MAX IN MONTPELLIER

UN PETIT GARÇON EN FRANCE.

this the blog ive decided to write while i study abroad here in Montpellier, France.

its both a journal and a place for me post photos, music, stories and other random shit for those interested.

its me as me. keeping it real as always.

mkravitz13@gmail.com

my last entry, it’s really over. zut.

3 months and 18 days later, i am here writing my final entry to my montpellier, france study abroad blog.  yes, it all goes too fast but im going to reflect on a bit of what happened to me over the last semester.

i remember well, being utterly frightened and anxious before I left.  I was worried about the language, switching homes amongst other subconscious things.  i didnt know what my life was going to become.  i remember being miserably tired and completely out of it first arriving in montpellier after a horrifying airport experience in paris.  i remember first walking around in antigone and having a drink at café with rose on that first day in a haze of sheer tiredness.  i remember going to the bull farm and having our very first traditional french meal, i can still taste the delcious mussels and sangria we ate as an appetizer.  i remember first meeting dominique in front of the program office and having that car ride with her where i understood probably about 15% of what she said.  i remember my first evening at the malvarosa home, having lasagna with laura, clémentine, dominique and baptiste.  i remember not being able to understand basically anything they were saying over dinner.  i remember putting my skateboard together with baptiste and first beginning our brother-like relationship.  i remember having a super tough time pronoucing the phrase: ne t’inquiète pas - dont worry. 

i remember taking my first akward shower in the bathroom.  i remember laura walking me to the comedie for the first time.  i remember getting lost walking back home from the comedie.  i remember the first time i biked to the fac as i consulted my direction notes i had in my little notebook.  i remember every trip and travel place i went to.  i remember feeling nervous about coming here.  and now as i think about myself leaving, at 2:39 am, i am ready to go home back to the US, but i cant help but feel that I don’t want to leave a bit too.  I enjoy what my life is like here (maybe besides paul valéry and general shitty french organization) and love speaking french everyday.  i am going to miss my life here in montpellier and look back on it with only but smiles and good memories.  i am going to miss dominique and baptiste so very much; they have provided for me so nicely and i owe the world to them.  goodbye to my short-lasting french life/study abroad experience.  thank you for being so kind to me.

look at me now, max.  do i feel very different?  not really.  though, i will say that i can speak, understand and write french a whole hell of a lot better.  thats for certain.  after going to le bookstore this evening to chat and do the conversation night there, it reminded myself of just how much progress ive made in my french speaking, writing and comprehension.  i mean im still making tons of mistakes all over the place and i still dont at all understand everything 100%.  but im pretty happy with the progress that ive made and it only encourages me to continue practicing and speaking in the future.  i truly am devoted to one day being able to speak french fluently, or ‘couramment.’  had it not been for my host family, especially baptiste, i definitely wouldnt have learned nearly as much french as i know today.  we sort of had a french/skateboarding exchange as i guess you would say.  ive come a long way i feel, but theres still so much for me to learn.  learning a language never stops really.  but as i am here writing this on my last day in france, i can happily say that I fulfilled the first of my two main study abroad goals: improve my french.  je suis vraiment content du progrès que j’aie fait pendant mon temps à Montpellier.

i also knew that by coming to europe, it would be essential that I travel and explore as much of europe as possible.  i had made this a priority from the get-go and starting with my first trip to wales on the weeekend of oct 8th, i managed to travel and go places in france or in other european conutries nearly every weekend.  the traveling was always super exciting, but also shocking to me as well.  air travel and the simple ability to go to different places still blows my mind.  the fact that I can pay some money, hop on a plane and go from one place and end up in another place is still just downright incredible to me. just a plane ride away and I would end up in another country that speaks a completely different language, has a completely different culture and has so much rich history to explore.  even first flying from newark to montpellier really shocked me.  if you recall, it took me a while to fully comprehend what had just happened and that i was now walking on a different part of this earth.

I put together general list of what I think to be all the places I visited over my time in europe.  its a representation of just how much i saw while i was abroad:

  1. Bethesda, Wales (+ Snowdon Mountain, Caernarfon, amongst other places)
  2. London & Enfield, England
  3. Amsterdam & Haarlem, the Netherlands
  4. Berlin, Germany
  5. Zagreb & Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
  6. Barcelona, Spain
  7. Paris, France and other French Cities -> (Grau-du-Roi, Aigues-Mortes, Carcassonne, Anduze) + (Luberon (L’isle-sur-la-sorgue, Velleron, Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Vaison-la-Romaine, Segurét, Orange, Avignon)
  8. Brussels, Belgium
  9. Venice, Italy

now that ive been home for a little over two days now, europe has left its mark on me.  i look at american products and see the massiveness of the them and it just looks wrong and wasteful.  naturally now, “pardon” comes out even before I can even think to say ‘excuse-me.’  i eat slower, i enjoy the taste of wine and breakfasts now for me need to have tartines (slices of quality bread with various spreads, nutella and jams preferably).  my re-adaption back to northeastern time is a constant reminder that my body and mind is still in europe mode.  the time zone difference reminds me that i really did go somewhere else, to me, it feels like a whole other world really.  a super special world filled with beautful history and age, dozens of different languages and cultures, amazing foods/drinks and just a completely different way of life.  i miss it so.  im realizing more and more, that i just spent the last three and a half months in france and now its all over.

i learned about myself and I feel that i am just that much more maturer after my wonderful experience in Montpellier.  Ma vie en France me manque! et j’espère que je continuerai de parler français pendant que je suis à la fac et jusqu’à ce que je reviens au pays francophone.   i am so grateful for my experience and i want to thank my dear parents for making this a possibility for me, easyjet and ryan air, dominique and baptiste and french bread.  je vous aime, particulièrement, le pain français.

                                                         baptiste, max and dominique.  6:19 am.

just one of the hundreds of small bridges and rue piétonne walkways that i saw in venice. this walkway, if i remember correctly was in the dosoduro region relatively close to campo s. margherita.

mon dernier weekend de voyage, à Venise

I had come up with a genious plan to get my butt from montpellier, france to venice, italy for the cheapest way that I could find.  after paying such fantastic prices traveling places all over europe, i just wasn’t ready to be paying nearly 200 euros for round trip airfare. so i did my research and i was able to make it happen.  first problem: i booked my flight home for monday december 6th only to find out two weeks afterward that i had to take a final exam in my integrated religion class that day. ended up having to change it and buy another return flight home to leave sunday instead and pretty much lost a whole bunch of money in the process, though it was cheaper than canceling and changing flights through easyjet.  ok, so heres was the plan:

  1. train from montpellier to lyon part dieu train station.  
  2. transfer from lyon part dieu to lyon st. exupéry (airport)
  3. fly from lyon st. exupéry to milan malpensa.  
  4. bus from milan malpensa to milan centrale train station. 
  5. train from milan centrale to venice, italy.

by far, it was the longest and hardest travel day i had.  i was amazed that i made it there.  just in case your all wondering, i started the journey by leaving my humble home in montpellier at 7:45 am and after a bunch of delays, stress and runnning, i finally and amazingly made it to my hostel in venice at 10:30 pm.  thats just about 15 hours kids.  15 hours.  I checked in, though tempted to walk around, i was super super wiped.

the next morning I woke up and I got out the door.  after receiving a basic map of venice and having had met and spoken to a guy from argentina (or brazil, i dont remember) i got some advice on what to see.  this other girl i met at the hostel who was from new zealand sort of walked me along through the beautiful maze of venice and then left me at one of the “campo’s” which is basically a square or a “place.”  i was warned the night before that at night the tide rises, the water from the canals flood over into the streets and sometimes it can reach up to knee hight.  i was skeptical.  that next morning, it was all before my eyes.  as i walked through the tiny little walkways and streets, i began to notice that nearly everyone was wearing rainboots.  i mean it was raining that morning but it wasnt until i finally made it to san marco square that i learned the reason why.  water was everywhere!  it was like a lake in the square.  i was shocked!  i managed to hop up onto one of the wooden platforms to make it into basilica di san marco, the famous beautiful cathedral in san marco square.  it was even flooded in the church!  it was crazy. after that, i walked in the direction towards and surprisingly found myself at La Fenice, an old theatre thats been remade two or three times due to a fire or two since 1790.  it was pretty nice inside, but we were prohibited from taking photos.  there was a rehearsal of an opera while i was there which was nice to watch.  from there, i continued walking and walking all day till I had enough.  thats mostly what i spent my time doing in venice.  walking.  and i was super happy to do so.  

walking through venice, even it being cold there and all, is a magical experience. venice is maze of tiny little rue piétonnes (there really isnt a translation in english, the closest i can think of is tiny little walkways).  nearly every 200 ft you cross another mini bridge over another mini canal within the city, as there are hundreds upon hundreds of them all throughout the city.  of course the main way of transport around is by “watertaxi” which runs a regular route all throughout the grand canal, the canal that basically separates venice in two.  the thing is, to cross it, there are really only 4 main bridges to cross it by foot.  can be a pain when trying to get places.  hence the practicality of watertaxis, but for 6 euros 50 a ride, way too expensive, how do the locals deal with it?  they walk.  

walking in venice couldnt be anymore enjoyable.  i nearly walked the whole city in about two full days. i was told the best thing you can do in venice is get lost, and its just that.  i got lost plenty of times and i couldnt have been happier really. 

here is a photo summary of what i did and saw in venice.

this is san marco square at about i would say 11:30 am.  it rained that morning. everyone i saw was in rain boots.  i of course, being me, wore my holey sneakers like normal and sucked up the rainwater.  i was shocked to see the square like this when i got there.  those step-up things are all over venice for this purpose exactly.  in fact, this is a daily occurrence in venice.

this is the cathedral of san marco square: basilica di san marco.  it was very pretty inside, similar stuff to what id seen all over europe. golden like the one i saw in barcelona but to me, again, this one just didn’t compare to that of notre dame in paris.

Piazza San Marco when the water finally went down.  its quite nice there.  i tried to imagine what this place looks like when its fully packed and of all the history thats been through this square.

atop one of the many tiny bridges like this one in venice.  is just picturesque just about everywhere.  and people live those houses on each side!  just imagine waking up to the canal every morning!  

when the security guard wasnt looking, i secretly took this photo of the inside of the Gran Teatro La Fenice. although not a great one, it was really the best i could do.  i urge you all to go on wikipedia on something and see some better, official images of it.

i had a margherita pizza all to myself.  i was utterly delicious.  i have come to the conclusion that its really the sauce makes the pizza!  i ate slowly and enjoyed each bite.  it was soft, warmly cheesy and each slice melted in your mouth.  serious yum. i was sad to eat the last piece.  though, ive been told time and time again that venice is not the place for food!  one day, when i go back to italy, I will go to naples, as i’ve been told that you can find the best margherita pizza there in the world, as it was invented there!  

atop the ponte di Rialto, the most famous bridge in all of venice.  it traverses the grand canal; its probably the most famous and most principal bridge for crossing the canal too.

same location, sunset in venice.  ahhh.

this is just outside of san marco square towards the water as the sun began to set upon the city.

another beautiful canal.  again, these are just about everywhere.  beauty surrounds you constantly.  that is, the magic of venice.

i didnt know that these black boats are called gondolas before i came to venice.  always assumed a gondola was that thing that transports people up mountains.  well i guess they transport people, who have the money to afford it, up, down and all throughout the canals…

                          

this is actually the street that my hostel was located on.  if i remember correctly it was ‘calle zen.’  just a tiny little rue piétonne right beside the grand canal.  this is about the approximate size of a general walkway in venice.  pretty neat huh?

                          

this is a photo of inside the Frari, another very well known cathedral in venice. it was nice to visit it.  i guess i’ll note here of just how many churches there are in venice. theres got to be at least a hundred of them in the city alone.  almost every where you go, theres another church. i went inside of a bunch of them. everything from simple to fantastic. each one a bit different. venetians just love churches and theres basically nowhere you cant find one.

this is a campo which is a square.  unfortunately, im not sure which one this is.  it think it could be campo s. polo.  campo’s are a great way of finding out where the hell you are on your handy and unhandy at times, venice city map.  i must have seen about 20 to 30 campos over my two days walking in venice. maybe more.  im a fan of this photo because i get this sort of really nice venice-ish vibe from it. 

the last thing i did, before i left to go back home was a take a watertaxi from the near complete endpoint of the grand canal at gallerie dell’Accademia all the way towards piazzale roma.  it was a way for me to see venice through its main canal.  it was really swell.  here is the Rialto bridge just ahead on our ride along the canal.

When I got to the bus station to catch a shuttle towards marco polo airport, i stood ontop of one of the bridges nearby and looked out onto the city.  suddenly, i had fully realized that this was the end of my final and last major trip of my semester.  as i looked out onto the water, i played back images of each place I had gone to this semester in my head. I was happy. I was proud of myself and of all the things I had seen and done over these last 3 and half months abroad.  As i looked out over the bridge and into the canal, I took one last look at beautiful venice and I smiled, took a deep breath and walked to the bus.  

Getting home was lot easier to coming to venice thats for sure.  when i finally made it back to montpellier late that sunday evening, i walked from the gare towards la place de la comedie and saw randomly, a piano in the middle of the comedie.  i watched some guy play it for a bit and contently walked home to my house. finals approaching, my time in montpellier was coming to close.  but having had another great and successful european weekend of venice under my belt, i felt pretty darn happy.

see the video above for a taste of what my endless walking weekend in venice was like.

MENOMENA playing BOTE off their latest release ‘mines’ at la botanique in brussels, belgium.  11/28/10.

luckily caught this ‘light show’ that happens once an hour just before going up to the second floor of the eiffel tower.

Le Vaucluse, Paris et Bruxelles

Hello everyone.  max is in finals mode here in montpellier, france.  ça veut dire que je n’ai pas beacoup de temps à ecrire!  means that i dont have a lot of time to write.  however i will try to show you all the wonderful things I saw with my dear parents during our small tour of france!

i need to keep this entry brief.  i will attempt to do this.  lets see how it goes.

to start things off, met my folks at la gare st. roch of Montpellier on sunday afternoon nov 28th.  we enjoyed a “very french” style lunch with dried meats, cheeses, muscat grapes and an an italian delight of delicious lasagna made by the lasanga master, dominique.  we ate out that night at chez boris, a delicious restaurant along l’esplanade.  the next morning we were to commence our french journey to the vaucluse region of provence.  

so, that morning pop and i walked back to the train station to rent the car for our trip.  to put our entirely stressful and horrible morning in a nutshell, we accidently damaged the clutch on the car we rented within about 40 minutes of trying to find our way back to the hotel my parents were staying at (i DO NOT know to navigate montpellier via car).  stress and more stress ensued and we magically, thanks to a kind local made it back to the car rental place and got an automatic car instead.  made a world of a difference and eventually (eventually meaning after about 45 minutes of nerve-racking driving, montpellier has to be one of the worst driving cities in the world) we made it back to the hotel.  a very intense morning indeed, but our trip was on its way.  we got in the car and drove to our bed and breakfast (en francais, c’est une chambre d’hôte).  we were pretty glad we made it there safe and sound and had it not been for the amazing GPS we had, i dont know if we would have ever made it there to say the truth.  see the pictures below for a very general recap of what we saw and did in provence.

thats séguret, one of the highlights of our provence trip.  its a village built literally right into the side of the mountain. super super old and wonderfully charming and beautiful.  notice the grape vines just to the right.  provence is covered in these, just about everywhere you look.

the little town of séguret, with all of its buildings made of stone, was completely deserted when we visited it.  in fact, i dont think we saw a single other person there!  do people live there all year round? i hope so, its way too pretty not to!

the beautiful view from the highest point we could reach in séguret.  you could see vineyards for miles and miles.  it was gorgeous.

we drove down this super super skinny path to get back on the main road after driving out from séguret. it was really wonderful. this is one of the shots i snapped along the way as we were carefully driving through. again, more grape vines.

mama happily walking down a path at vaison-la-romaine towards a super old roman bridge that we saw together.

just outside the city center of vaison-la-romaine.   it was amazing to see just how the grape vines perfectly hugged each and every curve, dip and slip of the land.

pop coming out of a degustation du vin (wine tasting) from one of the caves (wine cellars) of a vignoble (vineyard) that we visited in chateauneuf-du-pape, a world famous city for some of the best wines in the world.

us driving along a path that led to one of the vineyards that we saw.  grape vines lined both sides of the road, it was a real indication that we about to engage in something really really special.

this is pop walking along the famous saint benezets bridge in avignon right outside le palais des papes (seen in the background), a super old and massive palace built for the ultimate well-being and comfort of the pope.  i loved how avignon still remains a fortified city, there aren’t a whole lot left remaining intact like this one in france!

this is photo of orange, france.  it reminded me a lot of montpellier actually.  a very nice french city close to chateauneuf-du-pape, avignon and vaison-la-romaine.

this is the mysterious ‘fountain’ that supplies a flowing spring that goes all throughout fontaine-de-vaucluse.  divers have dove super deep into this pool seen above and they still can’t accurately pinpoint exactly where all the water is coming from.  it was a really pretty way to end our vaucluse trip.

this is the small provençal village of fontaine-de-vaucluse.  just driving into it makes you drop your jaw. its just so pretty and wonderful in just about every way.

After our three wonderful days in provence, we drove to the avignon TGV station, dropped off the rented car there and hopped on the super high speed train (typical speed of 200 mph) to paris.  my parents checked in to their very classy hotel and that night we took a stroll all along the champs elysées to l’arc de triomph and back.  we were blown away by the kinds of foods and things that were being sold all along the avenue.  caviar and vodka shots?

see some more photos below of the stuff we saw in paris.  unfortunately, due to my broken camera, i didnt take pictures of everything we saw, but nonetheless heres a general outline of the things we saw and did there.

les champs elysées…during christmas season.  we walked the whole thing.  notice mom and pop to the right there in sheer disbelief of the foods and stands.

this is the inside of the note dame in paris.  i have seen loads of amazing cathedrals over my travels in europe.  this one by far was definitely one the most impressive i saw.  you couldnt help but feel spiritual inside it.  it was enormous and an amazing testament to the love of god.  it was completed by 1345.  just amazing.

this is sainte chapelle.  however this is not the sainte chapelle that we saw.  unfortunately the front and main portion of the beautiful stained glass was all covered up when we went, it was undergoing restoration.  however, you can see just how important light is to holiness.  the more the better really. this famous church is probably the one of the best examples of that in the world.  gorgeous.

a photo taken just crossing over from île de la cité towards the latin quarter.

le louvre.  very cool, but honestly the largest, most tiring and most intimidating museum i have ever been to.

le musée d’orsay.  liked this one a whole lot better than the louvre.  great works of art from highly celebrated painters from dégas to seurat.

le centre pompidou.  after seeing this photo in just about every french textbook ive had since the third grade, i finally made it there.  saw the permanent modern art gallery of the works of the 20th century. really really bizzare stuff after seeing all that “classical” art stuff in the louvre and at the orsay. 

i believe this dish was at café constant on rue saint dominique.  it was one of our favorite restaurants of the trip.  super small place with super friendly waiters and of course amazing food at some of the best prices we saw in paris.

a little hard to see but this is the view of the eiffel tower from underneath.  its massive kids.

this is the boulangerie that was just around the corner from the hostel i stayed at in paris.  in 2010, this place won the award for the best baguette in all of paris.  it was, without a doubt the best baguette ive had to date here in france.  so tenderly soft and sweet, it melted in your mouth almost.  bread normally is just not supposed to do that.  well, it looks le grenier à pain knows just how to.

All in all, we had a really fantastic time together.  i was super happy to show my parents what france is like and of course we ate countless delicious meals together, drank fantastic wines, saw beautiful things (even in the low season!) and made lifelasting memories.  i for sure will never forget it.

so, my parents left to go back to new york and i had already planned on taking the train over to brussels, belgium since it was relatively close to paris and i had already bought a ticket to see menomena, one of my favorite bands.  i made it to brussels all in one piece, though i was really tired by this point.  i had been traveling and walking and walking for the last ten days and i was pretty ready to go back home to montpellier.  though, i stuck it out and it was well worth it!  i got to see menomena sound check (i snuck in!) and then i got to meet brent knopf (the keyboardist) and danny seim (the drummer who is by the way one of my favorite drummers in the world).  not only did i meet them, i got to really chat for a long time with each of them.  i learned about menomena’s history and lots of fun facts from brent and i got to chat for a while with danny about drumming, early 90s skateboard culture and deerhoof amongst a bunch of other swell things.  i felt so incredibly lucky.  i was definitely not expecting that to happen whatsoever!  just amazing.

the next morning, i took a small ‘walking tour’ that was on my brussels map towards the train station and managed to have a waffle (with sugar on the inside) before i got on my train.  i was exhausted, but very happy to be finally returning home after all these days away.  an amazing trip.  

this is the only picture of brussels i took before my memory card filled up at the show.  see the video above of menomena playing at la botanique.

Bradford Cox Bedroom Databanks

Hello. im writing this from a hostel called jacques brel in brussles, belgium.  i just came across some interesting news from mister bradford cox - the master behind deerhunter and atlas sound.  in last bunch of days, via his well known blog deerhuntertheband.blogspot.com he has released 4 seperate collections of songs recorded in his bedroom, basements, computers, hotels, etc.  i havent heard anything of them yet, but they are all free for download on his blog.  i just listened to halcyon digest (deerhunters very new and very great album) on the train today coming from paris.  its really great, but after seeing all these “bedroom databanks” today online, it just shows how much songwriting this guy does. wow. i saw here, on his fourth databank release (also showing on the cover of said databank, a very young photo of him holding a bicycle and some flowers) a bizzare story about track number 4, which happens to be a talentshow audition recorded from 1975, but there is no mention of bradford in the story, unless that is maybe he is tommy, pat, sue or henry.  read the story if you like.  tonight i am seeing menomena at la botanique, a venue just around the block here from the hostel.  they are also the main reason why i came here to brussels for the night in the first place.  linus would be proud of me.  i will have beligian beer tonight for you linus, ne t’inquiete pas!

                             

                                       ATLAS SOUND: BEDROOM DATABANK VOL. 4

Le weekend à Barcelone

went to barcelona this past weekend.  it was amazing.  i absolutely loved it over there.

maria and i took a bus from montpellier.  it came half an hour late and we got to barcelona an hour late than expected.  maria and i asked around and found our hostel (alberguinn youth hostel).  we checked in and hit the streets.  our first destination was to la sagrada família, a church, still under construction since 1882 by antoni gaudi.  gaudi is highly highly celebrated in barcelona.  as recommended by the hostel, we were told not to go into or wait online to go inside the church, so instead we walked square around it and took lots of photos.  its really an unbelievable looking church and it has extremely impressive outside features.  there is a really noticeable difference between the old work and the new work put on the church.  gaudi took over the construction in 1883 and made it into a real gaudi work of art.  he put tons of effort into building la sagrada família before he was hit by a tram in 1926.  i can only imagine how angry the city of barcelona was at the guy driving the tram.  supposively, the construction is dated to end in 2026, the 100th anniversary of gaudi’s death.  we’ll see if that really happens.                             

la sagrada família.  back side. old side. cool side.

la sagrada família.  front side.  these pictures don’t give it justice.  way more impressive seeing it for real in person but i guess thats for any photo right?

then we walked to go see casa batlló, one of gaudi’s prestigious houses that he designed himself.  this house in particuliar was the one that he lived in with his family (it was built in 1887 and remodeled in 1904).  from the unbelievable façade on the outside, i knew i was in for a treat for whatever was inside.  it was expensive to get in, but well well worth it.  upon entry, you notice just how precise to detail gaudi was when designing the house.  i took an audio-guided tour of the house, i learned a lot about gaudi and how nature, the major influence of his work, helped guide him to design the house.  i walked through the house in complete awe at everything i was seeing.  the banisters and all the doorknobs were perfect; he designed them so that they would fit perfectly to the human hand.  he really thought about room temperature, light intake and air flow.  he designed gill like fins that could open and close to both regulate air flow and temperature in the room.  he used different arrangments, colors and types of glass to regulate how sunlight entered the room.  he used recycled materials to build wonderfully colorful mosiacs (one of the first intents to recycle and reuse).  there was this beautifully constructed column in the middle of the house that was carefully outfitted with cermanic tiles (ascending from light blue to dark), carefully cut to conform perfectly to every edge and curve.  and then the roof, oh the roof.  the roof was like a whole other house.  unbelievable tiled chimenys and structures of immense beauty with an ingenious drainage system for when it rained.  one of the structures looked like a dinosaurs body with scales and all.  then i went to the ‘vip room’ which was meant for gaudi as a place where he bring highly esteemed guests, fitted with perfectly customized chairs that conformed too perfectly to the human body.  it was real real swell.  i loved seeing casa batlló.  i would go again a million times.

casa batlló.  outside façade.

what was so amazing to me what gaudi created this so incredibly modern house in the very beginning of the 20th century.  for me walking into the house for the first time without having known the history, i would have expected it was built a few years ago. gaudi is a genius among geniuses.  he literally thought of everything.  everything was put here and there for a reason.  go gaudi go.

the handrails fit perfectly to the human hand.  the tiles on the walls were placed meticulously all around the house in perfect fashion.  the tiles were even sometime chopped up in pieces in order for them to match the curvature of the walls.

this was the grand column that was located smack in the middle of the house.  the windows of the house got smaller as you ascended, a brilliant idea by gaudi in order to let in more sunlight at the lower portions of the house, and less as you go up considering the fact that the sun is its brightest and strongest the higher you go.  the tiles went from dark to light blue as you went up creating a really cool effect.  see the fish like gill vents in the top left corner?  these were all around the house.  remember, nature was gaudi most principal, if not his only influence.

the roof.  amazing.  i urge you all to look online for better photos of the roof.  i think it would have been even more impressive in the sunlight.  thats the chimney right there. and structure behind it, which to me looked like a dinosaur led to more rooms and more rooms.

ok.  the main reason why i really wanted to go to barcelona in the first place was to skateboard.  barcelona is well known for all skateboarders as the best skateboard city in the world.  and right they are.  i took a bus there so i could make sure i could bring my skateboard with me without having to pay extra for it.  directly following my tour of the gaudí house, i took out my handydandy skatespot map (thanks to buddy harry from the land of english people) and went to the first spot he recommended i go to, place universitat.  i skated around there with some other barcelona locals there. it was my first barcelona skateboard experience.  so far so good.  i did a noseslide on the perfect benches there and right after i landed it a man in a black vest grabbed me and forcefully put his arm around my shoulder and showed me his badge underneath his coat.  he grabbed my skateboard from me and led me over to another undercover cop interogatting one of the other skaters.  the cops both spoke to little to no english and they gave me a relatively rough time for not having my passport on me, as to them, my drivers license was not enough, they couldn’t understand what it said.  they gave the other kid a ticket and he was let free (with his skateboard) after about half an hour.  they didnt say a word to me while they were dealing with the other kid.  the man cop, the original one who showed me his badge told me that it is illegal to skateboard in barcelona.  what?  illegal?  thats fucking rediculous.  the cop holding my skateboard said to me originally, ‘i hold skateboard until you give passport.’  i told them thats its at my hostel and my drivers license is all i got.  they kept asking me where my hostel was and i pointed to it on a map.  they then told me to follow them, so i did.  i considered running, afraid they were going to bring me to the police station, but they had my drivers liscense and all so that stopped me from doing so.  they took me to their unmarked car a little bit away from the place and kept me there for an additional half hour or so.  they called three other cops on bikes to come bring them some forms or whatever as well as im guessing to try and understand what was on my liscence.  i pleaded that i wouldn’t skateboard again, just let me have my skateboard and ID back and i’ll leave.  the officer replied, ‘that is not possible.’  i asked how much it would be to get my skateboard back.  they said, 300 euros.  thats over 400 dollars!  are you serious.  they put a idenitifier tag on my board, put it in their trunk, gave me two different tickets, and all the officers left and i was left there.  i was so very sad.  i had lost my skateboard after having only skated five minutes in barcelona.  i couldn’t believe my terribly unfortunate luck. i shrugged my way to the metro and rode it back to the hostel.  i was in such a terrible funk after that.  i of course was still super upset and in disbelief what had happened.  i wasn’t hungry anymore.  i didnt want to have fun. i didnt want to go out.  all i could think about was the incident.  i came to barcelona to skateboard, and now i couldn’t skate anymore.  that night, the other kids that were there with convinced me to go out to this dance club they had been raving about for weeks called razzmatazz.  it was a rediculous night to say the least.

this is place universitat.  i took this photo and about 5 minutes later i commenced my hour with barcelona police.

the next morning, maria and i took advantage of a free two hour tour of the old city.  it was really swell.  we saw a lot of really great things and learned lots of barcelona history.  we stopped to see the cloister of the barcelona cathedral and the tour guide told us to stay in there and not explore too far.   i was walking around the cloister when i came upon a door that some people were going in and out of.  i walked through it and i was amazed at what i had walked into.  it was the most beautiful cathedral i have ever seen.  everything was golden.  it was exquiste beyond belief.  i was in awe looking all around me.  after i thought id had enough, and partially due to the fact we were only supposed to spend five minutes in the cloister, i attempted to go through the same door that i went through earlier.  it was now locked shut.  what?  i tried asking how to leave and no one spoke english.  eventually i was told that the door wouldnt reopen until 1 pm, which was a long while from them.  i was sure i was going to be locked in the cathedral for the next 2 and half hours.  i was afraid i was going to lose the tour group and i was sure i would never find them again.  i asked around and i finally managed to find the door exiting the cathedral.  i ran around the block, in and out of alleys until i refound the group.  phew!

barcelona cathedral.  complete awe when i walked in.  incredible shit.  hopefully my mom will take better photos of it when she (hopefully) sees it.

after the tour, maria and i walked along la rambla (one of the central walking streets in barcelona) and went inside la marcat de sant josep.  it was super awesome in there.  tons of stands selling spices, fruits, fish, foods, candies, drinks and tons of other stuff.  we ate lunch there and then we went our own ways.  i was on a mission to skateboard.

outside of the marcat de st. josep

i went to a local skateshop nearby called ‘free’ and told a woman working there what had happened and showed her my two tickets.  she told me its pretty common shit these days and you really got to watch out for cops in barcelona now.  according to her, the city just recently passed legislation banning skateboarding, which is straight up rediculous considering barcelona’s well known skateboarding reputation.  she also told me at the MACBA, there are usually guys there with multiple boards selling them for pretty cheap.  happy to hear that, i headed over there and waited for guys with baords to show up.  MACBA is one of the best known skatespots in all of barcelona.  i met some skateboarders there and i showed them my tickets.  they all sympathized with me and were nice to me, but they unfortunately couldnt offer me anything.  i sat there and watched a bunch of dudes skate for about 2 hours.  at this point, i was pretty convinced i was just going to have to visit all these well known spots and just watch.  by that time, i was pretty OK with that.  i was happy to be there and watch.  however, after a while, i decided to take a walk around and see what i could find since i wasn’t seeing anybody coming to MACBA with multiple boards.

i was walking in the direction to go back to the ‘free’ shop when someone handed me a little cardboard thing advertising a skateshop called ‘ftc-for the city.’  i went over there and spoke to the guy working there and showed him my tickets.  he spoke pretty good english and he i asked if he had any junky boards/parts i could buy from him.  amazingly he offered me his old skateboard deck (which he told me he gets for free anyway) plus four old wheels and some bolts, all of which he gave to me for free.  i offered him money for it but he refused it.  what a super nice guy, he also marked on my handydandy skatemap of the places i should go to before i leave. i walked out of the shop with a new attitude, i was ready to take on the challenge. i was going to put a skateboard together no matter what.  i went to shop after shop asking for old parts to buy. most didnt have anything.  finally, i found a shop called ‘hey ho.’  the guy there spoke OK english and he offered me a deal. eight bearings for free if i bought a pair of trucks, he even offered me a 40 euro pair of trucks 10 euros off, so i of course obliged.  he helped me put the board together super fast and before i knew it, i had a perfectly awesome and practically new skateboard!  i left the shop in super high spirits and i skated through the streets back to MACBA where i finally skateboarded amongst the guys i had been watching skate (like torture!) for the past two hours.  i skated and skated and just had a super great time.  it was really great.  i felt like i had been cured of a terrible illness or something via skateboard medicinal therapy.

i then followed my handydandy skate map so i could meet maria for dinner at a restaurant we were recommended to go to by the tour guide earlier in the afternoon. on my way there, i visited a bunch of different skatespots. i skated on olas de besòs (colón) which is like the equivalent of a super sweet skateboarding highway and then i skated some banks and super flat and smooth areas by the barcelonetta station.  maria and i had dinner pretty late (considering eating late, around 9:30-10pm is a very spanish thing) and i had pretty great paella; really fresh seafood, right from the sea.  that night i went to a bunch of different bars and tried a bunch of different beers, met some american dudes, who were on their way to amsterdam for their 3rd time and returned back to the hostel relatively late.

this guy, who obviously rides for ‘free’ skateshop was skating this spot while i was looking out for a dude selling crappy boards.  he was pretty darn good.

can you believe it!  its my basically free new skateboard, completely awesome and totally amazing!

                                           

i told all you i was super happy.  im not a fan of this photo, but i felt like i had to put it up to show you all how very content i was.

this is colón, the skateboarding highway.  it was super wide, super long, super smooth and super fun.

paella.  really fresh seafood in there right from the sea. mussels, clams and crayfish.

got up sunday relatively early to take advantage of as much skate time as possible before i had to catch my train back to montpellier at 3 pm. i first went to la rambla de brasil, which was pretty close to my hostel where there were tons of planters with perfect metal rails around each and every one perfect for grinds and slides. then went to the famous ‘sants’ spot by the train station.  only a few people there but still managed to throw in a nice noseslide on the bench. then i skated down av roma which had been recently paved and then skated all the way down comte d’urgell towards paral-lel.  took me a long time to find paralelo, a well known barcelona spot that has perfect manual pads and general super smooth riding space.  skated there for a while and skated back towards la rambla to get something to eat.  and for my final last skate destination, i skated infront of the l’arco de triunfo where i found super smooth pavement for skating far and wide.  i didnt stay there long because i was in danger of not making it back to my train in time.  but all in all, it was a nice way to end the great weekend and take in the beautiful weather i was lucky to have had the whole weekend.  i luckily made my train in time (after doing more runnning, again) and arrived back in montpellier around 9ish that sunday night.

la rambla de brasil

SANTS

paralelo

l’arco de triufo.

barcelona was really really sweet.  barcelona is amazing in fact of how perfect it is in so many way for skateboarding.  sometimes i couldnt believe how perfect it was.  i highly doubt that the majority, if not all of the famous features/places there were created with skateboarding in mind. anyone who studies abroad in europe must go to barcelona, even if you don’t skate.  amazing all around, its a super awesome city.  the new york of europe.  if only i knew more spanish words than ‘gracias’ ‘agua’ and ‘donde.’

berlin holocaust memorial.  this place was really really sweet. hundreds upon hundreds of stone blocks of different heights to represent the six million.  super fun to get lost in.

amsterdam truly is a city of bikes. at some points, the bike traffic was seriously intense.  here, im just walking down a ‘straat’ in the dam, filming bikers go by.

Amsterdam, Berlin et La Croatie

This post is way long overdue.  I got back from my 10 day mini-vacation on november 8th, but since then I’ve been pretty busy so I haven’t really had any time to commit to writing.  Considering how much stuff happened at each and every one of these places, i’m going to attempt to write briefly about each without managing to forget to include important stuff.  here we go:

oh, before i start, i want to put it out there that we had to catch a shuttle to the airport from montpellier at 7:55 am to properly catch our first, and probably most important flight.  i of course left the house too late and fucking ran all the way from the house to place d’europe with my super heavy backpack (25 minute run).  i was super super wiped even before the trip had even begun, completely out of breath and almost falling over.  i couldnt believe i had made, a “running-to-catch-something-very-important” thing once again.

Amsterdam:

First things first.  I have never been to a ‘canal’ city before.  I must say that it was like a shocker to me. Beauty beyond words.  I couldn’t believe how ingenious the idea was to have created a city where the main form of transport around the city was by canals.  It soon became apparent (thanks to peter’s advice; one of the guys i went with who had been to the dam before) that in order to properly find your way around the city, you gotta follow the canals!

we arrived on friday afternoon, and things were moving super super fast in amsterdam. bikers everywhere!  i probably almost got run over nearly 10 times by bikers coming out of nowhere at serious speeds in haste to get to wherever they need to go.  i felt like a tourist in new york city not keeping up with the general speed of things.  i felt pretty silly after the sixth time of a biker yelled at me to get out of their way which of course followed up with the “amsterdam scold” from the biker. however, i found people to be really very friendly in the dam; everybody from the police officer who joked about us paying 60 euro each for forgetting to swipe our train cards to the random people on the street who very kindly directed us to the coffeeshop we were looking for.  first day and night in amsterdam passed well, though we had a super tough and very irritating time of finding somewhere to eat for dinner.  and then peter and i slept on our hostel ship in our super tiny room where i got the second most uncomfortable night of sleep on the trip.

next morning peter and i had breakfast at popeyes, a breakfast place my good buddy oliver highly recommended i go to.  as much as i trust oliver’s opinion of good food, i must say i was not digging the quality of the food there.  probably the saltiest sunny side up eggs ive ever had in my life (maybe its because i didnt opt for the popeyes 10 euro grand breakfast) but it was for sure the waviest breakfast ive ever had.  then peter and i walked from there all the way to the van gogh museum which was about a 45 minute walk (of course continually consulting my map and following the canals).  van goghs work impressed me very much, he has an unbelievable way of making the paintings although still, look like they are moving.  it was really amazing. i was blown away at some which i swore i could see the woman’s face and hands in the painting moving slightly as she did the laundry.  after having done more and more walking in the museum, we walked to vondelpark nearby as we heard it was really sweet over there, unfortunately we didnt stay too long for us to properly explore the majority of the park but it was really pretty.  

that night, peter and i traveled by train to haarlem, which is a city just directly outside of amsterdam where we stayed with a friend of peter’s named tony.  tony was extremely friendly to us, he let me stay in his home, he fed us and showed us a really nice time.  tony is a 30 something year old guy who has lived in haarlem all this life and speaks about 5 different languages.  he suffered from a terrible motorcycle accident a bunch of years ago and was in a coma for two weeks.   after that incident, he had a completely different outlook on life and has since then devoted his life to learning. when i stayed with him, he had explained that after a near-death experience you appreciate life in a completely new way. thus on his journey to learn as much as possible, he recently picked up the bass guitar and practices everyday.  the really only negative thing that came out of my trip to haarlem was that for the one night i was there, i managed to crack the LCD screen on my camera, which I still to this day dont know exactly how it happened.  hence, the ‘blind photography’ of my trip began.

peter and i returned back to amsterdam the next afternoon and we went to the anne frank house, which was pretty cool.  i definitely wanted to visit the house, as i felt obligated to do so, but i left feeling not as emotionally touched as i was expecting to be.  maybe its because i never actually read anne’s diary.  i had seen the movie and all, but i think i would have connected with anne more had i read her diary.  i promised myself that one day i will read it.  after that, we explored more of amsterdam (lauren, peter and i) going to more coffeeshops and doing more, more and more walking just about everywhere.  i was a bit upset because the thing to do there is rent a bike, but the weather and timing just didnt really cooperate with us the whole weekend to rent the bike for the day. all good though.  at the dampkring that afternoon, after trying to figure out how to disable the flash permantly without being able to see any display on the camera, i managed to change the setting on my camera to black and white without realizing it (i mean the flash stopped, so i guessed i had succeeded and remember, i cannot see anything on the lcd screen).  from then on, all of my pictures were in black in white.  so unfortunately, that night, considering that we all didnt book a hostel arrangments due to the super early hour of our flight the next morning, the three of us slept in the airport.  that was the most uncomfortable night of the trip.  marble floors arent particularly comfy. to top it all off, our plane was delayed so waited even longer in that damn airport. i think at about a little after noon we made it to berlin.

oh the canals.  in french amsterdam, amsterdam would be called une ville des canaux. 

bikes bikes bikes.  so impressed with how ingrained the bicycle is in amsterdam everyday life.  i think the bicycle is one of the greatest inventions of all time really.

popeyes coffeeshop/breakfast as per oliver.

super super small room for two aboard ship avanti.

d

im pretty sure this is the street in haarlem where i stayed with tony.  to me, harlem was kind of like a suburb of amsterdam.  very similar in terms of how it looked. there were canals there too!

sds

vondelpark.  wish i had spent more time there.

me and peter on the left there in front of the I am Amsterdam sign after seeing the van gogh museum. the rest of the kids in the photo are rose’s friends from back home.

Berlin:

we checked in to the grand hostel in berlin.  it was a really nice place, very modern looking with comfy rooms and nice showers.  definitely a great choice after both the hostel ship and the airport floor. we left the hostel and went for a walk to find food.  we were recommended by the hostel to go to ‘curry 36’ a place well known for their great currywurst.  this is a very ‘berlin’ thing.  its basically a big german frankfurter/sausage with ketchup like sauce with french fries on the side.  its not bad, and actually pretty tasty.  we then took a walk around that general area and returned back to the hostel to take a well deserved nap.  went to see alexanderplatz and got some cheap kebabs for dinner, had a drink at a local pub and called it a night.  

the next day, we took the train for free (supposively no one pays for trains in berlin) to see the reichstag and the brandenberg gate.  on the way there we saw the sony center and an impressive holocaust memorial.  we waited on a line for an hour and half to get into the reichstag.  the sky was particularly grey that day so the view of the city was not particularly beautiful looking.  however all those crazy mirrors in the reichstag were real swell.  then falling into a super tourist trap, we walked along a very touristy part of the city and sort of got sucked into that area.  that night we went to see the berlin wall, which proved to be my favorite part of our time in berlin.  really cool artwork on the remnants of the wall with really powerful drawings, words and illustrations.  we walked all along the east-side gallery.  i was real happy lauren convinced us to go there.  that night we had a super delicious indian dinner (a 5 course meal!) and then that night tried to find a proper berlin club to no avail, well i mean we found one but it wasn’t too spectacular.  a tuesday night in berlin, wasnt expecting too much really. all in all, berlin was nice (and super cheap too!) though i wish i had went there on a weekend and managed to stay away from all the touristy stuff and instead seen the ‘real/cool’ side of berlin.  got up super early the next morning to catch our flight to zagreb croatia.  was a zombie in the airport.

currywurst mit pommes.  this is sort of like a national dish, or maybe its just a berlin thing.  either way, pretty tasty.

berlin

berlin holocaust memorial.  really moving.  also really fun to get lost in.

berlin

lauren infront of the brandenberg gate.

berlin

reichstag.  was is worth the nearly two hour wait?  i guess so.  this super sweet photo here (thanks to becca) shows the main attraction in the building.  the reichstag is the german parliament building where they hold massively important governmental stuff. the purpose of this structure (i believe made of 360 finely tilted mirrors) reflects natural sunlight into the parliament chamber below.  its pretty ingenious actually.  plus you can see the three of in one of the mirrors!

berlin

east side gallery.  my favorite part of berlin.  this was one of my favorite works of art of the wall too.  we walked the entire length of whats left.  it was really awesome.  some of the artwork was pretty farfetched while others had good meaning to them.  this one is obviously pretty easy to understand.

Croatia:

Getting into zagreb airport and converting our money.  i exchanged 100 euro only to get back 730 Kuna (the croatian currency).  seems sweet doesnt it?  we got on a bus to take us to city center which cost 30 kuna, which at first seems way overprice for a bus ride, which really only means like 3 euros actually. on the bus ride into the city, from the looks of the buildings, it looked like i was entering into some sort of cold war zone.  a bad first impression for sure but that all changed as we got a little closer to the center of the city. we found our way to our hosel (the funk hostel) where we settled in and took a super long nap…we were once again pretty exhausted.  for dinner we went to this pub/restaurant place that was just down the street that is considered one of the best restaurants in all of zagreb, it is also a ‘pivnica’ which means that its a brewery as well.  to our delight, the beer there was unbelievable. could have been some of the best beer ive had in my life.  three different varieties, light, medium and dark each for 15 kuna for a 1/2 liter.  amazing.  we ordered a ton of food, which mostly consisted of sausages and meat, which proved not to be very tasty, just all very salty.  there was a live band that night playing traditional croatian songs so everyone in the restaurant was dancing and singing, it was actually really really nice.  that night we met these two guys from sweden and a girl from brazil and we went to the ‘funk club’ were we listened to jazz music and drank more croatian beer.  it was fun.

the next day, we took a walk of old zagreb.  it was really nice there.  old cobble stone streets and small very european walkways like those ive seen in france and amsterdam. we saw the zagreb cathedral and then had a really nice italian lunch (i had tortellini with salmon and peas, it was real good).  becca had stuff to attend to so peter and i continued our exploration of old zagreb and kept following signs pointing us to different landmarks and sightseeing areas which proved to be really very wonderful. we saw st. marks cathedral, the local market, the stone gate (the only thing that remained after a massive fire in the city of zagreb) and then we climbed a long spiral staircase of the Lotrščak tower, where we met a really cool girl working at the desk named maya (or maia, i dont know) who recommended things for us to see and explore while in zagreb.  we climbed the rest of the way to reach the top of the tower, only to find an amazing panoramic view of all of zagreb.  lucky us, the sun was just setting and beautifully brilliant orange sunset was cast all over the city of zagreb.  again, not realizing my camera was taking photos in black and white, i did not manage to capture the colorful beauty of this stunning sunset.  that night we returned back the ‘pivnica’ restaurant where we ordered more delicious beer, food and bread (i had calamari that night, but it was overly doused in garlic).  we practiced more of our croatian, thanks to the funk hostel who gave us a sheet of conversational croatian.  bok, mogu li dobiti pivo molim.  hvala! “hi, i would like a beer please.  thankyou!  govorite li engleski? ”do you speak english?”

the next day, we got on a bus that took us 2 and half hours outside of zagreb to visit the plitvice lakes, a national park in croatia famous for its waterfalls.  we stayed in a small bed and breakfast (we were the only ones staying there, croatia and plitvice is a popular summer destination spot).  after checking in, we quickly got a ride from the owner of the b&b who recommended we see the lower parts of the lakes that day and the upper part of the lakes all the next day.  we walked and walked around the route we were told to follow and saw some really unbelievably beautiful sights.  waterfalls everwhere! and i mean everywhere!  it was like a paradise there.  the next day was even more beautiful, full of even more waterfalls, pools and ponds.  we saw the tallest waterfall in croatia and just hundreds upon hundreds of waterfalls everywhere you looked.  again, a super long two days of even more walking, but a very very beautiful walk indeed.  again, to my luck, when i would have wanted it most for my pictures to have been in color, they all came out in black and white, which dont give plitvice justice whatsoever, so i had to borrow some from becca and others.

after spending the two days in plitvice, we returned back to zagreb for two final nights in zagreb.  we stayed in a different hostel this time, hostel fullir where met lots of different people. a wacky guy from split, croatia who owned a hostel there (funky hostel, whats up with all this funk-y business in croatia?), two australian travelers who are on a 6 month travel europe tour, two english girls, a weird dude from paris amongst many other people.  that day, we visited a cemetery recommended by maya whom we met at the zagreb tower, which was only OK, nothing too special, a massive cemetery nontheless though.  on the last night, we all went out to dinner together (along with this super nice guy from zagreb that we met on the train on the way to catch the bus to plitvice who was on crutches due to an martial arts accident i think). it was really nice, again mostly sausage and beer.  thats croatian food for ya man.  spent the remainder of the night hanging around the hostel with the guys we’d met and went to the main square pretty late at night to take one last good at zagreb and went to sleep so we could catch our flight to paris the next morning.

the market.  lots and lots of fruit stands there.  super super cheap too.

the main village square/place of old zagreb.  kind of reminded me of montpellier a bit.

really really great pivo (beer) at that restaurant.  we went there twice.  heres a photo of the three types they make there.  we loved it so much that we shared a 3 liter vase of the light kind.  it was real swell. 

croatia

as peter and i attempted to explore old zagreb, we came upon this nice overlook of the city.  this was nothing compared to the zagreb tower view we came upon just after this.

croatia

now this really both annoys me and surprises me, this photo.  first of all, as you can all tell, my photos are in black and white, due to a unrealized mishap in amsterdam.  i took about 10 photos of the incredible orange sunset of zagreb atop the zagreb tower. aside from all my plitvice photos, i would have really liked for these sunset photos to have been in color.  and unfortunately, none of them capture the colorful beauty of the sunset. however, in this photo, there are streams of purple and pink amongst the rest, still in b&w.  how the hell did that happen?  this photo does not give the sunset justice whatsoever.  c’est vraiment dommage.

croatia

i did not take this photo.  but this is very small portion of what the plitvice lakes looks like.  winding wooden paths all throughout the lakes, pools and waterfalls.

this amazing photo, thanks to becca, correctly captures the beauty of the plitvice waterfalls.  we saw tons of amazing waterfalls, this being one of the prettiest.  can you see the rainbow in the photo?  how amazing is that!

another photo grâce à becca!  there was a lot of this style of waterfalls everywhere in the park.  really beautiful quand même.

this is me standing infront of the tallest waterfall in croatia.  i believe its 78 meters tall. thats 255 ft. tall dude!  it was pretty magnificient.  picture courtesy of becca.

we climbed up higher and higher to get in line with the waterfall.  this is the result, but sadly in b&w.  it was huge.

                          

originally, i had super hoped that we’d visit some caves in croatia after my life changing experience seeing le grotte de trabuc back in october.  although the majority of the super sweet caves were a good distance away from where we were staying, we did manage to find a cave in plitvice.  although not nearly as impressive, we did see some pretty bizarre rock formations.  we went inside a completely pitch black cave and put the flash on on full blast on our cameras; this is what we saw.

wow.  what an amazing amazing trip I had.  i felt so worldly.  i had yet again been exposed to more foreign languages, more ways of living, more new people and more new memories. it was all really swell.  i felt really lucky to have been able to do something like that. plus, id like to add that over the 10 day trip, i think i did the most walking of my entire life.  i swear that i think i got a years worth of walking exercise in those ten days.  

Arcade Fire on SNL

I just got back from barcelona an hour ago and I just watched these two videos online. Absolutely breathtaking performance on both of these numbers (which happen to be two, amongst many of my favorite tunes off ‘the suburbs’).  win butler is just the fucking man; hes so real and i just love it.  and then régine on ‘the sprall II’ is super awesome and amazing, reminds me of some like shirley temple/darla/50s shit.  if you know arcade fire, you can really appreciate these two videos of them.  really really great.  seriously wow’ed.

students in a lecture hall listening to a speaker talk about the strike against raising the retirement age. school was shut down from tuesday until the following monday morning.

la fac tombe amoureux d’être en grève.

Ah.  Its wonderful to be here in montpellier today.  I’ll tell you why.

First of all, I have the Malvarosa house all to myself.  Dominique is on a meditation retreat and Baptiste is taking his vacation with his pops in Bretagne for 10 days.  Leaves me here, in this fabulous house to spread out, play music loud and sort of fend for myself. Lucky me, dominique prepared a bunch of food for me beforehand and stuck it all in the freezer for me to pick and choose as I wish.   I reheat some stuff that is easily reheatable, but usually I get a little creative and whip up something to go with it on the side.  I’ve been really enjoying doing the cooking and preparing the food and stuff.  I’ve always said to myself that I want to cook more, simply because I really like doing it.   The last two days have been leisurely; hanging in and around the house and attending to chores when I need to.  Feels good.

Second of all, today I found out after I had biked super fast to school today (I left the house too late) that the strikers are continuing the strike and that school is to be closed again until thursday.  So, my monday night religion lecture class was cancelled and that means my two and half hour tuesday religion recitation class is cancelled too which is totally sweet.  a man lecturing you in french for 2.5 hours straight is nothing to be missed really.  i still have my classes that aren’t integrated held in a different building off campus, so its not as if im not in class at all, just means my single integrated class wont be meeting.  also, the general mood of the classes in the other building are little bit more laid back considering the weird environment and all.

this past saturday, those of us in the program who signed up for the free trip went to Carcassonne.  Its a really well known medieval castle/forified city from the middle ages.  usually, its known for being pretty touristy but since its the low season here in france, there wasn’t a ton of people there.  its been partially restored in areas to make it look all pretty and stuff, but i honestly dont prefer that.  i wish it had remained unrestored like some of the stuff I saw in wales.  we took a tour of the fortress and we saw a beautifully stain-glassed church (and heard a beautiful little choir of four men singing in the church), a bunch of super old (and unrestored!) sculptures and finally the museum of inquisition and torture, which claims to have original torture equipment from back in the day. went to a small café within the fortress walls for lunch and shared a bottle of wine and had a delicious strawberry tart along with my prepacked sandwich.   all in all it was a nice day.  see photos below from the day:

the lower parts of the walls are the absolute original from the middle ages, and later the walls were built higher and stronger in roman style.  closer up, it was easy to tell between the two layers.

people were saying, well, this is closest to hogwarts were ever going to get to guys!

amazing stain-glass work at the church within the city walls.  in french, this is called ‘la rosace’

a super old statue from the middle ages.  i loved looking at how the sculptor decided to sculpt the faces and the emotions they present.  some of the sculptures were in pretty darn good condition all these years later.

real catapult rocks used back in the day to defend the castle against a seige.  i would definitely not wanna get smacked in the head with any of those dude.

the little placard on the right tells that this plaque is from the 1st century!  holy god dude.  look how perfect the writing is!  this was a very small part of our tour of carcassonne but one of my favorites.  i touched the outside of it, in disbelief that im actually touching something of such great age.

there were many horrific things shown at the musée d’inquisition.  most of the stuff involved doing something terrible to the genitalia; so ive decided to show you only two. this one above, if i remember correctly was punishment for whores.

drunkards barrel.  you can guess what that one was for.  in french, ‘la tonneau d’ivre.’

on top of the remparts looking out to the village outside of carcassonne and the mountains in the background.  very pretty.

ok, so gack to le grève.  here are some photos from the students at paul valèry blockading the doors and having a rally in one of the main classrooms.  i dont really understand how they are able to get away with the furniture in front of the doors.  the school administrators aren’t telling them to do it. whatever.  i like missing my integrated class so its all good.

"work is to humanity as erosion is to the mountains"

we are in the processes of blockading.  come!

Last night, as a part of the Montpellier Film Festival, I went and saw 5 short films with a few of the kids.  Two of them were drawing/animation based and the other three were shot live.  They were pretty odd to tell you the truth.  There was this really weird one with a beekeeper’s truck getting stuck in the mud, bees getting stuck in their own honey and a man and a woman laughing off the edge of cliff at the end.  Weird shit man.  Sometimes I think the french really only know how to do some things and not others.  nonetheless, I was happy I went.  I hope I go to more local art related events.

Just tonight, I went rock climbing (faire de l’escalade) with peter, friedrich, riccardo and lula.  i totally learned how to belay someone finally.  its pretty sweet and great teamwork.  it was a lot of fun.  I was suprised with how well I was able to climb some of the walls, considering how long its been since i’ve climbed.  it was tough, it was especially hard on the arms and upper body.  i was super happy that i decided to go.  though, i did miss conversation night at “le bookstore.” 

this past fridays conversation at ‘le bookstore’ was super sweet.  tons of people in the downstairs area of a small bookstore conversing in french and english.  spoke to a man from nottingham, england for a bit (who could have had one of the funniest laughs ive ever heard) and then with a woman who worked in a pharmacy that specialized in ointments for burn victims and then i spoke to a middle school student named justine for a while.  i enjoyed it so much that I want to go to both sessions held on mondays and fridays.  problem is, i have a class on monday during the time it happens and i usually leave fridays for travel weekends.  at least I still have weekly wednesday conversation nights at le vert anglais!

my 10 day vacation to amsterdam, berlin and croatia is in just 2 days.  i am so fucking excited I cant even put it into words.  the hostels are booked, plane tickets bought, only left is memories to be made and fun times to be had. 

a little baby ollie manual at south bank in london.