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The McDermott Scholars Award covers all expenses of a superb four-year academic education at The University of Texas at Dallas, in concert with a diverse array of intensive extracurricular experiences, including internships, travel, and cultural enrichment.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Day in Paris

Paris-July 3rd, 2009
Wow, I am completely and utterly exhausted, still. Yesterday morning, I moved out of my Nice apartment after bidding goodbye to Madame Charpentier around 11am. I took my bag and backpack, bumping down four stories before walking to the tram, taking that to the Nice Ville train station. I had previously booked my ticket already, and my train was leaving in a few hours. Waiting at the train station was not terrible-though there was a lack of seating anywhere, and people milling about waiting for their trains. I bought a sandwich and waited, then made my way onto the train once it arrived. The train ride itself was around five to six hours, during which I occupied myself by listening to my iPod, reading, and making small-conversation with the gentleman sitting next to me-in French, of course. At some point I fell asleep, the long trip getting to me.

We finally arrived in Paris, at the Gare de Lyon. As luck would have it, I was immediately welcomed by the bustle and hustle of Paris and its many inhabitants, both native and touristic. I grabbed my bags and plunged into a crowd moving in the direction I wanted to go, weaving in and out before making my way up and down flights of stairs to get to the metro station that was adjoining the gare. I bought a metro ticket because my Pass Navigo was with the family I was going to be staying with, and struggled with getting my bags through the narrow metro entryway. My first order of business was to succeed in getting myself lost trying to find a map of the subway-though I had been in Paris previously its metro system sadly was not ingrained in my memory. Finding a map, I groaned inwardly as I looked at the number of changes I would need to make in order to make it to Eglise d’Auteil, my stop. I had arrived on a Thursday, getting to Paris around the time that everyone was heading home from work. Thus, I was treated to packed subway trains, and had to wait while several passed by before my bags and I would fit onto a train. I lugged my bags up and down flights of stairs, vowing that I would take a taxi to the airport for my return after the hassle of squeezing through crowds with my baggage.

I arrived at my stop after an hour and half of rush-hour metro travel, and proceeded to call my family. While the call was being made, I surfaced above ground to a suburban Paris of sorts in the 16th arrondissement, an avenue lined with small shops and “apartments.” The Seine was off to my right, a bridge spanning its dirty green water, and the Eiffel Tower was visible in the distance. I was finally in Paris. I walked down the Avenue Theophile Auteil, verifying the directions to the home I would be staying in. Madame Chomel greeted me, welcoming me into the building. I loaded my bags onto the tiniest of elevators I have ever been in, while she sent me up a great distance to the second floor, meeting me there. I followed her into the apartment, which could qualify as a house in its own right. A massive grand foyer with a vaulted ceiling stretched out, a large salon to the right and a kitchen on the left. Bedrooms linked off the main hallway, my own being through another long hallway. I would be staying in Baptiste’s room, the son of Monsieur and Madame Chomel, one of three children. I met him first, a cute twelve-year old who would undoubtedly be a player once he was older-he was cheery and not at all shy, and I was hardly able to keep up with his fast-paced French. Madame and Monsieur Chomel, having had students from Alliance Française for many years now, spoke articulately and allowed me to understand them clearly. At this point I had not used English in a long time, so my French was rapidly getting better. They complimented me on my French, and made polite conversation over a dinner of rice with a curry chicken mix-asking about Obama (every person I met in France asked me my opinion about Obama-he’s awfully popular there), my schooling, and why I was in France.

After dinner, I went to my room, getting the wireless password from Monsieur Chomel-finally having a reliable source of internet for the first time in a month (the McDonalds in Nice had wireless that was sometimes questionable, and then it shut down for two weeks!). My family provided me with a map of the city, as well as pointing out the easiest way to get to school and various other locations around the city. I thanked them, then promptly passed out-weary from a day’s worth of traveling. In any case, it’s Friday now, and I will take the day to relax, go out, and explore the “most romantic city in the world.”

A Day in Nice

A Day in Nice-June 14th, 2009
My summer program in France is conducted through Alliance Française, a French language program with locations all over the world, and in many places all throughout France. My first stop, therefore, is Nice. Now in my second week here, I have fallen in love with the place, and have adjusted delightfully well to the amazing weather, beaches, and great food.

I moved into an apartment owned by an older French woman, a divorcée that I have breakfast with each morning, talking about the United States, my life, her grandchildren, or what is currently playing on the radio. My room is remarkably large, with a large balcony that overlooks the Place Garibaldi, one of the larger squares in Nice. I have a full sized bed, a dresser and a wardrobe, a closet, two desks, and large windows. My apartment is right on a bustling street, so each morning I wake up to the sounds of the city waking up. My language courses start in the afternoon, so I have the morning to myself-usually to walk around and explore the city. There are a great number of people, tourists from all over France, Europe, and overseas. Wandering by myself, I walk through Vieux Nice, or the old city, weaving through the narrow streets that are lined by souvenir shops, small cafés, and other boutiques, ultimately ending near the Marche de Fleurs and the beaches. I peruse the market, where there is freshly caught seafood of all sorts, spices, souvenirs, paintings, and of course-a huge assortment of flowers.

After pausing near the beach (I usually preferred staying near the Beau Rivage plage), where all sorts of people can be found (topless elderly French women and their speedo-wearing husbands or a man wandering around in a penis costume), I head back towards the Place Garibaldi. I stop in a small bakery in Vieux Nice on the way, picking up a freshly baked baguette-its glorious smell making me hungry as it burns my hand. A small interjection about this bread: people line up outside to get bread from this boulangerie, and often leave with a minimum of two loaves. It is also amazingly cheap, and perfect for making sandwiches. After reaching the Place, I swing into Monoprix to pick up some gouda cheese and tomato, then back to my apartment. There, I make a sandwich of sliced gouda, tomato, along with some basil and a sprinkle of dried mint. I head back out to the Place and sit on a bench, eating my sandwich and people-watching.

Some observations about Nice:
1) Everyone smokes.
2) There is a large population of elderly people.
3) Just because someone’s French does not mean they’re native to Nice-they’re probably a tourist as well.
4) Dogs are extremely popular-everyone has them, from small terriers to German shepherds. The more macho the guy, the smaller his dog. Scrawnier guys tend to have larger dogs, and women and the older population tend to have terriers or other pocket-variety canines.
5) The streets are an obstacle course of dog poop-it is not required to pick up after your pet, unfortunately.
6) Everything is within walking distance and walking is the best way to discover more about the city.
7) The beach is extremely popular.
8) Oh yeah, in case I didn’t mention it-the beach is extremely popular.

After eating, I head to class-four hours of grammar, listening comprehension, and oral practice. My class is extremely small, consisting of three other Americans, a Finnish girl, and two Mexicans. We move at a fairly slow pace, trying to allow the weaker students to keep up-and it allows me to refresh the French I learned three years prior. When class is over, I walk back to the Place, and jet towards a popular place that sells socca, a specialty of Nice. If I get there in time, I can avoid the long line that inevitably piles up. Socca is a pretty simple dish, made with mostly chickpeas and olive oil. It’s baked on a huge dish, somewhat similar to a giant crepe. When served, a portion of it is scraped onto a plate and then sprinkled with a pepper-seasoning, then eaten by hand. Delicious, albeit oily-and is great to eat from time to time. I take my food to the beach, where I eat it and spend some time on the rocky beach, enjoying the sea breeze.

Towards the evening, I head over to McDonalds, where I get free WiFi-there, I check my email, get on skype, and get told how lucky I am to be in Nice. It’s true, I am-and I love it.