Happy New Year! Hopefully you weren’t too hungover today from the previous night’s festivities.  I spent my new year’s eve with my grandparents and some of their friends.  It was very low-key and since I was feeling so crappy because of my cold, I am so glad I hadn’t planned a wild night out (there’s always next year).  I actually had a great time! I don’t get to see my paternal grandparents very often due to geographical reasons (the Atlantic Ocean’s size is a very pesky problem if you ask me) so it was nice to spend some quality time with them.  They are both kind of awesome.  I even watched a documentary about the famous Parisian cabaret the Crazy Horse on television with them (and their friends) and it wasn’t at all embarrassing (and it’s definitely something that would have been majorly censored by the FCC back in the US).  I’m not so sure it would have gone down the same way had I watched the show with my American grandparents.

Oh yeah I guess I need to be more precise: I am currently on a much needed vacation in France.  I left Madrid for Paris on December 18th and somehow by the grace of God was able to land.  Much of Europe was dealing with snowstorms and many flights were cancelled or delayed.  Apparently in London it was a huge mess.  Anyways both my sister (coming from Copenhagen in Denmark) and I were able to get in to Paris and stayed at different cousins’ houses for a few days awaiting our parents’ arrival.

Since I’ve been here, in Paris I’ve eaten crepes at the Champs-Elysees Christmas market, Christmas shopped in the Marais neighborhood, been to the Monet exhibition at the Grand Palais, the Rodin Museum, the Paris Opera House and the Musee d’Orsay.  In Rouen (where Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake for you history buffs), I ate more crepes and visited the cathedral (immortalized by Monet in his series of paintings of it) I’ve been jumping back and forth between Paris and Rouen (in Normandy where my father grew up) since I’ve been here and in between all these outings I pigged out on a LOT of food Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with 30 other relatives.

I have to say if you have never considered visiting the Paris Opera House, you totally should.  I’m talking about the Garnier Opera House, which is the older one.  Paris is cool enough to have two.  The other one is the Bastille Opera House which was built in 1989.  The older one is of course the setting for Gaston Leroux’s book The Phantom of the Opera.  I should probably point out there is no lake beneath the Opera House.  I’ve read the book and seen the movie (but not seen the musical on Broadway) and I was always incredulous that there was a lake beneath the building.  The guide was quick to tell us this was categorically untrue (obviously a question they must get a lot).

Though apparently according to Wikipedia, there WAS a subterranean lake at the site where the Opera was built (completed in 1874) but all the water was pumped out prior to its construction.  There is a cistern beneath the stage which is meant as a back up in case a fire breaks out which our guide did mention (all the previous opera houses were destroyed by fires).  So if you want to call that the lake, then I guess it is.  So there is some truth to the lake myth but the chandelier has definitely never fallen (good thing too, the thing ways about 7 tons) Anyways the Opera House is absolutely gorgeous inside and out.  It’s a splendid piece of architecture and I think everyone should go visit it.  Its history is very interesting too so a guided tour is definitely recommended.  You also can’t enter the main room without a tour guide but you can visit some of the box seats on the upper levels.

It was so nice getting to see all (well almost all, there was one cousin missing but then there always is) my cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, parents and sister in one place.  I got to talk to pretty much everybody and catch up with everyone.  I did see everyone at my cousin’s wedding 2 months ago but there was so much going on and a lot more people that I didn’t really get to speak to everyone.  I think in my life I have celebrated Christmas in France about 3 or 4 times.  We obviously don’t go often because the plane tickets are ridiculously expensive.  However in the last few years due to me and my sister studying abroad in Europe, my family has used this as an excuse to come to France for the holidays.

I’m in Rouen until Monday and then I’ll spend the night at my cousin’s apartment (where I stayed when I first got into Paris for my first few days during my break) or spend it with  my family with some relatives who live in the suburbs.  My own family is heading back to the States on Tuesday.  I’m taking the Eurostar to London on Tuesday morning to see some friends/visit London (never been there) and then I’ll be back in Madrid January 9th.  I will definitely blog about London and what I do and see there.  I’m not really getting that detailed with Paris in this post apart from the Opera House but I might do that once I get back to Madrid.  We’ll see.

Anyways this has been a much needed break so far.  This semester was very stressful and affected me mentally and physically.  Grades were posted and I did reasonably well–better than I expected.  Definitely a huge relief since I had several nightmares after finals week was over that I failed all my classes and got kicked out of the program.  Some of my professors made some unwelcome appearances in my dreams and I’m glad that has stopped for the meantime. Definitely ready to just get my master’s already!

I’ve still got a semester to go and hopefully I’ll be able to post more about Madrid (and survive the semester).  As you can see, I didn’t do much blogging this past semester because my life mostly revolved around classes and schoolwork, which are definitely not very interesting to read about.

Hope you all had a good holiday and may 2011 bring us lots of health and happiness.

Amelie

I added this slideshow several months after I wrote this post.  I also have to confess I did not take any of these pictures.  My sister, who has always been an incredible photographer (and who also had a better camera at the time) took all the following pictures.  My absolute favorite is the one with the champagne flutes.  So simple and so classy.

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