Lyon, France

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My best friend and roommate from my Junior semester abroad was teaching English in Lyon, France for the past year. The reason for my trip to Europe was so that I could go and visit her, and we would return to the great land of Belgium at the end of our trip. This is what I learned in Lyon:

  • Place Bellecour is the largest public square in Europe.

Place Bellecour

  • But seriously, look at how huge!

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  • More of a reminder, but the best way to get to know a city is to go on a run through it. This time, I went on a seven mile run on the promenade along the Rhône on the Rive Gauche and ended up at Parc de la Tête d’Or, which rivals Brussels in terms of world’s most awesome park.
  • Apparently all European cities have one main shopping street that holds seven H&Ms and five Zaras.

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  • When using a city bikeshare system to meet up with friends for a drink, it is helpful if there are open docking stations around the final destination. Unfortunately for Julia and I, (as well as the other 15 or so bikers we kept seeing in the area desperately searching for a place to dock the bike) that was not the case. Biking around Lyon at night is pretty beautiful though.

Searching for an open docking station

  • How enjoyable it is to sit on a French balcony and smoke a cigarette after a night at the pub quiz. Until the mosquitos discover you, that is.
  • The hidden courtyards in the cobbled alleys of Vieux Lyon are beautiful. And extremely difficult to find. Thanks, Alex!!

  • Sandwich shops should be judged by the cute waiters.
  • Lyon is better than Paris in terms of fostering love.

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  • The grassy spots above the roman amphitheater are perfect for a long afternoon of talking. And daisy chain-making.

nice place to settle

  • Stained Glass Windows do this:

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  • The Eiffel tower was actually made in Lyon, but assembled in France. There is a mini Eiffel Tower in Lyon to commemorate that.

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  • France has a lot of support for marriage equality…

Marriage equality

  • …So much so that every time new legislation passes for Marriage Equality, the police congregate around all public spaces and squares in case riots occur.

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  • The apartments in France are beautiful. Especially Julia’s.

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And here’s the gallery!

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Nice, France

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I went to France and Belgium back in April and for some reason I have decided to resurrect this blog today with the subject of my first few days in Nice.

Here are a few of the things that I learned while in Nice:

  • Extremely attractive South Africans (is that redundant?) come to Nice and stay there for three months,  work on Yachts as their form of income, and know all of the cool bars. Their preferred hostel to stay in is the same one Julia and I stayed at.
  • If you get stuck far away from your hostel after the time the tram closes at Midnight, it is a good idea to hang out by Massena Square and listen to one of the aforementioned South Africans tell you how the seven statues of men you thought were simply creepy earlier in the day (see photo below) are now lighting up with a rainbow of colors, which is representative of the seven continents communicating with each other (Julia and I, for the sake of flirting, decided to be difficult in accepting this. My big moment of the debate was “why is Antarctica communicating?”). Turns out Caleb was right, and that the Artist Jaume Plensa indeed designed the statues as the seven continents. They communicate in a dialogue of colors for all to see. If only we knew what the colors represented… After staying out all night in the above manner, it is best to start the next day off by going down to town and eating a large amount of pasta.
  • Nice looks kind of like South America in the colors, the fact that it is a bit worn down, and the creepy guys staring at you from the alleyways
  • Fenocchio has the best gelato, and I forgot how good speculoos gelato was
  • The beach is worse than you think. When the collective “they” say it is pebbly, what “they” mean is it is LITERALLY ALL PEBBLES. I’ve never seen such a thing. Like it hurts to sit.
  • Russians used to vacation in Nice, and thus the St Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral was built in Nice. The walk to the Cathedral is absolutely gorgeous, and it is especially nice on a Sunday when you can walk through the shopping streets and have no one around.
  • You should probably read the signs that are placed at the entrance of Cathedrals, for they typically contain vital information for your visit. Such as- whether or not you can take pictures inside so that you can avoid having a russian orthodox nun chase you and your camera down and have posh French people laugh at you, or something.
  • Sometimes, people park in no parking zones like douchebags. This creates a situation where public busses cannot physically fit down a street, and you sit there for twenty minutes listening to old, glamorous french women talk about amazing things before giving up and hoofing it the rest of the way through Cimiez.
  • Always slip through the cracks at cemeteries, for the best views are held beyond the walls.
  • French keyboards are confusing and will create a great deal of laughter when trying to use them.

A few of my favorite pictures are below, for more go to my Flickr.

Movie Review: The Impossible

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The thing about knowing how a movie will end is that you spend a majority of the movie bracing yourself for the inevitable outcome. The viewer manipulates the movie as though it is a puzzle; working to piece together the separate images they are presented with in order to complete the image on the cover of the box. When the inevitable moment comes, a wave of relief washes over those in the audience, matched with an equal amount of fear resulting from the fact that the viewer doesn’t know where the movie will go from there.

In The Impossible  that moment was the tsunami of 2004. The moment when a brown mass came hurling towards gorgeous coastline, everyone knew it was coming. Everyone going into The Impossible knows there is going to be a deadly tsunami, followed by a long period of struggle on the part of the family the movie focuses on. Yet, I still found myself sobbing while the mother, Maria (Naomi Watts), was screaming her head off, clutching a telephone pole/palm tree (pardon my memory). And when she found her son nearby? Forget it, I absolutely lost it. Thankfully, I know myself with movies and I brought tissues. But still, I cried four separate times during The Impossible. The only movie that has ever made me cry more was The Hunger Games (Jennifer Lawrence makes me break down and I’m not sorry about it).

The Impossible was a wonderful movie, and it obviously evoked a very strong emotion from within me. Furthermore,  I’m pretty sure that Naomi Watts is the most powerful mother figure in any movie I have ever seen. Not only did she put her life in danger multiple times for her family, specifically the eldest boy named Lucas, but for a little boy she didn’t even know. She walked through the marshes of Thailand with a gaping, bloody hole in the back of her leg in order to reach higher ground for her son. She mixed anguish, love, determination, fear, and extreme pain perfectly, and kept it up for the duration of the movie. Honestly, she should win best actress at the Academy Awards for this movie.

Some reviewers of The Impossible believe that the movie was too focused on one family that wasn’t even a local of Thailand. The complaints emphasize the fact that there was little to no attention paid to the actual inhabitants of the country during the tsunami, which is true; the main interaction between the British family and the natives were in the hospital and getting transport around Thailand. My issue with these complaints is, yeah, so what? The screenwriters decided to tell this great and emotional true story from the viewpoint of one family (who are from Spain in real life) and it was a great narrative. It had a very specific angle, a spin if you will, and just because it didn’t address every single aspect of the tsunami does not mean that the movie should be downgraded or diminished in any way. It was an encouraging story of family, fear, and strength in the face of inevitable death, and I highly recommend it.

Happy Weekend

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Some links to propel you into the first weekend of February – faster. 

Dream-like short films/videos from the most influential actresses of 2012

My new cover up

Where I wish I was going this weekend

An interesting take on how drugs could influence marriage

Good news for my new favorite TV show

Ed Koch, movie and self critic

“Why we took cocaine out of soda”

Happy 100 Grand Central Terminal

Lena Dunham has a new show on HBO, and apparently it’s just like the Devil Wears Prada

See if you’re lucky enough to catch these events around the world 

“10 Unexpectedly Romantic Cities” my favorite Brussels making the list!

Movie Review: Friends With Kids

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I was first interested in Friends with Kids because I heard it was written, directed, and starred in by Jon Hamm’s long time girlfriend, Jennifer Westfeldt.  I was hooked once I saw the trailer: the movie seemed like a hilarious adaptation of the (almost) over-done ‘falling in love with your best friend’ shtick.  Somehow, though, Friends with Kids made the familiar story line seem brand-new.

The set-up is this: a group of six friends, three men and three women live the fabulous life in New York City.  Two pairs in the group are married to one another. The remaining two are best friends, who can’t quite grasp the whole ‘dating and marrying’ thing.  Jason, played by Adam Scott, and Julie, played by Jennifer Westfeldt, have been best friends since college, and now that they are approaching the golden age of forty, are beginning to second guess themselves.  Jason and Julie notice that all of their ‘married-with-kids’ friends are losing their love for their spouses and shifting it onto their children, effectively ruining the spark in their friendship and, eventually, their marriages.  After a night out drinking wine at a bar, Julie and Jason decide that they are the perfect couple to have a kid together: since they don’t romantically love each other, they will never lose their best friend love for each other! Their child will always be in a healthy environment.  The great part about this movie is that I honestly believed them in the first half. I honestly thought that they had been friends for so long that they had gotten beyond the unavoidable chemistry that exists between guy and girl friends.  After all, after Julie becomes pregnant, Jason finds his ‘perfect woman’ (played by Megan Fox, go figure), while Julie finds an extremely handsome and gentlemanly divorcé, who proceeds to fall in love with her.

My favorite aspect of this movie is how true to reality it is.  It captures the extremely scary and disappointing aspects of marriage, having kids, and falling in love.  A married couple falls apart as a subplot, and watching the two shift from being crazy-in-love newlyweds to resentful parents is absolutely heartbreaking…and extremely real.  The second couple is trapped in a never-ending argument, but somehow manages to stay in love.  Finally, best friends think they can cheat the age old rule that men and women cannot be friends. And, of course, the audience is left to watch that all-too-familiar scenario of one person falling for the other, while the feelings are unreciprocated.

In short, the acting in the movie is fantastic, the emotions that each character feels are raw and ugly, and the actors aren’t afraid to be true about what happens in the real world.  I honestly felt as though I was feeling the same emotions every time I saw a character on screen.  Friends With Kids successfully transforms a typical romantic comedy plot into so much more: it is funnier, more realistic, and has a better soundtrack.  However, the true beauty of this movie is its enthralling depiction of the anxious nature of someone who is in love, and risks losing everything.

Movie Review: Melancholia

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For the first ten minutes of this movie, I had no idea what was going on.  It was some sort of an artsy montage, featuring stills from the movie I was about to watch, set to a score of classical music.  During this time, I read a magazine, hoping this part would end soon.

Finally the montage ended and the first part of the movie, named after Kirsten Dunst’s character, began.  The opening scene was my favorite part of the entire movie, which probably tells you something about either my attention span or the movie’s progression.  Anyways. It featured a happy newlywed couple in their limo, en route to their reception. The issue is, they are stuck at a sharp turn on a rural driveway.  The limo driver cannot seem to back up the limo enough to make the turn, so the groom has his go at it.  Kirsten Dunst, resembling a cupcake, gets out of the limo to help the groom navigate.  After a long session of giggles and failed three-point turns, Kirsten squeezes her dress into the driver seat and has her go at it.  Finally, the couple arrives two hours late to their party, greeted by Kirsten’s resentful sister.

The rest of the wedding party is a whirl of Kirsten’s clear bipolar disorder. One moment she is in a haze of romantic lust, the next she is in a bath wearing her wedding dress.  This goes on for an hour, after which the movie shifts to Kirsten’s sisters segment, centered around the impending collision of Earth and the planet Melancholia, and the subsequent end of human life.  This segment successfully explores the different ways human beings cope with the threat of an apocalyptic event, and ultimately how a human interacts with the emotion of hope.

Bottom line? This movie was extremely interesting, but I never felt connected to the characters in a way where I felt their emotions.  Instead, I simply observed their multiple breakdowns from an extremely disconnected position.  A rainy movie for a rainy day, indeed.