Monday, September 21, 2015

Annecy et la Genève

This weekend we went to Annecy, France, and Geneva, Switzerland! Annecy was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. It’s a small, Germanic town on the border of Switzerland and France. It was very chilly; I needed to wear layers and it was too cold for my Tevas. The town reminded me of Colorado; it was very sporty, people were running, biking, and rollerblading all over town. The town surrounds a huge lake- Lac d’Annecy- and it was so beautiful with the crystal clear water and the French Alps in the backdrop.

DAY 1:

The first day we got there, Friday, we went paragliding! I can’t believe we did that. We did tandem paragliding, so I drove up this huge mountain in a tiny bus and jumped off a mountain with a man named Eddy strapped to my back. We sailed around the mountain, dipped in and out of the trees, and sailed over the lake. It was so incredible and surreal. I couldn’t believe it. At the end, we even did some tricks when I thought my head was going to explode. After paragliding, we were so exhausted even though we didn’t do anything. We went back, relaxed, and went to a cheese shop, bakery, and Monoprix for a picnic in the park. We had delicious rosé and laughed until our stomachs hurt. After, we walked around the lake for awhile as the sun set, then went to a bar called “Beer O’Clock”, where you can pour your own craft beers.

DAY 2:

The second day, Saturday, we got up early to take the bus to Geneva. For some reason, we got the bus ride for free, and we loved the scenic 2-hour ride. When we got there, however, it was very underwhelming. It’s around a giant lake, Lake Geneva, with the famous Jet d’Eau and a few statues here and there, and it’s all very pretty. But the city is made for billionaires. We passed Céline, Prada, Gucci, Rolex, Louis Vuitton. There were barely any stores even somewhat in our price range. So, we meandered about until lunchtime, when we went to a recommended fondue place. Besides the fact that I had thick, creamy dressing literally dumped on my salad, we asked for fondue for 6 people and were charged 150 SWISS FRANCS! Which is 150 dollars for melted cheese. We laughed out loud and said no. We ended up ordering two people’s worth and it was more than enough. It was also incredible. After our cheese, and seeing some naked old women swimming in the lake, we walked to the United Nations, which was cool to see but closed. We also saw UNHCR, Unicef, the Red Cross, and basically every single other organization. We wanted a water or a coffee after, but small coffees at Starbucks were 8 dollars. Water, 5 dollars. We ended up getting some (admittedly great) Swiss chocolate and returning back to our love, Annecy. We got a FABULOUS dinner of create-your-own stir fry, and then we went back to the beer bar, where a woman held a kitten next to us and fed it sausage. Ah, the French.

DAY 3:

On Sunday, I woke up early to go to the markets to get some fruit. I ended up getting some delicious spice bread, pain d’épices, along with figs, the best apples I’ve ever had, and some fresh yoghurts. After the markets, we rollerbladed along the lake, which was so beautiful and fun. After that, we walked around and got some souvenirs before cleaning up and going home.

We loved Annecy, and I think it’s going to be hard for other places to measure up.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Snapshot: Cassis

Last Sunday, we went to Cassis. Cassis is a beautiful seaside port city that is famous for its jagged white mountains called Les Calanques. We took a boat ride out to see these famous mountains, and I was awestruck in front of them. They are so big and so blindingly white. The water was also the clearest water I have ever seen. We were in 100 feet of water and I could see straight to the bottom of the ocean. There were entire schools of blue Dory-from-Finding-Nemo fish. It was incredible.

The town was also very cute. We had an amazing lunch on the water and I had a Provencal specialty, l’aioli, basically garlic mayonnaise that you dip cod, potatoes, and vegetables into. Besides the fact that I smelled like garlic the whole day, it was incredible.

We changed into our bathing suits and sunned ourselves on the rocks for awhile, which was very relaxing and beautiful. It’s a hard life, relaxing on the French Riviera.

Snapshot: Markets

The markets are incredible. Aix is known for its markets, which are every day of the week! There are also special vintage markets and clothes markets on certain days. Every single product is from Provence, or at least France, and they are incredible. Let me repeat. I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E. Every single thing that I put in my mouth is the best thing I’ve ever had. The freshest and juiciest peaches. The ripest figs (not counting the ones I picked off a tree along the street). The tangiest, freshest chevre. The best wine. Everything! And everything is extremely cheap! People who live here actually come to the market every day in order to buy their food for the day. The bread that comes from the bakeries doesn’t have any kind of preservatives, so you have to buy a new loaf every day (and at 50 cents a loaf, it’s not a problem).

I have been living off of goat cheese, bread, and fruit. I sincerely have not had anything else to eat. Is that wrong? Because it feels right.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

aix marks the spot

Wow. So I am officially in France. It feels unbelievable to think that I have been looking forward to this my whole life, and now I am finally here.

I’ve had a whirlwind of a year. Sophomore spring to Dublin to Aix… I don’t even feel like the same person anymore.

On the plane over here, I had so many expectations, anxieties, hopes. What would it be like? Would I love France and want to stay? Would I feel at home here? I had no idea.

I’ve only been here a week, so I can’t say for sure, but it is both much better, and also different, than I expected.

My program is through Vanderbilt, and the classes are taught in French with Vanderbilt-hired teachers. However, they are all actually French, so we really are taking college classes in quick, dizzying French. I am taking the History of Provence, Art and Literature in the 19th and 20th centuries, Advanced Conversational French, and French Cinema. They all seem awesome and I love the teachers.

It is very exhausting speaking French all day! I’ve definitely improved a TON but it is hard to keep up and concentrate all day. Sometimes I just want to lie down with a pillow over my head and not talk to anyone. But now I can understand basically everything that anyone says, and I can actually speak back, even if I stumble through words.

I really like the girls in the program! It’s interesting seeing what Vanderbilt students are like. Some are super Southern and confirm all the adorable stereotypes. They have monograms, wear Jack Rogers, carry Longchamp bags, and have similar styles.  I also have a roommate from Monaco who is 17 and is preparing to apply to the French version of the Ivy Leagues. She is awesome!

The best part of this program so far (besides the amazing markets and the food) is our host-dinner mom, Manuela. Each night, Monday through Thursday, we eat dinner at this little 60 year old woman’s house. She cooks a 4 course dinner for us every night! And it is so fantastic. Tonight, we had a tomato salad with sea salt from her garden, then les moules frites, mussels with French fries (which were incredible! I had no idea I loved mussels!) then the cheese course, which is always le pain et le brie et le gruyere et le brebis, and then fruit. Figs and nectarines. Yum.

This city is so beautiful and so charming. There is so much history and everyone is so happy all the time. It is always sunny and warm. Always. I love it.

à bientot!

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Hi! I blog at Brunch and Bijoux. Celebrating les belles petites choses in life.
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