A Nice time in Nice

Kaela is back on the blog, detailing her experiences on the beaches of Nice. Read on for her description of pebble beaches and moments to remember.

Friday, October 2, 2020 | Written by Kaela

NICE, FRANCE 

I had been looking forward to this trip since the beginning of my time at GTL. It was the first weekend trip I had independently planned of the semester. What started out as a six person trip with fellow INTA 2221 classmates, ended up being a twenty-two person excursion with half the undergraduate program. As John Heywood said, “the more, the merrier!” When making reservations with an eurail pass, the seats are, unfortunately, assigned at random. However, since a large group of us were journeying together, it was easy to find a friendly face no matter what coach you were placed in, making the thirteen hour travel much more enjoyable. We played cards, watched movies, attempted to study, and of course as one does on a long train, napped. After the long voyage, we were greeted by with great weather and beautifully colorful buildings. The buildings in Nice differed greatly from my previous experiences in France: the ornamental style of Paris, the timbered style of Strasbourg, and the limestone style of Metz. 

A view of Nice at sunset
A view of Nice at sunset

With twenty-two of us journeying to Nice, there wasn’t an airbnb large enough to house all of us. So, when we finally reached Nice, we said “au revoir” to our companions and the original six of us headed to our airbnb, with multiple stops for pictures and videos of course. After dropping our bags off, we headed straight to the beach to meet up with the others.  I spent the next few hours traipsing across the beach, feeling like I was stuck in a dream (omitting the difficulty of walking on the large, uncomfortable pebbles). I was surrounded by a breathtaking landscape– immersed in crystal clear water gazing at the sunset painting the sky– laughing with new friends. After a stressful week and lengthy travel, I took a breath of relief in this moment. I, a pisces star sign and lover of all water activities, felt an indescribable amount of peace. As I began to float in the Mediterranean so did the stresses of my journey here. While in a meditative state, floating and relaxing, I began to hear plopping noises to my left. I looked over my shoulder to inquire the source of this noise and found my friends had decided to start skipping rocks (or shall I say throwing rocks). I joined in and made multiple futile attempts to skip one adding to the chorus of plops echoing across the beach.

Pebble Beach

When the sun had completely set, I unwillingly got out of the water and headed to our temporary home to get ready for dinner. Since we were near the sea, everyone was in the mood for seafood. So, we headed to Le Kobe for sushi. I ate a sushi platter and, unfortunately, was a bit underwhelmed by it. To compensate, we indulged in ice cream at Fenocchio– a store one of the girls on the trip had been raving about on the train ride– and it did not disappoint! I had two flavors: tiramisu and salted caramel. ( At the time of writing this, it has only been one week from this trip and I am already looking forward to going back for more ice cream in the future.) The rest of the night was spent perusing around Nice: going to the I love Nice sign and lounging at the beach. My group decided to head back a bit early and call it a night. 

After an amazing petit dejeuner at Marinette, we headed to Cannes for sandy beaches. Although Cannes is gorgeous and I truly enjoyed my time there, I enjoyed the Nice beach more (although it hurt a bit to walk on the pebbles). We had pizza at La Maison, visited souvenir shops and markets, then headed back to Nice. When we arrived, we rushed to the top of castle hill to catch the sunset. It was easily one of the most beautiful moments in my life. Not so much for the sunset itself (as it was a bit cloudy) but more so for the overall experience. It was a moment for me to reflect and remember despite how tough 2020 has been, how truly fortunate I am to be studying abroad. 

Cueillette de Peltre

There is nothing better than going to the market to get fresh produce, except for picking it yourself. Read about Kaela’s experience visiting Cueillette de Peltre, where she spent a couple hours roaming strawberry fields, apple orchards, and even made a new friend!

Monday, September 28, 2020 | Written by Kaela

Fresh produce is abundant in France, but in order to get the best produce, you have to pick it yourself. Luckily, the Leonardo Program at Georgia Tech-Lorraine gave us an opportunity to do just that in Metz. After the end of classes one afternoon, a group of us loaded onto the provided bus to head to the local farm in Peltre. On my arrival, I was overwhelmed on arrival by how many areas of the grounds I had to explore in the one and a half hour period we were visiting for.

I grabbed one of the provided bags and, along with many others, headed straight towards the strawberries. We were told they were the last of the season and soon to go, so of course I had to get some. The rainstorm in the distance made the trip a bit ominous. I thought, “Will it head towards us and cut our short trip even shorter?” and hoped it would move further into the distance.

We started our strawberry expedition at the front rows of bushes, a rookie move. After perusing the picked over bushes near the front we discovered as we moved further in and further away, the strawberries got larger and more plentiful. I guess few are willing to walk through the enormous strawberry patch to the back. The strawberry bushes sat in troughs raised above ground, which put them at eye level and made for easy picking. Once we had stuffed our bags with ruby red strawberries, we headed to the nearby apple orchard, grabbing some beautiful tomatoes on our way. 

Pink lady, fuji, gala, honey crisp, granny smith, red delicious, golden delicious: To me, an apple is an apple. This may be a controversial statement, but I honestly don’t eat them enough to tell the difference. I find the variety of apples to be overwhelming enough when there are between three to five to choose from at the grocery store; to say I felt in awe when walking towards what seemed like an acre of apple trees is an understatement. There were endless rows with an uncountable number of apple varieties, most of which I had never heard of. My solution: pick a random row of trees and begin picking. The twisted trees towered above me and below my feet lay fallen fruit in various stages of rot. I was surprised and initially felt disappointed by how many apples laid on ground: seemingly all gone to waste. Luckily, they can be turned to compost and the nutrients will return to the ground to further the growth of more apples, a nice reminder of the beauty of the circle of life. 

After leaving the apples we walked past a multitude of in-ground veggies which naturally I turned into a fun guessing game. What was it we were passing now? Would it be a carrot? A radish? A beet?

As we continued on we happened upon a large variety of leafy greens. I was excited at the prospects of the dishes I could create with them, but unfortunately, I was leaving for Nice the coming weekend so I only picked a small bunch. My group decided we would eventually make a trip back and make dinner with the freshly picked food. We made our way towards hoop houses filled with peppers, eggplants, and more but we ran out of time quickly. As we walked towards the exit, we ended our trip by making friends with a couple of goats.  

This short trip was a good way to take a break from the business of school work and travel. I was grateful for the quiet and peacefulness of it as getting out in nature is always a great way to destress. I think the weather knew how much we needed the break, because the once ominous rain clouds at the beginning of our trip became a light drizzle as we drove away. 

A Sojourn to Strasbourg

Join Kaela on a second field trip with her INTA 2221 class – this time to Strasbourg, France where she visited the home of the EU Parliament and explored the subdued city of Strasbourg.

Friday, September 25, 2020 | Written by Kaela

An 8 AM wake up call was made easier by the pastries that greeted us in the Lafayette lobby as my INTA 2221 class loaded into a bus and headed to Strasbourg, also known as Petite France. 

STRASBOURG, FRANCE

STOP 1: The European Parliament

The EU Parliament Building in Strasbourg, France.
The EU Parliament Building in Strasbourg, France.

The EU Parliament is one of three legislative branches of the European Union. They, alongside the Council of the European Union and European commission, propose, approve, and reject laws. We went through a self guided tour of the building aided by handheld devices. The EU is unique in that it is not a state, but is more than a typical international organization. Any laws passed by the European Union apply to all twenty seven (formerly twenty eight) countries and are superior to legislation at the national level. My favorite part of the parliament building was the area at the end of the tour where multiple stations allowed you to learn about various topics including: the members of parliament, hemicycle seating organization, cities in the European Union, and much, much more. Viewing the display of all of the different cities with lights made me feel the world was my oyster; a similar sensation I experienced watching the game maker stand before his map in The Hunger Games. 

The interactive map at the EU Parliament building.
The interactive map at the EU Parliament building.

STOP 2: Downtown Strasbourg 

The gorgeous downtown Strasbourg, bursting with blooming flower boxes
The gorgeous downtown Strasbourg, bursting with blooming flower boxes

We had a bit of free time before our guided tour, so a group of us, having only eaten pastries all day, headed straight for somewhere to eat. Amidst an alleyway of restaurants adorned by vines, flower boxes, and other plant life was Le Gruber – our lunch destination. The interior of this restaurant made me feel as though I was in my grandmother’s home. Surrounded by wooden furniture randomly placed knick knacks on creaky floors a table covered by a checkered cloth, the smell of freshly made food filled the air . Thanks to our professor’s recommendation, we each got a flammekueche (or tarte flambée). The look and texture can be compared to a very thin pizza but with a very different, yet delicious, taste. Afterwards, we used our spare time to browse the nearby souvenir shops and grab some refreshing sorbet. 

STOP 3: Strasbourg Cathedral 

I am now a cathedral enthusiast. Without fail, whenever I visit one, I am completely in awe of the intricacy of the details covering its walls.

The astronomical clock in the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg
The astronomical clock in the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg

We took a guided tour of the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg. One feature in particular the Strasbourg Cathedral is known for is its astronomical clock. The clock dates from 1843 and is made of many integrated moving parts. Its intricate hands are guided by time and its detailed figures move at different times throughout the day. In the spectacle I witnessed, the left angel rang a bell, the right angel turned a sand clock and the figures on the top platform of the clock marched to the steady ticking as my time in Strasbourg came to a close.

Traipsing through Trier

GT-Lorraine provides many unique opportunities for students and one is classes with field trips. Join Kaela as she takes her first field trip of the semester and journeys through the city of Trier with her INTA 2221 class.

Monday, September 21, 2020 | Written by Kaela

When signing up for classes at GTL, I thought I knew one thing: I did not want a field trip class. Originally, I felt these classes would take away from an already minimal amount of weekends I was able to travel. So when registration rolled around I signed up for INTA 2221 (a field trip class) for two reasons. One, the only class I needed for my degree was canceled, and two, I could not sign up for any other class. After this past weekend visiting Trier and Metz, I can definitively say my original line of thinking was wrong. 

TRIER, GERMANY 

Before arriving at Georgia Tech Lorraine, Trier was not a place I prioritized in my trip list. I had daydreamed of spending my weekends in the classic tourist hotspots and big name cities: Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, Budapest, and the like. Despite not necessarily frequenting the “Top 10 places to visit in Europe” lists, this city’s rich history makes it a worthwhile visit.

Trier market square
Trier market square

Trier, a city founded by the Romans, is peppered with still-standing roman architecture. My first year of college, I took  a history of architecture class, so I had some knowledge the Roman influence on technology and architecture. My experiences in that class made me all the more interested to see what had been left behind after centuries.

We started off the field trip with a guided tour of Trier. With our guide, I was able to learn so much about the place I was in, in real time. 

QUICK TIP: Guided tours offer an experience unlike solo or group travel and provide fantastic insight on a location.

While exploring Paris alone the weekend before, I knew little to nothing about the history of the places I was visiting. Time restrictions, slow data, and lack of knowledge of French kept me from learning as much as I had hoped to about the city I was in. Taking a guided tour on our trip in Trier allowed me to learn much more about the history and culture of the city. If I was traveling solo, I don’t think I would gain as much insight to Trier as I did with our guide without doing a lot of research before visiting; which as a busy student, would probably not happen. There’s no replacement for an expert on a subject.

Roman Amphitheater in Trier
Roman Amphitheater in Trier

Our first stop was a Roman amphitheater. With our guide’s descriptions, I could vividly imagine the battles, hear the roar of the crowd, and feel the tension as animals were lifted up into the arena. I could see the way it looked at the end of the day with crowds spilling out after watching the gruesome combats.

Kaiserthermen roman baths in Trier
Kaiserthermen roman baths in Trier

Next, we vistited Kaiserthermen, a Roman bath complex. The more I learn about history, the more I am repeatedly impressed by how technologically savvy the Romans were.  The many “modern day” luxuries (including running water and heated floors) mentioned as we strolled through their gravity reliant underwater sewage canals surprised me.

 

My delicious plate of currywurst – if you eat meat and visit Germany, be sure to try a plate!

After our guided tour, we had some free time to explore Trier. One of the foods I was told to try while in Germany was sausage. So naturally, the first thing my group did was head towards a food stand to try some of their famous currywurst. It was absolutely delicious. I enjoyed my currywurst so much, I drowned my fries in every last drop of leftover sauce. While I didn’t think I would find a food I enjoyed more than my curry and sausage combination, I was wrong. We found a pretzel stand and the pretzel I bought from it satisfied my top food categories: baked items and covered in butter.

Trier Saint Peter's Cathedral
Trier Saint Peter’s Cathedral

After indulging in food heaven, we walked towards Trier Saint Peter’s Cathedral, which was impressively beautiful to say the least. It differed from the Metz Cathedral in its lack of stained glass, but the intricacy of the stone carvings made it just as beautiful in a different way.

In the end, this trip made me regret my initial hesitation towards taking a field trip class at Georgia Tech Lorraine (and almost glad my other class was canceled). Without this class or this field trip, I wouldn’t have seen the history left behind by the Romans, eaten the delicious currywurst or pretzel, or gotten beautiful pictures at the Palastgarten. 

Palastgarten
Palastgarten

Musées de Metz

Kaela is back on the blog to recount her first trip to downtown Metz. Join her as she explores the many cultural wonders of Metz, only a 15 minute bike ride from her dorm.

Friday, September 18, 2020 | Written by Kaela

METZ, FRANCE 

I was not able to go on the GTL organized tour of downtown Metz, so I was grateful that I was able to have this experience with my international affairs class. Despite being just a fifteen minute bike ride away, I had not visited downtown Metz until a week into the program. One cathedral, two museums, three hours, and eight-thousand steps later, I was exhausted, but baffled that I am living so close to such an amazing city. 

Cathédrale de Metz
Cathédrale de Metz

We started off the tour by visiting the Cathédrale de Metz. From the outside, it looks like most French cathedrals – dark windows, gothic style architecture, and intricate carvings. After walking in, your eye is immediately drawn upwards towards one of the highest naves in the world. The dark windows become colorful and bright with the light shining through.

This is the Rose Window in the Cathedral de Metz.
The Rose Window in the Cathédrale de Metz.

 

 

 

 

With an area of 6,496 square meters or 69,920 square feet, the Cathédrale de Metz has the largest display of stained glass in the world. To give you an idea of its magnitude, the rose window on the west work alone is about 37 feet (or 7.5 Kaelas). Our guide walked us through the history  of the windows and the stories they tell. One piece I found interesting  was the Garden of Eden Window by Marc Chagall. The four sections of the window depict different parts of the story of Adam and Eve all intricately tied together.

 

More stained glass in Cathédrale de Metz

What captivated me the most about the cathedral is the story each window paints. At first glance, most ofthe stained glass appears to be some mix of various colorful pieces, but with a bit more observation you are able to make out the religious figures and the stories they tell.We then made our way to the Musée de La Cour d’Or. The museum houses artifacts, paintings, roman baths, and even skeletons! We did not get to spend much time here, but our guide did her best to point out notable pieces and I’m planning on making a second visit to fully experience the museum. Luckily, entry is free on the first Sunday of the month and students enter for just 3.30 euros!

The entry way of the Centre Pompidou
The entry way of the Centre Pompidou

Le Centre Pompidou Metz was our final stop. It’s Metz’s modern art museum, that I believe, vaguely, resembles a crepe on a stick. Having just finished touring the Musée de La Cour d’Or, visiting the Centre Pompidou was a complete change in pace. While the Musée de La Cour d’Or is filled with older, historical pieces, the Pompidou, is new and modern with ever changing displays.  I loved the exhibition in the third level.

The third floor gallery

Hanging from wall to wall, window to window, and ceiling to floor, noodle-like glass filled the room, leaving just enough space for you to walk between the glittering displays. All of this is accompanied by large windows on each end of the floor that overlook downtown Metz. From the opposite end of the building, the Cathédrale de Metz fills the entire window and seems larger than life but as you approach the window it begins to shrink. This optical illusion caught me off guard. Despite walking closer towards the cathedral, it seemed to move further away. Just as the Musée de La Cour d’Or, the Centre Pompidou warrants a second, more thorough visit (and thanks to Georgia Tech-Lorraine, we have a card that allows unlimited visits)! 

Eleven Days Down

With eleven days in Europe under her belt, Kaela recounts her experiences arriving in Paris and Metz. Read her blog as she details her first solo travel!

Monday, September 14, 2020 | Written by Kaela

Today, I came to the realization that I have been living in France for 11 days– in Metz, for a single week. In this brief time I have: met people from all different backgrounds, traveled to two countries, visited Cora excessively, and timidly inquired “Parlez-vous anglais?” more times than I can count.

Let me backtrack and lay out my experiences from the beginning of these hectic, but exhilarating 11 days. 

The view out my airplane window crossing the Atlantic.
The view out my airplane window crossing the Atlantic.

PREPARATION FOR DEPARTURE:

While rushing to finish packing the night before my flight, I attempted to wrap my head around a new realization: I would be apart from my family for the longest I have ever been. With everything that has happened this year, three months seems like an eon and simultaneously feels like a flash. Ready to see what lies ahead of me, I was eager to leave the next day. 

In an attempt to more quickly adjust to the seven hour time difference, I tried to get as much sleep on the plane as I could. I arrived at 10am CEST (3am to my CST acclimated body) and felt relieved that I had finally made it to Paris. With the ongoing pandemic, I had to present 5 additional documents in addition to my passport when going through customs, a moment I had been anticipating to go wrong in some way. While packing, I was expecting to be back the very next day having run into some kind of issue: my airline wouldn’t accept my Covid test, I would miss my flight, the french government would bar students from travel, I wouldn’t have the correct documents on hand. To my surprise, everything went as planned. I didn’t expect to make it from ATL to CDG, let alone for it to be so seamless. 

MY ARRIVAL IN PARIS:

La Basilique Sacré-Cœur in the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris.
La Basilique Sacré-Cœur in the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris.

I planned on staying in Paris alone for a couple of days before journeying to Metz for the start of the semester, so I could acclimate to France on my own. I arrived feeling exhausted, somewhat detached from reality, and anxious. My knowledge of the French language, the maze like airport, and the country overall was limited. On the ride to my hotel, I made an effort to observe the differences between the US and France: the landscape, the people, how they drive, etc. I was confused (and slightly concerned) why my driver was going 100 miles an hour, despite our slow pace, when I remembered the speedometer is in kilometers. My general first observations on Parisian traffic? Cars are much smaller. Motorcyclists are more daring. Everyone stops for bikers and pedestrians. 

Though short, my stay in Paris was very meaningful. It was my first solo trip, my first interaction with Europe, and the last vacation before classes began (although definitely not my last of the semester). I stayed just a 10 minute walk from the Eiffel tower, so after a nap, shower, and quick lunch, I headed over to the famed landmark. Overall, my stay in Paris was amazing, but a bit lonely. I FaceTimed my family and boyfriend when I could to show them everything I was experiencing. My timidness, in addition to the language barrier, kept me from connecting with locals. I kept to myself and did my best to visit as many places as possible; my goal was to see as much as possible in the short time I had. However, I enjoyed that traveling alone gave me the freedom to choose what my day looked like. I could change my plans on a whim, make detours, enter a museum spontaneously without having to worry about what anyone else wanted to do. Everything I did was up to me. 

PLACES IN PARIS I VISITED AND RECOMMEND:

Eiffel Tower, Palais du Chaillot, Louvre, Sainte Chapelle, Notre Dame, Montmartre, La Basilique Sacré-Cœur, Pantheon, Luxembourg Garden, Les Invalides 

MY ARRIVAL TO GEORGIA TECH-LORRAINE IN METZ:

With Covid-19, our arrival was slightly different from how a normal arrival might be for our safety. Our luggage was unloaded for us, we left the bus in groups of five, masks on all the time, hand sanitizer at every checkpoint, went straight to our rooms. It felt amazing to finally get to my dorm, unpack, and settle in. A large group of students went to Cora almost immediately. This first trip there was chaos. None of us spoke much French or had the data to translate it, the market is organized differently than ones back home, and not a single person knew what they needed to buy. Needless to say, we all returned multiple times the following days. They have countless options for every item you could ever want; I swear I saw 3 aisles with cheese! 

I am extremely grateful to have the opportunity to study and travel at Georgia Tech-Lorraine. Almost everyday I have a moment where I go, “Oh wow, I’m in FRANCE!” I still cannot believe I am here. I am excited to see where the rest of the semester takes me. Kaela in Paris!

QUICK TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL MOVE TO GEORGIA TECH- LORRAINE:

Soak your shower head and sink faucet in white vinegar and water. Don’t bring electrical items besides your devices (I almost set my hotel on fire trying to use an American steamer). Get a bike in Metz through the rental service Georgia Tech-Lorraine has.