Monday, August 3, 2009

Bon appetit ... in Paris!

Here is a digital story I created about one of the many great parts of our trip to Paris. I was super tired that last morning, but it didn't stop me from snagging a tasty treat. :P

Oh, the stairs, the stairs!

I forgot all about the 11A burn. I miss my roomies, and I miss London. This is what we had to do each day - and that's not even counting the labyrinth we had to go through after 9 p.m. You guys missed out. :)

Friday, July 31, 2009

Even bigger.

To check out the photo album in a bigger window, click here.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Getting back to normal, I guess...

I've been home for a week and a half now, and, sadly, I feel like I was in Europe weeks ago. Happily, I feel like I'm finally getting over jet lag, which stuck with me way longer than I've ever experienced (more than a week). I'm sure it didn't help that Megan and I didn't have any decent amount of sleep for more than 26 hours the day we came back to the states. (That's what you get for being stubborn about seeing Harry Potter, I guess.) I will forever be grateful for my roommate who moved my car and drove us to the movie though. I am sure I would have fallen asleep at the wheel. So, a huge THANK YOU goes out to Bill. You rock!

Part of what made my return extra strange is that I wasn't coming home from England -- I was coming back from France, where I was accustomed to saying "merci" every five seconds while not understanding any other words. I must say that it took a couple of days to get that out of my system. At least it wasn't a rude habit or anything. I was also bummed to not have the most amazing bread and crepes at my disposal.

It was also strange to get used to having clean feet at times. This may seem strange, but we walked everywhere, and I was always wearing flip-flops. Even though I do tend to walk quite a bit in Madison, I don't walk nearly as much. So, hooray for clean feet, I guess!

I do think I went through a little withdrawal after coming back. Each day we were surrounded by so many good friends, and after a much-needed day of solitude to decompress after the trip, I was lonely without all of my new buddies. It has been fun to be able to leave messages on Facebook, but it's obviously not the same.

I had an amazing time in Europe, and I can't help but try to think of more excuses to go back. I even have a new life goal of spending at least one consecutive year of my life in the U.K. (It can happen, right?) I just love how travel opens people up to new ideas and ways of life. It's helped me to rearrange priorities, regardless of what may be stressed in our own culture. Traveling in a group has not only introduced me to so many great people, but it has forced me to look at ways in which other people see me. And whether I like it or not, I have been able to learn from those experiences.

To anyone who has ever wanted to go travel but has held back for some reason, I encourage you to go. It may be expensive, but you will not regret it.

I'll post more fun stuff later!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Last full day in Paris

Obviously, I totally enjoyed my last day of awesome breakfast at the hotel. (U.K.=Pounds fly off; France=Let's hope those jeans still fit.) Seriously loved the food in France (pastries, crepes, cheese, wine, good beer).

But we went to Notre Dame today. It was beautiful, but I totally have an aversion to large crowds at this point, so I just appreciated it from the outside. But it was really fun to just look around and check out the small shops. I also tried a new crepe: caramel. Who knew? Very good.

Later, we got to jump on a boat and take a cruise on the Seine. I like riding boats, but this was better because it was riding a boat and checking out the architecture in Paris. We got to see the Eiffel Tower and Louvre and so much more. Loved it. And later, we all went to our final dinner as a group in Paris. There were these musicians playing some fun, cheesy music.

After that, Megan, Beth, Kat, and I went out to the Champs Elysee to go see Harry Potter. Yeah... Mission failed. Sold out. I don't think the French are half as into Harry Potter as they could be, but at least I finally got to see the Arch de Triumph. Beautiful, but we just came back to the hotel, which was totally fine because we got to hang out with some friends on the last night. I've learned that I do love Paris, but in a much different way than London. London? I would love to live there. Paris? Gorgeous, different, and I would love to visit it again someday.

I'm so glad I had this experience and got to meet so many great people. I am so grateful I was able to come on this trip. I'm going to miss you, Europe. I have to go pack and go to sleep, so I can catch my flight back to the states tomorrow. FYI: It's a good thing I don't have a layover in London because I don't think I could leave it. Thank you all for reading!

Au revoir!

The majority of the group at the farewell dinner.

My favorite part of the meal was the (gasp!) French onion soup.

The Eiffel Tower as seen from the Seine.

This boat was similar to the one we took.

Notre Dame.

And what does one do on Bastille Day?

Well, I can't say I've ever understood Bastille Day, but being so close to the Bastille monument, we did make the most of it. The night before, crowds had gathered to enjoy music and food. We made it out there later, and they had two stages set up around the Bastille monument. (My favorite was the French rapper who happened to be wearing a pope costume. Interesting. Couldn't understand it. But strangely irresistible.)

On Bastille Day, the group headed to Pere Lachaise, which has many famous people buried there, including Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde. I was wandering around taking photos, and I didn't really give myself enough time to go search for them. The graveyard did not really look at all like the ones next to me in the states. They all were very close together, and they created a sort of labyrinth. Strangely peaceful. Really would have liked to have seen the Oscar Wilde one, though. Later we went to Montmartre, which is a beautiful area of Paris that has a church and ton of steps with a great view of Paris. I took the tram, but apparently the stairs were much faster - AND they didn't involve being packed into a car with a ton of other people. It was worth it at the top for the beautiful views.

Last night made the perfect end of Bastille Day for me. Megan, Alexis, Heather, Dillon and I decided to attempt to watch fireworks off the Eiffel Tower from the Louvre. We didn't want to face the crowds that were sure to be by the tower, but we knew there was a good view from the Louvre. It ended up being awesome. It wasn't too crowded, but a ton of other people had the same idea and enjoyed the more relaxed atmosphere. We started joking that this would ruin fireworks for us forever. ("Oh, they're not like Bastille Day fireworks.") Then to avoid the crowds on the metro, we ended up killing some time at a carnival. Odd. Strangely beautiful. A lot of fun. Just extremely bummed that I did not find a midnight showing of Harry Potter. Oh, well. Au revoir!

Loved the vibrant colors at the carnival.

The ferris wheel right next to a very old statue.

Is it bad that I am in love with this picture? Instead of hitting the metro right after the fireworks, we stopped at the carnival, and as you can see, visitors must pay to use the facilities.

See how in focus this is? My apologies for not having any Eiffel Tower fireworks shots, but they did not come out well. Sorry, guys. Oh, this is the Louvre at night - where we watched the fireworks from.

One of the better views of Paris from Montmartre.

A different view of Paris from Montmartre.

We made this stop on the metro just so we could each take this picture.

This cemetery had so many windy paths, I was afraid I would get lost, so I didn't stray too far from the front.

The markers were so close together, but they were also very beautiful.

The group up the road from our hotel toward the cemetery.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Getting out of Paris

Today was a great day. We hopped on a train (first class!) to Epernay. It was really kind of nice to get out of the city. The countryside was beautiful, and there were so many beautiful villages and vineyards along the way. When we got to Epernay, we walked around the city a little bit and ate dinner. Most people got pizza, but I got spaghetti Bolognese. It was pretty good, but the sauce seemed to resemble tomato soup more than the spaghetti sauce I'm used to, but it was good. The best part of the meal for me was the bread, and they had olive oil that had red peppers soaking in it - the perfect amount of kick to go with the meal.

We later went to check out Moet & Chandon, which is in the champagne region. We got to walk through the cellars and see all the bottles and hear about the history. After the tour we got to try out a couple of glasses of champagne. It made us all giddy, but not enough for me to splurge at the gift shop. The prices spooked me, plus, we had a train to catch. So... yeah. On the way back, I totally fell asleep on the train and LOVED it. I highly recommend taking the train. It's awesome and smooth, and you can just sit and talk to everyone. Very nice.

Tonight? Dinner and drinks with friends. Possibly might watch a couple of American TV shows in French. (Wish I were better at lip reading.) The news seems to be the only thing we can find in English, and well, that's just depressing.

Tomorrow? It's Bastille Day. It should be crazy. Maybe some fireworks by the Eiffel Tower. Maybe not. If I were in the states, I'd totally check out a midnight showing of Harry Potter, but
this should be cool. Hopefully by Wednesday for sure. Hope everyone is well!

Au revoir!

Testing out the product at Moet & Chandon.

Champagne perfects its flavor in the cellars.

Before the tour, we eat. The pizza is much prettier than the shot of my spaghetti Bolognese. Believe me.

A beautiful church in Epernay.

Views of the French countryside from the train. Sooo pretty.