Sunday, February 21, 2010

Carnaval de Nice


View from the top of the Brewery

At the Windmill

The ridiculous yellow hats that the waiter gave us

Brugge at night



L'Arc de Triomphe

The group in front of Notre Dame of Brussels

Katie and I at Mannekin Pis

In front of the Royal Palace

Brussels, Brugge, and Nice!

Wow! Where to begin? I feel like I have so much to update you all on! This last week we didn’t have school, so 7 other girls and I went to Belgium for the week. We spent 5 days in Brussels and 2 in Brugge. I loved both places. Brussels had a big city feel to it, but was still small enough for us to walk around easily. The first day we were there it snowed all day, but that didn’t slow us down too much. We saw the Royal Palace and Mannekin Pis (which is a fountain of a little boy peeing and is oddly famous!), and we went to the Cocoa and Chocolate Museum. We thought that was appropriate for Valentine’s Day.

On our second day, Monday, we took it easy. We went into the center of town for a little while and then out to Atomium, which is a giant structure meant to look like an atom that was built for a World Fair. Not quite as pretty as the Eiffel Tower, which was built for the same purpose. It was funny because I read and had heard that Brussels is not a pretty place, but we were very pleasantly surprised. I loved it, and I think the ugliest city in Europe is still prettier than any of them in the USA. That night we made dinner at our hostel, and then went out to a bar that had over 2,004 kinds of beer. Across from the bar there was a statue of a peeing girl, Jeanette Pis, and we found that way funnier than the little boy. It was a statue made by the bar to get publicity, and it definitely worked.

On Tuesday we did a whole ton of sightseeing. We went to a big flea market, and then over to the Palais de Justice, which was huge! After lunch we went to the Musical Instruments Museum, which was really cool. They gave you a pair of automatic headphones, and when you stepped in front of an instrument, it would start playing. From there we went to the Brussels Museum, where we learned a little about the history of Brussels, but our real interest was the top floor, where there was a display of the costumes that have been given to Mannekin Pis. There were some really funny ones, including a yellow jersey for the Tour de France and Elvis. We also made sure to eat some Belgian waffles, and oh my goodness were they delicious!!! It was great!

Wednesday was a day trip to Luxembourg. Unfortunately, it was a little rainy and cold, and there just turned out to be not a lot to do there. We went to the tourist office to get some suggestions, and a round lady with a thick, and slightly terrifying accent said to me, “There is nothing to do here”. Even the tourist office employees admitted that their city was boring! We ended up walking around a bit, seeing some churches and old buildings, and when we tried to take a bus to the European Union building we got on it the wrong way, rode it for half an hour, and then decided it was time to go back to Brussels. My advice to anyone thinking about going to Luxembourg… Don’t plan on more than a day, and don’t go if the weather is bad! We actually had a lot of fun just hanging out with each other, we’re glad we saw it, but I don’t think any of us will be returning.

Thursday morning we got up and took the Metro to see the L’Arc de Triomphe of Brussels before heading to Brugge. The train ride only took an hour and we got there around 2:30. We checked into our hostel, which was very cool. It was called the Snuffel Hostel, and had a bar attached that was actually a pretty popular place! We spent that night just wandering the town, and I fell in love with the town. It was so beautiful. We tried to go into the Church of Our Lady, but they were closed, so we just wandered around. There must have been at least 50 chocolate shops in this tiny town! A couple of us ended up going into a little café for drinks that night, and ended up with the most hilarious waiter I’ve ever had. He just waltzed around the restaurant in a very flamboyant manner and gave us neon yellow beanies that looked ridiculous, but of course we wore them. It was a very fun night.

We played extreme tourists on our last day. We saw the windmills, went to both the Church of Our Lady to see Michealangelo’s Madonna and Child, and Church of the Holy Blood to see a vial of the blood of Christ, and did a Brewery Tour after lunch. After that we wandered around the town a little more, and walked around the main square. That night we hung out at the hostel’s bar and ended up making friends with a group of British boys that were also staying at the hostel. They were very funny and we ended up going out to a couple of clubs with them. We all got a kick out of the music that was being played, including a medley of songs from Grease.

Saturday was a travel day, and it took us about 8 hours to get back to Aix. The train ride was relaxing, and it was fun to watch the French country side. All in all it was an amazing trip. Even though we struggled to keep warm, we had a really fantastic time, and I’m so glad I got to see that part of Europe.

I’ve only been back for a day, but I haven’t had much down time. Today Kerri, Clare and I went to Le Carnaval de Nice. It was so beautiful! We had about 4 hours to walk around Nice before the parade started, so we walked up and down the beach on the sunny, beautiful day we were lucky to have. We also walked through the market that was going on in old town Nice. Everything was so beautiful. Carnaval was amazing. It’s the closest thing the kids have to Halloween, and a lot of them were dressed up. Everyone was lining the streets with silly string and confetti at the ready. The parade started, and as the floats came by everyone started throwing the silly string and confetti at the floats and at each other. It was impossible not to get covered in both. We had a little silly string war with a group of men and women standing next to us and a little boy on his brother’s shoulders. The floats were fantastic. The theme was saving the planet, and I think our favorite float was one that had Obama as a super hero. The whole experience was amazing, and I’m so glad we went.

Tomorrow is going to consist of homework, laundry, and errands. It’s time for me to start planning for Eric, Sarah and my mom each to come for a week. Next weekend I’m going to Germany to visit a friend from high school that lives there. I can’t wait! Thanks for keeping track of me! I love hearing from you guys, so feel free to shoot me an email! À toute à l’heure!!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Off to Belgium

I have to say, I am really loving these 4 day weeks. The week went by so fast, and now it's time for our February break! I'm leaving tomorrow morning for Brussels with a group of 7 other girls. We're taking the train to Paris, then from Paris to Brussels and staying a a hostel. It should be really great. I get back on the 20th, and then on the 21st we're going to the Carnival de Nice. I'll update when I get back!!

Monday, February 8, 2010

OM Match and Superbowl

The flares

Were's the goalie???

Watching the Super Bowl in a cave!

Fontaine de Vaucluse


Le Pont d'Avignon

Clare, Me and Kerri sur le Pont d'Avignon

Le Palais de Papes

What a Weekend!

Wow!!! It has been a crazy fun weekend! On Saturday we went on an excursion to Avignon and Fontaine de Vaucluse, two beautiful little towns. Avingnon is where the Palais de Papes is, and the famous Avignon bridge. I went with Clare and Kerri, and it was a really fun time. We walked around, saw a beautiful little park, and really enjoyed the area. From there we headed up to Fontaine de Vaucluse which is a small town with a population of 610 that has a huge river running through it. The river is the source of Le Sorgue, which is a river that runs through Provence. We hiked up to the top and it was absolutely beautiful! When we got back on Saturday we met up with Pam and the rest of the AbroadCo kids for hot cocoa and mulled wine, and then we all had another pizza and mafia-playing night, which was really fun. After that we went out with one of Clare's new French friends, Laura, and she took us to some of the popular clubs in the area. It was really fun, but when everyone else was heading to the next place at 2AM, I decided I was ready for bed!

We got to sleep in late on Sunday, which was nice! We spent the morning relaxing, and I started planning for when Eric, Sarah, and Mom each come for a week! I can't wait! At 4:30 we met everyone at the bus station, and took the bus down to Marseille to go to the OM football match. We walked around Marseille for a bit during sunset, which was absolutely beautiful, and then started the 45 minute walk to the stadium. Our seats were up in the nose bleeds, but no one was really checking so we got to get right down in the front, which was very cool. I've never been at a sporting event in my life with such excited fans!!! At each end, behind the goals (which isn't where we were) the fans never sat down and never stopped cheering. There were people with microphones leading the cheers!! After the first goal was scored, Someone let of a flare, and then about 15 people let off flares, and then there was a sound that sounded like a cannon, and tons of blue smoke! It was insane!!! The smoke was so heavy that we couldn't see the other team's goalie on the field, but they kept playing. It was very cool, and we all got a big kick out of it. The game ended at 11:00, and the last bus back to Aix left at 11:50, from across town. I don't think I've ever power walked so hard in my life, but we made it with about 2 minutes to spare!! When we got back to Aix, a couple of us went to a pub called WooHoo where they were playing the SuperBowl. It was packed with American students! You go downstairs into basically a cave, I squished into a corner, and made it to halftime until the thought of bed was too enticing! It was a long day, but a very exciting one!

Luckily today consists of going to the train station to reserve my ticket for February break and doing laundry, and nothing else! I'm looking forward to some time with my book, which at the moment is Harry Potter 3... in French!

For the February break, which we planned this week, 7 girls and I are going to Brussels and Bruges, and planning on seeing Belgium. I wanted to know if anyone had any suggestions about where to go in the area. We're thinking of a daytrip to Antwerp or Waterloo, and definitely Luxenbourg, but I would love your thoughts!!

Love from France!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Classes, Amsterdam, and my birthday!

Wow, so much has happened in the last week and a half! School started, and having class all day really makes the time go by fast! I have five different classes. I’m taking a French language course 10 hours a week. I have two different teachers, Monsieur Tissot and Madame Richard. I like them both a lot. The first day of class I sat up front, and M. Tissot told me it was my job to shake my head and say no every time he called himself old. It’s now my official job of the class, and it means I have to pay attention the whole time! Besides that I am taking 4 electives. There’s English Translation, the 5th Republic, Photos and Literature, and History of Art. In my translation class we’re currently working on translating Harry Potter into French, which is pretty fun. The 5th Republic is a politics class, and the teacher in that one is hilarious. Her name is Mme Lamouroux, and she loves going off on crazy tangents. Photos and Literature is at 8:00am, which is pretty brutal, but I think it’s going to be interesting. We’ll be comparing photos with literature (such as Camus and Sartre) from the same time period and see how their messages vary. Finally there’s Art History, which just seemed like a must while I’m here. I’m going to come back feeling so cultured!

Other than class, things have been pretty relaxing. It’s weird that now that we all have different schedules I don’t see everyone in my program all the time, but I’m also meeting new people that are in my classes with me. I’m definitely settling into a routine, and I really love it.
So this last weekend Clare and I went to Amsterdam. We had a really great time! We were there Saturday evening, all day Sunday, and came back Monday afternoon. I was so taken with how beautiful of a town it is. I loved all the houses. We did a TON of site seeing. We started with Anne Frank House, which was very moving. Then we did the Van Gogh museum, the Rijksmuseum, Madame Tussauds, The Ice Bar, and a canal cruise. Let me tell you, we had some pretty sore feet by the end of the weekend, but it was definitely worth it. It’s also nice to have the whole travelling thing figured out. It was a little challenging, but we were able to handle it!
After coming back on Monday, I got to celebrate my birthday all day Tuesday! It was so great! Although it started with 6 hours of class, it was really fun. Thank you everyone for all of the birthday wishes! I felt very loved! On our way back from class Clare bought me a delicious strawberry tart for my birthday cake. I got to talk to my family, Julie and Megan, which was really special and made my day. That evening the two of us and the girls in our program that live downstairs, Katie, Emily R and Emily N, went out to a really cute little restaurant and had a nice dinner. After that we met up with some of the other people in our program and some of the girls in my language class and we all went to O’Sullivans for the night. It was really fun and a very special night.

Now we’re just gearing up for the next weekend. We’re going to Avingnon on Saturday and then to a Marseille soccer game on Sunday. It should be a really great weekend. We’re also starting to plan our trip for the February break. It’s going to be about 8 of us, and we’re going to go to The Rhine Valley in Germany, Luxembourg, Brussels, and Bruges. It should be a lot of fun! Thanks for reading. Miss you all!