Monday, March 29, 2010

"A Hard Day's Night"

Expecting high 60s and sun, Em and I decided to visit Cannes and Antibes on our last full day in France. Of course the trains happened to be under repair on Saturday so we were forced to take the bus. On the plus side, the bus is only 1 euro. However, I probably would have dropped the extra cash when what was supposed to be 1.5 hour bus ride turned into 2.5. It's normally 20 min by train. The way there wasn't too bad because we stopped in Antibes on the way. We weren't up for too much touring so we headed straight for the sandy beach. Our plan to lay on the beach didn't last long when we both started getting goosebumps less than an hour later. Ah clouds!

So we jumped back on the bus and headed to Cannes. The hard thing about buses is that it's harder to tell which stops are coming up or when to push the stop button or even what town you're in. I almost didn't realize we were in Cannes because it came up so fast. Luckily tons of people were getting off so we followed. One of the hostel workers had given us a map and walking route to the main attractions so we stuck to that. First, Emily topped up on diet coke and food while I orientated us. We headed to see the avenue of stars or whatever it's called with the hand prints on the ground but made a wrong turn and started by window shopping for yachts. We were definitely in the right city. On the other side of the theater, where I think they hold the film festival, is the hand print area. We saw Gregory Peck's hand impression! There weren't as many as we hoped but they did have cardboard cut-outs we could stick our heads through and pretend to be stars. Emily got her picture with George Clooney as Brad Pitt. She looks surprisingly good as Brad. After people watching on the promenade, we caught the bus back home. Horrible bus ride. I'm usually really patient but I was going stir crazy. Almost 3 hours it took to get back and some people had to stand the whole way. It was super packed and hot. That's what 1 euro gets you I guess.

We spent the entire night packing and getting ready to leave on Sunday morning. Emily had to completely re-pack because she has so much stuff. I'm glad I wasn't moving countries! I mean...moving to another country. I'm fairly certain she couldn't move a country.

Sunday morning I decided to not be my usual overly cautious self and didn't wake up at the crack of dawn to get to the airport 3 hours early...which was my original plan. Instead, I had breakfast at the hostel and caught the first 8am shuttle with Emily who was catching a train to Italy. We sadly parted ways and I waited to catch a bus to the airport. It was definitely the day of nice, helpful middle-aged men. The first guy I encountered at the bus stop. He asked, first in French, if I was on holiday. I told him what I'd been up to in Nice and he apologized for the "bad" weather. Finally met a local on my last day. Then he gave me advice about what stop to get off at.

I made it to my gate with an hour to spare. Nice is a small airport so I didn't expect much hassle. I flew EasyJet again so no assigned seating. I ended up next to my 2nd friendly gentleman of the day and we talked the entire flight to Liverpool. Super interesting! This guy is from Wales and is a recently self-employed electrician. He does consulting work and special jobs mostly so he makes better money than most electricians I gathered. He and his partners are currently working on villas near Nice, actually right on the peninsula where we hiked the first day. I learned some very interesting and juicy things about the high rollers living up there. Well, not living. They really only stay there for a couple months at a time. Apparently, most of the wealthy people there are Russian and new money. He was telling me about the family whose house he's working on. He's friends with the accountant who pays their bills so he hears some crazy stories. Anyway, here's one...the 17 year old son went out to dinner in Cannes with some friends and spent like 30,000 euros! I asked him how it was even possible to spend that much. I guess they buy 1,000 euro bottles of Cristal and just spray them everywhere, and not just one or two. I seriously only thought people did that in music videos. My Wales companion also talked about the women and their fashion competitions. Craziness. Well, it was a very entertaining flight and he even bought me some juice since they charge you for everything on budget airlines. So nice. I wish him all the best!

They let me back into England! I didn't even have to wait in the long passport line since I was one of the only people without a EU/UK passport. Sweet. I got a map and instructions on what bus to take into Liverpool city center and the train station. It was about a 30 min ride but I saw a good deal of the city. I got to the train station around 1pm planning on stashing my big bag in a locker or something. They had a baggage check room but by the time I got there it was full. My train didn't leave until 10 to 8 so I had a lot of time to wander the city. I planned on doing that anyway but not with my freaking heavy duffel and backpack. I looked ridiculous trying to take pictures. I survived but my shoulders are killing me today.

I loved Liverpool! They have really done a lot of work to clean up the city but it still has that old port charm. There are so many amazing angles everywhere that my camera was going crazy. The contemporary architecture is super eye-catching. I think I also liked Liverpool because it's flat. Gloriously flat. I'm thinking I should transfer. It is a rather small town so I saw most of it in like 4 hours. I went to the docks, the Cavern Club (where the Beatles played), and Chinatown. I just wandered around and eventually made it to the big cathedral. It's the 2nd largest Anglican cathedral in the world I think. There was a palm Sunday mass going on so I stayed and caught the second half. I wish I could have brought back palms from Nice! They were giving out what looked like olive branches instead of palm leaves. After that, I couldn't lug my bags around anymore so I had a sub snack at subway and headed back to the station. I sat around Costa coffee for a while trying to choke down an awful latte and writing in my journal. Then I moved to the center of the station and watched the crowds of soccer fans. There must have been a game that day. Liverpool definitely has some interesting people. I've never seen so many crazy hair colors in my life. There was one particular shade of blue that I really liked. It was so cold in the station, and it took me a while to discover the heated lounge area by my track. I'm not sure why I booked such a late train. It must have been really cheap. The ride was nice but I didn't see much country side in the dark. 1.5 hours later I made it into Sheffield, got yelled at by a drunk guy because I couldn't understand his thick, boozed-up accent, and took a taxi home. Steph and Dave were home so I chatted with them for a bit then headed to my room. My own room! It is nice to come 'home' again as much as I like traveling. Plus, once I'm back in Milwaukee I'll be sharing a room again so I better enjoy it now. I got to talk to Mom on Skype last night too which was great.

This morning I woke up to Steph screaming. Apparently she forgot to set all of her clocks forward (we changed on Sunday) so she was running late. She was headed to Spain with Dave and they had to catch a the airport I guess. I hope they made it. Anyway, quite the alarm clock. It was good I got up because I needed to work on my essays. Didn't really go well. I'm still on essay number one for Modern Lit. and I still haven't finished. I'm having to re-write most of it b/c it's waaaay too long. I guess I'll finish it tomorrow morning before I start my Crossover essay. I'll have a 6 hour bus ride to Edinburgh on Wednesday so that should give me time to revise. I'll also be trapped and forced to concentrate. Not looking forward to the slushy snow they're getting in Scotland but I am excited. I heard it's a beautiful city plus I'll be meeting up with Paige. Always a crazy time! I love the Scottish accent too.

Updates after Scotland! Wish me luck on my essays. Peace.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Smell this!

Thursday was just confusing. We thought it would be the perfect work day since it was cold and cloudy so after touring the Matisse museum we went back to the hostel. I spent some time staring at my essay and writing a blog. Emily worked on applications until we saw sun peeking out and decided to go to the beach to lay out. By the time we got downtown, the sun was gone and it was soooo windy. I almost blew away. We found a nook to huddle behind by the water and got some sun while we read, and I wrote some postcards. Not wanting to go back until the shuttle started running again at six, we hung out at a cafe for a few hours. Ok, I'm not going to glamourize it...we went to McDonalds. Hey it's cheap and they have free wi-fi so don't judge. Around 5:40 Emily headed back to the hostel and I went window shopping while I waited for Sydney's 7pm train to come in. Her train was a little late but she saw me waiting and came running to give me a hug. Neither of us noticed the old blind man walking by and Sydney accidentally tripped over his stick. Really, what are the chances. Thank goodness she speaks French and was able to apologize. My normal hand gestures and apologetic facial expressions would have been pointless for obvious reasons. So yeah, good start.

We stopped by the grocery store on the way to the hostel. Sydney loaded up on cheap but surprisingly tolerable wine and some cheese. Later, she settled in while Emily and I made the rest of our pasta. Sounds simple yet kind of a disasterous dinner. The water took ten years to boil. I burned my finger which had an ice cast for the rest of the night. Emily spilled red wine all over herself. Awesome. Overall though we had fun chatting over wine and catching up.

We decided to go out again last night and made our way to the old town. We ended up picking kind of a random pub which turned out to have great live music and way cheaper drinks than Waynes. It was a really cool building and the stage looked like it was in a cave. We were going to pop into Waynes on the way home but they were making us pay to check our coats for like 40 minutes. So we just caught the last tram back to our expectant beds.

This morning we kind of slept in; I just made it down to breakfast in my pj's. Then we decided, after looking at the pouring rain, to go to Grasse and the perfume museums. The hour bus ride into the hills was beautiful! Grasse grows and bottles the essences used in many famous perfumes such as Channel. Walking toward the factory I could smell the wonderful perfumes from a block away. We wandered through the museum then got a guided tour of the factory. In English! It was really interesting and I have a new appreciation for perfume. It may be my second calling. It was also cool seeing where the film Perfume, one of my favorites, took place. By the way, watch that movie at your own's very strange. Emily and I were challenged to beat the German couple with us by matching scents to their pictures. We got 8 out of 8! I think she was impressed since the average is 4. I'm defintely giving some credit to my stepmother's garden which has honed my nose over the years. The tour guide was a buzz kill though when she told us that professional, trained noses can recognize thousands of scents. Well we have 8 down! After, Emily and I wandered around Grasse and found a place in the sun that finally decided to show its face. It turned about to be a wonderful day!

The bus brought us back to Nice around 6. We decided to have our one night out tonight for dinner and texted Sydney to meet us. She had been touring Nice all day by herself because she leaves for Italy tomorrow and has to see everything she can. Emily and I found a resonable place in old town where we parked ourselves and ordered wine while we waited for Sydney. It defintely seemed like a place with a lot of regulars; the waiter was pretty friendly with people...really friendly actually. We ended up having a basic but very French meal starting with the local socca--crepe like dish made with chickpeas and sprinkled with black pepper. Really filling and yummy. For dinner, a croque-monsieur which is basically a fancy and delicious ham and cheese sandwhich. It's hard to really give it credit. I also had a classic espresso shot to round out the experience.

Tonight we are just socializing in the hostel lounge, and I've been learning a lot about Iceland. Apparently there are more people in Nice than their whole country and their government is terrible. The guy from Iceland also tried to convince us that his plan to get a tattoo of the Joe boxer smiley face on his butt cheek was a good idea. Interesting people certainly come from Iceland. Tomorrow we are visiting Cannes and Antibes on our last full day in France. It's been fun and I'm really going to miss the mostly good weather. I defintely think I could move to this area one day although may be not the city. The little villages are so charming and laid back. I will enjoy having my own room again in a few days. 14 bed dorms get old after a while. I wonder what room I booked for Scotland...

Well, final day in France will be up soon. My blogs may be scant after this while I have 3 essays to write but I will do my best.


--written on Friday

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

French fried

So I realized that my blogs seem a lot longer when I'm typing it on my iPod. Also the automatic spelling changes on here have been did it get Volga out of blogs and what's a Volga anyway?

Monday, day one in Nice. Pretty good free breakfast cereal selection at the hostel. Everything has chocolate in it so we get a good morning sugar rush. Oh, and one of them tastes like Hello Panda (that's a reference for my that he'll probably never read.). There is also free coffee and tea here all day. We spent the first day hiking along some gorgeous coastline and admiring Nice from afar. We also glimpsed how the other half live as they say. Although most if the wealth lives in Monaco to avoid French taxes. Some how we made it along the coast without a map and ended the hike at a sandwhich shop in a port. Great sandwhich with huge chunks of mozzarella.

Tuesday as Em mentioned was a transit strike so we took the opportunity to stay and explore Nice. The old town is so cute and the beaches are great although rocky. I wasn't prepared for sunbathing and ended up looking like a tomato...hence my blog title. I'm slowing fading back to pale so I'll fit in in Scotland next week where it is apparently snowing!

Em and I have been saving money by utilizing the hostel kitchen and "stealing" bread from breakfast to make sandwiches. We've been living off of pb&j and pasta. We did have pizza last night. Hand made by the hostel's personal pizza chef!

Yesterday was Eze and Monaco. I would love to stay in Eze one day. It's so cute and secluded although far from beaches. See Em's description of Monaco. I'd only add that the palace and old town side of Monaco was lovely and we did not explore it fully since we were racing for the bus. I think our Texas travel buddies asked every traffic cop and even a palace guard where to catch the bus back to Nice. Finally found the unmarked bus stand. We met up with Em's program friends back at the hostel and the two guys we met the night before. We went out as a group last night to Waynes bar where they has some great live covers. The Aussie in our group started harassing the dj so he started playing backstreet boys. We didn't stay long after that.

Sydney is coming to Nice today! I was going to meet her in Marseille but by the time I got up I would have spent most of the day on the train. After not being able to get in touch with her all night, we finally facebook chated and agreed to meet here. We will probably do a day trip tomorrow and lay on the beach. Sat we are definitely taking advantage of the sun and going to Cannes and Antibes for our last day. I'm leaving bright and early for Liverpool on Sunday. This week is going so fast! Well I best go enjoy the partly cloudy day.


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And we're off!

I know Emily's been blogging, but I figured I shouldn't leave our holiday together all up to her. So I apologize for any repitition and if I skimp just refer to Emily's European Escapades.

Today is Thursday and our wonderful 10 day vacation is almost at an end. We're taking the day to catch up on stuff and work on homework and applications. I can't believe the real world has followed me all the way to France. Looking back we have done a lot an my legs certainly feel it...

Last Thursday night I took a train to London after trying to get as much school work done as possible. Didn't really accomplish too much unforunately. I meet Em at her place where we spent her last night in England! Kind of sad. Now she is so much further away, but I do have an excuse to visit Florence now...not that I needed one. Friday we caught the first tube ride to the airport and made it easily to Brussels by noon. I got searched twice which only seems to happen when I leave my shoes on through security. Everyone got searched very thouroughly at the gate again. I thought my security lady was telling me something was wrong but she actually loved my coat and started asking me all sorts of questions about it which lead to an extensive explaination into her upcoming trip to South America. At least it was positive attention.

Brussels was amazing and we pretty much ate our way through it in 2 days. Big thanks to the family friends we stayed with who made our time there ten times more awesome. See Em's blog for a good recap.

Sunday we repacked and headed to the airport for an evening flight. Palm trees and warm breezes greeted us in Nice around 8:30pm while we waited to take a bus into the city. The bus dropped us in what seemed like the middle of nowhere so we had a mili-second freak out. Well I did at least. Luckily a short walk around led me to a pay phone where I called the hostel shuttle who told me to wait by the pizza van. I've noticed they use pizza vans as landmarks a lot...interesting. I'm just impressed I got us to the hostel only knowing 2 words of French. Sometimes I really appreciate globalization and tourism. Sometimes.

Well I'm going to start a new post in case the Internet cuts out and lose everything I just wrote.

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Prepare for Takeoff!

I can't believe I haven't blogged since Monday! It's been a crazy busy week but I did get one essay outlined and ready to go. One down and two to go. Too bad I have absolutely no motivation.

This week is a bit of a blur as well since I did kind of random, spontaneous things. I'm sure I'll get the order of things mixed up. But here it goes...

Monday...Finally met our upstairs neighbors! Three girls live on the 3rd floor but they have a different entrance on the back of the house so we never see them. I decided to go up and invite them to our potluck night on Wednesday. I knocked on the door and was just going to say hi but one of the girls was so excited and pulled me in for a tea and a chat. They seem really nice so I'm glad I went up. They also gave me candy which totally gave them major points.

Tuesday I found out some of my housemates (and the people who practically live here) were going to get roast or carvery...very British. I decided I couldn't miss out on this cultural culinary experience so went along. Lauren ensured me it was "right up the road" was NOT right up the road. In fact it was up several roads, a large hill, through some suburban housing area and on a little shopping street. Luckily, I was super hungry when we finally got to the Crosspool restaurant/pub. We paid at the bar for a food ticket then waited in a buffet for 3 slices of meat, Yorkshire pudding (yummy), and roasted veggies. Oh and it was all slathered in gravy. After, we rolled out of the pub and I went strait to another gig my housemates were playing at Fox and Duck. It's a really cute pub right up the road from my house and apparently it serves cheap coffee during the day. Well that will be my after Easter treat since I gave up coffee for lent. Unfortunately, I've replaced it with chocolate, much to the dismay of my love handles.
Went home and didn't get any school work done (just re-read this sentence throughout blog).

Wednesday I finished classes for the week and went home to make food for potluck/family dinner. The kitchen was bustling all night as people cooked up their dishes. I made broccoli salad (got finished off!) and fried ravioli (didn't even make it to the table). A lot of people made pasta dishes so we were loaded on carbs but it was all delicious. Steph and Sydney made some great desserts as well. Didn't get any work done since I was in a food coma.

Woke up Thursday morning and quick through together my essay plan that I needed to show my professor that afternoon. He liked it but now I have a lot to write about and no idea where to start. Then I sat in the library and read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time--great book but messed with my mind a bit. I was basically in the mind of an autistic narrator the whole time--not a fun place to be although interesting.

Wait, something is not right. Now I'm thinking potluck was Thursday night. Yeah, potluck was Thursday because Corp is Wednesdays. Oh yeah. Wednesday I tried to do work then walked back to campus to meet up with some of the b-boys. I went to get Lillian's tie back but ended up with a glass of wine and new acquaintances. I met a couple of ladies who were really nice and go to my Uni. After, I walked home and dodged peer pressure to go out to Corp (a scummy but cheap club).

Friday, didn't do annnything. Watched Sister Act 2 and read a little. Then got ready to go out. Yeah, so last night was the big Leeds Erasmus/Study Abroad Invasion party at a club downtown. A bus of Leeds students came to Sheffield to party for the night and we went to mingle and dance. We almost didn't go in when we found out it was 5 pounds cover! Cellar 35 is not that good. But we decided to go in. They gave us stickers with our country's flag on it which was a fun touch. I don't think anyone ended up with their own sticker at the end of the night. Called it an "early" night and got a surprise Skype call from Aunt Mary and Mom when I got home.

This weekend is supposed to be productive but I woke up this morning to a beautiful day. So I had to go out into the sun and absorb some D (or E? can't remember). After a house chat to find out what happened to everyone last night (I won't go into the craziness), I went with some peeps to the Vintage Fair downtown. Paid a pound to get into this basement with sticky floors and a stale beer smell. There were some cute clothes but they were a bit pricey. I had fun browsing though. Not sure what tonight will bring but I doubt it'll be productive. We were going to have wine and cheese night but I think that's rescheduled. I might go see Sherlock Holmes at the union theatre.

I am sooo excited for Brussels and France! I can't believe we leave next Friday. I'm also thinking of going to Scotland for a few days when I get back. I have to get down to business and work on my papers so I'm not kicking myself the last week of break. 3 weeks is going to go fast!

Well, I hope I remembered everything. Thanks to everyone for reading and keeping up with me. Especially the grandparents...thank you for the cards! I love getting real mail. Hopefully I'll send some home soon.


Monday, March 8, 2010

Bad Luck Crossing

It's definitely going to be one of those days.

I decided to do some dishes this morning which is always quite the opperation since we don't have a dishwasher. One of the plates I washed slipped through the drying rack and shattered on the floor. Then I kept dropping the dish soap so I gave up and left.

Walking to campus, a large and hissing black cat jumped off of the wall I was walking next to and runs in front of me. Lets just say i squealed like a girl. Doesn't bode well for the rest of the day. And isn't plate-crashing bad luck supposed to come after a black cat crosses your path? May be if the fates are confused I'll have good luck today. I guess time will tell...

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Saturday, March 6, 2010

A whole new woooorld...

I can't believe a whole week has went by since my last post! I was a pretty chill week although I'm struggling to remember everything I did. I should really take more pictures.

Well I remember trying not to hyperventilate after my 3 classes finally assigned our first assessments (essays)--all three of which are due the first week after break. I have no idea what to expect or how to integrate textual analysis, contextual analysis and secondary critical sources into a 5 page paper, especially in Modern. I met with my seminar instructor on Thursday to go over the guidelines with him. Found out some helpful stuff. Still, should be interesting.

What else did I do this week...

...Read, read, read...

...ate 'meat' pie (actually it was the vegetarian version but still delicious!) at Nottingham House

Finished reading Saturday Night & Sunday Morning on Friday afternoon--ha!

Talked to my bro on Skype--finally! Had some good laughs.

Oh, backtracking...I got my groceries delivered on Wednesday. Best idea ever. Only down side is I'm apparently terrible at visualizing portion sizes from online descriptions. I did find Skippy peanut butter (creamy, of course) and microwave popcorn so my life is whole again.

Backtracking again. Wow, I'm playing this whole week out in reverse. Anyway, Tuesday night most of the house went to watch Dave and James's first gig at Jacosa (?) Bar. They played really awesome acoustic guitar solos and some duets and really impressed the manager. Or it could have been the massive amounts of international students that took over the place. Well the bar wasn't that big to begin with but it was still a good turnout. The b-boys even stopped by to show their support, or to chat up the internationals--either way, it was great they came. The guys play again this week and I'll probably be going. I may end up becoming an official roadie.

Friday night was Lillian's birthday (friend, not housemate) and she decided she wanted to go out for dinner. We ended up walking to this kind of sketchy part of town to find an Indian restaurant called Seven Spices. Luckily we were in a big group so I enjoyed exploring the area. Apparently there's a police officer museum here. The food was amazing and Lilly finished the night with a flaming shot of something on the house.

I woke up early today so I could finish reading my Crossover Lit book A Gathering Light. It was the perfect morning to lie (lay? I never get that right) in bed, watch the rain fall and digest a good book. Although intended for young readers, the novel is a wonderful read--both beautiful and ugly--making me laugh one minute and want to crawl out of my skin the next. Let's just say, it left me a little breathless and with a good jump on the day.

This afternoon, a few of my house ladies and I went to city centre and saw a movie. We saw Aladin--the Bollywood version set in modern day. As I told someone earlier: good, funny, strange...not sure how I feel about it. What I do know is that there's a really scary clown in it that really creeped me out--and I'm not even afraid of clowns. Paige tried to describe the ending to Sydney when we got back and it went something like this: Aladin brings the genie back to life with a million year old comet, genie captures evil genie in a mirror and Aladin gets the girl. Oh, and Aladin becomes a genie too...I think. Well he has powers anyway.

Tomorrow I may finally be going to the peak district. If the boys don't want to come I may just jump on a train and head out myself. I need some country air. Also, big researching day tomorrow and I have to figure out how I'm getting home from France.

Ok, I'm not sure what's going on outside our house right now but someone is making shooting sound effects like a 5 year old. Crazy...or mental as they say here. Well I should probably go join the insanity.

Skype ya later.