France is frustrating.

I had my first “I hate France” moments this weekend.*

Don’t get me wrong, overall, I’m very happy with my decision to come to France.  I’m generally enjoying my time here and I appreciate that I have had this opportunity to spend three months in Europe.  I love the sights, I like the challenge of trying to learn a language, I like how different everything is, etc.  However, there are times when it just gets to be too much.  So, I hope you don’t mind if I take the time to briefly vent.  Here are my most recent frustrations:

Frustration #1: Credit Card Limits

On Friday, I needed to pay rent for my apartment.  Since I don’t have a French bank account, I can’t pay with a check; so, I went to the ATM to get cash.  My rent is 800€, but the ATMs will only allow me to take 300€ out at a time.  So, I took out 300€ twice.  I tried to use the ATM to take out the remaining money, but I couldn’t.  Apparently, after two times, my credit card was used up.  That’s essentially what the ATM told me – your card is used up for today.  Frustrating!  I gave the 600€ to my landlady and told her that I would give her the rest the following day, which she was completely fine with, but still…

Similarly, I had to buy train tickets for Isaac’s trip.  So, I went to the train website (sncf.com) and purchased my ticket to the Geneva airport** to meet up with him.  Then, I bought our tickets from the Geneva airport to where we are staying in Lausanne.  Next, I tried to buy our tickets from Lausanne back to Lyon.  Can you guess what happened?  After two transactions, my card was used up!  Apparently, like the ATM, the train website will only allow you to use your credit card twice in one day.  After that, you’re done!  *sigh*

Frustration #2: Grocery Stores

Here, grocery stores are not like at home.  There is no store like my QFC on Broadway.  Instead, they have many specialized stores.  In general, I like the idea of this (you get very good quality products at all of the specialized stores), but it becomes kind of a pain when you need to stock your fridge.  Anyway, I’ve been able to adapt (though it has definitely affected how I eat each day – man, I have a simple diet over here!).  On Saturday, I walked over to the biggest grocery store near my apartment, a Monoprix.  This is a pretty big chain and they have foods that I have been unable to find elsewhere (like Philadelphia Cream Cheese – I was inordinately excited about that discovery!!).  I stocked up on some groceries and went to the counter to pay.  I handed the woman behind the counter my credit card.  The French have credit cards with special chips in them, which are used differently than American credit cards – but I’ve been able to use my American credit card everywhere I’ve tried.  Apparently, the Monoprix I visited only accepts American Express.  My American MasterCard would not work.  And, of course, I didn’t have the cash for it (see ATM story above).  So, I had to leave my groceries there, walk three blocks to find an ATM so that I could get the necessary cash, and then return to pay for my groceries.  *sigh*

Frustration #3: Stupid Policies

Today, Cynthia and I visited the Ikea.  I’m not going to lie, I was pretty excited about this adventure.  We took the tram out there, wandered around the store, and ate quite the fancy dinner.

Croque Monsieurs and Red Wine... at the Ikea for under 8€ for the both of us!

It was fantastic.  Until I realized, as we were leaving, that I had left my jacket somewhere in the store.  We were leaving just as the store was closing, but we went to the employee and asked to return to the restaurant or the section near the suitcases to see if my jacket was there.  They wouldn’t let me look!  And they wouldn’t even go look for me!  Too late.  Already closed.  Return tomorrow.  UGH.  They refused to help me.  Now, it may not have been those particular employees fault – I really do believe they have strict policies about that sort of thing.  BUT I think it is RIDICULOUS.  I was so annoyed.  Cynthia kept being nice but I was ticked.  I had to walk to the tram, walk from the tram to the metro and then walk home in the cold weather with no jacket.  *sigh*  And, Cynthia and I will be returning to Ikea for lunch tomorrow to see if they found my jacket.  I love Ikea, but I don’t love it so much that I need to take two trips there in two days!  Sheesh.  I just don’t think that would have happened in the U.S.

Okay, my venting is done.

In other news, I had another picnic last week with C² and their peeps, which was fun, as always.

Picnic at the skate park on the Rhône.

Picnics like that (and trips to Ikea without lost jackets) make me happy to be in France.  I just have to get past the frustrations and focus on the fun.

 

 

* To be fair, having to work on my fourth final in three weeks may also be partially to blame for my frustrations this weekend.

** ISAAC WILL BE HERE IN JUST 3 DAYS!!!  WAHOO!!!

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

We all know how I feel about this day, but I hope you’ve all had a wonderful, sickeningly sweet day with friends, family and loved ones.  🙂

As for me, I spent the day in class.  Five hours of class.  I really enjoyed the professor and the topic (Internet and Digital Copyright Law), but five hours is much too much.  Anyway, I survived.  And after the class, I was given a free pastry by my baker friend.  It made me smile.  The neighborhood baker is this older gentleman who likes to make fun of my lack of language skills.  Actually, at first, he seemed to just get really annoyed with me each time I entered the store, but he’s slowly come around.  He’s now really friendly (maybe that’s what happens after he watches you get proposed to by a random stranger in the bakery one day).  He smiles at me whenever I pass the store and gave me my free treat today!  Of course, now this means that I feel guilty going to any other bakeries, but that’s okay!

Then I spent a quiet evening at home cooking dinner and watching Grey’s Anatomy, Season 2.  Pretty exciting Valentine’s Day, n’est-ce pas?

This weekend was even more exciting – let me tell you.  I didn’t leave the apartment a single time because I was stuck writing a paper for Comparative Criminal Law and taking a final for EU Law and Policy.  I bet you all wish you were studying abroad now, don’t you?

Anyway, just wanted to wish you all a wonderful “holiday.”  Love you all!

Bellecour on a beautiful night

A Busy, Busy Week

As you know, this past weekend I had my first final in France.  It was a 72-hour take-home exam on the Protection of Cultural Property under International Law.  It almost killed me.  I don’t know what my problem was, but I honestly could not focus.  All weekend.  This led to me finishing up the final on Monday, half an hour before it was due, having had only about 3 hours of sleep that night.  Not a fun experience, let me tell you.  I have two finals this weekend, so I’m going to try not to repeat that experience.

After suffering through the final, I rewarded myself with three picnics during the week.  On Monday, after submitting the final, Cynthia and I met up to enjoy sandwiches on the river.  It was a beautiful, somewhat warm day here, so I was even able to spend some time outside without a jacket!  Amazing.  I almost wore flip flops, but wisely decided not to go quite that far.

Tuesday picnic spot! (on the Rhône)

The time soaking up the sun definitely helped me get through my class that afternoon.

On Tuesday, we had another beautiful day, although not quite as warm.  Since we had a three-and-a-half hour break between class, C² and I decided to take advantage of the sunny weather and head up to the Roman ruins that I had heard about.   They had both been up there before, but they humored me and allowed me to be touristy, stopping every few feet to take lots of pictures.  (Isaac, I’m pretty sure they can sympathize with how you felt on our Panama trip!)

Cynthia and I wanted to walk up to the ruins, but Colton scoffed at that idea.  So, we compromised – took the funicular up and walked back down.  To get to the funicular, we crossed the other river in Lyon, the Saône.

The Saône.

Then, we went to the funicular station.  What should have been a short wait to get onto the funicular ended up taking as probably as long as our walk would have taken because some doofus on our train broke the doors!  We had entered the train, were sitting and waiting for it to take off, when some guy rushed in and forced the closing doors back open.  *sigh*

The funicular we did not take...

After waiting for over 10 minutes for them to attempt to fix the train, we ended up having to catch a different one.  Good thing that doofus rushed to catch that train!

Eventually, we got to the ruins.

Le Théâtre Gallo-Romain Fourvière (Gallo-Roman amphitheater)

This is Le Théâtre Gallo-Romain Fourvière (Gallo-Roman amphitheater), which was built by the Romans back in the 1st century B.C.  This is by far the oldest thing I have ever seen.  Very cool.  According to Wikipedia, this was used mainly for musicals.

Our Tuesday picnic spot

We enjoyed a picnic at the theatre – I had a jambon beurre sandwich (ham and butter on a baguette – I know it sounds kind of gross, but it’s really delicious!) and a lemon tart.  And a coca light, bien sûr.

The Odeon, or little theatre

Next to the Amphitheater, there is another set of ruins – the Odeon, or little theatre.  This was built in the 1st century AD.  It’s not in quite as good of shape as the amphitheater, but I think the amphitheater has been better maintained.  And it’s still quite impressive.

The Odeon

After relaxing for a bit, we decided to walk back to school.  I’m really glad we forced Colton into the walk, because the views along the way were gorgeous.

The view of the city and the Saône

On our way back to school, Colton lead us on a detour to see some additional ruins.

More ruins

I don’t know anything about these ruins (I guess I should have read the sign), but they are ancient ruins of a church in front of a “new” church.  I think it’s very cool that they preserved the ruins when they built the other church.

The Saône River

Again, the trip out into the sun helped me get through the afternoon class. This whole 7-hours-of-class-each-day thing is killing me.

On Wednesday, we didn’t do any picnics, but we did get together in Cynthia’s apartment to make some dinner and bake a funfetti cake, per Colton’s request.

Colton with his cake

Thursday involved another picnic along the Rhône and too many hours of class. Overall, this week, while it did involve some wonderful breaks in the sun, also involved way too much work!  I had to give three presentations, write two papers, complete a final, do a ton of reading, and sit in class for 25 hours.

Thursday's picnic place

Okay, in the next post, I’ll discuss the ridiculous day I had on Friday and, probably, whine about the two finals I have this weekend – which I should probably go work on now.  Gross.

Miss you all!

Marseille Day 2 – Part 2

So, I survived the final (barely) and was able to watch the Superbowl – which was highly entertaining.  There is just nothing like hearing the announcers call out “Oh la la!” during a touch down and discuss “le running back.”  Seriously hilarious.

Anyway, back to Marseille.

After we left the abbey, we wandered around the waterfront and made our way to another church.

Front of the church.

I have no idea what it was called (and it was closed on the Monday so we couldn’t go in), but it was very pretty.

Side view of the church.

This is also apparently right next to where cruise ships dock – so, if any of you take a cruise that stops in France, there’s a good chance you’ll see this up on the hill.

This is also the church that bikers apparently attend.

After we admired the church, we walked through the streets of the old Marseille area (le Panier), and admired the very cute streets.

The "Street of Little Puddles."

Colton loved the name of this street – Le Rue du Petit Puits (The Street of Little Puddles).  It was very cute.

Next, we visited the Centre de la Vielle Charité Hospice, which (I just learned from wikipedia) used to serve essentially as a prison for poor people.  Beggars were “housed” here and found jobs as domestic servants and such in the 1700s.

Hospice de Vielle Charité

In the 19th century, this was used as an asylum for vagrants and the “dispossessed.”  This better usage was the only one advertised on the plaque at the Centre, just so you know.  Nothing like selective history, right?

We stopped here at a little café and enjoyed some Coca Light.

After leaving here, we headed back to our hotel to get ready for the evening’s activities – a concert with Juan Diego Florez, an opera singer with whom Colton is madly in love.  We got dressed up (couldn’t have Colton being embarassed in front of his true love) and then headed out to dinner…

Our classy dinner.

at the Quick Burger.  That’s right – fast food (Colton’s choice).  Nothing says “We’re off to the opera” like a dinner at Quick!  I’ve been told they have good food, but I can tell you that their chicken nuggets are disgusting.  Seriously gross.  Now I know.

Then, back to the opera house to hear the amazing Juan Diego Florez.

Colton was downright giddy!

The concert was spectacular.  After the concert, Colton made me stand outside of the theatre at the artist entrance for a very long time, waiting to meet Juan Diego Florez.  Colton desperately wanted an autograph and photo with the man.  So, we waited.  And waited.  And waited.  During our wait, Colton made friends with some of the other Juan Diego Florez fans – older Italian ladies.  Let’s face it – all of the fans for Juan Diego Florez were older Italian ladies.  We kind of stuck out like a sore thumb.

Hanging out with the other JDF fans.

Finally, the doors opened up and we got to go in and meet the star.  We got autographs (I gave mine to Colton) and Colton got a picture with his hero.

JDF and Colton

After we meet Juan, we headed back to our hotel.  I forewent sleep to take advantage of the bath tub (of course) and then we headed out early the next morning to get to class by 10am.

Phew – the Marseille trip is finally finished.  Next up: the tortures of my first foreign law school exam, beautiful weather, a couple of picnics, and some Roman ruins.  I’m keeping busy!

Marseille Day 2! – Part 1

Okay, I should be working on my first final of the quarter (a 72-hour take-home exam about the protection of cultural property), but instead I’m going to update my blog because I’m sure you are all waiting with bated breath for my next entry!

On Monday, Colton and I had another big day in Marseille.  Our first goal was to head to the Notre Dame de la Garde.  I had wanted to hike up to the church, but we got a late start on the day.  So, instead, we purchased some sandwiches and desserts (lemon meringue tart – yum!) and took the bus up the hill.

Once we got to the top, we were greeted with this view:

The view of Marseille from the base of the Notre Dame de la Garde.

The view of the Notre Dame de la Garde wasn’t bad either.

Notre Dame de la Garde.

The gold statue at the top is gigantic!

The gold statue on the top of the Notre Dame de la Garde.

The statue (in case it’s not clear in the picture) is of Mary with Jesus as a young child.  The wrist of the child Jesus measures 1.1 meters!  That’s really big.  And it weighs a lot, too – the statue, made out of copper gilded with gold leaf, weighs almost 10,000 kg.

After checking out the views and the outside of the Notre Dame, we decided to enjoy our picnic.

Proof of the picnic.

After eating up sandwiches and delicious lemon meringue tarts, we headed into the Notre Dame de la Garde to check out the interior.

Inside the Notre Dame de la Garde.

It was incredibly ornate and had some beautiful stained glass windows.

Stained glass window inside the Notre Dame de la Garde.

After admiring the interior for a bit, we headed back outside to check out some more of the views.

The view from the Notre Dame de la Garde.

More of the view.

The small island in the middle in the above picture contains the prison where The Count of Monte Cristo was set.

After we’d gotten enough of the views, we decided to hike back down to the city center.  I like wandering around streets and seeing different shops and houses, so I really enjoyed the walk.

Streets of Marseille.

Isaac – how’s that for city planning?

We made sure to do some soap shopping since Marseille is known for its soap.  We visited a couple of soap stores, including this one, which was my favorite.  I bought some grape-seed soap, which is the most amazing smelling soap I’ve ever smelled (smelt?).

We also saw some wonderful displays in the stores we passed.

A shoe store with a sale sign and an awesome display. What could be better?

Display of Macarons - my new favorite cookies!

We passed a cool looking statue along the way.

A statue of Puget and a waterfall in Marseille.

Then, while stopped on the street looking at the map trying to figure out where exactly in Marseille we were, a very nice French man stopped and asked where we were headed.  He suggested that we visit an abbey, which was built back in the 5th century!  (Makes all the buildings in Seattle seem like babies!)  So, we headed in that direction.

The Abbaye St. Victor in Marseille.

The inside of the abbey was very cool.

Inside the abbey.

After we left the abbey, we wandered along the waterfront in an attempt to get to Le Panier, the old district of Marseille.

The abbey and the waterfront.

But, I’ll have to cover the rest of the day at another time.  I should really get back to the final (and this blog post is long enough as it is!).  Stay tuned!