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Category: Maddie (Page 1 of 2)

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!).

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.

 

Passing Time on Trains and Travels

Throughout the many train trips, bus rides, and long walks that take place as Georgia Tech Lorraine students explore Europe, there are endless ways to pass the time with ones traveling companions. I’ve had tons of excellent organic conversations with people on my excursions so far, but some of my best memories have come from playing games with my friends as we relax on trains or wander cities.

It’s hard to get photographic evidence of verbal games, so here’s a picture of the sunrise as seen from my room in Lafayette, another place where I’ve had great times and conversations with friends!

One of my personal favorites is a word game that my friends and I play quite frequently, called Contact. Contact is a bit hard to explain without actually playing it, but basically it involves trying to guess a word that someone has come up with as you incrementally learn more letters. My friend had given us six letters of the word: c-a-r-b-o-n, but we had exhausted our chemistry knowledge—it wasn’t carbonation, carbonic acid, or any other element-related term. We resorted to coming up with ridiculous car puns to try to think of words. What do you call a tiny tree in a vehicle? A car-bonsai! Obviously, these answers were unsuccessful, and the word eventually turned out to be “carbonara,” but they certainly provided their fair share of hilarity!

 Another great pastime was born out of desperation and travel woes. On our very first weekend of travel, after trying to catch a train that apparently didn’t exist, my friend and I became stranded overnight in a tiny French town with basically nothing but the clothes on our backs, our dead phones, and, luckily, my notebook and pen. Naturally, as we waited all morning for another train that wouldn’t arrive until noon, we decided to write limericks together! (As one does.) Each of us would alternate contributing a line, and we ended up composing eight masterworks, most of them themed around our sorry plight. Here’s the first one we wrote, and my personal favorite:

     Delirious girls at the station,

     Were filled with a great consternation.

     They wanted to go,

     But their train didn’t show,

     So they’re stuck on forever vacation.

Then there’s Make It or Break It, which is where you present someone with a scenario where they’ve met their soulmate, who’s perfect except for one flaw, and they’re asked if that flaw is a dealbreaker. They’re perfect for you in every way, except they can only ever walk backwards. Or, they’re perfect for you, but they can only speak in Justin Bieber lyrics. (These seemed mutually exclusive to me. No offense to any of you Beliebers out there.) This game is both a funny way to learn about new people and a great source of thought experiments. For instance, your soulmate is perfect, except all their hair is grass—do they cut their hair with a tiny lawn mower?

My favorite part about all these games is that they all involve creativity, often laughter, and usually learning something new about someone in the mix!

Interconnectedness and Exploration: An Interview with Patrick Weathers

Last week I had an excellent conversation with Patrick Weathers about being a graduate student here at GTL! This is his first semester in graduate school towards getting his Master’s degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering; he’ll be graduating next year in 2019, likely in the fall as he’s planning to do an internship during the summer semester. I first met Patrick at the student cafeteria, CROUS, where we bonded over our shared major and our shared tendency to resemble lobsters if we don’t apply enough sunscreen. I also learned then that he had gotten his undergraduate degree in materials science and that he had been working with semiconductors for a few years before deciding to return to school.

Patrick is scaling new heights academically and literally!

When I asked Patrick why he chose Georgia Tech-Lorraine, he talked about how he had done lots of lab work during his undergraduate experience, so a big part of his choice was the partnerships that GTL has with French research organizations. “I had worked in Grenoble one summer previously, and when I worked there I saw the strength of partnerships within France, especially within their research. Part of the benefits from that are not only diversified expertise and resources in terms of equipment, but also how the problem-solving approach when you unify a lot of different organizations becomes richer and more powerful. GTL stood out to me as an example not just of the research that Georgia Tech is capable of, but as a bridge to a previous life of mine working in France.”

One of Patrick’s favorite aspects of Georgia Tech Lorraine far is the degree of involvement that one can achieve both in terms of academics and in terms of exploring applications of those academics. The closeness of all GTL’s resources, the proximity of facilities like the Institut Lafayette, the small classes, and the availability of the professors all contribute to the ease with which he can deeply dive into the topics he’s passionate about. “Between academics, applications, and the world that is immediately around us outside of GTL – all of it is kind of laid out in front of us, meaning that the limitation is really only your own commitments, your own time management, and your own prioritization in terms of what you want to get done while you’re here.”

In a similar vein, he’s most excited about taking the things he learns from his classes and not only connecting the concepts between courses (for instance, comparing numerical analysis methods between his machine learning and image processing classes), but also about applying these things in the lab. “Going into the lab and microfabricating LEDs, microfabricating solar cells…those kinds of resources are as available, if not to some degree more available, here than they are on Tech’s campus. The exciting part, to kind of connect this back with the first question, is that there’s the connection and the resources of the expertise within professors and coursework, but then there’s also the ability to go and try to see it work out in real life in the lab.”

Patrick appears perfectly poised to get the most out of his semester here at GTL and to take full advantage of the amazing resources available, and I can’t wait to hear about the awesome things he learns and creates during his time here!

A Very Nice Time

Perhaps the most pun-inducing travel destination there is, Nice, France certainly lives up to its name. We had a wonderful time there, and I could describe just about everything we did as nice, but for the sake of you readers I’ll try my best to curb my pun-making tendencies and use some more creative adjectives.

The three of us began our journey on Friday, meeting up with a friend in Paris on our way. I attempted to do my electromagnetics homework on the 6-hour train ride from Paris to Nice, a task that got increasingly more difficult as the tantalizing sea waters and beaches came into view, but somehow I managed it. Our AirBNB was a cute apartment that was very close to the train station and which had yet another confusing European door. We didn’t know it then because our host let us in, but we would spend ten minutes later that night trying to decipher its mysteries before finally arriving at the right combination of key turns and black magic for it to open at last.

The breathtaking sunset over the sea and the city. The ocean waves were mesmerizing to watch.

After depositing our bags, we walked down through the city to the coast to stroll along the rock beaches and climb the castle on the hill (yes, like the Ed Sheeran song). Our calves were burning after walking up so many stairs, but the incredible view was worth it, and we sat at the top of the tower for some time just watching the sun sink below the horizon.

Stone beaches are lovely in a different sort of way than sand beaches—there’s something soothing about sitting among so many smooth rocks that reminds me of meditation gardens. Plus you don’t have to clean your feet afterwards!

Upon our descent, we began looking for a place to eat, and we stumbled upon a street occupied entirely by restaurants, each one much like the next and advertising either Italian food, seafood, or some combination of both. Because there was so much competition, each restaurant had waiters standing outside for the sole purpose of talking to pedestrians and trying to get them to come in (which was stressful for both us and them) and we ended up choosing one pretty arbitrarily. Luckily for us, it ended up being delicious—by this point, I’ve been in France long enough that I shouldn’t be surprised by incredible bread, but this definitely had me contemplating the morality of smuggling the basket away in my purse. (You could say it was…inbreadible?)

The next morning, we took a bus from Nice to a lovely town called Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and took the 6 mile walk around the peninsula there. It was absolutely stunning; the rocky path wound up and down through the cliffs along the coast, through trees and around tiny inlets. A bit of the way through, we stopped at a tiny little platform near the water where a few people were swimming and had a picnic, the latter of which I now consider a staple of my GTL experience. There have been many occasions during our travels where we’ve wandered a Carrefour or local supermarket, each person picking up one or two things to share, and then we find a park or a bench or a train to share in our makeshift feast. Truly, a baguette, some apples, some brie and good company is really all you need to have a wonderful meal.

The stone cliffs and the forest were quite a sight to behold. If you look carefully on the left, you can see the walkway railing and the path jutting out of the cliff.

The rest of the day was just as marvelous as the beginning, from the views on the rest of the hike, to swimming on the stone beaches, to getting ice cream as we walked back to the bus stop. One of my favorite parts of the trip, though, and about all my travels, really, is sharing the journey with friends. Whether you’ve known each other for ages or you’ve only just met, sharing food, sharing stories, sharing awe and excitement in whatever new experience is just around the corner is one of the best things I could ask for, and I can’t wait to share more travels with friends old and new during the rest of my time at GTL!

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!

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.

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!

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.

Moselle Sans Limite

At the gardens they have the new logo of Moselle in the grass! (Photo courtesy of Sarah Bland)

Last week, all of us at GTL went on a field trip to the headquarters of the Department of Moselle in Metz. For other Americans such as myself who aren’t familiar with the term, a department is essentially a political/geographical unit in France that is higher up than a county but smaller than a state. Moselle is slightly larger than the state of Delaware. We were greeted with a lovely welcome from the department, with speeches from the Vice President and the President of the department to us, and also from the president of Georgia Tech Lorraine to the department officials about the great things going on at GTL! The President of Moselle didn’t speak English and had a translator relay his speech to us. It was easy to tell, even in a different language, that he was an excellent public speaker—even without understanding, I was engaged! It was interesting to listen for familiar words in French, and to try to guess which French words corresponded with the English words of the translator.

Some of the main points that I took from the departmental speeches were their words about the many wonderful aspects of Moselle, such as the culture, the food, the business, the history, and much more. They encouraged us to travel around the region and take advantage of these things during our semester in this region of France—a sentiment which, after my fantastic weekend in Metz, I wholeheartedly agreed with!

After the speeches, we moved to the eagerly anticipated and delicious lunch, which consisted of charcuterie plates covered in various meats and cheeses, breads, grapes that looked too perfect to be real (but they were!), and the regional plums, mirabelles.

After lunch, the students split into four groups to visit different sites in Moselle: Jardins Fruitiers de Laquenexy (Fruit Gardens), Chateau Malbrouck (Malbrouck Castle), the Maison Robert Schuman (House of Robert Schuman), and the Musée de la Guerre de 1870 et de l’Annexation (Museum of the War of 1870 and the Annexation). Unfortunately, being in four places at once is not one of my talents, so for some of the locations I didn’t visit, I’ll relay what I’ve heard from other GTL students about their experiences.

The house of Robert Schuman, and the attached museum about his life and role in the formation of the EU.

I visited the Maison Robert Schuman, which is both the house of the French statesman Robert Schuman (not the German piano composer—his name has two n’s) and a museum about his life. He is regarded as the father of the Europe, instrumental to the formation of the European Union after World War II. We toured through his former home and watched a video about his life. When he lived there, he had owned over 8000 books! This seemed to be his only excess, for he chose to live quite simply. At the sight of a piano in his office, I wondered to myself: did Robert Schuman ever play Robert Schumann?

Musée de la Guerre de 1870 et de l’Annexation. (Photo courtesy of Katherine Tighe)

Those who went to the war museum saw relics from the Franco-Prussian war, including uniforms and cannons. They also visited a grave where many soldiers from the war were buried, surrounded by plaques describing the losses in each battalion. The museum also holds pieces of a large panoramic painting from the war, meant to surround a room and make the viewer feel present in the scene.

Part of the panoramic painting in the Musée de la Guerre. (Photo courtesy of Katherine Tighe)

The students who visited the gardens learned about many different kinds of plants and were given 3 minutes to pick as many mirabelles as they possibly could. My friend observed that if they had had as much time as they wanted to pick the fruits, she probably would have grabbed a more reasonable amount and then stopped; but the pressure of the time limit led them to frantically pick an absurd number of mirabelles! (This in turn led to us holding the Mirabelle Olympics back at Lafayette that evening, where the events included catching mirabelles in our mouths, a mirabelle beauty contest, and other equally prestigious activities.)

Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to talk to anyone about the Chateau Malbrouck, but I heard that both the castle itself and the view from the walls is wonderful!

In all, our field trip through Moselle was filled with times both fun and educational, and if you’re looking for a beautiful area of France to explore that’s packed with experiences for everyone, look no further! They also have a very cool website where you can learn more, at www.mosl.fr.

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