Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Bunny Comes to Town!

Joyeuses Paques! as they say in French! This is by far the strangest Easter I have ever experienced! Besides the fact that this is the first Easter I have ever spent without being with my family, that wasn't the only thing missing. So this morning, I woke up to the Easter candy that my wonderful parents had sent me last week, and the churchbell alarm (very fitting for the occasion, I thought) that I had set for myself. I got up, did my routine, and the weirdness began:
      1. I was all alone because Cammie is in London with her parents, and all my other friends had already left for spring break vacation. Strange because usually I spend Easter surrounded my huge amounts of family, or I least wake up to someone in the house with me.
      2. I had a big bowl of cheerios. For me Easter means HUGE lunch/dinner, so breakfast is meager if I eat it at all.

So then I get on the tram to head down to the 6th biggest Cathedral in the world. Strasbourg has a beautiful Cathedral (pictures below) and luckily for me it was Catholic and had a mass at 11 so I didn't have to wake up too early. 

Having known from every Easter before, Easter is the day that all the Catholics come out of hiding and go to mass, so usually getting a seat requires arriving at least fifteen minutes early, even at the biggest churches. Well I arrived a good 20 minutes early because the church is so famous I figured it'd be packed....more strangeness occurs:

      3. Mass that started at 9 was still going on (not a good sign)...but people weren't waiting outside for the mass to finish, clear out and let the next seating in..nope, people were standing along the sides of the church in and around the pews, anywhere they could people from the 9 o'clock mass were getting communion, people at for the 11 were stealing their seats!!!!
      4. When 9 o'clock mass had finally ended, it was a mad rush to grab seats! The procession hadn't even gotten halfway down the aisle before people were leaving and others were running to grab the openings. I felt like I was on a RyanAir flight! It was ridiculous.
      5. Dressing up in pretty dresses and looking nice at mass is apparently a US thing that no one told me was unnecessary in France. I mean French women are supposed to dress nicely so I figured for Easter they'd go all out...well its quite the opposite! Everyone was in jeans, sneakers and some dark coat. I stood out like a sore thumb in my nice black pants, heels, coral top and white sweater. I was the only person in the whole church with anything white on other than the priests!
      6. The mass begins and all of a sudden the person talking to me looks a lot more important than the usual priest or bishop. Yes, that would be because he was holding a cool stick thing and wearing that famous pointy hat, with a little red beenie thing found underneath....are you putting the pieces together yet? Yup, a cardinal was giving my Easter mass. That was really cool. Maybe not as cool as Lindsay at the Vatican with the Pope, but I did the best I could with what I've got in the Bourg!
This isn't exactly my cardinal...or my mass..but this is EXACTLY what it looked like...little red hat..and LOTS of incense.

      7. Oh did I mention the whole mass was in French?
      8. Communion came, and it was a sprint to get to the host!! No lines needed, the priests were rotating like sprinklers passing out the host..which was a very interesting consistency. People were coming from all different directions to get what they came for! It was far from the organized, one row at a time system, that we've implemented in the US!

Finally mass ends, after a good hour and twenty minutes..and there was another mad rush to the aisle seats (where I was sitting..effect of sitting with my dad at mass for 20 years) to get a good picture of the cardinal. Well I was completely unprepared without a camera, because I had no idea I'd be needing it in mass! next time i'll know!

The final weird thing that happened was...
      9. I got churros after mass! for some reason there was a little fair set up outside the cathedral in Place de Gutenburg and I figured since I wasn't having an amazing Easter feast i could treat myself to some churros. Not the typical Easter treat, but not a bad replacement!

Anyway I hope everyone has an awesome Easter! I'll be traveling everywhere for the next 2 weeks so there probably won't be updates for a while but there will be more than enough to write about when I come back!!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

NICE, Monaco and a quick roadtrip through France!

Last weekend I took a little last minute weekend trip to Nice with some of my girlfriends from College of Charlestown. We took the 13 hour overnight train on Thursday night, which wasn't that bad. Against my better judgement I didn't spend the extra 25 euros for the bed and got the "recline-able seat." The seats did indeed recline much father than your average train seat, but so did the seat in front of you. This situation wasn't exactly the most comfortable but totally worth it when we finally got to Nice. The last 2 hours of the train ride were all along the southern coast right on the water, it was gorgeous!
We stayed in this wonderful little bed and breakfast right in the middle of town only 5 minutes from the beach. Our hostess was adorable, a little French woman named Genvieve, and there were some other guests staying there who were also interesting characters. There was a woman Buddist priest named Miao ( the cat) who was bald and doing her Ph D research in education in France. She was one of those people who wouldn't shut up at breakfast so we got her whole life story. She was a bizarre addition to our stay in the Nice needless to say. Our first day in Nice was warm and sunny, no complaints there! We walked down to the beach, and browsed the farmers market and tons of little shops around the city. We returned to these little shops everyday and found something new and great everyday!
While walking along the beach we found TONS of seaglass!! This picture is just a taste..there are 2 pieces in that picture..find them!

We ate lots of gelato!Mine is in the shape of a flower!! Apparently the south coast of France is actually better at cooking Italian than French because the only places to eat were seafood restaurants (which we obviously couldn't afford.. and since I was just recovering from food poisoning from seafood I wasn't really in the mood for it) and Italian restaurants. We had amazing pizza, salads and Italian everything. 

Took a casual 1 euro trip to Monaco for the day! I had no idea that Monaco was its own country! You have to be a whole ton of rich to live there, or stay there, or park your yacht there! The nicest cars I have ever seen were found sitting outside of the Casino Monte Carlo. I didn't even know some of those nice car brands even exisited because they're so expensive they can't even tell people who aren't rich enough to hear about them ;) just kidding! but still, the cars were reallyyy cool and I'm not even a  car person!

Here is a panoramic view of Nice...pretty beautiful.

So leaving Nice was great, Monaco was great...but leaving Nice was the problem. The French looooove to strike, and so naturally when we showed up to the train station on Monday night for our overnight train home, we were notified that there was a strike and no trains would be leaving Nice until Wednesday at 10. Interesting that their strike had a definite beginning and end, not really sure what the point of that is but whatever. Either way, we all had class Tuesday Wednesday and Thursday so we needed to get back to Strasbourg. Luckily we went back to our B&B and our room was still available for the night, and our host looked up alternative routes home for us. Well considering flights back were 400 euro, and buses apparently don't exist, we had no other choice but to rent a car and drive back! It was a stick, so naturally I did none of the driving, but at least it wasn't a super tiny car! Almost all the cars in France are very economical and tinyy! but we fit all four of us very comfortably and hopped on the highway to Strasbourg. Good thing driving to Strasbourg is like driving to Cape Cod, there are road signs starting 300 miles away about which highways to take and which direction to go! It was an easy peasy drive and we made it back in time to go to the free open bar party that night! Not a bad trip ;)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St Patricks Day Bust...

Well there's no better way to spend St Patricks Day than sick in bed with food poisoning! After having spent the whole day yesterday in bed here I am again for round 2. I was praying it was only a 24 hr thing but it is still going strong. All I wanted to do was rage on St Patricks Day with all my irish friends, yet when I can't even keep water or toast down, I'm pretty sure Guiness and Irish car bombs aren't exactly the best idea. Probably the worst thing to happen to me during my time abroad. So I hope that everyone else all around the world is drinking and celebrating St Patricks Day the way it is should be celebrated with lots of drinking and green and merriness!! And mom and dad enjoy the corned beef and cabbage...I don't have anything green anyway so I wouldn't have had anything to I guess that's the silver lining. Happy St Patricks Day everyone!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Amsterdam: This is All Legal!?

This weekend I went to Amsterdam with just Lindsay and Cammie. Everyone else had already seen the "dam" or wasn't interested in going so us three girls made a nice little girls trip out of the experience. And let me tell you, Amsterdam was an Experience! This is the city of illegal things. It's the place that you can go to casually do all of the things you aren't allowed to do anywhere else so needless to say it was a lot different than anywhere else I've ever been in my life. Sex, Drugs, Alcohol and everything inbetween is readily available to anyone who wants it. Funnily enough our stay in Amsterdam was a huge clash of cultures. We stayed at a Christian hostel (no drinking or smoking or drugs or cohabitation allowed inside) right next to the red light district. Lindsay and I learned real fast the first night that they weren't kidding when they said RIGHT next to the red light district. We went right out of the hostel instead of left and directly next door is Thai Massage place. In Amsterdam, Thai Massage has a different meaning...yup, walked right past our first hooker 10 feet away from our hostel. As just us two for the first night, we decided to turn around and go back to a safe little pub NOT in the red light district.
For our first full day in Amsterdam we went to the Heineken Experience. It's their brewery tour and it was just like Disneyworld! complete with a simulation ride! You pay for 2 free beers which really means 2 free half beers, but it was okay because the bartender liked us and gave us a few extras for free.
The next day we went down to an open air street market like the ones we have in France to see what they had to offer. This one was great because they let us have free samples! Free samples of delicious tapenades and cheeses and olive oils.yum! Then we went to get what Amsterdam does best (food wise) and we got pancakes! Thinner than American pancakes, but not quite crepes, these things are a work of the gods. I got a bacon and apple one and they bake the stuff right into the pancake. You lightly drizzle their molasses like stroop (syrup) on it and it is the best thing I had ever tasted.
Next stop was the Anne Frank house. Yes there was a line around the block but we were happy and full from out pancakes so we didn't mind. The inside of the Anne Frank house was very cool to see especially the part where the family actually lived and the bookcase that hid their secret staircase. Strangely enough I am the only person in the entire world to have managed to make it through all of junior high, high school and college without having read the Diary of Anne Frank. With this being said, I still thought the house was interesting so I'm sure if you'd read the book it would have been even better, and now I definitely want to read it!
Our nights consisted of walking up and down the extremely interesting neighborhoods that happened to surround our hostel. If we went left, we hit Little China Town. Little did we know that one of Amsterdam's specialties is Indonesian food because they used to occupy Indonesia back in the days of imperialism. We had some delicious Thai food for dinner one night too. If we went right though out of our hostel...well you know what we saw, and that was only the beginning! The Red Light District was really funny, and really creepy all mixed into one! It was like going to P-Town but amplified by a million percent because everything is completely legal. If you want Culture Shock go to Amsterdam's and you will  certainly experience some shock.

But don't worry Amsterdam isn't all sex, drugs and alcohol! There are also tons of wooden shoes and a few Windmills! There were wooden shoes EVERYWHERE but we did find one awesome store that sold real handcarved and handpainted ones. Windmills were a little trickier to find.On our last day in Amsterdam we had a small bucketlist of things to museum, hot waffles, stroopwaffles and find a windmill. Naturally the receptionist at our Christian hostel had no idea where to find the sex museum but when we asked the man at the "coffeeshop" around the corner her knew exactly where it was. No need to go into details on that one, it was just more shocking sex from all around the world and all time eras (which was kinda interesting). Post sex-museum we found the hot waffles..they are basically waffles dipped int he frosting you get on donuts and then they heat them up..fabulous. Next mission was a windmill. Knowing there were 8 windmills in Amsterdam we knew we could find one and that was actually something our receptionist could help us with. We went to a windmill with a brewery inside! We didn't get to go on a tour, but we had some windmill made beers! Final stop on our Amsterdam trip was stroopwaffles which are thin waffles with caramel in the middle. We got some at the grocery store and decided they were glorified caramel delights so we were not disappointed. Amsterdam was an adventure to say the least. Definitely not a place of innocence despite the wooden shoes and tulips but definitely a great city with a lot to offer.

When in Roma!!!

Roma roma roma!! was nothing short of amazing! First off, it was gorgeous! I arrived Friday night so I didn't get to see the sun that night, but once I stepped off the plane it was already 15 degrees warmer than dear old Strasbourg. We were met at the airport by some BCers and they brought me to Lindsays! Her apartment is soo cute, and when I say cute I don't mean it in the small quaint way, I mean it in the "we live in rome with 6 girls so everything is girly and roman, light and airy" way. I met her roomates, toured the apartment and scarfed down a bowl of good old american rice crispies (no where to be found in strassy) before running out the door to meet up with the 60 other BC students either living in or visiting Rome. Lets just say, BC invaded Rome to the point that we filled every bar and club we went into. Every night in Rome was like going to a party with everyone you ever wanted to be there, except in a foreign country. Not a bad life! We went to a bunch of different American and Irish and Roman? bars and clubs and had a blast! I won't bore you with the details of the nightlife in Rome, but I will tell you all about the touristy sightseeing stuff we did during the day!
First we went to the Roman Forum and the Colosseum. This picture is of the Forum which is basically where everything in ancient Rome happened. Lindsay took us to the top of some other building so we could see this great view, but we're saving the 15 euro visit to the inside for when mommy and daddy come! Same situation with the Colosseum we didn't go in but we saw the outside. It was soo huge, and soo cool! How in the world those ancient Romans got those stones up so high to build the pillars and stuff is something that I will never understand. I couldn't even figure out how to do that now with modern technology!
Next stop was the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain. These monuments kind of snuck up on us, because you're simply walking through a random ally in Rome and all of a sudden there is the Pantheon! in all its glory! Just sitting in the middle of this little piazza with normal apartments around it. That was pretty strange, but the building itself blew me away. It is 100% marble and granite designs, and it is complete with Rapheal's tomb and a big hole in the ceiling for something that has to do with the gods and the people. 
The Trevi Fountain was probably one of my favorite parts of Rome. Another casual monument in the middle of a bunch of random buildings, but a really spectacular fountain. Apparently is you throw a coin over your left shoulder, using your right hand you are guaranteeing you will return to Rome. (we looked this up to make sure we wouldn't do it wrong). Considering I only had one coin, I only threw one (and I will be back in April!) but the story also says that if you throw 2 coins you are wishing for love, and if you throw three coins you will either get married or get a divorce! Fun fact about he Trevi Fountain: 3,000 euros a day are thrown into it and the money is all put towards feeding homeless and poor people. Way to go Rome to use your monuments for good!
Day 2 we went to Vatican City. All I can say is WOW. The Pope really has it pretty good, I mean the man owns his own country. I wonder if his passport say Italy or Vatican City? Anyways, we went into Saint Peter's Basilica and witnessed how beautiful and huge everything is. The dome is so high that there is a 10 story structure on the inside of the basilica. Seeing Michelangelo's Pieta wasn't too bad either. I could have sat in front of that statue for hours, it was so mesmerizing. To put it into perspective, the Pieta is the only piece that Michelangelo ever considered good enough for him to sign. Then we climbed to the top of the cuppola, the place around the dome. Getting to the top of that Basilica is not for the faint of heart! Holy moly, I felt like I was in Alice in Wonderland! The stairs were mini, and the walls were slanted and the spiral staircases were so tightly wound you couldn't see the person in front of you. It was not the holy experience I was expecting but an adventure all the same and worth the amazing views from the top. Then I bought a little rosary bracelet from a shop across the street for a momento and that was the conclusion of our day at the Vatican. 
I only have one more thing to say about Rome and that obviously the food was unbelievable. I would live off their gorgonzola pizza and soupis if I could. And the carbonara, which I had for dinner, was amazing. yummy yummy rome, I can't wait to be back!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

All I Have to Say About Belgium Is...

Yes, I went to Rome and I haven't blogged about it yet, I know I am behind. So I figure I'll fill you in on last weekend's trip to Belgium..Brugges and Brussels to be exact..because there really wasn't much to say. It was an awesome place, lots of fun and lots of good food. This is what I got out of my trip:

1. Delicious Chocolates, even the cheap stuff is good
2. Delicious Waffles, plain or with ice cream or with melted chocolate..great
3. Delicious "French Fries"... French fries are actually Belgian, American soldiers were just dumb when French speaking Belgians gave them the fries they automatically thought they were French..but veryyy yummy
4. Belgian Beer..i'm not the biggest beer connoisseur but the beers were good and different

thats really all there is to say about Belgium...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sunny Sexy Strasbourg!

Strasbourg finally woke up from its terrible wintery nap this week and let the sun shine! Before now, Strasbourg has been cold, grey and kinda depressing. This whole week has completely changed from that! I know America is supposed to have 6 weeks more winter and is currently be dumped on by the snow gods, but Strasbourg has begun an early spring! I don't want to jinx it but I really hope it stays this way! It was finally warm enough to wear my new leather jacket! YAY! a small triumph in the world of Haley Neeven. And I was able to go for a run around the park (which by the way is awesome and has flamingos and monkeys in it!).Anyway I'm heading out to Rome to see EVERYONE tomorrow and I'm sooo excited! I'll update with all the details when I get back!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

You Look Like You Need a Guinness!

Day 3 in Ireland consisted on waking up at the crack of dawn and hopping on a 3 hour bus to Dublin! Jimmy had a ridiculous field trip all day so me Cam and KP had to occupy ourselves somehow and what better way than seeing Dublin! We slept almost all of the busride, so the sleep that we didn't get because we woke up early, was relatively made up in bus naptime. When they dropped us in Dublin we only had a few things on the agenda. See Trinity College and the Book of Kells, and go to the Guinness Storehouse. Yes, there are lots of things to see in Dublin, but when you have to pick and choose, you go for the important stuff!! like Bibles and Beer!
We started out at Trinity College which luckily ended up being very easy to find.

It is a beautiful campus right in the heart of Dublin. And there they have the Book of Kells. This is a collection of the four Gospels of the New Testament, made by Celtic monks around the year 800. They were so beautiful and impressive, covered with drawings and decorations in all different colors. You couldn't take pictures inside so you just have to believe me that I saw them, but you can google them and see pictures of how cool they are online.

Next we wandered. As three American students with no map or tour guide, we had no idea where we were going next. Luckily, the city of Dublin is no fool and knows where people want to go and have nice signs with arrows pointing in the direction of the Guinness Factory! So followed the signs we did! Just so happens on the road to beers was a few other famous touristy things to see in Dublin. We saw Dublin Castle..not the best castle I've ever seen:
The picture doesn't do it complete justice because there is more to it and some cool gardens out back.
Then this wonderful street we were on led us to Christ's Church..another pretty famous thing in Dublin, we took a quick peek inside and went on to our true destination!

Finally the Guinness Storehouse! Nothing quite compares to the vastness, immensity and coolness of this place.    Saint James' Gate in Dublin is where they brew the Guinness every Irish man and woman loves more than their own family. We obviously took the tour, complete with map and free pint. The tour is designed around the world's biggest Guiness pint glass. You start on the ground level (of 7floors total), and you see the lease that Arthur Guinness signed back in 1759 that leased our Saint James' Gate Brewery for 9,000 years! The world will never be without Guinness. Then you work your way up to the ingredients and how is made and transported and every aspect about making Guinness you could possibly want including all the advertising throughout the years.
The best lease ever signed.

A Gate at Saint James's Gate :)

A few casual kegs! They told us all this information about how they used to use thousands of kegs and how they had people making them almost 24/7. When the guys made their first barrel, the other guys would put the newbie in the barrel with Guinness and hops and ash and whatever they could find, and roll them down a hill in their barrel. Good ol' fashion hazing! An SHS specialty. Anyway basically you get to the 6th floor after learning so much about Guinness, about how its made and even doing a proper taste test, and then you have to decide: pour your own Guinness or have one up at the Gravity bar (highest point in Dublin a person can go and all glass so you can see everything!). Well lets just say with a mom who bartends in her spare time, I was obviously going to learn how to pour a "proper" Guinness! I didn't realize it was so precise. To quote our teacher, "You pull the handle to 90 degrees, holding the glass at 45 degrees, slowly adjust the glass (like any beer) and fill until you hit the top of the harp...then let sit for two minutes, then to top it off you fill the rest with just beer, no gas, so you push the nosel away from you..then you should have a perfect Guinness with one fingers width of foam on top/" I had no idea it was complicated! 

Here I am pouring my Guinness like a pro! They even gave us certificates, very kindergartenesque, that said certified that I had poured a perfect Guinness. :) yay me!
But one free one wasn't enough, so we sat at another bar on that floor and got a second one to savor for all its portery goodness! Then we went up to the Gravity Bar, which was soo cool! We saw all of Dublin in a 360 degree view in a bar of all glass. My camera died at this point so I didn't get any good pics. But here is the website, I recommend taking a peek!

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Few Days as a Galway Girl

London had been treating me well but Wednesday me Cam and KP left Great Britain and headed to Galway Ireland. We got to Galway just in time for dinner, and we went out for the night and experienced Galway's nightlife. It precious really, a whole street lined with tons of bars and pubs filled with people drinking their Guinesses!

Day 2 was catch up on sleep day! After having gotten little to no sleep in London and the first night in Ireland, we needed to rest! Jimmy, our tour guide, had class in the morning so we got to sleep until he was back and we walked around Galway a bit. It was so sunny and nice out, a big change from Strasbourg! We walked down this wharf, which made me as close to America as I will ever be this whole semester. It was a little sad..miss you home, and mommy and daddy and everyone else!! Night #2 = repeat of night crawling through Galway, not a bad life.

Day 3 was a day trip to the Cliffs of Moher! SOOO BEAUTIFUL! It was sunny and perfect and blue and amazing. I never thought cliffs could be so cool, but they were! 

We decided to break the rules and climb over the barrier and look out over the edge of the cliffs. HUGE drop, as you can see from the other pictures. It was pretty scary but soo cool. I wish I could have taken a picture looking down at the water, but if that was the case, my poor camera might have plummeted to its death and there would be no more I had someone who was safely away from the edge of the cliff capture this Kodak moment.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Londontown Part 2

As if the first two days in London weren't enough, we still had three more days ahead of us to wreak havoc and be tourists. To finish off Sunday when we did the Tower Bridge etc, we had to be true Americans and watch some good real American Football! It was the Superbowl and there was nothing that was going to stop me from seeing that! Even though my loves the Patriots had a poor showing this season and we're in it, I have a wonderful hatred for Peyton Manning and wanted nothing more than to see him lose. We went to the LSE (London School of Economics) student bar where they had it playing on a big projector and I watched Peyton get the beating I had been wishing for. It was an extremely American night, including beer pong, BC boys, and pitchers of beer. The only thing truly to be desired was the actual American commercials, and the American commentary. I swear the Brits pulled the first American they saw off the street and asked them to say whatever they knew about football. I mean I could have done a better job commentating the game! But either way, fabulous American night in London.

After having stayed up till 4am watching the end of the Superbowl, Monday started a little bit later than the other days. But no worries, we met up with Shannon and went to Heaven..I mean Harrods.
 Harrods was by far one of the coolest things I did in London, and that's saying something! This department store is truly Vogue and every fashion magazine just organized into floors and sections. Complete with a "food court" that resembles something more like Willy Wonka's chocolate factory and the best supermarket you've ever been to mixed into one. It was a fantasy land. Egyptian styled escalators brought you between floors, where you could wander through departments that sold everything from Dior to pots and pans and outdoor patio sets. There was no way we were ever going to see the whole thing but we spent a good amount of the day in it before ending the day with a nice dinner with Shan. That night we went out to Tiger Tiger, a club formerly frequented my Prince William and Harry (before there was a slight terror scare so they don't go there anymore) but still no reason for us not to go! Once again, veryyy cool and I can see why the Princes played there.

Tiger Tiger did not let us down, except for Tuesday morning when we all had to wake up at the crack of dawn to make it to the changing of the guards on time. Not totally all it's cracked up to be in my opinion. It's a bunch of guys marching and stomping and really its a marching band show. It was cold the day we went too so they didn't even have the cool red coats on, although we did see these guys on our way in.
Next stop for any true Harry Potter fan was King's Cross Station to Platform 9 3/4. There was a small part of me that thought I might make it through the platform although I knew it wasn't possible because it wasn't September 1st anyway ;)

Then of course had to take the classic picture of the classic telephone booth! Funny how I actually used them a few times while I was there.

Then to finish off Tuesday we hit up the Absolut Ice Bar in London. Only 12 pounds for 45 mins, a free drink, the opportunity to wear the coolest capes ever, and some amazing memories. That place was sooo cool! Everything was made of Ice..and when I say everything I mean the seats, the bar,the walls, and the glasses! It was unreal. Definitely wouldn't want to stay longer that 45 mins because it got cold! but I would go again in a heart beat!
That's all for London, but Galway stories are to come!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Winning London

Yes, getting to London may have been a slight fiasco, and finding people when we arrived became a second fiasco but overall, London was AMAZING! So as you know we slept in the airport, so we were obviously on time for our flight. success #1. Get off the plane at Heathrow, and navigate the tube to where we were staying. success #2. Get in touch with the boys and make a meeting time and place. success #3. Go to the meeting place Big Ben and walk around for an hour looking for the boys. No where to be found, and did I mention our French phones didn't work because we forgot to activate them internationally (and my parents have yet to cave and reactivate the Blackberry..get on that mom and dad!) so we had no way of getting in touch with anyone. After a slight mental freak out, we did what any tourist would do and used a classic London payphone! I had our friend Shannon's london number so after about 6 tries we finally get through to her, and I scream into the phone like "ah we're stuck at a payphone can't find anyone don't know what to do and have no more pense" Luckily Shan's a saint and hopped on the tube to come save us! We walked around Westminster and saw Big Ben, Parliament, then waited in a pub across the street from where we were staying waiting for the boys to get out of class. A few pints later and lots of catching up, our first day in London was bloody brilliant! ;) That night all us Sandwich girls and all our BC boys went out to a megaclub in London called Fabric that night. It was unbelievable! They don't have clubs like that in Strasbourg! soo fun!
 Saturday we went to the Manchester United Game...AMAZING!! We woke up wayyy too early, caught a 2 hour train ride out to Manchester and had so much fun! Being with all out BC friends at such a huge sporting event, I couldn't help but feel a little at home like I was at a BC football game. We went to a great pub called the Trafford, right next to Old Trafford where the Manchester United Red Devils play, and had beers with all the local fans. We had a few pints, learned a few cheers got a little rowdy, it was everything I ever wanted in a Premier League match. Not to mention the game itself! We had pretty decent seats right next to the Man U season ticket hardcore fan section, so we were right in the thick of all the awesome chants and cheers and boos. It was good and bad that Man U was playing the worst team in the league, because although it wasn't the best match ever, we got to see goals!! 5 goals! and the place went wild for every single one of them! Unbelievable once in a lifetime experience for me! 

Some BC, some Wisconsin and some Irish
The scarves we're all wearing are a protest against the American owners of the team. They weren't protesting us Americans..just the owners, and the scarves were free so why not?!

This is the Tower Bridge of London...kinda famous. We saw this and did a tour of it, went up and walked across the walkway. Pretty amazing views! We saw London Bridge too..pretty lame if you ask me, looks like a normal bridge with a sign on it, this one is better trust me! 
Below is one of the "guards"/greeters at the Tower of London which holds the crown jewels and stuff. The boys didn't want to go in because they had seen it before, and we didn't really have time, but I was dying to see all the pretty DIAMONDS!
Okay so that's part 1 of a very longggg trip! Sorry its taking so long, to post I'm still catching up on sleep!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Night We Slept in Stuttgart

Thursday night was definitley an interesting one. For winter break we had planned a fabulous trip to London and Galway, Ireland filled with sightseeing and friends. Unfortunately we had one tiny hurdle to overcome...the airport. We had flights out of some random airport in Germany at 7:25 AM on Friday (thats what you get for booking the absolute cheapest flights possible, random times at random airports!). Yes our flight was so early on Friday we couldn't get a train out of Strasbourg for that morning so we had to take the last one out on Thursday night. Which meant a comfortable night hanging out in the airport! Funny story, Stuttgart is a tiny airport and so when we got there everythinggg was closed! No food for the weary and no rest either because we were all so scared someone would steal all our stuff! Luckily there was 6 of us so at least we had numbers on our side! Starving, and thinking that noone spoke English, as a security guard walked by I complained to him like a six year old that I was hungry. He kept I thought. Two minutes later he came back and asked me "You are hungry? You like McDonalds?" haha I was like yes!! He gave us directions for a 24 hr Mcdonalds about 200 meters from the airport. Six overtired and starving girls couldn't have been happier! We packed up and trekked over to McDonalds. Don't forget that McDonalds in Europe is legit. Its chic and have a slightly different menu, and when you order something it looks like the picture! One McFlurry and "fries Deluxe" (steak fries) later and we were getting kicked out of Mickey D's and had to go back to the airport. Not gunna lie, sleep didn't happen because I basically lied down with my eyes closed clutching my backpack for dear life and wrapping my legs around my suitcase so no one would steal them. Plus the florescent lights didn't help. Basically Stuttgart was an experience, not necessarily one I would like to repeat, nor should repeat but pretty funny all the same. Probably not the best idea ever either to start my ten day travel plans absolutly exhausted running on zero sleep. Something to keep in mind for next time!

Still in London, Galway on Wednesday...sooo much to say but no time while here to say it. Don't worry stories and pictures of the trip are to come!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Mona and the Gang

To finish off the tour de Paris, Sunday we went back to the Louvre to actually go inside! We got in for free with our Strasbourg school IDs, grabbed our Louvre maps and found the ten or so things we wanted to see and bee-lined it to each exhibit. We saw some great stuff! yes there was a lot of marble statues and paintings I couldn't care less about but there was some things I was definitely glad we found. 

The Exhibits that were worthy of our attention included: 1. Mona..obviously! how can you go the Louvre and not see the Mona Lisa!..yes small and not very exciting, more of a hassle to push your way to the front than anything, but still famous all the same.
2. Venus de Milo: Lady with no arms, no top, decent abs and a robe that was pretty slutty because it looks like its falling down and it reveals a nice plumbers butt. 
3. The crown of Charlemagne: I'm a was a crown..jewels, gold..count me in! obviously we went to see it. It wasn't as spectacular as I would have liked but it was pretty good for about 800 AD. There was a pretty girly crown next to it though that I loved! I wish I knew what it was!
4. The Dying Slave by Michelangelo: Yes it was just a marble statue, but it was made my Michelangelo! and he did a whole series of them, and it was pretty impressive.
5.Statue of Ramses II, the Sarcophagus of a Married Couple, and a Sphinx: I have always been fascinated by the ancient Egyptians. They lived soooo long ago, but accomplished sooo much and had a culture unlike anything we can possibly imagine today. All the hieroglyphics and statues, bowls jewelry and statues that we saw were really really cool. I could have spent way more time looking around in there but with 5 girls and trains to catch, we had a schedule to keep!
6. The Winged Victory: Another statue, with no head, and no shirt, and no arms. Basically a headless Venus de Milo with Wings. Apparently very very famous for a reason I am oblivious to, yet we were sucked into the tourist trap and spent some time with the statue.
7. Code of Hammurabi: By far one of the coolest things we saw in the Louvre. This is the code that states "an eye for an eye".They had the translation written on the walls next to it and it was pretty intense. If you hit your father, you lost your hand. If you accused anyone of something without reason, you died. If you killed, you were killed. It was pretty unbelievable to read it and to look at the actual code written there on the rock.  But that was our last stop at the Louvre and then half the girls hopped on a train to Strasbourg while me and Chelsea stayed one more night to see Versailles on Monday morning.
Versailles..what a great idea!! Who wouldn't want to go see the best castle ever! Well I did, so we took the 1.5 hr train ride to the outskirts of Paris and went to the old stomping grounds of Louis and Marie Antoinette. To our surprise, when we got off the train, what did we see?..a Starbucks! We had to stop! It was a necessity to get a grande vanilla latte TO GO! You can't get anything bigger than a double espresso here nevermind to go! It was heaven needless to say and made up for what we discovered next. As we walked up to Versailles, completely mesmerized by its grandness and extravagance, we realized there wasn't a lot of people around. No lines, no nothing...weird. Needless to say, the Chateau Versailles isn't open on Mondays, like most Paris monuments and museums. That was a nice little discovery. It worked out okay though because  the gardens were still open so we walked around the HUGE grounds for about 2 hours. The gardens here are supposed to be breathtaking, something we couldn't quite experience in the middle of winter when nothing was in bloom and the fountains weren't turned on! At least the sun was out and it turned out to be a nice day just walking around. The restaurant in the gardens was open so we had a nice little lunch at Versailles and we made the best of the situation. We stopped and got McDonald's icecream on the way back (don't judge it was delicious and McDonalds is like chic and really nice here!). The Starbucks and McDonald's alone where worth the train ride out there..Versailles' gardens were a plus.

Even though we didn't get to go into Versailles, it was totally worth the trip to walk around and see the outside. At least now I have something else to look forward to next time I come to Paris, and I'll know to come when its warm and not on a Monday! 

We'll Always Have Paris!!

I've never actually seen the movie Casablanca where some guyssays that quote about Paris but I definitely understand why he said it. Last weekend me and four other girls in Strasbourg went to Paris, and Paris is one of those places that just sticks with you. I went there 5 years ago and I still absolutely looooove it! To start our trip we hopped on the TGV (high speed train) and we zoomed to Paris in 2.5 hours, which felt like 40 mins and successfully navigated the Metro to Doug's apartment. Doug and his roommates were so nice to take in 5 girls and house us during our Paris adventure. Since we didn't actually arrive until around midnight on Thursday we decided not to go out anywhere but just drink wine back at the apartment. We had a big day of sightseeing ahead of us and hungover sightseeing is not ideal.

Day 1: Woke up to horrendous rain, another situation that is not quite ideal for sightseeing. So we slept in until it stopped, thank god it stopped because genius Haley didn't bring anything with a hood. Anyway it did finally stop and we decided to brave the streets of Paris. First stop, Notre Dame! It was just as gorgeous as I remember it..inside and out. The stained glass windows are something you have to admire and even though I'd seen it already it still took my breath away. I made a little donation and lit a candle for my family. It was pretty special because it it such a special and amazing church. Unfortunately because we were with so many people we didn't get to walk around it and see the buttresses but it wasn't a huge loss.  

Next stop was the Musee d'Orsay, and this was something I had been really looking forward to. Don't get me wrong the Louvre is great but this is the museum that houses all the stuff you really wanna see like Degas, Monet, Renoir, and Van Gogh. It was unbelievable! I'm no art major or artist but it was easy to appreciate everything in that museum. Being up close to so many different paintings you had just seen in books and learned about was pretty unreal. It was basically every painting I've ever liked or would be able to recognize all under on roof. My personal favorites, the blue ballet dancer paintings by Degas, and the cliche waterlilly paintings by Monet. Picture to prove it:

Below is a Picture of me in front of the Louvre!  We saved the actual museum for day 3 but walked around the outside of the Louvre.Well more like in the middle of it where the pyramids are and stuff, but still veryyy cool!
Day 2: The Whirlwind of Monuments!! We started out early going to Montmartre and seeing the Sacre Coeur (The big church in the picture behind me). It was the most breathtaking church I have ever seen. I love Notre Dame, but this church was only built about 120 years ago so its much lighter and the architecture with the HUGE domes was just astounding. I hate to admit it but I like Sacre Coeur better than Notre Dame. They wouldn't let you take pictures inside so you have to see it to believe me but it's truly magnificent.

Next on our monument tour was to walk down the Champs-Elysee and do the Arc de Triomphe. The Champs Elysee is the biggest street ever, famous for tons of shopping! I seemed to be the only one who wantedto go in to the designer stores and at least pretend I could afford to shop there! 

This is the view down the Champs Elysee to the Arc de Triomphe. Had to dodge some cars for this kodak moment!

When we finally made the trek down to the Arc de Triomphe we ran into a little problem actually getting to the monument. The Arc de Triomphe is located in the middle of the biggest (like 6 lanes) rotary you've ever seen in your life, and we couldn't figure out how you were supposed to cross over all those lanes of traffic to get to the monument. 6 American girls almost became American road kill because we seriously considered just making a run for it across the traffic. Luckily we asked a cop and learned of the secret underground tunnel that brought us there! We woulda looked like stupid american idiots if we hadn't asked! haha

Here are some shots form the top! Great view of Paris! Look how tiny the Eiffel tower actually is! haha
Speaking of the Eiffel Tower, that was our last stop on the monument tour for the day! We caught it at just the right time because I saw it during the day but the best time to see it is really at night. France pulls out all the stops and lights the whole thing up so beautifully! And to top it all of they make it sparkle and glitter and all the lights blink once an hour. I understand why Paris is the city of Love. I am never coming back without someone to kiss in front of the sparkling Eiffel Tower! 
Sorry about the super long post...but no worries a second post is on its way to tell you all about the Louvre and my misadventure on Monday.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Eating Yummy Germaaaaan food YAA!

In case you didn't know, Strasbourg is legitimately a hop skip and a jump away from Germany. So the other night we decided to try our luck across the border and go have a wicked heavy, huge German meal, with German beers to go with it. We didn't really know where would be a good place to go, so we just went to a little town on the map right across the border, not the best town in the world....but we found some GREAT food!

Here is the German beer that they were advertising, so naturally we all had to try it!...note the little doily around the bottom and the HUUUGE head of super crazy thick foam!

All the Girls with our GERMANN beeers. We were the annoying americans saying everything in the completely overdone German accent. It made everything taste better though I swear! and really got us in the spirit of Germanyyy!

No idea what my meal was called! Couldn't even pronounce it or try and retype it here even if I vaguely remembered it. All I know was that it was roasted pork with the best gravy/sauce I've ever had with mushrooms and tomatoes...and SPAETZLE! Spaetzle is so good! and soo German!! My meal was everything I ever could have wanted out my German was sooo good!

Here are the other girls food! Cammie had German sausages...great choice! and the other girls got a traditional farmer's plate served on wooden plates with yummy pork and veggies. We all had a little potato soup too and as much as I love Panera, this potato soup owned Panera's! But on a different note I do miss Panera, and iced coffee more than I could have imagined!

After we sat for like twenty minutes and attempted to digest the monster meals we had just ate we decided to top off the night with monster desserts! We got gelato but it was more like ice cream, but still amazing none the less! Cam got a crepe, I didn't manage to get a bite before she had finished it haha but as you can see from the picture below, it looked amazing!

That's my giant sundae with more whipped cream on top than I've had in my entire life. Homemade, thick creamy whipped cream to be exact. Three scoops of deliciousness later, none of us could move and we went home with huge food comas! Great experience though! And next time in Germany we'll go to a biergarten and hopefully not eat as much food!!

On a completely random note, when I am not eating out in Germany, I am cooking more at home than ever. We have two hours everyday for lunch because almost everything here closes from 12-2! So it forces us to come home and make food. As I mentioned earlier I've been living off ham and cheese sandwiches, tunafish, eggs, sausage, pasta and salads. But don't be fooled and think these are stupid American foods that are not special at all. We've been making great salads with egg and ham like they do in France, and the sandwiches are on delicious French bread that we buy fresh that day. The cheeses are obviously better than anything I've had in America. What I'm trying to say is that ALLLLL the food here is soo good! Even the stuff that I cook at home, I swear it's ten times better than whenever I make anything in America. Maybe I'll come back an awesome chef specializing in French food...doubtful but I'll definitely be a specialist in tasting european food!