Monday, May 2, 2011

Spring Break!

I know, I know, I've been neglecting this blog. I've been so busy all semester with homework. They're killing us over here, so the last thing I've had time for is updating my blog. Anyways, I was on spring break from April 22-30, during which I turned 21!!! Go me. I've been legally drinking this semester anyways so it wasn't as exciting as it could have been, but it was still fun. I feel so old. Here's an overview of each of the cities I visited for break with my two friends:

Lyon: We were in Lyon from the 22-24. It's the third largest city in France, but is still only 480,000 people, which is weird. Our hotel was on the Presqu'île, the peninsula inbetween the Saône and Rhône rivers. We were right by some nice shopping streets, Place Bellecour (a big square) and a short walk from Vieux Lyon, the pretty original medieval city. We weren't there for very long since we really only had one full day, but it was an excellent day, and we had beautiful weather. One victory in Lyon was the bagel shop we found! It was an American style place with special things imported from the US. I've missed bagels and cream cheese so much, so I got a toasted bagel sandwich with cream cheese. It was delicious. My friends were excited to be able to get Dr. Pepper, and they had other American pops like Mountain Dew too.  Since Lyon is famous for its food, we had a Lyonnais dinner in the old part of town that night. Most of the specialties involve the innards of animals so I wasn't super adventurous, but got duck instead. I did get an amazing bowl of french onion soup, too.

My favorite part was after some window-shopping and ancient ruins when we climbed up to the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière through a garden path going up the big hill. It was a bit of a struggle since I'm out of shape, but the Basilica was absolutely beautiful. It was different than the million other cathedrals I've seen this semester. There was a lower church and a more ornate upper one on top of it, both with beautiful mosaics. It reminded me of the mosaics and church I saw in Ravenna, Italy last May, especially with all the green and gold in the upper church.      

Nice: Our longest stop of break was Nice, from the 24th-28th. Some thoughts. The water looked beautiful and the long stretches of pebble beaches and palm trees were certainly a nice break, but I don't think I would go back. It seemed like a dirty, packed city, and there are more peaceful warm places. I'm glad I went, but I just wouldn't do it again. Our hotel was surprisingly awesome though. It was in a pretty good spot, 10-15 minutes from the beach on foot, right by a grocery store, and it had an American-style shower!!! We were so thrilled. I miss normal, standing-up showers. Anyways, here are a few pictures from around the city. Again, the water looked fantastic but it was still freezing! I was a trooper and went in for a few minutes anyways. Also, there were cacti in addition to the palm trees, so I loved that

We spent a lot of our time wandering around Vieux Nice (again, the old part of the city) because it was cuter with small, twisty streets. There were a lot of olive oil and herb shops that smelled great, so we had fun shopping around. We spent one day going to a few of the free municipal museums...they were awful. The Contemporary Art Museum was fine, but nothing special. I, however, was super excited for the Natural History Museum. Even when they're small, they're always awesome. I just love them for some reason. Unfortunately, Nice's Natural History Museum was one room. Literally one tiny room, with a giant stuffed sea lion, 4 employees sitting around doing nothing, and a super super creepy fake person in a window. I was displeased. The saving grace of the day was when we walked (forever) to find the Marc Chagall Museum. We thought we would have to pay, but because we're EU students it was free, so that was a nice surprise! More money for all the ice cream we ate. This was a small, but nice museum and it was cool to see. Definitely the best museum. 

A few of our friends from IES were in Nice at the same time as us (and we ran into another one at the Chagall museum with her parents!) so we went to the beach together one day. They also celebrated my birthday with me the night before I turned 21 at dinner! I had gone to this amazing place one of the first nights with the two girls I was travelling with. We had the best service we have had all semester, and we were especially happy because we managed to pick a restaurant that gave us a free kir (which is a drink for before dinner with white wine and usually blackcurrant liqueur). I had a gnocchi gratin, one friend had a steak, and my other friend had mussels (we traded bites and were all very happy). We loved this place and wanted to try the whole menu so we came back with the other girls for my birthday dinner! It was a success. I celebrated turning 21 French-style, with a bunch of wine for everyone. One of the girls got the rabbit dish of the day, which I had wanted to try before, so now I can say I've eaten rabbit. 

Arles: Our last stop of the trip was Arles from the 28th-30th. Again, because of travelling we only had one full day, but it's a very small city (only about 50,000 people) so that was plenty to see everything we wanted. Once again, we lucked out and had an adorable hotel. The owner clearly loved speaking English with us even though we would try to speak in French so that was funny. Vacation was about 95% in English, so it's a miracle that I can still speak French for classes. I found a city pass for 7 euros that let us see one museum and four monuments so that was a perfect way to spend the day. We went for the Reattu Museum (the Arles one was closed until 2013 so that was out), the Roman Amphitheatre, the Roman Theatre, the cryptoporticus (basically old underground passageways), and the Church of St. Trophime and its cloisters. The museum was...interesting. It actually was, but it was just really bizarre too. It was a mix of old and modern art and was in a super old building. There were a bunch of Picasso sketches though, and those were my favorite part. It was raining at this point anyways, so the museum was a good hide-out. Speaking of art, we also saw the (now very touristy) cafe that Van Gogh painted in The Night Cafe. He lived in Arles a while so a lot of his paintings show the city. 
      As for the other monuments, the cryptoporticus was creepy, as expected. Just a ton of underground passageways that went on forever. Not somewhere you want to get lost. The ampitheatre/arena was interesting. Sadly, we missed the Easter bullfights by a few days. I totally would've gone. The arena is from around 90 AD., and there was graffiti chiseled into the walls from the 1800s which was bizarre to see. During the medieval era they built houses and a church inside of the arena and used it as a fortress, so I liked the sketches that showed that. On our last day in Arles, we were hanging out in the square by the church and town hall, and there were a bunch of people in old-timey clothes, as well as an impromptu ballet performance, so that was a nice end to the trip before our (way too long) 7 hours on the train home. Now I'm back in Nantes for my last 2 week of classes and finals before my mom gets here and we go to Paris for a week, and then I'll be home! I'm excited to get home and see everyone!

If you want to see the rest of my pictures from break, you can check out my facebook photo album here!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Winter Vacation Part 2

Here's the rest of my winter break stuff! Sorry the pictures were so messed up in the last one...this blog isn't very cooperative. They looked far better when I arranged them before the post messed them up.

Day Four: Today was a take it easy and walk around Dublin day. As usual, we had sun! It was nice out and there were actually flowers in bloom. Going back to cold Nantes was rough later. We walked around St. Stephen's Green, which was an excellent park. There was a big pond in the middle with an island, green things everywhere, random fountains, and tons of flowers. There was a part of the pond with swans, and some idiot boys kept throwing stuff at them. We were hoping they would get attacked, but sadly no blood was shed. After our nice jaunt around the park, we did some more window shopping. I think Sara and I stopped at every single jewelry store window we saw during the week! We found a Thai place with a delicious lunch deal, and then we were off to the Guinness Factory! I've been there before, and my favorite part of the exhibits last time was the part that showed all of the components for the beer, like hops and water, because it had an awesome waterfall. The waterfall was closed for repairs this time, naturally. We were getting tired, but the free pint of Guinness in the panoramic bar at the top of the factory certainly helped! For dinner we went to our favorite grocery store by Temple Bar, and got a great deal on pasta, garlic bread, and a trifle for dessert, so we just heated everything up at the hostel! It was deliciousss and cheap. I'll throw in a picture of Temple Bar at night with these pictures, because we walked down this street multiple times a day.


Day Five: This was our last day in Dublin. For lunch we had an Irish Breakfast with tea, one of my favs! Then we killed time before we had to leave at the free national museums. We went to the National Gallery, which we ended up breezing through. The Natural History Museum was sweet though, because how can you not love a museum filled with taxidermy? They had a pretty awesome collection, and Irish Elk skeletions, which were giant and super impressive. Afterwards, we went through another park across the street that had a statue of Oscar Wilde lounging on a rock. All of this was right across from where I stayed with my family last time I was in Ireland, but the Natural History Museum had been closed then, so I'm glad I finally got to go! After that, we went to the airport and eventually made it to Edinburgh. It was late and we were tired, but luckily we managed to find our hostel pretty quickly.

Day Six and Seven: Edinburgh is coldddd. Very cold. And cloudy. Originally I had expected this, but I was totally spoiled from our beautiful weather in Dublin. We were right in the middle of the Old Town part of the city, so we could walk everywhere. We did a lot of walking around and window shopping. We walked up to the castle, but didn't go in (too expensive for our tastes). We had to take a picture in one of the digustingly dirty phonebooths, of course. The city was amazing because it was so old, but had a creepy vibe because of that too. We went on a tour of Mary King's Close, which is one of the streets that is now underground. Again, it was cool but kind of creepy. At the end of the first full day, we went on a pub crawl with the hostel, although we didn't have enough energy to make it through all 6 bars and 1 club. We spent the evening hanging out with a super interesting Australian couple. They quit their jobs 9 months ago and have just been travelling around the world, and aren't stopping anytime soon! It was a good night, especially because we got fried mars bars from somewhere as a snack, but we were really tired after being so busy in Dublin. On the way home from the pub crawl though, we did pass the cafe where JK Rowling wrote part of Harry Potter!! The next day we went to one of the free museums which ended up being giant! We ran into another IES student there too, which was funny! I had possibly the best thing ever for dinner. It sounds weird, but just trust me: a waffle filled with chunks of sugar, topped with a HUGE pile of realll bacon (they just don't know how to do bacon in France, it's just random bits of ham), and covered in real maple syrup. It was heavenly. That night we foolishly went on a ghost tour. The first part was fun, walking around to different sights and hearing stories. But then we went into the vaults, and it was creepy as hell, and neither Sara or I like scary things. We bailed about 10 minutes early, but luckily an adult male left before us so we lasted long enough. Once we were completely scarred from one of the stories we heard in the dark vaults, we went back to our hostel and got maybe 3 hours of sleep between being awake with terror and the incredibly loud, cough/hacking/snoring French girl that was in the room. Lovely. It was a long trip home the next day. Sara is going to kill me if she ever checks this, but I'll make sure I put up the picture of her in the children's knight costume at the museum. This is my friend, everyone!

Remember, if you want to see more of my pics/not just tiny tiny thumbnails of them, you can go here: Album 1 and Album 2

Friday, March 18, 2011


Here's my very belated Ireland post! I've been busy with midterms unfortunately, but now they're done!

We had a week off at the end of February for winter break (and we get another week later for spring vacation, lucky me!). My friend Sara and I went to Dublin from Friday-Wednesday, and then spent the next 3 days in Edinburgh. We stayed in a hostel right by the Temple Bar area that ended up being awesome. We were in a great spot and could easily walk anywhere we wanted to go. Even better than that, we had sun every single day! It was fantastic. If anyone wants to see all of my pictures, here are the two albums:  and

Day 1: Since it was our first real day, we walked around for a while exploring. It was nice because I remembered where a lot of things were from when I was in Dublin a few years ago. We walked around Trinity College and wandered some cute side streets for window shopping. There was an indoor mall we really liked with delicious cupcakes. It made me miss being able to bake! After some vintage shops, we walked to the Jameson Distillery for our tour there! Sara got picked to be one of the testers, so she had to try several types of whiskey. I'm sorry, but I just cannot do whiskey. It's like liquid fire. Later that night, we got one of our many, many Irish meals of red meat and potatos, something we love dearly!

Day Two: This was one of our big tour days! We spent pretty much all day going from Dublin to Galway, and then from there on a slightly janky tour to the Cliffs of Moher, and then back. We barely made the bus back to Dublin because our tour was slow getting back. Otherwise we would have had to sit around and wait 2 more hours to even start the 3 hour bus ride. Luckily, we had beautiful weather again so the Cliffs were amazing! The tour also stopped at some random places along the way. I'm almost positive that we ate lunch in the same place that I did a few years ago. Here are a few pictures from the day!

Day Three: This was probably the best day! We went on another day tour, but this one was soo good! It was with Over the Top Tours, and this adorable old man was our driver/guide. It was a really small group, maybe 10 people, and we were in a mini bus/van thing. The tour was for Wicklow & Glendalough, but first he drove us through some other parts of Dublin, by the water. We saw some of the older Victorian houses and stopped by the water for some tea and ginger snaps that he had brought with! It was so cute. Sara and I sat in the 2 passenger seats in the front after that so we had the best views and got to talk to the driver. Then he took us past Enya's castle and Bono's house. He had CDs for each place we went to, like U2 for Bono's house (and going past some bar where Bono allegedly got drunk and passed out) and then soundtracks for when we went past places from movies. After that, we went outside of the city into the hills and stopped by Guinness Lake, which is called that because it's the color of a pint of Guinness! Also, the Guinness family owns a big house next to the lake that they rent out. Michael Jackson hid out there for a while and apparently Mick Jagger likes to bring 'female friends' there. It was such a beautiful view and it was just outside of the city! We drove past the bridge where PS. I Love You was filmed (which I've never seen but whatever), and drove through the areas where Braveheart and Reign of Fire were shot. The hills were all covered in flowers that bloom later in the year, which must be awesome to see. We also stopped at a random waterfall, and then after lunch we went to an old monastery, which was really cool. There was still a big tower standing in the middle that the monks used to hide in with all of the gold when the Vikings would come each summer to steal all the students for slaves. They would smoke out the monks in the tower each time though, so it didn't really work out. One of the churches was still standing, but the rest were destroyed by Henry VIII (something I actually learned in my Tudor-Stuart class last semester!). Then before going home, we stopped at one of the lakes (Upper Lake) in the Wicklow Mountains National Park. Our guide was fantastic and we all had suchh a great time! It was only 25 euros for the student price too, so it was an excellent day! Here's a bunch of pictures from the day!

That's it for now! I'll try and finish the rest of the trip this weekend!