A Travellerspoint blog

I don't know if Big Ben is ready for this

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Cheerio!

I know that some (ok, most) of you have been itching (nagging) for a new blog post. It is 2am here and I really cannot sleep! I need to be up in three hours to catch a train for London but I figured while I was awake, why not update everyone on the happenings of my life over the past two or three days.

On Tuesday my french class went and toured around Montmarte a little bit more. I had previously told you that we went there, but everyone wanted to go back and see it again. This time we went up the hill and toured this awesome Catholic Basilica, Basilique du Sacré-Cœur. It is the highest point in the city and the views from up there are stunning. The Basilica is also beautiful. You can learn more about the basilica here

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We seem to love group pics

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View of Paris from the Basilica. I want to come back at night.

After touring the church we walked around Montmarte a little bit more and saw different streets and a market with a lot of painters and wonderful paintings.

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We had lunch at a cafe used in the movie Amelie. It was a very nice Cafe and I had a cheeseburger! I had been craving a burger.

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If you look into the background you can see the cover art and a small display for the movie the Cafe was used in.

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An older American lady started up a conversation with me right as this picture was being taken. That's why I look a little weird.

Wednesday and Thursday I enjoyed off from classes. All of my friends were in classes though, so I just spent the days exploring Paris. There is so much to see, I don't know how I am ever going to see everything before I leave. It is crazy to think that I have already been here for coming on three weeks. It really feels just like yesterday.

On Wednesday I went on a mission to the grocery store to find hot dogs. I have been craving a good hot dog and I have seen them on some stands but hadn't found the time to grab one. I was really hungry for one so I figured I would search the MonoPrix. I finally found some and they are actually quite tasty.

While on my quest for hot dogs I also happen to come across another one of my "back-home" favorites.... SALAMI! I can remember having a conversation with my Grandma before I left, wondering if they had Salami in Paris. Well, yes they do and it is actually quite delicious. I think it may even taste better here than it does in the US. I have been dining off of Salami and American Cheese Baguette sandwiches for the past couple of days.

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Yes, those are Doritos.

Today was my first day of Classes at NEGOCIA. I enjoyed every minute of it and I am really glad I made the decision to go there. Out of 24 students in the International Masters Program, I am the only US student, which I really like. The class is represents 14 different countries. I will tell you more about it latter though.

I am off to bed because I need to catch a train in a few hours bound for London. My buddy Blay and I are going and we are going to meet up with some friends over there.

Posted by harcegnt 02:26 Archived in France Tagged educational Comments (3)

Sharing footsteps with soilders

Fort Douaumont

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Like I mentioned in the previous post, we had dinner at a gas station restaurant on Friday night. Although we were mostly disgusted to be eating dinner at the gas station, we tried to make fun of the situation. Mark and I had quite a problem getting the ketchup packets open and our shirts now look like they survived a bloody knife fight. Emma went looking for silver ware, finding some before she, I set her place setting like a five star restaurant with the dessert spoon above the plate, knife and fork in their proper places, and a carefully folded napkin on the plate. The sight of all that, on a cafeteria tray in a gas station, was quite amusing. There is a picture floating around somewhere. Our meal consisted of a beef patty, frites (French Fries) and Crème Caramel. The beef patty was manageable when slathered in Ketchup and the fries were very similar to the US. The Crème Caramel was enjoyed by no one. I don't know that many people managed to even down a second bite.

After enjoying our five star experience, we boarded the clown bus and headed for Verdun. Verdun is a very small town, where major battles occurred during World War 1. We were really all dreading the stop but I think it ended up being the favorite amongst most of the group. We had thought we were going to be walking battle fields. We ended up touring a really cool fort. Fort Douaumont.

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The fort was built right into the land and took almost thirty years to build from start to finish. Construction began in 1888 and was finished in 1913, right before the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, and the start of World War 1.

The fort is constructed of cement block and then layered with sand and soil to help absorb the impact of bombs. It was designed to house 600+ soldiers at one time.

We entered the fort through a small doorway, which you need to slouch to enter through. It was an eerie feeling walking in the footsteps of men, my age, who fought and died within these same walls, not even 100 years ago. The halls of the fort are damp and dark. You can feel the history and terror as you walk along the long, ever stretching, corridors. The never ending echo of your sounds make for an un-nerving feeling.

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The water that has been trapped within the sand and earth layers of the ceiling is finally starting to seep into the structure, forming stalactites that can be seen in many places throughout the fort.

The soldiers lived 50 in one bedroom and two people would share a bunk. Two above and two below. The rooms had some ventilation but it is said that the rooms could house quite the stench.

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This is a picture of the "peace time" toilets. They were only used in times of peace because they had a bucket inside that need to be emptied outside and in times of war there would be no use risking your life to empty the toilets. In times of war the entire fort became the bathroom and you just went wherever it was that you were at the time. There were small trenches along the wall that everything would be swept into and washed away (a practice that is ironically still very evident in Paris. I'll save that for a later post though).

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There were many instances throughout the war where the fort would be bombed and entire sections of the fort would collapse. At the time, the best solution was to just wall off the sections of the building that had been damaged and continue on. The tragic part is that anyone in the area when the bomb went off was either killed or severely injured. They were buried in the rubble and walls of that room, where they still lay today.

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This is a plaque to memorialize the death of 8 french soldiers. They were in one of the bedrooms when the fort was bombed. They were left and buried in the room, right behind this wall. They were only 18 and 19 years old.

This second memorial is the only German burial in the fort. The fort was taken over by the Germans at one point and the story is that one soldier was making coffee when the burner set something on fire which ignited the artillery room and set off dozens of grenades, killing almost 400 soldiers. They all rest behind this wall.

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It was very interesting to walk within the fort and learn all about the history of this crucial battle site. On the outside of the fort you can walk above. The view from the top, of the hills, is beautiful. The craters in the ground are left behind from the bombs that went off, almost 100 years ago.

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After our tour of the fort and a few minutes on top, we headed back to the bus to begin our ride home. We only had 3.5 hours to go. We stopped for lunch just before leaving Verdun and had chicken, frites, and danish. I tried to sleep for the remainder of the bus ride but I got sucked into watching Mission Impossible 3. (The french love Tom Cruise).

We got back to Paris around 6pm Saturday and it was a weird feeling. When we got back to Paris and I got off at my Metro stop and began walking to my house, it felt like home. I was anxious to get upstairs and crash in my bed. It's nice that after only two weeks, I already feel at home.

Posted by harcegnt 21:26 Archived in France Tagged educational Comments (1)

You want us to sit where for six hours?

A visit to Strasbourg

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On Thursday, early afternoon, all of the IES Business and International Affairs students boarded the bus for the worst bus ride of our lives. Last year IES took the high speed train to Strasbourg. But because the train only stops for 3 minutes at the Strasbourg Station, they decided it wise to not do that again. So, we took a bus. Normally, I do not think many of us would object to riding on a bus for six hours. Not that it is something we want to do, but its not that big of a deal. It would give us a chance to socialize and have a good time. But, this was a bus built for the oompa loompas. The bus itself was large, but when you cram 55 people into it, it becomes small very quickly. There were so many seats on this bus, that the leg room was cut down drastically. I am not abnormally tall and I swear to you I could not sit straight in the seat. My legs literally would not fit. Most of us guys were having the same problem, so they decided to move 4 of us to the front row above the driver, the driver sits on the bottom level of this bus. There was enough room for us to sit forward but that was it. Our knees literally pushed right into the wall of the bus. Hands down, the most uncomfortable six hours of my life.

But Strasbourg was amazing! It is this quaint town right on the edge of France. It is minutes from Germany and has actually spent time as a German Territory. As a result, many people in Strasbourg speak French and German. The city is typical of what a French city is, which means it is nothing like Paris. It is quaint with old buildings and cobblestone streets. They even have their own waterways, which run right through the city.

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We got into Strasbourg late Thursday night and left for the EU Parliament early in the morning, so unfortunately those are about the only pictures I have of just the city. I will try to bum some off of some other people.

The hotel we stayed in on Thursday was fairly nice. There were four of us in the room, but the room had four separate beds so it was fairly large. After sitting cramped on the bus for so long I enjoyed the opportunity to stretch my legs. The shower was the best any of us have had since we left the US. I am sure IES ran up a big water bill that night because none of us wanted to get out of the shower.

After we got settled into our rooms at the hotel we walked about thirty minutes to our Restaurant. It was very nice and right on the waterway. We got to watch the little boats go by as we ate dinner. The meal was prearranged for us so we all had the same thing. It worked out well because the food came rather quickly (For France).

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For the Entree, which we call the appetizer in the US, we had a dish which was a pastry dough crust filled with a muenster cheese filling. Those are carrot strips on the side. Strasbourg is known for its White Wine and Muenster Cheese. Both were delicious.

I do not have a picture of the main course but it was chicken with a wine sauce and potatoes.

For dessert we had a fruit tart. I do not remember the name of the fruit but it is only edible for three weeks out of the year. It tastes a lot like a fig and you see them growing on the trees.
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On Friday morning we woke up at about 7:30am and had breakfast at the hotel. It mainly consisted of Croissants, yogurt, and cereal. I had a croissant and some yogurt. I got some fruit salad but then remembered I am not a fan of French fruit. I will save that for another post though. Everyone was excited to see Nutella in little individual packets. I think nearly everyone in the group has become obsessed with Nutella. Many people took a handful of packets with them. I am not that obsessed.

After breakfast we packed ourselves onto the oompa loompa bus and headed for the EU Parliment. For those who are not familiar with the EU feel free to click here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Union as I really don't feel like turning this blog into a history lesson. I really enjoy learning about the EU and enjoyed the visit very much. We had two different guides who took us around the building. It is a very large and fascinating place.

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This is the outside of the parliament

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The view of the floor from the observation deck.

Inside there is this great lobby which spans the length of the corridor and is about 15 stories high. They have these plants growing from floor to ceiling with a slate floor. It is really a sight to behold.
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After our tour of the Parliament we headed over to downtown Strasbourg for lunch. We again had a prearranged meal at a quaint little restaurant. We sat in the upper room on the second floor and enjoyed a nice meal with friends.

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Our Entree (appetizer) was a goat cheese salad. It was ok. I think goat cheese is really an acquired taste and I am not really a fan of hot salads. For our Main Course we had two types of fish over a bed of sauerkraut with potatoes on the side and a glass of white wine. Their white wine has to be served in as special glass for it to mix well with the oxygen. I am not really a huge fan of fish but I must say the dish was very good. I really like the sauce that was over the fish.

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For dessert we had rum raisin ice cream. It was very good.

Before heading to the Chamber of Commerce after lunch, we had the opportunity to go tour this massive cathedral on our own. It was a Catholic Church and it was stunning. The steeple is so high that it is hard to even get the entire mass of the church into one picture. I have more pictures of the Cathedral but I am only going to include a few for right now. I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

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After a short visit at the Cathedral, we went over to the Chamber of Commerce for a meeting with the Director. He spoke in French and our academic director, Elizabeth, translated into English for us. Although most of the group did not enjoy it, I really enjoyed it a lot. I liked hearing about all the imports and exports and I was also excited to hear about all of the large American companies who do business in Strasbourg. They are very close to Germany and close to the rail system and quite a few of large airports, which is why they have thrived as the manufacturing center of France. After the talk we were served more wine and some cake.

We then boarded the bus and headed 2.5 hours towards Paris. We stopped and had dinner at a gas station (Don't Ask) and then continued to our Hotel in the town of Verdun. I will leave the post about Verdun for either later today or tomorrow as this post is getting fairly long and I have class soon.

I hope all is well back on the other side of the Pond.

Posted by harcegnt 10:51 Archived in France Tagged educational Comments (0)

Did we dance in a cave last night?

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Bonjour!

I hope this post finds everyone well. Excuse my lack of posts over the past two days. It has been really hectic and busy around here.

French class has been going well. Our teacher is great and we are really learning a lot. I can pretty much get what I need to get done, all in French now. This includes conversing with the cashier at the supermarket and ordering what I want from a restaurant, bar, or Cafe. Life is much easier now that I can say what I need to say in French.

I missed dinner with my host family yesterday! I meant to take a short nap but for some reason my alarm never went off and I slept right through dinner. I felt pretty bad, but my host mom understood. The other three were at dinner and said it was nothing to rave about. Some fried rice dish.

The night before she made us this really delicious salad, which could have been a meal in itself, and a quiche. I am not a quiche fan but this one was really good! For dessert we had a yogurt with raspberries and some sweet dough puffs. Very good.

On Tuesday night I went out with my friends Blay, Emma, and Anton. We went to a bar called the Princess and the Toad. It was very crowded for a Tuesday night! They brew their own beer at that bar and it was really quite good. We shared a few pitchers and then got bored so we had our own little bar crawl. The street was lined with different bars and pubs, so we went in a few others. We were in the Latin district so there were a lot of American's there. We ended the night in some strange bar at the end of the street. We went in because they had white wine for 2 euros a glass. After a few of those, some guy came up to us and persuaded us to go down to the basement because there was a dance party and they wanted more people. We finished our drinks and went down there. It was bizarre. They were playing some crazy music and there was about 10 drunk people dancing all around. We of course joined them. The basement was all stone and had a really low ceiling. We called it the cave and the next morning all we could ask each other was "were we dancing in a cave last night"? Overall it was a great night and we had a lot of fun.

Yesterday our class went on a little visit to some different parts of Paris. We saw some of the different fountains and schools that french students go to. We also went through some really nice gardens and saw a mosque. I had my first french Crepe yesterday. I went for the Nutella crepe. It was delicious.
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Last night we went to a club off the Champs-Élysées, Club 67. There was an open bar for an hour and no cover charge for Foreigners. It was a good time but I didn't stay too long because I had to be up early for school this morning and I am a bit partied out after the last few nights.

We are leaving this weekend and going to Strasbourg, which is about 6 hours away by Bus. It is supposed to be a really nice city. We are going to visit the EU Parliament.

I will post when I return on Saturday evening.

Posted by harcegnt 10:23 Archived in France Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

C'est la vie!

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Bonjour!

Yesterday was the first day of french classes! I was happy that we didnt spend the time sitting their learning the alphabet and grammar rules. We jumped right into things we could beging using that day, the most important being that of ordering food in a cafe or french restaurant. You would never believe how terrifying it is to try and order food in a foreign language. Terrifying because you don't want to look dumb but you are also terrified as to what you may be ordering since the menu is also in a foreign language. Overall I think these "intensive" french classes are going to be exactly what I had hoped they would. It is fun to learn something in class and be able to walk right out and begin putting that to use!

Sunday was really just a day of rest for me. I didn't do anything but sleep and watch french TV in bed. Wade and I got hungry about 9pm so we ventured out to try and find food. We had intended to go to the grocery store but most places in France are closed on Sundays. To our surprise so is the grocery store. There were a few cafe's open but we really weren't in the mood for sandwiches. We remembered our local Pizza Hut right around the corner, so we went there. That was the first American food I have had since being in France and let me tell you after eating so many baguettes with chicken, that Pepperoni pizza was the best thing I have ever tasted!

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Monday I started off the day in a meeting with my academic advisor here in France. She pretty much sat me down and informed me how hard my NEGOCIA program is going to be and that I really need to stay on top of my work. Also, since I wont be going to the IES Center everyday, like all the rest, I need to meet with her once a week so they can make sure I am still alive and well. I have my first day of NEGOCIA orientation next friday and then classes will start two weeks from yesterday.

Yesterday they also took us to a part of Paris where there is really good food and shopping. It is a younger crowd over there so they figured we would enjoy it. It was really nice and we had a good sandwich in a cafe for lunch. I want to go back because the architecture was really something. This area of Paris was built a long time ago, according to our guide right when Pocahontas met Captain Smith! In this section of town are supposed to be the best falafels you can find. There are two restaurants right across from each other. They are very competitive. One claims to be the best falafel in Paris. The other claims to be the best falafel in the world. I will try one of each and update you later.

Last night we had dinner with our host mom. I think I previously mentioned that she also had two other American students living with her. They got here last week and we met them two nights ago. They also joined us for dinner, so it was a lot of fun. We will be eating all of our meals together, which is nice.

After dinner we went out with them and had some drinks at a corner bar down the street. They had happy hour with 5 euro cocktails so we stayed for a few hours and took advantage of that. This was the first time I got to order in french. It is a lot of fun to sit in the seats on the street and watch the nightlife around you. Beware though, as you often pay more to sit on the street than you would sitting at a table inside. It's usually worth it though.

It has really warmed up here the last few days. We all want to wear shorts but that is a big no-no in France! It is great to have nice weather but we all well aware that the cold days are right around the corner.

Well, I am off to class. We had the morning off, which was very nice to sleep in. I have so much more to tell you guys about daily life here but I am holding back for when my daily life starts to get boring here. Then I can bust out all of the fun and interesting stuff I want to tell you.

Life has been pretty hectic here lately but C'est la vie!

à plus!

Posted by harcegnt 11:51 Archived in France Tagged living_abroad Comments (1)

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