Mallory Meets an Irishmen

Every Wednesday, a little place called the Hoegaarden (I’m the only one who thinks this is funny) has a café des langues, where people who want to speak another language can go and meet others who want to do the same. So the original plan was to go to this and see how it was, and possibly stay for karaoke after. The café was okay, but many of the students weren’t French and/or wanted to speak English. My friends and I decided to go to another bar at this point. The bar was busy and my friend and I ended up talking to this Irishmen named Tommy. He works from some oil company in Kenya.

I don’t know why, but after talking with him for hours I feel extremely enlightened. We talked about music, politics, traditional Irish pub songs, his passport, his family, etc. We talked about politics for a long time and I was nervous before because he said he really likes Obama, and I though I might offend him. But it was just really sweet to see how another country views our politics and our country in general. It was interesting to see how much other countries in Europe “look up” to the United States. It made me less stressed/hostel about my feelings toward our country and what it going on with it.

Side note: I asked if Irish pub songs were real and instead of receiving a simple yes, Tommy sang us an Irish pub song. The next day I booked my trip to Ireland.

The time I got locked in a Castle.

In the tiny town of Pau, there is a castle! In fact, my host mother informed me that Pau used to only consist of the castle and three surrounding streets. Anyways, my friend Hailey and I went to go on a tour of the castle on one rainy Sunday. The tour was in french, and … Continue reading

Mallory Eats Pastries

My second/third week here consisted of me on a nutella/pastry kick. I consumed a regular sized jar of nutella in eight days. By myself. Disturbing? Yes. Delicious? Also, yes. Repeatable? Not going to say no. The same week I also ate a pastry a day. Feelings towards it? Refer to nutella. I’m going to list/rank the ones I’ve tried thus far.

  1. Chocolatines. Basically a croissant with chocolate in the middle. Classic, wonderful, perfect.
  2. Chocolate eclair. Not like the ones at home with a cream filling. This one had straight up chocolate mousse in the middle. I cried tears of joy when it began, tears of sadness when it ended.
  3. I call it a chocolate panini. It’s a dough thing with chocolate in the center, which the patisserie grills together for you, like a panini.
  4. This one was basically a baguette-like thing with chocolate chips baked in and hunks of sugar on top. Nom.

Enjoy salivating for the next 10 minutes.

School Smarts

Hello all! Beyond being a lazy person I have no reason as to why I haven’t been writing, so here it goes!

Classes started about three weeks ago and it’s really different. All of my classes except for one are French language courses. It’s also block scheduling so I’m in class for 2-3 hours straight everyday. I have some five hour days, a seven hour day, and some 2-3 hours days when I’m lucky.

Honestly I thought it would suck having this much class, and sometimes I’d rather be sleeping or eating pastries or thinking about exercising, but it really isn’t bad. We don’t get much homework and if we do it’s not like…real? I guess saying it’s super easy/the teacher doesn’t really check to see if it’s done when you go over it would be a better way to explain. But grades here are more based on improvement and participation. What a joke, right? But interestingly enough I feel like my French has improved more in the month I’ve spent here so far, than in the 3 years I’ve taken French at Iowa. It’s pretttty nuts.

The intense schedule doesn’t last for very long either. Language-intensive classes end at the end of March, and until the end of April I just have one elective class.  At the end of March I will also be taking an international language-proficiency-type test. Basically I go into a test a certain level, and if I do well I can say I am this level of fluent in the French language. My teacher said the goal for my class was to be the B1 proficiency. I was hoping to test higher because to obtain (maybe pursue, I’m not sure) a masters in French you must have a B2 proficiency, and to be a translator you must have a Csomething proficiency. So more than likely, I will continue to study and take a higher test once I’m back in the states.

Not much else on the academic front, but if something remotely interesting occurs you know where to find it!

I am a baguette.

If someone truly knows me, kind of knows me, or just met me, the person more than likely knows I have a passion (or sick obsession) with food. When I’m not eating I’m thinking about what I can eat later. I plan what I’m eating on which days otherwise I’m a complete mess and have an abnormal fear of dissatisfaction in what I eat. However, I also don’t like being fat so finding ways to eat unhealthy things and not get fat was also a game of mine before I left for France.

I actually was really concerned before I left that all of the bread, cheese, wine, bread, pastries, nutella, bread, butter, cheese, bread, bread, and bread would make me one chunky monkey (gorilla). But since coming here I have not held back and I actually feel healthier than before and I’ve lost weight rather than gaining…meaning, the French Paradox does exist and I will take full advantage. But here goes probably my most detailed post to date and probably after the fact. You might stop reading my blog forever, question my sanity, or more than likely both.

DAIRY(minus cheese):

The first and most concerning thing I noticed was that milk is not refrigerated in stores here and sometimes not at all in the home. Francoise had whole milk and didn’t have to refrigerate it  even after opening, and my host mother has milk that she only has to refrigerate after opening. It also doesn’t expire for 3 months. I was really concerned and asked them both about it, but they didn’t really understand my question because to them it was completely normal. So naturally I HAD to ask my program adviser. If you have no desire to know why, you should probably skip to the next paragraph about yogurt because I’m going to share my knowledge with the world, right meow. Conveniently, my program adviser’s mother works in the industry involving dairy pasteurizing. His mother told him that it’s just a different way of pasteurizing milk at a higher temperature ( je pense) and that it makes it okay to be @ room temp and keeps it fresh for longer. Interestingly enough, it’s also a method known and available in the US, but they are too scared to try it. Now you know more about milk than you’ll ever need to. Onward to yogurt.

In the states, I convinced myself that I liked yogurt. I even convinced myself that I liked greek yogurt. After trying multiple kinds of yogurt in France, I can now openly admit that I’ve been lying to myself this whole time. Yogurt in America is not good, and I do not like it. French yogurt is amazing and I’ve said it every single time (13) I’ve eaten it. It’s creamy and sweet and counts as a dessert. I know what you’re thinking, different brands, but you are (kind of) wrong. I’ve had different brands which are more dessert-like, but I’ve eaten dannon yogurt most of the time I’ve been here and it is the bomb.com. I am all over it like white on rice, or nutella on bread (see: BREAD). I’ll never go back.

DESSERTS:

Pastries are perfect and amazingly simple most times. My favorite so far is pain au chocolat which is literally a croissant with chocolate in the middle. I still have yet to eat macaroons, but I’m saving that for when I fully commit to living the life of Blair Waldorf. I will probably dedicate an entire post to pastries because I wuv desserts, so if this post doesn’t gross you out too much keep an eye out fo’ dat one.

The dessert which has been my fave (other than pastries) is the chocolate mousse I had in Paris. Literally I didn’t know chocolate could taste fresh BUT IT CAN. I felt like Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids.

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FROMAGE:

I’ve never been a huge cheese person. Cheese and crackers, eh. Sure I’ll eat some brie appetizer. Grilled cheese? Why not! But I’ve been converted to a cheese-lover up in this continent. I’ve only had 4 different cheeses than the one’s at home but they are all amazing. I already mentioned the cheese on my croque monsieur, but according to Francoise&my host mother, it’s not “real cheese.” Okay ladies, try some american cheese and get back to me on that one. The first real one I tried was compliments of Miss. Tayler Vee, and I have no idea what it was. It was a little stinky had a stong flava and it was fab. The second was goat cheese. Also fabulous, even though it’s common in the states it’s still way better ici (melted in a crepe nomnomnom). The other two cheeses are super different but I’m obsessed with them. One is from the Pyrenees region and is super moist and good on its own. The other is from these two valleys in the Basque region and it is phenom. It’s stronger and more dry than the Pyrenees cheese but I love it. I will eat this cheese with blackberry jelly until the day I leave. It’s also really good for cheese and jelly sammies on a baguette! I guess what I’m getting at is that it IS as good as they say it is.

WINE:

It all tastes good and it’s all cheap. It’s also strong. Think I’m going wine tasting one weekend, but that’s about it.

BREAD:

I have always loved bread, will always love bread. Every morning I have the petit grilled baguettes. They’re basically hard butts of baguettes that I put nutella on and dunk in coffee. I also like butter and jam and baguettes. Nutella and baguettes. Cheese and jelly on baguettes. Normal ham and butter on baguettes. Basque region ham and butter on baguettes. Baguettes on baguettes. You are what you eat, right? Get it? Probably not.

OVERALL CONCLUSION:

Basically you can see that I’m not eating like a weight watchers dieter like at home. I’m definitely eating what at home I’d consider to be unhealthy and deserve nothing but salad for the next 5 years. But something I’ve noticed is that everything here is fresh and the preservatives are not the same. When you go to buy meat, it isn’t packed with sodium to keep it fresh. It’s literally straight from the animal. At bigger markets you seem some prepackaged beef/chicken/stuff like in the states but not nearly as much. At a smaller market you’ll see it being cut straight from the deal animal. Supes fresh. In the states if I eat to much and get uncomfortably full, I feel sick to my stomach. Ici, if I eat a lot I don’t feel sick. In fact, I never feel the need to keep eating. I feel satisfied at every meal. IF you know me, you know this isn’t normal. I crave everything always. Ce n’est pas le meme en France.

If you read this whole thing it’s possible you have too much free time right now. (Just like me, since it took me just as long to write).

Pau n Stuff

SO, I arrived in Pau exactly a week ago and here’s some stuff:

I took the train from Paris to Bayonne to Pau. The first train ride was kinda sweet because I got to take the high speed train (TGV). I met my host mother at the station and we were off. It was kind of awkward at first because I’m an awkward human being, but throughout the week it’s been easier and easier to talk to her. Also, she helps me a lot with my French and won’t speak English to me. I also have a German student living here with me until Tuesday. She speaks perfect French and great English and is super nice and super blond and German and tall.

We had group orientations on monday and tuesday and they were probably the longest days of my life. Basically like the first days of school anywhere. Tuesday we got an orientation of downtown Pau and it’s little and adorable. Also it has a castle! Image

It still amazes me that things like this exist here. Also, when I say that it’s amazing to people who live in Pau, they say it’s nothing special because a closer town has an older church or a “better” castle.

Downtown is really cute and has a ton of shops but since the town is so small literally almost everything closes by 7. There might be 5 restaurants open at night even though there are probably a hundred during the day. And I learned it’s completely normal for small stores to close from 12-2 so people who work there can take their lunch break. Basically everyone gets at least an hour for lunch here, even students. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to go back to having quick lunches or eating on the go. I love being able to sit, relax, and eat, and sit. Mostly eat.

I’ve tried a lot of different things since I’ve been here and it has all been wonderful. It’s interesting how in America when I go out to eat or if someone is cooking I’m always conscious or wondering if something will be good or not, or satisfy me or not. Here, I literally think to myself that sounds good and in the end it always is. I was worried at first because my host mother is vegetarian but everything she makes is good too. French cooking and food is something else and I like all of it. Also: desserts everywhere and they are all perfect.

In terms of meeting people, so far I’ve mostly met americans. But my host mother rocks and took me to see some blues band on saturday so I could meet her friend’s son who is close to my age. She really wants me to meet french people and have french friends my age so I can practice so it’s really nice of her to help me ouuut.

This post was kind of boring but this is all that’s really happened in the past week. Just keepin’ ya informed.

Je fais du jogging, je vois Versailles

So the first 4 days have gone non-stop but lemme tell you ’bout Paris:

Day 1: I made it to Paris a little after 8:00am and spent an hour running around the biggest airport I’ve ever been in trying to find Tayler. Physically sweating and avoiding beaucoup de scary men who kept asking me “Est-ce que tu veux le car,” translation: would you like to human trafficked by me? But eventually I found her and we were on the bus to Paris by 11:00. I justify our lunch being very french because we ate an entire baguette and probably 3/4 of a jar of paté…in addition to everything else. Jet lag was probably the worst thing I’ve ever experienced but we had to keep ourselves awake so we went where all tourists go, the Eiffel Tower.Image

 

Day 2: Even though we set alarms our jet lag was so bad we accidentally slept until Francoise woke us up at 11:30am…you’re only in Paris so often, why not spend a day sleeping? But before heading off we had our first French breakfast, meaning another 2 baguettes and a ton of coffee and jelly and confiture du lait (I’m still not sure what it is, but it’s flipping wonderful) and butter. After, we ventured off to Notre Dame, Saint-Michel, the Latin Quarter, and Sorbonne where we had our first café experience. To say it was scary might be an understatement, it was for some reason the most nerve-wrecking thing I have done recently. We didn’t know if we were supposed to ask for menus or if they would stop by us or what, also we had difficulties reading the bill. BUT, when all was said and done I had my first croque monsieur (grilled cheese with ham but the cheese is on the outside) and my first legal glass of wine! C’était incroyable. Before the night ended we walked along the Sein and stopped at the Louvre.Image

Day 3:

Like all over-zealous americans, we wanted to do as much as possible even though jet lag sucks suckers. Alors, we started off by going to Versailles right when it opened. Versailles is probably the biggest thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Beyond its size and realizing it was built for people to live in, it’s so incredible to me that France has monuments like this. Even Notre Dame was celebrating 850 years of its standing. Can you name anything in America that is like that or will be that way? NO YOU CAN’T. And if you’re just touring the gardens, it’s free. That’s probably why we saw tons of joggers going in and out of the garden. Typical. The palace itself was amazing and something I’d really like to do before I leave is visit in the spring when there are flowers in the garden (ALSO HUGE). After that it was straight to Montmartre. I didn’t have anything particular I wanted to see there, just the giant hill leading into the center of town and all of the artistry I’ve learned about. It was pretty but not my type of crowd. People scared me and tried to make me things and sell them to me even though I kept saying no. By 5 we decided eating might be a good idea, so we went to Hippopatamus–a chain restaurant in the Montparnasse area. I got a steak and tried le tartane (raw ground beef with a raw egg yolk on top that you mix together) and it wasn’t bad. Food is so much different in france, it has amazed me everyday. Our final adventure was a boat tour along the Sein, it was so beautiful and perfect and I keep playing it on repeat in my head. Image