Un blog Travellerspoint

Vacances Part IV

Lago di Como / Lake Como, Italy

sunny 3 °C

Wednesday, February 22 – after a nice Italian breakfast provided by our hotel (mmm Italian croissants with chocolate inside are the best! They are crunchy, unlike their flaky French counterparts),

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we took a train from a different train station in Milan to Como, an hour’s ride away. We saw Como’s version of the Duomo, a cathedral that is also very beautiful. Then, we ambled around a bit before catching the ferry.

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We took the ferry to Bellagio, the most famous stop on Lake Como. What a beautiful ferry ride! Now, I’ve had both a beautiful bus ride and a beautiful ferry ride in my life. I could be on the boat all day if it weren’t so cold. The lake is shaped like two fingers stemming from one northern point (Como is at the south end of one finger). Snow capped mountains (Italian Alps – first time in my life!), sparkling water (thank G-d for a sunny day), quaint houses lining the lake fronts. Serenity. And cold. But the beauty overshadowed the discomfort!

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There was also a cute Russian kid about 6 years old on the ferry with his parents. Nikita is quite something – first he wanted to get off the boat while it was still in the middle of the lake, then he was hungry, then something else. The first thing we did when we got off was eat lunch. 5 euro for a salad that was a few tomato pieces and green leaves. Yum. Then, we proceeded to walk around the quaint town.

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But…everything was closed!! These Italians are no better than their French counterparts; how do they make a living?! I decided that because it’s offseason, and there being a total of about 10 tourists in the village, I could understand why the shopkeepers wanted to stay in bed. Maybe they close from November to March or something. We were lucky to find a couple open shops. One was a shop selling little trinkets and kitchen utensils hand carved out of wood. This is where I bought my Lake Como keychain.

We tried to find the hotel Bellagio, assuming that the one in Vegas was inspired by the one in the town. Due to construction, we couldn’t see it very well, but when we found it, it was an ordinary hotel, and we could only see it backwards because of the construction. So the joke is that “We found the Bellagio in a backwards way.” So maybe the Vegas Bellagio was inspired by Lago di Como instead of a certain hotel. Should’ve done the research >-<

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To top off the visit, Sreya and Audrey had a raspberry tortini while I had a cannoli, waiting for the ferry. Apparently, George Clooney’s summer home (or, one of) is somewhere on Lago di Como. I couldn’t help but look into every car that passed us on Bellagio to see if he was in one of them!

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Getting back to Milan, we were tired and hungry, but it wasn’t dinner time yet. We munched on Monoprix’s Madeleines and drank Milanese pear juice. Dinner was penne with salmon and cream with the special Milanese Grand Mariner cake, which ended up being doused with whisky, pas prevu (unforeseen). Audrey and I bravely ate our cake while Sreya ate her sorbet. We were so drunk afterwards….just kidding!

In real life, yesterday (Sunday) was homework day for me. Daniela called me and invited me to come to dinner with her and her boyfriend, Matt, who is visiting for the week. They were in the St. Michel area. I tried to think of an excuse to go out to dinner (since I didn't finish all of my homework), and then, eureka! For French class, we have a semester-long project to work on. My theme is a review of a quartier around a metro stop. St. Michel is a great metro stop to study. Tuesday, we have an interview due for our project. I decided, why not interview the waiter of the restaurant? So I went, and we ended up going to Safran, an Indian/Bangladeshi restaurant, where I interviewed the Bangladeshi waiter who tried to practice his English with me (I don't give in anymore - I persisted in French).

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Tomorrow, I will tell you about my last day in Milan. And then, the next entry will be about my school trip to Strasbourg!

A bientot!

Posté par parischica 04:57 Archivé dans Italie Commentaires (0)

Vacances Part III

Milan

overcast 4 °C

The next day, Tuesday, February 22 we got up at 6am to catch a train at the Gare SNCF to Ventimiglio, the transfer point between France and Italy. We managed to catch an earlier train than our ticket one, but we barely made it on and there were no seats. Consensus: didn’t pay off. But, we arrived early at Ventimiglio and instead of having 16 minutes to switch to the Milan train, we had 45. The Milan train had separate, 6-person compartments that reminded us of the Hogwarts Express in Harry Potter, complete with sliding doors.

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At first, we had the compartment all to ourselves. But then, we were joined by two men, who were replaced by another man and a singing Italian woman in her 60s. She sang all the way to Milan. Milan greeted us in a gray, cold manner, though it cleared up later in the afternoon. Sreya, Audrey, and I dub our entrance to Milan as “We came cold, hungry, and scared.” True, true words, especially for me, who had never been in Italy before. I couldn’t understand the Italian. I felt SO lost. Yes, my Spanish was helpful for deciphering some words, but even when I asked someone a question in Spanish, I would get an unintelligible Italian answer…I was spoiled by understanding everything in France. We told ourselves to give Milan some time, and that we would warm up to the city. This is what happened.

From our hotel near the Stacione Centrale (Central Station – where the train dropped us off), we went to see the Duomo, a magnificent cathedral that greeted us as we exited the metro station “Duomo,” kindly announced to us on the train as “Fermata Duomo.” So, fermata means “stop” in Italian! That’s cool, considering that a musical fermata means stop and hold.

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After the Duomo, we went to the neighboring famous shopping mall. We decided to be bold and entered into Gucci, Vuitton, and other expensive shops.

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We got rose flavored ice cream from a gelato shop, and I bought spicy chocolate for my family. Then, we went to the old castle, walking through it from one side to the other.

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There was a theme park on the other side; I really wanted to participate, but my friends were acting too “old” for it haha. We went back to the hotel, went to the internet café, and ordered pizza nearby to take back to our room. Italian pizza…mmm…mmm…good! Turned in for an early night. Excursion to Lago de Como (Lake Como) for tomorrow's blog!

In real life, Shabbat at Danielle's was quiet this time, too. Brigette did join us and made for good company; though she was really tired because she was at a party yesterday for her friend's brother, celebrating the second year of the publishing of his magazine. I decided to take a walk. The sun was shining, though it was chilly. I walked to Denfert Rochreau with Danielle; she headed home because she doesn't like leaving Richard by himself too long, while I continued forward. I took Ave. Raspail, turning into Ave. St. Germain des Pres, and made it all the way to the Seine. I walked along the Seine west to the Tour Eiffel. Then, I took Ave. Suffren, turning into Ave. Pasteur, into Chateau, into Maine, and back home. Total time: 4 hours! Was I tired...but I walked off all of my Strasbourg delicacies and the Shabbat meals. I even saw Saidie and her segway tour! It's funny, but I thought I might see her, since I was on Ave. Suffren and that is where her tour company is located. I remembered from that bike tour, which seems like forever ago, though it was two months ago. She and I need to catch up!

Then, at night, Emi, Caroline, Sam Bowen (Emi's good friend), and I went to the cinema at Alesia (thank goodness, close for me) to see Les Femmes du Sixieme Etage. It's a cute French movie about a patron who falls in love with his Spanish housekeeper. Taking place in 1962, when a lot of housekeepers were coming from Spain, the movie shows their life as well as the life of a rich man (works at the Bourse - stock market) and his boring wife. Though this patron is not like the others - he takes time to get to know the Spanish ladies living in the chambres de bonne - servants quarters - on the 6th floor. He pays to have their toilet fixed, for a phone call to Spain so that one of them could find out if her sister gave birth to a healthy baby, and even found lodging for another who was let go.

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Love French cinema! Can't wait for the next movie.

A bientot!

Posté par parischica 09:44 Archivé dans Italie Commentaires (0)

Vacances Part II

Monaco

sunny 11 °C

Monday, February 21, my travel companions and I took a day trip to Monaco, which is about 45 minutes from Nice by bus. What a breathtaking bus ride. I could've done it all day and all week. The road wound by the Mediterranean; I felt like I was in paradise. Seeing the cliffs, the palm trees, the bright sunny rays over the water, the houses turning smaller, others coming into view, boats out in the water...I should have videotaped the ride.

We didn't need any papers to get into Monaco. Off the bus, a few minutes away, there is was...the famous Monte Carlo casino, right in front of us. Just to go in you have to pay 10 Euro. We opted out. But the door was open a crack...

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Then we walked around the gardens, the trottoirs (sidewalks), the boardwalk...

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Saw the church where Princess Grace Kelly got married

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And walked around some more

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Found a serene Japense Garden - this is probably useful for some of the folk coming out of the casino ;-)

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Jealous of whoever owns this yacht.

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Mmm...Ferari?!

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Climed up to the royal castle. Beautiful view of Monaco.

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Saw a hilarious bird

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We stayed until 4pm. I had one more piece of unfinished business. I had to get my hands on a Monaco euro for my coin collection. I went into LCL, a French bank. They didn't have any, so they directed me to a place whose name I could not for the life of me pronounce. A "felatelique." I thought they said "felacterie," and when I asked a cafe waiter for that, I could've sworn he smirked slightly before giving me directions. Found it finally, after wandering around. Paid 8 euro for the one Monacan euro.

Dinner was at a really nice Nicoise restaurant. The waiter brought us free wine in champaign glasses. Fantastic wine, too, and I'm hard to please when it comes to wine! He said it was white wine with cassis (blackberry). I have to find this at the store! I had 4 fromage gnocci and then we all had sorbet.

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I'd call that a successful day.

Posté par parischica 11:42 Archivé dans Monaco Commentaires (0)

Vacances Part I

Nice, France

sunny 12 °C

My dear friends,

I am back in Paris after a lovely vacation! I visited Nice and Milan, with day trips to Monaco and Lago di Como (Lake Como) in between! I am tired, but happy. It's good to be back in Paris. Are you ready for my vacation antics? Here we go!

Woke up at 5am on Friday the 18th to catch the TGV train to Nice from Gare de Lyon at 7:45am. The train ride was 5 hours long. Sreya and Audrey, my travel companions, were out. I was wide awake, though, having gone to bed at 8:30pm the night before. I read through some reading assignments for my new French Politics and Society class in order to catch up. Our train passed by Avignon (we sang "Sur le Pont d'Avignon..." - little French song kids sing) and Marseilles (which looked a bit poor, but maybe that's just where the train came through). We started to see our first palm trees! Very exciting. And flowers and greenery and southern tiled roofs and green hills! Next stops, Toulon, Frejius, St. Raphael, and Cannes! When the conductor was announcing St. Raphael, he turned on his mike a second beforehand and all of us passengers heard "oh! c'est jolie!" (it's beautiful!). Love it.

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Nice, France. Sunny-warmer-than-Paris-by-the-blue-Mediterranean-water Nice! We checked into our hotel, got something to eat (vegetarean the whooole way for me), and I bid farewell to my friends and started walking along the Promenade des Anglais (boardwalk) to reach the Nice Chabad in time for Shabbat.

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It took me an hour, but what a beautiful hour it was! I saw the beautiful, famous Hotel Negresco. I also started seeing preparations for the weekend's famous Carnivale, held every year. A nice surprise for us, though tickets are expensive and have to be purchased in advance.

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The people at Chabad were very hospitable! I sat through Mincha services (which I don't usually do because it's mostly for men at the shul) and met a new friend - Debbie - who is from California and studying abroad in Florence, Italy. Like me, she was also on vacation, but with a big group from school. Debbie and I were invited to dinner at Shoshana's family. G-d help me, but I can't for the life of me remember Shoshana's Sephardi last name. She and her husband have 5 kids - 4 boys and 1 girl, Hadassah. The eldest mec (guy) is turning 19 in a few days. Poor kid was trying to quit smoking, so he was a bit moody. Bought himself an electric cigarette just a few days ago.

Shoshanah is from Tunisia and her husband is from Algeria. Thus, there was no hope for a normal Ashkenazi dinner. It was Danielle's food, almost to a tee! Egg and tuna salads, potato salads, couscous, meat, and clementines for dessert. I have to go back to the Gourevitchs soon, or else I'll die! ;-)

The Rwandan hotel receptionist didn't think anything of it when I kindly asked him to help me get into my room (electronic key card) while I took the stairs. I found out later from him that he's doing his PhD and writing a thesis on the Rwandan genocide, apparently with the help of a book on the Shoah (Holocaust, as it is called elsewhere in the world) for comparisons or something.

The next day, I made the hour treck back to Chabad, where I got to meet two Russian Jewish ladies - Mrs. Pinson (eldest) and Ludmilla. Mrs. Pinson is the famous lady who basically started the Pinson family into the well-known shlichut (spelling?) that they are now. This word means Chabad messengers who go all over the world. She is from Russia but left right after WWII as a young girl, going somewhere south first, like Uzbekistan or Tajikistan, then from there to Poland, then as a shlichut to Tunisia, and now she's in Nice! Thus, her Russian is actually rusty!

Her son is one of the rabbis of the Nice Chabad, and she also has a son who is the next-door-neighbor of the Gourevitchs in Brunoy, part of whose family I met when I went down there for Shabbat. Ludmilla, Mrs. Pinson's friend, was super nice, too. They were happy to speak Russian! They're both lovely people, and Ludmilla said she would try to help me find Shabbat arrangements for this upcoming weekend when I will be going to Strasbourg with a school group. Ludmilla and her husband lived there for 12 years, so they know people, although they are traditional and not orthodox. The trip is actually Thursday-Friday, but the IES staff told me I would probably not make it back home by sundown. Hey, if I could find a place to stay for the weekend for free, why not see more of Strasbourg by foot? :-)

Had lunch by Shoshana's, then walked back. Saw a lot of Carnivale stuff going on, and some of the Promenade was blocked. There were women carrying lots of pretty flowers. That night, Sreya, Audrey, and I had yummy Italian food. On Sunday, we went to a confectionary in the morning. Florian - it specializes in carmelized fruits and flowers! Mmm their samples were good! I bought something for my parents and grandparents.

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Then, we went to the 360 degree castle hill that overlooks Nice. Gorgeous, despite the crummy weather. It was raining.

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The Chabad has its own pizza restaurant, so we all went to have a yummy kosher lunch. After, we walked around, going to H&M, Mime, and McDonald's. Then, fatigued, we returned to the hotel and watched the French news and BBC. Dinner was Indian fast-food. Then, night photos on the boardwalk, and, finally, sleep.

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Tomorrow, I'll tell you about my day trip to Monaco!

Today (real time), Deb, Amir, his new friend Raphael, and I went to see the movie "Jewish Connection," which I found out has been renamed by the French from the American title "Holy Rollers," which is a lot funnier. It was a bit difficult for me to watch because of my instincts against anything that could remotely trigger anti-Semitism, but by the end, I liked the movie. It's based on a true story in 1998 about Chasidic drug dealers. Believe if or not. Because everyone thinks that Orthodox Jews are trustworthy, the drug "king" used them to hide ecstacy pills, getting them from Amsterdam to New York. Most of the Jews thought they were carrying medicine of some sort, and they were desperate for money because they were poor. The main character, when he finds out he's carrying drugs, gets caught up because his family is poor, too. But he ends up destroying his relationship with them.

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Time to catch up on a bit of homework left over from break. Going to Danielle's for better internet. Apparently Sarkozy is on t.v. talking about something. A bientot!

Posté par parischica 11:04 Archivé dans France Commentaires (0)

Vacances...Here I Come!

overcast 6 °C

Ahh...last day of school. I have a finance presentation today on Keyne's Beauty Contest concept. Quite interesting! The idea is an analogy to how investors act in the stock market. Instead of choosing the stocks they think will do well, based on mathematics, they choose the stocks that they think OTHERS think will do well. This drives prices up and sometimes causes market bubbles, which means that a stock is priced WAY higher than it's fair value (calculated mathematically).

The beauty contest has many exaples. The one Keynes talks about happened in his native city of London. Newspaper readers were supposed to choose the 6 prettiest faces out of 100, and the winner is the person who chooses the most faces that correspond to the average contestants' choices. Thus; instead of choosing the ones YOU like, you choose the ones that you think OTHERS like. It's all very strategic (I think my economist friend Yuri would be proud of me at this point!)

Hope the presentation goes well!

Celebrated Daniela's birthday really well yesterday!

Tonight, Diana and I are going to attept to watch a movie together while on Skype. (Audience: 'awww') Hope it works! The guy from SFR called me today and we checked my internet connection - it's slow, but it seems to be working, for now)

And tomorrow, I'm waking up at 5am in order to catch a train to Nice at Gare de Lyon with my girlfriends at 7:45. Can't wait! The weather in Nice is supposed to be nice this weekend, around 12 °C!! No winter jacket for me. Then, Milan on Tuesday, with Monaco and Lake Como in between.

I don't know if I'll be able to go to an internet cafe to update while in on vacation, so I apologize, dear readers, if there is a gap in my blog posts, but I promise to give a detailed account of my trip, as well as photos, upon my return 25 Fev.

Until next week!

Elina

Posté par parischica 05:09 Archivé dans France Commentaires (0)

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