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Prague & Paris July 23, 2013

Posted by kristenshiflett in Travel Log.
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These past few weekends, I went to Prague and then to Paris.

Prague was definitely one of my favorite cities. We decided to stay in Prague for the entire four day break, which made it very relaxed. The first day we went on a walking tour of the city, learning all of the rich history of each building and the city itself. One of my favorite stories our tour guide told us was about a guy who tried to steal from the church or something and ended up being held captive by the statue of the Virgin Mary, losing his arm in the process of getting down. There’s still a human arm (experimentally proven!) hanging in the church. That’s crazy! Also, the astronomical clock in the main square was beautiful! The next few days we explored the city, including the Jewish Quarter, the Charles Bridge, the John Lennon Wall, and other things like that.  I always looked forward to eating each day because Czech food is really good and so different from the food we’ve been eating in Western Europe. The first night we went to a local Czech restaurant called Lokey (or that’s how it sounded) and I got the most interesting meal: a small portion of roast beef completely submersed in this creamy sauce with a spoonful of cranberry whipped cream on top and potato dumplings for the side. I never would have thought to put cranberry whipped cream on roast beef, but it was delicious!

 

The next weekend we went to Paris for Bastille Day weekend! We left on Saturday morning and walked around the city—from Notre Dame, along the Seine, to the Eiffel Tower. We picnicked under the Eiffel Tower and watched the sun set. It was beautiful! On Sunday, they had fireworks at the Eiffel Tower for Bastille Day so we piled in, along with the other thousands of tourists, to see those. They had a really cool light show and a narrator who told some story which strangely included MLK’s “I have a dream” speech and the song “Living in America”… it was odd. I don’t think any Parisians were there; most of the people were tourists. The day didn’t feel like a holiday at all. Comparing it to July 4th, they didn’t do anything for their independence day! Laura Margaret got to visit from the Oxford Program so it was really great to see her.

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Flying over the Swiss Alps! July 4, 2013

Posted by kristenshiflett in Travel Log.
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Flying over the Swiss Alps!

Hang gliding in Interlaken, Switzerland 😀

Paris! June 28, 2013

Posted by kristenshiflett in Travel Log.
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Paris!

This weekend, we had a girls’ weekend in Paris. Too cheap for reservations, we took the regional trains to Paris almost tripling the time. But it wasn’t too bad. We met up with Gina’s cousin in the train station. She lives outside of Paris and has a boyfriend, Glenn. He had a funny mustache. We walked around the Luxembourg gardens (still not sure why they are called Luxembourg) and around the city. We saw the Arc de Triomphe and Champs Elysees. We tried to shop for a little bit but everything was so expensive and we were pretty tired so we gave up and headed to the hostel for a 2 hour siesta. Refreshed, we ate dinner and took the metro to the Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel Tower was beautiful! It was glowing green, red, blue, and yellow. We took elevators up to the very tip top of the tower. It was so windy. While we were in the Eiffel Tower, it started glittering. We could hear the cheering from the outside. We were exhausted after that so we went to bed. The next day, we went to the Musee D’Orsay and La Louvre. D’Orsay was my favorite. La Louvre was so overwhelming. There were way too many people and just way too much art. I saw the Mona Lisa, snapped a pic, and I was ready to hit the road. But don’t worry. I’ll be back again to celebrate Bastille Day!

Spain & Germany! June 11, 2013

Posted by kristenshiflett in Travel Log.
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Hi there! For the third and fourth weeks, I visited Spain and Germany. Spain was beautiful! It’s definitely my favorite destination so far. We took an overnight couchette Friday night, leaving rainy cold Metz behind for the warm sunshine of Madrid. In Madrid, we walked through the city, seeing some of their countless plazas, window-shopped in downtown, took way too many jumping pictures at the capitol building, and lounged at the city park. The city park was huge; I could’ve gotten lost for days in the park and still find new things to do/see. One of the most beautiful features of the park was the rose garden, which bloomed with colors and scents. The next day, we made our way to Barcelona, where we planned to stay for two nights. The first day and night, I swear, we ran into so many Georgia Tech students. Some were from the Barcelona CS program and the others were other GTL students. The next day, we walked around the city, saw the Parc de Ciutadella, a city park with a very pretty fountain; the Sagradia Familia, a beautiful, intricate, imaginative ‘cathedral’ still under the longest-lasting construction in the world; and the Parc Guell, which had the most breathtaking views of the city. Parc Guell was the highlight of the weekend. If you google Parc Guell, a lot of pictures pop up from the ceramic benches that it is famous for, but that isn’t where the true magic is. To the right of Parc Guell is a hill, at the very top of that hill is a rock structure, and if you climb that structure, you can see Barcelona from sea to Mountain. The view was surreal. The saddest part about Spain was leaving. I will definitely go there again.

The next weekend, my friend, Gina, and I headed off to Hamburg, Germany. We took another overnight couchette, where we were surprised with a few other GTL students headed to Berlin on the same trains. We went to Hamburg to visit an old friend from high school, Lara. Lara had been a foreign exchange student at my high school. She had a host family and whatnot and stayed for a year. I think we had homeroom together and talked maybe once, but she saw my facebook posts about being in Europe and invited me and my high school/Tech friend, Gina, to come stay with her. She picked us up at the train station and took us back to her ‘flat’. We didn’t even go to the city that day. We hung out with her in a suburb/community type deal and really got to experience what it is like to live as a local in Germany. Her brother made us a traditional German breakfast, full of meat and interesting breads. Lara explained that Germany bread is in fact the best. Most of them are full of large seeds or some burnt tasting spices. It is definitely better than French bread, she stated. When I asked her about American bread, she just shook her head and replied, “that’s just terrible.” We ate a delicious pizza for lunch and talked about all of the social norms and how they differed from Germany to the US. Lara said she really liked American culture better, because everything is so laid back and fun and people care more and are a lot nicer. We drank Frappes from a local bakery, walked around the neighborhoods, visited her church and youth groups, talked to her parents and grandparents, crashed on her grandmother’s couch, almost scaring her granddad half to death, and went to a gospel concert. The last was probably the most interesting. A choir from Miami, Florida travelled to Lara’s church to do a gospel choir concert. They had been practicing the past week, and Gina and I were there for the concert. It was amazing. All of the music was in English, upbeat, and as gospel as gospel gets. We had a blast. That night, we went to the choir’s (a mix of the German choir with the Miami choir) after party where we got to talk to the people from Miami and some of Lara’s friends who were our age. It was a ton of fun. I’m pretty sure we partied with an American 80s pop star as well… but that’s a story for another day. On Sunday, we visited Hamburg and saw a few of its most famous churches before we hopped on our train and settled in for a nine hour ride back to Metz.

Next week? Paris!

My First Weekend May 28, 2013

Posted by kristenshiflett in Travel Log.
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Bonjour! This weekend, I traveled to Luxembourg and Belgium, visiting three cities in three days: Luxembourg, Brussels, and Brugge. On Friday, we ventured on our first train trip to Luxembourg—a short 50 minutes away. We quickly learned that the Luxembourg train station is a haven for GTL students, because the staff speak English and are willing to help us book our train tickets for the summer. Only hearing of Luxembourg for its train station, I was surprised by the city itself. We stayed there for a night, exploring the industrial and historical part of the town. Luxembourg has a neat self-walking tour of an old fortress and the most beautiful landscapes. On Saturday, we ventured to Brussels. Hearing of the dangers of pickpockets, we secured our backpacks to our fronts, and walked into what tripadvisor describes as “the most boring city.” However, Brussels was far from boring. Unknowingly, we happened upon a gay-pride parade, with nothing less than numerous rainbow flags and cross-dressers. We hit up the local places, unexpectedly ran into other students from Georgia Tech not at GTL, and took entirely way too many pictures in Grand-Place, the main square, which as it happened, was a stone’s throw from our hostel window. One peeing boy and two dessert waffles later, we hopped on the train, headed to Brugge. Brugge was a relaxing, small town, full of bustle and life. We ate at an American burger and fry place, visited the many chocolate-makers, and relaxed on a grassy hill beside the canal that runs through the town. We soon headed on our way home, but we missed the last train and had to spend one adventurous night in the Luxembourg train station (or outside of it, rather). Finally, we made it home safely, ready to begin another week at Georgia Tech Lorraine!