Sheila and I were up really early to get ready, have our breakfast, and face the biting cold to walk to Porte Maillot to take the metro clear to the other side of Paris to make it to Nation which is where our rendezvous point was to take the bus to Reims. We had a little present for Rouge… Rouge is a little strapped for money, and has budgeted her Navigo for this month completely out of her plans. She’s decided to buy carnets (packs of 10 tickets) to get her through the month of December, and to try to walk most places. Sheila, Joan and I each put in 10 euro, and I used one of those cute stationery cards I made to give her a little present. I slapped one of the “pour le meilleur” (For the best, even though Rouge is a girl and it was technically grammatically incorrect) stamps on the front, and wrote a little message about how the money was to help her buy carnets so she can use the metro to come see us since we figured out she’d be walking for an hour if she decided to take that route… She nearly cried. Mission: Accomplished. I had another mission in the works as we boarded the bus, however…

Kyle and I have been trading links to YouTube videos of songs we think the other person will like for a while now, so we finally decided to make each other a playlist on our own iPods, then swap the iPods on the bus ride. I did it casually, meaning I’d listen to my iPod, think “Kyle might like this song,” then I’d put it on the playlist I was working on for him. Kyle was messaging me last night about how stressed he was about the playlist, and how he was actually combing through his iTunes trying to find things I’d like, and how he was sure I’d like maybe one song on the entire thing… Turns out I liked pretty much every song on the playlist, I had maybe five songs on his playlist in my iTunes library already, and I got really excited when “F.C.P.R.E.M.I.X.” by The Fall of Troy came on since I hadn’t heard it in forever and it’s probably one of my favorite songs of all time. Kyle liked all of the songs that I had put on his playlist too, he had an “F.C.P.R.E.M.I.X.” moment too, I didn’t realize that he loved Matchbox Twenty, and I had put their new single “She’s So Mean” on the playlist. I actually thought that’d be the song he liked the least! I had one little trick up my sleeve, though… I had decided to get a little Stalinistic revenge on my poor friend Trotsky Kyle (click here if you’re a little confused as to why I needed to get some revenge) with that playlist, so I took a song that I knew he liked thanks to our YouTube video trading (“Shooting the Moon” by Mona) and I spliced in some X-rated audio in a random spot in the song. I had no idea how Kyle was going to react, but he gave me a good laugh. He was in the middle of a conversation with Sheila when the song came on, and he let her finish a thought… “Claire, is this how this song is supposed to sound?!” “NOPE. How do you like them apples, Trotsky?” Now everyone in our group knows I’ve done something, but they have no idea what it was. Kyle was having a minor meltdown for the next 16 seconds, yelling “WHAT?!” and laughing, so Rouge asked me “What’d you do?” and I told them. Sheila, Joan, and Suzannah laughed. Rouge said she wanted to listen to the song after Kyle was done with it. She thought the prank was pretty funny. I was proud of myself to say the least…

We disembarked near the Cathedral earlier than we thought we would, so we scrambled through the cold to find a café to get some chocolat chaud or coffee at to warm up a little bit. Reims is a little colder than Paris, and Paris was near freezing this morning. After a few minutes, we found a tea shop that looked promising, so Sheila, Joan, Suzannah, Rouge, Kyle, Venezia and I went inside. We didn’t have much time to actually have our drinks by the time we got them, so I downed my huge mug of hot chocolate pretty quickly after I got it despite Kyle’s many warnings of getting throat cancer since I was drinking my hot beverage before giving it the chance to cool down. I’ve been to this Cathedral once before, when I came to France with the People to People program… in July… The entire church looks so different in the Winter… Our tour guide for Notre Dame de Reims was absolutely adorable, and full of information. She took us around the outside of the Cathedral first, which drove most of us crazy since we were all nearly frozen solid.

If you check the pictures from Reims on my Flickr, notice that the three peaks of the arches all depict a different biblical scene. Cool, huh?

The smiling angel of Reims. When this statue was effectively decapitated by a fire, and a journalist saw it, he said that “the smile of Reims had been killed.” A smiling statue was uncommon for the time period. That’s what makes it so special.

After my toes were effectively frozen, we finally went inside. That’s not to say the inside of the Cathedral was much warmer, there wasn’t any heating, but because it was an enclosed space, it was a little better. The stained glass windows inside were gorgeous, and they were all made by the same family.

Made in 2011, the most modern windows in the Cathedral

The most famous windows in the Cathedral, designed by a painter.

After we were done in the Cathedral, we had our lunch break, and Kyle, Sheila, Suzannah and I headed off to the Marché de Noël that Reims is famous for.

I was too cold to think of buying anything, all I could focus on was trying to find somewhere to eat inside. Frankly, there was nothing at the market that I wanted or needed. Kyle and Sheila got some vin chaud, though. We finally found a small kebab and pizza restaurant to eat at, so we stopped there. We had to eat quickly by the time our food came so we could make it back to the bus in time to go to the champagne caves. We visited the Pomery caves, and we got a tour of the caves themselves. What I found really surprising was that the caves were filled with art as well as plenty of champagne in the making…

This was how we knew we were in a bizarre place…

This sculpture cast pictures of light all over the room!
Bonus points if you see Rouge photobombing… I sure didn’t until I’d already taken the picture…

I have plenty more pictures on Flickr already. After the tour of the caves (which included a 3-D film about bats, and a line up of rubber boots that moved on their own… and both of those were consider works of art), we all got a free glass of champagne. I’ve found that I like it, but only the REAL champagne. The fake stuff that’s just cheap white wine that’s been artificially carbonated I don’t like. The real stuff that “carbonates itself,” I like. Back on the bus, and back home we went.

Our little group decided to go to the MacDo at Les Sablons (Kyle’s metro stop) for dinner. I set up my other revenge prank while we were there. I purposefully boxed myself in, then ate nearly everything in sight, and claimed to still be hungry, so I asked Kyle (since he was in a seat that was easy to get out of) to go buy me a McFlurry, and I gave him the money. It took a little convincing (and a group vote), but he did it… Sheila even went with him. As soon as he left, I asked Suzannah to hand me his backpack, so she did, though she had no idea why I wanted it. As I handed it to Rouge and asked her to get out his umbrella… he came back! Rouge threw the backpack on the ground and hoped he didn’t see what was going on. “There’s like 15 people in line… give me my backpack!” “What backpack? If I give you my card and have you use the bornes, will you do it?” “…fine.” Merde. He knew we were up to something… I figured there was a chance I’d still be able to get away with my prank, so I went through with it. I asked Rouge to get out his umbrella and open it a little, then I pulled out a small container of confetti that I’d hidden in my purse, and dumped it inside… The next time Kyle opened his umbrella when it rained, it would rain INSIDE the umbrella… I’m a devious little thing sometimes. Suzannah and Joan were absolutely shocked. Suzannah started cracking up, Joan was excited. “If I opened my umbrella and star-shaped confetti fell all over me, that would make my day!” …not the point, Joan… We closed his umbrella, threw it back in his bag, and put his bag back over by his chair before he came back with my McFlurry. He ignored the bag for the rest of our meal… until we left. When we got up to leave, he opened it. “Well… there’s no weasel inside…” I thought I was in the clear for the time being. He could look in that bag all he wanted, there was no way he was going to look inside his umbrella… I thanked him for getting me the McFlurry while we walked home. “No problem, Stalin.” He was onto me… I still thought I was safe. It wasn’t until I got home that I knew I had been found out…

“Touché” read the Facebook message. “About what?” “My umbrella.” LA VACHE. “How’d you find out?” Turns out we didn’t shut his umbrella well enough and a few pieces of confetti had leaked out into the bag. While he was transferring his things from the smaller bag he had with him today into his larger backpack for school days, he saw the confetti in the bottom of the bag, but because it was only a small amount, he knew it had to be inside something else. He guessed it was inside his umbrella, so he opened it upside down like I had to put the confetti inside, and saw what I’d done. “If it makes you feel any better, I had to go outside to get rid of it, and it was drizzling, so it sort of worked.” Looks like I have to find another way to prank him since I’m out of confetti and he figured it out…

One of Madame’s relatives (we think it’s a daughter, but we’re not sure, it could be a niece) is staying with us for a while. She was here this morning when we got up at had breakfast at 11. They left while we were eating, so we thought we could get away with not leaving the house… but Madame came home around two, so we figured we had to follow through with our plan to go for a little walk that we had mentioned at breakfast to take a break from our homework. She asked us where we were going to walk since she saw us leaving. I said we were going to walk down Avenue de Ternes to go find Mariage Frères, a famous French tea shop that I wanted to buy some tea at to take home with me as a gift for my big sister since she loves tea just as much as I do (when we lived together, we needed an entire shelf for it). I thought it would be closed today, so I said that I just wanted to know where it was so I could go buy something on a day that it would be open. Madame told us that it was just past where you could see the back side of l’Arc du Triomphe from the avenue, and we found it after we’d been walking for about half an hour. It was open, so I went inside, found some good tea, and bought it. We started walking home, and we noticed a metro stop that we’d somehow missed on our way to Mariage Frères, so since Sheila’s still a little under the weather, we took the metro back to Porte Maillot (in reality, we only shaved maybe 10 minutes off of our walking time), and walked back home, then spent the rest of our day resting and doing some homework in our rooms.

Madame made a really interesting dinner tonight. Our entrée consisted of four steamed shrimp that we had to clean ourselves, and they were served with homemade mayonnaise. Madame freaking made the mayonnaise herself. She didn’t believe me when I said that our mayonnaise was usually made without mustard (for one), and that most Americans BUY IT. After that, we had prosciutto, perfectly poached eggs that Madame had chilled, and a kind of lentil salad with lardons. We had a salad and cheese course after all of that. So much food, so little time…

Joan needs to do some Christmas shopping tomorrow so she can send her package home and have it get to America in time for the actual holiday. She wants a friend to go with her for another opinion, so I’m getting up a little earlier than I usually would on a Monday to be her shopping buddy. I don’t really plan on doing any shopping myself (though there are a couple specific people I can think of I should probably get a present for), but we’ll see how that goes…

Nous avons psychologisé comme les fous, qui augmentent leur folie en s’efforçant de la comprendre. -Baudelaire. “La Fanfarlo”

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