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Entries in France (4)

Thursday
Jan032008

Dedicated to Larry Speck

map mont saint michelLocation: Saint Marcan, France

I am completely awe struck. The Month Saint Michel was everything I thought it was going to be and more.

I woke up this morning to a beautiful breakfast with tea, bread, eggs, yogurt, juice... it was fantastic. I hitched a ride with Liz to the Mont and she dropped me off pretty far up the road. I took the first round of pictures of the entire Mont from there. After this, I made the long trek up to the village and spent some time looking around and got a croissant for a snack.

From here I went to the Abbaye and started my actual tour. See the deal with the Mont Saint Michel is that it was a village that some king decided to turn into a church dedicated to St. Michael (the archangel) and so he started building on top of the village. Then over time, it because a monastery, then a prison and then a fortress (during the war, since it was on the beaches of Normandy and was a really high place to see things going on out in the ocean). Then in the 1950's they started restoration and now its just a tourist site/church/village. So the Abbaye tour is really the part that has the most history and everything else is just kind of buried underneath it. The reason I decided to visit this building is that I took an architecture class my freshman year as a fine art credit and I had to write my final paper on this building. So I wrote a good 20 page paper about the architecture of the Abbaye and that´s why I decided to go visit. Turns out though, that it is the biggest tourist attraction in France now, last year it surpassed the Eiffel tower.

Anyways, I won´t bore you with all of the architectural awesomeness of the building and I took some pictures so you can see what I saw. After looking at the inside of the building, it was almost sunset so I decided to go for a hike. The deal with the island is that it is a tidal island. At high tide, it really is an island, and a low tide, it's attached to the beach around it. The beach goes on for miles and miles and you can really tell why they invaded France at this point. You could be on the beach and hiking for miles before you would even see land. It´s crazy. But anyways, the tide is really dangerous and apparently travels inland at a speed of 6 meters per second when it is coming in. Cars have to be moved, people are evacuated from certain areas... it´s really dangerous. So naturally, I wanted a piece.

I knew that the tide had come in at 12:45 PM and wasn´t due in again until the next day so I felt safe at 5 PM. I hiked around the edge and then out as far as I could without getting into the quicksand (which was EVERYWHERE). I took a bunch of pictures and stood in awe for as long as I could stand it (it was FREEZING and the wind was whipping by so fast). My boots were sooo muddy when I was finished and I was sufficiently frozen. I called Liz and she came and picked me up and I went back to the hostel to thaw.

I decided to go back up to the pub that I went to last night to get some more food and just before I left, the first 2 of the group of 14 Dutch hitch-hikers arrived. The hostel was completely booked with a group of Christian hitch-hikers who were hitch-hiking from the middle of the Netherlands to Saint-Marcan. I went with two of them to get some food and we had a great time. By the time I had gone to bed, only like 8 had arrived, but they were SOO much fun!! We sat and talked and watched a movie and had a really great time.

Tomorrow is filled with all traveling and it´s going to be pretty tiring I imagine. After the day I had today though, I could probably just sleep all day :)

XOXO

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Now playing: Goo Goo Dolls - Acoustic #3
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Wednesday
Jan022008

Parlez-vous Anglais?

map mont saint michelLocation: Saint-Marcan, France

New Years was SOOO much fun. It was one of my favorite New Years in a long time. And that gives no offense to the Babies/Family/Mince Pie/Dick Clark New Years I had last year, or the Lake House/Golf Cart/Hole in the Wall/Up until sunrise New Years from the year before that, but it was fun in a Sparkly Eiffel Tower/Brazilians/Champagne/New Best Friends kind of way.

There wasn't much going on at the Champs-Élysées so I walked down to the Eiffel tower (which took a remarkably long time to do). Once I got there, I sat down on a nice patch of grass. I saw someone sitting alone in front of me so I asked him if he was alone and he was so he came back and we started chatting. Next thing, I hear more English and another boy is asking us something about a plastic bag... I'm more interested in the fact that he's speaking English, so we grab him and turns out he had more friends that were sitting behind us. So, we all 3 walk back to where his friends were and, TA-DA... instant New Years Party. We all sit there and chat and drink champagne until well after the New Year and spend the rest of the evening running around being stupid together. Including trying to find a late night McDonald's :) Some things just stay the same, I guess, even in Paris!! My new friends (Andre, Cael, Maggie, Manolo and two Aussies we picked up on the way - Andy and Mitchell) and I stayed out til about 6 and never even really noticed how late it was getting. It was great fun!!

Needless to say, this morning came very quickly. I had to get on the metro early in order to catch my train from Paris to Caen which would then take me on to Saint-Marcan near the Mont Saint Michel. I missed the earliest train, which was ok, and then caught the noon one and made it to Pontorson at about 4:30. The nice couple who runs the hostel I´m staying at came and picked me up at the train station (which was sooo cute.... it just had two platforms and a little wooden slab where you crossed the track. It was so small and I loved it) and they took me back to Saint-Marcan. I didn't have long at this time, because most everything was closing early (if it had even opened at all) so I ran up to this cute little Oyster Bar in town.

I walk inside, prepared that this guy speaks at least a little English (because the menu was in English) and here´s how the conversation went:

Me: Are you guys still open?
Oyster Man: *gives very confused look*
Me: Do you speak English?
Oyster Man: *Still looking confused*
Me: Parlez-vous Anglais?
Oyster Man: No!
Me: *makes eating motion, acting like I'm shoveling food into my mouth* Food? Food? *Officially looking like an idiot and about to give up*
Oyster Man: (After about 30 seconds of watching me do stupid stuff) Hahaha aww, I'm messing with you... I´m from Manchester.

I was so mad. If I hadn't been starving I may have left... but I was starving, so I stayed and ate a Hamburger and we talked about my trip and where he was from and other normal things. Turns out he was a really nice person and I sat and enjoyed him company for a good hour before coming back to the hostel. He also told me that he usually makes tourists draw things before he gives in. He has pictures of crudely drawn cheeseburgers hanging behind the register. I figured I should count myself lucky.

I guess I forgive him. It was kinda funny. Turns out the guy doesn't even speak French.

Anyways, big day tomorrow. I´m actually going to the Mont Saint Michel and I´m sooooo excited!!!

XOXO

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Now playing: Frank Sinatra - You and I
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Monday
Dec312007

Won't waste the chance that I've been given

map parisLocation: Paris, France

Happy New Years Eve!!

It's about 8:30 and I'm coming in to update before I head to the Champs-Élysées to see what's going down for the new years celebration. I'm not sure yet where the party is going to be, but as long as I find someone who speaks English, I'm sure I'll be fine... This may be more difficult than I had originally planned :-/

Today was SOOO busy. I really doubted myself when I woke up this morning and knew that I had exactly 7 hours to do the entire city of Paris. I guess this is a very good example of the pace of this trip, but I actually finished everything on my list.

First, I started by walking the Jardin du Luxembourg. It's right next to the hotel I'm staying in (which is actually some guy's house that he rents out the spare rooms in and calls it a hotel). The garden is very obviously beautiful in the spring/summer and it was fantastic now, but I know that it was not at it's prime. The palais still looked wonderful though and I really wish I could just buy the whole thing and live there. After that, I walked up the Blvd. St. Michel to the Pantheon. Now, I stumbled upon this last night as I was walking home. I honestly had no idea it was in Paris. Nonetheless, I spent a good deal of time walking around and snapping photos.

Next, I headed to the river. I went to Notre Dame and then headed up the river towards the Musée d'Orsay and the Louvre. The river was really beautiful today as the clouds made it this sort of dreary gray color. The Musée d'Orsay was closed so I didn't have a chance to go inside, but the Louvre was open. Here's where the magic really started. I somehow managed to be allowed to skip the entire line of people waiting to get in. I have no idea why... really. I asked a guy where the entrance was, he said some French garbage and then led me to the front of the line. These Italians got really mad and started yelling at me, but I just completely ignored them. From here, I started my super speed Masterpiece tour of the Louvre. I bought a crash course tour that I downloaded to my ipod that led you to the "10 most important masterpieces" in the Louvre. I went to the original medieval castle walls, the statue of Venus, Winged Victory of Samothrace, Napoleon's Coronation, the Mona Lisa, the Marriage of Cana, the Beautiful Gardener, the Raft of Medusa, Liberty of Paris and Michelangelo's Slaves statues. I was also supposed to see some horses, but the exhibit was closed. I power walked from each exhibit to the next and took pictures along the way (I thought you weren't allowed to take pictures in the Louvre but apparently you can...) and ended the tour/ticket buying/line waiting process in about 1.5 hours. Amazing.

From here I walked through the gardens in front and then down the Champs-Élysées. I got a chocolate and banana crepe as I was walking (Natalie... they really are the most amazing things I've ever tasted) and almost made myself sick I ate it so fast. I bought myself some new boots, a new hat and a new scarf (Happy New Years to ME) and then ended up at the Arc de Triomphe.

Heading South now, I walked along a cute little shopping street which led me directly to the Eiffel Tower - which is just as magnificent as I had always imagined. It was so huge and so amazing. I spent a little bit of time marveling before I caught a cab back to the Boulevard St. Michel and then walked around in the 'burbs to get some supplies for later. I got a couple bottles of champagne, some cheese, ham and bread and then a couple pastries for desert. I went back to the hotel, ate my New Years Feast, watched the Simpson's in French for about an hour and then decided it was time to be social. So here I am, being social... HA!! I really am leaving here though... and going straight to be social.

Well, I hope everyone has a fantastic New Years Eve!! I love you all and give you all a cyber-toast from way over here!!

Oh and just to rub it in, my really awesome bottle of authentic French Champagne cost $3.40. Muhahaha.

XOXO

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Now playing: Lindsey Buckingham - Never Going Back Again
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Monday
Dec312007

When it rains, I don't mind being lonely

map luxembourgLocation:Luxembourg, Luxembourg

Most of today was seen from inside a vehicle. It was raining most of the day so I found a neat little city tour bus and hopped on and literally rode it in circles for hours. I think I may have made the loop 3 times. I got off the bus a lot to look at stuff so I wasn't just sitting there the whole time, but, still... pretty funny.

Luxembourg was amazing. Even in the cold rain, I loved it. It's such an interesting city with an amazing history. I didn't get a chance to go into the villages or see the country at all, but I think it probably was amazing as well (I was told by some pretty awesome Lithuanian women that it's worth seeing, so I'll have to try it out :) They seem pretty reliable). The country has a really cute little monarchy which has a nice set of Royal sons... I pick Prince Felix... he looks the cutest, plus he's not the heir so we'll always just be a cute little Prince/Princess family. And as a bonus, I get to live in Luxembourg!! YES!! And he likes polo (says Wikipedia... wow, this has gone too far) so he rides, which makes him my perfect match. We can have ponies at a castle and be rich and live happily ever after. *sigh*

Anyways!! Back to reality. The city was beautiful. I stumbled upon Notre Dame Cathedral pretty early in the day (right at 11 AM to be exact) and so I went to part of mass, but I didn't stay because I was in jeans and I felt like I was too under-dressed. From there I walked down to the Palais du Constitution and looked at some really amazing views of the old fortress. Apparently, some king acquired the original castle from the Romans which he built on and turned into a really large castle. Because of the central location of the city on the continent, it has been through a lot, and most of the fortress has been destroyed, but there are still quite a few towers that are visible and most of the underground part is still there. St. Micheal's church is another one that is in Old Luxembourg (the part originally surrounded by the fortress) and is really beautiful.

The most interesting part about the city is how diverse it is. Although Luxembourgish is the national language, almost every person in the city spoke fluent English, French and German as well. The newspaper had articles in German, French and Luxembourgish... it's just whichever language the author wanted to write in. My bus tour was telling me that in law, the opening statement of each lawyer may be in a different language than what the judge gives the verdict in or what the jury gives the sentence in. It's so interesting. Plus, they call themselves Luxembourgers... who doesn't want to be a part of that party!

I got on a train at about 5 and rode to Paris and now I am here and I am so in love. Everything has been so beautiful. My hotel is amazing (I didn't know how to get in at first, but Mom came to the rescue). I have a really cute little balcony with an amazing view and it's right in the middle of town. I'm so excited for New Years tomorrow. I have quite a big shopping list for myself and tons of things on my to-do list considering there is only like 8 hours of sunlight. YIKES!!

Ok well off to bed. Can't wait til tomorrow!!!

XOXO

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