Sunday, August 23, 2009

It's been a busy week, and I'm not quite in the groove of documenting our lives without any further delay, here goes!
Tuesday was official orientation day at GTL; we arrived at 7:45 to a swarm of French students. We hadn't realized that the vast majority of students studying at GTL are in fact French students who will spend a semester at this campus and then will be off to study in Atlanta. As it turns out, Michael is the only American in on class and one of 2 in another. So, we sat through general orientation, graduate orientation, computer orientation, went home for lunch, bank orientation, Michael then had office hours and his Mechanical Engineering department orientation. Georgia Tech then hosted a little mini-meal/get-together in the student lounge. The served lots of hors d'oeuvres and different drinks. I ate a ton of raw tuna and what we think was sweet pea mousse while Michael busied himself with black raspberry cream puffs. The drinks were strange, I have always seen fruit nectars in the goya section of the supermarket but hadn't really tried them. They are incredibly thick and sweet, the apricot had an almond flavor and Michael was convinced that the strawberry tasted like cilantro. The meet-and-greet seemed to be a success, we met some more students and made some tentative plans for Thursday.
On Wednesday Michael and I went to our first French class with Madam Serafin. She has an interesting background, Italian father (hence the name), I believe a French mother; she spent most of her childhood moving from one European country to another, including a lot of time in England. She is now the English professor at the University of Metz and speaks English with a very British accent. She is comical and I think the class should be enjoyable. She brought in a big container of Mirabelles for us (the local plums) and told us to finish them but not to eat too many because "you'll get the runs". There are three French classes offered at GTL and this one is particularly for "getting by", supermarket sayings, phrases for going to the hair salon, etc. The two others are more by-the-book and academically taught (beginner and advanced); Mme Serafin said that we are welcome to attend the other beginning French class which is held on Monday and Wednesday, I will try to attend every week and as long as his work-load isn't too demanding, Michael will come too. Hopefully this will help kick-start the French learning.
Thursday morning Michael went to class (nothing new to report there, sometime when he's here I'll fill you in on the classes he's taking this semester, I can't remember all the technical class titles) and in the afternoon we went to an info session at GTL for international travel. At the session we recieved a large compilation of tourist info, train info, hostel info, and plane info on just about all of the European countries; it made me want to run to the train station and go somewhere, anywhere. We also got a listing of German folk festivals (beer festivals), we hope we'll be able to get to a couple. After a tour for the non-French students of GTL, we made dinner and got ready to go out.
Moses, a friend in MechE is also a couch-surfer and has been meeting up with fellow couch-surfers in Metz since we got here. On Thursday night he planned for us (and another friend, Albert) to meet up with Vanessa in Metz. We met up at GTL and walked over to the bus stop. Thankfully, Albert spent spring semester in Metz and is very savvy with the bus system, which was good because of my limited experience, I'm intimidated to use bus systems when I CAN speak the language. We were surprised to find that unlike Pittsburgh, you don't have to have correct change to ride the bus, of course, this was after we had run to Cora to buy two bottles of cheap wine with two separate 10 euro bills in order to have correct change. Ah well, now we know and and we'll eventually use the wine. The bus ride was short and we got off near the bus station and walked up to the cathedral to meet Vanessa. She is a very sweet girl, she works in Luxembourg in the cash collection dept. for some packing supply company and takes the train to and from work every day. Her English was excellent and she gave us a nice walking tour of the Rempart (fortification wall) and we had a nice chat with the owner of a Canadian restaurant (and were slightly picked on for our non-British accents), we'll have to go the the restaurant sometime, it had an interesting menu. After our tour, we walked up to Place St. Louis where we each got a Faro beer (belgian sweet beer made from sugar and lambik). From what Vanessa told us, the city of Metz likes to discourage a lively night life, which means that there aren't many busses to speak of after 10pm, therefore, we walked home. It was a very nice evening.
Friday came and went, we were horribly lazy. Our only adventure that day was motivated by food, which is no unlike us. We walked to a new grocery store, Simply Market, which is much calmer, smaller, and nicer than Cora. We bought incredients for homemade pizza, which was almost a weekly dinner back in Pittsburgh and we were determined not to let somethings so trivial as no oven stop us from continuing the tradition. After we got home I mixed up the dough and realized just how long it's been since I made pizza dough without the help of the kitchen aid. The finished product (well, Michael's finished product, I flipped a slice of mine, so it didn't look very pretty) is pictures on the right; we probably could have gotten away with using half that much dough, but the pizza was delicious! We will definitely be making stovetop pizza often and hopefully my kneading ability will come back to me.
Saturday morning we had some crepes for breakfast, that makes at least one thing the pastry chef in me can make without an oven! We each had one filled with wild blueberry jam and one filled with Nutella...I forget how sweet that stuff is! They weren't very filling though, so I made another with a fried egg, slice of smoked ham, and petite munster cheese, it was very good but the cheese was a little strong for Michael, so he opted for his French equivalent to Honey Smacks cereal. Much to our dismay, we went to Cora in search of notebooks and other school supplied (everytime I go there, I realize more and more why the french call it a Hypermarché, everyone there seems crazed). For lunch/dinner we had some potato leek soup from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I had made it in the past but reading Julie/Julia reminding me of how simple and delicious it is. After dinner, Moses introduced us to another great Metz couch surfer, Marine, she met us at Cora and drove us into town. We did another little walking tour with her, she showed us a little across the river and the University of Metz where she goes for pre-law/law school, the went to another bar in the place St Jacques where Michael got another Faro beer and I had a Kriek, which is another Belgian beer that is fermented with sour cherries. While we were sitting there, the french version of bachelor/bachelorette parties walked by(separately, of course) with the girls in leis and the groom dressed as a woman asking for money, apparently this is a fairly common occurrence in Metz on the weekends. We spent a good bit of time chatting with Marine and her friend Rakaele who met us there then went back to Marine's apartment to chat a little more before until Marine took us all home; another very enjoyable night in Metz. In the picture below, we are sitting in Marine's apartment -- sorry for the fuzziness.Yesterday was another fairly lazy day, we walked back to Simply Market to buy dinner stuff before realizing that everything, and I mean everything in Metz (most likely France in general) is closed on Sunday. We spent the evening scrounging together a dinner of potato salad and pan seared pork belly. The improvised potato salad turned out really well with cornichons, some diced saussicon, shallots, a hard boiled egg, stone ground mustard and mayonnaise. It reminded me of a Russian potato salad that an exchange student made years ago. The pork was delicious, although horribly fatty and I'm sure unhealthy; normally we would never just cook and eat a piece of pork belly, but we had bought it to put little pieced in other dishes like beef bourguignon and it was the only food left in the house. Today has been fairly tame, I walked to the bank to transfer money into our French account to find that the bank is closed on Monday, so I continued on to get bread from the bakery and other food from Simply Market, at least it was a beautiful morning to walk. And I've spent the past 2 hours writing out this blog...I really need to get better at updating more often so I don't have to write out a novella every time. For now, I hope all of you back in the states have a bon jour,
from France.


  1. Hi, Lauren and Michael. It's really wonderful to be able to follow you in your French adventure. Thanks for keeping us apprised and thanks for the photos. Enjoy, enjoy, and enjoy (and study!).

    Love, Peg
    (Michael's aunt, in case you have other Pegs)

  2. Whoa...your Dad had to stay up past his bedtime to read this one. Keep it up...we're enjoying this glimpse into your new life. Love M