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.
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).
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.
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.
This is the outside of the parliament
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.