If you are interested in getting the chance to experience what I did in Biarritz, or even in Italy, Spain, or another inspirational place in the world, go to

http://www.spiabroad.com

You can sign up with SPI High School Study Abroad and explore a part of the world like you never have before! You will come back to school knowing 10 times more about the culture, language, and customs of the French while having the time of your living surfing the waves of Biarritz and eating the best crepes of your life. You won’t regret it!
~xoxo Ali~

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Missin’ My Other Home

(Written on July 3rd)

So after a few days back in the states, I have realized a coupe of things. I MISS EUROPE. I find myself comparing every little thing to what it was like in Biarritz or Paris or just France in general and it’s always a comparison that puts Europe on the better side. I am definitely having withdrawal and am missing my home back in Biarritz. Of course I am glad to be back because I am actually having a lot of fun at home and my friends are keeping me occupied, but I really wish I could be out in the Biarritz ocean surfing right now with all the girls. This sounds pretty selfish, but I also don’t like tipping people at restaurants here. I am so used to not having to do it that I almost feel like it’s ridiculous to leave a decent tip! Plus, I have realized how much I miss the boys in Europe. I knew all along they were ten times better than American boys, but now that I see that the lifeguards here are old and lame and the boys on the beach don’t even so much as smile at you considering 1 out of 20 is even CUTE, it’s hopeless! Yesterday a group of boys was sitting next to us on the beach. We come back to our towels after swimming in the water to find a pack of seagulls eating and pecking at our fruit! The boys were just watching and not even doing anything about it! I seriously wanted to go up to them and say something! Typical American boys. All I know is that I am going to find my husband in Europe.

            My sleeping schedule is wacky. Right when I got back from the airport I couldn’t even go to sleep, instead I stayed up three extra hours eating a cupcake and watching episodes of gossip girl. The next day, I woke up super early and couldn’t go back to sleep. Yesterday, I woke up at 4 in the morning, updated my blog, did other random stuff, and then went back to sleep at 6 and woke up at ten. It’s 8:16 am right now and I am wide-awake. And this is a WEIRD thing because I am a sleeper. Right when I came home, one of my greatest friends from camp came here too because she is visiting me and my other best friend for the week because she isn’t going to camp with us this year. This was probably the best present to come home to ever and I know that it’s distracting me from all the boring-ness I would probably be encountering if she wasn’t here. The first day, they picked me up at my house and we got a delicious breakfast at CiCi’s and then went back to Shelby’s house (my best friend who lives right down the street) to relax. We then got our nails done like the preppy girls we are and then Cairo and I went out for sushi and ended the night with some crazy driving and sunset watching on a hill. We were supposed to go back to Shelby’s later in the night and hang with her friends at her house, but when Cairo and I were lying in my bed watching Gossip Girl, I fell asleep. I just got so ridiculously tired for no reason! It was some time around 7 or 6 when it was 3 am in Biarritz and I keep finding myself getting EXHAUSTED at that time! IT’s SO frustrating because I try so hard to keep myself awake and I CAN’T! Yesterday we had the best day at the beach! We all drove back in my mini blasting music and then had a nice workout. After, we filled up on sushi again (surprise) and then Shelby dropped me at my house to shower and then drive back to hers. Well, this isn’t what happened. I plopped on my bed and just layed there like a potato sack. It was six o’ clock and I didn’t even shower until 9:30. I just SLEPT. I was supposed to go have fun at Shelby’s! Hopefully, since I didn’t wake up super early today, after we have fun at SIX FLAGS MAGIC MOUNATIN I will still be willing and up for more activities. Until then, I am struggling with eating healthy (not having 3 deserts a day), not speaking French to people when ordering stuff, accepting the lack of marriage worthy boys here (or should I say men), sleeping at the right time of day, realizing that fat people do actually exist, walking through clean non-smoke filled air (which is actually amazing), tipping people, having a much earlier curfew, and realizing what it’s like to have my parents back. I miss you France! I hope you miss me too!

~xoxo Ali~

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Nightmare in Newark

~Originally written on Sunday, July 30th at 7:26 pm~

So the last flight was okay. I sat next to a French professor and we had a very interesting 40-minute conversation and I was very proud of myself. Before coming on this trip I most DEFINITELY would not have been able to talk that well in French but I obviously learned a lot living in France for three weeks! I can only imagine how much I will learn the NEXT time I go! (hint hint parents). Right now it’s 7:26 pm in Newark New Jersey. My flight was supposed to leave at 4:28 but instead it has been delayed to 7. So I Have been here since probably about 12:30 and now its 7:30. And my plane still isn’t even boarding. I actually want to cry. Everyone else left a while ago and most of the girls are already at home with their families, yet I am stuck at the airport alone sitting on the dirty ground trying to charge my computer and phone in this stupid wall plug that isn’t even the right size. HOW is this not the right size?

Earlier, I had to say goodbye to everybody and it was really difficult. It feels wierd not being with all of the girls 24/7. I guess I will just have to get used to having my own room again. But it’s going to be hard and very lonely. I know these girls will hold a special place in my heart and I hope I can visit them and they can visit me. But for now, my biggest concern is making this flight, headed to the right place, and leaving with my luggage in hand.

~xoxo Ali~

Airplane Ambitions

~Originally written on Sunday, July 30th on a plane~

Honestly, I don’t know what I would do on this plane if it wasn’t for television. Eight hours is a really long time to be stuck in a germ-infested airplane chair, breathing in the same air that’s been coughed and sneezed in over 100 times, sitting next to random people who I really hope don’t watch me when I sleep. I actually don’t mind travelling, contrary to the harsh description I just added, but right now I really just want to be home. I think, just at that moment was the first time I even realized that. The entire trip I think I have probably kept my complaints down to a maximum of ten sentences, for three weeks. And trust me that’s a miracle if you want to see a list of the countless amounts of things I didn’t think you could even complain about while at a beach in France from some of the girls.  From the minute I got on the plane headed to Newark to the minute I go on this one, the only thing I wanted was to enjoy my time where I was at the present moment. For some others, they were whining about, wasting their energy thinking about everything that they could be doing or eating or having at home, while I was truly absorbing my surroundings. I find that I am really good at living in the moment and taking time to appreciate the environment. Yet, out of all of the positivity that I have kept on this trip, and all of the episodes of Friends, Girls, The Office, New Girl, Sex & The City, and Dexter that I have watched while on a plane in the past 4 weeks, I can truly say I want to be home. Reflecting back now, I’d say this is a pretty good list of the things I found myself craving, wanting, missing, or excited for when returning home:

-My family:

The hardest parts about not having my family around were based on decision-making. I usually ask my mom before I buy something that is expensive and questionable, or before making certain decisions and since I didn’t have access to her opinion at the right hours of the day, I had to decide everything on my own. And this was actually hard for me! I mean, how could anyone honestly trust me with a handful of euros and money-stocked credit cards when in 10-mile radius’ of cute boutiques in Paris and Biarritz? AND to actually spend the money wisely and reasonably? I am a TEENAGE GIRL. AND A SHOPAHOLIC. So, even though I miss my family (but lets be honest I could have totally stayed another month) the hardest part of not having them here with me was not always knowing what to do. I’m still a really independent person, but I probably shouldn’t be trusted with a lot of money. That’s all there is to say.

My dogs: Indie, the homestay dog looked very similar to one of my dogs, Scout because Indie was an Australian shepherd and Scout is a border collie. Right away I missed him because Indie reminded me of him! But, I soon came to realize that I wasn’t the biggest fan of Indie, and neither was Adrianna. He was a bit stinky, and basically in desperate need of a bath. Or even just a hose down. I honestly don’t know if that dog has even touched water. And of course I miss my other dog, Buck. He always rushed to vacuum up my dropped pieces of food from the ground, whereas in Biarritz I would probably assume that if I dropped my food (luckily I never did) that I would have to dust it off and eat it. And I am saying this because since our homestay mom DID feed us a baguette on the side of our dinner that had previously been Indie’s chew toy, eating food of the floor would probably be a given.

The Little Things:

-warm showers with access to the unnecessary, unlimited amounts of scrubs, shampoos, and soaps I have in my shower.

-sushi: I have been craving it all day and PARENTS: I am expecting it when I arrive home. Immediately please.

-my friends! It’s always good to have a break from the people you are with the most, just to have some personal space and time, But I really do miss them! Plus, I CAN’T WAIT to tell them about all of the amazing things I did… and ofcourse the boys.

-my car: this one was kind of a constant reminder for me. Because from what I have noticed, France’s most popular car choices are: the bug, this random European small car that everyone has and the mini cooper. Since I have a mini, how could I not possibly miss it when I saw three on every street? And they all looked so cute. Wow, is it weird that I am having human feelings for a car? No, not when your car is as cute as mine. Well, I am super excited to pick up my friends in it again and blast country music with the windows and sunroof down, sunnies on, and singing loud.

-not feeling like a foreigner: After this trip, I now completely sympathize with immigrants and people in America who don’t speak English that well. Because trust me, it’s hard to adapt to a culture where everyone speaks a language you kind of understand, but mostly don’t! And when you are in a group as large as we were for a lot of the time, the locals give you some very rude, intimidating, confused looks. I mean, it’s not like I am an alien! So, I am excited to once again understand what everyone around me is saying and not have the feeling that people are laughing behind my back, when really they are just sitting right in front of me staring rudely. I mean does anybody in France have manners? It’s not polite to stare for so long!

-getting water at a restaurant without having to ask

-using toilet paper that isn’t pink

-not having to look desperately for Wi-Fi in order to contact people about basic questions and needs.

-cold, fresh milk that I can trust in my cereal (thankyou hostile in France for not having this)

-utensils that I can completely trust haven’t just had contact with somebody back or scalp in use as a scratching device

-sleeping in

I guess that’s kind of a lot of things, but at least I never complained about them on the trip! Instead, they are my motivation and the things that are getting me excited for my return. So while most were eager to go home and eager to leave Biarritz I have to work on becoming excited for home and okay with the fact that my adventure is over. And I think it’s working. After all, who’s to say I won’t return soon, anyways?

~xoxo Ali~

Loathing Leaving

~Originally written Saturday, June 29th~

Currently, I am sitting on a train headed to Paris, gazing out at the lush green of the Basque Country for the last time. I will miss Biarritz and all of its modest beauty. There are so many countless memories and moments of laughter that define this trip that I can never re-create or discover again. They are priceless treasures. The thought of leaving is a horrid one, and I really try to avoid it most of the time and did a good job of that on the remainder of this trip. But now, it’s hard when reality slaps you cold in the face with a demand to pack up your things, leave your new home, and just go. It’s hard adjusting to a new place, new people, and a completely new culture but to just abandon it after all the hard work you put into understanding, accepting and enjoying it. Everyone’s ridiculous laughter is congesting the tight walls in this train and I know it’s one of the last times I will be able to hear it. Like a helium balloon slowly running out and shrinking, left in the end as just a shriveled up piece of latex. Just like this trip used to be a shiny balloon, abundant with air yet has deflated tremendously and will be left as a wrinkled, floppy memento. But this is one of those memento memories that leave you with a thousand tear-jerking, belly-sore from laughter stories, close, unique friendships, and experiences that change you forever as a person. This trip has matured me so much it’s incredible. I am so much more fearless and adventurous now. I am willing to try new things that seem absolutely ridiculous and I am not afraid to introduce myself to people because of what they will think of me. We only have one life! I feel as if I was already independent before, but now I have confidence that my independence is going to help me when I live on my own in college. I have gone through so many different situations in Biarritz, from almost drowning in the ocean to adapting to a homestay, to learning French without one word of English, to having to deal with airport, credit card, and adult responsibilities on my own. This trip has given me so much more than what it had even offered from the start. I have realized how important it is to be a positive person who enjoys life to the fullest. As long as you are happy, nothing else matters.

Earlier, Adrianna and I met up with all of the girls at the Petite Creperie for a last breakfast in Biarritz. I got a delicious savory crepe and orangina and after, a free nutella one that we shared! The lady who works there was very sweet to do this for us, (but mostly it was probably because our group had spent a total of 500 euros there from this whole trip and we had to pay for some of the girls who forgot to pay this morning). Regardless, they were delicious. After, we took our last stroll on the beach and soaked in its last ounces of breathtaking beauty that we could. We drew our names out in the sand and watched, as the water would wash it away just as we were being washed away from our new home. Adrianna was finally sad and regretting her eagerness to go home! I knew this would happen! It’s always the worst when you think you are ready to leave and finally when the day has come, you realize you aren’t.

The day before was our last day of school, and last day of activities. And we SALSA-D! It was actually so much fun and something I had always wanted to try. It wasn’t exactly ideal to be learning it with 30 other people on a gazebo-like structure in the middle of a public park, with random people watching and questioning but hey! It was an experience. Plus I soon learned that Daniel, one of our SPI heads was an experienced salsa dancer. I have never seen somebody move their hips so much and I am not sure what to think of it. Dancing with the stars? At the end him and Kat did a salsa duet. She was great!  After wards, Carrie took us to get goodbye crepes and we thanked her and parted on our ways to make the most of Biarritz for the last time. We started off with some momentary last minute shopping for friends and family and I then met up with Adrianna and Caroline at the beach. Grace soon met up with us and before we knew it we were snoozing away, our backs soaking up their last ounces of Biarritz vitamin D on that sunny, sandy day. We went to a calmer area of the beach that day, and it reminded me of the beautiful Mediterranean Sea in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants or Mamma Mia. The sea sparkled in a rainbow of colors. It was adorable seeing the cute couples cuddled in blankets and the dads splashing in the sea with their tiny daughters sitting on their shoulders. These are the reasons I love Biarritz. Lastly, we finished with a meal of Paellella which I had already had a previous night and was DELICIOUS with the entire group to say goodbye. It was a nice goodbye meal and way to get everyone’s numbers and conclude with a last conversation. So for now, while sitting on this train all I can do is enjoy my last moments with these people. I will get a last look of France’s beauty with a stop by the Sacré-Cœur in Paris and a dose of Americanism at the Hilton Hotel for a night before saying goodbye for good. Wish me luck in letting go.

~xoxo Ali~

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The Day Before….

Our Homestay….

Our Bedroom ^

Indie ^

Mme Roubin and I

My Name is Ali and I am a Shopaholic (Hi Ali) / Some more surfin’

Today might have been even more perfect than yesterday. Well actually yesterday considering it’s midnight and so the day has officially changed. Surfing and sunshine is probably my new favorite combination in the world. Let me tell you, when you’ve got a wetsuit on you can accomplish anything; it basically makes the ocean feel like a hot tub. I love surfing so much and I wish we had more time to do it this trip! I am getting tan from being out in the sun so hopefully by the end of summer I will look like a beachy, Greek goddess, not like I don’t already.  After the beach we did another one of my favorite things: SHOP! This time I was a bit more generous with my shopping decisions, as my hunt was more directed towards gifts and souvenirs for my friends. But I am not really a souvenir gal. I like to have one or two things that represent the place I visited if it was a really special place to me, for example I got a cute shirt that represents Biarritz (it will probably end up being a PJ shirt) just because its like a home to me now, but I am not that weird person who goes all out with the hats and shot glasses and dust collectors because:  a. since I probably could have a career in interior design I know that souvenir decorations are a NO GO and b. I would rather say I got a cute, local bohemian dress in Biarritz rather than the obvious sweatshirt that isn’t even fashionable and I would never wear. SO, I buy the things that I know I love but I also know I can only get in Biarritz, or is something super unique and local. Overall I think I got my friends and family some pretty nice gifts, and these ones are a good excuse to not have to get more for them on other vacations because I can just say, “well what about that thing I got you from Biarritz”? As you can see I am obviously a selfish shopper. But a GOOD one nonetheless. I went into a store and my card didn’t work and I almost had a heart attack that I had used all the money, but it worked in the next store so I was relieved. Jeez if I had spent THAT much money, I don’t even know if the term shopaholic would cut it for me. But I haven’t had buyer’s remorse ONCE on this trip so either I have been in a carefree mood this whole trip or I have made some responsible shopping decisions for once (definitely not). Since tomorrow we are going out with the whole group for dinner, Adrianna and I ate in tonight. The food was actually quite good and it was nice to be with the family for one last night at dinner! Since we ALWAYS watch TV when we eat dinner, I noticed that they have a TV show that basically copied modern family: the French version. It was really funny! It’s crazy to see how much Europe, well at least France, is influenced by the media of America. The music, the movies, even the TV is ALL here! Timmy, our homestay brother, knows all of the same bands as we do that are American as well as movies and TV shows! It’s not like we listen to a bunch of French music or watch tons of French movies in America! And they say America is the melting pot? Well who knows at this point. All I know is that I think it’s ridiculous and not fair that we have to grow up only learning English when European kids are already practically fluent in 2, 3, even 4 languages at 16. But I really hope to be fluent in French.

Today I had the best ice cream I have ever had. It was at this place (I know, very specific) and you were allowed to choose as many flavors as you wanted and they made it into the shape of a rose. I went for chocolaty sweet flavors today because usually I go for the fruity sorbets and BOY did I make the right call. I had a bunch of delicious flavors like Madagascar vanilla, straciatella, speculoos, and a bunch of other ones. All of these on one massive cone just about equals the best concoction man made has ever encountered. If my tongue could die of happiness it did today from that darn ice cream. I need another! When we returned a chez moi (the apartment) Adrianna and I decided to start packing. My suitcase is no doubt over 50 pounds but honestly it was over 50 pounds from the start so what’s the difference after a couple of new clothing items, and souvenirs, and candy, and EVERYTHING. Surprisingly I fit it all in and it was a relief. We spent the night cleaning and singing classic Disney songs, Skrillex and Die Antwoord, and of course Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines about 20 times. Adrianna and I try to mimic the dance that the girls do in the video, its pretty fun. Random happy note: my professor at school tell me I have progressed and improved in my French the MOST out of the class and it made me so happy! Who knew? Because I WOULDN’T have thought so! But I am definitely learning a bunch and gaining new vocabulary each and every day. Wow I love this country. The fact that I am leaving on Saturday makes me so upset. Sorry Mom and Dad but no amount of sushi or hot shower water will lure me from the nutella, icec ream, beaches and boys of France. Bonne nuit!

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Fun Fun Fun

Today was so much fun. We finally got to surf! It was what I had been waiting so long for and today the weather was perfect and the beach was spectacular. We took a lesson at a less busy beach for an hour and a half, but it was NOT enough time for me! It went by in a flash! With our wetsuits on, the water was nice and warm and the small, gentle waves were perfect for a bunch of scared, weak girls trying something new. But I wasn’t scared because I love surfing! Since I had been a couple times before in Hawaii, it was nothing new to me. Getting on the board and riding a wave all the way back to shore is just the best feeling. I definitely rode the most waves out of all of the girls (not to brag or anything ;)) I guess I could just be the next Alana Blanchard or something. When the guy said that our time was up it was such a disappointment! I could even just lie down on the board in the sun all day and float on the waves until they lulled me to sleep. Let’s just say I am DEFINITELY going back if I get the chance tomorrow! After, we went to the beach we had been to the other day and tanned. I got some delicious ice-cream (SHOCKER): mango and lime sorbet on a cone. I don’t even want to get on a scale when I get back from this trip. While tanning on the beach, we caught glimpse of an extremely toned, muscular guy playing football aka the best piece of eye candy on that beach. It’s so completely unfair how much more potential the guys in Europe have compared to American boys. Everywhere I look there are hot, stylish guys but if I see a group of cute guys at the beach where I live, it’s lucky! I guess that Biarritz storm was raining with men! LOTS of them! After the beach, Adrianna and I checked out Carrefour which is basically the French supermarket chain here. They have tons of them everywhere and they sell your basic food needs, snacks, etc. We tried to look for as many recognizable brands as we could and actually found quite a lot! There were NOT alot of chips but there were cookies and pastries and chocolates and cheeses GALORE. It’s really interesting to see how different the dining is here. We joined some other girls for dinner and I ate a delicious meal of escargot, pizza, and fries to finish the day off. And a basque gateau (cake) which we had heard we needed to try and it ended up being very good!  It was pretty much the perfect day to say the least. The weather: fabulous. The surfing: fantastic. The boys: freakin’ amazing. For sure a fun day.