Thursday, October 23, 2008

J'adore Paris

Pictures (in order from top to bottom):
1. Doing C-A-T-S in front of the Arc
2. Being a tourist with my beret
3. In front of the Louvre
4. Inside Notre Dame
5. Outside Notre Dame
6. La Seine River
7. Me
8. Karen
9. Melissa
10. Joe-Michael
11. Tower at night
12. Tower during the day. With the EU stars
13. Arc de Triomphe and I
14. Sacre Couer
15. Hanging out the hotel window
To see all of my pictures on PhotoBucket go to:
On the left you will see a list of the different Albums. Just click on the one you want and the pictures will come up. I separated them by city to make them easier to view.

So last weekend our fellow Global Scholars who are studying in Vienna made their way to good ole Dijon. Melissa and Joe-Michael got here on the Thursday and we met them at the train station. That night Le Chat Noir was having a black and white party for students. First we took our friends to the Irish girls’ apartment to meet everyone and then headed to Le Chat Noir. It ended up being a lot of fun and even our advisor was there…talk about awkward.

Friday during the day we showed Mel and Joe around Dijon and our school. It didn’t take very long seeing as Dijon is fairly small and our school only has about 3 buildings. Friday night we all just hung out at our place because we were leaving for Paris in the morning!

When we arrived in Paris the first thing we did was check into our hotel. Our room was on the 6th floor and we had a great view from out little balcony! As soon as we walked out of our hotel we saw a protest (imagine that!). Our first destination was Sacre Couer which is the Sacred Heart church that is perched on the highest point in Paris. On the way up the streets are lined with little souvenir shops. We had to climb up numerous steps but once we got to the top it was worth it. The church and the view were both very beautiful. We saw a guy on a pillar juggling a soccer ball all different ways. It was crazy! He even climbed to the top of a lamp post while balancing the ball on his head.

When we were going back down the hill, there were all these artists displaying and selling their pieces. All of them were extremely well done and detailed and it was fun to look through them. Back at the bottom we hopped back on the subway and headed to the Arc de Triomphe. Talk about a site! It’s located in the middle of the Champs-Elysees, probably the most famous avenue in Paris. We wanted to enter the UK study abroad photo contest so we decided to spell out C-A-T-S with our bodies in front of the Arc. When we heard a guy speaking English we asked him to take our picture and it turns out he was from Northern Kentucky! How in the world do I find a random guy in France and he is from the same exact place as me? Talk about a small world. He goes to UC though (poor thing).

Around the Arc is a huge traffic circle that is wide enough to fit about 8 lanes of cars. However, I guess the French never quite got around to putting in lanes because it is basically a free-for-all and cars are allowed to go wherever they want. It is a jumbled mess of cars honking and the slamming of breaks to avoid wrecks.

After taking pictures with the Arc we skipped down the Champs-Elysees checking out all the expensive designer shops and restaurants. At the end we got back on the metro and headed to the Eiffel tower! As soon as it came into view I got so excited! It’s actually brown in color and for some reason I always thought it was green. However, it IS ridiculously huge and just standing under it is truly unreal. Unfortunately, the lines were too long to go to the top but we took a bunch of pictures and planned to come back at night.

Next, we walked down some streets until we found a restaurant in which we could relax and eat. I had a rib-eye steak and French fries (shocker). Once we left it was quite dark outside so we headed back to the tower. The light show had begun and the whole tower was bright blue! Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better is started to SPARKLE white lights all over like a spastic Christmas tree! It was amazing! We spent the next ten minutes just staring in awe and taking a plethora of pictures.

On the way back to our hotel we stop in a little bar we found to hang out before we went to bed. There were these mirror-like wall hangings all over the bar and out of boredom we decided to each emulate one of them. (See pictures) After we had had our fun we went back to the hotel and slept. The next morning we headed to the area around La Seine where there are many historic buildings. We went in one castle-like structure that happened to be where Marie-Antoinette was imprisoned. Next up was Notre Dame! As soon as I saw it I was ecstatic. It’s gorgeous! We went inside and were allowed to walk around and take pictures just as mass was starting. The inside is so ornate and complex and the stained glass windows were incredible!

Once back outside, we signed up for a boat tour on La Seine. We got off at the stop for the Louvre. We did not have time to go in but we got pictures from the outside. I swear it seemed almost as big as Versailles! The building went on forever. I was pumped to see the glass triangles in the front because I remembered them from French books in high school. I hope I have a chance to go inside when we have more time!

Once we got back to the Champs-Elysees we had to say good-bye to Melissa and Joe. Karen and I had to eat and then catch our train back to Dijon. It was sad to see them go but we were lucky to have had two beautiful sunny days in Paris!

This week we actually had a lot of classes and homework. How inconvenient J Today is Thursday and we leave at 9:00pm for Italy! We have a week off school so why not? We are going to Rome for 4 days where I will get to see Mary (and hopefully the Pope)! After that we head to Florence for 2 days and Milan for 2 days. Milan happens to be the fashion capital of the world, so I’m sure you can guess how excited I am for that! Well I will write again when I return! Check out the pictures! Ciao!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany!

Pictures (in order from top to bottom):
1. Seeing Scotty when we got off the train! We were so happy to find him!
2. Crazy German words
3. Arriving at Oktoberfest
4. The tent we were in
5. My arms fit through the handles! That's how big they are!
6. Entrance to the main shopping strip
7. St. Peter's church (the reason KY has a Hofbrauhaus)
8. Memorial at Dachau, the concentration camp
9. Ferris Wheel at night
10. Picture of Oktoberfest from top of ferris wheel
11. Scott, Karen, and I at Oktoberfest
12. Going into Hofbrauhaus!
13. Beer and menu at HB
14. Traditional German menu at Ratskeller
15. Beds on the train home
16. My reaction to mom's box
17. I love America!

This past weekend we went to Munich, Germany! It has been my favorite travel destination so far! Karen and I left on Saturday morning around 8:00am. We had to switch trains two times and had to wait in between for a while, so we finally arrived in Munich at 5:30pm. I really wish we had a similar train system in America. It is so convenient, quick, and definitely saves on gas! Scott had gone a day earlier, but hadn’t texted me back all day, so we were worried that we wouldn’t be able to find him once we got there. Luckily, once we got off the train Scotty was standing right there waiting for us! We were so happy to see him! Apparently the night before he was going to sleep in tents set up by Oktoberfest, but when he got there they were all full. I swear he is the luckiest person I know because at some point during the night someone called out to him asking if he was a UK fan (he had a UK hat on) and when Scott said yes, the guy said he was from Louisville! What are the odds of that! So the guy and his wife took Scotty out to dinner and found him a hotel when he told them he had nowhere to stay! Scotty even lost his I-phone during the trip and one of the hostels we stayed out had it behind the desk. SO LUCKY!
Anyways, the first thing we did was look for a place to have dinner. We found a place near the main shopping strip and I had some kind of pork with fries. After that we checked into our hotel for the night. I had to book three different hotels/hostels for each night because they were all full for Oktoberfest. After we dropped off our stuff we went out and found a sports bar where we met some guys from England and Whales. It was a pretty good time but after a while we just went back to sleep since we were so tired.
The next morning we got up early to go to Oktoberfest since it was the last day. Walking up to it I saw an enormous festival with crazy rides and 14 massive “tents” that looked more like warehouses. We picked a tent and went in. It had rows of tables and benches lined up around a center stage where a German band was setting up. We found seats next to older guys from Finland and Sweden. We each got a liter of beer and a pretzel. The beer was pretty good but we found out it was 7.5% alcohol! That’s ridiculous! Later we were joined by an older German guy and his wife. They were currently living in Iowa. I know, small world. So from about 11:00am to 4:00pm we hung out in the tent, listening to the German band sing songs about praising beer.
Around 4:00pm we went to check into our hostel for the night, Jaeger’s Hostel. As soon as we walked in we all laid down in the beds and fell asleep until 8:00! We had planned on going on a brewery tour at 6:00 but that didn’t happen. We decided to go back to Oktoberfest to check out the rides at night. Everything was lit up and it was a beautiful sight! I wanted to ride the famous ferris wheel they have even though I was pretty scared of how high it went. It ending up not being too scary and we got great pictures from the top! Some of those rides were crazy! Even sober people would get sick on them, so I’m not sure if they were the best idea for a beer festival. We also found something that looked like a Merry-go-round but it turned out to be a rotating bar, of course! It ended up being a great night! Oh, and Dad, I definitely didn’t see anyone doing the chicken dance, so I’m guessing that it’s just something stupid the Americans made up!
The next morning we went on a free tour of the city. It was actually really interesting. I had no idea that Munich had so much history, including the beginning of Hitler’s movement. We passed an old church, St. Peter’s, and the tour guide told us it had originally been bombed by the US. The German-Americans from Cincinnati had then paid for it to be rebuilt. In return, Munich built the only other Hofbrauhaus in Newport, KY! We were so excited to hear this because the whole visit we were wondering why there were only two in the entire world. Now it all makes sense! We also learned about the German beer gardens. They contain three things: tree, tables, and beer. They are always packed, even in the morning when many Germans stop by for a breakfast beer. The rest of the tour consisted of historical buildings and memorials. A lot of it had to do with the start of the Nazi movement. Like I said, it was very interesting and I took many pictures.
One thing we were told on the tour that I know my family can especially appreciate was about Germans and their dogs. They treat them like kids and take them everywhere. Outside of places they are not allowed, like pharmacies, they have places to “park your dog”. But the best part about it is that Germans have to pay taxes on their dogs. The amount they pay depends on how well-behaved and how aggressive their dog is! That means that if we had to pay tax on Levi, we would without a doubt go broke!!
Once the tour ended the three of us headed to the Hofbrauhaus to have some German beer and pretzels. I jacked some coasters for our basement, Dad! Now I can officially say I’ve been in the only two Hofbrauhauses in the world! Talk about awesome!
Throughout our trip we saw nothing but Mercedes and BMW’s, obviously because they are made there. It just got a little weird seeing semis and garbage trucks sporting the luxurious Mercedes symbol we all know. I did, however, see my first mustang since I’ve been abroad! It was an old, ugly one, but hey, it’s a start! The other thing that I noticed was how ridiculously lengthy the German language is. All the words exceed about 25 letters! One sentence takes approximately two minutes just to say! (Okay maybe I’m exaggerating, but seriously people, crop those words up!) We took pictures of a lot of signs just to prove the point. The nice thing, though, was that almost all people there speak English so it was a heck of a lot easier day-to-day than it normally is in Dijon.
On Tuesday we took the subway and a bus to Dachau, the location of one of Germany’s concentration camps. The tour was first and foremost really depressing. The overall mood was extremely somber. It’s hard to explain the feeling of standing in rooms where people have been tortured or died for no reason. We saw a very graphic movie as well that just made it worse. We saw prisoner cells, beds, the crematorium, and a gas chamber. That particular gas chamber had never been used, but just standing in it was indescribable. It wasn’t exactly an enjoyable experience, but I learned a lot and was very glad we went.
On the way home we booked an overnight train with beds! Our room consisted of two columns of three beds each and luckily we had it to ourselves the entire time. It was really hard to sleep with all the stops, loud breaks, and really hard mattresses, but at least it was better than a seat! When I arrived back in Dijon there was a package from good ole mom waiting for me at the front desk. As soon as I opened it I was in pure bliss! It contained not one, but TEN boxes of Velveeta macaroni and cheese!!!!!! HEAVEN!!! I LOVE YOU, MOM!!! It also had Gold Star Chili, candy, medicine, and travel games! Nothing can describe my excitement. It was like my own little America-in-a-box! (If anyone reading this would like to send anything American my way just ask for my address and I’d be more than happy to accept!! Haha)
That is all I can think to write about Germany at this point. I might add more later if I can remember anything important!

Only in France

Pictures: (in order from top to bottom)
1. Karen and I getting at school waiting for Rally des Bars to start
2. My team for the bar race! Scotty (left) and Joey (right)
3. Scotty, Karen, and I taking some pictures when we passed the fountains
4. Me running through the fountain! (Though it would be cool haha)
5. Karen and I's faces after drinking a gross black licorish drink
6. Hugging a huge pilar.. our arms didn't make it all the way around haha
7. Standing with Joey, pretending to point in a direction
8. At the animal park
9. The ostrich!
10. The baby goats I fed!

So last week started out with me being sick. I woke up on Thursday morning with a sore throat and about halfway through our first class all my energy was gone and I felt terrible. I spent the weekend with a self-diagnosed sinus infection and just ended up sleeping and complaining (imagine that). Once I started feeling better, Karen and I decided to go with the Irish guys to a random park they had discovered. It was right by Carrefour (the huge Wal-Mart-like store). They already had a soccer ball, excuse me, a football, so we stopped in the sports shop to buy a basketball. There was a basketball court that had soccer goals underneath them. We played "knock-out" and quickly discovered that Irish guys have no business playing basketball. It reminded me of my friend Mary (who was a gymnast) shooting a basketball with two hands. TERRIBLE. Karen and I won almost every game.

Then they started playing soccer and where clearly better at that. Karen and I just watched while they played some sort of shooting game. Once that boredom was over, the boys took us to a petting zoo they had discovered on their last visit. Upon arrival we found random animals in large pens. The first one contained a really hairy sheep/goat thing, a peacock, and what looked like an albino peacock. The second pen had the biggest variety of ducks I have ever seen. I started feeding them my sandwich when all a sudden and OSTRICH comes running up to the fence! I think it was a young one because it was all grey, but was still almost as tall as me. I was scared to feed it because it looked like it would eat me, but Ben was brave and gave it some bread. Next, we went around to the third pen and found baby goats! They were so small and adorable! We spent a while feeding them and taking pictures. Only France would have a completely random animal farm with those combinations of animals.

One day I was sitting in the school cafeteria, kind of bummed because a lot of our friends were going out of town the next morning and I figured we wouldn’t have anything to do that night. Shane told me about the “Rally des Bars”, a bar competition/race put on by our school. I’m telling you these people are crazy. So I said to Shane, “It sucks you guys can’t enter the contest since you have to catch a train really early in the morning.” And he says to me, “What?? We already have a team!” HAHA Typical Irish. So Scotty, Joey, and I signed up as Club Liberté. The premise of the competition was for teams to go from bar to bar, 12 total, drink one drink/shot, and whoever got to the last bar first wins. Good thing we did not plan on running for the win and just wanted to enjoy ourselves because the paper they gave us was in French and only contained hints of which bars to go to. We mostly just followed other people we saw from the school. The drinks were small and not too strong so it turned out being really fun! All the Europeans kept saying the final bar was New York because that was the last hint. Finally I said to them, “Guys, there is no bar here by the name of New York. MAYBE it’s Manhattan…you know the bar we always go to. I don’t know, just an idea.” They were like, “Ohhhh yea that makes sense!” HAHA. So the night ended up with a ton of students hanging out in Manhattan and it was awesome!

On a more studious note, classes are going really well. It is still hard to adjust to the inconsistency of our schedule, though. For example, last week I only had one class and it was Thursday 9:45-1:00. Next week we have class Monday-Thursday from 9:45 to either 1:00 or 5:15. It is hard to remember what assignments to do and such but it has turned out great for traveling. We normally have at least a 3-day weekend. The only annoying thing so far is that all of our classes require a group project from and"international group". This means that we have to have 3 or 4 nationalities in our groups, which is fine, except for the fact that European students work completely different than we do. Everytime we are given an assignment in class all the Americans finish it in about 15 minutes, while everyone else takes an hour. I've found that the Europeans stress over details and take a very long time deciding how to do something simple, whereas we just look at the assingment and do it immediately. Our method is beneficial for getting things done in a timely manner, but their method is perhaps more meticulous. Interesting cultural difference, but this will definitely be a struggle when completing our final projects.

That is all for this blog! Check out the pictures! If you wish to comment on these blogs I think you can just sign up for a username and password on blogger. Then you will be able to comment and I can read them!

Au Revoir!

Friday, October 3, 2008

I know, I know.. I'm slacking..

So I know all of you reading this are so excited for an intellectual and amusing story, but I am currently unable to provide you with that. I have a lot to talk about from last week, including an osterich, goats, basketball, and a bar hop competition. However, I am currently packing and then going to bed so I will not be able to satisfy your hunger until next week. I will be in Munich, Germany until about Tuesday. Oktoberfest!!!! Thus, I promise that upon my return I will write not one.. but TWO mind-blowing blogs for your entertainment. Sorry for the delay!!