Wednesday, July 29, 2009

IT'S MY LAST DAY!!!

Today is a full day of cleaning and packing and just hanging out until I leave tomorrow at 3:45 AM!!! I'm so excited to be traveling back home :) From start to finish it will be a full 24 hours of traveling!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Croatia...

So I never took the time to talk about my time in Croatia...I'm busy studying for my Thermodynamics final, so I can't really say much. I'll just settle with saying that it was AWESOME. I'm going back. Here are some pictures:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

School is over....sort of

I am now completely done with classes for the summer. Today I have my final exam for Probability and Statistics and then next Tuesday I have my final exam for Thermodynamics. I'm ready for my exam today, but I have quite a lot of studying to do for Thermodynamics. Either way, I'm just ready to be done!!! I'm pretty much doing nothing until now and when I leave to go back home. I will probably go into Metz one last time over the weekend. Other than that, I'm just hanging out and studying.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

...I'm old

Today is my last day as a teenager. No longer will I have a "1" in the ten's digit of my age...it's kind of bittersweet. I feel so old, but at the same time it's exciting because I feel like I'm entering the next stage of my life. I guess it's time to act my age :P

Monday, July 13, 2009

GTL Essays

So as a part of my GTL 2000 class, we have had to write two essays about our summer in Europe. The first essay was an evaluation of the GTL program, and the second essay was a description of what we valued about our time here. I figured I would post the essays because they give some pretty decent insight to my thoughts about my summer abroad as a whole. Well, here you go...

Essay 1

I have been quite pleased with my experience at GTL thus far this summer. I’ve gotten much more out of the program than I was expecting both academically and socially. In my opinion, what GTL offers students can be adequately broken down into those two categories, both of which offer much to be appreciated. I’ll discuss why I have come to truly treasure GTL for both its academic and social offerings. I’ve come to view GTL has a small college version of Georgia Tech’s campus in Atlanta. This observation leads to many reasons behind the appeal GTL has for me.

In terms of academics, GTL has many things going for it that make a summer experience here quite worthwhile. I’m so glad I chose to go to Georgia Tech, but I realize I do miss out on certain things due to its size. GTL has given me a more diverse and broader college experience because it offers the academic advantages that come with a smaller college. Classes here are much smaller, and professors are much friendlier and interactive with their students. I really enjoy being able to be an active participant within the classroom. The teachers here at GTL are outstanding and fun to learn from. I feel that I’m well respected as a student by both the faculty and staff and that means a lot to me. I feel like I’m part of a community of not only students but also academic professionals. At Georgia Tech, this union of students and faculty and stuff does not exist. Instead, I feel very distant from those I’m supposed to be doing all of my learning from. This usually leads to me having to learn the material on my own for the most part. This is not the case at GTL, and I feel like it’s actually worth my time to go to class and learn. So far, the course curriculum has been quite fair. I think my classes are being conducted at a good pace and the workload is decent. Of course, I’d always hope for less but that cannot truly be expected with the reputation that comes with a Georgia Tech education. I am really thankful that schoolwork is limited to the weekdays, freeing up the weekend for students to focus on our travels. One of the main purposes of studying abroad is enjoying the abroad experience by exploring different cultures, people, ways of living, etc. GTL recognizes this and gives students the freedom to do so.

As I said, I believe my experience here at GTL can be broken down into two categories. I’ve already addressed the academic side of things, so now I want to turn to the social side of GTL. First, I’m having a lot of fun being here. I live in La Fayette, and I love it. I like living here better than I do at Georgia Tech. The sense of community is fantastic. People are always hanging out during their free time or working together on schoolwork. The graduate students here are great as well. I play soccer every week and love getting to know the French students better. Everybody seems to be interested in everybody else. I’m definitely going to go back to Georgia Tech with a lot more friend than I had at the beginning of the summer. I’m so thankful I chose to study abroad at GTL.

Essay 2

I think the primary reason I came to Georgia Tech Lorraine for the summer was to experience Europe. I wanted to travel around the continent and see all the notorious European cities. I also was curious to experience what it would be like to live in a different country. In essence, I wanted to open my eyes to life beyond the United States of America. I have definitely accomplished this goal, but I have also gained much more from my experience abroad. I’ve learned many lessons about life, independence, and myself that I never would have expected to gain from a semester studying abroad.

The “studying” part of study abroad was never my main focus but just a means to get here. In a sense, Georgia Tech Lorraine made getting to Europe easier. I have done a decent job balancing schoolwork and travel, but school was never supposed to be a priority. I do appreciate all that Georgia Tech Lorraine has offered me in terms of academic and cultural education. I could not have received such knowledge on my own or from anywhere else.

As I have already said, I feel quite accomplished in my goal to travel Europe. I’ve come to realize that it’s impossible to see all of Europe in the time we’ve been give, but I know that I will come home content, knowing that I made the most of my time here. I’ve traveled throughout much of Western Europe and have made a few trips to Eastern Europe. I’ve traveled to Barcelona, Paris, the French Riviera, Venice, the Italian Riviera, Bologna, Munich, Prague, Salzburg, and various other smaller cities. I’ve had a great time in each and every city, and I know I made the right decision to go to each one. At the same time, I do wish I had made it to Portugal, Ireland, Scotland, Scandinavia, and more Eastern European countries. That just means I’ll have to come back to Europe at some point! I would not come back for a study abroad trip but not for any reason in particular. Now that I’ve studied abroad, I do not feel the need to do it again. I would come back to Europe on a personal trip with friends. All the travel skills I have picked up over the course of the summer would surely prove useful though! One difficulty that arises with the combination of traveling and studying abroad lies in the fact that we must return to Metz every weekend. At times this is beneficial because it allows us a few days to rest and recuperate for our next week. However, it also means sacrificing vital time in other cities to allow for traveling back to Georgia Tech Lorraine. Obviously, I could see much more of Europe in less time had I chosen to travel on my own. Nevertheless, as I mentioned before, I’ve come to appreciate aspects of Georgia Tech Lorraine that I did not initially hope to gain from my summer here. Such aspects include: community, new friendships, independent living, and academic diversity. Each of these ideas contribute so much to the overall well-rounded summer I have come to value more than I could have ever expected. I easily have a much broader college experience than I would ever have had had I not chosen to study abroad and, more specifically, chosen to study abroad through the Georgia Tech Lorraine program.

Clearly, I’ve gained so much from Georgia Tech Lorraine through the travel experiences I have accumulated over this summer. I’ve learned so much about European history and ancient cultures. I have seen countless monuments and works of architecture that are famous worldwide. I have had the pleasure to look upon works of art heralded as some of humanity’s greatest masterpieces. I have been able to develop relationships and experience life with people who grew up on the other side of the world from me. I have tried new kinds of food that I could never find in grocery stores back home. I could go on and on about all the wonderful things I have gone through due to my traveling experiences. However, I also mentioned I have come to appreciate numerous other experiences that are inherently apart of spending a summer living on my own in a foreign country.

The most significant and immediately apparent outcome of my summer is a consequence of living on my own in a single person apartment and being responsible for all aspects of day-to-day life. This along with traveling around Europe on my own has imbued me with a new and strong sense of independence. I truly feel capable of being on my own now. I can cook and clean for myself. I have managed to last this long without getting sick from my cooking! I can also get around a foreign city, find a place to stay, and feed myself without even having to speak the same language. I will no longer have any difficulties in America. After having to take care of myself all summer, I’ll no longer pay for a meal plan at Georgia Tech. Also, we have quite a bit of free time during the week, which has forced me to learn how to find enjoyment in doing nothing. It has been really nice to have a break from the fast-paced life of back home. I really have come to enjoy doing nothing. I have also learned much more about friendship and how something as simple as spending time with a friend can lead to great things. I never expected to learn such lessons from a study abroad program, but I am so thankful for them now that I have. I think that is a side of studying abroad that not many people know about coming into the program but will definitely go away with a new appreciation for such things.

All in all, my summer studying abroad has been a decidedly positive experience that I will forever be glad I chose to partake in. I am very thankful for the lessons I have come to learn because of it and in turn I am thankful to Georgia Tech Lorraine for providing me with this opportunity. I firmly know that this summer will have a tremendous impact not only on my immediate future but also on the rest of my life. I eagerly look forward to my return home so that I may experience life through the news lens that I have adopted as a result of the aforementioned lessons and experiences I have come to know. It will be interesting to pay witness to the intermingling of these new lifestyle changes I have come to know through Europe with my past way of life back in America. Without a doubt, studying abroad was a great decision and I will forever be different because of it but in a good way of course.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

I'm not so bad at cooking!

So, I've had to cook for myself all summer, which makes it surprising that I've even lived this long. In the beginning, I stuck to really basic stuff, but I've been branching out a bit recently. I must say that I'm quite happy with what I've been able to accomplish. Check it out:


Also, this is what I've been doing with my night: learning about string theory. I'm a nerd. I know. It's pretty interesting though. I'll admit I watched all the videos straight in a row tonight. It was worth it though. My mind has now successfully been blown.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/elegant/program.html

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Barcelona...my man date with Taylor!

So...it's about time I share what happened over my 4 day weekend in Barcelona. I pretty much give up on going over what happened two weekends ago over my trip through Prague, Salzburg, and Munich. That was definitely a good weekend filled with lots of cool things and interesting stories. Ask me about them when I get back! Anyways, about Barcelona...

I had an awesome weekend in Barcelona! I'm so glad I chose to go there for one of my long weekends. It's a bit far away from Metz as well, but I'm mostly glad because there was so much to do! It was nice being able to relax without having to rush to cram everything into a few days. I went with a large group of people, and we ended up renting two apartments for the weekend. It was great having so much room. The highlight was probably the amazing kitchen that we had. Taylor and I cooked a full breakfast for the room every morning. There's no better way to start your day! As I'm sure you can infer from the title of this post, Taylor and I pretty much stuck together the whole weekend. We definitely had a great time together, and it was nice being able to travel with just one another person. Making decisions about what we wanted to do was really easy. Taylor and I weren't really planning on sticking together for the most of the time, but after hanging out the first day I think we both realized that was something we both wanted to do. We get along very well together as travelers. We woke up early twice to go running around the city. That was an awesome decision. We got to see so much more of Barcelona that way, and it was nice practically having the city to ourselves while everybody else was still sleeping. We cooked breakfast each morning and also packed sandwiches for lunch together. Our goal for the trip was to spend as little money as possible. We definitely accomplished that goal. There is so much you can do without having to spend any money. The only thing we spent money on the whole weekend was food, transportation, and the entrance fee to the botanical gardens. Everything else is free, and we were busy the ENTIRE time. We easily got out money's worth :D

We got into Barcelona around midday on Friday. Getting into the apartment was a bit of a hassle, but we passed the time making friends at a cafeteria near where we were staying. I had so much fun the entire weekend trying to speak Spanish. I've definitely forgotten quite a bit, but I was happy with how much I remembered. It was fun talking with the local any chance I got. One time, Taylor and I were buying groceries, and our totals were the EXACT same. It was crazy. I laughed about it with the cashier, and I explained to her that it was funny because we were friends and were splitting the food together as well. She laughed, and we joked that it must be good luck. I guess I did learn a little bit of Spanish in high school afterall :P


After getting everything situation in our AWESOME apartment, Taylor and I decided to walk around the city for the rest of the day. We just wanted to get accustomed with where everything was and explore the city on our own. We found all sorts of fun things. We went into the old city area, walked down La Rambla, went into the Barcelona Cathedral, which I liked better than the Sagrada Familia, got gelato, and chilled at the port listening to a street band. We did tons of other stuff to, but I can't list everything! Barcelona is the perfect hang out city though. There's so much just to enjoy just by being there, no money necessary. We pretty much based most of our daily activities off of cool things we read about doing online, as well as what looked cool on the map we had. We had the best map ever. It was a restaurant guide for the city, but it also had EVERY monument, attraction, etc. marked on it. We pretty much saw all of them. I'm collecting all the maps I use over the summer, and the one from Barcelona probably got the most use of them all. It's actually in pieces because of how much we used it! That pretty much describes my frist day in Barcelona though. Maybe not the most exciting story to tell, but I assure you it was a great way to start the weekend. Taylor and I actually joked about how the things we enjoy doing most don't make for good stories. We're just really chill guys! Before dinner, the whole group met up to go check out the magic fountains, which were actually only a short walk from the apartment. The fountains are AMAZING! I've never seen such a large assortment of fountains. It's an entire street of fountains lined up along it. They're in front of a huge museum and lead the way from a plaza along a street and up a ton of stairs to the building. Every night, the fountains put on different shows to music. They light up different colors and are choreographed to match the music. TONS of people show up everynight to watch the show. It's probably pick pocket central, but we didn't run into any issues. Speaking of which, Barcelona has this reputation for being the worst city in Europe for having stuff stolen. I've heard stories from lots of people, and I believe what they say. But at the same time, our entire group didn't have any problems! The whole time I was like, "what is everybody talking about?" I never felt like I was in a position of getting pick pocketed or whatnot, nor did I it happen to anybody. I think it's just like any other big city. I definitely was extra careful the whole time because of what I had heard. I was almost paranoid the first day! But back to the fountains, we liked it so much that Neely, Taylor, and I decided to go back again the next night!

Taylor and I packed our stuff together in a suitcase because we figured we might as well bring some more stuff since it was a longer weekend, and we had more room with the apartment. It turned out to be a great idea, and we even had enough room to pack our running gear. We got up before 7 AM on Saturday to run, and we definitely ran. We probably ran somewhere between 8-10 miles that morning. We had to take a break the next day because it took so much out of us. It was awesome though. We saw so much of the city! We ran through the center of town down La Rambla, along the beach, through a park where the zoo is, and along plazas in a huge loop. We then came back and cooked breakfast for everybody. We did all that, got ready for the day, and cleaned everything up before 10:30 AM. I must say I felt quite accomplished after all that. We still had a full day ahead of us too! I definitely had quite the productive weekend.

We were planning on taking a free walking tour (again so much free stuff to do!), but we didn't make it the meeting place on time. It was no big deal, since we had already seen so much on our own the day before. We were planning on meeting up with some girls in the early afternoon to go to the beach together, so we decided we would walk to the Sagrada Familia and check out the bull fighting arena along the way. Before going that way though, we decided to stop by the famous food market on La Rambla to pick up a snack. I am seriously in love with that market. It had the most amazing fruit ever. There's no way I would ever get tired of going there. I ended up buying two fruit salads and a package of mango slices over the course of that day. I was very happy...haha. By the way, this all happened on July 4 (...and Natalie's birthday in case she reads this :D). It was a somber July 4 though because there was absolutely no sign of it being recognized anywhere. Of course, why would they in a foreign country, but it was still a bit of a shock. It's my favorite holiday! Anyways, we got to see a lot more of the city along our way, and the church was really cool and maybe even a bit ridiculous. I think its style is quite unique, and I respect if for that. However, I wouldn't say it's my favorite or the best ever. The highlight of visiting the Sagrada Familia was when Taylor and I found a magic square on it's entrance side. We couldn't believe it. We're Tech nerds, so give us a break! After our little walk through city, we met up with Neely, Natalie, and Lisa and went to check out the beaches of Barcelona. They were pretty nice, and I definitely had a good time relaxing at the beach. It was packed though! So many people everywhere. It was probably worse than Florida beaches over spring break. It was ridiculous. I had never seen so many topless women in my life either. I'm used to nude beaches (...or gardens in the case of Munich) where it's only old, fat men walking around naked.

We came back to the beach to get cleaned up before going out to dinner as a big group to celebrate Natalie's birthday. We went to a Mexican style tapas restaurant. It was a bit pricey, which obviously hurt Taylor and I, but the food was pretty good. At this point, Taylor and I are EXHAUSTED. Remember, we woke up before 7 AM, and we had probably covered a distance of about 20-25 miles that day. We decided to head back to bed after dinner, but we did stop by the magic fountains on the way. I was so excited when the first song clip played during the show was a song by Prince! I can't remember what song it was, but I think it was "1999."

Now we're at the half point of my weekend! I told you we did A LOT! The next 2 days only get more and more fun packed.

After our exhausting day on Saturday, we decided to give ourselves a break from running and slept in. We still cooked a great breakfast when we woke up though! Michael joined us for the day. We started off with the Picasso Museum. It's free on the first Sunday of every month! We got more than we bargained for when a parade went right past us while we were waiting in line. It definitely made waiting a lot easier. The museum was awesome too. I was absolutely astounded by Picasso's work. Like the Van Gogh museum I went to in Amsterdam, it was set up chronologically, so the viewer can follow the transitions the artist went through in his lifetime. I have so much more respect for Picasso after seeing his work through that progression. He had so much talent. I think he got bored with painting masterpieces, so he decided to create an entirely new style, which is where his famous abstracts and cubist works come from. We headed over Park Guell afterwards to check out all the famous Gaudi work that's there and just to take a break and a little siesta! The park was breathtaking. It was so incredibly unique. Gaudi too pushed the boundaries of his field. He used so much mosaic work! I couldn't help but think of Anna the whole time. A shout out goes to Jourdan as well, especially since she finished the mosaic we made for my mom on mother's day. Thanks Jourdan :D

After parting ways at Park Guell, Taylor and I made our way towards Tibidabo, a mountain on the northern edge of the city with a church and amusement park on top of it, while Michael went back to meet up with the group. Our original plan was to hike up to the church, but time wasn't on our side so we took a tram and funicular instead. Going up to Tibidabo turned out to be a great decision. The best view of all of Barcelona was available from up there. The city is HUGE. The church itself was quite remarkable. We spent a good hour just hanging out on top of the mountain, looking out over the city and behind over the surrounding countryside. Just add Tibidabo to the list of great fun and free things to do! We finished the night off with dinner with Natalie and Neely. I hope you can see a pattern here. Barcelona was all about finding happiness and contentment within each and every moment. It wasn't about what we were doing so much as how we were doing it...one more day left!

Taylor and I decided to do a bit of exploring for our last day in Barcelona. No surprise there though right? The one major area of the city we had yet to explore was Montjuic, a hill in the city of the city on the oceanside. It was the site of the Olympics and features an old castle overlooking Barcelona's bustling, industrial port. We spent about 5 hours in the area. It was a huge surprise how much there was to do! We went to the botanical gardens, the castle, different areas built for the Olympics, and an above ground cemetary. We kept running into new things to check out! The highlight was probably when we decided to climb up this steep bank only to find outselves starting at the castle! We ended up climbing up to the castle and had lunch on it's walls while watching the activities of Barcelona's port. It was fascinating to see all the different things at work! Our last day in Barcelona was definitely filled with finding happiness in the simple things. A lot of the stuff we did was pretty relaxed but we got full enjoyment out of it. I had a great time.

...I feel like there's a lot more to tell about our last day, but that would just take forever! You'll have to check out pictures. I'll be willing to elaborate on anything when I get back. The trip back to Metz was a bit sad because it would be my last couchette of the summer! All I have left is my trip to Croatia this upcoming weekend for my birthday!!! We're flying there though, so I won't be taking many more trains for the rest of the summer. I'll probably take a few days trips before returning home as a way to pass the time. I actually have another 4 day weekend between finals because of how my schedule worked out. I'm not sure yet what I'm going to do for it though. The Tour de France will be in Paris that weekend, so that is definitely a possibility!

Anyways, just a few more weeks until I'm back home! I'm definitely ready to be back. I'm quite homesick :( At the same time though, I know that I've made the most out of my summer, so it's not a bad thing that I'm ready to be back. I'm very content with all that I've done, so returning home is just the next part of my life. I'm extrememly excited about all the things waiting for me in the fall. It's going to be a wonderful semester. I just know it.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Taking a break...

I've decided I'm going to take a break from traveling this weekend. It's only a 2 day weekend, so I'm not missing out on too much. I think it'll be good to take some time to relax and recuperate for the last few weeks of my time here. I'll probably going into Metz tomorrow for lunch. I have yet to check out the cathedral, and it would be a shame to miss out on that before returning home. I think I'll spend the rest of my time relaxing in my room, watching movies, reading The Kite Runner, and, of course, UPDATING MY BLOG!!! I've been slacking quite a bit lately, but I will make up for it this weekend. I have lots to share about my last weekend in Barcelona and maybe even about my trip to Prague and Salzburg from two weekends ago. We'll see though; let's not go too crazy just yet.

First things first...I have a crazy story about what happened to me and a group of friends last night. Yesterday, it was Brian David's 21st birthday, so we decided to go into Metz for a nice meal to celebrate. We went to this great Mexican restaurant in Metz. It was one of those classy Mexican restaurants; although, I have a craving for cheap Mexican food and unlimited chips and salsa now. I'm definitely going to one once I get home. Continuing with my story, we had a great dinner and enjoyed just hanging out in Metz. I haven't done that much this summer, so it was nice to get away from GTL on a weeknight. I paid for it a little bit by having to cram in my Probability & Statistics homework this morning, but it was definitely worth it. After dinner, we walked to where we needed to be to catch a night bus back to where we live. This is where the story really starts.

So, we get on the bus on time no problems and sit in the back. We were a group of 5 guys (Scott, Brian, Brian, Patrick, and I), which of course makes us the stereotypical group of GT students. Anyways, we're on the bus just talking and laughing about whatever when these 2 teenagers (probably a couple of years younger than us) get on the bus and sit across from us. It's really weird because one of them spits on the floor in front of us. Nobody spits AT ALL in Europe, so we were all pretty shocked that he did that but didn't think anything else of it. At another stop, an older French guy (probably mid to late 20's) gets on the bus and sits around all of us as well. By this time, we've started getting some pretty ill looks from the two teenagers, and it's immediately obvious that this new guy doesn't like us either. He wouldn't stop staring at us with a look of hatred and started speaking with in French with the two boys across from us. I don't speak much French, but it was obvious he was saying some pretty nasty things about us. They kept looking at us as if to mock us and show how much disdain they had for us. It was almost like we were being taunted. At this point, we were all like "seriously, what's going on and what did we do to deserve this." We add a feeling something bad was going to happen, but at the same time we were a group of 5 guys. Now, I'm not the biggest guy in the world, but Brian and Patrick both play rugby and the other Brian is quite built and very intimidating (his beard definitely has something to do with that). Scott is kind of the X-factor though. He's definitely a big guy, but like me is pretty calm and wouldn't be the fighting type. However, if you've ever played soccer with Scott or watched him play, then you know there's another side of him that's pretty scary. But that's not the point. Anyways, we thought there was no way they would think about doing anything to us. Nonetheless, the group of French guys continued to talk bad about us while throwing in English cuss words as well and spitting in our direction. It was all incredibly surprising and unbelievable. It was almost amusing to us that they would act that way. I understand Americans aren't well liked but still.

We decided just to get off the bus at an earlier stop because it would be faster to walk back, and it obviously just wasn't a good situation in there. We accidentaly pressed the button to demand a stop a bit early. Brian (the one with the beard) felt bad that we did that, so he just got off and decided to walk from there. We waited for the next stop, although we ended up waiting for Brian to catch up with us before heading back to our dorms. I'm getting ahead of myself now though. Back to what happened when we were getting off the bus....

So I'm the first to get up and press the button to open the doors and get off the bus. With my back turned to the group of French guys and about to walk out, the older French guy proceeds to jump out of his seat and punches me in the back of the head. Yes, that sounds absolutely ridiculous, but I assure you it happened. I WAS PUNCHED IN THE BACK OF THE HEAD FOR ABSOLUTELY NO REASON. We all could tell that there was the possibility of something bad happening, but we did nothing to provoke the guys whatsoever. I think our first reaction was pure shock at what had happened. I got punched!!! After hitting me the guy immediately backs off behind his seat. At this point I'm already off the bus and completely bewildered as to what just happened. The guy then proceeds to swing at Patrick. This all happens pretty quickly of course, and by now we're all pumped up with adrenaline and pissed off at what was happening. However, I think we all knew that the group wasn't a threat to us at all, so there was no point in retaliating. Our group continued getting off the bus while getting swung at, spat at (this time they actually were directly aiming for us), and even kicked at. The teenagers joined in at this pont. It was absolutely BIZARRE. As I said, we really didn't feel threated at all, which I is why I think none of us retaliated. It's probably best that we just got off the bus as well since we're in a foreign country and who knows what could have happened to us legally or whatever. So, we all get off the bus and are yelling and pissed off at what happened to us for no reason. The group of French guys continue cussing and spitting at us from the bus. I think they definitely knew better than to follow us. The rest of the people on the bus were shocked as well. Everybody, including us, was like "did that really just happen?" There was an attendant on the bus who started making his way back to where the group that attacked us were. I'm not sure what happened or what he said because the bus then started to pull away. All the while, we're on the side of the street absolutely pissed off about what happened and completely at a loss for why it happened. Like I said, we waited for the other Brian to catch up with us before heading back to our dorms. He was a bit disappointed to have missed out on all the action and was surprised about what happened but not really shocked either. We all knew that there was danger of something bad happening. It was clear that the French guys loathed us. They were definitely looking to start something. Once again, I still can't believe all that actually happened. I got punched in the back of the head!!! We are all pretty sure they hated us because we were Americans. We weren't even being dispruptive or acting like the stereotype though. By now, we've learned how to fit in and respect the standards and expectations of French culture/social behavior. It's awful what those guys did to us.

I'm not sure what's going to happen next. It looks like we're going into Metz on Monday to file a police report. There are surveillance cameras on the bus as well. I definitely want some form of justice. It's not right to let such horrible behavior go unpunished. I just wish I knew what was going on through the minds of the people that attacked us. There's no way I can possibly understand why they did what they did, but I would like to know their reasoning. I've never really been the victim of a crime (...well I did have $775 stolen from me when fraudalent charges were placed on my debit card). But there's no direct contact between criminal and victim in that case. It really is unfortunate that some humans can be so awful to the people around them. Crime is inexcusable.

Here are pictures of our group of guys on the bus. I took these just before things turned bad.

Scott

Brian

Patrick

Brian (...notice the awesome beard)

I'll be sure to keep the blog updated with what happens.



...and on a lighter, happier note - TODAY IS ANNA AND I'S 6 MONTH ANNIVERSARY!!! I love you Anna! Thanks for all the wonderful memories we've shared, and I am so happy to be in a relationship with you. You make everything better! I can't wait to be back home with you soon. I promise we'll celebrate when I get back :)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

5 Story Club + The Sound of Music = Fun Weekend

So I've had a very busy week and never actually got to updating my blog about last weekend. I have a huge to do list to take care of today before I head to Barcelona for the weekend, so it's looking like I won't get a chance to write any stories about my adventures. Sorry to disappoint! Feel free to check out pictures on my Picasa!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

CHECK IT OUT!!!

I'm on the cover of the new GT Viewbook!

http://www.admission.gatech.edu/viewbook/

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I remember Amsterdam :P

This last weekend was my last one in Europe with Anna. She flew back home Monday morning. I am so thankful for the time I get to spend with Anna in Europe. I had an amazing traveling across the continent with her. I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to travel around with her. I am very blessed!

...but about my weekend!!!

I left Metz on Thursday, and it couldn't have come fast enough. I was really not feeling school at all last week. I'm not really sure why; maybe it was because I had a great weekend ahead of me but whatever. I was so happy to leave class and walk to the train station Thursday afternoon. My plan for the weekend was to hang out with Anna in Amsterdam on Friday and maybe go to Brussels on Saturday before meeting my family in Paris on Sunday. Anna and I ended up just staying in Amsterdam for both days because we liked it so much. I ended up taking a roundabout route to Amsterdam because August Burns Red, a favorite band of mine, was playing in Strasbourg Thursday night. I took a train from Metz to Strasbourg Thursday afternoon, went to the show, and then train hopped my way through Germany overnight. I'm really glad I decided to go see the band play. It was a great experience and really interesting to compare it with going to a show back home. The venue was tiny and the band came out and talked with the crowd before and after, although I was one of the few people who spoke English. The French crowd was a bit different from what I'm used to back at the Masquerade, but I still had fun. It was also nice just to go to a show in general since it's been forever since I've been to one.

The trip from Strasbourg was a bit rough, especially after getting sweaty at the concert and not being able to clean up. I found a fountain outside of the train station and washed up a little at least before getting on my train into Germany. I also had a lovely conversation with some random guy in front of the train station. We spoke in French, English, and Spanish. It was probably the most random thing ever, but I was quite amused. I had to transfer quite a few times on my way to Amsterdam. The most stressful time was when I only had 2 minutes to get from one train to another before it departed! I made it but let's just say I was a little worried about making it.

Either way, I met up with Anna in Amsterdam without any trouble. I will admit that I REALLY liked Amsterdam. It's extremely unique, and I think it's unfortunate that it has the reputation it does. The city is quite beautiful with tons of fun things to do. It's also great to hang out, walk around the city, and enjoy the wonderful parks. Highlights of what we did in Amsterdam are: Anne Frank Museum, Van Gogh Museum, Biblical Museum (lots of museums in Amsterdam :P), Thai food takeout for dinner, staying in a 3-star hotel (fancy fancy...although they did put is in the basement...haha), and splurging on a nice dinner and not how much or if to tip at all. It's been fun to do pretty much anything with Anna in Europe. We enjoy each other's company so much that we don't reallly have to do much to pass the time. We have become quite good at walking around cities and sitting together in parks, chatting away the whole time of course :)

All in all, I had a great time in Amsterdam and was really surprised with all that the city had to offer. Also, the city probably has the greatest number of different forms of transportation available for public use. There are the usual ways of getting around like roads, sidewalks, and metros. However, there is also a tram system, a huge network of bike lanes (every road consists of a lane for cars, a lane for bikes, and then the sidewalk), and the canals...crazy I know.

I took a high speed train from Amsterdam to Paris Sunday morning after my "see you later" with Anna.

Meeting up with my family in Paris was an awesome way to end the weekend and mark the halfway point of my summer abroad. It was also Father's Day, so what a great way to celebrate! I met up with them outside of a cathedral near Gare du Nord, and we went all around Paris for the day. Sunday was also the first day of summer, which is celebrated in France with free music festivals and concerts EVERYWHERE! Like I said, it really was the perfect day to be in Paris. The best music was at night when we went to the Sacre Coeur for sunset. There were DJs all around the area putting out techno music, while the Parisians danced in streets. I hope I get to go back sometime and experience it all over again! We spent our day exploring the Louvre and the Latin Quarter before grabbing a nice family dinner together. I got to meet a lot of the group they're traveling with too! It was fun sharing stories back and forth and laughing about stupid things that have happened (most of which happened to me of course :P). For the night, we went to see the Moulin Rouge (just the building...maybe I'll see the show some other time) and the Sacre Coeur. Like I said, the Sacre Coeur was awesome and is probably even my favorite area in Paris. It was definitely a great time with too many stories to share!

All in all, it was another successful weekend. I had a great time with Anna (no surprise there!) and was really glad to see my family. I'm definitely even more super excited about the rest of my summer here after last weekend. I have some great weekends still ahead of me: Prague, Salzborg, Barcelona, and Croatia!

...halfway done

Just wanted to point out that I am past the halfway point for my study abroad experience.

Monday, June 22, 2009

maybe a little bragging

I want to take a moment just to brag about everything I've done today...

I started off today in Paris. I woke up around 5:30 AM to get ready, say goodbye to my family, and head across the city to the train station. I took the 7:00 AM train back to Metz and got back to my room around 9:15 AM. I got unpacked and then headed to my first class. After class, I came to my room to clean up some more and then went to lunch. After lunch, I went to my second class of the day and went to be in the group photo of everybody at GTL. Next, I went shopping for the week and got some great fruit. I decided to splurge a little this week. Once I got back, I gave Brian a haircut, and then he trimmed me up as well. Then I cooked dinner, which was a bacon, egg, and cheese baguette. I must say it was pretty delicious. I just got done with finishing up with cleaning my room which included: washing dishes, taking out the trash (recycling too!), sweeping the floors, and mopping!

I would say I've been pretty productive today :D

Thursday, June 18, 2009

My weekend in Deutschland

I LOVE GERMANY!!!
It's the best country in Europe. I want to come back to Europe and just tour around Germany. There's still so many parts of it that I haven't been to. I went to Munich last weekend and feel like I need another week to go back and see/do everything. I had a great time in Munich. Everything was perfect. The weather was great; the food was delicious; and the company was good (...another weekend with Anna, Joe, and Katie!).

My train left for Munich around midnight on Friday (...late Thursday night to be specific but I guess that would technically be midnight on Friday right?). I decided to hang out in Metz for the night until my train left, so I walked to and around the city for a few hours. I was hoping to go into the cathedral because I haven't yet, but it was already closed. I'll go eventually! I ended up running into a few friends downtown, who were also waiting for the train to Munich. They were on their way to a karaoke bar, and I decided to tag along and hang out until it was time to head to the station. The karaoke bar was a blast! The French are so funny when it comes to karaoke. They're not as crazy about it as Americans are. They definitely take it quite seriously, though. Every French person that sang had a great voice! We were definitely the worst singers in there...hahaha. I had my first couchette experience on the train ride to Munich. It went quite well despite the fact that everybody in the room with me was already asleep when I get on, and I accidentally woke the person below me up in the process of setting up my bed. I couldn't get the bed locked in, and it took many tries, lots of help, and grunts of frustration from the guy below me to get it all set up. I was pretty embarrassed as I went to sleep but whatever. I slept well and enjoyed the couchette experience!

I got to Munich early in the morning on Friday and had the full day to myself since Anna, Joe, and Katie weren't coming in until later in the afternoon. I decided to explore Munich for a while before heading out to the German country to visit a small town called Landshut. Munich is an incredible mix of an old German village with a cosmopolitan city center. There are so many beautiful parks, statues, and buildings to walk around and see, but there was also awesome shopping! There were 4 H&M's in a row in the Marienplatz area. All of them had different themes/styles too! There's too much about Munich that I loved to desribe it all. I walked through the Frauenkirche (largest brick cathedral in Europe) and roamed around the market place in the city. The market was an organic dieter's dream come true. Once I was satisified with getting my bearings straight in Munich, I headed back to the train station to catch a regional train to Landshut, which is about 2 hours from Munich by train.

I am so happy I chose to go to Landshut! It was fun to go off on my own and explore the Germany countryside. I felt like quite the world traveler. Landshut is a beautiful, quaint German town. Two large, cobblestone streets lined with shops and cafes run through the center of town. There is also a large brick cathedral and a castle that overlooks the town from a nearby hillside. I spent my time exploring the city on foot and hiking up to the castle. I hung around the city for the majority of the afternoon before taking a train back to Munich to meet up with Anna, Joe, and Katie. Hanging out in Landshut made me want to travel throughout the rest of Germany visiting small, off-the-beaten-path villiages.

My reunion with the group didn't go exactly as planned. Anna and Katie got of the train, but Joe was no where to be found. It turns out they had to sprint from their train in Stuttgart to get on the transfer to Munich. They all got split up, and Joe got left behind in the process. We went back to the train station later to see if he was able to get on the next train from Stuttgart. It turns out he did, so there was nothing to worry about.

We spent the night exploring the city of Munich. Anna and I went off on our own for dinner and had a great time enjoying the old city area and good German food. Friday was definitely a great start to the weekend.

We took a trip to the Dachau concentration camp on Saturday, which was quite the experience. I have been to the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, but it was quite overwhelming to stand on the same ground where so many prisoners of the camp lived and died. Probably the most erie moments of the visit were entering through the same gate that was there during the camp's operation and standing in the gas chambers and crematorium. I'm really glad we chose to visit, and I think it was good that we paid our respects to the past and learned more about the evils of WWII. I'm not sure if I would ever go back, but I might want to visit Auschwitz one day.


We spent the rest of Saturday hanging out in the old city center of Munich. We went shopping and found all sorts of neat things. I had my fair share of fruit from the market and German eis. Munich is the perfect "let's just hang out" city. I had the best time just walking around and talking. There were all sorts of fun things going on in the streets. There were tons of street performers to watch, markets to explore, and cafes/parks to relax at. One of my favorite street encounters was a man on a horse giving out free pretzels! Before going out to dinner, we had to find a place to stay for the night, which was a bit of a challenge since Depeche Mode had a concert that night in Munich. We ended up fitting all 4 of us into a double in a 3-star hotel near the train station. I haven't talked much about my hotel/hostel experiences, but let me just say that staying in a 3-star was something I hadn't done up until then because the more stars, the more exensive the hotel is. I'm pretty much a 1-star kind of guy. We got a good rate though and splitting the room 4 ways made it a good deal. We decided to have dinner that night at the renowned Hofbrauhaus; it was definitely a worthwhile experience and maybe even a little overwhelming with all the people that were there.

Sunday was a packed full day of Munich. We walked all around the city visiting churches, parks, markets, and famous buildings. There was also a huge festival going on in the city with tons of cool things for sale. We spent a few hours just walking around and looking at stuff. It was like being at a German version of the Dogwood Festival! The highlight of the day for me was going to the Allianz Arena (soccer stadium for Bayern Munich). I'm still waiting for them to call me about signing a contract with them :P

....but yeahhh there's a lot more to say about the weekend. However, I don't really have time because I'm leaving for my next one soon! I'm super excited about this weekend because tonight I'm going to an August Burns Red (one of my favorite bands) show in Strasbourg before training up to Amsterdam. It should be quite the experience; I have no clue what to expect from a show in Europe!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Things I miss about home...

Ok...so I'm not really super homesick at the moment, although I was pretty homesick for the first few weeks, but the weather outside is completely AWFUL! It's got me thinking about some things I miss about being back home. So here's a list of things I miss, starting with the weather of course!

1. Atlanta weather - I'm tired of how much it rains here in Metz. It's almost a daily thing. It will be sunny in the morning, rainy in the afternoon, and then sunny again. It's not very fun, especially when it's raining at the moment and I have nothing to eat but my only form of transportation is walking. Weather was great last weekend in Munich though!
2. Free water - It seems nobody in Europe keeps hydrated. There's no water fountains and not all restaurants have tap water (free) available. Some only have hot water, so you have to buy bottled water. Paris and Cinque Terre had occasional public water fountains that were like spigots in the ground.
3. Free bathrooms - It's probably because of #2 that there isn't really a need for public restrooms in Europe, but, either way, it's not cool.
4. GT internet - The internet in my apartment isn't horrible. I'm just spoiled because of Georgia Tech.
5. Cheap laundry - It costs about 6 euros to do a small load of laundry here with a not so good washer and dryer. I would love to wash all of my clothes in the ones at my house.

Clearly, it's not a very long or intense list. I truly LOVE Europe, but I figured I would do a little venting, while showing some appreciation for what I have back home. I'm not sure if I would ever live in Europe. Both places have advantages and disadvantages, and I could make my home in either place. Right now, my friends and family are in the States, so that is where home is. I definitely miss being with them and hanging out in Atlanta! However, I could learn to make Europe home as well. I hope America develops a more European culture and way of life as time goes on. Just small things here and there would make a huge impact. I would like to see that happen.

I'm definitely quite spoiled here and back in the States, so I really don't have anything to complain about. I'm learning a lot about subsistence living here, mostly because of my budget but also because I've made it a goal to live efficiently this summer. My life style back home will see some significant changes due to this summer. I'll make a list of things that I'll miss about Europe later!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

HAIRCUT!!!

So now that I'm in Europe I've ironically decided to do away with my European hair style....well almost. There was a bit of snag during the haircut, and we had to do a little improvising to make it look alright. You'll see what I mean in the pictures....thanks Brian :P hahaha

...oh well it's something fun I can only do on a study abroad trip in Europe!

Monday, June 8, 2009

A Weekend in Paris

Despite a few set backs, I had another good weekend touring through Europe. I took a train to Paris Friday afternoon and spent the night with Anna, Joe, and Katie eating dinner in our hotel and going to see the Eiffel Tower at night. Apparently, we missed seeing Michelle Obama at the Eiffel Tower by just a couple of hours...quite unfortunate right?

The Eiffel Tower was quite a sight, especially at night with its light display. I really liked it, but at the same time I thought it was really bizarre and random. There was a ton of people there that night as well for some sort of movie showing that was going on. I guess you could say it was Paris's version of "screen on the green." The girls wanted to head back to the hotel a bit early, but Joe and I really wanted to check out the night life of Paris, especially the Latin Quarter. So, we took care of Anna and Katie and then went out to explore the streets of Paris at night. We ended up running into a large group of people in their mid-20's on the metro. The group was quite loud and obnoxious, especially due to a rather intoxicated Scottish male, and we couldn't help but to start up a conversation. They ended up convincing us to go to a bar with them, instead of going to the Latin Quarter, which apparently is a more girl friendly hang out (...something to do with waiters only wearing boxers...something Joe and I probably wouldn't find that interesting). Either way, Joe and I decided to tag along. The group was so much fun to hang out with and talk to. Apparently, they were a hodgepodge group of friends that met through studying and traveling abroad. Some of them were Scottish, British, and others were French. We talked about all sorts of things on the way to the metro. Unfortunately, we never made it into the bar because the bouncers refused to give our group entry when the Scottish guy smashed a wine bottle on the ground right outside of the bar's entrance. At that point, Joe and I decided it was best to get out of the area and head back to the hotel. We didn't want the group to blame us for ruining their night...oh well! Joe and I had a great time, and it turned out to be a fun story to share with the girls when we got back. Joe even hit the wrong button when we were exiting the metro and accidentally called the police instead of opening the gate.

We spent all of Saturday in Versailles where we met up with a group of French girls Joe, Katie, and Anna had met in Barcelona. We hung out at the mall for a little while because Katie and Anna were freezing and wanted to buy jeans to change into because they were wearing dresses. In fact, the weather was pretty awful the entire weekend. It was wet and cold...very sad. They didn't find any shorts, but we grabbed lunch there anyways and then headed to the Château de Versailles. Entrance into many historical attractions in Europe is free for EU citizens of a certain age, but I was able to get myself in for free as well by showing my international student ID card and claiming German nationality, which is somewhat true. The palace was beautiful and filled with gorgeous artwork, architecture, and gardens.

We were supposed to take an overnight train from Paris to Nice Saturday night, but that plan turned out to be a fail when we missed our train by less than a minute. So, after working with a very helpful ticket person at the train station, I was able to get Joe, Katie, and Anna on a train to Nice Monday night, which meant we would stay in Paris for the rest of the weekend, and a refund for my tickets. Unfortunately, we had no place to stay that night, but we went back to the hotel we stayed at previously and were able to get a room that night for free and Sunday night for the same reduced price we had it for on Friday. It was too good to be true. We decided to go out and enjoy the night life of Paris that night, which we paid for by sleeping in pretty much all day on Sunday. We definitely got our money's worth for our room. We used Sunday as a day of rest and just enjoyed each others company in our small hotel room. Unfortunately, I lost my cell phone sometime during our late night adventures. It's either in the taxi we took back to the hotel or somewhere in that room. I'm upset at myself for losing it because of all the money I had on it, but at the same time I'm not really surprised. I'm pretty good at losing things. Just ask my mom :P

I ended up sleeping in again Monday morning, so I got on a later train to Metz than I planned on. I at least got to spend some extra time with Anna and got to see more of Paris and didn't have to do the "wake up at 5:45 AM in order to get to class on time" thing that I did last week. But...overall it was a good weekend despite the mix of ups and downs. Either way, I had a great time and wouldn't have changed a thing about it. Good life experiences are always worthwhile.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

...just a quick update

So, I decided to take a quick study break to update my blog. I have my first test of the summer today. It's for thermodynamics, but I don't think it'll be too bad. Either way, I'll be studying for it until 3 PM.

After 6 days without school, it feels weird being back at GTL. School has turned into a way of passing the time until my weekend travel adventures. It's fun here in the week though. It's a great community, and I really enjoy spending time with the people here. I FINALLY played soccer for the first time yesterday. We lost the first few games, but after that my team went on a huge win streak and dominated the field for a good hour and a half.

My trip to Italy with Anna was indescribably amazing. We had a fantastic time touring through Venice, Bologna, and Cinque Terre. I'll go through all the details later! I need to get back to studying. It's off to Paris and Nice this weekend.

Wish me luck on my test!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

PHOTOS!

In case you didn't notice, I added a link to all of the photos I'm taking. It's on the right side of the page. That's it! I'm busy writing an 1/2 page essay about myself in French.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I don't even know where to start...

Okay. So this weekend was absolutely packed full of ridiculousness. I'm so exhausted, but ready to pour through the next 2 days of school and head out for my adventure in Italy with Anna. We're going to Venice and Cinque Terre. It's going to be INCREDIBLE. But first...I must share my adventures from last weekend. This is going to be quite the story, and I wish I was better at telling it because it's deserving of a good story teller. Unfortunately, I'm not one of those, but I'll do my best. The easiest way to do this is going to be to go in chronological order, so here we go...

I spent the weekend traveling with Scott, Patrick, and Brian again. We've become quite the group of travelers, and we work very well together. Sometimes we might get a little frustrated with each other, but that's mostly because Scott and I constantly bicker at each other. We still love each other though! Anyways, we ventured down to the Côte d'Azur (French Riviera) this weekend to see the Grand Prix at Monaco, the film festival at Cannes, and take advantage of having a place to stay with our mutual friend Nehal, who is currently taking classes and participating in the film festival. She actually lives in a smaller city of the French Riviera called Juan Les Pins. We took an overnight train from Metz to Cannes, which wasn't as easy as it should have been due to me being who I am.

As usual, I was running late with packing and taking care of last minutes pre-travels things like dinner and homework. Long story short, I almost lost my dinner to the tragedy of placing a plastic bowl on a still hot stove top. I'm lucky if I don't have lung cancer from all the plastic fumes I breathed in. I was able to save dinner though, but the bowl was long gone by the time I got to it. Did I mention this all went down about 1 hour before my train left? And my dorm is a 30 minute walk from the train station; obviously, this was not a good situation to be in. I was able to inhale my dinner (along with the plastic fumes) and finish packing with time to spare. I still have to work on scraping the melted plastic off of my stove though..hahaha! My mom would be so proud of me ;) Love you mom!

So, that's how my weekend started. It might not have been the best start, but it was quite fitting knowing my tendency of doing stuff like that. After a little bit of running, I was able to catch up with the group on the way to Metz, and we made it onto the train in time. The ride their was pretty relaxed. I was able to sleep in my seat and felt pretty good about my safety as well as the security of my belongings. We looked out for each other, so nothing was going to happen to us. The only bad thing about the trip was Scott waking me up at 4 AM as he thought we were there. Let's just say we were still 3 hours ago. It's ok Scott! I forgive you. Sorry I was a little pissy about it!

Moving on...we arrived in Cannes and spent the day in Monaco because the Grand Prix was held there all weekend. We didn't have any tickets, but with a little bit of traveler know-how and sneaking under overpasses we were able to get a great view of the race! We went around a couple different spots and even made a friend with one of the security guards. Nothing better than seeing the Grand Prix for free considering the tickets cost a fortune!
video
We spent a few hours watching the race, and then decided to move on to exploring the rest of the city. Monaco is an incredible mix of culture, money, fashion, and history. I thought it was a beautiful city. It's on the ocean and has all sorts of coves packed with yachts and sail boats. We encountered so many neat things from a Japanese garden to exotic car dealerships to an old fortress and palace with a village next to it. We stayed in the city/country (it's one of those places that is both) for dinner and ate at restaurant in this small alley next to an old cathedral next to the palace. I can confidently say that we did a great job with Monaco. I had a great day in the city. I can't go over the beautiful views, expensive cars, amazing boats, and historical architecture. Seeing the Grand Prix was a nice perk too ;)
The next day, we decided to do something a bit different. We on a hike up to a medieval village called Eze which offers the best view of the French Riviera. I'll be honest; the hike was quite brutal. We went from sea level to about 430 meters above where the Jardin botanique d'Èze lies. It was totally worth it. The hike was beautiful, and it only got better the higher we went. The village itself is breathtaking. I can't begin to describe how wonderful it was to walk along its narrow streets. The village was once a getaway for royal families and has one of the nicest hotels I've ever seen. It would be a perfect romantic getaway or honeymoon location. At the top of the village, there is a cactus and rare plant garden that is unlike any other garden I've ever seen. Scott came through big time by getting us in for half price with a student discount. I would really like to go back to Eze someday for a few days of relaxation. I can't fully describe how much I enjoyed being there. If you're ever in the area, you have to go to Eze. I promise you will not be disappointed. Be prepared for a bit of a hike though!


The rest of the day and night we hung around Juan Les Pins and Antibes (a nearby city). We had a chill dinner and hung out at a pub exchanging stories and people watching. The French Riviera was packed with visitors this weekend because of the Grand Prix and the Cannes Film Festival. There was no shortage of interesting people there to humor us.

After so much hustle and bustle, we decided to take it easy for our last day. We headed over to Cannes to walk around the city and check out its famous La Croisette (a street of beautiful beaches and high end designer stores like Gucci, Armani, etc.) and old village. Everything was super expensive! I'm not exaggerating; we found a cell phone that cost about 32,000 euros. SO RIDICULOUS

After we were done with Cannes, we went back to relax in Juan Les Pins before it was time to head out. Scott, Brian, and I hung out in the park for a while and even did a little arts and crafts project. It was fun, male-bonding time. Anyways...on to the last part of my weekend story...this is where things gets a bit messy.

Our return trip home was not exactly what we had planned for. We took a train to Cannes where we were supposed to be overnighting to Metz just in time to get back for class. Well, we get to the train station and can't find out train on the list of departures. This is incredibly weird to us. I decided to go ask somebody what was up. The response I got was quite unexpected. It turns out the French train operators or whatever decided to go on strike. What did that mean for us and our train home? Well, it meant there was no train. We were stuck and had no way of getting back. There was a train that was running an hour late to Paris that we could have tried to get on, but that was a bad option considering everybody was trying to do the same and the train went to a station in Paris that was a LONG walk away from the one that would take us to Metz. So, what were options? Well, we really didn't have any way of getting back via train. There wasn't another train we could get on and waiting for the next day was hopeless because of the strike. Flying back was out of the question as well. We knew we had to get back to school by the next morning. We had homework to turn in of course! So...we went with our last resort: driving. Yes, we drove back to Metz. Here's a link showing what exactly that drive looked like:

Nice to Metz Driving Route

The story only gets better from here. Did I mention that all this went down around 9 PM last night? We made up our minds that driving home was the best and pretty much only option. I talked with a worker in the station and learned that we had to go to the airport in Nice to get a car. We hopped on the next train, hoping that this wouldn't all be in vain. We got to the Nice airport, which was a bit of a walk from the train stop of course, and went to every car rental dealer looking for a car. We finally found one through Europcar, the last place we stopped. It was definitely a blessing. I won't get into the actual details of how we acquired a car rental; it's too much to describe, but I encourage you to ask me in person. I promise it's a good story.

So, we had a car. What's next? Well, we thought it was an 8 hour drive home, which didn't seem too bad. Oh, I forgot to mention that I'm the only one in the group that can drive a manual. What is every car in Europe? ...a manual. Thanks for teaching me mom! Obviously, I couldn't make it through an 8 hour overnight drive, but we decided that I would make it as far as I could and then teach somebody how to drive when I got tired. Thank goodness Brian is a quick learner. It would be nice to be able to say that everything went well from here on, but that would be cutting the story short. Unfortunately, the navigation system was set on "shortest distance" as opposed to "shortest time." The shortest distance route between Nice and Metz is through the Alps, which is NOT an easy or quick place to drive through. Of course, we didn't figure this out until it was too late. We drove through Italy, Switzerland, and Germany on our way back. This makes us sound quite stupid, but come on what do you expect. Driving in Europe is not the easiest thing to do, especially in our situation. Also, it's obvious why Europeans don't drive. It's super expensive with all the toll booths and high gas prices. We spent 23 euros to go through a tunnel in Italy! Brian kept asking the guy why we had to pay that much, but we never got a satisfactory answer. Either way, we were determined to make it back on time and pushed on through every obstacle that presented itself. Driving through the Alps was a bit of a challenge. I had quite a stressful time trying to keep our little Fiat from flying off the edge of the road into a gorge, while also trying to force it up the mountains as I floored the gas only to continue slowing down. It was quite the adventure. I will never forget that drive.

Brian and I took turns driving all night. We were both extremely exhausted and had the help of Scott and Patrick to keep us awake.We made it back to our dorm at 10:05 AM. Class starts at 10:15 AM. Yes, that all really happened. I could share even more about the experience. But I'm exhausted now and hungry. I'm going to sleep well tonight. I'm never doing that again. Trains are my friends :) ...but not the stupid operators who go on strike >:(

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Nutella


I killed my first jar of nutella (store brand) today. It took me a week and a couple of days. I bet I can go through the next one even faster.

I've been slacking on my updates...

I'm so sorry for not updating the blog sooner! I've been so busy doing stuff that I kept forgetting to let everybody know about it. I'm just going to stick to giving a brief synopsis of what I've been up to because there's too many details to write about all of them.

Last Weekend's Adventures: I posted some videos from Saturday night's activities. I can't even begin to describe how much we had at the Constellation. It's a festival being put on throughout the whole summer until October as a way of waiting for and celebrating the opening of the Centre Pompidou-Metz, a HUGE museum being built that will be the largest modern art museum in France. It's a super cool looking building! Last weekend was packed full of activities, and there will be other events scattered throughout the summer. Scott, Patrick, Brian, and I went Saturday to see 4 things: the machine dance (see video below), a Japanese electronic art show, fireworks, and a techno performance. We had a blast! We ended up walking to and from Metz that night so we got back fairly late.

Of course, we had to get up early the next morning for out train ride to Trier, Germany! We were all pretty tired. I was definitely a bit anxious about using the train system and my Eurail pass for the first time, but everything was pretty easy. We were able to travel all around throughout the day without any issues. I took a nap on the train but that's not surprising. Trier is the oldest city in Germany and has some pretty cool Roman architecture. I've actually been there before with my family. Fun fact: my dad went to Trier in 4th grade for a school field trip! I was pretty excited to go back, mostly because I just love Germany! We walked all around the city seeing things like the Porta Negra (an old Roman gate), Roman baths, an amphitheater, and a few cathedrals. We also walked along the Mosel River for a bit.

One of the funnier moments in Trier was when we ran into an American couple in one of the cathedrals. Scott somehow got to talking to them, so I went over to join in and see what was up. It turns out they were touring through Europe on their way to see their newborn grandchild. Well, the funny part of this story is that the husband had taken a picture of me moments before to show how different Europeans dress. He thought I looked super European and wanted to show others what "we" looked like! Haha, he was definitely suprised to find out I was an American. The guys and I laughed about it afterwards because I took that as a compliment of course!

Also, I made sure to introduce the guys to eis, German ice cream. For those that haven't had eis, it's like a mix between ice cream and sorbet. It might be hard to imgaine that, but trust me when I say it's AMAZING. Patrick got the 4 € spaghetti eis; it was so ridiculous. They have noodle shaped eis and put raspberry syrup on it so it looks just like spaghetti!

We covered all of Trier fairly quickly, so we decided to head over to Luxembourg City for the afternoon. Why not right? You can do that sort of thing when you're in Europe. Within one day, we were in 3 different countries! We spent about 4 hours in Luxembourg. We spent most of our time exploring the lower level of the city that's more secluded from the tourist sites. There's lots of old ruins there and beautiful paths to explore and bridges to cross. We were all so proud of ourselves for getting off of the beaten path.

That was pretty much the story of my first weekend in Europe or at least the condensed version!

Back to School: The first few days back to school were pretty normal. I made a ton of train reservations for my next month of traveling. One time, I decided to go for a run and reserve a train route at once, so I ran to the station to make my reservation. I made it there and back in time for class! I've learned a lot about the train system and using the Eurail. I always use Deutsche Bahn to find train routes and then print off or write down what I want and take it to the station. Lots of kids have had trouble making reservations, but I find that if you go alone, be very polite, and try to speak a little French then you'll be all set. Like I said, I haven't had any problems yet! I'm heading to the French Riviera this weekend! The Cannes film festival and Grand Prix will be going on while I'm there!

I had my first set of homework due this week. It's pretty easy to get work done here though because we have lots of free time during the week. I'm trying to make sure to get everything done during the week, so I can focus on enjoying my travels on the weekend. I wrote my first "essay" in French; it's actually more like a conversation but WHATEVER :P

Yesterday, I didn't have class becasue we took a field trip to the Maginot Line and Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial, the largest American WWII cemetery in Europe. My first field trip in forever! It was a good experience. I almost froze to death in the Maginot Line. It's an underground fortress and line of defense built by the French. Unfortunately, the Germans were smart and just went around it during WWII. It was very cool though and super technologically advanced. As an engineer, I was very impressed. The cemetery was a fairly somber and eye opening experience. There were so many graves. I had a lot of respect for the men buried there and was glad there lives were honored so well after death. The cemetery was very beautiful and well kept.

After we got back from the field trip, I went on an 8 mile run with Taylor around the Metz countryside. It was a beautiful route! I can't wait to do it again but that probably won't be until next week. We can't run that far everyday. Anyways, that's the update of what I've been up to. I'll keep you all posted!


Sunday, May 17, 2009

I was born for techno!

Tonight was so much fun! I have so much to talk about. We went to a festival in Metz and had a great time. I'll explain in more detail tomorrow, but I have to go to bed now because we're getting up early to go to Trier, Germany. Here is a little teaser:

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