co-workers, funny story. Aix-en Provence started off as a trip that was put together by CERAM’s sort of “adventure task-force.” Ha ha, but really they plan trips for students to participate in for a less expensive cost if they were to go on their own. For example this one was headed to Aix-en Provence which is above Marseille, and we started out towards there from Antibes which took around 4 hours I believe, but we all took a huge charter bus type for only 10 Euros. The only issue that I have with groups is that sometimes you have to settle for what the others want to do, but you also have time to go off on your own. Hazel and I had other plans – the excursion was only supposed to be a day long, but Hazel’s uncle had asked her to check out an international school for his son around the Marseille area. You really do spend your day differently when you know you have more time, and everything slows down… much more relaxed. Which makes me realize again and again that to truly experience a place I want to make sure that I allow enough time, more than enough time… to immerse yourself in it, see and experience beyond the surface.

Aix-en Provence or “la ville aux mille fontaines” – City of a Thousand Fountains is near to several thermal springs, in which the Romans laid down their influence and made Roman bath and named Aix “Aquae Sextiae” … so Aix has been referred to by many names, changed hands a few times, you get it. The first thoughts that came to mind of what I saw in Aix was that it had a very Autumn feel to it – I loved it. It had those endless streets with the tall white bark trees with Autumn leaves lining the sides and the air smelled like Autumn, it looked like Autumn, and the atmosphere felt like Autumn. Just so you know, my favorite season is Autumn (late summer, early autumn to be exact) and let me tell you, this was Autumn-town. Beautiful, with the air crisp and the breezes gently blowing, the feeling of peace and reflection. Yes, it feels like this. The turning leaves swirling around you, landing lightly in the streets where time seems to slow down, people walking calmly and joyfully, the smell of roasting chestnuts and cinnamon in the air… okay okay you get it – it was beautiful.  Not to mention the amazing and ornate architecture. There is an obvious Roman influence on almost every street.  I went to an art museum, where the paintings were indeed unusual, but what caught my attention the most (what always does) were the sculptures in the basement floor… there was one of a maiden that was just awe-inspiring. I wanted to take a picture but the guy was watching me like a hawk – and I decided that I would just commit it to memory and true to this day I remember her very clearly. When you walk down the streets, every so often you look down and see a sort of shiny bronze plaque with a letter and perhaps some inscription on it – these were in several of the villes that I visited. The particular one for Aix has a “C” for “Cezanne” as in the famous artist Paul Cezanne for which there is also a museum that displays many of his pieces.

There is a definite medieval feel to this city, and in fact when I went off to explore I ran into a small festival where they had chestnuts roasting, (very tasty!) homemade delicacies such as marron jam (chestnut jam – really really good. Several weeks later at the Christmas market in Monaco I had some churros served with the marron jam… so good.) and lavender honey, pastes and spreads and many others. They had little tasting spoons so I had the chance to enjoy several of each with some baguette – and I bought some as well. Ha ha they don’t look too fondly on you if you eat their samples and just move on…  anyhow they had a musical group come through playing various instruments which added to the atmosphere.  So by then I figured I would head towards the place that everyone else would be gathering at, so I had a little time and wandered over to the main street called le Cours Mirabeau. There were cafés all up and down this spacious street and I stopped in one to get a café crème (coffee with cream, you guessed it) and just sat and pondered for a while, making notes about the experience. Then with the rest of the group we toured downtown and entered a beautiful church where a woman was playing the organ, and it had that old world musty smell that I actually love very much. I think it was getting to be around the time that the rest of the group had to go back and Hazel and I had some time before we had to find a hotel for the night, so we said goodbye – not without first walking by a pizza shoppe handing out free pizza! One thing I can say after returning to the states is that (yes, everyone really does just call the U.S. “the states” and it gets into my head too) “why on earth don’t pizza places have fresh basil??”  is it too much to ask really? and for some tomato? the simplest pizza is a margherita and I ask a pizza place here and they’re like “basil? why? tomato and mozzerella? oh well, we can sprinkle a little ground basil spice on it…” man. I do honestly miss that about southern Europe. we had some pretty crazy pizzas. The night before Jonathon left to go back to the states we were in Nice (it would have been hell to try and get to his super-early flight by then from Antibes- and really expensive too) anyways a few things actually made that night: The heavy rain, how we got lost because the bus went too far, the surprisingly huge room they gave us at the hotel (called the Picasso room… don’t know why) annnnnd the pizza. We basically had run out of food options at that time of night and we walked down and found a take-out pizza place with a huge variety of pizzas (the put anything you want on a pizza) and it was delicious. But, the rest of that story for another time. It is a good one, trust me, possibly the best night in my experience over there.

Right, so I got way off topic there. So after running through the town we just got a little better at figuring out where everything lead to, because left Hazel’s bag on the bus thinking we would get it later as to not have to walk around with it all the time… and realized.. ha, wait. wasn’t your bag on that bus? hahaha priceless. Luckily we got it before they left, sweet. After visiting the tourists office we found out that there was a concert scheduled that would be playing on the other side of the city, a cover band for The Who, The Beatles and Led Zeppelin. We still needed to get dinner and find a place to crash for the next two nights, so we walked in the general direction of where some hotels would be, saw a few sketch ones, and eventually we had to walk across the bridge that went over the A8 (sort of like their interstate). I actually said to Hazel “wow. this is bad, but I actually miss this.” “what- traffic?” “No… I dunno, just the sound of cars whizzing by, the lights as it gets darker… I know, it’s strange.” “Yeah, you’re weird.” ha ha I don’t know I guess in a way it reminded me a little of Northern Virginia. We both agreed that it didn’t feel like France anymore in this section of Aix and the feeling was indeed.. out of sorts.  We ended up finding a hotel that we had looked up the night before that had a fair price, set our things down (it was actually a really nice room!) and then ventured back out to find food. We finally stopped at this… well, for lack of better description, it was an Italian place/ it served more Italian dishes than anything else. So we were seated and our waiter comes later and I swear I was half “I should probably pull my jaw up from the floor…” half about to straight out ROFL. This gentleman who was about to serve us had the thickest French accent and it was like he had the pure essence of a true blue French maître d’ – complete with the most impressive moustache that I have ever seen. We sort of glanced back at each other in awe, minds syncing “This is really happening, please don’t laugh or I will too.” He was very sweet, very genuine and very professional – he had a twinkle in his eye and called us “mademoiselles.” We felt like princesses.  I ordered the penne carbonara (best. dish. ever. In an Italian restaurant).  I can’t remember what Hazel ordered but she liked mine better. As she should, it’s penne freakin’ carbonara afterall.  So we were enjoying ourselves and noticed these two men at the table next to us, both around 40 years old or so. They started talking to us, and offering us some of their bottle of wine – which I accepted (later Hazel said “what were you thinking it could have been rufied!” which was strange because she is the daring dangerous one afterall). So then they proceeded to talk to us, and we started a discussion about… American real estate. Commercial real estate. (Here I was thinking “man, I come all the way to France to get away from this sort of blather and they want to talk about commercial real estate in America” woo. ) So it was basically Hazel and I trying to understand their Frenglish and not getting their concepts of building structures and flats and pricing strategies…. yeah. So finally they started going on topics that I would have gladly gone back to hearing about real estate. I think I tried to pretend like I didn’t understand what they were getting at but let me tell you body language is a dead give-away sometimes. So Hazel caught on faster, that they were asking us to go dancing with them after dinner. Annnnd they asked where we were staying – which could have been just wondering where to pick us up and see how far we had to walk. In the very least they wanted to give us a ride back. And so there started the elaborate schemes of Hazel and I to elude them and their invitations of a night of half-drunken dancing with men that were old enough to be our fathers and still ok with the fact that we could barely understand a word they were saying and their intentions were unclear… Veeeery sketch. At least Canada and America can agree on one thing, eh Hazel? But at least we enjoyed our crème brûlée, hmm? Ha ha when we finally bid farewell to the two gentlemen and their sorrowful faces we wanted to find our waiter and say goodbye, but we couldn’t find him so we asked the other servers at the door and we couldn’t think how to ask so I said “S’il vous plaît, Moustache! Où est Moustache?!” lol. Which asked where Moustache was and they exclaimed “Ah! Moustache!” And they called out for him throughout the restaurant! “Moustache!” Which almost made us giggle, (almost) for the fact that they too, called him that name. So he came out with his glorious pair of moustache and smile combo and we asked him for a picture with us, and he obliged very happily and wished us bonne nuit.

We walked out into the night with our spirits high and stomachs filled to the brim, later to learn that our night was not over. I won’t bore you much longer with all the details, but it involved: Walking in the night alongside the dimly-lit roads hopping from traffic circle trying to follow the signs to where the concert would be. We were stopped for directions, (nope, not the other way around) we ran after a hedgehog, we got lost, we got lost again. Finally since it was getting a bit chilly we decided to head back and get some sleep. So we did not get to see the band after all, however we were pretty content with the night, we learned a lot about each other, and still more yet to come. And then in the morning Hazel almost smokes out the hotel microwave-style…  but more on that later. Ha ha.

As you can probably guess, this post might be a little girly. I was just thinking on how I am surrounded by mostly XX chromosome species most of the time. And I don’t know… it’s a different environment for me because I mean I have friends who are girls, but I grew up with my two brothers, and have always had my guy friends to balance out the estrogen of my girl friends. But here… it’s like there estrogen ALL over the place! It’s like I have 6 sisters! hahaha mom – how did you do it?  Yet another situation I find myself not really knowing how to handle myself… It is interesting because some of the girls come from a different cultural background as myself and I am treated differently in the sisterly aspect by each one of them. It’s very curious! Hazel is like the very outgoing blunt older sister who has many stories and experiences to share and she knows what she wants and plans accordingly but loves to joke around with her younger sisters… Sasha is like the older sister who loves being around people and who loves to experience a lot and push others to do branch out and the same but I still feel like I need to watch over her, Olga is the sweet smiley younger sister who is very family-oriented and has a fun sense of humor but is mature for her age. Raquel, Daniela, and Andrea are the sisters who I see every other day and they bring a whole new set of  crazies (good crazies) to the table. Hahaha so I was with Hazel, Sasha and Olga – we had all just made dinner together and were enjoying our meal and talking about having a Halloween party at our place and were talking about costumes when a Disney song came on my computer so Sasha says “Oh! We should each be a Disney Princess!” So we decided that Hazel should be Mulan, Sasha would be Belle, Olga would be Jasmine, and then they were trying to figure out one for me and they said “Well we need someone with blonde hair…” haha I said “What?! My hair is clearly brown!” and they said “No… it’s definitely a dirty blonde at best… you should be Cinderella!”  WTF am I colourblind? Well enough of that… but yeah it has been…nice? Yes… a huge dose of femininity =) 

At a sweet Irish pub, the band playing "Sweet Child of Mine"

At a sweet Irish pub, the band playing "Sweet Child of Mine"

 

Hot Tub Pic! From the left: Andrea, Olga, Moi, Sasha, Raquel, and Daniela

Hot Tub Pic! From the left: Andrea, Olga, Moi, Sasha, Raquel, and Daniela

 

With our Umbrellas Combined! XD

With our Umbrellas Combined! XD

 Hazel has been taking most of the pictures which is why she is not in them as often – we should remedy that… but she does have a pretty sweet camera! (Not as awesome as Arien’s but still awesome) and they are all very lovely but I miss you guys a lot =)

You know, it was funny… we have very interesting conversations. Like how Olga, Raquel and Andrea have all said they miss the men in Mexico because they are true gentlemen. I was a little taken aback by this comment and inquired further – and told them how I don’t exactly have the best perception of Mexican men because of how I am treated whenever I get even remotely close to Manassas. They said that it is because the ones who can’t afford to stay in Mexico are like that, and they go to the U.S. to make their lives. However the men in Mexico are apparently “very polite, sweet and family-oriented and treat them like a real lady, and if they ask you out on a date, they will treat you exceptionally well, pay for everything, and return you at the end of the night.” Come to think of it, Isauro is actually pretty polite and won’t let us carry our own groceries, opens the doors for us, and is the only guy who tries to keep the house clean! Huh. Yeah, cause the other two, they may ask if you need help but they mostly do it sort of in a way “just to say I did ask” way… And to be fair, I know in the U.S. at least I believe that part of the reason that chivalry is dying is because more and more women are … um…. a bit on the feminist side… as in, I have seen many situations where a guy will open a door for a woman and she will say some remark like “What? Do you think I can’t get my own door”  0_0 !!! My jaw dropped the first time I heard that. Geez. No wonder chivalry is dying… it’s being stomped to the ground! I just hope that given the chance, men will act like true gentlemen, and ladies should let them. You are not any less equal if you let a man hold open a door for you or walk you to your car.  Hahaha I know that I hold open doors for guys, and some of them accept it and thank me, and others will try to stop me rush to open the door for me. I guess I’ll try to let them do their thing? I love old men – they treat you with such kindness but sometimes I feel like I should be the one opening the door for them, but then they insist and I feel like if I don’t let them, they will be saddened or insulted. So in ethics class we spent half the period (oh – all our classes are one day a week and 3 hours each with a 15 minute break in the middle) talking about how with each generation we are getting more and more demoralized… that was a fun topic…. sorry if you can’t detect my sarcasm – it was a sad discussion, especially when I can visably see the disrespect and loss of morals in a lot of situations. Of course I won’t exclude myself from this – there are many times in which I have been very selfish and all I can do is keep learning, and stop myself before I make the same mistakes.

Sidenote- CERAM smells like Christmas. haha because, it is surrounded by pine trees and we are up in the mountains. And it feels different from the Autumn feeling that I love so much in Virginia, but I can still feel it clearly in the atmosphere here too. I feel like my soul is fine-tuned to this season… like it understands it… and I can feel all the previous years course through me, the quiet intensity of it all comes back every time. How about that for thought? I will have pictures from old Antibes soon!

=)  So I know you got excited reading the that title and I will get to that in a little bit buuuuuut first – back to my horror story part III:

So Sasha and Olga return to us looking like death… yikes. On one of Sasha’s huge suitcases one of the wheels came off and on Olga’s, both wheels were now kind of sideways. eep. lol. And it was really really hot that day… They said it was pretty bad pulling their baggage all over trying to find the residence, and then finding the right bus back to us. Apparently they met J.H. while they were waiting for a bus back to us… well, they had never met him before so this is based just on his facebook profile picture. Hahaha I remember now- Sasha said “hmm. he looks like a little French boy holding a tuna.”  hahaha but um… upon further inspection it was actually a pretty badass crocodile. And he’s not French, he’s from Belgium (which gives us hope that he may actually be a decent person) and he’s not so little. Haha I guess Sasha recognized him and yelled out “Jonathan??”  and he looked shocked and instantly said “No.” lmao. But then she explained who she was and all was good. Apparently he had just visited Johan’s place and didn’t like his pipe sticking out of the wall as a showerhead to say the least. He said he felt pretty ripped off, especially after he went by a real estate agency nearby and one of the agents knew Johan’s place and said it was way overpriced and needed a lot of work done and that we shouldn’t pay more than 1500 Euros for it (when Johan had wanted 2600 Euros for it!). So then we all decide to keep looking now that we have the residence and Jonathan still has his place for another week. Plus we wouldn’t get internet for two more weeks. So he calls to say all this as well and that we should all discuss things ourselves over drinks tonight and I explain that it would be fine but we have to move our luggage first. Haha so he asks us which bus station can he meet us and offers to help. So ask Sasha this and she says “I accept your offer!” hahaha she’s hilarious.  So then Johan calls just as we are getting ready to drag all our luggage over to the bus station a bit or a ways down the road, and I say “I will call you later tonight we are really stressed right now- we happened to find a residence to stay in and we have to drag all our luggage on the bus over there now, and it will take some time so we will meet you tomorrow.” And then he has the AUDACITY to say “well, ok but remember that you have to come over to paint Benjamin’s rooms tomorrow and help move the stuff out of the room.” OH! did I not tell you this fun part yet?? So Yeah, the day before this he said that if we wanted Benjamin as the sixth person because he had a car, etc, then we would have to help paint his room because it needed a new coat, AND to help him move the stuff out of the room. Hahaha Sasha heard my short-tempered voice and looked like she was about to grab the phone and start yelling obscenities into it so I said “I’ll call you tonight. Bye.” LOL. Thinking back on this makes me laugh. A lot.

So then us girls literally drag our luggage down the street but then we see the bus coming and so Hazel and Olga run really fast and I try to help Sasha who’s arm is about to tear off because her suitcase weighs a TON. And the wheel is broken so she has to drag it. So here we are, four young women trying to run as fast as we can with all our luggage flying about us and the bus driver takes one look at us and PASSES US BY! I swear that bus is supposed to stop there! Hahaha…. man. So we wait with all our luggage until the next bus comes and it looks preeeeeetty hilarious. Hazel got a picture and I will upload it as soon as I can steal it from Olga’s camera =) So yeah, the effort required to get all our stuff onto the bus full of people is pretty funny too (we get some preeeetty interesting looks) but finally we reach the bus stop in Antibes that we need to get to before we transfer to the one that will take us to Juan les Pins. And right as we get off we see Jonathan coming towards us holding back a smile as he takes Sasha’s suitcase from her and pulls it behind him like it weighs 2 lbs. So we all introduce ourselves as we run around like crazy trying to find the bus stop that will take us to Juan les Pins, which ironically is the one that we got off at.  Triangles are my faaaavorite shape. Not. So finally we get to our destination, Coulour Soleil which is a residence and to our room … 104, which funny enough is the same number our last room was. So this room… (because it IS one room) is one room with a bunk bed, a bathroom, two couches, a table with chairs, a small kitchen and a balcony.  We are pretty sure our suitcases take up half the space. So we all just lay there and relax. I am pretty sure every part of our bodies ache.  So we are all just sitting there on the urge of passing out when Hazel decides to check her email and she has an email from the guy saying that the place is still available! His name is Brian and he is from Great Britain but he has a place in Cap D’Antibes and is renting it out starting October or the middle of September. He asks if Hazel is from Hong Kong (from her last name) and says that he is planning on going there in a few days and can’t wait. He is very polite and you can tell he is British haha, and ends the email with “Oh do call back soon.”   So Jonathan inquires about this place and we show him the pictures and he laughs out loud (I did too at first, honestly) and then realizes we are not joking and says “Seriously??”  So then she is starting to email the guy back and we are all huddling over her as she types and we say “Play the race card! Play the race card!”  hahaha cause it appears he likes Asians? So there are six rooms in this place and we would need a sixth person… Oh yeah and Jonathan got pretty pissed when he found out that Johan was trying to make the girls paint Benjamin’s room and that’s pretty much when we decided to all screw Johan over and steal his to-be tenants from him. So I said “If only I had gotten Benjamin’s number…” and he says “Oh, well I have it.”  Ha. Sweeet. So Johan has called three times while we have been sitting there and I won’t answer because besides from being royally pissed off at him he is calling after he knows that we just spent all our time pulling our things over here and I said I would call him later.  So we get the number for the agent who is dealing with Brian’s place and call to see if we can still see his place today- and by some miracle the agent is still there – on a Saturday! But we have to get over there like, now. So I am pretty much herding everyone out of the room saying “We gotta go now!! Let’s go!” hahaha. So we make it to the bus leaving for Antibes and we looked at the wrong bus schedule for the transfer bus to the Cap, so we had to call a cab so we would be there by 5:45 because the agent was being nice enough to wait until then for us to get there. We made it in time, met the guy outside the place and we walk down the street to where the place was. After the gates automatically opened before us we had a very hard time staying calm. We were thinking to ourselves the whole time “this is too good to be true” and it was hard to allow ourselves to feel joy because we were not sure if it would last for long- we were too used to being burned. Haha… we kept trying to keep each other calm but in the end we just… let ourselves be happy, what the hell. =)  You could hear screeching all throughout the place. LOL… mostly by Sasha and Hazel. Though even Jonathan and Olga kept saying “Oh… my God.” And I… was a little scared to let myself go… but in the end I just couldn’t help it and I basically prayed right then and there that our misfortune might turn around, please, God. 

We were on such a high, it was amazing. It was really, really nice to see everyone so happy =) Especially Hazel. It was… one of the happiest moments I have ever had because it was fascinating to me that even though I just met these people we had already been tested so much, with such stressful situations and with each other, and funny that we could be linked so much, and we could hardly contain our happiness, it was bursting out so physically. We… kept taking turns jumping up and down. Hahaha. Wow. Yeah just remembering, our hearts felt like they were about to burst. Oh yeah… and then Johan called and I finally answered it- apparently he was trying to get in touch with us because he had convinced his family that we were “trusted people” and we could stay in his villa. Ha. Too little too late. And so I told him right there that we were not interested in his villa, for several reasons. One, the price he was charging was way too much for what his place was worth and there was so much work that needed to be done, (oh he tried to start to say all the things he would change but I wouldn’t let him get a sentence in) and I told him that we were very insulted by the whole Hostel situation and lack of hospitality, and that “I am giving you some advice for your next tenants if you get any, you should be up front from the start with everything. Just don’t hide anything. Don’t call back with something new every time. I hope you change this and good luck in the future. Goodbye.” Hahaha… everyone just kind of looked at me smiling and said they couldn’t have done it better. And you know what? Even though we are not guaranteed this new place at all, I have a much better feeling about it, and Hazel, Sasha and Olga kept reminding me that if something is meant to happen, it will, and if not, then it won’t – don’t push too hard to try to make things fit when they won’t. I think I know all too clearly what they mean… Yeah. Just “be,” right?  And I’ll do just that. =)  Sidenote?:  “Stolen” by Vitamin String Quartet (it’s an instrumental cover) – the intro is brilliant… I would love to compose a piano part to integrate with the strings for that song. The song is great, but it needs something… a little more creativity, and a little more power in the chorus… and scattered throughout… maybe a trumpet for the crescendos and to add a touch of playfulness…  it has so much potential. Wow. I can see this as a symphony… I need to learn more about musical theory, but I can imagine a revamped version of this song performed beautifully in an outdoor concert demi-dome… I love the thought of music resonating into the still night and flowing out to where everyone can hear and enjoy it.

So!  We get back to Juan les Pins and we are to meet Benjamin to see what he is like (they were saying that basically it was like we were holding interviews for who was to live with us in our place, and actually, it really was … and it was kind of weird being in that position). So we all wandered around looking for a place to eat before we went to have drinks with Benjamin. We found a nice looking Italian place and I had some penne carbonara and it is basically a cream sauce with egg, but the way they did it was neat, the just put half an egg shell in the middle of my pasta and there was a raw egg yolk in it, which I drizzled on top. It was yummy! Especially with the pieces of bacon. Yup, I know- fatty, huh mom? =) But at this point I didn’t care. I could probably have stuffed 5 puff pastries into my mouth I was so happy. It was a really nice and filling meal, and we all got along great, which is typically, you know, a good sign for roommates.  So with our hearts and stomachs full we went to L’Esterel, a pretty cool Irish pub (they are really popular with French people in their 20’s). So we met Benjamin (who is French) and his girlfriend and he seemed pretty cool – we didn’t tell him about the rest of the place at first, just his room because we wanted to see what he was like as a person just looking for a place to rest his head (he hadn’t been able to find anything and was living in a hostel). And then we surprised him – well, actually Hazel could barely keep it in and said “Oh can we just tell him now?” hahaha so, she showed him the rest of the pictures and he was amazed and very happy. Glad we could spread that feeling to someone who needed it just as much as we did.

Oh so we ran into a few people that we had all met with before one way or another (I almost roomed with the two of them before I met Sasha, Hazel and Olga) named Raquel and Guilherme. Raquel is Mexican, and. Haha Guilherme (or Guil) is actually Brazilian, who goes to school in London, and is now studying abroad for a year in South of France. What’s funny is that he definitely has an English accent… well, he actually sounds exactly like Ewan McGregor and I told him so.  So when you meet people you have at least met once before (or for the first time, sometimes) it is custom to do the kiss on each cheek thing, and so Raquel was coming over to me to kiss my cheek, but after the first one I went for her other cheek (as custom!) and she wasn’t expecting it so we almost kissed. Lol.  Everybody laughed, and then Olga takes that opportune time to tell me that it is only one cheek in Mexico. Hah. At least I found that out first with Raquel before I tried it on anyone else!

5/7 Roommates! From the left: Hazel, moi, Olga, Sasha, and Jonathan

5/7 Roommates! From the left: Hazel, moi, Olga, Sasha, and Jonathan

Literally. CERAM is on a mountain. And I have to hike up wooden steps through the forest to get to my school. yeaaaaah… So yes. it takes an hour to get to my school from the time I leave the residence, then we take one bus to get to Antibes centre, and then another through the mountains to Sophia Antipolis where CERAM is located… so it is kind of like VT, except that where we are in a valley in VT, CERAM is the reverse. Orientation was… normal… I met a few interesting people… Marishka, a tall blonde model-type from Lituania who was very nice and spoke pretty good English, a girl from the Faroe islands (I wondered why she was so pale if she was from an island but she said it is pretty cold all year round, but still sunny in the winter… a bit… I think it is up near greenland) a girl from Norway who was very sweet, and a girl from Seattle, WA who was pretty cool and was fluent in French. There were actually a lot of exchange students from the States, but they were all first years and a bit too much into the party scene… and it looked like they were not going to even attempt to speak French… So at orientation we were basically informed of the history of CERAM (founded in 1969 and is now merging with another top business school to become one of the top 5 business schools in France, and should have a location in the United States next year) and then I had to take a surprise French test to see where I would place into which level of French. It’s not a big deal, but I think I forgot to flip the page over.. ha.  =)  so then we went to the cafeteria for a free lunch… (I love VT food compared to this – it wasn’t bad, just not much of a selection) and seriously, 2 of our guides for orientation day were actually STILL hung over from partying the night before. I was wondering what was going on because whenever I would try to ask something in French he would massage his temples and then I would ask in English and he would still do it and ask for me to repeat and he just kept looking out of it and blinking a lot haha so finally I said “Are you tired?” and he gave me a weird guilty face and suddenly it came to me and so I half-shouted “oh! you’re STILL hung over??” hahaha and he laughed pretty hard and said “yes…” and another guy who was one of our guides was the same and that’s what they had been jabbering on about in French earlier. So you know, orientation is off to a good start… ha. At least all the clubs were giving out free chocolate croissants… mmmm…. So a few of the clubs organize trips around France, the Cote d’Azur (where we are located) and etc and they sound pretty fun but I think they are pretty expensive. ha. so you know what’s funny? trying to meet up with people with only one cell phone. I don’t know how we managed back in the day without them. And now, if people find out that a place doesn’t have internet access, they gasp and say “no good.” How technologically needy we have become. And yet, I am split half and half – because I know that the world has changed so much that we do need this technology in many parts of the world to get by.

So I got my French social security, got a free calculator(with functions!) and a sexy CERAM baseball cap woo! anybody want it? I also have a lanyard =) and an orange CERAM bachelors laptop/messenger bag. sweeeet. Oh! I also got  a French bank account! And they give me 50 Euro when I sign with them and perhaps 24 more if I qualify for something which I think I do. woo. money back to pay for all these stupid bus fares. So yeah, then after that I met up with Hazel and Sasha and we went back to Antibes and hung around looking for various elements… like phones… shoes? umm… food… and just looking around because we had a while before Olga Maria (our 4th roommate) was to arrive and Hazel had not yet seen central Antibes. So that was fun =)  And then we got back and met Olga! She is Mexican, the youngest of our group, at 20 yrs, but mature for her age. =) She speaks English fluently but you can still hear her accent. So finally all the roommates  are together! And to celebrate, I made some linguini with salmon that I got the other day, cherry tomatoes and spices, wine, butter, butter, and more butter (we ARE in France after all) and basil from my plant. I forget if I have told you about my basil plant and its suicide attempts? Basically, I got a basil plant and it had been trying to reach out its leaves towards the sun (so I think) and it fell over, but it is on the balcony so it is very close to the edge. Each day it tries to fall over. He wilts, then he livens up, and does it all over. He is kind of emo.  No, I did not name this one. But Basil is a pretty cool name. Has anyone seen The Great Mouse Detective? That’s the main character’s name… anyhow. I think it works.  And so we had that and some lovely salad Sasha prepared and some wine, bread, cheese. We actually took a picture with all of us and the dinner but I am yet to get that picture and others. I will though =)  hahaha so… I got this little wine journal from the World Market at Christie’s suggestion before I left and it is very useful. I was writing down what wine it was that we were drinking and any traits about it – aroma, taste, body, vintage, etc and I asked for their opinion on “what does this smell like?” and this is what I got as a response: From Olga: “Smells like cheese”  and from Hazel: “Smells like wine”  and then from Sasha: “Smells like a hang over” as you can tell they are a very sarcastic bunch but it is the kind of sarcasm I like so it all works out =) lol. I will tell you more about my roommates throughout my posts, I think it is better that way, as my first impressions are one thing, but I love discovering more about people, and more into their character.  Ha ha but my first impressions were pretty much the same- they seemed very similar to what I already guessed from emailing them for months. =) So I am off to bed but I shall post again tomorrow and attempt to catch up! woo! Bon nuit, I love and miss you all. ♥

… on “accident.”  So basically, the “Pompiers” in France are firefighters… and apparently they are really hot. No pun intended. About every time one shuttle passes by (they are medium-sized shuttles… not like our massive fire engines… I don’t know how that’s very efficient but hey.) Sasha shouts “look look, did you see them??” And I think I saw one once though the glass is a little tinted but I guess they are good-looking, but she says it like they are a race of their own or something ha ha, so she half-jokes about starting a fire so they will come and carry her off. I keep telling her that may not be such a great idea. But maybe it will happen… I woke up the other night to the sound of something kind of loud, and I looked over to see that Sasha had yanked out the voltage converter that our laptop plugs go into (the only one that works) while she was half asleep. I asked her about it in the morning and she said she had a dream that her leg had caught on fire from the converter.

So let’s see… the goal for that day was to get a hairdryer, no matter what. Sasha really needed one, and I must admit my hair was kinda funny without one… that, and something is weird with the water here… too little salt in it or something. So after searching Antibes for an afternoon, me perfecting the phrase “Pouvez-vous me dire où je peux trouver un séchoir à cheveux?” which in imperfect French translates to “can you tell me where I can find a hair-dryer?” And Sasha saying “puis je.. ach..e.t.e. chesoir a shevous?” and pointing to her hair. It was kind of funny but they understood her and so most of the people we asked were shoppe owners and they would all come out of the shoppes with us following them, pointing in a direction of said hairdryer, saying “Alors! Something something something…” Yeah we are starting to really understand directions. I already knew “left, right, intersection, keep straight” etc but it was still pretty hard to follow. Hence us not finding the store that sells hairdryers. Antibes is kind of like San Francisco – there are many ways to get everywhere, many hills, and there are very crooked roads, lots of traffic circles, and lots of checking both ways before crossing because I may get squished under an infant car (I say this because all their cars are really tiny and they ride bumper to bumper) so really, I would be wary of getting squished under an entire parade of infant cars. We are getting better at learning what bus lines to take where. I say this and you may think “how hard can it be to find and travel on the correct bus?” but in fact there are 26 bus lines that run through Antibes, I kid you not. Oh and did I already mention that the busses stop running at 8pm? Anyways. We found out that if ever we were to find a hairdryer, our destination would be a huge Jack-of-all-trades market called Carrefour. However it was too late to venture 30 minutes out there by bus and still catch the last bus by eight. So all was not lost, as I had managed to purchase a sautée pan of some sort, pretty well-made for the price (which by the way is still expensive because the currency conversion is now 1,56 € to the U.S. dollar… ugh. I suppose I should be happy for them that their economy has boosted…) Well the success of the pan-purchasing came when we were able to crispify the bread to make bruschetta. It was very tasty bruschetta indeed. And um… I am positive that we have been consuming about 3/4 of a small wheel (6 inch in diameter) of brie, camembert etc… a day. Not each, thankfully… but I am starting to really believe in Christie’s theory about me rolling off the plane as a giant pastry puff when I get back from France (or as a giant wheel of really good cheese) but then I remember that we probably make up for most of it getting lost and walking everywhere. Did you know that for a 6″ wheel of excellent cheese like that costs only about 1,30 €? That’s amazing. So amazing that I will probably be eating cheese until it becomes much less amazing to me when I start to find holes in my wallet…. or in my jeans. I have said quite a lot about cheese! Well, I do love it so. ♥

So forgive me if it stops working altogether. I’ll give you the horrors that have been discovered, as well as at the end of the day what makes it all worth it.

I did arrive in France, have no fear… or maybe just a little. I’ll tell you what was pretty cool though- when the plane was landing at the Nice airport, we were coming in so close to the water we were right above some small yachts and sailboats, and then all of the sudden we had landed. The landing strip was that close to the water, right on it actually. So when you looked out, you were surrounded by water on three sides and mountains on the other with pale yellow and orange villas all stacked up on each other on hills and hills and it was rather beautiful.

So a student from CERAM (the business school I will be going to) came to pick me up from the aeroport and he was nice and all but let’s just say that riding with a certain select few of my friends ::cough::cough:: is nothing compared to driving with him. I asked him why there were no solid lines separating sides of traffic and he looked at me, smirked, then proceeded to swerve the car across the dotted line into oncoming traffic, and back again. Then he did it two more times and said “there are no rules here.” And there really aren’t. People will literally drive up on the sidewalks to get around cars in front of them if they want. I know because he did it, and I saw two more cars do it after him. And they all drive really fast. Seriously, do not jaywalk here, you will die. And people on mo-peds (everyone and their little pet dog has one over here, by the way) will drag one foot an inch above the ground and be texting on their phone, even when they are delivering pizzas from a mini hotcart sitting on the back of their scooter (which I will take a picture for you guys once I get my camera battery charger). Oh and for some reason guys feel the need to holler or scream at you from their mopeds and four-wheelers (yes people do in fact drive their four-wheelers on the road here). Poor Sasha (my new roommate) it almost gave her a heart attack upon hearing it. It’s happened more times in the past two days to me than .. in my whole life. Now granted, I don’t live in the city back home. Although I had planned to do my “horrors” section first, I just wanted to say that there are perfectly nice, calm people here too (maybe it’s just that the behavior of wild hormonal male teenagers is sort of a universal thing).

So I arrived at our temporary residence, called Le Parc Vélousine while the gates were still open (which is a good thing because apparently the code that they gave me to use if the gates were closed does not work). And I felt like I was cheating because the woman at the reception spoke in English to me (how did she know? ha.) but I still tried to use French whenever I could, so I am a bit proud that I make some sense anyways. So Sasha arrived before me and it felt like we already knew each other which was pretty cool. She is canadian and there is little difference in the way they talk than from our American English except for a few words, and she definitely calls it “pop” and mocked me for calling it soda, lol. She had actually been in Croatia before she came her, visiting her mother who lives there… and they are actually Croatian. I will be taking a picture of our shoe collection once all of our roommates arrive because it will be a pretty funny sight. I have… a pair of these each: sneakers, sandals, heels, boots, and flats. So Mom, I just wanted to show you proof that even though you thought that I  brought too many of them, Sasha has about ten or twelve. I could go inside to count but I might wake her, as it is twenty minutes to midnight here (and twenty minutes to six for you guys). And Hazel, one of my other roommates has said that she is bringing 12 pairs. And they all said that we should share. So I came to the realization that this semester, I might just get that “growing up with sisters” experience that I never got after all.

So we tried to get the WiFi to work, and it didn’t. And basically trying to get it to work outside, inside, in the lobby, we finally got it to work… in a 4×4 foot section on the left side of our balcony. And this is at the end of the second day… after we found out that the only one of the voltage converters that we brought that worked needed to be literally jammed into the only one of the four wall sockets that worked… if that makes sense. Well, it didn’t to us. Oh and Firefox decided it hates me. And so does my computer battery.  

We decided to venture out into Antibes, and it is pretty nice… there are literally like 6 or so patisseries and boulangeries within walking distance ( 1 mile or so). So that means freshly baked bread and pastries =)  Plus the young French woman who sold us pastries was really sweet herself. The first night we walked to an area just outside of the town centre and ate at an outdoor café – which happened to be Italian food because we had walked pretty far and jet lag was settling in so we ate at the first sit-down restaurant that we saw. It was very nice and I ordered Gnocchi… It has just occured to me that perhaps some of you don’t want to read about the details.. maybe this post is a bit long but  believe that my posts probably won’t be as long when I start classes and become busier. But I will post! Anyways! We were just sitting there, after ordering in French that I said “Sasha… we’re in Southern France.” and it seriously just kicked in to us right then.. and then soon after that that it wasn’t just a vacation, we would be here for four months… it was kind of exhilirating.

So to kind of sum this up, we spent the day realizing that Europe works on a different time schedule than us, which is: we don’t hurry. ever. Which means most everything is closed on Sunday, and that most places are closed from noon to three (including our residence which is how we found out that our code doesn’t work when the gates are locked), people take a good long time when dining out (which I have always appreciated) and most people seem to float at a cloud’s pace – whereas we often create tornadoes.  So we went to Juan les Pins, which is a sort of section of Antibes, right were the water is and we looked at the beach, which is nice and small. We then looked around the town and got a towel, because towels do not come with the rooms at the residence we are staying at, they are only rented out for 6,50€ which converts to $9.75 each. And I am lucky I brought shampoo etc. because on Sunday, nothing is open… So after we stopped to look at the ads for apartments for rent in several agency’s windows, we headed back on one of the several confusing bus lines, got off on the one we knew as closest, walked in the hot heat for two miles to find out that like most everything else, the supermarché (supermarket) is closed on Sundays. So there went half the list we worked of things to get today. Anyhow. Good news is that we arrived back at the residence, showered, drank lots of orangina and had some pastries, got our internet to work, read through French books, discovered that Sasha and I had a common affection for Scrubs, but have yet to watch the 8th season. I also figured out that it costs more than a dollar to text anyone and the same per minute to call anyone. But my incoming calls and texts are free I think (for me anyways). I will have to check up on that…

So I am writing to you now past midnight on the balcony of our residence, looking out into the villas and the park illuminated by the warm soft glow from the globe lamps and the cool night sea breeze barely masking the sounds of sprinklers watering the gardens. You can hear the lively laughter and quiet French conversations at a late-night dinner party nearby and the smell of something fragrantly robust with tomato and herbs lingers in the air. It makes my heart smile a bit, and now I sleep. Bon nuit.

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In Discovery of Ourselves

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