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Entries about photos

12 Days of Traveling Europe

...and all of the adventures in between!

sunny 60 °F

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After my last class for the last two weeks on October 20th, I went home to pack up my backpack for 12 days of travelling across Europe. The things I saw, the things I learned, the strangers I met, and the adventures I had along the way were fascinating. Since it's impossible to cover 12 days, 8 cities, and 4 countries and everything that happened in one post, I'm going to do my best to hit the highlights: the things I enjoyed the most, the best adventures, and the most impactful moments and memories. Take a seat and get ready to travel!

October 20th - October 21st: Milano and Venezia

We left Dijon for Milano in Italy via a night train at 11:30PM on the night of the 20th, ready to rock. All of my friends were traveling with two bags or a backpack and a suitcase but I traveled with just my backpack. Definitely the right way to go, since I had being held down by luggage and reduced mobility when traveling. The night train was 6 hours, so we arrived in Milano at about 6AM. I'm not a coffee drinker, but when we arrived in Milano I was exhausted so I ordered a true Italian cappuccino, and let me tell you: that will wake you up FAST. Wow. It was so small too, like a shot sized cup, but bam, I was awake a ready to explore Milan for the half day we had planned there. Milano is very industrialized, so there's not too much to see there, and it's absolutely loaded with people ready to steal your stuff and steal your money. The Africans who gave me a wristband and asked for money afterwards received nothing, especially since they called me a "playboy" once I told them I was from the US. Another lesson learned in the stereotypes people have of Americans outside the US. We saw the world's largest Gothic church in Milano, took some photos, and moved on for Venezia (Venice for those who don't speak Italian). When we were waiting for our train's gate number, all of a sudden the board begins to read "cancellato". Leave it to the Italians to cancel a train half hour prior to departure. I asked the staff what we should do since I speak Italian and they told us to get on the next train half an hour after hours no problem. Sure enough, it all worked out. Some of my travel companions were stressed over the change, but that's part of learning how to travel: nothing ever goes as planned and life's an adventure. Expect the unexpected and have fun with the adventures that follow. After a pretty simple train ride, we arrived that night in the hostel in Venezia, which was great, and then headed to the city for some late night gelato.

October 22: Venezia

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We got up this morning ready to explore Venezia, which is too romantic and beautiful for words. It's the only city I've ever visited where I think you could legitimately walk through the city with Sepia or black/white lenses on and everything would still be absolutely beautiful. The domes, the churches, the bridges and canals...it's a pretty special place. We spent most of this day wandering around the city, getting lost, and just generally enjoying the city. We also took a "gondola" ride, which is really just the fancy canoes they paddle around the city. It was pretty pricey, but definitely worth it to see the city from ground level by water, travel through the narrow canals, and see the old and famous buildings in Venice. This canal ride is probably one of my two best memories from Venice. The other is when we were trying to find our way out of the city and while we were a bit lost, a French couple came up and asked us for directions. Since I had just asked the nearby police officer in Italian where the way out was, I was able to explain to them in French how to get to where they wanted to go on their map. Although I'm nowhere near fluent in all three, being trilingual and able to manuever in three different languages is awesome. After this we headed back to our next hostel in a different location in Venice for some rest before leaving the next morning for Vienna.

October 23 - October 24: Firenze

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We had to catch an early train out of Venice for Florence this morning, and we arrived in Firenze at about 10AM and headed for the hostel to check our bags for the day. Our hostel in Firenze was a bit special and unique, because they let all travelers write on the walls who pass through. I took a 360 of this and some pictures, so be sure to look at those below after reading. After checking our bags we headed out to explore Florence. Not long after arriving I purchased my new leather jacket at the world famous San Lorenzo leather market. It's an awesome looking jacket, and has a design I've been wanting for a while. It's handmade from Italian leather, and had a surprisingly good price you wouldn't find in the US. I normally don't splurge on fashion, but this was the exception. I found some great leather gloves also to spruce up my existing leather jacket, and bargained with the seller in Italian to knock the price down. Again, a pretty cool experience. Later in the day we explored the famous Duomo in Florence, and I was able to go up into the tower next to it. I got some awesome views from there and some pictures as well. That afternoon we went to the Uffizi Museum which houses some pretty famous artwork, and is right next to the Piazzale Michelangelo, where the Statue of David is. Florence was key in the Renaissance era, so the artwork and architecture there is amazing. Italy is so amazing, the history is just so rich everywhere you go. That night I could tell I was starting to come down with a cold, so I called it a night early.

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The next day I was definitely down with a cold, but I got up and went out on the walking tour anyways because I knew I wouldn't be back anytime soon. My friend who I was going to go with didn't show (he overslept) but I went anyways. It was a great walking tour, and many hostels offer free walking tours, so I definitely recommend doing them whenever you find them. We saw some great examples of renaissance and gothic architecture and artwork, the Salvatore Ferragamo building (didn't know who he was...but I definitely do now!), found the oldest wine bar in Florence, the Ponte Vecchio where lots of really expensive jewelry is sold, and she tipped us off on where to go for the best view of Florence. After the walking tour I headed there to get some pictures which turned out great, and while I was up there I had the best hot chocolate of my life. I was five euros, but I'm pretty sure it was just melted chocolate and milk and came with a world class view, so....I have no complaints. While sitting there I took some time to reflect on things, where I was, what I was looking at, where I was going, and how lucky I am. Sometimes I lose sight of how lucky I am, and every now and then there are moments like that that just sock you in the face and say "you lucky bastard look at this!" Definitely one of those moments, and it made me that much more thankful for the awesome friends and family I have that have helped me get here/there. After this, I left for the hostel again and went back to hang out and relax. That night we went out for dinner and I showed my friend where Italy's best gelato is (the walking tour tour guide tipped us off!). It was SO good. The texture was indescribable, like something in between ice cream, milk, whipped cream, frozen but not quite frozen, and super fresh made that morning. I'm definitely going to miss that.

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October 25: Pisa and Roma

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Another travel day was upon us, and today we traveled in the morning to Pisa for a few hours to see the leaning tower, which is basically all there is to see there. That building really IS leaning, by the way. Pictures make it look leaning, but until you see it in person with the buildings around it you don't really understand how much is actually is leaning. The 360 I took posted below shows that pretty well I think. After visiting Pisa for 3 hours, we headed back to Florence and then took a train to Rome. We arrived in Florence about 5 minutes too late and ended up missing our train to Rome. Again, my travel companions were freaking out, but we got on a train to Rome about half an hour later and all worked out. It's all part of the fun of traveling.

October 26 - 28: Roma

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I had already visited Rome once before a month prior with my American friends, but you can never visit a city of that much historical significance too many times. That night we relaxed in the hostel, getting ready for the next day. On the following day we went to the Roman ruins and the Colosseum and spent about half a day there. I was like a kid in a candy store all over again. Having studied Latin for 5 years in high school, it knocked me off my feet all over again seeing all of those ruins in person. Life is so awesome sometimes. After spending time in the ruins we went into the Colosseum. That place is incredible and it's hard to imagine what it must've been like two thousand years ago full of Romans cheering on gladiator fights. That stuff still fascinates me, and although the Colosseum isn't as big as the football stadiums modelled after it today, it's still an incredible feat of architecture for it's time. We went back that night to see the Colosseum at night, which was pretty cool to see too. It's equally as impressive at night as it is during the day.

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The next day we visited the Vatican, St. Peter's Basilica, and the Vatican Museum. Too much for one day for sure, but we still managed to hit the highlights. We saw the Vatican relics and artifacts in the exhibit inside the Vatican, went to the top of the dome that looks down on the Obelisk in front of the Vatican where masses are held, and inside the Vatican museum we saw tons of famous works of art: statues from the Trojan war, the Sistine Chapel, the School of Athens paintings, Caesar sculptures, and so on. Pretty phenomenal stuff. Out of all of this though, the two highlights of the day for me were none of these.

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On the subway in the morning, we passed a group of about 8 autistic adults heading to the Colosseum for a visit. They were SO excited! Two of them were even gladiator fighting each other with sounds effects and invisible swords. I was able to understand most of what they were saying and they were all super excited to see the Colosseum. It was another reminder to me that I need to volunteer with some organization when I get home to work with autistic kids and adults because they always make me so happy. The other moment was when we were at breakfast. We sat down at a table with an older man who was 80 years old. I began conversing with him in Italian and we later learned that he was from Spain, lived in Portugal, retired and loved to travel, married to a French woman, and spoke French, Italian, German, and of course Spanish. He bought us all a second round of breakfast cappuccinos, but most importantly he reminded me of my grandfather who passed a year ago. His thirst for knowledge, love for travel, and desire to learn new languages was fascinating to me. I hope to be like that when I'm 80 years old, speaking multiple languages and traveling. Sometimes the people you don't even know can having an incredible impact on you. It's one of the many awesome things about traveling the world and living in other cultures. After this day of exploring, we left Rome for Bologna where we then took an over night train to Vienna, Austria for the last city on our grand voyage.

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October 28 - November 1: Vienna

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I had incredible luck with overnight trains on this trip, and the overnight train was no exception. Again, sometimes the strangers you meet traveling can make the trip that much more incredible. When we got on the train, I asked the man across from me if it was ok if we traded seats if necessary since he was traveling alone like myself and I wanted to sit with my two friends for the overnight train (we had opted to sleep in the chairs instead of the cars with beds to save money). He agreed. Later that night, at about midnight, he and I ended up engaging in a discussion on history, Italy, the US, African cultures, and more for about 2 hours until 2am. He was from Nigeria and spoke all three languages fluently from Nigeria, English, and Italian and was in Rome to study history and archaeology. One of my courses last year for Italian was on the history of Italian from the 1000s on, so we had a great talk about that, cultures, forming new cultures, differences, the US, and lots of other awesome stuff. Again, I was fascinated not just by his knowledge and proficiency in languages, something I desire too, but his thirst for knowledge. He was headed to Vienna to visit his brother who had lived there for 15 years to visit his brother but also because he wanted to study German next for history and language purposes. Fascinated, and a sure inspiration to me. He even offered to have his brother help us find our hostel when we arrived in Vienna the next morning. Another lesson learned: strangers are not always bad people when you're traveling foreign countries and are in some cases awesome.

He taught me another lesson that I think is worth mentioning and had been on my mind the past few days coincidentally. Live in the present. Not the past, and not the future. I read a book recently that talked about how the imagined future is as real as the past in affecting our decision making, so live in the present and the now. As I was standing in front of the Colosseum the day before, I was thinking the very same thing. There I was, standing in front of the Roman Colosseum. THE Roman Colosseum. And for the rest of my life, I'll look back on that time I was standing there looking at the Roman Colosseum from the Palatine hill, and I'll remember the excitement from that morning on my way to visit it again, but there, there in that moment, I was in front of it. Take it in. Enjoy it. Savor it. You may never be back. So live in the now. Lesson learned.

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We arrived the next morning in Vienna, ready to explore again. We headed to the hostel first to drop our bags, and then headed out to explore the city. That afternoon we found our way to the Schonbrunn gardens and palace, which are incredibly gorgeous this time of year. It's basically a bunch of very well groomed trees, gardens, and foliage, and we got lucky and caught it all in full fall effect. You won't believe the pictures I got of it, attached below. After exploring here for a bit, we made our way to the Austrian Zoo for a few hours, which is probably the prettiest zoo I've ever visited. Very clean, neat, well organized for seeing all the animals, and the foliage added to the visit. We saw some awesome animals here as well, including the baby panda bear they have. There was an amazing sunset that night as we were leaving, which was a nice pre-end to such an awesome trip. We found a great student bar that night too, where the bartenders working there gave us a free round of welcome shots and showed us a place for food across the street with a student dinner not on the menu to help us save a few bucks. We stayed here for a bit drinking, which is where I met the bartender from my hometown. We live in such a small world. We started talking about where we went to high school, and all the stereotypes we had of each other's schools. Lesson learned: where you study and studied, whether you fit that school's stereotype or not, where you're from, and what you do with your life and the reputation you have will follow you everywhere, even to the other side of the world sometimes. Never forget that.

We spent our next day in Vienna renting bikes for the day and biking around the city siteseeing. It was a pretty cool way to see the city, and on this trip I had now seen some of Europe's most famous cities by foot, bike, train, and boat. Not a bad way to see the world. We met up with two other American students from Dijon for lunch and their American friend studying in Vienna, which was awesome. Always nice to see some fellow Americans when traveling. We ate lunch at a "pay what you wish" all you can eat Indian buffet in Vienna, which was also awesome, especially for a tired traveler on day 12 of an epic journey. We spent the afternoon seeing sights before leaving on our train at about 6pm for Munich. We connected in Munich to a sleeper train headed for Paris. We were finally heading "home". I've spent the last half a year or so asking myself where is home with this wild life I lead, whether at DU, the summer internship in Vail, my parent's house in Parker, Dijon, or somewhere else whoknowswhere in between. But, that's a blog entry for another time... I had good luck again on the sleeper train ending up in a seat area that wasn't completely full and lots of room to spread out and sleep. We arrived in Paris right on time, took the metro across town form Paris Est to Gare de Lyon, and caught our train home to Dijon. We arrived home in Dijon after about 15 hours of train travel across 3 countries coming home.

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November 2: Home in Dijon

Needless to say, after a journey like that, I'm not travelling anywhere this weekend. It'll mark my first weekend in Dijon since arriving on September 5th, 2 months ago. I can't believe I've traveled that much in so little time. I also can't believe I've been calling Dijon home for 2 months now when it feels like I just arrived. I think the next items on the list are local travels around France. I can travel to Paris for free with my rail pass and I can see lots of things in Paris for free with my student card including the Louvre, the Eiffel Tour, The Versailles, The Arc de Triomphe, and more. I'm not broke yet, but I think it's time to slow down for a bit and enjoy France for what IT is. I went to my first class in two weeks tonight and sure enough my French speaking kicked right back in. Being able to convey your ideas in so many different ways is amazing to me. It's like an art but you're able to paint the same story in so many different colors. I am tutoring two French girls starting this week in English and can't wait, the language nerd in me is freaking out a tad bit. I can't decide now if I should learn German or Spanish next, though Spanish would be more useful in the business market right now. Maybe I'll be lucky enough to learn both someday... As for life in France, there's actually homework due during the month of November as the only work I've done thus far is a mid term in a class and light homework here or there, so it's time to get to work. I returned to more residence problems (of course), but I'm not going to ruin an epic blog entry like this with so many positive lessons learned in it with residence drama. I'm still probably coming home 10 days early as a result of the residence problems, but more on that later. I've posted the links to pictures and a few 360s below, and I hope you've enjoyed reading about all of my travel adventures!

Au revoir!

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Full Picture Gallery

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2595779575755.2145267.1292672395&type=1&l=f5042237d3

360s

Piazza in Milano: http://360.io/9w3fUN
Standing alongside the Grand Canal in Venice: http://360.io/2qnnhV
Renaissance Architecture in Florence: http://360.io/5vyfcV
Best view in all of Florence: http://360.io/24Z2m9
The Hostel in Florence: http://360.io/NrBVnz
See the Leaning Tower of Pisa: http://360.io/kN4wdz
Stand inside the Vatican: http://360.io/wvYzAT
Visit the Colosseum at night: http://360.io/YLPczF
The Roman Ruins: http://360.io/fW6aUv
Emperor Nero's private garden: http://360.io/NfHVVW
Inside the Roman Colosseum: http://360.io/5EB35W
Standing inside the Sistine Chapel: http://360.io/TkCn9Z
Study at the School of Athens: http://360.io/Gw5nyJ
Palace in Austria: http://360.io/YpbEUn
The Schonbrunn Fall Foliage: http://360.io/49yuCx

Full account page for all of my 360's: http://occipital.com/user/ccc6-62663/scott-larson

Happy travels everyone!!!

Posted by la vita bella 13:32 Archived in France Tagged landscapes sunsets_and_sunrises mountains lakes bridges churches art buildings skylines people children animals sky snow night boats castles beer london cathedrals venice vienna tower paris france history travel hotel train trekking village zoo metro river austria germany italy pisa backpack city ski museum friends philippines florence garden cathedral sculpture family africa castle hostel rome photos language french roman wine boy bike europe painting gondola mtn greek vatican pantheon international pope housing schonbrunn tiergarten dijon german united republic latin colosseum milano abroad michelangelo munich forum american bern chapel panoramic residence osprey catholic ville dame architechture renaissance tiber caesar jardin gelato lyon study iphone learning sistine euros 360 prepared princeton città nigeria esc maximus archbishop trajan brutus augustus ponts couverts camera+ mannheim francs francophone sncf trenitalia sinking statesuffizi raffael Comments (1)

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)

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)

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