Wednesday, March 11, 2009

La Grève




The students at my university have been striking for five weeks now. They're protesting many of Sarkozy's new education reforms. This strike is quite bizarre to me. Strikes are a way of life in France. I probably see some sort of demonstration at least once each week, sometimes more (I've already seen two this week). Lately, they've been mostly student demonstrations, but I hear another mass strike is planned for all of France next week. Also, it is the students who are striking and have set up the blockades in the halls. And from what I hear they do it almost every year.

I take only two classes in the actual French university. My other three classes are held in the center for the foreign students. So for the past (almost)month and a half, I've only had three classes each week. Some of my friends, who are only taking classes in the French university haven't had any school at all. Of course panic kicked for all of the Americans due to the fact that eventually, the French students will have to make up all of the classes they've missed, probably this summer. But the study abroad students are leaving. We can't stay to make up classes. Oddly enough we've been assured that we'll still get our credits for our classes. So, not actually going to classes but still getting credits for them is...good. Right? At this point I'm not going to worry about it. There's nothing I can do, so as long as I get the credits I need, I'll be happy. And I have to admit that sleeping in every day is pretty damn nice.

Party at Jeanette's

Last weekend I went to a party at Jeanette's place. Jeanette is from Nova Scotia, and she is a lectrice at the university. It is a teaching job, and she teaches one of my classes along with a French professor (of course I haven't had that class for a month and half due to the strike, but that's another story). The party was delightful; great people and a great atmosphere made for a fun time had by all.

Here I am with our lovely hostess, Jeanette.



Sarah (England), and Sam.



Samuel (Hungary), Anne-Laure (France), Edel (Ireland, she is also a lectrice), Ilias? (Tunisia), and Jeanette in front.



Keeva? (England), Kathryn (England, also a lectrice), and Asia (US).



Pierre from France (sitting), Isabel (Germany), Sarah (England), Sam (US), and Jeff (US).



Miguel, Eduardo (Spain), Joaquin? (Spain), and me.



Dancing. Stripey 1 is from Poland, but I forget his name. :( I didn't meet Stripey 2, and Brooke in the blue is from the States. He is also a lecteur.



Lorella (France), Reshma (England), Matthew (England), Asia (US), Adam (England), and Sarah (England).



Hillary, another lectrice from Nova Scotia, and Lorella (France).



Great night.

St. Nicolas

Last week, I took myself out to one of my favorite restaurants, the St. Nicolas, which is about a thirty second walk from where I live.



I've been there a couple of times before and I always get the same thing because it's one of the best meals I've had in France. I get the 16 euro menu which includes an entrée, main dish, and dessert. To start, I always get the Farci Poitevin, a specialty of this region. It's sort of a mix of cooked greens with goat cheese on top and it is sooo good.



Then came delicious, succulent pork cooked with prunes, with veggies on the side. Amazing.



For dessert I chose the day's special, which was pain perdu made from brioche. It's essentially what we think of as French toast. Delicious.



The owner was telling me that the restaurant is called the St. Nicolas because it used to be a church, L'église St. Nicolas. Here is a part of the original 11th century church wall.



Cool.

Little Dogs Everywhere!

I was at a pizzeria last week, and one of the people working there had a delightful 5-month-old pug which I attacked with love.



Its name was Praline, which I think is a very good name for a tiny pug.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Just Another Night At The Bar

Sam and the ladies.



Me and the ladies.

Paris Weekend

Last weekend, I went up to Paris to visit Dominque and Jean-Pierre, and the Nattans. On the first night, Dominique and Jean-Pierre took me out to eat, along with one of their family friends. We went to the Vaudeville, one of the true Parisian brasseries. Here I am with Dominique and Jean-Pierre.



Oh my god, the meal was sooo good. It started out with foie gras, and then came beef with shallots and the most delicious potatoes, and it ended with a sort of chocolate-coffee cake with a liquid chocolate center and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. So good. We finished the evening with a walk around Paris and it was lovely.

The next day, Dominique and Jean-Pierre took me to the palace of Versailles, the seat of Louis XIV in the late 1600s. It was amazing. It's hard to describe how immense the palace and the grounds are. Dominique and Jean-Pierre commented that you can kind of see why the French Revolution took place when you visit Versailles. It's so lavish, and gigantic, and expensive. The rest of the country had nothing.

I've taken some picture, but it's really hard to capture what these rooms are like from a photo. Also, it's hard to get a picture when you're sandwiched between the other tourists.

Here is the chapel. We couldn't go in, but it was so beautiful.



Ceiling scene.



Another ceiling scene.



The Hall of Mirrors



Me in the Hall of Mirrors



Gallery



Versailles



The grounds. I hear they're even more beautiful in summer, when the flowers are out and all of the fountains are on.



Really pretty.



After the palace, and viewing the grounds, we also saw Marie Antoinette's residence, her little peasant village (which I think might have been my favorite part), and the smaller palace Napoleon once occupied. I didn't take pictures of these because, as i said, it's really hard to capture what it's like. So you'll just have to go to France and see it for yourself. We spent seven awesome hours visiting. And we only saw the first floor of the main palace. Only the first floor of the palace is open to the public. Other floors and rooms require an appointment with a reservation made months in advance. Amazing.

After my great visit with Dominique and Jean-Pierre, I went to visit Georges and Andrée. Georges was my grandmother's guardian in France after World War II. Now he is 101 years old. He and Andrée were doing great. I had such a nice time spending the afternoon talking with them, looking at old pictures, and talking about my grandparents. In the evening, their granddaughter Sarah came over, and the two of us went out to dinner and then walked around Paris for the rest of the night. Delightful.

Andrée and me.



Georges and me.



Sarah on the metro.



Sarah under the Eiffel Tower.



Me under the Eiffel Tower.



It's lovely at night.

Nuit de Sheriffs

The Night of Sheriffs is an annual party for the engineering school ESIP. It's held each year as a farewell party for the graduating seniors. The students rented out a nightclub for the event, and I went with my friend Patrick.



Patrick being accosted.



Salwa!



This is my mean sheriff face.

I am trying to get this image out of my mind.



Antoine!



Simon!



Loubna and me.



Naked people.



Throughout the night, certain sheriff awards were given, like "the weightlifting sheriff" for the guy who lifts alot, or "the dancing sheriff" for the person who's really good at dancing. Then, they gave awards for a sort of king and queen sheriff. They brought in STRIPPERS for the king and queen. I couldn't believe it! Never in the States would strippers be hired to give the kind and queen of the party a striptease and lap dance!