samedi 16 février 2008

the wonders of the internet and the château de Vincennes

Oh internet, how I love you. Last night, I was alerted on MySpace that my favorite band of all time--I saw them at a free show at Biola University when I was in 8th grade--was playing a live acoustic set on So I tuned in through iTunes and got to listen to a crisp broadcast of Dustin of Thrice playing "The Whaler", and it was most excellent. I remember the days when I'd listen to them on KUCI radio on dial-up. They were on an independent label and were touring in a crappy van.

It's just amazing to me how I can listen to their live broadcast from Toronto, and I'm in Paris. The internet And just to watch their work progress and evolve and to grow with them...I could not have picked a better band to grow old with.

Today, went to Château de Vincennes nearby Lucia's. She wanted to talk. We walked through the grounds talking for an hour, pausing for a while in front of Parc Floral to get some sun. It was freezing cold, but the sun was out. Then we went in the keep, or donjon. Lucia and I shared an audioguide, and it was most interesting. We stood in the room where Charles V would work and receive guests. We saw the graffiti of prisoners who stayed there when it was turned into a prison. It was really cool. Right now, this is the tallest existing keep in Europe. We stayed for two hours at this place and saw everything, and it wasn't even busy at all. It was nice taking our time and not rushing through everything which is something I always do in museums and monuments and am trying to change.

Went to return to the audioguide, and I was totally into getting the book on the castle and keep, but then thought about saving my money. Then, I saw some pocket children's books on tales and legends during the French Middle Ages (in French), and I almost got that. Maybe next time. But it was definitely an interesting read. I love children's books. Books in general are my downfall.

Had lunch across the street and got grec sandwiches with samurai sauce (spicy). It was really good. Then the owner came over, seeing that we were shivering from the cold, and brought us hot mint tea, no charge. Lovely. It was good too! Fragrant and sweet.

vendredi 15 février 2008

Martha Stewart

Did another strange amount of cleaning and rearranging. I don't know why, I didn't have to. I even grouped my carbs in the same place in the kitchen. Weird. Took care of school things that Rosalie suggested I do, and made a list of things to chuck out when I leave. Mostly clothes that are getting worn down already.

I guess I'm doing all this cleaning because my friend Catherine (the first of 4 friends coming--cool and yikes at the same time) is arriving in three weeks which is a long time from now but better now I guess than in a hurry the day before she comes. Cool girl. She grew up in Las Vegas but currently goes to Loyola Marymount. Met her while on a summer study abroad in Cambridge, England. I remember we met on the bus from Heathrow to Cambridge, and she was listening to Broken Social Scene on her ipod. I peeked when she wasn't looking. She's into film too, and we'd hang out on the day trips into London, Stonehenge, and the Roman baths in Bath.

It's strange, this desire to impress. It's like I need to show everyone how grown up I am. Blurg. Didn't think it'd come until later, when I was done with school and working (or finding work).

Speaking of Britain, watched a hilarious British tv show, as suggested from Lily (thanks Lily!). She said I'd like it, and I'm always wary about people telling me I'll like something, but right off when she said, "Simon Pegg" thunderbirds were go. I looked it up on youtube, and it was amazing. I love me that British humor. Immediately saw the references that Simon Pegg made in Shaun of the Dead to the former tv show he starred in. Great stuff. Just this clip alone merits at least one episode trial.

jeudi 14 février 2008


Valentine's Day was...appropriate. Spent most of the morning cleaning and organizing. I left my shampoo in Amsterdam so I had to get a bottle of that. Mailed some letters.

Susie came over after her class, and we went to the 18th arrondissement to watch a band play in an art gallery. Met up with Lily and Sarah. It was crowded and full of scene people. Young people that grow up to be art gallery people with strange haircuts and bold eyeglasses. The band didn't play, so we left. Met up with Lucia and got thai food by Susie's place. We sat at a round table, and after we ate I said, "Hey, Happy Valentine's guys." We all laughed and were kind of tipsy from the "cocktail maison" some of us got which was fruit juice and rice wine.

After we went to alimentation (small corner grocery store) after alimentation looking for Haribo (gummy candy) for me because I was craving it. We all got some candy and went back to Susie's to watch Phase, the movie I worked on two years ago that my friend sent to me. It was fun to watch it with people who don't know my film friends and who were genuinely intrigued by the making of a student film. I added little production tidbits while the movie progressed. Everyone put in their two cents on what worked in the movie and what didn't. It was cool to hear their criticisms. I need to know what people like and what people will ridicule on the screen. I later wrote them down in my Moleskine on the metro ride home. Saw lots of couples, young and old, probably going home after dinner out. Some girls had bouquets of flowers. Everyone was dressed nice and perfect, and here I was in the middle of it in my converses and the wool jacket that's falling apart that I love. It sucked, but it felt right. Appropriate.

It was a good night, probably one of the better Valentine days I've ever had.

mercredi 13 février 2008

up to date

Back to normalish. Had my academic advising with Rosalie the other day, which turned out to be pretty cool. I love seeing her, she is a bundle of joy. I remember the first time we met, she mentioned that my parents went up to her at orientation and pretty much said, "TAKE CARE OF OUR DAUGHTER." And I was so embarrassed when she recounted the story to me, and she sincerely told me not to, that that was her job, and I knew immediately then that I liked her, that I could trust her with my academic stuffs. That she'll be there to help me.

I had to re-schedule my appointment since it conflicted with a class, so when I called her she said, "That's fine. You're easy" which made me happy. I loved the way she said "easy", with an emphasis on the first syllable. I don't like to cause any unnecessary problems, and I try to make things easy for people. My case isn't that bad--I just need some electives to count towards the French major and Cinema major.

Got my grades in, my lowest a 14/20, which translates into an A from my oral class. I'm really happy about that. My teacher said that I was too timid when speaking (Rosalie said, "Who isn't timid when learning a language?"). Got a 15 in my French songs class with the teacher I didn't really care for and also an "A+" which took me by surprise from the Cinema class. The professor was supposed to give me a number grade based on the French system, but I'll take that A+. She said I was a hard worker, good student, an improving writer. Later, Rosalie asked me if I wanted to see my grades again, and I said sure, and I just stared at the paper in disbelief for a couple of seconds before handing it back to her. Rosalie said if I was interested, that I can attend her husband Fred's talk about the Peace Corps. Then we bisoued and hugged goodbye, such a sweet lady.

Went to Fred's talk about the Peace Corps which was quite moving. He went to Thailand and learned Thai there. He talked about all his experiences, the friends he made, the places he got to travel. It's a two year commitment. If I could have a choice, I'd go to the Philippines, at least I'd learn Tagalog. Right now, it's an active country and they need English teachers. But it's the country that picks you for your abilities. Two years is a long time, but it seems like it would be the next step after a study abroad experience. I'd do it if I wasn't so bent on being poor in LA after college.

My parents are arranging their trip here which is very exciting. Called me 7 in the morning to plan it out. As it turns out, I'm spending my 22nd birthday in Spain! That is too cool. I was planning not to do anything on my birthday. I wanted to have a birthday where nothing really special happened, and that I spent alone. I just wanted to know what it was like. When I turned 17, I didn't plan anything because 17 is sort of boring. Instead, since I had a Disneyland pass, I wanted to go to Disneyland by myself. Just go on one ride like Autotopia maybe and then get an ice cream then go home. Then it turns out that my fam planned something or other, I can't really remember. All I remember was wanting to go to Disneyland alone.

They're coming to Paris for a few days, then we drive through France and into Spain for a little more than a week, then come back to Paris for a few days again. Then home. We leave Paris July 3rd for the US...Where did the time go? It'll be weird going home with my parents. I kind of expected the movie ending, boarding that plane alone and then seeing the fam at the airport when I landed. But this is cool.

School again.
Both of my Micefa classes just started this week, and they're so cool! Compared to the ones at St. Denis. I'm learning a lot already, and the teachers are awesome. The history of Paris one is my favorite so far. It's interesting learning the origin of names and just knowing little tidbits about the monuments. I can impress my friends coming to stay with me, one of them coming in less than 3 weeks!

My film friend, Patrick, sent me a DVD of a film he wrote and directed which is a nice gesture. I was the script supervisor and helped with the production two summers ago. It's weird seeing films you worked on, especially when you know the stories and characters so well. When I watched it, all I could think about was production notes like, "I remember that night! It was so cold filming in that playground." Or hearing the lines that people always had to re-do. I wonder if it'll be like this whenever I work on a film.

Saw Edward Scissorhands with Susie at Grand Action Tuesday night. Lovely. The film projection was extra scratchy, but I didn't mind. Last night, went to Action Christine near St. Michel to see A Midsummer Night's Dream. My card works there too as well as at Action Odeon. Two words: Christian Bale.

The cinema is located on a small, quiet street not so promising to tourists as it had no stores, just a hairdresser and what seemed like the back of a hotel, but it really was the front. Hard to explain. You couldn't even see the cinema unless you walked past it because the cinema sign was out. It had two theaters like Grand Action.

Thought it would be fun seeing this film as it is close to Valentine's Day and what better to fill the void where romance should be in my life with none other than this false reality of romance that film so often portrays. At least it was Shakespeare. I must get points for that. And Christian Bale riding a bike wearing 1890s clothing reciting lines in (what I think is) his original Welsh accent--heaven. Whenever he said, "Helena" I just kept on thinking how effing close that name is to my own, in a sense, since my name is derived from Helen, and all you do is add the "a" and ta-da. This is the kind of crap I daydream when at the movies.

God, whenever a lovely boy speaks my name, I can't help but feel a flutter of happiness echoing through my heart. It's like a gift from my parents at birth that keeps renewing itself with every boy who is acquainted with me. Anyway, I digress.

The audience was mostly elderly couples, one young couple, and several guys and old ladies that came by themselves. One of the guys looked my age, and the jerk sat right in front of me with his messy head of hair obstructing my perfect view, and right when I was about to move, he moved, so that was nice. A good crowd, a lot of them laughed really loudly so I felt okay laughing loudly too, I laughed so hard I had some tears in my eyes but it felt really good to laugh. At the end of the credits, one old man in the back stood up and clapped, and others joined in too.

Walked across Pont Neuf after, and everything was all sparkling and glittering, and La Samaritaine was all lit up. It was nice. And even though I was alone I didn't feel alone. And it occurred to me after that I could have called someone to come to the movies with me, but the fact that I didn't meant something. I'm not sure what. Am I finally comfortable? Yes. I might have always been ever since I saw my first film here alone. Have I lost the inclination to share things, experiences with people? Not at all, it just didn't happen tonight.

day 4: Anne Frank, old LPs, and the best ice cream in Amsterdam

Day 4
(NOTE: Sorry, I just added stuff that I didn't want to forget. Start at the pic of Lucia and Keisha looking at records.)
Our last day. Checked out and went back to Centraal Station to put our luggage in lockers. Found a hidden treasure of a restaurant that served the yummiest English breakfast: eggs, beans, ham, sausage, and toast. And tea. Absolutely delicious, and it only cost 7.95. I've had coffees in Paris that cost half of what I paid for this meal. The guy working was laidback, seemed like a guy that'd work at Bang and Olfusen or whatever or design furniture for Ikea. Tall, lanky, pale, glasses, shaved head (or balding?).In between taking orders or serving, he'd go to the booth by the window and pet his cat. I was going to take a picture of Keisha and Lucia with their food, and he came over and offered to take our picture for us. Score one for the Dutch people. They're amazing in my book.From there, we walked to the Anne Frank House and Museum. Loads of people, but a good, humbling experience. Walked up a tiny staircase, through her room, and saw her home the way she saw it through photos and written accounts. We could hear the bell tower down the street strike the hour, and it felt really sad to think she'd hear it too but never be able to go out and play in the sun or ride a bike.

I've only read excerpts of her book, but I vowed to put it on my reading list. I got a book on the museum with loads of pictures (photos not allowed in museum) and the history of Anne Frank's family.

Walked back in the direction of the train station and wandered through an open market. Kind of like a swampmeet, these people were selling their old stuffs. Keisha, Lucia, and I spent time looking through old LPs that cost 1 euro each. I couldn't help myself and got the soundtrack for The Sting (awesome old ragtime) and West Side Story (one of my favorite musicals). It sucked to carry them around, but anything for that awesome sound. I don't have a record player here, but my parents have one at home.

Still had more time to kill before our train, so we went looking for ice cream/souvenirs. No luck finding ice cream, until we saw a man licking a cone of vanilla, so we asked him where he got it. He happened to be Dutch and not a tourist, and he pointed down the street. "The best ice cream in all of Amsterdam," he said. We were intrigued.

Went in line for the ice cream place. It was a hole in the wall, and the line was out the door. One by one, people came out with cups or cones of this one kind of ice cream. Turns out they only serve one flavor: AMAZING. Really, it was like vanilla whipped cream tasting, and the consistency was between frozen yogurt and whipped cream. Really thick and rich. You know how ice cream gets liquidy when it melts? When this melts it gets foamy, not liquidy or drippy. I can't explain it. It was delicious. Spent more time in an H&M and got a beanie for 1 euro. I wanted something that I could put all my hair in and look like one of the Olsen twins. Keisha got sunglasses, and Lucia got a tank top.

Went back to the train station, and boarded the train. We were exhausted. But the trip was perfect. We did a lot of things that we wanted to do and had fun. Not too much unnecessary stress or worry that comes with most travel, and the stress and worry that did come was short-lived and a learning experience. I was sad to leave the city, but to go home, towards Paris and my own bed...sounded nice.

I don't think I could live in an urban city for a long time, I'd go crazy. But Amsterdam would be a lovely place to live. Not just for the bikes, or the soft drugs baked into a tasty muffin. It's the perfect mix of urban and small town. The people are warm and friendly. They have dedicated bike lanes. The pancakes are delicious...I'd definitely go back again.

mardi 12 février 2008

day 3: Van Gogh and the largest film archive in the Netherlands


Woke up feeling refreshed and hungry. Keisha said she saw some restaurants advertising English Breakfast, and that sounded so good. We went into one, but they stopped serving English breakfast at noon, and it was half noon. The waitress was really sorry. No worries, we got some omelets and mint tea and shared a dutch apple pancake which I forgot to take a picture of! The mint tea was excellent.

The waitress brought out this thick syrup that's not as sweet as maple and powdered sugar for the pancake--heaven. I loved it. I love it more than American pancakes. It was thicker than a crepe, but thinner than an American pancake. The waitress kept coming back and making sure everything was good. She seemed eager to please.

Walked to the Van Gogh museum and saw it seemed like a billion amazing paintings. Really neat. Unfortunately I couldn't take photos. Then to the Rijks Museum which is a history museum featuring masterpieces from the Dutch Golden Age. By then it was late afternoon so we got some food and went home to rest before the Film Museum.

Walked literally down the street and into the park, and to our right was the Netherland's largest film archive. It looks like a huge mansion sitting in front of a lake, really lovely. I went online beforehand in Paris to see what they're showing, and it's 12 Angry Men and To Kill A Mockingbird. We got tickets for the second film.

The film was in its original version with subtitles in Dutch. The titles were a little late, so when we laughed at something said, the Dutch people laughed a few seconds later. I love this film, a classic. It moved me now, and it moved me 10 something years ago when Dad rented it on laserdisc. It made me want to make something beautiful and classical with a message that would affect the children that watched it and the adults they would become. Easier said than done though.

It was cool to do something that Dutch people would do, just to be in the company of them and not tourists like ourselves. Keisha lost her scarf in the theater, but one of the ushers had found it and it was at the cashier. How lovely. A cool way to end the night.

day 2: Rembrandt and not your average coffeehouse

DAY 2Lucia and I walked around waiting for Keisha to arrive. Went down a canal street with vendors selling tulips and all kinds of flowers. It was nice. Keisha arrived at Leidseplein, so we met up with her and took her stuff back to the room. We got falafel for lunch at Maoz--a falafel chain.

Walked to Amsterdam's history museum, then decided not to go inside, figured we really wanted to see the Rembrandt's and Van Gogh first before any history stuff. They had free maps of Amsterdam, so we got one. Went to Rembrandt's house and saw all his etchings. They re-did the house to make it look like what it looked like in his drawings and paintings. Two words: box bed. Coolest thing I've ever seen. Imagine going to sleep in a large wooden wardrobe. So cool.

Afterwards, we were pretty pooped from walking around, so we decided to find a coffeeshop. Not just any coffeeshop, a shop that also sells marijuana. Went to this souvenir shop where the girls are super nice and answered a lot of our questions, and they told us to go to the Bulldog.

The guard outside the coffeeshop stopped me and asked if I was 18, which was cool. I love it when that happens. I said yes and that I'll show him my i.d., but he let me in. We got coffees, then Keisha bought some...stuff, and Lucia bought a space cake.

I smoked. I'm not going to lie, and I'm not going to keep it from my blog. I was in Amsterdam, how could I not? I would never put myself in any danger, and I was with friends, one of them decided not to partake, and the hotel was down the street. I read all about it, got advice from friends who've smoked before, so I was well informed and I knew what I was doing. I have no regrets. I did it, I know what it's like now, and I don't think I'd do it again.

The sensation was interesting...I've never felt like that before. Sort of slow, kind of giggly. And I had weird thoughts that I vaguely remember mostly the paranoid kind. We were seated close together, and Keisha's knee was touch mine, and all I could think was, and this is going to sound ridiculous, but all I could think was, 'I have to move my leg. It is touching Keisha's. It's sort of warm. I'm warm. I have to move my leg or our legs will intersect. Our molecules and atoms will collide and mix. I won't know which ones are mine' I can't believe I remember this. Then I looked down, and they weren't touching anymore, our knees. But it felt like they were still touching! I remember also thinking, 'Don't forget this, Elaine. Write about this. Don't forget the atoms.'

It was kind of like my birthday in Las Vegas, for those of you who were there. Enjoyable, but something I'd never do again. We went back to the hotel sort of in a daze, and I laid down on the bed. I was strangely euphoric, and also very hungry. We watched tv for a while, all of us lying on the bed, and talked a lot about food, and how were we going to get some. I didn't feel too hot, and then I vomited in the bathroom.

I told Keisha and Lucia that they could eat without me, but if they could just bring me back some food. Neither of them wanted to eat out, so they said they'll go get pizza and drinks. They came back with Pizza Hut, which tasted AMAZING, Heinekens, and some soda. I downed the soda since I read in the Amsterdam guide book that sugar can help you feel better.

I know some people, much older people, who shall remain nameless, but said that they could totally see me smoking weed and being "artsy" and getting my ideas from it. But I didn't really get any ideas, other than the paranoid kind, and I'm already paranoid already, so it's something I don't really need. During the night, I kept hearing noises, scratching kind, and I kept on thinking it was mice. And I wondered if I was stoned, if this was the space cake kicking in because I heard it takes a while to kick in, and would it make me hear things? Then I went back to sleep. That morning, Lucia told me it was the people next door being loud, and there were no mice.

Day 1: train to Amsterdam


Woke up totally prepared. My pack was packed, all I had to do was wait for Lucia. She had work and dropped off her baggage the night before. So she'll come here and we'll get to Gare du Nord together. Watched the first part of Fargo while waiting.

We took the bus, then the RER. The weight on back wasn't that bad. Actually figured out later that I brought more than I should have, but no worries. We got in the wrong line to get our tickets, and then Lucia said she forgot the train confirmation number for the tickets and the hotel reservation I asked her to print out for me. We panicked a bit, since we also got in the wrong line. Called Keisha, who was at home, and she gave us our confirm. number. No sweat. We ran down the platform to the train car and boarded two minutes before departure. The ticket guy was funny, stamping our tickets, after witnessing us run towards him.

We settled in our seats and bought some food beforehand for the train. I only bought one sandwich packet thingie that was too expensive. It had three half-sandwiches that we shared. We both agreed beforehand that we would save money on eating and only eat twice a day and if really necessary. At least we'd lose weight. The idea seemed crazy and impossible at the time, and we even laughed at our sheer nervousness of the plan, but we adapted as the weekend passed. It all seemed to work out.

We stopped at Brussels, Antwerp, La Hague, and Rotterdam. A French lady next to me was convince we weren't going to stop at her stop, Rotterdam, but I assured her we would stop. She was elderly. I showed her my train ticket and compared hers to mine, that we both had the same train number on it, but she still asked one of the train people. Sure enough, it stopped at Rotterdam, the last stop before Amsterdam. She bis us goodbye and she hoped we have a nice vacation in Amsterdam.

Arrived at Centraal Station. Bikes everywhere! A lovely sight. Took a 5 minute metro ride to our hotel in Leidseplein. Our hotel was tucked in a little neighborhood outside the hustle an bustle. Down the street you can see Vondelpark. It was quite lovely.

The two guys at the reception desk were really nice and cool. Instead of that sappy instrumental music playing in hotel lobbies, they were playing "Paint It Black" by The Rolling Stones. It seemed to fit with the whole Amsterdam feel. Our room had a high ceiling and was pretty decent.

Starving and ready to get our grub on, Lucia and I went back to Leidseplein for dinner. That place was like an outdoor food court, so many different choices. Bars, steakhouses, tapas, and more. We settled on Thai, since it's vegetarian, and neither me nor Lucia are eating meat on Fridays. We both had a spicy, vegetable curry that was excellent. We conversed with our waitress, who was really sweet. She's from Vietnam, but going to school in Amsterdam for hotel management. She wants to open a hotel in Vietnam with her husband.

Afterwards, we went back, stuffed and tired and vegged out in front of the television watching "Teachers" subtitled in Dutch. It's a pretty sweet British show, very funny. I like the guy that plays the P.E. teacher. Tomorrow, Keisha was going to arrive.

lundi 11 février 2008

what is to come

First I must start off with this: The Dutch are the nicest, most laidback people I have ever encountered. So chill, relaxed, and helpful...I wouldn't mind going back. At all.

One of the best trips ever. Felt like a grown-up trip seeing as I planned the accommodations, Lucia planned the train tickets, and we all planned the itinerary. When I was a kid or even when I'm traveling with my parents, they usually take care of that stuff, I've never worried about anything and just did what they planned. But this was really cool, felt really proud of my first planned trip--London doesn't count since the accommodations were free and all that.

Here's what's to come, a teaser trailer if you will...

Van Gogh Museum. Anne Frank House. The Netherlands film museum. Rembrandt. Two coffee houses. One spacecake. Pizza and Heinekens. Best breakfasts EVER. Dutch pancakes are to die for. Stroop and powdered sugar. Bikes. Vondelpark at night. Dutch people are awesome.

Yup, yup. That's what's in store.