Semi Solo Traveling

Sunday, October 17, 2021 | Written by Mira

I’ve been told by previous GTL students that you must do a solo trip at least once. While some people go hiking by themselves for the weekend or do a day trip to a neighboring city, I opted to do a trip to Ireland to visit a friend from high school who goes to university in Dublin. The solo part was the actual traveling from point A to point B and back, but I did have someone to stay with, so it was a “semi-solo” travel weekend.


The best part of not having class on Thursday is that it gives me an extra travel day, and in this case, more time to reconnect with my friend in Dublin! However, my 4am wake-up call was not ideal and caused me a lot of stress because when traveling alone, no one is there to hold you accountable to actually wake up that early to catch the bus. 

If you’re trying to go to Charles de Gaulle from Metz, you might have to take a bus to Lorraine TGV station and then a train to the airport. This bus from Metz to the Lorraine TGV is located behind the station, and I’m glad I had enough time to find it as I wandered around the Metz train station at 5:45 in the morning. But I found it! The bus was on time, the train was on time, and I made it through the very confusing Parisian airport to get to the gate on time. 

The leaves are just starting to change colors!

My friend in Dublin recommended a few options for me to get from the airport to the city center. I took the Dublin Aircoach to Kildare Street near Saint Stephen’s Park, which had immaculate autumn vibes. After almost getting attacked by a flock of pigeons, I made my way to Beanhive (26 Dawson St, Dublin 2, D02 FY28), a coffeeshop my friend recommended to me. Beanhive claims to have Dublin’s most famous coffee art, and while my latte was pretty standard, their Instagram feed is pretty impressive.

 DAY 2

I was off on my own due to my friend having lab all day. I took this opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and do a solo excursion to the west coast of Ireland. After much research into day trips from Dublin and looking at reviews by solo women travelers, I decided to go for it and book an excursion through TripAdvisor. I woke up at 5am, my second early morning in a row, to walk to the pick-up location for the tour to the Cliffs of Moher and Galway. 

The whole view was postcard worthy.

The Cliffs of Moher may be, without exaggeration, the windiest place I’ve ever been to. The farther up you went, the better the view, but the windier and colder it got. The Cliffs of Moher are one of those places where no picture can do it justice. To one side is the blue Atlantic Ocean that blends into the blue sky (we had great weather, no dark rain clouds!), and to the other side, is the country of Ireland, and you can clearly tell why it’s called the Emerald Isle. After walking up the north side of the trail for the postcard view, I headed back down and started on the southern trail. This part was less accessible, with a steeper incline and overall was more of a hike.

I felt like I was walking on the moon!

 Our next stop was the Burren Walk, a rocky coast that looks like the surface of the moon. I didn’t go all the way to the edge, but it seemed other-worldly. From there, we went to the ruins of an abbey and there was a cute Irish cow on the other side of the stone wall. One really cool thing about Ireland is that there are casually thousand year-old ruins on the side of the road, a sight unimaginable in the relatively young United States. The last stop of the day was Galway, a quaint town on the west coast. After walking around a little by myself, I got a cup of coffee and sat in a park until it was time for the bus to depart.

Ireland captured in one image: various shades of green, ancient ruins, and a fluffy cow.

Once back on the bus, my seat neighbor asked me where I was from. I said I was from the US but studying in France for the semester. He said he wasn’t sure if I was British, which I’ll take as a compliment, especially with an American couple belting the Star-Spangled Banner in front of us (the punishment for being late on the bus was singing your country’s national anthem). 

 DAY 3

Since I had already been to Dublin before, about 4.5 years ago, my friend wanted to take me to some smaller towns in the Dublin area. We walked across Dublin to the Dart; a train that took us to a small Dublin suburb called Dún Laoghaire, where we walked along the pier to a lighthouse. It was incredibly windy, so we walked back to the city center and found a lunch spot – The Sunshine Café (107 George’s Street Lower, Dún Laoghaire, Dublin, A96 X771, Ireland). This café was the cutest, and they had a beautiful outdoor garden that we would’ve sat at if it were warmer.

The coffee cup imitating real life with the smoke stacks.

From Dún Laoghaire, we made our way back north, stopping in Sandymount, another residential suburb of Dublin. The town square reminded me of Gilmore Girls. My friend told me that they hold festivities in the town square every so often. We grabbed hot chocolate from Strand Fare (4 Seafort Ave, Dublin 4, D04 FC80, Ireland), a “gourmet grocery store,” one of my friend’s favorite places to grab a warm drink. After spending some time relaxing by the beach, we headed back to Dublin city center to her apartment before dinner.

 DAY 4

Our reservation was for when they opened, so we had a calm start to our meal.

My flight for France was in the early afternoon, which gave us enough time to have brunch before I had to leave. Brother Hubbard (153 Capel St, North City, Dublin, D01 V9V0, Ireland) is a very popular Sunday brunch spot for Dubliners, and it did not disappoint. I had a delicious latte with french toast, as recommended by my friend.

Before I knew it, my weekend with her was over, and I was headed back to the airport. Out of all the travel I’ve done so far, this trip was the most meaningful, as I was able to get outside my comfort zone and reconnect with a friend from high school. It definitely won’t be a trip I’ll forget.

A Rainy Fall Tuesday in Metz

Tuesday, October 12, 2021 | Written by Mira


A colorful flower stand while walking around town.

Tuesdays have quickly become one of my most relaxing days of the week. Nestled between two heavy class days, my Tuesdays are a chance for me to get out and explore Metz before traveling somewhere else on the weekends. I had been hunting for a bookstore with English books, so I took this Tuesday to see if my google-mapping was correct.

It was a crisp, rainy fall day. So, just after lunch, I hopped on a bus for downtown, equipped with my backpack, umbrella, and scarf. The bus couldn’t take me all the way to the bookstore, but I enjoyed a nice leisurely walk through downtown. I got to see parts of Metz I hadn’t seen before, and I even saw a cute flower stand!

 I found the Atoutlire Bookshop (2 Rue de la Basse Seille, 57000 Metz), the “foreign” bookstore, and while a majority of the books are in English, there was quite a variety of languages. It was a small but cozy bookstore, and I even got to practice my French with the shop owner!

The rooftops of Metz.

The bookstore is located right next to a public garden/park on a hill: Jardin des Tanneurs de Metz. There was a small amphitheater, and if the weather was nicer, it would have been the perfect place to relax with a book. As I kept climbing up the park, I realized it overlooked the city of Metz. The view from the top was simply incredible! I hadn’t known there was a good look-out point for the city, but here it was, at the garden next to the foreign bookstore.

One of the many cats at Chalon de Thé.

 I walked down the street to a cat café that one of my friends recommended to me. Chalon de Thé (6 Rue de la Petite Boucherie, 57000 Metz) is such a cute café, with even cuter kittens. My favorite was a little guy named Salem, who proceeded to walk all over my laptop keyboard. I could probably have spent all day sitting in this café, but I needed to get home and change before my evening plans: the Opera!

The day before, my French professor told us about 5-euro tickets to the Opera, secured by the Leonardo Program. I jumped at the chance to have a unique cultural experience (I had never been to an Opera before, even in English). After I got back to my apartment and changed, a group of friends and I headed out for dinner. We scoured google maps for a cheap dinner spot with vegetarian-friendly options that opened early enough near the Opera house.. We ended up finding a burger place called Boogie Burger (1 Rue du Pont des Morts, 57000 Metz), and it was *chef’s kiss* so good. There weren’t any seats, so we ate overlooking the river as the sun set. I would have been content if my day ended there, but there was still more to do!

The definition of an American in France.
 Only at GTL can you spontaneously get 5-euro opera tickets.

The Opéra-Théâtr de Metz is this beautiful building on a small island surrounded by the Moselle River. The show for the night was called “Le comte Ory,” a comedic French opera from 1828, written by Gioachino Rossini. We looked up the synopsis beforehand just so we could have somewhat of an idea of what was happening, and boy is it a jam-packed plot. Luckily, when the performance started the lyrics were displayed above the stage, so I was able to follow along a lot more than I expected. I wish I could see the performance again, honestly, because there was just so much to look at: the live orchestra, the actors, and the text- it was truly an experience. 

 From bookstores to cats to operas, the day had it all… and it’s only Tuesday!

Oktober in Frankfurt

Friday, October 8, 2021 | Written by Mira


Paddle-boating in Frankfurt!

We started our weekend in Frankfurt with a cute breakfast at Café Laumer (Bockenheimer Landstraße 67, 60325 Frankfurt am Main, Germany) before going to the Frankfurt Botanical Gardens.

On our walk to the botanical gardens, we passed by a residential area that resembled the houses on 10th Street across from Piedmont Park in Atlanta in both architecture and ambiance. It truly felt like a piece of home halfway across the world. The Frankfurt Botanical Gardens are only three euro for students and, dare I say, are better than the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. The Frankfurt gardens have cute little paddle boats and a butterfly house! After meandering around the gardens and playing various covers of La vie en rose, my friends and I found a little lake with a quaint waterfall and shortly after we found ourselves on the paddle boats. I was the lucky one who sat in the back of the paddle boat so while my friends peddled, I was in charge of taking pictures. There was a little fountain that made a rainbow in the sunlight– it was breathtaking. After riding around in the paddle

The beautiful, colorful, butterflies and flowers

boats, we found the butterfly house which was just breathtaking. The butterflies were so colorful and lively flying around us. I could probably spend all day in this magical little house, but alas, we had more of Frankfurt to see.

 After the nature-filled morning, we made our way across town to one of the many museums in Frankfurt. We ended up choosing the Jüdischen Museums out of the 33 to pick from! In the evening, we went to the Skyline Mall, where we had an amazing view of the city at sunset.

Found the Frankfurt version of Atlanta’s pencil building!

 DAY 2

As much as we enjoyed the first day, I made it my mission to find the older part of the city in our second travel day. What we had seen of Frankfurt thus far had been fairly industrial and modern, and didn’t exactly feel European to me. I am more drawn to an older architectural style, with buildings rich in history, as opposed to glass skyscrapers, as impressive as they are. After some trial and error, we found a quaint café in the middle of the historic square. This is what I expected Frankfurt to look like, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Finally found the old part of the city.

 After our leisurely breakfast in the picturesque square, we walked about two minutes to the river for our sightseeing cruise. Apparently, I love boat tours, and this was no different. For less than 15 euros, we had a two hour boat tour on the Main, with explanations of historic and modern buildings spoken to us in both German and English. One building to note was the Frankfurt Cathedral; a gothic style church that rises high among the smaller buildings of the old city and dates back to the 13th century. From the boat, we could see in one panoramic view, the industrial, modern buildings juxtaposed with the 13th century church. This view put in perspective how authentic the two days we spent in Frankfurt really were. 

: Back in the Romer Square with delicious chocolates from the Kleinmarkthalle.

Next stop: lunch. We went back to the Römerberg square (Römerberg 26, 60311 Frankfurt am Main, Germany) for lunch, and my friends got Schnitzel, a German classic (while I opted for a vegetarian faire). From there, we went to the Kleinmarkthalle (Hasengasse 5-7, 60311 Frankfurt am Main, Germany), an indoor grocery store with over 60 vendors. As we walked in, I was immediately transported into another world. The market hall was so reminiscent of a challenge on the Amazing Race – Season 32, Leg 7, Kazakhstan, the Zelenyi Bazaar. I imagined teams trying to run through the market to find their next clue, and I almost felt like I was in the race, just without the stress. Small local venues like the Kleinmarkthalle helped give me a sweet taste of daily life in Frankfurt and helped me feel a little less touristy, and allowed me to embrace more of the culture within the city. 

Living Alone and Doing Chores

Thursday, October 7, 2021 | Written by Mira

I’ve never lived alone before this semester. The closest I have gotten to that is spending last winter break by myself in a 6-person on-campus apartment, but that was only two weeks in total. As a self-aware introvert, I was very excited by the idea of having my own space. While most GTL students live in the same apartment complexes, we each get a studio apartment, with our own kitchenette and bathroom. After spending a little more than a month here, I have finally settled into a housekeeping/chores schedule.

  1.  Laundry: The entire Lafayette residence (GTL students and other college students in the area) share one laundry room which includes exactly three washers and three dryers. I learned on campus in Atlanta that the best way to avoid laundry frustrations is to get it done at unusual times, like Monday mornings. The Monday morning laundry schedule still applies here, thankfully, but please don’t share my secret! My first class starts at 11am, so that’s the perfect amount of time to wake up, throw my clothes in the washer (for three euros and 28 minutes), make and enjoy my French-pressed coffee, go back to the laundry room to grab my clothes, and spread everything out around my room to dry. The “European dry” dryers here, are not worth the one euro and forty minutes that have your clothes go from wet to slightly less wet. After I spread my clothes around my room to dry, hanging them off the desk, nightstands, and chairs, it is still early enough in the morning to go grocery shopping.

    Proof that no one does laundry on Monday mornings (time stamp: 8:33am)
  2. Grocery Shopping: The Lafayette residence is close to two grocery stores: Auchan and Cora. On Monday evenings, GTL sponsors a shuttle back from Cora, but I have class during this time, so I usually end up going to Auchan on Monday mornings. After doing my laundry, I grab some tote bags, throw on my headphones, and turn on a podcast. The roundtrip (to Auchan, shopping, and back) usually lasts the whole podcast, and I have just enough time to unpack my purchases before heading to GTL for class.

    Monday morning walk to Auchan.

3. Cleaning Dishes: One thing I enjoy about living alone is that you don’t have to worry about others leaving dishes in the sink. One thing I dislike about living alone is that there’s no pressure to do the dishes right away. I try my best, but I must admit I keep myself accountable only half the time. I’m trying to get better about doing my dishes as soon as I get them dirty, but as I sit here writing about my dish-washing routine, last night’s dishes are piled in the sink… but I’ll get to them later, when I need to make dinner tonight.

4. The Junk Drawer: I love memorabilia. At my parents’ house, I have boxes full of movie tickets, airplane tickets, museum maps, etc. My personality studying abroad is no different. Why do I need to save my Paris metro train tickets? My Frankfurt Botanical Gardens ticket? The map of my canal cruise in Amsterdam? For the memories. The memorabilia had been piling up on my desk for a while, but with my first physics test came my first tabletop declutter… which meant finding a drawer to put everything in. At least now my things aren’t visible, but the junk drawer is an ever-growing beast.

Good luck to December me who will have to sift through this mess.

5. General Cleaning: Whenever I would leave my room at my parents’ house for extended periods of time, I always try to clean it to the best of my abilities which involves making my bed, clearing surfaces, and vacuuming the floor, as best I can. (Mom and Dad, if you’re reading this and my room at home is currently a mess… I’m sorry.) I did all this so that when I returned, I would walk in my room exhausted from whatever I was coming back from (a summer internship or a semester at Tech), and see my bed made, room clean and be able to thank past me for not making current me make my bed. I’ve tried to continue this tradition here, so before I leave for a weekend adventure, I make sure to clean the floors, do whatever lingering dishes are left in the sink, clean the bathroom, make my bed, put away any clothes that were left out from drying.

Adventures in Barcelona

Tuesday, October 5, 2021 | Written by Mira

To quote one of my favorite reality TV shows, Big Brother, “Always expect the unexpected.” This is a mindset that you must adopt during study abroad. My trip to Barcelona started off with one of the trains being canceled a few days in advance due to previous inclement weather. I’m not quite sure how inclement weather from the 14th of September causes a train scheduled for the 24th of September to be canceled on the 21st of September, but “always expect the unexpected”.  

Getting a reimbursement for that train was a lot easier than expected, with google translate already pulled up with a French translation of our situation, and what we were asking for. All we had to do was go to the train station, talk to an agent, and reimburse the ticket. We could have exchanged the ticket, but the best alternative itinerary we found didn’t require seat reservations. So I guess I should thank the inclement weather for saving me 10 euros.

 We left for Barcelona Thursday evening and had to take an overnight train; I highly recommend booking an overnight train a few weeks in advance so everyone in your travel group can get a room together. On the train we took, each room contained four beds, and unfortunately my ticket was the one that was separate from my two travel buddies. Overall, the experience was quite interesting, and taking this overnight train was what I imagined the Hogwarts Express to be like.

Barcelona’s beautiful lights

After five trains (and about 20 hours of travel), we finally made it to Barcelona! We had dinner at a tapas restaurant called Dora (Carrer de Provença, 275, 08037 Barcelona, Spain) before heading to a lookout spot. We climbed up the many steps to the Mirador de l’Alcalde, and the view was so worth it! I am a height-junkie, and the most amazing thing about views like this, is that just a mere hour before, we were in the view. From the observation deck, everything looked so small, but the view contained so much life and beautiful bright lights. There were so many things this view captured- too many things to do in just one day. Unfortunately, with the length of our trains, one day would have to suffice for now in this beautiful city.

On our way back to the AirBnB, we emerged from the metro station to a celebration in the streets with bright fireworks and lively dancing. The La Mercè Festival of Barcelona, an annual week-long celebration of the end of summer, was in full swing, and we just happened to be there for the official day of celebration.


Life imitates art or art imitates life?

Our only full day in Barcelona was jam-packed full of adventures! We started off the day with breakfast at a quaint café. The amateur coffee connoisseur in me was ecstatic to try a cortado, a traditional Spanish espresso drink. Next up, the Picasso Museum. Located in the middle of an old, medieval portion of the city (we almost completely passed it!), the museum is home to an extensive collection of Picasso pieces.

 Next stop: the aquarium! I think being from the Atlanta area and having the Georgia Aquarium be my touchstone for aquariums, unfortunately made this aquarium a little bit of a let-down. However, the reprieve from the 80-degree heat was much appreciated! I’ve always known my name is Spanish for “look,” but never before had I realized how often this word is used, especially at the aquarium. There were many parents telling their children to “mira, mira, mira” at the colorful fish. Every single time this happened, my friends and I would have to stifle a laugh, so the Barcelona Aquarium was probably the funniest aquarium I’ve been to.

I had a caprese empanada and it was incredible!

You can’t be in Barcelona without going to the beach! As we mapped out directions to the beach, we walked along the port and came across an art and food market! I found the most beautiful bee earrings, which I just had to buy (Go Jackets!), and these will definitely be what I wear at graduation – my “I got out” earrings. We made it to the beach (after stopping for some delicious empanadas), and it was so refreshing to just relax.


The colorful, bustling Mercado de La Boqueria.

Next stop: Mercado de La Boqueria (La Rambla, 91, 08001 Barcelona, Spain). I HIGHLY recommend this place. This market is a mixture of food vendors including street food but also meat, produce, fish, etc. where locals can come for their regular grocery shopping, and tourists can enjoy a real feel for the city. The market reminded me of the markets (shuks) in Israel, and it felt like a piece of home. 


Our final stops of the day: The Arco de Triunfo de Barcelona and La Sagrada Familia Basilica. Two absolutely beautiful structures! If I do come back to Barcelona, which I hope I do, I will come back to La Sagrada Familia in the daylight. We were there after the sun had set, and the basilica wasn’t really lit up as we expected, but it was beautiful all the same.

 Barcelona definitely can’t be done in one day – I could probably spend a week there and still not feel like I fully experienced it. So, instead of a “goodbye” to Barcelona, the trip home was an “until-next-time.”

A Midterm Week in My Life at GTL

With all of the travel that happens in a semester at Georgia Tech-Lorraine, it can be easy to forget that it is still school and with that comes the occasional midterm week, and in Mira’s case midterm day. Read more about Mira’s experience relaxing in Metz and studying for her midterms in her latest blog post!

Friday, October 1, 2021 | Written by Mira

My color-coded google calendar for midterm day might have been too colorful for one Wednesday…

The best thing about having class only on Mondays and Wednesdays is  having class only two days a week. The worst thing is having assessments only two days a week. And naturally, this week, they all decided to test my knowledge on the same Wednesday. 

My upcoming midterm week (day) meant that I would spend the weekend in Metz. It is more than okay to take a weekend to slow down. There’s so much travel involved in studying abroad, especially at Georgia Tech-Lorraine, that you might feel like you’re missing out by staying home. I mean, I definitely felt like that. As I sat at home, studying all weekend, I saw on social media other students hiking in Switzerland, eating amazing food in Berlin, paragliding in Annecy… FOMO is real at Georgia Tech-Lorraine, but the semester ebbs and flows for everyone. While my midterm week was this week, a lot of people (the same people I saw on social media) have their midterm week next week, which means while they’re staying in Metz, I get to travel to Barcelona.

Coffee shops, like the Columbus Cafe featured here, are my favorite study spaces!

As I mentioned, I stayed in Metz this weekend. I had a very relaxing weekend… minus being stressed for midterms. Saturday morning, I woke up bright and early and went to my happy place, Fox Coffee (6 Rue Gambetta, 57000 Metz), to study. This was my third time this week here, and my goal is to become a regular. Saturday night, I finished a book! I actually get to read for pleasure here, and my younger self is very proud of my current self. I’m not quite sure yet whether it’s because I have more downtime or better time management, but being able to prioritize leisure activities (like reading) has been a welcomed surprise. 

Monday morning, I stopped by Paul (a chain bakery in Metz) on my way to class to get some non-apartment-made coffee. The rest of my Monday was full of lectures preparing me for my assessments on Wednesday.

Tuesday, I searched for a coffee shop that wasn’t Fox to study. I found a café in the center of downtown that was perfect (official coffeeshop review coming soon), and spent the afternoon working on an international business presentation, making a formula sheet for statistics, doing practice problems for both statistics and physics. One of my friends had met me there, and afterwards we went to Auchan for some grocery shopping. 

Wednesday arrived, and so did my midterm day. I walked to the Georgia Tech-Lorraine campus early to practice the international business presentation in front of the beautiful glass building on a crisp fall day.

Practicing a presentation with this beautiful backdrop.

After the presentation, I studied for a French vocabulary quiz, and did some last-minute review of statistics. After the statistics assessment, I went directly to Paul to grab a cheap dinner to-go so I could eat before the physics exam. Physics at Georgia Tech-Lorraine is distance learning from Atlanta, so our exam is done in our own room through Gradescope and Microsoft TEAMS proctoring, which also means I had to clean my desk. My desk was piled with metro tickets, train tickets, postcards, and other memorabilia from my travels so far, so I had to find a home for these things while I ate dinner and studied the last bit for the physics exam. The exam was over by 9:00pm, and so was my midterm day! I finally breathed a sigh of relief because, on the bright side, my stressful week was over and my weekend was just beginning – Barcelona, here I come! One of the amazing things about Georgia Tech-Lorraine is that so much happens in a week, and you get to celebrate the end of a stressful week with a new adventure.

A Guide to Buses in Metz

The fastest way to get around Metz is definitely by bus. Mira breaks down her knowledge on the bus system in Metz in this must read for any student at Georgia Tech-Lorraine!

Wednesday, September 29, 2021 | Written by Mira

The 45-minute walk into downtown Metz is anything but ideal. Yes, it’s picturesque, but it’s not quick. I’ve used the bus system extensively in the month that I’ve been here, so let me break it down and share some tips.

Bus tickets come in 1-trip, 2-trips, 10-trips, or monthly pass. If you get to Metz at the end of the month (ex: August 20th), I’d recommend holding off on the monthly pass. It expires at the end of the month, so a 10-trip pass should suffice until the beginning of the next month. To get the student discount on the monthly pass, you go to the Le Met office in République square.

The Metz Buses go all over the city, which makes it really convenient to get around!

There’s a bus stop right outside Lafayette for a bus (C12) that takes you directly to the train station and downtown Metz. It’s about a 20-minute bus ride to Republique square, and buses run about every 30 minutes, from 5am to about 8:30pm. If you’re downtown after 8:30pm, such as for dinner or coming back from the train station, you can take the M4a or M4b to the station nearest Lafayette and walk 13 minutes. 

To use your bus pass, you tap it on one of the screens on the bus. Always remember to pay, because you never know when metro workers will come around and check that you paid. If you see someone official walking down the bus with a little device, don’t panic! Watch what other bus patrons do and tap your card to the device. If you paid, you’re all good! If not, you could get fined.

To get off the bus, pay attention for your stop. Right before your stop, you should hit the “Stop” buttons that are spread out around the bus. Usually they’re red, but you can also click the small metal ones to indicate that you would like to get off at the upcoming stop. Once you press the button or if someone else already has, “Arret Demande” lights up in red near the front of the bus.

I highly recommend downloading the Moovit app. Moovit helps you navigate all sorts of public transportation pretty much in any city. I used it over the summer in Tel Aviv (in a big city), and it works in Metz (a smaller city). You type in a destination, and it’ll give you options of routes you could take and the duration of the routes. It also tells you how much you need to walk before and/or after the bus or train. Always check which side of the road you should be on, because sometimes it’s not clear on the map.  Moovit has the bus schedule loaded in, but sometimes the buses are late or early. Sometimes, it will show you an ETA, how far away the bus is from a certain stop in minutes. Once you select a route, you can hit the start button, and it will follow you on your journey. For example, once you get on the bus, it will update you on how many stops it is before you should get off. You can also set it to give you notifications when you are 2 stops away. 

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I’ve only used the C12 and M4 lines due to their proximity to Lafayette, but there are a few other lines that can take you elsewhere around Metz. The C12 can also bring you to and from Cora, the hypermarché near Lafayette (about a 25-minute walk). But, Georgia Tech-Lorraine provides a free shuttle back from Cora on a specific evening of the week (for us, Mondays at 7:30pm).

The buses in Metz are a great way to get around and to help downtown seem not quite so far away.

A Birthday Weekend Spent Country Hopping

The title of Mira’s latest blog says it all, join Mira on an exciting adventure through Luxembourg and the Netherlands!

Friday, September 24, 2021 | Written by Mira

My actual birthday was the Monday following this weekend and would be celebrated by a day of classes. So, I decided to celebrate early and check some cities and experiences off my bucket list! What started as a stressful Thursday turned into the most memorable birthday weekend. A physics lab and a Covid-19 test later, two friends and I were on our way to Luxembourg for leg 1 of our weekend adventure.

Day 1: Luxembourg

Maybe one of the artsiest pictures of mousse I’ve ever taken.

The train from Metz to Luxembourg is covered by the 3-month unlimited Eurail pass without any extra reservation fees. After one of my friends finished her class, we hopped on a train for dinner in Luxembourg.  We walked around a town square, passing by calm coffee shops and beautifully decorated side streets. Luxembourg seemed to be one of the calmest cities I’ve been to. After dinner and some delicious mousse at Café Veneziano (1 Pl. d’Armes, 1136 Luxembourg), we walked towards the sunset and into a large park, meandering with no set destination when one of my friends noticed a column of bright blue lights, which we just had to follow. 

The German-Luxembourgish fair was so vibrant and colorful!
The German-Luxembourgish fair was so vibrant and colorful!

 To our utter surprise, we stumbled upon a German-Luxembourgish fair with many carnival games and rides( maybe Luxembourg isn’t as calm as we initially thought)! After some confusion of how to get tickets for rides due to the language barrier, we ended up in line for a ride called “Circus Circus,” a ride that spins in three frames of reference at the same time! In our little group of three sets of seats, we were definitely screaming the loudest and were laughing constantly, which led some Luxembourgish teenage boys to laugh at us, but hey, at least we had fun. Finding this carnival was a gem and we considered it a promising sign for the rest of our travels this weekend… what else would be stumble upon?

 Something I find absolutely fascinating about Luxembourg is the emphasis of languages. We looked up what the official language of Luxembourg is, and there’s actually three (Luxembourgish, German, and French), but most Luxembourgers speak at least four languages! The employees at the hotel we stayed at seamlessly transitioned between German, French, and English when talking to different guests. The next day on the train, we sat near two girls who were speaking all three languages to each other, sometimes all in the same sentence! 

 Day 2: Trains

Making the most of our train struggles with my first official Belgian waffle!

I could probably write a whole novel about the trains we had on this trip. On Friday, we experienced everything from a surprise transfer in a run-down Belgian train station, a cancellation of said transfer, a last-minute platform change for said transfer, a delay of said transfer (while we were on the train), and a missed connection (because of the cancellation and delay). Nonetheless, we made it to Amsterdam! Even though we were an hour behind schedule, we weren’t too stressed because the Eurail app allowed us to easily find and change itineraries, especially since none of the trains required seat reservations. 

The Royal Orchestra performed in the square with this background!

For our first evening, we decided to take it easy, find some dinner, and walk around the canals. After scoring a 5 euro dinner at an Italian-Argentinian restaurant in the Netherlands, we stumbled upon another great surprise! In the town square in front of the Royal Palace, there was a concert set up.  Fancily dressed people were scanning a QR code and entering the gates. One of the security guards told us that this was a once-a-year Royal Orchestra concert and tickets sold out two weeks ago. Unfortunately, we couldn’t go in, but since the concert was outdoors, we could still hear it. We stood outside the gates listening to the lovely orchestral music with a view of a Dutch Royal Palace with cyclists zigzagging through the crowd. Everything seemed so cinematic.

 Day 3: Amsterdam

Today was our first and only full day in Amsterdam! For popular attractions such as the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House, you need to make reservations well in advance, which we were unaware of, (so maybe we will revisit Amsterdam  later in the semester) but we made the most of what was available to us on short notice. The night before, we reserved tickets for the Royal Palace, so we started our day in regal style, walking around the palace, learning about the history of Amsterdam and the architecture of the building, which had a large Roman mythology influence. 

Found a cute bicycle on a canal bridge and just had to take some photos with it!
Found a cute bicycle on a canal bridge and just had to take some photos with it!

 After the Royal Palace, I needed coffee. The night before, we had found a bakery called Lourens (Oude Leliestraat 15, 1016 BD Amsterdam, Netherlands) that claimed to have the best iced coffee in Amsterdam, so we had to put it to the test. Not only was the iced coffee delicious, but the workers were so sweet! After a not-so-quick impromptu photo shoot with a random light green bicycle on a canal, we headed towards the Tulip Museum, which has student tickets for 3 euros! The museum is quite small, but we learned a lot about how tulips ended up in Holland and how tulip fields are maintained. I guess this was as close to actual fields of colorful tulips as we were going to get in autumn (if you’re at Georgia Tech-Lorraine in the Spring, please go to a tulip field in April for me).

 Our next stop of the day was one of my bucket list items: canal cruise in Amsterdam. There are many different places you could go to get tickets, or you can buy them online. We opted for the I Amsterdam x Circle Line canal cruise. A 75-minute tour of Amsterdam from the canals, learning about the history of Amsterdam and the canals – did you know that there are more than twice as many bicycles as people in Amsterdam? 

 After the incredible canal cruise, we stopped by a chocolate shop, Puccini Bomboni (Singel 184, 1016 AA Amsterdam, Netherlands) near the best iced coffee bakery and waved to the friendly barista who remembered us, and the chocolatier offered me a free truffle for my upcoming birthday! We spent the rest of the day and evening walking around the beautiful canals, grabbing dinner at one of the many Argentinian restaurants. The way the lights reflected off the canals was so picturesque, but no phone camera could capture the way the water glistened. 

Canal Cruise!

I don’t think you can capture Amsterdam in a day. Honestly, I don’t even think you could see Amsterdam in its entirety in a weekend or even a week. I hope I get to come back at some point during the semester and see the things we missed, see the golden leaves in later autumn, and eat a famous stroopwafel.

The Leonardo Program

In the spirit of the renaissance man the program is named after, the Leonardo Program at Georgia Tech-Lorraine, run by Prof. Sonia Serafin, provides students with a broad array of cultural experiences in Metz. Read more about Mira’s experiences with the Leonardo program in her latest blog as in just one week she goes produce-picking at la Cueillette de Peltre and sees a performance by Orchestre National de Metz!

Wednesday, September 22, 2021 | Written by Mira

The Leonardo Program is a true hidden gem of Georgia Tech-Lorraine. I didn’t know about this until our welcome orientation. Professor Sonia Serafin created the Leonardo Program to give students a chance to have cultural experiences that would otherwise be inaccessible. With a focus on cultural immersion and the arts, the Leonardo Program offers various activities and events throughout the semester.

An image of strawberries growing from a planter. One red strawberry is in the center of the image behind it are several whitish-green strawberries that are yet to ripen.
The rows and rows and rows of strawberries!

On Tuesday afternoon, we went fruit, vegetable, and flower picking at a local farm, Cueillette de Peltre (! Georgia Tech-Lorraine provided a shuttle to and from the farm so for an hour and half we could pick whatever we wanted. The main attraction? Strawberries. 

After getting instructions of logistics, we made a beeline for the “fraises”. There were rows and rows and rows of strawberries! They were some of, if not, the best, freshest strawberries I’ve ever eaten! Not a fan of strawberries? No worries. This farm was massive, and they grew everything you could want: tomatoes, apples, peppers, all sorts of herbs, carrots, cauliflowers, different kinds of lettuce, flowers, eggplants… The best thing about Cueillette? The prices. As college students without a meal plan, the low prices were a major win. Someone bought a whole bag, full of produce, for 10 euros! 

An image of the concert programs in front of the seats in the concert hall. The text reads "Concert d'ouverature de saison" which translates to the opening concert of the season.
The opening concert of the season!

On Friday evening, the Leonardo Program provided tickets to the Orchestre National de Metz’s first concert of the season. I don’t know much about orchestra concerts; in fact, the only orchestra concerts I’ve ever been to have been high school orchestras. I was definitely looking forward to whatever this experience would bring. The first piece was quite startling, fittingly named “Apocalypsis.” With a mixture of French, Latin, and English lyrics, the chorus resonated around the venue in ominous echoes. My favorite thing was watching one of the musicians play seven different instruments in two ways each to create some of the most dynamic and interesting sounds to accompany the chorus and string orchestra.

After being thoroughly confused for the first twenty minutes (the length of the piece), there was a long, ebbing and flowing round of applause. I lost track of how long the applause lasted, but it seemed like a solid ten minutes of clapping.

An image of the concert hall with rows of people sitting down.
This concert hall was gorgeous!

The other three pieces were more what I was expecting an orchestra concert to entail. Lots of piano and strings. The third piece highlighted the piano played by Louis Schwizgebel, a Swiss pianist who has played all over the world at just 33 years old ( The audience loved the piano piece so much (and rightfully so), that the resounding applause shifted to a rhythmic applause with a steady beat. Having not been briefed in orchestra concert etiquette, the shift in applause was a little unsettling; however, Professor Serafin later told us that this rhythmic applause is a sign to the musicians that the audience wants an encore. And that’s exactly what happened. I’ve only ever experienced planned encores at the end of a concert but this was in the middle of the show, unplanned! 

At the end of the show, an audience member yelled “Bravo!” before the concert hall erupted in applause. Professor Serafin knows one of the flautists, and we got to meet her very briefly outside the venue. I am so grateful for the immersive experiences I’ve had this week, and I am only more excited for the semester to come. Professor Serafin even teased a fun “name that tune” event with some of the members of the orchestra coming to Georgia Tech-Lorraine (pandemic-permitting of course). To anyone interested in Georgia Tech-Lorraine, take advantage of these events because I guarantee you, you’ll never have such a combination of unique experiences.

Exploring the French Riviera

Sunny skies, a sandy beach, and lots of mountains, what more could a student at Georgia Tech-Lorraine ask for? Join Mira on an adventure as she explores the French Rivera in her trip to Nice and Monaco!

Wednesday, September 15, 2021 | Written by Mira

 DAY 1 

Image Description: White cup with a pink logo full of light brown gelato and a teal spoon, on a stone ledge in front of a running fountain. In the background is an orange building with a red cloth overhang with white text: "Spécialité Niçoise."
Coffee Gelato!!

I think trains may be my new favorite form of travel. As much as I love the views from airplanes, there’s something so calming about being on eye-level with the gorgeous French terrain. My itinerary for the day consisted of two trains and a metro, lasting about 8 hours, giving me enough time to read (for pleasure, not for school!) and admire the mountains and Mediterranean coast, of which no picture could do justice.

If you are staying in an Airbnb, I highly recommend asking your host about local favorites. Our host was so welcoming and gave us a list of places to go and how to get there, even sharing with us a local secret (there are coves on the other side of the port in Nice, free from an abundance of tourists). We headed out to dinner, wandering around the streets of Old Nice. I felt like I had been transported to another world. Among the souvenir shops and lavender soap vendors were so many restaurants with different cuisines: Indian, American, Italian, Middle Eastern, and especially Niçoise (the local Nice cuisine), plus too many gelateria to count!


ID: A woman with a maroon top and black shorts, spreading her arms in front of a large blue, white, and red sign that reads: "#ILoveNice." Behind the sign, the sea and coastline is visible, and the sky is overcast.
Doing touristy things

The best way to start the day? A French breakfast: boisson chaud (hot drink), orange pressée (freshly squeezed orange juice), and a viennoiserie (a pastry). We spent a leisurely morning, enjoying breakfast (petit dejeuner), walking around the Old City, and exploring the views of the beach. I could look at the view from the beach forever. Standing near the #ILoveNice sign, you can see the French landscape curve around the Mediterranean Sea. In the distance, you can see the hazy outline of mountains while listening to the sound of waves crashing against the rocks. 

After a very serene morning and early afternoon, we headed to the train station to go to Monaco (for no other reason than just to add it to the list of countries we’ve visited). If you buy the unlimited Eurail pass, the train between Nice and Monaco is completely free, no seat reservations required. 

 View of pale buildings, higher ones on the left of the image, and lower ones on the right, leading to sea level. In the background are mountains and an overcast sky. In the foreground are brown-green trees framing the image.

Monaco is built on the side of a mountain, and grandly towers over the nearby port. Our one goal was to walk towards the Palace and back to the station. We reached the Palace exhausted after walking down part of the mountain and up a cascade of stairs, but the view made it more than worth it. From our vantage point, you could see how each building towered over the one in front of it as they got farther from the rounded harbor full of lavish boats. I can proudly say that I only spent a single euro in Monaco, on a single postcard. On our way back to the train station, google maps struggled to understand the public elevator setup but we read signs leading us into the station that was built into the mountain. Honestly, I’m not sure exactly how we ended up stumbling upon the correct platform 10 minutes earlier than google maps anticipated, but I can’t complain about not having to sprint to make our train. 


ID: Waterfall on the left two-thirds of the image with a tree above and another tree to the right (in the right third of the image) of the waterfall. Peaking out above the waterfall, between the leaves of the tree is the sun, creating a sun flare in the image.
An artificial waterfall in Castle Hill Park

Our last day in Nice we followed the recommendations of our Airbnb host and a Georgia Tech-Lorraine alumni. A must-see destination in Nice is Castle Hill, a grand (and hilly) park near the port that features a refreshing waterfall that overlooks the sea. Even higher up the hill is a glorious lookout, making the (already amazing) views from the previous day pale in comparison. From here, you can see all the rooftops of Nice, and everything looks so small. Nearby a busker was playing a violin only adding to the ambiance and sensation I was in some sort of movie. 

If you don’t think you can make it all the way down the stairs, don’t worry! There is a public elevator not far from the lookout, and it leads you right to the beach. After spending some time at the rocky beach, we found lunch at a Mexican restaurant La Lupita (9 Rue de la Préfecture, 06300 Nice), and I got some top-notch iced coffee. 

The next stop on our excursion was one of the few (maybe the only) sandy beaches in this area: Villefrance-sur-Mer. In the week leading up to my arrival at Georgia Tech-Lorraine, a Georgia Tech-Lorraine alumna recommended this specific beach to me, and my Airbnb host confirmed that it was worth the train ride. If you take the trip, you should definitely bring sunscreen or buy some… I’m unfortunately speaking from experience. 

Nice is truly a relaxing vacation destination! If you’re at Georgia Tech-Lorraine in the fall, go early while it’s still warm. If you’re at Georgia Tech-Lorraine in the spring, go late when it gets warm. And, if you’re at Georgia Tech-Lorraine in the summer, just go and please visit the Lavender fields in Provence for me!