Last Thursday, the school, divided into two groups, left either to Strasbourg or to Brussels on a field study. This means a learning experience, not vacation. But I preferred to see it as the latter :-) I was part of the Strasbourg group. We took a train from Gare de l’Est (East Station), and I had an epiphany of why it was called that. Strasbourg is to the east. Gare du Nord (North Station) made sense to me, too. Gare de Lyon, not so sure, unless it used to be used heavily to travel to Lyon. That’s the station Audrey, Sreya, and I took to get to Nice. Anyway, the ride was about 2.5 hours long. Not so bad.
We ate lunch on the train; I had bought mine the day before at the new kosher beggel (that’s right) shop by my apartment. It’s family owned – the son was there at the beginning, and made my beggel. Then, his father came to take him home (closing time is early – 4pm). We talked about his son’s plans to go into medicine, for which everyone out of high school has to take an extremely difficult test to get in. Not at all like our 4 years of prep work and then the MCAT. He didn’t make it the first time, so now he’s working and studying, hoping to retake the exam. His father is from Algeria; we talked about that, and the Arab situation, and the U.S. (I was asked if New York is far from Chicago – they have only been in L.A.)
Back to Strasbourg…we got in around 1:30pm. It was sunny and cold. Colder than Paris. After 10 minutes allowance at the hotel, we took a bus to the European Council. I’m still not sure what it does haha! But we got to see where the council members and the translators sit. Then, an Italian man who is in charge of the media department spoke to us for a while. The most interesting part was when he told us about himself.
Then, we went to the cathedral, where we were given an hour to amble around. By this time, it was so cold that everyone immediately ran to the nearest café and grudgingly came out afterwards. I was absolutely in love with the architecture of this Alsatian city. Alsance, now a region of France, used to be German. Both languages are spoken in Strasbourg, and the architecture is definitely German. My friend Caroline put it this way: We get to see the beauty of Germany without having to hear the language! And she’s right; we didn’t hear much German in the streets, although we knew that many people do indeed speak it.
Street of the Jews!
Dinner was at a beautiful restaurant in La Petite France, an area in south Strasbourg. It was right on the river, which we could see out our window on the lower level of the restaurant. We all ordered wine, which IES allowed us to do. For my table (Sam, Jenny, Caroline), I ordered my now-favorite wine – white wine with cassis (blackberry). Then, we were served traditional Alsatian “pizza,” called a “tarte flambée.” It just kept coming and coming…Caroline and I, being the vegetarians in the group (though it pains me to call myself thus ;-) ) had a veggie tarte flambée. Everyone else had pork with a variety of veggies. It doesn’t make me happy to think that our meals were cooked using the same utensils…but I haven’t yet gotten to the point where I’m willing to eat beggels for two days straight for every meal. While everyone had about 4 pizzas, Caroline and I had two. Then, the waitress brought out a fish/potato dish for both of us. Caroline kind of looked at it and said…but I’m vegetarian…The waitress was so confused. She said in French…ah, so then you are vegan! Apparently, in France, vegetarians eat fish. Weird. So they replaced the fish with veggies.
Jenny and Sam
Again, it was so cold outside that even though we had free time after dinner, everyone went back to the hotel. Caroline and I, rooming together, switched on the t.v., hoping to find something interesting. Apparently, there are a lot of German comedy shows. Ironic. ;-)
The next day, after a measely breakfast in the hotel (Etap hotel chain), we went to visit the European Parliament. This was more interesting than the European Council! There was going to be a session soon, so the staff was preparing the technology and checking the lighting in the room where everyone sits. We were told that every person can speak in his/her own language during the sessions, and that there is a translator for almost every language. The hardest one to deal with is Malta, apparently. Sometimes, there needs to be a double translation. Example: Maltan translator uses Italian and the Italian translator puts it into French for everyone else to understand. Unlike at the European Council, where knowledge of one of the three official languages is required (French, English, German), this is not true at the Parliament.
Lunch was at another nice restaurant, just across from the cathedral. We could have wine again, but white with cassis was not allowed this time, so we settled on plain white. I had fish and pasta, Caroline had veggies (They didn’t give her much at all! I shared my loads of pasta with her), and everyone else had something with pork in it. Gosh, French people really like their pigs!
Everyone had free time afterwards, except for me. Peggy was nice enough to book me a separate train ticket back to Paris so that I could get back in time for Shabbat. So I said my goodbyes to the lovely Strasbourg, which I hope to be able to see again in my life. I made it to Danielle’s just in time to light candles. Thank G-d.
Yesterday, in real-time, I sat through a 2.5 hour delegates meeting at IES (6pm-8:30pm). Each of us represented a class (or several). It was quite interesting to hear the positive and negative aspects of every class that IES offers, though by the end, it was quite tiring!! Didn’t get to go out for Deb’s birthday, but I’m hoping to go out for Emi’s (belated) tonight.
I’m invited to Brunoy to spend Shabbat with the Gourevitches again! I’m so excited! It will be like being back in W. Rogers Park!
Some Italian vocab I learned in Milan:
Più – more.
Sinistra – left
Buena sera – good evening
Giapponese – Japonese
Fromaggio – cheese
Per – for/to
Proxima fermata – next stop (fermata in music terms means to hold a note!)
Biglietti – tickets
Cinco (pronounced Chinco) – five
Cincuente (pronounced Ch) – 50
Uscita – exit
Via – street
Di – of
(And, of course, I at least came in with the knowledge of Bongiorno – hello, Arrivederci/Ciao – goodbye, Grazie – thank you, and Prego – please)