Onto my latest adventures…Karine had her brother over for dinner for his birthday two Wednesdays ago (wow, time is going by so quickly). We had raclette which is a speciality of Savoy…a region just South East of here. Karine borrowed an appliance from her mom that you put raclette cheese in. Everyone has their own little metal container & the cheese melts in it & then you pour it over potatoes. Generally it’s served with charcuterie (cold cuts) & pickles. Seeing as I love cheese, it’s now one of my favourite meals. We also had champagne & chocolate cake since that’s tradition on someone’s birthday. Quite a good night, if you ask me!
I’ve been working mostly weekends at Starbucks. I only work 18 hours a week & am still training, but it’s pretty intense. The Starbucks here is like no other I’ve been in before, especially on Saturdays. It’s so unbelievably busy. There isn’t a free table & the line-up goes out the door & even reaches the street corner at times. Also, in France, they don’t clean up their cups & often order food “to stay” (“sur place”), which means they get a real plate that they also leave on their table when they take off. So there always has to be someone on staff who’s in charge of cleaning all this up. My second day, this was my job. I don’t think I had a breather for the entire 8 hours I was there. It was just nuts. They call this “coin café” & you’re also in charge of making up containers of whip cream & the bases for a lot of the drinks. Since that first weekend, I’ve learned to mark cups & ring it people’s orders, which is much more fun. I’m pretty sure I’d be a lot better at both if I was doing it in English, but I’m doing pretty well at the whole getting yelled at my 3 or 4 people at a time in French. My coffee vocab is going to be “nickel” when I come home.
That weekend Kate, Anne & I spent Friday night at my apartment eating pizza & chips, gossiping & watching the Devil Wears Prada. It was a nice night in. The best part was that Anne brought over delicious cookies that she’d baked. She’s quite the little cook, Anne is. We’re thinking of moving in together, the three of us, which would be nice…although I would miss it here, I think. Saturday night, I went to Kate’s & we took the metro to an American girl’s apartment she knows from school. It was her birthday, so we stayed there until about midnight & then went to a little bar near Vieux Lyon. It was pretty cute, but almost empty. So Kate and her Aussie friend, Eliz, really wanted to leave & go to this Aussie Bar (Ayer’s Rock) where all the Erasmus kids hang out. So we walked all the way there to be denied access because we were speaking English (at an Aussie Bar, the irony is something else). He didn’t say that’s why, but bouncers here are assholes & apparently this one is particular is known for his dislike of foreigners…Definitely not all that impressed. That’s when the France bashing started because both girls have run into some crap situations over here…Hopefully they’ll laugh about it later because exchanges are full of adventures like that. (At least mine was). Maybe I’m too tolerant of things like that…I don’t know. But, if I spent all my time getting pissed off about crap that’s happened to me in Europe, I’d be angry all the time.
I had most of last week off work & Heather & Zevi were going to be in Rome…so Monday morning on my way to work I stopped into the Boutique SNCF & bought a return ticket on the night train to Rome for the following night. So Tuesday, I packed all my stuff into my backpack & that night took the TGV to Dijon to catch the night train. Of course, the Italian night train started things off on the right foot by arriving 30 minutes late. I had an okay sleep in my couchette despite an incredibly creepy Egyptian man who was a little too touchy for my liking. I was supposed to arrive in Rome around 10am on Wednesday morning…Since the train had been 30 minutes late, I expected we’d arrive around 10:30am…This was not the case & this is when I learned how spoiled I’ve been by the ALWAYS punctual French trains. We got to Rome at 12:30pm & I set off for my hostel-Hotel Lodi. It was easy to find & I was welcomed by the nicest woman I think I’ve ever met. Her & her brother run the hostel & if you ever go to Rome, I seriously recommend staying there. She was so welcoming & sat me down right away to plan my stay in Rome. She was a wealth of information & wanted to make sure I made the best of my time there so it’s thanks to her that I had any idea whatsoever about what to see in Rome. It was great! Heather & Zevi arrived about an hour later & we took off right away to see the sights. In my three days in Rome, I saw so much. It was absolutely incredible.
We spent the first day wandering around the center…starting at the old entrance to Rome & walking down to the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain & the Pantheon. There really are no words..but since I took about 250 pictures I’ll let them do some of the talking for me. Sadly, they don’t do a lot of what I saw justice, but they give you a reasonable idea of how incredible Rome is. From there, we explored a few lively piazzas before heading to the grocery store near our hostel to pick up some food for dinner. We also picked up 3 bottles of red wine. I’m quite a fan of the wine in Italy seeing as you can find incredibly cheap bottles of it. Our three ranged in price from 99 cents to 1e79. Wine really is cheaper than water sometimes. That night we went out to a little bar & had a few adventures across the river before packing it in.
Thursday morning, we had a lovely little breakfast served to us by the same wonderful woman. I wish I could take her home with me. She made us each a delicious cappuccino (Italy has GREAT coffee), freshly squeezed Orange/Grapefruit juice & a croissant. It was quite enjoyable. We set off for the day, grabbing fresh pizza to go from a great little pizzeria we stumbled upon before making our way to the Colosseum. The Colosseum was amazing…we had a great tour followed by another great tour of the Pallatine & Forum. There is so much history & it was just incredible. You can’t seem to go more than a few 100m before seeing something else unbelievable in Rome. After our tours we had some gelato & wandered around a little (randomly stumbling upon the old Jewish Ghetto) before heading back “home”. We made another great dinner before heading to bed.
I must say the Italian night trains are an adventure. As I already said, I am way too spoiled by French trains & even French train stations (which have seats unlike Roma Termini). My train arrived in Dijon an hour late (which was quite an improvement from the 2.5 hours on the way there) meaning I’d missed my connection to Lyon. Luckily there are many trains that run often in France & I was able to get another one free of charge. Trenitalia certainly gave new meaning to the whole “time is just a suggestion” thing though.
I spent most of this weekend at Starbucks, with a side trip to a party in the most beautiful apartment in Place Bellecour. Two American girls live there now & are leaving in January & Kate wants the 3 of us (Anne, her & I) to move in there. Two of us would have to share a room though & even splitting the rent 3 ways, I don’t think I can afford it…One can dream though, I guess!
Christmas is starting to pop up all over the place here. They’ve been playing music for a good three weeks at Starbucks, but now the rest of the city is starting to get into it as well. The Christmas Markets are starting up & there are the little white lights I love so much everywhere. It’s quite pretty. This weekend is also the Fête de Lumières in Lyon. It’s this huge festival with amazing light displays all over the city. It was originally just Dec 8, but it’s become a lot bigger over the years & now includes the preceding weekend as well. I’m working TONS at Starbucks for the Festival. Mostly late into the night, but people stay out a whole lot later here than at home, so it really won’t matter too much.
I hope you are all well. As always I have yammered on for a lot longer than I intended so I apologize for the enormity of this entry. Bravo if you made it to the end! And to those of you in school-good luck on exams!!!