Wednesday, February 24, 2010

pop culture.

So just a small deviation from the European anecdotes: Rach told me about these chains, and I love them.

the end.

Oh one more thing. I've been obsessed with both Dexter and Analog Rebellion lately, and please tell me if these two haunting melodies don't just remind you exactly of each other...

Monday, February 22, 2010

"Jenny Jenny..who can I turn to"

So I saw my lovin' in Leuven friend Jenny for the first time since I've been back in Chicago not too long ago, and it was sO amazing to see one of the people I bonded with so dearly while gone. En fait, she was the first European buddy I've seen at all (besides my best friends of course). Don't ask me why it took Jen and me two weeks of co-habitation in Chicago to get together, but it did. And it was a glorious reunion, let me tell ya. I pretty much tackled her in a hug, and neither of us could believe that the other was physically standing right there. It had been almost two months, after all. We chatted about life at home, her reunion with her boy, my reunion with mine, and a few other important catch-up items on the it's-been-far-too-long to-do list, but then conversation instantly got nostalgic.

"Ohh my goodness, the last time I saw you we were in PARIS."
"Yah..I know, Jen..absolutely INsane."

I couldn't help but be reminded of the first time we'd seen each other in two months in the Belgian equivalent of a Quizno's..."Jenny?! Ohh my goodness, it's so good to see a friend from home in Europe!" And then again, outside the Oberkampf stop at the Metro Café in Paris. Funny how life works.

Jenny and I always find ourselves being dramatically relieved to see each other after a significant time apart, and that night at Oberkampf was no different. Her and Horacio had gotten there earlier in the afternoon and had already seen the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and the Louvre. I was detained by my program's Thanksgiving dinner, which was good in the turkey and green beans department but left some to be desired in the "bread" stuffing department...try weird spam paté. I successfully met up with J and H around 10:45 p.m. sans communication devices, plus de Mary Margaret. We grabbed a couple of drinks at one of our jaunts Le Café Bicyclette and wandered the wrong direction down Oberkampf to end up at a trendy bar that closed 15 minutes after we got there.

Funny story: Jenny had just been to a city outside of Brussels where the intense cold made it so that she and Horatio could go ice skating at an outdoor Christmas village. Problem: Jenny didn't have any socks. After a long time of visiting multiple shops to see if anybody had a pair to spare*, she finally found success and could go skate. (And she got a pretty cute picture of herself doing it, I might add.) Just before leaving that trend bar in the Marais's Oberkampf, a bartender asked, "Est-ce que vous avez perdue des chaussettes??" He was asking our foursome if any of us had lost socks and held up a pair of women's the same size as Jenny's petite foot. What are the hilarious odds that such a fortunate offer would come just a few days too late?


The next day was a whirlwind tour of the city: back to the Louvre for a view of the Mona Lisa, Nike, Venus de Milo, and Napoleon apartments, up to Montmartre to see Sacré Coeur, over to the Arc de Triomph and a walking tour of the Champs Elysée, and then back to Montmartre for dinner before we met up with Mary Margaret at the Bastille for drinks at Bar des Familles. [Whew] My favorite part of the day was our visit to Sacré Coeur (surprise, surprise) where we hung out on the cathedral's steps for a much needed break and listened to a young duo of English fellows performing covers of "Johnny Be Good" and Damien Rice. They were surprisingly good so here's a sample:

The lovely Nike.

Jen and Venus! (or is it Aphrodite...)

My new favorite painting at the Louvre: Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson
"Pygmalion et Galatée"

We decided this was Jen and her boy Manny...same color hair (respectively) and loving affection~~

Les Jardins de la Butte.

My beloved basilica.

Probably the best picture I took while abroad.

C'était un Rendez-Vous.


How I miss this.

The three of us celebrated their last day with a chilly day picnic of bread and camembert at the Eiffel Tower. I saw them to the Oberkampf stop where we said our bittersweet good-byes and anticipated what it would be like reuniting in Chicago. Horacio and I were thankful tourist and guide (respectively) for sharing such an awesome experience, and Jenny and I decided that we should have been close friends a long, loooong time ago.

The same sentiments were shared at the bar in Lincoln Park, and she reiterated the fact that Horatio was impressed with how composed I had been that weekend in grandiose Paris. I could certainly look back on that weekend with pride myself. And what's more, I appreciate our accomplishment of having a grasp on such a big place. Those monument visits would be some of the last before I came home, and I was glad their company forced me out of bed and out into the city.

Now I all I need is a French friend to come visit me in Chicago to have the same motivation. This place is just TOO COLD!**



Post Script.

Ironically, I came across this video just now looking for the name of the gardens at Sacré Cœur. Snow Patrol took footage from a short film by Claude Lelouch called
C'était un Rendez-Vous for their video "Open Your Eyes," where both the concept and words are a fitting description of the weekend I spent with Jen and Horacio: fast-paced, eyes wide open, and our exact route, starting at the Louvre and ending at the basilica. On top of that, the beginning guitar cords remind me of "I Gotta Feeling," which only reminds me of my beloved techno parade also in the streets of Paris.

So many full circles, I just love it.

Snow patrol open your eyes

Uncanny resemblance.

Maclet Elisée

Friday, February 12, 2010

First Remembrances: La Famille Part II

So I saw a "Vosges Chocolat" bag spotted on the blue line at Damen, a cute French chocolate boutique that just happens to be two establishments down from my friends Kari and Lili's apartment. But that's just a coincidence. This simple purple bag reminded me of Erika and Philip's first night in Paris. My parents and myself ate at the Café des Vosges the night before and returned with my siblings to experience the soup d'oignon and bifteck with garlic mashed potatoes. Afterwards, my sister was ambitious enough to suggest a trip to the Eiffel Tower as it seemed appropriate for one of their first nights in town. We made it just in time for one of the light shows, and myself as tour guide was happy that the seven-minute shows were still running in accordance with tribute to its 125th anniversary of construction. It felt surreal to be somewhere so familiar with my equally familiar loved ones.

The fam at the tower.

The next night we ate dinner at the lovely Veronique's, who I've been meaning to e-mail lately. I've had plenty of time to ask her about her new year but just haven't gotten around to it yet. I'm especially curious to know how her new roommate is getting along...yes, she's hosting a new young American lady this semester ;] Anyhoo, she was on her most beloved behavior when the fam came to dine. We had a lovely meal and were entertained by stories of her recent history, sons, and everyday Parisian life. We all loved her and felt such similarities in lifestyle that a language barrier didn't really matter.

I took my first and only picture with her that night. I'm very glad my dad insisted on it. I do miss her.

V and me.

The next day's family time only included a quick trip to Notre Dame and the Esmerelda Café (yes, the latter was my idea...I'm so Disney cliché, I know). The highlight was definitely our climb to the top of the cathedral where multiple pictures of gargoyles and bell towers were enjoyed by all. I even got some pious tributes to their clanging at midday...pretty beautiful if I do say so myself.

Lightning rod.

I just love this picture.

The luxury of Starbucks here in the states still reminds me of enjoying one of my first drip coffees in the Louvre Carousel while waiting for my family later on that day. They managed to spend five or six straight hours in the Louvre. I had never known my family prided themselves on having such artistic disposition!

We wandered around afterwards in the Tuileries Gardens at night and took pictures in front of a foggy Eiffel Tower. I think that was the first time I'd ever seen the Louvre and its surroundings at night. We got a little lost and had a hard time deciding on dinner but eventually ended up at the Sarah Bernhardt Cafe at Chatelet after a long walk along the Seine. I recall my sister Erika saying that this was her favorite memory of Paris: that shiny river in the cold of the night...with family, and husband of course.

We finally made our way to the Seine riverboat tour after hurriedly asking for times of departure earlier in the evening. Kids insisted on a rooftop view, and parents reluctantly agreed despite the bitter cold. We saw everything from the Bastille to Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower to Hotel de Ville to, my favorite, La Conciergerie (a prison museum that I would later visit with the girls!) It was a clear night and the whole trip reintroduced a Paris that didn't seem so far apart and remote. The whole city made more sense, and the bridges looked magnificent in the late evening. The layout of the city is impressively perfect.

[I love the things I recall from what feels like forever least I know for sure these specific memories really meant something.]

The last big day trip involved a trek out to Versailles with...(drum roll please:) the lovely Mary Margaret. The two of us fortunately got in for free with one history of art French student i.d. (M.M.) and one imitation "history of art" regular French student i.d. card (me). As a family, we spent a couple of hours on the grounds, amongst the gardens, and a significant amount of wanderings in Marie Antoinette's "country town," complete with cottages, ponds, trellises, and goats. For real.

The rest of the day was spent in the palace itself floating through kingly halls and bedrooms in all their frilly, lacey, and wall-papered glory. A slightly quick trip, but les halles de glace (the hall of mirrors) was worth it in and of itself.

Our last dinner in Paris was salt crêpes at Crêperie Imogene near my apartment in Oberkampf (ahh Oberkampf, such memories). I would certainly suggest this itty bitty café to anyone staying in the area. My sister and her husband found it, after all. Must've been good ;]

I miss these so much, but fortunately there's a cute cr
êpe restaurant that just opened down the street from my apartment!! Serendipity.

We said our good-byes to the parents the next day after many hugs and thanks. A couple of croissants and café au laits later, Erika and Philip were rushing for metro ticket coins at Gare du Nord, and regretted good byes were exchanged on all accounts. I lonesomely wandered upstairs to buy over-priced train tickets for an adventure with three of my best friends that was yet three weeks and a few finals away, so at least I had something to look forward to.

As I wander around the metro system here in Chicago and even as I sped around Rockford's city streets, I think about the joys and frustrations of travel abroad that I shared with each and every one of these people...and how much our experiences upon destination made up for the difficult pilgrimages themselves. I was blessed beyond belief that my family could visit me while I was there. Looking at our pictures together brings so many emotions: wanting to laugh hysterically, smile broadly, or cry happy tears in remembrance. Sometimes all three.

What made it priceless more than anything else was bonding with my dad over our similar experiences abroad. He backpacked through Europe for a couple months when he was 20, and he made it clear early on in my collegiate career that he wanted me to study abroad. As we stood next to each other that night at the Eiffel Tower, I glanced over at his lit up face and pictured him sitting on a bench gazing up at the same tower, 20 years old with nothing but his military jacket, map, backpack, and a French baguette, and the realization hit me hard: I could relate with my dad and his youth better than I ever had before. I understand better in retrospect that he wanted so bad for me to have my own adventure just like he'd had his back in the day. Susie-mom, too, was so supportive of my time abroad, and I'm still thankful that they pushed me to do it.

Yah, I'd say I got pretty lucky with those two...