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Archive for November, 2010

It’s almost time for Armistice Day, which means vacation! Mom and Dad get here tomorrow; we’re going to have dinner with my host parents and I’m going to show them around Angers a bit. Then on Thursday we’re going up to Paris for a couple days.  Should be a good trip – we’ve already got a bunch of things planned. One of the days we’re going to Normandy to see the D-Day beaches and the American war cemetery. Another day we’re going out to see the palace at Versailles. Other than that, we’re going to putter around Paris and see what we see. Should be good times.

It’s been a long week already – Mondays are never fun, and I had a bunch of tests yesterday. Still they all went well, so I guess there’s that. I’m definitely ready for a break.

Short post this time – have to head off to class. Language from 9 to 11, then History of France from 1:30 to 2:30. Nice and short.

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Bonsoir, mes cheris! It’s almost midnight here, but I just realized I haven’t updated in about 2 weeks, so I figured I should fix that. There hasn’t been a whole lot to write about – mostly just classes still over here. Language is still fun – the professor manages to insert enough practical things that we’re learning quite a bit of grammar, vocabulary, and culture in the same lessons. It’s good times. Literature is a little dull; French Romanticism (19th century) isn’t my favorite style of literature – Chateaubriand and Mérimée are only interesting for so long.

History is always interesting, as there’s a lot to fit into a relatively short time. We’ve just gotten to the end of the Carolingians (Charlemagne’s family, named for his father, Charles Martel) and the beginning of the Capetians, named for Hugh Capet; all of the kings of France from the end of the 8th century (when Hugh was crowned) until the end of the monarchy were descendants of his, making the French royal family the oldest in the world (there are still descendants of the Capetians in ruling families of other countries). Interestingly enough, if the French monarchy was reinstated today, the most direct line would dictate that the current Duke of Anjou, who is a cousin of the king of Spain, would be king. The Duchy of Anjou (which, as a region, doesn’t exist anymore) was, despite its small size, one of the more powerful ones in the Kingdom of France. In modern day terms, Anjou would fit almost entirely within the Maine-et-Loire department, the one of which Angers is prefecture (departments are roughly 4 times the size of the average county in the US). However, the title of Duke of Anjou was one that was, under the King, given to one of the princes (much like Duke of York in England). Even so, like Burgundy, for a long time, Anjou was a separate kingdom. An old one, too; there has been a settlement here since before Roman times; the Romans built the first organized city. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Angers, like Nantes, was an important city for the Huguenots (French protestants); it played a pretty major role in the Wars of Religion (and most people are familiar with the Edict of Nantes). It was also the scene of a major battle shortly after the Revolution; a group of Royalists from the Vendée (a region that is now a department of the same name, Southwest of Angers) had attacked the Republicans in several cities in northwest France, and they were finally defeated by the army of the Republic after the Siege of Angers (the castle here has only rarely been taken by an invading army). So there’s a little history lesson for you. Hope you enjoyed it.

It’s been interesting interacting with French people in everyday settings that aren’t the usual shop/restaurant ones. I had to go to the doctor today (my usual mid-fall respiratory problems, nothing too serious). It was interesting trying to explain what was wrong in French; obviously we learn body parts, but not so much on the medical terms. Also, French doctors are fairly medicine-happy; for what American doctors might prescribe an albuterol inhaler or some extra strength cough syrup, I have three medications: an inhaler (of something similar to albuterol, but stronger), a really strong cough syrup (which, unlike Robitussin, does not taste like death), and something that I mix with not-quite-boiling water and then inhale the steam; I’m supposed to do each of those three times a day. Still, meds are cheap here; for all of those things (2 bottles of the syrup) I spent less than 18 euro, and that was without charging anything to insurance. Even the doctor visit only cost 20E.

I also had the interesting experience of getting my hair cut in French; while I also learned basic hair salon-related words, it wasn’t very up-to-date, and it was difficult explaining how I wanted it done. It ended up being a fair bit shorter than I like, but it will grow in, so I’m not exactly worried.

I’m excited for Mom and Dad to come over next week; I’m going to show them around Angers, and my host parents have invited them over for an authentic, homecooked French dinner (complete with foie gras!). That should be interesting, given that Mom and Dad don’t speak any French, and the Burvelles don’t speak much English. Good exercise for the translation skills, I guess. In any case, the next day, we’ll be heading to Paris for a couple days; we have a nice hotel near Les Halles (for those who know Paris); for those who don’t; that’s on the right bank, not too far from the Louvre, and walking distance of the islands; the main street that leads to the Ile de la Cité (the island where the oldest settlement of Paris was; where Notre Dame and the Conciergerie are) is also right by the hotel.

My host mom, who seems to know something about everything, was more than happy to give me all kinds of suggestions on what we should do in Paris – for those with the opportunity to visit Paris any time in the near future, here are some of them. She says that going up the Eiffel Tower, while impressive, is a waste of time; you have to stand in line to buy a ticket on each level. For (almost) equally spectacular views, you can climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe; from there, you get some good views of the Place Charles de Gaulle (the busiest traffic circle in the world; it runs around the arc, and is the intersection of 12 of the busiest streets of Paris, including the Champs-Élysées) all the way to the Louvre and the other museums in the centre-ville, to the Sorbonne and the Latin Quarter on the left bank, the Opéra Garnier and the Madeleine to the north, the islands (and the spectacular churches there) , the Tour Montparnasse, and of course the Sacré Cœur atop Montmartre. Also of interest is the Opera district on the Boulevard des Capucines; near the Opéra Garnier is a smaller pedestrian square called the Place Edouard VII, which is supposed to be one of those little-known gems of Paris. The Opéra Garnier itself is pretty spectacular; that’s where most of the ballets of the French company are performed (operas are split between the Garnier and the Opéra Bastille, which stands on the site of the famous prison). Also, if you like shopping, go to the Galeries Lafayette, one of Paris’ answers to Harrods or Barney’s or Marshall Fields (the original store). The other is Printemps, wbicb is also supposed to be beautiful. Both were built in the late 1800’s; every one of each (both are now chains) is built in the same architectural style (the baroque-revival Art Nouveau style).

Anyway, we plan to visit the Palace of Versailles, which is within the western suburbs of Paris (Versailles itself is one of the wealthier suburbs of Paris and the prefecture of the Yvelines department) and will surely be something that will take most of the day to see (without seeing anywhere near all of it, the place is massive). We’re also planning on taking a bus tour to the beaches in Normandy and the American war cemeteries there. Should be a good trip too.

I’m going to go to bed now; it’s almost 1 am, and though I don’t have class until 10 tomorrow, I’d still like to get some sleep; literature is slow enough without me nodding off every 5 minutes.

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