The past few days have been absolute bliss. I'm getting more and more used to my surroundings; Talia and I were able to get home today without any directions! It felt pretty awesome.
Last night was amazing. We went out to dinner again as a group to a crêperie in the center of town and I played it safe with jambon (ham), emmental (swiss cheese), and oeuf (egg). One of the many great things i've learned here is that even "fast food" tastes like it's gourmet -- today Talia and I got a slice of pizza on the street, nothing special, and I think i would dare to say it was the best pizza I had ever tasted, even after Italy. How is that even possible?
After dinner, we went to l'auberge Bellegarde again, drank wine, and talked about French vulgarity and American demographics. Renaut and Reda gave me a crash course on French slang and promised there would be more to come. I've started writing down useful words and phrases I learn in a journal (thank you Mollie and Elinor!) so that I can remember to incorporate them into my daily conversation and sound cool. For example, I learned that "j'ai un faible pour" (which literally means "I have a weakness for") is a cute, subtle way to say you have a crush on someone. Definitely practical for me, as it may or may not describe the way I feel about every French man that crosses my path...
I've also started writing down names of particular wines: my favorite so far is called Sauternes, and it's a very sweet white. My friend Alexandre promised to take me wine shopping one of these days and teach me how to choose which wines for which occasions. The first thing I learned was to look for the mark "appellation controlée", which basically means that the wine was made directly from the vineyards and thus is usually high quality.
Around 11:30 we decided to go out, and as a big group we had to settle for "Le Castel", une boite (a bar/club) that was pretty empty but nonetheless a good place to start off. I had no idea everything would be so expensive, though: one drink cost me 7 euros (about 10 dollars)! In a way, though, it's good because it forces me to be more economical and really think about what will give me the most bang for my buck. In some series of unmemorable events, I ended up with a "vodka caramel", which as it turns out is really just straight up vodka with caramel syrup. No complaining there (sorry mom). After that Much struck a deal with the bartender and scored us 15 mysteriously colorful shots for 12 euro (so about 3 shots for 3,5 dollars each -- again, not complaining. And again, sorry mom). The funniest part about the night, though, was seeing a five year old boy (yes, you read that correctly) breaking it down with his mother and a group of girlfriends on the dance floor. Keep in mind that it's around 1am at this point. I thought to myself that only in France is this absolutely adorable and not borderline child abuse.
Le Castel was getting kind of boring, so we headed to another area to find another bar. As a big group, it was really difficult finding somewhere that could easily fit all of us, so we split up and Talia, Danny, Kevin, Much, and I headed to O'Shannons where it was, for lack of a better word, hoppin'. O'Shannons closed early and the five of us headed back to our appartment on Rue Mejanes, which unbeknownst to us was just around the corner (that seems to happen very frequently in Aix). One of Much's friends, Bastien, joined us there and the six of us got into a long discussion on politics and religion. They explained to us that in France, these issues are quite complicated and as a result usually considered personal matters that are neither intertwined nor readily discussed. Contrary to (my) popular belief, I've found Much and Bastien, who I would say represent the young "intellectuals" of France, to be very soft spoken and unpretentious, and I really like that about them.
Our guests finally left around 5am, and I went to bed shortly thereafter. The next day (Sunday) Talia and I slept in, woke up, and took a nice stroll around town. I felt a bit tired, so I went into a shop and ordered what I thought was coffee. As it turns out, when you order a "cafe" in France, what you're really asking for is ESPRESSO. Yikes. I drank it anyway and actually enjoyed it. Afterwards I did some damage and went shopping. I HAD to, the sales only last for 5 weeks! (Kate: GREAT SUCCESS!)
On our way back home Talia and I stopped at Monoprix (a Target equivalent) and bought some groceries. Tonight we're going to play it simple with pasta, since living the high life comes at a very high price. Tonight, who knows, but it's Sunday so not a lot is open. The French take leisure very seriously: on Sundays only the major stores are open, and a few smaller ones that are currently boasting sales. I'm not sure about bars and clubs, but I think it goes the same, and anyway students have classes during the week so I wouldn't think to see a lot of people out partying.
Tomorrow we have orientation, so we'll be picking classes and learning more about the program. I am so happy about the way everything has been going and I'm hoping that soon I'll start feeling like a French student who knows her way like the back of her hand. For now, though, I couldn't ask for any more!
P.S. Pictures soon