De Berk à Bord – A Bordeaux Blog


Alison is a UC student whose Bordeaux blog, De Berk à Bord, was featured on UCEAP’s Bordeaux program page. We were totally entranced by the food, natural imagery, and adorable friendship stories Alison shared. We hope you enjoy them too!

Some of our favorite images are featured below. Be sure to follow Alison’s adventures at!

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If you’re interested in having your travel blog featured on UCSCAbroad, send an email to with “Travel Blog” in the subject line. We’d love to get a chance to see what you’ve been up to!

Where the Locals At?: How to Meet Locals Abroad

Melibee Global has developed a new “How to Meet People Abroad” series on their website. For students who are looking to expand their friend groups abroad, this is a great way to find out how to get in with the local crowd.

Currently we have EAP Programs in Dublin, Paris and London, so for those of you going abroad in January, this could be a great resource. Or, if you’re going to be traveling in any of these cities, be sure to take a quick glance at their guide before getting on the plane. It could save you from an awkward interaction upon arrival.

Dublin, Ireland<>
London, England<>
Rabat, Morocco<>
Córdoba, Argentina<>
Paris, France<>
Beirut, Lebanon<>
Lake Yojoa, Honduras<>
Sofia, Bulgaria<>

Be sure to check out the Melibee Global website on the 15th of each month to see which cities they write about next! Mingling with locals is half the fun of studying abroad, so be sure to make friends with as many international and local students as possible!

Yay, Practicum! (part 6)

Outing 6 – Marche d’Aligre (open air market)

Our last outing was a visit to a lovely covered/open market that’s just about a 3-5 minute walk up Rue de Charenton (on the left side of the street) from the back entrance to the Daumesnil residence. I’m told this outing was added to the program just this year; and a good thing too, considering the importance of food and open air markets to the French culture. My group was assigned to look at a cheese stand, which we found out had 300 different cheeses (25 of them goat cheese).

There were also stands for meat, seafood, and things like that. Meat’s pretty pricey here though, as you can see.

I was also pleasantly surprised to find out that there are three or so bio (organic) produce stands there. I used my highly broken French to buy a kilo of grapes for half the price I’d pay at a grocery store. If you go, bring cash. They don’t accept cards or checks in tiny shops, markets, or bakeries. Also, try to use exact change the first time you come. The sellers sometimes round up the price if you hand them a bill expecting change, and you’ll end up get charged more that you should (e.g., 5 Euros instead of 4 Euros and change).

Behind the food is a sort of an open air bazaar for selling stuff. There’s jewelry, clothing, books, and all sorts of things there. Pretty inexpensive too, for the most part.

So, that was my practicum. Other groups had the same outings as well, but in a different order so we didn’t all go at once. We learned enough French to avoid being completely feeble when communicating, we were eased into using the public transportation systems, we were shown a good place to get food, and we were shown a sample of what we can see if we look around the city. All around, an extremely useful, fun, and worthwhile aspect of the program. So, that’s why I say – yay, practicum!

Yay, Practicum! (part 5)

Outing 5 – The Opera (Palais) Garnier

That opera house is so stuffed with history, I won’t even attempt to go over it here. The place is so gorgeously sumptuous, I think it’s best just to let the images speak for themselves (I actually took 118 photos during the visit, so the few presented herein are actually a practice in restraint).

Here’s my ticket to look around, pre-paid for by the program.

This is the initial salon, with lots of mirrors and pretty pink columns.

This is the next room. There are mirrors everywhere at the opera house. That’s me in the pink shirt. Hello!

This is a cubby behind where I was standing. Apparently, a woman designed the black statue under the guise of a man’s name. Not sure what the frogs were for.

Up the stairs, and straight up, is this fabulous painted ceiling.

Garnier and the guy who designed the Statue of Liberty were friends and chatted about the design of the opera house. Lining the painted ceiling with several of these was Garnier’s way of saying “thanks.”

These are at the top of the same staircase. I’m just so astonished that different colors of stone can be melded together so beautifully and seamlessly.

This column at the top of the staircase is even more surprising, although perhaps not as complex. Look at all the textures!

Here’s part of a fabulous mosaic ceiling.

Here’s a magical-looking bat ceiling.

Here’s its sister, the serpent ceiling, with an infinity effect I created by lining up two mirrors that were facing each other.

They were having a costume exhibition when we went. I think this one looks very Halloween-ish.

The one in the middle is the concept drawing for the Halloween-ish dress. They look like a psychologist’s ink spatters to me.

This one’s more realistic, but pretty crazy looking. I like it.

Ooh, shiny. This must have taken some real work to put together with all that gem studding.

I’m a princess! Sorry, I couldn’t resist lining up the shot using the reflection in the glass.

The mantle in the grand foyer. Hold onto your hat for the next shot. . .

It’s so pretty, so lavish, so incredible it’s overwhelming. The guide said women were originally not allowed in the grand foyer, but that the queen of Spain decided on opening night that she wanted to walk around in here. All the women were obligated to follow her, and that was the end of that silly rule. Women’s lib lives! Well, sorta.

Here’s a close-up of the ceiling. Enjoy!

Well, that’s the Palais Garnier. Just one outing left in the Practicum, to be continued in the next post.

Yay, Practicum! (part 4)

Outing 4 – The Latin Quarter

The Latin Quarter is so called because its where all the original schools and academics hung out, and still do to a certain degree. All academic writing and teaching was originally done in Latin, thus the name.

We got to wander around in the courtyard of the Sorbonne, and the front area where protests have historically occurred.

Courtyard of the Sorbonne

There are some interesting murals in the back.

Then we strolled around the outside of the Musée Medieval. The gardens kind of reminded me of the ones in the old Cadfael mystery show.

From there, we went to the Panthéon. Sure, it’s basically a giant crypt. But it’s still a neat place.

In the middle of the first room is a giant pendulum that swings back and forth perpetually.

There are some really impressive statues and paintings in the upper level as well.

The below-ground crypt itself is largely brown with old dirt, and had photos, descriptions, and even videos playing on TV sets that tell visitors about those buried therein.

They had several tunnels with photos and descriptions of the people kept within the crypt.

There was another area with two little cubbies for watching featurettes about some of the dead people.

There’s also an area that seems to be just for sitting and reading.

The giftshop has lots of books about the dead of the Panthéon as well. I must admit I was pleased to see such a range of books about Marie Curie (who was moved there fairly recently) all in one place.

We also saw the Ecole Polytechnique, a top science school in France.

And a cute little movie theater right near the Sorbonne.

And finally. . .

A French kitty!! Mew!!

Yay, Practicum! (part 3)

Outing 3 – Montmartre

We got out of the metro right about in front of the Moulin Rouge (“moulin” means “windmill”). After everyone took a few minutes to pose for pictures doing the can-can in front of the place, we hiked up the hill. There are quit a few cute little places near the top of the hill.

There were a lot of little shops specializing in one kind of food (e.g., cheese, nuts, etc.)

Specialty cheeses: fruity, chivey, all sorts.

Seriously, look at all the cheese in this place!

You could go “nuts” here too!

The teacher also pointed out the place where the protagonist of the movie Amelie worked.

Da place from Amelie

Inside da place from Amelie

The first really cute place we saw was a little, pink cafe called La Maison Rose (the pink house). It’s one of the tiniest and cutest-looking cafes in Paris, but apparently the food isn’t that great.

The next place we walked by was Le Lapin Agile, a comedy/music/poetry cabaret with an extra silly painting on the front.

“Lapin” means rabbit in French

Most of Paris has dull, black or gray posts. Montmartre has pretty, multicolored ones!

You can kind of see the Sacre Cour in the distance.

Nearby is the place where Saint Denis supposedly fell down after carrying his severed head around.

Statue of St. Denis holding his head

The last two places we saw were churches. St. Pierre de Montmarte is the oldest church in Paris, dating from the year 1147. It has some really beautiful architectural features, and of course yet another statue of the headless Saint Denis.

You can see St. Denis holding his head again off to the left.

The teacher left us in front of the Basilisque du Sacré Cour, a gigantic place with some truly indulgent decoration (making it a pity that photography is not allowed inside. I took photos of the outside though.

Yay, Practicum! (part 2)

Outing 2 – Natural History Museum, Mosque, and Roman Arenas

We didn’t actually go into the museum, but we did wander around the incredible gardens in the front. The teacher mostly just wanted us to know it was there in case we wanted to visit later.

The garden outside the museum.

Visiting the mosque was interesting, even though I couldn’t understand anything the tour guide was saying. The teacher said it was built around 1920-1928 to thank soldiers from Muslim countries who fought and died for France in WWI. The founder of the mosque was buried on the grounds with his head facing towards Mecca. The front lobby had incredibly detailed instructions on ablutions (washing up 5 times a day before prayer).

There are a couple of nicely decorated prayer rooms (the colors in the tiles represent the five pillars of Islam) and a conference room used for feasts and other ceremonies (mostly by women, as they are banned from some of the other rooms) with lovely tapestries and stained glass windows, but we heard the most about the library.

Prayer room

Door to the conference room

A wall in the conference room covered with lovely velvet patterns. You can also see one of the stained glass windows in the upper-right.

The library at the mosque contains books in several languages and was used for numerous ceremonies and weddings (including Rita Hayworth’s wedding to Prince Aly Khan in 1949.

My school group, and some tourists, standing around in the library.

Some of the books in a library cabinet. Click for a bigger version.

Finally, we visited an old Roman arena that was dug up last century. It was originally used for providing amusement by watching Christians die in battles, but it’s now occupied primarily by old people playing bocce ball and kids practicing soccer.

Yay, Practicum! (part 1)

The French and European Studies program that I’m in begins with what they call a “practicum.” It consists of being taught the first 3 1/2 or so chapters of the French language textbook (if you’re an absolute beginner like me) with a daily (Mon-Fri) 3-hour French class and 3 group outings a week to various parts of Paris (Mon, Wed, Fri) – without the added pressure of also taking the content courses (history, theater, etc.) . This practicum is a fabulous idea!

Before I came, I was nervous that the practicum would be too “intensive,” but it was actually a really balanced and supportive way to ease into the study abroad experience. A bit longer than I expected too. It was supposed to be an 11-day practicum, but it turns out that just refers to weekdays so it was actually 16 days long. We only had a few textbook exercises due each day for homework, plus some fairly short response papers due the day after each outing. The 2-weeks of language classes was useful because it gave me a head start on studying without having to split my attention with the other classes.

My favorite part of the practicum was going on the outings. This was partially because I liked being shown where some neat things are in an academic tour group setting, but it was mostly because I was really apprehensive about using the metro and after two or three outings I finally felt comfortable enough to use it on my own to get around (especially since I’ll have to do just that for my Histories of Paris class). Just to give you an idea. . .

Outing 1 – Belleville and Le Cimetiére du Pére-Lachaise:

For the first outing, we began by visiting Belleville to look at the graffiti and Asian businesses. Some of the graffiti was somewhat out of the ordinary.

This is really the only example of “graffiti” that I actually liked. The teacher said it’s an homage to a series of old detective stories – the French equivalent of Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade, I suppose.

This one is interesting mostly for the use of a dummy to make it look like a real guy is up there painting the sign. It’s actually just to the left of the detective painting.

You can actually see this one in the lower-left of the previous photo. It’s some kind of character from a French comic strip that someone thought would look good on a lamp post.

Apparently, it’s one of those crummy areas that the government is currently attempting to clean up by providing low-income housing, etc. Most of the place looks like Oakland, CA – another place some people visit to look at graffiti.

Here’s a little group of filmmakers we saw shooting a scene. They waved to us. I’m guessing they were film students.

After that, we walked to a lookout point to get a nice view of the city.

Then we went to see a truly humungous cemetery. I was impressed with some of the statues in the place, and somewhat amused by the unusual signage on the restroom stalls.

The path leading to the top, where a funeral was actually taking place at the time.

Kind of nicer looking than the average restroom stall door image.

Some of the more elaborate graves near the entrance.

We walked all over the place and then went home. . . after a few people in my group hunted down the grave of Jim Morrison and stood around mooning over it for a while.

Goodnight, Eiffel Tower

Every place has it’s own little quirks that define a it in one’s mind, whether it’s a favorite shop to walk by or people you see walking around everyday. In the few days I’ve been here, I already see, hear, and smell a hundred little things everyday that paint a portrait of the character of this small part of Paris. It’s all part of the process of settling in.

The view out my window near sunset.

Even sitting near the open window of my apartment, it’s astounding how much geographical character flows across my senses.

The apartment itself is small, but quite adequate. It’s worth mentioning that the door locks work a little differently here than you might expect. After inserting the key, it takes  2 1/4 clockwise revolutions to open the door and the reverse to lock it (2 1/4 counterclockwise turns, that is).

The kitchenette has a sink, a small fridge, and microwave, a stove, and some dishes/flatware/pots and pans. The stove is a bit tricky too. You have to twist a knob on the left or right, and twist the center knob to actually activate the burner. The center knob also acts as a timer that turns off the heat when the knob twists itself back to the starting position again. The circuit breakers for the apartment are in a box opposite the kitchenette, which could come in handy if you need it.

The bathroom includes a water heater that only runs at night (which means that there’s a finite hot water supply each day). The toilet invariably takes at least two flushes, but it has a cascading flush that’s fun to watch. The shower is extremely tiny. I’m not a large person, but it takes some considerable effort to get in and out – and to take a shower without accidentally whacking one of the doors too hard with my shoulder while turning around to shampoo.
The main area has a bed made of two foam mattresses that have been shoved together, and comes with sheets, a very flat pillow (bring your own if you value your neck), and a blanket. There’s also a little closet with a tower-style fan inside. The rest, you can see for yourself.

There’s nearly always traffic noise and sirens outside, except during the wee hours of the night when it’s actually pretty quiet. But there’s also a church down the street that rings its bells every so often. The sidewalks in town are mostly full of pigeons, but seagulls soar through the skies and squawk outside my window.

There’s a black kitty that sometimes perches on the ledge across the way. My second night here, I was sitting at my computer when I noticed its fuzzy silhouette, backlit by the city lights. It came back two days later in the morning and sat still long enough for me to snap a couple of pictures. What a cutie!I also have a view of the Paris Viaduct (aka, Viaduc des Arts) from here. People walk, jog, and push strollers up and down it all day long. I’ve gotten in the habit of leaning on my window sill and watching the pedestrians go by when I need a break.The area around the school was obviously meant to cater to tourists. There’s a McDonald’s on the corner, a Starbuck’s in the other direction, and stores like Nike and Office Depot in between. But there are also a innumerable local shops, patisseries, boulangeries, etc. – probably because actual French people live here too. I’m hoping to find a place to stereotypically sit at a little rod iron table and people-watch while I do something else cliched like writing screenplay outlines. Or, I might just study. We’ll see.There are always tourists wandering around or sitting at restaurants/cafes. Most appear to be British, American, or French from outside of Paris. I haven’t figured out how to blend in yet, and I imagine that carrying around a backpack is really not helping, but I’ll get there eventually. I’ve already figured out not to wear white socks, but I think I might have to buy one or two items of clothing and a bag eventually. The storekeepers nearly always greet visitors with “Bonjour!” and I always reply in-kind, as is expected. One thing I’ve noticed that I really like is that the clerks don’t come wandering up to ask me if I need help every few minutes, or follow me around the store like American shopkeepers are often wont to do. It makes for a much more pleasant shopping, or browsing, experience.

The weather can turn on a dime in Paris, during the late summer at least. I wake up to a different sky each day and go to bed beneath a different sky every night.

View through my window at night. Can you spot the Eiffel Tower?

I always wanted to live in an apartment with a view of the Eiffel Tower. I was even thinking about it a little on the flight over. A couple of nights in, I suddenly realized that I do (the top of it, anyway). It’s practically hidden during the day, if you don’t already know where to look, but it’s lit up at night and even sparkles for a while starting around 10pm. I can’t see the moon from my window, but I like to look at the tower every night as kind of a mental ‘pinch’ – just to remind myself that I really am here.
Goodnight, Eiffel Tower. Bonsoir.

Getting There – L.A. to Paris

Aug. 19th: The Beginning of a 29 Hour Day

The 3-4 hours of sleep I squeezed in after a night of packing was interrupted by my alarm clock at 6:56am; after which time I ate, packed last minute things, was briefly stopped by my mom calling to make sure I was getting ready, and left on the shuttle to LAX and about 8:50am.

I was dropped infront of the international flights area at about ten-past-nine. The driver put my bags directly behind the van instead of on the curb like he was supposed to. I thought the shuttle driver behind me was relatively aware of this, but as I moved the first couple of bags to the sidewalk, she began to roll forward (over my remaining luggage) and I was forced to run out infront of her vehicle waving and shouting to make her stop. The smaller medical bag had started to jolt out from under the front wheel by the time I got there, I think, but the big clothing/camera/instrument bag would have been utterly demolished had she continued. They came out a bit scuffed, but otherwise fine.

The check-in and security process went smoothly. Air Tahiti Nui charges $75 for a second check bag, but I really do need that second bag so I paid it. Security was fairly quick too, mostly because there were very few people in line. They have an x-ray machine for people there, and there’s no way I’d be silly enough to irradiate my entire body unless it was medically necessary, so I opted for the pat-down instead. I think the TSA lady seemed more embarrassed about it than I was though. When I was repacking my electronics, someone yelled something like “code blue” and the security crew ran out of the room. I knew it was a drill though, since they were all smiling and laughing. When they returned, I was permitted to finish re-packing and proceeded to the gates. The whole process only took an hour.

The gates for Air Tahiti Nui at LAX stay empty until about 11am. It’s pretty packed by noon, especially the area around the gates for flights to Japan.

The gate area was like a ghost town. Even the concession stands were deserted. About 3 hours later, though, it was standing room only. Although I had done everything quite early in case of unforeseen problems, I was rewarded with the irony of waiting at the gate for 4 1/2 hours while my 1:10pm flight was delayed twice, actually taking off at 2:30pm. Better to be bored than frantic though. I spent most of the time talking to my mom and brother over the phone, chatting with a French lady that sat down next to me, and listening to language tapes.

It was a pretty takeoff; a nice, clear day.

A couple hours into the flight, at about 4:40pm, they served dinner (coq au vin with broccoli and a couple baby carrots, salad, a roll/butter, and a vaguely cheesecake-like dessert). Pretty good, actually. A few hours in, I decided to stroll up and down the jet to look around. A kind of mini-party had developed in the back, where some passengers and flight attendants were sipping juice, water, and spirits while chatting and giggling away. I stood around trying the various juices for a while, then wandered up to the front to get a tiny ham/cheese sandwich. I spent the rest of the flight watching in-flight movies/in flight video-game playing and, again, listening to my language tapes.

The flight probably would have seemed shorter if I had slept part of the time, but I’ve never been able to sleep on flights. The sun set somewhere over Chicago and rose again just about over Dublin, bringing me to. . .

August 20th – The Process of Developing Spaghetti Legs and Pancake Feet

An hour or so before landing, they served breakfast (cheese/applesauce crepes, croissant with butter/jam, fruit salad, raspberry yogurt, and hot cocoa). After we landed, the walking portion of the day began.

I walked around to the bagages sortie (checked bag claim), then I walked around the airport for a couple of hours looking for the shuttle service. I got to sit in the shuttle for a little bit. Then I hauled my luggage into the ACCENT center, got lost for a couple hours attempting to follow the oddly written directions to the Daumesnil before finally following the map and asking directions, got back just in time to take the last mandatory walking tour of the neighborhood of the day (at 3:30pm) and nibble on provided snacks with some other students, hauled my two big bags back to my apartment, went grocery shopping, and took a shower.

The view from the window of my Paris apartment at night

The shopping turned out to be unnecessary, however, as what was left of my legs and feet refused to hold me up any longer and, upon what appeared to me to be laying down on my bed and a doing single blink of my eyes, it suddenly changed from a hot and sunny 6:30pm to a cool and dark 2:45am. I rolled over and slept another four hours. Twelve hours of sleep wasn’t really that excessive, considering that I was awake through the compressed version of two days in a row.


Altogether, I’d say my journey went pretty well. The delays or other possible occurrences I planned in advance for worked out and I got there intact and on-time.