Thursday, January 29, 2009

Black Thursday

Today, there were mass strikes throughout all of France in protest of Nicolas Sarkozy's handling of the financial crisis. French employees stopped work today (on what some news sites have called Black Thursday)saying that Sarkozy has done too much for businesses and not enough to protect jobs and raise the low wages of French workers. I managed to get a bus to school this morning (I didn't think any would be running, but there were a few) only to find that my professor was striking. Of course there was no way for me to have known this since some teachers were striking, and some weren't, and they don't really have a system of contacting students. This is what I saw in front of Poitiers' city hall later in the afternoon:

This sign says, "Sarko, the people will have your skin."

"Sarko steals from the poor to give to the rich."

It should be even more interesting when the university students start striking Monday and close the school. I'm not sure how that will go. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Oh, and Have I Mentioned...

How disturbing the Orangina ads are?!


I Have A Pigeon Hole!

There is a pigeon hole outside my window. A white pigeon lives there, and a black pigeon. I think the white pigeon is a male, and the other is a female, so I'm hoping that there might be baby pigeons in my hole at some point.

Wonderful pigeons!

I'm Really Sorry I Missed This

On December 10, there was a signing of the book The Wolf and the Geisha by Lu Si Lin and Dildo. I didn't go. What was I thinking?

The Holidays in Poitiers

So I know this is about a month late, but I wanted to show you what the holidays are like in Poitiers. It was sort of like a fairy-tale world, with the little Christmas market in the town square, and the ice rink, and the live animals outside the church. There were even loudspeakers put up in the streets that would play Christmas music. Here is the city hall at night, with the ice rink and the Christmas market in front of it:

Here is a school group at the ice skating rink. Note how many kids have fallen. They were so cute. I couldn't stop laughing.

Another picture of the charming French school-children. The Christmas booths are in the background.

Here are the pygmy goats huddling outside the church!

Shaggy ponies outside the church!

I petted the sweet, shaggy ponies!

More pygmy goats!

There was also a delightful pot-bellied pig who would walk around snortling. He was sort of hard to photograph though, because he was usually eating hay behind a cow. I also saw a donkey biting another donkey, which was quite shocking to me because I had never seen farm animals biting each other like that. I think the biter might have been trying to have sex with the bitee, but I'm not positive. Anyway, visiting the animals was always the highlight of my day, and I would stand and watch them and laugh with delight.

Here is one of the displays in the shopping center. The cats moved too. I think this pleased me way more than it should have.

And of course...

What's Christmas in France without a manifestation? For a couple of days the high-schoolers marched the streets protesting a new education reform. I managed to snap this picture as they passed by my bus:

This was actually a very stressful day, because I was taking the bus to one of my final exams, and the demonstrations were making the buses late. It all worked out though. Here is another picture I took downtown. I think the sign says, "Youth forgotten, Youth outraged."

Oh, France. How fascinating you are.

Lucy and Genevieve Do Paris

One of my best and dearest friends, Lucy, was able to visit me for about ten days during Christmas break. I was so happy to have her with me for Christmas and New Year's Eve. It's hard to be away from family and friends during the holidays, so having Lucy in France was wonderful. Lucy arrived the evening of December, 22nd. So we'll call the 23rd...

DAY 1:

We were so fortunate to be able to stay with Dominique and Jean-Pierre for a few nights. They live in one of the suburbs of Paris, so we woke up early and headed in to the center of the city. It was so incredibly cold, so our first priority was to find a café. We found one directly in front of Notre Dame de Paris, so we sipped 5 euro cups of tea (Paris is crazy expensive) while gazing at the cathedral.

Here we are standing on a bridge over the Seine, with Notre Dame de Paris behind us:

The cathedral was our first order of business, and it was especially exciting for an art history buff like Lucy. From there, we visited the gothic chapel, La Sainte-Chapelle. Sainte-Chapelle's stained-glass windows are utterly mind-blowing. I stole this picture from a website, because my photos didn't really do it justice:

After Sainte Chappelle, we had a delightful lunch. Lucy had a mushroom pizza and I had blanquette de veau, nom nom nom. Here we are at the restaurant:

We then decided to walk to the Champs-Elysées:

While walking on the Champs-Elysées, we encountered Obamamania:

When we reached the Arc de Triomphe we were absolutely exhausted. We had already been walking a couple of hours at this point, so we sat on a bench for a while as we gathered strength to climb to the top of the monument. These are the stairs we climbed:

Here is a view of the Eiffel Tower from the top of the Arc de Triomphe:

From there we walked (a really long way) to the giant department stores on the Blvd. Haussman:

At this point exhaustion was setting in. We calculated that we had walked something like 9 hours. We had a drink at a cafe and then headed back to Dominique and Jean-Pierre's. This took a little longer than we had planned, because we got off at the wrong stop (of course). But we finally made it, and sat down to the most wonderful meal of cheese ravioli and mushrooms.

DAY 2:

Christmas Eve. We woke up early and moved into our hotel. I had booked the Hotel California in the Latin Quarter for a reasonable price, and it turned out to be utterly charming. When we got there we decided to take a short nap, but ended up sleeping for five hours. I guess we were a little tired. After our sleep we decided to venture into Paris' China Town, but first we needed tea to fight off the frigid temperatures. Here is Lucy with a charming tea set:

Here I am with a charming tea set:

Then we headed into China Town and had a delightful Chinese Christmas dinner. It was good, but definitely not as good as Chinn's. From there we went to the St. Michel area of Paris to find a place to get a drink. We stopped at a lively Greek restaurant to have a couple of kirs. Here are the Christmas Eve festivities at the Greek restaurant. It was joyful!

Here I am with Nikolai, the waiter who loved me:

After our drinks, we headed to Saint-Severin church to experience a Christmas Eve midnight mass. We didn't stay long, but it really was lovely. Especially when everyone would sing together, and their voices would echo inside the 11th century church. Beautiful.

DAY 3:

Christmas. Lucy and I decided to do the Eiffel Tower. I don't think I have ever been so cold in my entire life. Oh my God. So Cold. I think we waited about an hour on the ground. That was already freezing. But then on each level of the Tower we had to wait another hour to board the elevators to the next level. And of course it gets colder and colder the higher you go. The view really was spectacular, although it was somewhat overshadowed by the near hypothermia.

Here is the view:

Lucy and Genevieve at the top of the Eiffel Tower. After three hours, we made it to the top. Soooo cold.

After our descent, we went back to the hotel for a little bit to thaw before dinner. We had the most wonderful fondue for our Christmas meal.

Before going back to the hotel for the night, we had a drink and shared a banana split at another restaurant. What an utterly delightful Christmas.

DAY 4:

On this day, we did errands (buying train tickets, exchanging money), and visited the Louvre.

I've always heard about how huge the Louvre is, but you don't really realize it until you go. Lucy and I were there for about three hours and only saw a tiny portion of the museum. We got to see some awesome things, though.

Of course, La Jaconde:

And Venus de Milo:

And my absolute favorite, the Nike of Samothrace, circa 190 BC:

The Nike of Samothrace was absolutely breathtaking. She stands at the top of a large staircase, and you can't see her until you're at the bottom of the steps, and then she appears. Brilliant.

DAY 5,6,7, and 8

On day 5, we took the train back to Poitiers. This actually worked out well, because poor Lucy was deathly ill during this time, and it was much easier to nurse her back to health in Poitiers than it would have been in Paris. Also, there's not terribly much to do in Poitiers. So we mostly hung out at my apartment while Lucy hovered on the brink of death. But she was feeling beter by day 7 and 8, which was good because on day 9, we headed back up to Paris.

DAY 9:

NEW YEAR'S EVE. We left Poitiers in the early afternoon, and checked into our hotel when we arrived in Paris. Then we went out into the city, where we desperately tried to find Lucy's boyfriend, Bill, soccer gear, to no avail. After eating an early dinner we returned to the hotel and took a little nap since we knew we would be out late enjoying the New Year's festivities. Around 10:00 pm, we headed out into town. First, we went to the St. Michel area to get some of the most fantastic minestrone soup that we've ever experienced at an Italian restaurant where we had eaten the week before. Then we decided to go to the Champs-Elysées. Now, we had been warned by multiple people not to go to the Champs-Elysées on New Year's Eve because it could be dangerous. But we had also asked around, and multiple people told us that it was the best place to celebrate. So we were curious, and we figured we would go, and if we didn't like it we would leave. We went into the metro which was pretty crowded at this point, and while we were waiting for the train, a kid standing next to us (probably about 14-years-old) pulled out a gun. Now, I'm not a gun expert. But the thing looked real. And the kid was offering it to his friend, and the friend wouldn't take it, which leads me to believe that it was real. Lucy and I moved away quickly. We boarded the train, and at the next stop, the metro was so packed with people trying to get to the Champs-Elysées that we could barely move. And the train was there, but it wasn't going. Metro workers emptied the entire train (I don't know why, maybe it was too full?) and that's when Lucy and I decided it was time to get out of there. We didn't want to be stuck in the metro when the clock struck midnight. Also, people were already pretty rowdy in the station, and that, combined with the whole gun thing convinced us it was time to go. We ended up really close to the Pont Neuf, which turned out to be perfect. A lot of people were gathered with bottles of champagne and glasses, and it was really quite charming. Here is a picture Lucy took of the crowd gathered on the Pont Neuf:



A picture Lucy took of the Eiffel Tower glittering at midnight!:

We then started to make our way back to the St. Michel area, stopping at a bar on the way to get a glass of champagne (10 euros each, but hey, you have to have champagne on New Year's), warm up, and rest our high-heeled feet.

I would say the molestation began after that, as we continued walking to the St. Michel area. You see, the men find New Year's to be the perfect opportunity to try to get kisses from every girl they come across. Now I'm fine with some celebratory bisous, but a lot of those sneaky little bastards reposition their mouths during the bisous in order to obtain a full-on lip kiss. Luckily, Lucy and I have good reflexes. A lot of the men were very grabby as well, so some muscle was required to disengage ourselves. Thank God Lucy was there. I'm not really good on the muscle front. As we walked through the streets, poor Lucy was harassed by a lot of men bowing to her, speaking fake Chinese, asking if she was Japanese, or saying hello in Chinese. Charming. We then attempted to find a bar, that had cocktails for less than 19 euros (19 euros!). We eventually found a bar that was charging 12 euros a cocktail, so we figured why not, because it was New Year's, and we each got a mojito. The bar was mostly filled with men, so Lucy and I were pretty popular. One guy even offered me money as we left the bar! I couldn't believe it! Where's the boyfriend when you need him, right? We then decided to take a taxi home, which was a ridiculous idea since every taxi in the city was in use at that point. We tried the metro, but made it only one stop before we found out that the line we needed was closed. So we left the metro, and took our place in the taxi line that was forming in front of the Montparnasse train station. This didn't really work either, since only about one taxi was arriving every half hour, and there were about fifteen people ahead of us. Suddenly, two motorcycle taxis drove up, and Lucy and I looked at each other and decided we would take them back to the hotel despite the outrageous price. It was cold, we were exhausted, Lucy had a flight to catch the next day, and we certainly weren't going to get a regular taxi soon. So we put on the helmets, gloves, and jackets the drivers provided us with, and rode motorcycles back to our hotel. It was totally worth the money. Here we are at the end of our ride:

We made it back to our hotel by 4:00 am. I'm postive that if we had waited for a regular taxi we wouldn't have made it back until 5:00 or 6:00 am. We got about 5 hours of sleep, before getting up and heading to the airport. Of course I was sorry to see Lucy go, but we had an absolutely AWESOME time that we'll always remember.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Major Computer Problems

I have a lot to catch up on, but I'm having some major computer issues that are making this nearly impossible at this time. So, I WILL update as soon as I can.

Posts to come:
Lucy and Genevieve's Paris trip
Pictures of the holidays in Poitiers
My pigeon hole!!!