Location: Rome, Italy
I am soooo happy to be travelling with my family in Italy right now! I'll give a brief recap of where we've been so far:
I met the three international travellers as they got off the metro in Paris and we were all so excited to start our adventures - especially Adam since this is his first trip to Europe! Being the expert in residence after only 3 prior visits to Paris, I took the family around to the highlights: Eiffel tower (yes, we went all the way up!), Champs Elysées, Arc de triumph, Louvre, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, Galaries Lafayettes, le Bastille, le quartier latin, etc. We also got to go to Roland Garros for the French Open Tennis Tournament for a day. Our tickets were on the wrong court to see the Hewitt-Nadal match, but we saw some good games on ours too ( I don't remember the big names because they were eastern european and contained mostly consonants...). We had to reserve these tickets back in October so it was really great to get to finally go!
After Paris, we hopped on the overnight train to CInque Terre (5 little Italian towns off the nothern mediterranean coast in between Genoa and La Spezia). We had an amazing little flat up some very steep stairs and could even smell baking bread in the mornings drift in through our open windows. The hikes between the toans were gorgeous and the towns themselves are so colorful and quaint.
We got to Rome on the 11th, in time to see Italy win it's first World cup match and hear the town go crazy with excitement (cars were honking and wooming up and down streets with Italia flags all night long!) It was very exciting and Italy has now become Adam's favorite team - he bought a Totti jersey and a flag and everything! Rome itself has such a funny juxtaposition of incredibly old history existing next to state-of-the-art Ferrari dealerships and haute couture brand names. I will say this for Italian fashion: I admire their bravery - they wear such bright colors and bold styles!
Next it's off to Venice!
Location: Cannes, France
GO TO CANNES, FRANCE!!!!! Having just spent an amazing few days with an amazing few girls on the Southern coast of France in Cannes, I can confidently tell you that if you are looking for a good place to sit on the beach, go here.
We had a blast! Of course, it helped that we had an beautiful apartment all to ourselves for absolutely free (thanks Cassi's host mom!) and also that our little visit coincided with the International Film Festival... Let's just say that going out at night was a really big deal. We're talking invite-only, designer dress, champagne affairs. The first night, Heather and I braved the scene to go watch all of the beautiful people try to get on guest lists and/or past the bouncers. The second night all four of us got invited by some friends we met on the beach to go out with them. With the help of a very french David (pronounced Dah-veed), we got intoa pretty posh party and danced up a storm. We think they're were probably some french famous people there, but didn't really have any idea who they were. However, we did see some celebrities arrive to the festival via the red carpet! All that plus a great tan/almost burn made for a fantastic time (and the 2 week full-body peel was totally worth it!).
I start final exams tomorrow... If only I could spend more "finals study periods" like this one!
Location: Dijon, France
I stayed in Dijon this weekend! I know you're all shocked an amazed, as were some of my classmates (the asian, african, and south american students just don't seem to travel as much as the american ones!), but it's been a good, relaxing, and money-saving couple of days.
This morning I ran a 10-k, organized by the rotary club that my host dad is a part of. I almost laughed out loud when I got to the end of the race and saw that, in lieu of fruit, bottled water, and energy bars, there was a table filled with chocolate croissants, pound cake, dried figs, and coffee! Only in France, huh?
I'm also happy to anounce that I will be staying in France this summer! I have recieved a stipend to remain in DIjon from my university in the states in order to begin collecting data that I will use as part of my thesis next year. The project is entitled "The decision to comply with perscribed psychopharmaceuticals in French society: Examining factors related to nonadherence." I will be living all by myself until the end of July in an apartment in downtown Dijon, with plenty of room for visitors. Any takers? haha.
I'm a little nervous to have the first time I live by myself be in a foreign country (who would have thought!), but I feel pretty comfortable in Dijon, so that's at least a start. If you have any fool-proof recipes that you'd like to share with me, I'd really appreciate them!
Location: Santorini, Greece
I could never, ever live on an island as small as Santorini, especially considering the soul source of income here is tourism. However, for six relaxing days, the black sand beaches and warm sunshine have provided a fine vaacation ambiance of which Heather, Cassi and I have taken full advantage.
I have been pleasantly surprised by how welcoming Greek people are on this island. They all genuinely want you to appreciate and love Greece, even inviting us into their homes to share easter meals with families that don't speak more than a dozen words in english. Last night, we ate dinner at a restaurant up the road from our Pension and talked with the Greek owner a bit to find out information about the island. Upon returning from the nightlife scene in the early hours of the morning, the same owner saw us walking back and invited us back into the restaurant for coffee, tea, eggs and assorted easter cookies! How can you resist that?
Our time here has been complete with the donkey rides down the ridiculous set of stairs to the old port, the occasional sunburn, and lots of feta cheese. However, I've also decided that, due to the absence of chocolate in desserts around here, the food will never be on my top-10 list. Also, stay far away from the ouzo, it's really, really strong and basically just disgusting. Don't forget to look at pictures!
Location: London, UK
I'm all alone in London and doing quite fine, if I do say so myself. After a ridiculously sleepless, but adventure-filled week of having chelsea by my side in Europe, she sleepily left me on my own yesterday morning to go back to the states. We spent the beginning of her week here in Dijon while I more-or-less went to class ;) and ended with a whirlwind Paris experience, complete with free entrance to the Louvre and Easter morning service at Notre Dame Cathedral (for me anyway). I have to say that travelling by yourself is quite nice sometimes, without having any semblance of a schedule. Last night I saw the musical "the Producers" and tonight I think I will go out to dinner somewhere (and maybe a pub too...) with my french-speaking hostel-roommate. Who knows - I don't really have to do or go anywhere specific if I don't want to!
Anyway, tomorrow it's off to Greece to relax in the sun after meeting up with Cassi and Heather in Athens. Pictures will have to come after the whole break, seeing as i forgot my camera cord back in france!
wish me bon voyages!
Location: Dijon, France
Where does the time go?
This past weekend, I travelled to Alsace (the French region bordering Germany) with my UPS group. This included a visit of the European Parliament (impressive!), a medieval castle with people dressed in medieval costumes and doing medieval things (think renaissance festival, but in a real castle), the phenomenal Strasbourg Cathedral, and plenty of Alsacian wine - which I prefer because it's mostly all white! I definitely recommend seeing Strasbourg, especially to all 20-somethings because there was plenty to do at night as well.
This weekend, I'm staying in the Burgundy region, but have an itinerary filled with a Verdi Opera, another wine tasting, and a rugby game (don't worry, I'll be watching - not playing). Then Chelsea comes on Monday and I basically commence my 2-and-a-half weeks of spring break! As Cassi put it, "We're doing (Paris, London), Athens, Santorini, Florence, and back. (Mostly) All by train and ''shipping services'' with Hezzer and Mlle Lauren to the glorious locations aforementioned to be bronzed by the sunshine for certain while consuming local delicacies and beverages a plenty." I'll make sure to take lots of pictures...
Location: Strike ville, France
Despite the national strikes in France yesterday, I'm still alive and, as far as I can tell, the French government is still standing (much to the chagrin of some). I'm telling you, these people are quite fond of their nationally-endorsed right to strike and they exercise it quite frequently.
Personally, I haven't been affected all that much by the strikes, save for a few days where the buses don't run and the fact that I didn't have class yesterday because my professors were striking. Luckily, my program at the University is not in one of the principal buildings on campus.
However, for the French students at la Université de Bourgogne, things are much worse. The main buildings of the university have been barricaded from within with tables, chairs, desks, etc. so that no one can enter these buildings for the past 3 weeks. Since this has inhibited professors from holding their courses, the french students have forfeited their 2-week spring break in April and final exams for this semester have been moved to September. As you can imagine, there is a good percentage of the student body that is very upset by all of this, so, naturally, today they are holding another "manifestation" (demonstration/strike) to protest the current strike and barricade situation. It's a little out of control.
My friends in Nantes, France have told me that students ahve been blocking the streets there so that the public transport system has been out of commission during this whole ordeal.
I'm sure the worst of it is in Paris (as you've all probably seen on TV), but they are threatening to blockade all the major cities (most likely including Dijon) at the end of this week if things do not get better.
And what's this I hear about riots or strikes in the US?
Location: Dublin, Ireland
I'm seriously considering living in Dublin, Ireland at some point in my proximal future. It's such a nice European city, although somewhat gray, and everyone here has been so nice to us. Grafton and O'Connell Streets are bustling with energy and style and the pubs are relaxed and very conducive to good conversations, rather than the meat-market dance clubs. In addition to this, Dublin is a hub for RyanAir and Aerlingus, both very inexpensive european airlines - so convenient! It's a bit of an expensive city, due to recent economic success, but the country is finally under stable (and Brit-free) government.
Laura and I are going hiking tomorrow, so hopefully I'll have some great pictures to post!
Location: St. Malo, France
Check out the new pictures from the picturesque Brittany coast of France!
While I was away for the weekend, Dijon recieved a record snowfall, which is quite apparent on every street. FYI, the french don't shovel their sidewalks and then get mad at you for walking in the street. Oh, and there's a strike tomorrow so none of the buses will be working. Wish me luck with getting to school at 9 am.
Location: Geneva, Switzerland
Ok, before I give any details about the weekend in Switzerland, I have to relate to you all how amazing Swiss chocolate is. I'm not talking about chocolate bars as much as "truffles" or "bonbons" from a quality choclaterie, of which there are many in Geneva. I'm not even sure there are words to describe it because it's more of an experience - and trust me, it's one that shouldn't be missed! Holy cow!
The weekend, all in all, was a success. When Cassi and I arrived in Geneva on Friday morning, we saw other people greeting each other with three bisous (pronounced BEE-SUES, kisses on alternating cheeks), rather than the 2 that are customary in France (and apparently Germany as well). So, as you can imagine, it became my goal for the day to make swiss friends and get 3 bisous from them.
After finding our rather industrial-looking hostel and putting away our backpacks (sidenote: I really need to learn how to pack more conservatively - if you have any suggestions, let me know), we started meandering the city. We stumbled upon a restaurant called Edelweiss (can you have a more typically swiss name for a restaurant?) and were ecstatic to find that you could enjoy cheese and choclate fondue for dinner while being entertained by yodelers wearing liederhosen (sp?) and playing accordians and those really long mountain horns (check the pictures!). We knew it was going to be perfect for dinner, so we made a reservation and returned that night with Heather, Lindsay, and Sarah in tow. We all pretty much ate more than you can imagine that night and Cassi, Heather, and I even got the chance to play the long mountain horn ourselves! It was through this experience that we meet Aline and her friends Thomas, Remy, Anastas, and several others, whose names I don't know. Yay, swiss friends! They were mostly all twenty-somethings who either worked, lived, or studied in Geneva, spoke french, and were more than excited to practice their english with us. They took us with them out to a nightclub called "la Scandale" after the restaurant (around 11:30) and introduced us to more friends! Haether, Sarah, and Lindsay left shortly after arriving, complaining of stomachs that might explode from too much cheese and chocolate and leaving Cassi and me to fend for ourselves. Needless to say, Cassi and I acheived our goal of bisous and friends without a problem!
Geneva itself is a pretty funny city. There is tons of history there for various incidents: the reformation, calvanism, the league of nations, international business. It's a very commercial city and crazy EXPENSIVE!! Gucci, Dior, Hermes, and Versace are all over the city and not just seen on mannequins in storefront windows. We went on a walking tour of the city on Saturday morning with a guide that spoke english, french, and german essentially without missing a beat. We all tried really hard to only listen to the french, but we all agreed that we understood a lot better when she spoke in english.
I have to go to class now, but I'll try to write more about our escapades at a later date! Also, look for more pictures soon!
Location: Dijon, France
I can hardly believe I've already been in France for 2 and a half weeks! I already have so many adventure - stories and great experiences to share. I'll try to break it up by subject:
School: after one week of classes, I'm really looking forward to learning a lot more about the intricacies of the French language. I am also taking a contemporary history class, a civilization class, and philosphy class - all in french, which is really challenging! I have alot of class monday through wednesday, then 3 hours on thursday and non on friday. I really feel like this kind of scehdule suits me perfectly because I work best getting my work out of the way and then playing all weekend long!
Host family: I am currently all alone in my house and will be for the next week because the rest of the family is vacationing at ther home in Brittany, France. It's kind of nice to not have to worry about interrupting their lives for a week and to have free reign of the beautiful house (see the new photos I posted!). This past week, my host dad and I were on our own for dinners and we managed to scrounge up some pretty tasty meals. He's very generous, intelligent, and has a good sense of humor. On Friday night, he took me and Lindsay (on of the other american students) to a really great restaurant to experience a "grand repas," a full 4-course meal. It was very tasty, but since we usually have at least 3 courses at their hosue normally for dinner, I didn't find it much different in a restaurant.
During this dinner, he brought up the topic of feminism and preceded to tell us his opinions on how marriage is valuable only for having children and how women aren't really women unless they have and raise children. Needles to say, LIndsay and I had some things to say opposing his points of view, and we became really frustrated at our inability to communicate and argue in french. We both felt like we could do little to provide a convincing argument even though we had so much to say about it.
Friends: There are people here from all over the world! One girl in my class is from Ghana and we are becoming good friends. Some of the countries include: England, Japan, Germany, Columbia, Korea, Russia, China, Spain, Canada, and Ukraine.
Also, I've had tons of adventures going out in Dijon. This week, Cassi and I attended "the part of the year" at a night club here in Dijon that was pretty ridiculous. There were over 1000 people there, and I think we would have had a bit more fun if the average age of people there was higher than 18. Oh well - ya win some, ya lose some.