A Travellerspoint blog

France

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)

Dijon Aujourd'hui, Roma Domani

The adventure begins.

overcast 65 °F

So much has happened since I wrote last that it's hard to remember where I left off, so I'll start with Saturday. Saturday I went on a pretty cool wine tour of the Burgundy region. Unfortunately, it was more a vines tour sans the wine, but was nonetheless fun and exciting. It was an absolutely beautiful day with nothing but blue skies from start to finish, which made for phenomenal pictures all day. I also realized that 85 degrees, it was the hottest weather I had felt in a full 12 months thanks to Denver fall/winter/spring and summer in Vail. Not a bad way to live. I have attached a few pictures below as well as a link to the full gallery I posted on Facebook to the pictures from the wine tour. It's pretty unbelievable how much wine and vineyards there are here... It was almost as though I had traded a skyline full of mountains for a skyline full of vineyards as far as the eye could see at times. Pretty awesome. I got to see my first two castles here in France, which was AWESOME!! It absolutely blows my mind, still, to think about those. How long they've been around, how long they will probably still be here because of the protection and acknowledgement of their historic significance, how much they've probably seen, from wars to plagues and famine, to drought, harsh winters, etc, the architects that designed them, the fact that they were probably built by HAND over a thousand years ago, the wars they've fought and seen, so on and so on. It just blows my mind. So so cool, and they're everywhere over here! It's awesome. On the tour we also got to visit the Hotel Dieu in Beaune, which you may not know by name, but I'm sure you've seen pictures do to its famous rooftop tiles, and I took a 360 shot from inside the courtyard as well because I thought it was just too cool. We were then given a couple of hours to explore Beaune after visting Hotel Dieu, which is a very cool, cute, small town about 30 mins by train from Dijon. It's definitely on my list of places to day explore and also to take my girlfriend for a day when she comes here to visit in a couple of months.

Sunday was mainly just a lazy day. I didn't realize how much is actually closed around here on Sundays until I tried to find things to do here. I've heard from many that the French have a great appreciation and respect for the family and self time and long lunches and relaxing and so on, so everything was closed on Sunday. The one highlight on Sunday was the 9/11 service held for the handful of Americans who live in the city. The ironic part of it was that 9/11 is also the anniversary of the liberation of Dijon during World War II, so it was really more of a celebration than remembrance for us, full of a full band, soldiers, the mayor of Dijon, and so on. Pretty cool, and we got to see the inside of the town hall here, absolutely gorgeous as you would expect, and we got to be interviewed by a news reporter for TV as American students on our reaction to 9/11 then now. Cool fact related to that also, I have now been in all forms of news media: print, online, radio, and TV. Weird, but cool. No one I know personally can say the same. There are pictures of that as well in my gallery, Daily Life in Dijon, France, link is below.

Yesterday was another adventure, although stressful at times. It was a combination of more exploring, which led to more pictures of Cathedrals since they're everywhere and super photogenic and a new 360. I haven't fully explored it yet, but from the campus tour, the ESC gym is tiny. It makes me respect, appreciate, and miss the Ritchie Center SO much. I'll be looking forward to coming home to that, both for fitness and job's sake. As a result, I looked up a bunch of "home gym" body weight exercises and made a long list before going to work. I worked out for about two hours since it's been almost 10 days since the gym at home, doing everything from dips with a chair and my bed, to pull ups on the back of the door, to push ups, sit ups, and a variety of other things. It's going to be interesting for sure, but another kid I met from Germany wants to explore the gym too since he works out a lot at home, so maybe next week I'll give that a go with him. Monday was also a bunch of running around trying to figure out my bank situation. Long story short and many hours of walking later, I've been to the bank five times in the last two days, and I finally have money here. Just in time before my last meal was eaten too. Also yesterday, my girlfriend bought a ticket to come visit for a week over Thanksgiving break in the States. I am too excited and can't wait to have her over here. This has been a bit of a roller coaster ride and an adventure to say the least, but she and I are taking it step by step and week by week, and I couldn't be happier with that right now. I'll have to work out the timing while my family is here part of that week also, but I'm sure we'll find a way.

That brings things up to the present for now! Tomorrow morning I am leaving with the four kids from Kentucky and we're all going to go explore Rome for a few days before coming back on Saturday since "class" starts on Monday evening I think. I can't even begin to express my excitement to spend the next few days in Rome. Five years of Latin in high school and having just finished up 3 years of classes for my Italian minor, I am going to explode. Literally. My Osprey backpack I bought way back in April for 14ers is turning into an amazing travel pack also, and I couldn't be more satisfied with that also. I probably won't update again until I get back from Rome, full of pictures of every Roman place and artifact I studied about through high school, or at least as many as I can find while we're there! I'm hoping to get a 360 from inside the Colosseum also...so stay tuned for that!

Until next time, au revoir, arrivederci, et merci beaucoup for reading!

PICTURES:

Daily Life in Dijon (ever growing, so bookmark it!): http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2394979315874.2138738.1292672395&l=e693c79b73&type=1
Burgundy Wine Tour: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2405930389644.2139035.1292672395&l=b843accb82&type=1

360s

(these look better if opened on an iPhone, by the way)

Palais des Ducs et des Etats de Bourgogne: http://t.co/lCij9eq
My flat in Dijon: http://360.io/Q2hnRe
Chateu Vougeot: http://360.io/PXeLpv
Hotel Dieu: http://360.io/aQWhxd

And the highlights!

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I am taking my girlfriend here first thing for a date night out, and I can't wait.
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Au revoir!

Posted by la vita bella 11:00 Archived in France Tagged castles cathedrals france history hotel italy rome roman dijon abroad study vail 360 beaune girlfriend esc dieu Comments (0)

Dijon!

Exploration of France's hidden gem

I know it's only been a few days since my last post and I normally write less frequently than that, but so much has transpired in the last few days I felt compelled to write and put some thoughts to paper and to rest.

After a rougher than anticipated transition, things are beginning to settle and are looking up. I met a really awesome group of kids from the Philippines, who I've spent most of my time hanging out with lately since they speak English and are very outgoing and fun to be around. I had dinner the other night as well with a girl who apparently knows me on Facebook even though I'm not totally sure I know her, and she's from Brazil. Two girls form South Korea joined us as well along with a girl from London. This has truly been a pretty eye opening experience for me to get to meet people form around the world, literally, and to hear their thoughts and views and hear about their cultures. It's pretty fascinating to me, really. Speaking of different views, this morning myself and two other American students from Kentucky were interviewed by a French radio reporter about our thoughts and reactions to 9/11. He was very curious to know about where we were, what we were doing, what we thought then and now, and if we thought the 10th anniversary of it posed a threat at all. Afterwards, I asked him what he thought and what the general French reaction was to the incident when it happened, and it was very interesting to hear. World views fascinate me, so it's been really cool to hear. Many of the people I've met flew west to east to get here, instead of east to west, so it's been interesting to hear about their journeys as well. It's weird to me how few Americans are here also. Four from Kentucky, one from Dallas, and myself. That's it. I'm hoping to meet a few more when we all go to the event that the city of Dijon is hosting on Sunday morning for all Americans in the city in honor of 9/11 and make some more connections there.

The orientation stuff has been going very well so far also. Sanaa has been very helpful, and I find it funny that when we pass in the halls she knows my face, even though I've had very little interaction with her here in France. Not surprising, but slightly funny given how much trouble we had with housing. Things in the flat are starting to get settled and the only thing left here is to sort out electricity with EDF. There are still a few cultural differences in the flat that I'm getting used to I think, but so far everything has been nice here and I'm happy to call it my home for four months, if I actually spend that much time in here.

Other bizarre things:

My brain has started to function in French half the time I think. If I know how to say it in French, construct the sentence in French, know the voacb word in French, etc, I'll generally think it in French and I've had to stop myself a few times when writing emails or messages to friends and home to write something in English. It's very very weird to me, but very cool too, and hopefully when I leave in four months I'll be able to speak much better. I don't expect to become fluent, but almost no one here speaks English, which is good for me.

My class schedule: I don't yet how much outside class work is expected, but most of my classes only require 15 hours of in class time, spread across the entire semester. Lots and lots and lots of free time it seems and time for travel. No class is on a set schedule, it changes every week. And, at least one maybe two of my classes haven't been scheduled yet. They're happening, they just simply haven't been "scheduled" yet. Seems odd to me, but I'm just trying to roll with the punches as best I can and learning as much as I can from everything. I'll find out more in the coming weeks i guess, but it all seems odd. And, I have no classes the week of my birthday! I hope that stays true, because I want to be traveling on my birthday if I can!

Other odds and ends:

I opened a French bank account this week with BNP, but I'm out of euros until Monday it seems unless the wire transfer miraculously appears tomorrow when I think banks here are closed. I bought a French mobicarte phone yesterday. I spoke nothing but French from the minute I walked into the Orange store to the minute I walked out with the phone because the lady spoke no English, so I was excited about that. There were times where it was awkward, difficult, and I'm sure she didn't fully understand my French, but nonetheless, mission accomplished. I fried my electric razor. Totally fried. I forgot to use the converter one morning I think, and killed it. So, I'm waiting on another one from the States (as we say here) and doing my best to get by until then. I haven't worked out since arriving, and it's driving me crazy (although probably good for my STILL sprained wrist...) and hopefully I can give the tiny school gym a try next week on Monday. Wifi is impossible to find over here. I've only found one place across the city in my wandering so far that has had free Wifi, which means their business is probably about to increase also. The girlfriend situation is working out well so far, and we've managed to skype a fair amount. It's hard, it's tough, and at times it sucks, but we're working it out day by day, and working on a plane ticket for her to come out and visit for a week, which should be fun especially if I have very few if any classes.

Last but not least... PICTURES!! All of these, the 360s included, have been taken with my iPhone 4 while out wandering the streets of Dijon using the 360 and Camera+ apps. Can't say enough good things about either of them.

360 of Square Darcy today: http://t.co/sLRdObc
360 of Square Grangier: http://t.co/F7QRCGJ
Facebook photo album (and growing): http://t.co/loFDirB

And a few of my favorite highlights!

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Posted by la vita bella 13:35 Archived in France Comments (0)

Hello, France.

The journey across the pond to explore new places.

So much and so little to say at the same time.

Moving home from Vail was bittersweet. I am going to miss living in such an awesome place so much, and hope to return there again in the future. Driving out of that Valley was a bummer, but the excitement for what lay ahead was amazing. I'll miss being in the best shape of my life while living there this summer, but maybe I can return to that next year. Spending my last few days in the States at home was great, and although I thought I appreciated them then, I still don't think I did now. Spending time with my mom, my dad, my brother, and my grandparents was awesome. I miss them all more than I expected I would, and I can't wait for the family to come visit over their Thanksgiving break. Packing was a challenge, but having been here in Dijon for almost 2 days now, I think I did pretty well. It definitely took the full three days to pack, unpack, and repack, as I did this 4 times total to get everything I desired into two suitcases, a midsize backpacking pack, and a Timbuk 2 bag. The mine stereo my parents claimed wouldn't work works perfectly, and has made a huge difference in allowing me to listen to music while enduring this initial emotional roller coaster of adjustment. I doubted the satchel bag because I never used it much, but it has been the best thing I brought with me so far.

Travel
Amazingly smooth travels from start to finish. I had enough things packed into my two carryons it would've taken my half an hour to repack them had TSA decided they were worth a look, but luckily they made it through fine. No major flight delays other than 90 minutes in Dallas once already on the plane to Paris, and all went well once I landed. No lost baggage (hooray!), the cab driver to train station number one was very nice, informative, and complimented my French. Train ride was smooth, and wow are those TGV trains fast! Zip zip. The gentleman next to me on the train was very kind and helpful, and the train ride was gorgeous, even at 200 some odd kilometers an hour. The castles you pass, old villages, the pastures and rolling hills, rivers, etc are all incredibly beautiful. I arrived in Dijon safely with all of my stuff, and then took another cab fare to my residence where I again conversed with my driver in some French. I'm sure my level of speaking is poor right now, but I can already tell the improvements because of the application of words instead of studying textbooks or flashcards is tremendous.

Dijon
I arrived yesterday evening, and began to set up my things, not taking note of time. I hadn't eaten since my flight landed at around 10am, and by the time I went out to grab food at about 8pm, everything was closed except a lone burger place. Not the best food in the world, but it passed for how hungry I was. Today was much better as I was able to get out and explore the city this afternoon after a skype date with my girlfriend. I stumbled upon a super market, which was ideal for how much food I needed for my flat and no meal plan. I then made it home and after talking with my parents on skype for a bit, I went back out to try to find the university, since I have to be there tomorrow morning for orientation. Got totally lost, and I'm sure I looked it and looked American. But, eventually after two hours I found my way home again, and found a much closer super market, the university, and an Orange store, where I plan to get some kind of cell phone soon. It was an adventurous day for sure, and I'm starting to adjust a little to the time change. Last night was painfully hard, between hunger with no food, jet lag, a little lonely, missing friends and family, and my body thinking it should be daylight when it wasn't, but today was much better and I'm looking forward to things once I get better adjusted.

That's the gist of things for now, but stay tuned for when I begin to venture out and travel more. No pictures yet, as I'm trying hard to avoid the "idiot American tourist" look for a bit, but I'm sure I'll have the chance to snap some photos soon. Cool side note: I made the front page of du.edu today in the States for my lifesaving story, check out the article if you have time! Link: http://blogs.du.edu/today/news/student-saves-man%E2%80%99s-life-receives-award-for-heroism

Posted by la vita bella 12:39 Archived in France Comments (0)

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