Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Harry Potter and the London Weekend

Like Paris, London is a crazy awesome city. The weekend I spent there was fantastic and was filled with a ton of sight seeing and taking pictures with wands pretending to be Harry Potter. I really felt like a witch while I was there. I didn't find Diagon Alley, but I think I got close. Pretty good for being a muggle.

Drew, one of the kids from my program, brought his wand with him, and because we have no shame, proceeded to take rediculous pictures of ourselves all over London.

Ready London? Because here we come!

Wizards should be nicer to muggles

Good bye Tower Bridge
We didn't quite get to Hogwarts, but the Tower of London will do just fine

It's gloomy outside for a reason, we were controlling the weather
See what a little spell does in the wrong hands?!

The Millennium Bridge, doesn't stand too much of a change against some HP magic

Start of a Wizard's Duel

Putting a spell on good ole Big Benjamin

Threatening the Eye of London. What spell? Reducto!
An illegal picture I took in Westminster Abby
Down in the London Underground
A little magic at Trafalgar Square
It wasn't just any double decker bus, it was the Night Bus
Yes, we made a special trip to Kings Cross just to find Platform 9 3/4

Made it through to the other side! I really am a witch!!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

London Vs Paris: Fight to the Death

London. What can I say? I am a little in love. I absolutely adored the place. I can't help but contrast it to the Paris I also love.

Things London does better than Paris:
  1. They speak English. But not only to they speak English, they speak with soothing accents that makes every thing they say sound important or interesting but always sophisticated. Every where you go, people are having important conversations about their grocery shopping or what their friend just bought.
  2. Far less cobblestone. I say this often, but cobblestone kills. Even the most supportive shoe does not stand a chance against the menace that is cobblestone. London does have some, in the older parts of the city, but for the most part it's smooth sidewalks, which are a dream to walk on in comparison.
  3. The Underground or even Tube, is far cleaner. I didn't feel the need to shower every time I got on and off. Yes, I love the Paris Metro, but it is dirty and dingy. London's trains were nearly pristine and all but lacked graffiti and the stations were pretty much garbage, or I should say rubbish, free. I think it's all the English pride. To litter is to disgrace the Queen and the entire House of Windsor.
  4. No hobos, well very few. Don't get me wrong. I love the gypsies that play me some good old fashioned accordion tunes and struggling musicians that serenade me as I walk from station to station, but I do not love the hobos that come on the metro and give speeches about their tragic lives: “J'ai faim. J'ai 12 enfants. J'ai besoin de travail mais le Man fait ma vie très dur!” Translation: “I am hungry. I have 12 kids. I need a job but the man is getting me down!” I hate to say this but, you live in a socialist country, go use that government.
  5. Big red double-decker buses. This city would be great for this reason alone. I literally thought that this was idle fantasies of Americans' of what London must be like. Turns out the wishful thinking is true. They were everywhere and I got excited every time I saw one. I was pretty sure one was on it's way to the Leaky Cauldron because I swear I saw a guy that looked exactly like Stan Shunpike. These buses are much better than the Paris buses, which are like the ones utilized by SunTran or the UTA. 
  6. Personal space. I can make eye contact and not feel like I violated someone's personal space. Londoners are friendly. Not to say that Parisians are mean, but they are cold. There is a definite public and private bubble that never touch. Don't try and make small talk with a Parisian. Also, avoid eye contact. In London, if I made eye contact, people actually responded with a smile as opposed to an icy glare. I think I'll stay here forever.
  7. Breakfast. Sure I love a good croissant in the morning, key word being 'A'. But the Brits know how to make a rib sticking meal complete with eggs, sausage, tomatoes, beans on toast, and chips. If you are feeling fancy, throw in some mushrooms, and if you are feeling dangerous, squeeze some black pudding on to that plate. Amen! I want to die because I eat this every morning.
  8. There are witches and wizards everywhere. It is the plain and honest truth. Harry Potter lives! You can feel the magic in the air. I think this means that I am a squib. I'll take what I can get. Paris is magical because it's the city of love, but London really is magical. Platform 9 ¾ totally exists so the rest of the story must be true... right? My theory, JK Rowlling is just a renegade witch that decided to publish a very important history of her people. But to confuse us Muggles, it is sold as fiction. But I know the truth. So, go ahead, believe in HP. It makes life far more fun.
  9. Gardens. I appreciate greatly the geometric perfection of a traditional French garden. Take the gardens at Versailles for example. Amazing. But our dear English have perfected the inviting organic garden. You actually feel like you can relax in an English garden, where as in a French garden you feel the need to walk with excellent posture and a bad smell under your nose. 
  10. Humor. If you have ever had the occasion to watch the good ole BBC you know what I am talking about. The Brits have a dry and witty sense of humor that is unmatched. Political debates, sitcoms, even the news is filled with sarcasm and irony. Everywhere you can possibly fit a joke, the English do. I love it. I have yet to be able to classify what the French find humorous. The language barrier may be to blame.
So there you have it. 10 reasons why the Brits do it better than the French. God love them both, but I would live in London, where as my extended stay in Paris all I want it to be, a visit.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Deep Thoughts

Paris has made me somewhat of a philosopher. Just being here has taught me many things about life. Some of those little tid bits, I would like to share with you:

1. Attitude is half of what you wear. So if you have been nervous about wearing that vintage mink coat , or rhinestone beanie, just turn up the 'tude, put 'em on, and go outside. Trust me, no one will think twice.
Example of good expression of attitude. This is what you are going for.
Even you can wear and mink coat out in public
2. Cobble stones kill. If you hate your feet, move to Paris. Because is a day or two, the feeling will be mutual. There is just something about the constant unevenness and poking rocks that just makes those pieds cry in pain.
This is what happens when your feet are abused by cobblestones everyday
3. Nutella is God's gift to mankind. If you doubt the existence of God, it is because you have not had Nutella slathered on a fresh baguette. This is practically a religious experience in itself. I have seen angels in when I eaten a Nutella crepe and even the Virgin Mary in my Nutella on brioche toast.

I feel it is now my duty to instruct you on the proper method of Nutella application.
Note the ridiculous amount of Nutella on this piece of toast. This is what you should be striving for.
The Perfect Piece of Nutella Toast
Sliced brioche

Butter knife
Paper towels

1.      Set toaster to a medium setting
2.      Put one or two slices of brioche in toaster
3.      Get out your jar of Nutella and prepare to spread on the goodness while the toast is still piping hot
4.      When toast pops, remove to a classy paper towel or plate
5.      Over estimate how much Nutella you will need to cover the slice of toast
a.       This will be approximately the right amount
b.      But be prepared to go back in for more
6.      Spread evenly until you have applied a ridiculous amount
7.      Repeat steps 1-6 until you have made as many pieces of toast as your body can handle
a.       You may need to just throw away the empty bag of brioche and lick the Nutella jar clean.
8.      If you have reached maximum capacity and ingredients still remain, dip knife one last time into Nutella jar and remove
9.      Lick knife clean
a.       There are no calories in the left over Nutella on the knife, especially if you lick it over the sink
10.  Enjoy that warm feeling that comes only after consuming large amounts of that chocolat et noisette goodness.
This is an eternal truth
 4. Should you lose your job, learning to play the accordion and taking to the metro is a good second option. Also, if you can somehow acquire a monkey to play the tambourine with you, I don’t know anyone who would not donate to your cause.
Man making a living playing his beloved accordion
If only he had this little guy to make his job more lucrative
 5. When in doubt, just go out. Don’t stay inside and watch Youtube videos. This is a waste of time. Get out and about and go see what your part of the world has to offer you. Remember my whole little schpeal on an adventure everyday?
If I could I would dress in a Safari Suite everyday. It would make life that much more exciting

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Can't Stop Party'n

Hello Dearest Framily!
Just finished week 6! Sad to think that the program is more than half over :(

Paris is a huge city. I mean, 12 million people live here. It's crowded, it occasionally smells like lukewarm garbage and if full of questionable people. For example, last Sunday, Madeline and I encountered 5 crazy/ crazy drunk people on our way to church. It was a special day.

I am pretty sure that Madeline and I are the most active people in our small, yet proud, group. We are literally constantly doing something or on our way somewhere. So I thought I would just list some of the things I did this week:

I went to the Louvre again for my Art History class. Then a group of us went for a walk by of several of the Embassies near by. Those guards take their job seriously. Dirty looks for direct eye contact. Yelling for taking photographs.
This was the obelisk given to France by King Tut or was it Cleopatra?... or did they steal it?...

A lovely fountain. Paris is full of them

Madeline, Drew and I went to a Yellow Safety Vest Exhibit. Don't worry, it's exactly what it sounds like. 65 fashion designers were given a yellow florescent work vest and created something out of it. There were dresses, hats, and even underwear. It was pretty cool and I got a free pastry out of it.
Now I can be fashionable and safe all at the same time
Maddie, Kira and I went on a walk through the Jardin Luxembourg. It was wonderfully sunny and I got a minor sunburn! Success!
Some statue love'n

You are here

Martial Arts in the Park

Oh look! Old men playing chess

Peace my Frenchies

Les petits bateaux
The whole group took a tour of the Pantheon. Underneath is a crypt that plays host to some famous French people such as Voltaire and Rousseau, as well as Mr and Mrs Curie, and Louis Braille.
The Pantheon

Inside the Pantheon of Paris

Mr Curie

Madame Curie

Signature of Mr. Braille

Even Voltaire is smiling. I think I'll smile too
That night, Madeline and I got dressed up and went to see Shakespeare's Les Joyeuses Commères de Windsor or the Jolly Wives of Windsor at the Comedie Francaise. We got last minuet tickets for 5 euro. The theater was incredible, and even though the play was in French, the acting was amazing and extremely fun to watch.

Madeline and I with our fancy pants on

Yeah, we were really high up. But that's what you get for 5 euro

Men's and Women's bathroom together at last

You would never see this in the States in a classy place like a theater
A group of us went out to the Sacré-Coeur Cathedral. My jaw always drops when I walk into a cathedral and this was not exception. The outside is beautiful and the inside is just as impressive.
Sacre-Coeur: Pretty impressive

At the Sacre-Coeur

Milk shake with candy cup on top full of marshmallows. So ridiculous I had to have it
That night a family in the ward invited us BYU kids over for dinner. We had fajitas. If I miss anything, it's Mexican food. It was like being at home. We also had crepes with Nutella and salted caramel sauce. Amazing hardly covers it.

Maddie and I and a few others ventured over to the World’s largest flea market called the Les Puces de Saint-Ouen. It has a touristy side, where I bought some new boots, and an antique market that is rather like a museum. Basically, the guidebook that referred us there said to not touch anything... ever. It was good advice.
Antique Chair. I just really liked the pattern.
That night, Maddie and I made ourselves a little dinner, and since we can't do anything half way, we made chocolate covered strawberries. Amen!
Going... Going... Gone