A Few Months of Firsts

I’ve been here almost 2 and a half months and am pretty much settling into everyday life in Nice—“la vie quotidienne.”  I’m trying to take advantage of my time away from work and trying to keep myself busy, so I’ve tried a whole bunch of new things.

I taught myself how to knit!  Mostly through online tutorials and YouTube videos.  Here’s picture of the first scarf I knitted for myself (and the link to the pattern).  I’m currently knitting a hat and scarf for Em for Christmas and I’ve added slippers for myself to my list.  I usually knit while making my way through 10 seasons of Friends and 8 seasons of Will and Grace 🙂


I’ve never done yoga before, not even the “sunrise yoga” during New Student Week at Northwestern or whatever.  I’m not very flexible and I don’t have spectacular balance, but I wanted to try it anyways, so I signed up for a month of Bikram Yoga.  For those of you who don’t know, Bikram Yoga is 90 minutes of yoga in 105 degree heat, and you burn 1000 calories!  I’ve seriously never sweated so much in my life.  It was intense and hard and took me a few times to get used to it, but it was one of those activities that made me feel healthy and relaxed afterwards.  It was definitely worth the 40 euros and now that I know some of the asanas (positions), I can do it at home.  I won’t be burning 1000 calories, but it will help me relax.

Ok, it’s not actually my first time running, but it’s my first time training for a race other than a triathlon.  Since I went from playing ice hockey 3 times a week this summer to not playing at all since I’ve been in France, I decided I needed something to keep me active.  Running is the easiest, cheapest way to stay in shape here.  Plus, Nice is blessed with BEAUTIFUL weather (today is December 23 and it’s 60 degrees and sunny) and a gorgeous path along the Mediterranean Sea, so I can run outside most of the time.  I decided I needed a goal to actually be motivated to run everyday, so I found a half marathon in Nice this spring.  Now I’ve never run more than 4 miles at a time, so this is going to be quite a challenge.  In my training I’m up to 4.5 miles and I’ve got a few races in mind as “milestones” before the half marathon:

10K: January 6
10 mile race: February 17

Now that that’s out there for everyone to see/read, I have to actually stick with it, right?  Wish me luck!

One new experience that probably cancelled out several days of running was introduced to me by Melodie, a friend from hockey.  Her parents live in Nice (about 10 minutes away from me by car) and she and Andreea were in town to visit for the holidays and they invited me over for lunch.  It was so nice to see a few familiar faces 🙂

If you like cheese, you would LOVE raclette.  Traditional raclette involves heating a giant wheel of cheese and scraping off the melted part.

Wikipedia image

Wikipedia image

Our lunch was a more modern version of raclette.  Basically, raclette involves an electric table-top grill with small pans in which you heat slices of cheese.  The cheese is accompanied by platters of boiled potatoes, charcuterie (sliced prepared meats), cornichons (tiny pickles), and salad.  Once the cheese is nice and melty in the little pan, you pour it over your potatoes and meats, then pop in another slice.  At our raclette lunch, we had a peppery cheese, a plain cheese, a bleu-ish cheese, and a smoked cheese (my favorite).

Boiled potatoes in the white bowl on top of the grill, cheesy goodness under the grill :)

Boiled potatoes in the white bowl on top of the grill, cheesy goodness under the grill 🙂

Our lunch was accompanied by some very nice conversation.  Melodie and her family have lived in several different countries and her dad gave some great advice.  He said every country they’ve lived in has been different from the last (obviously), but the key is to not focus on what’s missing from the place you are now, but instead to focus on what this place has that all the others don’t.  Saudi Arabia is different from Italy is different from France is different from the US and each place has their own culture and different things to offer.  That really made me think, because I think I’ve been living the last few months with a “make the best of it” kind of attitude, which isn’t really the same thing.  My goal for the next 6 months is to discover all the things France has that the US doesn’t, instead of trying manipulate everything in France to being like the US.

French word of the day:
racler (ra-KLAY)- to scrape
Quand le fromage fond, tu dois le racler et le mettre sur les pommes de terre.
When the cheese melts, you have to scrape it off and put it on the potatoes.

How to celebrate Thanksgiving in a country that doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving

1. Don’t do work.  Any work.  At all.
Ok, to be fair I’ve been very productive in the past 2 weeks.  I’ve written an 18 page preliminary report and drawn up sketches to show my bosses from Nice AND Chicago.  I think I deserve a break.  Plus, it just wouldn’t feel like a holiday if I worked 🙂

2. Take advantage of the things that would normally be closed on this day in the US.
For example, museums.  On Thursday, I walked to the Nice Archaeology and Roman Ruins Museum.  It’s small, but cool.  I’m not that into history museums (I like the art museums better), but I liked looking around at all the ancient stuff.  Plus, since I’ve been around here for a little while, I recognized some of the modern areas mentioned in the posters around the exhibits.

Outside the museum is the site of the ancient city of Cemenelum, the capital of the Alpes Maritimae province.  Most of the remains are from the third century, but some of them have different construction periods between the first and seventh centuries.  These remains display an ampitheater, 3 thermal baths, streets, a sewer, a school, and shops.  Here are some pictures!




I also went to the grocery store (usually not open all day in the US) and bought a steamer, which I am excited to try at some point for dinner this week!

3. Be sure to incorporate as many nationalities as possible.
In order to avoid eating Thanksgiving dinner by myself, I invited my friend Isabelle, who is from England, over to eat turkey with me.  So we had an American girl and an English girl celebrating an American holiday in France.  Doesn’t get weirder than that.

4. Eat turkey.
Obviously, come on.  I debated my menu for Thanksgiving dinner for a while, starting with duck, moving on to chicken, and finally settling on turkey because it’s just not Thanksgiving without turkey.  I got 3 turkey legs from the store, and potatoes, green beans, apples, and rosemary from the outdoor market.

This is going to count as my Sunday Night Dinner for this week, but sorry, no recipes this time.  Here’s the menu:
– roasted turkey legs with rosemary roasted potatoes and onions
– green beans almondine
– croissants
– mini apple tarts with cinnamon and honey
– and Isabelle brought a lovely white wine (Picpoul de Pinet)


Loot from the market


The delicious spread 🙂


Apple tart for dessert

 5. Give thanks for everything!
I’m not going to lie, it was REALLY hard to be away from home for this holiday.  Because Chicago is only 7 hours from Cleveland, I’d always gone home for Thanksgiving.  I’ve never celebrated the holiday by myself or had to cook turkey by myself and it was intimidating.  I was sad in the morning, thinking that I should’ve been at home and looking forward to real apple pie, turkey and gravy, mashed potatoes, pumpkin bread, Mom’s stuffing, Grandma’s jello, sweet potatoes, green beans, and rolls.  I should’ve been sitting around talking to and laughing with my family, and getting ready to go Black Friday shopping with my sisters.  I should’ve been enjoying the colors of the changing leaves and the quickly cooling weather, and I should’ve been listening to Christmas music.  I was seriously missing all of it.

Walking home from the museum, I saw the first beautiful changing leaves I’ve come across in Nice.  That cheered me up a little bit.


As the day went on, I kept telling myself that going home was obviously not going to happen and to quit dwelling on it.  I’m thankful for different things this year.  I’m thankful to be here in this beautiful city, having a once-in-a-lifetime experience that not everyone can say they’ve had.  I’m thankful I’m working on a project that I really like, with helpful supervisors and support in Chicago and Nice.  I’m thankful that I’m making friends here and I’m thankful that Isabelle came over for dinner so I didn’t have to eat alone 🙂  I’m thankful that things are starting to become familiar and I’m starting to feel a little bit less like a stranger.  And I’m SUPER thankful for the care packages I received today 🙂 🙂 🙂

Today’s French word is:
reconnaissant (ruh-ko-na-SAHN)- grateful, appreciative, thankful
Je suis reconnaissante de mes amis aux Etats-Unis et en France.
I’m thankful for my friends in the US and in France.

Life ain’t always beautiful, but it’s a beautiful ride

In high school during basketball season, we had to run the “beep test” every so often (for those of you who are unfamiliar, the beep test is a terrible fitness test where you run back and forth across the gym trying to beat the “beeps” as they play faster and faster until you can’t run anymore and/or you throw up). I thought that was the hardest thing I’d ever done.

In college, various organic chemistry tests, engineering problem sets, and then the MCAT quickly topped the list of hardest things I’d ever done.

Until now.

This is definitely the hardest thing I have ever done. I’m not quite sure if I was expecting it to be a piece of cake to come to a foreign country that speaks a different language where I know no one and have no apartment, bank account, or phone, but I wasn’t expecting it to be this hard. It’s only been a week and I already miss peanut butter, Pandora (doesn’t work here), Netflix (also doesn’t work here), leaves changing color, fall weather, refrigerated milk, and not having to carry my keys, toilet paper, and a flashlight to the bathroom (more on that later…)

For the first few days, I hated it. Why was I here? What was I thinking when I signed up for this? Would I ever feel comfortable in this new place? Would I ever be able to stop crying? I wished I had just one person here with me to share it with– to maybe take half of the burden so it wouldn’t be so hard.

So I gave myself one week to cry in my apartment, and then I did one of the things I do best: I made a list. I actually made a lot of lists. And that’s what this blog is dedicated to… not to lists, per se, but to the content of those lists: my fears, goals, expectations, accomplishments, frustrations, and other random encounters over the next eight months. I’m planning on having the best year of my life, and I want to share it all with you 🙂

So let me start by sharing my first list: my goals for this year
1. See 1 new city every month.
2. Join a church.
3. Take a French class.
4. Join an athletic club.
5. Lean how to cook a French meal.
6. Explore tourist-y Nice.
7. Discover not-tourist-y Nice.
8. Make new friends.
9. Find an apartment.
10. Get a phone.
11. Volunteer.
12. Finish my Fulbright project.
13. Get hooked on a French TV show.

I’ll keep adding to the list, too. If anyone has any other suggestions, I want to hear them!

But this is why life isn’t always beautiful. Sometimes it’s unbearably hard and lonely in a cramped studio with 2 hotplates, a minifridge, and a bathtub you can’t even stand up in. But I know the experiences I will have this year will make up for that. They will be beautiful.

Au revoir!

P.S. At the end of every blog post, we’re going to have a French lesson… one new French word I’ve learned that day/week. Our first word is:
mansardé– an adjective that describes an attic room with slanted ceilings
Ma chambre est mansardée donc je ne peux pas me tenir debout!
My room is in the attic with slanted ceilings so I can’t stand up straight!