Princess Peach

5.31.2014

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{Chateau Haut-Veyrac winery in St. Emilion}
As most decisions in my life go, choosing this study abroad program was not done without thought and deliberation. A go-to conversation among the my new friends is what brought everyone here.

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{St. Emilion}
I told them I always wanted to go to France ever since I opted to take French over Spanish.

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{Bordeaux Cathedral}
Seville was a more unexpected part of the plan. I'm lucky enough to go to school with my two best friends but being in different sororities can make it difficult to carve out quality time together.

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With all three of us spending this summer in Europe, I couldn't bear the thought of only more brief, rushed visits. So, in an effort to satisfy the best of both worlds I chose this multi-city program.

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{my new friend, Becca, from Indiana}
 In Paris, I get to enjoy a place and city I love, and hopefully along the way, meet new people. I've been in a bubble for awhile, and Paris has already proven to be the perfect place to pop it.


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I did, however, entertain a program in Aix-en-Provence. My adviser was intent on Paris being oh so passé and encouraged the south of France. After an excursion to the region of Bordeaux and the darling little town of St. Emilion, I now see what he means.

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Surrounding the big city of Paris are little pieces of paradise. It's not what it looks like on Pinterest though. It's a thousand times better.

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{Grand Hotel de Bordeaux whose symmetry reminded me of Grand Budapest Hotel}
Claimed to be the wine capital of the world, I expected this quaint countryside winery feel from Bordeaux.

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{look closely sista sherries, that's 'Quatre Soeurs' ... 4 sisters!}
I soon learned the city itself is the sixth largest in France, so it's fairy urbanized.

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My friends and I explored the cathedral, St. André, and as is true with any European church, it was breathtaking inside

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and out.

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It sits next to the bell tower Tour Pey-Berland, a tower with 230 steps that we climbed to take in the view of the city. The local university makes the nightlife in Bordeaux lively (with less Bota Boxes and more Bordeaux!), which we were happy to enjoy after a long day of traveling only days after our arrival in Paris.

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After my first overnight stay in a hostel, we were taken to the most charming town of Saint Emilion.

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It felt as though it were out of a fairy tale book,

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and being there, I felt like a princess.

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The sun was shining on the rolling hills which held up precious cottages and chateaus.

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Every shop owner was so friendly you'd almost mistake them for Texans. (One owner nailed my apparent Houston accent!) I'd guess the livin' is good when your diet is rich in mararoons,

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glacé,

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and wine is drunk like water.

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My new friend, Becca, and I discovered this after strolling through the village together and having a private tasting of Bad Boy wine for breakfast.


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We even found little boutiques along the way. I collected two souvenires--a wine opener and the three-coin necklace on the bottom right. 

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A tour guide then took us through the underground ruins of St. Emilion, which include catacombs and a church. Unfortunately, he laid out a very strict no photo policy, but the stories of the city were fascinating. 


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We wrapped up the tour with a wine tasting at Chateau Haut-Veyrac.

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As students here in France, we've certainly enriched our knowledge on aging, oaks and harvesting grapes.

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The train ride home back through the countryside during sunset was a perfect end to the trip. We must have brought the sunshine with us as today was the first completely rain-free day in Paris. Jordan and I enjoyed it in the Saint-Germain district meeting up with her sister and friends. Tomorrow, off to the French Open!

Bon weekend!



Très Bon Appetit

5.29.2014

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Everyone has their own vision of heaven, and I'm partial to my mom's. She says the Germans will make the cars, the Italians will make the shoes, and the French, why of course, will make the food. 

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She must be onto something because every bite of food I had today could only be described as heavenly

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My foodie friend and Frenchie all last fall, Caroline, took me and our friend Katie to dinner at Austin's laid-back French bistro, Arro, to give us the inside scoop on a city with a brasserie on every boulevard and café on every corner. 

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Though the food's aplenty, it actually can be hit or miss in Paris. Thanks to Caroline, though, today I struck gold not once, not twice, but thrice.

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I got an earlier start than expected this morning, so I decided to challenge myself to a solo Metro ride to Rose Bakery in the third, just one arrondissement over from my school. 

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With umbrella in tow, I made it inside the cozy bakery tucked in the Marais. The baker was kneading dough with confidence, fully prepared to make perfect pastries. The scone du jour was pecan maple butter and a fresh batch came out of the oven just as I walked up to the counter. 

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The waitress kindly sat me down since I was dining "sur la place." I washed the crumbly scone down with an espresso and most delicious (& darling!) little fudge espresso brownie bite on the side. 

Mom, America's Test Kitchen raves about their apple tart...we'll have to go back! And dad, a man came in practically begging for a slice of le gateau aux carrottes (carrot cake) because it's "best in the world." How 'bout dat, Pops? So much for IHOP; as far as I'm concerned, RB is the place you walk in hungry and leave happy. 

I made it just in time for my first class/syllabus day. The class is called Secularism in France, so we'll be looking at how religious life has changed over time in the country--especially in recent years--and compare that to the US tradition of separating church and state. I was happy to hear our professor is eager to make Paris our classroom and take us to many sites during our meeting hour. 

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On the way to stock up on longer-sleeved clothing items (I mistakenly thought Paris and Seville would be similar climates), I grabbed lunch at Frenchie-To-Go, another rec from Caroline. She praised it for its name-sake: being to-go, something the French have been a little slow to catch onto. 

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The tiny joint has created a buzz a million times the restaurant's size indicated by the long line and a camera man following the head chef, Sebbie Kenyon, around to cover the success of his restaurants. 

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Sebbie saw me overlooking the menu, sensed my decision dilemma and told me I wouldn't be disappointed with the buratta. He uttered the word balsalmic, then asparagus. I was sold. 

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Needing a pick-me-up, I grabbed this Curiosity Cola that they managed to make that much cuter with the green striped straw. And probably charged me 2.5€ for! 

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We made our way to the 9th and shopped around, hitting every floor of famous Galerie Lafayette with its ceiling that's the Sistine Chapel of department stores. 

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Making it to the top floor is no small feat, so we treated ourselves to French fro-yo, and I topped mine with kiwi and toffee roasted peanuts. 

All of this on the eve of my train ride to Bordeaux, the ultimate wine country of the world. To that, I say cheers to you, Caroline, for making my French dining experience today--as the French would say--super! 


J'essaie

5.27.2014

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For better or for worse, I'm becoming accustom to the aroma of cigarette smoke, telling military time and "merci" slips from my tongue fairly naturally.

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Speaking of giving thanks, my mom the meteorologist deserves some love for telling me to bring my green rain jacket; it's been a lifesaver in these unexpected chilly temperatures. Good thing Parisians love them some scarves.

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These first two days, we've gone through the nuts and bolts of the program -- emergency contacts, Parisian culture, housing, etcetera.

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While squaring these things away, we've managed to see a lot of the city--mostly by foot. I've always said I want to live in a pedestrian city one day--something Houston might be the farthest things from--and now I remember why. There's a sense of accomplishment, the opportunity to people watch, and built-in daily exercise and time outdoors.

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Brie for breakfast--this I can do.

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It's a far cry from the Tower of Texas Capitol but this view from my classroom will suit me just fine for summertime.

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But when I'm homesick, there's always a taste of home

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and a sip to wash it down.

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It's a shame to see the beautiful buildings polluted with graffiti, but a delight to see greens running up and down these gorgeous structures.

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The amazing landscapes run horizontally too,

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like here in the corps de logos at the Hotel de Soubise.

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On the other side of the world, I've already found a kindred spirit and no surprise, she's from Texas too. Her name's Jordan. She goes to TCU and is from Dallas and bonding over mutual friends and backgrounds has been comforting in the beginning.

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We had dinner at a brasserie along the Seine.

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It was your typical European fare--starting with a lentil salad, chicken, potatos au gratin and veggies for the entrée and a pommes aux tartes for dessert.

As is true with most traveling days, a lot was accomplished like navigating the Metro system and dabbling more in my rudimentary French skills--both of which I hope to improve on as the trip goes on.




P.S. Though I can't promise a post a day, I will promise an Instagram photo post every day. Follow @bridgetsowndiary for a virtual summer in Europe :)