Spring Break Update

I know I’ve been sort of off the radar lately, but nothing particularly blog-worthy has popped up over the past few weeks. But now, it’s spring break, which means that my time in Europe is running out. Since I only have about two months left (and because my friends and family want to live vicariously through me), I thought it’d be best if I traveled somewhere.

Let me tell you, choosing where I wanted to go was a struggle. The problem with studying abroad in Europe is that you have so many options: did I want to go to Athens? Istanbul? Brussels? Reykjavik? Paris, again? If only I had a Time Turner. And unlimited money.

Eventually, after a long and arduous fight with indecision, I chose this city:

(I have no idea how that’s supposed to help you identify the city. I just thought it looked cool.)

Here’s the answer: Rome! It’s got so much history, and plus, it’s only an hour and ten minutes away from Nice by plane. Also, it’s close enough to the Mediterranean so that I hopefully won’t have to deal with actual winter weather until November. (Yes, while Ashland and Richmond have been experiencing snow, I get to have 60-degree weather and sunshine.)

I know it makes more sense to travel with someone else, but times and places don’t always match up. Also, I figure traveling by yourself is ends up being a pretty useful experience (I tend to use extrovert friends as mouthpieces by shoving them at whoever I have to talk to), although it might’ve been smarter for me to go somewhere francophone. Eh. I’ll make do with my fluent English and two words of horribly butchered Italian.

I’m staying in a little room in a university student’s cozy apartment, right near the Tiber River, that I’m renting until March 5. So how’d my day go? I had no problems whatsoever with the plane, train, and bus, but then, being the pro tourist I am, managed to get lost on the way to the apartment. And then, once there, the key decided it hated me and didn’t want to help me open the door. Luckily, I got someone to help me. (Sidenote: either the Mediterranean is incredibly blue, clear enough to reflect clouds, or those were just some really low-hanging clouds I saw from the plane window.)

Then I wandered aimlessly around before having an omelette at a restaurant, where everyone was smiling at this baby who spent her time toddling around, waving at people, or randomly lying prone on the floor. After making the most of the restaurant’s free wi-fi, I climbed down to the bank of Tiber River, where I got a little paranoid when I heard these weird hissing and clinking sounds. False alarm: those were just paint cans in action, and I must say, I’ve never seen live graffiti artists before.

One of my favorite things about European cities is how they have a massive variety of stores in an area as small as a two-block radius. Before I went back to the apartment, I passed a fruit store, a cute craft store, an ominous building with a buzzer system and completely opaque black doors called “Sex Now,” and a gelateria that I resisted entering because my nose was cold.

Wow, this was a really long post. If you’re still reading and haven’t gotten bored yet, I commend you. Stay tuned to find out how many more times I end up getting lost in Rome!

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A Non-French Class

I’ve been deprived of an actual literature class since May, so on a desperate whim, I decided to sign up for an English literature class, Life of Pi. The course is an hour long and only happens on Thursdays (which means it’ll probably end up giving me a whopping half-a-credit), but it’s free, and it’s actually intriguing, so who’s complaining?

Life of Pi and I have had a tumultuous history. I think I picked it up one summer as a 6th or 7th grader, my mentality being, “Oh hey, look how big this book is! And it’s got a tiger on the cover! I’m going to read it!” Unfortunately, little!me had never read anything past the level of Harry Potter, Redwall, or A Series of Unfortunate Events, so that wasn’t the best life decision. I mean, I understood that the book was weird, but I failed to grasp any of its literary intricacies, so I promptly decided that I hated it.

I like to think that now, nearly a decade later, I’m smarter than middle-school-me. Although the book’s definitely still weird, it’s the sort of story that compels you to step back and reflect. (Being me, I read it in a couple of hours over the span of three days, after skimming over the religion parts—not that I have anything against religion [unless you’re trying to rub it in people’s faces or use it to justify heinous acts like *cough racism and homophobia cough*], but I’m an atheist and it simply doesn’t interest me.)

So it’s a relief to finally be able to sit in a class that reminds me of R-MC, even if it’s only for an hour that flies by way too quickly. The professor’s chill and has a sense of humor, and as a plus, he actually treats us like independent thinkers instead of vessels. To be honest, this class is probably the only reason I’m still sane after half a year of CUEFLE classes.

On the downside, everyone has to give a presentation, but that doesn’t seem nearly as daunting after being forced to sit at the front of a room and talk about a random subject in a language that I can’t even speak fluently. My topic isn’t too bad, either; all I have to do is watch the movie and then compare the cinematic and literary versions. (Side note: I found out today that we’re graded on class participation. Yay. A shy person’s favorite thing.)

Villefranche-sur-Mer

The only other American in my main classes graciously invited me to go to Villefranche-sur-Mer, a town to the east of Nice, with her and three other girls from the University of Maryland. The bus ride from Nice is really short, about 20-25 minutes, and after hopping off the bus, we walked through this little flea market. Next, we ambled down to the sea, where we sat and admired the blueness of the water. (It’s been five months, and I still can’t get over how blue the Mediterranean is. The southeast part of France isn’t called the Côte d’Azur for nothing, you know.)

Eventually, we left the sunny seaside to hunt down lunch, making a detour at the Saint-Michel church.

When we finally found a place that was open for lunch, we spent some time deliberating over our options before making our purchases, which we ate while chilling out and watching a soccer game. Sometime later, we went off in search of the citadel, which was still pretty despite not being very fortress-like. It also housed two museums that advertised free entry, so of course, we couldn’t resist walking in. The first museum featured the sculptor Volti, and the second housed artwork by Goetz and Boumeester.

The entrance to the citadel:

Satisfied with what we’d accomplished during our time in Villefranche, we returned to Nice, where we wound our way through Vieux Nice to get some gelato before calling it a day. (I got mango and dark chocolate, and I swear it was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever had.)