Tuesday, August 21, 2007


My horoscope said I should blog today. And I must do as my horoscope instructs, so...

Tonight I gave an FHE lesson on Bonnie D. Parkin's talk from LDS General Conference called "Gratitude: A Path to Happiness" Check it out because it really is a wonderful message. In my effort to live my lesson, here are some things I am currently grateful for.

*The Office: "Would I rather be feared or loved? Um... Easy, both. I want people to be afraid of how much they love me." ~Michael Scott.
Need I say more?

*LaSawndruh: Have you ever wondered if there was more to life, other than being really, really, ridiculously good looking? There's not. Except for being perched atop lengthy limbs. Bless Sondra and her 6'1" athletic stance.

*Media Mail: Today I sent 6 boxes through USPS and since they were all books, cd's and dvd's I got media mail pricing. I sent approximately 125 pounds of books from Houston, TX to Ann Arbor, MI for just over $50. Nothing short of miraculous in my book.

*Diet Coke: Would life be the same without it?

*Hurricane prevention awareness: I'm glad Hurricane Dean decided to head South. But I'm also grateful for the Hurricane Preparedness 101 I got over the weekend.

*Maps: Kind of a weird obsession, but I really can't wait until I have a study with a massive world map on the wall. For now, the fact that I can use them to plan a driving route suffices.

*MOM: Could I make a gratitude list without including my mother? Here's to the woman who gave me life and is still my lifeline.

*Poetry: Brushed up on some Shakespeare sonnets. Love literature.

*Humidity: It's definitely got it's negative aspects, but for the most part I prefer it to the arid desert.

*Deodorant: The heat/humidity protector.

*Wit: Let's me honest, some people don't have or get it.

And, finally, in tribute to the 2004 classic that I watched this evening, Napoleon Dynamite: GOSH!

Here's until the next horoscope tells me to blog...

Thursday, July 12, 2007

I'm Just Sayin'...

So, while I typically try and keep this blog light and entertaining, I'm going to go ahead and vent to the masses for a moment.

We had dress rehearsal for our final concert that's tomorrow in Lucca. The gala, if you will. And at this dress rehearsal I played 4 pieces for the first time with the singers. That would be fine if they were standard arias or lieder, but fear not. They weren't. Needless to say, it wasn't the best "dress rehearsal" and we're having another tomorrow morning. Who wouldn't want to do several dress rehearsals of a concert? I mean, really? I'm just sayin' that I think this could have been organized a little better. Maybe add some rehearsals with the singers to my schedule? Or start the music more than a week before the concert?

So...really, it's not such a big deal. Last week's concert experience went about the same except it was a thousand times more intense. And it came off fine. As will tomorrow's. Actually it will be more than fine, it will be exceptional. It's all in the attitude, right?

And that's all. Just a little bit of venting to diversify my blog. :)

This is me at a piano. Not an unusual sight. But this just happens to be the same piano on which Madame Butterfly was composed. Puccini anyone? Basically, if you're not a music nerd this means absolutely nothing. But it's going to be in a frame on my wall when I get home. Next to the massive Madame Butterfly poster I bought and Puccini's picture. Call it a shrine if you will.

This picture was taken last Friday night in Celle de Puccini, the summer residence of the Puccini family. I Solisti, the group of singers I play for gave an evening concert out in the gardens and it was absolutely beautiful. And really just one of those "how cool is my life" moments. How many people get to give a concert, singing/playing Puccini arias in the exact place where many of them were written?

As if things couldn't be any better, the concert was followed by an amazing home-cooked Italian meal that took 3 hours to eat!!! Loved it! We had two rounds of appetizers, then two different pasta courses followed by a main course of roast and potatoes and topped off with some amazing sweets---a lemon tart type of dessert and another that was layers of chocolate mousse in a tart. Big fan. Not only was the food an amazing cultural experience, but I also happened to sit at the end of a table with two of the native Italian speakers and ended up speaking Italian for most of the 3 hours! If you can think of a better way to spend an evening in Italy, let me know, because this seemed pretty much ideal---the complete cultural package!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

On Nutella

I'm going to go ahead and say that Nutella should be the 6th of the 5 food groups. I'm pretty sure it can hold its own against the others. What are grains, vegetables, or meat when considered next to the sweetness of such an amazing spread? The importance of proteins pales in comparison to the necessity of Nutella. I could envision a whole day in which Nutella played a significant role in each meal. Good thing I have a bike...

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

By Request: Cinque Terre

This post is officially dedicated to those of you who noticed the recent "pausa." Here are some more of my profound writings. :)

Based on several of my rose-tinted blogs, you might think that my life in Europe is perfect. And 99.9% of the time, it is. Saturday was an ideal illustration of absolute perfection! I woke up early so that I could catch an 8:30 bus to Cinque Terre, which consists of 5 small towns along the Ligurian Sea that are connected by a hiking trail. A group of my friends from the Lucca program decided to take on the 5-hour hike between the cities, and it was one of the best things I've done in Italy!

The first stretch from Monterrosso to Vernazza and the second, from Vernazza to Corniglia, were by far the most difficult. The weather was gorgeous--around 85 degrees with a nice ocean breeze and every other step there was another "postcard-perfect" view . We took some downtime in Vernazza and my friend Christy and I took a dip in the ocean as a refresher for the next hike. Needless to say, it was fantastic. We were in a small, cove-like area that opens up to the city and it officially qualified as a surreal moment.

We stopped for lunch in Corniglia and I treated myself to a Caprese focaccia, a little ravioli, and OF COURSE, gelato. Excellent all the way around. I have absolutely no complaints about my eating experiences in Italy. Not that I typically have complaints against eating, but...

One of the highlights of the hike for me was our second ocean swim. Just before we reached the 4th town, Manarola, we stopped to cool off in the ocean. To get down to the rocks---no beach, just free-stylin' it like the natives---you had to climb down a long set of stairs that ended with a rope that helped you get down to the rocks. And by rocks I mean massive boulders. We spent about an hour just soaking in the sun and swimming in the Ligurian Sea. I don't often find that I'm a "carefree" individual, but that makes carefree moments all the more worthwhile. Our rock/beach stop, and actually most of our Cinque Terre experience, I had not a care in the world.

Insomma, Cinque Terre era bellissimo. Good company, great food, fantastic scenery, perfect weather, and hiking! And then add the fact that they're all in Italy. Could there be a better combination?

Cinque Terre Weekend

Monday, June 25, 2007


Occasionally in life we happen across the surreal. I currently seem to encounter it every day. Today it came in the form of San Leopoli, a small comune in the Chianti region of Tuscany. Picture rows of olive trees and breathtaking vineyards scattered across the rolling Tuscan hills that are dotted with villas. That's where I spent my afternoon. Like I said, surreal.

I was the designated page turner for a faculty concert, featuring a trio playing Mozart and Dvorak. We caught a bus there that took me back to the days of high school choir tour. Only difference was the bus was about 1/3 the size and the company was all significantly older. Our driver was really nice, but definitely a little crazy in the way he took on the winding Italian roads. I found myself extremely relieved when we took an hour and a half break in the small town of Greve. Who wants to be sick in a bus filled with faculty? I saw my career vanishing with my mounting carsickness. All was well, however. Grabbed a diet coke, a bench, and some fresh air and felt fine by the time we started the second, and much shorter, leg of our journey.

When we reached our magical destination in the heart of Tuscany, I felt like I had found myself. Odd, I know, but you know how you occasionally meet people who you just click with? You skip the whole "making friends" process because somehow you just already are? It's like there's a piece of you in them and vice versa. I decided that happens with places too. After the concert we went for an evening stroll through the garden of the comune: the scent of fresh rosemary and lavender scented the postcard perfect view. Everything was still and serene, and gazing out at the landscape, it was like I'd found one of those soul friends. It's difficult to explain. But I discovered a place where I could just exist as me. No defenses, no mental barriers---I could just breathe, relax and know that I was safe while defenseless. It's like going home. Or really trusting someone. Just feeling whole. It happens more often than I used to think; it's just a matter of awareness. But it happened in Chianti.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

il fine settimana

The concept of a "week-end" is beautifully universal. This week Friday came as it always does and I was truly grateful. It was as if once the faculty determined I was a functioning pianist, they decided to schedule me for as much as they possibly could. No complaints because this would have to fall into the "good experience" category, but my day's are frequently more intense than one would hope for while sojourning in Italy. HENCE, my excitement for the weekend.

This weekend I decided to stay in Lucca and "take it easy"---a favorite expression of Lorenzo Malfatti whom I work with. Friday night I met up with friends for dinner and we made a nice, un-Itlian, chicken alfredo. Alfredo is definitely an American invention, but it's one I enjoy. It was one of those wonderful summer evenings when the temperature's beautiful, you've had a fantastic meal, and then you get to just sit and talk with friends. Or in this case, several people that I didn't know who I'm now friends with. :) A refreshing change from the standard bar pilgrimage.

Saturday I played the part of tourist with gusto. My new roommate, Kelly, and I started of the day with a fantastic brunch of fresh cantaloupe and prosciutto sandwiches and then grabbed a Frommer's guidebook and went to town. Literally. Lucca is an incredibly old city that is basically a walled fortress. "La mura" that currently stands was the built from 1544-1654, and it was the 4th set erected. The town is filled with ancient churches, quaint markets, and gorgeous scenery. We visited several of the churches, grabbed some gelato, and wandered through the shopping centers. And it was absolutely wonderful. One of those times when you remember you're in Italy and it takes your breath away.

I found a clothing store that needs English-speaking help and if they're willing to hire me under the table, I think I'll just stay here. There's so many things about life in Lucca that I love. I line-dried my laundry yesterday. I bicycle everywhere. While I'm busy, stress is something that doesn't really exist in the Italian culture. Olive oil is inexpensive and amazing! Eating in general is a joy, but considerably healthier. In a nutshell, I love living here. Going home will be a serious culture shock. It makes me homesick for Europe just thinking about it. So I won't.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

20.06.07: A day in Lucca, Italy

Woke up. Without any help from my alarm clock. I'm getting back into a relatively early morning routine which I love! It also helps that by 11 pm I'm so exhausted that going to bed is the only thing that sounds fun. When did I get so old?!

Beat the boys to the shower. Since our day's don't officially start until 9, they're not up until about 8. After writing that, I realized that most of you don't know my housing situation. I live with an Italian family which consists of Cesare, and his son Giacomo who is 26. There are also 2 boys from the music festival who live in this same house. Yesterday I got a roommate so I finally have some female company! Definitely felt a little foreign living with 4 guys! Anyways, back to important matters: I bought a new shampoo in town yesterday and it got my day off to an amazing start!

Started the day off with a little Italian study. I have GOT to learn some more verb conjugations! Pretty much I walk around using lots of infinitives or just sticking an "o" on the end of French verbs.
Ate some amazing Italian granola called "Vitalis." Pretty much makes my life every time I eat it. One of those simple pleasures.
Biked into town for Italian. I'm becoming a big fan of my bicycle. Never mind that it's 100 years old, is completely rusted over, and feels like it could fall apart at any moment. We spend a LOT of time together during the day and I feel like she really understands me.

Italian class. This was a little intense today. The teacher told us an hour into class that we were finished for the day and that he was leaving. Apparently we weren't reacting enough to what he was saying. It's a little rough trying to just spit things out in Italian though! Even after he said we were through and asked us if that was ok, no one said anything, so I had to once again pretend like I speak Italian and told him that we wanted to learn, please continue, etc. I can understand his frustration, but I'm not sure that he understands ours all the time. It ended up being a great class, nonetheless.

Had a coaching with Donna Brunsma, one of the coaches that directs the program I play for (called Solisti). I have to play a recital next Tuesday and the program has 16 arias and a few songs that they want to make sure are up to par. The coaching was fine, but the singer didn't show. LAME!

Group class with Lorenzo Malfatti. Lorenzo is a wonderful Italian who's lived in America for some time but knows everything about Italian music. He did a Fulbright study with Aaron Copland. Despite his useful information, the man is about 85--no exaggeration--and I frequently get frustrated because he doesn't always seem to be quite on top of things. Which would be fine in any other type of setting. But it's frustrating trying to put together a recital program when he's not up to organizing it until a few days before.

Played a voice lesson and got PAID! Yeah for making money! Especially when it's in euros.

Learned music and sweat approximately 5 gallons. It's been SO hot the past couple of days. And it's really humid. Which wouldn't matter if air-conditioning were more popular. Oh well!

Played for coachings with Lorenzo and Donna. One excellent thing about the program thus far is that all of the faculty really like me, which I have a feeling will come in handy at some point down the road. I especially like working with a coach from the Florence Conservatory, Rolando Russo. He's fantastic! Donna's also great. She worked at the Florence Opera for 10 years, and the Chicago Lyric for 21.

HOME!!! Checked the emails, made some pasta (Love the Italian staples!), chatted online, searched for apartments in Michigan, and updated my blog. Chatted a bit with Cesare to work on my Italian. He speaks no English, which definitely makes for good practice!

And that was my day! For all of you who were wondering what my life is like in Lucca, that gives you a snapshot. And some background for future blogging!


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Where did you spend your weekend???

"You may have the universe if I may have Italy."

~Giuseppe Verdi

As I watched the sunset over the Arno on Saturday night, the universe and Italy were both mine. It was one of those magical moments when time freezes, the noise of the crowd dims, and the world is yours. The sunset only lasted for 30 minutes, but my entire weekend in Florence was rose-colored.

Certain moments capture this weekend best:

Karlie and Lauren (her friend from Annecy) had a pizza waiting for me when I got into the Florence train station. As if seeing my sister couldn't get any better!

Some of you who know about the audible knot that I've had for 5 years in my right shoulder. Karlie gave it her magic massage treatment, which was much needed after my first week in Lucca. While that might seem like a random comment, it was something that altered my spirits considerably and set the weekend off wonderfully. That warrants mentioning.

In 3 days I sampled around 15 flavors of gelato. I did NOT eat all of that myself, but sharing flavors between 3 of us made for a wonderful weekend of Italia's finest! And let's be honest, gelato is heaven on earth.

While we're on food, our hotel had a free breakfast buffet. Nothing like Geneva's, but it was a definite plus. I'm a big breakfast fan.

If there is such a thing as a perfectly-timed and executed day, that would be our Saturday. It really was phenomenal how everything aligned in our favor. We started off the morning at the Galleria degli Uffizi, the oldest art gallery in the world. We only waited in line for about an hour before we got in, which is a feat considering our hotel owner guaranteed us it would be at least a four-hour wait. Then we went to see Il Duomo, climbed to the top of the tower for an aerial view of Florence, and finished off the afternoon with panini and people-watching in the Piazza della Signoria. Did some shopping, spent some time on the Ponte Vecchio (the oldest bridge in Florence and one of the few that survived the bombings in WWII), sunbathed at the Palazzo Pizzi, and wrapped things up with an amazing dinner at Fuori Porta. I had spaghetti with tuna, tomatoes and olives in it and it was one of the best things I've ever tasted. GO ITALY!!! We ended the night overlooking Florence from the Piazzale Michelangelo, watched the sunset, caught a bus back to the hotel and had an amazing night's sleep. AND EVERYTHING WENT SMOOTHLY! Like I said, it was a perfectly-timed day. And considering the number of times traveling that things aren't...

We hiked 414 steps to the top of the Duomo. Not that bad. But then we walked all day, climbed a steep hill to the Fuori Porta, and then a seriously steep set of stairs to the Piazzale Michelangelo. But what was waiting at the top of those stairs? A gelato stand!!! We'd joked about it during the climb, but only in fairy-tale Italy was it actually waiting there at the top!

This morning we waited in line for the Galleria dell'Accademia extra-long to compensate for our perfect Saturday. But the wait was entertaining and well worth it. A portion of the Accademia is a museum of musical instruments and since Karlie and I are nerds...it was cool!

The crowning moment of the day, though, and possibly all of Florence was seeing Michelangelo's David. You see pictures of the David your whole life. It's one of Michelangelo's legendary masterpieces. But until you stand before it, you really have no comprehension of it's beauty and majesty. I was awestruck. Looking at the intricate detailing and contemplating Michelangelo's mastery, the only emotion that can somewhat describe what I felt was reverence. I've always enjoyed and appreciated art, but there are few things that I would consider as inspiring and as moving as the Statue of David.

We had amazing sandwiches, shopped around this afternoon: I bought Karlie the best perfume I have ever smelled in my life, Calvin Klein "In2U." Go smell it sometime. Or find my sister. Anyways, HAPPY BIRTHDAY KARLIE!!!

And finally, we said good-bye at the train station. And Karlie had tears in her eyes. There's something about sisters. It's a relationship unlike any other and I wouldn't trade it for the world. And when you take that relationship and stick it in Florence...it's just that much better!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


You are reading the blog of the new and improved Stephanie Rhodes. Today marked the commencement of my new exercise/diet regiment. I realize that Tuesday is a random day to start something like this, but since I arrived in Italy on a Monday and didn't get situated until evening rolled around, today just made sense. Resolutions include:

A limit on daily gelato intake
Whole grains
Fresh Fruits
Meat, if affordable
Daily run/bike around the wall of Lucca = 2.5 miles (This might not seem like much but please do consider that I already walk and bike EVERYWHERE I go.)

Please feel free to guess how long this new routine will last.

Today's off to a great start! One thing that's really helped out my diet (of a day) is the water here. There are fountains all around Lucca with "potable" water that's apparently fresh from the mountainside. But all the Italians drink it so they told the students here to do so. Unfortunately, there are different types of bacteria in this water than in ours, so...we'll just call it a dietary aid. Normally it only takes about 3 days for your body to adjust, but I'll keep you updated. I went running this evening around the wall and it's absolutely beautiful. The sun was setting and it made the landscape even more breathtaking. I love the use of color in Europe. All the bright houses and rooftops against the green grass and trees just make life seem a little more cheerful.

And that's it! The new me. We'll see how long she sticks.

I'll leave you with my thought of the day. This stems from the fact that I'm in Italy, that I don't speak the language, and that I managed to fake my way into the intermediate Italian class by modifying the French I know into Italian. Our placement exam was an interview and while I understood what I was being asked, replying was definitely another story. BUT, as with life, when learning a language the best way to do so is by speaking it. It feels risky and it's daring, but that's life. So I totally made up Italian answers. The end.

"I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it. ~Pablo Picasso

Life's a risk! Live it!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sisters in Switzerland

Switzerland is a great place. But Switzerland with this girl is an even better place! This weekend has definitely been one of the highlights of my time in Europe. I left Nice on Friday afternoon and caught a flight to Geneva to meet up with my sister, Karlie. She's currently studying French in Annecy, about an hour and a half bus ride from Geneva, so it made a convenient meeting point. Despite the convenience, trying to find each other was far from being so! Kar has no phone, mine only likes to work occasionally, and the train station in Geneva isn't the smallest. After getting several phone calls from my mom and traipsing across the city to the other station where my sister WAS NOT, I finally found her waiting exactly where I'd been an hour and a half earlier. Despite a rough start, our weekend ended up being fantastic!

Friday night we started our self-guided tour of Geneva. We walked along the lakeside, checked out the famous fountain "Jet d'eau," and then walked a REALLY long ways to find a restaurant called Cafe du Soleil. And it was well worth the walk! This cafe is famed for its fondue, and I am happy to testify in the fondues behalf. It's amazing! The creme brulee and mousse du chocolat were not found wanting either.

The next morning we experienced one of our favorite parts of Geneva: the free breakfast in our hotel. Packets of Nutella, light, flaky croissants, cheeses, meats, granola, need I go on? I'm just sayin'...We decided to eat enough for two meals. It seemed like the economical option. Afterwards, however, we decided we needed a work out so we spent the entire day on our feet. We spent the morning in Geneva and went to the Jardin Anglais with its famous flower clock and the St. Pierre Cathedral. Both were absolutely amazing. The hike up to the towers of the cathedral was a bit rough, considering we each were about 10 lbs. heavier than when we woke up, but I'm still blogging, so I survived.

We then took a train out to Montreux, a smaller town on the other side of the lake and walked to the Chateau du Chillon. For me, this was probably my favorite afternoon of my entire European stay thus far. I love the mountains! And I live in Texas, so it's been awhile. But the Swiss Alps are amazing and with their majesty comes a peace and serenity that revitalized my "I can't believe I've been doing homework again" self. We headed back to Geneva around six to catch dinner at another fantastic restaurant, "On y mange du poulet." Translated, it basically means that "here one eats chicken." Guess what the specialty is on their menu? You got it! Chicken! And it was probably some of the best chicken we'd ever eaten. (I feel like I can speak for both of us Kar).
Today was Stake Conference and the 25th anniversary of the Geneva Stake. It was a really neat program with speakers that had been there with President Ezra Taft Benson at the original organization. After church we went to the Jardin Exotique and followed it up with a quick stop at the Musee Adriana and a guided tour of the U.N.'s Geneva headquarters. And that was our trip to Switzerland!
I conclude this entry of "Sisters in Switzerland" with one of my favorite expressions in the French language, due to its unique conjugation, and send it out to my sister who's currently on a bus to Annecy: Tu me manques! (I miss you!)

Stay tuned for next weekend's episode..."Sisters in Florence!"

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

On Aging

"A man's age is something impressive, it sums up his life: maturity reached slowly and against many obstacles, illnesses cured, griefs and despairs overcome, and unconscious risks taken; maturity formed through so many desires, hopes, regrets, forgotten things, loves. A man's age represents a fine cargo of experiences and memories."
~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wartime Writings 1939-1944, translated from French

I'm now 23 years old. "Mon anniversaire" passed rather uneventfully. Went to school, came home, ate lunch, took a nap, bought some toothpaste, ate 2 packs of PIMS single-handedly, and then had an International birthday dinner with a few friends from Mexico, France and Spain. I heard the equivalent of "Happy Birthday" sung in 4 different languages. The most entertaining was English, due to the heavy accents.

At the end of the day, it was just another ordinary day (as birthday's tend to be) and it was absolutely perfect. As I did a mental summary of the past year of my life, and then reflected on the past 23 years, I decided that, for me, the ordinary things about life are what make it truly extraordinary. Basically, it's the simple things happening every moment that add beauty and dimension to our lives.

So here's to the ordinary things that have made my life "a fine cargo of experiences and memories"!

Sunshine * Laughter * Sisters * Being pulled in a kayak behind a speedboat at Lake Powell * Having a family plan that lets me call my mom whenever I want * Watching movies from Netflix and ordering in dinner with Jenn * Attempting to diet and failing miserably * Running * Being outside * Putting on makeup and getting ready to go out * A fantastic first date * Sharing ice cream with my girlfriends while venting about the ridiculous boys in our lives * Not having to set the alarm clock * Reading a good book * Crying when you haven't let yourself in months * Thinking * Making lists * Getting emails * Watching a sunset * Going to church * People-watching * Playing piano * Learning something new * A hot shower * Pedicures * Going shopping * Cafe Rio * Having a bad day and knowing that somehow life has to get better * Working with a singer * Talking politics * Staying in when it rains * Making plans and setting goals * Failing often and succeeding sometimes * Always waking up in the morning * Having someone smile at you * Trying something new * Loving someone

Life's not perfect. This year of my life's been far from it. But if I had to give a summary of my life today, it would be extraordinary. And I owe it all to the amazing people in my life and the extraordinary beauty of "every-day," ordinary living. Let's see if I feel the same at 24. :)

"We turn not older with years, but newer every day." ~Emily Dickinson

PICS: Marie-Therese, Marie, Daniele and I at my birthday party.
The hideous pair of slippers that Daniele gave me for my birthday. She rocks!

Monday, June 4, 2007

It's a Small World

What a weekend!

Started out in Monaco on Friday afternoon, and I loved it. Would have loved it more if I had loads of money to spend in all the ritzy boutiques, but it was fun nonetheless. The casino, le Jardin Exotique, the panoramic views...it was all fantastic. But my favorite part? The Musee Oceanographique! If you're ever in Monaco, I highly recommend it. The bottom 2 floors are an aquarium (which I didn't know before going) and, although I've never been one to get overly excited about fish, this was awesome! I broke out my iPod and turned on "La mer," classic French song, and it was a bit surreal. And that's Monaco in a nutshell!

Saturday there were 3 noteworthy occurrences. #!-I slept in until 10:30! Might not seem like such a big deal, but I haven't been able to sleep since I got to France, so it was miraculous! Got my day off to a great start! #2-I went to the flower market that happens every morning in Nice. It's breathtaking!!! I love flowers in general and the variety at the market was unreal. Fantastic scents, gorgeous colors...truly beautiful. #3-There was a type of "fair" going on along the Promenade des Anglais called "L'Italia a la table." Inside a series of enormous tents they had displays of everything edible Italian. Cheeses, meats, pastas, treats...you name it, it was there. Once again, there were some amazing scents! And although I'll be sad to leave Nice the end of this week, I realized that Italy will definitely be bearable.

Sunday was the definitive day of the week! Randomly found out that one of the elders in the ward went to school with my sister Karlie. Also met a girl who had arrived in Nice to meet up with her friend and travel around Europe. She just happened to be from Orem, UT and goes to UVSC! Small world! She'd been in France studying (French) for 5 weeks and was just returning from Paris. So I totally ran around with two girls from Utah for an entire afternoon/evening! It honestly was a bit odd to speak English nonstop, and I found myself constantly wanting to respond in French. New sensation. But I was reminded of the beauty of companionship! While my solo traveling routine is convenient in many ways, it's also nice to have people to share in your experiences. So Melissa, Melissa and I roamed throughout Nice, revisited the chateau, waded in the Mediterranean and ate a fantastic French meal! Random acquaintances, but now friends! It was probably one of my best days in Nice. When I came home in the evening, I also found out that I have a new apartment-mate. He's from Madrid, Spain and speaks almost no French so I've been picking up Spanish and he's been putting his English to good use! And while it's not the best French practice, it's nice to have another person to talk too.

Last interesting development of my life came today. There are 2 new students in my class and it turns out that one is from Houston, Texas! It really is a small world. It seems to be the pattern of my life that as I start getting settled in a city, I immediately have to uproot. Apparently it's no different here. This will be my last week in Nice and then it's on to Italy. While Italy will be equally amazing, I can't help but feeling like I'm leaving home all over again. Such is life!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Updates for my Daddy!!!

This entry is officially dedicated to my father. Apparently he reads my blog! I have been rather lax with my entries lately, as he pointed out, so here come the updates.

That being said, my week has seemed pretty ordinary. Granted I'm in France, so ordinary's a bit different, but...The weather has been a bit bizarre. "Mistral" winds have hit, bringing in cold fronts and rain at random points throughout the week. That's contributed to my "home" lifestyle, because I don't fancy being out and about in the rain much. Also, I've had a great deal of homework as of late. I haven't had to conjugate imperfect subjunctive French verbs in a long while and I'm definitely rusty! But mostly, I love ordinary. Not in the negative connotation, but in the sense that I'm settled in here. I truly feel an attachment to Nice and the people here that I know and love. It's hard to believe that I'll be leaving it all behind in only a week.

Today was a bit more eventful...I went to Monaco! But that's another entry. :)

PICTURES OF THE WIND-TOSSED MEDITERRANEAN: One of the few times the beach has been empty!!!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Closest to the "red carpet" I'll get!!!

Cannes: Check out some of the mid-sized yachts in the background. Seriously, those one's are the mid-sized.

Sunday, May 27, 2007


This might seem like a bit of a surprise after Friday's homesick entry, but I NEVER WANT TO LEAVE NICE!!! Yesterday I found the church and it was such a fantastic experience that I've seriously had thoughts of just moving here permanently. Probably would need to find a little funding to do so, but...I'm sure I could pick up a sponsor or two floating around Cannes right now. A few people in that town this weekend who I'm sure wouldn't miss a little extra.

Speaking of the festival, it was nice. Didn't spot any celebs, didn't really see any films...basically it was just a good opportunity to do some serious people-watching while enjoying the "ambiance" of the film festival. I've decided that if I ever am back in town for the film festival, I'll make sure to bring a couple guys in dark suits and shades with me. I'll put on a big, floppy hat, sunglasses, and heels, and see how many people I can fool into thinking that I'm someone trying to go "un-noticed." That would be true entertainment.

The more adventurous aspect of my trip to Cannes was the bus ride there. I had a kind older gentleman approach me at the bus stop to make sure he could catch the right bus. I hoped I was at the correct stop so I told him yes, although I had my personal doubts. Anyways, we ended up on the right bus, of course he sat by me, and OF COURSE he had the WORST breath I have ever smelled in my life. This wasn't a problem for the first 30 minutes of the trip, since we didn't talk, but once he started chatting...I've really been out of luck with the odor experiences lately. Needless to say he talked for the remainder of the 2 hour trip. He must have been really desparate to talk to someone, because I only caught about half the things he was saying since he had a bit of a slur to his speech and absolutely no enunciation. He was also potentially crazy because the things I DID understand were pretty far out there. One minute he was telling me about a new fountain in Antibes, the next about how many tourist were in town :), and then he started on a story about his friends who had lost their arms and legs. I gave one word answers periodically, nodded, smiled, etc. Remember Dean? But apparently one word answers were more than enough. Because he just kept going. At least I had an entertaining ride, although a somewhat rancid smelling one.

Sunday was church and it was great. I actually understood everything that went on, mostly because I know the English version well enough to figure out the French vocab that I didn't know. I even gave an answer in Gospel Principles! I loved hearing a meeting conducted in a different language though and it was interesting hearing sister's in Relief Society give their opinions on what a testimony was--the lesson was on an October conference talk. AND I got to play the piano!!! The hymns sound terrible in French! It's a gorgeous language, but if you actually sing French with all the nasality of the language, it's not so hot. Still, it was fun. Talked to the missionaries, got a B of M for Danielle, caught the correct buses to and from...chalk it up as a successful day!

And that was my weekend! Anyone else have a good one? Or an extra-long one for that matter? It's Memorial Day, right?

Saturday, May 26, 2007


This entry is dedicated to all those who find it difficult to sit through an opera. I joined the club last night. My first experience in a European opera house was memorable on many levels.

Level #1: As most of you know by now, Nice is a coastal town and temperatures here are currently averaging about 85 degrees. Nice, right? Not bad IF you have air-conditioning. I have thus far managed without air-conditioning, always sleeping with the doors to my balcony wide open and such. But an opera house without air-conditioning? Maybe it would have been okay if I hadn't been in the 4th balcony student section, but honestly it was STIFLING! Not to mention that the mixture of body odors from all the people around me blended into a deliciously nauseating aroma. I had to leave for a bit during the 3rd act because I was going to be sick. Really.

Level #2: Wasn't really into the acoustics. The sound seemed to be stuck in the bottom of the house and I was not there. It did seem to get better throughout the evening, though, so maybe it was just the poor singing. I honestly couldn't hear the lead soprano, Abigail, for the first 2 acts.

Level #3: Here's where it gets AMAZING!!! The audience was fantastic. Nabucco has a famous chorus section in the 3rd act that really is breathtakingly beautiful. And people in the audience actually knew it well enough that a few were humming along. When the choruse finished, they broke out into wild applause and kept shouting "Plus!" again and again. "More!" After about 3 minutes of continual applause and shouting, the conductor acquiesced and they repeated the whole chorus! After the 2nd time through, everyone began clapping in unison and getting louder and louder. Finally the conductor had to turn around, thank the audience, and cut them off so that the opera could continue. I've never seen anything like it at an opera in the U.S.

Level #4: Nabucco really has some breathtakingly beautiful music. There is an unimaginably beautiful cello solo before an aria in Act 3 that was my favorite part of the opera.

Level #5: While none of the singers were overwhelmingly captivating, I don't think I've ever heard a more sincere, musical performance. It seemed like a raw performance. Real music that meant something. Cool.

And that was my experience at the opera. Despite the miserable conditions which make an opera difficult to endure, it was a positive experience. And definitely one that I won't forget.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Le mal du pays

Sickness of country: Homesickness. I've experienced it for the first time today. I don't know what triggered it exactly, but I think it was the fact that I got a voicemail today in ENGLISH from a Houston friend. Talk about a novelty! #1. I don't get voicemails anymore. Part of living abroad. #2. I really don't speak English anymore, aside from my 2-minute conversations with the fam, so it was a nice reminder that there are people I can speak to who potentially understand everything I say! I'm sure I could find plenty of tourists along the Promenade to talk too, but...Anyways, the point of all this? I got homesick! It's a bit of an odd sensation for me, because I'm not quite sure exactly what for. I miss my family, but I don't ever really get to see them anyway. I miss my friends in Houston, but most of them are busy working individuals anway whom I wouldn't see terribly often, so...I can't pinpoint exactly what I'm homesick for. I suppose just familiarity. When you're placed in a situation where everything is distinctly foreign, it's as if you're living a different life, not just travelling away from your old one. Really there is nothing in Nice or all of Europe for that matter that is remotely connected to my "old" life, except maybe the internet. :) The first time I got a chance to get online in Paris, it was a definite relief. I'm going to the Opera de Nice tonight to see Nabucco and that will be a bit of a comfort. I really wish I could play the piano though. Somehow that always brings me "home" and makes the world seem right. I imagine there must be some form of a keyboard in church on Sunday. Fingers crossed...I'm homesick.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Un soupir

Occasionally in life there are moments of perfect contentment. It's as if for a brief second, time is suspended. Everything is as it should be and I'm at peace. Words can't capture the beauty of moments like these. For me, the only thing that can express them perfectly is "un soupir"---a sigh.

This afternoon can only be described as one, deep, contented sigh. At about 4 o'clock, I set off to explore Nice. My goal was to get a ticket for the opera tomorrow night, which unfortunately was unsuccessful. Found the opera but couldn't find a ticket office. Since my initial plans had been foiled, I decide to wander about Nice and get to know my new home a bit better. I spent some time roaming the small streets of "Old Nice" and then started to stroll along the Promenade. I caught a glimpse of some tourists headed up the stairs to the Parc de la Colline du Chateau, the fancy way of saying the parc of the hill of the chateau, and decided it was time to get some exercise. I climbed the stairs to the top of the hill and wandered through the park. Of course the weather was gorgeous, about 85 degrees with an ocean breeze, the views were spectacular and I found myself in Nice, France. Basically, it was one of those times when life catches you by surprise and completely takes your breath away. Like I said, it can't be put to words. All I could do was smile and I'm sure everyone I passed thought that I was completely crazy! C'est la vie!

Luckily, this lasted for about two hours and tonight I'm still basking in the glow of a moment that tasted of perfection. Moments that warrant a deep sigh don't seem to occur often, and they alwasy seem to come when least expected. Which only adds to their beauty.

I truly feel so blessed for the opportunities I've been granted up to this point in my life. I hope to make the most of all of them and pave the way for more to come! And now, before I wax too philosophical, I'll close this entry. But I'm concluding with a sigh.

Rue d'Andrioli


Tuesday, May 22, 2007


There are the things that you shouldn't have to see at the beach, and it occasionally can make a person nauseated, redefining the term SEASICKNESS.

Monday, May 21, 2007


Typically your first day of school story refers to your Kindergarten years, but let's make an exception to that rule for today. Today I started French school! From the moment I walked in the doors, registered, and took my placement test, there was not even a word of English. Talk about FANTASTIQUE! I rode the autobus to school with my new friend, Marie-Therese, who's from Mexico but has been to Houston several times and knows the area. We went to lunch together after school and she was unbelievably nice, saying that she liked hanging out with me because I reminded her of her daughters. Nevermind that her daughters are married and have 14-year old children! Obviously there's a bit of an age-gap between Marie-Therese and I. Perhaps even a "generation-gap" if you will. But since we're both French students age doesn't count quite as much.

Anyways, sorry about the tangent. Back to my first day at school. I was unbelievably nervous to take my placement test because after 3 days in France, I'm absolutely convinced that I know nothing. And when I sat down to take my test, I thought that was being confirmed once again. But amazingly enough, the longer I sat there, the more random grammar rules started surfacing in my head and some of the things I learned 5 years ago zere resurrected. I miraculously was placed in a Level 8 class, which freakin' rocks. Nevermind that I sound like a complete idiot when I'm speaking in the Level 8 class. :) That's what practice is for, eh?

So, basically I'm a nerd. I love school. I love that I'm studying French and I love that I know have classmates to practice speaking with. They're a lot less intimidating than the Frenchpeople you meet on the street every day. All though, I'm being to feel more confident conversing with them as well!

And as a side-note, Dani and I had a good 20-minute long conversation about religion and Mormonism last night! Talk about a completely different vocabulary. Anyone who knows me, though, knows how important my religion is to me so it was fun getting to explain things to her. Difficult, but fun and it definitely made for an interesting conversation. I need to get the missionaries to teach me a few vocab. words!

Sunday, May 20, 2007


There's a reason that Frenchmen have a reputation. It all begins with one word: enchanté. There's something magical about being introduced to someone who responds with "enchanted" instead of "hey." Definitely a fan. This little blurb all stems from my arrival this morning in Nice. Fortunately everything transportation-wise today went smoothly. I found the flat where I'm staying with no difficulty and it's fantastic. For those of you who know Nice, it's just off the beautiful Promenade des Anglais and if you don't know Nice, it means that it's pretty much on the beach!

I live with a middle-aged woman named Daniele who is truly fantastic. She speaks some English, but it's her personal mission to get my French up to par, so English is only used in times of desparation. Thankfully those times are happening less frequently! It really amazes me how much easier it is to pick up a language when you're completely surrounded by it.

Daniele was kind enough to introduce me to her amazingly good-looking 26-year old son, who gave me my first "enchantée" and was kind enough to help me get used to the French custom of kissing good-bye. I'm all for it! :)

Tonight we drove to the neighboring town of Antibes because all the museums were free admission for the evening. Antibes est trés jolie et aussi trés ancienne, donc les musées sont trés interessant. The vocabulary for the museums was a bit intense and I admittedly tuned out some of the conversation regarding ancient Antipolis, but it was interesting just the same and I felt like I learned more in one evening as a "native" then I have on many of my "vacations." There is a definite advantage in living with a local. We also took a walk along the bay which houses some of the most luxurious yachts that I have ever seen! Think about a cruise ship and then shrink it down just a bit and you can envision these monsters! I'll post one a bit later. AMAZING!!!

I love Nice! My flat is fantastic and the city is lovely. Daniele is kind, her son is hot, and my French is improving rapidly. I'm very excited for classes to start on Monday. Tomorrow's schedule? A little church in the morning and a little Cannes Film Festival for the remainder of the day! You may have heard of it. Bon soir!

Saturday, May 19, 2007



Est-ce que je parle Francais? NO!!! I'm absolutely terrible which has made for quite an interesting experience on my trip thus far. I arrived in Paris yesterday afternoon and was SO relieved when I was able to have a conversation in French with a security guard about my travel plans. Amazingly enough, I understand a fair amount of what's being said around me. But speaking the language is an entirely different story when you haven't really practiced in 5 years!

I had decided that instead of taking a taxi or a shuttle to my hotel, I would venture out and use the RER/metro system to get from Charles de Gaulle to Orlly airport and I knew my hotel was somewhere in that vicinity, so...After almost 3 hours on the public transportation system, I know feel completely confident that I could get you anywhere in Paris. :) The experience wasn't entirely bad, despite the fact that I managed to buy the wrong train ticket and had to have a relatively complicated conversation with the train controller. In all honestly, I think that I would prefer to stay on the metro as much as possible. There's a certain level of familiarity with the public transportation that reminds me of NYC and HOME!!!

By the time I made it to my hotel, I was absolutely ecstatic to see my unbelievably tiny room and to break out my French dictionary so I could figure out what the HECK was going on around me. After dinner at a restaurant with an unbelievably friendly waiter, my outlook had on my situation had improved about 150%!

This really is amazing! I love being surrounded by a different culture and a different language. As inconvenient as it seems, no one will speak English to me, which means that I have to sink or swim! When you're in that type of situation, you start remembering your vocabulary a lot faster. I can now understand why the initial stages of a mission would be so frustrating, but I also envy the missionaries: they have a companion! So it's on to Nice, where I intend to take an amazing nap on the beach (weather allowing). Chalk Day #1 up to an intense education!

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Friendly Flyer

His name was Dean. He's from Texas and headed to North Carolina to drive his daughter home from college. He's single, has 2 girls, works for a company drafting, has a large home on a 10-acre plot of land, sponsored a German foreign exchange student last year (who wants to be a pilot), went on a ski trip to Breckenridge, Colorado this winter, and so on. The typical story of the friendly flyer. Not only did Dean want to talk, he would kindly tap me on the shoulder in the middle of my movie to do so. And of course, I would remove my head phones, smile, and nod politely. Dear Dean. As personal space is already a nonexistent commodity aboard aircraft, I am not sorry to see you go. Fly home to Texas.

Monday, May 14, 2007


"If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours."

Henry David Thoreau

Friday, May 11, 2007

Leaving the Country

I'm officially leaving the country in 5 days, 23 hours, and 16 minutes according to my amazing countdown widget. Travelling is always a bit stressful, but I've gotten pretty efficient with all the quick trips. Leaving for the summer, however, is a completely different story! There are SO many things to do. I'm excited to leave, mostly because it will mean that I've finally gotten everything done that I have too in order to leave. The fact that I'll be living in Europe is just a slight bonus. Anyways, this blog is one of the many things on my "To Do" list. What better way to keep my family and friends posted on the happenings of my life? I'm also terrible when it comes to the traditional "journal" so maybe this will be a more innovative method for doing so! Happy reading!
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