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...