High Speed Trains: Rated

Friday, April 22, 2022 | Written by Claire

Trains. They’re what make Europe run the way it does today. From local to region to cross-country high speed trains, there are so many different designs and engineering feats you will encounter everywhere you travel. As a newcomer to European transportation before this semester, I found the intricate time tables of arriving and departing trains, engineering mechanisms of high speed rail, and designs to be highly fascinating. From the hundreds of trains I’ve ridden in this past semester, here are my top 5 favorites. If you get the chance, definitely use your Eurail pass to your advantage and take a luxury train ride across the country of your desire. 

5: TGV (France)

This train is going to be your best friend. The good ol’ TGV, also known as Train à grande vitesse, or high-speed train in French. This is the French intercity rail line that will be the heart of how you travel in, out, and within France. There are many other trains that follow the design of the TGV, but this is the original, fastest rail-based high speed train developed in the world, traveling up to 300 km per hour. While TGVs are not the most luxurious on the inside compared to many other trains, it is definitely a classic exterior that represents France as a whole.
4: Italo Treno (Italia) 

To me, this train is like a Ninja. Flanked by red and black stripes, the design of this train embodies speed, agility, and precision. With a nose slightly sharper than many of the ICE and TGV trains, it creates a narrow, streamline figure that cuts through air as it races down the tracks. It is also eco-friendly and sustainable, a good move towards Italy’s renewable energy plan. The interior also has several sections, one that is more “first class” that comes with unlimited snacks and private suites. The seats themselves are firmly cushioned for comfort. Bathrooms are kept squeaky clean and table space is generous. 

3: ICE (Germany) 

I’ve spent most of my travel days on ICE trains simply for its convenience, reliability, and comfort. While it can be packed as the summer months approach, the ICE train is the German high speed rail line that is designed to get you across the country in a matter of hours. If timed right, you can take them as overnight trains and save a few bucks on hotel costs. For the winter, these trains are definitely safe havens for warmth and shelter among the blistering cold winds outside. The seating cushion is also one of the most comfortable. With pillowed head rests and curved back spaces, you can comfortably sleep without leaning your head on a stranger’s shoulder. Additionally, ICE trains have adequate luggage racks at the end and above seats to actually fit your backpack and not just a jacket like some of the French TGVs. 

2: Südostbahn Traverso (Switzerland) 

Deemed as what my friend calls the “sexy train,” the Südostbahn, often abbreviated as SOB, is the new design for the regional Swiss railcar. Plated with a rose gold chrome roof and side matting, the Traverso features spacious seating, large window space, and noise canceling interior. Many of the regional lines also go through scenic routes, making the train ride even more enjoyable. Not only is it kept clean and hygienic, the train also has a bistro car for certain food options and even a vending machine in several cars where you can grab instant coffee or soda. Additionally, while most train bathroom cars are filthy and often smelly, the Traverso has a huge and luxurious bathroom with high pressure faucets and good mirror lighting as well. This was by far one of my favorite train rides I’ve been on and one the most sleek exterior designs within European trains. 

1: Thalys (French-Belgium)

For me, the Thalys will always have a special place in my heart. Branded as an entirely red train, the sleek design makes Thalys standout among the mass of trains passing through each station. They are characterized by their bright red exterior, flanked with silver. Thalys are one of the most expensive trains to ride and they only run through specific cities as well. This French-Belgian line runs high speed trains from Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Cologne. Interior-wise, spacious seating with adequate working room and quadded table space make it easily one of the most comfortable trains to ride. 

Free Mobile (Not so Free but Decent) 

Monday, March 21, 2022 | Written by Claire

Free Mobile is going to be your best bet for a reliable phone plan during your time at GTL. If you’re debating on using your current international data and call plan, you may want to reconsider after hearing about what Free Mobile has to offer. 

There are several things you should keep in mind when choosing your phone plan. You will be traveling across the EU during your time at GTL, especially with your Eurail Pass. 

Free mobile has been heavily reliant and can make calls for a few cents during emergencies. They offer fast and reliable data from local telecom towers. Free Mobile has reasonable rates for 50 GB in France and 10 GB abroad per month, which is more than plenty. They will charge you only 11 each month after the first payment of 21 for the plan and the sim card when you first purchase from the store. Free covers all countries within the EU, but if you’re going to Switzerland, watch out! You’ll be charged 1 CHF per MB of data used so make sure you turn roaming off when you’re crossing through the area. I was charged a hefty 50 surcharge for accidently using data in Switzerland, but usually you’ll get a warning text every time you enter a different country. Here are some of their current deals:
Depending on the package you get, you are able use up to 35 day’s worth of international calls , which include US landlines. This was super useful for when we had to call hostel owners abroad in order to check in or other uses for emergencies. Additionally, having the international component makes it much easier to receive international texts and other confirmation codes you might need to apply for Passenger Locator Forms in you’re flying into different countries or sometimes even getting the verification code for renting scooters and bikes. It can also be a hotspot for your computer if you need to get assignments done on the train or for others to leech off of if needed. 

Buying a Free Mobile sim card is easy. There is a store right next to the CDG airport in the local mall where you can register for a new French number at a kiosk. After getting a new number, you can start using your French sim card immediately. The only downside is that the kiosk is entirely in French but here’s a thorough walk through on how to use the kiosk. 

https://tabiparislax.com/en/freemobile-2/ 

Now, when you first arrive in Paris, you might be tempted to buy from the sim card vendors within the actual airport. DO NOT! Those rates are ridiculously inflated for just a few GB of data. Some of these vendors may be Orange, SFR, or Bouygues, but comparatively, Free Mobile has the best rates for data you are getting and its extensive coverage outside of France as well. 

Overall, Free mobile has been a lifesaver on many of my trips, and I highly recommend that you get a French sim card. The only thing is, remember to cancel your subscription before you leave!

A Traveler’s Best Friend: Transit Apps

Tuesday, March 1, 2022 | Written by Claire

When traveling around Europe from Metz, there are four essential apps you should use to maximize your travel limits and increase efficiency to make sure you can catch the next train, plane, or bus to your destination. Public transport will be your best friend for the next few months. Your dependence on trains, buses, and even city-friendly scooters will either stress you out entirely or make it a much easier to get around.

Eurrail: Global Pass

Before coming to Metz, I had doubts about getting the Eurrail Global Pass, which cost over $800 for just three months. Don’t make that mistake. Eurrail is your best bet when catching trains across Europe, to even as far as Hungary. Preloaded timetables and prices for seat reservations make it easy to check train departures and arrivals without Wi-Fi. Additionally, it is well worth its buck. For each individual leg, for example just from Metz to Strasbourg, the central hub for getting out of France, can cost upwards to $60-$100. The Eurrail pass includes uses for intercity, regional, and long-distance high-speed trains that can sometimes cost over $200 per journey. The pass can be activated any time from when you buy it. It can be life savers when your train has been delayed or cancelled so you can find the next way to your destination by looking at the preloaded information. While it can be inaccurate at times, 85% of the time it has everything you need for a smooth journey. 

Apple Maps/Google Maps/ Moovit: Transit 

After these few months of traveling extensively across Western Europe, it is a common trend to see that Apple Maps is very reliable for transportation routes, which include trains and local buses. You can set the time to when you would be scheduled to leave, so you can check whether lines would be running at certain hours. You can also see multiple routes on the map itself of train stations, stops, and other info desks to ensure that you are heading in the right direction. On the other hand, Google Maps has been more reliable for finding more obscure restaurants and their hours. They have the best updated information on local stores and can also link places to their reviews left by others on Travel Advisor or other sites. The Move It App is also a highly accurate, European-based transportation app that includes routes, departures, and arrivals in almost all European cities. This one is probably your best bet for smaller routes that may not be loaded in Apple or Google Maps, so it’s always a good idea to keep it on your phone as a backup. Moovit can be used in Metz as well, and it pretty spot on with the times. 

Tier: Scooters 

Scooters are a fun way to spend your time exploring the city without walking. While these scooters are limited to only bigger cities, they are still prevalent in most places that you go. The only catch is that each country tends to have different scooter companies. The most prevalent brands I’ve seen so far are Tier, Bird, Lime or Voi. Big cities in Germany and Spain have scooters, bikes, and even mopeds scattered across the city for your convenience. All it requires is an ID verification to make sure you’re over 18 and a confirmation number to start up your next scooter ride. There are also many referral codes that can be used for ride credit, so if you’re in a big group, make sure to refer others to get free rides for you and your friends!  

Bolt: Ride Sharing 

Like in the states, many people use apps for ride sharing, especially to and from airports or major train hubs. Taxis in certain high tourism areas may charge higher rates that are definite rip-offs, but when you’re desperate and looking for a quick way home, ride sharing is a guaranteed option… just depending on the app you are using. In Metz, Ubers are rare. There are only one or two drivers in the vicinity, and they are often late or inactive. Bolt is a commonly used app across Europe for the exact services that Uber has. They are also very cheap in comparison and when split amongst four people or a smaller group, it can be a quick, efficient way home after a long day of train hopping. 

Why GTL?

Thursday, February 23, 2022 | Written by Claire

Coming to GTL has been an astounding experience for me so far. Having switched study abroad programs last minute, I had my suspicions for how GTL would turn out; however, after living in France for over a month and having traveled to over 15 cities within the past few weekends, GTL has been life changing and I could not be more grateful for this special opportunity.  While traveling every weekend is fun, GTL is definitely for an acquired taste. Occasionally, I still have my lingering upset about not going to the other program, but in the long run, I’m confident that I’ve made the right decision, and it proves true every time I travel somewhere new and exciting. 

So, for those prospective students looking to come to GTL in the following semesters, here are some important aspects and culture of the program that you should consider before clicking the submit button on Atlas:

Major related classes

As a second-year Industrial Engineering student, I, quite frankly, do not have many classes I can really take for my major. Having satisfied all humanities and social sciences, I have found some Engineering Electives that I can round out my schedule with such as Physics and Wind Engineering. Most of the classes at GTL during the academic year are tailored for Electrical or Mechanical Engineers, with most of the classes 3000 and above. For those looking for research opportunities in robotics or other type of circuit-related labs, GTL has many opportunities and connections with teachers from Tech and outside of Tech. 

For those looking to fulfill humanities, there are countless history, international affairs, and economics classes that can count towards your core curricula, regardless of major or year. Specifically, Politics of the EU (INTA), Ethics (INTA), and History, Science, and  Technology of Modern Europe (HTS) have GT faculty-led field trips across France and into neighboring countries. These trips are perfect for those looking for a set travel group and a good way to explore the transportation methods across Europe during the first two weeks of the semester. 

Overall, from personal experience and feedback from other students in higher level engineering classes, the courses at GTL are more relaxed and have an easier flowing content distribution. Although the pace might be faster to cover all the material, GTL only has a four-day week system, so there will be much more free time to travel and do homework outside of class. 

Travel Ambitions 

Located in Metz, GTL is perfectly situated on the NE border of France and Germany, in just the right spot for reaching many high speeds train lines using the Eurail pass. For many weekends, I’ve been able to travel to Heidelberg, Frankfurt, Berlin, and even cities in Austria such as Hallstatt for free on overnight trains. It is also a good area to get to Belgium and Luxemburg on day trips due to frequent train lines in the region such as TGV. With four-day weeks and the campus being very small and situated away from downtown Metz, Georgia Tech Lorraine campus itself is actually quite mundane. On the weekdays when I’m not traveling, I’m mostly finishing my work, getting groceries, or doing my laundry in anticipation for the next trip during the weekend. 

If you’re not the type of person to travel and explore places outside your comfort zone, GTL is not the place for you. There will be many times when travel plans may get changed, cancelled, or delayed, and relying heavily on public transportation always comes with its downsides, so it’s typical to expect such bumps on the road when adjusting to life at GTL. If you’re easily stressed in these situations and don’t have the patience to plan out routes and schedules, it may be more of a hassle to come to GTL than not. 

Campus Culture 

When first arriving here, I was eager to meet a bunch of new friends and form lasting, bonding relationships with travel buddies and various friend groups. However, I was struck by the existing culture that traveled over to GTL from the main campus. As this is a second year and above oriented program, many people already come with designated friend groups from home. Often, they tend to stick together in travel groups during the weekend and are reluctant to branch out, even on campus. I’ve been lucky enough to meet a few solid friends at GTL through mutuals so far, but every weekend, I find myself traveling with new people and even eventually ending contact with them during the weekday. 

There are several sport complexes that are open for those to play soccer and basketball, but all of those usually come with extra fees. There are rarely any clubs besides the average Student Government Association for students to get involved with GTL administration. Other than that, students tend to plan their own activities when not in class. 

Campus Cuisine

GTL has a dining hall for cheap: Crous. Its an inexpensive way to eat, with typical European style food options-bread, cheese, meat. I’m not a huge fan of the meals they provide there, so I usually take a quick run to Cora or Auchan, the neighboring mega-grocery stores right by the campus to get all of my cooking necessities I need to make meals for 4 days during the week. Food here is not cheap; in fact, it might actually be more expensive than the groceries I get at home, but it does offer you a chance for a balanced diet. Other than buying food to feed yourself, there are many Kebabs and even Asian restaurants for your enjoyment in downtown Metz that you can get to by tram, bus, or walking. Make sure to buy the month Le Metz pass for the best bang for your buck. 

GTL: Things I Wish I Knew Before Coming

Friday, February 18, 2022 | Written by Claire

  1. Long Coat Cliché 

Long coats are all the trend in France, especially since it’s cold and windy during the winter. In turn, to shield from the harsh cold while keeping stylish, almost all French people own a long coat, whether it be a trench or a puffer. When coming to France for the first time, it might be difficult to fit in, but as far as I’ve seen, if you wear a big, wool trench coat and walk around looking like you know what you’re doing, no one will think twice.  

2. Sunday Stall

Most shops and restaurants are closed on Sundays in observance of the Holy Day. Only a few convenience stores open for several hours in the morning to early afternoon. In smaller French cities, this tradition is implemented more often than bigger cities such as Paris, especially restaurants in tourist areas. 

3. Baguettes and Quiches Galore

Bakeries in Metz are famous for their fresh baguettes and quiches, which boast a variety of flavors such as fromage, salmon, and even spinach. Baguettes can be filled with various toppings such as ham, pesto, and tomatoes. When served fresh off the oven, the crispy melt of the cheese with the savory flavors blends in a delicious, mouth-watering mix of French authentic cuisine. While Paul’s is probably the nearest bakery to GTL, there are many others in Metz downtown that are the key to delicious baguettes and quiches.

4.  Grocery Store Rendezvous 

Sometimes when visiting the grocery store, just navigating the cheese and sausage section is a whole journey in and of itself. Finding what you want given the massive variety can be challenging, but it has its perks. The best cheese I’ve found so far is Comte, which is one of the most produced cheeses in France. But as far as sausages go, it’s best to widen your taste preference just to try some new flavors. Other than the things they have at the grocery store, the shopping culture is also slightly different. The French do not refrigerate their eggs and milk, so they can’t be found in the refrigerated aisles. Additionally, as the French government doesn’t allow the sale of packaged goods in bulk, shoppers are allowed to break open packages and take individual items. For example, if you see a pack of 6 milk jugs, you can break open the package and buy a singular milk jug. 

5. French!

This might be obvious, but it is nice to have some French under your belt before coming to France. While it’s not impossible to get around, in smaller cities, many people can understand English but, its best to communicate in French. In big tourist-oriented areas, English is usually an option, but in Metz or any other small French city, hearing English is rare. Even the train stations and grocery stores, all announcements and signs are said and written all in French. So, taking a French class is a great idea. 

6. Pocket Thefts

Getting pick pocketed in France is nothing of a rare occurrence. While Metz is relatively safer, traveling to Paris to catch train or flight connections can entail more caution than you would normally enforce. Out of the many GTL students that traverse Paris on the weekend, many have had their phones stolen or wallets snatched right under their noses. Pick pocket thieves use highly skilled and subtle tricks to allure your attention elsewhere. While you are intrigued by a dropped key ring or a peculiar scene on the streets, pick pocketer’s use these exact times to their advantage, so be careful and stay alert!

A Day in the Life of a GTL Student

Monday, January 31, 2022 | Written by Claire

9:30 AM: Bonjour!

As the sunlight starts to filter through the curtains and the deep rumbles of construction pass back and forth outside my window at the Lafayette dorm, I crawl out of bed for my first class of the day. Usually, the cold air outside is crisp, so I need to layer up. Bundled in a hoodie and long jacket, I make my way to the GTL building, a good 10-minute walk away from my dorm. On some days, if you’re lucky, you’ll see a peak of sunlight or a patch of blue skies; but most of the time, it’s just layers of grey clouds. 

The GTL Building requires a quick scan of your ISIC card to get through the initial gate and then another tap to open the main doors. The floors themselves are split into different sections, with labs and study rooms on the first floor, and the rest of the classrooms above. The classroom doors are color coded to match the color on the initial schedule you receive at the beginning at the year. Somehow, I usually start in the Blue room, where the CO2 alarm ends up going off every once in and while, so I need to remain bundled in my layers. This mechanism is simply a COVID regulation and nothing too much to worry about. 

12:00 PM: Lunchtime. 

After my initial class and knocking out some Physics and French homework, it’s time for lunch. Usually, I’m starving by this point. GTL offers meals in the Crous Cafet on the first floor for around three euros, which is usually a hefty plate of pasta. Although I have not gone to the cafeteria often, it seemed to have the same pasta options of pesto or carbonara and a sizzling slice of pizza. The meal itself is mostly carbs and does not come with fruits or vegetables depending on the restaurant you go to. The most inconvenient part is that if you go around lunch hours from 11-1, the lines for each stretch out of the door. As students from the neighboring Technopole schools also share this dining service, the number of people who frequent Crous Cafet is massive. 

To maintain a balanced diet, I often head back to Lafayette and cook up my own pasta meal. Throwing together some mushrooms, green peppers, sausage, steak, and some spices, spaghetti chow mien is my go-to. Not only is it flavorful, but it is also easy to make, with the pasta taking the longest to boil. All the ingredients can be easily bought at CORA at your convenience.  

3:00 PM: More class, study sesh, and coffee!

After a quick lunch, I head back to the study lounge at the GTL building to finish up more assignments and hang out with other GTL students. The best part about the lounge is that it’s equipped with a full coffee dispensing machine with a multitude of interesting flavors. For just 45 cents, you can get a small cup of caffeine bliss, or you can get a larger cup for just 80 cents. If you bring your own mug, it’s even cheaper. The lounge also has a ping pong table for quick study session break or a pool table if you want to get competitive. The only downside is that it can get a little noisy as people start to work on their group projects, play ping-pong or just chat in the main room. It might be wise to bring some headphones if you want to get some serious work done. 

Other than that, there are also universal power outlets for your computer or any electronic device, so if you forget your power adapter, no worries! There are also plenty of computers to use if your laptop ends up not working. 

The purple to pink sunset it truly stunning

If you’re there long enough, you can probably catch a glimpse of the sunset in the giant windowpanes that stretch across the room. Could be a good way to end your day.

5:00 PM: Dinner feast

Around 5 PM, I start packing up and heading back to Lafayette after a long day of class and work. The Crous Cafe is also open for dinner at your convenience. Restaurants and cafes nearby the roundabout on the way back to Lafayette also have options for delicious quiches, pastries or even pizza. Mamma Mia Pizza is a go-to for many GTL students. Their endless menu of 16-inch pizzas and reasonably priced pastas are enough to feed two people on a hungry day. The pizzas themselves are nice and thinly made, with the crust crispy and delicious. The Pizzaiolo is my favorite so far. It is topped with layers of cheese, ham, chorizos, and peppers, and the best part is that it comes at a light price of only 13 euros for a maxi. Pretty good deal compared to the other pizza restaurants in the area. If you’re in the fast food mood, you can definitely hit up the Burger King, McDonalds, or KFC for a hefty meal as well. 

7:00 PM: Cora Run 

After dinner on Mondays, I tend to take a trip to Cora for some groceries. If you’re in the fast-food mood, you might as well grab dinner down there before heading to the market. GTL provides a free shuttle back to the dorms from Cora on Mondays so it’ll make your life easier than lugging jugs of milk back a mile back to Lafayette. 

Cora itself is a super store with rows of clothing, aisles of pastries, and huge sections designated to pasta, alcohol, and French snacks. It has everything you can think of, including rolls of pink toilet paper. The vegetables there are fresh and the seafood section is nice and clean. Not only does it boost an array of crabs, snails, and fish, the meat section is paired with a huge corner of fresh cheeses and sausages. During the first week, I spent hours in Cora just exploring the different kinds of cheese and meats. 

9:00 PM: Laundry

The laundry in Lafayette is definitely something hard to get used to. The weekdays are usually the least busy as there are only 3 washers and 2 dryers in the entirety of Lafayette. You also have to pay at least five euros for a proper wash and dry. If you end up doing your laundry at night, you should try to allocate some time as the dryers here offer a special “European dry” that requires you to hang up your clothes even after drying. If you want them to be in wearable condition, you probably need to run the dryer twice, which would take about one and a half hours.

12 AM: Snooze

By the time midnight rolls around, I’m heading to bed after another long day at GTL. While everyday will be different for each student, I can allocate some time to take day trips on Tuesday or Thursdays when I don’t have class. But overall, the greatest challenge at GTL is managing school-life balance and workload. Make sure you work hard but also play hard as GTL is the best opportunity to have the travels of a lifetime. 

 

ChristMETZ markets

Tuesday, November 30, 2021 | Written by Mira

With the holiday season quickly approaching, Europe’s famous Christmas markets are in full swing. While Germany and other areas of France, such as Colmar and Strasbourg, have more extravagant markets, the ones in Metz are worth the visit. 

The views from up here were immaculate.

There are at least four markets spread out around Metz, each a little different from the last. To get into each market, our health passes were scanned due to the possibility of eating and drinking. I met up with my friends on a Friday afternoon at market #1. In Republique Square, the market has ice skating and a carnival ride for 5 euros each. I personally didn’t go ice skating, but my friends did (I was the designated photographer when I arrived). I did go on the “Flyer,” a swing ride similar to the one I did in Luxembourg at the beginning of the semester. On this ride, I got the best view of Metz even though we were spinning around in circles. We could see the cathedral from above the rooftops of the other buildings and it was interesting to see just how tall the cathedral was compared to everything else. 

 The rest of the first market were two heated shops with various Christmas decorations, and many food and drink stands. You could get anything from waffles, beignets, and crepes to sandwich raclettes, hot chestnuts, and rich hot chocolate, to name a few. 

 Market #2 of the day was near the church. This one was filled with multiple rows of vendors selling all sorts of things, from flavored hot chocolate kits to etched vinyl, from halva and baklava to Christmas tree ornaments. I had been on the hunt for gloves that fit my hands well that weren’t knitted, and I found the perfect pair! At the end of the stalls, there was a large carousel!

The rows of vendors at the market by the cinema.

Market #3 was near the cinema, closer to the Cathedral, but not quite the Cathedral market. I’m sure each of these markets has a specific name or are named based on the streets, but we just referred to them by the landmarks we knew. This third market was smaller and had about eight booths. We did get to sample some “pain aux fruits” (fruit bread) and dried apple chips that were delicious! 

This was the view as we walked up the fourth market!

 

Market #4 was in front of the Cathedral. This one had the main attraction of a Ferris wheel! We were saving this market for last because we wanted to see the city of Metz at night from up high. The rest of the Cathedral’s market was mainly food. There were vendors for falafel and hummus, French onion soup (or just onion soup since we’re in France), paninis, etc. The Ferris wheel was quite cold, but beautiful! Luckily the Ferris wheel compartments had blankets! The pictures of the city from the Ferris wheel didn’t turn out too well because of the glare of the windows, but the view was spectacular! We even saw the “Flyer” that we did earlier all lit up in the dark.  

The Ferris wheel and Cathedral were so pretty it needs a second photo from another angle.

I love how each market in Metz has its own personality. We didn’t go to the same market 4 times, but we got a different experience from each one. If you are really looking for the famous French Christmas markets, Colmar and Strasbourg are musts! 

Crous

Monday, November 29, 2021 | Written by Mira

While we don’t get a meal plan during the fall and spring semesters at GTL, we do have access to a local student cafeteria “Crous” open during lunch and dinner. Crous offers meals for 3.30 euros for us GTL students, which makes for a convenient and inexpensive option for meals when you don’t feel like cooking, getting the same things from Paul (the bakery between GTL and Lafayette), or going downtown. The menu at Crous rotates, so you get some variety in your meals. 

 Please enjoy the four meals from Crous that I remembered to take pictures of:

 Meal #1

 Lots of veggies!

 During the first few weeks of the semester, the Crous location closer to GTL was not open yet, so we trekked the 20-minute walk between GTL and farther Crous location. Since there was only one location open, it was pretty packed, and by the time we would get there, the options were quite limited. But the food was still worth the long lines! You get a lot of food for your 3.30 euros, and I will say, I have not finished a full plate yet. 

 At Crous you get 10 points worth of food for your 3.30 euros. The main plate is usually 5 points, with two side items either 2 or 3 points each. Water and a little baguette are free!

 Meal #2

Still can’t get over the fact that this whole tray was only 3.30 euros.

 This meal was still from the farther Crous. At that location, there were two lines: a pizza line and an “other” line. I would usually just go for the “other” line since I could guarantee a vegetarian option, but this one particular day, the pizza line did not include meat. The pizza was massive, and we were able to ask (with some trouble due to language barriers) for a box for the leftover pizza. I have not seen pizza as an option for the closer Crous, unfortunately. 3.30 euros for two meals was a great deal!

 Meal #3

 The tomatoes were a flavorful touch.

When the Crous closer to GTL opened, the journey became a whole lot more convenient, although I have not taken full advantage of the proximity. The different location does not mean different value, so once again, the plates are well worth the price. The closer Crous is also more vegetarian friendly. This particular pasta dish could have come with meat or the tomato slices that I got. At the closer Crous, there are two dining areas, and if you don’t set up your International Student Card, and you pay with card, you have to go to the left side. 

 Meal #4 

 Crous but make it dinner.

After not going to Crous for a while (I kind of forgot it existed for a bit because of the convenience to stop by Paul and grab a sandwich for lunch on my way to GTL in the morning), my friend suggested we go for dinner. I hadn’t been to Crous for dinner yet, so I decided to give it a try! We went almost right when they opened at 6:30pm and beat the crowd of potential high schoolers. Crous is definitely a convenient option for dinner especially if you have a late class – the closer Crous is only about a 5 minute walk from GTL.

 

Day Trips to Paris

Wednesday, November 24, 2021 | Written by Mira

One amazing thing about GTL is its close proximity to Paris. I’ve been on the Metz to Paris train plenty of times, but Paris has rarely been my final destination. In fact, the only time Paris was my destination this semester was back in August for the short weekend. I decided that as the semester is winding to a close (and classes are in full force) and as my Eurail pass is about to expire, I should take the opportunity to do a quick day trip to Paris. 

 Friday

 The Fontaine Médicis in Luxembourg Gardens surrounded by all the fall colors!

I woke up bright and early Friday morning for my solo Parisian adventures. I arrived in Paris around 9am, got a 12euro day pass for the metro, and was ready to begin my day. I meandered around the beautiful Luxembourg gardens, in full fall ambiance with red, orange, and yellow leaves coloring the trees. The gardens are lined with statues of women from European history, and there was even a mini Statue of Liberty.

 I just had to take a picture of the iconic Parisian cathedral.

 

After enjoying the brisk fall air of the garden, I walked a little bit to the Île de la Cité, the island on the Seine that is home to the Notre Dame Cathedral. While the inside is still closed due to reconstruction efforts from the fire of 2019, there is an archeological crypt underneath the cathedral, one of the only excavation sites in Paris open to the public. In the exhibition, there was a retelling of Victor Hugo’s Notre Dame de Paris and how the novel shaped the public opinion around the Cathedral. There was also a portion that was the stone remnants of a Roman bathhouse, which reminded me of the popularity of the bathhouses in Budapest.

 Near the Notre Dame Cathedral, on the south side of the Seine, is a quaint, mostly English bookstore called Shakespeare and Co. (37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris). It was incredibly touristy, but the upstairs portion was a little oasis – a reading room (with a cat!). I successfully convinced myself I didn’t need to buy another book (my book count is up to more than a dozen and transporting all these books home will be less than convenient… whoops).

 The bookstore!

 After grabbing a quick lunch at the Shakespeare and Co. Café, I made my way across to the north side of the Seine. I walked along a series of bridges. The first had incredible street music, and the second had an antique market with a very enthusiastic French woman telling me about her antique maps.

 A panorama of the Seine with all the fall colros reflecting off the water! The little antique market is on the bridge on the right under the white tents.

 After spending a majority of the afternoon sitting at a café, The Caféothèque of Paris (52 Rue de l’Hôtel de ville, 75004 Paris), and reading a book I had brought, I wanted to make the most of my 24-hour metro pass before I had to leave, so I hopped on a metro and headed across the city to see the Arc de Triomphe. You can go under the traffic circle to get to the middle of the monument, and you can even pay to go up it. Even though I love heights, I did not end up going to the top. Instead, I took another metro to the Eiffel Tower to watch it illuminate in the approaching dusk. It had been cloudy all day and shortly after 5pm, the tower’s lights turned on– it was breathtaking. There was something really peaceful about watching the “sun set” against the Eiffel Tower and watching as a crowd of French school children went about their Friday evening and some men nearby me were playing bocce.

 Timing the picture just right so no cars were blocking the arc was truly a feat

 After a little while, I mapped directions back to the train station so I could grab dinner in the station before heading back to Metz. As I walked away from the Eiffel Tower, I ran into three other GTL students who were spending the day or the weekend in Paris! We grabbed a small dinner together near the Eiffel Tower before I headed to the train station to return to Metz for the night.

 Sunday

I really want to make the most of my Eurail pass before it expires in a week, so I had booked another quick day trip to Paris! This time, I was meeting up with a friend who lives in Paris for lunch. She took me to her favorite café, Treize Bakery Paris (5 Rue de Médicis, 75006 Paris), near Luxembourg gardens. We walked in and the first thing I saw was “Bienvenue Y’all” in big letters on the wall. I got a vegetarian breakfast plate that came with an authentic Southern American biscuit. Any homesickness I felt was either intensified or cured by the biscuit, and I can’t quite determine which it was. 

 Walking to the metro station, we saw the street lined with lights and the Eiffel Tower was shimmering!

After lunch, I met up with some GTL friends who were spending their weekend in Paris as well. I met up with them in the afternoon on the street by the Arc de Triomphe, Av. des Champs-Élysées, a major shopping street, that was being lit up that night with holiday decorations. For dinner, we ate closer to the station at Pizzeria Popolare (111 Rue Réaumur, 75002 Paris), part of a group of restaurants called the Big Mamma group, as recommended to me by my friend I met up with for lunch. We had somehow secured a reservation for five at this restaurant, and we enjoyed a leisurely 2-hour dinner before returning to the train station.

 A quote from under a bridge on the Seine, “les histoires inachevées nous achivent” or “unfinished stories bring us down” (thanks google translate)

 I hope I get to return to Paris at least once more before the semester ends. I feel like it’s been so close this whole time and I haven’t taken full advantage of it.

Linen Swap

Tuesday, November 23, 2021 | Written by Mira

Every other Tuesday, we have a “Linen Swap” and every other week I think wow, it seems like we just had a linen swap.

 Pros of Linen Swap:

  •     We get clean sheets every other week.
  •     We don’t have to wash our own sheets.

 Cons of Linen Swap:

  •     I spend about 30 minutes every other week unmaking and remaking my bed.

 On linen swap days, I have to mentally prepare myself for the task ahead. First, I strip my bed. I always wait until we have confirmation of linen swap on the specific day because the 1 (ONE) time I stripped my bed in the morning was the 1 (ONE) time linen swap was postponed. The three things included in a linen swap are the pillowcase, the flat sheet, and the duvet cover. From the people I’ve talked to about the linen swap, I might be the only person who actually stuffs the duvet into the duvet cover. A lot of people just lay everything on top of each other. I find that the duvet cover is more comfortable than the duvet itself, so that may be why my linen swap process is such an ordeal. 

 Stripping the bed isn’t the bad part, but we need to fold the sheets before bringing them to be swapped out. From personal experience, the duvet cover – my personal nemesis – is heavy! Trying to fold the duvet cover neatly is a feat in and of itself. Since I’m not quite 5 feet tall, the duvet cover is much longer than I am which makes the process quite difficult. 

 Once our sheets are folded, we can bring them to the common room of Lafayette. Due to COVID restrictions, we are limited to one person at a time in the common room. We place our neatly folded sheets in a laundry bag and collect our new sheets. It’s pretty simple and is usually the fastest part of the whole process for me. After returning to my room, I place the new sheets on a chair in my room, and take a deep breath before starting my mission: Operation Make My Bed.

 * deep breath * Commencing Operation Make My Bed

First is the flat sheet. This is our “fitted sheet.” It is supposed to go directly on the mattress, and it’s what we sleep on so we aren’t directly touching the mattress. However, my bed is a little wider since I have the wheelchair accessible room, but my sheets are the same as all the others… which means my flat sheet is always slights too narrow to wrap my mattress neatly. I can usually wrap it under the top and bottom of the mattress, but it just rests on the sides. (I have woken up to many mornings of my flat sheet being completely pulled to one side of the mattress.)

 Getting the flat sheet under the top of the mattress is also a feat, and usually involves some moving of the mattress itself.

Next is my least favorite part: fitting the duvet in the cover. As I mentioned, my bed is a little wider than what the sheets are designed for, and that extends to my duvet. My duvet is slightly wider than the duvet cover, and it’s not a perfect square. I lay my duvet on the floor next to my bed and count how many diamonds are in which direction (one side has three and the other has four). This helps me orient the duvet in the cover, but the cover is too narrow for the actually duvet and the edges are always a little squished.

 Counting with my feet how many diamonds are in which direction.

Opening the duvet cover is tricky because the two sides are usually stuck together. Also since it’s too narrow, I try to starfish my body over the duvet, pulling it to the corners as best as possible, but it’s never a perfect fit.

 The hardest part is getting the duvet inside the cover.

The duvet and cover are longer than my mattress, so I’m able to tuck it under the mattress which definitely helps my daily bed making process be as easy as possible.

 When I transfer the duvet onto the bed, it usually undoes part of the fitted sheet, which only makes the process longer.

Third is the pillowcases, my reward for the whole duvet operation. Super easy since the pillows are square and match the square pillowcases. Lastly, I add the finishing touch of my fleece blanket (not included in the room, but I definitely recommend investing in one for the colder months). All done!

 The finished product makes it all worth it.

This whole process takes me about half an hour, but I did hit a personal best of 17 minutes to make my bed. We have about two more linen swaps for me to improve my personal best, wish me luck!