Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Sunday we woke up and got ready to go back into the city. We were all a little worse for the wear from the busy two days we had combined with the lack of sleep which had accumulated over the past few days.
Once we arrived in the city, we started out at Pere Lachaise, which is an old cemetery in Paris, which is also huge. It is absolutely beautiful and it was neat just to walk through cemetery looking at the old tombs. There are a number of famous people buried here, including Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf (one of the most famous French singers ever who they recently made a movie about - "La Vie en Rose"), Moliere, and Jim Morrison. This is also the site of the infamous Paris Commune, where hundreds of people were shot by the French government, who was trying to take back control over Paris, which had been run by the people of Paris for over two months. (It's an interesting story if you want to look it up for yourself.) Anyways, we walked around the cemetery and looked at some of the famous graves. We found out later that Chopin is also buried there and I was pretty disappointed that we had missed that, but overall it was great.
After Pere Lachaise, we made our way over to Montmartre and Sacre Coeur. Montmartre is the highest point in Paris and was once the artist quarter and Sacre Coeur is a church at the top of Montmartre. We wandered around the area and ate lunch. Some of the group decided to go for a sit down lunch, but the food in the area was really over priced, so some of us just went and got some sandwiches and ate on the street, which was just as good or better I think.
Once we finished lunch, we had to head over to the train station and return back to Brussels. We were all so tired, every single one of us took a nap on the train and I felt much better after that. Once we got back to Brussels we discovered a festival going on right on our street, Chaussee d'Ixelles. I would have loved to check out the festival more in depth, but I was ready to be home. Paris was wonderful, but it was great to be back in familiar territory and to be able to sit down and relax.
And that concludes my weekend adventures in Paris. Tune in next week for the details of my weekend adventure to Dublin.
Love to all,
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Saturday we woke up fairly early for how late we got in and got ready and left to catch the train back into Paris. The first thing we did when we got into Paris was go to the Louvre. We split up and those of us who had already gone to Louvre or didn't want to go walked over to the Centre Pompidou, the modern art museum in Paris. The building itself is really cool because it is designed inside out, with all the pipes and escalators and such on the outside of the building (check out my pictures if you want to see it). The museum was wonderful and was definitely up there with the Tate Modern in Britain in my opinion. They had a great Kandinsky, which is one of my favorites of his. There were about three whole rooms full of Picassos (which you would have loved Dad), which were amazing (and I found a new painting of his that I fell in love with, but I can't remember the title at the moment). Others that I loved were the Matisses, the Duchamps, the Man Rays, and the Pollack that they had there. Overall it was a pretty great museum with a lot of famous stuff that I had learned about in my AP Art History class in high school.
After the museum, we all met up and grabbed some lunch to go. We took our lunches to the Jardin du Luxembourg, which was absolutely beautiful. The garden is a large park area with a large fountain in the middle and a large building, which apparently used to be the house of Catherine de Medici (remember the Medicis from Florence, Mom and Dad?). Lunch was lovely. We sat on a nice grassy area and soaked up the Parisian sun. It was a little warmer than I would have liked, but the blue skies were worth the heat. After eating I walked down to the fountain/ pond thing. They have a place where kids can rent little sailboats to sail across the pond. It was really neat to just sit there and people watch and look at all the cute sail boats.
After lunch, we got back on the metro and rode over to the Latin Quarter area. Notre Dame is around this area so some of the group went in there. I had already been, so I decided to go to Saint Chapelle, which is a tiny little chapel that I had heard from my previous trip was really beautiful. It did not disappoint. The chapel is really tiny, but the stained glass was amazing. Basically all of the walls on the second floor of the chapel are made out of stained glass and the effect is completely breathtaking (literally... it took my breath away!). It was probably one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.
Once we met back up, we wandered through the Latin Quarter, which used to be (and still kind of is) an area where a lot of the students in Paris hang out. During this time, La Fete de la Musique, an annual music festival that Paris has where they have bands playing on street corners all over Paris, was starting to heat up. Audrey have some friends who are in a band that was playing on one such street corner so we made our way over there and spent the night watching them (there were two different bands with her friends in them).
Getting home after the bands had stopped proved to be fairly difficult. We had to go through some really crowded streets, trying to keep 12 people together. I've never really seen this many people before in such a crowd, so I don't really know what to compare it to, but it was mass chaos. We all just wanted to make sure we got to the train station all together before the last train left for the night. The metro was incredibly crowded so we had to jam ourselves in and luckily we only had to go one stop because it was incredibly claustrophobic. We did make the last train out (cutting a little close for my taste, but what can you do) and we made it back to Audrey's safe, sound, and utterly exhausted.
Coming tomorrow to a blog near you, the exciting conclusion to "A Weekend in Paris."
Love to all!
Monday, June 23, 2008
We started out early Friday morning and went to the train station. The train ride was somewhere between an hour and an hour and a half and we went through some beautiful country sides. We arrived at the train station and left our bags with Audrey's father, who was nice enough to meet us at the train station. (Audrey is from Paris and is a girl on our trip. Her parents were nice enough to let us stay in their apartment outside of Paris for the weekend and Audrey acted as our tour guide for the trip, which was wonderful.) From the train station we immediately got on the metro, transferring a couple of times (at one stop I actually recognized the metro stop from when I was in Paris four years ago, which I thought was crazy). Finally, we arrived and rode the escalator back up to ground level and immediately we saw the Arc du Triomphe, which was much bigger than I remembered. After taking numerous pictures there, we strolled down the Champs-Elysees, which is one of the main streets in Paris and is famous for its wide, tree-lined sidewalks and high end stores. We stopped and had lunch along the road. I had a chicken sandwich, which was delicious. For some reason, sandwiches in France are just better... it must be the bread. After lunch, we continued our stroll down to the Place de la Concorde, which is where heads rolled back during the French Revolution and now the Place has an obelisk which Napoleon brought back from Egypt.
From there, we walked to the Musee d'Orsay, which is a museum devoted to the works of Impressionists and Post-Impressionists. The museum is in a renovated train station, which is absolutely beautiful and huge. I had been to the Orsay the first time I went to Paris, but I decided to go again because we had been rushed through that time because the museum was closed. I was glad I went back. Even though I remembered most of the works there, I still enjoyed seeing them again and actually getting to spend some time looking at some of the intricacies of the works. My favorites were the Monets, Renoirs, and Degas. There was also a whole room devoted to van Gogh, which I absolutely loved (as you probably know from my previous post on the van Gogh museum in Amsterdam).
After the Musee d'Orsay, we reconvened and headed over to the Eiffel Tower. Even though I had been there before, I was again shocked at how large the Eiffel Tower really is. We split off into groups and those who wanted to go up the Eiffel Tower did. I decided to go even though I had already been and it was just as great this time. Last time I was there it was fairly cloudy and it actually started raining while we were up the Eiffel Tower and this time it was cloudy again. I guess I just bring bad weather with me. Anyways, we spent lots of time walking around all the different floors of the Tower (there are three floors), taking pictures, and enjoying the view of Paris sprawled out before us.
Once we had descended from the Eiffel Tower, we had dinner at a restaurant around the area. We eat out pretty sparingly when we are in Brussels so a meal out is a wonderful occurrence. I had a wonderful dish of chicken and French fries. I also tried an escargot, which was surprisingly delicious. I had some problems getting it out of the shell, but once I figured it out, it was great. They cook them in some delicious garlic sauce so they basically just taste like garlic.
After dinner, we walked back over to the Eiffel Tower and sat down on the Champs du Mars. There were a bunch of people there, but we found a spot and sat down in the grass. From there, we had a perfect view of the Eiffel Tower and we watched the sunset.
Then, we walked down to the Seine and got on one of the boat tours. The boat took us down the Seine past many of the Paris landmarks, which were all lit up for the night. It was beautiful. There were a lot of people walking along the banks of the Seine or just sitting and relaxing and enjoying the Paris night. It was wonderful and beautiful.
Once the boat ride was over, we had to catch the train out of Paris to Audrey's town and apartment. The train ride was about 45 minutes and we were all exhausted from a day full of adventure and walking all around Paris. Once we got there, we had to walk about another mile to Audrey's apartment. The apartment was a typical European apartment, very small. All of the girls slept in the living room on mattresses. We all passed out because we were so exhausted.
Well, that's all for day one of our Paris adventure. I will post more later about the rest of the trip. In the meantime, I've posted the pictures from Paris online if you want to take a look.
Love to all,
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
First off, I have been craving Mexican food like nothing else. At this point, I would probably give my left foot for a taco. Although Brussels has just about every type of food you could ever want (from Turkish to Lebanese to Japanese, etc.) there aren't any Mexican restaurants.
An interesting food thing I've learned while over here is that European foods have a lot less preservatives than foods in the US. Consequently, food (especially fruits, veggies, and bread) goes bad much quicker. This is probably why most of the people in the grocery stores are not buying all that much food. It seems like most people only buy a couple days worth of food and go to the store much more often. I always feel ridiculous with my full basket walking down the aisles... me and my silly trying to shop for a full week! Going along with this topic, the European Union has banned any genetically modified foods. (Just an interesting fact I thought you might want to know.)
Most grocery stores over here now charge you for plastic bags, so most people just bring their own. This is one thing that I'm behind 100%, even though it's a nuisance sometimes to have to go back and get a bag to carry groceries in, the end result is worth it. (Sorry Uncle Bob... I had to put some of my liberal opinion in there.)
On a completely different topic, dryers are not very common in Europe. Almost everyone just air-dries everything, which is probably a smart thing to do since gas prices over here are so ridiculous (yes... even more than in the States! You should be grateful it's only $4 per gallon and not $7 or $8 like it is over here.) Having to wait a day or two for your clothes to dry can be rather irritating though (especially when you have as limited a wardrobe as I have!).
People here in Europe walk everywhere. If you go to the grocery store, you walk down to the one closest to you and pick up what you need and walk back. I think it is the reason why you don't see any obese Europeans. The diet here consists of a lot of breads, cheeses, and meats, yet most people are slim and trim. Along these same lines, apparently the term "diet" has a bad connotation here so everything is "light" instead of diet (ex: Coca light, not Diet Coke). A very different mindset and lifestyle.
Well, that's about it for now. I'll try and include other little idiosyncrasies that I notice along the way in future blogs.
Love to all,
Sunday, June 15, 2008
First off, Happy Father's Day Dad! I love you and wish I was there to help you celebrate or better yet, that you were over here with me!
Yesterday, we continued our tour of Brussels. We went to the Belgian Royal Museum of Art, which is only about a ten minute walk from our apartment. The museum is composed of a couple different sections, with a modern art museum, a collection of older stuff, and then they had a visiting exhibit from Britain. The modern art collection was wonderful. I especially loved the Chagalls and the Magrittes. There was also a Picasso, which was small but pretty neat. The exhibit from Britain had some neat Rubens and Brueghels and there was one van Gogh which was from one of his earlier periods. Unfortunately, I didn't get to spend much time looking at the regular collection of art that they had because the museum was closing. In rushing through I did get to see some giant Rubens paintings and David's Death of Marat which was really cool because we had talked about this in my art history class in high school. I would like to go back and spend more time in that wing, but I guess I'll have to see how much time I have here. Maybe I'll go one afternoon when I don't have to much reading to do.
After the museum, everyone was tired so they went back and took naps and I went exploring on my own. It was really nice to get some alone time since I haven't really had much of it since arriving here. I went over to Parc de Bruxelles, which is across from the palace and used to be part of the land where the kings of Belgium would hunt. The park is fairly big and there are a couple of big fountains in the park. There were a bunch of people just strolling through the park, some joggers, and people sitting on benches enjoying their Saturday afternoon. I walked across the park and came upon the Palais de Nation, which is where the Belgian parliament meets. After exploring the park for a while, I walked back to the apartment.
Today I am just spending the day relaxing and recovering from the weekend. I'll probably do some reading for class and maybe go out and enjoy the rare Brussels sunshine at some point.
I hope you all enjoy your Sunday!
Love to all,
Friday, June 13, 2008
Today was sight-see Brussels, part one. We started off by grabbing some lunch at a cafe nearby our apartment. I had a wonderful panini with mozzarella, tomatoes, and pesto, which was delicious. Then we got on the metro and rode out to the outskirts of Brussels to see the Atomium. For those of you who don't know, the Atomium is a large structure made to look like an atom that was built for the 1968 World's Fair that was held in Brussels. The structure was a lot bigger than I had expected. We spent some time taking pictures, but found out that it was closed and that we could not actually get in. This wasn't too big a deal, but I had heard that there is a nice view of the city from the top. I'll probably try to get back out there one of these days to actually go inside. After the Atomium, we rode the metro down to Grand Place, where there just happened to be some sort of concert going on celebrating cultural diversity in the EU. It's always fun to stumble across these things when you're not expecting them. The concert was mainly percussion, but it was fun and interesting and we stayed for a couple of songs. Then, we went out in search of the Mannekin Pis. Again, for those of you who don't know (don't feel bad... I had no clue before I decided to come here), the Mannekin Pis is a fountain of a little boy peeing, which has become a symbol of the city. There are several stories behind the statue (most of which aren't really true), but my favorite is that the little boy diffused a bomb that was meant for Brussels by peeing on it and thus saving the city. Apparently, the statue is very popular in the town because there are little Mannekin Pis trinkets everywhere. Also, the town dresses up the statue for different celebrations (he has over 500 outfits, each with a strategically placed hole). He even has an American soldier's outfit to celebrate D-Day. Anyways, we found the Mannekin Pis, which is actually very small, and took lots of pictures there as well.
Afterwards, we stopped at a restaurant and had some dinner and then wandered home. I guess we went the wrong way because we took a very roundabout way to get home. We basically went a giant circle, but we eventually got home and we got a lovely tour of Brussels along the way. While we were wandering, we saw a big parade of inline skaters being escorted by police, kind of like a parade. It was very interesting and made me realize that roller blading on cobblestones is probably not the best idea (we saw a number of people fall, but they had a bunch of paramedics and doctors on the scene). We continued wandering and eventually came across the same group of skaters again.
Tomorrow we plan to do some more sightseeing, which should be fun. There are a couple museums that I definitely want to go to at some point and this weekend would probably be the best time to do it. I will keep you all updated and I'll try and post pictures either tomorrow or Sunday.
Love to all,
PS - Some other items of interest: The Euro 2008 Football (Soccer) matches are heating up across Europe. Today we saw a number of cars driving by honking, with people hanging out of the windows holding flags (we later figured out they were Romanian flags). The matches are on at all the restaurants and cafes around town and everyone seems to be watching. We also spotted some Frenchmen and Dutchmen taunting each other in the Grand Place (which I didn't really understand because France had just suffered a big loss to the Dutch). It's neat to see how this sports phenomenon has swept the entire continent.
Also in the news a disappointing blow to the EU today with the Irish vote against the Lisbon Treaty. It's funny how after only a few weeks of EU classes that I can be so ardently supportive of the EU now and how disappointing seeing this set back to the further development of the EU is.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Not much to report on since my last blog except that I had my first exam yesterday. Basically I spent Monday studying as much as possible and Tuesday decompressing from all the nervous anxiety that exams bring with them. But, it is over now and I actually did a lot better than I had thought.
After the exam, Dr. Kreppel took us to a really neat cafe in a part of town we had never been to before. Dr. Kreppel is flying out tomorrow morning and we will have a new professor for the rest of our stay here in Brussels so this little party was a farewell for her. The cafe was really neat because it was in the art nouveau style, which Brussels is famous for. Buildings here are not all done in this style, so you have to keep your eyes open and be on the look out to spot it. The cafe was on a whole street of art nouveau buildings which was really neat and beautiful.
Other than that, there isn't much to fill you all in on. I do have some good news however... I have finally gotten a chance to post my pictures from the trip thus far. Some of them have descriptions (if you have time to read them), which tell you what things are, what's going on, etc. I don't have all my Amsterdam pictures up yet though because the first day I was incredibly stupid and left my camera in the hotel room. Luckily, one of the girls on the trip was nice enough to take pictures for me so I'll get those up as soon as I steal them from her. The link to my pictures is: http://photobucket.com/courtchiles. To see the photos, you have to click on the albums to the left on your screen. There should be ones for Amsterdam, Bruges, and Brussels. I'll try to put up new pictures as often as possible and I'll try and tell you when I do so you can go look at them.
I hope everyone is having a great week so far and I hope you all enjoy my pictures. (I'm trying to get myself to take more and get more with people in them so that is my assignment for the next couple weeks.)
Love to all!
Sunday, June 8, 2008
Hi everyone! I hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend. I've had quite a weekend so far, and it's not even over yet!
Thursday night (our weekends start on Thursdays because we don't have school on Fridays) all the girls in the program decided to have a girls’ night out. We all went to the movies to see Sex and the City, which was a lot of fun. Movies over here are fairly similar to those in the States except you have to pay to use the bathrooms (not exactly a perk). The movie was shown in English with French and Flemish subtitles and they seem to have even more previews/ commercials over here than they do in the States, which I was surprised by.
Friday morning, we woke up early and made our way down to the train station. We boarded the train and rode the roughly 2 1/2 hours to
The next morning, I woke up and had breakfast at the hotel. I was surprised that they had breakfast there because that’s not always a given in
We got back into
On the whole, I was left with a pretty good impression of
Today, I am recovering from the exhaustion that is traveling and studying/ reading for my upcoming exam on Tuesday (everyone wish me luck!). The sun is out in
My apologies for the length of this post… I hope it didn’t bore you too much.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Saturday was the first day that we've been here that I was actually able to sleep in which was wonderful! I spent most of the day enjoying just lazing around our apartment and trying to catch up on school work. Caitlin (one of my roommates) and I went out for a walk in the afternoon and we just wandered around town. We stopped at a little cafe and had some coffee, which was very pleasant. We then wandered back home, which turned out to be a lot closer than I had previously thought. That night, we went out to celebrate Audrey's birthday (one of the girls on the trip with me), which was a lot of fun.
Sunday was more of the same... sleeping in, catching up on reading, and such. That night, some of us decided to be decadent and go out to dinner. We went down to the Grand Place and ate at one of the incredibly touristy restaurants down there. I doubt we will ever eat in that area again. From now on, if we go out, I think we will look for more local fare. We walked home from the Grand Place and passed some of the beautiful Brussels spots all lit up for nighttime. It was wonderful.
Monday, I went to class and did homework. Definitely not exciting. Before coming home though, we stopped at an electronics store where we bought a wireless router that we needed for the apartment and I bought a skype headset, so if anyone wants to call me I'm ready now!
Today was a bit more exciting. Instead of going to Dr. Kreppel's class, we took a class field trip to the European Commission, which is basically the bureaucratic sector of the executive branch of the European Union. I was expecting something like a tour similar to the one given at the UN (if anyone has ever done that), but instead the building was just a regular old office building. Instead of a tour, two British men who work for the Commission talked to us about enlargement of the EU and the EU's neighbor policy, which was all very interesting, but not quite what I was expecting. We still had to go to our other class so we made our way over to Vesalius after the guys were finished with their presentation. After class, I went home and did more homework (I know... a recurrent theme here. SO much homework!). Then, the guys on the trip invited all of us over to their apartment for dinner, which was very delicious, especially since I didn't have to cook.
In other news, I forgot to mention in my previous post that while in Bruges I was fortunate enough to have some real Belgian chocolates, which were deliciously sinful. They are very rich and thick and, I'm sure have no calories whatsoever. Also, in Bruges I got some real french fries. If you don't already know, french fries were not originally made in France, but in Belgium. The French just took the credit for the invention. They were, of course, delicious. However, Belgians seem to think you need sauce with your french fries. These sauces are usually mayonnaise based and a little overpowering for the french fries, which I thought needed nothing else.
Well, better close for now and get my nose back to the grindstone.
Love to all,