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August 2, 2012

Posted by kecscott in Travel Log.
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GTL Adventures

When you’re in France, and Bastille Day comes around, where can you spend it but Paris? This seemed obvious to us when we were planning our summer, but the logistics of the plan proved slightly more difficult. We had made train reservations months in advance, but our train was at 7:30 in the morning, and the buses were not running on their normal schedule because it was a national holiday. No problem; we decided to walk. Twenty minutes later, Ryan realized that he had forgotten his Eurail pass. He gave us his backpack and we gave him directions and he started running back to GTL.

We carried on walking, checking behind us every so often. At 7:00 there was still no sign of him. At 7:15 not only was there no sign of Ryan, but we didn’t even recognize where we were. At 7:25, we reached the Centre Pompidou, which…

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August 1, 2012

Posted by kecscott in Travel Log.
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GTL Adventures

For the second weekend of the group being split up, Owen and I went to Marseille. Several other students on the BEST program had been there the previous week, and they had recommended the beaches in Cassis, a small town just to the east of Marseille. They said the beaches were beautiful and not too crowded, and that they had found excellent food there. Miraculously, we arrived in Cassis with no train problems. Unfortunately, getting from the train station to the beach was not as successful. We took a wrong turn at a roundabout, going the wrong way on the right street. When the road starting taking on a steep uphill slope and all we could see ahead of us were mountains, we decided that it just might be a good idea to ask for directions. A very nice group of gens d’armes pointed us in the right direction, and…

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August 1, 2012

Posted by kecscott in Travel Log.
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GTL Adventures

At the end of June, our normal group split up. Ryan’s parents were in Europe, so he and Virginia went to visit them in London, while Josh went to Interlaken, and Owen and I went to Munich. We took a night train, but this time we got spots in a couchette compartment. It was much nicer than the night seats; I actually got some good sleep, but the couchettes were tiny. I felt like I would fall out at any moment. Unfortunately, in the middle of the night, I used the flashlight in my phone to try and find a way to turn the air conditioning down and forgot to turn it off, so my phone was dead when we arrived.

First we went to Theresienwiese. We’d never heard of it, but it is German for Theresa’s Meadow, so we thought it would be a nice green space where we…

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July 31, 2012

Posted by kecscott in Travel Log.
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GTL Adventures

The beginning of our trip to Rome was characterized by events which seemed disastrous but turned out better than our original plan. To start out, we discovered that our reservations on the train from Venice were for seats that did not exist. The conductor apologized profusely and gave us seats in first class. They even gave us little airline-style snacks and drinks. Then, when we arrived in Rome, we couldn’t find our Bed & Breakfast. Ultimately, the owner found us, only to inform us that the previous occupants of our room had broken the bathroom, rendering the whole room uninhabitable. Fortunately, she had arranged for us to stay at another B&B for the same price, even though the new B&B was generally much more expensive. The new B&B was a block away from the train station, and very, very nice.

We had made reservations for a night tour of the…

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July 31, 2012

Posted by kecscott in Travel Log.
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GTL Adventures

For the five-day middle-of-the-semester break, half of GTL decided to go to Italy, and my group was no exception. We left Wednesday right after class, intending to go to Munich and take a night train to Venice. Things started snowballing out of control immediately. We got on our train from Forbach to Saarbrücken moments before it was supposed to leave, and then it sat there…and sat…and sat. What was supposed to be a sixteen-minute train left twenty-five minutes late. We were certain that we would miss our ICE in Saarbrücken, but it was late too. Unfortunately, it was too late, because we arrived in Mannheim just as our train for Munich departed. We caught the very next train to Munich, but it did not arrive until the wee hours of the morning, long after our night train had left.

In Munich, we first stopped at Burger King for a quick…

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July 28, 2012

Posted by kecscott in Travel Log.
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GTL Adventures

One of the optional activities for our GTL 2000 class was a scavenger hunt of important locations in Metz. Virginia, Ryan, Josh, and I formed the Tiny Bear Baby Army (a reference to our tradition of finding gummy bears in each city we visited). Here are the results of our scavenger hunt:

Clue 1. Via scarponensis, the oldest road in Metz from the Roman period.


Clue 2. Roman funerary monuments, or steles, from the 3rd century were discovered in May 1975 during the digging of the underground shopping mall, the Centre Saint Jacques, located in the heart of downtown Metz.


Clue 3. Originally a Roman sports hall in 380 CE, this is now the oldest surviving church in France, dating back to 610 CE.

Clue 4. A 12th-century chapel erected by the Knights Templar before going off to fight in the Holy Land during the Crusades.


Clue 5. Oldest civil monument in Metz. This 13th-century building was the…

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July 26, 2012

Posted by kecscott in Travel Log.
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GTL Adventures

The weekend after D-Day, we went to Caen, Normandy. Caen is a small town, but very strategically located on the northern coast of France. Many an invasion of France or by France has landed or been launched from there.

At the center of the town is William the Conqueror’s castle. The outer ramparts are still intact, enclosing a large area behind the giant walls. Inside the castle, William the Conqueror’s palace and the keep are in ruins, but we could still see where their walls stood almost a thousand years ago. There are also many towers, built by various French kings and Norman dukes, which are still standing and which we were able to climb. The most striking thing about the entire castle is its age; the stone steps, once level and square, have been worn down several inches in the middle by a millennium of footsteps.

Also inside the castle…

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July 26, 2012

Posted by kecscott in Travel Log.
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GTL Adventures

For the third weekend of the semester, we visited Berlin. To get there, I took my very first night train. Night trains have many different levels of accommodations. The most basic are the day seats, which are the same as on any normal train. Then there are reclining seats which are arranged in six-person compartments and can lay almost flat. The couchette compartments are the next step up from this. These compartments have six tiny bunks—three on each side—with a blanket and pillow for each. Finally, the nicest parts of the night trains are the sleeper cars, which are like hotel rooms on wheels, with a private bed and bathroom. To get from Metz to Berlin, I rode in one of the reclining seat compartments, but one of my neighbors went to an empty couchette car and brought back pillows for everyone.

Once I arrived in Berlin and met up with…

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July 26, 2012

Posted by kecscott in Travel Log.
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GTL Adventures

We started off our first long weekend with train adventures. While we can use our Eurail passes as a general ticket, some trains—most notably night trains and French TGVs—set aside a certain number of seats for Eurail users which must be reserved in advance. We were too late to get reservations for the trains we wanted to take to Amsterdam, so we took a winding, reservation-less route through Germany. We passed through Saarbrücken, Frankfurt, Köln, Mönchengladbach…all told, it took seven trains to get to Amsterdam.

When we arrived, we bought a two-day “I Amsterdam” city pass. This gave us free admission to the hundreds to museums in the city, discounts on restaurants, and unlimited rides on the buses and trams. Our first stop was the Museum Our Lord in the Attic. In the 1500s, the Protestant Reformation spread to Holland, which rebelled against the rule of King Phillip II of…

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July 26, 2012

Posted by kecscott in Travel Log.
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GTL Adventures

We visited Metz for the first time after orientations on our first full day in France. We started out in place d’Armes, the central square of the city. It was originally designed to display a balance of powers in the city between the Town Hall, the city Guardhouse, the Parliament, and the Cathedral. The Parliament building now houses shops and the Guardhouse has been converted into the Office of Tourism, but Town Hall and Cathedral St Etienne are still there. The gothic cathedral is the oldest building on the square, and has more stained glass windows than any other cathedral in the world with almost 70,000 square feet of stained glass.

When we went into the crypt of the cathedral, we learned the legend of Graouilly. The dragon Graouilly lived in the Roman amphitheater along with a  nest of snakes. They terrorized the citizens of Metz and kept them trapped…

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