16 January 2011

Lyon


Monday December 20th-

So last time I left off at the airport in Madrid. From there, I waited several hours (and as usual) my flight was delayed by about an hour. So I grabbed a quick and very unhealthy lunch and waited until finally we got on the plane. However, this time I did not get a window seat and was really upset about it. Anyways, after a boring flight I got into Lyon. Once in Lyon I called the hostel I was staying and asked for directions. The manager spoke with a weird accent so I only half way understood what was said. Anyways, I left the main train station and went to find the tram. Of course it was dark out already so that didn’t help anything. I walked around for what seemed like forever until I finally found it. Then I tried to use the machine to buy a tram ticket but of course my card didn’t work and I didn’t have change. So I went to Quick and bought a cheeseburger and had dinner, went back and bought the ticket, got on the tram and was off. 

Of course I had misunderstood the name so I got off at the wrong stop, but I got back on and off at the right stop. Then I tried to find the street. It wasn’t any of the streets that I could see from the station so I went into a grocery store and asked. He said he didn’t know but he knew it wasn’t far…awesome. So I started walking in one direction along the tracks and it happened to be the next street I came to. I easily found the hostel, got checked in, got up to my room, and plotted how I was going to spend my day.

Tuesday 21– 

Woke up at a relatively early time for me and took the tram to the hill to start my day. I went and visited a cathedral and saw a nice view of the town.  

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 Then I went and wandered through some old roman ruins. Then I walked down the hill to old town where I wandered about and saw some neat stuff. Then I went to a different section of town and went to a textile museum. I have never been to one before and didn’t quite know what to think. It was actually pretty cool, I never knew Lyon was so important in the lace making industry. Then I went to the Christmas Market where I had lunch. 

Then I decided to go to this art museum, but it was closed. So I took a tram and a bus to the park. Almost immediately after I got to the park it started to rain. At first it was just sprinkling so I was like oh no big deal and entered this HUGE park. That was a mistake. As soon as I started wandering it started raining harder and harder. Of course I had left my umbrella in the room today so I put up my hood and tried to find the nearest exit. For some reason it took me over half an hour to locate an exit. Meanwhile, I walked past a bike raceway and a mini zoo. So finally I got out and took the bus back into town. I got off at the main station and decided to go to the mall to dry off for a bit. Since I had a huge headache I didn’t stay long and bought some groceries for dinner and went back. Once I got back I took a little nap and watched some TV which made me feel a bit better. Then I ate dinner, used the internet, and watched another movie. Finally I went to bed after a shower because I didn’t want to be tired for when my parents arrived!

Wednesday 22 - 
Woke up and was really excited for the day. I started by getting around and leaving the hostel. Then I went to this museum I wanted to go to the day before but couldn't because it's closed on Tuesdays. So I went to the museum which was really neat. It was the History of the Resistance and Deportation Museum and was about the Holocaust and deportation of the Gypsies. It was really interesting and depressing and I was really glad I stopped even if it was for only an hour. Then I walked to the train station and caught my train to Clermont. Once on the train I relaxed and was to Clermont before I knew it. I then took two buses and got to the airport where I waited for my parents. Their plane was delayed by an hour so I waited and finally when it came in I was super excited. 

Now I had lived in the states my whole life and have never been more than three months without seeing my parents or brother so seeing them after about 5 months brought tears to my eyes. As soon as their plane came in I walked in the baggage area and waited and watched and was super excited when I saw them and they saw me and waved. After some big hugs and excited hellos the bags started coming out... but we only got one of the three checked bags. A little bit flustered we went to the luggage desk where the agent didn't speak much English. So I explained to her the problem and she said she couldn't locate the bags but that there is about 30,000 pieces of luggage lost in the Charles de Galle airport currently. After some reassuring and getting my french phone number as a contact and leaving the hotel information we left for the hotel. We got to the hotel just fine and got in and everything and relaxed and took a nap.

A couple of hours later we walked to my host family's house. We were a little early so we went to the store to buy some essentials (like a toothbrush for Alex) that had been packed in the lost checked luggages. Then we went to my host family's house and were warmly received. We sat down and had a nice aperatif and my host dad spoke more English than I knew he could say. Then we had a delicious dinner and afterwords we relaxed and gave my host parents the small gifts that my parents got for them and after a while we left. After a relaxing walk home we got in, learned that there was no new news about the luggage, went upstairs, and went to bed.

26 December 2010

Espana!


Saturday - Woke up late and finally got up at 10:30. Then, Liz and I went and had Dunkin Doughnuts for breakfast (since I hadn't had doughnuts in FOREVER!). After some yummy chocolate doughnuts and disgusting coffee, we wandered around and saw some pretty buildings. I can't remember the names of them but they were pretty cool. Then we walked up the main road and found the Hard Rock Cafe! That makes 4 HRC's that I have been to in Europe (Rome, Venice, London, and Madrid). After that we walked back to this one place and there was this huge strike going on! We watched for a little bit. It was pretty cool as you can see below:

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 And the musicians were cool too:

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Then we took the metro and went to this market which had some really cool stuff. Then we went to see this palace. The palace was pretty cool and had a cool fountain. There also was a neat church next door but we couldn't get in. Here's how big it was:


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After we visited that we went and got some ice cream which was yummy. Then we had lunch at a restaurant called Nebraska. I thought the name was funny, but the calamari I had was good. After that we did a bit more sight seeing and stopped at some stores on the way back. We also went to the museum the  Reina Sofia which was neat. We saw works of Dali, Picasso and many others. Then, we got some pizza and went to the room. We had pizza for dinner with acorn alcohol which wasn't horrible and watched a movie on Liz's laptop. Then it was a little time to relax and bed. Overall I noticed that Spain was really similar to Italy and a good place to visit.

Sunday - Woke up around 11 again and got up and around slowly. We still had Dunkin Doughnuts for breakfast (yum) and went to see this huge park. It was alot of fun and really relaxing. We came to this huge lake with boats and saw some pretty interesting things including Darth Vader Santa, lol. After we left to go to the metro I almost got pick pocketed. We were crossing the road when I felt my purse being pulled slightly, I looked back and realized this woman was right behind me. Thinking nothing of it I turned around again. It happened again and I turned back around and she moved back some.  Then I realized my purse was open when I knew it was closed! I checked a dozen times and nothing was missing. Thank goodness Liz and I kept looking back! Anyways, we went back to Sol and ate paella for lunch which is rice and seafood and was pretty tasty. Then we did some sightseeing/shopping and got food and went back to watch two different movies.
 
Monday –Woke up and didn't have much time. We got around and left the hostel with all our luggage, ate at Dunkin Doughnuts, navigated the metro, and got to the airport. Then we separated and I was a little ways away from going to Lyon, but that's another story.

20 December 2010

FFFFFRIDAY!


Started out by waking up super early in the morning (5am) and doing some last minute things before leaving. On Wednesday I learned that there were supposed to be problems with the trains on Friday due to a huge snow storm. This caused me to be super worried and check the train schedule periodically for any news of problems. After I checked my train, I finished packing, grabbed a banana for breakfast, and left. I left at ten to 6 and by the time I got to the station I still had 15 minutes before my train. I found the platform and got on without any troubles. The train ride was smoother than I expected given the fact that trains were supposed to be delayed which made me feel really relieved. 

A couple of interesting things happened during this ride.One, there was a lady across from me who was asleep with her headphones in. I didn’t think to wake her and she awoke as we were pulling away from her stop. I felt really bad for her and wished I could tell her how much I understand how it feels when travel plans go wrong, but I didn’t feel I could portray it very well in French. She got off at the next stop but had to wait over two hours for the next train. I hope she finally got to see her daughter ok. The second thing was really interesting, a man sitting across from me on the train ride. At first, I was like oh, a mid 40 year old man sitting across from me, whatever. But no less than a minute after he sits down does he bang his hands on his brief case and start tapping out the beat to whatever he was listening to on his ipod. He used his full body and I couldn’t help but smile. After a few seconds he seemed to realize he was not alone and stopped. This spontaneous burst of music madness was awesome and made me realize that everything is going to be ok and finally relax. 

We got to Lyon right on time and I dashed over to the shuttle to the airport. After buying a ticket and waiting 5 minutes, I was on the shuttle and on my way to the airport. Interestingly enough, another man (about 10 years younger than the other) sat across from me, and no sooner than we left did he start whistling a tune and tapping out the beat. Once again it made my day and was very entertaining. Anyways, finally got to the airport and raced to my gate. I got through security and realized I had over an hour before boarding. So I went to the bathroom and got some real breakfast/lunch because I was starved and sat down to eat. Finally, we got into the boarding room and I was excited because I hadn’t missed anything. Little did I know we would be standing in the boarding room for over an hour. At last, we get on the plane and I nap most of the way there (I don’t even remember take off because I was asleep!!). We touched down and no sooner did I get out of the main section did I see Liz!!

We took the metro and had to change three times until we finally got out and walked to our hostel. We got checked in with no problems and got into our room. The room is actually really nice. It’s pretty big with two decent beds (that squeak a lot!) and a decent bathroom. It also has a small balcony which I’m sure is nice in the summer. After we got settled in we left to go check out the town. We saw Plaza del Sol and went shopping at H&M on the Grande Via. After a while we got some dinner at Mickey D's and went back. We used the wifi in the lobby and I went to bed early for it had been a really long day.

19 December 2010

"Exam" Week

Ok to be honest my "Exam" Week wasn't a true exam week because I only had two exams. However, most of my week consisted of the following: sleeping in, watching movies, relaxing, watching tv, hanging out with my host family, doing homework, and hanging out with friends. Monday was pretty boring except for getting my lunch money and seeing Tangled in French. Tangled was good but I can't wait to see it in English because Finn's character is played by the main character in my favorite series, Chuck. Tuesday was a little bit more crazy because I had to find these papers for my ICRP. They took forever to find because I had never been to the office where they were located before. But finally I found them, ate a quick lunch, and got to my last ICRP of the 2010 year. The second half of the week is when things really started happening:

Wednesday - Started off waking up early, getting around and walking to the train station. There I met up with the other Kalamazoo Students and our teacher because we were going to Vichy to take the TCF. The TCF is the Test du Connaissance du Francais (aka test of french understanding/level). So we went to Vichy, walked around in the cold until we found the university, was taken up to a small computer room, and were off. The test started with 25 minutes of listening comprehension followed by 108 minutes of grammar and reading comprehension. Overall it wasn't too horrible and I ended up doing ok on those parts. After that we went and ate a crappy but cheap lunch at the cafe. Then we went back for the oral portion. I don't know what it was, maybe the guy's accent, maybe the nervousness, maybe sleep deprivation, maybe my brain was strained too hard, maybe the fact that there were two tape recorders recording everything I was saying; but I felt like I did really bad. However, after we finally finished the test, we toured the town as we walked back to the train station. Then we went back, I walked the 20 minutes back to the apartment, slept for two hours. And got up in time to relax a bit before dinner. After dinner the family and I watched a really good couple of episodes of Mentalist.

Thursday – Slept in, did some shopping, ate lunch, went to school, tried to find the room for the exam, gave up and studied for exam w/ Lauren, printed off some stuff for travleing, found our room for our test (in a portable that I had never seen before), took the test (which actually wasn’t that bad), printed off airplane boarding passes, and went back home. When I got back I started getting ready for vacation! However I didn't have much time until I had to leave for the final party. Most of the students in our school were going to an overpriced gala but instead, the American students got together and decided to dress up and go to a nice restaurant. We were going to go to Mexican but couldn’t get in so we went to the Sicilian Restaurant. After a good dinner, we went to a cafĂ© and I got a French Coffee (coffee with gin) was pretty good but strong. After a while it was finally time to say goodbye, Happy Holidays, and leave. When I got back I packed, and packed, and packed. Finally I was done enough and went to bed at 1:30 only to be awakened 3 and a half hours later by my alarm to start Christmas Vacation.

Last Week of Classes!


For the first part of the week I didn't do very much. I got my Library card so that I can work on my project for a class, helped the kids in my ICRP decorate the Christmas Tree, did homework, and celebrated my last few classes. Although I ended up missing one of them because I literally fell asleep for two hours while waiting for the shower...oops. However, I was super excited about last marketing class - thank god that class is over! Friday I didn't do very much except have class, talk to my teacher about a project and go back to the apartment.

Weekend –
Saturday – Got up and relaxed and studied for exam. Went to Marketing exam which wasn’t that bad – I understood everything but wasn’t sure how to explain my responses. Got done super early so I left and went back to my host family after getting a quick chocolate dessert. Then had lunch and later went over to Jenn’s house. Jenn had Lauren and I spend the night since her host mom was out of town and didn't want to leave Jenn alone. This also happened to be the night of the international student end of the semester party. So after all getting to Jenn's and chilling for a while we went to the restaurant for dinner with the international students. It was kind of annoying because the majority of the students were downstairs except for the last few who got there (which included us and we arrived 5 minutes early). However, we still had fun talking to everyone although the food wasn't super. After that we all went to a store to get some booze and then to a house party. It was a lot of fun and around 11:30 we went back and slept.

Sunday – Woke up late, got around, ate a good breakfast that Jenn cooked, and went back home. Not a lot of my family was home it was just my host dad, Eliana and I for lunch. Afterward I watched a movie with Eliana. We watched Forrest Gump because she had never seen it and I told her she had to because it's a great movie. I had to explain a lot of the culture in the movie but still enjoyed it. Later I hung out with Lauren. We were going to see a movie (Tangled) but it was too busy so we wandered around the Christmas Market, saw the church and went inside. Then we went to the hypermarket (aka French Walmart) which turned out to be closed but walked over to the ice rink to check out prices to go ice skating later. After that I went back and relaxed.

05 December 2010

Fail Trip

Fail day, fail trip, worst Saturday of my life whatever you call it the 4th of December was quite an awful day.

Saturday started out by waking up at 5AM and leaving the apartment at 5:45. As I left the building I had a weird feeling that something was not going to go right that day, it turned out that I was right in the end. I got to the train station and got on the train with no problems. I ate some food that I had brought with me and relaxed and watched the sun come up. Then I got to Lyon and that's where everything started going downhill. I looked at the timetable to see if my train was up there even though I still had two hours until it left. It wasn't but I did notice something, over half of the trains were more than 20 minutes late. I was like oh crap. You see, in order to make my plane I had to take the first train and even then I only would arrive an hour before the door to my plane closed. It was then that I realized that I might not make my flight. The train station was freezing so I finally went to the Waiting Room because at least that closed with a door and read my book as I waited for my train to appear on the screens. When it finally appeared it said it was on time. I breathed a sigh of relief and went to the platform.

I got kind of nervous because usually the train gets there at least 5 minutes before the scheduled time but this time it arrived exactly when we were supposed to be pulling out of the station. I got on and sat down and we started moving and I thought, ok maybe I will make my flight. Just as soon as we pulled out of the station the train stopped. An announcement came on but I didn't understand it very well. We waited for 30 minutes. I was freaking out. Finally when we started moving I decided to relax, enjoy the train ride and figure stuff out when I got to Geneva since I couldn't do anything on the train. I watched the scenery, the Alps covered in snow is such a beautiful site. Funny side note, I was listening to my ipod and one of the songs that came up on random was Unbelievable, that's exactly what I thought those mountains and country side looked like. We stopped a couple more times for short periods of times and when they finally announced that we were approaching the last station, Geneva, we were 45 minutes late.

As soon as we got in I took off running. I found the train to the airport, waited a couple of minutes for it to come, got on, got to the airport, got off, ran and found my gate all the way at the other end of the airport and as soon as I arrived I realized that they had shut the gate 10 minutes ago. I went down and waited in line at the information desk to see if I could get on the other flight that was in a couple of hours. After waiting over an hour in that line I finally talked to a guy who told me that I couldn't get on it and my only option was to wait until the next day at 2PM. He started transferring my information to put it on there and told me it would be 86 Swiss Francs. For those of you who aren't familiar with that currency, it's pretty much the same as the US Dollar. Also 86 Swiss Francs was three times more than what I paid for my original ticket. Also both my ticket to and from Budapest were less than that. I suddenly had a big decision before me:

Choice 1) Pay 86 Francs, find a place to stay the night, explore Geneva, relax, take the plane at two the next day, see Ada, spend less than 24 hours in Budapest then go back OR

Choice 2) Pay alot less for tickets back to Clermont, sleep in my own bed, not have to pay for meals, get homework done, and do some work for my school projects.

Which would you choose?

I chose Choice 2. I told him that that was not going to work and after giving me a puzzled look and saying that I would lose my reservation (which in my opinion was already lost) I told him that was ok and left the airport.  I called Ada on my way to the train station and a guy over heard me and asked me if I was American. I told him I was and we had a short conversation. He was there searching for an apartment because he got a job in Geneva. He was originally from Atlanta which I thought was kind of funny because that's where my Aunt Erin lives. It was kind of nice to tell someone else my story and helped calm me down because after everything I was pretty distraught. Finally I told him he should visit Bern because it's a nice city to visit once he got settled in, he told me thanks and good luck and I left. When I got back to the train station, I got my tickets and made my way to Lyon.

The trip back wasn't anywhere near as fun. It was getting dark out and I decided I should at least do some homework. I got some work done but ended up staring out, wishing I could have made my flight and listening to my ipod. When I got to Lyon I once again had a two hour wait. I got a Coke but wasn't hungry even though I hadn't eaten much except a little bit of breakfast and a sandwich at the Geneva station. Finally my train came and I got to Clermont. On the way there I realized how tired I was and laid down on my backpack with my scarf over it to soften it. I got back to Clermont at 11 and was home before 11:30. As soon as I got back I decided to eat some Easy Mac to cheer me up and then go to bed.