Chez Soi

Adventures of a Year Abroad

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Strasbourg Day 1

Hey! We went to Strasbourg!

When we first got off of the train, there was like two minutes before we entered the taxi. In those two minutes, we learned one big thing about Strasbourg during the winter; It. Is. Cold.

After the taxi drive (in which the driver changed the taxi rate to the highest possible [I guess he thought we couldn’t read that sticker that says “Tarif D: tarif de la nuit, quand pas à coté de la gare.”]) we stepped out on the street of our hotel! Or so we thought… we learned later that Dad had accidentally booked an apartment. Unfortunately for mom, the fashion shop was closed. But anyways, standing outside the gate, we waited until someone came up and let us in. After slipping through the gate, we saw three doors. All of us hauled our bags to our door, 24b, and stayed in front of it for a while after realizing that there was no lobby, resulting in a longer wait for one of the owners to get the door open.

About an hour later, we went on a boat ride, which was pretty cool. You could listen to the tour guide with provided headphones too! They had ten languages, and six children counterparts. I listened to the normal English one for about twenty seconds but it was really boring, so I switched to the child’s version.  It was meant for little kids though, so it was a little weird to listen to a pirate for an hour.

Then we went to dinner with some friends. Strangely, we got there one hour early. Oops. When they came we gave some presents and ate too much. Yep. And I accidentally got paté instead of pâtes. So, I made some little mistakes. Not bad though. I’ve done worse in linguistics.

Me and my sister, Sara, both shared one apartment floor, while my parents shared another. Me and Sara found a game-show on TF2, called “Que le meilleur gagne” (That the best wins) and used it to “study French”. Well, we did learn that “zlataner” means to dominate. So, not at all time wasted.


That’s all for Day 1. Join me later when I recount the rest!

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The Crosses of Normandy

When we imagined living in France, we thought we’d jet away on weekends to little get-aways to learn the area, culture, history. It’s not as easy as it sounds, given that Curt is traveling well over 50% of the time (and me just wrapping the Fall Speaking season), we are barely holding it together to be here, in Paris. But, after four months, we did our first trip and chose to go to Normandy! The thing they don’t tell you is Normandy is one big region hard to plan a trip without knowing what city to aim for. More on that in a minute.

We left from Gare St. Lazare. We took the metro (with our bags, coats, umbrellas in tow!) to get there.


Going up and down stairs with bags is a good reason to always pack light. We only had two roller bags and one duffel bag. Turns out Duffel bags are hardest to deal with cause you do 2-3 miles on foot to get places when using things like the train. (Post-trip, we now own a third roller bag!)

At the train station, Curt noticed that the train right next to ours was going to a city called Caen. And we were going to La Havre. The “ruh roh” sound had to have been playing in his head but he didn’t say anything to us.


I passed the time researching some stuff for Book III plus also reviewing some other’s proposals. Kiddo loves train time, and he bums my headphones when he forgets his. When we get to La Havre, it becomes clear that we’re a little discombobulated. Curt has forgotten his California Drivers License (why carry it unnecessarily in your wallet?) and we can’t rent the car we planned on. Plus, we’re now well over a hundred miles from our hotel because we went to the “wrong” city from where we could have gone.

I argue to turn around, and come back another day.

Curt insists on pushing thru.

Kiddo is more in my camp.

But Curt rarely asks us for things, so we decide the answer is to take a public bus to the other city we could have taken the train to (Caen). So far, two train rides, one bus ride. And we’re still not there. But we realize we’re at the mouth of the Siene and we should find it … (kiddo, not so happy, pictured.)


Lunch helps attitude. It’s because the Restaurant Le Lyonnais in la Havre (7, rue de Bretagne) is very good with great service. We try some apple cider thing that’s the local specialty. Curt doesn’t mind it, Drew won’t try it and I pass on it after one sip.


By the time we get to Caen, we still need to take a cab (Curt wants to take another public bus). I know, I know, you’re thinking… you live SUCH a glamorous, global life. But we finally arrive at the hotel at dusk.

Now, we’re talking.

IMG_1712( great b & b, the Clos de Bellefontaine, rue Bellefontaine, in Bayeaux) Champagne served when you arrive. Any time of day.

One of our favorite things to do is just walking around a city to orient. Found century-old walls.


And some great street art.


And the magic of the Bayeux Cathedral. Every major city in France has a “notre dame”. This one in Bayeux, is one of the largest and oldest — nearly as big as the one in Paris and it survived WWII in tact (which is why you don’t know of a lot of other Notre Dame’s).


So first day didn’t start off so solid but we ended up glad to have come.

The next day, we got to see the Notre Dame Cathedral in full day light.



Also, saw the incredible tapestry that captures the Norman Invasion in the form of a storybook cloth. It’s super long and detailed and you wouldn’t think could be that interesting but it’s basically the first generation comic book with a gazillion hours of hand work. Kiddo liked it so much he wanted to see it again. I super wanted to get it as a puzzle but alas, they are missing out on the commercial application. (This, by the way, is VERY French.)


Then onto the Bayeux Memorial for the British Soldiers of WWII.




[ The solemnity and magnitude of the place really got to us. The acts of selflessness and community were conversations throughout these few days. ]


Then, and because we didn’t have a car, we ended up going to Normandy Beaches “Places du Debarquement” with a guide. Bayeux turns out to be an easy 20 minute ride to the first set of beaches and the perfect spot from which to do this trip. Interestingly enough, we didn’t know that before we planned it. So if it helps you, man, we write it here. Go to Bayeux. (not by way of Lahavre etc). Take the direct train which is once a day from Paris to Bayeux.



Omaha Beach.


The crosses of Normandy.



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The Good And Bads of Paris

The Good And Bads of Paris:

(I will write every other question in french.)

Since we all like to be optimistic, I’ll start with the goods:

One: The Boulangeries. When you go to America, you can get bread, of course. But it’s not the same as here. There, you grab some ol’ bread that all look the same: A square with a hat on. But then here comes the french bread (cue presidential music)… Grab butter from Monoprix, and put it on bread. You have a meal. And also, pain au chocolat. Bammie – Wham!

Deux: Poulet Roti. Vraiment, Il n’existe pas une chance pour le poulet américain. Sérieusement. C’est terrible contre le poulet français. (Google Translate)

Three: Languages! I love learning them cause I find them kinda cool. And then it gives you an “Understanding Power” With peeps who speak a language that you speak too.

Bads…. Dun Dun Dunnnnn!

Une: Beaucoup de stress…. Les langues sont une arme à double tranchant. (Google Translate Again)

Two: The urine smell in the city. I don’t have to go farther except to say i’m not joking.

Trois: Les Amis. Je n’ai pas beaucoup à l’école. Et quand c’est tout en français, c’est un petit peu difficile. (Google Translate. Last Time, I Promise)

So that was my Pros and Cons list on Paris. See ya on my next post!


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We just had a serious oooppppsss moment in the metro station. Walking in to “ligne une” Me and my mom heard the metro speeding to a stop. So she passed through the entry no problem, using what was thought to be her navigo and running down the stairs. I looked in my pockets, didn’t see it and yelled for my mom to come back. Mais malheureusement, She was already gone!


I calmed down and read a book that I had since I had brought it to the café, our last stop. Luckily, she realized once she got on and she changed directions to get back. When she had returned we realized that I had given my pass to Her. It was okay after that, but when I tried to fall asleep that night, it didn’t work out. So, 1/3 of the way done, and we still have Quite a lot of adjusting to do. Allons-y!

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Parc Monceau

Today we went to the Parc Monceau.


I thought i would research it because there was many cool things to see there, and I was wondering about the park. Phillippe d’Orléans, Duke of Chartres founded the park back in 1778, after purchasing much land in 1769. He hired the artist Louis Carrogis Carmontelle to design the layout of the park. Then he went to a German landscaper named Etickhausen, so that he could get some more help in making. The goal was to amaze and surprise the visitors who visited. They made it slightly in an “English” style, using more walkways than an average french park would need. Going along with the different culture flow, in the park, there are many small attractions that symbolize different countries. For example, an Egyptian pyramid,  a Chinese fort, a Dutch windmill, and Corinthian pillars. And that’s my essay. 😀

Wait! I forgot the most important thing of all! They have free WiFi! ;D


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We go to Paris in just a few short weeks, and I’m planning on dancing in ALL these spots: the Louvre Museum, the spot under the overground metro (near the 15th), the carousel near the Hotel Deville, the Siene, Luxembourg gardens, and so on.

Really. I swear I will.

Cause the darn move will be OVER.

Maybe I’ll have kiddo do it with me and we’ll post that video.

How to Complain Like a Parisian

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How to Complain Like a Parisian

Complaining like a Parisian is one way to fit it.

Say, “C’est chiant, ça!” — which basically means “that sucks,” but is a great all-purpose bitch. Draw it out so it sounds almost Chinese — say shyannnn, sa! Do the complaining, while shaking the head and exhaling cigarette smoke.

Found this little excerpt in a NY magazine that Raina Kumra sent me, entitled “Do you really need to learn French to live in Paris”.