Saturday, July 9, 2011

Les Derniers Jours

So I have today and tomorrow left in France. I know that this phrase is overused, but man time goes by so quickly. Beneath the stress of packing up my life again to rejoin the other half in the United States, I have had a beautiful last month, but as the title of this blog says, my last days have really been enjoyable.

So at the end of June, I moved out of my Groupe Scolaire appartment in not-so-urban Villeurbanne. My wonderful friend, Mathéa, gave me the keys to her new apartment which is in the center of Lyon and I have been living there since the start of July. It is about 50 times better than where I was. The facades that surround me look like this:

I took this picture from my bedroom window. These facades are like doll houses! It really gives you the feeling you I am in Paris.

This is my building. If you can see the little green square sign, it is a few floors about that.

The street, rue du President Edouard Herriot, is also known for its good shopping, which is not healthy, especially because it is currently "Les Soldes" in France right now (massive sales take the nation). Let's just say I have done some shopping ces derniers jours.

Apart from living the good life on rue Edourd Herriot, I took, want seems to become a tradition now, a last trip to Switzerland to say goodbye to my good friend Mathéa. I say that it seems to be a tradition because last time I was in Lyon, I did the same thing before I left. She took me to Montreux, Switzerland, which was SO beautiful. Montreux lies on the shores of the massive Lake Geneva. With the water, the palm trees, fancy hotels and warm, but cloudy weather, I actually felt like I was in Hawaii. Here is a picture to give you a idea:

Also, currently in Montreux is the annual Jazz Festival, which has been a huge celebration since 1966. I am so lucky I had the chance to go. The festival lasts for a couple weeks and music takes over the Montreux coast of the lake. There are small groups, local groups and even super well known artists that play. Mathéa, me and another friend got tickets to see the big gig of the night which was Paolo Nutini. I didn't know his name at all, but then I heard his song, "New Shoes" and realized that I did know at least one song! His concert was so much fun. His voice is super sexy and his songs were upbeat and fun to dance to. I am very thankful.

Because the festival is known world-wide and a huge celebration, the posters each year are done by well-known artists and are absolutely beautiful! Here are a few of my favorites that I saw them selling as collector items.

This year's poster Artist: Francis Baudevin

Poster 1984 Artist: Niki de St. Phalle

Poster 1969 Artist: E Wondergem

Poster 1986 Artist: Keith Haring and Andy Warhol

Poster 1991

Poster 1983 Artist: Keith Haring

Poster 1976 Artist: Milton Glaser

For the day and a half that remains, I will be saying my last goodbyes, eating at my favorite cafes and restaurants (i.e.: ZONE VERTE and A CHACUN SA TASSE) and taking my last walks over the bridges. I am pleased to say that I am not too sad to leave. I am sad because I will be leaving my boyfriend, but I have the confidence that we will see each other again, and if that is the case, then I will definitely be coming back to France.

I can't be finished with my blog yet, because I still have a few things that I want to add. Let's hope i don't forget.

But in the mean time, I leave Monday morning for the U.S! So wish me a Bon Voyage! =)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The time I went to a beautiful French beach

The first weekend in June Lyon turned cold and rainy, so Romain, me, two other frenchies and a Uraguan escaped on roadtrip to the south of France, near the border of Spain: the region of the Pays Basque. Let me tell you, it was a real vacation. We spent everyday at the beach, splashing in the water and sun bathing underneath the flawless sky. It was perfect.

The city where we spent most of our time is called Biarritz. It is a pretty expensive city, but it exuded a resort feeling, which really made us feel like we were on vacation. Just before the sand of the seashore lied a casino - where Romain and I played the slot machines, and of course lost money - and behind the casino was a large strip of cute and original boutiques. Just walking around made us feel like we had money.

Apart from the beach, I adored the Pay Basque houses. Each one had its own personality. Many looked a bit spanish in style, some tuscan and others simply white, but with a colorful trim. However, each home had its own name written on the front of the house for everyone to see, which really differed them all from eachother! It was very cute. These names were not the names of the family either, they definitely had a different meaning and were something that the family must of created themselves.

Also, I cannot forget how intrigued I was by the French "autoroutes" - freeways. Because popular transportation in France is for the most part by metro in the city or by train across the country, it was a very special thing to me to be able to take a roadtrip and see the country's freeways. In order to use the autoroute, you must pay. It is a similar concept to toll roads in the states, but from what I learned, the only way you get across the autoroutes is if you pay, and it is quite expensive. It is like paying an extra full tank of gas! However, by paying to use the autoroutes, this keeps their freeways extremely clean and completely free of billoards and advertisemets. The only signs you see on the roads are of course the typical city signs that tell how many kilometers to the next city and also these extremely cool and stylized signs for cities with pictures of their landmarks, cultural association or popular destinations. These stylized signs were my favorite thing. I tried to take pictures, but of course it was impossible as we drove 110KM/H past the signs, and unfortunately I can't find any images on the internet. Well, for the most part the signs were all two-toned, mustard yellow and milk chocolate brown (lol very specific I know). But this two toned simplicity was awesome because even though every city's sign was completely different depending on what the city has to offer, all the signs were all looked more or less the same in style, uniting them all as what I am going to call "french autoroute city signs" lol

So over the 5 days spent at the beach, I definitely got a tan, perhaps a teensy bit sunburned, but it was all so worth it. Hopefully the tans stays with me until I get home! Here are some pictures below that our friend Bruno took from the trip.

The crew, minus Bruno who took the picture

Biarritz and its casino on the right

When I saw this scene on the beach, it immediately reminded me of a painting by Edouard Manet, so I took the picture. Well, if you look below, I have posted the painting by Manet.. lol it isn't that similar I suppose. But what caught my eye, other than the umbrella, the people on the beach and the fact that it takes place in France, was the color of the ocean. The Antlantic Ocean off the shores of France has a very pretty seafoam/aqua color that differs from the Pacific in California. When I saw the ocean with my own eyes, the color was so similar to painting of the ocean by Manet that I could really relate. It was one of those moments when a painting became so real to me because I felt like I saw with my owns eyes exactly what Manet saw with his.

Boulogne sur la Mer - Edouard Manet

Emmanuelle and me

Romain and me

Again, the crew

Beautiful sunset

If you are interested in a good French artist, Sebastian Tellier, his music video, "Roche," was filmed where we were in Biarritz. Faites voir ici:

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Quatre Mois Plus Tard

As I was shuffling through the crap on my shelf that I have accumulated over my past 8 months, I found the CD of pictures that Romain made for me for Valentine's Day, and then the memories leashed out. I want to share some pictures that are on the CD. The pictures are from our trip to Paris, Disneyland Paris and a couple other moments, so that dates them to about 4-5 months ago. Mind you, these are pictures taken from an iPhone, so the quality is far from fabulous, but it's the memories that are important to me.

Sleeping Beauty's castle in Disneyland Paris is much more spectacular than the castle in Anaheim. It is much taller and looks more royal. Although, I must say that Disneyland Paris lacks the magic that is at Anaheim's Disneyland. We still had a blast, though. That just means I must take Romain to Disneyland back home =)

During the Lyon "Fête des Lumières" in December, the city's huge Parc Tête d'Or had an installation of fire. It was beautiful, magical and mysterious. In the pitch dark, you could see the firey gardens from a distance and you weren't sure what you were about to see. There were large rings of fire floating on the lake, firey lamps that lit up the paths, firey lamps hanging from the trees and other cool little gadgets that were all energized by the heat of fire. In this picture I am sitting in an iron-made chair that is warmed naturally by the oil lamps that you can see hanging on the right.

Not much explanation needed for the Eiffle Tower, but there it is, just on the other side of the Seine.

The sailboat pond just in front of the Louvre. It was cute to watch all the little kids using sticks to push the sailboats around so that they would catch the wind.

I look silly here, but I was really excited because this carousel was really pretty. It is pretty small, but I was fascinated by the lights. If you don't know, France LOVES carousels. They are everywhere.

The Notre Dame tried to get in our picture.

There are not many pictures, which is dommage (a bummer), but I am still glad that I have these memories to share. Something that I really should have invested in this year is a camera, but oh well, next time.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Last night I had a dream that I was already back home. In the dream I had just arrived and I was meeting up with friends and family that I hadn't seen in a while. However, it felt like I had been home the whole time and I couldn't even remember France. I could not conjure one imagine of France. It was like it never happened.

In the dream I was extremely sad. Here I have been, talking about how excited I am to go home, when I know when I return home, I am going to miss France more than ever. When I woke up in my bed, still in the tiny Groupe Scolaire apartment where I live in Lyon, it was such a relief. I know that my next 6 weeks that remain here are going to fly by. I must soak in every positive charge of Lyon. France has given me so much. It has given me love. It has given me friendship. It has given me confidence. It has given me a second home.

I will not take France for granted. I hope that there will never arrive a time in my life when I can no longer imagine France. This place has become too important to me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Tree of Life

How does writing my opinion on a movie relate to my experience in France? Well, one of the perks about being in France during the Cannes Film Festival is that movies that premiere at the festival come out in theater before those in America. For this reason, Terrance Malik's new film, The Tree of Life, came out in theaters today and I got to see it. I don't believe it comes out until the 27th in the states.

So, I would like to write a few words about The Tree of Life. I am no film critic, but I just got back from seeing this movie about one hour ago and I can't stop thinking about it. I won't lie, at the end of the film I wasn't sure if I loved it or hated it. In fact, there were many at the Cannes Film Festival who booed it at the end. Do not let the "booing" alarm you, however, the film did end up winning the Palme d'Or. If you decide to see it, I warn you to prepare yourself for a long and complex, yet beautiful and emotional film.

It always irritates me when I walk out of a movie and think, "I just don't get it. I mean, I am a college-educated adult, I should understand," and this is what happened to me at the end of The Tree of Life. What you must understand though is that you cannot walk into the theater expecting a story that you will easily be able to summarize in the end because this was my mistake. This is not just a fictional story of comedy, romance or drama, this is simply a story of life. Many reviews I read called it an "impression," which I very much agree with; an impression of life in which every human being will be able to relate to. It is this relation that really affected me emotionally and what I believe made the movie such a success. We all have experienced love, struggle, hatred, camaraderie, curiosity and even moments in life when must make the choice between good and evil, and these emotions or experiences are exactly what the movie reminds us about. Besides pondering upon themes or the purpose of the story, this movie is just beautifully created. The cinematography, the photography, editing and music will easily please the eyes and ears.

I only wanted to add a few words of thought about the film, but if you would like an in depth review of The Tree of Life, watch that of Richard Roeper. He gives an excellent explanation of the film.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


A week ago my friend Devan and I took a weekend trip to the city of Avignon. If this name rings a bell, you might know it from the title of one of the most famous Picasso works, "Les Desmoiselles d'Avignon."

Although Avignon did not carry any characteristic of brothels or prostitution, like in Picasso's painting, it was a cute city with an interesting history. It was not too large, and it was a nice quiet getaway in comparison to Lyon, but it still had its considerable amount of tourists.

In the 13th and 14th century Avignon had great importance for it's presence of Popes during the Catholic Schism. They lived in the "Palais des Popes" which is one of the city's main touristic attractions. Connected to the Palais is the famous bridge "Le Point d'Avignon." It is famous because it is actually only half of a bridge. It once connected to the island of Villeneuve-les-Avignon, which lies just on the other side of the Rhone (the same Rhone river that passes through Lyon), but apparently after several floods in the 1600's, it could not stand.

What I found fascinating about the city was that the medieval fortress walls, which once protected the city, were still in tact and beautifully preserved around the entire city center.

Devan and I arrived on the most perfect day : La Nuit des Musées - the night of museums. All museums in the city were free! =) Chez Le Musée Angladon, there was an exhibition on the photographs of Bonnard, Degas and Vuillard . This show was really interesting because these three artists are hardly known for photography, but known rather for their paintings during the post-impressionist period. I remember when studying the works of Degas that he was very much interested in photography and therefore painted in such a way that a camera would capture the scene that he was recreating, but I never imagined seeing an exhibition completely dedicated to his photographs. It was a wonderful idea for an exhibition and it showed the artistic and amicable relations among these three artists.

One of my favorite memories of Avignon was the wonderful smell and taste of lavender everywhere. Yes, I say taste because since the Provencal area in France (including Avignon) is known for their lavender fields, there were so many delicious treats of this aroma - lavender ice cream, lavender cookies, lavender candy, lavender pastis, lavender liqueur, lavender honey, lavender oil, etc... there were also your variety of lavender soaps, perfumes, lotions and cosmetics - I was quiet obsessed.

I was really pleased that I took this trip to Avignon. Because I don't have the largest salary, I hesitate to travel around France in fear of spending too much money, but I find it really important to take advantage of my French residency and visit as many cities as possible while I am here. I see France as a second home to me, who knows, someday I might have duel citizenship ;) and I must know more about the country outside from the knowledge gained from only visiting one or two cities.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Amsterdam: My Long Lost Home

This past week I visited Amsterdam. It had been a travel long waiting to happen and I am so happy that I had the opportunity to go. My original desire to go was sparked by the fact that my paternal ancestors migrated from the Netherlands to America back in the late 1800s and I wanted to visit their homeland. Now, my name "Venema" actually comes from the Northern Netherlands in Friesland, but why not visit Amsterdam, the capital that is full of culture, history and and awesome art scene. It turns out I love the place, and want to move there someday.

I honestly did not have any vision or idea of Amsterdam before arrival, so my first impression, set by the amazing "crooked" houses and beautiful canals, was off to a good start. The people were so nice, charming and genuine. We rented bikes in order to get around the city. It was really the best choice of transportation. It allowed us to really see the city, it's nooks and crannies. Of course we visited the central part of the city where you find downside of the city's reputation: sex shops/museums, red light district, coffeshops aka: weed zones and loads and loads of tourists, but to be honest, it was a good laugh, but not that impressive. We found this quarter in Jordaan called "9 straatjes," which we soon adopted as our area. There were adorable little boutiques everywhere, cool vintage stores, awesome art galleries, delicious real coffee shops and calm streets - a nice getaway from the touristy chaos in the center.

The Anne Frank House was so powerful and a must-see if you visit Amsterdam. If you are not familiar with the Anne Frank story, she was a young Jewish girl who was in hiding with her family in a house in Amsterdam for 2 years during the Holocaust. She kept a diary about her feelings, emotions and everyday life while in hiding, which was found after her death, and then published. I wasn't sure what to expect from the Anne Frank House, but the curators did an excellent job. The simplicity in design and the quotes from her diary throughout the house made the important story very easy for all ages to understand as well as very powerful. It was as if Anne was there, narrating her story and you just couldn't imagine how scary it was for her and her family during this war. At the end of the tour through the house, they have incorporated an installation on contemporary discrimination, which is an excellent ending that ties what has happened in the past to current events of today. There is a quote from Anne's father, Otto Frank, that I really like and find very important.

"To build up your future, you must know your past." - Otto Frank

The Van Gogh museum was something very special as well. I don't think I have ever seen a museum dedicated to one artist like this before, and I was impressed. The curators did a fabulous job explaining their goal to place Van Gogh's works in context and then following through. They have grouped his art in chronological order to show how he developed as an artist, but what I loved was that they included so many other artists and their works that inspired Van Gogh and that really helped him shape himself as an artist. To see a Jean-François Millet or a Japanese woodblock print right next to a piece of Van Gogh's by which he was inspired just made him so real to me. It might sound silly to say that, but I have studied all these artists in writing and in printed pictures, and it is like they are entertainment celebrities of today, but even more important. Though I will never see Van Gogh for obvious reasons, it was like I really got to know him throughout this exhibition, and that is direct evidence as to why I believe that the curators did an excellent job.

Okay, enough talky. Here are some not-so-excellent pictures and links to things I liked.

Great coffee:
Adorable girly boutique + cupcakes:
Good vintage shop:
Another good vintage shop:
Great art gallery, which had a beautiful solo exhibition of the artist Ryan Mcginley:
Amazing Thai food: