Wednesday, January 26, 2011


hey, in case yall are wondering, my computer has been infected with a nasty virus. And no, this is not just a day thing. Hopefully I will be up and running again within a week. Fingers majorly crossed!!

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Time : 9:38 pm

Location : my bed/couch

Weather : the radiator in my room is broken. Temperature fluctuating between 18C and 21C.

In case anyone is wondering, the house reeked of burnt popcorn this morning. Marie-Anne must have left all the doors and windows open for an hour to air it out. I had no idea burnt French popcorn was so pungent.

I kind of felt like going for my weekly Saturday morning run, but my legs were so sore when I woke up. I must have been having a fitful dream or something during the night. I can not think of any other explanation. Having to deal with shin splints nearly all week when I run, I decided against it. I kind of wish I had given it a shot anyways. I know I will tomorrow.
frazer would like this

Instead of getting some crisp morning air, I spent a good chunk of time in my oddly warm room, decorating my walls some more. It seems to be an endless task. Today I cut up my Woodstock calendar from 2010 and taped it to the wall. I also added some of the pictures Lou and I cut out the other day but did not get a chance to tape yet.

A delightful scent was somehow overpowering the popcorn stench come lunch time. Following my nose I slid into the kitchen to check it out. Turns out I was right on time for lunch, however, I also made it for an unpleasant intro.

You know those electric knives that are pretty much like little saws for meat? They used to be really popular how long ago? Anyway, I guess Marie-Anne has one.

So I walk into the kitchen, and there, on the counter is a beautiful roast of sorts. Then Marie-Anne goes on to slice it (very skilfully too) with the electric meat saw. I have never seen anyone use one in real life before. The only memory I have of them is from the Rocky Horror Picture Show when Dr. Frank n Furter cuts up the meat for the random dinner scene (not that the rest of the scenes are less random at all), then we go on to find out just what kind of meat that was. The worst part, is that Marie-Anne likes her meat medium rare, so there were all kinds of juices flowing out of the roast. This gorgeous roast being so skilfully sliced by Marie-Anne and all I can see is Dr. Frank n Furter and sliced Eddy. I managed to eat a couple of slices (very delicious slices) for my lunch, but I don’t think I have ever been so turned off of a meal. The green beans went down without any problems.

Evelin and I met at the bus terminal to catch our bus a little after 3pm. Turns out we were on the wrong side of the street and the bust went right on by. First of all, what kind of bus terminals do busses not stop at? Secondly, what kind of route also works backwards? Silly French people..

Luckily we only had to wait 30 minutes instead of an hour for the next bus and we made it to Aix.

We spent the afternoon walking up and down the many criss-crossing streets of the down town area. Since we both have been up and down the main streets and more condensed area many times, we wandered around the less frequented areas. We found some really good sales, but nothing good enough to buy. Which I guess is ok.

For some reason I forgot to wear my mitts and I had freezing cold hands all day. It was rather unpleasant. Other than that, it was really fun. It was nice to have someone to hang out with on a Saturday for once. Turns out our birthdays are right next to each other too. The coincidences never cease.

Something else about the busses, back home, the bus stops at the terminal and the doors open so you can escape the weather conditions be it sub-zero temperatures, rain, snow, wind, or a heat wave, here, they bus drivers just hang out in the busses until they have to leave, then they open doors and gripe about how long everyone takes to get on the bus. You’d think they would learn. Silly French people…

We eventually made it back to Luynes and split off. Back home I defrosted myself a little and had some supper. Marie-Anne informed me that the radiator in my room is apparently broken. That would explain why it was definitely hotter than 18C in my room for the past week as well as why it felt like 17C when I returned today.

Also, the house still smells of burnt popcorn. Marie-Anne is not pleased. But hey, if you really want to avoid burning things in your microwave, you should just… not let me use the microwave? Ok, bad solution, but I can’t think of a better one.

Fingers crossed that I don’t freeze to death with the faulty radiator tonight!


its like a lightening strike to..

Entry for 21st January 2010
Time : 10:06 am

Location : my room

Weather : still haven’t looked outside…

Take note that this is yesterday’s entry. I fell asleep watching a movie and when I woke up it was way, way to early in the morning for me to write decently. Also, I’m going to pretend that it is last night so I can say “today” or “this morning” instead of “yesterday morning”. It just drags on too much.

Something marvellous happened last night. I was the last to know though, even if I was awake when it happenned.
 It snowed.
chillen with the "snow"

I was super excited when I first found out in the morning, but that quickly faded as I looked out the window and thought that it had all melted. I was expecting a fluffy white layer covering everything that gets wisped around in the wind. Later, when I went out to start the car, all I found a crunchy layer of icy snow on some parts of the ground, on rooftops and on some bushes. I was indeed disappointed. Apparently this was what everyone was so excited about yesterday. These people know nothing about snow.

what a crazy "snowfall"!!

I was feeling rather gung-ho by the fact that it had snowed and quickly suited up to go out for a run. Unfortunately the shin splints struck again, right in the middle of my run. I had to walk back they hurt so badly. I walked for three times as much time as I had ran.

i cant believe the vine was able to
hold up all that "snow"!
The day went on and I left for my class. I was supposed to take the bus with Evelin but she didn’t make it on time. It was actually for the better because I forgot to read the text we were given yesterday. It was about cell phones and how they are over used in public places and what is being done about it. As well on the flip side, it read how there is no longer a line between our family, friend and work lives, how the need to be able to create a plan and follow through with it has been lost along with the whole concept face to face communication and how such small amounts of personalized contact are now passable. I found it rather interesting. Of course it is all very true. You look at society today and it is just the way things are. We are in the communication era. Everything must be known as fast as possible, even if going through all your e-mails and replying to your text messages really is not as efficient as simply calling someone, or actually knowing to start off with how your company is doing instead of constantly needing updates. And we wonder why we are so stressed all the time.

more "snow"

After we discussed our text a bit and went over some vocabulary that we needed help with. I will quote Anne-Marie from my class: “Reading the words in the context, I can make it through the text. But I am not here to make it through the text, I want to fully comprehend.”. I could not agree with her more. So many questions go unasked because you get the idea of what they may mean, but you really can not fully comprehend unless you get an answer. We worked on subjunctive verbs. I don’t know why I have to relearn them every time, but I do. And you can not be bilingual (with French at least) if you have not mastered the subjunctive conjugation (because it is not a time).


Evelin and I thought we were lucky that we snagged the back corner of the bus, where there are not seats, but you can sit on the floor, because we got to sit instead of clinging for dear life to a pole in hopes that we would make it home in one piece. Yes, the ride home is absolutely ridiculous. People getting thrown every direction. Our driver needs to take a “less aggressive driving” course. Then we realized that sitting on the floor only subjects us to having our tail bones mashed to pieces with every bump we go over. The lesser of two evils? I still do not know…

frozen dew

I finally had my movie night. Marie-Anne and Pierre went to some jazz show and Lou was at her dad’s. I ordered some sushi in and was super excited to get it. The whole two hours it took to get here I was super excited. Sadly, miso soup is not my fave, BUT I had the BEST octopus salad! I should have taken a photo of the tentacles. They were unreal! And of course a nice little side of tuna tartar and chive maki. Pretty tasty overall.

some things are indestructable.
I like to think that I like eating wasabi. (Some of you just groaned, some just chuckled. Yes, this is going to be good). And like everyone else, I can never eat ALL of my wasabi on my sushi and tonight I had some left over with my ginger. So, as per usual, I pop it all in my mouth and chew it quickly down. However, this time, and I have a witness, things did not go as smoothly. All I am going to say, I have never eaten anything that has been rejected back the way it came so fast and thank goodness the kitchen sink was not far. I was amazed at how hot that wasabi actually was. The loss of the good ginger made me a little sad though… but not too sad haha


Dun dun dun dunnnnnnn

lightening strike to my bag
o' popcorn !!
All I wanted to do was make some popcorn for my movie. I even turned down the wattage and read the labels on the bag, in as many languages that I could understand (which was 2 out of at least 6). I pop the popcorn in for the average of the recommended times on a lower wattage. I return to what I was previously doing, all the while watching very closely. I look away for one brief second and BAM! OPTIQUICK STRIKES AGAIN! Smoke is flowing out of the sides of the microwave! I tear open the door and remove my popcorn! Windows and doors are opened, as well as my bag of popcorn. The amount of smoke coming from the burnt contents was absolutely incredible! All I wanted to do was make some popcorn for my movie, instead OPTIQUICK has to go and lightening strike my popcorn to smithereens.
i realized:
do we have smoke detectors in
the house?

Not impressed.

So I made another bag, this time for only two minutes, had perfect results, and sat down to watch Peau D’ane (Donkey hide). I thought it was supposed to be a fairy tale like story that was redone with more mature comedy and songs, I really have no idea what went on. I couldn’t tell if it was actually for children or what. Needless to say, I did fall asleep and to this moment, am still just as confused as to what I really watched last night.

worse than a car crash.
this my friends, is a real tragedy
i mean like, check out the smoke!
 10:43 am

Thursday, January 20, 2011

make it with a little extra love.

Time : 8:58pm
Location : my side of the couch
Weather : IT WAS SUPPOSED TO SNOW FOUR HOURS AGO! I’m still waiting.

My day really did not get interesting until I left for my class. When I got to Aix I walked right into the market. It was a wonderful surprise. Although the day was a ‘cold’ day, I really enjoyed walking around looking at all the stuff. There was mainly clothing and jewellery, but there was also some other things, like table clothes. Nothing I had not already seen in Gardanne.
Nutella Cookies
Bursting with my secret ingredient:
To get our conversations going, which is really what I feel that this class is, a talking class, we started comparing manners and customs from our many countries. Some French customs are just, well, French.
To start, yes, it is customary to eat lunch anytime from noon until 3pm and dinner (supper) anytime after 8pm. This made me feel a little better. Let’s say someone invites you over for supper and they say “Come at 8pm,”. What time do you show up? Being on time is impolite believe it or not. What you are saying to them is that ‘you’re here on time, let’s eat’. You have to arrive 15 minutes “late”, giving the host what are called the “15 minutes of politeness”, which gives the host some time to get themselves together (which I guess is understandable).
So you finally arrive, since you are obviously friends or acquaintances (you just know each other period) you exchange bisous; one “kiss” per cheek. Apart from this morning when I saw a policeman, yes this was at the school, plant a very loud bisous on one woman’s cheek, you don’t really touch the person, I don’t think. You are in the house. Do you remove your shoes? No. Do not remove your shoes unless your host asks you to. I noticed this last weekend when Marie-Anne had quests, they did not remove their shoes, but I thought it was just because she was wearing nice boots. Apparently nobody wants to see your socks. Which I find relatively disappointing because you can tell a lot about a person by their socks. Think about it, it’s true.
Time to eat. Everything is on the table, but the host had to run and grab a spoon. Time to chow down? Nada. You have to wait until your host is well installed and ready to eat. You are eating salad. In a rush, your host forgot to rip/cut the lettuce up enough. Should you cut it? No. However, it is acceptable to, with a piece of bread in one hand and a fork in the other, to fold the leaf over and over, as many times as necessary, until you have a rather thick piece of lettuce and  open wide to take it in. Also, since we are so close to Italy here, please refrain from cutting your pasta. You have not eaten all day and are absolutely starving, you already took your helping, but you want more of that deliciousness the host made. Are you allowed to take seconds? No, but if your host insists, and since it was so horribly delicious, well, then I guess you can take some more of the deliciousness, but only because it was oh so delicious. If you take seconds automatically, you’re saying that you haven’t been fed enough (which is fairly obvious).  When the cheese plate goes around, make sure to take all that you want the first time around because it isn’t going to come around a second time. Finally surviving through dessert, what do you do with your napkin? Do you fold it neatly or do you crumple it in a ball? Unless you are at home, crumple the napkin in a ball, otherwise you’re saying (you’re always saying something, its like a whole extra language) that you are right home (kinda like “I’ll be back tomorrow”).
Also, the positioning of your cutlery is key, but mainly in a restaurant. Knife and fork both on either side of your plate means you are not done eating. Both on the plate side by side, you are done. Crossing the two is impolite at home (or at someone else’s) but at the restaurant it also means you are done.
We learned more things as well, but these all seemed to flow together nicely. And I am still yet to tell you about my day.
I rode the bus home with Evelyn again today and turns out we more or less live on the same street, kinda less. AND, I think we also have the same birth month. This is getting weird. But, I think we are going to hang out this weekend, and we are taking the bus together tomorrow again.
Yogurt Bunt Cake
Needs a lil bit of that secret
ingredient..  <3
Afterschool Lou and I were going to go to Carrefour for her watch, but she really needed something to eat first. Turns out we didn’t have anything to eat at home (I had made some cookies in the morning, but I accidentally told Lou I put Nutella in them, apparently that doesn’t sound appetizing. I think it sounds great), so we made a yogurt cake. We finished mixing everything and it was a ball of dough instead of batter. So we added some water, still doughy. So we started eating it anyways, yes, I now have a stomach ache. I think we ate almost half of it when we realized we forgot the eggs. After we added the eggs, and some more flour, we baked it. It turned out, ok? Between the three of us I think it nearly got fully demolished this evening.
I made pumpkin soup for supper. I saved the seeds and baked them in the oven while the soup was cooking. Marie-Anne and Lou were both really surprised by that and were a little wary of them, but I showed them how to eat them, explaining that sunflower seeds are a lot more popular and what not. I really did not expect Lou to like them, or even try them. Turns out she loves them. And my soup was a major hit.
But I have a really bad stomach now.
Like really bad. Haha

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Time: 9:16 pm

Location : the chair

Weather : it feels chilly and it probably is.

Today was the best Wednesday ever here.

Ok, it didn’t start the best. I some how managed to set my alarm hours too early, so I was really confused when that woke me up. Then instead of changing the alarm, I changed the time, and still haven’t changed it back… So I was even more confused when I apparently woke up at 10:40am but walked into the kitchen hours earlier. It was weird.
i forgot there was fog this morning

I’m starting to not like waking up. It is so full of disorientation and confusion. I should really just sleep period.

Lou and I did our usual Wednesday morning routine. It is the typical Saturday morning routine for most of us of OJ and cartoons on the couch. Not too bad. I’m starting to like this one French/Spanish show haha

Gymnastics were ok too. Not that I participated, but driving there was alright. Apart from the huge detour that I keep forgetting about and nearly make us late every time, but that is beside the point.

do you remember the sunny
photo I have of this?

Lunch time was awesome. I made the best chicken in the pan with soya sauce and onions. I also added water to the pan and threw on the lid so the chicken stayed tender and did not dry out. I also added some of the left over bulgur from the weekend.

Apparently the post office has moved down stairs and was up an running again after a month long hiatus. I was rather surprised, but the company was working smoother than ever so I really did not mind.

Lou was apparently feeling really good because we literally ran over to her dad’s so we could type something out. I do not know why she never asked to use my laptop, but hey, I really did not mind.

Next we went to Carrefour to get her watch repaired (this is the second trip). First we waited in line for ten minutes just to be told that we had to go wait in another line, which ended up being a fifteen minute wait, just for the guy who was working in that watch section to tell us that the guy that just left, is the guy we need to talk to for watch repair. I have no idea what this other guy was doing in the watch repair area, but apparently he does not repair watches. No big deal, we’ll just go back tomorrow, again.
this is after 11am

I really, really wanted to bake some cookies or some muffins, but Lou really did not want to. Turns out that in France they actually melt their chocolate instead of using powdered chocolate (I think I already told you this when I made the brownie-muffins) and I am wanting so badly to try it out. I might have to some how squeeze it in before I go to class tomorrow.

Instead of tearing up the kitchen, we tore up a bunch of magazines. For two hours we hung out in my room, listening to the Black Eyed Peas, as Lou would turn the page of the current magazine and I would tell her if I liked the page or not. If I did, I then got to cut out what ever it was on the page that I liked, and put it in the pile. Eventually we put them all up on the wall. I actually really like how it turned out. It may be because Lou let me take the reins on where I wanted the photos to go and she put them there. I really did not mind. It was actually kind of fun.
probably could have cut the fog
with a butter knife,
like Loony Toons..

Then I made a grave mistake.

I should have known what was going to happen the moment that Lou started to take an interest in my make up. Ok, somebody had to have just chuckled. I thought she did an ok job, until I swear I felt some lip gloss drip off of my lip. I kept it on as long as possible, right through our play time consisting of me also getting my new outfit chosen (not as bad as the make up, I promise haha) and us going to the Black Eyed Peas concert.

However, I could not keep a straight face when Patrick (bathroom reno guy) came to give me the daily low down on the bathroom’s progress. It was too funny to see him try and look me in the eye with out actually looking at me.
after 12:30pm it cleared up.
we arent there yet.

Supper was also delicious. Some how we decided on eating sandwiches. I felt like we were living on the edge. It was awesome. And delicious.

When I went upstairs to brush my teeth not too long ago, I actually looked in the mirror. Like a good look. I may have scared myself. Yeah, it is going to be a while (I hope) before Lou does my make up again.

Overall, today was good.
Lou called it the
Hippy Wall (?)

Keeping on the final topic of dairy;

If you don’t know, we always eat a yogurt cup after supper for dessert. At first I thought this was really weird because to me, yogurt is one of the first things you eat in the day, not the last. Anyway, turns out they like not only yogurt. Lou was trying to explain to me what this one thing was and when she finally gave in and gave me a taste, I burst out laughing! Can you believe that SOUR CREAM IS A DESSERT!! Apparently it is tasty with granulated golden sugar. I think I will still keep it on the perogies and potatoes. Gotta love culture differences.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

weiner of cheeses.

Time : 9:11pm

Location : kitchen counter, I really like it here. I think it is good for my posture, not that I have bad posture at all. I actually think I have rather good posture.

Weather : I feel cold. It really is not that cold though, I am just tired.

Ok, now I remember that the actual blog part belongs down here..

On the topic of me being oddly cold, it just so happens to run into my first topic.

The only logical reason for me being cold is because I feel like it is after midnight. I am so tired. I had the worst sleep last night. For no reason at all I could not fall asleep for the life of me. I think I eventually fell asleep some time after 2:30am. Ugggghhh… To make it worse, when I woke up I just knew it was going to be a day when I needed a nap. I hate waking up to that, makes me feel like I just had an unproductive X number of hours laying in bed sleeping. Like I just did a really bad job of sleeping. I just found myself oddly interesting now that I examine that thought…

However, instead of returning to my bed for a nice nap, which really would not have helped, I went for a run. Apart from discovering some shin splints (yes, I am slowly falling apart, limb by limb) it was a fairly good run. I was aiming for it to be really fast and intense but well, there is only so much you can do with shin splints. I made the most of it.

That super intense fog was back. It must have rained last night (fog + random puddles = rain?). I really need to take a photo of it. Maybe tomorrow morning I will go on a walk, if I am not too tired.

Actually, I did go on a mini walk today. First to the post office, then I took the long way home. Nothing cool happened or crossed my mind. I did step on a dead bat though. I had no idea what it was. At first I thought it was just a pine cone of sorts (living on a different continent I never know what I am going to find) then I nudged it with my toe and I saw outline of the head that was all just, ugh. The fact that I was able to distinguish it as a bat was incredible. I will leave it at that. Ew.

First real day of my FSI (Semi Intense French) class today! Turns out I am in Group 3, which is the Advanced group. Just sayin’. I was actually kind of surprised, but hey, all that means is I can improve!

There are five other people in my group; two other au-pair girls and three older women. There is Oona (Finland) who has already been here for five months, one of the au-pairs. The other one is also an Anna (Russia) and is fairly quiet. Then there is Anne-Marie (Sweden) who moved here for a year, maybe more, to get her photography company going. Lisa (San Francisco) moved here a couple years ago to start a decorating company and just takes classes to help her French. The last woman’s name starts with an S and is a Persian name, but her family background is Indian, and she grew up in Tanzania but is now from Sweden. I can’t believe I remembered all that.

We pretty much just chatted the whole class, while of course actually performing in a discussion that was lead by our teacher who’s name has slipped my mind. It was pretty fun actually. Everyone is rather friendly and I think it will be a good time for the next 12 weeks.

I’ll take a photo of the school when there it is not so gloomy out.

On the bus ride home, I had an incredible déjà vu like experience. It was awesome.

First of all, there was this girl who looked really familiar trying to stay standing beside me as our crazy driver drove. Then I saw she was holding the exact same FSI binder that I had gotten yesterday at the info meeting. I took a chance and asked her if she goes to IS (well, I already knew she did, the binder tipped me off). Turns out her French isn’t that good, and so we started chatting in English. She is also at IS, but is in Group 1. She just arrived here to work as an au-pair and is from Estonia. Now this is where it gets oddly similar to an event that occurred to me nearly two years ago to the day (oh my, that is WEIRD). Not only do we have the same binder, are in the same program, but, we have the same bus route AND LIVE IN THE SAME TOWN!! This is so crazy. Evelyn (that’s her name) and I, I hope, will become good friends. We pretty much live on the same block (I mean Luynes is about that big).

So, the post school day went as normal, no need to explain.

Today was AWESOME.


So, some of you may have heard that the French (some) consider it a ‘punishment’ to eat cheddar. Coming from where I do, my goodness, I am crazy for the stuff! So, what’s the deal? Well, did you know that cheddar is not a natural cheese? The natural cheeses are made from milk and have bacteria added. Cheddar is just all the rests, like rinds, throw in some coloring and some spices, melt it, and then you get those wonderful bricks of cheddar. It is processed cheese, like cream cheese. So, when you come from a country over flowing with all kinds of natural cheeses, why would you want to eat something so processed? Keep in mind there are people who like it, most people like Laughing Cow cheeses. Cheddar is kind of like the hotdog of cheeses; really tasty, but there’s a little bit of everything in it and you may not be quite sure what that everything is.



Euro Tour 2010/2011 – Day 9 – Berlin

Sunday December 26th 2010 – Boxing Day, not that anything is open..
Brandenburg Gate

I had a fairly intense itinerary planned out for myself for each city, especially Berlin. However, after going through all the pamphlets in each hostel, I usually end up with a slightly different day than I planned. The main reason being is I go on tours. It really is the best way to go. Instead of wandering around the city all day, finding touristy hot spots, snapping my photo and moving on, you get to meet a bunch of fellow travellers, make friends and of course the main attraction, you get a guide.

Holocaust Memorial
I had a pompom toque on..

I went on the Sandeman’s New Europe Free tour for Berlin. The same company as in Amsterdam and in Hamburg. They have really good knowledgeable guides who are more than just “a guide”. They add a certain spice to the tours. A touch of humour there, some interest in who you are and where you are from there. They are really nice people, plus to be working a Free Tour, they must be loving what they do, so yeah, they’re really in to it.

open interpretation 

2700 of them

incredible, isnt it.
Killing some time in Starbucks where we were to meet, I met two peace corps workers that were working in Romania. Very friendly folk, polite too. And also interesting… As well, I met a lovely Aussie girl. Already having assembled a mini group, I knew this was going to be a good tour.

for my 2 cents
nazi architecture
Right outside was the Brandenburg Gate. Way back when, this used to be the main gate to the city. If you were somebody (royalty, dignitaries) you would enter the city by these gates, probably with a whole procession of horses, men, men on horses, you get the picture. These days this square (Pariserplatz) is home to the U.S. and French embassies.

In his time, Napoleon came and conquered Berlin. With it, he took the statue from atop of the Brandenburg Gate, then name Eirene (Goddess of Peace), back to France. After the fall of Napoleon, the statue was returned and renamed Victory (Goddess of Victory). The ‘joke’ is that now Victory just so happens to be overlooking Pariserplatz, right down where the French Embassy just so happens to be…

Luftwaffe to the Tax Man
Some trivia on Berlin: the city was built on a swamp. Yes, lovely. Sometimes you can smell it, mainly in the hot summer. So lovely. When they first built the city, us the people, being oh so creative and bright (especially ‘back then’), named the city The Swamp. Yes, Berlin means The Swamp. That is definitely something you would not learn walking around by yourself

some remains.

The Holocaust Memorial (also known as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe) is not much to look at from the outside; just a field of some 2700 stone slabs, all the same shape, perhaps resembling a coffin. I entered it, I got an odd feeling. Perhaps it was because it was like a maze, or the fact that I could not see or hear much of the other people around me, who had also disappeared inside. The farther I went, the higher the slabs towered over me. The interpretation of the memorial is left open, each to their own. Perhaps you sense confusion as where you are going to end up is no longer clear, or you never know when you will see someone next. Possible emotions felt by those through out the Holocaust?
East Berlin side?

Our next stop was no where overly special. It was just a small green space by some apartments. Under our feet was the where Hitler’s war bunker once was. It was where he married his fiancée and then where they committed suicide the next day. The bunker was destroyed when they built the foundations for the apartments. Apparently dynamite did not work to blow up the bunker. That really is not surprising. There was some debate whether or not the location should be noted with a sign or not. The spot no longer holds any significance to most people other than being a toilet for their dog.

not The Wall,
just A wall

We walked by the only remaining example of Nazi Architecture. It was really intimidating: tall, square, gated and dark concrete. It screamed strength and power. The small windowed building once housed the main command station for the Luftwaffe (Nazi air force) and ironically survived through all of the air raids. It now houses the head of the Berlin tax agency. Slightly humorous?

American Soldier

There is a mural on this building of how the Nazis depicted Germany: everyone working hard and together for success and a prosperous life, when in fact we all know that was not reality. Just my two cents so you are not thrown off by the random photo.

The English Church

On the same corner, we find part of the Berlin Wall. I still can not decide if I was disappointed by it or not. I know exactly what to expect; about a 10 foot concrete wall with a round pipe along the top so you could not crawl over. Again, not having any connection to the Wall probably has to do with the slight impression it had on me. What I found most interesting about the Wall was how one side of the wall had a definite more artistic, colourful and larger amount of varying displays of paintings (some would say graffiti). Would this have something to do with West Berlin to East Berlin freedoms? I am not sure. I guess that would depend on how close the West Berliners could get to the wall, which I do not know.

I only took photos of the English church..

A block away we get to the most famous of the three wall crossings; Checkpoint Charlie. This is where the most people were able to sneak from East Berlin to West Berlin. Escape method were varied and creative ranging from hiding in cars, using another person’s passport, tunnelling under the wall and even an attempt wit ha homemade hot air balloon (not all of these attempted occurred at Checkpoint Charlie, I’m just saying).
Oh look, a photo of the
German church,
and it looks exactly the same!

On one side of the street there was the HQ for the East Berlin’s communist influence: the U.S.S.R. Kiddy corner to it is the office of the democratic U.S.A., influencing West Berlin. Here the two parties could literally watch over the other. To represent this, there is a large sign with an American soldier looking over to the east and respectively on the backside there is a Russian solider.
After our lunch break, we saw the German and English churches, which were exactly the same.

kinda wish it wasnt covered in snow..

All through out the tour all of my history classes (mainly Gr.11 History) came flooding back to me. At each stop I remembered the even or significance of the location. One in particular was Bebelplatz: the square where one of the first of the Nazi’s book burnings occurred. Right infront of the Humboldt University thousands of books that we “ungerman” went up in flames.

Mother Caressing her Child
 To finish the tour we turned onto Unter den Linden (a main road) and saw Neue Wache which is now an open air memorial with a statue of a mother caressing her child. Across the river on the Museum Isle was the Berliner Dom and the Old Museum.
Although the Dom looks like it was built in the Baroque period, it was actually built in the 20th century. Berlin, a major city, lacked a big old cathedral, so they built one that looked old. Way to go Berlin; faking having old stuff.

Neue Wache
After returning to my hostel and taking a quick nap (those tours really do tire you out! It’s like a three hour history class, but more like an Outdoor School history class because as you can see, I actually remember the better part of it, haha) I went out for supper with my friends from Chicago that I met in Amsterdam. I have no idea what I ate (some mix of a rich yellow cause, chicken, pineapple and raisins) but it was awfully delicious! Yum! Then we hit the town. There is a surprising amount of Berlin available to be hit on a Sunday night.
kill 2 birds with 1 stone
Berliner Dom AND
the TV Tower
stupid trees.. oh well

Old Museum

still the English Church
woman with a red hat was one
of the peace keepers

Monday, January 17, 2011

"oh le francais.." - M-A

Time : 9:58 pm (keep in mind I am in the middle of a very intense Facebook chatting session)

Location : the chair

Weather : it is chillier, but well, it can’t be summer forever

Today had no time for me to relax. Or well, not nearly as much.

As soon as I returned from dropping Lou off, I promptly hopped in the shower, hopped out (sorry, nothing special to recount) and ironed the huge mountain of Lou’s clothes that some how all got washed. I didn’t even know she had that many clothes. I mean, I recognized all of them. But the fact that they were all dirty at the same time was beyond my comprehension.

I did not even have time for my run. I was so looking forward to it. But the schedule would not allow it.

I was about to jump in the car, when I realized it was before noon and I still had another hour before I had to leave. On the plus side, not that there really is a downside, but the plus side; time relax. Too bad I didn’t take the time this morning to go for a run..

Eventually I left for my French course. I have been waiting for so long for this course to start. Turns out the two months of having all day to myself can kind of drag out..

I had been to the building where the course is before, nearly two months ago. I was fairly confident that I remembered the way to get there, and I also Google Map-ed it to make sure. My parking spot went wonderfully, which in Aix is more often than not a nightmare, but I somewhere went wrong in my walking there. Go figure.

Normally the classes are Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Today was an exception. It was more of an information day and we took our French exams.

The exams were not actual exams, you just got evaluated on your skill level so you can be placed in a group. The written part had five questions where you had to write a little tid bit, kind of like Mme Collard’s questions; you’re pretty sure that you’ve read the question before during class, and sure enough, like one word is changed. I found it slightly amusing, and really easy. Then the oral part was just talking to them, more conversation and what not, answering questions. I got B2 on the oral. Which is the higher half of intermediate. Some silly mistakes on Simple Future (no idea what is really is in English haha) cost be getting a C1 (which is advanced). At least that was all she made it out to be. Oh well. There seemed to be a lot of people in the class who knew very little French and some who knew none. I might still get put in the higher level group (fingers crossed).

The waiting for the oral test was kind of long, so I had to hustle back to the car and zoom back to get Lou from school (plus grab her snack from the house). This of course would be the day that her class gets let out first. Figures.

The evening went as any other Monday; theatre, homework, supper, wind-down.

I told someone I would do a feature on cheddar cheese today, but I didn’t around to it. I will truly try for tomorrow. I have some information to gather on the subject still. Sorry.

Also, if you’ve been following (or were following, I haven’t posted one for almost a week I think) the Banks of my holiday, scroll down even more after this post and you will find another From The Bank. It’s not overly exciting though, you can probably skip it haha.

That is all.



Euro Tour 2010/2011 - Day 8 - Lubeck to Berlin

Saturday December 25th 2010 – Christmas Day

4 person room in Lubeck
I had to wake up every coupla hours and
rotate spots to makesure all the beds got used.

To kick off my Christmas, I spent a solid five hours on the train to Berlin. Not overly exciting.

My first impression of Berlin was: snow and cold, I’ve come home. A steady light snowfall and -10 to -15 temperatures made me feel right at home. I checked into my hostel, Heart of Gold, and went online. Yeah, sorry, no blog entries, but I did find something awesome while online; two fellow Canadians that I met in Hamburg were also in Berlin. That was a wonderful surprise. We made plans to meet up right away. No spending Christmas alone for me.

my own sink, hair dryer, TWO LOCKERS
oh so spoiled!
Unfortunately we were unable to find each other in the busy Berlin square we made as a meeting spot. Not the best idea. While out on my first exploration of the city, I came across the hostel that I knew the two from Chicago that I met in Amsterdam would be staying. I popped by and left a very detailed (and colourful) message for them at the reception on the bulletin board in hopes we could connect. It was worth a shot.

dining room flows into the..
On to Berlin. It definitely has a feel of it’s own. The more downtown/main area where I was staying was interesting. There was a mix of very new buildings as well as very old. Both were either well kept or looking very rundown and neglected (I’m being generous on the simply ‘neglected’ part). If you can imagine walking down a main street, fairly tall buildings of every sort on your every side.

kitchen which flows into the..
One building is tall and looking like it is 20 or 30 years old, not too bad of condition, fairly welcoming. The next is a huge old building made of stone, dirty from a mix of age and pollution. You can see through the glassless windows and doorless doors, expecting to see a squatter in the corner, if the building happens to be one of the ones that is more than a skeleton of better times.

other side of the dining room..
which is also the commons/hang
out zone. with a TV
To add a little spice, there is graffiti everywhere. We’re not talking small, one color tags either, just to get your name all across town on poles and garbage cans (well, there are those too of course). But I am talking full walls of art. Every color imaginable, blending in ways you would think would make a muck, but instead you have murals of creativity bursting with love and passion. So much passion, about everything. Just a walk down the street can inspire you to want to make a change! If you aren’t a fan of graffiti, maybe take a trip to Berlin. Your views might be changed.
so much to see in the morning.

Lubeck has boats

Lubeck in the morning

Realizing it is after 6pm and I haven’t eaten since breakfast, I head out for a delicious Christmas supper. I was going to treat myself, it was Christmas after all. And I have been eating oddly healthy for a traveller. No fast food, no grease. I was tired of sandwiches, wraps and couscous salads, so I headed to the first “real” restaurant I could find. Which just so happened to be a pasta house. Delicious.

some where between Lubeck
and Berlin..
If you do not know Germany, you do not know how to order water. When are ask for water, you will indubitably get carbonated water. It is refreshing, but I really prefer tap water. If you go out for supper, please specify what you want to the waiter, otherwise you may end up paying three euro for a nice little bottle of San Pellegrino on Christmas.

german trees.
in case you wondering if they
are different from
canadian trees..

I eventually met up with the Toronto-ians (no idea how to make that one work) and we had a good time with their friend from Australia. It was very fun Christmas, good camaraderie.

they were really tall..


so dark.
Apparently December is the summer/break time for Australia. And apparently all of Australia likes to travel. Our lovely little table was in a major
Aussie-wich. I loved it. If you’re ever in the mood to meet an Australian, go to Berlin on Christmas.

so.. no photos from Berlin today..

Merry Christmas! Even though it is long gone.. haha