Mid-semester Break

I can happily report that I don’t have class until November 3, thanks to a week-long break!

After three tortuous midterms, I used Friday as a de-stressing day by catching up with How to Get Away with Murder and then rewatching episodes of White Collar in French.

On Saturday, despite my burning urge to sit down and write for hours, I kicked myself out of my room and went museum-ing. My first stop was MAMAC (Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporaine), which is a huge building that I’ve passed a hundred times but never actually gone inside.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t actually that much to see. Despite its imposing size, most of the museum was empty space, and in my opinion, the art wasn’t that all interesting. (No, but really, how is a smashed car or a framed red square considered art good enough for a museum?)

My favorite art pieces:

The best part was the fifth-story open rooftop view, which offered a nice view of the city:

I then went to the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle, but it was tiny compared to MAMAC, and I was honestly too creeped out by all the taxidermy to stay in there for long.

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I intended to go to the Musée des Beaux-Arts on Sunday, but I only got to see its pretty exterior from a distance, thanks to a group of pathetic teenage boys who threw a rock at my temple. Yeah, I was hardly going to walk past them to go up the stairs after that, so I casually hightailed it out of there. Then I ran around the city, trying to find a tabac where I could buy some sort of student stamp for my long-stay visa, before I realized that most stores are closed on Sundays. When I returned to my dorm to cook dinner, I received the pleasant though confusing surprise that Daylight Savings Time ended today, so I did manage to get in some writing time after all.

St. Paul de Vence

Due to a bus strike (which is, according to a guy in the English Society, unremarkable because “they’re just getting started,” classes were cancelled on Thursday, so I ended up getting another surprise four-day weekend.

On Friday, three of the Marylanders and I visited St. Paul de Vence, an artsy, medieval commune situated on top of a mountain.

I took this picture on the bus ride back to Nice, so it’s a bit blurry and I’m not even sure if it’s St. Paul, but it gives you the general sense of what the walled village looked like:

It was a cozy little place, with a bunch of art galleries and souvenir stores lining the streets.

This trip didn’t really have any eventful highlights; because St. Paul was such a small village, we mostly just looked at art, marveled at the scenery and architecture, and found several adorable stray cats.

View from the lookout point:

This cat was sitting outside a restaurant, impatiently waiting for food:

Week 6, ft. Menton

My five-hour literature class was blessedly canceled on Thursday, resulting in an unexpected four-day weekend. I spent a good amount of time stuffing groceries into my tote bag and backpack, and then playing Tetris with my fridge.

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On Friday, four of the Marylanders invited me to go to Menton with them, which is a commune that’s apparently famous for lemons. After meeting at Place Garibaldi at 2, we took a bus to Èze and then another to Menton (we’d been planning to go straight to Menton, but we had some problems with the bus and some rude stalker guy who worked for the bus line). I glued my eyes to the window for most of the hour-and-a-half-long ride, because we were driving along the coast and the view of the Mediterranean coastline was just too pretty to resist.

Although all the coastal cities and communes here all sort of look the same—they have gorgeous architecture and are built on hills and mountains—each one has its own unique beauty.

We walked through a little garden before stopping briefly at the tourist office to obtain a map and tips on where to go, and then we went off to explore. We walked into a museum for about ten seconds, left and then browsed a yard sale, and stumbled upon a honey store, Mille et un miels. Oh my god. The honey there was incredible, and the lady working there let us sample a bunch, such as honey with lemons, honey with mandarin, and honey with lavender. Even though the honey was on the expensive side, 9.50 euros for a little 185g jar, we all ended up buying something. (I swear I’ve never tasted honey that delicious, and I don’t even know how I’m supposed to go back to eating fake honey in plastic bears in the US.)

Our next destination was the Basilica Saint-Michel, but we missed the cathedral’s visiting hours by ten minutes. The outside was still pretty, anyways, and we decided to keep climbing uphill to visit a cemetery.

All the apartments we passed were colorful and aesthetic, and we found an area that offered an amazing view of Menton and the Mediterranean.

Me posing awkwardly:

My attempt at a panorama:

After a bunch of pictures, we continued on to the Vieux-Château Cemetery, where we proceeded to be impressed by the amount of detail and care put into the graves. There were even miniature mausoleums, and some of the graves had family members who’d been buried there since 1788.

After noticing a foreboding storm cloud, we hurried back to the bus stop and left Menton around 7, and I got back to my room at 9.

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I wanted to go out and do things on Saturday and Sunday, but my reluctance to leave the dorm at night tends to outweigh my desire to kick myself out of my room. I did, however, accomplish cleaning my room and doing my laundry, which made me miss R-MC’s free laundry. (It cost 4.40 euros to use a washing machine, 0.50 euros for detergent, and another 0.50 euros to use a drying machine for 5 minutes. It’s too bad my sink isn’t bigger, because then I’d keep hand-washing everything.)

Week 5 (I’m too lazy to come up with more interesting titles)

Wednesday evening, I attended the ESN (Erasmus Student Network) Welcome Day event for international students, partly because there was a promise of free dinner and free gifts, and partly because it was an opportunity to meet people. The event was scheduled for 6:30pm at the Centre Universitaire Méditerranéen, a really fancy amphitheater, so I met the Czech girl and one of her friends, an Italian girl, at Place Masséna at 5:45. We walked to the CUM, got tote bags of free stuff, sat through a presentation, and then fought for dinner. (The buffet was nothing like I’d imagined—when I think of buffet, I picture a sort of orderly line, complete with plates and silverware. This was an unorganized chaos of hungry students pushing and shoving for free dinner, which consisted of tiny finger-food squares of pizza pies.)

Afterwards, I didn’t know what to do myself, so I tagged along with a group of students who were going to the beach. They didn’t mind, though; in fact, they went out of their way to welcome me. I’ve forgotten most of their names, and where they’re from, but some of the countries were China, Russia, the Czech Republic, and Germany. Most of them speak French and are ridiculously multilingual, so it was good practice for me, especially since switching between French and English became incredibly confusing. I think there were at least 12 of us, and we sat on the beach for about two hours—but at 10:25, a German student and I decided to leave because we had to get up early the next morning.

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I tried the university’s restaurant food for the first time on Friday—it’s a better deal than both of the cafeterias, since you can get a meat, a vegetable, a pasta-type dish, an appetizer, yogurt or a fruit, and a piece of baguette for 3.20 euros.

I chose rice as an appetizer, and when I got to the main courses area, I panicked a bit because there were no signs. The only foods I recognized were fish, pasta, and broccoli, and I had no idea how to say broccoli in French. I think the lady serving the food took pity on me, though—when she asked what I wanted, I said, “Fish,” and then she asked, “With what?” So I blurted out, “Pasta and…” and made a vague gesture towards the broccoli, leading her to ask, “Both?” After some relieved, enthusiastic nodding on my part, she handed me my food, looked at my tray, and told me that I should go get yogurt or a fruit because it was included in the meal price.

The food wasn’t stellar, but it wasn’t awful either; it was pretty much just mediocre. I was really excited about the rice, and the fish wasn’t bad. The pasta was just pasta, although the broccoli was mushy and sad. But since the menu changes every day at least I won’t be eating sandwiches or hamburgers for lunch every day.

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I didn’t do much on Friday and Saturday other than grocery shopping—believe it or not, it takes an insanely long time to buy food, because I have to figure out how much food I need for the whole weekend, and then I need to think about whether or not something can fit in my tiny refrigerator.

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Sunday, from 11am to 1:50pm, I hung out with a Russian boy who I’d met on Wednesday. He’d told me that he wanted to practice his English with a native speaker, so I thought, “Yeah, sure, why not?” We met at Place Masséna at 11 and walked to the shopping center Nicetoile, where we ate at a little restaurant called Brioche Dorée (he paid for our food, which was super nice of him). We mostly talked about differences in Russia and America versus each other, as well as France and Europe. I learned a lot about Russia—for example, the weather in the area he’s from varies from -40 to 40 degrees Celsius, or -40 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit! And I thought that 32 degrees Fahrenheit was cold. Remind me to never set foot in Russia during the winter, because I’d turn into a block of ice.

After an hour or two in Brioche Dorée, we went to Starbucks, and sat there for a while before taking the bus back to our respective residences. Talking to him was an intriguing experience, because when he didn’t know how to say something in English, he’d say it in French, and then I’d translate it into English. The few hours I spent with him made me realize that I do like teaching people—whether it’s informally correcting someone, supplying them with the correct words in English, or being a writing tutor. But I don’t think I’d be able to become a teacher, since I prefer one-on-one interaction and not being stared at by an entire class of students.