Qu’est-ce que j’ai fait? (4/27/2010)

I promise I have not forgotten you. I didn’t realize it has been a week since I last wrote, but you didn’t miss much last week. It was slightly uneventful, which is good for me for a change. Before I get to this past weekend, I’ll recap a few highlights of the week.

First, I discovered Goût Pêche (literally translated is “peach taste”), or the French version of Peach-O’s. If you don’t know what Peach O’s are, they are gummy, peach-flavored rings, which are fantastic. I’m chewing on one right now. I highly recommend sampling them. And the best part about les Goût Pêches, they are cheap and they are better than Peach O’s. I never thought I’d find a better brand than Peach O’s, but I have, and I plan on bringing back a few packages in my suitcase when I return to the U.S.

Second, Nicole’s two grandchildren spent the week with us. Maxime is 10 years old and Romane is 7. For the first few days, they were shy and barely talked to us. One night at dinner, I tried to break the silence and failed miserably. I asked Maxime if he liked the movie he was watching earlier (Pocahontas); however, I apparently did not pronounce Pocahontas the same way the French do. He just stared at me. Then Nicole interpreted after a while, and finally he said, “Oui.” Let’s just say I didn’t have much confidence after that incident, but as the week continued the children weren’t as shy. In fact, they came into our rooms each night before they went to sleep so they could kiss and hug us goodnight. They really are quite adorable.

Now, moving on to my weekend.

Friday night, after a day full of reading and studying, I went with Sammi, Nicole, Serge, Maxime and Romane to Nicole’s daughter’s house for a barbecue. A French barbecue is quite similar to the American barbecue, except that the grill was tiny. It was about half of the size of a standard American grill. For dinner, we enjoyed grilled saucisses (sausages), steak and frites (fries). I normally don’t eat sausages, but these were very tasty. The steak was grilled to perfection, and the fries were crispy and soft (the best combination of textures for a fry).

On Saturday, we had another excursion with the group. We met the bus at 9 a.m. to travel to Gordes for the day. Gordes is an old village built into a mountain with valleys and meadows surrounding it. The landscape and village are picturesque and quaint.

We had free time for lunch, so I went exploring with Kim, who took (takes) fantastic photos. We discovered that sandwich prices were a bit too high for us, so we scoped out the markets for fresh fruit. After searching, and realizing we only had 15 minutes left, we bought a 500-gram basket of strawberries and a four-pack of peach yogurt, which we split.  I cannot express to you how beautiful the berries were. They were spotless, juicy, full of flavor and lovely pink-red in color.

 

 

 

 

After meeting the bus, we continued to another village close to Gordes. We sat at a café for about 45 minutes, while I drank my coffee and the others ate, and then explored the narrow, cobble-stone streets. The day ended with a wine-tasting and a tour of La Citadelle winery, which exports a large portion of its wine to the United States. Again, I’m not keen on the taste of wine, but I tried it anyway, just for the fun of it.

Sunday, with my bag of picnic goodies (two baguettes, cheese, cookies and Orangina), I revisited the Île de la Barthelasse with Kim, Alex and Liz. This time was a bit more of an adventure compared to the last time I visited the island. Liz and Alex insisted that we visit their favorite spot on the island. Little did Kim and I know that the spot was a 45-minute trek on a tiny, dirt path. When we finally arrived, I was cranky and tired because I was hungry and I didn’t expect to walk as far as we did. We were going to study for our exams, but eventually we gave up due to exhaustion, and we just sprawled out under the sun and relaxed. After about an hour, Helen and her sister Greta joined us, and we decided to wade in the Rhône. Surprisingly, the water was not very dirty or murky, which helped me get over my initial hesitation of getting in the water.

After the 45-minute walk back through a French jungle (kidding) and returning home, my fun ended. I had to study. Quel dommage! Oh well, the entire purpose of me being in France is to study. I just didn’t expect to have five exams in one week. Thankfully though, I finished my three most difficult exams already (grammaire, Résistance and histoire). I have two left this week, and I can’t really prepare for them, which kind of makes me nervous. But, there’s nothing I can do, so I shouldn’t stress. Anyway, my brain is exhausted from the last few days of testing. I promise I will write again within the week.

Bonne nuit!

Un week-end reposant (4/20/2010)

I realize that I told you this in my last post, but I’m finally relaxing. Let’s stop and ponder this. I am… Relaxing. And I’m not making this up. Though I have hours of homework and class each day, and I’ve been trying new activities, I’m not stressed or bogged down. I honestly cannot tell you that I’ve ever felt like this. I’m enjoying my time and taking everything in. It is truly wonderful.

Anyway, here is a recap of my weekend reposant (relaxing).

Friday, after I wrote my last post, I explored the city for a few hours with Kim and Sammi. After meeting Kim at the centrally-located bus stop in town, we chose to stop in the garden of a stone church. We decided to have girl-time there, and it is definitely my new favorite spot, especially to read.

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    As you can see in the video and the photos, the clouds began to roll in, and eventually it started to rain, which caused the air to become quite cool. Because of the weather, we decided to call it a day.

Saturday was a huge day for me, and honestly is was slightly exhausting. Mentally. Nicole had a giant fête (party/feast) to celebrate her sister’s birthday. There were 25 people here, including adorable French children, who were running around and playing in the garden the whole time.

I thought Nicole said lunch was going to start at noon, but either I heard incorrectly or everyone was fashionably late, because most of the guests didn’t arrive until 12:30. I’m still not sure. I’m glad Sammi was with me because I was overwhelmed by the number of people. Everyone was welcoming, and they all tried to make conversation with us; however, I was extremely nervous. For some reason, I had the misconception that they all expected me to speak perfect French, which caused me to feel embarrassed every time I spoke. But, thankfully, everyone was patient with us.

The buffet lunch consisted of turkey, lamb, fish, carrot salad and green bean salad. After the buffet, we dined on bread and cheese. Then, the final course — cake. The cake consisted of layers of fresh fruit, cream, and rum spongecake. C’était délicieux! If you include appetizers and the sit-down meal, the entire lunch lasted for about 4.5 hours. By the end of the meal, my head was spinning because I was trying to keep up with all of the conversations going on around me. Luckily, Nicole told us before the party started that we didn’t have to stay the entire time. So after dessert, Sammi and I ducked out. Sammi did homework in her room while I met with Kim for a few hours to explore the other side of Avignon.

Kim and I set out with two main goals in mind — find the lavender store and try lavender ice cream. And we succeeded. The lavender store is a small shop that carries only a small line of products, including honey, tea, lotion, shampoo, perfume and soap. You can smell the flowery scent even before you enter the glass doors. The best part is that we were allowed to sample each of the products. I love trying lotions and food for free.

Then, there was the lavender ice cream. One word. Fabulous. I was a little hesitant to try it at first because I was afraid it was going to taste like perfume. As it turns out, the amount of lavender in the taste is perfect. It was a lovely blend of lavender and vanilla, and it didn’t taste like perfume.

After the amazing, nearly-three-hour break, I returned home. I didn’t realize that the party would still be going strong, and I happened to arrive just in time for dinner, which was the remaining food from lunch. And the food tasted just as good. Oh, and I had my first political discussion (in French) with a French person. And we actually agree on a lot of things.

Sunday, I needed to relax and give my brain a break. Helen, Sammi and I voyaged (by ferry) to L’Île de la Barthelasse, which is on the Rhône, pour faire un pique-nique. The picnic was complete with fresh bread, cheese, apples, pears, oranges, cookies and chocolate. We found the perfect spot next to the river, near the shade of a giant tree and also under the sun. I was able to read and watch the river. C’était un joli apres-midi!