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.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Noël is in the air!

at the Printemps department store

Bonjour à tous!

I am so in love with Paris at this time of the year. The city is so charming with all her streets decked out in Christmas lights, fake snow, and stunning storefront windows. 

The decorations have been accumulating in random corners of the streets for a while, but the entirety of their beauty didn't hit me until last Saturday, when a friend of mine and I decided on a whim to take a stroll through the marché de Noël on Champs Elysées. 
ferris wheel of the Tuileries
When we emerged from the subway station Concorde onto the massive square, suddenly all around me the city was just overflowing with light. The moving traffic on the stone-paved streets, the ferris wheel of Tuileries behind me all glittery, the miles of lights that connect the square of Concorde all the way to the Arc of Triumph... Add to that jazzy music from a group of street musicians, an old man who somehow manages to make bubbles as big as three-year-olds, and the lighthearted bounce and splash of the grand fountains on the square. Trust me, I didn't know where to rest my eyes.
champs elysees 
Because of the insane crowds at the marché de Noël, I didn't get to take any good pictures. That, and also because every detail is so magical and picture-worthy that I simply didn't know where to start. Apart from the typical chocolaty foods and hot wine, my favorite part of the marché is the arts and crafts section. We saw the most incredible creations there: an entire store of miniature figures made out of all kinds of leaves, a jewelry store that sold necklaces and earrings made out of lacquered real orchid flowers, another store that made their own paper and prints... And all for pretty decent prices! Even if you don't end up buying anything, I assure you that you will have more than enough to feast your eyes.
huge bubbles
beautiful tree at Galeries Lafayette
With all that said, as the year of 2014 approaches its end, I hope you all are safe out there, and enjoying the lasts of this good year. Happy holidays and happy end of year.

Vanessa :]

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Weekend getaway: Provence Take 2

kitties in Arles
Bonjour à tous!

For the past weekend, I escaped to the South of France again to have some down time with my host family from the summer (who are hands down the best, I mean come on, they made me poulet rôti with sautéed potatoes and buttered mushrooms).

Needless to say, seeing my host family again meant a huge, hourlong hug/kiss/snuggle fest, with the accompaniment of myriad questions about my life in Paris starting with my entrance into the house, lasting through dinner (my twelve-year-old host brother Louis cooked pasta for me!), all the way until we were dozing off on the couch together. I also couldn't stop asking them about everyone I met in Arles over the summer. Guess what, my host brother's cousin's grandma, whom I've met briefly during a weekend barbecue, even sent me a photo of me which she took that day!

me at the market
The weekend went by entirely too quickly. All I seem to remember is lying on the couch with Louis and playing silly games on iPad and having a Sophie Marceau movie marathon while munching on something delicious the whole freaking time. That may sound like a totally unproductive, counterintuitive way to spend my short time in Arles, and trust me, in the beginning I thought so too, however I ended up completely happy and relaxed. It was that casual, carefree lounging around that made it feel like I was at home. Like at home home, where I get babied and fed and kind of always got my way. It was comforting to be able to have something exactly like this when I'm thousands of miles from my real home, and finding another place that I can call home.

downtown Arles

the Rhone river
At the same time, wandering through the wintry Arles streets in a way made this place more real to me, more physical somehow. This second trip here makes Arles no longer just a summer reverie, one of those places only associated with certain times and conditions and even sounds and smells (I'm sure you all have similar vacation memories or short episodes in your life that feel that way in retrospect). Seeing Arles in all seasons renders it more concrete in my heart, and I realize I truly love this place.

Cheers to wonderful weekends and family time.

Vanessa :]