Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Danish Christmas a.k.a Food Fest

Looks like there were about 12 of us from all the bottles? Nope, only 6

Merry Christmas! from Santa's helper

Rice pudding with cherry sauce

Christmas dinner

Food preparation

So many presents!

The living room beautifully decorated

Rasmus and Juleman! (aka Santa Clause aka Poul)

Neils and baby Jonas

Traditional delicious Danish hotdogs

The beach in the snow


Tivoli in the snow!

Poul, Rasmus and Jonas

The window in their kitchen

To give you a quick snapshot of what my life has been in Copenhagen for the past 8 days, I will say this: my life can now be documented and explained simply with each dish I consume.
I don't think I've ever had such an elaborate or traditional Christmas in my life, which to be honest, isn't really saying much because my family was never really big on making a huge celebration out of the holidays. However, don't let my lack of past experience fool you, because I think by any standards, well, American standards, it was a pretty legit Christmas.
However, before we get to a blow-by-blow recounting of Christmas, I'll just briefly outline the activities and events leading up to Christmas, as well as why I am here.
My dad has been friends with the Holms for over 40 years, so, needless to say, they've always been in my life. The Holms = Birgit (whom my dad met when she was about 16 and he was about 19), her husban Poul, and their 3 grown kids: Kasper, Sara, and Mathias. Kasper is now married with a child and living in Poland, and Sara and her boyfriend have 2 little boys, both of whom I spent a lot of time with here.
I have been here to visit them about 5 times in my life I think, the last of which was the Summer of 2005, yet despite the span of time, the house and family are still very familiar to me.
Before coming, I was prepared for my image of a Danish winter: cold, dark, rainy, and grey. However, as I'm writing this, the sun is shining and the snow has all melted (though its still cold). So its been some of that winter, but not too bad! In the limited hours of daylight, I have been into town, been to Ikea (yessss, a tradition with us), been to an aweeeesome modern art museum, took a walk on the beach, been to Tivoli (their famous theme park that is beautifully decorated for the holidays), and, last but not least, ATE. We have been with Sara and Neils (her boyfriend) and their boys a lot, which has been lovely because I've always been close to Sara. It has also just been a regular vacation with gras matinees (sleeping in late), hanging around and relaxing. Speaking of relaxing, my credit card and bank account aren't doing much exercising at all for the holidays either, so its a vacation for them as well, thank god.
Ok. Christmas.
For the Danes, Christmas Eve is the most important day, like Christmas day for us. The Holms aren't very religious (like most Danes), but Christmas Eve Day, or Julaften, ( jul - Christmas, aften - eve), is the one day out of the year that they go to church. Birgit had been preparing for the meals to come for about a week, shopping and preparing little by little. The house was beautifully decorated, there were tons of presents under the tree (mostly for Rasmus, Sara's 2 year old), and the dinner was wonderful. As per tradition, we had duck, cabbage, and potatoes for dinner, along with much beer, wine, and port wine, and for dessert they have this type of rice pudding, in which is hidden one whole almond, and whoever finds the almond has to hide it in their mouth for the whole meal, and when the reveal it at the end, they get a present. That dinner lasted for about 3 hours, followed by present opening, and more alcohol.
Well, if I thought that dinner was something, I knew nothing.
Christmas day lunch included four or five courses and lasted about 5 or 6 hours. We had: herring prepared in 3 different ways (pickled, curried and fried), smoked eel, a bread accompaniment, potatoes and green cabbage, more duck, a pork dish, chicken and asparagus tarts, and finally more rice pudding. And with each course, there was of course, beer, wine, and Shnaps (which i didn't really like but was encouraged to drink because it was good for digestion, and trust me, if you're eating that much, you would try it too). So that was lunch, but it lasted until dinner, and thankfully we didn't have dinner also. It was lovely though, very intimate, just family. Then Sara and Neils and the boys left, which was sad because I don't know the next time I'll be seeing them, however its never too long - I can never stay away for too long.
Today is Saturday, and we have a friend's party to go to where, surprise surprise, there will be more eating. It has been wonderful, although I keep remembering the last time I was here and it was sunny and warm and beautiful and I miss that, but oh well. Soon enough.
I return back to Paris on Monday, and the following day John and I will be going to the airport to get Mary and Maya! So excited.
Here are some pictures, hope you enjoy.
God Jul!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Ireland in pictures

Stephen, a.k.a my new boss when i move to Ireland for a few months. He loved us, and we loved him

Glorious food

Swans in St. Stephen's Green

More beautiful landscape

The cliffs; you can't see them so well because there was so much sun!

Favorite. period.

Amazing food at the cliffs!

Sooo happy in Doolin, near the cliffs

So green, even in December

My first Guiness! and i really liked it

Me and Sam :)

A ferris wheel at the Christmas Market

Dublin at sunset

Pheonix Park - The biggest park in Europe! I just wanted to run in the green fields

Pretty buildings in Dublin

To sum it up, Ireland was amazing. I used to be in love with everything Irish when I was little, and somehow I have lost that over the years and that love has been replaced with one for France and the French language, but this trip really awakened that passion. When Stephen proposed to me and Sam that we come back and work at one of the hostels (Paddy's Palace has hostels all over Ireland), I really took him seriously. I think it would be amazing; you get free lodging, a decent salary, free breakfasts, and after a few weeks of work, you get to partake (gratuitement! - for free) in the "award winning" tours of Ireland the Paddy's offers. For a few weeks in the summer? I think that sounds fantastic. -
The highlight of the trip was without a doubt (besides being with you of course, sam-awn-ta), taking the day trip to the Cliffs of Moher on the west coast of Ireland. This trip was through Paddy's Palace tours, and we just learned about it when we arrived, so we decided to take it. BEST DECISION EVER. I highly recommend to anyone who goes to Ireland, if it is possible and the weather is nice, to take a trip there. You'll see in the pictures, but not even they capture how amazing a sight it was. Our tour guide, Mike, could not stop insisting how lucky we were to have the weather we had, especially for the middle of December. Not even during the summer, he said, could we be guaranteed this much sun and clear skies. The hills were a magnificent green despite the season as well. AHHHH it was just great. Now, for a little shameless advertising (for slightly selfish reasons): my partner in crime Sam-awn-ta, who writes as her passion and is much better at keeping up her blogs than I am, has detailed hour by hour the legs of our journey, and I recommend you to take a look at her blog at:, partly because I need to move on to whats happening now or else I will never get to it! (hope thats ok Sam).
Overall, she and I are both in agreement when we peg this trip as: One of the best weekends of our lives. Yes. We went there.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thoughts brought on by Beautiful Weather

Max and Meg are in Normandy, Sam is in London, and although I definitely have other people I would like to see, I’m taking this opportunity to spend a solitary weekend with the lovely company of myself. I think I have really been needing this, and I have really enjoyed it. Friday night, I skyped with some people I’ve been longing to talk to, and that was really what I needed. I made a list of things I really wanted and needed to do for Saturday, and made a commitment to myself that I was going to do them. I woke up, went for a run in a beautiful park, and then explored an antique market that I had wanted to go to. I know I’ve said this before, but I have come to absolutely love walking around Paris. I am at a point in my stay here where I am content with where I am and what I’m doing, and this allows me to really appreciate what is around me. I did not always have these feelings; au contraire. The first month and a half that I was here, its not a stretch to say that I resented almost everything around me, from the French advertisements, to the foreign language everywhere, to the food that I wasn’t used to. However, I have become much more comfortable using French anywhere I go, have become accustomed to seeing the French language everywhere, and I have come to appreciate where I am for the time that I’m here. I also have a lot of things to look forward to in the coming weeks: December 12-14, Sam and I are going to Dublin, Dec 17-28 I will be in Denmark for the holidays, Dec 29-Jan 8 Mary and Maya are coming to visit, and then I plan on taking one more small trip with a friend before 2nd semester starts. How lucky I am to be able to go so many places for relatively little money! That is something to appreciate and take advantage of.
The weather this weekend has been magnificent, and that has made my walking around all the more delightful.
As much as I want to be outside more today, I really need to work. Work, as in not only do school work, but respond to email, write a few letters, (write these blog entries!), and basically catch up on things I have been neglecting. I also reorganized my room late last night, and I think the change is motivating me. Its good to do that every once in a while, I’ve found.
Basically, I am happy here for the time being. I miss home and school desperately, but I have realized that I am really lucky to have this opportunity, to have 2 internships to put on my resumé and to add to my life experience, to have the experience of learning French in France and to benefit from everything that being in this place has to offer me! I also can’t imagine what I would do if I were only here for a semester; I would be leaving in less than a month! That’s ridiculous. Now, having this experience, I would really say to anyone who wants to go abroad, especially to learn a language, that the full year is the way to go. I have just started to adjust to life here, and luckily and have another semester to enjoy that.

Marta's Visit, etc

Oh my, its been a while! I think I just have to accept the fact that I am not good at keeping up any type of a journal, I don’t know why! But, after some haggling from a few people (coughSamcough), I decided that this beautiful Sunday autumn morning would be as good of a time as any to write a little bit.
What have I been doing since I last wrote? Hm, that’s a good question. I just have to mention it again because I simply can’t get over how quickly time is going. 2 weeks of November have already gone by? How is that possible? We only have 2 more weeks of classes, and then it’s December? It blows my mind. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced time going by as quickly as it has here.
In my day to day life, things have just been rolling along nicely. Things at my internship are progressing, being that we are almost done creating our summer study abroad program, and currently I am translating course descriptions from French to English. I am also working with a company in the U.S. that makes canvas for museums and institutions because the INHA wants to have their own logo bags to give to researchers and people who come to discussions and seminars. I have written countless emails back and forth with “Mimi”, and write now we are discussing payment and design details. Thrilling, I know, but it’s just to give you an idea of what I do at work. To be honest though, even though I like my colleagues and I don’t mind going to work, I would much rather be working directly with art or art history research, instead of this more arts administration type of a field. But, fingers crossed, I’m supposed to have a meeting this week with Thomas (program director) and an atelier for painting restoration that I found to see if I would be able to have an internship with them. That would be awesome for me because, those of you who don’t know, I’m very interested in art conservation and restoration, and I would really like to know if it’s something that I want to further pursue. When Thomas contacted the atelier, he said that they seemed really interested, so…we’ll see!
In other news, Marta came to visit me this past weekend! (Marta is one of my good friends from Goucher). I picked her up at the train station Saturday evening (Nov 7), and after disposing of her bags back at my foyer, we metro’d-it over to Belleville area (the North) to listen to some jazz and drink some wine. Classy introduction to Paris, if I do say so myself. We met Max (Goucher), Meg (foyer), and John (Goucher), and although I was the one who was exhausted (not her, even though she had been traveling), we made it there and back and had a lovely night. Sunday was not such a pretty day, but that didn’t really matter all that much; at least it wasn’t raining. If it was one thing Marta and I did while she was here, it was WALK! We walked all over the city! One could even say I dragged her everywhere, but why not be positive, eh? We were going to go to the Louvre, but lo and behold, being the smart, prepared girl that I am, I forgot my student I.D. card that enables me to get in for free. Seeing as we had another day to see the museum, we decided to do other things and that we would return the next day. We went Notre Dame, which was lovely, and then we went on a mission for soup, because it was a cold day, and soup sounded delicious. Let me just take a minute to share a bit of wisdom with everyone while we are on the subject of Sunday: practically EVERYTHING is CLOSED on Sundays, so make Sunday your walking around the city day, and bring a sack lunch. Ok, I’m a little bit bitter, but only because I dragged the poor hungry girl to the other side of the city just to go to this soup place that Sam suggested, only to find it closed! Duh, how long have I been living here? We ended up just finding a sandwich, and unfortunately I wasn’t feeling too well, but I still wanted to show her one more thing! So, we walked from Hotel de Ville to the Eiffel tower which, you can see if you have your Paris maps in front of you, is quite a ways. But the weather got better and the walk was lovely. I have discovered that I love walking around Paris, I mean, who wouldn’t? We made it to the Eiffel Tower just in time to see in sparkle at night. It was really beautiful. Even though I see it everywhere I go in Paris, up close, its size really is shocking. We then returned back to the foyer, exhausted but happy after a full day.
I didn’t think I had to work on Monday, so we were planning to go to the Louvre together, but I was wrong, so I stayed at work and she explored the Louvre on her own. I met her for lunch, and we went to a bakery that I know, picked up sandwiches and took them to the Luxumbourg gardens, which are GORGEOUS at this time of year. We frolicked in the fall leaves and took lots of pictures. We then headed over to the Musée d’Orsay to find that…it was closed on Mondays. I almost wanted to cry, why didn’t I think about these things? Well, she decided she would go back the next day when I was at work and school, so we walked in the direction of my program headquarters where I had to go to a discussion later, and we sat in the Jardin des Plantes, which was really nice. So instead of giving her a tour of museums and such like I wanted, she saw a lot of Paris on foot, which I think we enjoyed just as much. She left the next day, and I think I can say that we had a lovely time, and I miss her already!
In other news, we’ve also had 2 atelier cuisines since my last blog entry. An atelier cuisine is when the kitchen is closed for dinner, and we have to sign up (there are only 12 spots) to cook a special themed dinner with a guest chef. We had a Halloween themed one with very fall type food – pumpkin, potatoes, soup, and…lamb (not very fall, but it worked). It was delicious. This past Wednesday, seeing that it was a ‘jour ferié’ (what I like to call a ‘fairy day’), Armistice day, and everything was closed, we had an American themed dinner: a Cajun salad, fried chicken and kind of friend sliced potatoes, and cheesecake. It was all delicious, but if you were expecting cheesecake (which I was) it was a little interesting. Good, nonetheless, and because the French don’t eat cheesecake, they all thought it was incredible! “Wow, I love cheesecake! I never knew!” (and you won’t until you taste real cheesecake, but why spoil their enjoyment?)
I’ll stop here, give everyone a breather, then return to this weekend.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009