Showing posts from July, 2014

A wonderful day in Germany

When we first came to Germany about 2 weeks ago, it was miserable.  I was hot and tired and couldn't figure out how the public transportation worked.  It lacked the mystique of France while managing to be incredibly confusing at the same time.  It did not help that I wasn't particularly prepared for the German leg of my journey.  I hadn't studied maps, or worked out the public transportation, or even bothered to learn any German.  All of these things are my fault.  Germany is not to blame:  it simply went on being the same country it had been for the past decades.

There are some things that Germany could do better, but they are not meant as affronts to me personally.  I'd like to see more air conditioning.  I would like to see better internet connections.  I would like the public transportation to be connected.  As it is, I have to leave one station and walk a block to transfer to another line.  This is irritating.

Fortunately, we have worked around a lot of these pro…

Third entry: pinecone

So I just finished my delicious raspberry beer. I thought this might be the best time for the dark horse in this race: pinecone. I thought maybe it would be ok... Or maybe the pinecone thing was an advertising gimmick. 

Let me tell you. I was wrong. Imagine having a mediocre can of beer an accidentally dropping a pinecone in it.... And leaving it there to steep. It tastes like that. Or if you spilled your beer on a pinecone and decided to lick it off. TERRIBLE!!!
To top it off, it has a slight green tint to the otherwise amber ale hue. I could not get a great photo, but trust me. That itself was off putting. 
So, I don't like beer a lot, remember... So I decided to pass this one over to Mike for a second try. He took one sip and scrunched up his face in confusion. His review:  "this is just weird. I guess it is supposed to taste like nature & maybe if I was camping and there was no other beer available.  But I wouldn't buy it if there was other beer on the shelf."  …

Second entry: red

I've finally finished the pink beer. The more I drank it, the less I liked it. I actually considered pouring the second half out. 
For my second beer, I moved on to the red Kindl beer. 

This photo doesn't do it a lot of justice. It really is a deep magenta color, like strawberry soda. 

And, it is delicious. I've had this before and I really enjoy it. It has a deep raspberry flavor, similar to a wine cooler, but somehow fruitier. According to the label, there is some actual fruit juice in it -- so while I have no illusions that it has any nutrients, I think the flavor is natural, rather than chemical. It more than makes up for the horribleness of the Becks. I wish I would have bought more than one of them. 
If I could get this at home for a reasonable price, I would buy it all the time. ALL. THE. TIME. perhaps it's best that I can't. 
Score: 8/10. Delicious, but not life changing. Actually, after another swallow, I'm revising to 8.5. Delicious. 
I will surely buy this…

First entry: pink

First, I'm trying Becks Summer Hollander, for no reason other than it is pink. That makes it first in my rainbow. 

Honestly, it's a little disappointing. While it is pink, it tastes a lot like regular beer, which I mentioned that I don't love. There is a little bit of a fruity aftertaste but mostly it tastes like a standard ale or pilsner. Initially, I was excited about this one, because I love the cherry Kirsh beers. I thought this would be similar. Personally, I feel that if the beer is pink (and only 3% alcohol), it should taste like fruit. This does not. I will not be buying this again. 
Score:  3/10 (on my arbitrary 10 point scale)

The German rainbow of beer

I don't love beer. I know, crazy. However, Germany has some very interesting beers.  Tonight I have devised a personal taste test of some of the most colorful beers I found at the store... 
Pink, red, green, purple... 

And this one, which I think might be pinecone. Who knows. It's Germany. 
I will drink each one and review them separately, just for the heck of it....

My love/hate relationship with Germany

I realized last night that it is almost exactly 13 years ago since I packed a giant suitcase and embarked on the first of my international endeavors.  In the summer of 2001, I moved to Shenzhen, China (with a few weeks of training in Beijing) to teach English in a private school for nearly a year.  That was also my first forray into the world of teaching -- and as we can see, both things have stuck pretty well.
Since then, I have traveled pretty regularly.  I have returned to China a few times and explored various parts of Europe - in typical American vacation fashion - a week or two here and there.  I have never had the opportunity to travel as extensively as I have with Mike since we have been married.  Our honeymoon was nearly 3 weeks of Italy and the Medditerranian, and now, we are spending six weeks in France and Germany.  These two trips combined are probably more time abroad than many spend in their lifetimes.  
Our weeks in France were amazing.  I loved virtually everything abou…

Germany - Initial Impressions...

I was very sad to leave France yesterday.  VERY sad.  We had such a wonderful time and could have easily spent another month there and not tired of it.  We were getting a little hot... no AC in the apartment and days were creeping up to the 90 degree mark (with humidity).  We would come home from walks drenched in sweat with little opportunity to cool down.  But, aside from that, we had such a wonderful time that I have found myself Googling "how to move to France" a number of times.

Nonetheless, early yesterday morning, we boarded a regional Air France flight to Berlin.  It only took about 90 minutes, and it was so weird knowing that we had made such an abrupt cultural change in such a short period of time.  We landed at Teigel Airport - which is the "other" Berlin airport.  According to a lovely woman we met (more on her in a minute), it is a relic from the cold war when flights could only go to either East or West Berlin, depending on their origin.  Nonethe…

The Michael Gandy Hat Tour of France

Right now, I am between exams at my last day of French foreign exchange.  I have taken 3 of them, with one to go.  Mergers and aquisitions is next and I only need to pass to get credit, but I am kind of questioning it.  Part of me wants to just walk out and say I dropped the class.  But no, I have come this far...
However, I am going to take a few minutes to take you on the official Michael Gandy hat tour of France.  I have said that if (when) we move to France, Mike should go into the tour guide business.  He could start a freelance touring group that does really bizarre and specific tours... "my favorite places to eat onion soup", "everything you ever wanted to know about the lower righthand side of the Orsay", "really weird stuff in the Louvre".  You know - basic stuff.
I have decided that today would be dedicated to that.  Mike has purchased a collection of hats from around the world - literally.  Italy, Spain, you name it.  He uses them for his mytholo…

The best parts of France

I talk all the time about the BEST things in France... sometimes I feel like a 5 year old, wherein everything is my favorite.  So, I have come up with a list of 10 things I have found most enjoyable about my stay in Paris.  I am going to discuss them in no particular order... 

1.  The bread - I have mentioned the bread half a dozen times.  I post about it, I write about it.  I have facebooked and instagramed the bread.  If I had a twitter, I would tweet about the bread as well.  I love the bread.  All of the bread.  I have always loved fresh baked bread.  My mom made it fairly regularly thoughout my childhood and even today, when she comes to visit, I usually try to convince her that she NEEDS to bake bread for me.  I love that I get fresh baked bread every single day - except maybe Wednesdays.  Many of the bakeries are closed on Wednesdays.  I love baguettes, croissants, chocolate crossants... you name it, I have tried it.  Oh wait, I have not tried Vienna style bread yet.  I will pro…

Vive le France!

This past weekend was National Day in France.  Or, as most non-French people know it, Bastille day.  It is similar to (but not the same as) July 4 in the US.  It is a day to celebrate the nation of France and how awesome France is.  How do we they do this, you may ask?  In the traditional way - parties and picnics and fireworks.
Wait a second, this sounds exactly like July 4!  Right?  Wrong.  On the surface, it does sound like the 4th of July.  Americans have picnics and parties and shoot of firewords to celebrate American awesomeness.  I propose, to be truly awesome, we need to take some celebratory lessons from the French.  This is the country that invented champagne, remember.

Let's start with the picnics.  To put it simply, their food is amazing.  I have talked about French food before.  Suffice it to say, picnic food is equally amazing.  Even the basic sandwich is elevated to a new level when you put it on a crunchy, delicious baguette.  Add amaing pastry and some of that weird…

Travel Advice 101

Today marks day 21 that we are in Europe, officially making this the longest stretch of time that I have traveled continuiously (not counting that year in China, of course).  That being said, I thought I would give some of my most successful travel tips, and mention a few things that I THOUGHT would be great ideas, but were not.
DO - pack light.  Originally, I was very overwhelmed by the prospect of packing for a six week "vacation" in three cities with a variety of climates.  I ended up committing to a capsule wardrobe concept - 25 items of clothing to mix and match for multiple outfits.  I looked at this post for my inspiration:

Notice, it even mentions Paris in the title.  After 3 weeks, I have only run into one problem - tshirts.  Notice how the picture does not have any tshirts?  It makes lounging around the apartment less comfortable.  I do have a few tanks for layering, so I tend to wear those.  I have also bought 2 Paris shirts - one from the University and one from Di…

The downside of France

For the past 10 days, I have been extolling the benefits of Paris.  Today, I am going to briefly adress the biggest downside of being here.  So, all of you that have been living vicariously through us can read this post and stop being jealous, at least for a moment or two.  
It smells.  Horribly.  At first, I thought it was just the metro stations.  As anyone that has been to New York City knows, metro stations smell badly pretty much everywhere you go.  Homeless people hunker down to stay out of the elements, drunk party goers that cannot make it back to their apartments, or the nearest public restroom, relieve themselves with abandon.  Rotted food, garbage that doesn't get take out as often as it should, all add up to something that does not smell great.  But, let me repeat, this is not a problem that is unique to France.  I think every subway in the world has that weird smell that attacks your olfactories as soon as you start going down the stairs.  It is slightly compounded her…

French Fitness

(I started this post the other day and thought I should finish before moving on)
The concept of "fitness" in Europe, or at least in France, is so different from the American concept.  I've read and seen a million times how the European lifestyle promotes fitness in a way that the American lifestyle does not.  To an extent, I experienced this is China.  I walked everywhere, ate a lot of vegetables and over the course of a year, lost a LOT of weight.  Of course, I gained all of it back after returning to the US (over the course of a couple years) and have never gotten close to that size again.  
Although, I'm fairly certain that if I lived in Frace for six months, I could make a pretty decent run at it.  
Here is French fitness in a nutshell.
Step one:  Walk.  Everywhere.  I am ashamed to admit that I typically drive to the grocery store at home, even though it is less than a mile away.  I convince myself that there are a few good reasons for this:  I buy a lot of things a…

French Food

Since my first visit in 2004, I have appreciated everything about French food.  It is delicious.  There are lots of breads and cheeses and chocolates, and other delicious things that I love.  There is a reason that we as Americans think of French food as "fancy".  Because it is fancy - at least fancier than American food.  I think part of it is that the French still appreciate the ritual of the meal.  It is very rare occurrence that a meal lasts less than an hour (not counting food on the go, which is a different sort of beast).  Meals come in well timed courses, meant to be enjoyed.

For most of the last week, Mike and I have been eating in.  As I mentioned a couple of posts back, we are shopping in the grocery store and the local market street to get the things we need.  There is something very appealing to me about going from shop to shop to gather the ingredients for a delicious meal:  meat from the butcher, bread from the baker, cheese from the dairy... and so on.  It g…

Because Science

Today is the first day that Europe has caught up with me and truly kicked my ass.  What I mean is that I am finally exhausted from the miles and miles of daily walking (we estimate 8-10 miles per day, or more) and the hellacious world of daylight that Paris is enveloped in.  
Think back to your elementary and middle school science classes - where we learned about the slight tilt of the earth that leads to 22 hour days in Alaska during the summer.  Now, let's review the globe for a moment....

Paris is not too far from that bright aqua colored splotch next to England.  Now, follow that line of latitute back around the the US and what do we notice?  It is so FAR NORTH!!!  We are talking mid-Canada here.  Las Vegas is nearly two full lines of latitude further south.  That translates into a lot of daylight.  According to the weatherman, the sun rose this morning about 5:45 am and sets just after 10pm.  To compare, the sun will rise in Las Vegas about the same time (5:32 today) and set at…

Coffee and Commuting

Today, I have been thinking a lot about my morning routine and how much different it is than my American routine... even though in some ways, it is very similar.  Ok, that doesn't make a lot of sense... so let me just explain.
My American morning routine is pretty typical.  I wake up, I get dressed, make myself some coffee and drive about 20-25 minutes to work.  In all, it takes me about an hour from when I wake up to land at my desk.  Keep in mind, I spend almost zero time "waking up" in the morning.  The alarm goes off, I begrudginly roll out of bed and I get to the car in as little time as possible.  Most days, it takes less than 30 min.
Here in France, the basic function of my morning is the same.  I wake up, get dressed, and commute about 20 minutes.  However, that is where the similarities end.  First of all, I spend much more time sort of lounging around.  I read some e-mails, surf the internet for a few minutes and slowly get ready for my day.  I leave the house ab…

A few thoughts on the concept of study abroad...

Today is my second day of classes here in Paris.  In some senses, it is amazing.  I have the opportunity to learn from world-class professors... people that have been involved with the literal formation of international law (One of my professors assissted in the writing of the post-war Iraq constitution).  I am surrounded by dozens of other law students from a variety of systems and walks of life.  While my part-time program offers me amazing diversity in my classmates, this takes it to an entirely new level.  There are students from all over the US, as well as France, Isreal, and a few other European countries (however, I am one of the oldest students in the program, which feels weird, since I represent the median age of my UNLV program).

However, there are some weird downsides.

1.  I have no real desire to study.  I know a lot of my classmates are in the same situation & I think the skimming I do of the reading materials may actually be much more studying than most are doing. …