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A Whole New World August 24, 2011

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And I’m not referring to the song from Aladdin!

Returning home has been bitter sweet. I love being back on campus at Georgia Tech and being reunited with friends and family. Going abroad helps you truly appreciate the treasures you have at home. But I miss the beauty and serenity of Oxford and the friends I’ve made outside of our program as well who live in Europe.

Before I left for study abroad, many people kept saying, “It’ll be the experience of a lifetime!” It was said so often, it became cliche and I thought, yeah yeah I know. But until you have been abroad and returned you won’t understand the magnitude and truth of the statement. Seeing sights so far from home and experiencing cultures other than your own gives you a new set of eyes. You will see the world through a different and better light.  

I am grateful for the opportunity the Fleet Scholarship through the President’s Scholarship Program has given me. Thank you for allowing me to grow and see a whole new world.

Oxford August 24, 2011

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After having travelled every weekend since my arrival at Worcester College, it was a greatly anticipated and much needed weekend spent here in Oxford. The part I wanted to explore and see the most were the other colleges that make up the university.  Alex was nice enough to take a portion of his Friday to show me around. The day was one I’ll never forget and wanted to share with you. Some of the colleges I mention are founded within the medieval time period and others not, but I wanted to share them all…

I couldn’t have asked for a better tour guide than someone who attends the university and could share stories about his college experience here, as well as the background and some “fun facts” about each. The day was long, almost 6 straight hours of walking and touring, but worth every footstep.

We started with Christ Church College (founded 1546), the one that everyone goes to! It’s the only college still open to tourists during term, because after all, everyone wants to see Harry Potter’s formal hall. Honestly the hall wasn’t much different from Worcester, other than the great number of pictures lined along the walls of notable alumni. The college grounds were enormous though, and as Alex explained, owns so much land that technically by different means of transportation, one could make it from Oxford to Cambridge and never leave Christ Church property. It is the college with usually the best sporting teams due to its large population. So here, he explained the idea of “chalking the walls”. When a rowing team wins a big competition they list the other college boats they “bumped”. Bumping is basically passing another boat (although they do physically bump boat against boat). The college writes on the courtyard walls in chalk which college boats they bumped. It’s considered a great accomplishment which is why there are races listed on the walls as far back as 2005.

The next college was one of my favorites, Balliol College. It is one of the oldest founded in 1263. The college is much smaller in size and is known for producing the most number of, “PPs” or positions in public, such as politicians, BBC newscasters, and journalists. Balliol’s landscape is picturesque with well kept floral gardens and small courtyards with benches. The chapel reflects the medieval time period with its ceiling built of high arching wooden ribs.  We also visited Merton College (founded one year later in 1264). Apparently Merton is the most academically renowned. I guess you could think of it as the Harvard of all the colleges. If you attend Merton you have set hours that you are required to study, for example after dinner there is a required two hour study hall every student must attend instead of going to grab a beer with friends like most other students would tend to do. Out of all the colleges they always have the highest number of “firsts” or top exam scores on their final examinations.

Wadham College was our next stop. It is one of Alex’s favorite colleges and probably my least. It is not medieval, founded in 1610, but has an interesting history. The college has a reputation for being the most liberal. It was the first to admit women, and its views are tended to be very modern. In fact every year they have “LGBTQ Week” (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning) to raise awareness for these groups. The founder was Dorothy Wadham. It is rumored that her husband, Nicholas Wadham, was known to be a womanizer during his time and treated lowly women, such as prostitutes atrociously, possibly even killing some. This could be the reason the college has always held such a liberal outlook.  The best part of the college though, according to Alex, is Wadham throws the best “bops,” aka, parties. Wadham was my least favorite simply because of the campus itself. Just as all the colleges have done, the campus needed to expand to accommodate growing numbers. But while many of the colleges tended to keep to the style of buildings originally built, Wadham’s newer facilities are not consistent with the original style and it takes away from the historical feel of the campus.

Keble College, founded in 1870, is one of the “newer” colleges that we visited. It is the red brick college that reflects the time period of the industrial revolution that it was built during. Despite the red brick, the college has a beautiful, enormous interior courtyard. Keble is known for turning out some of the best lawyers and is the college that most Australian and South African students can be found attending. Interestingly, students cannot chalk on the interior walls of the courtyard, they have to display their victories on more interior walkways, such as the walls leading to the dining hall.

Our next stop was Alex’s alma mater and current graduate college, New College. College of St. Mary was its original name when it was founded in 1379. Alex explained that up until a certain point the colleges used to serve as the next stepping stone after public school (our equivalent of private school). So if you attended a certain public school such as Winchester then you would be grandfathered into St. Mary’s, or Christ Church, etc. After this was stopped, the school renamed itself to the New College of St. Mary and hence was referred to as New.  The college is enormous and has some unique aspects to its landscape. The old medieval Oxford wall built to defend the city runs right through a portion of campus. Also in one of the main quads there is what they call “the mound” which used to be a tall outlook point with many steps leading to the top used to defend Oxford. Its sides are mostly surrounded by heavy brush and it is a steep way down to the bottom if you don’t take the stairs. Since it is clearly no longer used for defense, Alex said it’s used for a just as important of a tradition. In the fall the New College boys (only boys thank goodness!) drink heavily at the bottom of the mound. They race to the top via stairs where they strip down stark naked and make their way back down through the brush! The first man down is called King of the Mound for that year. I told him I don’t think we had anything similar at Tech. J  Another great medieval tradition they uphold in May is the “Beating of the Drums.” All the New College students gather to parade inside the campus. They beat drums and sing medieval songs as they march along the old Oxford wall.

Our next stop was where, if I had attended Oxford, I would have liked to have been a member of. Magdalen College, founded just shy of the medieval period in 1458 was the one college I thought could rival the beauty of Worcester. The gardens seem to have every flower you can imagine and their cloister has grass which has the same checkered pattern as Worcester’s lawn. Alex says walking on Magdlen’s cloister lawn as a student will get you “sent down” or our equivalent of being kicked out of school. The perimeter of the cloister is covered in huge, beautiful white hydrangeas which make it look covered with white cotton balls. The grounds are so enormous they have their own deer reservation on site. We stopped to have lunch here at the college café next to their JCR. Their outdoor patio was next to the river with plenty of touristing punters rowing along and made a perfect spot to sit and eat in the shade. We took a walk along Magdalen paths that run alongside the deer pastures. After our walk he pointed out Magdalen Tower where another important Oxford tradition has been taking place for many years called “May Morning”. On a day in May, at 6am the choir starts to sing hymns from the top of the tower and all Oxford students and people of the town gather around the tower to listen and have a huge celebration afterwards.

Our last stop was appropriate, ending with where all of Oxford University “officially” began with University College (founded in 1249), or as Alex likes to call it, “Uni”. It’s also one of the smaller colleges. The main courtyard is simple, and the chapel is beautiful. The ceilings are the only ones I saw painted like the ones we would commonly see in cathedrals throughout the continent. The lower interior still has dark wooden seats that truly look as old as the college itself. Alex spoke about the famous poet Shelley who attended University College and how “Uni” students just love to brag about him.

After a long day, and some tired feet, I was happy to head back to Worcester, which has now become home away from home. It was a delight to hear about the history of this beautiful place from the Alex ad later the Provost and I’m lucky to have gotten a chance to learn and see more of the university during my time here. I will be heartbroken to leave such a fairytale setting, but now it will always be a part of my history and I of it. Maybe someday my kids will come to Tech, study abroad at Oxford, and learn about the fascinating and tangible medieval history this place holds.

Sick in Munich… August 24, 2011

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Munich

The drive in from Prague really wasn’t all that far, but we stopped at the infamous concentration camp in Munich called Dachau. We rented audio devices and walked around with them for a while to look at all the places. I couldn’t believe how sad it was. The grounds are very peaceful now, with birds chirping and lots of greenery, it’s hard to imagine something so horrible happening in that same place, only 70 years ago. We arrived at the hotel shortly after that. That’s when I learned that I was getting written up, so because I was pretty upset I went to go for a run before dinner and booked it with all that pent up energy.  Dinner was pretty good, but again it was buffet style, and really didn’t seem like German food. Later I went to the laundry mat, which was a pretty far walk, and finally got some laundry done! I worked on my paper for the opera there and later that night while chatting with Jonathan.

Day one we woke up early to take off for Salzburg, which is also a very picturesque city. It is known for being the place where the Sound of Music with Julie Andrews was filmed. When we first got off the bus we walked over to see Mozart’s house that he used to live in when he wasn’t travelling around or when he lived in Vienna later in his life. It started to drizzle and was pretty miserable for a little while. I started to walk up to this huge fortress that they have overlooking all of Salzburg. It’s a pretty steep incline and I was definitely sweating by the time I reached the top gates. You didn’t get a very good view from there though, because before you could get to the very top you had to pay an entrance fee. So I opted out of that and walked back down into the city. I looked for an ATM and got some money out to buy my dad a beer stein at a tourist shop. It was really neat looking, and originally made in Austria. It was all the countries in Europe on it. So later I’m going to ship it to him for Father’s Day. It’ll get there late, but better late than never. We headed out of the city though to go on a Sound of Music tour. It’s a 3 hour tour that leads you into the villages by the lakes that they have. It was some of the most beautiful land I’ve ever seen before. So lush, and the lakes were an unforgettable turquoise blue. We got to see where parts of the movie were filmed, like the lake scene and the famous gazebo, as well as the church where Maria gets married in the movie. In that particular village we stopped to get apple strudel which was delicious. Then we headed back into town and finally started the long drive back to Munich. (Where we watched the Sound of Music for the second time, all the songs were stuck in my head because they had played them on the tour as well.) When we got back to the hotel, Annie and I immediately started getting ready to go out for the night. Victor was coming over with a couple of his friends and were going to take us out for a night on the town. We thought we were going to go to the Hofbrahaus but apparently they close pretty early. I was so excited to see him when he got there.  He introduced us to his friends Julian and Felix. They took me and Annie and a bunch of the fraternity guys out to two pubs which were pretty small and tightly packed. And then we headed out to a club, the guys in our group thought it was going to be a total flop, but it turned out to be a ton of fun. The club was called P1, apparently one of the hottest clubs in Munich, and it was university night, so there were a lot of college kids. The place was pretty big with an outdoor area and inside dance floor.

The second day we thought we were going to have class early, but it got cancelled because we didn’t have a room to hold it in. Thank goodness! So I went back to sleep before we had to leave together for two art museums. The second museum was one of my favorites because it had a lot of landscape paintings and a sunflower painting by Van Gogh. Annie and I also had some delicious ice cream in between museums, yum! I know I’m an ice cream-aholic. The rest of the day was ours to do as we pleased. So after changing at the hotel we went to Mariansplatz which is the main old town square in Munich. The churches are really neat. Annie and I looked for souvenirs, but everything was so expensive around that area! I regret not getting a shot glass though or postcards, because I won’t have anything to represent my time in Munich. We were looking for the Augustiner biergarten to eat dinner with some other people and we found one, but apparently it was different than the one they went to. We ordered traditional German food, roasted pork. It was ok, but because I’m not so much of a meat eater, I really wasn’t a fan, plus the waitress was not a very happy person and gave us stale pretzels. We also found this other American girl from Washington State University who was by herself eating and we invited her to eat with us. It was nice to talk with another American. She told us the famous Hofbrahaus was right next door to where we were eating just then. So once we finished our dinner we headed over there to meet up with a ton of our group.

The third day, I felt awful! I had completely lost my voice, and had a every symptom of a sinus infection. Rough day to have class at 8am. I thought about not going at first and use my sick day, but I sucked it up and went, you know me when it comes to going to class. Class was actually held at a biergarten, ironically it was the only place they could find that had a big enough room to hold class in. Who’d have ever thought we’d find ourselves at a biergarten at 8am. It was hot and stuffy in the room which wasn’t helping my cold. All I wanted to do was sleep. After class I stopped at the grocery store to get cough drops. And then we all headed over to another museum in the same area. This time it had modern art in it. Most of it was quite disturbing actually, modern art just really isn’t my thing, too farfetched. After the museum, I went back and just slept as long as I could. My body hurt, and I was just so drained from everything. I slept for five hours straight. I finally woke up to get ready and go out with a couple of people over to Munich’s Olympic Park. It was quite a long walk, but the park was very green and quiet. We walked to the very top of this hill where you can see all of Munich and get some great pictures of the park’s amphitheatre. We decided to leave quickly though because there was a major storm coming in. It didn’t matter that we left quickly though, the walk was so long back to the tram that the storm caught up with us. It felt as though we were going to be in a tornado for a while the winds were so strong. We made it back just fine though and beat the rain into a restaurant.

Half way through the travel portion and I’m starting to get ready for settling down in Oxford…

Pra-Ha! aka Prague August 24, 2011

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Prague

Prague was a fairly short visit. We got in the first night and had a welcome dinner at the hotel that was buffet style, not exactly my favorite, but ok. The first day we were there we had class and then spent most of the day at the castle. Sometimes you can’t tell it’s even a castle, it’s apparently the largest in the world, but I think that’s why you can’t tell. It’s really like its own mini city. We got there just in time to see the changing of the guard. It was difficult to see because there were so many people. But they play trumpet music and march in military style and then they switch guards, it’s funny because they switch aviator looking sunglasses which the guard wears all the time, whoever is on duty that is. Some of us went to grab a bite to eat right after exploring around the castle and taking some pictures for a bit. The burgers weren’t really that good, their beef tastes really salty and tastes a lot more like pork. The meal was also pretty expensive, but that’s because we ate right there in a really touristy area. Walking out of the castle there is a road with a whole bunch of tourist shops which are neat to look around in.

Most of all I enjoyed simply touring Prague by foot. We did a walking tour in the afternoon, which helped me realize how much I liked Prague and what a beautiful city it was. It’s small and picturesque, especially walking across the bridge. We started out at the main square and looked at some of their famous churches in the area, and then the astronomical clock which chimed at 3:00pm. Then we continued our walking tour to the bridges passing a ton of the cutest shops you’ll ever see. There are so many people selling knick knacks, handmade jewelry and paintings and then musicians playing music along the bridge.  We made it to the statue of St. George who as legend has it was thrown off the bridge to be executed, and his dog jumped in after him and saved him so he lived. So it’s good luck to rub the dog pictured on the statue and make a wish. I always wish for the same thing…I’ll let you know if it ever comes true.  We walked back to the hotel and got ready to go eat dinner and then head to the opera. The food we ate was delicious (a pasta dish) and with our bellies full we headed off to the opera with the group. It was quite a hike in high heels, especially over all the cobble stone! Tough. The opera was intriguing, especially because it was my first one. The singers are really talented. I think I enjoy classical concerts better, just listening to the music. But the opera was still interesting. After the opera we stopped with the professors, group leaders, and the head of the Oxford program for dessert at a place just next door. I had this hot chocolate and chocolate cake dessert, both were very rich. I’d like to go back to Prague someday; I wish I would have had a little bit more time there. Maybe I’ll have a chance to go see the bridge at night.

Vienna…birthplace of the musical genius. August 24, 2011

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Vienna

Day 1: The first night we got into Vienna we had our welcome dinner at the hotel. The food tasted almost Asian, another chicken dish of some sort. The next morning Russell and I headed out early (5:30am) for a nice 30 minute jog. The area around the hotel isn’t super nice, one area has a kind of sketchy area around it, but once you get past there it’s pretty nice. The day began with three hours of class, but was filled with a walking tour of two churches and one museum, the Karlsplatz, the Stephansdom, and the Secession Building. Stephansdom was easily the most impressive. The tallest building in Vienna, it has a kind of gothic look to it on the outside. Inside the stained glass window and high arches give it such a divine look. They were having mass when we came in, so we just took a couple pictures and then went and bought tickets to talk to the top. It was a loooong spiral staircase!! Over 300 steps to the top, but so worth it once we got there. The view of Vienna was excellent! We went to find food after that. The area that we were in was very nice, stores way out of my price range, Louis Voutanne, Chanel, Rolex, Armani, etc. In the afternoon we had one more tour of another museum the Karlskirche. Again, for me, the architecture of the building I thought was much more impressive than the actual art. After that we were free to do as we wished. Since Annie and I really didn’t know much of the other surrounding areas and our feet were already starting to hurt again we just decided to head back. We went out with a big group of people for dinner, nowhere special, but had gelato afterwards…absolutely to die for. Probably my favorite food in the whole wide world.

Day 2:  Day Two starts with class again (after another 5:30am run with Russell). We’ve been watching video of the opera Aida that we’re going to see in Prague, this way we’ll understand it better. The day continued with what we thought was going to be an immediate tour of the Opera House, but we got there and it was scheduled for later. So Annie, Patrick and I walked to find more gelato, basically I’m addicted. On the way back it looked like it was going to rain so we got to the opera house a little bit early. Unfortunately it didn’t matter, because the front entrance required us to talk around to another side of the building through the rain coming down in buckets!! The tour was so worth it though. The guy gave some of the coolest facts about the place. He showed us the stage and al the rooms, it’s not nearly as magnificent as the Garnier Opera House in Paris, but cool nonetheless. He told us stories of how Vienna at one point held the record for the most returns to stage, where the audience keeps clapping and the opera crew comes back for another bow, the record was 81!! Lasted almost 1.5 hours. There were lots of other tid bits, but can’t remember them off the top of my head. We were free to go do whatever until the concert that evening. So Annie and I went with Professor Haydon over to the Schonbrunn Palace, which is basically a mini replica of Versailles. The gardens are so beautiful, in my opinion more beautiful than the ones at Versailles, of course its not really comparing apples to apples. Versailles is so vast that it would be hard to maintain them as much as the Schonbrunn. Annie and I walked to the top of this hill which was a perfect outlook over all of Vienna. At the top there is a café where we ate great Austrian food and order diet coke, which we hadn’t had a soda in a long time, and it was so refreshing. We were supposed to meet Professor Haydon at the top but we must have just missed each other so we waited a while and then just headed back to the hotel because we had to rush and get ready for the concert. After we sped rushed to get ready we had to head out for the concert hall, the Musikverein, which apparently is one of the top three in the world, along with one in Moscow and another in NYC. But of course, it was pouring down rain. Even with a rain jacket and an umbrella, it didn’t matter the back of my dress was soaked. We went through the rain to get to the metro and to get to the building, there was no avoiding it. I sat through the concert wet. We got great seats at the back of the auditorium set up higher where the sound is the best in the concert hall. Annie and I sat next to this elderly couple who were from Vienna but spoke English. They loved to ask us questions about Georgia Tech and our travels. At the end of the intermission the couple told Annie and I that they had to leave early but they handed us each a CD of the cellist that had just performed and told us to keep them as a way to remember our time at the concert in Vienna. It was one of the nicest gestures I’ve ever received. We got a picture with them, but I wish I had gotten a name so I could write to them and thank them. The concert itself was great, especially the cello concerto. They clapped for him so much that he played another short solo that showed off his skills. I wish he had played something slow, because next to the piano my favorite timbre of instrument is the cello. But he was impressive nonetheless. Luckily it wasn’t raining when we left. We made it back to the hotel, and since everyone was going out, decided to get ready and join them. After much debate we made it to a place called club Flex. It was pretty dead inside so we left soon. We went to a second club called Passage. The bouncer was pretty judgmental because some people he let it and others he didn’t. Annie and I both made it in. It was fun, lots of people and good club music to dance to. But really it just reminded me of a smaller more tight packed version of Atlanta’s Opera club. Clubs seem to be all the same whether you’re in Europe or not. I think I’ll stick with a country saloon, my boots, a sundress, and country music. I’m still a Texas girl at heart.

Day 3: No class today! Woo. So my first stop was the Spanish Riding School. Unfortunately the performances were scheduled for the next day, so I wasn’t able to see one, but I did get to go see the morning exercises. Basically the riders take their horses out and work them through drills that they need work on. They do some very advanced skills, rearing up on their hind legs and holding it for a couple seconds. Skipping along, trotting diagonally. The interesting thing was that the riders were all men. They all wore the same outfit. Brown jackets with gold buttons and coat tails on the back where they kept treats for the horses. The arena was beautiful too. The dirt was a specific mixture of dirt and wax so that it didn’t cause dust and was easier on the horses’ joints. There were chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, look at pictures to get the full effect. The horses of course were wonderful as well, they looked magnificent and were so well behaved and talented. I came back to take a nap and then headed out to our last museum in Vienna. The Belvedere Museum is an old palace converted into an art museum. It houses the famous painting by Klimt, The Kiss. The evening was just pretty chill. Packing, journaling, writing concert paper, and saying goodbye to Vienna, maybe by getting gelato. Next stop is Prague!

The City of Love August 24, 2011

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Paris

My summer European tour started in the city of love, Paris…

Day 1: The plane trip brought us safely to Paris although I had a really difficult time sleeping. But we got through customs quickly and headed to the bus (our bus driver’s name is Filipo). After about an hour bus ride into the city due to heavy traffic we made it to our hotel to check in.  The rooms were small but really nice, with one of those waterfall showers and very comfortable beds. A group of us headed off down the road a little ways to look for an ATM, which worked with my new ATM card no problem! (total relief!) Patrick and I stopped at this café on the corner and did our best to order in French, mostly by pointing on the menu to what we wanted. We ordered white wine and split an order of tomatoes with fresh mozzarella and then a ham and cheese sandwich that came out more like a slice of bread with the ham and cheese melted on top. The wine came out red instead of white, but not a bad problem to have. The food was delicious and a great start to the day. After that a lot of people head out to start looking at things around the city before dinner. I was so tired from not sleeping on the plane that I needed to take a nap. Three hours later I got up and showered and got ready for dinner. Our first welcome dinner was close to the hotel. They served the most delicious chicken over mashed potatoes with a brown sauce. For dessert we had crème brule, yum! That night I wanted to go see the Eiffel Tower while it was dark out but the group that Patrick was with kind of took off and I was left with a few Pi Kapps, Chris, Ross, and Doug, and a girl named Annie. Little did I know, but by staying to hang out with them that night, I would really be spending most of the trip with them and Annie and I would become inseperable!

We ended up waiting on a couple friends of theirs who taught us how to use the metro system (probably the easiest way to navigate to different parts of Paris, in fact there’s really no reason to need a car at all in Paris, unless you exit the city a lot.) You find a metro stop that’s nearby and then hop on the subway and use various connecting lines to get to the stop that’s closest to your location. Anyways we were going to an area called the Latin Corner which was brightly lit, kind of like a mini New York Time Square, with lots of bars, clubs, places to eat, souvenir shops etc. We went to this one club where the waitresses wore Renaissance type masks, but although they gave us free cover, they said you had to buy a drink inside, which was really expensive. So we left and chose to wonder around the Latin Corner a bit more and then check out the sites that were nearby. We saw Notre Dame lit at night which was breath taking. We walked along the River Seine for a bit and decided to call it a night and head back to the hotel for some sleep.

Day 2: Morning came way too soon for me, I really felt like I needed more sleep. But I went downstairs for continental breakfast and was so surprised! The breakfast there was amazing, cereal, croissants, crepes, fruit, bacon, ham, cheese, Nutella in little packages, really anything you can imagine that would be a typical French breakfast they had. I fear we’ve been spoiled by having such a nice hotel at first, but we’ll see what the other ones are like.

The day started off with class. An hour and a half of each, usually we went over the musical composers that were famous in France from the earliest time period to the most recent. Art was filled with a class on Leonardo da Vinci and his works because we would be seeing a lot of them in the Louvre later that day. The Louvre itself used to be a palace, and you can definitely tell, it’s huge and gorgeous on the outside, the first thing I really marveled at in Paris. Inside there’s not only the museum, but also fancy shops and plenty of places to eat. The art work is most from the 18th century and before. We did get to see the Mona Lisa, which was so crowded I had to wait a while to get up close for a good view.  I think the paintings I liked the best were simply the ones that were life size or bigger. Some of the paintings were so massive they wouldn’t even fit on a wall in my house. After the Louvre, my group of new found friends took off to go see the sites. First we went to a church called Sacre Cuer, it’s always very hard for me to pronounce. There’s a pretty long walk of stairs to the top (some people wait in line to take a little gondola to the top) but once there the view over Paris is so worth it. You can see almost everything! And the church itself is a marvel too, just magnificent. Annie, Ross, and I all went inside and walked around. I lit a candle while in there to say a prayer for my family to keep them safe, and also for me to have a wonderful trip while in Europe.  We next headed back to the metro to take it over to the same area as Notre Dame where another church called Saint Chapelle is. Saint Chapelle is unique because of its beautiful stained glass windows everywhere on the inside. But we were half an hour too late and they had already closed. Next stop was the Eiffel Tower, we debated for a while whether to take a boat ride along the Seine River to get there or just take the metro again, the guys said lets go cheap, so we went back on the metro. We ate nearby the Eiffel Tower, which I actually wasn’t as impressed with this time because the food was so Americanized, nothing like the food Patrick and I had the first lunch we had in Paris. But seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time up close made up for the disappointing dinner. It is so much bigger and beautiful than the pictures give it credit for. We didn’t get a chance to go up to the top because the line was so long. But we found a spot on the grass where a lot of other tourists were sitting and watched the tower as the sun set. While we were waiting for the sun to set we had tons of wine peddlers coming over to our group offering to sell us wine for cheap. The guys were having a lot of fun with this because they would try and bargain with them and get them to go to lower prices, I think the cheapest was probably 5 Euros. Apparently all this pedaling is illegal though, because when a police man came riding around on a bicycle they all snatched up their things and bolted, it was so funny because it looked like a heard of antelope fleeing a lion. At 10 oclock the sun still hadn’t quite set all the way so it was completely dark yet, but dark enough. As the clock struck exactly ten white strobe lights go off on the tower and it makes it look like the tower is twinkling. So very cool, I think that’s when I really felt like I was in Paris.

Day 3: The next day started off with breakfast and class again, this time only music. Annie and I had originally planned to go to Saint Chapelle and Notre Dame that day again, but the professors organized a trip over to Versailles Palace via bus, so we decided to do that instead. The bus ride was actually a lot shorter than I expected. And once we got there I was so glad I came. Versailles is enormous, and beautiful, so extravagant!! I told Annie, it’s no wonder the French Revolution occurred, this is where they spent all their people’s money! But boy was it a sight to see. We didn’t get to go inside because we only had three hours and a good portion of that time would have just been waiting in line to get tickets and then waiting in another line to get in. Instead we went to tour the gardens. There are fountains everywhere and patterns of grass work, and lots of ponds. The further you go in towards the gardens and then look back, you can see all of Versailles from the back and it makes for a great picture. We walked out to the biggest pond on the garden grounds where you’re allowed to rent a row boat and row around on the river. That was a lot of fun getting the hang of rowing. Annie, Patrick and I each took turns for about half an hour and then returned. We went over and got some Italian ice which is really like soft serve ice cream just maybe a bit sweeter. We didn’t have much time left for anything else, so we headed back to the bus and went back to the hotel. Our next stop was the Pompidou museum. This is a collection of more modern art, so 20th century and later. Probably my least favorite museum, but there were some works in there I enjoyed. We had to write a brief essay while we were inside on how an artwork from in there used similar characteristics that Leonardo used when painting the Mona Lisa. I was writing my essay when I got yelled at by some official there for writing with a pen, he told me to leave. That was ok because I just took a picture of the painting and worked on my assignment downstairs. When we left we went to find another place for dinner, we only had a couple hours because at 8:30 we had to be at Sunside jazz Club for a jazz band performance. Dinner turned out better this time, with a ham, tomato, and mozzarella Panini. We got to the jazz club a little bit early to have a couple drinks and then headed inside for the concert. The room was tiny for trying to pack 50 people into, but we made it work. The band was outstanding. Most people left after the first act, but I stuck around for a portion of the second and I’m glad I did! The trumpet player came out for the second act and at one point played on a seashell! He blew through the end of it and used his fingers to make different sounds come out of the shell. All the players though were top notch, of course I paid most attention to the pianist because that’s what I know, watching his fingers fly across the keys usually in a rather syncopated beat. The whole night was a blast! I couldn’t believe we were already heading into the last day…

Day 4: Started off with breakfast as usual, hey it’s a free meal! But no class today! Our first stop of the day was to what turned out to be my favorite building and place that we went to the whole time, the Garnier Opera House. It was the most grand and beautiful building I’ve ever been inside before, breathtaking is the best way I know to put it. They have grand set of staircases and a foyer that looked like it was made of just gold and paintings. The best effect of the foyer is the mirrors at the end reflecting the rest of the room making it appear as though the room is twice as large as it really is, although its pretty big to begin with! The inside of the Opera House was also breathtaking beautiful. I’m sure pictures won’t do it justice, but look at them anyway to try and get a sense of what it was like. Our tour guide was a very interactive and enthusiastic person who gave us and hour and half long tour! Talking to us about the very beginnings of the Opera House and the kind of different shows that were performed there. And the neat thing about the Opera House of how it was actually built more so for people watching rather than actually viewing the Opera. She made a funny comment about how in the boxes, there are two sections, one where you can see the Opera and another bigger section behind a curtain. She said some people may have spent more time behind those curtains than actually watching the opera.

We had about two hours in between the Opera House, and when we had to meet the rest of the group at our last museum stop, the D’Orsay which houses art of the 19th century. So Annie and I thought we might have enough time to go see the insides of Notre Dame and Saint Chapelle. We took the metro and rushed over there. What we didn’t realize was that because it was Saturday, the lines were abnormally long. There was no way we’re going to get into Notre Dame, so we just skipped it and headed towards Saint Chapelle.  There was a line there too, but considerably shorter and we thought well maybe we can make this one. We waited in line for 40 minutes and finally made it to the front! But it was deceiving, the line which we had thought was to buy tickets and get in, was actually the line to get your bag checked and there was a whole other line, even longer than the first to buy tickets and go inside! All that work for nothing! We were really bummed, but didn’t want to be late for the D’Orsay appointment, which we thought was only a couple blocks away according to the map. Well the maps deceived us also, because it was probably a 2.5 mile walk to the museum! And took us much longer than expected. When we got there we didn’t even see our group, they had already gone inside. It worked out ok because we just told them we were with Georgia Tech and they let us in where we easily found our group. The interesting part of the D’Orsay is that the building is a converted train station. It was a huge golden clock that was originally there for the train station. It’s also a lovely building very brightly lit with natural sunlight pouring in. The art I enjoyed most was seeing the Monet’s and Van Gogh’s. Monet’s artwork makes you feel like you’re in a dream. I think I like it best because that’s the kinds of paintings our art teacher in elementary school used to have hanging up in the classroom, and it was just neat to see them in really life when you’ve known what they were for so many years.

Altogether a beautiful city with much to see and do. I was exhausted but could get used to this travelling.

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