Friday, September 30, 2011

Lazy (sick/tired) Dinner

This post is for Diego, who told me that France doesn't have frozen meals.

They do.

And when nothing tastes right and you're broke, a 2 Euro meal from your microwave sounds perfect. I chose the spinach and salmon flavored pasta because I could actually see little bits of real salmon in it. Also, it was in the refrigerator section, which somehow seems fresher than the frozen section. No idea how true that really is, but anyways...

First challenge: figuring out how to use the Microwave-grill. If anyone can find a manual for this thing, it would be GREATLY appreciated.

Then, it was pasta time!

It was actually pretty decent. Or at least, I think it was. My taste buds are not champions with this cold - everything tastes weird. (Although the milk always tasted weird - what is demi-ecremé and what is closest to 1%?) But at least I ate something nutritious!


Its been a long time since I've lived alone. Last night I returned to my Parisian apartment and tried to settle in a bit. I went to take a shower and had to kill a spider in the bathroom. People who know me know how good I am at dealing with bugs.

While still trying to shake off the spider-killing, I walked into the main room and a HUGE flying bug had found its way in through the open window (no, there are no screens in this country, and no, I don't know why not). While trying to fan it towards the window, I must have gotten a bit too enthusiastic and hit it. It landed in the sink and flailed around. So I slapped the sink cover on the sink. I thought it would die by this morning. Well, that didn't work. Then I poured dish soap on it. Now I have a slimy huge bug in my sink (its way too big to go down the drain). GREAT. And then, as if that wasn't enough, I noticed a spider making a happy home in the fake plants outside on the window railing. I tried to douse it with water, but its already back up and making a new web. [[sigh]]

What gets to me about living alone isn't even necessarily killing the bugs. Its that no one comes home later and laughs with me about trying to drown the spider or congratulates me on taking out the huge flying thing. Instead its just me, just doing what needs to be done. Oh, and having a major cold while doing it. What the heck is Nyquil called in French? :-(

Punting in Cambridge

One of the things I told Tanya that we absolutely had to do while I was in Cambridge was go punting. I had visited twice before and never managed to do the quintessentially Cambridge activity.

So, with my visit winding down, Tanya invited me to come on a punting trip with the new group of Marshall Scholars. We rented punts from St. John's College (where two of the Marshalls were members) and ventured out onto the River Cam.

We managed to avoid most collisions and maneuvered up and down the river for almost two hours! We returned the punts right before closing at 6:30pm, but that also meant that we got to see King's lit up with beautiful late-afternoon light.

Nothing like a little history along with your uni education, huh?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A British Maths Conference

Yes, I said "MathS" in the title! Because that's how they say it here!

The conference is going well. I'm connecting with a whole different set of people than the ones I normally meet. Also, they are math(s) people, just the sort of people I need to collaborate with (so that I don't have to do all the calculations myself). And best of all, my advisor is here! (I guess I should say former advisor, but heck, she's still advising me on everything from academics to life!). So its been a productive few days for meeting people and working on papers.

My only complaint? INTERNET! Seriously, no wifi, slower than dialup speeds, and the connection only works for 30 seconds to one minute before dropping out for 10 or 15 minutes! This is worse than when I lived in New Zealand! And that was a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific! So no pictures, just use your imagination (imagine small British town, old stone university buildings, some pubs, you get the idea). And wait for Thursday when I make it back to Paris, the land of INTERNET!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Oxford rendezvous

Thanks to the incredible internet connections at both the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford, posts with pictures from London and Cambridge have been delayed until I return to Paris (a country with both a universal right to healthcare and a universal right to wifi).

But a quick post with news from Oxford....

I arrived from Cambridge with a minimum amount of annoyance (thank you, closed Circle Line), and met a nice woman from the NSF while I was checking in. We found our way to our dorm building together and I invited her to dinner! She scoped out the town and found us a nice bistro. On the walk back to our dorm building, I ran into my labmate Thomas, who currently lives in Oxford! Small town, small world. :-)

A Day in London

Ah, internet! I'm back in Paris, so now its time to update you all on my adventures in the UK.

Tanya had to go down to London for work, so we made a day of it. There was Chihuly-viewing at the V&A:

Also, we checked out the temporary exhibit "Textile Fields", also at the V&A:

I loved this exhibit. The colors were modern and the soft texture invited way more lingering than the Medieval artwork would otherwise encourage. Plus, you had to take off your shoes to walk on it, which somehow also made it feel more otherworldly. It was like going on a huge carpet ride through an art museum. Really, when else have you had to take your shoes off in a museum and be encouraged to walk on the art? I loved it.

I also managed to get up to Loop while I was there and picked out a lovely skein of British yarn.

And to end the evening, I met up with Tanya near Big Ben! A perfect London day trip!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cambridge Botanical Gardens

A beautiful place to spend a sunny afternoon!

Cambridge - the fun continues

The gastronomic tour of Cambridge UK continues with dinner at YoSushi!, dinner at The Vault, and lunch at the Fellows table at Pembroke (no pictures, sadly).

YoSushi! has a belt that circulates little alien-saucer style dishes filled with sushi favorites. We went for the Blue Monday Special, which was fun but not amazing food. The crispy duck was disappointing and the gyoza were too oily.

The Vault was a surprise success! Tanya had snagged a Groupon to get us a discount. We ordered from the small courses menu, which is sort of like tapas. They were all delicious! We had pork-apple sausages, herb-stuffed mushrooms, crispy garlic bread, crispy duck pancakes (wayyyyy better duck than YoSushi!), and daphonoise potatoes. YUM!!!!!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cambridge UK

Well, after arriving in Paris I packed my bags again and headed up to the UK to visit my friend Tanya!

She graduated from MIT a year ago and is now doing a PhD at the Engineering Design Center at Cambridge University.

We're having fun shopping, catching up, and watching American TV!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Mon appartement

My apartment is so cute! Its small (SMALL) but nicely decorated and even though it only has one window on one edge, its quite light because everything is white. Here are a series of pictures, from the entryway, slowly rotating from right to left.
In the last image, behind the kitchen, that's the entry doorway and the bathroom. The bathroom has a skylight so it also gets good light! And the bathroom is nice and modern, thank goodness, although its so small that its impossible to get a decent picture of it. The nicest part is definitely the table and window benches near the window. The bottle of wine was a housewarming gift from my landlady! How sweet!

Je reviens

Well, I am back. Not permanently, there is still the tiny visa issue that will send me back to the States in October, but I am here. I arrived yesterday, had a friend help me get to my apartment and settle in, and unpack. This morning I woke up in my apartment, the place I will be living for at least the next 9 months. I ate this for breakfast (sorry Diego!)
while sitting here
Actually, I didn't take that picture myself (as you can probably guess). I met some tourists who were taking pictures and speaking English, so I asked if they wanted a picture all together in return for taking one of me. They were from Boston too!