A Travellerspoint blog

October 2011

Switzerland!

My long lost home.

sunny 60 °F

There's a lot to cover in this entry since a lot has transpired since my last entry, so here goes...

France

Life continues here in France without too much excitement aside from the housing challenges. I'm basically only in Dijon Monday through Friday, sometimes only Monday afternoon through Friday afternoon even, so there's not too much to say. The housing situation continues to drag on and on and at this point I'm ready to put a bullet to it. They've continued to ask for the money, reducing it by not returning my security deposit (ok, I guess), but the bed bug problem continues. I've taken every step I can to lessen it with bug sprays and washing my clothes and so on, but I'm refusing to pay until they're gone. At this point it's beginning to look like I may even by flying back to the States two weeks early solely because of this problem, instead of flying home on 12/20 like initially planned. That means my travel plans to Scandinavia may not happen, nor the plans with my friend to visit northern Africa, but such is life. Anyways, on to the exciting stuff...

Switzerland!!

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All I can say is wow. Have a lot at the pictures linked below and especially the 360s to have a glimpse into the Swiss Alps, and you'll see why. As a mountain man, skier, hiker, climber, 14er addict, and so on, this place was like a place of dreams for me. Seeing the Matterhorn in person and visiting Zermatt ski resort was phenomenal, and we had exceptional weather for all of it. Friday night we left Dijon at around 730pm on a train for Lausanne Switzerland. The French train company SNCF was delayed slightly like usual, and thus we missed our connecting train to Luzern by a few minutes. Stuck in Lausanne at 10pm is not exactly ideal, and our hostel only allows check in until midnight. So...we proceeded to take a variety of trains towards Luzern, and arrived there at 12:45. The hostel remained open for us until 1:10, but charged us 2 Swiss Francs per minute after midnight, so we had to pay a pretty penny (about 13Euros/person) for being late. No travel is complete without a bit of adventure though I suppose, so I didn't let it bother me too much.

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Saturday we got up to a gray and cloudy Luzern, bummed with the weather but ready to explore anyways. We checked out the local market, which was rather cool, and then headed towards Mt. Pilatus, a towering peak near Luzern. I had never heard of this place, but it was spectacular. We took the world's longest gondola to mid mountain and explored for a bit there. This put us above the clouds, before taking a second larger gondola up to the top where a hotel and restaurant are. We walked around here for a bit, and I took some pictures and 360s. You really are above the clouds and the views of the Alps are unworldly. After exploring here for a bit, we took the world's steepest cog train down to a lake where we took a tram back into the town of Luzern. It's incredible how well connected Switzerland is by rail. You can get on trains all over the country with camping gear, ski gear, mountaineering gear, and go to a mountain to play outside. It's amazing. And, Subaru is the official car. It's incredible. And the people in Switzerland are gorgeous. Surely my future wife is there somewhere...

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Anyways, Sunday we got up super early to head to Zermatt for the day before returning to Dijon. We took a series of 3 trains from Luzern to Zermatt which went through Bern and other places. We arrived at Zermatt at around 10am, and I was like a kid in a candy store. There were people on the train with skis, getting ready to go skiing. People in the ticket line were buying lift tickets. If only I had known I could ski, I would've rented gear if only for one run in the Alps. It was a bluebird day, so the pictures and 360s turned out absolutely spectacular. We took a cog train up to the top of the ski area, which is surrounded by 29 peaks higher than 4000m, so you can imagine on a bluebird day what it's like. We all took pictures and enjoyed lunch up there, explored a little bit, and took it all in. There's also a small church up there we found, so I lit a candle for my grandfather who passed last year. If you asked me why, I'm not sure I could tell you, but it just felt right and something moving was telling me to do it. After this, we all headed back down to catch our train back to Lausanne and then back to Dijon. We arrived back in Dijon at about 930pm Sunday evening, wrapping up a phenomenal weekend. The inflation in Switzerland is outrageous, so I nearly bankrupted myself and had to use my American card once to save myself, but it was worth every single penny to see that place and those mountains. I'll be back to climb them someday.

Yesterday I celebrated my birthday here in Dijon, which was relatively uneventful. I'm not a big fan of celebrations, so it was nice. I really wanted to go to Paris to celebrate in a more exciting place, but it's not about when you celebrate, it's about who you're with, so maybe some other time. Today and tomorrow I'll be prepping for my French test tomorrow night, and it's odd because it's one of the first times I've actually had actual work to do here with any level of pressure. After the exam we're going to go out to some French clubs to celebrate my birthday though, which should be fun. I put together my schedule for next quarter tonight as well, which means it's time to start looking ahead, as much of an adventure as study abroad has been for me. Speaking of adventures, the school has a holiday week next week, so some friends and I are taking off Thursday night for 12 days of traveling! We're heading to Italy, visiting Milan, Florence, Venice, Rome, and Pisa before heading to Vienna in Austria for a few days and then looping back through Paris to Dijon on the 1st of November. Not a bad adventure, and I'm saving tons of money with my Eurail pass too (this trip is costing 150 Euros in total for transportation...that's all.). I've learned a ton from experiencing other cultures first hand, which has been awesome. All this traveling is going to bankrupt me soon, but I'm ok with that because of the places I'm seeing and how much I'm learning. Hopefully I can practice my Italian more in Italy too. That also means there probably won't be another blog update until I get back around the first or second of November. That all said, I should probably go study some more for that French exam tomorrow night... Be sure to check out the pictures and 360s below though for a look inside Switzerland!

Au revoir!

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Pictures:
http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2538515184181.2143410.1292672395&type=1&l=a994aaa417

360s! These are both my favorite ones I've taken so far.

Top of Mt. Pilatus: http://360.io/dff38k
Top of Zermatt Ski Resort: http://360.io/4dqBdB

Posted by la vita bella 13:33 Archived in France Tagged landscapes sunsets_and_sunrises mountains lakes bridges churches art skylines people snow night boats trains paris hiking france travel hotel train trekking village italy backpack ski bells friends philippines cathedral family hostel photos language french hike wine torino europe mtn vatican switzerland international housing dijon swiss milano alps american panoramic residence osprey law scout study iphone learning vail euros 360 14ers maroon rmvr scouting scouts esc camera+ francs Comments (0)

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)

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