A Travellerspoint blog

London

And other Wicked awesome things.

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I'm going to make this blog as brief as possible since I'm running on about 3 hours of sleep following leaving London for Dijon this morning to make class here in Dijon today. Study abroad and traveling has done a really good job of teaching me to give up sleep and deal with it. You can do a lot more things with the extra time that way, see more sights, travel more, and since the workload is still almost nonexistent over here, it's worked out great.

Last week was pretty low key for the most part, with a few small highlights. The housing situation here is still an absolutely mess and continues to cause problems, which consumed more time for me last week than my classes did. I went and toured a new flat across Dijon, it's sort of an apartment styled place in the basement of a single woman's home. That was quite the experience, because she spoke no English, and I didn't know this beforehand, so I basically went apartment shopping in a foreign country in a foreign language. Quite the experience to say the least. Luckily, my French is good enough that I was able to communicate most of my ideas, understand most of what was being said, and it all worked out. It's in a beautiful part of Dijon on a Lake I haven't seen yet, and the apartment is great. The downsides are taking a bus to campus and the train station requiring a monthly bus pass, and the general pain of moving all my stuff again. It was also the first time I had ridden in a car since leaving Denver, which was weird, and she neglected to tell me she wasn't driving me back to campus, so I was left to explore and figure out the bus system on my own, in a foreign language. It all worked out in the end, but if you thought navigating the Denver bus system was bad, just try this the next time you're alone in a foreign country where you barely speak the language. I may end up moving to this residence, but things are still uncertain. The residence I'm in currently looks more and more likely like it has bed bugs, but the French don't have a word for bed bugs, which makes everything challenging. And regardless, I don't think they'll actually let me move out without taking my money, so it's all a mess. At this point the figure ranging around 500 Euros has changed 3 times, so I've asked for an official record and receipts of payment from them, which I haven't received yet. As far as I'm concerned the ball is in their court to get the money out of me, and I'm going to keep fighting the bed bugs problem. I really hope this thing ends soon because it's put my study abroad experience in a completely different light than I ever would have expected or wanted, but who knows where it'll go from here.

The highlight of last week was Wednesday when I returned home from class to an email from Denver saying that my story which was featured on DU Today online is going to be printed and run in the Denver quarterly magazine, which gets sent out to over 100,000 alumni, faculty, staff, students, parents, and affiliates worldwide. I sent them a few hires pictures of me as requested, and can't wait to see what the finished product looks like. It blows my mind how big this story has become. I told my parents and best friend the day it happened and that was it, viewing it more as a right place right time and preparation plus opportunity equals success kind of thing. Since then, I've been in the Vail paper twice, the Salida paper twice, been on an online Colorado news site I didn't even know was published, been on the BSA website as an Eagle Scout who saves a life, been in DU Today and on the front page of the DU website, and now this. It blows my mind because I didn't think anything of it when it happened. I'm honored and flattered by all of it, and I'm curious to see the reactions I get from people when the DU Magazine goes out. So, when you receive a copy of the magazine, look for me in there!!

And lastly, I spent this last weekend visiting London with my Filipino friends! By far the coolest city I've ever visited and I think it's the coolest city in the world. I took an early train Saturday morning to arrive there by noon (Dijon to Paris, Paris to London), which was relatively pain free. The Chunnel is incredibly overrated and Eurostar charges obnoxious fees to ride the train from Paris to London, but it was better than flying from my my Filipino friends told me since they all flew. The so called Chunnel is just 30 minutes of darkness underground before you emerge on land again. No tunnel underwater views, no open water views, nothing fancy. When I arrived there I checked into our hostel and dropped my stuff to meet my friends about 20 minutes away at Hyde Park for a walking tour. On the tour we got to see Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, a couple of the old palaces from former kings and queens, a London protest, Westminster Abbey, among other awesome things. All of the pictures are posted in a gallery that I've linked below. After the walking tour we went and had midafternoon lunch at a local pub, where I ordered two burgers (they were on special, I promise!) and promptly enjoyed the first two beef burgers I've had since leaving the States. They weren't Cherry Cricket burgers by any means, but I was satisfied. I tried a local ale with the meal as well, which was great. I'm trying to sample a local beer in every country I visit, along with wines in places like France and Italy.

After this, we headed to Covent Gardens, which is kind of an open air market area with shops and outlet shops. We looked in stores for a bit (man is Burberry London expensive...who buys that stuff anyways?) and then headed to Apollo Victoria Theatre for what was probably the highlight of the trip for me...Wicked in London. Words can't really do it justice, honestly. It was just so so SO good. Chills the whole time. Set was incredible and world class, and the cast was even better. Truly the best musical in the world with its best and strongest cast. Unbelievable. Well worth the money I spent on those tickets. Afterwards we all regrouped and headed back to the hostel. After dropping our things at the hostel we headed to Baker Street since I've played gigs at probably every Baker Street Pub in the state of Colorado and wanted to see the real thing. Unfortunately, Baker Street is really just a bunch of shops in London for the most part, but it was cool just so I can say I've been there now I guess. That concluded Saturday in London. Sunday, we headed to the Tower of London for a tour there, which was really awesome as well, and right next to the Tower of London bridge (commonly referred to as the London bridge, even though it's not). Inside the Tower of London is also where the Queens royal jewelry collection is stored, including the crowns and the 530 karat diamond. Yeah, it's absolutely huge. And yeah, the case was surrounded by girls. It was still cool thought. That afternoon my friend and I went to see Lion King the musical also, which was not as good as Wicked in my opinion, but the choreography and costume designs were phenomenal and it was still incredible. After this we headed towards the London eye where I met up with an old friend of mine. He and I went to Regis high school in Denver, and he's a junior at DU this year, so it was awesome to connect with him, a fellow Coloradoan, and just talk and catch up. He's spending a semester in London right now. We both went up in the Eye of London together too, where I caught some awesome pictures and an absolutely killer 360 panoramic shot, linked below. We stopped by the train station on the way back to the hostel to visit Platform 9 and 3/4 from Harry Potter, but this basically concluded our night and trip to London. We went back to the hostel, crashed, and I got up at 330am to head to the train station for my 530am train back to Paris and then back to Dijon since I had French class tonight.

Needless to say, class wasn't nearly as exciting as London and running on 3 hours of sleep I almost passed out in class, but I made it out ok. This week should be a pretty light week of class, again, before leaving Friday evening for Zurich in Switzerland with my Filipino friends. We're coming back Sunday evening, and Monday the 17th will be my 22nd birthday. After spending my last two birthdays on the summit of 14ers in Colorado with some of my best friends, I'm trying to come up with an equally creative and awesome way to spend this year's birthday. Right now I'm considering the Eiffel Tower in Paris since it's close, or a brief train ride to the Alps or Italy for the day. Either way, it should be a great day. The weekend after this one, we've already started trying to plan another trip. I'm considering taking the weekend "off" and staying here to rest for a weekend especially since there are rumors that SNCF is planning a strike around then, but no plans have really been decided yet. Either way, every week promises to be an adventure here with constant unexpected things popping up and new places and countries to see and explore. As always, enjoy the pictures and 360s posted below, and stay tuned for more travel stories and pictures from Switzerland and beyond!

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London Pictures. I actually put some time into the captions here, so take some time to read them!
http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2514231697109.2142651.1292672395&l=a6d6e9b7b9&type=1

360 views!
From the top of the London Eye at night: http://t.co/9y7g8HOx
Inside the lobby of the Apollo Victoria Theatre before Wicked: http://t.co/bgJ5bmTs

Posted by la vita bella 12:33 Archived in France Tagged mountains bridges churches art trains beer london cathedrals rivers tower paris france history travel hotel bus train of green river italy backpack philippines garden cathedral hostel man language french europe mtn thames abby switzerland international dijon eye swiss harry abroad business sherlock holmes american panoramic residence osprey westminster dame potter scout study iphone learning euros 360 14ers scouting scouts chunnel esc camera+ francs Comments (0)

OKTOBERFEST

and other shenanigans.

sunny 70 °F

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I just realized that I haven't written a new post since Monday of last week, and my life moves much too fast here for me to remember everything between then and now, so I'll try to hit the highlights, but the bulk of this entry will probably be about Oktoberfest in Munich this weekend and the shenanigans that went down there...

Last week's highlight

My class schedule last week was pretty light, so there's not much to say I guess. The highlight was Wednesday's class on International Management, which is actually turning out to be a pretty interesting class. The class is pretty interesting, the professor is very low key and open to ideas but teaches a really interesting and engaging class at the same time. During class, she mentioned a program that ESC Dijon offers called the incubator program aimed at entrepreneurs who want to start businesses. It helps you design and build your business I guess and then helps you get it started and off the ground for a bit. Of course, I immediately began thinking of my business that I want to start and run in Chamonix someday, here in France. So, I emailed her afterwards and I think she and I are going to talk about it this week. It's aimed at their French students obviously so it's probably a bit odd that an exchange student has interest in it, but I'm looking forward to discussing it with her and seeing what it's all about. It's possible that it could be the connection I need someday to start that business in Chamonix. (Side note: I want to start a business in Chamonix that starts as a bed and breakfast, simple and easy to start/run/manage, and then when that gets going what I really want to do it to start a mountaineering business that runs guided tours up Mont Blanc in the summer and guided backcountry ski tours in the winter. I figure I can use my love of the mountains, degree in International Business, and knowledge of French, Italian, and English to manage most clients I come across. And even if all I do is live there, run it, and breakeven every day, I'll still be the happiest man alive.) So hopefully, that'll be a good place to start with this program here. I did some research on Chamonix that day, and it looks like it might take a couple years to get everything in place and lined up, both businesswise and I'll need to get more into mountaineering and avalanche certifications and stuff, but what better place to be that Colorado to go after all of those things? That's my new life goal, since after years of trying and almost making it, music just didn't quite work out. And after this, my friends and I left on Friday morning for Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany.

Oktoberfest

Friday morning we all convened at the train station for the first train of our travel day to Munich. We took 5 trains to get there in total, making many stops along the way. One of the stops we made only had 5 minutes between our train arriving and our next one departing, which was wild. We knew it would be close, and for those who have never traveled by train in Europe, the trains actually close their doors 2 minutes BEFORE departure to ensure proper departure time, cutting our window down to 3 minutes. We sprinted from our train to the next one across the station, probably looking like a bunch of idiots, but we made that train nonetheless. And now, no transfer in a US airport will ever feel rushed. We actually had a stopover in Basel too, which is apparently in Switzerland and not Germany or France, so everything was in Swiss Francs currency during our hour there. It was pretty cool to wander around, even if only for an hour, since the thought of being in a new country was cool. That night we arrived in Munich at about 6pm, and immediately went towards Oktoberfest to explore, even though we had no city map to guide us there. Just follow the people in lederhosen outfits, and you'll get there just fine. We wandered around there for a bit, had German sausages for dinner (of course), and then realized how hard it is to get into the tents and beer gardens, so we took some pictures and left for our hotel.

Staying at a hotel was awesome. Your standard hostel is an upgrade from my "residence" here in Dijon, so as far as I'm concerned, the Marriott we stayed at was a 6 star hotel. When we arrived the first thing we did was headed for the pool and sauna area. In total, we used the Sauna 3 times, the hot tub 2 times, and the pool 2 times during our brief stay there. It was super nice! We also enjoyed the TV, which is such a simple concept but since none of us have access to one here in Dijon, we're usually glued to it every time we travel places regardless of what's on or what language it's in. After a few relaxing soaks that night, we ventured out to a street in Munich where a lot of bars and clubs are and had a few drinks at a local bar. Best beer I've ever had! Then we went back to the hotel and passed out, ready to hit Oktoberfest in the morning.

We woke up the next morning at 8am, ready to head to Oktoberfest. You wouldn't believe the crowds and how hard it is to get into these tents! We arrived at a tent at about 9:30, and fought through a crowd to get into the garden, and then another crowd to get into the tent, which is huge and had absolutely zero seats available. So, we took a seat at a table outside, and ordered our beers. At 10am. I bought a pretzel nearby to help absorb that much alcohol, and later bought a second one before my second stein of beer. It is absolutely the best beer I've ever had. We met a lot of really cool people as well, since the group of guys from Holland next to us were very nice, and the Italians that joined us were also very enjoyable. We each went through about 2.5 steins of beer, before making our attempt to steal the steins they came in. In order to buy the steins, you have to make it back inside the tent, which wasn't letting anyone in because of capacity. I saw the sign that said "Taking beer steins is punishable by German law", and was a bit worried, but my friends said we were going for it anyways. So, we scoped out an exit with only one security guard, and used a plan of one person talk to the guard in English (he knew none, by the way) while the other two run off with the steins in my backpack. The plan was a great success, and we decided to head back to our hotel to put the steins with our bags checked there, and then head back to Oktoberfest. We had to avoid the main subway stop by Oktoberfest as well, which is loaded with security, I think more for preventing drunken fights than anything else.

After checking the steins at the hotel, we headed back to Oktoberfest for more beer, but had no luck getting back into a garden or a tent, since all of them were completely full by this point. However, we got right up to the front of a crowd (it's a bit like at a concert where the crowd goes up to the front of the stage and then security is there to prevent you from getting on stage). The security guy was using a metal bin full of empty steins to block people, so we used our 3 man team again to get some steins and put them in my friends backpack. While we didn't get in there for the beer, we still made off with some nice steins for souvenirs and saved a couple bucks on buying knockoffs elsewhere. After this we headed back to the hotel again to pick up our things and head for the train station to catch our night train to Paris. Oh the unforeseen adventures of traveling...

Our train departed Munich at 10:45pm, and was completely full. Doing like we do on every train, we all tried to sit together until someone made us move. Of course, the two guys from Kentucky had seats together and I ended up having to move into a cabin next door, with some not so awesome travelers. I will say, while Americans don't seem to understand the concept of adequate leg room on flights, at least they understand (usually) the concept of personal space and "I paid for this seat so you stay in yours and out of mine". I had a woman taking up half my seat sleeping, a woman across from me with her feet on my ARMREST, and there was a couple next to me who were speaking in a language I didn't quite understand who pointed at my backpack once or twice. When we were delayed in Munich for about an hour, I got up to walk around and ran into my companions in an open area reserved for travel bikes with no bikes in it, so I took my backpack, used it as a backrest/pillow, and moved in there to sleep. As we arrived in Paris one of the girls sleeping saw me in the open car and looked a little bit startled, but that's ok with me. I wasn't about to leave my bag in there or sleep without it attached to me, even locked up. But because we were delayed in Mannheim for about an hour, we ended up missing our train to Dijon by about 10 minutes in Paris, and consequently had to stay in Paris for a few extra hours before heading back home. We all took naps for the most part and watched some movies on our computers before the next train. We arrived in Dijon at about 6pm, much later than we wanted to, but safely and with all of our things, and headed back home. It was definitely a trip I'll never forget, as most of these seem to be, and I have some awesome souvenirs from it as a result.

This week I have a few more new classes, but I'm looking forward to my next travel adventure: London this weekend with my Filipino friends via the Chunnel from Paris. I'll be there for about 2 days traveling and sightseeing with them, and hopefully I'll be able to meet up with one of my DU friends who also attended the same Colorado high school as me. Small world sometimes! I'm also in the process of planning my next adventure the weekend after this, and it's looking like I'll be heading to Switzerland with friends. That'll be my birthday weekend, so I'm looking forward to spending my birthday in such an awesome place. Life ain't too bad over here right now, even if it is expensive at times. Until next time, enjoy the pictures and 360 panoramas I have posted below!

Pictures from Munich and Oktoberfest: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2488662977907.2141807.1292672395&l=9e003ffea7&type=1

360 from inside the beer garden: http://360.io/gwJq8K

Cheers!

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Posted by la vita bella 12:34 Archived in France Tagged mountains art parties night trains beer london cathedrals paris france travel hotel train trekking germany backpack ski friends philippines cathedral circus photos europe mtn switzerland international dijon german swiss colosseum abroad alps munich business american bern panoramic residence osprey marriott oktoberfest study euros 360 scouting esc kehl camera+ mannheim francs Comments (0)

The Journey Continues

sunny 70 °F

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A lot has changed since the last time I wrote last week, so I'll do my best to bring everything up to speed...

Friday was a pretty good day, with my second real class here in International business. The class was on International Management stuff, which is a pretty simple and easy subject, but also pretty interesting to hear taught in an international environment like this. The professor is German, and is very open minded about everything, and I like open thought/questioning type environments, so I think it'll be a good class. Like many of my other classes so far, the grading looks pretty simple and straightforward, and the class is actually scheduled through the end of the semester unlike my law class, so it should make for a good class and allow me to continue to plan out crazy travel adventures. Friday night I packed for Strasbourg for the weekend, which was awesome.

Saturday morning I got up a little bit early to skype with my girl, only to find out things are working out anymore and she won't be coming to visit for Thanksgiving like we originally planned. A little bummed, but I'd be lying if I said it came as a surprise since I've predicted this "relationship" almost start to finish now. And it's not all bad, because it should allow me to travel more freely without as much concern, experience French culture a little bit more, and it means that when my family visits over the same week or so, I'll be able to spend a lot more time with them. I'll be able to act as their translator with what French I do know and get to spend a lot of time with them, which is great. I'm not sure what she'll do with the round trip plane ticket she has to France, but she said she'd figure it out, so I guess that's that. I'm kind of bummed that I won't get to take a girl out for a romantic evening here in France, but it's probably for the best. So much for having a girlfriend while abroad, but I think there are a lot of opportunities for me to pursue that might be better off done single anyways over the next 12 months, so here's to those.

That said, I took my lightly packed Osprey backpack (which continues to be one of the best investments I've made in the last year or two) and headed off for the Dijon train station to meet up with two other American friends and 5 other Filipino friends for Strasbourg for the weekend. We arrived in Strasbourg around 2 in the afternoon, travels were problem free, checked into our hostel, and headed out to explore. We first went to the Notre Dame Cathedral, which is absolutely stunning. The kids from the Philippines said it was more impressive than the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, which is the famous one, so I thought that was pretty cool. We paid a small fee to be able to climb to the top of it, where I took a bunch of pictures and a 360 shot. After that we made our way to the area of Strasbourg called Petite France, which is adorable and really looks like old timey France. The houses, cobblestone roads, bridges, rivers, and so on. We ate dinner at a restaurant here, which was pretty good. Then we made our way back to our hostel, hung out for a bit, watched some tv in English on the tv in our room (they had 2 English speaking channels!) and then went to bed.

The next day we got up, checked out of our hostel, and headed out for some more exploring. Sunday was cool because we went to the garden of two rivers which is on the Rhine River and is really pretty, and we had a beautiful day for it. We took the really artistic bridge and crossed the Rhine also and went into Germany, although briefly, for lunch. We explored a little town called Kehl in Germany for a bit, and then headed back to Strasbourg. We wandered around for a bit longer, checked out the Ponts Couverts, and then caught our train home. Strasbourg is a really cool city! It had lots of rivers running through it and around it, and the culture is very interesting because of how much German and French there is there. Although we were only there briefly, it was an awesome trip. Next weekend, some friends and I are headed to the real Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, which should be awesome. I'm super excited to see what it's like, enjoy some good beer, and hopefully not end up too tipsy. The weekend after that the American guys are heading to Paris to visit family in town, but the Filipino kids are all heading to London I think they said, so I may try to tag along with them for that trip. I have no preference in where I travel really, as long as it's somewhere new, different, and interesting. I'm trying to visit as many places over here as I can in a short amount of time, but it also exposes you to an incredible number of different cultures as well, which has been amazing and fascinating. A trip to somewhere in Switzerland is coming sometime soon also, just not positive when. The options are endless over here, it's incredible.

This morning has been another adventure, although a less fun and less exciting one as I continue to try to sort out all of the problems that I'm encountering at this residence here. They have told me now that if I don't pay the remaining balance of 500 Euros (which is their error and I don't think I should owe), they won't replace the two burned out lightbulbs in my flat, so I think I'm going to go replace those on my own later. It's been a rather disappointing experience with this place, and every hostel's shower and bed, hostels not hotels, mind you, have been nicer than what I'm paying for here. But I'm locked into this place for another 12 weeks, so it'll just be an ongoing issue to see what happens next. Other than that, life here has been and continues to be incredible, with each day and week bringing on another new challenge or adventure to explore and allow me to grow as a person. Below I put some links to pictures and a few new 360s from the Strasbourg trip, so be sure to check those out, and look for more to come from future adventures!

Photos of Strasbourg: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2461367895547.2140848.1292672395&l=549a8910f5&type=1

360 on top of Strasbourg Notre Dame: http://360.io/uJjQv9
360 in the Jardin des Deux Rives: http://360.io/6FzKYD

Posted by la vita bella 12:20 Archived in France Tagged beer rivers france travel train trekking germany backpack philippines garden cathedral family tv photos wine europe international housing dijon abroad business american panoramic residence osprey oktoberfest notre dame relationship law jardin petite study iphone strasbourg euros 360 skype girlfriend esc ponts couverts kehl camera+ Comments (0)

France Update

Thoughts on paper.

overcast 65 °F

Milan Train Station in Italy
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No really significant updates in this entry, just felt the need to write. Thoughts on paper. In an odd sort of way it's a great outlet for me, soothing, and just nice to get things out. I'll do my best to get things caught up since returning from Rome to the best of my memory.

Sunday

Sunday was a relatively nice rest and catch up day. Despite how awesome Rome was and all of the unbelievable things we got to see, I was ready for a day to relax and sit for a little bit. I basically spent Sunday on housekeeping related things around here. Still unsure if the bed bugs came from Rome or my studio here, I cleaned the entire place. Swept the whole room, cleaned the kitchenette spotless, etc. I found no signs of them here, but as of today on Thursday I still can't say I know where they came from for sure. Sunday I also wrote some postcards to friends and family back home, wrote the previous blog, skyped with my parents and skyped with my girlfriend, and so on. Lots of little things that just needed to get done, and seeing my family back home and my girl was great too, as always. The letter I received from my girlfriend the night I got home from Rome was a nice little treat also given how much I miss her here. Not a bad day, especially given that everything in France is closed on Sundays. Everything.

Monday

Monday was a very good and productive day. I had received mail from the bank here that my ATM card was available for pick up, so I went to get that, which was a huge relief. Not only did I get it on my first visit to the bank that day (great success), but it worked and I no longer have concerns for running out of money here in Europe. Both great things. That day also I went to the train station with the other American friends of mine to try to book tickets for future trips, but had no luck because I guess these trains fill up early, no matter where you're going according to the first guy we spoke too, so that was a bit frustrating. That evening I attended my first class here in Dijon, French Intermediate, which went pretty smoothly. The professor speaks no English, which might prove to be difficult at some point, but I understood nearly every word she said, and could speak better than some kids in my class while not as well as others, which to me says I'm right where I should be. The grading seemed pretty fair and relatively easy enough, so that's always a plus. Monday I also received my first care package from home, from my mother, which had my scale from home, a razor since I blew mine in the outlet the first time I tried to shave here, a wireless router since wifi is hard to find here in Dijon, and another converter and adapter for outlets. Amazingly, having not weighed myself in two weeks and eaten everything that looked deliciously European, I hadn't gained an ounce. Not bad!

Tuesday

Tuesday was a less than fabulous day here. I didn't end up doing much for most of the day, and when I did finally try to go do something (meet up with another international student from Germany at the gym), the gym was unavailable for use, which was disappointing. My wrist was giving me problems for most of that day, which was also pretty frustrating. I still think that something in there is broken or messed up, more than a sprain, but who really knows at this point. All I can do is hope it heals by the time I'm back in the States and if not, I'll have to get it professionally looked at along with my knee to figure out what's wrong. I also returned to the train station again that day with the other American students, to no luck with booking anything. That afternoon while relaxing in my apartment my bed broke for the second time also, so add that to the growing list of the many reasons why I'm already tired of this residence. Tuesday night I was back from class and realized that my International Law class which has been missing from my schedule and I'm told "isn't scheduled yet but will be shortly" is on my schedule, and is holding a 3 hour class session at 9:30 Wednesday morning! I swear this school sometimes... Anyways, seeing that I went to bed since I knew I couldn't sleep in, and I was frustrated with the day.

Wednesday

Wednesday turned out to be a much better day. I went to my first real International Business class in the morning for the Law stuff, which turned out to be alright. The professor is from Peru and is fluent in Spanish and French and good at English, although at times he turns to me for help since I'm the only native English speaker in the room. It looks like the majority of our grade in there is going to be based on the team project, which we began on Wednesday without even realizing it. I am in a group with four other students from Germany, Mexico, Pakistan, and China and our task is to find a common natural resources problem in our country and build a treaty around it with the others. Pretty cool to see it from a global perspective like this too, something I definitely wouldn't get in a class at DU. After class I went to try out the school gym, which worked out ok. Not having access to a legitimate bench press free weights machine for the next 3 months is going to be rough, but I was able to find enough things in there that I shouldn't lose too much strength hopefully. No one else was around while I was trying things out too, which was nice for me. I'm definitely sore today, but hoping to go back there tomorrow to give it another try. The last French class of the week last night was good, and not too much homework is given by this professor apparently, so that's always nice. I did it this morning so I won't have to worry about it while traveling this weekend, and it was super easy. Good start to the semester. Yesterday a light bulb burned out in my flat as well, which is not the biggest deal in the world, but mildly frustrating since I've only been here two weeks. You can add that to the list of frustrations I have with this residence also now, as well as still figuring out if I have bugs in my flat. The highlight of yesterday though was probably booking travel for my next two weekends with other students here. I've given that it's own section at the end.

Thursday

Today turned out to be a pretty good day. I was able to sleep in and relax most of the day, and then went to my French culture and societe class this afternoon. It turns out the same professor teaches the class in English and French back to back, which may come in handy. I definitely feel that my comprehension skills are lacking in the class which is in complete French, but it'll force me to pick up the slack and get better at speaking and listening to French, which is good. And I can't take the English version anyways to complete my French minor, so that's not an option. I understand most of what he says, but I'm worried about the key points he makes. Guess we'll find out in coming weeks where I stand. The grading is super simple and easy also, which is again a plus while I'm over here and would rather travel than do homework. After class tonight I met my French "buddy" who ESC set me up with, which was cool. She's really nice and speaks fluent English and French and had offered to be really helpful. She didn't stick around for too long when we met up, but I have her name and number which should come in handy at some point I'm sure. Tomorrow I'm hoping to visit the gym again, I have a class for International Management, and all International students in Dijon are getting to meet the mayor of Dijon tomorrow night, which means I need to find something decent to wear. Also, a friend told me before I left that "everyone in Europe wears leather", and now that it's starting to become cooler at night, it's becoming obvious that it's true. I'm super happy since I brought my real leather jacket over here with me, which weighs a whopping 6 pounds by the way, and I can't wait to wear it out and about soon. So, that brings most things up to speed as of tonight, except travel!

Travel Plans!

This weekend, my friends and I were able to reserve tickets to Strasbourg, France. It's a town on the edge of France and Germany, and while I'm not totally sure of everything to see there, we have about a day and a half to wander around and explore, so I'm sure we'll find something. We'll be heading out Saturday mid morning and returning late Sunday night, making a nice little trip. I'll be traveling directly with the two other guys from U of Kentucky, since the two other girls decided to go to Paris instead (mistake!), and a bunch of my friends from the Philippines are going to be there on the same train and same hostel as well. Should make for a fun weekend! And then there's next weekend....the real actual Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. Yeah, it's actually happening. I won't go into the details of how we're getting there, since 10 days out was last minute and we're taking about 5 or 6 trains to get there, but it's happening, and we'll be there for about 2 days. I'm pretty excited for Oktoberfest. I've never been drunk in my life, but this may be the time to try on that hat, since rumor has it the event runs 9-5 everyday and is all you can drink beer for 5 euros... Either way, it promises to be an adventure, and what pictures I take will be worth the lifetime of memories they'll create. I'll try to take plenty of pictures in Strasbourg as well, which I've heard has some pretty sweet Gothic architecture around the town. The weekend after that no formal plans have been made yet, but I'm thinking about heading to Switzerland. The other American kids want to head to Amsterdam for a weekend they'll never remember, and I'm not so much into that kind of thing, and Switzerland sounds much more fun and beautiful, so I think I may head there. Regardless, if I've learned one thing here it's that life is an adventure, you just have to go out and live it, so that's what I'm doing my best to do. Traveling the world certainly opens your eyes and teaches you a lot and you never really know what to expect, and every single minute of it has been awesome. I miss home a lot some days, but I wouldn't change anything about where I am and what I'm doing here today. I'm too blessed and lucky to have an opportunity like this, so I'm doing my best to make the most of it. Until next time, thank you to all you awesome people out there who read everything I have to say, and look forward to some awesome pictures and 360s from the travels and journeys that lie ahead!!

Au revoir!

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Posted by la vita bella 11:59 Archived in France Tagged castles cathedrals france history hotel italy rome roman dijon abroad study vail 360 beaune girlfriend esc dieu Comments (0)

When in Rome...

...Do it like Brutus.

sunny 65 °F

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The title of this entry comes from a tshirt that I got in a high school Latin class, and is probably lying around my parent's place in Denver somewhere. It held special significance over these past few days though as I was exploring Rome with 4 other American students.

Wednesday morning,

I got up at the much too early hour of 4am here in Dijon with my bags packed, ready to hike to the Dijon Ville station. The station is about a 40 minute walk at a good pace from my studio here on the other side of the city, so after my shower I headed out the door. I could barely sleep the night before, incredibly excited for Rome, and a little nervous to be walking the city streets by myself at that hour and looking like an obvious non local. I hustled to the station to meet the other four American students at 5:30am, and we all boarded the train. Because we booked it so last minute, we had an epic day of travel going to Rome, as well as our return journey, which I'll get to. First leg was a train from Dijon Ville to Lyon Part Dieu, about a two hour train ride. I slept most of that one because it was so empty and I could use my pack as a pillow. Next leg was from Lyon Part Dieu to Chambery, and we had 10 minutes from our arrival in Lyon to catch the next train to Chambery. I will never worry about close layovers again after that one. I was nervous, but it was seamless and painful, and is definitely the fastest way to travel since the trains in Europe are so spot on with timing. We arrived in Chambery shortly after that, with about a 2 hour layover. While the girls seemed content with sitting, myself and the two other guys took our packs and went out to explore for a bit. We wandered aimlessly around the city for a little bit, took some pictures, saw some pretty cool things, and then headed back to the station. The next leg was Chambery to Milano in Italy. This was an especially cool train ride because it took us through the French Alps and a small town Modano, where I did catch a glimpse of a lone ski lift. Guess where I'll be headed in a month when the snow starts falling? We then arrived in Milano, the fashion capital of the world, and had about an hour there. You could go to that station with 3 full size empty suitcases and come back with them full without ever leaving that station, it was unbelievable. After an hour here, we took our fourth train from Milano to Roma Termini, which had free Wifi and was by far the nicest train we took all trip. Italy knows how to do it right. After all of this, we arrived in ROME at about 7pm and headed to our hostel, which was very close to the station. The little super market in the basement of the train station was very useful as well. After setting our things down at the hostel, we headed out with a 25% off coupon from the hostel for a pizzeria down the street. I had pizza as my first meal in Italy, and it was the best pizza I have EVER eaten. After this, we went back to the hostel, formed a game plan for Rome the next day, and got some rest.

Thursday morning,

we got up around 10am, and headed out the door at 11am, ready to explore the city of Rome. One of the other guys in our group, his best friend's uncle is the Archbishop of the Vatican in Rome, so we knew we needed to make it to the Vatican across town by 7pm, and basically just worked our way across the city with the free maps from the Hostel and hit all the highlights along the way. These included: Piazza della Repubblica, Santa Maria degli Angeli, San Carlo Quattro Fontane, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, the Quirinale, the Trevi Fountain, the Trajan Forum, the Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele, the Pantheon, Piazza Novora, the Palazzo di Giustizia, the Castel Sant'Angelo, a few different bridges across the Tiber River, and then finally St. Peter's basilica and the Vatican. I have pictures of all of these things in a Facebook album that I've attached below. It was an incredible day, and seeing some of these things in person is just too good to be true. Standing inside the Pantheon is incredible, and making a wish in the Trevi Fountain was pretty cool too. The things inside the Vatican are impossible to really do justice to with pictures. Really. The paintings, ceilings, memorials to Popes, artifacts, it's all impossible to really show in pictures. And the scale of those things is impossible to show too. After seeing all of this by foot, we had dinner with a very nice man who is the Archbishop of Rome and the Vatican, which was very cool and the view of the Vatican by night were taken from his rooftop. Very cool stuff. He then explained to us how to get back to our hostel by way of the metro in Rome, and we headed home and passed out after having a few drinks and hanging out together.

Friday morning,

we headed out at around the same time, and headed for the one thing everyone knows Rome for: the Colosseum. We also saw the Roman ruins that day, old Roman baths, sculptures, giant arches, the Arch of Titus, Temple of Romulus, House of Augustus, the Palatine Hill, and the Circus Maximus. I haven't been that happy and excited for anything in a long time. Standing inside the Roman ruins, which I took a 360 of for my former Latin teacher, I felt like a kid in a candy store as the saying goes. It was so unreal to finally stand there, after studying Latin for five years through high school and a quarter in college. And standing inside the Colosseum...man, incredible. Words can't even do it justice. That thing is absolutely massive, historic, and iconic, and to finally make it there was amazing. After we finished exploring the Roman stuff, we went back to the hostel for a little bit of rest before heading out to see the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain by night. Both were pretty cool, and the sunset above was taken from the top of the Spanish Steps, looking out over the Vatican nearby. Then we all went and had some gelato, which if you haven't had it in Italy, doesn't count. Best ice cream/frozen yogurt/gelato I have EVER had. Everything really is better in Italy! Then we, at my request, made our way to the Hard Rock Cafe in Rome, since I saw a sign and thought it would be cool to have a drink at the Hard Rock Rome. I knew it'd be pricey, but it was more the fact of having a drink there than how much it cost, so that was pretty cool. Then we walked back to our hostel, and passed out before getting on the train the following morning for Dijon.

Saturday morning,

we got up early to catch a 6:15 train back to France. This journey was easier than the last with only 3 legs, but an adventure nonetheless. The first train took us to Torino, and again had Wifi on the train, which was nice. In Torino, we had a 2 hour layover, so we went out seeking lunch, which was an adventure. Near the Torino station, there isn't much, and absolutely no one speaks English, so, I was our sole translator for lunch at a panini place. Best panini I've ever had? Absolutely. I didn't understand everything he said right away, but I knew enough that I was able to get us all by with food for lunch, which was good. I definitely want to go back there to practice my Italian more, as well as Rome to read all that Latin in the ruins and the Vatican more. Next leg of the trip was a *BUS* from Torino to Lyon Part Dieu, which no one had told us when we purchased our tickets, so we were surprised by that. The bus ride was 4.5 hours surrounded by unfamiliar and smelly people from across Europe, which was an interesting experience. The girl next to me was reading Gomorra in Italian though, which I thought was pretty cool having read part of it for Italian class. I thought about asking about it but figured it'd be safer not to haha. We had our passports checked at the border, where I'm pretty sure a man from Albania was dismissed from the bus as well. Riding on the bus was somewhat cool though, because it allowed us to see the Alps from a different angle and not from the train. I snapped a picture of them as well, but again it's really hard to do those mountain justice in pictures. The color of the rock and how rigid and jagged those peaks are is something special. I also have a new place to explore mountain climbing once I'm done in the States someday. Then we took our train back to Dijon Ville from Lyon Part Dieu, problem free, and after a stop at the super market last night I was ready to crash and relax. I posted pictures from the trip last night on Facebook, so I'll attach the link below as well as links to 360s form Rome. All in all, an incredible trip and one that will need to be repeated, since Italy is too incredible not to go back. No blisters or feet casualties form the trip, despite all the walking, and the only result is a few small spots where I'm pretty sure I got bed bugs from the hostel, but a little neosporin should take care of that soon enough. Can't wait to go back to Rome, but for now, it looks like I'm traveling elsewhere in Europe next weekend following class on Friday! Until next time, enjoy the pictures and views below!

Pictures

http://t.co/LbKIJWS0

360s

Standing inside the Roman ruins: http://t.co/0ExqvkaM
Standing inside the Circus Maximus: http://t.co/M3AJtLTl
Standing inside the Vatican in Rome: http://t.co/9I4V3u0B
Piazza della Repubblica: http://t.co/d8x9fLrx
Piazza near the Trevi Fountain: http://t.co/BakF2ioC
Inside the Roman Colosseum: http://t.co/RqOov4sY

Posted by la vita bella 05:03 Archived in France Tagged mountains france travel bus train river italy castle circus rome roman torino greek vatican pantheon pizza pope dijon german republic swiss latin colosseum milano alps forum trevi catholic tiber caesar gelato lyon chambery maximus archbishop trajan brutus augustus Comments (0)

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