My host dad's name is Pierre and he owns a wine shop. I am definitely in France. 

I've been in Europe since the 20th of August. I left a couple weeks early to go on my own mini backpacking trip with a friend before I had to report in Aix for school. So, in about two and a half weeks, I saw Madrid, Barcelona, Girona, Montpellier, Lyon, and Aix-en-Provence. 

How do I sum that up? Let me start by saying that even though I'm from Chicago (ok, for family and friends who see this - not the city proper. I know.) major cities tend to bore me after just a few days. I much prefer smaller cities or towns. I find them more enjoyable, more culturally rich. Big, international cities are awe-inspiring for the first time, but then they lose their "je ne sais quoi" and start to feel like other big cities you've been to. But the smaller towns have a more distinguished personality; they hold on to the traditions of their culture a little bit tighter than the major cities do.

That's not to say I didn't have a good time in Madrid and Barcelona. I did. I have never taken Spanish, nor studied Spanish culture, so seeing a glimpse into that world was an amazing experience. Our first train into Spain, headed to the Barcelona train station, there was a boy about thirteen years old who drew a picture of me and wrote his email address on it, and gave it to me just before getting off -- I felt bad because I don't speak Spanish and was hardly able to spit out "gracias!" before he hopped off! It was also my first time staying in hostels, which was much more fun than I expected it to be. I got to see [most of] the iconic tourist attractions, as well as stroll down streets, getting turned around and a little lost, just wondering the city at my own pace -- taking in the differences from downtown Chicago, and making note of how similar everything still felt. There was plenty to see and do, and there was always the opportunity to meet someone new to do something with. (Not to mention the sangria alone is worth a trip to Spain). I was mistaken for a Swedish person in Barcelona by a couple of native Swedes..at least until I opened my mouth. But that's one of the draws to a big city -- you'll get to see and experience more than just the culture of the country it's in. 

However, Montpellier and Aix have been my favorites so far. You can find any French cliche at any given hour if you just walk around the block. An old man wearing a beret, shuffling out of a boulangerie, two baguettes tucked under his arm. Or a couple of French women (obviously with a better sense of fashion than me) strutting down cobblestone paths wearing heels, striped shirts, accented with scarves and hair that never gets blown in their faces. And let me clarify for you that the French eat A LOT of bread. And chocolate. I love both of those things, I eat a lot of those things at home. But the over-exaggeration of the amount of chocolate and bread consumed in France is not possible. Whatever and however you try to describe it, it really is that much. I'm baffled; but also so happy to stop at any of the four bakeries on my three block walk to school to pick up a croissant, or pain du chocolat, or un demi-baguette. And I have yet to enter a boulangerie or patisserie that didn't look like it was straight out of a storybook, I'll put up more pictures in my next post hopefully, but I'm constantly reminding myself that this is really how people live! They wake up and walk to the nearest boulangerie/patisserie and pick of a delicious pastry and then go and sit with their coffee at their favorite cafe while they read le journal! This is real-life for some people! I feel like I'm in Disneyworld and all of these amazing store-fronts, boutiques, cafes, and vieux batiments will give way to the entrance gate of a park; that I'll come to the end of it on some street and realize that this is all just make-believe. 

My first week of classes is done, I'm genuinely excited about the topics I'll be learning about in them. Which is a good thing because if I wasn't, I don't even want to think about how that would be reflected in my grades. I'm pretty excited to see how the semester goes! Based on this week, I think it'll be a good one. 



Jeri Wiegel (Mama)
09/14/2012 11:25am


09/17/2012 1:51pm

more more more! :)


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