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Gap Year Abroad

4 posts from February 2016


Call me Princess Kira

I love Paris, but I have decided to move. I’ll be packing my things this week and heading to my new home: Le château de Versailles. It's fitting for me since I have always wanted to be a princess (and a dinosaur and a bug, but I am still working on those). The palace began construction in 1623 by King Louis XIII to serve the purpose of a hunting lodge. The major expansions were overseen by King Louis XIV when he moved from Paris to Versailles in 1682. Men worked on the elaborate structure 24/7 with the exception of Sunday morning to attend mass. At night, the men worked by torch light...what dedication! Their hard work is evident as Versaille’s grounds cover 87,728,720 square feet, 2,014 acres, including 230 acres of gardens. The palace itself contains 721,206 square feet of floorspace!

12620661_1170614149623344_877047227_o Fence 12656307_965815673508706_502092582_o
Le jardin
The land is enormous and the gardens are just as exquisite as the palace itself. Inside the palace there are well known rooms and apartments like le grand appartement du roi, le appartement de la reine (King’s Apartment and Queen’s Apartment) and La Galerie de Glaces (Hall of Mirrors) where commoners could gather and hope to see the king. It was known that you could only speak to him if you made eye contact as he crossed the hall...kind of like the paris metro today where eye contact is often taken as an invitation to spark a conversation. I guess French tradition stays strong. La Galerie du Glaces 12669203_965815800175360_1216147991_o


And of course we took a $quad $elfie in the mirrors because we are obnoxious American teenage girls:  12674804_965815736842033_2092459848_o

The palace is a wonder to behold and like the Louvre, a place that requires more than one visit to see in its entirety. Since I plan to move in, this won’t be an issue. My one problem, however, is the size of the beds available. The beds are much smaller and square because people didn’t sleep lying down as this was viewed as a position for the dead. People often slept sitting halfway up! I guess I will have to bring an air-mattress because if I tried to sleep like they did, I would wake up in the morning looking like this:

Me in the morning

On the bright side, I could practice my gymnastics tumbling because the beds were so high they required a step to get up on. Bed


One of the most incredible aspects of the palace was the art within. The palace was something of a museum for the king with paintings, sculptures and busts lining the walls.

Versailles ceiling paintings Versailles chapel

So, I can’t wait to unpack, but I may have to change a few rules. For example, there was a room where people could observe King Louis XIV eating his meals. I don’t know about anyone else, but I would feel incredibly awkward if people sat and watched me eat. Let’s be real here, folks...there is NO way to elegantly eat a sushi roll in one bite.


I am excited to return in the spring and walk through the blooming gardens and visit the farm animals that still reside on the farm in the back of the property! 12655996_965815826842024_1663200657_oBeauty Blender Jardin


Welcome, Moses!!!


On February 8, 2016 the CIEE Gap Year¨Program welcomed their new little miracle: Moses Milchberg. He weighed over 100 lbs and measured at a whopping six feet and two inches!

Last semester we had two other members of the CIEE crew: Nick and Robert. Now they are off on their own adventures in New Zealand and Middlebury College respectively. At first, we thought this semester would be just us four gals...but we were pleasantly surprised with the news of a new student! His host family and Lucie, our (AMAZING) program director were both busy, so Catie, Caroline, Susan and I set out to pick him up.

On the way to the airport with big smiles:  12714189_538949682950696_1725374455_n 12696244_538949689617362_897324344_n
Our main goals before we left were to 1. stay calm and 2.Not weird him out immediately. I would say that we failed on both accounts, but that is just part of being in the #CIEE$quad. We have already dubbed him into the family as the long lost uncle who has come out of hiding and given him multiple nicknames (Moes, Mo, Mossy, Moss ball <--My personal favorite)12735710_538949696284028_1751265968_n

While I don’t want to be too hasty with opinion, I think I can safely say that all CIEE gap people welcome Moses with open arms and with his arrival, we are finally a complete team that is ready to take on the next semester in Paris! (Plus he also takes Lactaid pills...automatic bonding. I only mention this for a food restriction/sensitivity post to come in the future for all those who are wondering what it may be like) 12666284_538949692950695_684983366_n 12714365_538949702950694_1336958215_n


Le Brunch du Dimanche

The French have mastered the art of “Sunday Brunch”. You can feel your life improving with every bite of fresh airy croissant and each sip of café au lait or jus d’orange pressé. Le Brunch du Dimanche often consists of other pastries and breads as well. My personal favorites include spicy chorizo bread, chouquettes, pain au chocolat and an occasional surprise pastry that is chosen simply because it stood out among the other artistic creations.  

Croissant-836722_960_720 IMG_2015This particular Sunday my host mom and I took to the streets and walked to a petit and classically French brunch place. The atmosphere is quaint and welcoming. As I sat opposite my host mom (featuring her new leopard print coat) I felt as though I should be sitting with one leg crossed over the other and have my head thrown back in a gay display of laughter. I wanted to purse my lips (adorned with a bold red lipstick for a true French woman knows how to rock the perfect red), wink and exclaim, “C’est la vie, ma cherie!”


As we finished our repas (meal) and paid (buying extra bread for l’après midi aka afternoon because it was just baked in house that morning and you just cannot resist), my host mom used her magical french ways to convince the man working in the bakery to let me behind the counter and into the kitchen. I can’t say I have spent much time in professional kitchens, but I have to imagine that a French bakery is something out of a baker’s dream. There I was standing in my jean jacket and little red backpack like a dumbstruck fifth grader on their first field trip. The culture around bread (which is another post to come in the future) is not something to be messed with. I felt like I was in a NASA control center mixed with an artist's private studio: extreme precision and free-flowing art all in one.

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As we parted and began our return to l'appartement, we popped into a charcuterie (butcher’s shop) and picked up one of the scrumptious poulet rôti (rotisserie chicken) dripping with flavor on the spinning spit (the rod on which the meat is skewered). IMG_2011 IMG_2010

Photo: The Hip Paris Blog

Après ça we continued on our way, winding through the streets alive with other potential Sunday Brunchers. It felt like the scene out of The Sound of Music when Marie is skipping down the road with her guitar and singing “I Have Confidence”...except I was holding chicken and singing “Le Ciel Le Soleil Et La Mer”. With that, the quintessential "Brunch du Dimanche" was complete.


Crêpes? Fancy Pancakes?

Happy National Crêpe Day! It is an incredibly simple dish: some flour, eggs, milk, butter and you are set. Every French person and their mother gets together and celebrates this glorious day of crêpe eating goodness.

I actually celebrated the day after with my host family and friends. The day of, my friend Caroline and I had our own little festive crêpe (and fries, of course...what is a meal without frites et café au lait) in a café:

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However, I am not one to ever turn down a good crêpes, so we celebrated again last night! In the United States, crêpes are usually eaten with some combination of nutella, sugar, fruit and the occasional savory ingredient. In France, however, anything goes. I have seen fois gras, tomatoes, four cheeses and more. Alas, a crêpe seems to be the perfect food for the options are limitless meaning the fun never ends!


Clarification: A crêpe is NOT a pancake. Both exist in France! A french crêpe is what Americans picture, but the pancake is where things change. Due to different ingredients, a french pancake is often denser and tinted yellow (this is due to the fact that eggs in France are very yellow). Then there are blinis...known in America as sand dollar pancakes/silver dollar pancakes/mini pancakes. Don’t trust anyone who tells you that they are all the same.


So, I hope that everyone reading this gets the opportunity to try the delicious (preferably a homemade one from France...but it is okay to settle for a well made American crêpe) thin masterpiece called the crêpe!

BONUS: My host sister, Luna, saying the glorious word, crêpe:



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