dimanche 5 avril 2009

Marathon de la Vie

So today was the Paris Marathon, a bubbling crowd of about 40,000 people (of which only 30,000 complete the whole 26 mile course) who range from sleekly-fitted spandex fans to men wearing kakis and button up shirts.  Makes sense for one of the biggest races in Europe.  Katie and I departed from our lovely (and quite dirty) apartment around 8 only to arrive at the Palais Royal ten minutes after the gun shot started the herd and masses of seemingly identical runners.  Contestants included a man dressed as a baby,  a man on stilts, a man dressed as a prisoner, as well as many overweight, shirtless men that had little to no chance of finishing the run down to Bastille, let alone back up again towards the Etoile.

Katie and I had a tough time getting up this morning as we were out last night until the dark hours of night closed the RER and Metro and forced us to walk home with the incredible aid of Amaresh and Zach (Amaresh is an Eagle Scout, so we generally listen to him, but we still get sick pleasure from giving him much attitude and sarcasm).   Fortunately for Zach, he beat Amaresh in direction-winning due to his enthusiasm for jogging.  We were heading home late from a Latin/Jazz bar (odd combination, I am aware) and then an attempted-hooka-smoking situation.  We were not served our hooka, just required to order 5 Euro drinks whereupon we got to sit and wait in a room full of French people who were staring at us (as we were the only white people in the bar, and Katie and I were pretty much the only females).  So, after finding out that they were refusing to serve us, we peaced out without paying and I had to tell Katie that, "Yes everything is ok, and no, we won't get shot."  In the end, we were not shot.

We spent a foggy Friday at Giverny, wandering around Monet's gardens and his house, which was quaint and cute.  I am quite jealous of his kitchen and windows.  The gardens were not at all what I expected, much smaller and situated in a neighborhood-like setting rather than an isolated countryside.  We then dined at a small restaurant just across from Giverny where we enjoyed freezing and shivering for a whole hour and a half.  Yes, we sat outside and selflessly gave the heated tables to the kind, thoughtful girls in our program.  We ate salad (mine was sad because I didn't finish it, according to Zach), chicken with potatoes (not very good) and our dessert was watered-down cafe with a slightly unimpressive tart.  Oh well, free lunch.  Then off to Rouen where we were surprised with another spectacular adventure!  A free tour of the town by local French students.  You think they would know their shit, right?  ABSOLUTELY NOT, they read off of computer pages and had to ask each other for verification every now and then.  I just wanted to say, "Ask the paper, it probably won't lie."  A drunk man stumbled over our group, fell down in the road with his cracked cigarette, got up and barely staggered away.  I really was ready to go home when the time arrived and I am glad I will get my 10 Euro deposit back Monday.

Katie and I are currently becoming depressed when we think about how much time has already passed and how soon we will have to return back to the States.  I do now understand this "downward" part of the psychological curve but I fully believe that it is due to the impending knowledge of forced departure, and not as IES so firmly attested, from being upset that we don't fit it.  We fit in though I noticed that I get looks from other Americans on the days when I wear a sweatshirt and sneakers, like I am dressing up as the Devil and running through Notre Dame hitting children with live animals.  Paris, as you can tell, has a great ambiance.

But it really does and my bitter testimony does not convey my real relationship with this city.  We've made a list trying to compile all of her elements that we have not yet seen/visited/experienced so that in our next few weeks here, we can at least finish strong.  I say this only because we have 6 weeks left, and some of this time will be spent in Italy, the French Riviera, the Basque country, and hopefully, Amsterdam.  Spring break is this Friday and I can't believe it's already here.  I've been making plans for my Mom and I, for the last ten days of travel before the dreaded US -of-A (and I admit it depresses me to see the bills stacking up), so I have been distracted from the speed of time.  On the contrary (and bright side) though, we will be staying in a castle in Dublin.  Unfortunately we will also be renting a car, so we might die before ever getting a chance to enjoy our faux-royalty treat to ourselves.

I have also been horribly lazy and not written in about three weeks (again).  Maybe longer, I actually was so lazy to not even check, so I just guessed.  I have since my last entry, ventured to the French Alps, to a small town called Annecy.  It is strewn with parochial canals (that are home to some very sweet, and beautiful swans) that take the water from the lake around the charming medieval town.  The most important thing to note about Annecy is this:  best cheese fondue ever.  Quite simply, EVER.  The Alps are a boat ride across the river away, hikes and bikes and boats, nature and forests, (NICE!!!) people and culture...But the culminating event always involves food, so it was only a matter of time before cheese fondue took the cake.  We ordered our fondue and thinking to ourselves, "Let's die from heart-attacks tonight," we ordered salads to accompany our shared treat.  We received our hot plate with fondue, a basket of bread worthy for the Notre Dame congregation, two extra large salads, a BASKET of POTATOES, and a pichet of wine.  [Note: Potatoes and bread were NOT asked for, just given to us].  And in France, it is just not the same when you unbutton your pants and yawn after a meal.  We actually had to maintain some air of civility, though French couples around us were looking at us with hideous expressions of disgust and worry.  We, proudly, did NOT finish and left quite a bit so as to appear native and to have some sense of self-control.  Though, I must say, best meal in awhile!

It was actually super cool to go to Annecy on a Saturday morning, because the Friday before, we went outside of Paris to visit Fontainbleau and Vaux-le-Vicomte (two castles that if you care to look up, are somewhat historically significant to France).  We then went out to a club called Duplex with Chioma, Shawna, Laura, and some other girls where we spent a cheap 11 Euros per drink on Lady's Night.  We also got to a watch some pretty "good" dancing.  I was just really happy because all of this lead to us going to bed at three in the morning, us getting up around 7, me feeling like I was going to die, me forgetting my 12-25 card, me getting fined by the stupid SNCF man, and then me throwing up in the train.  It was a great start.  I did however get a three hour nap the next day.  

This week we plan to have some picnic action at the Luxembourg gardens and on the lawn at the Eiffel Tower.  Tomorrow morning might be our first official picnic.  This Friday we leave for Nice, then Monday for Venice.  Next Wednesday I will be in the Cinque Terre hiking from one small town to another for five days...then back to Paris. 

Hopefully I will be able to keep up better than I have as I now officially suck at blogging and it's difficult to recount stories weeks, au lieu de jours, after something has happened.


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