Tuesday, March 29, 2011

grenoble, france

After our extended stay in Nice we stopped in Grenoble for two nights. Nobody from the hostel had heard of Grenoble, which was exciting because that meant it wouldn't be super touristy. And I only know of Grenoble because my French teacher from high school lived and studied there for a year and she told us all about it and showed us lots of pictures. It was really cool to go to a place that she had told us about and be able to use my French! My favorite thing about Grenoble is that you can see the mountains from anywhere in the city. I could even see them from my bed at the hostel! Even though it was really cloudy the day we were there, they were gorgeous! I wish I was a skier because this is the place to ski. Towards the end of the day we saw tons of people walking around a little sunburnt and in snow gear with skis in hand, probably coming right from the slopes heading home. I have a friend that I went to high school with who is studying in Grenoble so we facebooked back and forth and were able to meet up! We walked around a little bit and then went to her favorite cafe for some coffee. It was really cool being able to see the city and hear about it from someone who is currently living there. After walking around for a bit more we ate lunch in a nice restaurant along with some lovely conversation. It was so cool and a lot of fun to meet up with someone who I haven't talked to in years in France! After we said our goodbyes Fran and I went up these cable car things, which Grenoble is apparently famous for along with these three white buildings, to the top of a mountain. The view was breathtaking. We couldn't even see the tops of the mountains because of the clouds but I was still in awe. I can't believe that people live here and just wake up everyday going on with their lives while surrounded by beautiful mountains. We wondered around at the top and saw some cool street performers. Well, maybe we should call them mountain performers because they weren't on the street they were on a mountain. Anyways we went to bed early that night because we had a 5:32 am train to catch the next morning!

Friday, March 25, 2011

nice is nice (pun intended)

After Marseille we took off for Nice, France! The train ride was amazing! We went along the Mediterranean past cliffs and beautiful homes for two hours. As we got closer to Nice we were riding right next to the ocean! It was really rainy and windy outside so it looked like the waves were going to come right over the tracks! Our hostel was AMAZING! It was away from the city with a great view of the ocean right from our room! They even provided a shuttle to get all the way up the hill to the hostel! It rained most of the time while we were in Nice but we took advantage of the sunny days! We spend a lot of time walking along the beach. One day we took a day trip into Eze Village which is this little village on top of a hill that looks like it came right out of the Medieval ages...well it kinda did! After going through the windy cobble stone streets that no car could fit in we made it to the top where there was a cactus garden. I wasn't so much interested in the cacti but more the breathtaking view!  I can't even begin to describe it let alone wrap my mind around it! Then we hopped on the bus and took of for another country - Monaco! It is about the size of a large city and rumor has it that you have to have one million bucks in the bank to live there. Everything was beautiful! And it was warm and sunny :) We walked into the famous Monte Carlo casino but felt a little out of place after walking past several Ferraris and other fancy cars in our jeans and walking into the same building where old rich men where gambling millions of dollars. Crazy! But we made sure to use the fancy bathrooms before taking off. Then we walked past these huge yachts that were from all over the world on our way to see the palace. It was a really cool place! The next day it rained...all day. So we ventured out with our umbrellas so walk arould Old Nice. It was really cool and had lots of tall buildings that were very colorful had shudders, very French, and even laundry hanging in between streets! We were soaked and decided to head back to the hostel to hang out. We met a lot of cool people there! It rained again the next day so we went to a few free museums and walked around a monastery. The next day we took another day trip into the city of Antibes with our new friend Brittany. The city was really small and cute. I liked it a lot! We walked along the water and hung out by the boats. There were groups of teenagers hanging out too so I guess it was the cool thing to do! Our original plan was to only spend 4 nights in Nice but we ended up extending our stay to six nights. It was a very relaxing week, even with all the rain. The hostel was great and we made a lot of friends which made up for the rain!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

mmm the mediterranean

Bonjour from Marseille, France! I still have to fill you in about the rest of Paris and Belgium and Carnaval...but that can wait!

Our first train out of Maastricht left at 5:58am, so we had a bright and early start to our day. Actually it wasn't bright for another two hours...but it was early. Then we caught another train in Liege that took us to Brussels. From Brussels we took a bus to the airport that was about an hour away. Then we took a plane to Montpellier, France (which we almost missed). Then we took another bus. Then we took a tram. Then we took a train. And then another train. And about thirteen hours later we finally made it to our hostel in Marseille. Phew. Three countries, three languages, one day.

The train ride (from Montepellier to Marseille) was beautiful! We rode through the mountains at sunset past villages where all of the houses have terracotta roofing. Very mediterranean. We got a little confused trying to find the hostel so we stopped in a Tabac store and asked this cute little old French man. He was very  nice and drew us a map of how to get to the hostel and were there in no time! One of our roommates was this really cool French guy who was going to a club to sing. His english was just as good as my french so communicating was a little difficult, but we managed. We were so excited to sleep that night but it was a little difficult because there was a little confusion between the bed situation. All six beds in our room were taken, but somehow this weird old man who didn't speak English made himself nice and cozy in our French friend's bed. Our French friend didn't come back from his singing gig at the club until 3am and was not very happy to find an old man in his bed. If that little excitement wasn't enough I was woken up again due to someone's extremely loud snoring. I didn't know it was possible for a human being to make that loud of a noise in their sleep.

The next day we climbed all the way up Le Notre Dame de Gard, which is this really old church on top of a mountain. We could see the entire city of Marseille and had a fabulous view of the moutains and the ocean. It was breathtaking! Then we took a ferry out to this really cool island...I forgot what it was called. On our way to the island we passed Chateau D'If, which is from the movie The Count of Monte Cristo! It was so cool and looked just like the movie! The weather was too bad for us to dock there so we just went passed it and continued on to the island. The island consisted of a few buildings that are only opened in the summer, an abandoned resort, and a really old fort that was all in ruins. And there were only like ten other people there, so we practically had the whole thing to ourselves! And it was beautiful! (just like everything else in Europe...) From the very top we could see all the cliffs wtih the blue water hitting up against them and a great view of Chateau D'If. Before taking off for the island we stopped at the grocery store and picked up some food so we had a little picnic there too! It was great!

Today we checked out of one hostel and dropped our backpacks at the next one, just around the corner, and then took a train into Aix-en-Provence. The little city was so cute! And it was so nice to be somewhere small and quiet. Marseille is very nice, but very loud and populated. We didn't really have a game plan so we just walked around and got lost in all the little streets. We stumbled upon probably the most amazing streets I have ever seen...yet. There weren't really anything special but they were great because there weren't any people and the buildings were all pastel colored with old wooden shutters and flowers in the windows. Often there was laundry hanging from the porches. There were also a ton of fountains! It was very interesting.

Tonight we have just been hanging out in the common area and having some very interesting conversations. I talked with a German guy for what seemed like hours about my faith and what I believe in . He also shared his beliefs, which are very different from mine. He didn't really want anything to do with Jesus, or care for that matter, but we still had a very interesting conversation and asked each other a lot of tough questions. No getting saved for him tonight though...but he did say maybe at another point in his life he would consider Christianity. Hmm. We also talked to these guys from Berlin for a while and they knew more about American politics than we do and this was even after they had been drinking for while. It has been a very interesting evening.

Tomorrow we take off for Nice! But other than that we don't really have any set plans except more France and Switzerland! Well, that's all for now, a bien tot!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

meet me under the eiffel tower

So, pretty much I love Paris. I have started writing about it like ten different times but it just boils down to this - Paris was amazing. Not only was the city absolutely beautiful but I got to experience it with my best friend Keri (from Gordon)! It was even better than what I've seen in movies and pictures! From the shutters on the windows to the pastel colored apartment buildings with flowers in the window sills and cute little cafes and flower shops at every corner and the sparkling Eiffel Tower...I could just go on forever! But I'll save it for another post :)

When I found out that me and Keri were going to be in Europe at the same time my imagination kinda went wild with all the places that we could meet. Since Keri is studying in Barcelona we joked around about meeting in Paris because it was about halfway between Spain and Maastricht and even, I quote facebook, "meet me under the eiffel tower?"for my birthday weekend. Very soon our European banter became a reality! As I was sitting on the train at 7 o clock in the morning heading to Paris I was still in disbelief! I mean, it's not everyday that you just catch a train to Paris and meet up with your best friend under the Eiffel Tower for your birthday (that still sounds absolutely crazy to me, by the way). The reality of it is still sinking in. I felt like I was in a movie or something!

Stepping off the train at Gare du Nord (one of main train stations in Paris) felt like I was just walking into a dream come true! There I was with just me and my backpack arriving in Paris all by myself. If it had been in a movie there would have been dramatic music playing in the background as the camera panned the train station and everyone was all of a sudden in slow motion and then every person would break out into song and dance because 'hello people! we are in Paris!' ...but instead I was just pushed along in the crowd of people living their normal, everyday European lives.

My next task was to figure out how to get from Gare du Nord to Le Tour Eiffel. I found the closest map of the Metro lines. (The metro is like the subway system that can take you anywhere you need to go) I just stared at the map for a good ten minutes because I had no idea how to read it or what stop I was at and which stop I needed to get to. Then I walked around to only return to cluelessly staring at the map with hopes that what I was supposed to do next would just hit me. That didn't happen. So I went to the information desk to get some help. I took three and half years of French so I'm not fluent but could read most of the signs and carry on a decent conversation. But after hearing many horror stories about how mean the French people can be, especially if you speak English, I was really nervous to talk to them. I played the safe card and politely said bonjour and may I ask a question in English. I received a smile, map of the city and instructions on how to get the Eiffel tour. Success! Although as soon as I was actually on the metro I totally forgot what I was supposed to do. So I just got off at a random stop in hopes of being able to see the tower.

The Eiffel Tower was no where to be found when I got to street level, but there was a cute little French lady strolling by with her walker. I asked her which way to the Eiffel Tower, in French of course, and a huge grin came over her face as she pointed and gave me instructions. I was closer than I thought, the tower was just hiding behind a building! As soon as I saw it I got really emotional - I didn't like break down in tears but I was definitely a little choked up. I don't really know why, and it's ok if you laugh a little. I just still couldn't believe that I was in Paris, looking at the Eiffel Tower. After I had my little moment I made my way through the gardens to the bottom and eagerly awaited the arrival of my friend. Her plane was late and I ended up just chilling under the tower by myself for about two hours, but hey, I'm not complaining!

She eventually found me, I guess my red hair kinda sticks out, making me an easy target to spot and then we walked around and sat and talked for an hour or so with a fantastic view of the tower. I felt like someone should have taken a black and white picture of us from the back the tower in the background and made it into a postcard. But it was great to catch up before heading to the hostel to drop our bags off.

Our hostel was in Montmartre, right by the Moulin Rouge! We just walked around the area and then stumbled upon the Sacre Coeur, giving us an amazing view of the city! We did some more walking around the streets and then hit the sack at 8pm. We were both exhausted and wanted to get a good nights sleep before our first full day in Paris! Okay, well there's day one of Paris! There is more to come :)

Monday, March 7, 2011


Our train ride from Stockholm to Copenhagen was awesome! Not only were we going through some really great countryside but all of sudden they announce that we will soon be boarding the ferry. We both looked looked at each other like 'what?!' because we had no idea! What a cool surprise! The train just followed the tracks right onto the giant ferry! We walked around all the shops and dining areas and I felt like I was on a cruise ship. Even though I've never been on one, but I'm assuming it was very similar to this. When we arrived in Denmark we found our way to the hostel and were asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow. Fran was really sick during our first full day in Copenhagen so we hung out in our jail cell of a hostel. Our room consisted of a pair of triple bunked beds two feet from each other and a broken TV. I ventured out a few times to get medicine for Fran and food. I was really nervous that I would get the wrong kind of medicine, seeing as there is kind of a language barrier thing going on, but I got the right kind! And it didn't kill Fran, phew. But I did have to ask one of the workers at the hostel to translate the Danish so that we didn't overdose Fran with her Danish meds. And if the medicine that I bought wouldn't have worked we had a very nice roommate (Ki-yung) who was more than happy to try and help. The first night we were there she offered Francesca a pill. We weren't really sure what she was saying at first through her very thick Asian accent, but she just kept saying 'I can give you a pill.' This is going to sound very bad, and I apologize in advance, but I thought that it was just the funniest thing ever and had to stuff my face in my pillow and pretend to cough in order to hide my laughter. Here was poor Francesca, practically on her death bed just trying to fall asleep and our new friend from South Korea kept trying to get her to take a pill. And it had been a long day. Ok, so maybe I was the only one who thought it was funny but whatevs...typical. And then the next day before she took off for the city, Ki-yung left us with our own little package of pills and instructed us to take them. I think they were just Vitamin C tablets though. We did not eat them, but I did keep them as a memento.

When Fran was feeling a little better the third day we ventured through the streets of Copenhagen. It was very cold...and windy. But we stuck it out. It reminded me a lot of Maastricht. We decided that although it was a very nice city, it is probably wonderful in the summertime because there are a lot of gardens and fountains and places to walk along the water. I didn't know this until I looked up the top ten things to do while in Copenhagen, but there is a statue of the little mermaid, although not the typical red flowy hair purple shell Ariel version that Disney has provided. It is based off of the original story by Hans Christian Andersen who grew up in Denmark. It was pretty cool, although not as big as expected. Next we went to the Round Tower. I'll skip the history lesson but pretty much it is a really really old observatory with a spectacular view of the city. The climb up is a spiral, but not stairs. It reminded me of a giant spiral slide made out of cobblestone...if you can imagine that. So ya, that was pretty cool. When we returned to our hostel we met a really cool girl from Canada and she sometimes mumbled to herself in French. It was very interesting.

So I'm racking my brain on what else to say about Denmark....ah yes! Ok, so, if you're into that whole tall, blonde hair, blue eyes, well dressed, cute little accent kinda thing, a Danish man is for you. That's all I'm going to say and on that note I will end my post about Copenhagen.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


ah! so sorry it's been over a week since i've posted anything...but we just got back from our Belgium and my Paris trip...so lots of good stuff to come! :)