Blogging in public places

Well readers, you’re getting your accounts in somewhat real time. My shaking and badly in need to some heat in the joint body is currently bundled in my not equipped for this weather jacket and Uggs and I am now just passing time until my train to Paris arrives. Rather uneventful morning otherwise but things really are in motion now for the start of the end! Positives to enduring this cold right now: Hannah, snuggling and hot chocolate in less than 4ish hours, Mommy, Lyssy and Lucerne in 1 day, Sweet Lou himself touching down in Paris in only 3 days and then back to Aix for some family fun! Bring. It. On.

Bisous, A very cold Ali

The final countdown: Amsterdam Edition

Wow, that sounded way more final than I meant it to. But nonetheless, it is true. I am in my last week of classes here in Aix and being the considerate friend and blogger that I am, I decided to give all of you study-holics and insomniacs who are in finals mode a new way to procrastinate that doesn’t include Robot Unicorn Attack or (it’s just creepy). A new blog post! (applause)

So before the final week of classes began, I had my final trip. And what better way to end 4 months of Euro-fun than AMSTERDAM. In an effort to keep this blog readable for all ages, I’ll omit many of the morally questionable events of the weekend (not that there were any, Mom and Dad but hypothetically). I arrived with my fellow voyagers, Audrey and Laura, around 4 on Friday. We made sure to profit from the free drinks policy on the plane (Author’s note: US, please try to adopt this policy. Flyers would be MUCH happier and I’m pretty sure this would’ve avoided the Jet Blue worker freak out circa Aug/Sept 2010) and even created a flight sensative drinking game: most important rule being that when Ali freaks out, Ali has to drink. Mom, I”ve been flying without Dramamine these past few months and so the freakout have been plentiful. They lessened as the flight went on grace à our little game. Lesson learned: All these years of sleep-inducing Dramamine should’ve been replaced by white wine, rum, vodka or – most recently tested – gin. Who knew?

After arriving on Friday, I could officially start answering the question “Whatcha doin’?” with “Nothing, chillin’ at the Holiday Inn.” The 10th grader inside of me felt a great deal of pride being that since the first time I heard Chingy utter this phrase, I had – for some reason – a huge urge to use it in my day to day life. Mission accomplished. We then left our Holiday Inn and went to a coffee shop to, ya know, get some coffee. When in Rome, right? There we rendez-vous’ed with our, for lack of better phrasing, French entourage. Cultural lesson here, readers: We Americans are used to very specific directions when trying to meet up or get somewhere. And after an entire semester of reading chapter after chapter of Raymond Carrol’s “L’etrangete Francais” I thought it was all bull$hit. Turns out, she may have been right on this one: directions can be culturally based. Example: “Meet at the church.” People, this is Europe. If you didn’t know, there are churchs everywhere. The Europeans of days past were verrry adament about churches on every street just as we seem to be determind to place a Starbucks on every street corner. Thus, meet at the church gets a little confusing. Still, we managed to get by and find our way through the cobbled and snow covered streets of the ‘Dam.

Saturday: huge ititerary (how badly did I butcher that spelling?) With only 48 hours in Amsterdam, Audrey made sure to wake us up at the crack of dawn to really take advantage of our time. Her shrill, morning-person voice still echoes in my ears…at least she followed through on her promise of coffee within 5 mins of waking up. Nonetheless, we started early and got a lot done! First stop: Van Gogh museum – which turned out to be a great way to pass time in a culturally educational fashion because it was blizzarding outside. Then IAMSTERDAM sign, then a park (see Facebook for photos) and then the Heineken Brewery, all while trudging through the continually falling and ever so slippery Amsterdam snow. The rest of the night went in typical Amsterdam fashion – coffee shop, Red Light District, general loss of morals and my soul. No big deal.

Sunday: Anne Frank house. Truly one of the best experiences I’ve had since in Europe. We went the four of us and I’m pretty sure not more than 4 words were uttered upon entering the half-museum, half-memorial to the writer of one of the most celebrated journal’s of all time. I found myself holding back tears, many times without even knowing I was about to cry, upon re-reading the lines of the Diary I had read so many years ago. I found it only fitting to finish the visit with a copy of the book that came from the Annexe itself. But to me, the best part of this visit was the way that they made the issues relevant today. Interactive features that created ties to present societal issues of persecution and prejudice help the legacy of Anne Frank to live on in a capacity that isn’t just a remembrance, but a precedence and an applicable example. In this way, Otto Frank’s dreams and wishes have been acheived: tolerance will forever be relevant and in this way, we can use Anne Frank – her words, thoughts, wishes – today. I will always find it amazing how much relevance history has (and always will have) in contemporary society not just from a political and economic standpoint, but from a moral point of view as well.

We left Amsterdam Sunday afternoon – tired but well-toured; praying for sleep but instead receiving a death-defying flight home. I swear, I was preparing in my head for where I would exit in the case of a water landing. Still, we arrived – safe and generally sound – just in time for our last week of classes here at AUCP. And speaking of, I now have my last art class. Author’s note: Art classes generally tend to be more trouble than they’re worth – especially if you’re someone who just really isn’t an artist and, honestly, just took the class because you didn’t want to take anything that would involve using your brain. I now know for next time.

Hope this provided sufficient procrastination! Now get back to work – most of you have finals to take and I don’t want to come back and hear you crying about how you failed. Good luck little Smarties! À bientôt!

And we’re off (again)!

Figured I’d post a quick blog before heading out to the Gare Routiere to catch our bus to the airport. PRAGUE THIS WEEKEND!! I have the great fortune of being able to stay with none other than the lovely Suzy Appel who has taken up residence in this land of, well, I actually don’t know what exactly Prague is famous for…but I will soon! Oh, the joys of learning while abroad. I return late Sunday night with much homework to do, as I am pretty sure that none will get done this weekend. Eh, tant pis.

In Tulane news, the demons that consistently plague the Tulane system have struck again. While having my mother register me for my courses (I lost internet….again) I found my account had been randomly disabled! Two hours of long distance calling later, they fixed the problem. Nothing is ever easy, really. Either way, schedule done and MWFs start at noon for me! This makes up for the 9h30 start on Tues and Thurs but hey, whats a little give and take once in a while?

OK off we go! Story time on Monday, readers!

Voyage to the Homeland: “c’est mon patrimoine!”

Yes readers, this marks the blog beginning of my 10 days in Italy – and the homeland has been good to me right from the start. Unlike our most recent foray into Paris, which began with a cancelled train, a 3-hour flight delay and some stereotypically (realistically) rude Parisian cab drivers, our Italy travels got off quite easily. Though it was a bit surprising getting on a less than 20 person, propeller plane for our flight from Marseilles to Milan. Okay, more than surprising – I had a slight breakdown. Great suggestions on flights PANGE.

But we did get to Milan in time to enjoy a gorgeous meal at the lovely Hotel Cavour and then hit the pillow hard before we did some serious Milan touring. And by touring, we really hit all of the essentials: Prada, Armani and Dolce & Gabbana, to name a few. We’re such avid and dedicated tourists! And after sampling the local shopping scene, we made sure to get Gelato #1 (chocolata e amereno per me) all before heading back and showering before Fantastic Dinner #2. I’m going to go all “that couple” on you right now and give you a run down of what I ate for dinner – this will most likely go on all week, so for those of you dieting, this may be the time to step away from the computer or train your eyes to pass over key words such as tagliatelle and mozzarella. That being said, one of my two Milanese traveling partners (Laura) and I shared an artichoke and cheese fondu crèpe which, though seemingly French inspired, paired perfectly with Italian bread. Go figure! (Sidenote: yes parents, I tried artichoke and liked it. Believe it.) For the main course, tagliatelle with salmon – MMMMMMMM – and then espresso followed by On the House Limoncella. This stuff’s always good but there’s something about being in Italy – or maybe just the fact that its authentic here – but it always tastes better in Italy! Milan was no exception to this rule.

After dinner we moved on to the nightlife. I’ve read that in Milan you go out to be seen, so dressing the part was definitely a necessity. Clad in Euro-chic, AKA black from head to toe with some red lipstick for flare, we took on the cobblestone streets which are the new Archnemesis of my favorite black heels. Bar hopping, meeting locals and sampling the Milanese Vodka Diet Coke combo definitely made for a great night. Hearing a medley of Sandy and Danny croon hits from “Grease” and watching drunk Italians do the “YMCA” was a high point. We then spent Sunday on the streets, walking and wandering through the streets of Milan before catching our midday train to Firenze, where we’ll be spending the next four days and will be joined by Dana Hauck who just returned from her week long stay in Morocco!

So far my favorite part is that, for me, this trip has been one big refresher in language. It’s like that Celine Dion song says: it’s all coming back to me…now. And it really is! After one semester of Italian 101 and a lifetime of Italian slang (moppine, anyone?) I’m finding that maybe I can kind of, sort of, maybe speak un poco d’italiano. Oh Professor Arduini if you could see me lavorare-ing now!

Pictures to come soon. I was far too lazy and tired to find my camera cord in my mess of a bag to insert pictures into this blog entry. But fear not loyal followers, the pictures will come! And by loyal followers I mean, Mom and Dad thanks for reading and I’ll post pictures soon. Bueno Notte!

PROST! (la la la la la)

Yes, readers, Oktoberfest. So you know this entry’s going to be….amusing. And not just any Oktoberfest. No, no, this fête de la biere was the 200th anniversary – and as far as I can tell, the Germans know how to throw a birthday party. I departed Aix with no real ideas of what to expect. Apart from Mardi Gras which utilized much more neon and spandex, I had never attended a European festival of binge drinking and lederhosen. And so other than the knowledge that pretzels come from Germany and the big beers are called steins (and 1 = about 5 regular beers), I set off on my Lufthansa flight to Munich with Audrey to my left and two free glasses of sparkling wine in each hand. Disclaimer: I did not ask for two glasses, our American excitement of the idea that drinks – let alone alcohol – was gratuit on a plane must’ve been obvious enough to warrant the, “you wanted another, right?” And who am I to say no to some good ol’ German hospitality?

We arrived in Munich to find our French cell phones worked only in France – go figure. But somehow managed to locate Sarah and, of course, have our first Oktoberfest beer in the Munich airport while we waited for Dana’s flight to arrive. Once all united, we set off for the Hostival. Yes, the name alone should’ve been a tip off. A youth hostel, at Oktoberfest, themed as a hospital and lovingly termed the Hangover Hospital.

If we didn’t realize we were in trouble then, we realized soon after entering the Munich night club district and walking “past the strip club, to the left, past the train (train!?), through the parking lot and under the over pass.” May as well wait in a dark alley with our wallets out. Let’s go! And so we did, the wheels of our bags crunching over the crumbling pavement and picking up god knows what as we plodded along the sketchy Munich streets to the soundtrack of Euro techno mixed with “Country Roads.” I was as surprised as you are. When we finally reached our hostel, I could not have been more rendered more speechless. The only words that came to mind were: “but of course this is our hostel.” The hostel was, in fact, a large white tent in the middle of a graffiti-ridden parking lot. We entered to find that this tent was unheated and the rooms were in fact sections of tent separated by bed sheets and themed as a hospital. Our unit, Family Planning, was located across from the ICU and next to the Abortion Clinic. Quelle chance! Pictures really don’t even do this place justice…

“Guys, we are all showering together” was my first reaction. One that, I thought, was completely warranted and logical – strength in numbers and all that. But considering those were the first words I spoke since basically departing the airport, my friends collectively decided that all these years of boys (and boy problems) were simply my way of saying, “Guys, I’m gay.” Go figure. And so us 5 weary travelers put the bed covers on our mattresses and hid our valises under our thin, scraggily excuses for blankets and did what any college students would do in this situation: went out for a drink.

The HB tent: my personal favorite and also the last place that we all saw our sobriety and dignity. If found, feel free to return.

But it was not until Saturday at a whopping 7:30am that the real festivities began. Clad in our jackets and high hopes, the 5 Tulanians set out for the Fest that we, being students of New Orleans, felt we had been made and trained for. We would soon learn that we were sadly mistaken. If this is starting to sound like an R.L. Stine “Goosebumps,” it’s right about now that I’m wishing I could choose another ending. But to continue, tents open at 9 and beer starts flowing at 10 – it was nice to see that there was some maintenance of classy drinking habits. Along with the beers, cheesy bread and pretzels were plentiful in the tents, as were men and women clad in Lederhosen and Drindles, both classic and modern. The ceilings were adorned with colors and tent name emblems lined the walls.

But above all: there were people, there were songs and there was beer. 

After meeting up with this crew and getting kicked out at 11am (that’s when the VIP reserved people got to go in) we managed to find, guess what, MORE TULANIANS along with lots of Germans, Italians and some very chatty Parisians!

Yes, it was a Tulane filled weekend in Munich. Most of you can probably recognize this sentiment, of walking into a bar – whether it be the Boot, Bruno’s, Rocco’s, F&M’s, you name it – and realizing with one look-around that you know 9.5 out of every 10 people in that bar. My statistics were so great at Oktoberfest, but there was one moment, while standing with my new German friend Linus on a table at Hofbrau tent, that I looked around and had that feeling that I was surrounded by people who I knew. And it was true! To my right was Linus (sans blanket but nonetheless awesome), to my left Dana and Christina, across the table: Audrey and (if memory serves) Sam Glidden and Scotty Jospin made an appearance, all while Trent and I prost-ed across the table and swayed to the sounds of the music that threatened to get so loud that the entire tent could burst with joy and musical notes at any moment!

It’s a strange feeling, the sentiment of feeling home simply by being around people who have a love for the same place as you do. But this had to be my favorite moment of Oktoberfest. Sure, there were other memories – stories of what you did the night before count as memories right? – And plenty of one-liners that defined the weekend, but as I sat on the plane coming home I couldn’t help but think of how that feeling of home manages to sneak up on you at the strangest of times in the strangest of places. That, and how bad I felt for the man sitting next to me who could clearly tell that just the sight of his free-on-Lufthansa beer made me want to throw up. All in all, this weekend was one of the most amazing, trying, intense, fun, beer-filled weekends of my life – and for anyone who’s been to Mardi Gras, you know that’s saying something. Also for anyone who has seen me during one of my “This-is-by-far-my-worst-hangover-ever” mornings, of which there have been a few (ah-hem Halloween, November Rain), I am serious when I say that this one was by far the worst. Enough so that it is officially Sober Oktober for me. Mom and Dad, I can hear your cheers from across the pond.

When I returned to Aix late Monday night after, probably the longest day of my life, my only answer to the question of “how was it!?” was: “I am so glad I went and it was amazing, but I never want to do that again.” This was followed by many stories, including the death of my Blackberry (I’m still in mourning) and Dana’s decision to become a Woman’s Rights major in Germany while living only off of chicken and pretzels. Stories of crazy Italians, random twin brothers, something about a mayonnaise fight and how I, apparently, am casting the fifth Twilight. (Men on the street in Munich, I’m sorry but the growling just didn’t cut it. Maybe next time.) Needless to say, the final scoreboard read: Ali – 0, Oktoberfest – 100,000 and I’m still here marveling over the fact that I can make it through 2 Mardi Gras with no phone issues but one night of rain in Munich can drive my Blackberry to suicide. Correction: Oktoberfest – 100,001. Well, until next time, Prost!

“You were at a luau?”

Yes. Mai tai in hand, lei around neck and clad in a too-trendy-for-a-luau onesie I found my seat at one of the 50+ round tables spread across the “Royal Luau Grounds.” There was pig, steak, fish and some translucent noodles that tasted like chicken but I still can’t quite figure out why. Everything was, as they say here, “ono” – good. Then the show started. Hula dancing from miles away and ages ago. And then the interactive portion…*sigh*

Most people who know me, know this is my luck. So when the Samoan hula dancer approached me with his leafy skirt and glistening pecs and asked me if I would “like to dance,” I accepted, but didn’t realize this would culminate with an actual on stage, in the spotlight experience. I instantly regretted not making more use of the open bar. All in all, definitely a great experience – impromptu dance party included. Secret tip: it’s not actually all in the hips – it’s in the ankles. I know, I felt I had been lied to all my life too – partly by my dance teachers and partly by Shakira. Next time I’ll be ready.

And as a sidenote! Molly Kaplan left for Costa Rica today! Ah! Have an amazing time, Mol-pop. Hope you brushed up on your parseltongue so you can make friends with all the snakes 🙂