Trip Start Jan 28, 2009
2Trip End Jun 18, 2009
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I said this the first time, but I'm hoping that I update this more often because updating it once a month is REALLY hard-trying to remember everything and whatnot. Anyways, I left off during the week before traveling to Lyon to meet up with my parents.
I missed class on Friday, March 6th to catch a morning train to Lyon. I bought my round trip ticket the Monday before. I'm lucky I did because both of my trains ended up selling out.
I took the TGV, which took about 4 hours with a stop in Marseille. The train constantly felt like it was gaining speed, which was kind of scary (300 km/hour), but it was a nice ride. I arrive a couple hours before my parents so I explored the modern downtown area of Lyon. When their train arrived, I met up with them and Jean-Claude (the son of an old friend of my dad from his Grenoble visit to France in the 60s).
Anyways, Jean-Claude took us to our hotel, which was small, but still very nice. Afterwards, he showed us around the area that we were staying and the location of his and his family's apartment (we'll call them "The Heurtiers".) After he left us, we (mom, dad and I) walked around a little bit more and stopped for some tea at a very French café.
That night, for dinner, we went over to the Heurtier's and met Christine (Jean-Claude's wife) and their sons Jerome and Stephan-make sure to pronounce the names with a French accent when reading this. I played with Jerome for a little bit before my first home cooked French meal began.
I can't remember the whole meal, but it started with really good champagne (the aperitif) and hors d'oeuvre (goat cheese, little radishes and mini pasteries). Next, we had a sort of Lyon baked fish specialty (I forget the name) with rice and white wine After, we had a huge cheese course and salad with more wine and finished with dessert, which consisted of home grown cherries (from Jean-Claude's mom's tree) and these sort of beignets with powdered sugar accompanied with a sweet dessert champagne. The meal was great, but I woke up a little bit blah the next morning because of the rich food and so much wine.
Christine met us the next morning and walked us to a small silk museum (Lyon is the capital of silk in France). She paid for our tickets and then left since she and Jean-Claude were busy with the kids. The tour was interesting, but made me hungry, which was perfect because afterwards, it was time for another French meal! We walked back to the apartment and were greeted with more champagne and finger food. The main course consisted of a cold tuna type casserole and then sautéed green beans and mushrooms and of course, more wine. There was the cheese course, which was followed by chocolate mousse that Jerome helped make. We were then rushed off with Jean-Claude for a walking tour of the old part of Lyon.
The tour was very interesting, given by an English speaking French woman who showed us everything. We had some hot chocolate at a little pub type place after the tour and then went back to the hotel before meeting up for dinner. My mom and dad took us all out to dinner at a little French restaurant Jean-Claude and Christine recommended. The food was pretty good/very French.
Our last morning was spent with Jean-Claude driving us to Peruges, a Medeival City about 45 minuts outside of Lyon. Because it was Sunday, the town was very quiet. We walked around for an hour or so exploring the church and streets and finished up in a little gift shop. The best part, however, was of course getting more hot chocolate in a little café before making our way back to the apartment for another meal.
We were greeted by Jean-Claude's parents, Genevieve and Gabriel (who my dad knew from his Grenoble stay in the 60s, when Jean-Claude was only 4) and Christine and had another fun lunch. We started with more champagne, but I can't remember what we ate with that. The main course was an hot eggplant sort of dish with potatoes, then cheese and ended with an apple tart...I'm getting tired of describing food-It was all very good though. Gabriel was really funny.
After lunch, which didn't end until past 5 o'clock, my parents left for Grenoble with Gabriel and Genevieve while Jean-Claude took me to the train station. My train ride home was nice, but I wasn't assigned a seat so I sat in the food car for the four hours.
I don't think anything exciting happened the first part of the week. Monday night, my parents took the train down to Cannes, but I didn't see them since they got in so late. They stayed in La Napoule, another beach town just west of Cannes since Cannes was booked up due to some business conference going on.
Anywho-On Tuesday, I had class all day until 3:35, but I met my mom in downtown Cannes with Kenna. My dad was sick, so he wasn't able to join us. Us three walked around for a little while and ate some bread and cheese. After some more time in town, we decided to all take the bus back to La Napoule for dinner. There weren't any open restaurants so we ate a mediocre "French" dinner at the hotel. It was still very nice. Haha. Maybe not. The company was.
After dinner, Kenna and I walked to the bus stop. The funny thing is that the bus stop we walked to was right about where I run to when I go running and somehow the bus takes 40 minutes. Kind of obnoxious. It made me want to walk back, but it was late.
My parents spent Wednesday down in Antibes with Kenna while I had class. I guess they had a good time. My dad apparently got some good ideas on big flowerpots he wants to put in Downtown Los Angeles haha. I had a meeting for the cooking class I'm taking once a week (which is actually just a social event where we help chop a few things, watch a professional at work and eat a REALLY good meal).
After the meeting, I met up with my parents in Cannes, showed them where I lived and ended up at a REALLY GOOD restaurant on the Suquet in old Cannes with Kenna. Everywhere was packed because of the convention, but it was still a great dinner. After dinner, we took Kenna to the train station and then got a taxi, which dropped me at school and took my parents back to their hotel.
Thursday morning, I got up early for my AIFS trip to Paris. I'm really going to try and be briefer when I'm describing what I did.
The group left for the airport on Thursday morning to catch our flight. We arrived and took a bus to the hotel, with no complications. The hotel was located about a one-minute walk from the Bastille.
Most of the group went on the planned bus tour of the city, but I wasn't in the mood for sitting on a bus. Instead, I met up with my friends Emily and Alli at the Pompidou. I saw lots of modern art. Still, not my favorite, but it was interesting. After, we walked around for a little bit and went into a couple "vintage" clothes shops before heading back to the hotel.
For dinner, we went to a Fondue restaurant in Montmartre called Le Refuge.
The next morning, we woke up, ate breakfast and all took the metro to Pere Lachaise Cemetery. We had a really good tour guide who showed us around and told us different stories about some of the well-known and not so well known-graves. We made a stop at Chopin's grave, which was pretty exciting.
After the cemetery Emily, Alli and I went to a small French bistro that was recommended in Emily's travel guide. I had escargot and fish stew. It was definitely one of my top meals in France so far.
After, we met at the Orsay Museum. Very nice museum.
Next, Craig, Alli, Emily and I went to a few stores and then made our way to the Toileries Garden. We sat in some chairs around the fountain and I drew in the sketchpad I had bought. After, we got some hot chocolate at a café and then headed over to the Louvre, which is free for people under 26 after 6 PM on Fridays.
I saw the Mona Lisa, Venus of Milo, and Madonna on the Rocks along with some other famous nonsense. I saw some Egyptian stuff and the old foundation to the palace that stood in the same spot that the Louvre is now.
That night, Emily, Alli, Craig and I found a Middle Eastern Restaurant to eat at. I don't know if I have ever eaten "Middle Eastern" food before, but it was pretty amazingly good. After dinner, we met at the Lido to see a "cabaret" with the rest of our group. I have to be honest and say that it was pretty bad. I've never seen so many "dancers" in my life (sorry about my excessive quoting, but a lot of what I'm describing didn't really match up to what I saw). It was funny for the first half and then it just became boringly ridiculous.
The next morning we all met at the Paris Opera house where we were given a tour by a very friendly lady. Really really really intensely cool place.
After, my friends Michael, Sarah, Tara, Marissa, Teeny and myself went to Versailles. We did the typical walk through with audio guides. Again, very cool. After, Michael and Sarah left while Marissa, Tara, Teeny and I stayed to walk through the gardens. It was really cold, but very pretty. There were rowers rowing in the square pond sort of thing in the middle of the garden. Right outside of the garden there was a restaurant where I had some pretty bad creamy potage (puréed soup).
When I got back to the hotel, I met up with another group and we went over to the Eifel Tower. We didn't have time to go up since we had a dinner reservation, but it was really pretty, especially since the sparkly lights had started to go off.
Dinner was expensive- 40 Euros, but it was crazy cool. We started the meal with a big basket of raw vegetables you could dip in dressing and another basket filled with sausages you could cut off from and eat. We then had a zesty soup course. I forget the type. Then came the main course. I had some very succulent duck, cooked vegetables and probably potatoes (there had to be, right?.. I forget). Then came the cheese course and then dessert. I had a somewhat burnt piece of apple tart, but that has to be the only thing I can really complain about. Everything else was really good. Because of the unlimited beer and wine served with our dinner and since I was with a bunch of students (who apparently don't drink enough already... sarcasm), the dinner ended with quite a few stumbly drunk 20 year olds who had a hard time getting back to the hotel. I ditched them with the sane ones and met up with a few other people and went to a place called The China Club. It was late and we were all tired, so didn't spend much time there.
Our last morning was spent on a boat ride down the Seine River. It was kind of loud and rumbly and smelled like exhaust, but still fun? (trying to be positive...I actually didn't enjoy it).
After, Craig, Marissa, Tara and I went to Ladurée and bought some macarons (different from macaroOns). Supposedly, they are so good that they make women faint. They were as good as could be, but I didn't understand the fainting thing. Oh well.
We then went to a café where I had a tasty salad and then walked through some gardens we found near by and a market before heading back to the hotel. From there, we went to the airport. One of our airplane's engines had "failed" or something... they used a dramtic word to describe it, which I didn't like. They said that they were going to try restarting it to see if that would fix the problem. It didn't. Luckily, they had us change planes. Our plane got in late, but I was early enough to meet up with my parents for their last dinner in the south of France before heading up to Paris and then home.
We went to La Piazza. It's a nothing-special pizza place that is a favorite of students from my college. It was sad, but that was that.
That week I had my first cooking class. It was very fun. We learned how to peel vegetables the French way and set a table correctly and how to properly open a wine bottle. The rest of the time, we watched the professionals at work. I still enjoyed it and learned from watching. We made potage, duck, ratatouille and mashed potatoes and for dessert, the other half of our group made crêpes and ice cream.
That weekend was one of my first relaxingish weekends. Sadly, Kenna was gone in Provence, but I still had a good time.
Saturday morning was an optional AIFS trip to Aix en Provence. I wish I hadn't gone, just because it was a long bus ride for a kind of boring day. Aix was really pretty and there was a big market but I couldn't get into it...so much traveling and sight seeing. I bought Kenna a wooden ring since I remembered she used to have one that accidently broke. It ended up not fitting well, but-nice gesture, right? ;)
For lunch, a few of us went to a sushi bar. I had miso soup and some (not fried) spring rolls. A very nice change from Collège International de Cannes food and I think my body appreciated the healthiness. We got some really good gelato afterward and then met at the bus to take us to Paul Cezanne's studio.
I'm an art major, but sadly, I don't know much about the poor man. It was probably because his paintings were just so basic and ugly...of course, this is just my opinion (I had to listen to a lot of nonsense from the "educated" art major on our trip about how wrong and ignorant I am.) Oooh well. The studio was in a pretty setting and we got to walk to the top of the hill where he painted from way back in the day.
None of us knew what we were seeing, but it ended up being a Brazilian dance team who performed one of the best, energetic, perfect time span, emotional(?) shows I've ever seen. Très cool. Afterward, a few of us went to Sunset, a lame attempt of a nightclub that seems to be a college international favorite for some reason. I left pretty early since I was bored and tired from my day.
Sunday was relaxing. I walked into town and went to the beach and probably went running. Nothing too exciting.
On Monday, I went out to dinner with Michael, Emily, Alli, Tahvia and Kenna to La Piazza. Very enjoyable dinner.
Wednesday was my second cooking class. This time, I was on the dessert side. We made those cream ball things and chocolate ice cream. The other group made dinner, which was a type of fish, little spinach cakes and risotto. Everything was superb.
Now begins my spring break. It was probably the most intense 10 days of my life... not very relaxing, but very cultural and exciting.
I will begin on Thursday morning. Thursday morning, I went to the market with my class for a field trip. We were given a worksheet and had to ask different sellers questions about the produce and meat and different things sold there. Kenna decided to let me have some friends over to her apartment for dinner that night and I saw fresh ravioli. I bought 25 dozen.
I did laundry and packed for spring break that afternoon, went running and took a shower. Then, 9 of us (myself included) went over to Kenna's apartment. We took the bus down and met Kenna at the store, where I bought a chocolate cake and she bought salad ingredients. Tara and Marissa brought wine and everyone else pitched in for food (not quite enough), but it was fine.
After dinner, I walked the group to the train station and then went back to Kenna's place where I slept on the couch until 7. We took a bus to the airport and made our way to paris. To read more about Paris, here's the link to Kenna's blog. She already wrote out what we did and I don't really feel like it :-D
Also, I've already written out what I did for spring break in my journal, so I'm just going to type what I wrote in that (there is a tidbit of Paris):
"April 1st Vienna, Austria:
Kenna and I left for spring break this past Friday morning. I slept at her apartment, which went better than expected. Usually I don't sleep well on couches in unfamiliar places.
The plane ride was pretty bad! I seem to be getting more scared of flying. I'm taking "Flybaboo" back to Nice on Sunday. I'm thinking about canceling my flight reservation and taking the train back with Bre [Bre is one of my friends who I did spring break with]. Seems kind of stupid, but I'm not in the mood to stress over another light. Plus, I have to take one to Corsica next weekend. Corsair, however, looks legit... Flybaboo, doesn't. Plus, it's a propeller plane. Blah.
So, I got to Paris with Kenna midday. We stayed at Hotel de la Porte Dorée (name of the hotel, Dad). It was really really nice, even though it was out of the city a little bit. Not out of the city, just not in the best location <- in comparison to sights. Kenna's blog describes the trip well, so I'm not going to go into any detail [there you go].
I left Monday morning and made my way to Vienna, Austria (where I am now) and met up with Bre, Michael, Emily, her friend, Rachel and Tahvia.
We didn't really do anything on Monday because we were tired and Bre, Michael and Tahvia didn't get in until late. Not true-I did do something. I met up with Emily and her friend after dropping my bags off at Stephansplatz, the city's center. [While waiting for Emily at the church I peaked in. Big pretty church, but so are all the churches in Europe. Apparently half of the church (like most of Vienna) had been destroyed during WWII. It made the city really interesting because it was such a mix of old and new.
I hadn't eaten much all day, so we went to McDonald's, where I got 2 cheeseburgers. Rachel, Emiy's friend had gone back to the hostel since she was tired. (Continued April 5th from Venice, Italy)... Let's see if I can remember. I walked around with Emily a little bit longer after McDonalds, but we made our way back to the hostel soon after because we were getting tired. Anyways, the three of us who were already there decided to go to the store and pick up some food we could cook in the hostels kitchen. We made pasta and added cheese and tomatoes. I decided that the cutting board I had used with dirty, so I ended up not eating any tomatoes.
Michael, Bre and Tahvia got in a little bit later and I'm pretty sure that we al just went to bed.
Anywho-the first full day in Austria was a boring one. I have to be honest. There was a lot to see, but nothing very original in comparison to what I have been seeing during my time in Europe. Sadly, old cities are starting to mesh together in my memory.
The next morning, Emily, Rachel and I left before the other three since we were hungry and ready to go. We took the metro back to Stephansplazt and walked in the direction of the Hofburg Palace. We stopped at a bakery and had a sugary breakfast before continuing to the palace. It was big and pretty, but nothing spectacular.
We walked over to the museum area and checked that out before Rachel (Emily's friend) split off to go to the modern art museum. Emily and I looked for Bre and Tahvia for a while and eventually found them sitting on the steps to some old monstrous building. The problem was that there were 10 building that had some relation to the Hofburg Palace with possible stairs they could have been sitting on (we were supposed to find them on stairs by the Hofburg Palace).
We were all hungry and headed over to a mediocre restaurant. I had a pretty decent pizza. Emily left to meet up with her friend after sitting with us for a while Tahvia, Bre and I sat and talked. Us three walked around a little bit more before heading back to the hostel.
We met up with Michael there since he had spent his day alone. Sadly, that is what happens when you are slow at getting ready and don't have a phone with minutes on it. We all got ourselves took showers and "freshened up", as my mother would say (haha) before heading over to the Vienna State Opera House.
After buying our tickets, we went to "The Museum Café" where I had tea and ate a typical German(?) soup with beef broth and sort of pancakes noodles. Then we headed back to the opera house. I'm going to have to look up the name of the opera (I just did... it was called- Die tote Stadt, meaning- The Dead City in German), but it was bazaar! There was a man obsessed over a lady who looked like his dead wife (my very basic and simplistic summary after not even making it through the first of three acts). Our spots were just as good as the 200 Euro seats, other than the fact that we were sitting. We each had our own little screen that translated the opera and having only paid 4 Euros for our tickets, it was more than worth it.
After, we went to find this little swanky wine bar, but it was closed. Instead, we found a nice little pizza place and ate a long, late dinner. Very fun.
Bratislava, Slovakia is only an hour away by train from Vienna, so we had to go. We spent the first ¾ of last day in Vienna there. I felt like I was in one of those Olympic documentaries on some athlete from Eastern Europe. It was very surreal.
We had to walk about 20 minutes from the train station to get to the old part of town. The walk consisted of seeing communisis apartment building after apartment building. We were told, and it was very true, that the whole town takes no time to see. We walked around and then went out to lunch. I ate a pineapple-Hawaiian-chicken-meal kind of thing. It was good, with a definite Bratislavan twist (it doesn't sound like it, but I can say I've tried Bratislavan food). We hung out in the restaurant for a while before heading back to the train station.
Once we were back in Vienna, we looked at the train times to Salzburg. There was one in 30 minutes, so we (Michael, Bre and I... Tahvia had left for Rome and Emily and Rachel were staying in Vienna for another) ran back to the hostel to get our things and caught our train to Salzburg.
Our train tickets were expensive-about 45 Euros. The train ride was the most relaxing and comfortable train ride I have ever been on. They had private cabins for second class! We found a cabin with an Austrian girl who studied in Vienna. She left after about an hour, which was nice since she kept wanted to talk, but had nothing smart to say.
We arrived in Salzburg around 10 PM and took a bus to the hostel. Our first impression of Salzburg wasn't great. It was kind of ratty and dirty. Once we got to the old area, it was very nice, but too dark to really see anything.
Our hostel- "The Jufa Youth Hostel" had a lot of young foreign children with no apparent parents. We stayed in a room with some nice people (5 others including us 3).
We decided to explore a little bit before going to bed. We were able to get a glimpse of the nice part of town. We went to a localish looking bar and each had a drink. After, we made our way over to a kebab place and walked back to the hostel. We went to bed around 1.
We got up and going by 10 (after packing, checking out and eating a measly free breakfast). The hostel let us leave our bags there during the day while we explored.
We first walked along the river. It was really beautiful. The sun was out and it was one of the first times on this study abroad trip that I was feeling uncomfortably hot. I took good pictures. It's hard to describe.
We found the Mozart "residence", which is supposed to be better that his birthplace house. It was interesting, but nothing great. The exhibit was about Mozart and Hydan's relationship. I wish there was more on piano and possibly some original music manuscripts. Oooh well. "
That's all I have gotten around to writing in my journal. So, I will continue from there. Anywho-I don't remember the exact order, but we made our way to the river and sat on the grass while a crazy woman who had to be from the Midwest had a flag routine with these twirly flags and later socks with tennis balls in the spinning around. It was funny.
We also walked through the Mirabell Gardens, which were really pretty. Apparently a lot of shots from The Sound of Music were shot in that location.
Michael and I then took the bus to an area that we were supposed to take a gondola up a mountain. Unfortunately, it was closed for a few days so we took the bus back and got lunch at a really good small café.
We walked around a different part of town and went up to the fortress.
We met at the hostel and changed before going to our Mozart dinner. It was definitely a very touristy event, but still a lot of fun and very impressive. The tickets were only 36 Euros for students (compared to the 40+ and 70+ Euro tickets). The dinner show took place in a really old pretty building.
After dinner, we went to a little bar and talked for a while before heading back to the hostel to get our things and catch our train. Our train for Venice left at 1:30 in the morning. We booked a sleeper car with three beds. It was quite an experience. Bre was able to sleep and Michael snored some, but I just dozed for the 6 hours until we were "woken up" and given our breakfast (we got to choose from a little selection- I had orange juice, yogurt cheese and really funny bread).
Our train arrived in Venice around 8:30. We took a ferry down the Grand Canal to the Rialto stop were we got off and walked to our hotel/hostel. It was in a great location and the beds were comfortable, but the customer service was kind of lousy. We weren't able to check in until 12:00, so we sat at a restaurant on the Grand Canal near the Rialto Bridge (that's the name of the bridge, dad) and drank coffee and rested until we could check in.
After we checked in, we walked around for a while. It was nice because there was nothing any of us really wanted to see, so we were able to take our time and relax. Stress free.
We ended up at a random Italian restaurant where I had seafood pasta (it was pretty good). After dinner, we had crêpes (yes, in Italy) and went to bed early.
The next morning we woke up pretty late. I got up the earliest (10ish) and walked around. I then met up with Michael and we ate a late breakfast/early lunch. I had penne and pesto. We checked out some shops and met up with Bre (who slept in a little bit more), sat with her at lunch and then walked to a ferry that could take us over to Murano.
Murano is a group of small islands a short ferry ride away from Venice and famous for it's glass. We walked into a lot of different shops. I really wanted to see a demonstration, but they charged and I wasn't about to pay a store money to see them work. After walking through store after store and seeing so much expensive glass, I came across a few cheap ones. One of the stores had stuff that was SO much cheaper than the big expensive stores with the same product. I bought a few gifts (same product, made in Murano) for a fraction of the price.
We walked around a little bit more and found a coffee shop that we lounged out until it was time to go back. We got back and walked towards our hostel and found a pizza place. They had 4.50 Euro margarita pizzas! It was perfect, because we were all out of money. Michael and I ended up getting the 12 Euro menu which included a drink (beer, wine or soda), pasta or soup AND pizza. Bre had the 4.50 pizza. Great deal/food, but it was definitely a mafia cover.
After dinner, we ate gelato on the Grand Canal and walked around looking for a possible place to get some drinks. Nothing appealed to us, so we went back to our favorite little group of restaurants on the Grand Canal. Bre and Michael split a cheap (small) bottle of wine and I had a "martini". It was actually a REALLY GROSS sweet aperitif over ice.
Anyways, we went back and watched some MTV in English (with Italian subtitles) and then went to bed. Michael and I got up at 7. (Bre decided to take the train since our airline sounded little bit sketch). We walked to the bus stop), which was about a 30-minute walk to catch a bus to the airport (Other than the train station/bus stop, there are no cars in Venice. Way cool). Walking through Venice in the morning was really pretty and it was nice to see it not crowded. I can't imagine how crowded it gets in the summer.
We got to the airport and checked in. It was perfect because we didn't have to wait that long and I didn't have time to get too anxious. The plane was a propeller plane, but it was big enough for me to not freak out... Once we took off, I started realized it was one of the nicest flights I have ever been on. For starters, the plane was less than ½ full. The second we got in the air we were constantly served different things. First, we were given little Evian water bottles. Then, came around little sandwiches served on a platter. Next were little kabobs that had cantaloupe, ham, mint and tomatoes on them. Sounds gross, but they were REALLY good. Next were little chocolate mousses and then came a little warm hand towel, tea or coffee and little chocolates. It was a perfect way to end my spring break (and it was less than 70 Euros from Venice to Nice on an airline called Flybaboo! I had my doubts).
We arrived at the airport around 11 and walked to the Saint-Augustine Train station in Nice and took the train back to Cannes La Bocca where we could walk back to our college in about 15 minutes. Michael and I even made it in time for brunch (which ends at 1).
I was welcomed by a nice letter from my dad (I still haven't read the whole thing) and a package from my mom-real Skittles! (the ones they have here are different), Girl Scout Cookies!, Peanut butter and a letter...WOoo.
It's Monday today and I wrote this whole thing in 2 days/3 sittings! I had class today, but tomorrow we are regrouped based on our level of French. Kenna just got back from Morocco tonight and I guess she had a really really good time. I'm kind of jealous, but at the same time it's hard to be with such a great spring break. It was WAY more than I expected. Wednesday is cooking class and then Friday I leave for Corsica with Kenna for Easter! We will be there for 3 nights. Should be fun having a much needed relaxing vacation. The following weekend is a free weekend, then a weekend to Provence with AIFS, then a three day weekend, which I need to plan a little something for and the my last weekend before the film festival. Tom and Sheena (Scottish cousins) are coming to visit me that weekend. I applied for an internship, so hopefully I will get one. Hopefully I will update again before then and let you know what happening. I'll also let you know about my June trip once it's planned.
I hope everyone is doing well. Thanks for reading... if you got this far.