"C'est combien?"
"Fifteen. Quince." Unsure if she got the English word right, the lady pulls out a calculator and types in 15 to show my friend.
"Thank you; merci."
Barcelona is such a cool blend of languages.  Conversations like this one, in three languages, are not uncommon to us. We're not sure if the person speaks French or English (most people speak at least one) so we try one, and if they look confused, try the other.  In France, most everybody speaks English.  In Barcelona, 90 minutes from the French border, we're finding that French is at least as useful as English in a country to which neither one is native.
We expected to be completely helpless here in terms of communication.  One of our friends speaks Spanish fluently, but if he weren't around we would have to revert to our pre-language grunt-and-point form of communication.  Thankfully, that expectation was not met; instead we got a linguistic experience even more interesting than the one we're getting in France.
                     -------------------
When I think of Barcelona, I think of colors, vibrancy and life.  Certain attractions have displayed the vibrancy that the city is known for, but the streets just look like any other city- not as awful as New York but nowhere near as pretty as Boston or London.
Our first night here, Barcelona was playing Real Madrid, their arch rival, in fútbol. The sense of unity was apparent during the day when almost every man, woman and child wore a Barcelona fútbol (soccer) jersey.  For dinner we went to a restaurant where the game was playing so that we could watch and be part of the excitement.  We ate tapas and tried a Catalonian dessert.  We cheered out loud and clapped with everyone else when they scored and won. 
PictureFruit at the Mercat Boqueria: the best part of Barcelona!
Earlier that day our tour guide pointed out a market where she said all the locals go.  The Mercat Boqueria was my favorite place in the city.  The fresh fruit was divine and the fruit juices, like the Dragonfruit juice I got on our first trip there, were amazing.  Tonight we got calzones and fruit juice for dinner and it was the best 4€ I spent in Barcelona.  I'm sure the meat, candied nuts and other sweets were delicious, but that's the stuff of another trip.

This morning we took the metro to Park Güell.  (At this point everybody should pause and be impressed that we managed the metro in a city we don't know.)  After having scheduled tours for the last two days, we were left to our own devices today.  Park Güell is a complex which was originally supposed to be an elite residential area but was never finished.  The designer was Antoni Gaudí, and his designs look like something out of Dr. Seuss.  There are not many right angles; instead the rooftops and balconies are curved to avoid them.  The colors are bright and the architecture is exactly the kind you expect to see in Spain.
Looking back on what I've written, it seems like we found a lot of life in a short period of time, but that's because what was there is easier to write about than what was missing.  The expectations that we had were not met for any of us.  The liveliness of the city was exaggerated and we were disappointed.  In the future it would be wise not to make the mistake of having a certain expectation and not being satisfied when it's not met.  But for this next trip, there's no way we're going to be disappointed, even if we just eat the whole trip.  We'll be up at 4 tomorrow morning to board a flight to Belgium, home of waffles, chocolate and fries.
 
 
All of a sudden, the weather changed.  On Thursday my summer clothes were comfortable, but on Friday my skirt sent me speed walking home to get out of le mistral, a freezing wind that blows for a few days at a time and then moves on.
It's about midterm time.  I'll be doing a lot of writing this week and studying next week, but at the end of all the essays and tests is Fall Break!  Our flights and hostels for Barcelona and Belgium are booked so all that stands between us and our vacation-within-a-vacation (I mean school?) are midterms.
Planning ahead to figure out how to get all my studying and writing done in a reasonable amount of time so that I don’t have to pull all-nighters (never gonna happen) has me looking at my calendar for the rest of the semester.  After break we have 6 weekends left.  I have school field trips during three, a trip to Paris during one (did I mention that I'm going to the Catching Fire premiere??  SO EXCITED!), and my housemate and I are planning a trip for the second-to-last weekend.  All of my weekends are booked except for the very last one.  It makes me feel like my semester is practically over, even though it’s not even halfway through.  That combined with the homesickness that I’m finally experiencing are making the melancholy everyone warned me about set in.
I definitely romanticized studying abroad, but I was never disappointed because it lived up to my inflated expectations.  A month in I was surprised that I hadn’t experienced any of the changing moods that the study abroad office at Ithaca warned me about; I was still on top of the world.  A week ago, my writing teacher said that this was about the time when students really started to get homesick, and gave us an assignment so that we could write about it.  Another assignment where we had to write about a time when we felt uncomfortable, displaced, or homesick.  I’m super comfortable, I fit right in and I’ve never wished to be anywhere else-- I wished myself here for so long it would be a waste.  Now I know what she was talking about.  Everything that was exciting about Aix when I got here is still new and fun, but it would be perfect if I could bring all my friends and family here.
The weather changed and so did my mood.  Taking one step back, though, reminds me that I’m in France, where I’ve wanted to be for so long, with great friends, big plans and still so much to look forward to.  Here’s to hoping that this mood leaves with le mistral and that I get to eat lots of yummy cold-weather food in the meantime!

 
 
First off, I would like to wish Aix and I a happy one month anniversary!  On September 7 I landed in Marseille Provence Airport, and it’s been bliss ever since.
How did I celebrate?  With a jam-packed Saturday.  Before I even left the house I had already had enough excitement for the rest of the day, but I had a full day planned.  Sara and I, being the only ones left in Aix, spent the day together.  Here are some of the highlights.
I woke up several times between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. (when I decided I was losing the battle for sleep and got out of bed) in a panic, afraid that I had overslept and missed 10:00.  At 9:55, I was parked in front of my computer, refreshing the FNAC ticket page every 15 seconds.  The tickets I was waiting to buy sold out in 1 minute, but my dedication scored Sara and me 2 tickets to the Paris premiere of Catching Fire in November!!  Yes, I’m sure the movie will be great, but we’re really hoping to bank some face time with Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth.
PictureWe also had some delicious pastries after dinner!
We met at 1:00 for lunch and, after discussing where to go, inevitably ended up at Crêpes à GoGo, everybody’s favorite crêperie.  To get there, you go down the stairs that lead to the subway and follow the smell of fresh crêpes.  Crêpes à GoGo is a little stand in the wall that you reach before actually getting to the subway.  There was, as there always is around 1:00, a line, but we waited to get our crêpes, mine sucrée (sweet) and hers salée (savory).  I got crème de marron (cream of chestnuts), almonds and chantilly.  I wasn’t sure what chantilly was, but it turns out to be whipped cream so that was fantastic.

We ate our lunch in the place behind the tourism office.  When we were done, we entered the tourism office to see a photo exhibit called “C... comme Aix.”  The photos in the exhibit were taken of events and buildings around Aix.  We liked them so much we even discussed their deeper meaning- outside of class?  Somebody give that guy a medal.
At night we went to the final concert of the Festival de la Chanson Française, a week-long annual concert series that brings smaller artists to Aix to perform.  The show began with Elo Trio, a last-minute addition that turned out to be really great.  The lead singer had an amazing voice, and I could even understand a lot of the lyrics.  The main act, Axel Bauer, seemed to have a following, if the odd mosh pit of middle aged adults singing and dancing along to his songs was any indication.  We were getting into his music too, despite having never heard it before.  We took the shuttle home at 11:00, and parted ways 10 hours after we met.
Overall, it was a great day, but here’s the bad news.  I walked around Aix for 7 hours and I didn’t get lost.  Confused a few times, but never lost.  So maybe not getting lost last weekend wasn’t an indication of my magical capacity.  As one of my teachers informed us on Wednesday, it’s impossible to get lost in Aix.  I haven’t given up hope though.  One day those of us whose letters were lost in the mail will be welcomed home to Hogwarts, as I was welcomed to Aix one month ago.