French Summer= Rain for Days.

I am having quite a hard time believe that this is July. The July I am used to is full of BBQs and bikinis, not rain and jackets. Apparently, because we had such a good spring… we are paying for it now. That doesn’t make sense in my head but hey Ill let the French justify their crappy season.

On a high note (well I dont know if this counts as a high note but ill take it), today I noticed myself wearing the same outfit as about 70 percent of the women on the metro today. Beige raincoat, scarf, dark skinny jeans, heels. Have I been here too long? Am I slowly disappearing into the 20-something crowd of commuters on the metro?

I mean, I guess it is about time. I am living here. I have been for quite some time. I know what metro to take when the usual one is too crowded and what lines to avoid. I know where the best falafel in town is and where the best spot is to sit on a sunny afternoon. I now have no fear to ask the sales guy in the tech store if these speakers work with my Mac… in French.

Now, these all may seem like little thing… and they are. But they are little triumphs and that is what matters. In France, I have learned you have to take what you get and enjoy ever second of it. This year has been a test–and one I have struggled to get good grades with I might add–but slowly I am starting to get a few questions right.  And it feels good.

I was talking to an old friend of mine the other day and we were talking about growing up. I have known him since 5th grade… so it was easy to be nostalgic. We were wondering when this whole grown up thing happened. Here I am. Hardly a grown up, yet technically living that life. I have a real 9 to 6 (ish) job. I pay my own bills. I do my own thing. But I still feel like I waiting for it to get real. But it is real now. Am I making sense at all?

Sorry for rambling on but it is still crazy to think where I am and what I am doing. Honestly, I would be happy where ever life took me next. After this, I feel ready for anything. Preferably on a year-long travel adventure… but hey whatever works 🙂

My Year in Review

Its official. One year ago today I was landing in Paris and running into the arms of the girl who helped me get here. I had no idea what was ahead of me and I definitely had no idea what … Continue reading

C’est la France

Aggie and I went into Paris on Saturday because we wanted to do some touristy things like the catacombs. I always fall in love all over with Paris when I decide to be a tourist for a day. The city is magnificent and with even living here for 7 months there is no way to see it all. Anyways, I wanted to purchase a Metro ticket that I could use all day, (here, if you are under 26 you can purchase a ticket and go in and out of the Metro for one price rather than getting a ticket each stop). Seems simple enough, right? Nope. Please note the reoccurring theme of my many blog posts… nothing is easy in France.

I went to the machine to buy a ticket like usual. Everything went fine… until the end when a ticket is supposed be printed. Nothing happened. I was annoyed but though there would be a simple solution by explaining the situation to the woman at the ticket counter, (strange I still think that things can be simple, I know, I need to learn). I went up and explained my situation, in French nonetheless to make sure she understood what happened. She walks over with me to the machine and checks it out. After about 15 minutes of examining the information on the screen and the card i used to pay, she looks at me and says the numbers dont match. However, as I stare at the screen and my card I look at her and say, “même chose” or “same thing.” The numbers matched exactly. After some convincing, which seems unnecessary because there was clear proof, we were on the same page.

At this point, she explains to me that she has nothing to do with the machine. Apparently the solution is she needs to write down my name and address on a scrap piece of paper she had found in her unorganized mess of a desk and then I will be mailed a reimbursement. Ok. Can someone please explain to me how that makes more sense or is easier than just printing me a new ticket?

I had to buy another ticket. Now a metro ride has cost me 14 euros and a hour of frustration. C’est la France.

My First Solo Adventure in the City of Lights

For those of you who knew me, you know that I do little to nothing by myself. I love people and I love to be around them 24/7. I mean, come on, living in a sorority house of 30 girls was my dream. Part of the reason I came to France was to become more self-reliant. I use this term instead of independent because I believe I have always been an independent person–I have always done what I wanted to do, had my own thoughts, and made things I believe in happen. However, I do feed off the love of the others around me. I have always lived closed to my parents. My sister has always been there for me. For the past 10 years of my life, I have been in a relationship for 8 of them. I joined a sorority and constantly had a sister around. And for my best friend, well she knows how much I need her. Of course none of this is a bad thing and I wouldn’t change any of it. But I do want to be ok just being me. When people would tell me that they went to the movies alone or out to eat I thought they were weirdos. Part of me was envious though. I never thought I could do that. So me, being all that I am, moved to a foreign country. Go big or go home, right?

Callie is gone for a week in Sweden so it was my first weekend alone. Although I was exhausted, I didn’t want to waste a Saturday. Before I had left for France, I had bought Frommer’s 24 Great Walks in Paris because I knew I was going to want to some guided exploring when I first got here. There is several good things about this book–it gives you a starting and ending metro stations; it gives clear directions; and it gives a history and facts about the things you are walking by. I knew that I wanted to stop by my favorite museum, Musee d’Orsay so I tried to find a route that included that. Here is my route below:

My Walking Route (to see larger, right click on the image and open in a new window)

Pont Alexandre III

Although I had seen the Pont Alexandre III with Annie, this is where my route started and it is so magnificent I had no problem exploring it a bit more. This bridge is named after Alexander III because he had laid the first stone for it as a symbol of the alliance between France and Russian during the Franco Prussian wars. The neat thing about this bridge is that it is one of the first prefabricated structures in the world and only took 200 days to assemble. That is truly incredible when you see this bridge. The views from it are just breathtaking. It is probably one of my favorite views of the Eiffel Tower. There is something about the Seine that I think is just marvelous. As it runs throughout the city and even beyond Paris’s boundaries, I always find such beauty in it. The bridges are such an important part of the history of the city and the river is such an important part of the culture. Parisians can always be seen holding hands walking along the bridges or picnicing with friends along the river banks.

Pont de la Concorde and Assemblee Nationale

Once I crossed the bridge, I made my way over to the Pont de la Concorde- a bridge that leads to the Assemeblee Nationale. The Pont de la Concorde, though not as ornate as the Pont Alexandre III is still beautiful and important in its own way. It was made out of blocks saved from the demolition of the Bastille. Once over the bridge, I took a look at the Assemblee Nationale which is the seat of the lower house of the French Parliament. It was really neat to see where laws are voted on. The building was guarded and looked like a forbidden place. I was so curious to see what was inside those doors…

Little place du Palais Bourbon

As I continued to make my way to Musee d’Orsay, I headed around the Assemblee Nationale and stopped at this little square filled with mansions from Louis XVI’s era. They were elegant and beautiful. I felt like I had stumbled upon a hidden gem because there really was no people around. There was one café with a few workers preparing for the day, but other than the noise of their work, the square was silent and peaceful. I couldn’t help but wonder how many memories had been made in those mansions over the centuries and what this square used to look like on an afternoon like this. After leaving the square, I walked through this small street filled with tourist shops and little cafes. I stopped to look for a bit because it had started raining and that was a perfect excuse to dry off. It is funny to me how there can be so many tourist shops in one area that all carry the same thing. I was thrilled however, to find one place selling postcards for an actual reasonable price.

Musee d'Orsay

As I made my way down the little street, I came upon the Musee de la Legion d’Honneur and the Musee d’Orsay. There are so many reason I love the Musee d’Orsay. For one, the building has a remarkable history and is incredibly gorgeous. Originally, the space was built for the 1900 World Trade Fair, however the project was given up and plans for a train station took its place. The station was built for steam engines and when electric trains had replaced them, the platforms were not long enough. The Orsay station then remained abandoned until 1977 when the idea to create a museum arose. The museum would be dedicated to the 19th century. When I walk into the museum, I just stand there in awe. The ceilings are beautifully decorated and there is a large clock above the door. You walk into a wonderful foyer filled with impeccable sculptures and doors that led into themed rooms of art. I could spend days in this museum–even just sitting in the main foyer examining all the sculptures and people watching. The great thing is because I am now a European resident, I get in free! Which means I will spend countless lazy afternoons there…

Stairs leading to the Jardin de Tuileries

Jardin de Tuileries

I headed to the Jardin des Tuileries after spending a few hours at the museum. To get there I crossed the foot bridge, Pont de Solferino. I walked down to the river level and walked up some stairs into a beautiful garden. By now, it had started raining but the gardens were still incredible the second I got up the stairs. Unfortunately, I did not get to explore very much because it started to down pour! I made my way to the metro and headed home.

I would have to say… my first solo adventure was a true success!!!

#26: Completed 1 of 5 in going somewhere by myself!!!

Check out my pictures from the trip!

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!

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!