Saturday, January 15, 2011

So a lot has happened...

Ok so sorry it has taken me a week to write but between everything going on and shaky internet access, i have been unable to write until now. I am finally in Strasbourg with my host mama and her family. The past few days have been crazy with Amsterdam, Cologne and finally coming here to Strasbourg!

Amsterdam was fun (and not that kind of fun!) and definitely better than last time. We visited the Tropenmuseum, Rijksmuseum and Anne Frank House in addition to many other places around Amsterdam. I tried a Heineken to be in the dutch fashion and found it to be the only beer that I actually like! This of course was after a friend told the waitress he wanted to do a Heiny (of course referring to the beer) and made everyone laugh. After that, anything probably would taste good. I did go to the red light district just to see what it was and wow, never going back again. Thank goodness I went on Sunday evening because I don't think I could stand it on a busy day. I will stop now to avoid my crazy, feminist rant which has already been given multiple times. I also tried indonesian food for the first time which is AWESOME!!! I also tried duck another time and honestly, not a huge fan. Overall I would say Amsterdam was a good time and I would love to go back.

After Amsterdam we went to Cologne, Germany for a few days to wind down before returning to France. While it was interesting and the cathedral beautiful, it was not my favorite city. As in keeping with my new found goal of trying the local drink of every place I go, I tried Koelsch which, honestly, tastes like slightly fancier Natty Bo (or to you non-Baltimoreans, really cheap, crappy beer). Overall I feel that Cologne was a time to recuperate and sleep and relax after a crazy, exhausting week. Yesterday we left Cologne and arrived here in Strasbourg where I am literally 10 min on bike from Germany as I sit here in my bed.

So Strasbourg, I love you and think you are awesome. Yesterday we started orientation and had a meeting with Prof Bach who is acting as our advisor before we got here. About 2 hours after we arrived, we met out host families. I an living in a cute little house across the river from the European Parliament and down the road from the Council of Europe. I can pretty much see parliament out my window, its crazy! Plus I am only a 10-15 min walk from school which is closer than I was in Bmore. Not to mention this walk is entirely down the river. So I am living in a house with an older lady and another Syracuse Student like me, Kylie who actually goes to Fordham in New York (I think I spelled that right...). Our host mamas children and grandchildren are over a lot which is really cool. Kylie and I have the top floor which is nice. Our host mama does have very strict rules though on English usage: basically do not use it unless you have to, French or German only! Which I am ok with. I think this will be a good semester!

Today was our first full day in Strasbourg so we explored a bit. I have suddenly turned into a morning person and woke up at 8am, mon dieu! We ate breakfast and explored the town. I eventually went and got a cell phone which made me feel connected with the world once more! Other than that, we did a little shopping with all of the sales and just walked around this gorgeous city. I cannot believe this is my home for the next 4 months!!! Anyways, I shouldn't stay on my computer too long or else my host mama will think I am weird. Bis spaeter!!!


Friday, January 7, 2011

Au Revoir Paris!

Hello once more.

So I am sitting once more in my hostel lobby where I cam receive internet. Since this is my last evening before we leave for Amsterdam, I thought I would write about the last two days.

Yesterday we started out at the Shoah (Holocaust) Memorial and then spent the afternoon at the L'assemblee nationale (National Assembly). The Shoah Memorial was really interesting and unsettling at times. What made it different than many other Holocaust memorials/museums I have visited is that this one showed how the French Government and not actually the Nazis actually deported people and eventually handed them over to the Germans but that it was conducted by the French themselves. Since the theme of our seminar is European Identity and focuses on immigration and minorities, it showed what can happen when the government starts taking statistics and organizing people based on ethnicity, a very un-French concept since the revolution when everyone was declared simply French. It was also eerie because except for approximately 100 names, Shoah/Holocaust historians have been able to identify every person who was deported from France during this time.

After that we walked around that part of town and had lunch before catching the metro over to the Place de la Concord. This is where the primary guillotine of the revolution stood and now an Egyptian Obelisk marks the spot. Conveniently it is across the street from the US Embassy and across the river from the National Assembly where we took an audio tour and got a unique look into a different type of governmental structure which is very top-down as opposed to our American system. That evening we had some interesting speakers from the embassy who talked about the US' role in French minority and immigration issues.

That evening a couple of us went out to the eiffel tower where we waited in line and went up to the second floor. We would have gone up to the top except that it was closed since it is winter. After eventually coming down from the tower, we all got nutella crepes with bananas which of course are one of my favs! Then we came back to the hostel to rest our feet and get an early night.

Today was fun as well and we went to Versailles. As expected, it was beautiful even though the grey skies and rain of Paris and its surroundings. After getting in free since I am now a student and resident of France :) and visiting the palace, we went for lunch and then walked around the gardens after grabbing pastries of course. I tried two new flavors of macaroons, Rose Lichi and Pain d'Epice. I was trying to be adventurous but not very successfully, oh well. After that we walked around the gardens and saw purple water. After getting a little lost, we walked back to the bus and got on it to go back to Paris where we had more speakers on the issue of French multi-culturism.

Tonight we had a lot of fun as well and went to l'Aric de Triomphe, le Champs d'Elysses et la Place de la Concord again. It was nice to walk around in downtown Paris and just have a good time. Now onto Amsterdam and then Cologne. While I am excited for this, I really cannot wait to actually get to Strasbourg and explore. Oh well, now its time for bed so I will write more in a few days!


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Paris, Paris, Where to Begin?

Hello again.

So to start off, my bags were both under 50 lbs! I say victory!! So a lot and I mean a lot has happened since my last post. I am in Paris sitting in the lobby of the hostel where we are staying and I have met some awesome people so far from all over.

My last hours in New York were a lot of fun. We hit Chelsea Market where we ate crepes and visited Eleni's Bakery, one of my mom's favorites. After that, we relaxed in the hotel lobby and had lunch before getting in the cab for the airport. Once at the airport, I said goodbye to my mom and started to meet people from the program. After checking in and meeting the teacher going with us, we went through security and chilled at the gate, nothing too exciting but it was a chance to get to know people.

The plane ride was, well, a plane ride. Long time of sitting but the food was actually ok and the movies were good so I only got 3 hours sleep. Our plane was HUGE! It was a full tw0-story plane with like 100 rows or more total, insane right?!?! Once we arrived in Paris, it took a while for our luggage to show up but I was so excited to see my baby blue luggage straps with fleurs de lis come down the conveyor belt because that meant I would not need to go naked!! (another reason to love fleurs de lis!!) We were exhausted and jetlagged all day but had a good time going on a boat tour of Paris except we were all pretty tired and took naps for some of the ride... For lunch we explored the area around the hostel and found donner kababs which I forgot how much I loved. But that evening was a go-to-sleep early evening and it felt great!

Today was a bit longer with visits to the Luxembourg Gardens, pantheon, a small church nearby, a middle-eastern restaurant next to the Grand Mosquee and the Immigration Museum. A lot of walking around and reading French but it was worth it in the end!

Tonight a group of like 9 or 10 of us went out after dinner to a bar thing not far from the hostel which was a lot of fun. There we met this French lady named Daniela who kept speaking to us, half in English and half in French while simultaneously force feeding us cheese she ordered from the restaurant attached. She was hilarious and kept calling the one guy in our group Aaron "Sugar." Lets see what tomorrow brings!

Well I am very tired and need sleep. Plus my computer is about to die and none of the plugs around me seem to work. :( I will write more sometime soon!!!


Sunday, January 2, 2011

So the Journey Begins!!

Hey Guys!

So right now I am sitting in my hotel room in New York getting ready to fly out tomorrow from JFK to Paris. After a fun-filled weekend hitting the city with my mom, I think it is time to get back to some "serious" studying and schoolwork. We have been hitting the town in our girls trip style with some broadway, food and museums, a great way to finish off the holidays and spend my last nights stateside for 4 months. We saw "Rock of Ages" on Saturday and "Promises, Promises" today with Kristin Chenoweth and Sean Hayes which happened to be the last show ever since it is closing. It was awesome with Sean Hayes intentionally trying to make other cast member laugh and random bouts of crying near the end as they were delivering their lines for the last time. We also went to the Met because no trip is ever complete without looking at ancient Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Mesopotamian artifacts and statues according to my mom. It was cool to both be students and show our oddly similar ID cards. :P Now onto thinking about the next exciting 4 months!!

I am keeping this blog for two reasons. First to keep my family and friends up to date on what I am doing since I obviously won't be able to email/text/call everyone all the time for an entire semester. Second to keep a record for myself since I have never been good at keeping diaries or journals. Either way, I will still be checking facebook and my email since I am seriously addicted to technology; it is a problem. With that said, I hope to update this blog every week but as I have seen with friends who have gone in the past, that does not always happen. :) I apologize in advance for any spelling errors or grammar mistakes but I will try to correct them.

So while I am studying for the semester in Strasbourg, France, my semester starts out with a 10-day, 2-credit seminar that travels from Paris to Amsterdam to the Hague to Cologne (Germany) to Strasbourg. I am so excited to go to 2 new places (the Hague and Cologne) but also to return to Paris and Amsterdam. Hopefully this trip will go better than my last visit to the Netherlands. :) While I have to do reading every night for classes which are mixed in with cultural visits, I am still very excited to explore!

Anyways, I should probably try to get some sleep before tomorrow so that I can be bubbly for all of the people I am going to meet at the airport for our group flight. Cross your fingers that my luggage is not over 50 lbs because knowing me, it probably will be due to shoes...