Category Archives: Travelling

The Beauty of Istanbul

By   June 14, 2009

Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia)

Blue Mosque

Basilica Cistern

Istiklal Caddesi when it’s not busy

Shopping on Istiklal

Grand Bazaar

Spice Market

New Mosque across the Bosphorous

Galata Tower

Random adorable cat # 2,547

French Quarter

Çay (Tea)

Hope to see you again someday, Turkey!

Istanbul in one word: AMAZING

By   June 12, 2009

Istanbul was the most beautiful, interesting, amazing place I have ever been. I loved the mixture of old and new and east and west. It is very European in some ways, and not so European in other ways. Trying to figure out Turkish was slightly exhausting as it’s not an Indo-European language, but now I am really intrigued about the history of the culture and language. And that is exactly why I feel the need to travel so much.

I will post pictures soon, but I really need to lie down because after a tram, a subway, two planes, and a train, I feel like throwing up again…

So my traveling is almost over for the summer. I am happy to be home and getting settled in the new apartment, though of course I am also really happy that I was able to travel so much these past few weeks and see wonderful friends that I miss.

My next trip is back to the US in July for my sister’s wedding. My first summer in Michigan in 3 years!

Thoughts on: Trip, Apartment, and Conference

By   June 5, 2009

Trip: Of course my trip was amazing. We saw so many places and I took far too many photos. The weather was mostly hot and sunny and we didn’t have any major traveling problems. I feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface of all the wonderful sites France has to offer, and I’m dying to see more of this country. Spending time with Michelle & Jason was a blessing as well. I’m glad they got to see three regions of France and hope they come back someday.  Meeting up with David in Montpellier was a nice treat, as I obviously don’t like being apart from him. I won’t have time to get all of the photos on my website until after my Istanbul trip to visit Martha, for which I leave at 7 AM tomorrow morning!

Going back to Italy after 10 years was long overdue considering how close it is. Chambery to Milan is only 4 hours by train, and it should be shorter than that within a year when the high-speed track between Turin and Milan is finished. I still can’t understand much of Italian, but I was able to remember the basic words and phrases to buy things, like gelato and more gelato.

The Côte d’Azur was full of beaches and tourists, which I expected. I’m glad I finally went there, but I don’t think I’d like to live there. Monaco and Cannes were very crowded because of the Grand Prix and Film Festival, but Antibes was much quieter. Provence was lovely, as usual, and very very hot. But I love the heat, so it didn’t bother me. Especially because we were staying at a rather nice hotel just outside of Aix-en-Provence (Kyriad Mas des Oliviers) that had air-conditioning, unlike our “hotel” that was really a hostel in Nice.

Languedoc didn’t seem as hot, but maybe it was just the wind, which was strong almost everywhere! There were a few times I had trouble walking because of it. Montpellier was incredibly nice, just as I had imagined, and I really liked Nîmes too. Pont du Gard was impressive, Saintes-Marie-de-la-Mer was cute, and La Grande Motte was a bit strange because of the architecture that I have never before seen in France. I loved walking through the cité médiévale in Carcassonne – I just wish it hadn’t been so cold so we could have stayed and enjoyed it more.

The only thing I didn’t like was the car we rented. It was a Citroën C3 Sensodrive that can be driven as an automatic or manual. Except the automatic mode was scary to me because I’m not used to the car rolling backwards when I’m stopped, or the car turning off when I’m stopped (Eco function), or the fact that shifting into reverse did not work sometimes! What are you supposed to do when you’re stopped on a hill and need to back up so you don’t hit a parked car in front of you, but reverse doesn’t work???

Apartment: Even though I left from our apartment in Annecy in May, I came back to the new apartment in Chambéry with Jason. We’ve tried to put things away as much as possible, but there is still a serious lack of storage/shelves/drawers in the kitchen. It almost feels like home to me though, if only David and Canaille were here and we had all the furniture we needed. Being able to walk downtown within 10 minutes is convenient, and I can run most of my errands without needing a car. Living in the city has its advantages, I must admit, but one day I’d like to be back out in the countryside.

We’ve only got one bedroom, but the living room is large, and the entire apartment has been repainted. We’re currently having a problem with the water heater (auto doesn’t work), so I have to turn it to on at night and off in the morning. There are two balconies, one on each side of the building, that look out onto the main road and the parking lot behind it. We have a nice cross breeze through the living room and kitchen if we open both balcony doors. I figured out where the cave was, and it is quite possibly the creepiest, most dungeon-like storage space I’ve ever seen. We still don’t have the keys to the garage we rented for my car, because the agency can’t get a hold of the landlord, who initially gave them the wrong keys or something, so my car is parked on the road for now.

Here’s the view of the Alps from the kitchen balcony:

The only thing I’m worried about is Canaille falling or jumping off the balconies. We’re only on the 2nd floor (3rd floor American), but I’m afraid he’d seriously hurt himself if he did fall. And there is a nest of birds in the tree right next to the front balcony. I’m hoping that since he is a such a scaredy-cat, he won’t actually step foot on the balconies, but we’ll see what happens next weekend when we bring him home.

Conference: The previous 3 days I worked at an International English Pronunciation Conference at my university, and got to sit it on many presentations since I was the tech person in charge of computers. It was exhausting, but fun and interesting. I was Miss Powerpoint the first day, making sure all of the presentations worked properly, which many didn’t… Then I had to be a subsitute chair for a presentation while also being the tech person, which of course was the ONE time there was a problem with the computer.

I had missed being in an academic setting, with professors and researchers talking about things that I am interested in (linguistics, phonetics, technology, etc.) I am still thinking about doing my PhD in France, but I have no clue where or in what subject. I just can’t imagine narrowing down my interests to one topic and researching it for 3 years. I want to learn everything about everything!

And I loved the three plenary speakers! John Wells talked about the polling carried out for the new edition of the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, and he also gave a presentation on using intonation to change meaning in English. (Also check out his Phonetics blog.) Helen Fraser spoke on Cognitive Phonology and its implications for teaching pronunciation, which I had never really thought about before.  Yvan Rose introduced the Phon software and PhonBank database and explained how they can benefit research on second language acquisition of phonology.

I also discovered a book edited by Marie-Jo Derive, who works at my university, that will be extremely useful to learners of French. It’s called Mots étranges pour des étrangers and it’s a corpus of idiomatic and slang expressions that foreign students learning French at the university had to learn the hard way (i.e. not understanding because no book ever taught them, and having to ask a native speaker to explain the meanings). Here’s the summary from the publisher’s site:

Il s’agit d’un recueil de mots étranges compilés par des apprenants de français. Tout le monde sait que, même lorsqu’on a atteint un haut degré de compétence, le plus difficile à maîtriser d’une langue est sa chair idiomatique nourrie de ces mille et une expressions intraduisibles et souvent éphémères de la communication parlée. L’apprenant ne les trouve que rarement dans les manuels et cet apprentissage doit se faire “sur le tas”. C’est cette pratique “de terrain” dont le volume se fait l’écho à partir de l’expérience de plus de cent étudiants étrangers sur six années consécutives. Plus qu’un simple dictionnaire, qui de toute façon est très vite caduc, l’idiomatique étant aussi changeant que la mode, il s’agit d’un témoignage qui, grâce aux commentaires des intéressés sur la façon dont ils ont entrevu le sens de l’expression en contexte, éclaire sur les processus de l’apprentissage en milieu naturel. Ainsi le livre sera utile aussi bien à l’étudiant étranger – non seulement comme source de référence, mais comme incitation à l’acquisition active du lexique – qu’à l’enseignant de FLE, en France et surtout hors de France. Il intéressera également le lexicologue qui y trouvera un portrait sur le vif du lexique des étudiants.

One trip down, one to go

By   May 31, 2009

I’m back in Chambéry! Almost 500 photos to sort through and upload, 3 days of work this week, and then Jason and I are off to Istanbul at 7 AM Saturday morning.

I love love love the south. Still want to move to Provence. Vacation was too short, as always.

Need to finish unpacking and cleaning. Can’t wait until Tuesday when stores will actually be open so I can buy badly-needed furniture!

Off to Milan, and then Southern France

By   May 18, 2009

Michelle and I leave tomorrow morning at 10:45am for Milan, and then we’re heading back to France via Nice, and then over to Aix-en-Provence and Montpellier (and all the cool villages in between). We just spent the past two days in Chambéry and Annecy wandering around the old towns and the lake. Today I found out we did get the apartment in Chambéry that we wanted, so it’s been a pretty good birthday overall, despite the getting older part.

So once again David has to move without me since I seem to have a knack for planning trips at the same time. Though my trips are always planned really far in advance, so it’s not like I’m trying to get out of helping with the move…  We do the walk-through and sign the lease tomorrow morning, and he’s moving the furniture this weekend. When I come back, I’ll be going straight to Chambery, which is convenient since I return around 10 PM and our new apartment is rather close to the train station.

I most likely won’t be able to get online while I’m gone, and depending on how long our new internet provider wants to take getting us connected, it could be a while before we’ll have internet at the new place. I have a feeling my e-mail’s going to be about three months behind instead of my usual two.

A plus tard !

May begins with a cold, but ends with a trip

By   May 4, 2009

So I had my last night of baby-sitting and my last English lesson in Annecy this past week, and two days later, I was suddenly sick with a stupid cold. And then I was outside for 10 hours – in the sun, then wind, then cold – at a barbecue on Saturday, which I’m sure really helped my immune system. Needless to say I’ve done nothing for the past 2 days, even though I had planned on finally answering e-mails and working on my site. But tomorrow starts the apartment search in Chambéry at 9:30 AM! We’re looking at a 2 bedroom apartment in the north of Chambéry that is surrounded by a forest. It’s a bit far from the university (I’ll have to drive or take two buses) but it’s worth it to have some espaces verts!

I’m exhausted, but haven’t been able to sleep much. Instead, I’ve been trying to finalize the itinerary for my trip to the south in a few weeks. There are so many villages and towns I want to see. We’re starting in Milan and taking the train to Nice, then picking up the rental car, and staying in Aix-en-Provence and Montpellier. On the list are: Monaco, Cannes, Les Baux de Provence, Nîmes, Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, Béziers, Carcassonne, Perpignan, and possibly Toulouse. I’m sure there are other little towns that we’ll come across along the way too. Maybe we’ll head up to my beloved Vaucluse or even down to the Spanish border. Any recommendations of other places to see along the Côte-d’Azur or in Languedoc-Roussillon? Menton, Toulon, Sète, Cerbère?

And on a somewhat related topic, know anyone in Chambéry who wants to cat-sit for me?

The Punta Cana Post

By   April 23, 2009

The Dominican Republic was lovely. We had sun everyday except for the wedding when it rained a little. But as they say in Spanish boda lluviosa, boda dichosa – and in French as well, mariage pluvieux, mariage heureux – a rainy wedding is a happy wedding. So first, let me say ¡Felicidades! and Félicitations ! to Mike & Cassie.

We stayed at the all-inclusive Riu Palace Macao resort, among four other hotels in the Riu complex. The all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant served practically everything. The weather was amazing, and the water was crystal clear. I was surprised at how many German tourists there were, and in fact, most signs were translated into German before English. It was nice to hear so many languages (especially ones that I can understand much more than Spanish), including Quebecois French.


As for weddings at the resort, I couldn’t believe how nosy people were. The wedding took place in a little gazebo on the beach, with the chairs in front for the guests. You’d think people would know enough to stay away so they wouldn’t be in pictures, but no. (And yes, there are topless women on the beach…) Some even ran up behind the chairs and took a few pictures while we were all standing there. Why would you want pictures of other peoples’ weddings?  Even trying to take pictures on the beach was a hassle as people kept walking behind us.

Traveling to a Spanish-speaking country renewed my interest in learning Spanish once again, of course. I first started learning Spanish in middle school and ever since then I’ve always had an inexplicable affection for Latin American Spanish. Maybe it was just the images of sunny Mexico or the fun games we played in class to help us learn useful phrases like dónde está la bruja? that stayed with me. I know if we ever move back to the US, I will want to live near Mexico and seriously become fluent in Spanish.


And if I ever go back to the DR, I’d like to see Santo Domingo. Punta Cana is really just full of hotels for tourists. But Santo Domingo is the capital and a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it was the first permanent European settlement in the New World. It would be nice to leave the hotel and explore the city and learn more about the history and culture of the country.


But it is hard to not think about how poor the Dominican Republic really is. Even though it is the top tourist destination in the Caribbean, most of the money goes to the corporations that run the resorts and not to the actual citizens or government. It’s obvious when you look at the countryside on the ride between the airport and the hotel with its abandoned buildings. And the Dominican Republic does share the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world.


I’m glad we were able to go, even if it was a very short and expensive trip across the ocean. I would love to see more islands in the Caribbean but I honestly don’t know if I can stand the long plane rides and annoying customs/border agents who interrogate everyone like we are all criminals. No wonder so many Americans never leave the country! And can someone please explain the logic behind going through security AGAIN as soon as you step off one plane and enter the stopover airport? I just went through a metal detector in Geneva, is it really necessary in Paris? Do they think I picked up a knife on the walkway between the airplane and the airport??

All 70 photos can be found at the Punta Cana, Dominican Republic Photo Album.

Back from the Dominican Republic, and back to work

By   April 20, 2009

We have made it back to France safely from my brother’s wedding in the Dominican Republic. I will make a real post soon as I am too exhausted to type right now. It’s back to work tomorrow so I’m off to bed.

Palm trees on the beach in Punta Cana