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Category: Travels Page 1 of 14

“Nutella is 58% Sugar, And My Body Can Tell”

I wasn’t initially expecting this, but last weekend was the best I’ve had since being abroad. I went to Paris, which is somewhere I’ve actually been twice before, and I think this is part of what made it such a good experience. I also think I am starting to get a little bit homesick. I don’t specifically “miss” home but I think I miss things that are familiar to me. For example, I bought a toaster at the store and that was the best thing that happened to me just because I could finally start eating more meals that I was familiar with. BUT, I also decided to buy nutella, and let’s just say it’s now hidden in the depths of my drawers since it is so bad for me. So going to Paris was important for the following reasons: First, I was staying with a family friend who was the best host and made me feel so welcome. Second of all, I had already been there so I wasn’t stressed that I had to see everything in 3 days and walk 12 miles like I did in Amsterdam. And third, I got some nice alone time – and more importantly I got to drink boba tea while I was there.

I took the train on Thursday evening, which was super easy since I only had to pay 10 euros to reserve a seat and it took an hour and a half. Our friend Lydia picked me up at the train station, and we went to her son’s house where we picked him up and went to eat shawarma and falafel. I think people reading this probably think that’s all I eat in addition to burgers, and at this point you are not wrong. During the week I don’t really have the chance to eat any meat or anything truly filling so these are good options for me. It was actually really delicious, and there are a lot of good falafel places in Paris, so of course we got some the next day too. That next day we also went to the Grand Palais because Lydia had tickets to a Miro and Michael Jackson exhibit. They were two different exhibits, and while we rushed through the Michael Jackson one (it was pretty weird and not our style), the Miro one was really up my alley. His art really developed and changed as he grew older and has a large range of styles.

After our falafel lunch, I spend my time exploring Paris alone. I went back to Notre Dame since that was my favorite spot from the last time I was here, and then found the boba place!!! It was probably the yummiest thai tea I’ve ever had. I went back home that night where I had a nice dinner with Lydia, and then I worked on my probability homework.

The next day I spent most of my time walking along Rue de Passy, which is right by Lydia’s apartment and close to the Eiffel Tower! There are a lot of nice shops, and afterwards I headed over to the Louvre – which I had free admission to as a student in France! I really love all the different sculptures and focused most of my time seeing the different Greek Gods before quickly seeing the Mona Lisa (there were so many people, and it wasn’t as special as I was hoping). Afterwards I had lunch at this cool American diner where I ate… you guessed it! A burger! For dinner that night I went back to Lydia’s house where she had her son’s family over and her husband.

I spent the rainy Sunday morning going to a Giacometti Art Exhibit with Lydia and her husband Ed, and really enjoyed that as well. His sculptures are really different and not like anything I’ve ever seen, almost creepy!

After our museum excursion, I spend most of the day working on homework, had some soup, and was honestly really sad to go! I got on the train home and after reflecting on this weekend, I think having that familiarity of people I know and a place I know better made it a lot more special than other weekends. I will definitely be back to Paris, and I am glad I did something more relaxed to remind myself of the normal pace of life.

The Cat Wasn’t Dead: A Weekend in Amsterdam

Hello!

It’s been a bit since I went, but I thought I would share about my experiences in Amsterdam! It was my second weekend trip and for a while before I actually came to Metz, I knew I wanted that to be my first “big” trip. By then I had my Eurail pass activated so 3 other friends and I decided to plan out the trains, reserve a hostel, and go! A few things I learned about the last minute planning are that the good hostels go kind of fast if you need enough beds for multiple people but otherwise everything is pretty easy to plan.

We decided to leave Friday morning and chose trains that didn’t have any required reservations which basically means we don’t have to pay any extra for the trains alongside our Eurail. Our first train to Luxembourg went fairly smoothly except for we accidentally got off one stop before, frantically asked a lot of people if this was the right stop and then hopped right back on the train before it continued. As a pro tip, if you are going on a train with its final destination being a larger destination, and you are the only people that are getting off, you are PROBABLY not there yet!

From Luxembourg we had to get on a train to Brussels, and we thought we were fine and could sleep until midway through the ride the train operator says some words in French, all my friends look at me to see if I understood, and a man came over to tell us in French that the weather is bad and the train is stopping at some random stop where we will need to transfer. Honestly, this didn’t really stress me out because I feel like there are so many options for trains and flights, and it was only Friday, so worst case we could always hop on a train back home. We walked towards the exit and met another guy who laughed and told us “Welcome to Belgium. The trains here are always like this.” We talked to him for a while, which made it more of a funny experience, and then got on another train.

Oh, you think we’d get there by now? No, this is where the fun starts! After waiting at the train station, we missed our first train because of the signs not actually showing Amsterdam, another train being stopped early, and finally 11 hours later instead of 7 we made it. By the way, the best part of the train stations is that you need to pay to use the restrooms. No wonder they need free healthcare… everyone holds their pee and doesn’t get to drink water for free… seems like a problem.

Finally we arrived in Amsterdam, and I thought the only thing we need is to get to the hostel and lay down for a second to feel better. Everyone reading this is probably thinking, “Noa, you had such a long and stressful first trek. Whatever larger force is out there that controls people’s fate will give you a good place to rest.” Well that’s what I hoped too, but we arrived to the hostel where I think, “this will be okay,” until I look at the beds and see a large lump, which did not move and turned out to be a cat. For about 5 minutes my friends and I looked at the cat, looked at each other, made some noise, and concluded that the cat was most definitely dead.

At that point, I’m laughing but horrified, trying to find other places to stay, and eventually we go down to reception to ask if someone can remove the deceased cat from our room. “Oh yeah,” they told us, “that’s the hostel cat, she’s really old so she might be dead but maybe not.” Long story short, the cat wasn’t dead, just very old and stiff, probably deaf, and really unkempt. And it kept coming back into the room in the middle of the night until I declared to the staff that I was allergic so that they would keep the cat away. I am not even allergic, I love cats, but I learned I’m not a huge fan of hostel cats.

Morning in Amsterdam

OK, so that was honestly the only couple hiccups in the trip. After we dropped off and locked up our backpacks, we headed to get dinner at a wok place which was really yummy and went back to bed. The next morning, all of my friends wanted to go see the Van Gogh Museum and had tickets, so I decided I wanted to walk more around downtown. This was hard for me at first, because I knew I didn’t really want to go to the museum but I struggled worrying that I’d be missing out. This was a huge learning experience for me because walking around Amsterdam in the morning alone was the best decision I could’ve made. I was saving most of my “museum” budget for Monet-related exhibits since he is my favorite painter, and I hope to visit his house, so I was happy with my decision. Instead I had a yummy croissant and jasmine tea and walked all around the tulip market and through some stores. For lunch I met back up with my friends at a pancake house, got a burger (because this is me we are talking about), and then we went to another outdoor market.

Tulips!

All the markets were really nice and I am glad they are open year round, but it was definitely really cold! For dinner we went to a fun place called FoodHallen, which was basically a lot of different food stands indoors. I ate a chicken shawarma with french fries that tasted nothing like it does in Israel, but it was still really yummy!

After that we had tickets to go to the Anne Frank House, which was really important to me. We spent a lot of time there, really learning about the history and each individual that spent time in that home and those who helped the Frank family. It was very difficult to see but absolutely something that everyone needs to be educated about. I think the part that stuck with me the most was how it initially felt rather big, but that then you realize they spent two years in there living in absolute fear, and it feels a lot smaller. If you are going to visit this museum, which I think everyone should, I would suggest going on an off time if there is one because even in the evening there were a lot of people and it made you have to through a little bit more rushed. Afterwards, we headed back to our hostel and went to bed.

It was a really quick trip, and the train ride home went a lot smoother with no delays. Despite all of the issues that occurred, I’m actually really happy they happened because I learned a lot about myself. I now know what I am more comfortable with and am completely fine with straying from the group to make sure I am experiencing my travels the way I want to. I would definitely go back when it’s a little bit warmer so I can experience more things without having to plan around what keeps me warm!

Colmar – A real life fairy tale!

Written by Noa Margalit

For my first weekend trip a few friends and I decided to visit Colmar, France. If you’ve seen Beauty and the Beast, it is the town that it is based off of and it’s absolutely beautiful. Initially, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to leave town the first weekend, but a day trip to Colmar was the perfect solution. Also, I had definitely explored downtown Metz more than I was anticipating during the first week just because I had a lot of time after classes to do so.

To get to Colmar, we had to take a direct morning train from the central station in Metz, which went through Strasbourg, and finally arrived in Colmar. It was really easy to reserve tickets. Since none of us wanted to activate our Eurail passes, we just ordered some online and sent them to our phones. I think the most challenging process of the train systems here is that every single person you talk to tells you a different thing. For example, some people said you can’t reserve online, but only at the train station (this may be true for certain cases but in our case it was not). Also, we got to the train station way earlier than we needed to but it was good because we were able to figure out how everything works with no stress.

Since we had reserved seats everyone sat on a different part of the train, and we arrived about 1.5 hours later. When you first get into Colmar, it looks like any other French town until you make your way downtown. At the heart of the city every building looked straight out of a fairytale, with each one colored brightly and little details that made them look really special. I’m not really one to travel in a big group, and as we were walking downtown I already felt a little overwhelmed with the amount of people I was with. The first thing I saw downtown was one of my favorite stores in France, “Maisons du Monde” which has cute home goods and was also a good way to part ways with the group. My friend and I went to the store while the rest went to get lunch and after looking through there we also started exploring to find food. Every corner you turn in Colmar there is something really unique and special. We stopped so many times just to admire the area, I especially liked the copper roofs on the church that were partially turquoise. Eventually once we got lunch I got a baguette with chicken inside, which is my favorite thing to eat in France. First of all, it is so cheap, only about 3 euros. Compared to a sandwich in the states which runs for around  $8, it is also a lot tastier.

Downtown Colmar

After eating, we wandered around more shops, and I bought a scarf since all the French wear scarves and I have to fit in. We didn’t end up seeing the rest of the group until meeting at the bus stop to take the bus home. This was probably the worst part of the trip, since our bus was delayed by almost an hour, and it was very cold outside. I felt like Colorado prepared me well though, and I had on my two pairs of pants, leg warmers, coat, gloves, a hat, and my new scarf to keep me warm. Eventually we got on the flix bus (it took almost 3 hours), and made it home. We decided to take a bus back to keep things cheap, and so our day trip ended up being very worth it.

Overall, I am really glad I took a small trip on the first weekend just to demystify the train experience and to start seeing a little more of the places around me. Sunday was nice to take off and relax, but I think I will try to see a new place every time I have the chance!

Some Fun-don in London

In mid-October, we decided to go across the pond and spend the weekend in lovely London! (I’m not sure if “across the pond” can be used for going across any large body of water, but I like the phrase so just bear with me.)

Our trip began with us taking the Eurostar train LITERALLY UNDER THE OCEAN! I still can’t get over how marvelous modern engineering is that somehow, we as a species managed to run a high-speed train under the sea. The Chunnel links France and England under the Strait of Dover, sitting at 250 ft below the sea bed at its lowest point, and with its undersea portion stretching a total of 23.5 miles (37.9 km), the longest of any tunnel in the world. Actually going through the tunnel was pretty underwhelming because, you know, it’s just darkness like any other train tunnel, but thinking about the sheer amount of water that was sitting above us made it more exciting.

The fish and chips to go was a nice idea in theory—in practice it was messy and difficult, but still delicious!

Upon disembarking at St. Pancras station, we were quite hungry, so we decided to walk to a restaurant serving a quintessentially British food: fish & chips. We got our orders to go, but fish & chips proved very difficult to eat without forks and while walking, so we sat down on a deserted curb to have our delicious feast, then took the Tube to our AirBNB.

On Saturday, we had a leisurely morning and ate lunch at the ubiquitous Pret a Manger. (I found it ironic that the classic London fast food chain has a French name.) Then, we went to go see the British Museum. Even without the incredible exhibits it houses, the sheer size of the building was impressive—the center of the museum is a huge open expanse of white marble, with sunlight streaming in through the roof and a massive stone pillar of rooms rising out from the center of the cavernous space. Highlights of our visit included the Rosetta Stone, giant Egyptian statues, and an interactive exhibit about a man mummified thousands of years ago.

Soren showed us the Royal Courts of Justice building in London. The pointed arches and circular window are reminiscent of Gothic cathedrals, which we’ve been studying extensively in HTS 2084 at Georgia Tech Lorraine!

At the museum, we met up with one of my best friends from high school, Soren, who’s currently studying abroad at the London School of Economics! After we were done wandering around the exhibits, he showed us around his campus. We saw his dorms, a couple of lecture halls, and the giant LSE library, among other places. He’s studying there for a year, but he’s only been there for three weeks so far, so it’s a very different feeling for him than for us, who already have two months at GTL under our belt. Seeing how he’s just starting his study abroad experience really made it hit home that we were already halfway done with ours.

Lastly, we decided to go to the famous Brick Lane for dinner to get Indian food! The whole street was filled with different Indian restaurants, with people outside each one trying to entice customers to choose theirs. We chose one based off of reviews we had read beforehand and chose several dishes to share between us, including butter chicken, chana masala, vegetable biryani, and naan, of course.

Hannah and Sarah with our delicious Brick Lane meal!

Overall, we had a marvelous time in London with good friends and good food, and I would love to visit again someday to see more of the bustling but beautiful city!

This Is What “Peak” Performance Looks Like

This was the trip that is undoubtedly the high point (literally) of my European travels: Interlaken, Switzerland. Not only was it one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, but I climbed my first mountain there, something that I’ve always dreamed of accomplishing!

I could barely take my eyes off of the beautiful, grassy hills and the spectacular mountains, which was somewhat problematic for my stubbed toes.

Interlaken is a lovely town situated between two lakes (hence the name), which looked stunning with a beautiful mountain backdrop as we rode the train into the city. Walking down the main boulevard, we saw many quintessentially Swiss things, from watch stores to chocolatiers to a fondue restaurant, all the while marveling at the soaring mountains that framed the sky. One of the most exciting parts of this walk was seeing hang gliders and paragliders soaring and swooping through the sky! They floated down from the mountains and we sat and watched, fascinated, as they all landed on a huge green lawn in the center of the city.

We stopped to take scenic pictures and have a nutritious lunch of brioche, Nutella, bananas, nuts, and other snacks.

The next day, we were ready to hike! The woman at the tourism office recommended that we walk through the valley of waterfalls, as it was very beautiful and suitable for beginners. We decided not to follow her advice, however—we wanted to see the sights from high up, so we decided to attempt a hike to the summit of the Schilthorn from a little mountain town called Mürren.

After stocking up on food and taking two trains and a gondola from Interlaken to reach Mürren, we were ready to begin. It was 11 am when we started, so our goal was to get as far as we could by 3 pm and then turn around to allow us enough time to catch the trains back to Interlaken. The beginning of the hike took us through rolling hills and many pastures, punctuated by the constant clinking of cowbells and the occasional moo. Sadly, the cows did not really want to be pet.

I found a nice branch early on the hike that I used for a walking stick the rest of the way up. It proved very helpful, especially in the slippery snow!

As the hours passed and we continued to ascend, the trail turned from sharp, steep switchbacks up grassy hills to a flatter, rocky path towards the final summit, and then to no path at all as we approached the most difficult part of the journey. At this point we had truly transitioned from hiking to climbing: we carefully pulled ourselves up rocky ledges, following spray painted arrows through the otherwise confusing landscape, and we gingerly made our way up steep, snowy inclines, testing our weight with every step and hoping that the powder wouldn’t give way

On the way down, I was often prone to sprinting down the mountainside, both because it was fun but also because the steep slope made it hard to stop, so you can see my traveling buddies in the distance behind me along with the foggy mountain peak.

beneath our feet. Near the top, thankfully, there were ropes to pull ourselves up the more treacherous inclines, and railings to hold as we crossed narrow rock bridges towards our goal.

With our tired lungs and aching legs, we finally reached the peak of the mountain—at precisely 3:00 pm! I can’t describe the feeling I had when I reached the top; after 4 hours and after scaling 4,366 feet of vertical elevation, I was so exhilarated, so full of endorphins from the strenuous hike up, and so proud of our achievement that all I could think was “When can I do this again?” I’ve always wanted to climb a mountain at some point in my life, and after actually doing it that desire has only gotten stronger. This amazing trip really opened my eyes to the wonders of hiking and climbing, and I can’t wait until my next opportunity to test my limits and scale taller summits!

On the way down the mountainside, after the rain had stopped, we were treated with an absolutely gorgeous double rainbow!!

The Tale of Two Countries: Waffles, Fries, Bikes, and History

 

Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp

This past weekend, I visited not one, but two countries near France! The first stop of my weekend trip began in Antwerp, Belgium! In Antwerp, I was able to eat some of the most amazing waffles I ever had in my entire life, munch on crispy Belgian fries, go shopping, and embrace the different architectural styles of each city. Something that fascinated me about Antwerp was it had the bustle a big city while still maintaining an old town vibe. Even though there were many tourists visiting all the restaurants, museums, and shopping, it seemed as if the locals were enjoying big tourist spots just as much as well. Another thing I really appreciated about Belgium is their craft for making the best waffles in the world, as I not only had one waffle, but two during my stay!

Architecture in Antwerp

 

After checking Antwerp of the list of places to visit, next on the list was Amsterdam, Netherlands. Walking out of the Amsterdam Central Station the next day, I was immediately hit with The Fault in Our Stars vibes and was surrounded by tourists

Me in front of the Royal Palace in Amsterdam

early in the morning. The first item on the list of places to see that day was Bloemenmarkt, the famous flower market in Amsterdam. Walking to see the market made me more aware of my safety and the safety of the massive amount of bicyclists in Amsterdam! Bikes where everywhere: cruising down the street, chained all along the canal, and on the sidewalks. As I made it to the street of the market, I saw tulip buds for purchase everywhere, cute cafés on the other side, and a Christmas shop. While the flower market was beautiful and the scents from the flowers wafted through the air, the Christmas shop stole my attention with the “66 days until Christmas sign”! After buying an Amsterdam themed Christmas ornament, my stomach was growling and I knew it was time for lunch. At lunch, I ate a savory chicken curry sandwich from Toastable, a very cute and non-touristy café. After lunch, I saw The Anne Frank House, where Anne Frank lived when she was in hiding with her family during World War II.

 

Amsterdam

Amsterdam had great sights to see, things to do, and museums to visit, however, I was slowly running out of time to do many of the great things the city has to offer. As a compromise, I decided to learn more about the history of Amsterdam and see sights at the same time! That day, I took a free classical tour of Amsterdam that covered many gems of the city, social classes during different times, changes in the industry, and architecture of the city. During the tour, it was interesting to learn more about the history, such as squatting and the Dutch East Indian Company. After my tour, my time in Amsterdam came to a close as the train back to Antwerp would be leaving soon. Once I made it back to Antwerp, I did the one thing I knew I had to do: eat another Belgian waffle! 

Delicious Belgian Waffle

The next morning began a bit frantically at the train station once I looked to see which platform my first connection train would be on and it saw “afgeschaft” under the train time. Do you know what that means in Dutch? It means abolished! My first train of the day was canceled, however, thankfully there was a train leaving in 10 minutes that went to the same connection station. Besides that little mishap, making it back to Metz was a breeze. I truly did enjoy my trip to Amsterdam and Antwerp because it was relaxing, fun, and involved quick thinking when it came to changes in travel plans. I also greatly appreciated the amount of knowledge I was able to gain from learning more about the history of Amsterdam. Amsterdam and Antwerp truly were great places to eat delicious food and have some good times.

How to Enjoy A Travel-Free Weekend in Metz

Centre Pompidou-Metz

This weekend, I decided to stay in Metz and take a break from traveling. While traveling at GTL is great and thus far has been the highlight of my experience, I realized I needed to hit pause and take a break to refocus on school and finances. While studying abroad at GTL, I would highly recommend taking a couple of weekends to relax in Metz, and explore the city even more. While doing so, I was more productive with my schoolwork and has new experiences.

While taking my first break from traveling in a month, I decided to explore more that Metz has to offer. This weekend I went to the Centre Pompidou and saw the amazing, vibrant artwork that decorated the museum. To my surprise, the museum was a lot more than seeing artwork on walls; it was an interactive experience as well. Throughout the museum, they had interactive exhibits such as walking in a dark room with blinking lights, a room called “Little Cafe” where you could write and draw on the walls of the exhibit in chalk, and a purple hued room playing piano tunes.

Little Cafe in the Museum (an interactive chalk artwork display)

As I entered the purple room exhibit, all of my senses were intrigued as my eyes were seeing dimly lit purple lights and walls, my feet walking on a plush purple-hued carpet, and my ears hearing erratic, yet strangely calming piano sounds. As I sat in the room, I was overcome with a sense of peace. After I experienced a bit of what the room had to offer, I made my way to my favorite part of my visit. At the entrance of the Centre Pompidou, there was a giant metallic ball in which I walked in and was surrounded by a layout of the constellations. I enjoyed the museum as I was able to not only see artwork, but also interact with it and be a part of creating it.

My favorite part about visiting the Pompidou Centre was that I was able to standing inside of this giant metallic globe and see a portrayal of the constellations.

After visiting the Centre Pompidou, I walked to the nearby mall, the Muse, and went shopping until my hunger and account balance put me to an end. So much for me looking out for my finances this weekend! The mall was stunning and filled with high-end brands and department stores alike. My favorite part of my shopping experience was going to Primark; I was in shopping heaven as I was able to catch their fall sale of the year. After shopping and making my bank account just a little more depressing to look at, I ate lunch at a local Chinese restaurant near the mall. The best part about staying in Metz for the weekend was experiencing different things, and being able to go back to my room and study and complete my homework for the week without the guilt of attempting to do homework in a new country or city.

As my weekend in Metz came to a close, I decided to go on a hunt for the chicest and most comfortable café to get some more studying done. While staying in Metz for the weekend is fun, it can get boring stay in the dorms doing work or watching Netflix. The best decision I made was to get out and about and change the scenery in which I would study for the day. When entering Fox Café, I was greeted with the vintage chic, coffeehouse vibes I dearly love. The café was great, and the food and desserts were tasty as I decided to get lunch there! I would highly recommend checking out this little café if you ever need a change of scenery because they have wifi, is close to the train station, and the best part, for my non-French speaking peers like myself, is they speak English!  

Lunch and studying at Fox Cafe

Overall, I had a satisfying weekend staying in Metz, and catching up on some things and work. The benefits of traveling are incomparable, however, make sure to recognize when you may feel stressed or need a break from travels to regroup. It is difficult at times to keep a balance of studies and trying to reap all the opportunities of being abroad at the same time; always make sure to maintain a good mental health and grades through it all. While staying in Metz this weekend, I was able to visit a museum, go shopping, finish my homework for the week, study in advance for a quiz, do laundry without competing for a washer and dryer, and find my new favorite study spot. You never know what you can discover if you just take a minute to press pause.

Day Trips Are Delightful

This past weekend was the first weekend that I stayed in Metz since the start of GTL. On Friday I went on a day trip to Luxembourg, and on Saturday to Nancy and Colmar, but at night I came home to my blissfully familiar Lafayette dorm. I’ve loved all of the adventures I’ve had and the gallivanting around Europe that I’ve done so far, but after a busy and stressful week packed with three midterms, I was very ready to have a calmer, more chill weekend. It was quite refreshing not to have to worry about the usual travelling concerns, like lodgings, train reservations and schedules, packing my backpack within an inch of its life, and inevitably forgetting my pajamas.

Our hearts may have been set on the hot chocolate, but these beautiful rainbow-colored truffles were enticing as well.

Pear cinnamon isn’t a flavor combination I would ever have thought of for hot chocolate, but I’m glad someone did because it was marvelous!

It was a beautiful day as we walked around Luxembourg after our short morning train ride. Our first and most imperative stop was at The Chocolate House! They had hot chocolate spoons in a massive variety of strange and wonderful flavors, so we ordered some with hot milk and stirred them until they melted into perfectly delicious hot cocoa. After wandering the city and taking a nice nap in a sunny park, we decided to go to the Mudam, the museum of modern art in Luxembourg. This was definitely one of the coolest museums I’ve seen thus far. (And also free for students! Hooray!) It’s situated on top of an old fort, Fort Thüngen, and the juxtaposition of the ancient brick walls with the sleek architecture of the museum created a very neat aesthetic. The main exhibition was a series of kinetic sculptures themed around wind and water called Spaceship,by Susumu Shingu. My favorite piece was this fascinating moving water sculpture, which we sat and watched, mesmerized, for at least ten minutes.

This is only one side of an amazing sculpture we saw at the Mudam. As you can see, it was a conglomeration of all sorts of random things, including plastic plants, yarn, water, sticks, a fan, some tea, pebbles, etc. Some parts of it moved, too!

The next day, on Saturday, we went to Nancy! It was a lovely city, with lots of gold leaf and casually ornate facades and gates. First we ventured into the city’s cathedral, something I always like to do when exploring a new city. While Gothic cathedrals obviously share many similarities, each one has its own personality and character, and it’s always very calming and beautiful to amble along the ambulatory and look at the stained glass. Later, we stumbled upon a Japanese botanical garden exhibit in a square, complete with intricate sculptures, flowers, a koi pond, and many bonsai trees. It was incredibly beautiful, and it was wonderful to see the local residents enjoying the public art as much as we did.

I really love plants, especially succulents and bonsai trees, so stumbling upon this botanical garden in the middle of Nancy that had both of those things was the most pleasant of pleasant surprises!

After having a hearty lunch at a pizza place, we power-walked to the train station to avoid missing our train to Colmar. There, we wandered around the old town and admired the beautiful houses, cobblestone streets, picturesque canals, and innumerable dogs. We ate some yummy crepes and spent lots of time sitting in a park, just talking and people-watching as a group of teenagers did tricks on their bikes and as children played nearby in a fountain. On the whole it was a lovely, relaxing weekend to explore interesting cities in closer proximity to our home in Metz!

Colmar was just as cute as you would hope an old French town would be (it reminded me a bit of the villagee from Beauty and the Beast!).

Nice is Nice!

The picture speaks for itself!

I stepped off the train in Nice, France and was greeted with moisture in the air, people walking around wearing summer clothes, and surrounded by multi-colored buildings and bustling streets. The city is a dream summer location spot. And the deeper we made it into the city, the more I started to smell the beach breeze in the air. I was so happy to be in a place that did not frown upon shorts and sandals, being able to dive in the cool water, and just have a great time.

Even though the train ride to Nice was 9 hours long, that did not stop my excitement. The first thing I did was eat delicious homemade Italian pasta, and go on the pebble-covered beach! The beach was beautiful: the water was a glistening turquoise color, it was surrounded by vibrant colored houses and rocks cascading up the rocks, and people of all ages walked along the beach. Later on that afternoon my friends and I ate the best gelato ever, saw a street show with a man jumping over fire, and enjoyed the nightlife in Nice.

The next day, I took a monumental step in my traveling journey as I visited another country on my own. After basking in the sun at the beach and eating even more Italian food, I walked into the train station in Nice alone to head to Monaco! The train was less than 30 minutes away from Nice; I began my little journey to one of the most beautiful, expensive places in the world. Getting off the train in Monaco, I felt independent, happy, and nervous about what to expect exploring the city on my own. I didn’t have anyone else making suggestions on which ways to turn or what to do. It was just me, and what I wanted to do! It felt great walking down the streets seeing hidden monuments along the way, stopping and taking pictures, soaking in the scenery, and wandering around. Never once in my life have I felt so unattached from the rest of the world and complete at the same time. It felt awesome to be able to discover something new on my own!

The famous casino Monte Carlo in Monaco.

While in Monaco, I passed by the famous Monte Carlo Casino, walked through the Princesse Grace Rose Garden, walked past people casually cruising around in Ferrari’s and walking around with Gucci logos dripping from every piece of clothing they were wearing, asked other tourists to take my picture, and sat on the small pebbles of Larovette Beach. My favorite part of my solo travel day trip was that I never felt out of place or uncomfortable; I felt like a tourist enjoying my surroundings. While I was there, I even went to Starbucks to get a peach citrus green tea! Something I was surprised to see was the plant life being a combination of desert plants and lush greenery.


As my trip in Nice came to a close, I was able to shimmy my way throughout dinner as a musician and singer performed in the Mexican Restaurant we ate at, eat more gelato, hang out with other American students traveling abroad, and go shopping along the main strip. Remember how I said I fell in love with Paris a few weeks ago? Well, Nice comes in as a close second. I loved the culture of the city as it felt fun, carefree, and peaceful! When leaving Nice, I rolled past the clear blue water, white and orange houses, cacti, and rocky mountains covered in a lush green terrine. Heading back to GTL, I felt more relaxed than I did when I left. I had come to realize that even though planning trips can be stressful at times with having to make reservations, finding places to stay, and getting studying and coursework is done before leaving, it is relaxing to get away and truly fulfill the study abroad experience.

Magic in Munich – Experiencing Oktoberfest

During the third weekend of September, I found myself in Munich, Germany for Oktoberfest! (Quite ironically, in my opinion, but who am I to argue with tradition and warm September weather?) It seemed like half of Georgia Tech-Lorraine was going as well—I myself was staying in a 20-person AirBNB occupied entirely by GTL students, and I saw many others, both undergraduate and graduate students, on the trains to and from Munich.

On Saturday morning, the first day of the festival, we went to see the opening parade, which led through the city and ended on the Oktoberfest grounds where the Mayor of Munich would officially commence the celebrations. It was a lively and fun time: the procession included marching bands playing lively anthems, countless people dressed in traditional Bavarian garb, many horse-drawn carriages, and, incidentally, one cow-drawn carriage.

After the parade ended, we followed the steadily streaming crowd towards the massive Oktoberfest grounds. The huge rides and attractions, the colorful food stands emanating delicious smells, the pervasive souvenir shops and the masses of humanity—all of it reminded me of the state fairs I’d been to back in the United States. The difference was that everything here was steeped in German culture. Instead of shorts and t-shirts, everywhere we looked we saw dirndls and lederhosen. Instead of corn dogs, cotton candy, and endless fried concoctions, the food stands were brimming with schnitzel, pretzels, and gingerbread. Amidst all these Bavarian traditions, however, Oktoberfest was easily one of the most touristy destinations I’ve visited. As we wandered through the crowds, I heard English being spoken as often as not.

As the rides were quite expensive, we decided that we only wanted to try one; so, naturally, we needed to choose the best and craziest one to satisfy our thrill-seeking. The Ferris wheel, rollercoasters, and merry-go-rounds were too mundane—we settled instead on a ridiculous, crazily spinning contraption that looked like a cross between a pendulum and a wagon wheel. Upon vaguely googling this to try to find out what it was, I discovered that there’s a list of carnival rides on Wikipedia! Ours was most similar to one called the Top Scan. I decided to see if I could spend the whole ride with my eyes open as the world spun around me (to test my future astronaut potential), an idea that was actually far more fun and far less nauseating than I anticipated!

The food was by far one of the best parts not just of Oktoberfest, but of my Munich experience in general. At the festival, we tried curryworst, a spicy saucy sausage on a bun that proved incredibly messy to eat but very yummy nonetheless. Our other fair fare (hehe) included apple funnel cake, gingerbread, frites, and a beautiful chocolate covered apple. On the Sunday morning before we left, we walked to an unassuming bakery a few blocks from where we were staying and got sandwiches and pastries, and I had one of the most delicious chocolate-filled donuts I’ve ever tasted. Finally, as we prepared to depart from the Munich train station, I realized my fatal mistake: I had come all this way to Germany and failed to eat a pretzel! I got one for the road before we left and ate it on the train, satisfied with the wonderful taste of Munich that this weekend had given me.

 

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