Wednesday, June 23, 2010

My Artist's Phase

Ok, so I live in a closet in Paris. Within 9 square meters of space I have my bed, a kitchenette w/ mini fridge and microwave, a TV, a fireplace, and a shower. And did I mention that I live on the 6th floor of my apartment building with no elevator (which means 7th floor in US terms because the French count the 1st floor as the zero level)? Which means that I had to haul all three of my ridiculously large suitcases (two of which I am positive are over 50 lbs. each) up the stairs by myself. It turns out that my landlady had foot surgery (she reminded me twice that it was to remove her bunions, though this is not something I would be overly eager to brag about myself. . .) and couldn’t help me at all. Luckily I had mentally prepared myself for this day so despite the fact that my muscles were crying out in pain I just kept going until it was finished. Upon seeing the miniscule size of my “chambre de bonne”—though there is nothing bonne about this if you ask me—I wanted to cry and go right back to my double bed in Aix. But knowing that this wasn’t a possibility I slowing began unpacking to try to at least make my closet my own.

After a few hours, I realized that it’s pretty hard to complain about living in a closet when that closet happens to be located in Paris. After I’d had time to settle in a little bit and unpack I took a walk around my neighborhood which is called Montmartre. I didn’t take a map; just myself and my camera. Today I was totally content to look like a tourist. I walked all over the neighborhood and found a cute little park where nannies watched children play. I walked through the Cimitière de Montmartre and looked for the tomb of Emile Zola. I saw the Moulin de la Galette and thought about how many famous artists had painted this windmill.

Paris je t’aime déjà. Paris I love you already. So during my first weekend here my friend Wan Ying from U of M came to stay with me so we got to do all of the fun touristy things for her that I had mostly already done but it was still fun to see all of the great sights. At night we were walking around Notre Dame and we saw a big crowd of about 40 people. We wandered over to see what was going on and there was a French man speaking to the crowd. He said he was going to put on a play and proceeded to pick random tourists out of the crowd. When he was finished he had assembled a team comprised of an Irish man, a Swedish man, a Chinese woman and an Italian man. So here’s the scene: the Italian man was directing a scene in which the Swedish man was romancing the Chinese woman and then the Irish man gets jealous and enters into a battle with the Swedish man. The Irish man then wins the Chinese woman’s heart and by the end of the play the French man had somehow gotten these 4 random tourists to battle each other, profess their love for one another (including making some very sexual gestures. . .) and he even got the Chinese woman to jump into the arms of the Irish man and pretend to kiss him passionately. It was the best street performance I had ever seen in my life!

I have no idea how this French man did it but he managed to make a crowd of tourists from all over the world who spoke all different languages laugh about the same play! It sounds corny but it’s moments like this that remind me of how cool it is when people who have absolutely nothing in common can realize how much alike we really all are. After the street play Wan Ying and I kept walking and we found an impromptu dance party on the banks of the Seine. A band had set up right by the riverside and all around them there was a crowd of 50 or so people just dancing. I just kept thinking, “Only in Paris.” And that I am the luckiest girl in the world to be living in this incredible city where people are so in love with life!

Monday, May 31, 2010

C'est la France

So I finally finished all of my exams on Wednesday! Part of me feels so relieved to be finished and the other part of me won’t rest until I know that I’ve passed all of my exams. I wouldn’t be so worried about it except that I’m going to be in Paris when we are supposed to have rattrapages so if I need to do retakes I have to know in advance. I swear French universities are the most confusing things because they sent us an e-mail saying that we won’t know our grades until June 20th but rattrapages begins the 14th! How does that make any sense? Oh wait, it doesn’t. But that’s France for you. Just when you think you’ve gotten used to all of the weird things they do here that don’t make any sense, they throw you another curveball to keep you on your toes (or maybe a soccer term would be more appropriate here). Half of me is so furious with the incompetency of the system here and half of me is laughing and thinking “c’est la France.”

I’m only really nervous about one exam, Analyse Politique de la France. The professor always seemed kind of strict but I thought she would be nice during the exam because over half of her class is international students. Apparently not. She gave me the topic: Qu’est-ce qu’un parti politique? And as much as I wanted to respond “it’s a party where you drink beer with politicians” I didn’t, and came up with a good answer using all of the definitions that we’d learned, the difference between representation and representivity, the 4 stages of development of a political party, etc. I thought I did pretty well until she started asking me about le Parti Socialiste. She asked me to apply all the theories I had just talked about to the Socialist Party which would have been a totally valid question except that we had only talked about one thing for the Socialist Party. I mentioned this one thing and then she just stared at me blankly, not smiling and asking me many questions I didn’t know the answer to. Merde. So now, I have absolutely no idea as to whether I did well or not. I feel like I presented my topic well but that is also just being able to regurgitate facts. If she failed me, I couldn’t entirely blame her because I didn’t really apply what I’d learned but at the same time, she didn’t teach us anything that would answer those questions! Ma foi!

In other news, there was an IEP Gala on Thursday night to celebrate the end of the semester. Everyone got really dressed up in cocktail dresses and suits. They bused us out to this convention center in the middle of nowhere (which actually looked more like a summer camp) and there were cocktails and then a big ceremony where they presented mock awards. I still find it so strange that they’re allowed to serve cocktails at school functions but I guess “C’est la France!” The awards were really funny even though I didn’t understand all of the jokes and the ceremony made me feel really nostalgic about my time at Sciences Po and wishing that I’d gotten to know more French kids.

After the awards were finished they bused us to this night club called Fabrick. We danced all night long and I was having so much fun that I didn’t even notice how late it was getting.

As I was walking home at 5:30am and hearing the birds chirping I started to really miss France. This was kind of a strange feeling because I’m still in Aix for another week and I’ll still be living in France for the next 2 months. But for the first time I just kept thinking “I don’t want to leave this place.” Maybe it was because I was a bit drunk or maybe it was because of the really attractive kids I go to school with, but either way I just felt like crying at the thought of leaving this place. It’s funny because everyone asks me whether I prefer France or the United States. It’s kind of an impossible question if you ask me because the US is my home, where all of my friends and family are and it would be so hard to leave all of that behind. But at the same time, France, just like India, will always hold a special place in my heart. I know it sounds corny but it’s true. I’ve had so many incredible moments here and so many life changing experiences. France is now a part of me and will be for the rest of my life. I love the people and the landscape and of course the food and the strange habits. I’m sure once August comes I’ll start feeling really sentimental about the motherland but for now La France me manque . . . .

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Nothing But Good Ideas

Ok so it only makes sense that two weeks later I finally get around to updating my blog about my fabulous trip to Greece. Because there is so much to tell and probably a lack of attention span on the part of my readers I am going to try to hit on the highlights of the trip as well as discussing my impressions on some aspects of the Greek culture. I’ll start with our weekend trip to the islands:

The day after we arrived in Athens we hopped on a ferry at the port of Piraeus in Athens at around 7am and arrived at the island of Syros by noon. Syros is a tiny Greek island located in the chain of islands known as the Cyclades. The largest city on the island, which was also where we were staying, is called Ermoupoli and also happens to be the capital of the Cyclades. We decided to find our hostel first but since the directions on the internet were altogether extremely vague we set off into the streets of Ermoupoli. The streets, just like the streets of Athens, are composed of slabs of white marble and the buildings are mostly white, rectangular houses with terra cotta roofs which was very different from the blue-domed buildings I was expecting (which it turns out are native to the island of Santorini). We tried to follow our first direction “go to the center of town and take the seventh narrow street on the left to the market” but the altogether vagueness of the direction “center of town” made the first clue immensely difficult to follow so we decided instead to just wander around for awhile (Syros isn’t that big) and just ask for directions when we got tired of wandering. Surprisingly after about 20 minutes of window shopping while kind of looking for our hostel we managed to stumble upon a market. Our next direction was to “find the clock by the street Chiou and take the third narrow street on the left.” After establishing that we were in fact on Chiou Street we began to look for the infamous clock that would lead us to our next clue. Seeing no clock in sight I then decided to play the tourist card and ask a local vendor for directions. I asked in English in course because I know zero Greek and I was met with nothing but Greek responses and confusing hand gestures (apparently the Greeks don’t learn much English). I made a few confusing hand gestures of my own to indicate that I was looking for a clock but none of this produced any results so we kept walking. Not even five minutes later we saw the street we needed and then saw our hostel (aptly named) “Paradise.”

Now as I said, Ermoupoli is the biggest city on the island but there are a few other small towns located on the island so our first day there we decided to head to a small town we found on the map called Kini. We were surprisingly able to find the bus stop we needed and were even able to decipher the timetable which was written completely in Greek! The bus took a twisty road up to the top of the island and then descended an equally twisty road on the other side of the hill and dropped us off. We saw a very small sandy beach and took a bunch of pictures and after basking in the beautiful sunlight as it reflected off of the Mediterranean we decided to look for a place to eat only to discover that every restaurant, market and place of entertainment in Kini was closed. Clearly Kini was not an off-season kind of town. We eventually did find one place that was open and sat down to watch the sunset while we sipped Greek coffee and frappes. The Greeks, unlike the rest of the world, have this kind of coffee poetically known as “Greek coffee.” What makes the coffee different from coffee in most other places is that the Greeks leave the coffee grounds in the coffee and then mix a lot of sugar in and drink it like that. While this is not actually as bad as it sounds, it is still hard to get used to sipping up large chunks of grounds when you are used to the smoothness of normal coffee. The other Greek national drink (besides ouzo) is a frappe which is quite a bit like the frappes we have in the states except that there is a large portion of delicious foam on the top of the drink. However, we were instructed by our host/guide Molly, that it is socially unacceptable to drink the foam. Deciding it was too good to pass up; we abandoned all pretenses and drank like barbarians.

Most of our time on the island was spent exploring. We took up this motto “Nothing but Good Ideas” that worked something like this:

Molly: Let’s climb up to the Greek Orthodox Cathedral today.

Martha: Great idea Molly, let’s do it!

Erin: And after we should stop and get some frappes at a cute café.

Molly and Martha: great idea Erin!

I know it sounds stupid but it actually turned out to be one of the best ways to travel. When you have decided that there is no such thing as a bad idea, it is very easy to be relaxed and just go with the flow. And seeing as we usually had nowhere to be at any particular time we basically just did what we wanted when we wanted.

Now this weekend happened to be the last week of Carnivale (something we don’t really celebrate in the states). Carnivale is the week leading up to Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday and officially culminates on the Monday before Mardi Gras which is suitably known as “Clean Monday” by the Greeks. We had heard that Saturday night there would be some sort of festival at the town square so after dinner we wandered out to the square only to find hordes of children running around and screaming and throwing large piles of confetti at each other. Apparently the festival was meant for kids so we wandered around awkwardly for a little while throwing the occasion chunk of confetti at each other and dancing with people dressed in strange costumes. At one point I even danced with a strange man who remotely resembled Elton John. . .

Earlier on Saturday the three of us had gone to a café and decided that because Erin was turning 21 the next day we had to come up with a list of 21 Things for her to accomplish over the next 24 hours. I got the idea from a girl named Kate who is studying with us in France and decided that just because we were in Greece didn’t mean we could cop out on Erin’s 21st. We began assembling the list among which was “get a picture with a Greek Orthodox priest”, “touch the Mediterranean,” “eat a large Greek taverna dinner,” and “fine a natural blonde Greek.” At night we went to a bar to officially ring in Erin’s 21st and we finally found all the people our age who we had thought to be mysteriously missing from the island.

The next day we set about to accomplish our task but as it was gray and a bit chilly, our motivation wasn’t quite what it should have been. We did however; spend most of the day eating, which is once again, always a Good Idea. For Erin’s birthday, Molly and I took her out to lunch at a Greek Taverna which is essentially a restaurant owned and operated by a Greek family. We ordered stuffed burgers, squid and lamb and it was all incredibly delicious! We continued our hunt later in the day but feeling exhausted by the gray sky and discouraged by the lack of naturally blond Greeks walking around, we decided to take a nap.

Now we had heard that on Sunday night there was some sort of Carnivale celebration so not knowing quite what to expect we took a taxi up to Anos Syros, the old town, which is the highest point of the island. The town was completely different from Ermoupoli in that its streets were much twistier and there were many arched passageways. It was really cute and I wished we had come up during the daytime to wander around a bit. The streets were already beginning to fill with people dressed up in all variety of costumes. Still not really knowing what was going to take place (political demonstration, wild party, and marathon around the island were all decent possibilities) we wandered around for a bit. All that we could gather was that something was happening at 8 o’clock pm (which can mean 9 o’clock pm Greek time) and by the looks of people lining the streets we guessed that it was probably a parade.

We took our place on the parade route among the crowds of children running the streets and shooting candy at each other. Sure enough, around 8:30pm a really informal parade began with random costumed people making their way through the parade route. Some of the people were dressed up with groups of their friends in themed costumes while others were in much larger groups that had some sort of theme. We saw swine flu (pigs with doctor’s clothes on), some sort of group with bananas on their head, and yet another group dressed as rain droplets that we think represented some sort of water conservation group. It was all very random and didn’t seem to be that organized at all except that there was an announcer that was filming the event for live television. After the parade was over we weren’t sure what to do because we had heard a rumor about some sort of mock wedding but it looked like everyone was walking in different directions so we figured it was mostly over. We found some kind people passing out free wine and soup and then began our long decent down the mountain and back to our hostel.

While Syros was probably not the most exciting island we could have gone to, I still had a really good time. We were probably the only tourists on the island (besides a group of Filipino boat workers we met at the children’s party) which provided for a really authentic experience. We ate really well (ok really really well), saw all the sites we wanted to see (except a blond Greek), and generally had a really relaxing weekend. But by the end of the weekend I was definitely ready to move on to the excitement of Athens.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

My Life in France Begins: My First Lesson in French Culture

You would think that since I’ve been in this country for exactly 32 days already that I would have learned a lot about the French culture and what it means to be French. However, this is not the case. I’ve been so busy making friends, orienting myself in Aix, choosing classes, figuring out how to feed myself affordably, and dealing with changes in host families that I have not really had the chance to start learning about the French culture. Until today that is.

Today I went to my Civilisation Française class, a class in which the professor doesn’t really teach, but instead, each week a different group of students makes a presentation on a different aspect of French culture. There are only about 20 people in this class and it is only for foreigners (about 6 Chinese, 3 Japanese, 4 Americans, 1 British, 1 Irish, 1 German, and 1 Norwegian). Originally this class seemed like one of those blow-off classes because your grade is comprised of a presentation (50%) which I’m really good at making, participation (20%) which I’m also really good at and a written exam (30%) which I don’t feel will be really that difficult. The first two presentations didn’t really spark my interest that much (France as a Tourist Destination and How to Live like a French Person) because I felt like they covered things I already knew about France and the French culture. You would think that this is exactly what I’d be interested in learning but really these are things that I learned in level one of French back home. For example, everyone knows that the French are well known for their wine, bread and cheese. I also know that the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe are two of the top tourist destinations in France. None of this interested me. Not really expecting to learn much about French culture that I didn’t already know, I came to class today expecting yet another useless presentation.

Today’s topic was “Le Rôle de l’État en France” or “the Role of the State in France.” There was potential here for sure. The presentation was started with a basic history of French government around the time of the revolution, and while many important things happened at this time regarding the formulation of the current French government and much more fundamentally, the commencement of the first true republic on the planet, the presentation of these facts went too quickly for me to actually grasp what any of this really meant. The next portion of the presentation went on to explain the current position of France as a Welfare State (L’Etat Providence). This is when things started to change.

We got into a deep discussion about the role of the state in different countries around the world concerning welfare, health care, and social security. I should preface this by saying that I LOVE discussions. I feel that when discussing and sharing opposing points of view, a person has the greatest potential to learn than at any other time in their life. Not only do you get to learn about how other cultures work but you also get to learn about why certain people think in certain ways, what things make different people passionate, and in the end, there is always a new sort of understanding reached, even if an agreement hasn’t been met. Just by learning what kinds of opinions and points of view exist in the world, a person can grow immensely. This is how a person learns to change their frame of reference, to see through new eyes, and even if not in agreement, one can still grow by learning that opposing views exist. That being said, I was really excited to finally be able to discuss different systems of welfare because the American welfare system is not something I understand very well, nor have I really been able to form a solid opinion on its function.

We started talking about how the French rely on their government for just about everything. In France a slogan like “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” would be completely absurd. In exchange for paying very high taxes the French receive any number of services ranging from medical care to road repair. For example, if a person with AIDS gets sick and has to pay for medication the government will reimburse them 100%. 100% for some of the most expensive treatments in medicine! If a person gets sick and has to go to the doctor, they are reimbursed some 75% of the doctor’s bill. In the United States, this is obviously not the case. Medical care in the US is increasingly privatized which means that not only is going to the doctor extremely expensive but also that many people who are sick can’t possibly go to the doctor because they can’t afford it. For people with money who can afford insurance, the United States has an incredible healthcare system. But for those that can’t afford insurance, life can be hell. Without insurance, it is next to impossible to go to any kind of doctor, which means that if you’re poor and you’ve been coughing for 3 weeks straight all you can do is continue taking over-the-counter medication that is only meant to cure symptoms for a few hours. Obama is currently trying to reverse this system by creating a government healthcare system that everyone can afford. In addition, he wants to make it mandatory to own health insurance so that if anyone, rich or poor, gets sick, they can go to a doctor to receive medical treatment. However, creating a system like this is very expensive for the government. This new healthcare system will mean an immense rise in taxes for all Americans and with a suffering economy this is not something everyone can afford. In the United States, there is very much of an individual mindset in that if you can’t afford healthcare, too bad for you because I can. With this new, raised tax, there would be universal healthcare but the upper and middle classes would be forced to pay for it as well, even though they already can afford their own healthcare.

In France, the key word here is égalité. Of the three words defining the French culture (liberté, égalité, and fraternité) égalité is definitely the one that describes France the best. Here it is all about receiving equal care and equal treatment even if it means that other people have to suffer because of it. This can be a good thing. Obviously universal healthcare is a great thing if you have a population that is both willing and has the means to pay it. On the other hand, this concept of equality also applies to the social sphere. For example, the French might ban the wearing of headscarves (les voiles) in any public space because they believe headscarves to be a representation of one’s religion, something they banned long ago when they created the distinction between Church and State with the founding of the Republic in 1789. Despite the fact that the French are overwhelmingly Catholic, laïcisme or secularism has been a fundamental part of the French state for some 221 years now.

In the United States the key word is liberté. We are too afraid of stepping on people’s beliefs that universalism is next to impossible in the United States. I’m not saying that stepping on people’s beliefs is a good thing; in fact, I think it’s very important to be sensitive to other people’s customs. However, as I mentioned before, certain things like universal healthcare that benefit all (not just the privileged) may never come to be because we think that asking the wealthy to pay higher taxes is impinging on their liberties and freedom to act as an individual. I’m not sure yet where I stand on all of this but I think it’s important to know that there are always two sides and that one must always try to gain new perspectives on every scenario in life. And while I’m on the topic of dual perspectives, I want to leave you with a little joke that my French professor told us today about the difference between the French and the Americans:

A Frenchmen and an American are walking down a sidewalk and see a beautiful limousine complete with a chauffeur. The American says “I wish I wish I wish I could own a car that nice with my own driver.” The Frenchmen then says “I hope that bastard who owns that car loses his money and has to drive a car just like mine.”

Liberté versus Égalité. My first lesson on French culture.

A Failed Attempt at a "Provencal Morning"

This morning I decided to have what I like to call “A Provencal Morning” (Provencal being the French word for provincial). Because I don’t have class until 2pm on Tuesdays I slept in until 10:30am, showered, got dressed and left the house by 11:30. Intent on finding myself a delicious lunch filled with local specialties, I wandered out to the large market located in the center of Aix. While there is a food market every morning here in Aix, on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays the market grows to include housewares, clothing, and rare collectible items.

When I got into downtown I was suddenly surrounded on all sides by tiny little food stalls each shaded by a different colored striped awning. Under each stall, burly venders sold a different type of regional specialty. Apples, oranges, olives, avocadoes, potatoes, tomatoes, fish, fromage, nuts, litchi, grapefruit, herbs, sausages and flowers of all variety crowded the already tiny streets of Aix.

Despite the fact that I was here to “wander” the market, I was also a woman on a mission—I was intent on finding the infamous “olive man” (as my American friends call him), a man made legendary for selling up to 15 different varieties of olives all local to southern Europe. Trying my hardest to imitate the provincial French and lazily peruse the market, I planned to stop at each stall to hold an apple in my hand, testing for firmness, smell and color and even dared myself to ask the vendor if I could possibly try just a little bit.

But the rushed American in me won out. I didn’t walk nearly as slowly as I’d wanted to, the only things I held were the ones I’d bought and I didn’t dare ask to try anything (if I had, I would have known the olives I chose weren’t as strong as I’d wanted them to be).

I think I just don’t understand what it means to be provincial yet. Sure I know that you take an hour to drink a tiny cup of coffee or two hours to savor the perfect glass of wine. I know that it means not rushing anywhere (even if you’re already late) and taking three hours to eat an average Monday night dinner. I know all of these things, but knowing and doing are completely different things. To do, observation of customs simply isn’t enough. To do, you have to understand the history of the custom, you have to completely change your mind set to one that is patient and has nowhere else to be. You have to have no future in that moment so you can savor the present. It’s not so much living like there’s no tomorrow, it’s more like living like you know there will be a hundred moments just as wonderful as this one, so why rush on to the next when this one is just as good. That is what I think living a “provincial life” means.

So while I’m a little disappointed with myself for not taking more time at the market today, I also know that there will be many more mornings just as beautiful as this one where I can try again. Despite having been here for one month already, I think it’s still too early for me to achieve this goal.

The first month is always kind of stressful anyway because everything is so new. I was so busy making friends, choosing classes, orienting myself in Aix, dealing with host family problems and calling my parents that I haven’t really had time to live a “provincial life.” That part of my stay is only beginning.

For now I’m taking little steps to achieve this goal. For example, I had the most delicious lunch today filled with fresh, local produce. I had avocado, salami and mamolette cheese on a baguette with “olives de Provence” on the side. After the meal I warmed up some Milka on the leftover baguette (just to keep it healthy!) Now that is what I call a perfect lunch!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Bonne Année

Hey Everyone,

I'm so sorry it's taken me so long to start writing my blog. I'm going to try to fill you all in on the goings-on here in Aix-en-Provence in the past 3 weeks. But first I wanted to briefly share what I did in Paris.

As some of you know, I met up with my friends Matt and Carina for "la reveillon" or New Year's Eve in Paris. We all stayed at a hostel called L'auberge de l'Artagnan in the 20th arrondisement. Despite being a tad far from downtown (but still on the Metro!) we were still able to do everything we wanted to over the 3 days that we were there. On New Year's Eve we searched for what seemed like hours before finding a place to eat that we could both afford and that was actually serving food and not just drinks. Despite paying a bit more than we'd wanted to, we were able to sufficiently stuff ourselves so that we could begin drinking the 3 bottles of champagne that Carina kindly brought from Germany. In the hour preceding midnight we strolled down to the Eiffel Tower to watch the dazzling light show (check out my facebook photos) and then made our way back to the Champs-Elysées where we awaited 2010 with thousands of other people. Despite the fact that nothing really happens in Paris at midnight (no ball to drop), it was still incredibly exciting to be at the Times Square of Paris to ring in the new year. All around us, we heard songs in foreign tongues and saw crowds of North African men waving their flags and singing from the tops of lampposts.

It was so fascinating to witness this happening because I have learned so much about the difficulties that immigrants have been facing in France and here in front of me, people were singing the nation anthems of their homeland and it became very evident to me that the identity of Paris as well as that of France is a multiracial and multi-religious one much different from that of the original inhabitants of France. I would come to learn a few weeks later that the question of French identity is one of the most important questions being posed in France as of late and many people are seeking to redefine what it means to be French (if one can even come up with one definition).

After ringing in the new year (in France they say "Bonne Année") the three of us wandered (drunkenly) around Paris until about 4am when Carina and I headed back to our hostel for the night. The next morning Carina and I headed off to Montmartre to see the famous Sacre Coeur Cathedral and to stroll in the streets where the likes of Van Gogh and Picasso took their morning coffee. Later in the evening the three of us went to the Museum of Modern Art in the Pompidou Centre and then headed back to the hostel for an early night to recover from the last night's absence of sleep.

The next day we went to the Louvre only to find ridiculously long lines and instead headed to the Musee d'Orsay which houses a huge collection of impressionist works. I really liked this museum because impressionism is my favorite style of art and I was able to see many Renoir works that I had learned about when I did a research project on him in 7th grade (thanks Mrs. Forman!) After the museum we headed to the Eiffel Tower but again the lines were insufferable so we went to the train station so Matt and I could buy our train tickets to Aix. Once again we were met with ridiculously long lines (the French bureaucracy can be a bit slow. . .) but we had to wait. When we were finished with our long day of waiting in line we rewarded ourselves with delicious Italian food served by a delightful waiter who spoke French, English, Italian, German and Spanish with us! We then met up with my friend from U of M named Verena who is studying abroad at Sciences-Po in Paris. She took us to this really cool jazz-style bar called Le Cameleon in the Odeon neighborhood. The next morning we packed up our things and said our goodbyes and Matt and I boarded the TGV for Aix.