A Cat in Toronto

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Home tomorrow!!!

Hi all!

I'm using up the last 5 minutes of my account at the internet cafe so this one will be super short.

If you don't know, I'm coming home tomorrow! Yay! I had a great last few days here. The last two days of class were lots of fun. We watched movies and listened to music and played games. All in French of course.

Also did lots of going away things with the friends I've made here. I just had a very nice lunch at a French restaurant. I'd say it was probably the best meal I've had here. If it wasn't the best, it was definitely up there.

So after a very long bus and plane ride I'll be in Toronto again. I think the first thing I do when I get home will be to have a shower standing up! That's going to be awesome. ;)

Okay, need to get going now. I have a minute and a half to post this.

See you soon!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Can't make this one too long

Hi everyone!

Glad to hear your comments as always. I'm supposed to meet my friend in about 2 minutes so I have to make this really brief.

Just wanted to say yay! I'll be home soon. Ya, I'll definitely miss some things about France . . . other things not so much. Really looking forward to coming home. I don't know how much I'm going to update over the next few days. I'm going to be pretty busy with good bye parties and the like so this may be my last update before I get back.

Hope you're all having a great time in Toronto (and elsewhere) despite the rain. I'll see you soon.

Monday, July 24, 2006

yay, it's working!

Hi all,

Tried to post a message a little earlier but it wasn't working. Obviously the problem seems to have resolved itself.

So I'm back from Paris. I had a great time. My homestay family's niece is super cute. I didn't have too many problems communicating with her and she was pretty easy to deal with. We played cards on the train ride in. Kind of made me miss my daycare kids . . . kind of. ;)

So first I went to Sacre Coeur. I was possibly going to meet up with some friends there but it's a really big place so we didn't find each other. That was okay. The alternate plan if we didn't meet up was just to go around separately. I actually had a really good time wandering around Paris on my own.

After going to Sacre Coeur I walked through the Montemarte area and took a picture of the Moulin Rouge. Now I feel like watching the movie when I get back. After that I went to the musee d'orsay. It was really nice in there. Again, I took tons of photos. I like impressionism and most of the 5th floor is impressionist paintings so I had a great time there. The first and second floor were mostly sculptures and that was really cool too. Oh, they also have an area dedicated to art nouvea so I took some photos there for Leah. Those suites were really impressive. If you're not familiar with the period think of Rivendell from the Lord of the Rings.

That was pretty much what I'd wanted to accomplish for Saturday and I'd finished that around 3 pm. My train didn't leave until 7:30 pm so I pretty much spent the next few hours just wandering around. I did a bit of window shopping. Leah had asked for a very specific cognac called Courvoisier. Said it's supposed to be super good so I've been keeping my eye out for it. I finally found it in Paris for the low low price of 518.33 euros. Strangely enough I didn't get it for her. I took a picture of it though. The bottle is really pretty. For over 500 euros it should be. ;)

After I got back from Paris I went back to my homestay and did a little cleaning and reading. Around midnight my housemates came home and we hung out in my room and chatted for about 2 hours. That was really cool. We recounted stories of our time here and there was much merriment.

Sunday I hung out with my housemate for a few hours. We went out for lunch, checked out the local antique market, and sat by the Loire River for a while. The weather was perfect. Blue skies with puffy white clouds, not too hot, no smog. A friend from U of T who lives in residence invited me over for dinner so I had dinner there with a few of the girls from her floor. That was a lot of fun too.

All in all I'd say my last full weekend here went very well. Got to do some things I'd wanted to do before I left like go to Paris again, spend some time with my housemates, and have dinner with the girls in residence. I'm going to miss my housemates because they both live in the States. I don't feel that way about the people from U of T because they live in Toronto so if we want to see each other than it's not that hard to get together. A few of us have already said that we'd like have our own reunion dinner back in Toronto.

Okay, I'm cutting this off here or I'll ramble on forever. Take care and I'll be home soon. ;)

Friday, July 21, 2006

One week left

Once again nice to read your comments. Saw a few newbies this time. I was glad to hear that people enjoy my bizarre sense of humour.

Today has already been fairly interesting. (It's only 4 pm here.) In class we sang songs in French. Have I mentioned that class here is way more fun than at U of T? After class I met up with a girl that I took French with at U of T and a former teacher from U of T. I didn't know how well that was going to go but it was actually a lot of fun. We had a nice conversation in French while we drank very expensive drinks (they didn't even have alcohol in them) at a cafe. While we were sitting and chatting a horse drawn carriage passed us. Have I mentioned they have horse drawn carriages here? Well they do. I'm pretty sure they're for giving tours. It's still a bit of a head trip to see a horse drawn carriage going down a cobblestone street. It's just so French here. ;)

So tomorrow I'm off to Paris again. I'm taking the niece of my homestay family to Paris with me in the morning. Apparently she'd been staying with her grandmother here and her parents are in Paris. Rather than hire someone to take her back they asked me if I'd do it. Despite my hatred of children I agreed to it. (Eve Anne, say hi to the kids for me!) She's five and doesn't speak any English so this should be quite the adventure. Wish me luck.

I actually haven't tried any wine yet. However, while I was in La Rochelle this man popped out of a liquor store and asked me and my friend if we liked gourmet things. Of course I said yes so he provided us with free samples of pinot blanc, pinot rose, and caramel sale. All were good but I liked the caramel sale the best. The friend that was with me is Asian so despite the fact that the three samples put together equalled less than a shot, she still got tipsy. She's already funny when she's sober so she was even funnier after that. Ah, good times.

On the subject of photos, ya, I've already taken over 700. Some of them are crap but most of them are pretty nice. I still have to go through them and delete the bad ones. That should take me down to 699.

Well, this is my last entry before the weekend. Despair not! I will return next Monday. . . probably. Again, that depends on how busy the lab is. I don't think I'm going to buy any more time at the internet cafe since I only have a week left.

Hope you all have a great weekend.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

How time flies . . .

Except it hasnt' really flown that fast. I've gotten used to it here and it feels like I've been here for a long time even though it hasn't been that long. Maybe that's because I'm always doing something. My time has been spent soaking in the culture. (And food - I don't bother eating anymore, I just sit in vats of food and let it absorb into my skin.)

Strangely enough the week that was cool and beautiful seemed to go by the fastest. The weekends go by really fast too. Weekdays I'm in school so that's not super fast but for school it's not too bad. After school I usually find something interesting to do so bed time does seem to sneak up on me rather quickly. Also, we must be at a different latitude than Toronto because it seems like its never dark here. Especially when we first got here. It didn't get dark until around 11 pm. Now it gets dark closer to 10:30pm. So I'll go out with my housemate and we'll head back to the homestay after dark. I only realize after we get back that it's almost midnight. Then I have to go to bed because we have school in the morning.

A little more info on daily life here. Some of the things I do after school are window shopping, homework, hanging out with friends. At 7 pm I have to go back to homestay for dinner. After dinner I usually head out with my housemate and we'll walk around and take pictures of stuff. It's really pretty here. The other night we sat by the Loire for a while. One of the bridges was lit up really nicely and it was reflecting off the river - so pretty. I think what I'll miss the most when I leave is the simple things. Being surrounded by the architecture and sculptures, walking through the tree lined boulevards, sitting by the fountains or the river, going out for a gelato. And it was awesome being able to roam around various areas of France on weekends.

I think I'm reflecting back on my time here because people keep telling me that they can't believe how fast the time has gone and how they don't want to go back home. I don't really share that sentiment. I feel like I've enjoyed my time here but when it's time to go home that's fine because I get to go back to the things and people that I miss in Canada.

I think that's it for now. Glad to hear your comments as always. Oh ya, one last thing. I got my tickets to Paris so I'm there for Saturday. I leave in the morning and come back in the evening. Don't worry mom, I'll be fine. Until next time.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Incoherent messages

Hi all,

If you're wondering why my last message stopped rather abruptly it's because the connection at this internet cafe isn't great. So I posted part of it, then before I could finish the connection went down for long enough that I decided to just leave. From now on when I update here I think I'll publish every paragraph to avoid losing paragraphs of text.

So last night when I got home I found a care package that Leah had sent me. It was nice sentiment but can I really eat 10 boxes of pocky sticks before I leave? I've been sharing with my housemates, friends, anyone who wants one, really. We'll see if I have to take any unfinished pockys with me back to Toronto.

Oh, guess what! Most of you don't care but I read a manga comic book and they have it here in French. They've published five volumes more than have been published in English. I was so excited - I'm such a nerd. Naturally I've already bought one and plan on getting the rest before I leave. I look at them as educational material.

So my plans for this week pretty much involve going to school and doing homework. Ooh, exciting. I want to go to Paris on Saturday so after I leave here (and pick up more manga) I'll probably head off to la gare (the train station) to see if I can buy a return ticket for Saturday.

School is going well. I enjoy it as much as one can enjoy school in the summer I suppose. That is to say that I'd rather be at the beach or in Paris but my competence in French is increasing while my proficiency in English decreases. ;) When I go back to Canada I'll just grunt and point when I want something. I suppose that's not all that different from before.

Hope you're all keeping cool. It's been brutally hot here but it's starting to cloud over and it's a little cooler. Oh air conditioning, how I miss you . . .

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Hi all,

Wow, a lot of questions about shopping. And Dad, please tell me you're joking about having the air conditioning removed. If not, I'm staying here. ;)

So onto the shopping here. Well, they're only allowed to have sales during certain times of the year here and July is one of those times. Yay! With the sales the prices are comparable if not better than Canada. And the styles are much nicer here. I haven't bought any clothes though. I haven't really found anything that I was in love with and I felt my money was much better spent on food. I did however buy a pair of flip flops since my other skirt shoes were giving me blisters.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Back from La Rochelle

Hi all,

I had an awesome time in La Rochelle. It was super hot there too. And it's super hot here right now. Yay for the Institute. I'm one of the lucky few who's in an air conditioned room.

Anyway, back to my stories from La Rochelle. It was awesome. I stayed in a room with two other girls from U of T. We didn't know if we'd have a shower or not because it was a 2 star hotel so we were playing the odds for the quality of our room. Turns out that when we got there we'd rented a studio appartment for the weekend. We had a bathroom (with a shower) a bedroom, a dining area and a small kitchen. So naturally we rushed out to the nearest supermarket and bought tonnes of food for breakfast. We bought our lunches and dinners as we went along.

Speaking of food, I splurged and tried some very French things for my last dinner there. I ordered foie gras, grilled seabass, (mom would be proud, they gave it to me in whole fish form and I ate it anyway) and creme brulee. I liked everything but I didn't think it was really worth the money I'd payed. If it was cheaper I'd probably get all of the above again. It was funny, one of the girls I had dinner with didn't like her dessert. She'd ordered creme caramel which was surprisingly similar to lecheflan. (A Philippeno custard dessert for you noobies out there.) I actually liked hers better so we traded after we'd eaten half of our own desserts. She liked the creme brulee better and I liked the creme caramel better so everyone was happy.

Overall the weekend was really fun. I went with 6 other girls from the U of T program. We did lots of fun stuff. We swam in the ocean, watched the fireworks, went shopping, visited the medieval towers, and I went to the aquarium with 2 others. That is quite obviously the abridged version but if I elaborated I'd be at the internet cafe all night and this would be way too long.

That's my update for now. I hope you're all enjoying the lovely lovely air conditioning in Canada.

Bye for now.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

3rd time's a charm

Okay, I've already written this twice at the internet cafe. It wasn't going well because there connection kept failing so now I'm at the Institute's computer lab giving it one last shot for the day.

So, Leah wanted to know about weird quirks here. The washrooms were the first thing I noticed. First of all there aren't as many public washrooms around and, at least in Tours, you have to pay for them. Some of the public toilets are like a little room sitting in the middle of the street. Sort of like a telephone booth, but without glass walls. (Thankfully.) Also, most of the toilets here flush by pushing a button or by pulling a handle at the top of the tank. Another washroom quirk is that some of the showers are different. The shower in the house I'm at is basically a bath tub and a shower head on a hose. If you've seen the episode of "Everybody Loves Raymond" where he's in Italy and he's trying to figure out how to bathe himself it's like that. I think most of the North Americans who've stayed at my homestay had one of those moments when they saw the bathroom. I remember looking in and wondering how on earth I was supposed to use it. Eventually you figure something out. I look forward to showering with a stand up shower again and being able to stand up straight in my bedroom. Like my bedroom, the washroom is a room in the attic so you can't fully stand in it.

Oh, another quirk is that no one here has a lawn. The only grass is in parks and around fountains. I think Leah would like it here during alergy season. That's what comes to mind for now. If I think of anything else I'll put it in future posts.

Onto my food update. (My favorite topic.) I've had several different types of gelato and, yes, it is very good. I've already had a few baguettes too. One with smoked salmon and veggies, one with chicken and veggies, and one plain. The food in Tours is decent but if you want amazing food go to Paris.

This will be my last post before the long weekend since I leave for La Rochelle after school tomorrow. I hear it's beautiful although there isn't that much to do. That's okay since they apparently have a good beach there. Spending a long weekend at the beach sunbathing and swimming sounds pretty sweet to me. I'm glad I brought my bathing suit after all. I hear there might be fireworks and I hope there are since that would be really cool. I'll let you know all about it next week when I get back.

Bye for now!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Shouldn't I do something other than update my blog?

Hi all!

Nice to get all your comments. I'm supposing that the people who post comments are the ones that 'really' love me. ;) On that note, is there anyone that wants me to send them a post card? I only remembered to get a few addresses before I left. If you would like one, send your home address to my utoronto email account and I'll do my best. Also list if you'd prefer a post card from Tours/the area around Tours or from Paris. I'll do my best to accomodate requests. Hopefully I'll send a few off before I get back to T.O. ;)

Daily life is going well here. I really like both my house mates. There's a girl from Michigan and a guy from Alabama. They're both really nice. We usually go out after dinner. Sometimes I meet up with other U of T students and we'll hang out in the village square or wander around town.

School is going surprisingly well. I apparently don't suck at French as badly as I thought. It seems that I suck at it an appropriate amount for my level. It kind of feels like I'm back in grade school because I always see the same people and there's a big group of people that I'm familiar with. Also we basically have 10 minute recess every hour. I love the system here. I guess that's the perk of being in a country where everyone smokes, even the teachers don't want to go for too long without a coffee or a cigarette. It actually isn't too smokey/bad here. I guess it's better to be here in the summer so that you're not trapped indoors with the smokers.

I really enjoy my walk to school in the morning. It's very scenic. Lots of old buildings, fountains, and trees. Of course I've already taken pictures to show everyone when I get back.

Well, today I just wanted to give a little depiction of life here. I'm off for now.


Monday, July 10, 2006

Paris was awesome!!!

Hi all!

OMG! I had a great time in Paris! The first day there (Friday night) we went to Champs D'Ellysé, l'arc de triomphe and the Eiffel Tower. Sending out a thanks to Dad for telling me to bring an extra memory card for my camera. While we were at l'arc de Triomphe my camera died on me. I had no idea what was wrong with it. I switched the batteries and it still wouldn't work. The next day I tried to turn it on again and it said that there was a memory card error. Once I switched memory cards it worked fine. I might have lost some pictures but at least I was able to take new ones for the rest of the weekend.

On Saturday we saw Notre Dame, Palais Royale and the Opera house. Notre Dame was the highlight of my Paris trip. It was exquisite. And I don't often use words like 'exquisite' if I'm not writing a paper. ;) The sculptures, the stained glass, everything was beautiful. Of course I took tons of pictures and I was super happy to be able to use my camera.

Sunday we went to the Louvre. It was cool to be able to see artwork that I'd learned about in person. They're a lot bigger and more impressive when you see them in person. My profs had said that we have to see these things in person because it just isn't the same looking at a photo. I didn't realize how true that was until I actually experienced it for myself. That was especially true for Notre Dame since once you actually enter the cathedral you're surrounded by the architecture and sculptures lit by stained glass and candles.

Oh, and the food in Paris. Oh, the food. Mmmmm. ;) We went to an Italian restaurant, a creperie, and a Greek restaurant. For the food lovers reading this, I got a pasta dish with salmon and ravioli, shared a salad and crepes and then shared a salad with chicken and a plate of various grilled meats in that order. Everything was soooo good. I'm thinking about going back to Paris the weekend before I leave for a day trip. If I do, I'll probably go back to the creperie and the Greek place.

I feel like I'm leaving out a lot about Paris, but if I wrote about everything that happened this would probably be 5 times longer. Maybe I'll write more about it in future posts.

So now I'm back in Tours, safe and sound. Oh ya, for Kev, now the weather is awesome here. Aside from the occasional shower it's perfect weather.

Hope you're all well and enjoying your summer.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

They love their soccer

Hi all!

It was crazy here last night. If you don't follow soccer, France won again. People were setting of fire crackers, people were screaming, honking there horns, dancing in the fountains . . . it was nuts. It was really cool to be here for that. I don't think I've ever seen a group of Canadians get that excited about anything. Warm weather maybe?

Everything is going well. People are waiting for computers so I'm not going to make this one super long. Its great to hear from everyone who posted comments or sent emails. Just FYI, Leah told me she sent me an email and I never received it so I don't know how well my sympatico box works. If you want to tell me something your best bet is to post a comment here or to write an email to my U of T address: caty.laushway_at_utoronto.ca. (No spam please, that account has limited space.) I've received some new emails to my sympatico account so I don't really know what's going on there.

Hope you're all well.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

I'm here!

Hi everyone!

I miss you! I'm doing well though. Thank god I can touch type. The keyboards here aren't set up the same way as the ones in North America. As long as I don't look at the keyboard I'm fine.

So much to tell but where to start? Well, the plane ride was a plane ride. If you've been on one you know that other than take off, there isn't too much exciting about it. I imagine it's much better that way though. ;)

I've already had two days of school. If I'd spent the same amount of time at this institute as I've spent at U of T I'm sure I'd be completely fluent by now. The teachers are really nice and they can teach too. What a concept, eh?

It's been ridiculously hot over here. I miss having a pool a five minute walk away. And oh how I miss air conditioning. No one here has it. Only the grocery stores and some of the bigger stores have it. I was joking with people that we should spend our afternoons in the grocery store. It's not really socially acceptable to wear shorter shorts here (nothing above the knee) so we've all been pretty toasty.

Aside from the heat it's been a lot of fun. I've met a lot of really nice people. This weekend I'm going with a few of the girls to Paris. I've already booked my train ticket and everything. The following weekend I'll be going with the same girls plus a few more to La Rochelle. We'll be spending the long weekend there (Bastille day).

So far we've been on a tour of Tours on Saturday and on Monday we went to 2 chateaux. We had a free day on Sunday which I spent roaming around with a few others and taking pictures. I think I've already taken over 200. Haven't deleted any of the crappy ones yet so there probably aren't as many as it seems.

It's crazy here during soccer matches or 'le football' as they call it. After the France - Brazil game there were people honking there horns , shouting and partying well into the night. I'll probably hang out with people tonight during the France - Portugal game. I don't really care about soccer (shhh, don't tell the people here) but they make for a good party.

I'm looking forward to when I can see you all again (and sleep in my own bed, have air conditioning, take long showers, stand up in my bedroom - I'm in an attic bedroom) but I'm having a great time.

I'll update as soon as I can or have something new to say.

Take care.