C'est si bon!

Bonjour à tous! Je suis Vanessa, étudiante de 20 ans en France pour le moment. Je viens de Pékin, mais j'étudie à la fac à Chicago.

Hello! My name is Vanessa, a 20-year-old student in France for the moment. I come from Beijing, but I go to college in Chicago.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Czech it out: Prague wonderland

my friends and I in Prague
Bonjour à tous! (Or should I say Dobry den, which means hello in Czech?)

I just came back to Paris from a four-day trip to Prague, Czech Republic, and I'm already missing that beautiful city like crazy. Seriously, I didn't expect half as much when I got off the train, yet Prague got me head over heels smitten. If it were a person I'd marry it tomorrow.

autumn leaves
First of all, look at this GORGEOUS weather. The temperature is perfectly chilly, the leaves are turning golden, and the air is crisp. It just makes you want to layer up in cute sweaters, scarves, and sip chai latte. It also makes finding cafes and restaurants that much more exciting, because - warmth! Entering an interior always makes you feel cozy.

view of Prague from Charles Bridge tower
Now let's talk about this gem of a city. What I love about it is its historic feel. Most of the ancient buildings are pretty well-preserved, and form a very uniform outlook. Red roofs, mellow yellow facades, and Baroque decor abound throughout the narrow, winding alleyways. On the city square, there are little wooden huts with vendors of traditional local foods, performances of Medieval music, violin, and sometimes keyboard. From tourists to guides to the vendors, everyone seems to have a smile on their face, because joy is contagious! It is hard not to smile when there is just so much beauty around you.

view of Prague street from Charles Bridge tower

view of Prague from Charles Bridge tower
Another reason why I loved Prague is because of my host, also my high school good friend, Stan. During my stay, I lived with his family, and I've never met a kinder, more accommodating family! He has a very cute dog named Lavender, who likes to kiss me in the morning. His parents say "thank you" in so many occasions where I felt like I was the one who should say the words. We also had a night wine tasting with Czech potato snacks and lots of good talking about Europe, America, and China. Being with the family suddenly made me miss my own home, because they were so kind to me they remind me a lot of my own parents.

cathedral in Prague
Because I was with a local family, most of the time I felt more like a local than a tourist. Sure we did some tourist musts - the old city square, tastings of the traditional food, the cathedrals and the royal palace... But we spent more time just strolling through the streets looking for a cozy cafe to have some hot cinnamon apple cider, or a cave restaurant with mountains of candles and a menu full of Medieval vocab. One afternoon we just walked along the old city walls, until we found ourselves in a beautiful park overlooking the old town part of Prague. We chanced upon a mirror maze and took a lot of crazy selfies there. And we talked and talked and talked. This might sound very obvious, but it is just so good to see friends, especially those that you haven't seen in years!

There is a saying about friends that I really like, and I think I will end this post with it: "Friends are like stars: you don't always see them, but you know they are always there."

Vanessa :]

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A day away from the city

flower market at Chartres
Bonjour à tous! 

This past Saturday I took a delightful day trip to the small town of Chartres southwest of Paris, reachable by train in one hour. For those who are tired of the city's hustle, trust me, Chartres is the perfect place for a day of relaxation.

The picturesque town is known for its fresh flower market,  Notre Dame Cathedral (one of the four best ones in France! The other three in Reims, Amiens, and Rouen, respectively), simple yet refreshing parks, and chic cafes. 

My first stop when I arrived was of course, the cathedral. Yes, I'm that art history nerd, but really, look at it!
facade of the cathedral

interior of the cathedral, view of the rose window and ceiling
If you thought Notre Dame de Paris was tall, then you'll find yourself in the wrongest of wrong. In fact, the one in Paris is only 96 meters high, while the one in Chartres stands at a shocking 113 meters! With its asymmetrical pointy towers, it looks even taller than that.

Immediately upon entry, I felt like I understood why Gothic churches especially made people feel the ferventness to worship God - it was just so incredibly tall! Looking up was some serious neck exercise, and the awe that it inspired from me was just endless. And I live in a modern society where there are sky scrapers - just imagine how the people of the twelfth century who dwelled in humble two-floor huts must have felt when they set foot in this cathedral!
me on top of the cathedral!
In fact, another perk of the cathedral is that at certain times of the day, the towers are open to public for a climb (which felt like an endless workout on the StairMaster at my gym), which offer a perfect spot for a panoramic view of Chartres. Note that the photo above is deceptive - behind my smile I am screaming TIRED. This morning I woke up with sore, protesting calves. 

candles inside the cathedral that made me nostalgic of Peddie...
After the cathedral, I took a stroll in the flowers market and saw the most flawless roses in my life for astonishingly cheap. I have never seen roses this full-blown, this symmetrical, before. And there wasn't even one spot of wilting!

By then, I was succumbing to my craving for ice cream (don't tell me you don't crave ice scream, because somehow I always do), so I bought a cone of white chocolate ice cream and just sat and people-watched. Everyone on that golden Saturday afternoon was so well-dressed - I was impressed.

Last but not least, a picture of the historic streets of Chartres...

a street in Chartres
After a week of running about Paris, I found the rest and quiet that I needed in Chartres. Beautiful town with friendly people and a goooooorgeous cathedral.

Vanessa :]