The Difference between Visiting and Living

On the second week of vacances, I had the week off and was stoked. One, because I was sort of at the breaking point of hating my job because I spent over 60 hours with people under 8 years old and two, because my sister and brother-in-law were finally traveling to Europe. Now, I realize I am completely biased because I now live in Europe and traveling has become more of an experience than a checklist. However, when you only have a week and you are paying thousands of dollars to come visit, there is really not any other way to feel fulfilled after traveling unless you try to see it all. And with packing multiple cities in just a few days, the trip becomes more of a to-do list than a vacation. I completely understand this and in no way and I discrediting this way of travel. My sister is a very prepared and organized person. To be honest, if it wasnt for her I would have never even known certain things existed in Belgium. She had plotted and planned an incredible trip and I am still thankful that due to her thorough nature I was able to see things I would have just disregarded.

However, it made me realize the difference between visiting somewhere and living somewhere. When you visit somewhere that is otherwise difficult to travel to there is a huge sense of urgency and need to accomplish everything. Since living in Europe and having easier access to everything, I have realized my traveling style (which to be honest has always been pretty laid back) has become even more relaxed. And I really feel like I have actually seen more.

As I said earlier, my sister had planned the entire trip and did an incredible job. However, we all felt rushed due to the limited of time we had and the amount of things planned to see. Paris ended up being their favorite spot, which I think had to do with the fact they had a local (somewhat) guiding them and my sister, as she puts it, “took off the boss hat.” We saw so much but it was really at a good speed. They were able to take in the food, the culture, and even the people. I think that is what travel is all about.

So as I realize it is nearly impossible to travel as casually as I gallivant around Paris on the weekends, I urge people to try and take time to sit and soak it all in when visiting somewhere new. In August, the dreaded month of tourists in Paris, I see piles of exhausted tourists laying outside the popular spots. Now, I understand the amount of things to see and do in Paris, but c’mon people, passed out from exhaustion does not sound like the way I want to experience a city. So, step back, grab a baguette and a bottle of wine and sit down. Experiencing a place is not the same as seeing a place.

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A little bit of reflecting….

So I am recently obsessed with making my STA World Traveler Internship video. I mean I have kind of been obsessed with it for a while now. Ever since I knew it existed but now the timing is right to apply.

Anyways, my obsession, well with that, isnt the point of my entry. The point is that looking through all my old pictures and videos has really been a lot of fun. I have truly had a kick ass 7 months. It really has changed me so much and I have been able to see a lot of incredible things. Traveling is so important to me and I dont get how everyone isnt completely addicted like me. I wish all I could do is travel…

On another note, my sister and brother-in-law are coming to visit soon. It is my sister’s first time to Europe and I cannot wait to be with her when she experiences it. I am so proud that I had a part in getting her to finally come over here. I am counting down the days until I get to see her and her childlike wonder exploring with me and my brother-in-law. I think I am most excited by the fact I know she is going to bitten by the travel bug. Travel changes you and once you see just a small piece of what the world has to offer you become addicted to seeing more… well I did at least.

Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em: Being a Tourist in Paris

One of my best friends Annie, her dad, and some of her friends has been studying abroad in Florence for the last couple months and now that they have completed this term, they are traveling. Fortunately for me, one of their stops was Paris! I was really excited, not only to see them, but also get a chance to see the more touristy things in Paris. Since I have been here, I have not been able to do many “typical” Paris things. So here was my chance!

Annie and her posse had gotten tickets for a hop-on-hop-off tour bus. Because I have a Navigo card (a prepaid transportation card that allows you to travel between 5 zones including Paris on the metro, RER, and buses), I decided I would meet them at each of the stops their bus was going and use the metro. Until now, I have gone everywhere and done everything with Callie, so this was my first adventure into the big city by myself! It was all up to me to figure out the buses, metro, and RER system! I was so proud of myself. This was a perfect day to do it too because I had to go to so many stops. Once you get the hang of it, it really is not bad at all. I actually quite enjoy it because you don’t have to think about driving. Although, I do hate relying on the buses a bit, because I never seem to have my timing right. And because I live in the sticks, the buses to my village stop early and then its 13 euros for a taxi. Not very economical. Ok enough of my commentary on public transportation.

Palais Garnier

I met Annie and her friends at the Palais Garnier (also know asthe Opéra de Paris). The first time I went to Paris I had seen the Palais Garnier but not the inside of it. For only 5 euros, you are able to go inside and explore. The Palais Garnier was finished being built in 1875 by Charles Garnier, an architect who had won the competition set out by Napoleon III for the project. It is so beautiful and definitely worth the euros to see inside.

Annie and Me on the Grand Staircase

The Grand Staircase is made of marble and decorated in ornate gold, deep reds, and royal blues. I was also extremely impressed by the library, which holds three centuries of  the Opera’s history, as well as paintings, photographs, drawings and temporary exhibits.

The foyer in the Palais Garnier

Next we headed into the foyer that just beamed with gold fixtures, elaborate decorations, and a gorgeous painted ceiling. Chandeliers lined the ceilings and two giant fireplaces were at either end. There was then an exhibit on a famous opera singer named Regine Crespin. The exhibit examined her life as an internationally acclaimed singer as well as showcased some of her costumes from her famous works. We then headed to the auditorium and I couldn’t help but picture people scurrying to their seats and private balconies centuries ago.

Arc de Triomphe

Our next stop was the Arc de Triomphe. This monument honors those who fought for France, especially during the Napoleonic Wars. I am not completely sure what I find more amusing: the actual Arc itself or the idiot tourist trying to cross the busiest traffic circle in Paris. For the people who put their thinking caps on when they woke up, there is a fabulous, and safe I might add, staircase that goes underground from one side to the Arc. However, for those with limited brain power, apparently running across the street with children seems to be the way to go. Americans constantly say that the French hate them, but I am here to say there is an extremely valid reason for this. Please insert brain before coming to tour Europe. Thank you! Ok, enough about the tourists… I should expect it in August!! The Arc is gorgeous to see. The size of it is truly remarkable. The monument stands 160 feet in height, 148 feet wide and 72 feet deep. Incredible! After people watching for a bit and gazing up at the giant Arc, we headed over to the Grand Palais and Pont Alexandre III.

Grand Palais

Pont Alexandre III is a magnificent and ornate bridge that cross over the Seine that connects the Champs-Elysees quarter and the Eiffel Tower quarter. It was built at the end of the 1800s and named after Tsar Alexandre III. Its architecture and design matches the Grand Palais nearby. The Grand Palais was originally constructed for a World Fair back in the late 1800s-early 1900s. Now it is a exhibition hall, museum, and historic site. Unfortunately, we were unable to see very much of it due to the construction and it being between exhibits. However, we were still able to see the remarkable architecture.

View from Trocadero

After the Grand Palais, we headed to my favorite stop, the Trocadéro. The Trocadéro is across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower giving it impeccable views. The square is filled with street performers and gypsys selling little trinkets to tourists. People are everywhere snapping shots of the Eiffel Tower. It is such a fun place to not only see the view, but also partake in a favorite pastime of Parisians–people watching.

View of the Louvre from the boat

From there we headed to catch a boat tour on the Seine, (I know! All the touristy things in one day!). This is a definite must when you come to Paris. I only had to pay 9 euros which makes it even more worth it! It is such a great wait to see the city from a different view. There is a personal audio guide for each seat that gives you interesting facts about the things you passed by. It is so relaxing and perfect for when you want to see Paris, but also need to rest a bit. I did this the first time I came to Paris as well and enjoyed it both times. One of my favorite things to see is all the people strolling and picnicing on the river. The Parisians just sit and chat with their friends over their baguettes and fromage. Unfortunately, right after the boat ride I had to scurry home so I didn’t miss my bus… which I did anyways!

It was such a nice and full day. I absolutely love this city.

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Check out pictures from Annie’s visit!

In the Land of Tapas– San Sebastian

Front of our hostel, Enjoyss

Because Callie and I could not bear another day in Bilbao we left for San Sebastián as soon as we checked out of our hostel. The bus ride is only about an hour so it wasnt too bad. Right off the bat, San Sebastián was a better experience for us. Not only was our hostel easy to find, but also it was in the middle of everything. We stayed at the Enjoyss Hostel and it was so incredible. First off, the staff was extremely friendly and helpful, especially Pablo who ran the place. The vibe was right up our alley too, (unlike the hostel in Bilbao). Young backpackers filled the place! The hostel offered a bunch of opportunities to tour around San Sebastián or rent things like surfboards and roller blades. Oh and the beds–heavenly. They were so unbelievably comfortable it was ridiculous. The street our hostel was on was the oldest and only street in San Sebastián to not be destroyed by the huge fire in 1813.

Replica of Iglesia de San Vicente

Right outside our hostel was the oldest building in San Sebastián, Iglesia de San Vicente. It was built in 1507. Not only was it really cool to have the some much history right outside our door, but also it helped us always find our way back to the hostel!

Me eating my first tapa!

Right after we checked into our hostel and settled in, we of course were hungry. Sian, (the mom of the children I watch), had given us a tapas guide for San Sebastián so we were very excited to try the best tapas at the best places. It is very popular to go tapas bar hoping here and that is exactly what we did. We went to about 4 or 5 different places and got a few tapas at each in order to try the most. SO DELICIOUS! Everything we tried was incredible. A little miniature piece of heaven! I have to say, although everything is absolutely amazing, that my favorite kind of tapas are croquetas.

My favorite croquetas!

They are a little fried food roll made up of potatoes and minced meat or cheese, then encased in bread crumbs. It is shaped into a cylinder or ball usually . Incredible. Another great thing about tapas is that they are pretty cheap.

View of Jazzaldia

After was filled our tummys with tapas, we headed back to the hostel to shower and get ready for the night. San Sebastián was hosting Heineken Jazzaldia while we were there. This jazz festival is the longest, continuously running music festival in Europe. It is right on the beach and free to the public (though there are special shows that you have to pay for, but most of it is free). I am so happy that our trip was conveniently around the same time because I absolutely loved the festival. There were a few different stages and although it was mostly just jazz, they also showcased some soul and other types of music. After staying at Jazzaldia for quite some time, we decided to check out the bar/club situation. The streets of San Sebastián were already packed so it was already looking much better than Bilbao. By this time it was around 1230am, (people go out much later in Europe–and stay out till the early morning!) so we decided to grab a drink and some tapas. We met some new friends and then continued our bar hopping with them. We ended up going to several bars/clubs and also going back to see more of Jazzaldia. It was such a fun night!

San Sebastián Beach

The next day had absolutely gorgeous weather so we headed to the beach. After getting used to the topless sunbathers, we were able to relax. The beach was packed with locals and tourist alike. It was very entertaining to people watch! When finished up at the beach, we walked around the marina area and looked around the shops. There was this incredible smell coming from all the restaurants of the fresh seafood. I really could not asked for better weather.

Cathedral Buen Pastor

We eventually made our way to some of the churches we had been interested in seeing. First we went to the Cathedral Buen Pastor, which was built in the 1890s. This cathedral has the highest point in San Sebastián with its 75 meter high tower.

The Basilica of Santa María del Coro

Next, we walked over to The Basilica of Santa María del Coro, which was built in the 18th century. Both churches, although different were beautiful. Seeing churches and cathedrals is probably one of my favorite things to do when I am traveling. It is incredible to me that something so magnificent could have been built in a time were there was very limited technology. The time and effort spent on the these buildings is just incredible to me.

Later that day, we went back to Jazzaldia and called it an early night. San Sebastián had taken a lot out of us!

Check out my pictures from the trip!

The Ups and Downs of Bilbao

Second stop on holiday– Bilbao, Spain. I have to say I was disappointed. I was very excited to go into Spain and although Bilbao had fabulous things to offer like the Guggenheim, it is definitely a city that only needs a day to see. To give Bilbao the benefit of the doubt, we were there Wednesday and Thursday. Being the middle of the week, and many residents being on holiday, I could understand a slight lack of people. However, this place was like a ghost town.

First of all, when we arrived we had to go on the journey of finding our hostel that was described as close to the Guggenheim, which apparently translates to 20 minute walk away. From the bus station we started toward the direction of our hostel. We found ourselves among car repair shops and industrial stores. The hostel, Bilbao Akelarre Hostel, did have good qualities such as the friendly staff and cleanliness, however, the location and the vibe did not work for us. There was a much older crowd, (and anti-social I might add) than typical for hostels–I’m talking 40 and 50 year olds. This is kind of rare to see in the hostel world. Because of the social butterflies we are, Callie and I were looking forward to meeting new people. This is why we gave up on the people at the hostel and attempted to go out that night… I will get back to this later. For now, I will continue on my day.

My favorite piece from the Balenciaga collection

After settling in at the hostel, we walked over to the Museo de Bella Artes de Bilbao because Callie had found that they were doing a free exhibit on Balenciaga. Balenciaga is a famous fashion designer who was born in Basque Country. He is known for his bubble skirt; his feminine but ultra-modern style; and his use of innovative fabrics. The exhibit had 35 of his pieces. I have never seen a fashion exhibit so I really enjoyed getting the chance to see such a fashion genius’ work.

When we were finished at the museum, we walked around a bit but of course, we were hungry and wanted to find some food! However, for those of you who have not been to Spain, you need to know about siestas. It’s this inconvenient time in the middle of the day for like 2 or 3 hours where everywhere closes. No shops. No food. No churches. No museums. Nothing. We were starving and basically out of luck. Oh but wait, there is a Telepizza open– just our luck. Hands down biggest waste of 8 euros and the worst meal I have eaten. This was the first major flaw of Bilbao! After being traumatized from that experience, we decided to go back to the hostel to get ready to go out in hopes of making more of this trip here.

Me scared in the middle of a street in Bilbao because no one is around.

We asked the staff were we should go out since we didn’t know much about Bilbao. She gave us a few places and we were on our way. Well, let me tell you, even with the help of someone who knows Bilbao, you are not going to find any fun. It legitimately was vacant. Nothing. No one.

Callie and I behind the bar at Irish Stone!

Frustrated and disappointed we decided to head to the street with Irish pubs near our hostel. We went to a place called Irish Stone, a Guinness bar. The awesome guy who ran the bar, (we called him Pechos), did not know what an Irish Car Bomb. So naturally, I felt it was my duty to teach a man who was running a Guinness bar who to do a “Bomba de Coche Irelandez.” He was impressed! He let Callie and I behind the bar and took a picture for his website. It is so easy to make friends when traveling! Pechos didn’t speak English and with our broken Spanish it made it pretty difficult to communicate with someone who speaks Basque. This is the beauty of the people you meet when you travel–finding common ground. I love it!  While we were there we met a couple of guys who lived in Bilbao. They were nice, but again hard to communicate. Because Callie and I were complaining about who lame Bilbao was, they told us they were going to a party the next day. We didn’t know what to expect but if we could take the Metro there, we thought it sounded fun and somewhat safe.

Me at the Guggenheim

The next day, Callie and I decided to head to the Guggenheim Museum.

Kapoor's work at the Guggenheim

Bilbao’s true gem! Because I absolutely loved the museum, I can’t write off Bilbao completely… just mostly. There was a featured artist there called Anish Kapoor. He is an Indian sculptor that studied in London. His work is abstract and he believes in “taking the artist out of the art” and leaving it to the viewer to figure what they believe the meaning is. Kapoor has simple, colorful, and monochromatic pieces varying immensely. I havent really ever seen artwork like his, and although it can definitely be considered weird, it made me think. I wish I had more pictures of his pieces but the few I had were taken illegally without the camera nazis at the museum seeing!

When we finished at the museum, we went on a hunt for bread and cheese. I know what you are thinking: “you’re in Spain not France,” but come on, there are reasons for this. One, it gets expensive traveling and for two au pairs that make barely any money, a cheap meal sounds perfect. Two, yes we live in France. We headed to the Cathedral de Santiago after lunch only to find it closed. Again the Spaniards and their siesta. So H&M was a much better choice.

Callie and I in Plentzia

On our way to getting more gelato before we made our journey to the Irish pub again, we saw these awesome street performers. When we finally made our way to the pub, we asked the guys we had met about the details and headed to Plentzia on the Metro. Plentzia is this little village  right on the coast about 40 minutes from Bilbao. Apparently they were having a huge party for the whole village, (aka fiesta de popular). Callie and I were sold. When we arrived in Plentzia and immediately could see the crowds of people lining the streets in the distance. We crossed this gorgeous bridge and on the other side the fiesta awaited!

Streets of Plentzia

On this one street there were 2 bars open on either side. At the end of the street was a section roped off for children to play, (which, towards the end of the night turned into a huge bubble party for kids). The streets were packed with people constantly going in and out of the bars. Music rang in the streets–a mix of popular American and Spanish tunes. Callie and I order a few… well several… vodkas with orange schwepps (which later we learned were called destornilladors from our new friend David, who happened to be a fifty year old guy wearing eye shadow). We had been told the Metro stopped at 11pm so although we were having the time of our life, we made sure we were at the station by then. Well someone lied. Luckily, these nice girls who could clearly tell we were confused told us the last bus was coming. After a few more adventures, we finally made it back to our hostel. A successful night!

San Sebastián is next…

Check out my pictures from the trip!

Journey into the South- Biarritz and St Jean de Luz

So here is the first of several many posts I am going to have about my recent holiday to the south of France and Spain. It was such an awesome time and I have no idea how I am going to write all about it! Bear with me… I promise I will get to it eventually.

Biarritz beach early in the morning

Callie and I left on the 19th late at night for Biarritz to meet the family I am au pairing for. They had rented a house just outside Biarritz and invited us to stay with them for a few days. Callie and I were really excited to go on the night train because it was one that was supposed to be designed for a younger crowd (such as, having a bar/club on board). Although it was not what we expected, it still ended up being a lot of fun. I tried Desperados for the first time, which is beer and tequila mixed! Definitely not very tasty… but made for a very interesting train ride! Because Callie and I got no sleep on the train, we were exhausted when we got into Biarritz.

The colorful tents lining the beach

We arrived there around 6am and had to wait until about 10am for our family to pick us up. We must have looked so funny– exhausted, no place to go, and with luggage! However, there is so much beauty in seeing the beach this early. Beside the occasional runners, the beach was empty and quiet. We sat there watching people set up the tents to get ready for the day. The beaches in Europe are very different than California. They set up all of these tents and activities on the beach– a huge ordeal! Seeing the beach made me miss San Diego a bit but I reminded myself where I was and the adventures I am about to take on! Callie and I sat on the beach until the stores and cafes started to open. We grabbed a bite to eat and then the family came to pick us up. I was nervous but they are so nice. I felt comfortable right away!

Our house just outside of Biarritz

Me in the middle of the road on our beautiful walk

When we arrived at their house, I fell in love with the boys I will be watching right away. I am extremely fortunate to have found such a great family. After resting for a bit, I had lunch with the family and their guests. I cannot get over this love affair I have with the food in France. Even the simplest meal can be so mouth-watering. I seriously look forward to every meal. On the bright side, Europeans walk everywhere so hopefully my tummy doesn’t start to show how much I love the food! Callie and I decided to explore the village after lunch. All the country houses are look like they are out of a movie. Almost all the houses have red shutters in this area because in the past when there was no paint, they used bull’s blood. The walk was phenomenal. Green, luscious plants line the dirt roads making for an idyllic walk through the French countryside. When we got back home, we joined everyone in the pool and had a laid back evening.

Me and my pot of delicious mussels!

The next day we decided to join the family on a day trip to a town near by called St. Jean de Luz. Another gorgeous beach town. We walked around with the family taking in the sights and shopping in the little stores that line the streets. We were able to see the church that Louis XIV married Marie Antoinette. It is incredible to me that there is so much history intertwined with modern culture on the streets in Europe. People hustle and bustle on the streets flooding the tourist shops and then you just turn the corner to find a miraculous church filled with remarkable history. I will always love this the most about Europe.

One of the things this area is known for is their mussels. As food connoisseurs, Callie and I of course had to try them! There are no words to describe the delectable tastes that came from the pot of mussels I consumed–truly incredible! Callie got mussels with a blue cheese sauce and mine was cream based with a touch of peppers in it. Now I know why they are famous for them! Delicious!

After our day trip, we went back to the house and played with the boys. And of course, we had a fabulous dinner! We rested up the rest of the night for our trip in preparation to go Bilbao the next morning. Before our bus ride to Bilbao, we walked around Biarritz a bit. The bus ride to Bilbao was about 3 hours. Stay tuned for most posts about my holiday!

Check out my pictures from the trip!

Journey into the Champagne Region

Callie, Nicole and I decided to take a day trip to Reims, which is in the Champagne region of France. It is only about a two-hour drive from where I live. The drive is gorgeous– fields of green and rolling hills. The French countryside is unmatched. I know that many people who visit usually do not get a chance to take a drive out into other areas of France other than Paris but it is truly extraordinary and a must-see. Reims usually brings tourists to its city because of its champagne– there is 120 kilometers of champagne cellars there! But there is so much more to the city, which is also known as “The Coronation City” because of the history of Notre Dame de Reims.

Notre Dame de Reims

When we first arrived in the adorable city of Reims, we went to the Notre Dame de Reims. It is this incredible cathedral that is the center of Reims. The architecture is incredible and the stained glass is breathtaking. Notre Dame de Reims is unique because this is where 33 kings of France since the 11th century were crowned. It was built in the 13th century and although has had a long history of surviving through events like the Hundred Years’ War and WWI, it still has incredible beauty. I can get lost in places like this. I just want to see every little bit and learn about it. I always imagine what it looked like in the past– with ornate kings and royalty lining the pues.

Me getting ready to eat my first course of tomatoes and mozzarella. So yummy!

After exploring the cathedral, we decided to venture into the city and find something to eat. We decided on this delicious café and got to sit outside enjoying the incredible weather. In France, most restaurants and cafes offer a normal menu as well as an option that for a certain price you get three courses you choose from a selected menu. I decided to choose that option– fabulous decision! For my entrée, (which is the appetizer in France), I got tomatoes and mozzarella in balsamic vinegar. My second course was basil crusted salmon with white butter risotto. This was amazing. The flavors were so vibrant and mouth-watering! I didn’t want it to end. Finally, I finished up with dessert. I got fruit in lychee syrup that is extremely popular in France. Lychee kind of tastes like grapes but has a little sweeter taste. It is incredible how even just fruit tastes so much more delicious in France!

Breathtaking view of The Pierre-Schneiter Horticultural Garden

From lunch, we walked over to visit the Horticultural Gardens. This was probably one of my favorite parts of the day. These gardens were created in the 19th century and have frequent floral shows with different themes. When we visited, the theme was “Fairy Tales and Legends of Champagne.” They were spot on with the theme because as soon as I walked into the gardens, I seriously felt like I was walking into a fairy tale. It was so incredibly green and luscious. It was so fun to explore the gardens. Callie, Nicole and I enjoyed ourselves playing and taking pictures. I cannot even put into words how incredible the gardens were.

Mars Gate

After the gardens, we headed over to the Roman Mars Gate. This is the oldest monument in Reims being built in the 3rd century. It was one of the 4 gates to the city walls. It was really neat to see something so old is still so intact. Of course we had to have some more photo shoots there…

Me, Callie and Nicole at Taittinger trying the delicious champagne!

Next we headed to Taittinger to have a tour of the champagne caves. When I first thought about moving to France I had researched places here I really wanted to go and the champagne region was high on my list. I am so excited I got to visit a champagne house and Taittinger was definitely incredible. They take you down to the champagne caves and the tour is definitely worth 10 euros. The tour guide did a great job explaining everything and the best part was you get a sample at the end of the tour! Now I completely understand why they are famous for their champagne here!

Me with the view of Verzenay in the background

About 20km outside of Reims is a town called Verzenay that we were all very interested in seeing so after touring the champagne house, we headed that way. Such a charming little town with incredibly gorgeous views! We went up to La Phare where we could see the whole town and all the vineyards. We spent our time walking around and just taking in everything. I cannot believe that I only live a couple of hours from here! The weather was phenomenal, too, which added to the wonderful day. After soaking in the sun and the views we headed to the other side of the town to the Mumms champagne house. It was really neat to see the view from the other side–equally as beautiful!

I am so happy we decided to take this day trip. It was something I really wanted to do and could not have expected how amazing it actually was. I fall more and more in love with France everyday…

Check out my pics from here!

Life in France

So here is my first blog post from France! How exciting! Never really thought this day would come but I can’t even explain how happy I am that it has. I know all the earlier posts were me freaking out about the decision but I am more than satisfied that I decided to make the move. I definitely had my doubts and I definitely freaked out the first night I was here, but I know this was the best decision to make. This year is going to be incredible.

So what have I been doing the past 3 days you ask? Let me tell you…

The first day was kinda tough but I was just adjusting so now I think all is good. My flights went really well. Air Berlin was awesome for my long flight. I got 2 meals, free wine, an amenity kit, free magazines, the list goes on. I also had prime seating in the middle with the seats next to me empty so I was able to sprawl out. Air Berlin seriously pampers you, which is extremely different from how awful the Germans were at the Düsseldorf airport.

I seriously got yelled at in German a thousand times. The airport is really confusing too. I had 10 minutes to make it to my gate once landing. First I had to get my passport checked and wait in this long line so I didn’t think I was going to make it. Then I sprinted to my gate which I swear was like 2 miles away through all these weird hallways and such. Then after I gave them my boarding pass, I had to walk down stairs to get on a bus, which took me to the middle of no where on the runway to this little dinky plane–four seats across. No one on my plane spoke English and I sat next to this smelly guy. Awesome.

Me on the bus right after Callie picked me up at the airport

I got in to Paris at like 430pm and Callie picked me up. From there it was seriously Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. First off, my suitcases weighed 400lbs. Callie and I dragged them through the airport, through the metro, on the buses, and then through the quiet town of Chambourcy. To make matters worse, one of my suitcases broke.  So we literally had to drag it. 70 pounds of weight getting dragged on cobble stone streets. Needless to say there are pieces of my broken suitcase in front of our house. You all would have died laughing to see Callie and I.

That day we went to the boulangerie in our town and got a baguette. I am so French… I know. Then Callie made a quiche and we had dinner. That night I slept awful because I was jet lagged and had a mental breakdown. But all is good now! 4am is not fun alone in the dark after you made the biggest decision of your life.

Yesterday was Bastille Day, which is basically like France’s 4th of July. We had all these fabulous plans like going

La Fête Nationale Parade

into Paris to watch the parade, then having a picnic by the Eiffel Tower, finishing off with watching fireworks. Of course, this didn’t happen because Paris decided to have a torrential downpour! The morning was beautiful and we went into Paris to watch the parade. Ok so here is where America has one up on France–we know what a parade is. For some reason the French just play music out of speakers and stand there in military uniforms. It was the weirdest thing. All of the tourists just stand there staring at French military standing. Strangest concept. So Callie and I decided to walk along the path and make our own parade. It was neat to see everything but unless you were walking along the route, you would have stood there and stared at the same guys the whole time.

Me in front of the Arc de Triomphe during the pouring rain

But then the storm hit which was hilarious. All of the sudden it just started pouring. I was luckily prepared with my backpack that had an umbrella and rain coat so while all the lame tourists sat under canopies in cafes, Callie and ventured in the torrential downpour to meet up with her friend Nicole. We sat with her for while by a park and then took the metro to her house which is a couple of towns away from ours. After hanging out there and me taking a nap, Callie and I went into St. Germain en laye (which is the big town by our village) to show me around a bit. This is where my school will be. Everything was closed of course because it was a national holiday but it was awesome to see everything. It is so precious. I love it here so much. Afterward we went home and made crepes. I love Nutella.

Most exciting thing is that I got a full nights sleep last night! I fell asleep at a normal time and woke up at 10am! Callie said that it was amazing for my second day.

Today, Callie and I went to the grocery store and had an incredible lunch involving cheese and baguettes obviously! On Friday, we are driving down to Reims for a day trip with Nicole. So excited. This is somewhere I really wanted to go. It’s a city in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France about 2 hours northeast of Paris. I think that we are going to some vineyards to try some champagne. We will also try to see some chateaus.

Then Sunday we leave for Biarritz and then Spain. I cannot wait. I absolutely love it here and it feels so natural to be here. I cant wait to understand French though!

Check out my pics from today!