Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Time is FLYING by!

Current Location: Paris, France

Seriously, where did this month go??? I don't understand it - seems like just yesterday I was getting here, and I fly home on Saturday! I'm going to miss it - I've been having a great time, so much fun! Lucky for me, I have another adventure planned immediately, so I don't have time to be sad about it!

Thursday night we went to the play, as I had mentioned. Unfortunately it was all in French - and we are talking FAST French. I read up on the play in advance, but a lot of people hadn't and even people who are advanced in French couldn't keep up with a lot of the dialogue. The scenes were amazing and the acting was really good. However, it was supposed to be 3 hours long, and I couldn't stay, as I had a test the next day as I left at intermission to study.

Friday I was very tired from the studying, so I left in the afternoon after class to take a nap. It was a glorious nap, but I slept all evening! I was going to go to the catacombs, but the line was sadly too long, and I took my nap instead. So I'm sad to say it but Friday afternoon was wasted a bit. However, I made my plans for the next day, so it wasn't a complete waste...

Saturday, I woke up early and headed to Giverny! Giverny is where Claude Monet lived and painted some of his most famous paintings - the water lilies, the willow trees, and the bridge as examples. the gardens were absolutely breathtaking. That's a job I wouldn't mind - maintaining the gardens at Giverny. I would be happy every day around those beautiful plants! That evening, we went to Versailles to see the fountain light show. It was absolutely AMAZING. The gardens are breathtaking, and the fountains were lit up and absolutely gorgeous. It was by far the "prettiest" day I have had, with all the gardens and flowers. I would love to visit Versailles again in the light and tour the house, but I don't think this trip it will be happening. Maybe next time.

Sunday was another lazy day after all the craziness of the day before. I realized for my entire time here, Sunday was the first day that I could sleep as late as I wanted, and I took full advantage of that fact. With it being my last week, I wanted to get rest and relax so I can enjoy it as well as be ready for Ghana. Sunday night we had a mini party and drinking time - played waterfall, and I will never play never have I ever again - why do I always lose????

So far its been classes as usual this week. Monday night we went for delicious crepes by the Center Pompidou - they were the best crepes I think I have had in Paris! Not too greasy or burned, just perfect! Today in class I had a group presentation on Obama that was a lot of fun. We did very well I think! Also, on Monday, Melanie was in Paris and called me, so I got lunch with her in the afternoon and hung out in the Louvre. It was nice to see someone from home in Paris (though a little random). It made me think of home :)

Tonight we are heading to the Eiffel Tower at night. I've done the Eiffel Tower twice, but never at night so I am really excited to see the city lit up! Tomorrow we have a fancy farewell dinner. Thursday I might go to EuroDisney with a few people - sure it won't compare to Disney World though! Friday we have a farewell reception, and Saturday morning I fly home. Busy few days, and I will try to get one last update or so in this week.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Brussels and Sickness :(

Current Location: Paris, France

I had an AMAZING day Sunday in Brussels, followed by not quite as great a week so far :(

Sunday I got up early to catch a 8 AM train from Paris to Brussels. The train was fine - it took around an hour and 15 minutes. I got off and walked to the city square of Brussels. Luckily I didn't get lost once and found it just fine. Since I had such a limited amount of time in Brussels, I really wanted to see as much as possible, so I took a biking tour! It was a 4 hour bike tour, from 10 AM to 2 PM and we got to see SO MUCH of the city! I had forgotten how fun it is to bike! I was rather rusty at first... I may or may not have crashed into a trash can when going at first. However, I got the hang of it fairly quickly, and after that it was great. Brussels is such a cute little city, and the main square is so beautiful. On the tour we also stopped and got fries (which were AMAZING) and some Belgian beer. After the tour I went and got some belgian chocolates - yum! Then it was back to the train station. I wish I could have spent more time there, but I got to see a lot in the amount of time I was there.

Sadly, after that busy day, the lack of sleep all caught up with me, and I woke up Monday morning very sick. A combination of a head cold and allergies basically made my head feel like it was going to explode from pressure. Also the drainage gave me a sore throat, so it was all in all not a good feeling. I skipped that afternoons activity, which was a tour of the Louvre that I was really looking forward to. The bit of rest I got really helped, and I started feeling better Tuesday but still not great. I made it through the day though, which was the important part. That evening I went out and got a delicious crepe for dinner with a few girls. However, I was still tired, and I ended up falling asleep before my conference call that night.

Wednesday I continued feeling slowly better and we had a really fun afternoon. We had a walking tour of Montmartre! We learned so much more history of the area than I had ever known, and it's just such a fun area. After the tour we did some browsing at adorable little shops. That evening we had dinner at Refuge des Fondus, a yummy little fondue restaurant. Best part though - the served their glasses of wine in baby bottles!!! Funniest pictures ever will be posted soon on facebook! Its definitely my new favorite way to drink wine! After dinner, I brilliantly decided to go to a bar with everyone, which was lots of fun, but I woke up this morning STILL not completely better. Maybe some rest tonight will make me better for this weekend!

Today we are going to see the play Cyrano de Bergerac, which should be really fun! I can't believe we are so close to the end of the trip. I fly home a week from Saturday, and turn around immediately for my trip to Ghana. I hope to continue to update this blog so everyone can follow what I am up to! It will be a completely different world, and I can't wait to discover it! Plus I think it will really help me solidify my plans for after graduation. Love to all, and check back in a few days to hear about what my weekend holds for me! Hopefully lots of fun (last weekend in Europe - yikes!)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Paris and Chartres Adventures!

Current Location: Paris, France

I have had SUCH a busy week, I haven't had a moment to write! Sorry to everyone following this, and I will do my best to catch you up on all my adventures.

Monday, I had, as usual, class in the morning. That afternoon, we visited the Palais Garnier, which is well known as the Opera house that the phantom of the opera is based off of. Looking at the steps made me feel like I had just walked out of the movie! It was relaly amazing to go to and see up close.

Tuesday, We had our long day of classes. I am struggling a bit with french, especially with the pronunciation. The sounds are just so foreign, and I can't figure out how to pronounce something just by reading the word, which makes it very difficult. Also, we learned numbers, and no offense to anyone, but the number 70-99 are really stupid. 70 literally means 60 + 10, and so on so that 79 is 60 + 19. Then when you get to 80, it literally means 4 20s. Why not just have a word mean 80? Blah, so confusing.....

Tuesday night we participated in a really fantastic tradition - Bals Des Pompiers! Basically, all the firehouses become big parties for the night to celebrate the July 14th holiday the next day. We had a big group go, and it was TONS of fun! Dancing and laughing and drinking champagne. Man, the French holiday might be better than the 4th of July! I think we need a tradition of fire house parties!

Wednesday, we had no classes because it was French National Day (or as silly americans call it, Bastille Day). Well sadly, it was raining in the morning, so our picnic was cancelled and we had to eat inside. Luckily it cleared up that evening, so we went out and saw the fireworks for the 14th! It was so beautiful - the fireworks were amazing! I took pictures, but they truly don't do it justice.

Thursday we had a walking tour of the Marais after class. It was an area that I haven't spent much time in at all, so it was really nice to learn more about the history and see all the amazing houses and mansions that are located there. After the tour, we went and got some really good Falafel! I felt like I was in NYC again!

Friday I had class, and sadly wasn't feeling too good, so I skipped out on our event that afternoon and rested. Also did laundry - oh so exciting!

Today was our day trip to Chartres, a little town about an hour to 90 minutes outside of Paris. There was a gorgeous Cathedral there that we had a guided tour from a really cool British man. It was in the process of being cleaned - the cleaned area let us realize just how dirty these cathedrals really get! The cleaning and restoration is supposed to be done in 5-6 years, and I would love to come back and see how it looks once it is finished! After the tour, we had a delicious four course lunch. YUM!

Tomorrow is my day trip to Brussels! I am going to be taking a biking tour so I can see as much of the city as possible. After the tour I've got about 90 minutes for shopping. I must get me some belgium chocolates for sure!!!!

Love to all! Only have 2 weeks left here in Paris (which is crazy - the time is flying by), and then my blog posts will start focusing on my time in GHANA!!!!


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Oh Nice...

Current Location: Nice Airport, Nice, France

So this has been an interesting weekend, to say the least. It wasn't what I was expecting, but Courtney and I have had quite the adventures and will have MANY stories to tell from this experience.

So getting there was fairly glitch free, once I got to the airport, that is. First, I had some flight issues. I'm not gonna go into it, but had to spend a good chunk of money fixing flight issues. I was going to cab it, but couldn't find a cab stand, so I decided to train it. That is where my one glitch occurred - in trying to buy my ticket. WIthout realizing it, I was on the line that takes only card and coins. Well thats alright, I have a card. WRONG. The machine would only take european credit cards. Well I didn't have enough change, so I ask a fruit guy in the station if he can make change. He says no. I'm about to start crying, when I see, lo and behold, a machine that takes bills too! Only thing it only takes exact change. Well digging through my wallet I find the change and get my ticket. Crisis averted.

The train is fine and check in goes smoothly. However, once on the plane, we get delayed about 45-60 minutes. Kinda annoying, considering Courtney had her own travel issues and had been in Nice since around 10 AM! Finally, we take off, I get there, get a bus, etc etc, and check in. YAY! We wander around get some food, and then found the coolest thing EVER! A foot-volley tournament! It is volleyball and football (as in soccer for americans) into ONE SPORT. It is played in pairs, and you have to get the ball over the net without using your hands. The guys were AMAZING! After that we got some drinks (desperado = amazing beer!) and went to bed.

And oh, the hostel. Not exactly what we were expected. It was a brand new hostel, just opened on July 1st. By brand new, they mean renovated hotel - and renovations are VERY behind. We had no AC and no WiFi like we thought, and DAMN was it hot at night. Did not sleep too well with that heat. The location was great, the people were really nice, and they gave us a refund of about 1/3 of our cost because of the issues which was really nice.

Our 2 days were really good. Day 1 (or 2 depending on how you look at it. Saturday anyways) was GREAT! We did everything that we wanted to, and walked all over the place! We think we walked about 5-6 miles that day, and oh yeah, we walked up a mountain! Not exactly, but kinda lol. It was a lot of fun, and we saw all sorts of things in Nice. That afternoon we hung out at the beach. The beach is very different from what I'm used to - they are pebble beaches, not sand. kinda hard to walk on barefoot, but they have their merits. We ended the day with some drinks at the bar. However, it was SO HOT last night, neither of us could sleep much, which was sad.

Today started out disappointing, but ended great, and then got disappointing again for me. Court and I had signed up for a scuba class - it was an introductory dive and seemed super cool. However, no one told me until we got to the place at 9 AM that you cant dive within 24 hours of having a flight. Well I didn't know, so we had to cancel that. We then went on an adventurous bus ride! LOL. LOoooooong story :). We then decided to head to the beach and just relax. It's vacation after all. Well when we went, we decided to go PARASAILING! It was absolutely AMAZING. The views were great, it was actually like we were flying. I loved it, and could have done it over and over if I had time (and could afford it!). After that we lounged on the beach and relaxed. It was vacation after all!

Now this is where things get REALLY interesting. After the beach all day, Courtney and I get food, and then I head to the airport to catch my flight. So I get to the airport really early, and what to I find out - my flight was cancelled. I go wait in line for about an hour before I get to someone and they try to rebook me for Monday at 2. Well I have class Monday mornings, so I ask for an earlier flight to Charles de Gaulle airport. So they say I can take an 8 AM flight. By this time I'm tired, stressed, and ready to be home, so I do what I never do - I start to cry. The woman seems to feel bad for me and offers to put me on the waitlist for a flight that night. I will have to wait around an 2 hours to find out if I can get on, but it's the best option (there were no trains I could take either). SO I wait, and lucky me - I get through! Well I go through security and Of course, the flight is delayed about 2 hours. I won't go through all the details of the wait (which sucked) and the flight (which sucked), but I made it back to my room around 1:30 in the morning. Bleh

All for now - Will update with things from this week in Paris sooon! Lots of stuff planned, including Bastille Day!!!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

First Week of French!

Current Location: Paris, France

Okay, so it's only been three days technically, but I have officially begun my French Classes! It has been a PACKED few days - I actually haven't had time to sit down and actually write until now!

So on Tuesday, classes started! It is taught completely in French - as in instructions and homework and everything is only spoken in French. It is a really good way to learn I think - I feel like my understanding is very good in both reading and listening to french after only 3 days, and it will continue to improve. However, my speaking and writing skills are still a bit problematic. They should only improve with time though! After our first day of class, a group of the girls went exploring - and shopping! I got a super cute dress at a boutique store and then we headed to Saint Michel to go to bookstores. I had to buy 2 books that are like workbooks for the class. However, unlike in the states, these 2 books cost about 20 euros. Totally affordable. We browsed for a while, and then headed back to the dorm. They had screwed up our tuesday afternoon class, so the program bought us all pizza and had a french chatting session. Problem though - I only know about 7 phrases, like I am american, and I speak english! Some people chatted in english so it was alright. We got some wine that night and chilled in the lounge going through Paris books and making lists of what we want to do this month :)

Wednesday we had class in the morning as usual. For lunch Wednesday, I tried the cafeteria for the first time by our dorm. It was surprisingly good considering it was 3 euros of a HUGE meal! Will def go there some to save money! After that, we headed to the musee du vin, or the museum of wine! We got to go around the museum and then had a wine tasting afterwards. It was a lot of fun, though there were some creepy statues in there! After that we headed to try to go to a museum of fashion but sadly, it was closed for renovations. Booo. So Myself and Julianna headed to Gallery Lafayette, which is this AMAZING department store. Seriously, I was in love. Can't afford all the Miu Miu and Prada shoes sadly :( That night we had another mini wine party

Today, once again was class. We are going at a pretty good speed I think, and as we get more comfortable, I think we will speed up. After class, we went exploring, and found a fantastic shopping street right by campus. Didn't buy anything today - I was a good girl!we walked a lot, and then headed to this skyscraper in Paris - its 56 stories tall and you can go up to a terrace and see Paris. We went up and saw everything, which was really nice. Eiffel Tower looks pretty from high up! Then we had an excursion which was a 2 hour walking tour of the Latin Corner. It had a lot of history and was extremely interesting, and I saw so many things. Needless to say, after about 4 hours straight of walking, I was quite exhausted and have spent a nice relaxing night in my room. Watched the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo movie, which I liked. Book was better, but the movie was still good.

Tomorrow I have class in the morning and then I leave for Nice with Courtney Hardenbrook! We will be meeting there are staying for 3 nights, so I am very excited. I am in love with Paris, but excited to see the south of France and be out of the busy atmosphere for a few days. Au Revoir!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Paris and my Program!

Current Location: Paris, France

I've been so busy I haven't had time to update this! I have been having a great but busy time these past few days in Paris.

On Friday, me and my mom got up fairly early and headed to Sacre Coeur. It was a beautiful church on a hill in the Montmartre area. It was quite a walk up the stairs, but it was totally worth it! The view is breathtaking! After that, we went to the Musee d'Orsay to see the amazing paintings there. There are hundreds of Monet's, Manet's, Renoir's, and Van Gogh's - it's absolutely amazing. It really makes our museums in the US look very small. We were tired that night, so we went out and bought some bread, cheese, and fruit and watched the Uruguay-Ghana soccer match. I was SO FURIOUS with the end - don't even get me started.

Saturday was MOVE IN! I slept in - I had been having problems sleeping, and it was raining, so we decided to not go do anything that morning. Around 2, I caught a cab and headed into our dorms. They weren't supposed to be ready until 4, but luckily, they were all clean when we got there! I moved in at exactly the same time as another girl, Katy, and we have been getting along really well. We went and explored the area, and that night was an early night - almost everyone was so jet lagged, they needed to rest. I'd been so busy that I've needed a few days to catch up on sleep too!

Sunday we took a boat cruise down the river Seine. It was a gorgeous day, and we got a delicious lunch and got to see the views. Since it was the first Sunday of the month, the museum's were all free, so we went to Orsay (again for me). There were several wings I hadn't seen, so it wasn't too repetitive for me :) After that we headed back and got some much needed rest - It was a pretty far walk from the Eiffel Tower to the Museum!

Today was our (somewhat) first day of class. In actuality, it was the French placement exam. I already know my level - complete beginner! So I didn't have to take the test, so I chatted with the other girl who is a beginner and the professor that is traveling with us. It was a nice morning. After that, we stopped by a Patisserie and got some brunch before heading shopping! I found a cute dress! After that we went to pick up food for our rooms. I got cereal and exciting things like that. The cost wasn't terrible - I'm glad the Dollar is doing fairly well next to the Euro or I would be broke in no time!

This week is consisting of several exciting things. French classes start tomorrow, which I am so excited for! On Wednesday, we are going to the Museum of Wine for a tour and wine tasting event! Thursday is a tour of one of the neighborhoods nearly. And Friday, after class I am heading to Nice for the weekend with Courtney! I am so exciting to finally see the south of France :) We will see what adventures come of it. Ta Ta for now!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Hello from Paris!

Current Location: Paris, France

Bonjour!!! I am updating this from my hotel room during my now 3rd day here in France, and I am having an AMAZING time!!

Well as of my last update, I was at the Newark airport. Flight came and we boarded close to on time and started our way to Paris! On the plane I watched two movies. The first movie I watched was New Moon, and it was SO BAD it defies description. Sadly I used to like the series, but not anymore! It was good for a laugh though, and kept my mind off the turbulence, which was a bit bad at times (plus I'm an awful flyer)! Second I watched was Inglourious Basterds. It was good, but it also rewrote history which I found a bit odd. I have an inability to sleep on planes, but I tried after the two movies - no luck. Unfortunately, the people sitting next to us had a cat, which I had a major allergic reaction to, so I wasn't feeling too hot as we landed in Paris.

Our first day (Tuesday) was pretty low key. We were exhausted, since neither myself or my mom slept too well on the flight. We took a taxi to our hotel, and checked in, but it was too early for our room to be ready. We went upstairs to get some free breakfast for being Marriott platinum members and then off to get me a cell phone! The language barrier wasn't too bad, and we got me a phone on a pay as you go plan for not too much. When we came back the room was ready and we came back and promptly took a nap! After that we got a delicious dinner at a little cafe nearby - a bottle of white wine, escargot, avocado salad, and a selection of cheeses! Delicious!

Wednesday was a packed day! We woke up fairly
early, got breakfast, and we were off! We took the train over to Notre Dame and headed there first. It is so beautiful, and the history with it is amazing. Next we walked over to Sainte-Chappelle. It is a church with these amazing stained glass windows. Sadly, they are currently cleaning and restoring the windows, so several were missing. It was still very beautiful without
them. Next we decided to walk over to Orangerie - it is a museum in Paris that has several beautiful originals of Monet. It was a small museum so we were able to see everything which was nice. The walk there was lovely - we walked through the Jardin des Tulieries, which was absolutely amazing - they keep their gardens so nice! Finally we decided to go to Invalides to see the World War I and II museum and Napoleon's tomb. The tomb was stunning!
Beautiful art everywhere. The museum was very interesting as well - my grandfather fought in the war, so I love to see information about what happened. All that we did added up to 5 miles of walking so we were exhausted! We decided to just eat at the hotel, but had a delicious dinner. Called it an early night :)

Today we got two major things done - Eiffel Tower and Arc du Triomphe! We woke up a little later than we planned - all that walking had made us tired. We headed to the Eiffel Tower, where we had a bit of a wait, but we made it up. The views are breathtaking up there. Afterwards we headed down and took some pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower. We then went to a little cafe Laura had recommended called Tourville - it had delicious milkshakes! After that we headed over to the Arc du Triomphe. It's really amazing to see up close. We didn't pay to go in, but it was nice to see.

Tonight we are going to head over to the area I am going to be living for 4 weeks and get a feel for it. Hope to find something fun for dinner too! The next few days we are probably going to go to Montmarte and a few museums - I will be sure to update.

Au Revior!