To GT-Lorraine...and Beyond!

Over 25 years of academic excellence and adventure

An Abundance of Art in France

This was one of my favorite pieces at the color exhibit at Le Pompidou. I like it because although it isn’t supposed to be a picture of anything in particular, I can stare at it for hours and keep finding new images within the abstract shapes.

As of this weekend, I have now been in France for over a month! In that time, I’ve somehow managed to see so much art and visit enough museums that I can hardly keep track of them all. In Paris with my family, I visited essentials such as the Louvre and the Museé d’Orsay; Giverny, where Monet lived and painted his famous water lilies; the excess and gilded splendor of Versailles; and L’Atelier des Lumieres, a place best described as a digital art center showcasing immersive experiences. Since arriving at Georgia Tech Lorraine, I’ve also seen Le Pompidou in Metz, the Baron Gerard Museum of Art and History in Bayeux, and the MAS (Museum aan de Stroom) in Antwerp, not to mention the many public artworks and beautiful buildings I’ve witnessed during my wanderings.

Seeing so much art has made me think about the purpose of both art and museums, and about the ways humans choose to express themselves. There are so many functions of museums—to preserve collective memory, to educate visitors about the past and the present, and to create an experience for the viewer, among other things. There are even more reasons behind the creation of art, and it’s been very interesting to observe how those reasons have changed over time.

The Winged Victory of Samothrace at the Louvre, created around the 2nd century B.C.

The Louvre, or at least the part we visited (it’s SO very large) was mostly comprised of older art, from ancient eras to medieval times; in general, from before the 19th century. Much of the art, from the massive commissioned oil paintings to the Greek and Roman sculptures, is as realistic as possible, aiming both to capture the details of human form and often to tell a story or promote an ideology. Pieces were often used to convey political messages as well. For instance, the massive painting of the Coronation of Napoleon, with its intricate detail and over one hundred visible characters, is visually stunning, but also specifically intended to paint the emperor (pardon the pun) in a positive light. Similarly, at Versailles, there were portraits and statues of various kings all around, most made to look more majestic than the subjects they portray actually were.

One of Van Gogh’s most famous self portraits.

While the technical expertise and beauty of these realistic works is marvelous, my favorite works of art have always been those that seek to portray the world in a way that it’s never been viewed before—as a result I’m a big fan of Impressionism and of the more modern art styles that followed, from the 19th century onward. The way that Monet’s Water Lilies captures the softness of the scene, the way that Van Gogh brought out so much emotion with his color work, the strangeness and abstractness of the modern art at Le Pompidou – those are my favorite works of art to experience, when something completely different or entirely new is created from what already exists.

This polar bear by François Pompon at the Musee D’Orsay was one of my favorite pieces. It’s so minimalistic and made of such simple shapes, but captures so much movement and personality.

Most of all, I love how every work of art has the reflection of a person within it. Each piece says something about the artist, about the time when it was made, about society, in some way, whether or not the meaning was included intentionally. I could continue to talk about art to no end, but mostly I’m glad that my learning about it and my museum-visiting days have no end in sight!

Did You Know Interlaken Means Between Two Lakes?

I was rushing after my Thursday classes to go to the grocery store and make sure I had everything packed for my trip to Interlaken. Making it the train station in time, some students and I began our five-hour journey to one of the most peaceful and sweetest places I have ever been to: Interlaken, Switzerland. Traveling to Switzerland during the night made waking up the next morning jaw-dropping. We woke up to the sunlight beaming through the windows, and I walked outside with a dewy mist in the air to see lush green and rocky mountains, a crystal blue river, and a quaint city with houses decorated by little red and pink flowers.

Woke up to this view of the Interlaken Mountains!

My first day of adventure in Interlaken consisted of me sitting in a wobbly kayak as I paddled in Lake Brien. When I stepped into the kayak, I did not expect it to sway so much or be so difficult to paddle quickly. This was not my first water excursion, as I have para-sailed, jet skied, and white water rafted before; however, kayaking was something that truly tested my strength and endurance because if I wanted to move to go anywhere, I had to paddle myself. This experience was so much fun, tiring, and hilarious as I struggled to paddle for the first twenty minutes because my paddle was backward!

Kayaking in Lake Brien.

mass of turquoise water that stretched beyond eyesight, beautiful mountains, and the small towns in the mountains surrounded me. While racing other GTL students in kayaking competitions, wading in the water, and soaking in the sun, I was able to think about all the things I was able to do since studying abroad. After making it safely back to shore, we ate a traditional Swiss dinner at the restaurant next to the kayaking place; there I ordered fried eggs and ham for the first time.

Fried eggs and ham dinner.

At the top of Harderkulm!

During this trip, I truly stepped out of my comfort zone! The next day I went hiking in Grindelwald, Switzerland. I was glad that I came ready with hiking shoes, snacks, water, and a light jacket. The scenery was breathtaking – quite literally, as my lungs and legs were challenged hiking up the mountain. About halfway through the hike, we realized that the hike was a medium skill level and a lot longer than we thought it would be. With my overdramatic self, I made my way up the mountain and was greeted with a much-earned view. When I say Interlaken is beautiful, it truly is as no picture could ever capture its full beauty! After lunch, I was able to check something off my Interlaken bucket list as I slid down the mountains on the Alpine Slide. Later that afternoon, I also took the daring, steep eight minute ride to the top of Harderkulm, the tallest mountain in Interlaken, to see the most beautiful view of the city and watch the sunset. If you ever go to Interlaken, Harderkulm and hiking are a must! Interlaken had a lot of adventure to offer, with skydiving, zip lining, paragliding, hang gliding, and kayaking all offered.

A traditional Swiss performance in the middle of the streets of Interlaken.

While leaving Interlaken, I realized that since starting my study abroad experience I was able to travel to three countries and a handful of cities within a span of less than a month. Studying abroad has not only changed my outlook on what other places look like and the history of them but also how people are so different culturally everywhere you go. Interlaken was nothing short of breathtaking, relaxing, adventure-filled, and culturally educational. I would highly recommend anyone to visit here as the opportunities of fun and adventure are limitless!

GTL Visit to the Orchestra Rehearsal

On a Wednesday afternoon, a group of GTL students and myself walked over to the Orchestre National de Lorraine to watch the orchestra rehearse for an upcoming performance they would have the following weekend. Before entering the orchestra, one of the organizers of our visit discussed with us what we would be listening to, what to expect, and the rules of listening in on the orchestra. Walking into the building, we were greeted with curious looks and warm smiles, as a group of about thirty twenty-something year old students walked into the rehearsal room.

Orchestre Nationale de Lorraine

As the we sat in the rehearsal room waiting for it to start, I observed the musicians warming up and tuning their instruments, the choir streaming into the rehearsal room and practicing their vocals, but I was suddenly shocked with what I saw next. Before the orchestra began rehearsing their pieces, in walked a little boy who looked about ten years old with his mother. You may think that this is not shocking at all as you would likely assume that the child would be waiting on his mother to finish rehearsal. Well, you would be slightly mistaken because as the organist began to play, this child began to sing! Yes, he sung one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard a child sing. It was truly beautiful to see such a young person with so much talent, dedication, potential, poise – not to mention the respect from the older musicians and singers as they admired him doing his solo.

Once the boy finished his solo, the true beautiful chaos started. As rehearsal began, the conductor lifted his hands with his baton, and the musicians abruptly sat upright in their chairs with their instruments waiting to be played. Beginning his conducting, the conductor cued for the small, delicate hum of sounds from the flute as the musician began her flute solo of the first piece the orchestra was playing. Throughout the performance the music escalated in intensity and backed off delicately. As I sat on the bench listening in, I closed my eyes and tried to picture what I would see based on the sounds I was hearing. I could see nature, a town, peace and happiness, and then a final rush of excitement. During rehearsal, the orchestra played Requiem by Fauré and Prelude by Debussy. The rehearsal came to a close with the choir rehearsing with the orchestra one of the songs for the performance. Their range of vocals reverberated through the room, smoothly going along with the music the orchestra was playing. While I was never really into classical music or played an instrument before, it was really nice to experience a professional orchestra rehearsal and see the musicians living their passion.

Orchestra rehearsal

After the orchestra rehearsal, I asked another GTL student what she thought of the rehearsal performance. She said, “Playing classical music for so long, it was a really great and unique experience to see professionals rehearse. I especially enjoyed Wednesday’s rehearsal because one of the pieces they were practicing was Requiem by Fauré who is my favorite composer.” For the GTL students who are very interested in classical music and play instruments, they thoroughly enjoyed the experience as it was a behind the scenes look to something they are passionate about. Overall, it was really nice to see GTL students’ faces light up as the orchestra played, some even following along with sheet music on their phones, and the orchestra to see students interested in their profession.

Just Some Twerps in Antwerp

Marcel, sitting in a basket being adorable, and the equally adorable wedding album of our hosts!

Last weekend, I went on my first international trip this semester, to Belgium! After arriving late at night on Thursday and fiddling with confusing key mechanisms (a feature that seems to me to be universal among European doors), our merry band of five managed to enter our home for the next three days, a lovely three-story townhouse. We never met our AirBNB hosts in person, but before long I wanted them to be my new best friends: they had fruits and veggies growing on their terrace, lots of board games, a stamp collection, carnivorous plants (!!!), and best of all, a very shy but adorable cat named Marcel. (It became my personal mission to win over Marcel by the end of our stay, which I finally succeeded in doing by giving him his breakfast on the day of our departure.)

The menu may have been in English, but the hot chocolate was decidedly Belgian (and delicious!)

     On Friday morning, we walked into the city in hopes of finding breakfast at an open market that someone had heard of, but when we arrived, we discovered that said market was not a food market at all, but a furniture market with no food to be found. Luckily, there was a delightful (if somewhat touristy) breakfast place nearby. It was here that we had our first taste of Belgian chocolate—the hot chocolate we ordered consisted of fine melted flakes of chocolate stirred in warm milk and had a generous helping of whipped cream.

 

You know you’re in Belgium when you see shops that say Chocoholic and I <3 Waffles right next to each other. You also know you are a tourist, but that’s ok.

After walking around and exploring the city for some time, we encountered yet another classic Belgian food: frites. Frites are French fries (ironic) and they’re typically sold with any of a variety of amazing sauces. Between the five of us, we tried mayonnaise (the most traditional topping), curry, and curry ketchup—all were delicious, and I ended up quite enjoying the mayonnaise despite my initial hesitation. We ate them for lunch under the Cathedral of Our Lady, near a statue depicting the legend of the name of Antwerp, which is Antwerpen in Dutch. According to folklore, the city was once ruled by a giant named Antigoon until a hero arrived, severed the giant’s hands, and threw them in the river; in Dutch, “hand throwing” is hand-werpen, which eventually turned into Antwerpen. As a result, the hand motif is visible all around the city, from little

The Cathedral of Our Lady was a key landmark in Antwerp, always visible as we wandered the city. You can see it here next to some crow-stepped gables, a traditional rooftop style in Flanders.

hand-shaped chocolates to hand sculptures adorning the walls of the MAS, the museum we visited later that day.

 

     After visiting the museum and touring a brewery where we learned how beer is made, we continued wandering the city and came across a busy square with jazz and swing dancing! It was wonderful fun to watch, and the songs were in English so we could understand the lyrics. Interestingly enough, in addition to more croon-y and traditional sounding jazzy tunes, they also played “I Wanna Be Like You” from The Jungle Book! We had our first Belgian waffles later that night (mine with strawberries and cream!), which were even more delicious than I had hoped. Waffles there aren’t made with batter but instead with quite a thick dough, and they were sweeter and more cake-like than waffles in the U.S.

We had a makeshift picnic dinner on the train returning from Bruges. After the conductor came to check our tickets, he wished us “Bon appetit!”

The next day we took a day trip to Bruges, which was about an hour’s train ride away. While Antwerp had been busier and more modern, Bruges was almost like Disneyland, with its cobblestone streets and picturesque facades, the horse-drawn carriages around every corner, and the abundance of gift shops. We wandered the city for a long time and in the process happened upon many unplanned but wonderful things. We stumbled a fencing and sword-fighting tournament between two windmills, where a friendly Dutch man explained to us in detail all the rules of the games, and we also ran into an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for longest toast ever, with a line stretching hundreds of people long! It’s certainly fun to plan things during travels and to try to see as much as possible, but with all the many pleasant surprises we encountered in Belgium, this trip has made me an advocate of wandering around just to see what wonders you’ll discover.

Why Day Trips are the Best

Waking up with it still being dark outside is not always the most pleasant experience, especially when you are not a morning person. I was not the happiest person as I dragged myself out of my bed in the GTL dorms at 4:30 AM. Entering the train station, I immediately made a beeline for Starbucks, as it was my travel ritual and a dire necessity at this point. For the first weekend in a long time, I was traveling more locally around Europe. When I say travel locally, I am implying that the train ride would be less than 2 hours. This weekend, I decided to travel to Colmar, France and Luxembourg City, Luxembourg!

The Old Town of Colmar

The first stop on my weekend travels was Colmar, France. My friend and I arrived at the train station in Colmar at 9 AM. When we initially planned our travel times to arrive in the city, we thought that the city would just be starting its day. Little to our surprise, the people in Colmar surely like to get their rest we found out, as everything was closed until about 10:30 AM. When the city did awaken, it was a peaceful experience to see schools in session on a Friday, coffee shops and stores opening, and the the scent of freshly baked pretzels filling the air in the market. We had a great time as we were able to go shopping, try new foods, do a boat ride in this small town affectionately called “Little Venice,” and see the beautiful, colorful, quaint little houses of the Old Town.

The awesome part of doing a day trip to Luxembourg the next day was that I was able to visit another country! Luxembourg was actually on my list of countries to visit because it is the second richest county in the world, and I was dying to see what the hype was all about. Stepping off the train, we entered a very modern looking city only for it to drastically change into an old, medieval-looking town. In Luxembourg City, the old forts and castle still stand in the city center. It was a great city to see in one day! Everything was conveniently placed in the center of Luxembourg, and there were enough museums, shopping, sites, restaurants, and local life to fill one day.

The best part about day trips is that we saw all the attractions we wanted to see and ate all the food our hearts desired, and then we were able to go back to GTL! It was so refreshing to take a train without a reservation, explore a new city on my bucket list, see the change in culture between French cities and neighboring countries, and be able to sleep in my bed at the end of the day. Another perk about day trips is that the stress of finding a place to sleep for the weekend, budgeting for meals and activities for three days, and organizing reservations and transportation is essentially nonexistent. It was also nice to not feel stressed wondering if you packed all the essential clothes needed for a weekend, or trying to bustle to the train station after classes.

Inside the Bock Casemates

While I can say that traveling to a place for an entire weekend is a more immersive experience, day trips are a great alternative if you are tired from extensive traveling, want to catch up on school work, trying to save some money, or visiting a smaller nearby city. I think it is a great idea to try a day trip at least once while studying at Georgia Tech Lorraine. Below I included a list of things we did in Colmar and Luxembourg City to give a small idea of what can be accomplished in a day trip!

Colmar, France

Bretzels in Colmar

The city is absolutely gorgeous! It is colorful and full of little senior citizen tourist groups everywhere. When I visited here, I felt extremely comfortable and safe. The locals here were very kind, and many spoke English well. If you visit here, make sure to use your student ID for the Statue of Liberty museum, take a boat ride on the river, and eat one of their bretzels!

List of Things to See:  Old Town, shopping, a boat ride in Little Venice, Musee Bartholdi (free with student ID), Presbytere Protestant de Colmar, Collegiate Saint-Martin de Colmar, Schwendi Fountain

Must Try Local Foods: Bretzel (pretzel with melted cheese) and kugelhopf (sponge cake with nuts and cherry brandy)

 

Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

In comparison to all the cities I have visited so far, I would definitely say that Luxembourg City has been most of the modern. It was very safe, peaceful, and mainly everything was located around the city center. We only needed about 5-6 hours to get a lot done in our day.

View of Luxembourg City from the top of the Bock Casemates

List of Things to See: Notre-Dame Cathedral of Luxembourg, the markets of Place Guillaume, the statue of Duke William II, Bock Casemates (5 euros with student ID), Palace of the Grand Duke, Luxembourg City History Museum (free with student ID), Adolphe Bridge, Neumunster Abbey

Must Try Foods: Chocolate House and ice cream

Grad Student Spotlight: Hugo & Tristan

Tristan (left) and Hugo (right), at home in the GTL student lounge.Today I had the pleasure of interviewing two French graduate students at Georgia Tech Lorraine, Hugo Elissalde and Tristan Ogier! They are on the same track here at GTL—both come from the same engineering school in France, are getting their Master’s degrees in mechanical engineering and will be graduating next year in 2019.

I was a bit nervous about approaching the gaggle of French students outside the GTL classrooms and asking if any of them would be willing to be interviewed for the blog. Thankfully, they were very nice and were good sports about it, and not one, but two grad students agreed to talk with me about their time here! It was a lucky day for me. Although they were about to head to a class as I started speaking to them, they agreed to meet me to be interviewed after their last class later in the day.

Later, in the student lounge, Hugo and Tristan told me about their motivations for coming to Georgia Tech Lorraine.  Hugo said, “For me, it’s because I want to work in America afterwards, and having an American degree helps a lot. Especially Georgia Tech’s.” They both agreed that Georgia Tech was a good school and the most practical choice for their career paths. After they finish their semester here in Metz, they will do six months of internships, followed by a final semester in Atlanta next fall.

When asked what they were most excited about for their semester at GTL, Tristan responded with the program’s proximity to many European countries, including Luxembourg, Belgium, and Germany. The fact that everything is within an hour’s drive or train ride was exciting. Were they going to take any weekend trips? “Far less than the Americans, everybody has planned all their weekends already,” Hugo replied. “It’s more like, we plan on Thursday and Friday what to do for the weekend.” Having already lived in France and Europe, they don’t have the same urgent need as the American students to see and do as much as possible while in Europe. They are hoping to see nearby countries such as Germany and Luxembourg, however, and plan to go to Oktoberfest in a couple of weeks.

Lastly, I started to ask them if they had any fun facts about themselves to share, but midway through the question I realized that icebreakers like this might not be as ubiquitous in France as they are in the United States—so I decided to ask that instead. Do French people share fun facts about each other the way Americans often do when they meet for the first time in group settings? “Not really. When you know each other, you kind of joke about them, but you wouldn’t describe yourself with a fun fact,” Tristan told me. “Yeah, we are boring people,” Hugo chuckled.

On that topic, we will have to disagree. I may not have gotten a “fun fact” out of it, but it was great fun to talk with them and learn about the graduate experience at GTL! Best of luck to Hugo and Tristan with the rest of their semester!

Grad Student Spotlight: Ines El Glaoui

Ines El Glaoui is pursuing her Master’s in mechanical engineering, but before coming to GTL, Ines completed her Bachelor’s degree in Aeronautical Engineering in Morocco at one of GTL’s partner institutions, the Université Internationale de Rabat. What I find interesting about her story is that she did not always want to become an engineer! In fact, her journey to where she is now is not that of a typical engineering student’s. Before deciding to major in AE for her bachelor’s degree, she studied computer science for three years as an undergraduate at a school in France. What made her decide to make the switch more than halfway through school? Ines was not able to successfully completed her third year as a computer science major, and she realized that computer science was not her passion to begin with. When asked why she switched to AE, she said that it just stuck with her and that she has liked it ever since.

While being at GTL for the past two years, she has traveled, researched, and gained a better understanding and taste of American culture. Something many American GTL students have been able to experience is French culture from interacting with graduate students and living in France. However, did we ever stop to think about the reverse of this experience? Of the locals of Metz, France and international students being able to get a small taste of American culture? I certainly did not think this way, and it was shocking to hear that Ines’ favorite part of GTL is getting a partial American experience. Since being at GTL, she says “Being here and being with American [students], makes me have a different point of view then what I had of the States before.” Ines said that she would not have thought it to be so different, but that it has been good to learn that people from the United States are not the same as the languages, cultures, and the way people from different places think. 

In the near future, Ines plans on continuing her travels throughout Europe as she goes to Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. At GTL, she is working on research based on a special acoustics problem studying diffraction in materials. Ines will be graduating in December, and she hopes to work in France, preferably for an aircraft company, to gain as much experience as she can. She believes that her potential is much more in France than Morocco, as she believes that companies in Morocco would not value the international education that she has received from Georgia Tech as much as other places may. Another big reason for Ines deciding to stay in France after graduation is because France has a larger aerospace market; a lot of the industries in Morocco are agricultural and manufacturing. Later on in her career, she says she may move back to Morocco to be closer to family and her home.

Ines is fun, optimistic, and hard-working; when I asked her about her favorite things do in her spare time, she enjoys watching TV shows like Rick and Morty and reading. Some of her biggest pieces of advice for undergraduate students are to not be afraid to fail, to not stress over failing as everything will work out, and to remember that we are still young and have time to accomplish our goals.

Even though Ines’s time is coming to a close at GTL, she is hopeful, calm, and just loving life as she finishes her Master’s and awaits what the future may hold. Ines’ journey to finishing her engineering degrees may have not started out simple, but she is a strong, determined young woman who will continue to accomplish great things. To leave you with Ines’s last words of wisdom, “Don’t worry, be happy!”

Johnny Appleseed Came to Visit!

Once 5:30 PM hit, we were all rushing out of the GTL building doors to make it on the bus in time. Cramming into the bus, many of the GTL students and myself were ready to go vegetable and fruit picking for the first time. With the city bus rolling down the street along the dirt roads to the fields, we pulled up to this small building, grabbed our baskets, and started picking the fruits and vegetables of our choice.

We walked out to the fields, and were instantly surrounded with the smell of nature and flowers. It was really cool to see the beauty of nature, and to see the produce in grocery stores actually growing out of the ground. The first stop many of us made and one of my favorites was going to the strawberry fields! Strawberries were nestled in the green leaves decorated by the small white flowers; this made the strawberry bushes seem even more beautiful. I really enjoyed picking the strawberries and raspberries because those are some of my favorite fruits, but it was also interesting to see how tall and wide the plants actually grow to produce such small fruit. For example, the raspberry trees were taller than me with only a couple handfuls of fruit on their branches.

The next stop in the fields were the apple trees! Did someone call Johnny Appleseed to come visit? Rows and rows of apple trees lined about one fifth of the fields. There were a variety of apples that could be picked from the trees: green, red, pink lady, Gala apples, and even more. Walking through the apple trees, I could truly appreciate the amount of work that goes into picking produce. It was even more satisfying to pick produce that was not genetically engineered in the process of their growth. Pear trees also filled the fields right next to the apple trees, standing just as tall and green.

Picking fruits and vegetables reminded me of home, and the peaceful silence of being in a rural area. Many of the GTL students enjoyed this afternoon activity as well because most of us have never been picking before – and it provided us with a much-needed break from classwork and studying too. It was nice that the Georgia Tech Leonardo Program (the new name for Madame Serafin’s cultural program featured before!) organized the entire event and that transportation was provided to and from campus. Students were able to bond more as a GTL class from this experience. While picking fruits and vegetables, I was also able to meet more students that I would see around, but had never met before.

As we left the fields to buy our items that we picked, we exited with a friendly greeting from the facility’s geese, goats, and chickens. That afternoon consisted of good laughs, smiles, small screams from seeing a bug on a leaf, and interesting conversations. This was an experience that I never would have decided to do on my own, however, this was something I will definitely remember from my time at my GTL study program.

Bayeux—A Historic Treasure

Both the Bayeux Cathedral and the clouds were stunningly majestic.

Last weekend marked the official beginning of my travels from Georgia Tech-Lorraine! My friend Sarah and I chose to stay within France for our first excursion, staying in the beautiful town of Bayeux and taking a day trip to Mont Saint-Michel on Saturday.

This unassuming little apricot croissant (I think this qualifies as a croissant? Forgive me if I’m wrong) is the best pastry I’ve had in France so far.

On Friday, we woke up early to a brisk, sunny morning and ventured from our adorable AirBNB into the quiet town. We were staying just a stone’s throw away from the incredible Bayeux Cathedral, which we used to orient ourselves throughout our time there—when we had first arrived at the train station the afternoon before, we hadn’t even bothered to map our way to the town because we could just walk towards the massive cathedral in the distance! After admiring the church and wandering for a bit, we bought pastries at a small bakery and ate them on a bench in a deserted square; it was a very peaceful time.

 

One night, the cathedral was lit up in beautiful shades of pink, purple, and blue (one of my very favorite color combinations).

We then got ticket bundles to 3 museums for only

This stone road marker, used to delineate the distance between towns, is a relic of the Roman Empire; I believe it’s from 46 BC.

12€, which was pretty nifty. The first was the Musée D’Art Et D’Histoire Baron Gérard, which covered a fascinating variety of topics about the region from Stone Age artifacts to lace-making to modern art. Next we went to see the Bayeux Tapestry, a 75-meter long tapestry depicting in intricate detail the story of William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy. For reference, 75 meters long is more than two-thirds of the length of an American football field (and more than three fourths the length of a soccer field!). Last was the Musée Mémorial de la Bataille du Normandie, telling the story of the Invasion of Normandy near the conclusion of World War II in Europe.

 

These stone arrowheads date back to 2000 BC!

So much history in one day was a lot to process. Especially with our visits book-ended by such a huge time span: we started the day seeing stone arrowheads from thousands of years ago, and ended it with relics of a battle that took place just 70 years ago, so recently and yet so long ago at the same time. It really hit me with how incomprehensibly vast our history is as humans, and impressed upon me the sheer volume of the human experience.

The Battle of Normandy museum was most affecting and most poignant to me—there’s just so much information about an event that took place in such a small period of time (under 2 months), in such a small geographical area, but that was so historically significant. So much planning, so much tension and anxiety, so many lives were forever changed or lost during this one battle in this one war.

That’s the most amazing thing to me, is that there are these places and events that have so profoundly affected the course of history that we have but a cursory knowledge of, and there’s no way to comprehend all of it. Before visiting Bayeux, I hardly knew anything about William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, other than that he conquered something and that he was from Normandy, but someone in the distant past made an entire tapestry about it explaining all the events surrounding his conquest. I had learned about the Battle of Normandy and D-Day in school, but never about the details of the troop movements, the meticulous planning of the military, the journalists who risked their lives to cover the invasion, the logistics of the army hospitals, the reactions of the French towns upon liberation.

Items used and owned by soldiers during the Battle of Normandy, including shaving cream, cigarettes, and a French phrasebook.

Seeing footage of bombs and rubble, of troops marching through the same idyllic French villages I’ve been wandering, I’m very grateful that I have the opportunity not just to enjoy the present, but to learn about the deep history of my home away from home—that I can walk the same streets that have endured so much and picture them in a different era, a different time.

I Just Fell in Love with the City of Love

A couple of weekends ago, I had one of the best weekends of my entire life. It still does not seem real that I visited Paris, France! I was finally able to check this off my bucket list – I always dreamed of going here since I was six years old. Thankfully, Paris certainly did not disappoint.

My first weekend travel was nothing short of great and relaxing. While my week at GTL is usually filled with homework, studying, and trying to eat decent meals; stepping off the Eurail train in Paris completely washed out any negative emotion I may have felt. Flowing into the rush of hundreds of people walking to catch the metro, I ordered my one way tickets to the metro for my stay in Paris. Once my friend and I made to where we were staying, dropped off our bags, and ate lunch at a local café, we headed to the most well-known and must see attractions in Paris, the Eiffel Tower.

The anticipation as we made our way from the metro and saw it ascending towards the sky from a distant had us screeching with excitement as our inner younger selves started to come out. As we got closer to the Eiffel Tower, it grew larger and larger as it filled the center of the city. It was so beautiful that words could not even describe its intricate steel frame-work surrounded by photographers, tourists, people blowing bubbles for kids, and smiling faces from all around the world. I was able to take a ton of pictures and get a better idea of just how big the Eiffel Tower was by taking flights of stairs up to the top. For 5 euros, I was able to walk up to the second level of the Eiffel Tower! You may think that the second level doesn’t sound like much, however, the tower is massive. Massive. I think that walk up flight after flight of stairs consisted of my entire workout for the week. It may be stereotypical and tourist-y, but climbing up the Eiffel Tower and seeing that view is something I would highly recommend for anyone to do if they visit Paris.

To continue our adventures in Paris, we walked around the first day with nothing other designs or plans in our minds. We were just walking around on the streets, people watching, and going into local stores. Being the over-planner that I usually am when it comes to traveling, it was nice to not have a concrete plan for the day as it made the experience more fun, carefree, and memorable. As a result of our wandering, we were able to see the Arc de Triomphe, eat at a local pizza place, see the Hotel de Plaza, and pass by many bakeries. To end the night, I was able to sit in the chilly night air at the top of a boat, as we took a river cruise through Paris passing many of the famous, historical landmarks. The most interesting part of this river boat cruise to me aside from the landmarks was seeing: the restaurants in boats, a dance festival, and the local college crowd leisurely hanging out along the river.

The next day, we were able to visit the Louvre for free, see the Mona Lisa, go shopping in Paris, visit the Notre Dame, and eat the best crêpe I ever had in my entire life! I truly fell in love with Paris when I visited, and would definitely be visiting there many more times to come. French culture is something I am coming to appreciate more and more. The way people interact with one another in France, take their time throughout the day, and gleam with happiness makes me love the country even more.

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