Friday, July 18, 2014

Study Abroad is Over, but the Journey Continues!

Once again, I must apologize for the lateness of this blog post, but so much has happened in the past few days. I went on a private tour of the Louvre, visited Claude Monet's home in Giverny, and shopped used books along the Seine. My favorite part of the last few days has to be visiting the Orangerie museum where I actually saw Claude Monet's water lily paintings. Then I went to his home and his gardens where I saw the inspiration behind the paintings. Very cool!

Claude Monet's gardens! 

Yesterday was my final day for my study abroad. While I am sad to see my professors and fellow students/friends leave, I was super excited to have my mom come to France! She flew in this morning and today we spent the day meandering around Paris, took a river cruise along the Seine, and ate at a local cafe. It was a good, but exhausting day! We plan to traverse and discover more of Paris in the next few days - even plan on going to Versailles for a day trip. Then we head over to London for the last few days! While I am so pumped to continue this European adventure - especially with my Mom - I am also excited to come home to the States and more importantly Darcy. I miss that little puppy dog! 

Mama T and I take Europe! 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Waffles, Chocolate, and Books!

The past few days have been a whirlwind. Two days ago, I was in Brussels, Belgium and today I went to the William Shakespeare and Company book store. I've bought a new book, lots of Belgian chocolate, and get to experience Bastille day in Paris tomorrow. I'm so incredibly blessed to be living this dream. Yet, I must admit that my feet and the rest of me are very tired. I'm trying to stay strong and push through, but sometimes you need to rest. Right now, I am sitting in my hotel room, the window open, and enjoying some Belgium chocolate. It's the simple things in the life that make it great. 

Well to recap, two days ago I went to Brussels, Belgium. It was a cold, rainy day, but the city was beautiful. The architecture in the buildings are intricate and amazing. They also make delicious waffles in Belgium. I could have eaten twenty, but I thought that'd be excessive. While in Belgium, we toured the European Parliament there. Like the tours before in Strasbourg, it was very informative and intriguing. It was great to learn how the different countries in Europe work together and strive to form a unity among the different peoples and cultures - even if they are so unique and different! 

Yesterday, we went to the top of the Eiffel Tower! So. Gorgeous. Although I started freaking out half way to the top (we took the stairs all the way - 669 steps) because we were so high, the view was definitely worth it. It was breathtaking to see all of Paris from all sides! Later that day, we went to the top of the Arc de Triomphe where we could see right down the Champs-Élysées. 

Today, we went to mass at the Notre Dame which was such an incredible experience. To sit in such an iconic and historical place while experiencing such a beautiful ceremony was an experience I will never forget. After church, we were able to find the William Shakespeare Company Bookstore. Oh. My. Gosh. I could literally live there. It was the most beautiful and amazing bookstore I have ever seen. I bought a tote bag and a book - I could have bought twenty, but once again I thought that would be excessive. Later tonight, we plan to watch the World Cup in a restaurant near our hotel. It's been amazing to be in Paris - to walk where Hemingway walked and to casually drink coffee in an outdoor cafe. I am truly blessed. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Walking Through Midnight in Paris...No, but really!

Today, I left my beloved Vire and came to Paris where Dr. Elliott and I met up with the rest of our study abroad group and took a tour of the Latin Quarter. Dr. Elliott called her friend, Laurent, who is actually a French priest, who took us on the tour of this part of the city. Even though it was rainy and cold, the tour was absolutely magnificent. We saw such beautiful architecture and historic buildings and some even more beautiful cathedrals. We even got to see some places where my favorite movie, Midnight in Paris, was filmed. We also walked down the street where Ernest Hemmingway lived when he stayed in Paris.

I have been to Paris once before when I was sixteen and the city is just as beautiful and mystic as I remember it to be. Walking down the Parisian streets, it was so hard to believe that I was truly back in Paris – for over the next week! I am so blessed and amazed by this incredible opportunity. To learn more about this ancient city and its culture is just phenomenal.

On that note, I must also inform you all that my conversation skills have drastically improved! When Dr. Elliott and I were in Vire, we were interviewed by the Vire newspaper (I’m going to be famous, guys) and during the conversation, I suddenly realized something very important. I was listening/speaking in French and not even thinking about it. Like we do in English – we hear the words, visualize, and respond so quickly. There is no conjugation or wondering what vocab word we should use. It just flows. I had that listening comprehension realization! It was amazing!

Hopefully, I can continue on this French streak as I head to Brussels, Belgium tomorrow! Until then!


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

So I've decided to move to Vire, France...

Okay, just kidding. But I am loving life in Vire. Vire is the cutest little, French town that I have ever been to and I have seen quite a few cute, French towns. I came Monday morning with my professor, Dr. Elliott, to research a famous 18th century French writer, Madame Le Prince de Beaumont. She is most famous for her many, many books and pamphlets that focused on educating women. She also wrote a number of novels, one including the famous Beauty and the Beast. Here in Vire at the local library, they house her personal, actual, real, over 300 year old letters. That I touch. With my (properly gloved) hands. Reading, cataloging, and attempting to translate her personal letters has been overwhelming, but so incredibly cool. Reading her personal letters and manuscript notes is definitely hard work (these letters are hundreds of years old and are hard to read - plus they're in French), but unlike any experience I have had thus far. 

And did I mention how cute Vire is? It's a small town in the region of Normandy where it mostly rains (yet it has been sunny for us the past few days), but has the friendliest people. The food here is amazing. So much goat cheese. On all the things. I love it. 

It has also been a great experience to venture out of Strasbourg and into a smaller and more quaint town. I can definitely tell I am a small, French town kind of girl. Now while I've had a blast in Vire, I can't wait to begin my next adventure in Paris on Thursday. Tomorrow is my last day in Vire (don't remind me) and my last day doing my research on Beaumont's letters. Prayers for safe travels Thursday will be much appreciated. 

Bonne Nuit! 

Oh hey beautiful, French country side. NBD. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Luggage, Cheese, and Bread...SO GOOD!

8 days after I was supposed to receive my luggage, it has finally arrived! While this past week in a foreign country with minimal clothes and toiletries has been challenging, it also has taught me so much. I now know that I can easily make an outfit for each day out of about 4-5 pieces of clothing and two pairs of shoes for 8 days. But I have also learned that one does not need physical things to enjoy life - the last week in Strasbourg was challenging, but so beautiful and wonderful and intriguing. But I'm still pumped to have my warm sweaters!

Now that I have my luggage, I can now really experience and enjoy the culture that France has to offer. It's been interesting to not only go to different stores and restaurants, but also get to shop in local super markets and even street markets. I've tried different foods - even l'escargot (that's snails for those who don't know). But my absolute favorite meal still has to be cheese and bread. It's so good here, you don't even know!

Today, my professor, Dr. Elliott, and I traveled from Strasbourg to Paris and are staying at her sister's apartment. Tomorrow, we take an early morning train to Vire where we will begin our research and read the 18th century letters of Madame Beaumont! The French literature nerd in me is giddy!

I will try to stay close to my computer now that Wifi is a little more accessible and will try to update this blog more frequently. À bien tôt!


Friday, July 4, 2014

And the Journey Continues...

So it's been one week since I've been in France and so much has happened. We've visited so many historical sites and even went to Baden-Baden, Germany yesterday. It's a beautiful German town that is known for its spas and baths. We toured an ancient Roman bath which was incredibly interesting. We also walked through an old rose garden that literally looked like it was from a movie (Pride and Prejudice anyone?) Such a quaint and beautiful town.

A few days ago we visited the European Parliament and the European Council which was an interesting insight into the political life and even the culture of France and Europe itself. Sitting in on an actual European Parliament Session was also super exciting and a great way to really understand how politics works and how it is put into practice in Europe. I am learning that understanding the politics and history behind France is aiding me in my understanding of the people and their culture. 

The people of France and their way of life is the most interesting for me. Sitting in cafes, overhearing different conversations is bringing into new light these people and their lifestyle. In many ways, it's like the US, but also very different in other ways. I look forward to learning more and growing in my understanding of such a diverse town, like Strasbourg. 

Below are several photos that I have taken on my trip - I finally found the time to upload the photos from my phone to my computer while waiting for my luggage (one week later and still nothing :( )