Friday, December 24, 2010

Paris, Encore

Our last week in Grenoble was full of snow and sad goodbyes. Luckily my adventures in France didn't end there because before flying back to the States, Emily and I spent a few days in Paris again. I think it's probably the best way to end our stay in France.
Emily & Courtney in front of the Louvre
We stayed with Emily's friend Courtney, who she goes to school with, at her foyer in the 13th arrondissement. We accomplished quite a lot in just a few days. Emily went to a Hillsong church with her friend and then we tried to visit Versailles, something that was at the top of Emily's list. Unfortunately they closed early that day, but we eventually made it! The gardens were covered in snow, which was beautiful, but it was a little difficult to see because of the fog. But the King's and Queen's apartments and the Hall of Mirrors were not a let down.
Hall of Mirrors
We saw many Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works at the Musée d'Orangerie and Musée d'Orsay, as well as the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, Winged Victory of Samothrace, and Napoleon's Apartments at the Louvre. We walked through the Jardin de Luxembourg (not as beautiful at this time of year) and the Jardin de Touilleries, which, covered in snow and with views of the Louvre and the ferris wheel on either side, was definitely worth a visit. We saw the Eiffel Tower lit up at night, visited the lock bridge where lovers come to "lock-in" their love, climbed the Arc de Triomphe, walked along the Champs Elysées one more time, ate ice cream on the ile de St. Louis, and took pictures in front of the Christmas tree in front of Notre Dame. We ended our last night in Paris by eating a Nutella crêpe and walking along the Seine.

Tour Eiffel
The next morning we rose at 5am and trudged through the Paris metro dragging Emily's rather large bags, and though very tired, eventually made it to Charles de Gaulle airport. The flight was a long 10 hours, but we are now home!

Emily misses France, and I do too, but there are always more adventures to come and more of the world that needs exploring!

Next up, Christmas in Colorado. Will update soon.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Merci Marie

This past Saturday, Emily and I spent the day in Lyon. It was the final day of celebrations for the Fête des Lumières. It was freezing and Emily had been kind of sick since the day before, but we had fun.

View of Lyon from the colline
In all honesty, I've heard multiple stories about the origins of Le Fête des Lumières and I can't really tell you which is the real one, but it is a celebration unique to Lyon and it commemorates the Virgen Marie. Originally, the Fête was celebrated only on the 8th of December (the Feast of the Immaculate Conception), but since many Lyonnais recognized its economic potential, it now is a 4 day long celebration. Traditionally on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception the Lyon city-dwellers would light candles and put them in their windows (hence the name 'Festival of Lights'), but with the arrival of modern technology and great expectations, the city of Lyon now puts up more than an average number of Christmas lights and puts on numerous light shows every night during the Festival, starting at 6pm. They also put up posters with a picture of the Virgin Mary that say "merci Marie." During these few days, and especially on the weekend days, the city is busy and packed. I wouldn't recommend going if you are claustrophobic or agoraphobic.

Cathedral light show
During our time in Lyon, we also got the chance to visit the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Cathedral St. Jean, Vieux Lyon, and Le Basilisque Notre Dame de Fourvière, which rests on top of the hill by the edge of the city. The basilica is large and absolutely gorgeous inside. Definitely worth a visit.

Facts about Lyon:
-the 2nd largest city in France in terms of population (after Paris)
-the 3rd largest city in France in terms of size (after Paris and Marseille)
-has 2 rivers running through it: the Saône and the Rhône
-is considered by some the cuisine capital of France. Emily's host mom made her quenelle, a Lyonnais specialité, before she went. She said it reminded her of cheese enchiladas, but not spicy
-it has one of the largest shopping malls in Europe

It's a fun city to visit. It's big. It has the feeling of being old with an interesting past, but in many ways it's just like a lot of other French cities.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Walkin' In A Winter Wonderland

Last weekend, Emily, her friend Lexy, and I travelled to the Alsace region of France, where some of Emily's ancestors come from. We stayed in Strasbourg and spent half a day in Colmar, a little village half an hour south of Strasbourg. I adored it. Emily did too. It's one of her favorite places.

When we left on Friday, snow was piling up in Grenoble. It was beautiful to see, but unfortunately it made our train late to Paris. After rushing through the metro though, we discovered there was another TGV to Strasbourg, so we hopped it. We didn't officially have seats so we sat on a bench by the luggage rack. When we got to Strasbourg, it was snowing just a little, but it only rested on the rooftops. With the abundance of Christmas lights and petite stone roads, Strasbourg's centre ville is enough to make you feel cozy and at home, despite the temperature being about 28 degrees Farenheit.

European Parliament
The next day we explored the city some and saw among other things, the European Parliament, the Cathedral, the astronomical clock, and the statue of Gutenberg. It's beautiful and historic, and fairly large. There are many old and adorable Alsacian buldings. Walking around the city, one can feel see the mixture of German and French influences, but Strasbourg still remains distinctly French. We ate tarte flambée, a speciality of the region, and we spent a lot of time exploring the Marché de Noël, called the Christelkindelsmarik. The Christmas market tradition originates in this area and has been around since 1570. Therefore, the Marchés de Noël in Alsace are the best in France. They are huge and exciting and bustling. The cities of Alsace also go all out with their Christmas decorations, which perfectly complements the architecture.

Colmar is very typicaly Alsacian: the architecture, the Marché de Noël, the cozy neighborhood pub, small parks, old stone roads, and lots of delicious food including tarte flambée, choucroute, and sauerkraut. The town was partially covered in snow and absolutely charming.

On the way home, our train was held up for 2 hours right before reaching the station in Montbéliard because of a car accident that I guess blocked the tracks somehow. Once we reached the station, we had to wait another hour for a replacement conductor. Needless to say, we missed our connecting train in Lyon. The SNCF was nice enough though to provide snack boxes for us (not delicious, but containing the important elements of the food pyramid) and a bus back to Grenoble. We finally made it home at 2am.

The river in Strasbourg
Marché de Noël & one of the oldest buildings in Strasbourg

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

La Ville des Lumières


Nearly a month ago (I'm a little behind on my blogging), Emily and I travelled to Paris with her study abroad program. We took the 3 hour TGV from Grenoble and stayed in a rather nice hotel by Place de la Bastille, where the infamous Bastille used to stand--now there's just a monument. We were only there for a weekend, which was NOT enough time for such a large, interesting, amazing, and historical city, but Emily says we are going back at the end of the semester. I can't wait!

We had 3 tours that Emily's program director organized for us- one of the Bastille area, one which showed many areas that were significant to the Revolution, and one of the Garnier Opera House (where the Phantom lived o.O ). She also got everyone tickets to see an interpretation of "Around the World in 80 Days" in French. The rest of our time there was spent visiting some of the major sites- the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, Montmarte, the Moulin Rouge, the Luxembourg Gardens, the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysées, and the Catacombs. We also saw the outside of the Louvre, but didn't have time to go in. When we go back, Emily says we have to see some Impressionist Art and visit Versailles.


There really are too many things to see. And Paris is such a lovely place! It's a big city, but cozy. It's lively. It's romantic. It's French, but also international. There's so much to be discovered.The people there were not rude or snobby like many Americans think. But perhaps they were more relaxed because it was the weekend...

(Opera House)

Sunday, November 28, 2010


On November 11th, Emily didn't have class because Armistice Day, celebrating the end of WWI, is a national holiday in France. So to celebrate and to take advantage of a long weekend, Emily and her friends Lexy, Abby, Emma, and I headed to Germany. 

We stayed in Munich at a rather nice hostel. The first full day there, we actually made a day trip to Salzburg. It was raining, but still lovely. A friend of Lexy's who was spending the semester there showed us around. We ate sausage and big pretzel's and drank hot chocolate and visited a few of the Sound of Music sights and where Mozart once lived.

(Me with Emily & her friends)            (river in Salzburg)

The next day we took a walking tour of Munich. Thankfully the weather was quite nice. The tour was very insightful. We didn't see everything, Munich is a good-sized city, but we saw and learned a lot. Interestingly, our tour guide was from Houston, TX. Among the things we saw were the location of the Beer Hall Putsch, the old town hall with its glockenspiel, and St. Peter's (oldest church in Munich, I think, and where Pope Benedict XVI held mass as a bishop before becoming Pope), and the Marienplatz. After the tour we visited part of the Englisher Garten and watched people surfing on the river (apparently Jack Johnson surfed there once). We learned a little history of the kings of Bavaria, of the rise of and resistance against the Nazis, Kristallnacht, old Bavarian maypole traditions, and about the Bavarian's love for beer. That evening, Emily and her friends decided to take in some real Bavarian culture by visiting the oldest beer hall in Munich- Augustiner Keller. Munich is a very interesting city, culturally and historically. Though most of its buildings were destroyed during WWII, they rebuilt them in the old Bavarian-style architecture. Munich is often swarming with visitors from around the world (most especially during Oktoberfest), but is still distinctly German. And like the rest of Germany, it wears its history on its sleeve, still working to come to terms with events of the past century.

Emily wishes she could have stayed longer. She said this has been her favorite trip so far. She also says she wants to learn German. If we had had a few more days there, we would have visited Dauchau and Neuschwanstein Castle (the inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty Castle). Guess we have a few good reasons to go back!

Left to right: 1. entrance to long road leading to the Marienplatz. Big shopping area; 2. old town hall; 3. line down doger's lane commemorating the resistance to the Nazis

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Yo Quiero España

Our next adventure took us to Barcelona, Spain. It was warm (at least compared to France, not necessarily compared to Texas), sunny, and lively.

Unfortunately, Emily got sick when we got there, so she didn't enjoy it as much as she could have, but she still wants to go back. I hope she brings me!

We visited Las Ramblas, Parc Guel, la Sagrada Familia, the port, and the beach. Emily ate tapas and paella and drank pineapple juice. The beach was beautiful, and swarming with people offering massages, drinks, hairdos, and souvenirs. Las Ramblas has a lot of interesting human statues. Here are some pictures:


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Erin Go Bragh

Sorry I haven't posted in ages, but that's because I've been busy seeing the world (well, Europe at least) with Emily.

Our first big, out of the country trip was to southern Ireland. It's beautiful.

We left Friday after Emily's class and unfortunately spent so much time traveling, we didn't get to Cobh to meet Emily's friend Bri until midnight. We did however, use about 6 different forms of public transportation in one day (tram, coach, plane, city bus, train, and taxi). I feel like that has to be some kind of record. Anyway, Emily met Bri in Ireland because she was spending the week following around a band named Ceann. They're Americans but they do a lot of Irishy kind of music. Emily and I met Bri and them in Cobh and then the next day accompanied them to Killarney and went on the Ring of Kerry, which is a tour through the Irish countryside near Killarney and it is in one word: gorgeous. Sadly, we didn't get to see much of the city though.

(me with Emily & Bri)

The next day, Bri and the group went to Shannon to fly back to the states while Em and I went to Cork. There, we stayed with Sharon, Bri's roommate from the time she studied abroad in Cork. We visited Blarney castle, Emily kissed the Blarney Stone, and the Cork County Jail. That night was Halloween and she and Sharon and some of Sharon's friends went out to the pubs, but not for too late though because they had class the next day. Emily slept about 2 hours then had to get up to catch a 5am train back to Dublin so she could fly back to France.

All in all, we felt like we did not experience enough of Ireland, but liked what we did. I hope I get to back sometime.