Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Farewell Aix

Well, we only have 4 more days left in Aix, and I can't believe it. We've really made the most out of our last week here. This last weekend Mike's friend came to visit, and the two of them stayed at our place. There were usually at least 5 people here, and it was a lot of fun. We've all just been hanging out every chance we get. I don't think any of us can really believe that this is almost over. On Monday night we had a wine tasting that Pam's friend did for us, and last night we had our farewell dinner. We've been reminiscing a lot about how much things have changed since when we got here.

Being here has definitely been one of the best experiences of my life, and I'm going to be very sad to leave. I have made some amazing friends that I know I will always keep in touch with, and I know that someday I'll be back. So now it's just time to start packing and head to London for awhile!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


OK, I know, I've been terrible about keeping this up to date, but I finally have a moment. As you can tell by my lack of writing, things have been terribly busy around here, but in the most fun way! So here's a quick recap of what I've been up to!

After Sarah left, Mom came and we were off to Italy. Unfortunately getting there wasn't so easy because we had to deal with the train strike going on in Southern France. But once we got there, we had a marvelous time. We started our trip in Cinque Terre, which is a group of 5 small towns that were very cool and had amazing views. From there we stopped at Pisa and Lucca on our way to Florence for 2 nights. I really enjoyed Florence. It was a very beautiful city. We made our way back to Aix after that, only to find out that Mom would be staying an extra week due to the volcano. I decided to be a supportive daughter and join her in Monaco as opposed to deserting her and going to class. I just couldn't bare to do that to her! Monaco was wonderful. Beautiful views and lots of sunshine. I had lots of time to work on my tan.

I headed back to Aix on Thursday night in time to go to class on Friday and then on Saturday Clare, Kerri and I left for Madrid. We had a really splendid time eating tapas, drinking sangria and watching a Flamenco show. We had nice weather and got a great taste of the city. We flew back to Aix on Monday, and it was really nice to just be back for a little while. It really does feel like home here now.

The resting only lasted so long, because on the following Saturday morning Clare and I were at the airport early to catch our flight to Prague. It was really cool to see something of what is technically Eastern Europe. I think our favorite part was probably the fact that everything was so cheap. That was a nice break from the everyday expenses of Southern France. We stayed until Monday night, and by then we were very exhausted. Clearly we have been doing quite a bit of traveling.

It's great to be back in Aix now, and we are really on the home stretch here. We only have about 10 more days left in Aix, which feels like nothing! It's a bittersweet feeling, as we're all a little ready to head home but also very sad to be leaving each other. Of course, I still have a month over here, in which time I will be going to Disneyland Paris with Clare, up to London with Katie, over to Germany to visit my friend Dennis, and then back to London to pick up Megan on our way to Greece and Italy. So my travels are far from over! However, I'm going to be without internet soon, so I'm not sure whether or not I'll be able to update my blog. But thanks for following along, I'll update if I can, and see you all soon!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Sarah's Visit

Wow! What a couple of weeks! As opposed to the tons of time I had to prepare and get excited for Eric to get here, it felt like Sarah just showed up out of nowhere! It was very exciting. The week before Sarah got here I had tests in all but one of my classes, so for the first time since I've been here I was very focused on my school work. It made the week go by very fast, and before I knew it it was Saturday and I was going down to the gare routiere to pick up Sarah. I was so excited to see her. I kept her up way later than she had the energy to be up, but we spent the night just talking and catching up on everything.

On Easter Sunday I let Sarah sleep in even though she had told me to wake her up. I finally did around noon because I knew she'd be mad if I let her sleep in past that. We had an easy going day, just strolling around the town. There was a craft fair going on on Cours Mirabeau, so we walked around that and then spent some time sitting at a cafe, the real French way. Again I kept Sarah up past her bedtime, but we just had so much to talk about!

Monday we decided to take the bus down to Marseille. I think it was cool for Sarah to get to see another big city in France other than Paris and see how it was different. We had a great lunch on the water and then took the bus up to the church on the hill. It was a lot of fun. That night we watched movies and got ready for Paris!

Tuesday was our travel day. We caught the train at 11:00 and got into Paris around 3:00. We went to check into our hotel which was a little outside of Paris. It was actually in a suburb called Malakoff, but it was nice to be in a quiet area that was just a quick Metro ride away from everything. Once we were checked in we took the Metro to the obvious first thing we needed to see, the Eiffel Tower. We got some great pictures, but instead of waiting in the MASSIVE lines to get to the top we decided to go get dinner on the Champs Elysee. We walked down and saw the Arc de Triomphe during sunset, which was really beautiful. Finally we walked down to the Seine and took a night time river cruise. It was really awesome to see all of the monuments lit up. We especially loved the light show that they do on the Eiffel Tower every hour. It just looks enchanted.

Wednesday morning we let ourselves sleep in a bit and then decided to tackle Notre Dame. We had to wait in line for 2 hours to get to the top! This was the first time that I've really had to battle the throngs of tourists since I've been here. That's been the great part about being here before tourist season. But that's alright, because it was well worth the wait. I had forgotten how spectacular the view is! That could just be because I was so light headed by the time we reached the top, but I think it has more to do with the beauty of the place. When we went back down we took a short ice cream break, then we went inside the cathedral and across to Sainte Chappelle, my favorite part of Paris. It was so fun to share it with Sarah. Although she's been to Paris before, she was too young to really remember all of it. It was like getting to show it to someone for the first time. When we were done with the churches we went down to the Bastille. Sarah was very interested in seeing that because she loves learning about the French Revolution. I was surprised by how much she knew! She definitely taught me a lot! After the Bastille we did a little shopping and as we were walking down the Rue de Rivoli we ran into my friend Mike. It was very random and funny. We were both pretty shocked. They went on their way to more sightseeing and we decided to go up to Montmartre for dinner. We really hit the trifecta of churches, going into Sacre Coeur when we reached the top. (Ok, I'll admit it... we cheated! We took the tram up the hill instead of walking it. But have you seen those stairs!) We had a great dinner and then went and saw the Moulin Rouge. It was a very full and fun day!

Thursday was tour day. We got up early and went to the Fat Tire Bike Tour office for our tour of Versailles. Our guide's name was Ned, and he was very funny. We took the train to Versailles (which was a thrilling experience with bikes!) and then went to the market to get the makings for a picnic. Sarah and I made a friend with a 19 year old girl from Australia that was taking her gap year in London and in Paris for her break. Her name was Amanda and she was very nice. We rode our bikes all around Versailles and saw Marie Antoinette's pretend peasant village, the Petit and Grand Trianons, and a lot of the gardens. We stopped for our picnic at the end of the Grand Canal looking out at the chateau. It was really an amazing experience. We were all a little stunned. When we finished lunch we went and toured the chateau, which is really just the definition of opulence. It was breathtaking! After the chateau we headed back to Paris, and Amanda came to dinner with Sarah and I. We found this little restaurant that served traditional French dishes and I got Sarah and Amanda to try escargot for the first time! After dinner we walked under the Eiffel Tower while it was all lit up, then Sarah and I headed back to our hotel.

By Friday we were both feeling a little bit worn out, but we still had to do the Louvre! We didn't spend the 7 hours that Amanda had suggested, but instead just hit some of the highlights and spent about 2 and a half hours. It wasn't as crowded as we were expecting it to be, so we got a great view of the Mona Lisa! After the Louvre we went to check out the Opera house but it was closed, so we went to get desserts at a place Sarah's art teacher had recommended called Angelinas. Talk about decadent. They were some of the fanciest desserts I've ever seen, and neither of us could finish! We decided we needed a little resting time after that so we went to the Touleries garden out front of the Louvre and just sat and journalled in front of a giant fountain for a little while. It was very relaxing. After that it was time for the Ghost Tour we had signed up for. Sarah had her first experience in a bar, as that was the meeting place. We walked around Paris a bit and our guide had all kinds of interesting stories to tell. I think we were both a little disappointed that it wasn't scarier, but it was still very fun. Our guide was an interesting character and had met some even more interesting people, including a convicted serial killer that he went to dinner with! After the tour we headed back to our hotel.

This morning we got up and I took Sarah to the airport. We were both sad she had to leave, although I think she was a little more disappointed because while she has to go to school next week I'll be in Italy with Mom. After I dropped Sarah off I went to Les Invalides, (the tomb of Napolean) and the Rodin Museum because I had some time to kill before my train back to Aix. I got back to Aix around 7. Now I have tomorrow morning to do a load of laundry and repack, then I pick Mom up and we're off to Italy on Monday! Not too shabby!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Eric's Visit

OK, OK, I know I'm way behind on this and have been putting it off... but here's finally an update!

2 weeks ago Eric came to visit, and I can't even begin to explain what a fabulous time we had. He got here on Saturday night and I was able to keep him awake until midnight. He slept in until 1:30 on Sunday, but luckily that seemed to be all he needed to get rid of the jet lag. We spent the day Sunday just hanging out in Aix, and when my friends all got back from their weekend excursion that night we went out to O'Sullivans, which has become our favorite pub.

On Monday Eric, Kerri, Clare and I went to Arles, where they have a lot of old Roman ruins. It was a bit of a rainy day, so we didn't walk around too much, but we really enjoyed seeing the old theater and ampitheatre, where they were gearing up for the Easter bull fights.

Tuesday I had class in the morning, but we spent the rest of the afternoon just hanging around Aix. I think Eric really enjoyed just getting to see what I do with my friends and the town that I'm staying in. That night we went out with most of the people in my program to celebrate Eric's last night in Aix, and we had a really amazing time.

Wednesday we caught the train to Geneva, where we were hoping to meet up with Eric's friends John and Josh who are studying in Lausanne. We still hadn't heard from them when we got there, so we spent the night just hanging out in Geneva, and taking it easy. That night at midnight Eric got a call from his friends saying Eric should meet them at the airport at 6:00 the next morning where they were picking up their other friend, Paolo. Eric let them know that that wasn't going to happen, and we'd try to contact them in the morning.

On Thursday we were afraid we weren't going to hear from Eric's friends, but they called around noon so we hopped on a train to Lausanne and were there by 1:00. Eric was so happy to see his friends. We spent the day just hanging out with them. I have to admit, with so many girls in my program, I had forgotten what hanging out with boys was like! They were pretty funny and random. At one point, Eric's friend Paolo was riding his skateboard next to the water by Lake Geneva, and he hit a pebble and the board went right into the lake. I thought that was the end of that board, but Eric and Josh kept telling him he shouldn't give up and that he should try to go in after it. Really I think they just wanted to see him jump into the lake. But he did! Paolo stripped down to his boxers and then jumped in, and he got his skateboard! I was in absolute shock. It was very funny! That night Eric's buddies really wanted him to stay the night, so I went back to Geneva and Eric spent the night in Lausanne with his friends.

On Friday Eric and his friends all came out to Geneva and we spent the day hanging out in a very cool park. Again... forgot what boys are like! When I'm walking through the park with a group of friends and see a big pile of sticks, I barely notice and keep going. When the boys were walking through the park and saw a big pile of sticks they thought, "Hey! Let's hit each other with these!" And that was the beginning of a giant stick sword fight. It was very amusing and I had a lot of fun seeing all of the ridiculous things that Eric and his friends do. Eric's friends all headed back to Laussane around 8:00 and at 10:00 Clare and Kerri got into town. We all went out for a drink, and Eric was happy he got to see them one last time.

On Saturday morning I had to get up and take Eric to the airport, which I really did not want to do. We were having so much fun and we both felt like the week had gone by way too fast. But I had to say goodbye, and I'm so glad we had such a wonderful time. I spent the rest of the day in Geneva with Kerri and Clare, and that afternoon we caught a train to Lyon. When we got to Lyon we had a little bit of an adventure finding our hostel. What I thought would be a 20 minute walk from the train station was actually an hour and a half walk, but we made it and then had a delicious pizza dinner.

Sunday was a lot of site seeing in Lyon. We went up the hill to the Fourviere church, but we weren't able to go in because it was Palm Sunday and there was a big catholic ceremony happening on the steps. It was actually very cool to get to see that. From there we headed down the hill and went to the Lyon Miniatures Museum, except it wasn't just a miniatures museum, it also had a huge collection of movie paraphenalia. It was very cool, and right up my alley. I of course thought of Sarah and Aunt Debra a lot while we were looking at the miniatures. They would have loved it. And while we were there we saw the guy that made them all walking around the museum. There was a part where we got to look into his giant workshop, and Sarah, Aunt Debra, you guys would have just died! It was huge! From the museum walked to get lunch and had a traditional Lyonnais dish called quenelle. It was very delicious. Because our legs were very tired at this point, we decided to do a bus tour of the city, which was nice. It took us to the Art Museum, where we got to see paintings from some of the artists that we've been talking about in our Art History class. We decided to take it easy for the rest of the day since we were a little warn out, but that night we went to a very cool restaurant and had a delicious dinner.

On Monday we only had a little bit of time before our train back to Aix, so we walked around another garden and then caught our train. I swear, Europeans know how to do gardens! The train ride back was nice, and when we got back to Aix we just took it easy for the night.

This week of school has just flown by. We had tests in 4 out of 5 of our classes, so I've been pretty busy with school, which is the first time since I've been here. I haven't even had time to think about the fact that Sarah is coming, but she gets here today!!! I'm SO excited! Only 8 more hours! Kerri and I are going to go to the market and get some things to prepare for her arrival. I really can't wait. Time for another great week, and then Mom gets here and we go to Italy! In the words of my dear friend Kerri, "This doesn't suck!"

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

La Tour Eiffel

I finally went to the Eiffel Tower (for no more than 5 minutes), but at least now I know I'm really in France!

Mont St Michel


Parc du Tabor

Rennes was beautiful