Nice, Menton, and a Little Bit of Italy

Warm sunny skies and gorgeous seas are always nice… especially in Nice! Join Kaitlyn in her latest pun-filled blog as she details her adventures in Nice, Menton, and a little bit of Italy!

Tuesday, March 2, 2021 | Written by Kaitlyn

Sunshine, breathtaking views, and good company; this trifecta of variables led to what’s been my favorite weekend at Georgia Tech-Lorraine thus far. 

The perfect weekend began at 6AM, with me gingerly stepping around the apartment so as not to wake my friends. I was headed for the beach – which was a mere block from our Airbnb –  to catch the sunrise. An hour and a couple dozen photos later, I retraced my steps back to the apartment to join my friends on our adventure for the day. It was a beautiful day of nearly 70 degree weather and we were determined to take full advantage of it. 

After strolling along the beach where we admired the crystal clear water and had essentially, a mini photoshoot, we set our sights on something protruding out of the skyline of Nice: the ferris wheel. I don’t think I was fully prepared to be as blown away by the view as I was. After all, the ferris wheels I had been on previously only overlooked dirty fairground parking lots. At the very top, we were given a panoramic view of the brightly colored buildings below, the sparking blue water, and the imposing mountains in the distance.

We wandered through the streets of Nice, occasionally ducking into one of the plethora of small shops and bakeries. To my amusement, we were the only ones wearing short-sleeves. The locals must have thought we were nuts for treating 65 degree weather like summer, but, how else are we supposed to act when we’re coming from the much colder north of France? We made our way up to Castle Hill, a panoramic viewpoint that had me humming “Castle on the Hill” by Ed Sheeran on the way up. All we could do upon reaching the top was gawk at the views below. I couldn’t believe how aquamarine the water was!

We really do #LoveNice!

The next day, after a series of unfortunate events that involved missing a bus, a tram breaking down, and technical difficulties at the train station, we were on the way to Menton. Our moods were instantly lifted the moment we stepped off the train and saw orange trees. Curiosity got the best of us. We tore into the fruits and chomped down on the juicy slices. Personally, I thought they were delicious, as I love sour food, but my friends… not so much. Looking back, we realized that we had picked the most overripe ones possible!

One of the many street food vendors in Menton.

As we made our way to the main section of town, we could tell immediately that Menton was, simply put, a happy place. Music played from speakers lining the sidewalks, children gleefully rode by on scooters, and the smell of home-cooked food filled the air. I had a quick chat with a very kind employee at the Office du Tourisme, and she gave us suggestions to see the iconic view of the city from the water. When we got there, we were more than content to just sit on the rocks and soak in the vista. 

My postcard lining up perfectly with the skyline!
Bongiorno, Italy! Au revoir, France!

 At this point, I checked Google Maps just because I was curious to see our location. Imagine my surprise when I discovered we were a mere 25 minute walk from the Italian border! My friends decided that there was absolutely no way we were going to pass up the opportunity to say that we walked to Italy, so… to Italy we went. Upon reaching the border, we took pictures and selfies with the Italian flag. The customs officers seemed rather intimidating, so we didn’t get too close, but hey, we made it to another country! 

Nice-cream, get it?

Back in Menton, we treated ourselves to gelato (if we had been in Nice, we could have called it “[N]ice cream”) and leisurely strolled around the city.  I simply couldn’t get over how vibrant the alleyways looked when the sunlight hit the yellow and orange buildings. 

My friends and I agreed that we never imagined we’d love the French Riviera as much as we did. But we were more than pleasantly surprised with our experience. It really helped that most of the activities we did were outdoors and thus, unhindered by the pandemic. All in all, Nice truly lived up to its name. It was lively, colorful, and most of all, nice. You didn’t really expect me not to end this post without a Nice pun, did you?


Roaming Around Rome

Join Kaela as she makes her way around the grand city of Rome during her fall break at Georgia Tech-Lorraine. Read on to hear about her experiences at landmarks she’s been dreaming of visiting as long as she could remember!

Monday, November 16, 2020 | Written by Kaela


Italy was everything I had ever dreamed of and more. When planning my trips before attending Georgia Tech-Lorraine, Rome was one of the cities I looked most forward to seeing, so we set aside more than enough days to enjoy this beautiful city as well as the Vatican.

DAY 1:

Santa Maria Maggiore
Santa Maria Maggiore

Since we arrived in Rome around midday, our itinerary was short. First, we headed to Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, one of Rome’s four major basilicas. From floor to ceiling, it is adorned with mosaics, illustrations, engravings, figures, and looks like the whole basilica was dipped in gold.  Adornments filled every inch of the building. I could spend days admiring each and every detail, each one as beautifully crafted as the next. While at the beginning of my travels I spent time comparing all of the cathedrals, basilicas, and churches I have been fortunate enough to visit, I have come to realize they are all dazzling in their own ways – whether it be expansive displays of stained glass like the Cathédrale de Metz  or the gilded details of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore – and I simply cannot choose a favorite.

Enjoying the sunset at the Spanish StepsOur next stops were two famous tourist attractions: the Trevi Fountain and Spanish steps. One of the girls traveling with me had visited these locations before and showed us pictures she took which were filled with hordes of tourists taking their own snapshots. Without the typical swarm of people, we had the opportunity to view every angle of each of the attractions. As the sun set over the Spanish Steps, I couldn’t help but pinch myself to test I was really awake.

DAY 2:
We began our second day  in Rome at Mercato Centrale Roma. The delicious smells of fresh herbs wafted through the air, leaving our mouths watering. We all wandered amongst the many vendors until I finally decided to purchase truffle pasta that was to die for.
After we all finished enjoying our plates of heaven, we headed straight to the Colosseum.

QUICK TIP: Travel with all sorts of different people. It opens your perspective and you will learn a lot along the way.

Our group turned out to be the perfect team at the Colosseum. We all had knowledge in different areas which we could share with one another: one girl studied Latin and could translate various Roman texts, another knew a lot about Roman history, another is really knowledgeable about art and I have some knowledge of architectural history. It was sort of like having my own personal guides while traveling through Italy. It is more enjoyable to do more than just “sightseeing” and actually learn about what you are looking at. Which leads to my second–

QUICK TIP: I recommend doing a little bit of research before you visit somewhere, and take the extra time to read all of the informational signs. This will make your experience so more valuable.

We then walked through the Roman Forum and enjoyed the view from Palatine Hill. I found myself imagining the area filled with people and what it must have looked like when it was first built. We then walked to the Pantheon, enjoying the great weather and strolling along the cobblestone streets. At the top of the
dome of the Pantheon is a 9 meter (~30 feet) hole. which serves as the church’s main source of light. At first I was confused, isn’t the point of a roof to keep out the rain? I learned that rain does come through it but the floor is slightly sloped and has well
hidden drainage holes, which only left me even more in awe of the Pantheon than when staring at the 30 ft hole above my head.

We stopped for dinner nearby for a cheap four course meal at Taverna del Seminario. After having a tiramisu once or twice a day everyday while in Italy, I now consider myself a pseudo tiramisu aficionado. My rating is that the one from Taverna del Seminario was by far the best. In major cities, with the pandemic, many businesses close early, so we’ve gotten in the habit of heading back early to wherever we are staying to catch up on schoolwork. On the way to our airbnb, we stopped at Chiesa di Sant’Ignazio di Loyola and a couple souvenir shops, making the perfect end to a perfect day.

Exploring an Everlasting City

Kaela is back on the blog with her latest adventure. Join her on her trip through time in Pompeii: the city encased in ash by Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

Thursday, November 5, 2020 | Written by Kaela


Prior to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, Pompeii was just another seaside Roman city. The explosion buried the city in ash, killing thousands of people, leaving it abandoned perfectly preserved until it was rediscovered by explorers in the 18th century. Pompeii is not a destination Georgia Tech-Lorraine students prioritize visiting as it’s a very long trip from Metz; however after my trip, I believe the amazingly preserved city should be on everyone’s bucket list. 

My delicious margherita pizza!

We started our day in Pompeii at Alleria Pizzeria. I ordered my first Italian meal, a margherita pizza topped with fresh buffalo mozzarella. The flavor that emanates from three simple toppings is a classic and never ceases to amaze me. The buffalo mozzarella was both sprinkled on top and baked into the pizza, adding even more depth to the flavor. For dessert, we ordered deep fried dough balls topped with an abundant amount of Nutella and powdered sugar. As we left the restaurant full and happy, we strolled the streets under a light drizzle, making random pit stops at souvenir shops and street-side vendors. Luckily, the weather cleared up just as we approached the Pompeii ruins. While the city of Pompeii may be frozen in time, our time to explore the preserved city was limited. We initially passed the ruins of the amphitheatre. I found myself comparing it to the one I visited in Trier, which had crumbled more becoming engulfed in the surrounding terrain. By comparison, this amphitheater was astonishingly well-preserved. Afterwards, we followed the tourist carved path to viewing boxes filled with artifacts found throughout the city. The fascinating collection included food scraps burnt by falling soot, weathered gold jewelry, cracked mirrors, shining gems, bronzed coins, and many more commonplace items that have become relics. In the structures, some of the murals, mosaic flooring, and kitchen stoves still remain. Other artifacts such as clay vases, plates, and bowls remained placed throughout various rooms as if time had just stopped. 

Throughout the various buildings throughout the city were not only the everyday objects of life in Pompeii, but plaster casts of the people of Pompeii preserved in the volcanic ash. In 1860, an archaeologist named Guiseppe Fiorelli discovered he could make casts of the slowly decomposing bodies by touching up any holes with plaster. Fiorelli and the volcanic ash preserved the position they made upon their death. The haunting figures remained in fetal position or standing, all covering their face to keep from inhaling the ash; Pompeii’s fleeting last moments forever encased in stone.We wandered along the main street and went into buildings as we saw them and ended up finding stairs that led to a view overlooking the city surrounded by beautiful mountains. We ended our time in Pompeii with a view of what started it all, the now sleeping Mount Vesuvius. 

I Went to Venice and Liked It, A Lot

Where can you find stunning seascapes, endlessly curving canals, and an abundance of art? Venice of course! Join Blanca on her short but splendid time in the city of bridges!

Friday, February 7, 2020 | Written by Blanca

Venice is a destination I’ve always wanted to visit. Something about the novelty and intrigue of a city on water had made it seem, in my mind, the absolute epitome of the confluence of human imagination, engineering, and creativity.  What could be more romantic, more elegantly surreal, than azure canals hugging the bases of Venetian Gothic and Renaissance buildings, so full of diverse architectural character and unique elegance, stalwart in their foundations but delicately ornate in the balustrades and trefoil arches high above?  (Spoiler alert: nothing.) Having experienced Venice for a weekend, during which time I saw both major tourist attractions and hidden gems tucked behind narrow alleyways and winding streets, I can confidently confirm that my prior notions regarding one of Europe’s most illustrious cities were, in fact, correct.  Call me a romantic, but Venice was nothing short of magical.

The Grand Canal, as seen from the Rialto Bridge
The Grand Canal, as seen from the Rialto Bridge

Despite only being there for two and a half days, a fleeting amount of time when considering all that it has to offer, I saw Venice at every hour: first at dusk, upon my arrival, as the sunset cast a rosy glow over the city; then during the day, the streets abuzz with tourists; at the crack of dawn, tranquil under a hazy morning mist; and finally at night, when the twinkle of string lights over shop-lined streets was punctuated every once and a while by the mystique of dark passageways (I don’t recommend going into these alone at night, not only for obvious safety reasons, but also because many streets simply stop at the edge of a canal without warning, which could result in a rather wet and unpleasant surprise if you don’t know to stop walking).  The weekend afforded us a range of weather, including foggy skies that shrouded the city in an ethereal veil, a light drizzle that threatened, unsuccessfully, to rain on our parade (pun intended), and the golden Italian sun, timid at first, which gilded the elegant palaces lining the Grand Canal and made the waters themselves glimmer like gold leaf. Like Venice at different times of day, Venice in different types of weather makes for completely different experiences, all just as beautiful and as magical as the others.

I could gush about Venice, as I have been doing for a while now, for days, but even then I don’t think I could adequately articulate all its marvels—and how could I, if I didn’t even get to see them all myself in the short time I had?  Nevertheless, here are some things that I did see, which are the highlights of my trip. ( And if given the chance, I one hundred percent recommend you visit too.)

St Mark’s Campanile

St Mark’s Campanile is the bell tower of St Mark’s Basilica, located in the bustling Piazza San Marco.  None of the other buildings in Venice are particularly tall, so standing at about 100 meters, the campanile is rather imposing.  For the same reason, the belfry at its top offers spectacular views of the city below, which you can see for an €8.00 admission fee.  The spot where Galileo once viewed the skies, the campanile provides stunning vantage point for a panoramic view of Venice’s signature red rooftops complementing the expansive blue Venetian Lagoon.  I stayed at the top for an hour, until the wind and cold made staying a bit unbearable, completely in awe and trying to commit the entire scene to memory.

The view from the top of St Mark's Campanile, on the side overlooking St Mark's Basilica, which provides a stunning aerial view of Venice.
The view from the top of St Mark’s Campanile, on the side overlooking St Mark’s Basilica, which provides a stunning aerial view of Venice.

Vaporetto Ride

The Grand Canal on a sunny day, as seen from a vaporetto station.
The Grand Canal on a sunny day, as seen from a vaporetto station.


A vaporetto is a Venetian public waterbus, which has multiple lines that travel in and around Venice.  We hopped on the vaporetto on our second afternoon, and it brought us up the Grand Canal. Even on an overcast day, seeing the restaurants, shops, and stately palaces lining the Grand Canal was an unforgettable experience and a great way to view the sides of Venice you can’t see from the streets.


Major Tourist Attractions at Dawn

On Sunday morning, the rest of my travel group headed off to Florence for a day trip, but I, absolutely captivated by Venice, decided to remain.  The port was set to be closed starting at 7AM that morning to defuse a recently discovered WWII-era bomb, taking all trains out of service for a handful of hours, so they departed before the sun even rose.  Though not trying to catch a last-minute train off the island before a bomb was to be defused (which, looking back, was pretty absurd in itself), I still blearily dragged myself out of bed for an exciting day ahead.  Venice is a tourist city, and major landmarks had been positively packed when we visited during the two days prior, so I thought going at the crack of dawn would be the perfect opportunity to see major tourist attractions—they’d still be major, just not as tourist-y, and I was excited to see a more peaceful side of the best-known attractions in Venice.

My first stop was the Rialto Bridge, on which I’d already crossed over the Grand Canal several times.  In the early hours of the morning, however, the bridge was almost entirely empty, save for a few other early risers.  Accompanied by a couple seagulls and pigeons, none of whom stayed for very long, I stood on the bridge and took in the serenity of a Venice that was just waking up.

The Bridge of Sighs, Venice
The Bridge of Sighs, Venice

Next, I made my way back to Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square), another spot that had been populated by tourists for the past two days.  At dawn, however, St Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace stood completely quiet, as if they were still asleep. Continuing walking, I rounded the corner of the palace to the renowned Bridge of Sighs.  Fun fact: The Bridge of Sighs was designed by Antonio Contino, the nephew of the designer of the Rialto Bridge from which I had just walked. Lord Bryon dubbed this the ‘Bridge of Sighs’ to suggest that prisoners would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice through the window before being taken from the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace to their prison cells.  Watching the bridge, suspended above waters that lazily lapped the walls of the palace, and I, too, breathed a sigh, albeit one of content.

Peggy Guggenheim Collection

The Peggy Guggenheim Collection
The Peggy Guggenheim Collection

I’m a big fan of art museums, where form, composition, and technique gather all in one place.  What better place to visit for it than Venice, home to some masterful examples of the Italian Renaissance, and a city whose architecture is in fact a delightful amalgamation of several architectural influences that I consider to be art on its own?  While I typically gravitate toward pre-20th century art, because I tend to favor light impressionist brushstrokes and Flemish chiaroscuro over more contemporary styles and techniques (just a personal preference!), Peggy Guggenheim’s exquisitely curated collection of contemporary, modern, and postmodern artwork won me over.  Shout-out to yet another member of the Guggenheim family for having impeccable taste (Peggy Guggenheim, if the name isn’t telling enough, was the niece of Manhattan’s Solomon R. Guggenheim).

My favorites included a Picasso or two, an early Jackson Pollock that provided a fascinating contrast to the later, more recognizable abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock paintings nearby, and a couple Kandinsky pieces.  My mom introduced me to Kandinsky’s improvisations when I was very young, and there’s even a print of Improvisation 31 in our living room back home, so seeing them in real life was especially exciting! I have to give an honorable mention also to the Hannelore B. and Rudolph B. Schulhof Collection, which had not one but two (!!) sketches by Cy Twombly, an artist with whom I have an admittedly huge obsession.

Santa Maria della Salute

Just a stone’s throw away from the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, the Santa Maria della Salute, often referred to as simply the Salute, was a must-visit.  Despite only being a minor basilica, the Salute and its prominent dual domes are emblematic of the Venetian skyline. A symbol of Venice, I’ve been in love with this building and its striking octagonal Baroque and Palladian Classic facade for literal years, and anyone in my travel group can tell you that I simply would not shut up about it.

Entry into the Salute is free to the public, although it was closed for midday when I arrived, set to open its doors again at 3PM.  As a result, I sat on the stone steps in front of its grand doors, fraternizing with pigeons (I love pigeons) and watching vaporetti and gondolas leisurely drift through the Grand Canal.  At 3PM, I returned and entered the church, whose interior proved to be just as beautiful as its exterior. Though, like with many historic religious institutions, I didn’t take any photos out of respect and to abide by the rules of visitation, there turned out to be no need.  I can still clearly recall all the details, including the strikingly Byzantine influences (which comes as little surprise, since Venice was once occupied by the Byzantines) and ornate brass lanterns surrounded by glowing red lamps. The moody interior of the Salute contrasted significantly with the glittering gold mosaics of St Mark’s Basilica, just across the canal, but both were pretty remarkable in their own rights.  My goal of finally seeing the Salute in person fulfilled, I stepped back out into the afternoon sun.

A minor basilica of the Catholic church but a major basilica in my heart
A minor basilica of the Catholic church but a major basilica in my heart

To conclude what has been a rather long (but not nearly long enough, in my extraordinarily biased opinion) blog post about a comparatively small city, Venice is absolutely beautiful, and it offers a variety of activities for the aesthete, the history lover, the foodie (be warned, however, that Italian food is obscenely salty), and everyone in between.  My friends and I decided to visit during this weekend, still technically during winter, to experience Venice before flooding inevitably hits and the entire enchanting city disappears under water, as it sits a precarious few feet above the water, and we figured it was now or never. Despite a rather exhausting travel schedule (due to poor planning above anything else), it’s been perhaps my favorite place I’ve ever visited, and one that I wholeheartedly recommend.  To quote Peggy Guggenheim herself, “to visit [Venice] means that you fall in love with the city itself,” so if you don’t take it from me, at least take it from her.

A Cultural Awakening of Sorts

A trip to Venice was life changing for Bianca the art buff, as she got to see the places pieces she’s studied were created! Read about her change in perspective on art in this blog!

Wednesday, February 5, 2020 | Written by Blanca

Going to art museums is by far one of my favorite things to do, ever—I consider it in an exalted vanguard that is otherwise occupied only by eating, sleeping, and walking up and down the same streets five times in a row to observe the architecture and experience the genuine atmosphere of the whichever city I happen to be visiting at the time.

It might be due to the fact that I had to self-study virtually the entire curriculum of AP European History for the AP exam during my junior year of high school, but I hold a special place in my heart for European art, particularly for the softness of plein air Impressionism and Rococo and the awe-inspiring glory of Italian Renaissance paintings.  Oh, how I miss the days of patronization when oligarchs would commission pieces even more expansive and impressive than the very obscene amounts of money with which they were doing so. Visiting art collections, however, assuages this longing a bit, but for some reason, it wasn’t until this past weekend that I realized that being in Europe presents the most prime location and opportunity to see European art.

 Sculptures at the Gallerie dell'Accademia
Sculptures at the Gallerie dell’Accademia

As a frequenter of art museums back in the states, I’m no stranger to seeing a diverse range of art forms and styles, and European art is no exception.  But while triptychs at the Met, a Gutenberg bible at the Morgan Library & Museum, and Monet’s Houses of Parliament in the Fog at Atlanta’s very own High Museum of Art—at which I’ve stared for so long on many an occasion that I can actually see the silhouettes of houses of parliament despite the fog—are all adeptly crafted, they pale in comparison to the treasures that are on display in the very places in which they were made.  

Take the art I saw in Venice, for instance.  In retrospect, this shouldn’t have been a surprise.  Venice was a driving force in the Italian Renaissance, and the Venetian School of painting trained the likes of Titian and Tintoretto.  In fact, paintings by both were on display in the Scuola Grande di San Rocco in Venice, which I visited on my last night there. The Scoula was established as a confraternity in the late 13th century, and craning my neck to view the expanse of Tintoretto’s finest works on the ceiling of the Salone Maggiore, I could almost hear music, religion, and discussion that had filled the halls centuries before.

Scuola Grande di San Rocco
Scuola Grande di San Rocco

I also visited the Gallerie dell’Accademia on my final day in Venice, an art museum housed in the Scuola della Carità and the collections of which boast numerous pre-19th century Venetian masterpieces.  There, in Venice, where composite altarpieces were first introduced, the polyptychs were more detailed than any I’d seen, their reds and blues seemingly more vivid than in paintings that are housed elsewhere.  I’ve also craned my neck to see my fair share of ornately decorated ceilings in American galleries and private collections alike, but looking up, the gilded Baroque ceilings of the Gallerie dell’Accademia gleamed even more mesmerizingly.

Polyptych by Bartolomeo Vivarini, 1475, Venice
Polyptych by Bartolomeo Vivarini, 1475, Venice

Perhaps it was the generally enchanting environment of Venice that made me feel this way, but experiencing key parts of European culture, in Europe and in the very place from which they originated, was an incredibly riveting experience, one that was so much more immersive than seeing similar pieces in other collections.  While still from the same eras and by the same artists, artwork imported and put on display in other countries feels a bit far removed, almost foreign. A Titian in Isabella Stewart Gardner’s private collection in Boston is simply a beautiful painting (and a masterful one, at that), but seeing a Titian in the very city where he trained made me feel as though I could understand the places from which he drew inspiration, making a connection between the art and the cultural influences surrounding it.

While I’m in Europe this semester, I’m planning to continue to take advantage of my location to experience more history and culture in the places from which they originated.  Wherever else I might travel in the future, I hope to do the same, and I highly recommend it!  

Napoleon Bonaparte at the Gallerie dell'Accademia
Napoleon Bonaparte at the Gallerie dell’Accademia

As I exited the Gallerie dell’Accademia that day, I passed by a bust of Napoleon, who conquered Venice in 1797.  Had I at any point, while observing the winding canals and elegant palaces, stood in the same place as Napoleon had, surveying his conquest, over 200 years before?  Maybe not, but the thought of having the same experience as those in Venice’s history was thrilling enough.

A Voyage to Monaco

Sometimes the best trips are the ones that come together at the last minute! Georgia Tech-Lorraine students are masters of flexibility and taking advantage of the opportunities before them, and Karsten is no different. Check out his latest blog post about their trip to Nice and Monaco!

Sunday, September 29, 2019 | Written by Karsten

I must be honest. We were not planning on coming to Monaco this weekend. I knew I wanted to go to Monaco, but wasn’t sure when I’d be able to make it. Originally, we had planned on going to Monaco last weekend and then London this weekend, but since tickets had sold out, we made the last minute decision to go to Copenhagen. On the way back from Copenhagen, while stopped in the Paris Gare de l’Est, we looked at train tickets to London. Surprise, surprise, they were sold out. Once we got back to Metz from Copenhagen, we decided to look at Monaco again and there were still tickets available, so we tried to book them. It would’ve been more than $1000 to stay in Monaco for both Friday and Saturday night, so we chose to stay in Nice on Friday. Three days later, we all had our tickets to Nice and Monaco, and then back to Metz.

 The night before we left, we had the great idea of playing cards until 1:30am, knowing that we were going to need to be awake at 4:30am. In addition to that, I hadn’t packed yet. After we won, I packed my bag, got my two hours of sleep, and we went on our way to the train station. During the eight hours of trains to Nice, I only made up an hour of sleep. Thankfully, I had some coffee, or the rest of the day would’ve been rough. Once in Nice, we dropped our bags at the Airbnb and went to the beach. Though I had been to a Mediterranean coast before, I had never stepped foot in the water, so I did that. After watching the sunset, we had dinner, gelato, played more cards, and then went to sleep.

On Saturday morning, we took one of the early trains to Monaco. Once we got off, we realized a potential tragedy—none of us had any signal or available data. Luckily, it turned out to be just where we were. From the train station we went to the Prince of Monaco’s car museum, Top Car Monaco. Seeing some of the cars that were there was absolutely crazy. He had everything, from late 1800s wagons to modern Formula One cars. From the museum, we went to the Jardin Exotique. It was a hike there. I think we climbed 30 flights of stairs. They had tons of cacti and many varieties of other plants, and it also had a very cool outlook over the city. It was 75 degrees Fahrenheit and partly cloudy, which was actually the hottest day we’ve had in a couple weeks. Walking around with our bags proved to be a bit much, as we were all wishing it was cooler.

After the garden, we dropped our bags off and then went back down by the water. From there, we did what I was most excited for—walking the Formula One circuit. I have watched this race for as long as I can remember and know it by heart, though it looks much different from the street and without the guardrails. We passed by the Casino Monte Carlo, took some pictures of the cars parked out front, and made it most of the way around the track. Unfortunately, however, we were unable to complete the track because the Monaco Yacht Show was happening at the same time, and they had some parts by the water closed off. Still, seeing so much of such a famous track was a very cool experience. We had a very chill rest of the day and just walked around, went down to the beach again, and played even more cards.

Monaco is known for its glitz and glamour, and it definitely did not disappoint. Every fifth car it seemed was a Bentley or a Rolls-Royce. I was so excited to be there, by the water, the Formula One track, and the ridiculous amount of money on display in the forms of boats and cars. Unsurprisingly to me, this tops Copenhagen as my favorite spontaneous trip yet.

MTV Spring Break 2019 (My Time in Venice)

As the Georgia Tech students studying in Atlanta are gearing up for spring break, Noa has a blog about all the fun and family from her own spring break in February!

My spring break began when my amazing parents arrived to Metz on Valentine’s Day. How fun for them that they can spend the day of love with the child they love the most! (I’m one of five and by far the most expensive, so you decide for yourself if that’s true.) Anyway, it was so good to finally see them. I picked them up at the train station, and after convincing my dad that Uber is not an option here, we took a taxi to their hotel, which was a 10 minute walk from my dorm. We gossiped for a while, and then my dad walked me home, which was super sweet since it was really late, but I still feel guilty for making him walk through the mud that we could’ve avoided. Every time I walk through the mud that technically isn’t really a shortcut I remember how I made him ruin his brand new shoes. It’s okay though – I bought three new pairs of shoes for myself since then to compensate for the damage I caused.

The next morning, I took my parents to Fox, a coffee shop downtown that is super hip that I study at probably once or twice a week. After getting breakfast, I showed my mom all around downtown Metz as quickly as possible before we caught a train to Paris since we were flying out of Charles de Gaulle that evening to Venice.

I didn’t really have many expectations for our trip to Venice since I kind of had hoped that since I was with my parents I wouldn’t really have to have anything planned. But I guess they thought that I would because when we landed in Venice it took us a hot second to figure out what was going on. First, I didn’t really do any research whatsoever and failed to realize that Venice was a literal island. I know this sounds incredibly dumb, but then my dad was pretty confused as well when we asked the taxi driver to take us to the hotel and he said it was impossible. My dad looked at him and said, “what do you mean it’s impossible,” and that’s when we realized that my mom had been right all along (she always is by the way), and that we had to take a literal boat to the hotel. We laughed for way too long and were still very confused as we took a boat taxi, in the middle of the night, to our hotel, and the second we reached the island we realized it was all worth it. It was completely quiet when we got off and as we turned the corner to find the hotel we saw the most beautiful gondola next to our incredible hotel with glass chandeliers that looked like candy.

Getting to Venice

The next two days in Venice were absolute magic. We had perfect 60 degree weather, and since it was an off season the crowds (while still pretty big) weren’t too much to handle. The first day we walked all through the downtown, got lost in colorful alley ways, ate some gelato, and ended the day by taking a boat to Burano, an island known for its colorful houses and lace. We stayed there until the sunset, and it felt like I was living in a Disney movie. On the way home we had the tastiest dinner of my entire life. So much pizza, gnocchi, spaghetti, and every single bite was absolutely delicious. Then for dessert we shared tiramisu and chocolate mousse, and I am so hungry just thinking about it. Sometimes I wish that I was in Italy all the time because the food is so much more up my alley than the food in France.

The next day my mom and I went on a tour of a glass factory in Murano, another nearby island that was organized by our hotel. It was really fun because we got to take a private taxi boat, and the weather was still perfect, so it felt like we were in the middle of the summer. Then we met back up with my dad, walked around Venice some more, and eventually took a train to Milan. I’m not a huge fan of Milan since it is so industrial but it was still fun to spend some time there with my parents and walk around the Duomo. My parents had a few meetings planned the rest of the break, so after Milan we headed to Lucerne, Switzerland, where we met my aunt who lives there. While we were in Lucerne for a short time, I actually went back there a few weeks later (which will be in my upcoming blog post) and got to experience more than just a short stay. From there we flew to Nantes, France where my parents had some more meetings. I actually work for my parents too, so I was able to go to some of the meetings as well. It was nice to visit another French city that was different than Metz and Paris. I actually liked Nantes a lot because the downtown was pretty well established and had a lot of smaller, cute boutiques and antique stores.

After Nantes, I had to say goodbye to my parents which was really hard, but luckily right when I dropped them off at the airport, my boyfriend landed and we spent the weekend in Paris. I feel so lucky that he came to visit for such a short time because I really missed him, and it was nice to be surrounded for so long by people I know and love so well. Thankfully, we also had perfect weather in Paris, and I truly feel that Paris is a completely different city based on the weather. We visited Notre Dame, Musee d’Orsay (my personal favorite since I love Monet), and drank a whole lot of boba. I also bought a book I’ve been really wanting to read at Shakespeare and Company, and so far it is the best book I’ve ever read.

Quick plug: it’s not that new of a book, but it’s called Flash Boys by Michael Lewis and is about high frequency trading. It’s incredibly interesting, and I’m not done reading it, but it is absolutely insane and worth reading.

Eating banana bread with Danny

Anyway back to my time in Paris: one of the days we just walked along the seine until we got to the Eiffel Tower, and I made us walk for 30 minutes until we found this coffee shop and drank cappuccinos with banana bread. In all honesty, it was the best cappuccino I’ve ever had.

Afterwards we visited Sacre Coeur since I’ve never been, and that pretty much concluded our short weekend together. Luckily he is visiting again in a couple of weeks and I get to see my friend from CU Boulder in Portugal later this week as well as in Ireland in April, so lots of familiar faces coming up. That was definitely one of my longer blogs but so much happened – and I didn’t even share it all! I think that spring break was exactly what I needed.

Another blog is coming very shortly! And then I will finally be all caught up on telling you about all my adventures.

Phone A Friend!

Serendipity is a wonderful thing, and Noa happened to be visiting Milan at the same time as her old friend, so let the adorable stories unfold!

Hello all!!

Things are getting fairly busy here, which is nice since I like having stuff to do, but it’s also nice because it is definitely not a stressful busy. I have class work but I am never rushed and am only really tired from so much traveling! I just got back from Spring break, but I’ll first tell you about my travels, woes, and other choses (that rhymes and proves to you that I am a French connoisseur), up until spring break. I’ll definitely share about my spring break with my family in a few posts!

So to begin describing my time in Milan, it’s important I give some background information about my best friend Christine. Christine is absolutely, without a doubt, one of the kindest human beings I have ever met. She is also the smartest person I know and is exceptional at everything she does.

As a quick aside, in high school, Christine was initially my math tutor before we became best friends. She helped me a LOT and then one day she texted me in college asking ME for some help with something. This was my chance! I could finally repay Christine for the countless hours she spent explaining the intricacies of vectors. Maybe she will even need MY help with math, I wrongly thought, not even considering the fact that she finished Calculus 3 in high school and I hadn’t even reached that level of math. I told my dad how excited I was, and I waited eagerly until Christine finally responded to my “of course I can help you” text with: “what color nail polish would look better with my dress?”

Why am I sharing this story with you all today? First, to give you some context on why Christine and I are a perfect friendship match, because we provide different (some may even say equally valuable – I KID obviously) knowledge to the table. And also to remind us all to stay in our lanes and remember where you come from.

Okay while that was all incredibly irrelevant to my time abroad, Christine is also a very busy woman who I never get to see. Even if we schedule something for the one day she is in Boulder every year, it usually doesn’t work out. But! We have had weird luck, and what I would classify as a “blessing” by somehow planning trips to be in the same place at the same time without knowing. Last year, we both happened to be in NYC the exact same day, had called each other the night before and then found out and were able to meet up! This year, I randomly gave Christine a call, she mentioned she was in Italy (which I had no idea), and I had mentioned I’d be in Italy for exactly one day the next week since I’d found 20 euro round trip flights. Long story short, Christine was going to be in Milan that exact same day right before she was leaving back to the States and I got to see her!

It was perfect and fun. While I don’t like Milan as a city that much in all honesty (will explain in spring break blog), I had the best time with her and her friend. We went into the Duomo, I shopped (but of course), and we had the loveliest dinner where I ate Milanese Cotoletta and spent almost three hours talking and catching up. At the end of my one day in Milan, I actually cried a lot because it was difficult to see someone I love so much for such a short time and then have to go back to my crazy, different life in Metz. It made me miss home and my people a lot, but was exactly what I needed at the same time. Having stability and people that are consistently there for me is something I take for granted sometimes and I am thankful that I have those people that have treated me with respect and have kept a friendship throughout the years.

Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.

While GT-Atlanta just had their spring break right now, GT-Lorraine students already had theirs – and Aria went to Italy!

The stairs of Riomaggiore were keen on reminding me that the more difficult is it to get somewhere, the more worthwhile it usually is.

GTL often redefines my perspective. Spring break represents the epitome of travel opportunity, providing the ability to reach unimaginably far and for so long that you miss “home” (GTL) desperately. Yet, I found my plans failing, and the need to improvise. I noticed that my favorite moments were when I decided to slow down and do what I would have previously described as “nothing.” My spring break, while laughably unoriginal in concept (I ran into 6 separate GTL students while traveling), became an entirely alien experience.

Momentous in length and located in Italy – notorious for reservation-only trains and frequent attractions that get booked months in advance – my break necessitated early planning. I had the outline laid out over winter break and felt desperately behind as I booked Airbnbs and flights only weeks before. Ideally, I would have planned more and executed flawlessly, but I ended up being grateful for my sparse plans when I immediately and fatally ruined them.

Ryanair is a blessing. Like a siren, it calls to you with talk of 11€ flights to Sweden, and it wasn’t hard to find an affordable flight to Naples that left after my last class on Thursday. This would allow me to take the maximum time to make my way up Italy and back to Metz. I had often been warned of the catches that inevitably come with such promises and was amply prepared. My bags were sized appropriately, and I didn’t give in to all the add-ons they pushed. I noted which airports were actually closest to me, as Ryanair airports are often ridiculously far from the city they claimed to be located in. All this work was overshadowed by the mania of last-minute packing and being lulled into complacency by the usual ease of travel in Europe, so I found myself remembering this fun fact about airports right when I arrived at the main Frankfurt Airport, decidedly not Frankfurt Hahn, where my flight was departing from. I had left myself plenty of time to catch my flight, but the amazing obscurity of location that Ryanair managed to find made it impossible for me to arrive on time.

After the devastation of finding out that the best gelato shop in Riomaggiore hadn’t opened for spring yet, the beauty of the view was a bit of consolation.

The GTL motto should be “There is Always a Way.” Every student I have talked to has had something go awry, resulting in sleeping in train stations, walking 40 minutes home, or shelling out the money to make it work. In this case, a few hours were spent combing through the possibilities. Can we get our flight changed? Is there another flight tonight? Is it too late for a refund? Most of these resulted in a definitive no. While I had previously basked in the glory of the bargains I had found, I now used the relatively minor cost to accept the entire loss of money. With limited flight options, we flipped the entire trip upside down, booking a night train to Venice for that evening and a flight back from Rome on the last Saturday of break.

From there, no struggle compared. Italy provided all the highest and lowest points of my semester thus far. Venice snowed, then melted into sogginess. Reservation trains were cheap (10 EUR) and easy to book, while regional trains were free with Eurail, saving the cost of metro and buses. My favorite stop of all, however, was the region of Cinque Terre and in particular, Riomaggiore. The Cinque Terre consists of five picturesque towns clinging to the western coast of Italy. While we couldn’t spend much time there and our plans for renting a sailboat fell through, I have never been somewhere so refreshing. I have a particular love for moody ocean cliffs, with wild wind and stormy skies and the only sound the crashing of waves. The hiking trails wind between the towns and out on stony promontories. For a bit of refreshment, it is mandatory to stop for gelato in every town. They will be packed with tourists in a few months, but as of now, it is cool, quiet, and absolutely gorgeous. If I could include a hundred photos, I would.

Rosy, sunny, dark and brooding: Cinque Terre can do it all.

After departing my peaceful retreat, we sped up the pace. I didn’t have much desire to stay in Florence, but we slipped in just in time to see Michelangelo’s David for free, since most museums in Italy are free the first Sunday of the month. We then traveled all the way to Naples and stayed in the most suspicious Airbnb yet. It was located above one of those famous street markets that convince you that you could be attacked by scam artists at any moment, but turned out to be a much more wholesome local market than it initially appeared. Until a man shouted something in Italian that spurred all the vendors to scramble and hide their large trays of cigarettes in such a beautiful whirl of motion that it must have been choreographed.

Naples itself is not particularly noteworthy for anything other than the delicious fried pizza, but nearby Pompeii and Herculaneum are absolutely necessary to visit. Pompeii is massive, and with an audio guide helpfully explaining the meaning of all the buildings as well as a visit to the archaeological museum in Naples, I learned more about life in the Roman empire than I thought was possible in one day. Also, I may be a bit disturbed, but the plaster casts were fascinating to me and caused me to plan a route that included visiting as many as possible.

As Italy warmed up, my newfound temperature scale in which 42 degrees Fahrenheit is “so warm!” screamed in remembrance of summer in Atlanta.

I ended my Italian excursion in Rome, a true must-see city. The traffic was frustrating, and it is essential to stay somewhat near the city center, as the city itself is monstrously large. Still, the city is busy for a reason. The Colosseum and Roman Forum were my particular favorites. As a history nerd obsessed with Greek and Roman myths, I felt I was walking back in time. Rome also contained my favorite museum I have seen so far: the Borghese Gallery. This small Gallery allows only a limited number of guests in at a time, so reservations are required. For only two hours, it seems expensive, but the collection is compact magnificence. The best works by my favorite sculptor, Bernini, are held here, and they truly are mind blowing. Fabrics swirl next to smooth plump skin that are all somehow made of the same stone. The rest of the gallery is so amazing that I eventually had to tear myself away, and while I am not nearly as enthralled by paintings as I am sculptures, their setup was exquisite. Each room was themed, with the painting on the ceiling often depicting the same myth as the sculpture immediately below. On the upper floor, sets of paintings would depict scenes from the same story as it wrapped around the ceiling. I came to a new understanding not just of the art of painting, but of myths I had not heard of before and have since researched thoroughly.

When going up famously tall spiral staircases, don’t look up to discover how far it really is.

Italy was polarizing, but so enthralling that it was difficult to leave. With my newly made itinerary, I had to depart Saturday morning and spend the weekend back in Paris. Despite having already been to Paris, I love every moment there. Last time I was mostly crippled, so now I could finally walk the steps of l’Arc de Triomphe. A friend I went to high school with was even visiting Paris that day, so I managed an unexpected meetup. Despite everything, a wonderful trip emerged from the ruins.

Traversing Italian Time and Space

A history buff like Lina was in her element in Italy over GTL’s spring break. Scroll through her steps – and learn something about the history of Italy along the way!

Italy was an awesome historical overload of knowledge. This past week, I dove straight into the Roman empire in an action-packed week of late nights, early mornings, and an impossibly long list of monuments, museums and ruins.
My journey started in Venice, and Carnival was going on, and watching the beautifully costumed and masked Venetians walking the streets was a dream. Venice used to be an independent city-state famous for it’s rich trade network and impressive navy. After touring the beautiful cathedral of St. Mark and the opulent Doge’s palace, we were ready to continue our journey into the heart of the Roman empire.
Rome was absolutely jam-packed with history. You couldn’t even walk two blocks without finding an obelisk, pillar, campanile, fountain, or other monument. After taking our traditional touristy pictures in front of the Trevi fountain, the Spanish steps and the Campidoglio, we went to bed early to queue up the next day for the Vatican Museum. The Vatican was overwhelming, with every inch of free space filled with priceless art and artifacts. We learned the history of the many popes that lived in Vatican city and viewed Raphael’s famous paintings and Michelangelo’s ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. We then climbed to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica, so rich and opulent that my brain ceased to process it and I needed to go to sleep.


View from St. Peters Basilica.
The next day we hit the Capitoline Museum in the morning. The museum boasted many original sculptures, including fragments of the statue of Nero that once stood 100 ft tall in bronze. Let me pause for a second to talk about Nero, because this guy was something. He declared himself divine at an early age, and considered himself to be perfect in every way. He commissioned this enormous statue, along with many other monuments in the Roman forum, destroying other monuments to Roman gods to make room. It is also rumored that he started the great fire of Rome to make room for his ideas in architecture, playing his fiddle and dancing while thousands of citizens perished in the flames. Sounds pretty metal!


What’s left over of Nero’s Face.
The ruins of the Roman forum were amazing. Walking around the ruins of old temples to gods and goddesses, seeing previous senate and meeting houses, and seeing the remnants of the once magnificent residences on Palatine Hill were all so fascinating. Once the heart of Rome and the intersection of the three main Italian roads during the reign of the Roman empire (hence the saying, all roads lead to Rome), one can imagine the grandeur of the heart of all Roman civilization.
The Roman forum!
The next day we visited the Colosseum, which, as you can imagine was absolutely spectacular. Learning about the intense theatrics, with imported exotic animals, stage sets that emerged through the floor with complex pulley machinery, and the

Michelangelo’s David.

intense training schedules of gladiators, we walked around it with wide eyes. Not only was the Colosseum a source of entertainment for the senate and emperor, but the masses as well. The violent place brought a whole civilization together.

Florence was absolutely fantastic for a crazy history buff like me. I got to see so many Michelangelo works (including the David!!!!) and see the famous Dome. But what I found especially fascinating was the Medici family. They started out as bankers, lending money to many city-state rulers and important dignitaries. As they amassed wealth, many city-state royalty borrowed more than they could pay pack. Threatening these families with a hired mercenary army, they were able to gain power. Like, ‘Hey Prince, we are going to attack if you don’t pay back your debts, with our impressive mercenary army. We might consider letting it slide this time if you marry your heir off to our daughter…” and thus they became one of the most powerful families in Italy. They were like the OG mob bosses. Sounds super Game of Thrones-y! Needless to say, they weren’t very well liked and built private walkways above the city and above to Ponte Vecchio bridge to avoid being assassinated in the streets.
Our journey concluded in Cinque Terre, the region of, well, five cities, who – against all odds – managed to farm the rocky coastal soil on mountain and cliff faces. Each city with it’s unique personality, was an absolutely lovely ending to a perfect and jam packed week.
View of Manarola, one of the 5 cities of the Cinque Terre.