Archives for June 2013

Three Weeks in France and a Day in London

The end of the trip is quickly approaching and I have had so many good experiences during this trip, which included a day trip to London. My first day wasn’t a complete disaster, but it felt like it at the time. I got into Charles de Gaulle Airport, got through customs and found my luggage without a problem. Getting from the airport to the apartment we were staying at was a different story. I got to Gare du Nord, which is a fifteen-minute walk from where we were staying but when I finally found my way out of the train station I was in a deserted street, so I decided to try to get to Gare de l’Est, which is closer to the apartments. The metro isn’t hard to navigate once you figure it out, but starting from scratch by myself made it a little difficult. I eventually got to the apartments after getting lost two more times and getting some help from a few nice Parisians. This experience taught me that the street signs in Paris are on the buildings, not on posts on the corners of intersections, like they are in the United States, which is confusing. After less than a week in Paris I felt comfortable getting around and confident that I wasn’t going to get too lost, but even after two weeks I still get lost when trying to find specific places. The winding, small streets continue to confuse me.

Tower of London, originally built by William the Conqueror.

Tower of London, originally built by William the Conqueror.

London in a day was a great experience. I got into London around 8:30am and started the day in King’s Cross Station, a necessary pilgrimage site for any Harry Potter fan. I then went to Westminster and got a great view of the London Eye, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. Next I went to the National Gallery and saw a few works by Vincent Van Gogh.The museum was free but if you wanted a map you were required to make a one pound donation. At the British Museum, my next stop, the map cost two pounds. I saw the early and Roman Britain exhibits there.

Big Ben in Westminster

Big Ben in Westminster

From there I got a chicken and vegetable pasty (a chicken and vegetable filled savory pastry) for lunch on Oxford Street. After lunch I went to the South Bank to see Southwark Cathedral, which has a memorial to Shakespeare and is not far from his Globe Theater which has been rebuilt not far from the original location on the South Bank. I then went to see the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge and took a ton of pictures. On the way home I decided to stop for English tea and a scone with golden raisins, which was delicious. The weirdest part of being in London was keeping to the left. Throughout the Underground (London subway) tunnels there were signs reminding people to keep left, which is the opposite side of the hallway from what I’m used to walking on.

London Eye in Westminster.

London Eye in Westminster.

Omaha Beach, one of the American D-Day landing beaches

Omaha Beach, one of the American D-Day landing beaches

Caen is a town in lower Normandy that was liberated by the British during the invasion of Normandy in the summer of 1944. It is also the home of the chateau of William the Conqueror. I took a ton of photos from the wall of the beautiful view of the city. While staying in Caen we visited the D-Day Beaches and the American Cemetery. It’s hard to picture all of the German defenses and the soldiers on the beaches because of how beautiful and peaceful the beaches are now. The American Cemetery was situated on a beautiful and peaceful location overlooking a section of the beach. While we were exploring the cemetery the sun finally came out and it got warm and it was so beautiful. I have enjoyed my trips to France and London and I look forward to coming back again.

Bayeux Tapestry

The entrance to the Bayeux Tapestry Museum. No photos were allowed inside.

The entrance to the Bayeux Tapestry Museum. No photos were allowed inside.

        The Bayeux Tapestry tells the story of the Battle of Hastings between self-proclaimed King Harold and the Duke of Normandy, William, (later known as William the Conqueror) as well as the events leading up to the battle. The tapestry starts out with King Edward (also known as Edward the Confessor), who is childless, sending out Harold to fetch William and tell him that he is the heir to the throne. Harold obeys his king and sets out across the English Channel but is soon shipwrecked in a land that is not Normandy, his destination. Harold and his fleet are taken captive by the local ruler and negotiations for Harold’s ransom begin. William is informed of Harold’s misadventures and demands his release. William takes Harold to his palace in Normandy where is well received and is even invited by William to join him in battle against the Duke of Brittany. During this battle Harold saves two of William’s Norman men and is knighted for his courage. William then requires Harold to swear an oath of allegiance to him as the future king of England and Harold obeys. After this Harold returns to England to a dying King Edward. [Read more…]

My Study Abroad Experience in France

I took advantage of Missouri S&T’s study abroad program to take a trip to Paris and study the history of war and its influence on French culture.  I learned a whole lot more than factual information during my time in Paris and Normandy.  I understand how differently people live in countries other than the US and how to meet people.  I have never been a shy person but it was a little intimidating to try to talk to someone in a non-English-speaking country. Cultural understanding and self-confidence were what I got out of my trip to France.

The majority of all people are nice and willing to help but sometimes it took boldness and persistence to get the information I have needed.  It was not easy finding my way around Paris; I even managed to get lost for four hours once.  It can be a little intimidating to approach somebody the first time but after the 20th or 30th I had fear of no one!  That being said, I was still careful as to who I would approach and I learned that I have to be more aware of my surroundings in a big city.  I was able to meet some people who were nice enough to help me find my way back to my hotel and nothing unfortunate happened.  All in all I feel more in control of the situations I get myself into and I have come to the conclusion that Paris is a relatively safe town.

France has a long history of conflicts and war.  I spent most of my time studying in Paris but I also visited the trenches and Normandy, too.  Hard evidence of past conflicts, such as stray bullet shots in the cement or brick structures, were visible.  The French people have a lot of respect and treat the graveyards of the fallen soldiers as hallowed ground.  They also seem to still be ashamed of the actions of some of the French citizens who collaborated with the Vichy government.  While they were ashamed of the collaborators, the French lift up and honor the French Resistance fighters.  It seems like the French people, the older generations at least, still bear the shame for some things that occurred in France during WWII and will continue to until the next couple generations pass on.

This trip has been a lot of fun and I would do it again if possible.  Since I am required to do an internship before I graduate this was probably my only chance to experience studying in another country.  The opportunity presented itself and I took it.  This trip was definitely worth it.

Europe in 30 Days

IMG_0415In the past 30 days I have been to four different countries, traveled over thousands of miles, and I can’t get enough of it. I’m excited for every new city and country I see but at the same time I’m sad to say good bye to the one I’ve leaving. I have seen more in this past month then I have probably seen in my lifetime. I visited my family in Horbach, Germany, where my roots can be traced back to the 1600s. After the short reunion, my fiancée and I traveled to Munich where I could eat all of my favorite foods. We took an enlightening tour of Dachau that helped me appreciate life. The day after, we went to Neuschwanstein, the fairy tale castle, and it looks like it jumped off the pages of a fairy tale. From Germany we traveled to France to meet up with the rest of our class.

I won’t bore you with everything I have seen in France because I could fill pages but I will run through a few of my favorites. Honestly, for me, there is nothing better than walking along the river at night in Paris. You can see Notre Dame, the Louvre (the outside at least), Napoleon’s Obelisk, and the Eiffel Tower. There are few tourists out at this time so you can see everything and it looks so much more beautiful at night, especially the Eiffel Tower. Even though I spent weeks in France I never got to see the one thing I really wanted to see, les Catacombes. This trip helped show me that it is impossible to see everything you want. When we weren’t in class my fiancée and I left the country, which sounds so cool now that I’m typing it.

IMG_1593On the weekends, we went to London, England and Dublin, Ireland. We only had two days in each place so we had to cram a lot of sightseeing into a short amount of time. In London, we saw the typical spots such as Big Ben (which is actually the name for the bell, not the tower), Houses of Parliament, the Tower of London, and many others. I think the most interesting thing we did on that trip was a tour that took us through Whitechapel to see where Jack the Ripper had been. In Dublin, we saw Trinity College, Dublin Castle, Guinness storehouse, and an 18th-century prison. This upcoming weekend, for our last excursion, we travel to Scotland for the weekend, then take a train from Edinburgh to London, where we will fly back home.

IMG_1163This month has been one of the greatest in my lifetime. It feels as though I have seen so much but I want more. I can never get enough of traveling and I never feel like I have seen enough, it’s my addiction. This study abroad program has allowed me to discover the world and myself and I would recommend it to everyone. I’m already planning my next trip and so should you.


The view from the top of Montmartre, in front of Sacré-Cœur. Absolutely beautiful!

The view from the top of Montmartre, in front of Sacré-Cœur. Absolutely beautiful!

Paris is a huge city! In order to run more effectively this large city is split into twenty arrondissements municipaux which are really just smaller administrative districts each with their own mayor. Each of these arrondissements has its own culture and personality. This is especially true of the 18th arrondissement, which is on the outskirts of the city and also the home of Montmartre.

Montmartre is the name of a 130m high hill plus the surrounding neighborhood and it has definitively been one of my favorite parts of Paris thus far. Historically speaking, in the context of war, which is a large portion of our class, the height of this area has played greatly into its importance strategically in many wars throughout French history. The view of Paris from the top is breathtaking. I would even say it rivals the view from the Eiffel Tower. It is also very well known by the presence of Sacré Cœur since it was completed in 1914, where again the height was significant in making this hill a wonderful location for such a holy place.  [Read more…]

Paris, Week Two

Week two of our study abroad trip is already behind us. As a teacher, it has been rewarding to see how far the students have come in their abilities to navigate around the city, order food by themselves, interact with locals, and communicate in basic French. In addition, students have become much more adept at “reading” the landscape around them. When they first arrived, they walked by many types of war memorials without noticing them. Memorials are in plain view throughout the city, but with so many other visual elements competing for attention—people, advertisements, stores, sculptures, architecture, traffic—they can escape attention.

[Read more…]

My Time in Paris!

2013-05-29_08-14-34_861 (1)The day I left for France I was excited and not sure what to expect from my trip. I thought I had a good idea of what to expect but I was in for a surprise. Upon my arrival I immediately discovered some differences between the U.S. and France. I was looking for the metro, so while I was checking my map a woman spots me and walks towards me. She looks at it and points me in the right direction then hands me a clip board. She couldn’t talk so she handed me the clip board and pointed at the handicap symbol. The paper was a donation sheet. She was looking for at least a twenty euro donation. Just as I was about to refuse, an airport worker walks by and says “Don’t give any money!” The woman who supposedly couldn’t talk was now yelling at the worker. At that point I didn’t want to talk to anyone. So after that it took me over an hour to get my ticket and find the metro. On the metro I hear music so I assume it’s the radio. All of a sudden it cuts off and a woman goes around collecting money. She had a speaker on a dolly and a microphone with which she was singing. The woman’s performance was fantastic in my opinion. So when I finally get off the metro my first sight was startling to say the least. The metro stop didn’t look too inviting to say the least and there were only two people in sight. At first I didn’t want to even step off the train but I had to get going. I discovered that the locals were very helpful when I was trying to find the hotel I was staying at.

2013-05-26_12-39-25_163Since my initial run-in with the city I’ve grown to like the city a lot. I’ve discovered that people will sell or do lots of cool things on the sidewalks such as sing or dance. A few things that I’ve seen that are different are how many different dishes they eat French fries with, or how they use mayonnaise as a dipping sauce. Also, French people eat French fries with a fork which I found to be a little odd since that’s something I’m not used to seeing. Another thing is the extreme lack of stores that are open on Sunday. The first day I went exploring was Sunday and there were no stores open for at least ten blocks where I could get a hoodie. I also noticed that things here such as chairs and tables are a lot smaller than in America. I’ve been picking up a little French here and there as I go and I’m adjusting fairly well. I’ve been having a great time so far and I look forward to exploring more of Paris as our trip progresses.

The Eiffel Tower

IMG_1484The one thing everyone pictures when they think about Paris is the Eiffel Tower. As soon as I arrived in Paris I started looking to the skies to find it; little did I know, Paris is a vast city and you can’t see it from every part. For the first week in Paris I only saw it from afar and many of us on the trip joked that we were never going to see it. Finally, on my second week we took a boat trip that took us right next to it… It truly is breathtaking. IMG_1479The view of the tower at night cannot be explained in words, so please take a look at the pictures. The next day we finally went to it. It is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, tourist spots in Paris. You can go to the very top and I would recommend doing it once in your life because the view from the top is amazing. It will take anywhere from half an hour to an hour to get to the top because of the lines, but it is worth it. You can see everything from the top, from the Arc de Triomphe to Notre Dame. Not only is the Eiffel Tower beautiful it has an amazing history.

IMG_1311It was built in 1889 for the World’s Fair in Paris by Gustave Eiffel. It measures over 1,000 feet and it held the record for tallest manmade structure for over 40 years. It was not meant to be a permanent exhibit, since Gustave only had a 20 year permit. During World War I, it proved to be such a valuable resource for antennas so they left it up. It’s a good thing that France left it up since it is the most visited paid monument in the world. There are three levels to the Eiffel Tower and all are reachable by the public. The bottom level, ground floor, is where you can reach the other levels. You can reach the second level by stairs but it really is quite high so prepare yourself. On the second story they have some good gift shops and a good café, so if you need some souvenirs they have them. From the second level, you can reach the top. You feel like you are on top of the world when you are at the top, especially since it is one of the tallest structures in Paris. The Eiffel Tower is the definition of Paris and for good reason. I hope it will be there for generations so my kids can see the beauty I did when I was younger.


Mont-Valérien: A French Perspective


The eternal flame at Mt. Valérien

At the beginning of the trip to Mont-Valérien we traveled to an area just outside of the city of Paris. We walked up a hill towards the fort, and at the entrance we saw a giant wall and an open area in front. The area in front was symbolic of France in the fact that it was made to represent the French flag. The steps were blue, the middle was beige to represent white, and the path around the middle was red. The flame in front was called the “eternal flame” which burns in memory of the Resistance. [The Resistance leader Charles DeGaulle dedicated the memorial site on 18 June 1960, the anniversary of his call for Resistance from London.]

[Read more…]

Personal Experience in Paris

Today is Wednesday the fifth of June and it seems so long ago since leaving the States, even though it was only eleven days ago. Paris is easy to get caught up in, with the culture being a whirlwind of excitement and fast-paced life, hiding little nooks of quietness. It is surprisingly easy to function in Paris, even when you let slip English, but personally, I have made a few blunders. It was funny sitting in a café trying to order something in French and the waiter just switches over to English to make things less awkward. I’m also becoming extremely attached to the Metro, it’s so convenient and easy to navigate once one gets the hang of the system layout. Outside of the usual class activities, I just wandered around the city last weekend, exploring various side alleys near Notre Dame. The best part about that adventure was finding this amazing little shop called Bertie’s CupCakery, which sells oddly flavored cupcakes until either closing time or they sell out. The shop is owned by a young woman that moved to Paris from Virginia, in the U.S., so ordering in English is perfectly fine. The cupcakes are the best I’ve ever had – I recommend the Nutella and Oreo flavors.

Bertie's CupCakery - Only a few blocks from Notre Dame

Bertie’s CupCakery – Only a few blocks from Notre Dame

Later that same day, I wandered by the Eiffel Tower and, deciding to fulfill a childhood dream, rode the carousal next to the tower. Spinning in the tea cup going the opposite direction of the carousal is very fun, but I nearly fell off the steps from dizziness while disembarking and made quite a few French children laugh.

The carousal next to the Eiffel Tower is two stories with a curved staircase. Some of the horses also have bike pedals attached for no reason other that to pedal while riding.

The carousel next to the Eiffel Tower is two stories with a curved staircase. Some of the horses also have bike pedals attached for no reason other than to pedal while riding.

Now moving on to the Eiffel Tower itself, I just went to the top today! I’m terribly afraid of heights, but being at the top of the tower was so amazing that I felt no fear.

Looking straight down from the top of the Eiffel Tower.

Looking straight down from the top of the Eiffel Tower.

Seeing the cloud shadows float by over the city, shading various sections, seeing from the sky different monuments the Missouri S&T students had visited, the living traffic below becoming an integrated hum – everything came together. It’s hard to describe, but the feeling of seeing the world from above just filled me with such a peaceful energy. After I left the Eiffel Tower though, I witnessed the police, clubs in hand, chasing illegal street vendors down the Trocadéro steps – that was both hilarious and sad.

A panoramic view from the top of the Eiffel Tower.

Last experience of staying in Paris these past eleven days: the nights. I’m not one to party or go out late at night, never found a joy in that, but observing the night life from the apartment windows is both funny and horrifying. It gets excessively hot in the third-floor room I share with my roommates, so we leave a window open, but by doing so you can hear everything. It seems recently a group of French guys have taken a liking to gathering in the alley below, but they like to play thumping music, drink, and play soccer. One early morning, a film crew was in the alley and they were actually filming a scene for a French movie. In total, you can never really know what you’ll find in Paris until you explore!