Winter Break : Rome

Our last stop was Rome. We only had about 36 hours but we managed to fit in 27 different sites.

We got there on Friday afternoon and got started as soon as we checked into our hostel. We went around to all the sites that don’t close, Piazza del Popolo, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, Piazza de Venezia, etc. We also found a great view of the Roman Forums at night.

We got dinner off of the Campo dei Fiori, classic bruschetta and pasta with a bottle of wine, delicious! We also got a lesson in why red wines need to breath and white wines don’t from our waiter, very informative.

The next day we started off at the Vatican and saw St. Peter’s Basilica, all the different Vatican museums and the Sistine Chapel. Then we went on to see the Pantheon and Palatine Hill and the Roman Forums. We tried to go into the Colosseum as well but it was already closed for the day :/ so instead we went and got gelato :)

We took a little rest at the hostel after gelato since we were dead from walking so far and so fast. we got dinner at a place just down the street where we sat for 3 hours. We got an appetizer of fried veggies, including a fried pumpkin flower filled with cheese, more pasta, and of course a bottle of wine. We also got limoncello for dessert, which was gross. Then on the way back we got some more gelato. We turned in early because we had to get up at 5 the next morning in order to get to the airport on time.


Winter Break : Czech Republic

The next stop on my whirlwind tour of Europe was Prague. I met two of my friends from the program there on Tuesday night. When I got there it was already kind of late so I checked into the hostel, a wonderful place called Art Hole Hostel, if you’re ever in Prague you have to stay there, and then we went down the street to the Prague Beer Museum. Its not actually a museum but it has 30 different czech beers on tap! We met up with some British guys, Dan and Luke, that were staying in our hostel too that my friends had met earlier. 

The next day we explored Prague. We found a park across the river with a gorgeous view of Prague and a play ground that we had some fun on. They had this really cool standing up see-saw type thing :)

After the park we went to the old prague castle. We saw the changing of the guard and climbed up the bell tower for yet another amazing view of Prague.

We got lunch at a stand near the castle and had “hot dogs”, which were more like foot long sausages, and hot wine, which I thought was going to be mulled wine but it was pretty much just hot red wine haha. We then descended and crossed over the Charles Bridge and explored Old Town a little. We then found the Lenin wall, a love bridge covered in padlocks, a modern art museum, and, my personal favorite, the Dancing House (AMAING!).

We went to dinner that night a place down the street from our hostel called Lokal. The food was great but the service was interesting. We must have had at least seven different waiters. One person got us beers, one person tried to bring us an English menu, another person actually did, someone different took our food order, someone else brought it, another person took our dessert order and then someone else got us our check. It was cray. We then went to an “English” bar were they were playing a soccer game on tv but we got there just for the last like three seconds. We sat there for a while listening to this British guy singing American songs. We were basically the only ones who stayed after the game so we could just request whatever we wanted, it was a lot of fun. Then we decided to head back over to the Lenin wall because Dan and Luke hadnt seen it yet. While we were there we met four Americans from UConn who are studying in London for the semester. We decided to introduce them to the Prague Beer Museum.

Once we got there, Dan and Luke introduced us to a new game called God Save the Queen. Basically someone has a British coin, with the queen’s face on it, and they can drop it in anyone’s drink that they want, but everyone starts protecting their drinks against them so you have to be sneaky, if the coin is dropped in yout drink you then have to chug it as fast as you can in order to save the queen from drowning, while everyone else sings God Save the Queen. It was mostly just the boys making each other drink but it was a lot of fun.

The next day we walked around the Jewish Quarter in the morning and then walked over to Petrin Park, planning on climbing the hill to see the observation tower there but we were too tired so we just walked back to the hostel, crossing over the Charles Bridge for probably the zillionth time.

It was a really pretty bridge but I don’t know exactly why it is so famous, probably just because its super old. It’s the second one in this picture.

We met up with two other peeps from our program who had just gotten to Prague for dinner at a place called Krcma that had really good cabbage soup. They also had this really good beer that was a mix of light and dark beers. Then we went back to the hostel because we were leaving the next morning, for ROME!


Winter Break : Scotland

So first off my winter break was amazing! I went to five different countries, including the Vatican.

My first stop was Brussels, but just for a super long lay over on my way to Edinburgh. I took a bus into the city and hung out around the Grand Place for a couple hours before returning to the airport.

Once I got to Edinburgh the real fun started. I missed the last train of the night to get to St. Andrews where I was actually staying. So instead I wandered around for a little and found a very expensive, and yet still cheaper than the first one I looked at, hotel for the night, The Hotel George. But I do get 10% off on my next stay, so theres a plus.

I had a king sized bed to myself the shampoo and body wash both smelled great and breakfast was included in the morning. I kind of felt like I was in my own Home Alone : Lost in Edinburgh. I took my time getting up the next morning and then caught the train to St. Andrews. I took the wrong bus from the train station into town but was able to find my way to meet my friend just fine. 

The rest of the day was spent walking around seeing St. Andrews and its four main streets. We went to some cathedral ruins, walked out on the pier, walked down The Scores, and at a super cute cafe.

Saturday we went into Edinburgh for the day to explore and enjoy the big city. We went to this sushi place for lunch called Yo! Sushi that has all the sushi revolving on a conveyor belt right in front of you. Great for business, bad for my wallet haha. We also went to The Elephant House which is the cafe where Harry Potter was written! Yay!

Sunday morning we went to church in St. Salvator’s Chapel and then they had a memorial ceremony for martyrs.

That night we had a fancy going away dinner party at the flat for my friend Hilary. Her friends made lasagna, a salad, and chocolate mousse for dessert. It was delish.

Monday we walked around St. Andrews some more and went to the beach, a theology lecture, and St. Andrews Castle.

Tuesday morning we went to breakfast at a restaurant where I got a traditional Scottish breakfast. It consisted of toast, an egg, sausage, two pieces of bacon, half a mini tomato, haggis, black pudding, and tea of course. It was my first time having both haggis and black pudding. The haggis, minced sheep’s “pluck” (heart, liver and lungs) with oats cooked inside a sheep’s stomach, was delicious! The black pudding, a sausage type thing made from congealed pig’s blood with some oats and such mixed in, gross sounding I know but it was good, very salty though. Then we went back to the castle to go into the mine underneath, it was already closed when we tried on Monday, and went down to the beach to climb on the rocks.

After that I took the bus back to the airport and headed off to Prague.


Star Wars!!

I went ot see the re-release of Star Wars Episode I in 3D with one of my friends last week and it was amazing! Even in French. It was really fun to here how they translated certain lines (yes I’ve sen it enough times in English to remember specific lines). For instance, When Qui Gon normally says “There’s always a bigger fish” in French he says “There’s always one to eat the other” It doesn’t quite roll of the tongue like the english version but it works. And Yoda still talked backwards which was fun to hear in french. And his path to the darkside quote was still just as good : “Peur mène a la colère, la colère mène a la haine, la haine mène a la souffrance.”

Theres a fast food place here called Quick that has promotional burgers for the movei so we went for lunch the day after seeing the movie. There are two choices the Dark Burger or the Jedi Burger. Thats another thing Darth Maul is Dark Maul because the French can’t do the “th” sound, silly French.

I ordered the Jedi Burger but it was gross. It had two types of cheese on it, Mozzaralla and some other kind I didn’t recognize, and this really, really strong mustard. Not a good choice. My friend got the Drak Burger and it was much better. Its basically just a cheeseburger but everything is peppery, the cheese, the sauce, the bread. Interesting that the Dark side won this round…


Un dégustation du vin

Two weeks ago teh center treated us to a wine tasting outing. We drove out to the vineyard of Mas de Cadenet, a winery owned and operated by the Negrel family since 1813.

They told us all about the wine making process (Spoiler Alert: Rose is not just a mixture of red and white wine. It gets its color from leaving the skins of the red grapes in with the juice for a little while.) and showed us all the equipment they use. During the actual tasting they told us all about what they can do to make different wines and taught us all about how to properly taste a wine.

Step 1: Look at the wine. You’re supposed to look for the color of the wine and the legs.

Step 2: Smell the wine. You smell it twice actually, once without agitating the wine and once after having swished it around some. Your goal is to find different scents within the wine that they have been infused with.

Step 3: Taste the wine. When tasting the wine you’re also trying to find any extra flavors and judge the general quality of the wine, is it sugary, smooth, dry, etc.

We tried a white wine, two roses, and two reds.

After the tasting that gave us some little appetizers to munch on and we completely destroyed them. We were all so hungry. I’m sure we looked totally classless and barabaric but it was good.


Exploring Aix

Sunday was a warm sunny day, well it started out warm and sunny at least, so some friends and I decided to get lost in Aix. We wandered around for about an hour and a half and it was amazing. We found tons of giant stone doorways from old hôtel particuliers, one of which my friend Una decided to use her rock climbing skills to scale,

plenty of fountains of course, and a bunch of new ethnic restaurants to try.

We also ran into a fair! It was great. we saw this giant ride from a ways a way and decided to head in that direction to find out what it was. It turned out to be a parking lot full of bumper cars, fun houses, carnival games, and food stands. It was too cold to enjoy then but it’s in town until the beginning of March so I’m sure we’ll find a time to go.


Les films français

A couple of weeks ago we went to see a movie called Intouchables with the center. 

It was amazing! It was a fairly serious plot line but its also hilarious. Its the story of a quadripelegic who is looking to find a new assistant. A young man shows up who is just trying to get a piece of paper signed to prove hes looking for work. He, of course, gets the job and the rest I’ll leave for you to see.

Apart from Intouchables theres also a movie shown every monday night at the center. So far we’ve watched Fauteuil d’orchestre, Madame Bovary, and Welcome.

I highly recommend Fauteuil d’orchestre and Welcome, but not Madame Bovary. I’ve never read the book but the movie was weird and nothing really happened. Both Fauteuil d’orchestre and Welcome were extremely good though, so definitely check those out.

Next on the list is Thérèse Raquin, I’ll let you know how it is.


Paris

Last weekend three other girls and I went to Paris! it was an amazing trip, even though it was freezing cold, literally, it snowed twice.

We still managed to get a lot accomplished though. We saw the Eiffel Tower (all lit-up and glittering at night), l’Arc de Triomphe, Versaille, le Sacre Coeur, la Notre Dame, Montmartre, and les Champs Elysee. We ate escargots and McDonald’s, where I got a beer, just because I could, went to the biggest Sephora I’ve ever seen, and enjoyed many different cafes.

I have to say I greatly enjoyed Montmartre. It’s one of the coolest neighborhoods I’ve ever been in. Its artsy and quirky, and full of stairs and hills, like this:

It’s wonderful. We walked around for like an hour after visiting le Sacre Coeur. We found this square where a bunch of artists had set up their work to sell. We walked down a bunch of fun little side streets and tried some mulled wine. It was  afun adventure, despite the fact that I couldn’t feel my fingers or toes by the end of it.


Le Marché

Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday theres a giant market in the Place des Precheurs. They have everything you could ever imagine. Theres a ton of fruit and vegetable stands. Theres a bunch of cheese, seafood, and charcuterie stands as well. Theres this one really good madeleine stand that sells six madeleines for only 3 euro. Theres also a bunch of olive and olive oil stands. One of the olive stands also sells garlic cloves that have been soaked in things like honey or herbs de provence, a mix of herbs from the region that make anything and everything taste better. People eat the garlic as aperitifs, just whole cloves of garlic, but they’re delicious, they don’t taste anything like garlic. Theres also a spanish guy who sells seafood paella which I’d never had before but it was really good. Its a spanish rice dish with a bunch of different types of seafood and a little bit of chicken in it. I’ve never been but theres also a guy who sells whole rotisserie chickens, that are just turn on the spit right there in the middle of the market. They smell so good and are pretty cheap too so I think me and some friends are gonna get one for lunch one day.

Theres also a non-food side to the market that sells baskets, books, clothes, cooking ware, soap, and pottery. Its pretty cool all-in-all and most things are pretty cheap which is good.

Theres also part of the market thats on the Cours Mirabeau but that ones mostly just clothes. But its fun to walk through on my to class every Tuesday and Thursday morning.


Annie

Annie is basically my french mom. I eat dinner with her, and two other girls from the program, four nights a week and the food is always delicious. She even made a tomato salad that I liked. That’s a big deal becasue normally I don’t go anywhere near tomatoes. Every night we have a four course meal: an appetizer, a main dish, cheese, and dessert. Its amazing! And I always leave absolutely stuffed. 

The first night we had “aperitifs”, basically just a mini cocktail hour. We had this drink called Kir that was absolutely delicious. Its white wine and creme de cassis (blackcurrant liquer). We also had what can only be described as peanut butter flavored Cheetos, not a mix of cheese and peanut butter, that wouls be disgusting,  just peanut butter. They were sooo good. 

She has little yorkie terrier mix named Chanel who is absolutely insane, but also really cute. We’re pretty good friends, Chanel and I, she lets me pet her now and only jumps all over me sometimes, haha.