29 November 2007

A Whole Lot of Random Things, plus a Challenge

• New favorite Dutch verb: tennissen, to play tennis. Ik tennis: I play tennis.

• Brave Moment of the Day: I killed a spider! Only minor hyperventilating, no tears. Sure, it was about a millimeter long, but this was a big deal.

• Newest decorations in my apartment: A Christmas tree made of wrapping paper, and postcards from Italy.

• Best cooking "invention": Putting powdered ginger in yoghurt!! I especially like it in fig yoghurt, but it's great in mango, apricot, kiwi, and strawberry as well.

• Hairstyle of the week: It's not intentional, but I've been wearing barrettes a lot. So today I did French braids (no idea how to say that in French) to shake things up.

• Thing I noticed about my French abilities: Today I noticed that I no longer notice when people are talking to me in French. They're just talking. And I'm just understanding. No difference from how my thinking feels when I'm hearing English.

• Current sadness: My Grandma's health is seriously deteriorating, and I'm really worried about her. It's to the point where my parents are ready to drop everything and drive to Montana, and it's hard to be far away at a time like this. They don't think she'll live much longer.

• Amusing memory that came to mind: Macs have a wireless card called "AirPort." When I was in Russia, I was checking to see if the Moscow airport had wireless, and upon finding that it didn't, I turned off my signal. When Alex saw me click "Turn AirPort off" he asked it that was a good idea, since we were still inside and were waiting for a flight. Heehee.

• Linguistic idea of the week: I had an idea. And I'm working on realizing it. It's a humongous challenge. The idea is this: when you whisper, you devoice voiced consonants. So if you whisper "buy" it'll sound like "pie." Here are the graphemes that correspond best to the consonant transformations (i.e. here are the letters that'll get my point across):

B --> P [buy-->pie]
D --> T [do-->too]
Z --> S [eyes-->ice]
J --> CH [gyp-->chip]
ZH --> SH [seizure-->see? sure]
V --> F [very-->fairy]

So my idea was this: is it possible to write a sentence (and once I manage that, a poem) that makes sense in one way when you speak it normally, and makes sense in a completely different way if you whisper it? And if you whisper it to someone, will they hear the voiced or the unvoiced counterpart?
I began by listing as many word pairs as I could think of. (I couldn't think of very many.) And I tried to put together a pair of sentences. (The first doesn't really make much sense.) And here they are, for your whispering enjoyment. In theory, if you whisper the first, you could hear the second.

The side of a very great good gauze, me bane.
The sight of a fairy crate could cause me pain.

I call it Whisper Poetry. If you find this interesting and want to try it (or even if you don't but it burrows into the back of your mind and you find yourself whispering random words to see if they work) tell me any word pairs you come up with. I especially appreciate pairs of verbs. And if you can come up with a pair of sentences, both of which make good sense, you win a prize. I'm not even joking about you winning a prize.
[To get you started, here is the short list I have of voiced words that have an unvoiced mate: goad/goat, buzz, do, aid, den, deem, vision, how's, Ben, been, state, buy, news, down, node, nod, raid, bend, ball, eyes, girl, gyp, jig, bane, band, bug, ride, dog, zoo, use, said, dime, good, gum, down, side/sighed, bard, kid, get, made/maid, bag, game, very, grade/great, gauze, doe, does/doze, wand, bored/board, add, big, Jap, wend, dry, bill, ghoul, grow, lead/led, door]

• Song I've been listening to a lot: And So it Goes by Billy Joel. I sing along with the harmony.

• Average snooze alarm time this week: thirty minutes. It's been rainy and dark in the morning, which isn't a great motivator for moving.

• Movies I bought very cheaply and have watched in French on my new DVD player: Sister Act, Bowfinger, Daredevil. Great movies, and great dubbing.

• Failed experiment: It's possible to make vanilla syrup. It's possible to make mint syrup. It is not possible to make cinnamon syrup. The cinnamon sinks to the bottom and it's too uneven to pour. Luckily, I put some vanilla in there too so the thin top layer pours and tastes good.

• Current soup recipe: mushrooms, peas, a tomato, a bouillon cube, some leftover Thanksgiving chicken, lots of cayenne, and dumplings. Yum.

26 November 2007

French __________

• French cut beans: haricots verts
Yep, just green beans.
• French door: porte-fenêtre
Window door. Makes sense.
• French dressing: sauce salade
Salad sauce. Makes sense. It's also absolutely nothing like that gloopy orange stuff. French dressing is usually a mustard-based vinaigrette.
• French fries: les frites
"Frieds," short for fried potatoes. In America they evolved skinnier than they are in France though.
• French toast: pain perdu
Lost bread? OK.
• Pardon my French!: Pardonnez-moi l'expression!
Forgive the expression. Also makes sense.
• French kiss: un patin
That also means "skate," so I'm curious about where this came from.
• French bread: baguette
A loaf. French bread found in America isn't completely like real French bread though.

In conclusion, most things we call French aren't really French.

25 November 2007

Saw a Movie, Bought Some Movies, Invented a Movie

Saw a Movie:
Yesterday I went to see a movie with my friend Tobi (Tobias), who's an exchange student from Germany. We saw a French comedy (i.e. a drama that makes you laugh sometimes) called "Faut que ça danse." An approximate translation, taking into account the creative grammar, would be "It's Gotta Be Dancey." I enjoyed the movie, though I honestly wouldn't be able to explain why. French movies are like that. I didn't have any trouble with the French, which was wonderful.
After the movie we walked over to the carnival that's currently taking place in a parking lot on the other side of the Maine river (it's pronounced like the word "men"). It was pretty similar to an American carnival in terms of overpriced rides and overpriced games, with the usual overpriced unhealthy snacks. We did get a snack, but didn't spend any more money. Then we headed back to centre ville.

Bought Some Movies:
We walked around for a while, since I needed to buy socks and neither of us wanted to go do homework. And then it happened.
- It was in the store FNAC, which is supremely dangerous.
- FNAC sells books, CDs, DVDs, and electronic things.
- I enjoy buying all of those.
One of their promotion items for the Christmas season is a portable DVD player, for under a hundred Euros. Meaning: a region 2 DVD player, complete with screen so I could use it both with and without a TV, for under a hundred Euros. Meaning: I would be able to watch French DVDs. Meaning: I would be able to borrow French DVDs from the library (or buy them at the used DVD store) and be able to watch them. Meaning: I know what I'm getting myself for my birthday this year. And yes, it's practical.
So, having made this decision (but I also decided to do some internet research and shopping around before buying) we headed over to Planète Saturne to see how much their portable DVD players are. I could save a Euro by buying one there. And then it happened.
- Planète Saturne has a DVD section.
- Part of that section is cheap DVDs, costing as little as three Euros.
- Most of the good movies in the cheap section cost five Euros.
- Five Euros is a good price for a DVD.
- I bought three.
Yes, I realize that I don't actually have a region 2 DVD player yet. But I've decided that I will, and now I have fun movies to watch on it. When I get it.

Invented a Movie:
I had another "take-home test" type thing for Dutch, which is due tomorrow. It has to be an invitation of some sort, which has useful information like who, what for, where, when to go to the where, how to get to the where, and so on. I did a conversation, which I will share with you here. I don't think there are any horrible grammatical errors. So you can get sort of an idea of my level of Dutch proficiency. It's a conversation between myself and Becky (first person to come to mind), where I propose that we go to the movies for my birthday.
op zestien december 2007
Kel: Hoi, Becky!
Becky: Goedemiddag, Kel!
Kel: Hoe gaat het met je?
Becky: Goed, en met jou?
Kel: Uitstekend! Ik ben morgen jarig!
Becky: Gefeliciteerd! Hoe oud ben je? Éenentwintig?
Kel: Ja, éénentwintig. En ik wil een feestje geven. Ik wil naar de bioscoop, en misschien een ÿsje gaan eten.
Becky: Een ÿsje? In december?
Kel: Ja, ik houd van ÿs! Zal je kommen?
Becky: Natuurlÿk! Hoe laat?
Kel: Om acht uur? Ik moet om zes uur een examen doen.
Becky: Prima. Welke bioscoop?
Kel: Gaumont.
Becky: Waar is dat?
Kel: Boulevard Foch. Ben je te voet of met de bus?
Becky: Met de bus.
Kel: Oké. Jÿ moet lÿn twee nemen, en jÿ moet uitstappen in het centrum, bushalte Foch. Je ga rechtdoor, twee of drie kruispunten. Jÿ ziet de bioscoop aan jouw rechterhand.
Becky: Goed! Acht uur. Tot morgen!
Kel: Dag, Becky!

December 16, 2007
Kel: Hey, Becky!
Becky: Hello, Kel!
Kel: How's it going?
Becky: Good, how about you?
Kel: Excellent! Tomorrow's my birthday!
Becky: Congrats! How old will you be? Twenty-one?
Kel: Yeah, twenty-one. And I want to have a party. I want to go to a movie, and then maybe get an ice cream.
Becky: Ice cream? In december?
Kel: Yeah, I love ice cream! Will you come?
Becky: Of course! What time?
Kel: At eight? I have an exam at six.
Becky: Great. Which movie theater?
Kel: Gaumont.
Becky: Where is that?
Kel: Boulevard Foch. Are you walking or taking the bus?
Becky: The bus.
Kel: OK. You take line two, and get off in the center at the Foch stop. Go straight, two or three streets. You'll see the cinema on your right.
Becky: Good! Eight o'clock. See you tomorrow!
Kel: Bye, Becky!

Ta-da! In real life, the conversation will go something like this:
Kel: Wanna go to a movie and then get ice cream on my birthday?
Becky, Mandy, Tobi, Jenny, whoever else is around: Sure.

But that isn't a hundred words.

23 November 2007


I'm in France legally again!
"What? Reading between the lines, Kel, does that mean that for a time you were in France illegally?" you say?
Yes, in fact it does.
There's this pesky little thing called a Carte de séjour, which is kind of like a residency card. A student visa lets you stay in the country for about two months, during which you have to ask for your carte de séjour so that you can finish off the year. Easy as pie, right? It would be, except for all of the documents you have to collect. One of which was a bank statement showing that you have enough to pay for rent and food for the year (430 Euros a month). Peachy. Because by the time I had gotten my account open (which took a couple weeks) and set up international transfer service with my American bank (which took a week) and transferred my money (which took a couple of days) and waited to get a bank statement (which took a week or so) there weren't any appointments left until today at 10 a.m. I suppose that when they said "It's better to wait until you have all of your documents to make an appointment, since then you don't have to worry about them refusing you your stay because of an incomplete file" what they meant was "Make an appointment now, because once you have your documents together there won't be any left."
Anyway, en bref I was in France illegally for ten days. And today during my appointment (all documents in hand, of course) I was told, "You realize that I'm supposed to refuse you your stay, and make you go back home and get a new visa, right?" Luckily, he understood that I did have a reason (however stupid on my part) and didn't. I now have my carte de séjour, and therefore am once again in France legally. Huge sigh of relief.

In other news: once you've had your turkey (or rotisserie chicken) you're likely to have lots of bones, and leftover white meat that's not tasty. What to do? Make chicken stock, of course. Once you've made your chicken broth, make some dumplings:
One egg
1/4 cup milk
a pinch of salt
about a cup of flour
Beat the egg and the milk together. Add the salt. Mix in the flour until the dough gets pretty doughy. It will not be doughy enough to knead, but it'll be thick. Drop little scoops into your boiling chicken broth (they'll about double in size, so keep them small). Add some of the leftover yucky white meat (it won't be so dry and tasteless if it's in taste-full liquid) and whatver vegetables you're in the mood for. When the dumplings float, they're done. Yum.

22 November 2007

Le jour d’action de grâce (The Day of the Act of Grace)

Happy Thanksgiving!
I've already celebrated, as a matter of fact. Yesterday, Becky, Mandy and Kate came over to my place for a potluck Thanksgiving dinner, as traditional as we could make it. Our menu was:
- “turkey” (a rotisserie chicken named Charlie, from the grocery store)
- stuffing and gravy, courtesy of Becky’s mom
- a can of cranberries and cornbread, courtesy of Mandy’s mom
- mashed potatoes (the French instant kind) and a Beaujolais Nouveau, which Kate brought
- zucchini with tomatoes, because I’m not a fan of carbs
- juice for those of us (i.e. me) who don’t like wine
- apple pastries for dessert, as a substitute for pie

It smelled and tasted and felt like Thanksgiving. I even imposed my family’s tradition, by making everyone say five things they were thankful for. My list is:
1 and 2) For my friends and family
3) That I’m in good choirs
4) That people speak French here (and therefore that I get to speak French)
5) For good herbal tea

Here’s a picture my self-timer took of us. Kate is the one in pink, Mandy is the blonde one, Becky is the one mostly hidden behind me.

Yesterday I also got to experience first hand the French equivalent of the Secretary of State place, where people go for IDs and Driver’s Licenses and other official things. I suppose I picked the right time (11:30 on a Wednesday morning) because I only had to wait for about ten minutes. I was there to buy a 55 Euro official fiscal stamp for my residency card application, but I’ll tell the whole story of that adventure/fiasco on Friday. (Suspense building?)

And here's the Onion's heartwarming report on American Thanksgiving traditions (sorry about the mandatory commercial):

Americans Enjoying Thanksgiving Tradition Of Sitting Around At Airport

Have a great holiday!

19 November 2007

Peculiars 'n Finishes

- Friday we had a "practice exam" for translation (French to English). It was interesting for a number of reasons. Essentially, they organize these practice exams so that students can have a chance to see how well they perform in real examination conditions, with the same time constraint and materials they're allowed in the real exam. It's useful, because this way you get a chance to see how badly you'll fail before you actually do so. In most cases, the final exam is the only grade you receive in the course, so I'm looking forward to (dreading?) seeing how I did. This is the class I think I have the best chance of actually doing well in.

- We started working on Christmas music Friday for the Maîtrise. I actually know about half of it already (O Magnum Mysterium by de Victoria, which I know the top three parts of, O Come O Come Emmanuel in Latin arranged by a Hungarian, Lo! How a Rose E'er Blooming in German, Noël Nouvelet in the original French, and others). Fun stuff.

- Saturday I went shopping, since I had two things to look for: gloves that are more airtight than my previous pair, and some sort of throw blanket. You know those cheap woven gloves you can get at the supermarket for a dollar? One size fits all, from five years old to adult. I love them. But apparently they don't like being put through the dryer. So I replaced them with some leather gloves I got at one of the cheapo stores. Considering that they cost ten Euros (an eighth of what nice gloves in the department store cost) I think they're perfect. However, the thumbs are too long. I don't know what is wrong with French people's thumbs: Becky and I tried on just about every pair of gloves Les Galleries Lafayettes (think Macy's or Sak's) had, and every pair except one or two had really weird thumbs. Most forced the thumb to be way too close to the other fingers and not be as opposable as it should, and those that allowed the thumb freedom to move had about an inch of extra space at the tip. Some pairs were even tight at the top of the thumb, but baggy at the base. We were tempted to ask French women for permission to examine their hands, but resisted.
I also got a throw blanket, since my apartment gets cold at random times of day and I wanted something less bulky than a comforter to wrap myself in to watch movies. It's a useful thing to have.

- Sunday after Mass (with Mandy from Chicagoland and Jenny from Germany) and burgers (with Mandy and Jenny, plus Becky from Chicagoland and Michael from England) I wrote a letter to Air France, trying to sound both authoritative and polite. I did my best to use the formal French letter style, and therefore get them to respect me, but I didn't check too carefully for typos, figuring that my foreigner name combined with polite but not quite perfect French would make them think, "Hey, we don't want to have foreigners on our bad side... let's send her a check for 55 Euros pronto." Here's my letter, in case you're interested:
Karen Miller
[phone number]
[e-mail address]

le 16 novembre, 2007 [Yes, I backdated it slightly]
Madame, Monsieur,
Le 12 novembre mon vol AF3177 de Milan à Nantes a été annulé. Le prochain vol était AF3179 à 17h20. Ce vol était en retard, et quand je suis arrivée à la gare SNCF à Nantes (par navette), il n’y avait plus de trains pour Angers. Donc j’ai dû trouver un hôtel pour la nuit, et je suis retournée à Angers le matin du 13 vers 7h30. Je suis restée à l’Hôtel de Bourgogne, et la chambre a coûté 55 Euros 85 centimes. Je voudrais être remboursée pour ces frais.
Ci-joints, la facture de l’hôtel, ma carte d’embarquement, et une copie de ma réservation No. Z5Q2GW.
Je vous prie d’agréer, Madame, Monsieur, l’expression de mes salutations distinguées.
[I signed it here]
Karen Miller

Ta-da! I hate the French letter-writing style.

- Monday I apologized very politely to my translation (English-French) professor. Yes, I had been planning to miss her class anyway, but since my flight got cancelled I had an excuse and therefore decided to explain, "I'm really sorry, but I was in Milan for the weekend, and my flight got cancelled, and I couldn't get back on Monday." She said, "It doesn't matter, don't worry about it." And the weird thing is that she honestly didn't seem to care. Most French professors just assume that they'll usually have students cutting their class.

- Today I also went to a store that sells Fossil watches (it took me three weeks to find one) to have my watch fixed. It had lost one of the little bars that holds it to the strap. After years of always wearing a watch (with the tan line to prove it) going a couple weeks without was very difficult. I felt so much less motivated than usual, not having the time close at hand.

- This evening I took advantage of two new acquisitions (a glass bottle from the apple juice I got last week and some leftover pineapple juice from the drinks I brought to choir practice on Friday (Lyre from China, Judit from Hungary and I had volunteered to provide snacks for the break last week)) and made Russian Tea. There's absolutely nothing Russian about it, but it's good stuff. I wasn't sure of the exact proportions, but what I made came out tasty so here's the recipe:
Very hot tea (I used a combination of decaf vanilla chai and ginger tea, but you should probably use black tea unless you're allergic to caffeine and have to go non-traditional) with a dash of cinnamon mixed in
Pineapple juice
Orange juice
Pour tea into your bottle or pitcher until it looks about a third full. Then pour in the pineapple juice until it looks about two thirds full, and fill it the rest of the way with the orange juice. Close and shake the bottle, or if you're using a pitcher stir the mixture. Drink it while it's hot! Be careful, this stuff can be addictive.

- In general, this week is daunting, because I have several BIG things to do. But I won't spoil the suspense, you'll hear about things after they happen :)

15 November 2007

Buongiorno, Italia!!

I went to Italia!! Ho studiato un poco di italiano my freshman year of high scuola, but mi ricorto only a few parole e useful phrases. However, capisco molto bene when people parlano lento enough. Sorry for the delay in my blog, these past few days have been very busy, and I knew I'd need to set aside a whole afternoon to do justice to my week-end. However, I'll condense it as much as possible so it won't take as long to read as everything took to happen!

- Getting up at seven for traveling is a lot easier than getting up at three.
- I took the train to Nantes, took a taxi to the airport (if I had taken the shuttle I would have arrived 45 minutes before my flight, and I was worried about that), and was creeped out by the lack of lines. No line at the information desk when I asked where desk U was, no line at U, no line at security... it was seriously unnerving. I had absolutely no confidence, not having a crowd to follow. I had three security people all to myself. One of them took my coat off in a gentlemanly manner and folded it for me.
- The flight to Milan was fine except for extraordinarily terrifying turbulence over the Alps. (p.s. I saw the Alps!!)
- I took the train from the airport in Milan to the center, where I met Stefan. [Sidenote: Stefan also goes to Truman. He's a Romance Languages major, and he and I had a few classes together last year. He's studying abroad this year in Milan, so when I found out that Air France had a cheap flight I asked him if he'd like to play tour guide. It was so much fun to travel with Stefan: we never lacked for conversation the whole weekend.]
-On the way towards his dorm, we stopped in a church dedicated to... St. Lawrence, one of my patrons! I was excited. He's a really cool saint. General Italian churches have much simpler architecture than French ones, and they use more colorful stones and bricks. Whereas French churches were just decorated with frescos and stained glass, Italian ones are fundamentally colorful as well.

- We went to my hostel to drop off my bag, and stopped at a café where I had Italian hot chocolate for the first time. I've now had three distinct types of hot chocolate:
1) "European" hot chocolate in Russia, which is essentially melted dark chocolate and is virtually undrinkable. It's very thick and very strong, and is best eaten with a spoon. It's served with a glass of bubbly water to cut the sweetness/bitterness.
2) French/American hot chocolate, which is liquidy, comes in varying levels of sweetness, and can be drunk.
3) Italian hot chocolate, which they make with frothed milk and which has the same consistency of warm pudding. It looks, tastes, and feels like warm pudding. It's easiest to eat it with a spoon, and it's good.
- We then walked over to the Duomo, which is Milan's cathedral. Despite the name, there isn't a prominent dome, which was surprising when I got my first view:

It's a truly amazing sight. Not what I expected, since I know that duomo means dome. It's incredibly ornamented, and incredibly big. Incredibly [insert adjective here] in general.
- We walked around Milan a bit more, then went grocery shopping to get ingredients to make fajitas with Stefan's friends Lucy and Stephanie. They're both really nice, and we had a great time chatting. However, when making fajitas, ignore the instructions if they say to put the vegetables in last.
- The only unfortunate thing about Friday was that I realized something annoying: there must have been some powdered laundry detergent left in the machine I used to do my laundry, because I'm allergic to all of my clothes. Luckily the undershirts I packed seemed to be from another load, but my legs are itchy.

- This time, getting up at seven was decidedly Not Fun. Everyone in my dorm at the hostel was sleeping, so I had to tiptoe around getting ready, trying not to wake anyone up. I got the bathroom to myself, which was nice. There was a bidet, but I've heard explanations ranging from "You use it to clean... well... private places" to "Actually, I've found it's very handy for washing mud off shoes." In addition to the regular toilet, there was also a squat toilet, which was even more confusing. This is the 21st century, after all. The hostel was really nice though, and if I remembered what it's called I would recommend it.
- After picking up a pastry for breakfast and reserving a hotel for me for the other two nights of my stay, Stefan and I headed off to... Verona! Yes, as in Romeo and Juliet. The view from the train was beautiful: Verona's even closer to the Alps than Milan is, so there were frequent "Ahh" moments. However, unlike a train ride in France, there were no random castles to be seen. In the Loire valley, there are castles seemingly everywhere.
- Verona is absolutely charming. There's a neat wall around the center, there are beautiful towers and steeples, and the buildings somehow feel both historic and modern.

- The first thing you notice when walking into Verona is the arena. I've never seen the Colosseum, but this arena is certainly Colossal. If you've ever seen illustrations or pictures of an arena and wondered if they're really like that, I can tell you that yes, they are.

- While walking around the arena, I spotted a solar clock on a building wall! It was pretty, easy to read, and completely accurate if not extremely specific.

- We had to pay to go inside the arena, but it was worth it. The view from the top is amazing: you can see the mountains, neighboring towns, the river, the hills, all of Verona. Here are some pictures of the arena and the view from the top, a self-portrait of me and Stefan, and a picture of me at the arena.

- No arena would be complete without a guy dressed as a Roman soldier. And no photo of a tourist area in Italy would be complete without at least one Asian tourist.

- We went to lunch at a little restaurant that had an inexpensive looking menu, and I got tortellini. The filling tasted just like tortellini filling I'd had before, but the pasta was obviously a lot fresher than you would be able to get in the States. Stereotypical Italian Meal #1.
- After lunch, we wandered around completely aimlessly. We figured that we'd be able to find all of the touristy places without trying, and we did. We also came across pretty little courtyards, a few markets, a few churches with tombs outside, a section of a street that had been excavated to show the Roman road and fountain below, and interesting statues and monuments.

- We also managed to wander to Verona's major tourist attraction, "Juliet's House." Obviously it's not, but it's still neat. There's a little balcony (supposedly the balcony), and a statue of Juliet in the courtyard. According to tradition, if you rub Juliet's right breast you'll come back to Verona one day. I suppose I won't be going back...

- The walls outside Juliet's courtyard are part of another Verona tradition: they're covered with names and hearts that people have written there, and love notes stuck on with chewing gum. Gross and annoying in a way, but also charming.

- Near the excavated bit of road we got gelato, which was delicious. The place didn't serve it nearly as soft as gelato is supposed to be. But honestly, I prefer my ice cream pretty hard so that it doesn't melt too quickly, so this was ideal.
- Next the the river we found the basilica, which I had admired from the top of the arena. It isn't anything like French basilicas I've been to: it isn't white, isn't on a hill, doesn't have a dome, and costs money to enter.

- We walked over to the river, which of course provides a wonderful view. From there we walked towards the castle-like buildings we'd been able to see from the arena, and then back to the center where we window-shopped.

- We took the train back to Milan, and ate dinner at Stefan's university restaurant. My ticket was kind of pricey at nine euros, but they neglected to take it so I got two meals out of it.
- After dinner we went to a movie (my suggestion: I like seeing movies, I like seeing movies in foreign languages, and I understand enough Italian that I wouldn't be completely lost). We saw the Bourne Ultimatum, which fits my ideal of a dumb action movie. I'm sure the plot is very complex, but there are lots of explosions and car chases that don't seem to be necessary. Like in Russia, the seats were assigned, and the theater was sold out. The line to get in was a mass of people who didn't seem to be moving at all, which was really annoying. They could have designed the system a lot better.
- Italy runs a lot later than France, so I can understand why Stefan and his friends are frustrated with their 1:30 a.m. curfew. I got back around one, and the streets were packed. Our 10:30 movie was one of the early showings.
- My "hotel" (guest rooms in one of the university's dorms) was really nice. Private bathroom, a thermostat, a TV... a bit pricey, but safer and more relaxing than the hostel, which was full anyway.

- We got a late start, which was nice. We took the metro to the Duomo, to climb to the top. The climb is long and tiring, but the view if worth the effort. (I'm positive that the view is less impressive if you pay extra to take the elevator) The church is even more intricate than I had imagined. From the ground you can tell that the top is covered in statues, but there are even statues within pillars and hidden in nooks that would be impossible to see from the ground. The weather was clear enough that we could see the mountains. Across the street, we could see a rooftop café on top of Milan's Marshall Field's type department store.

- We ate lunch at a café that had pizza, my Stereotypical Italian Meal #2. The crust was thin and very floury. I got a "terra e mare" pizza, which had mushrooms, dry beef (thin slices, nothing like jerky) and shrimps. It was delicious, though I couldn't really taste the shrimp.
- We walked through the Galleria, which is the mall where THE designer stores are. As in, not a Gucci franchise per se, but the Gucci store. On the other side of the Galleria is la Scala, which is the most famous opera house in the world. Their tickets cost an arm and a leg, and were sold out, so no I didn't go to an opera. The museum, however, costs only a finger and wasn't sold out, so Stefan and I went. I'm sort of a classical music freak. If you can imagine the reaction of a 1950s girl to a portrait of Elvis, you can imagine what I did when I saw one of Rossini. The opera house itself is very pretty and rich-looking, although I prefer the shape of American opera houses. European opera houses were built so that the people in the boxes could watch each other, and I have the strange opinion that you should be able to see the stage. In the museum, there was a special exhibition on Maria Callas, who is one of the most famous sopranos of all time. She was known for being incredibly expressive, both in her singing and in her acting. There were several of her costumes on display, which were impressively intricate. The museum has portraits of lots of Italian composers, posters from world premieres that happened at la Scala, and all sorts of other memorabilia. I nearly jumped out of my skin when I saw the original score of Verdi's Requiem Mass, which I'm singing with the UCO Vocal Ensemble this year. His notes were legible, but his handwriting was atrocious. "Dies Irae" looked more like "Gwf Inœ." I wish the museum allowed photos...
-Next we walked to the castle, which to me looked like a brick monastery because of the style of its arches and courtyards. Where French castles tend to go for height, this one covered a huge amount of ground without being immensely tall. There was somewhat of a moat though!

- After going back to the dorm to check e-mail, we went over to an enormous park. There were several playgrounds inside, as well as ponds, statues, a little waterfall, a very large natural history museum, and several other large palace-like buildings. Stefan and I sat and chatted while watching kids play on the playground until a really annoying rose-seller inspired us to leave. Around the center of Milan there are lots of African/Indian immigrants who try to sell bracelets, roses, and other little things to tourists. Usually they'll go away once you say no, but this one wouldn't. After he had spent about four minutes trying to get us to buy a rose and refusing to leave, we just got up and left.
- We went to the university restaurant again, which is really quite good. Europe does cafeteria food well :) Then we went back to Stefan's dorm (accompanied by Nicole, another exchange student) and watched "The Science of Sleep," which is an indie film about half in French and half in English.

- Checking out of my room was somewhat of a challenge, since the receptionist on duty didn't speak any English. I understood everything he was saying, but I just don't speak enough Italian to be able to respond well. Apparently there was a phone call made in my room a bit after midnight on the day I checked in (i.e., the night before I was there) and I had to pay ten cents for it, and that it wasn't logical but the computer system did everything automatically and that's how it was. Silly.
- We started off the morning at St. Ambrose's basilica. He's the patron saint of Milan, and his church is appropriately impressive. The courtyard is really big, and has various pieces of carved stones set into the wall in a Chicago Tribune building style (if you haven't gone to the Trib building in Chicago, you should). The inside is bright and old-feeling, which I like. Several of the chapels around the outside are particularly lovely, and the altar is incredibly shiny. It's covered in precious metals and jewels. One side, in gold, chronicles Jesus' life, and the other side, in silver, chronicles the parallel events in Ambrose's. Behind the altar you can see St. Ambrose himself, in the decomposing flesh. In the picture here, he's the one in white. There are two other martyrs in there with him, but I don't remember who they are. They look good for being dead 1,510 years though! St. Ambrose's brother and sister are also saints, and their bodies are in chapels along the side. Quite a family!
The courtyard:

The altar, and you can see part of the mosaiced dome:


His sister:

His brother:

- We window-shopped a bit more and then went to the rooftop café we'd seen from the Duomo. It’s a very designer department store, and it really does remind me of Marshall Field’s. There was even a gourmet food section on the top floor. I don’t know who would pay two hundred euros for a small bottle of balsamic vinegar, no matter how good it is. We had decided to eat at the little café, since the breakfast menu isn't too unreasonable, and I needed to eat something before my 2:30 flight. Got that? 2:30 flight? OK. Just after we had sat down and I had taken these pictures...

...my phone rang, with a call from an unknown number. It was Air France, informing me that my flight had been cancelled. “Cancelled?!? Are you serious?” “Yes, I'm sorry, Madame. Our next flight is at 5:20.” “Don't you have anything earlier? I'm a student and I have class tonight.” “Only through Paris- can you be at the airport in less than an hour?” “No, that’s impossible… OK, 5:20 it is then.” “Thank you. Goodbye, Madame, and I apologize.” Lovely.
- After a breakfast/lunch of Italian cold meats (which would have been Stereotypical Italian Meal #3 if they had had melon) Stefan and I thus headed back to his dorm rather than to the train station. I e-mailed my professor to let her know that I'd be missing class, and we hung out for a couple extra hours before I needed to head off towards the airport.
- The bus from the train station to the airport got there 25 minutes before my boarding time. I got my boarding pass 18 minutes before. I found security and got in line ten minutes before. I got to the gate two minutes before. A big sigh of relief and thirty minutes later, they bussed us over to the plane. I spent the time chatting with a really nice French couple. They have a son and grandchildren who live in Virginia, and he is a Rotarian (district governor last year) and heavily involved in youth exchange! It's a small world. They're really nice people.
- The plane first flew to some city I'd never heard of, where we all had to get off, go into the airport, and go through security again. FYI: dry stick deodorant is apparently a liquid in France, so pack it with your travel-sized shampoo. Once the security person had finished going through my bag and telling me to pack my deodorant with liquids, the rest of the group had disappeared. I was told to take the escalator up one floor and walk down the hallway to the gate. I did so, and literally felt my heart contract as I saw a plane pulling away. Let's call this "Bad Feeling Number One" for later reference. Luckily, my plane was at the next gate, and they were waiting for me and the other two people held up at security. This flight was running a bit behind as well, but an hour later we finally arrived in Nantes. I took the shuttle to the train station, went to the ticket window, and was told that there were no more trains to Angers. That was so much worse than Bad Feeling Number One. Number Two was about eight times worse, and it took me a moment to force back the need to cry. I was able to be relatively calm as I asked for the earliest train the next day, and where I could find an inexpensive hotel. Despite a wonderful start in Milan, the day hadn't been one of my best, and this was the poison-filled icing on the stale cake. The hotel I found was nice and pretty cheap, but that shouldn't matter since I'm going to make Air France reimburse me. I got all the way to my door before I burst into tears, and I had a good, long, cleansing cry. After I felt better, I turned on the TV and had a great time watching France's versions of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" and "Ten Years Younger."

I took a 7:30 train back to Angers, and it felt so good to be finally at home. I had about two hours before class, so I showered and ate and unpacked and got a chance to feel calmer.

- In French yesterday my group gave our exposé on religion in France. It's a very taboo subject, and people try to avoid the topic when possible. Some of the statistics I found for my section of the presentation (statistics and other illustrations of the state of religion in France now) were particularly interesting. The general point I made was that there is a big difference between "croyant" (believer) and "pratiquant" (practicing) and between "foi" (faith) and "religion." There are lots of people who believe in God but never go to church, and there are people who participate in religious activities as a simple part of culture without believing in it.
- I ran into Becky after class, and invited her over for dinner. I had misestimated when making soup for lunch, with the result that I had twice as much as I had intended to make. I've been adding olives to my vegetable soup, and they're a nice addition.

Today in Linguistics we had a guest lecturer who is a French linguist who's been working with businesses in Quebec for the past few decades. She did an overview of the history of Quebec, and explained where some of the major linguistic changes began to occur. I think she'll go into more detail tomorrow when she talks to my other linguistics class, so if people express interest by commenting I'll tell you more about what makes québécois a different language.

08 November 2007

Busy Day before a Busy Weekend!

Today it felt like I never had a moment to rest. Here's a quick summary. Somehow everything from my to-do list ended up needing to be done today.
Got up at nine, ate, showered, got to the laundromat at ten, finished laundry at noon, came home and found note that I'd missed the postman with a package for me, went to the post office, they gave me a number to call, came home and called, they called back, got directions to the particular post office from Google Maps, managed to eat lunch in eight minutes, went to Linguistics, power-walked downtown to catch a bus to the post office, picked up my box, went home, opened the box (goodies from home like warm clothes, tea, the Leopard installation disk for our family pack, a C.S. Lewis book in English, and chocolate covered ginger!), paid my rent and talked to my landlord, rushed back to the university for Dutch (which was calm, and fun because we're making whole sentences and negating things), sprinted two blocks when I saw the bus coming and barely caught it, avoiding the three kilometer walk home if I'd missed it, got back home, washed my dishes, took out the trash, and put away my laundry before finally eating dinner, then I packed a backpack for the weekend, which I will be spending in... Italy! Tomorrow I'm flying from Nantes to Milan, where I'll be visiting Stefan. When I get back I'll post lots of photos! Traveling is always eventful, but somehow I have a feeling that this weekend will feel relaxing compared to today.

03 November 2007


Today is the day of natural highs.
- I made vegetable soup (toss a bunch of mushrooms, two chopped tomatoes, a chopped zucchini, some frozen spinach, a dash of lime juice and your favorite spices in chicken broth and let it simmer for as long as it takes you to watch a movie). It was delicious.
- I had a good idea about how to decorate my room a bit more without spending money. Pictures will be posted once I do it.
- I went to a movie with Judit, and it was a feel good movie. It's called "Le Premier Cri" (the First Cry, but I don't know what the official title is in English) and it's an un-documentary-like documentary about how women give birth all over the world. It's nice to see a well-publicized, well-recognized movie that values life so much as this one does. Even a man who sees the movie would leave wanting to have a baby.
- I realized that my French has very sneakily gotten significantly better. Now that I think about it, there was once a time when I would need to look words up in a dictionary when reading, or when I wouldn't understand dialog in a movie. But that seems like the distant past, since I understand everything that comes at me now. (Now that I think about it, there was once I time when I didn't speak any French at all... wow.)
- La Maîtrise gave a concert tonight (Ein Deutsches Requiem by Brahms, I highly recommend listening to it), and it went wonderfully. No one expected it to be nearly as good as it was, since during rehearsals up to tonight we'd had problems with... well... intonation, rhythm, pronunciation, counting, singing melodically, using dynamics, listening to the other parts, watching the director... you name it, we did it wrong. And then, by the grace of God I'm sure (it helps if you perform in a cathedral!) we were absolutely wonderful. The tenors messed up two or three times, but there were no hugely noticeable problems. We didn't speed up as much as usual, the fugues were good, and the audience (which was surprisingly large) gave us a standing ovation that lasted five bows and our procession out, which is a very long time.
- I got a ride home with one of the sopranos, and I realized how comfortable it's become to chat with people in French about any topic at all.

I've got good books, I have time to cook, I'm meeting nice people, I'm singing in two great choirs, I get to speak French, and there's a castle. I'm totally content, and I could happily live my whole life this way. But don't worry, Mom and Dad, I'm coming home in June :)

01 November 2007

Exploration (Intentional and Unintentional) in Lyon and Avignon

Believe it or not, I tried my best to make this post "short" by not going into too much detail...

Monday, October 29: Lyon
• Waking up at 3:15 is NOT FUN. I’d gotten five hours of sleep, but my body, like the sun, knew that morning wasn’t until at least 8:00. I had given myself an hour to get ready, and since I moved so slowly I’m glad I did! I left the house at exactly 4:20, and arrived at the train station at exactly 5 a.m. Four kilometers in forty minutes isn’t bad, especially when it’s dark, and did I mention pouring rain? Plus, I had to pause about once every two blocks because my shoes kept eating my socks. I hate it when they do that. But that's the end of the not fun part of the trip.
• I actually managed to sleep in the train! I think I got about two hours, which is more than I’ve ever gotten on a plane.
• When the train arrived, something absolutely amazing happened. I got to my hotel… without getting lost or turned around once. I have a remarkable talent: if there are two choices of directions to go (say north and south, or left and right) I always pick the wrong one. I look around, decide which one looks more promising, and then still manage to choose badly. Once I am far enough out of my way to figure out that I’m lost, I manage to get lost again trying to go back. Then I inevitably have a long detour before I finally get on the right track. To shorten explanations of this phenomenon in the future, I’ve decided to call it Unintentional Exploration, with capital letters, in the future. Lyon is, or at least was for my first half hour there, easy to navigate. There’s a metro, which is neat for three reasons:
1) The trains have rubber wheels, so they don’t screech and are both quiet and smooth-rolling.
2) Most of the trains are automatic. It’s really cool to be in the front car, since the windows are huge and you can watch the tunnel.
3) The trains are very well-designed, and lots of people can fit comfortably.
• The hotel where I stayed, Hôtel Iris, is only about two blocks away from the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall, not City Hotel) metro stop. It’s in a typical old building with stone walls and loud plumbing, which is nice. My room was small, but comfortable. The best part was that some patches of wall had (artistically) no plaster, exposing the stone beneath.
• I set off for one of the historic districts, Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon). This was, I regret to admit, the second and last time that I successfully navigated the metro right on the first try. Lyon is mostly flat, but it has a gigantic hill in the middle, which is naturally where most things worth seeing can be found. I took the funiculaire (uphill train) to the top of the hill, picked an exit, and saw the basilica:

It’s occurred to me that I don’t actually know what a basilica is. The only ones I’ve been to are this and Sacré Coeur in Paris, and both are large white churches on top of hills. Anyone know if “Large white church situated on the top of a hill in a large city” is the technical definition of basilica?
• The inside of the basilica is very shiny. In both the slang meaning (impressive, pleasing) and the literal one. The walls are all covered in mosaics and murals that use a lot of gold, the stained glass windows were sparkling in the sun, even the marble pillars were shiny. It’s really a beautiful space.

• I took one picture of a painting of the life of Jeanne d’Arc, and a picture of the plaque describing it. It’s nice to have explanations of what you’re looking at!

• On one side of the basilica there’s a foresty park and a great view of Lyon. In this picture, you can see the scale of the city (it’s the third largest in France) and you can also see Lyon’s skyscraper, which locals call “the pencil” (le crayon) because of its distinctive shape. The weather was better than it looks: low lying clouds, but it was very sunny and actually got hot in the afternoon.

In this picture you can sort of see both the Rhône and the Saône rivers, and the peninsula (Presqu’île) in between. Hôtel Iris is in the middle of the peninsula, in one of the other historic districts.

• Also at the top of the hill is a TV tower which was made to look like the top of the Eiffel Tower. It’s kind of weird seeing something so modern and brash next to the basilica.

• Here is the reason why I took the funiculaire. Imagine climbing about five of these to get to the top of the hill:

• Aaaaw, pretty city on a river:

• Unfortunately, after crossing the river I had about an hour of Unintentional Exploration, made worse by the fact that I ended up in an unsavory part of town, made even worse because I was hungry and couldn’t find a place to eat, and made still worse yet because I had to climb every stair in the area before getting back to the river.
• Right before I got un-lost (returned to Intentional Exploration, if you will) I saw this fresco/mural on the back of a building, which is life-size and thus seven stories tall. It’s amazing!

• I found a bakery, got a sausage baked in a roll, then enjoyed fifteen minutes of Unintentional Exploration before finding the nearest metro station, which turned out to be less than a block away from where I was when I had set out to find it. Typical.
• I took another funiculaire halfway up the hill, where the signs told me to go to see the Roman theatres. Lyon was founded as a Roman colony in 43 BC, and was the birthplace of this emperor guy, Claudius, among other people. The city was called Lugdunum at the time. Two amphitheaters from around the second century AD have been unearthed and restored. Unfortunately, The funiculaire dropped me off at the bottom, so I had to climb up a billion and seven stairs to get to the top.
• This is the Odéon, the smaller amphitheater used for musical performances. I would have loved to stand in the middle of the stage and sing something to test the acoustics, but naturally I didn’t. If I had a quartet with me, I would have though! (Translation: I need an alto, a tenor, and a bass to come with me the next time I go to Lyon.) However, without the wooden roof it’s possible that the sound wouldn’t be any good.

Behind the back walls there’s a fairly wide semi-circular path, which a sign told me used to be a road. Apparently a few blocks of houses were torn down to build the theaters. The road was kept as a useful way of emptying the theater, and the foundations of several homes have been found behind it:

• The other theater was probably used mainly for dramatic performances. Its stage is much longer, and it looks like there is about twice as much seating.

• The view from the top of the stairs is incredible. The stage seems so far away, but in relation to the rest of the city, which is also visible, it’s close.

• More Unintentional Exploration as I got on the funiculaire in the wrong direction and got to go to the top of the hill before going down. I then got on the metro in the wrong direction, and discovered the two horrible things about the Lyon metro.
1) There are actually separate entrances for the separate directions. So you’d better know where you’re going before you go in! This would have been easier if I had had a map of my own and didn’t need to rely on the ones posted by the tracks.
2) Why are there separate entrances? Because there’s no way to switch directions once you’re in. This means that if you go a stop too far, you have to get out, go all the way outside, find the other entrance, put your ticket back in (or buy another if you had a one ride ticket), and get back on a train. It’s so much better in Paris, Chicago, Moscow… really every other metro I’ve used.
• However, I did love the décor of the metro station I had to “turn around” in. One direction had an enormous map of the world, and the other side had a line of city names across the wall. There were quite a few from America, including Chicago, Lansing, Detroit, Minneapolis, and my favorite, Billing. Ha.

• I took the metro back to the train station, since it’s next to a mall. A real mall! I was in a mall mood. I’d estimate that it’s about as big as Woodfield, and likewise has lots to look at and nothing I wanted to buy. There was a Gap, but Gap in Europe is very disappointing: twice as expensive as in America, nothing but neutrals, and only those “high-fashion” styles that no one actually looks good in. However, it was still nice to be in a crowded mall again.
• I got on the metro right direction, but then I missed my stop. Great. However, this bout of Unintentional Exploration brought me to a supermarket, so I bought dinner: a kilogram of grapes, a bottle of water, and a can of Pringles. I figured that after a day of so much walking and so many stairs, I deserved whatever I wanted for dinner.
• After yet again picking the wrong metro entrance and having to switch, I went back to the hotel, where I ate dinner, watched TV and read a bit, and finally crashed at around seven o’clock.

Tuesday, October 30: Avignon
• I accidentally took the long way (three metro lines instead of two) to the train station, but arrived safely and bought a ticket to Avignon. I had decided that it would be cheaper and more practical to go there from Lyon than from Angers, and it’s small enough that I would be able to see everything I wanted to see in one day. The train arrived at noon, and I took a bus from the TGV station to the center. Avignon is, for a girl who explores unintentionally as easily as I do, a dream. The center, including all the historical sites and the bus stop, is enclosed in a tall wall!!

That means that as long as I didn’t leave the wall I would not be significantly lost. Wonderful! I stopped at the friendly tourist office for a map (as a souvenir, reading them doesn’t help me one bit), a train schedule, and a discount card. Avignon is decidedly cheerful. Thirty steps above Le Mans, and five or so above Lyon. About three above Angers. It was very sunny, but chilly and incredibly windy. The wind would put Chicago to shame. Wind pictures later in the post.
• Avignon has two main tourist attractions: the Palais des Papes (Papal Palace) and the Pont Bénézet, better known as the Pont d’Avignon, the bridge immortalized in a song that every French person on the planet knows. Before anyone asks, no, I did not dance on the bridge. I didn’t even pay to go stand on it.
• Anyway, the route from the tourist office to the Palais des Papes is simple: walk along the road without turning until you can’t go straight any more, then veer slightly right and you can’t miss it. Somehow, though, I managed to end up quite far away from it, and enjoyed some Unintentional Exploration in the charming little town. I finally found the palace, which is enormous and should not be easy to miss. After a quick lunch in a café (chèvre chaud: warm goat cheese on toast on top of a salad) I went to the palace.

• The palace is very impressive. It’s the biggest gothic palace in Europe, and the scale is absolutely incredible. Only a portion of the palace is open for tourists, but that includes the chapel (52m long, 15m wide, 20m tall), the kitchen (essentially the whole ceiling opens into the cone-shaped chimney, which is more than fifty feet tall), one of the bedrooms (the walls are painted beautifully) and a few towers. Here are some pictures:
• This is the courtyard. The walls and towers are exactly like what I picture when I picture a castle, even though this is the first I’ve seen that actually has them. When American children draw castles, they must be drawing this one!

• Here’s that corner tower and a better view of the shiny gold angel statue. This is my current desktop picture.

• Here’s the chimney!

• This is the view from one of the towers. On the hill across the river you can see a fortress, and the large building in the foreground is the “small palace” where bishops got to live.

• Self-portraits on the towers didn’t work because of the wind and the sun, both of which were very strong. I did get a decent picture of myself by a window opening to the courtyard though. Yes, I’m sunburned.

• After leaving the palace I decided to go see the bridge, but despite the signs went the wrong way. In the course of my Unintentional Exploration I found a beautiful little 13th century church, a free art exhibition, and a little store where I bought a scarf. Now I can look completely French! My most unusual discovery was a living mural. I’m not sure what it’s a picture of, if anything, but the idea is really cool.

• The bridge is outside the town walls, but I didn’t get lost. It only reaches halfway across the river, since part was swept away by the current. I followed some other tourists for a while (excellent navigation technique, by the way) and ended up climbing up a lot of stairs to reach a park and garden at the top of a hill above the palace. The view from the top was beautiful:

• I tried self-portraits again, and they turned out HILARIOUS. The wind was really really strong. The pictures were so bad that I made it my new goal to capture the wind at its strongest, and I had better luck at that than at looking pretty.

• A gift shop was selling placemats with the sheet music for the Pont d’Avignon song, so I took a picture:

• Here’s the palace as viewed from the top of the hill:

• My most successful self-portrait (although not my favorite, I like the second wind-swept one better), in front of the palace at a moment when the wind wasn’t too strong:

• I walked along the main street again, and stopped in Fnac to buy a book. I’d only brought one with me, and I knew that I would finish it before getting back to Lyon. I bought Around the World in Eighty Days in the original French, and also an English book called The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters. The title, the description, and the quotes are hilarious. The first hundred pages are good (suspenseful, funny, scary at times, creative, and so on), and once I’ve read the other six hundred I’ll let you know what I think. My favorite review quote is from the London Paper: “Think of the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: its lurid plots, its murky pea-soupers. Now, apply the production values of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, commission a re-write by the Marquis de Sade… A ripping yarn.” So far, it lives up to that. I feel like I can identify with the first of the three protagonists. Here’s one of my favorite passages about her, as she’s attempting (badly) to follow her ex-fiancé to find out why he left her: “Miss Temple found an antiquarian book shop across the street [from Roger’s usual lunchtime restaurant] where, as she was obliged to purchase something for standing so long watching through its window, she on impulse selected a complete four-volume Illustrated Lives of Sea Martyrs. The books were detailed enough to warrant her spending the time in the window, apparently examining the colored plates, while actually watching Roger first enter and then, after an hour, re-emerge, alone, from the heavy doors across the street. He walked straight back into the Ministry courtyard. Miss Temple arranged for her purchase to be delivered to the Boniface, and walked back into the street, feeling like a fool.” Anyway, it is (so far) a well-written, entertaining read. Plus, it’s very long.
• I walked in circles for a while trying to find the natural history museum, which is free. Museums like that are great for picking up vocabulary I wouldn’t be exposed to otherwise. The museum was pretty small, and didn’t have much of extraordinary interest to a girl who hails from the same city as the Field Museum. However, there was a “globe” of the solar system that I found picture worthy (unfortunately it was behind glass, so this is the best picture I got). Not because of its structure or historical interest, but because August is spelled “aoust!” Now it’s spelled “août.” In French, when you see a ^ accent it’s because that vowel used to be followed by an s. In words like hôtel, maître (master) and forêt it’s easy to see why there would have been an s. Not so much with August, so I was thrilled to see that. I’m such a linguistics geek, I know…

• Last picture of the day: a typo that should have been caught, on the TGV back to Lyon. I’m sure I looked ridiculous taking a picture of the alarm sticker, but it was worth it.

• Back in Lyon, I got take-out from the Chinese restaurant kitty-corner from my hotel, where they had soupe Ouanh-Thanh (sound it out…) inexpensively.

Wednesday, October 31: Lyon
• After breakfast I hurried to the metro, got only minorly lost, and went over to the Musée des Tissus (Fabric Museum). Lyon used to be the silk capital of the world, and the museum has examples from Lyon’s silk and fashion history as well as historical pieces from around the world. The oldest piece they have is a 4,000 year old Egyptian tunic, there’s a whole exhibit of Persian tunics, carpets and tapestries, embroidered art, and so on. It’s a fascinating museum, but it gets an A- because they don’t let you take pictures. My favorite piece was a silk embroidered with butterflies made of flowers. I bought a postcard of it in the gift shop. So here’s a photo of the photo of the silk:

• I got on the metro in the wrong direction and had to leave and re-enter, but luckily got to the cathedral before noon. Voici la cathédrale:

The cathedral’s big tourist attraction (besides the fact that it’s a cathedral and has amazing stained glass) is an astronomical clock, which has an elaborate chiming process every hour in the afternoon. There are little trumpeters that pop out, and various things move. The clock face itself is very elaborate.

• I ate lunch in a Chinese restaurant (spicy shrimp soup, ginger beef, fried rice, raspberry ice cream, and herbal tea… yum) and then headed back to the hotel to pick up my bag. I missed the stop, but was close enough to walk back. Unintentional Exploration strikes again! I stopped briefly in a church on the way to say a decade for safe travel, and took a picture of a cheerful stained glass window with the sun shining through it.

• Again I took the long way to the train station accidentally. My train home was a regular train rather than a fast TGV, so the ride was more than six hours long. The train got in at 9:30, only fifteen minutes late. I walked as fast as I could from the train station to the Maîtrise’s practice place, so I only missed half of rehearsal. I adore choir practice. There are two sopranos who live in the same direction as I do, so I can get a ride home when I need one. It felt good to be back home.

Thursday, November 1: Angers
All Saints’ Day (Toussaint) is a national holiday in France. Most people go to the cemetery to visit the family plot, so it’s actually celebrated in a way.
The Maîtrise sang Mass at the cathedral, which is fun. It’s a whole different perspective from behind the altar (had I mentioned that the choir is behind the altar? Cathedrals are generally cross-shaped, and the choir is in the tip. The altar is in the middle. There’s a small choir organ which accompanies the choir, cantor, and priests and a large organ in the back (the bottom of the cross) which accompanies the congregation. It’s a complicated system, which I can explain in more detail if people are interested).
My holiday was spent napping, cooking, reading and watching movies, except for the chunk of time it took me to write this. Peaceful and relaxing!
Happy All Saints’ Day to all!