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Category: Travels Page 1 of 15

A Race to Belgium

Monday, September 2, 2019 | Written by Karsten

This past weekend was the weekend I’ve been looking forward to since I first decided to study abroad. I knew that in any given semester at Georgia Tech Lorraine, there would be a Formula 1 race in continental Europe, but because I chose the fall semester, Formula 1 would be just returning from their summer break, and the first race back is always at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps just so happens to also be my favorite racetrack in the world, so I knew I had to go, so my mom and I started to plan it. I wasn’t sure who I’d be going with, whether someone from here, my cousin, who I’m really close to and also enjoys cars, or my dad, who I got my passion for cars and racing from. My dad ended up making the trip across the pond because my mom had a bunch of miles that he could use. This ended up being the best option, as neither I nor my cousin nor anyone here is old enough to rent a car, but my dad is. This cut three hours off of the travel time.

Skipping over some details about the trip over and the practice sessions, we arrived at the track on Saturday to watch F3, F2, and Porsche Supercup qualifyings, as well as the final practice session, qualifying for Formula 1, and the first F3 and F2 races. On any given Formula 1 weekend, all of these take place. Formula 1 cars are the fastest. F2 cars, or Formula 2, are next, followed by F3 and finally Porsche Supercup. Call me a fake fan if you like, but I don’t know much about the F2, F3, or Porsche Supercup drivers or teams, but my dad and I do keep up with Formula 1 pretty religiously. It was still very cool to see the qualifyings of these series as that was the first truly competitive driving of the weekend, since it sets the order of the grid for the races. Formula 1 qualifying happened next, and as had happened so far during the weekend, our favorite team, Ferrari, qualified first and second. The joy that followed was soon transformed into gloom, as during the final event of the day, a massive accident occurred which resulted in broken bones of one driver and the passing of Anthoine Hubert.

As you might be able to expect, the mood of spectators and drivers alike on Sunday was rather dampened. However, all races except the final F2 race (the crash the day before happened in F2) still took place. The Formula 1 race is always the most anticipated event of any race weekend, and therefore happens last. Both Ferrari drivers escaped the first corner accident that so often happens, and they stayed first and second for the first stint of the race. On lap 19, the number of Anthoine Hubert, there was a touching moment where everybody watching the race stood and clapped for the entirety of the lap. Fast forward to the end of the race, Charles Leclerc, a Ferrari driver won his first Formula 1 race, and Sebastian Vettel, the other Ferrari driver brought home fourth. After the race, on the way back to our shuttle, my dad and I noticed that there were lots of people on track, and we managed to find out how to get on the track, so we took pictures on the start-finish line. That was definitely one of the highlights of my weekend.

Even though a tragedy occurred during the weekend, I’m so glad to have been able to go to my first Formula 1 race in nearly fifteen years, and that I was able to experience it with my dad.

Managing Time with Travel (Part One)

Sunday, September 1, 2019 | Written by Karsten

Normally, when at school, I try to think about actually doing school as little as possible. While this isn’t always the smartest idea, I’d much rather hang out than do schoolwork, and therefore I can only really do schoolwork when I’m alone. Now that I’m here in France, I have even more distractions. It seems like all anybody can think about is where they’re going to travel next, and I’m the same way. Luckily, as with any typical semester, the first couple weeks—or first full week, in this case—are usually pretty slow, with the occasional homework assignment needing to be completed. Because of this, I’ve been able to make new friends, take lots of pictures (and stay on top of editing them), get the recommended eight hours of sleep, and yes, travel in both of my first two weekends (I’m currently writing this in Belgium).

The classes I’m taking this semester are Thermodynamics, Probability and Statistics, Instrum and Electronics Lab, French 1, and Science, Technology, and the Modern World. The most worrying ones are the three that are mandatory to graduate as a mechanical engineer: Thermodynamics, Probability and Statistics, and Instrum and Electronics Lab. These classes, though fair according to past students, will be very difficult to get an A in if I don’t take them seriously and make time to review the material. Thermodynamics is a flipped classroom, so in class we’re solving problems and outside of class we’re watching lectures. There are eighteen evaluations to be completed throughout the semester, and if they all get completed successfully, we get an A. Probability and Statistics is heavily based on the midterms and the final, but if I’m able to stay on top of the homework and not miss any classes, it shouldn’t be too difficult. Instrum and Electronics Lab is based around lab quizzes and lab reports, so if Jake and I are able to get the labs done in class, we should be set. French 1 will be the most useful class I take while I’m in France, because, well, I don’t know any French yet. Maybe by the end of the semester, I’ll actually understand what’s going on around me. Lastly, as long as I stay up to date on my readings in Science, Technology, and the Modern World, the class should be manageable.

The method of attack that I think is best for managing my time is to get as much work as I can done during the first three nights of the week, and then doing my reading, writing, and eventually studying while I’m on the train. So far, that’s what I’ve done, and it seems to be like the best idea. Hopefully, by managing school this way, I’ll be able to keep my stress levels low and stay ahead on my work (although I already feel a little behind—hopefully I can work to feel caught up this week).

A Trip to Paris

Monday, August 26, 2019 | Written by Karsten Messer

Though this was the first weekend abroad and I hadn’t really explored downtown Metz much, I wanted to go elsewhere. I flew into Paris, as did most people on this study abroad, but I had never been there before. I didn’t think many people would be interested in going out of town in the first weekend, so I expected to go by myself or with one of the only guys I knew coming into Georgia Tech Lorraine, Jake Tjards (a fellow member of Cru). However, when I mentioned in passing that I wanted to go to Paris this weekend, others also seemed interested, so we began planning. Everyone that went had a couple of things that they especially wanted to do, and because there were eight of us, we had a pretty good list of things to do. My two bucket list events were seeing the Eiffel Tower and going to my first European football match. On Thursday night, we bought our tickets for the train and the game, and we booked our Airbnb. 

Day One

Once we got to the train station and got all of our Eurail passes activated, we waited for the track to be listed, which doesn’t happen until twenty minutes before the train arrives. Once it was listed, we went to the tracks and it seemed like it wasn’t there. However, about one minute before it left, we realized that it wasn’t pulled all the way into the station, but it was there, so we bolted to the doors and somehow all made it. We arrived in Paris and began getting to our itinerary – with the first stop being a bakery.

After we had some of the best pastries of our lives, we walked to the Louvre (more on that later) and then into the Sainte-Chapelle—and immediately back out because we’re all on a budget. Next, we walked by the sad sight that is the Cathedral Notre Dame, as we were able to see the severe damage caused by the fire earlier this year. The last thing that we had scheduled was the Pantheon. We made a spur-of-the-moment decision (heavily influenced by me for photography purposes) to go to the Montparnasse Tower to watch the sun set over the cityscape. It was an absolutely incredible sight. Once the sun had gone down, we made the three-mile walk back to our Airbnb, which put us at fifteen miles for the day.

Day Two

On day two, we woke up, went and got more pastries, and went back to the Louvre. Honestly, I was not very excited to go as I am not a museum person at all. However, this was one of the best museums I had been in (at least recently), and I definitely enjoyed it. My favorite part, though cliché, was seeing the Mona Lisa. After, we went and got crepes for lunch and then went to see the Arc de Triomphe. I very much enjoyed walking through the insanely wealthy Champs-Élysées on the way, which was filled with stores I’ll never buy from and half a million-dollar cars. From there, we headed to see the Eiffel Tower up close and then on to the Parc des Princes for the PSG vs Toulouse game. We managed to get tickets in the third row of a first level section for less than fifty euros. After getting my biggest lens confiscated (taken to the bag check), it was a very fun and unforgettable experience. I thought Atlanta United games were loud and hype, but honestly, I’ve never been to a game that compares to the Parisian Ultras at this game. To top off the experience, PSG beat Toulouse 4-0, with all four goals being scored in the side we were sitting on.

Conclusion

Overall, I’m very glad to have gotten to go to one of the biggest cities with a rich history in the world as a way to ease in to travelling around Europe via the train system. It was extremely cool, and I hope to go back and see what I missed before I leave (though we walked thirty miles in two days, we couldn’t have missed too much).

To Dublin We Go!

Hello all-

I’d like to first ease all of your concerns and mention that the past few weeks I have spent as far away as possible from German saunas and instead spent some time in Ireland and London.

At the beginning of the month, I visited Ireland, where my friend Elle (the one from CU with whom I spent time with in Portugal) is studying abroad. I wasn’t really feeling like staying at a hostel, and they were weirdly expensive so I found a quaint Airbnb at this grandpa’s house. Initially, when I told my mom I was staying with an old Irish man in some random neighborhood she was not super impressed with my decision making, but he had excellent reviews which made me a little less worried. Most decisions I’ve made are definitely motivated by cheap prices, but a most have also been well researched. I’ve already made it obvious in past blogs which situations were not… which usually resulted in some sort of hike, an unnecessary amount of money spent, and sometimes nudity.

Luckily when I arrived to this kind old man’s house in Dublin none of the above occurred. I took a bus about an hour from the airport and after a delayed flight it was a nice surprise when Gearoid met me at the bus stop even while it was pouring rain. He walked me home and told me he felt bad about the weather being so crummy so he prepared me dinner! It was so sweet. I immediately told Elle that I would have to just see her the next morning since I was too busy watching BBC news with my old Irish friend and chatting about our lives over eggs, tomatoes and hot tea.

It wasn’t too bad that I couldn’t see Elle that night because I had arrived so late, and she was able to spend that evening with her brother, who was also in town. The week before I was supposed to come, Elle and I texted a lot to try to decide where to visit other than Dublin, but we weren’t really coming to a concrete decision so I texted her that we should finalize the plans since I land around 5pm and she replied, “you’re coming next weekend right?” After some back and forth we realized that Elle had accidentally planned for her brother and I to come on the same weekend. I wasn’t even phased by this sudden mix up, having experienced way stranger situations this semester. And it all worked out since Elle was still able to see me on the next day of my trip and I even got to meet her brother and his girlfriend during the evening.

That morning Elle and I met up in Dundrum where she lives and took the light rail to downtown where we had some yummy chai tea latte’s and caught up on everything. The whole day we both felt so incredibly lucky to get to see each other twice this semester.We walked all around Dublin, sat at some nice parks and even had burritos for lunch. Sidebar – I find it strange how many Mexican restaurants there are in Ireland? But I also am not questioning it. Afterwards I got boba, (obviously I’ve decided that I am doing a world tasting tour) and then we went to a small pub where Elle ordered us a Guinness. Thankfully her brother and his girlfriend as well as Elle’s friend showed up and actually drank the Guinness since she really bought it for me for the “true Ireland experience,” and we didn’t really drink it. We all had a very fun dinner together and then they drove me home, which made for a perfect first day!

The next morning I woke up early and took a bus to downtown, where I was going to be picked up by a tour bus to go visit the Cliffs of Moher and Galway. This was my last day in Dublin, and I spent it alone since Elle and her family went on a camping trip. It’s been my dream since high school to visit the Cliffs. I honestly had a wonderful experience even while being alone. Bussing through the Irish countryside was surreal and it felt like somewhere I would love to end up one day. When we got to the Cliffs, it was breathtaking, and I cried happy tears pretty much the entire two hours. After everyone finished hiking all around, we bussed to an interesting town for lunch, stopped at another mini cliff, and then made it to Galway. It was a very special, lively town, and while I only spent an hour there it is definitely a goal of mine to come back.  I didn’t expect to like the tour bus experience but I actually would recommend it since I learned so much about the history of Ireland and liked not having to worry about any of the details of the trip. I would love to visit Ireland again and try to do a road trip all around the country – although driving on the other side of the road absolutely terrifies me, so if anyone wants to come with, let me know.

Ireland was something straight out of a movie. The people were incredibly friendly, the places I visited were unique and colorful, and I felt really really happy. The only other place that made me feel this content was probably London.

Stay tuned!

Love,

Noa

Shed Those Layers… It’s Warm Outside!

I genuinely believe that some places are completely different based on the weather, and Metz is most definitely one of those places. Part of the reason I think I was really adamant about traveling every weekend is because when it’s cold and rainy in Metz, there isn’t much reason to go outside and explore. No one really is out, and walking through the downtown doesn’t feel the same as when the sun is shining. Luckily, it’s starting to warm up here, which is not only making me like Metz a lot more, but also is making me realize that my days here are very quickly coming to an end. It’s unbelievable that I have a month left here and I am hoping to enjoy every last second before I have to go home.

This last week, Danny visited me and we spent every day doing things in downtown Metz, and we traveled a bit on the weekend as well. The first day he got here, I went early in the morning to grab some groceries at Cora, and usually while I’m pretty disappointed by the food there, I learned a huge lesson. It’s a little late to learn this, but if I go really early in the morning, that is when Cora has the fresh food out. I always would go in between classes or in the afternoon, and that is when all the good stuff is gone. I found fresh bread, and they finally had arugula, so I now I know what to do if I don’t want to trek to a different grocery store downtown. Afterwards I ran to class and then I took Danny to Burger Kebab for a true Metz experience. The next morning we visited Fox Coffee Shop so he could see what all the hype was about, and then I had to go with my French class downtown.

My French class visited a really interesting association in Metz called Bliida which is a center for different start ups and people with small businesses to have a place to work. It’s an old bus depot where each startup can rent out a bus parking spot and build their offices and work there. I loved to see all of the different graphic designers and opportunities that Bliida gives these companies. While they are currently closed to the public, they are planning on making it a tech/art center for all of Metz to enjoy and visit.

The rest of the week in Metz, Danny and I spent time exploring around downtown. We finally watched a movie, Dumbo, at the Klub Cinema and even took a bus to the outskirts of Metz, where we went bowling at a really cool arena. It was so fun, and even more perfect because of the nice weather.

On Friday, I scheduled us Flixbus tickets to visit Strasbourg which I am so glad I was able to go to! It was a lovely city, and we visited the Notre Dame there (which was fun after we had learned about it when visiting Metz’s cathedral). We ate a really yummy breakfast and then randomly decided to go into the Zoology museum. I wasn’t anticipating liking it that much, but it we ended up spending quite some time there! Of course I would rather see the animals alive, but it was incredible to see all these exotic creatures and where they came from. I kind of forgot how interesting all of that is to me. We only ended up doing a day trip but it was the perfect amount of time to spend in Strasbourg. I think I liked it a lot more than Metz just because it was a lot bigger of a city and we had more to do.

The next morning, we took a different bus to Saarbrucken to spend the day there. The reason we decided to go there is because whenever I used to train through Saarbrucken, I always saw this really cool looking indoor water park and thought it would be fun to go. Danny was all in, and when we first arrived we had to kill some time before the place opened so we walked downtown and got breakfast. Everyone was really nice and it was delicious so we were in a great mood when we got to the water park, called Calypso. Initially it was a little stressful because everything was in German and the woman we bought tickets from was not very friendly. The place was huge and I was a little worried on maneuvering it but once we saw the slides and pool area we were pretty excited. We had decided to also get sauna access and so when headed to see the sauna we realized there was a restaurant you had to walk through so we first went back to grab our towels since we didn’t want to walk into the restaurant area with just our swimsuits on. Little did we realize that that wasn’t a problem at all. In fact the saunas one rule was that you couldn’t wear clothes at all. I almost had an aneurysm. We realized this rule almost instantly and I think the only fair way to describe this situation is as such:

Imagine walking into a room where everyone speaks very minimal English and the first thing you see is sweaty, fat, old German men who are naked and tell you that you must also be nude as it is the rule. A literal nightmare no?

I only cried twice and Danny handled it all a lot better than me! Turns out (after Googling and inquiring with my French friends) that this is a German thing and I probably should’ve done a little bit of research before, but that’s just how my life goes! Regardless, the slides in the not-nude area were really fun, and the sauna experience was well…an experience.

Our last day together in Metz, we spent doing homework at the Fox and trying to forget what we saw in Saarbrucken. It was yet another beautiful day and I was so thankful that we were able to spend a week together!

While saying goodbye is quite possibly one of the most difficult things, I know it means that I am even closer to being back home, which at this point is very bittersweet.

Spunky, Sassy, and Portuguese

It’s time to set the mood. Set your record player to play So Danco Samba by Antônio Carlos Jobim on a low volume, crank up the heat in your room to about 70 degrees, spray the Febreeze scent “ocean”, and let a cool breeze make its way through the window. Welcome to Lisbon, Portugal.

If you haven’t been to Portugal… go. I decided I was going to go quite a while ago when I saw round trip flights from Luxembourg for about 35 euros, and when checking the weather map of Europe, it was the warmest destination. Quickly after buying the flight I found a decently priced hotel and reserved it, knowing it wouldn’t be too difficult to find someone to go with me. The first person I called, was one of my best friends, Elle from CU Boulder. She’s studying Mechanical Engineering abroad in Ireland this semester, and we had talked a lot about how we need to see each other at least once (and I actually will be visiting her in April in Ireland as well!). It wasn’t hard to convince Elle, and it was lovely when I landed late at night in Portugal and made my way to the hotel that she greeted me with a big hug and a Big Mac in hand.

That night, we didn’t mean to, but ended up staying up until about 4am, catching up on everything and convincing ourselves that we would eventually go to sleep. We woke up pretty late the next morning so we took an Uber to the breakfast place that I had seen during my intense food research of Portugal. Most places don’t have Uber at all, and usually I prefer to walk, but I was pretty hangry, needed to get there FAST, and it was also unusually cheap. Normally I don’t do much research, if any, about a place (if you haven’t noticed) but this was my number one trip destination so I wanted to make sure we were well fed. And boy, were we well fed. The first brunch place we went to was called Nicolau and was right in the middle of downtown. I ordered Eggs Benedict with a Matcha tea latte, and Elle got a burger with a red bun. Not only was it the best Eggs Benedict I’ve ever had (I came back my last day and got it again), but it was so well-priced. That’s when we realized that Portugal is in fact one of the cheapest countries of western Europe. It wasn’t even that it was absurdly cheap, it was that it was just very very reasonable.

After brunch we adventured around and every building was noticeably more beautiful than the next. Each wall was lined with unique tile in the most vibrant colors that contrasted so well with everything else whether it was the flowers on the trees or the ocean in the distance. Elle and I repeatedly mentioned how happy we felt just walking and talking in this dream of a city. We visited Castelo de São Jorge which gave us an amazing view of Lisbon from the top of the hill and got to see a lot of peacocks parading about. After walking more throughout downtown we grabbed a cappuccino and an egg tart (a classic Portuguese treat) and then headed to get dinner at another place I had read about called Frangasqueira Nacional. This place is a hole-in-the-wall chicken joint, run by a spunky, sassy Portuguese woman who doesn’t have a care in the world. We met this man who has traveled and lived all over who gave us some reassurance that waiting for 35 minutes for our chicken was just what was going to have to happen, and it was worth it. I’m fairly certain that our chicken was ready after 5 minutes but the woman placed it on the side, helped 5 other customers before us, and kept making sarcastic jokes that were confusing but we laughed since she was what stood between us and our chicken. Either way it was probably the best chicken with garlic rice I have ever had. We ended up taking it back to the hotel and even though we ordered an enormous amount of food we ate it all immediately and it was only 11$ for an entire chicken and a large side of rice. So that was something else.

The next morning we woke up a bit earlier and walked to another brunch place called Fauna & Flora where we split an açai bowl, and I got an iced coffee with avocado toast and poached egg. The Portuguese win at brunch, I just will put it like that. The restaurant was near the beach, so for about 2 hours afterwards we laid in the sun and listened to a band play jazz music (bossa nova specifically). If you know me well, you know that this is genuinely one of my favorite and most listened to genres of music, so Elle got to see me feel so much joy that I knew every song they would play and could sing along.

Post-beach, we walked more around downtown and eventually had dinner at an indoor food market (similar to the one I went to in Amsterdam) where I had a burger (she’s back!!) and met some other girls studying abroad in Spain. Afterwards we sat at a nice bar and listened to more jazz music and then went home.

Elle left early the next morning back home, and while I was quite sad that she wasn’t with me anymore, I got my butt out of bed and headed towards a flea market. It was amazing! There were so many cool antiques and artists that were selling their work. I bought a scarf since my other one disappeared on my ‘night hike’ in Austria and wished that my mom was with me the whole time because it was right up her alley. Afterwards I headed back to Nicolau nearby to grab some breakfast and an açai smoothie before making my way back to the airport.

My whole trip to Portugal felt meant to be. Every single person was kind, the weather was absolutely perfect, the food unbelievable, and I got to experience it all with my best friend.

Excited to keep you all updated on everything! Time is going by so quickly and I am appreciative of every minute and every person who reads my blog.

Ciao,

Noa

A Much-Needed Breath of Fresh Air

I think today’s blog deserves a few moments of honesty. First of all, I think it is really important that I stay honest with others and myself because while most of the time everything is truly incredible I do actually have times where I don’t really feel like myself or I feel slightly detached since there is so much to take in. I try exceptionally hard to not let any negativity affect me, but it’s something I do need to accept as reality and move on from. I feel like I am learning so much about myself and what I need to do to make me happy while I am here so it’s been invaluable in that regards.

Last week I ran into some difficulties traveling that made me a little bit unsteady for a short time. Some girls and I had been planning a trip to Budapest, and I wasn’t anticipating being so exhausted after spring break and wasn’t really looking forward to that trip. I think I needed a week off. However, since I had made plans and hotel reservations I went to book the trains when I was in Paris (since it was an overnight train we had to) and they had told me it was all sold out. I tried to book it in Metz, too, and they told me the same. It was quite stressful since I didn’t want to mess up my friend’s plans.

Luckily (but unluckily, just stay tuned), my friend had called the Zurich train station and was able to somehow secure me a seat on the overnight train. While I wasn’t looking forward to the seating situation, after looking at all the fun things to do in Budapest I started getting excited, and Thursday night we made our way to Zurich, the first stop before the overnight train. If you’ve ever had that feeling where things have been going wrong for so long, and it seems strange that things are finally going right, then you know exactly how I felt when I joked that at the Zurich train station where I had to go get my ticket printed something would go wrong. Because it did! Our train arrived at 9:03pm and little did I know that the ticket office closes at 9pm, and they couldn’t print my ticket. So with no other options, my friends left to Budapest and I spent the night in Zurich. Out of all the places to get stuck, it definitely wasn’t a bad place, but after having a kind of rough week emotion-wise it was kind of a struggle that night.

Rainy day in Zurich.

Thankfully I fell in love with Switzerland. It reminded me a lot of Colorado, and I felt so comfortable. I think it was being surrounded by mountains, and the people were so friendly and spoke English so well. Luckily, my aunt who lived in Lucerne invited me to spend the rest of the weekend with them, which made me feel so much better. She picked me up after a day spent exploring in Zurich, and then I stayed in their beautiful apartment in Lucerne.

This very quickly made up for the struggles with the Budapest trip, and there was even a huge festival going on in Lucerne that made the weekend so fun and exciting. My aunt, her twin daughters and I adventured around town and saw all the incredible costumes, listened to different music, and joined in on all the fun. I have never seen so much effort put in by a whole town to make an occasion so joyous and well-intentioned. It was awesome. In addition to the festival, we went to a Swiss grocery store, cooked lunch together, and spent a morning walking around the beautiful lake. I’m really thankful that she was so inviting, and I had a lovely time with her and her family.

The view from the apartment in Lucerne

After that week I figured I’d take the next weekend off, but since it was my last weekend with the Eurail, I knew I had to fit in one more train trip before I couldn’t anymore. Randomly, these two guys that I had met while stranded in Luxembourg on the way home from London, texted the GTL GroupMe asking if someone wanted to join their ski trip. I didn’t think I’d be able to go skiing while here, but my friend had just bought some gear, which she said she’d let me borrow, and I quickly joined their trip.

So here I was going skiing in the Alps with two kids I barely knew, and they mentioned they had an Airbnb booked with a sauna, hot tub, beautiful views, but had “one small catch.” They told me it was a 2.2 km walk up a trail and that the reviews said it was worth the hike, but nothing too bad.  I saw the pictures, it looked incredible, and I decided that it was already weird enough that I was skiing with some guys I barely know, so why not.

I ended up training alone to Munich where I met them at our hostel, where we spent the night. The next morning they left at 5am to go skiing, while I left at 9am (I really value my sleep). I didn’t actually see them at all throughout the day. I was pretty anxious on my way to the resort in Kitzbuhel, Austria, since I haven’t skied in a while and wasn’t really sure how to get to the right place. I ended up meeting a super nice girl who was an instructor at the resort and she told me everything I needed to do. I rented some skis, and then I made my way to the free lifts at the resort. Everyone was so incredibly helpful that I felt so much better. People were also giving me mass amounts of chocolate throughout the whole journey. On the train to Munich the man who worked the food department kept giving me handfuls of chocolate, and the ski people in Austria helped me carry my infinite stuff – and then gave me more chocolate! After they helped me load up my locker, I headed to the lifts. It was really nice because they had three free lifts so I didn’t have to pay for a ticket. While it definitely could’ve been more exciting to go up further into the Alps, I really wanted to work on my technique and my control since it had been so long since I’d skied, and I felt way better by the end of the day. Also the snow was pretty bad, and I heard that visibility was terrible higher up so I felt good about my choice. Later on the boys finished skiing, and we took a train to the city where our Airbnb was. By then it was already dark out, so we got dinner, and I convinced them to at least take a taxi to the trailhead where we were supposed to walk to the Airbnb.

We got to the trailhead, and I realized pretty immediately that this was no “walk.” After a full day of skiing, we now were faced with what ended up being a 2.5 mile hike, and by hike I am talking full incline and lots of stairs, through the middle of a mountain in the complete darkness. We were following some sketchy Google-translated instructions from the Airbnb host and started trekking through the mountain. These poor kids had no idea what they were thinking bringing me on this hike. Now don’t get me wrong, I love to hike if it is what I am anticipating. But I was not ready for this and complained a little bit more than usual (they might tell that part differently :)). Eventually after an hour of hiking we finally reached what we thought was our Airbnb but turned out to be a different random hotel in the middle of nowhere. Then right before we got to the Airbnb, we walked by this creepy mini church that literally LIT UP when we got close to it, and it was terrifying. While I almost gave up, we hiked for another couple minutes and finally made it. Thank God I wasn’t skiing the next day. While I had plans to go to Salzburg, I knew there was absolutely no way I would make it up this mountain a second time.

But the reviews on the Airbnb website were definitely true. When I woke up in the morning and looked out the window I realized it was all worth it. The guys had gone skiing that day too, so I didn’t see them until dinner, but I had a really relaxing day.  My legs were exhausted but I got up and hiked a few miles. In all honesty I have no idea how I made it up the mountain in the first place in my crappy rain boots because the next morning I got so many weird looks from people with their hiking poles and full on gear as I was wearing the most random outfit to hike around. Regardless, it felt so refreshing to be outside and be in such a serene beautiful place. I missed hiking, I missed skiing, and I have to say that while the journey to get here was absolutely bizarre, it was the best weekend I’ve had. I spent some time in the hot tub and sauna, where I met some really nice girls from Munich and talked to them about how weird it was that I was there in the first place. For dinner we ate at the Airbnb, and I had this crushed up pancake that is apparently an Austrian delicacy. The Airbnb host was telling us that it’s named after some emperor that only ever requested that to eat and his cooks were always so confused because out of everything he could’ve eaten he’d request that. I feel like that’s how my mom feels when I order mac n cheese at a restaurant.

The next morning the guys left super early again, and I made my way down the mountain and trained home alone. This weekend was special in the sense that I was finally able to be outside and in nature rather than in the hustle and bustle of the cities. I felt so refreshed after that weekend and was thankful I didn’t stay home. That was also an incredibly long blog, but I am FINALLY! caught up on all of my trips, and can be more up to date from here on out.

I am feeling so much better this week, and I can’t believe it is already week nine of being abroad. I’ll be back home before I know it, and I am not ready. I think I’ll have to come back for sure.

See you soon!

Noa

MTV Spring Break 2019 (My Time in Venice)

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!

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.

There Is No “S” in Hotel

Hello again!

I am now the self-proclaimed cheap flight-finding queen. After my 20 euro trip to Milan, I have become slightly obsessed with finding cheap flights because they are less stressful than trains. With trains they can just sort of cancel them, give you no other options at 1 AM, and when you ask for other options they pretend to Google things for 25 minutes until telling you in German that you could take a taxi for 400 euros.

That being said, I quickly found a cheap trip to London for the next weekend! My friend and I decided we would give a hostel another chance since it wasn’t as last minute as Amsterdam. Also, for those who don’t know, one of my best most avid readers, my 12 year old sister, kindly sent me an edit saying, “you wrote hotel wrong, you put an s in it btw just lettin’ you know.” Just in case any other 12-year-olds reading my blog are confused, hostels are a version of a hotel that you do not want to stay in. The s stands for “super bad.” 

When we got to the hostel in London, called the Wombat, it was actually “Super great!”  Everything was clean, the staff was really nice, and there were no cats in our beds. We got in really late so we went to bed, and the next morning we had a free breakfast at the hostel before we all split up. I visited Oxford Street and walked around all of the shops until I met up with my friend in Chinatown to drink boba. I may be inconsistent about posting my blogs, but at least I am consistent about my nutrition. From there we decided to head over to Camden Market, which I absolutely loved. It reminded me of Pike Place Market in Seattle a bit, but also those indoor jewelry markets in NYC. Definitely up my alley. I love unique jewelry and art vendors, so it was really fun to see.

After the markets we met up with our third friend at an incredible taco restaurant. I cannot remember for the life of me what it was called, but they were exactly what I needed. The most exciting part of London for me was that a few days before with the help of my families convincing, I bought a ticket to see the Book of Mormon. I was worried spending a lot of money on a ticket, but let me tell you that after watching that show I would pay triple what I had paid for. It was by far the funniest show I have ever seen. So crude and hilarious, and the cast was so talented. I have not stopped listening to the music ever since, and I can’t wait to watch it again one day.

To end the night my friends and I sat at a jazz speakeasy, which was really nice. We met a good group of people that had recently graduated from Cambridge, and we spent the rest of the night hanging out with them. The next morning we woke up after only a few hours of sleep, walked around Notting Hill and Kensington Palace, and headed back for the flight home.

These weekends are extremely quick but every one of them has left me with memories that I hope will last me a lifetime. I am feeling really lucky recently and am thankful for everyone in my life. I’ll definitely let you all know about my spring break as soon as I have another chance to write!

For now, thanks for reading!

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