Archive for December, 2008

Dec 29 2008

Published by under Status updates

Blood oranges have arrived in Switzerland!  Yesssss!!!!  Thank you, Italy.

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Dec 28 2008

A Provençal ChanNoëlukah

Published by under Uncategorized

Normally, I don’t like combining words into one cheesy, hard-to-read string, but it just worked so well…

We spent Noël (what Francophones call Christmas) and Chanukah (what Jews call Chanukah) in the Provence region of France with Seth’s parents. Logistics were rather harried, due to baggage delays combined with our inability to delay our travels because of the impending shut-down of Western Europe for Christmas. However, Provence was still beautiful. We were only there for 2 full days, and I would love to go back, as we just got a small taste. Fortunately, it is pretty close, so we might be able to go back and make it, say, to Marseille and to see the lavender fields in bloom.

We based ourselves in Avignon, in a lovely apartment we rented right in the middle of the walled part of the city, which gave us the opportunity to cook and hang out in a common space while everything else was shut down for the holiday.  Check out the view from the the living room window:

View from Apartment

We spent one of our days in Avignon, wandering the streets of the old city and visiting the enormous papal palace, where the pope was installed from 1309–1377 instead of in Rome.  But then there was a great schism and the popes in Avignon became the anti-popes.  Confusing, and I only remember a little bit from Modern European History in high school, so that’s all the history you get.  The palace was huge, with big, cavernous rooms, as our guide book described them, “denuded.”  Although it was at one time lavishly decorated, it’s mostly a series of big empty rooms nowadays.  We also took a stroll along the famous Pont d’Avignon (I didn’t know it was famous, but apparently everyone should know about it because of a famous song).  Avignon reminded me of Jerusalem, oddly enough, despite its staunchly Catholic history.  I think it was the stone that it was all built out of which resembles Jerusalem stone as well as the old, windy streets where old and new meet with striking contrast. Avignon had amazing food, in particular, French bakeries, which are SO much better than Swiss bakeries, sadly.  I was given a reusable, long, skinny baguette bag at one bakery—so exciting.  We dined at numero 75 as well, which was tasty and beautiful, and they were happy (!) to make us vegetarian, three-course French meals.  Below is a photo of the walled part of Avignon, taken from the rooftop of the Palais des Papes, followed by a picture of the city lit up for Christmas, taken just outside the walls looking in through a gate:

Rooftops of Avignon on Christmas

Avignon of Light

We did some Jewish tourism, too.  There is a strong Jewish tradition in Provence, which includes two of the oldest, still open synagogues in France among other Jewish sites.  We went to light candles and eat home-made donuts with the very friendly Jewish community of Avignon in their old, beautiful synagogue, which was a highlight of the trip.  The second day in Provence, we visited the synaogue in the nearby city of Carpentras, which looked like a small baroque concert hall and has apparently allowed women to become Bat Mitzvah for several centuries, despite being a traditional syngagogue.  This synagogue is one of the prime tourist destinations in Carpentras, which is suprising, as synagogues are not often popular destinations for non-Jews.  But everyone knows about it, as evidenced by the fact that the woman who gave us keys to the Avignon apartment told us that Carpentras was only worth going to if we wanted to see the “Jewish Church” there.  Here’s a photo Seth’s father took of us in front of the ark in Carpentras:

In the Synagogue

We also made it to Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, a tourist/traditional Provençal village alongside a natural spring that feeds a rushing river.  The spring and the old buildings were beatiful, but it was super-touristy, even without tourists there…too many postcard and souvenir shops. We then took the challenging drive to the Village de Bories, featuring awesome stone huts built without mortar.  It doesn’t seem like anyone has expended much energy learning the history of these things, though (or maybe they just didn’t deem it necessary to tell visitors), and thus, we still don’t know why or when they were built and how people still lived in them until just over a century ago.  Here’s Seth in a hut doorway:

Perfect Fit

Then we headed into nearby Gordes, a cliffside village reminding me of Tsfat but with Christmas lights instead of ultra-Orthodox Jews, for a brief night-time walk through the twisting streets surrounding the chateau.

Chateau of Gordes

Then we went back to Switzerland via a disastrous early-morning train ride for a delicious fondue dinner.

More photos are on my photostream.

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Dec 28 2008

Surprise trip to Germany in June and other updates

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Apologies for my prolonged silence. It’s been a busy and crazy past few weeks! A paper I co-authored at the Harvey Mudd REU in 2006 was accepted at a computer science conference in Germany in June and I get to give the talk, plus I turned 23 and my parents paid a visit and we all went to Avignon, in the south of France. Also, Hanukkah. (Jackie’s got a post with pictures coming soon.)

Blog housekeeping notes: Jackie and I are now both posting short updates, which you can read on the left. Mine are from Twitter (follow me!), but Jackie’s are a custom WordPress deal because she inexplicably detests Twitter. As always, the left sidebar also allows you to follow what I’m reading on Google Reader and to see the photos we’ve uploaded to Jackie’s Flickr account.

Happy last night of Hanukkah!

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Dec 23 2008

Published by under Status updates

Hooray!!! Seth’s dad has finally arrived in Switzerland, just 12 hours after he was supposed to! To Avignon the four of us tomorrow.

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Dec 21 2008

Published by under Status updates

Banana chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast…yumm. And something fried for dinner tonight! A freylekhn khaneke tzu alemen.

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Dec 20 2008

Published by under Status updates

Ah, this sidebar stream is no longer broken, though it still looks a little funky. I didn’t even have to subscribe to twitter.

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