A Parisian Adventure

I spent February 27th-March 2nd in Paris. I had flown into the Charles de Gaulle airport when I first arrived in France, but had to run to meet my train and had no time to spend in the city. I’ve been in France now for two months, and was finally able to make a trip & spend a few days in Paris. Seven friends and I planned a four day weekend in the city, and it was absolutely amazing!

My housemate Elizabeth has a friend in Paris named Lorelei. Lorelei is from France and met Elizabeth when she was studying abroad in South Carolina. Elizabeth let her know we were planning a trip to the city, and asked if she could recommend some of her favorite places that we should see while we are there. Lorelei took it 10 steps further and got us all rooms at the Novotel hotel where she works! A four star hotel, a 15 minute walk from the Eiffel Tower, for less than we would’ve spent at a hostel…. Yes please! The Novotel hotel was amazing and I recommend it to anyone traveling to Paris. We were also able to get vouchers for breakfast which you must pay extra for if booking as a traveler, but it was a great spread, and my American friends were all very pleased to see bacon! (A rare commodity here in France.) The rooms at the hotel were great, and the lobby area was very impressive! There were computers available to the guests and many nice sitting areas for tired travelers. I hope to stay there again with my family, when they come to visit in May.

Checking-in to the hotel took a few minutes because we had three separate rooms booked, but were only checking into two of them at the moment. (The others had class and would meet up with us later.) As the receptionist verified all of our information and started programming room keys, she started going through (what I like to call) “the check-in spheel”. She proceed to give us the information to connect to the wifi, pointed us in the direction of the breakfast room, and then smiled, handed us the keys to our rooms and said “You’re in rooms 1301 & 1303. The elevators are down the hallway to your right.” The words she said had stuck me like someone walking into a glass doorwall… 13th floor?! They do exist! It was the first time I had ever been in a hotel with a 13th floor! There’s a first time for everything!

IMG_7554Remarkably, Lorelei’s generosity didn’t end there. We knew we wanted to do something special for her for getting us such great accommodations, so we asked if we could take her out Saturday night. We asked her to take us to her favorite place in town so we could treat her, and also to see where the local’s like to go! Not sure what to expect, we started out on our adventure. When we asked Lorelei where we were headed, she replied with “it’s a surprise!” My excitement was growing as we took one metro, to another metro, and started walking around the town we eventually settled at. Following the leader, Lorelei led us around a corner where we faced a huge, steep road. It was one of those ‘out-of-breath’, ‘feel-the-burn’ type hills. Once at the top, we walked another 30 feet or so, and found ourselves battling an even longer, steeper hill! I have been up and down many hills in Poitiers, but these were exceptional! I was waiting for someone to award me with a Girl Scout hiking badge! (Okay, I’m being a bit dramatic, but you get the picture!) We were all a little curious if this was going to be worth the treacherous hike. Let me be the first to say it was absolutely, 110% worth it! We found ourselves in the center of a small Parisian town square with the most perfect ambiance you could imagine! Complete with caricature artists, live music, restaurants, and a beautiful church, I can’t think of anything that could have made the mood any better! We had dinner at one of the bistros in the square, which was absolutely fabulous. I had beef bourguignon, and it was by far the best meal I’ve had since I’ve been in France!

IMG_7575After dinner I walked around with a friend to see some of the shops. We got about 15 feet outside the restaurant before we were approached by artists that started drawing sketches of us. I was completely aware that I was a typical tourist/target, falling into the trap, but at the moment I was content with it. The night was already amazing so why not make it even better?! I came home that night with a souvenir sketch, (that looks nothing like me, by the way!), but it’s a fun memory of that night. After dinner we took a walk and exited the square on the opposite side of where we entered. Lorelei took us to a lookout point of the entire city and it was absolutely breathtaking! If you’re ever in Paris, take the metro to Abbesses and walk up each hill until you reach the top. You will thank me, I promise!IMG_7612

IMG_7412Of course, one of the biggest highlights of the trip was getting to see the Eiffel Tower. With our hotel so close, we were able to see it pretty much anytime we wanted to, and made many trips there to take pictures & just enjoy the view.

IMG_7782We also visited the Louvre, and hung out with Mona for a bit. 🙂 My best friend in Poitiers, Diego, didn’t plan to come on this trip, and as we were leaving & saying goodbye, I said “I wish you were coming!” I was chatting with him online the next day, and told him how I missed him & that he should be here with us. He took it all to heart and surprised me Saturday! He met us at the museum and spent the rest of the day with us. Such a great friend! It made my trip so much more enjoyable! From the Louvre, we walked past the shopping district to the Arc de Triomphe. After standing and walking for the entire day, we wanted to sit down for a while. Finding a Starbucks, we grabbed a cup of coffee and sat in a McDonald’s just talking and relaxing. I know what you must be thinking, “You’re in Paris! Why are you at Starbucks and McDonald’s?” Believe it or not, it was delicious and missed on my part. I don’t go to either of these places very often at home, but having them available to me was a nice change. Don’t worry, we ate at plenty of great French places in Paris as well! We made a trip to see Notre Dame and entered just as a mass was ending, very powerful and simply breathtaking. From there we walked to the famous Love Lock Bridge, and also visited the cemetery where Jim Morrison is buried.

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IMG_8268On Sunday, our last day, we took a boat tour along the River Seine. Our hotel room had a great view of the river so it was nice to end the weekend with what we had been looking at for four days. The tour was an hour long, and cost 13€. In my opinion, completely worth it! We were able to see Paris from a different angle, and there was commentation in French, Spanish, and English that was very interesting! I learned that the White House was build with inspiration from the building in the picture below. I also learned that their Statue of Liberty was originally facing the Eiffel Tower, but was turned in 1889 so that the Statues of Liberty in New York and Paris (the sisters) would be facing each other! It can also be seen in the movie “National Treasure: Book of Secrets”!

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Can you see the resemblance?

 

Overall, the weekend was amazing! Visit https://thetwentysomethingtraveler.shutterfly.com/ to see all of the pictures! We were definitely exhausted when we came home, but it was totally worth every minute! I will be returning to Paris in April for a 5K, and again with my family in May. It’s crazy to think that I am traveling to all of these places and seeing all of these landmarks that I’ve only dreamed of. I am definitely taking in every second. I realize this is a chance of a lifetime, and am not taking anything for granted. To think I am already halfway through with this experience is sad, but if it ended tomorrow I would be so happy with the places I’ve seen and the people I’ve met.

*Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory* – Dr. Seuss

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Me = Busy Bee

In the time since my last post, a lot has been going on! I started a ‘class’ called “Company Project”. This was described to me as a type of internship I’d be able to participate in. Basically, instead of sitting in a classroom, I would be working with an International Company, based in Poitiers, and help them execute a project. I thought this would be a great opportunity, because not only will I get the experience of going to school in France, I will also be able to say I interned with a company there! I’ve had a few meetings regarding this project, and it turns out that there are not any companies in Poitiers who do business internationally that need interns. I will actually be working for the school I am attending while I am here. Although it didn’t seem to be what I had anticipated, it is turning out even better! As part of my project, I will need to help students who are based at France Business School, and are going to study abroad at UM-Flint! I will be helping them adapt to everyday life with things like housing, transportation, food, etc., as well as planning 6 trips/excursions for them while they are in Michigan! I will need to organize, arrange, schedule, and budget these trips so it is easy for students to see what is offered. I am so excited to be able to show everyone what Michigan/US has to offer! It’s turning out to be a really fun project! I’ve learned that there are currently two French students at UM-Flint, and I was able to make contact with one of them. Unfortunately, the winter doesn’t seem to allow for much fun right now (with record breaking temperatures and snowfall!), but I hope they will get to enjoy the spring! I am really excited to work with future exchange students once I return home as well!

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I took a day trip to Bordeaux on February 8th to go wine tasting! It was actually a ‘tasting class’ where we were educated on the wine, where it originated from, what to look for in the taste, etc. We tasted 8 different red wines, all from France! It was a lot of fun and after being in the class I feel like I really know how to properly drink and taste wine! I went with 4 other friends, and after the 2 hour wine class, we roamed around the city and found this HUGE market! It was one street for as far as you could see filled with vendors selling everything from sausages to shoes!

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Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperating, and the wind and rain drove us into ‘The Blarney Stone”, an Irish Pub (whad’ya know?!). We enjoyed a beverage, a cheese tray, and a game of soccer before making our way back to the train station. I felt like a horrible friend that day because I begged my friend Kajsa to tag along with us, ensuring her there had to be white wine at the tasting class (she does not care for red wine). Of course, to our luck, all red wine! To make it up to her, the 5 of us each got a bottle of white wine from a local store, a few baguettes and some cheese, and had our own wine tasting on the train ride home! It was probably the best part of the day. We had a short train car to ourselves, where we were able to drink, eat, laugh, and enjoy each other’s company! Bordeaux is a beautiful city with so much to offer, that we didn’t get to take advantage of because of the weather. We all agreed that once the weather gets nicer, we will do another day trip to Bordeaux, and recommend that anyone in France make that a mandatory stop! (As always, visit https://thetwentysomethingtraveler.shutterfly.com/ to see photos!)

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Last week I finished my first class! I had three days of this class in January, and finished it last week with a presentation on Thursday, and exam on Friday. I am confident that I did well and am relieved (and shocked), that I already have one class down! In addition to the classes I am taking here, I am also enrolled in an online Calculus class at UM-Flint. I am taking this class so I am able to continue with my curriculum plan on schedule. The online class is going quite well so far (*knock on wood*), and luckily doesn’t take up too much of my time here! 🙂

20140214_130106 I’ve been asked by many people “Do they celebrate Valentine’s Day in France?”. Of course they do! It’s home to the “City of Love”! Although I spent most of my day in class, and preparing for my final exam, a few friends made it a great Valentine’s Day! I’ve always had the notion that Valentine’s Day hit it’s peak in 3rd grade, where you were able to decorate a shoebox, and received candies and cards from all your classmates, (sort-of a second Halloween). This year, a few friends made this day very special for me! My good friend Michael, who is like a little brother to me, surprised me and two other friends with tulips we had been talking about seeing around town all week. (He got the hint 😉 ). After lunch, my roommate Elizabeth had a donut waiting for me at my seat in class, which I ate during my exam 😀 . Later that night, we all headed to Kajsa’s house to get ready for the Valentine’s Day party a few other students were having at their house. Upon arrival, Kajsa had heart-shaped cakes, wine, and music for us! We had a great time and it turns out there is something to look forward to after 3rd grade! ♥

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A few weeks ago, I was contacted by my roommates mother. My roommate, Elizabeth, is from South Carolina (another American!), and one of the sweetest, most genuine girls I have ever had the pleasure of meeting! It is really a blessing that we were placed in the same house together! Her mother reached out to me, asking if I would help surprise Elizabeth for Valentine’s Day. Their church group had all gotten together, and donated some money to send Elizabeth to make her time here a little more enjoyable. Obviously, I was all-in! I LOVE surprises, and planning a creative reveal is my speciality! So Saturday, February 15th, Elizabeth thought we were going out to lunch, and catching up on episodes of Duck Dynasty. Little did she know, I planned a scavenger hunt around Poitiers! I had clues leading her to her favorite spots around town, and even had some friends waiting at each location. When she thought the surprise was over, and we were going to start watching D.D., she was shocked when she saw a familiar face on the screen instead of one of the bearded Robertson men! I was so thankful to be part of this surprise and so glad her mother reached out to me. Seeing the look on her face during each reveal was one of the best memories I’ve had since I’ve been here. Great day for a great girl!

My international friends have truly become my family and recently, we’ve had few family dinners! My Columbian friends, Germán and Paula, made me and a few friends their Meatballs! I’m not exactly sure how they cooked them, but… WOW, they were amazing! I brought a side dish, and introduced them to my mashed potatoes! The next night I cooked Shepherd’s Pie for 9 of us, and seeing as how I did it without an oven, I think it turned out pretty good! Everyone was quiet and there were no leftovers so that’s always a good sign! I love trying new foods from different cultures, and seeing how everyone makes certain dishes. The Colombians put cut up hot-dogs in their meatball sauce, and even though I don’t, I know many people put cheese on their Shepherd’s Pie. The variety of customs we have is amazing!

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Family Dinner

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I’ve been keeping busy in my ‘off’ days by… planning trips! A huge part of being here is being able to see different countries, and experience new cities. Even many of the teachers will say “let me know what day is good for you, I know you’re here to travel too”! It’s nice to know that the school encourages you to travel while abroad, and your schedule allows for some great trips! (But just remember, you work hard so you can play hard!) Last time I talked to my dad he asked, “So how is travel agent school going?!”… It’s going great dad! 😀 I’ve gotten to the point in my calendar where I need to start thinking about which trips are really important to me because there are so many trips planned, I don’t have enough time to participate in all of them! I have created a new page for my Calendar so everyone is able to see where I’m at and where I’m going! (Look at the menu bar at the top of the screen.) I’ve been so blessed with the opportunity of being here… you can bet I’m taking full advantage of it!

My next trip will be with 8 friends to Paris for 4 days at the end of the month to explore the city. Elizabeth knows a friend who was able to get us an AMAZING deal at a very nice hotel near the Eiffel Tower which will make the trip even more memorable! We will also be celebrating Katie’s birthday that weekend, and I’m sure she won’t forget this birthday party! I’m excited to spend a few day in Paris with some lovely ladies!

I am definitely keeping busy, planning trips for exchange students visiting UM-Flint, keeping up with my online course as well as courses here, and planning trips for myself! The next few months are going to fly by and I’m just trying to live in each moment and not blink for too long! I constantly find myself walking up and down the streets of Poitiers (or wherever I may be), and really take in the fact that I am living in France!

*This is the time for small paychecks, and big memories*