Category Archives: Adventure


Borough (aka glorious food galore)

International Food Market outside Royal Festival Hall (aka 2 blocks away from the apartments… so good)

this stall was actually an american bakery in London

Camden Markets (aka an alternative universe exploding with graffiti, punk, and trinket trash)

just your average picnic tables with seats made of recycled scooters

everything was redesigned in camden.

entrance to the Camden Stables Market. Gigantic bronze horses regularly popped onto the scene.

inside the stables market- old horse stables converted into deep-set stores for selling lots and lots of junk/treasure

If all of those wonderful, eye-catching, designer intricacies are enough to get my attention. But here’s where it got really weird- kind of felt like Alice in Wonderland going down the rabbit hole…

we descended about 3 flights of warehouse stairs to get to the bathrooms... and to be greeted by an insane explosion of colors. Even in the bathrooms?! Really?

And then THIS GUY was outside the bathroom. A horoscope grim reaper. What?!?!

Right after we took this photo, the fire alarm started blasting in our ears, and, feeling like I was in the bowels of the underworld already, we slightly freaked out. Even though everyone else was pretty cool above ground, we were glad to keep moving. Apparently regular fire drills (for example, multiple times in our apartments on Friday mornings) are a thing here. The markets were massive and amazing and overwhelming. My roomie Christine and I wandered through the stalls for hours! It was a really fantastic experience.


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au revoir, paris

Paris was left behind, but not forgotten, what seems like very long ago, and the blog was left unfinished. Thanks to everyone who shared as much of the adventure as I could filter through the blog by following it. And thank you very much, Paris, and Notre Dame, for giving me all you had to offer this summer.

Here’s a few snapshots of the program’s last journeys.

Le manekin piss, the icon of brussels, reproduced more splendidly than the original in a belgian chocolate store window.

Monet's gardens, the inspiration for the water lilies paintings. It really was like a dream.

The view from Paris from Centre Pompidou, one of my favorite art museums in Paris. Sacre Coeur rises from the right on the horizon.

My roommate and I treated ourselves to the best hot tea in the world at this Parisian mosque's cafe. The back was covered with tents and little birds.

While my final history paper was on Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, my last art history paper was on Rodin's The Cathedral...

... and The Hand of God. Beyond beautiful.

One last anecdote, and I’ll close the adventure.

On the last full day of enjoying Paris, my  friend Mara and I lived it up- world famous hot chocolate at Angelina’s, followed by a swirling view of Paris from the swings in the Tuileries gardens, and a few glasses of wine and beer on tap at Le Baron Rouge wine bar.

We picked up souvenirs, jumped on the metro, walked to the Bastille, jumped back on the metro for Laduree macarons, and walked some more, till we met up with the class and the prof for a final farewell dinner.

Though I was nostalgic about leaving the tight-knit kind of family so quickly pushed together, I was more excited and yearning to get back home where I belonged. Never had I been so bent on making a flight in my life. Never have I looked so forward to returning to school in my life. I cannot wait to start a new semester at Notre Dame, a place where I finally feel that I can truly and proudly call my home.

But I’ve always been a nomad, from transferring schools to living off-campus and on-campus, from transferring dorms to roaming the globe. “Chin chin” to Europe, until London study abroad in 2012! Merci et au revoir!

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exploring the underground: caves of skulls and bottles

Am I really still in Paris? Above ground, people are chatting across cafe tables, arguing with the cashier about their grocery bills, and ignoring the homeless. Just bellow – just a few blocks away from our classroom – 6 million skulls lay packed against the walls of the underground tunnels – Paris’ catacombs. I was totally unaware of this, standing in the sunshine along Denfert Rochereau with my friends. Just behind us is the Denfert Rochereau tollhouse, which we knew better as Cafe Oz, the mega-Australian-bar/club. We descended the ever-familiar Parisian spiral stairs, which led to dropping temperatures and dark tunnels. I kept expecting to see skulls at my eye level as I rounded a corner. Fortunately the presentation was prefaced with a note of precaution to respect the dead.

Arrête, c’est ici l’empire de la Mort.

Stop, this is the empire of Death.

Whoah. As my roomie says, this is a little LOTR Dead men of Dunharrow

Unfortunately, these creepy barricaded paths of darkness did keep popping up unexpectedly, and my imagination was worse than the bones. Maybe. I’m not sure. I was honestly stunned at the massive piles in a single “room.”

Just lying there. Undistinguished. Individuals defaced.

There were architectural designs that slowed me, there were short philosophical and religious phrases in French carved periodically, and there were altars that transformed the area into a crypt. But my mind was both numbed and disturbed at the infinitely numbered nothingness- and then disturbed again at the graffiti on one skull, on the graffiti upon exiting that dated from the 18th century, and especially because I paid to be a tourist of a sacred place. Isn’t it supposed to be sacred? Do I desecrate when I walk through cemeteries? But I’m remembering fondly the preciousness of life when I walk through cemeteries. In the catacombs, I’m entering an amusement ride. I don’t deserve to look at a single person’s skull. It’s too intimate.

So maybe I’m thinking too much about this, maybe I can’t separate the material from the spirit, or get over the fact that everyone dies, or something. But still. Eerie. My roomie said she saw a skull lying on the security guard’s desk when we had to open our bags upon exiting. And there was a skull souvenir shop across the street. Why do we think we can steal or purchase death? Where is the respect for life?

Yellow. please copy and paste:

The next day, we took a day trip to Reims – the Champagne region. Another touristy attraction that took us underground. Apparently, the Romans dug quarries for chalk and limestone in the 3rd century, and then the monks at some much later date used the tunnels to connect to the cathedral of Reims, which is, like almost every cathedral in France seen thus far, called Notre Dame.

Every time I am faced with a new gothic cathedral, I cannot believe how magnificent the building is. This particular cathedral’s facade was incredibly ornate with gothic statues; the pointed archways inside were just tall enough to cap off my line of vision so that I felt drawn upwards into heaven; the medieval stained glass in the rosette windows were lovely hues of purple and rose.

I still prefer Cologne’s Dom… but I’m pretty biased about that. (But hey, isn’t that why you’re reading my blog? To know about my biases?)

Anyway, the champagne. The ironic descent into French caves. Instead of skulls, it was bottles of wine.

Our guide was American. I hope that he finds a better calling in life. Tour guiding is not his thing, and he knows it. His phony voice pretended like he was as legit as he looked in his suit. Once I had heard about “the family business kept for generations” and the “unique to the Tattinger family name” phrases about five times in the preliminary video, I was done. By the time we ascended the spiral staircase back up to the “mod” tasting room and were presented with a wall that listed all the names of the countries to which Tattinger exports their champagne to, my patience and eye-rolling was gone. Then they gave us what we came for: one glass of champagne. Even though the champagne was nice, the real highlight of the tour was a little british baby who kept sticking his hands in the bottles.

My roomie again used the perfect word to describe the entire affair: pretentious.

Despite my negative reflections on these experiences, I’m still having a lotta fun actually experiencing. What’s amazing is how different and how similar everything can be… caves for bones, caves for champagne. Caves for monks, caves for Romans. Tollhouses for taxing, tollhouses for raiding. Tollhouses for train stations, tollhouses for clubbing. How easy it is to forget why things exist in the first place.

Yeah, I’m thinking about Morality and Modernity / MacIntyre. (Or maybe just Peter?) Still.


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feeling the walls

Every time I leave my apartment, I enter into total blackness for about a yard and a half. Short though it is, I am generally a clutz about walking a few steps in front of me when I can see the ground, and when one hand is stretched out in front, waving, to get the attention of the light sensor, the other awkwardly skims the wall, trying not to knock on my neighbor’s doors. As efficient as the system may be for electric bills… I wish that the French could think of efficiency in time or general pulmonary health rather than this.

Anyway, I wouldn’t have mentioned this daily episode had we not, as a group, followed in single lines into a dark hallway in the Madeleine for the Glee Club concert. We were supposed to have mass in the crypt. The crypt wasn’t open, but stairs to a dark, stoney, and arched passageway were. So we took that route.

When we emerged into the main room, we were met with the Notre Dame Glee Club warming up for the concert that night. I’ve somewhat underestimated the magnitude of Notre Dame kids enjoying the reaches of our university. After a few kids spoke wonderful French to introduce their songs to a church full of French fans, and after their director (or was it the traveling priest?) spoke about the university and its Catholic history (with Father Badin and all), I realized what a big deal Notre Dame is. And how the Catholic church makes so many worldwide connections.

Honored as I was to be a student participating in the abroad program, I was more honored to get to know the Glee Club kids. They seemed super-tight and even gave my friends and I a few impromptu concerts in Russian and Italian underneath the Eiffel Tower last night. Lounging on the lawn underneath the Tower – as cheesey and touristy as it can be – is absolutely wonderful. Proud to be an American, proud to revel in the sparkling Eiffel Tower show.

Second underestimation: the explosively soft joy of a macaron in my mouth. This time, the hype of the famous brand name Ladurée, one of the big names in the Parisian macaron biz, did not disappoint (*cough* Pierre Hermé *cough*). The flavor! Just… wow. New culinary mission: discover the best flavor. There’s tons. Petit delights, ouai.

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le matin

Sorry for not posting for a while… Exhaustion and dilly dallying and lots of bread have piled up to a state of “fatigué” but I hope that it’s “passé.” (Lame French misusage as usual).

Rolland Garros, touristy sight seeing like Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower, eating out and eating in, and…

Montmartre streets in the morning

Mornings in Paris.

Mornings are beautiful. Mornings are new. Fresh eyes and feet moving along the cobblestones and up the fire escape ladders, the balconies… windows with tapestries fluttering through open doors. They really do exist- the romantic apartment escapes into a world unknown. I have a loop playing in  my head of a brief clip framed by a metro window – the curtain was red, violet, waving at the top floor. That was on the way to Rolland Garros.

Rolland Garros- chic and fun and riotous. During the mixed doubles match, the fun came from the four rows of bleachers. We were so close to the courts, we were a little scared of getting hit by a stray ball. Fortunately, that didn’t happen to us, but it did happen to some! One of the coaches kept yelling, “ALLEZ KATARENA! et Nadeya!” every time they switched sides or had a brief pause between games. The other mixed doubles team kept in good spirits, but Katarena’s partner jokingly interjected the proper pronunciation of his name. The coach would also clap in a beat that the rest of the crowd eventually picked up, especially with the excitement of his girl’s winning towards the end of the match.

This little girl caught my eye before the match. Well, most French children catch my eye before anything else. Like this little boy walking down the slopes of Montmartre this morning:

Which brings me to Montmartre.

the cafe in Amelie!

Montmartre is twisted and beautiful.

Maybe it was the morning, maybe it was my art history professor’s casual and absolute knowledge of everything we saw- the cabarnets like the Moulin Rouge and Le Lapin Agile; the site of artistic genius like Van Gogh’s apartment and Picasso’s studio during his blue and red period (Les Demoiselles D’Avignon- which I saw at MoMA- brilliant in person); but mostly the organic streets of Montmartre.

Just as the leaves spill over the iron bars, the streets and apartments seem to spill over. Every turn is a different angle, every angle is a different incline, every vanishing point has a greater one: one that ends in the entire horizon of Paris.

At Sacre Coeur – the holiest church in the world (to me).

My heart was filled tenfold at this sight. Though I miss my family – (How I wish my mother were here to taste the fine fine food!) and Peter very, very much (to be in the most romantic city in the world without him is a bit disheartening), I am filled by the light of God these mornings.

Grace and beauty in the history and anachronistic placement of myself among all.

Just outside Picasso’s studio, a little spirit from Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke film points me back to Picasso. I love being surrounded by the anachronistic amalgamation of art permeating the streets of Paris.

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Hangin’ around

Day 3

We’ve got the air of a more casual tourist. I pretty much feel like  a tourist all the time, even though Kelsy made a good point: We’re not tourists; we’re students. But still Amuhrican.

Notre Dame at Notre Dame!

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First impressions

The jet lag hasn’t left me yet, but I think it will soon. I’ve been a bit too exhausted to post anything, so I’ll give you some first impressions of daily life in Paris, plus some of our scheduled and non-scheduled excursions.

Day 1

IES gave us a ton of breakfast vouchers for La Porte Didot, a cafe on the corner of Didot and Boulevarde Brune, just a few blocks away from our apartments. Cafe au lait, OJ, a croissant, and two slices of baguette bread with butter and apricot (sometimes strawberry) jam. Délicieux? Bien sûr! Bon santé? Pas du tout!

We got a few orientation sessions on living in Paris: how avoid the bands of little kids pit pocketing in the busy metro stations, how to ignore strangers and anyone in an elevator, how to say “bonjour!” and “merci, bonne journée” upon entering and exiting a shop, and how to never expect quick service on the terrace café (where you’re not supposed to talk to your neighbor but look out at the street). What’s ironic to me is that even though the French have strict policies on not socializing with people they don’t know, they show an enormous amount of PDA in public. Professor “Tommy K” (as we now affectionately call him) said that this disconnect between American and French decorum might stem from linguistics. The French do not have a word for “awkward.” But come on. I think they might be kidding themselves. I know I can’t not smile at people I pass on the street- especially the most adorable little French children!

French kiddies on the bateau!

IES also treated us to a boat tour on the Seine. Monument after museum after insanely-crafted apartment houses after sculpture after bridge after garden after institution after restaurants… So so much.

In the heart of the city, we were overwhelmed with where we should go once the bateau let us off and our wonderful IES coordinator, Kelsy, let us free for the first time since we arrived.

 Being Americans, students from a university in Indiana, this “trendy” French restaurant called “Indiana Café” was easily our first go-to restaurant. “Indiana” had a range of Tex-Mex options like enchiladas and tacos, Thai food like noodle salad, Louisiana spicy crevettes, and burgers. Amuhrican? Oh yeah. Indiana? Not exactly the “central” melting-pot of the country (and the world?) that the French think it is. Also, not sure that associating Indians with Indiana would be my first instinct. But, now that I think about it, is that where the state’s name originates? We may not know how to be French… but the French don’t know how to be American.

As we walked back to our apartments, we sort of stumbled along the quais. Dusk seems to be my favorite time in Paris, even though it doesn’t happen until after 9 pm. Sunset on the Seine… what a gift.

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