Epic French Email #5

(A couple of notes before I get started with the real info:  I wrote this
last Friday sitting in an Internet “shop” in a train station in Italy.
Groupwise was acting up, so it didn’t get sent then.  So just pretend it’s last
Friday.)

(Also, Welcome to the new people on my list!  I realized today that when I’ve
been pasting the address lists in, it’s been cutting half of them off.  If
you’re especially curious about what happened in the first four epic emails,
I’d be more than happy to share on the condition that you send me some email
lovin’.  Just a warning, however – these emails really do get epic in
proportion.  If you get bored halfway through (or a paragraph in, whatever) I won’t be
sad.  Now, without further ado:

Greetings from Florence!

Here I am, spending an absolutely gorgeous weekend in
Italy.  Life is good.  Really.  Where to start, where
to start?  Let’s go back to France for a bit so I can
tell you all about moving into my dorm… heh heh.

I moved some of my things in during the day on Friday,
but for the most part, I waited until Saturday so that
Marie-T (my french host mother) could help me.  It was really nice to have a
car to drag my luggage over instead of having to do it
all by bus.  The building I live in is one of 27 in
the particular university residence, of which there
are 4 in the city.  It’s a pretty big university.  I
live on the third (what Americans would consider the
4th) floor in a single room.  The room is really very
comfy – I have a fridge, microwave, and sink in
addition to the normal bed/closet/desk arrangement.
I’ve even gotten all ambitious about decorating.  If
I’m going to live there for four months, I might as
well be comfortable.  Unfortunately, the dorm building
itself is terribly impersonal and unfriendly.  You
wouldn’t even know people lived there if you didn’t
see them coming and going.  Part of it has to do with
the absence of people during the holidays, so I hope it will be better when I
get back.  We’ll see.

The weekend was a bit lonely.  The holidays in France
are nationally announced, so EVERYONE in our area has
the two weeks off, which means the campus was
completely empty and all the student facilities shut
down.  All of my friends took off for break right
away, so I had to fend for myself for three days.  It
wasn’t really all that bad – I spent some time
cruising around the old city center… took the cue
from my dear sister and spent some money to make
myself feel better (Megan you’d be so proud!  I bought
myself a pair of trendy french shoes!  Hehe.  I like
them a lot.  My next goal is a pair of trendy french
pants…)  I also saw a couple of movies, which was a
lot of fun, even if they were in French with no
subtitles.  I’m getting better and understanding.

Eating has also been an interesting adventure since
I’ve been on my own.  I went out and bought myself
some of the basic bread fixer-uppers: butter, jelly,
honey – and then picked out a couple of cheeses (from
the pre-packaged cheese section… I’m still too
afraid of the cheese counter to get my cheese there…)
grabbed some “Good Through April!” milk, orange juice,
yogurt, and fruit.  Bread is a new adventure every
day.  Turns out I eat a lot of bread.  And the cheese
I picked isn’t all that bad, but the meal could get a
bit boring after a bit.  I’m going to have to figure
out how to be more creative.

Tuesday night I headed out of Besancon en route for
Italy.  I took a train from Besancon to Dijon, and in
Dijon I hopped the night train to Florence.  It was a
… long ride.  I had a “couchette,” this interesting
invention which allows six people to sleep in a car.
The cabins aren’t much bigger than they would be if we
were all sitting, but instead of benches, there are
bunk beds, three high.  Pretty uncomfortable to lay
on, and you can’t sit up even if you want to.  I did
manage to get a little bit of sleep though.

(Anyone who is on Lindsay’s email list: Prepare for some repetition!  It’s
all about the multiple perspectives…)

I rolled into Florence around 9:00am, and Lindsay was
there to meet me.  It was SO good to see a friendly
(English speaking!) face after my lonely weekend, I
wasn’t sure what to do with myself.  Lots of smiling.
Lindsay had class, so I ended up wandering around the
city by myself for a couple of hours, feeling
completely lost without any Italian skills at all.  I
was very glad to have Lindsay back for lunch.  We had
sandwhiches, then I sat through her art history class
with her.  It was really interesting stuff, and it was
all I could do to keep myself from proactively
participating.  In the afternoon, we went and found
some gelato (fabulous Italian ice cream) and wandered
around the city a bit more.  We had dinner in a
Tratorria, which was absolutely scrumptious.  Sorry
Tommy, but real Italian food beats Botacelli hands
down.  Maybe you should switch Spanish and find
Italian somewhere so you can come take cooking lessons
over here.  It’s incredible…

Thursday I slept in.  I’m stayng at a youth hostle
that is surprisingly comfortable, if a bit noisy.  I
met Lindsay for lunch, and we got pizza at a place
that folds their pizzas into quarters and sticks them
in boxes.  It made me giggle.  In the evening, we took
a bus up a little mountain thingy and watched the sun
set from Fiesole (I think).  It was absolutely gorgeous, and the weather was
perfect.  We kept sitting there until all the lights
in the city came on.  Ach!  I love this.  Dinner that night was again,
absolutely fabulous.  I ate all my food (well… kinda) and part of Lindsay’s food
too.  You’d think I was starving…

Today (Friday) has been absolutely incredible.  It’s
Lindsay’s birthday, so it’s been pretty much a party
all day (actually, I think it’s been a party all
weekend, all month, etc, but hey… special party
today ;)).  We took a morning train out to Pisa with
two other girls – Jenna Cuddeback, who also goes to
Coe, and a girl named Martha who seems to be the
Italian-speaking equivalent of myself.  When we got
there, we walked through the city, straight to my good
friend the Leaning Tower, which just suddenly appeared
out of nowhere.  It’s really really neat, and it
really is tipped at a not-very-safe-looking angle.
After lunch, we got to climb up to the top, which was
just amazing.  The view of the city was great, and
almost as intriguing as the fact that when we were
climbing the spiral stairs, we would have to
practically lean against one wall or another to keep
standing straight.  At the top, we ran into a girl
from England who got the privilege of taking pictures
of all of us before being included in some pictures
because we liked her so much.  There was also a TV
crew who interviewed us for who knows what reason…
very bizarre, but really great.

We also saw the Cathedral and Baptisero.  The
Cathedral was nice, but not particularly remarkable (except for the dead guy
in the glass coffin that I found rather disconcerting… looked like he’d
been dead for a couple hundred years…).  The Baptisero, though… that was
really something.  It’s this big dome which is apparently just used
for baptizing people (or was, a really long time ago).
The acoustics are incredible, and we asked the ticket
guy to sing for us (someone’s guide book told us to)
and it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever heard in
my entire life.  The echos coming back from the dome
literally sounded like what I’d expect to hear from a
choir of angels, and it was just one man.  Wow.

Okay.  This is the point at which I ran out of time in Italy.  Now I’m back
in France, where it is a dreary Tuesday morning.  It’s been an interesting
start to the week, but I’ll save that for the next Epic Email so you don’t keel
over dead of boredom.  In the meanwhile, I’m working on postcards.  If you
want one, and I don’t have your address, you should send it to me. (If you
don’t know if I have your address, you should send it to me too.)  I’m postcard
happy right now, so ask and ye shall receive. 😉  Okay.  Until next time,
ciao!

🙂 Laura

PS: Thank you thank you to those who sent me real mail lovin’!  I got back to
a whole little stack of mail, and it made my Monday.  Grandma, Grandpa, Sue,
Abby and Jeremy get special thank-yous and long distance hugs, Dustin gets
the prize for strangest mail, and Megan and Dad get love for sending good
email.  Right.  This time I’m really leaving.  Salut!

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