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Celebrating Mardi Gras in the U.S. + Mardi Gras vocabulary

February 27, 2017

Mardi Gras is here! Are you celebrating? Both San Diego and San Francisco host incredible events for Mardi Gras, but before enjoying the parties, make sure that you know these Mardi Gras-related vocabulary words (and the traditions they are associated with).

Celebrating Mardi Gras in the U.S.

Mardi Gras Vocabulary 

Fat Tuesday

“Fat Tuesday” is the direct translation of the words “mardi gras” in French. It’s the Tuesday before Lent begins (see below) and the day when religious people celebrate before 40 days of more restrained living. For non-religious people, it’s a great excuse for a mid-week party and parade!

Lent

Lent is the Catholic tradition of giving up something you love for 40 days. It begins on Wednesday after Mardi Gras.

To give (something) up

This phrasal verb means “to stop enjoying/doing something.” Here are some examples of things people give up:

  • smoking
  • swearing
  • drinking soda/sugary drinks

For lent, people give up something they love or something that isn’t good for them.

Parade

A parade is an event where people, marching bands, and decorated cars or floats slowly make their way down public streets.

Floats

Floats are large, moving stages that are decorated beautifully (and outrageously)! These floats are used in parades.

Masks

In Mardi Gras, the Venetian-style masks are a common decoration (or piece of attire)!

“Let the good times roll”

This expression is the motto of Mardi Gras. It comes from the French expression “Laissez les bons temps rouler!”

King cake

A king cake is the traditional cake eaten for Mardi Gras. A small trinket is placed inside the cake, and whoever finds the trinket in their slice of cake is either considered lucky . . . or is the person who has special responsibilities during the day. The traditions vary from family to family!

Krewe

This word, commonly used in New Orleans, means “group of people on the float.”

Throws

The “throws” are the things that the krewe throws from the float, such as candy or beads.

Beads

Beads are small, (usually round) pieces of plastic that are joined together to make a necklace.

Costumes

Costumes are clothing that are outrageous, colorful, or in the form of a famous person. In the U.S., we wear costumes for Halloween . . . and sometimes for Mardi Gras!

To dress up

This phrasal verb means “to wear a costume.”

Mardi Gras in San Diego

Would you like to join in on the festivities? Check out these two events held in San Diego for Mardi Gras. For these events, you must be 21 or over.

http://www.sdmardigras.com/

http://gaslampmardigras.com/

Mardi Gras in San Francisco

San Francisco’s main Mardi Gras celebration is all about the jazz! Check out this incredible parade if you are studying at CISL SF!

http://sf.funcheap.com/celebrate-mardi-gras-jazz-marching-band-parade-sf/

Dining Featured Student Activities Student Life Suggested student activities

Weekend getaway: exploring Portland (+ some Portland slang!

November 24, 2016

Living and studying English in San Francisco or San Diego is a dream to many international students: the cities are alive with options for activities, festivals, shopping, eating, socializing . . . the list goes on and on! As great as SD and SF are, we encourage our students to see more of the U.S.: there is so much to see in this large and diverse country! One weekend destination we highland recommend is Portland, Oregon.

Portland is the largest city of Oregon, which is the state above California. The city is known for its unique and cool vibe: residents are laid-back, eco-friendly people who love nature and outdoor activities. Coffee and beer scenes are big in Portland, so there’s always a cool cafe or bar to relax in, and the hip music scene means that there are plenty of concerts to attend. Portland is a fun and exciting place!

It is easy to travel to Portland from SD or SF: just book a short flight (if you book in advance, you can get great deals) and you can arrive by late Friday afternoon/early Friday evening after your last CISL class. Here are some of the many things you can check out!

Weekend getaway: Exploring Portland!

Downtown and Willamette River

hawthornebridge-pano

“Keep Portland Weird” is the unofficial slogan of the city, so be prepared to see some unique and hilarious things (and people) when Downtown. Portland’s Downtown is small and easy to walk: check out the bars and restaurants on Hawthorn Street and the shops and galleries on Alberta Street.

coffeeshop_in_downtown_portland_maine

If you’re interested in a little more culture, check out the Portland Art Museum and enjoy the Asian, American, and Native American art collection before heading over to the Tom Call Waterfront Park for some fresh air (and possibly some exercise: there are many paved walkways and bicycle paths!). Have a picnic in the many grassy areas and enjoy the view of the Willamette River, and then stroll through the beautiful Lan Su Chinese Garden. Architecture lovers: be sure to stop and enjoy Steel Bridge, which is a famous landmark.

Enjoy the food and drink scene

Beer.Tasting.Brew.Brewery.Drink

There are over 30 breweries in Portland: grab a glass! The food truck scene is also thriving in Portland, so be sure and check out one of the local vendors for something tasty, like the delicious Mexican cuisine from La Jarochita (5th Ave and Oak St, Downtown), the mouth-watering porchetta sandwiches from Lardo, and Belgian fries at their best at Potato Champion. Not sure where to find food trucks? Check out Downtown’s Mississippi Avenue: it usually has a nice collection of local vendors.

StreetFood.Food.Vendor.FoodTruck foodtruck1

Relaxing with museums and nature

Learn a little about the history of the area at the Oregon Historical Society, and then spend the day exploring some of Portland’s many gardens! Check out The Grotto, a Catholic garden which has beautiful and serene gardens and a Pieta replica (pictured below). Then take a cab to Mount Tabor, which is a park that covers an extinct volcano. Pretty cool! Also cool? The gorgeous views from the top.

the_grotto_portland_8076781321

To plan your trip to Portland, Oregon, check out some of these useful websites:

Portland Slang

If you’re heading to Portland, make sure you know the local lingo! Here are some words that you need to know!

Pods

Pods are collections of food carts.  (We told you the food cart/food truck scene in Portland was strong!)

The Max

“The Max” is short for TriMet Metropolitan Area Express, the public transportation light rail that connects Portland to surrounding areas. You can even take it to and from the airport!

Stumptown, P-Town, Puddletown, Portlandia

Some of the many nicknames for Portland!

For more Portland slang, check out this great article “10 Slang Terms You Must Learn to Live in Portland.”

 

California Life Featured Idioms and expressions San Diego San Diego Neighborhoods San Diego Travel Tips Suggested student activities

SD Gaslamp + “nightlife” idioms

October 23, 2016

Sure, San Diego is all about beaches and beautiful weather, but did you know that Downtown San Diego is home to a beautiful, historic, and exciting area called the Gaslamp Quarter?

SD’s Gaslamp Quarter, called “The Historic Heart of San Diego,” is located just a few streets from CISL San Diego. The streets are lined with historic buildings hosting some of the best restaurants and shopping in SD. When combined with Petco Park, Gaslamp is one of the coolest and most interesting areas in SD!

gaslamp2

San Diego Gaslamp Highlights

Here are some of the few things to see and do when visiting the Gaslamp

Gaslamp.SanDiego.SD.Downtown

“Nightlife” idioms

Before going out in the Gaslamp, make sure you know these idioms about partying and nightlife.

Paint the town red

Definition: go out and enjoy oneself flamboyantly.

Example: We are going to paint the town red for your birthday!

Let loose

Definition: relaxed and party without inhibitions/be yourself.

Example: She’s always so stressed. She needs to let loose a little!

Go out on the town

Definition: an evening where you go out to various restaurants, bars, etc. with friends.

Example: Did you guys go out on the town last night?

Out.Disco.Bar.Club.Nightlife.Fun

Have a night out on the town

Definition: the same as above

Example: Let’s have a fun night out on the town. I need to let loose!

Let one’s hair down

Definition: to behave in an uninhibited or relaxed manner.

Example: After all this studying, we need to let our hair down and go dancing.

California Life Featured San Diego Neighborhoods San Diego Travel Tips San Francisco San Francisco Travel Tips Student Life Suggested student activities Vocabulary

Best bike routes in SD and SF + biking vocabulary

October 17, 2016

There are so many ways to enjoy nature and stay in shape while studying English at CISL San Diego or CISL San Francisco. From the running routes to the hiking trails to the yoga classes, there is always something to do that will keep you in shape!

Another great way to exercise while you are an international student in California is by biking. San Diego and San Francisco both have great bike paths to help you see the cities while exercising. Check out some of the best sites to plot your next ride, but before you do, be sure to learn some bicycling vocabulary!

Bike paths in San Diego

It probably isn’t surprising that many of the bike paths in San Diego are near the ocean. Ride with the ocean breeze in your face and the smell of the salty sea in the air, and make sure to stop along the way to enjoy some of the boutique shops and beautiful natural sights!

Mission Bay’s scenic 12-mile route

CISL students love the Mission Bay ride, which is 12 miles in total. The many bike rental companies in Mission Beach make it easy to rent a bike if you don’t have one! Check out the City of San Diego’s website for an excellent article about the Mission Bay Bike Ride.

Bike.Biking.Bicycle.Sun.Summer.Beach

San Diego Union Tribune’s Guide

The local SD newspaper, the San Diego Union Tribune, has published an excellent guide to biking. This detailed article provides information on the level of difficulty for each trail, tips on where you can stop for bathroom breaks, and other pertinent information such as where to park, things to look out for (such as traffic, or pets on the trail), and ways to extend the trail if you’re not tired once you’ve reached your destination.

Silver Strand Bikeway

This trail, which takes you from Coronado to Imperial Beach, is a favorite for San Diegans (it can also be walked)! Choose between starting or ending in Coronado, home of the famous Hotel del Coronado and the beach voted the Best Beach in the U.S.

>Coronado.HoteldelCoronado.Beach.Hotel

Bayshore Bikeway

Are you ready for a strenuous ride? Check out the Bayshore Bikeway! This route, which is recommended by the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition, is a total of 24 miles: 13 of these miles are car-free, and the remainder is on designated bike lanes or bike routes. After a ferry ride across the San Diego Bay, your route begins at the Coronado Ferry Landing. Cyclists go through Coronado, the Silver Strand, Imperial Beach, and Chula Vista before ending Downtown.

SanDiego.Harbor.Bay.Downtown.Skyline.Sail.Sailing.Boat.Coronado

Bike paths in San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito

See the iconic bridge in an entirely different way with this famous cycling trip! Starting in San Francisco, make your way across the bridge and ending in charming Sausalito. (Don’t forget to enjoy the view from this side of the Bay!) Numerous cycling companies offer bike rentals and tours.

GoldenGate.SF.SanFrancisco.Bay

SF Gate’s Guide to Flat Routes in SF

Don’t want to bike uphill in a city known for its steep terrain? Check out SF Gate’s excellent Guide to Flat Routes in SF. The secret to avoiding the hills? Knowing when to turn off of heavily traveled streets onto smaller, less-traveled ones in a way that avoids inclines. These routes are known to locals as “wiggles” and, according to SF Gate, “The best known of these serpentines is the one Weiss now correctly uses to connect central Market, via the path behind Safeway and through the Lower Haight, to the Panhandle and the western neighborhoods beyond.”

Couple.Dating.HoldingHands.Bike.Bicycle.Love.Relationship

SFist’s Guide to Bike Paths

In addition to some of the more popular routes, SFist’s Guide to SF Bike Paths provides routes that are slightly lesser known, such as the beautiful Baker Beach ride that’s just 5 miles from the Panhandle. Locals know best!

Bike Vocabulary

bike

Do you know each of these words? If not, look them up!

Bike parts

  • Handlebars
  • Pedals
  • Gears
  • Brakes
  • Spokes

Verbs

  • To pedal
  • To brake
  • To switch (gears)
  • To pump (tires)

 

 

American Traditions California Life Featured San Francisco San Francisco Travel Tips Suggested student activities

“Leaf” expressions + fall activities

October 5, 2016

“To ask why we fall in love is to ask why the leaves fall. And to ask how we stay in love is to ask how the trees stay.”
-Jinvirle

Fall is here! With this season comes fall traditions, such as Halloween, pumpkin carving, haunted houses, Thanksgiving, and the famous pumpkin spice latte that many Americans love. With all of these traditions and the beautiful fall weather, it’s a great time to be an international student in California!

The season American call “fall” is also known as “autumn.” Why is it called “fall?” Because the leaves fall during this time of year! To celebrate, we are looking at some English expressions with “leaf” and then providing our students with suggestions for things to do in San Diego and San Francisco this fall.

Fall.Leaves.Trees.Nature

Leaf Expressions

To turn over a new leaf

Definition: to start over, to act in a different manner or change your attitude about something.

Example: We had a difficult beginning to our work relationship, but I’m willing to turn over a new leaf and work together on this new project.

Leaf through

Definition: phrasal verb with leaf; to quickly turn the pages of a book or a magazine, reading only a little of it.

Example: I leafed through the magazine and decided not to buy it.

Read.Reading.Book.TOEFL.IELTS.CAE.FCE

Shaking like a leaf

Definition: shaking and trembling from fright.

Example: I was so nervous before my interview. I was shaking like a leaf!

Make like a tree and “leaf”

Definition: an English joke: “leaf” sounds like “leave,” so the expression should be “make like a tree and leave.” The expression “Make like a BLANK and BLANK” is common in English.

Example: This guy is annoying me. He needs to make like a tree and leaf!

apples

 

Fall activities in SF

Take a wine tour

As the leaves on the vines turn beautiful colors, Napa becomes a beautiful place! Harvest is over and the vineyard workers are eager to talk about what they think the newest vintage will be like. Visit the tasting rooms, snap some photos of the colorful landscapes, and learn all about this world-famous wine region. Check out our Guide to Napa Valley for some suggestions for this road trip, and make sure to learn some wine tasting vocabulary before your visit!

Vineyard.Napa.Winery.Sonoma.California.Agriculture.Grape.Vine

Visit a haunted house

Haunted houses pop up throughout the city in October and yes, people are crazy enough to be paid to be scared! Haunted houses are like interactive theaters where people walk through the (very scary!) production. The costumes and the acting are incredible! Be sure to check out our article on the most haunted places in San Diego and San Francisco and our guide to the best haunted houses in San Diego, which includes the impressive Balboa Park Haunted Trail.

https://www.facebook.com/TheHauntedHotel/photos/pb.127686245387.-2207520000.1414314242./10152331648625388/?type=3&theater

Photo from The Haunted Hotel SD.

Take a trip to a pumpkin patch

Take part in this fun Halloween tradition of choosing your pumpkin from a pumpkin patch and then carving a face or design into it! Our Guide to Pumpkin Carving includes all of the tools and steps necessary to carve your own pumpkin, but check out the Activity Calendars for CISL San Diego and CISL San Francisco to see if CISL is also hosting its own pumpkin carving!

Halloween.Pumpkin.Carving.Holiday

See a football game

Football season is synonymous with fall! Visit a high school, college, or professional game and take part in this American tradition. If you’re a CISL San Diego student, check out the Chargers: CISL San Francisco students have their choice of the San Francisco 49ers or the Oakland Raiders.

Football.Game.Sports.Fan

Check out the festivals

Wine festivals, film festivals, food festivals . . . you name it, and there’s a festival for it this fall! Check out the San Diego and SF Travel websites for a list of festivals.

 

Want to learn a little more about fall? Check out some of our fall-related articles!