0 The Oscars

Sunday, February 27, 2011

I must have fallen asleep at 8:30 with the subconcious memory that the Oscars would be airing at 2am in France. I woke up at 2:45 and found a live stream just in time for the first major award. Now I'm happily eating snacks in bed, perusing red carpet pictures and pretending I'm in America and watching seamless coverage of the awards' show, not a fritzy live stream from Denmark.

I can't decide how I feel about Scarlett Johannson's dress, but she looks incredible. Her skin! Her hair! Michelle Williams manages to pull off pale skin/pale hair/pale dress. She always looks chic. Mila Kinus' lavender dress contrasts beautifully with her dark hair and complexion.

14-year-old Hailee Steinfield looks like a princess. Reese Witherspoon sports an awesome 60's-esque updo. This is my favorite of Anne Hathaway's dresses of the night (so far); Rachel Zoe must have had a field day dressing her this year.

Look how happy Natalie is (with her French beau). She's glowing!

0 Nantes

After two days in Lyon, I took another cheap flight up to Nantes (Amen EasyJet), a city in the Brittany region of France. Celeste, one of my closest friends from college, is an English teaching assistant there and invited me to spend part of my vacation with her.

Nantes is a pretty, clean, and manageable city - not too big but not too small. It's a perfect fit for Celeste, who's from Philadelphia. We decided that Nantes is definitely the Philadelphia of France. We saw all the sights, like the château in the center of town, the newly restored cathedral, the LU cookie factory (which is a bar at night and, strangely enough, was hosting a hip hop festival while I was there), and - by far the coolest thing - a mechanical, rideable elephant on the Île de Nantes.

We cooked most nights, which was a healthy and affordable departure from the croque monsieurs and magret de canard I'd been consuming in Bordeaux and Lyon, and got our groceries from the awesomely big Saturday market. On our last night we had an 11 euro dinner at a Thai restaurant, which was on an adorable street in centre ville lined with ethnic restaurants and creperies (the local specialty). Our dinner included an appetizer, a main course, a dessert, and two glasses of wine each. And it was so good.

(This bar had lines from A Midsummer Night's Dream stenciled onto the walls!)

2 Lyon, moi-même

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I'm back from a 10-day trip throughout France: to Bordeaux, Lyon, Nantes, and back to Bordeaux again. I wanted to share my pictures from Lyon first because there's been a bit of Bordeaux overload on this blog recently.

I went to Lyon by myself, which I was a little nervous about beforehand. I did often go alone to Nkhata Bay in Malawi, but it's surprisingly easy to travel as an expat in a third-world country. You make friends quickly because, especially in Africa, one can almost always immediately tell who is and isn't from there. And foreigners band together, like anywhere else. But in a European city like Lyon, no one necessarily knows I'm not from there until I open my mouth, or pull out a map. And even then, France is not known for having the friendliest culture.

But I went because I wanted to see the city, and most of my close friends were home to England and Celeste had school, so I found a cheap flight and I treated myself to a nice hotel room for two nights. And it turned out to have been one of the best things I've done out here. I sat at cafés and wrote, I wandered through markets, I got lost and didn't care, I drank wine at lunchtime, I took long afternoon naps. It was very Eat, Pray, Love-esque of me. Mostly, it felt amazing to travel and not to be on anyone's schedule but my own.

Lyon is a beautiful city, historic and lively and young. Everywhere I turned there was another gorgeous fountain or statue in another picturesque square.

The basilica at the top of the city, Notre Dame de la Fourvière, was unbelievable. It really was the most beautiful and awesome (in the biblical sense) church that I have ever seen. I was compelled to sit in a front pew and pray for a very long time (which, although I am a spiritual person, is something I don't do often). Afterwards, instead of taking the tram back into old town, I walked down the long hill, down the hundreds of cobblestone steps and through the out-of-bloom rose gardens. I only saw a few other people; I could only imagine what the scene would be like three months later. (Even the basilica gift shop was closed until April.) It was an incredibly peaceful couple of days.

1 This is February?

Monday, February 7, 2011

The past two days have been 55 and sunny. In light of the weather, we hopped on the train and spent Saturday night in Bordeaux; Enrique, my friend from Malawi who's now embarking on a European adventure, spent a few relaxing days in Bergerac and then came with us to Bordeaux before heading south to Toulouse and, eventually, Spain. On Sunday, we stumbled upon a huge flea market in centre ville, which apparently happens every week. I've already planned to be there next Sunday with Celeste; it was literally heaven on earth for me.