Our last days in France

Now I realize I haven’t posted in a longggggg time, and that I’m back in America. But this blog is as much for anyone reading it as it is for me. Since I don’t really journal, this is the only thing I have to remember all that we did! So I’m hoping to finish off all the other trips so I don’t forget everything! But my memory isn’t exactly great, so we’ll see what I can remember. And since it is the super bowl today, Go Hawks!

At this point, it was Friday in our reading week, and our trip was coming to a close. That morning we woke up and headed straight to the Louvre. Now if you’re a fan of Robert Langdon you’ll remember the Louvre from the Da Vinci Code, if not you’ll probably not is as one of the most impressive (if not the most impressive) art museum in the world. It houses everything from the Mona Lisa, to the Winged Victory of Samothrace (which is the Greek goddess of Victory called  Nike, and it is no coincidence this is the same name that Nike footwear has, as they took this name directly from the Greeks because she was the goddess of Victory!), to the famous Liberty Leading the People representing the French Revolution. It is literally huge. You could spend a month in there and not see everything.

So we decided to really just do the hits and a few other collections. We obviously wanted to see the Mona Lisa and the Winged Victory of Samothrace. But, the Winged Victory was under restoration when we were there so we couldn’t see it! And even worse, when we got to Liberty Leading the People, there was a sign saying it was currently in another gallery until 2014!  I realize this isn’t a huge deal, since we were fortunate enough to get to Paris and go to the Louvre, something most people don’t get to do, so I count myself quite blessed! We did however get to see the Mona Lisa, and my oh my what a show that was. So much of a show in fact it’s hilarious. It’s behind incredibly thick glass, with an arch around it keeping people at least 15 feet away at all times, with two guards there protecting it. And then there were all the tourists, and boy what a mess that was. When we were there I thought it was pretty crowded, you looked into a sea of at least 60 people all trying to get a view of Mona. In this crowd you could see a plethora of iphones lifted in the air and ipads, and even a number of people taking the incredibly “appropriate” (sarcasm intended) selfie. However, if you were to ask them why the Mona Lisa is such an important artwork, I doubt many could answer. It was as if most were there just because they knew it was important and that they should see it. For the record, it’s important, according to the ever trusty Wikipedia, because of, “The ambiguity of the subject’s expression, which is frequently described as enigmatic, the monumentality of the composition, the subtle modeling of forms and the atmospheric illusionism”. and  Even worse, was Greta told us that in the summer, it’s even worse, because there are wayyyyy more people. So I guess we were fortunate enough not to be in a larger crowd! Here is a photo of the mob around Mona, and some other photos of the Louvre, including a few others of people photographing art. Full disclosure, I too took a selfie with Mona. I mean why not? Haha, can’t be too serious about these things. Though I believe Da Vinci is writhing in his grave right now based on what is happening to his Mona on a daily basis.

Below, a lady who thought she successfully got a selfie with Mona without anyone noticing. She was wrong.

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My selfie with Mona, I mean why not?

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This guy who just wanted to photograph some art.

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Here is our group outside with the Louvre Pyramid!

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After spending several hours at the Louvre, and I mean several, I think we were there four or five hours? Not totally sure, but I do remember we all wanted to sit down after all the walking! We grabbed a quick lunch somewhere before catching the Paris metro out to see the Catacombs of Paris. The Catacombs were renovated in the 1780’s, so that the cemeteries of Paris could be emptied, and the bones moved here. It wasn’t until 1810, that someone organized all the bones into what you see today. Now the Catacombs hold approximately the remains of 6 million people, and the skulls and femurs are all organized into various designs. All in all it’s about a 2 kilometer walk through this chilling place. Definitely an interesting experience, though with how small the tunnels were, I don’t think I really need to go back.

The entrance to the Catacombs “Stop! Here lies the Empire of Death”

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After this we headed towards the Eiffel Tower. We wanted to climb it! It’s only 3 euros to climb, and you can get all the way to the second level. It was over 500 hundred steps, probably more, but again I do not remember at this point.

Here is a photo of me on the second level overlooking Paris!

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We went out to Dinner that night and had another amazing three course Paris meal, which we finished off with some Nutella Crepes! Which were amazing! We headed back to go to bed  so we could get read for the next day! We woke up and headed to the Paris Pantheon, because we wanted to see Napoleon’s tomb! Unfortunately when we got there we discovered Napoleon was not buried there. But there were plenty of other big-wigs there! Voltaire (a philosopher, writer), Victor Hugo (the man who wrote Les Miserables), Jean Jacques Rousseau (a philosopher), Marie Curie (a scientist) and many more are all buried in the Pantheon. Below is the main statue in the Pantheon, located on the ground floor. Most people are buried below.

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After this, we headed over to Notre Dame Cathedral, which even in the cold drizzle that started, was still a zoo. Right next to it was one of the man lock bridges in Paris. Like I mentioned earlier I believe, couples go to a lock bridge, put a lock on it, and throw the key in the river, so the lock cannot be undone. It’s supposed to represent their love being unbreakable. The funny thing though is that this is a tradition that started in Florence! Though now it has spread to several other locations, including Paris.

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Here is a photo of the inside, taken from the back looking forward. Pictured is Mary holding Jesus after the crucifixion and the cross in the background.

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Now, the one thing we had to do still since we messed up the first time was to find Napoleon’s tomb. Which happened to be located in the Army Museum, the one thing in Paris that Emory wanted to see, so everyone one! Napoleon’s tomb was pretty incredible. This photo is from the top looking down, but you can also walk down into it and walk in a circle around it, as you can see some people doing. It’s pretty unreal.

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We then headed back to our hotel to get changed, because we were meeting up with a friend of Greta’s from high school. We met her in what I believe was the old Jewish Quarter of Paris? I can’t exactly remember. We ended up getting Falafel, which was by far and away the best I’ve ever had. We proceeded to walk around and even see the apartment where Victor Hugo lived, as well as many other cool little shops. Paris is a huge city, and all the little neighborhoods are pretty cool. It would be a cool city to live in. After all this we head to get dessert, so logically we went for more Crepes! Which we got from a roadside vendor, and he even gave us a free one, because he made it for some guy who took off before he finished it. It was only after all these crepes, that we headed back to our hostel in order to get ready for the next day, because we had to wake up early to catch a train to Normandy! It was just Greta and her friend and I that went to Normandy, which was pretty cool. We took the train up to Bayeux, where we were meeting our tour guide for the day. We ended up being in Normandy on November 10th, or a day before Armistice day, the day that ended hostilites on the western front for WWI. Before our tour though we had some time to explore Bayeux, not only did we get to the Bayeux Tapestry, an incredibly important medieval tapestry that depicted the invasion of England by the Normans in 1066. So I really enjoyed that. After the Tapestry we went to the Cathedral in town, which was honestly my favorite cathedral the entire trip. It was incredibly beautiful, and it definitely helped that it was a perfectly blue skied day.

Below is a photo of the cathedral.

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After exploring Bayeux for about 2 hours, we met up with our tour guide, and drove out to Pont Du Hoc, the point where the Rangers were deployed before the initial D-Day assault. Funnily enough though, due to the constant shelling of Pont Du Hoc, at this time, the Germans were working on these bunkers. So when the Rangers landed, instead of the expected artillery in the bunkers, they only found trees and netting used to give the appearance of artillery guns. The actual artillery guns were located a ways back. The rangers did find these and neutralize them, though I can imagine they were confused to see the trees in the bunkers instead of real guns. Below is a photo of one of those bunkers.

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Here is a picture of Pont Du Hoc, you can notice all the implosions in the ground from all the shelling of the Point that occurred before the invasion.

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Next on our tour we went to Omaha beach, which is now quite different. The barriers that were in the water are all gone, and a row of houses are along the beach. It’s as if it was always a normal beach. One of the houses there was were the german high command was located during the occupation, and we got to see that. Next, we headed to the American Cemetery. Luckily for us, when we were there, the Cemetery was open. The reasonfor this is the land there is granted to the American government by France, so the cemetery is in fact American Land. More specifically it is an American Park. So when the government shutdown, even this park was closed. So numerous tourists visiting France could not get into the cemetery. Grounds workers still cleaned the cemetery while it was closed, so as to preserve the respect for the fallen men who gave their lives during D-day. One condition of this being American land, is that the Americans can not use it to make a profit, so the park is free, the visitors center there is free, and nothing can be sold there. If the Americans tried to change this and sell things, the French are entitled to reclaim this land. The cemetery itself is beautiful. Initially it only held wooden grave markers, yet these have been replaced by Marble ones for every soldier. There is also a statue on the grounds to commemorate the American Youth. The reason for this? Most of those who died at D-Day were quite young. I believe our tour guide told us the youngest soldier buried in the American Cemetery is 15, forhe lied on his enlistment in order to fight. Also, while the Jewish Americans now have a star of David for their headstone, during the invasion, nothing would have denoted them as Jewish. For if they were captured, it could have been incredibly dangerous for them to be identified as Jewish. One last tidbit, is that families had the choice of where they wanted their relatives buried. They could leave the body in Normandy, or the body could be returned to the U.S. Right now, there are 9,387 American dead buried there. It was a sombering experience to walk through the cemetery, though at the same time was a beautiful memorial, a fitting tribute to the men who gave their lives in WWII.
Here are some photos of the cemetery.

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After all this we headed back to Bayeux to catch our train back into Paris. We headed back to our hostel to get one last night of sleep in the city of lights. The next morning we woke up and got one last Chocolate croissant, before doing some last minute souvenir shopping. We also even made it up to the Basilica Sacre Coeur.

Here is a photo of the Basilica.

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Here is a photo of the view from the Basilica, one great last look of Paris. We then headed out to catch our bus to the Airport before flying back to Dublin. It was a long 10 days, but they were all amazing. I would go back in a heartbeat.

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Some lists

First off, given how much work I’ve been doing this week for classes, and how much work I still have to do, in addition to enjoying my last few days in Ireland, this is going to be my last blogpost from overseas. I still plan on getting to my other trips, but that is going to have to wait until I am back in the States!

Anyways, given that my departure from Ireland is now only three days away, I thought it would be appropriate to put up some top ten lists. Try to not to take these too seriously, I certainly didn’t.

What I’m going to miss most about Europe and Ireland

10. Castles. The U.S. might think of itself as quite the hotbed of history, but considering I’ve seen over ten castles during my short stay in Europe, I’m just gonna give the win to Europe. I mean it wasn’t really even a contest…

9. New Currency. The Dollar may make you holler, but not me. Really, I’m just going to miss one and two euro coins, which are super useful.

8. Dublin’s Burrito obsession. You know how at Georgetown there are at least 10 different fro-yo spots walking distance from the front gate? Yea that’s Trinity College, except with Burrito bars.

7. Pubs. They say if you want a way to challenge yourself, try and navigate a route through Dublin without passing a pub. I’d pay good money to someone if they could do this, cause I’m pretty sure it’s impossible. There is nothing quite like going out to your local pub on a Friday and having a nice micro-brew though, and alas, as I’m still 20, it will be a while before I get to do this again.

6. Getting to speak different languages. I may not be the best in either German or Spanish, but I can still hold my own. And what I’m really going to miss is having people say stuff to me in a foreign language, like that night in Spain I was mistaken for someone else and this girl insisted to me that I’m a really good dancer. If you know me you’ll get why that’s funny. If you don’t know me, I am in fact a really good dancer.

5. The Euro look. Getting back to the states is gonna be an odd transition, going from Europe, a land of scarves and jumpers (otherwise known as a sweater) to the overwhelming pastel sea that is Georgetown will be a shock. One that I’m not looking forward to.

4. Accents. Getting to wake up and go to class with people from Scotland, England, Ireland, France, Germany, Mexico, Sweden and Poland is something I’m going to miss namely because I think accents are pretty cool. I’ve even been told over here that I have a cool accent.

3. Traveling. I’m fairly confident that I slept in hostels as many nights as I slept in my own room in Dublin. While I certainly won’t miss my now numerous near death experiences with Ryanair, I will certainly miss traveling. There really is nothing quite like hoping off the airplane in a completely new country in a city you’ve only dreamed about going to.

2. Irish/Scottish/English slang. It’s been good craic being over here, and picking up on some slang over here has been quite fun. And when I say pick up slang, I mean having to pick it up to avoid being made fun of. The amount of times I’ve been corrected for saying sweater as opposed to jumper or pants as opposed to trousers is unreal.

1. Guinness. The Irish say that the quality of the Guinness is directly related to how far away from the factory you are. And I completely agree. If you haven’t had a Guinness in Dublin, you haven’t had Guinness, it’s that simple.

What I’m most looking forward to in the States

10. Not having to top up my phone. Being on a minute plan has been pretty weird. I mean, there are times where I look at my phone, see I have a message and then go to my computer to respond via Facebook to that person because I don’t want to use my limited number of minutes. It will be nice not having to top up monthly anymore.

9. Not having to knock on a small gate to get back on campus. I mean, the walls are cool and all, but sometimes when I just got back from a weekend trip and it’s midnight it would be nice to just walk onto campus instead of trying to find the one open entrance.

8. Wisey’s. A staple of my Georgetown diet is Wisey’s, a nearby sandwich shop. If I don’t frequent it at least once a week it’s because I’m not in DC. Pretty sure during finals I consumed an unholy number of sandwiches from there, and I’m ok with that.

7. Exchange rates. Foreign currency may be pretty to look at, but the whole exchange thing has made me do more math then I’ve done in the past three years. Getting back to a place where 20 dollars is really 20 dollars will be cool. Oh and it’s also cool cause any of the cities I’ll be in, DC, Spokane or Seattle, are all cheaper than Dublin.

6. Driving. Really excited to go do some cookies one night in the Albertson’s parking lot near my house.

5. Paying for healthcare. Everyone knows free things aren’t good. And this whole free healthcare nonsense over here is absolutely wild, if I don’t get to pay for something it clearly isn’t worth having.

4. Accents. As sad as I am to leave European accents, I’m so excited to get back to American accents, cause they will truly make it feel like home. As my good friend once said, “We Americans slur our words, and we are damn proud of it.”

3. Preservatives. Why have fresh food when I can get food that will last me for a month? I mean, I am on a budget here Ireland, I can’t exactly afford to buy food that I later have to throw out cause it went bad in two days…

2. Wifi. The fact that I’ve been using an ethernet cord almost exclusively while in Dublin is definitely a throwback, and not one that I’ve particularly enjoyed.

1. ‘Murrica, Need I say more?

In all seriousness though, what I’m most excited about coming home to, and what I’m most sad about leaving are the people. I know I’m coming home to an amazing group of family and friends and for that I’m incredibly thankful. But I’m also really sad about having to leave all my friends that I’ve made over here. Goodbyes are hard, ya know? Especially when one fairly expensive flight across a giant ocean separates you from people.

To anyone reading this back in the states, I’m sure I will be seeing most of you soon!

Thanksgiving and some Sleepwalking

Again, this post is super late, school continues to occupy my time. Before I get to the blog though, the big news is that I will not be staying in Dublin next semester, but instead I will be returning to study at Georgetown. The main reason for this is academic, there are courses I need to get back and take at Georgetown, which comes from a possible major change. But I won’t get into all of that on the blog, it’s kinda boring.

So, all the Americans living in my building decided that we needed to celebrate Thanksgiving, and that we needed to celebrate it right. We’re talking Pumpkin Pie, Potatoes, Turkey (Except we did Chicken, so not a turkey), essentially all the usual characters. We began to plan this a full two weeks before thanksgiving. Is that a little aggressive? Perhaps, but we weren’t going to mess up this great American tradition.

Now, I may have over-extended myself a bit, because I signed up to do a potato casserole, shrimp cocktailes, a cranberry dip and the stuffing. The fact that I signed up for too many dishes became clear when I literally recruited everyone else to help me finish my food. But it all worked out in the end, except the potatoes, they turned out a bit off…but 3/4 isn’t bad right? The main thing we were happy about is that we didn’t set off the fire alarm in our building, and considering we took over the entire large kitchen, we were worried we might, and we did not want to be the Americans who smoked out the whole building because we were trying to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Here is a photo of me in my cat apron, the best souvenir I got from Paris. Haha. And yes, the cat is standing in front the Eiffel tower, holding a bagget, wearing a beret while wearing a striped t-shirt.

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Here is a photo of the group all sitting down to eat.

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Now, the group not only included all the Americans in our dorm, but also my two friends from Crew, Tom who is originally from London (So the United Kingdom), but who has lived in Dublin for quite a while now, and Dave, who is from outside of Edinburgh (So Scotland). They were quite excited to take part in our tradition, they helped make the food and everything. But, the thing that should be re-stated about Tom and Dave is that they are not American, which might not seem like a big deal, but it turned out to be quite the game changer. The reason? Apparently Thanksgiving is not only an American Tradition, but it may just be a ritual that to do well at requires being American. What I mean by this, is everyone was eating a lot. To be expected obviously, it is a crucial aspect of the holiday. And while the Americans (myself included) continued to eat and eat like it was our duty, Tom and Dave foolishly decided to keep pace with us. For Dave this turned out to be a worse decision than when Joey decided to put the Turkey on his head in Friends, or when Rachel put beef in the thanksgiving Trifle. The consequences Dave reaped didn’t become clear until we were all about to dig into the dessert, and that is when he proceeded to get out of his chair and lay down on the floor because he was so full. Amongst the many utterances that he made, the most common, and most telling was along the lines of, “How do you Americans eat this much?!? I Think I’m going to be ill!” It was quite the sight. Since none of us felt as bad as Dave, we all chalked it up to our 20 years of experience eating Thanksgiving meals in the states, and to this day, that is what I will attribute our conquest to. So the point of all this, is if you ever invite someone over to Thanksgiving who has never experienced one before, tell them to take it easy and pace themselves, it is a marathon after all, not a sprint. Below is a photo of on the floor Dave in his agony.

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Now, I’m sure the real reason most of you clicked on the link was because of the sleepwalking mention. Normally I try and avoid telling people when I do really embarrassing things, but it is finals season for all my college friends, so hopefully this story can cheer anyone feeling overworked or overwhelmed up, it certainly brought a smile to all my friends over here.

For starters, I don’t normally sleepwalk, I’ve only ever slept walked once or twice before, and both times were when I was a very young child so I never thought much of it. That was until the night of Thanksgiving. My recollection starts with me coming to (and I say that quite loosely, as I was very much still in a sleep delirium) in the hallway outside of my room. I was standing there barefoot in just a pair of shorts, a t-shirt, and wrapped in my blanket. Now, considering our doors automatically lock behind us, after about 15 seconds of standing totally bewildered in the hallway, I turned around and looked at my door (thinking maybe I propped it open or something), only to see that no, it was shut. Not only was it shut, but I knew I didn’t have my keycard to get back into my room. And that was when it set in. I was locked out of my room.

The fact I was in my blanket is still confusing to me. It’s like I was thinking I needed to go somewhere, and the only two explanations I have for this is that I either was going to get some water (which doesn’t make sense since I brought my glass with me), or that I for some reason thought that we were having a fire drill, and that I needed to exit (no idea why I thought this considering our alarm is very loud, and surely would have woken me). This is still the great mystery of my sleep-walking, why I decided to wrap myself in a blanket before exiting my room.

Next, I checked my watch and saw it was 6. Now, normally if you lock yourself out you go to accommodations and they will reprint you your keycard. But, accommodations is open from like 9-5 Monday through Friday. So, if accommodations is closed you have to go the main gate and go to the little security office right inside campus, and they will reprint your keycard if accommodations is closed. Now, I had never gone to the security office for my keycard, and like I said I was still in a sleep delirium, so I thought to myself, “It’s already 6 AM, I will just wait until 8 AM, and then go to accommodations, because what if the security office can’t print my keycard? I don’t want to be locked out of my building barefoot, that would be even worse!”

So logically (that’s meant to be ironic…) I decided I would go up to the second floor and sleep in the main kitchen, where only a few hours ago we had been eating and hanging out. I walked in and it was quite chilly, as the window was open, so I first went and shut that. After shutting the window I went and sat down in the chair, wrapped myself in my blanket, put my head on the kitchen table and tried to sleep. It wasn’t the most comfortable, so I thought about going to the small kitchen next door and sleeping on the floor there because nobody ever uses it, so I knew it wouldn’t be that dirty and also that I wouldn’t be disturbed. In the end I decided against this, so I just tried to sleep in the chair.

The next thing I know, I was startled by hearing someone walking in my building, and being in my pajamas and a blanket my first thought wasn’t “Yes somebody to help me!”, but was “OH NO!!! I hope they don’t walk in the kitchen and see me! That would be so embarrassing!” But of course, that person did walk into the kitchen. It ended up being Andrew, one of the Americans in our building. He looked at me surprisedly and just said, “Jeremy?” with a questioning tone. I responded, “Hey…” for I was quite embarrassed to have been spotted. He asked if anything was wrong, to which I explained that it was kind of embarrassing and that I had locked myself out of my room. I then distinctly remember looking at my watch, seeing it was 6:30, and asking Andrew if he was just getting back, because I was shocked he was coming in so late! I mean Dublin isn’t Spain, it’s not possible to be out until 6:30 AM, as everything closes by 2 or 3 AM. He responded that he was in fact just now getting back, to which I was utterly shocked and quite honestly impressed. Next Andrew asked if he could help, namely by offering me some shoes. I graciously accepted, because while I was prepared to sleep in the kitchen for another 90 minutes, I figured I would rather sleep in my own bed. I then borrowed a pair of Andrew’s moccasins and his jacket so as to keep myself warm. I double checked with him that the front arch was indeed where they could print my key (still not entirely sure how this was going to work out), to which he said yes.

So I began my walk to the front of campus, and considering I’m about halfway through campus, it wasn’t a 30 second trip, but it was at least a 3 or 4 minute journey. I was praying I wouldn’t walk past anyone, because I was still quite embarrassed. But sure enough, I didn’t pass one person, but I passed at least 7. I’m quite sure they gave me some weird looks, I’m not entirely sure, I tried to avoid eye contact.

Soon enough though I made it to the guard office where I could get another key, and I stepped inside. One of the two guards inside just said “You can’t protest!” Or at least that’s what I think he said, I’m really not entirely sure. I looked at him puzzled and simply said, “What???” He kept saying you can’t protest and I kept looking confused until eventually he said, “Aw you don’t have a sense of humor, I’m just kidding.” I still don’t know what the joke is, but I know that I was the one being made fun of. Anyways, he then printed off my keycard, and the other one said I was lucky, saying he once walked into one of the dorm buildings to find a girl sitting naked in the hallway, for she too was locked out of her room, but she couldn’t exactly do much about it. So hey, I guess things could have been worse, I could have been naked!

I then walked back to my room, passing at least 5 more people, again avoiding eye contact. When I got back to my building, I was just relieved to find that my key worked, for I got into the building but also my room with no problem. Why I thought the key wouldn’t work, I’m not sure, but hey, when you come out of a sleepwalking phase, intelligence/common sense isn’t really there, at least not for me. Now, I got back to my room and decided to check my phone, why? Again, no clue. But I looked at my phone and the time read 2:45 AM. I forgot to mention earlier that my watch is on Seattle time, that way if I need to coordinate skype times or calls I know what time it is back home. So when I saw 6, it wasn’t 6 AM in Dublin, it was actually 6 PM in Seattle. There never was an AM, I just assumed it was AM. Now I’ve never made this mistake while I was over here so I’m going to chalk this one up to my sleep delirium. But the point is, thank goodness Andrew came back at 2:30 AM, not 6:30 AM, and let me borrow some shoes and his coat to get another keycard, otherwise I most likely would have been asleep in the kitchen until 4 AM (which I would have presumed to be 8 AM), and then at this point I probably would have walked barefoot through campus to try and get a keycard at the accommodation office which wouldn’t have been open. So thank goodness Andrew was there, otherwise I would have either been wandering through campus barefoot or I would have been sleeping in the kitchen.

I woke up that morning to find Andrews moccasins and coat still in my room, as evidence of my journey earlier that day.

Anyways, that enough of an embarrassing story about myself for a while. I hope you all enjoy it! And for those of you who are curious, I now am sure to not only lock my door before I go to bed, but to also use the chain across it, it in order to try and check myself, so that way if I do sleep walk again (praying I don’t), that I will have more locks to get through, and hopefully that will make me come to my senses.

I’m hoping to catch up on my other trips this week, I’ll try my best, but since I’m not here next term I have some essays due that I initially wouldn’t have, so my time is now entirely devoted to research and writing.

Adios, hope y’all enjoyed what I willingly have dubbed ‘another classic Jeremy story’!

Trains, Champagne and some sights

Sooooooo to continue with our France trip. That Tuesday, we woke up early to catch our train at 7:20. We got to the train station with plenty of time, but when I looked to find my ticket in my bag I couldn’t find it, which was quite worrisome because on the ticket itself it said you had to have your ticket printed otherwise you wouldn’t get on the train. Soooo I proceeded to enter freak out mode. We went to the information desk and the guy there proceeded to tell us he couldn’t print my ticket and that we needed to print it ahead of time. We went to another desk and that guy told us to go to the first desk that wouldn’t help us. So in an act of desperation I brought up the ticket on my phone, which also had the scanner code on it, and luckily the ticket taker was able to just scan the pass on my phone. Oh and we went to the wrong end of the train platform so we had to run (suitcases in hand) all the way to the other end, all the while praying the train wouldn’t leave. Luckily we made it to the train (and with a few minutes to spare, not because we were early or on time, but because the train left a bit late). But the moral of that story is, be on time to trains and don’t lose your ticket, because most trains in Europe leave the minute they say they will, or are only one or two minutes off of that.

Anyways, so our five our train ride to Paris was quite nice. I essentially slept the entire way. It was wonderful. Basically on all plane rides and train rides I try to sleep the whole time. I justify all this sleeping/napping by how much I travel, because basically going all out on tourism every weekend gets pretty tiresome. But I’m sure that’s more than you want to know about my sleep schedule. We got into the Paris train station and one lady exiting made some comment about how everyone was in a hurry to get off, oh, and she made this comment in French. So apparently I look Parisian enough for someone to speak to me in French. I was wearing a scarf, which is what I attribute this language encounter to, though I did feel like I was blending in, so that was cool.

Anyways, we got off the train and went to the metro under the train station to get to our hostel. The Paris metro is intense. It not only is massive (just google Paris metro if you get curious, it puts DC’s six metro lines to shame), but it is super efficient. You never end up waiting more than 8 minutes (typically only 2-4 minutes), which compared to the DC metro, when you have to wait up to 20 minutes or more sometimes, is great. We got our tickets and got to our hostel (all thanks to Greta’s navigational skills, because there is no-way I could have figured out the Paris metro…not that I really tried, but hey, the point is Greta managed to navigate for us and that made things a lot easier on me). After dropping our stuff off at our hostel, we got some chocolate croissants, and then hoped back on the metro to go to the Musée d’Orsay. The Musée d’Orsay is a museum in Paris with a bunch of Van Gogh’s, Monet’s, Renoir’s, Degas’s and Manet’s. It is an absolutely incredible Museum. Now I beelined straight for the Vincent Van Gogh wing, because he is my favorite painter. Not only did they have his painting of the Church at Auvers (which features prominently in a Doctor Who episode), but they also have some of his self-portraits. All in all, I had a great time there, mainly because of the Van Gogh paintings, but also because of the countless other precious art pieces that were there.

Here is a photo from inside the museum.

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And here is a photo of me on a bridge with the museum in the background.

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After seeing some amazing art we walked to the end of the Champs-Élysées, one of the main roads in Paris. On one end of the Champs you have the Arc de Triomphe, and on the other end you have the gardens before the Louvre, as well as the obelisk with a golden point. Now, this Obelisk is always seen in the final stage of the Tour de France, as the riders race up and down the Champs, doing ten laps on the Champs before finishing (so passing the Obelisk many times), so walking up to this after seeing it so many times on TV was absolutely unreal.

Here is a photo of the Obelisk with the Arc in the way back.

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We didn’t really do to much more, we just walked around the end of the champs. We saw the Paris Opera house while walking around, but other than that we didn’t see too many more main things. We did however find Greta’s favorite restaurant in Paris, Le Soufflé, and we ended up eating there that night. I went big and had a three course meal of Soufflé’s (and considering I had never had Soufflé’s before, this was also a bold decision, cause if I didn’t like the first one I had two more coming my way), the first one was a cheese Soufflé with caramelized apples, the second was another cheese one with fish, and the last one was a chocolate Soufflé with chocolate drizzled over it. All were amazing, though the chocolate one was particularly amazing.

Here is a photo of me with our dessert Soufflé.

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After our dinner, we headed back to our hostel to wake up early the next day to go Champagne tasting in the champagne region of France. Now, it is important to understand how wines are named in France. The wines themselves are named after the region they came from. So, wines from Champagne are called Champagne, which means that any wine you get in the states that is called champagne, is most likely just sparkling wine. In order for it to actually be called Champagne it must be from the Champagne region of France. I’m fairly sure the Champagne region of France only produces Champagne, no Reds or Whites, though don’t hold me to that. I hope this all makes sense.

This whole tour was arranged for us by Greta’s parents, so I am very grateful to them for getting us this tour. The trip started early when our tour guide Troung, picked us up in a van from our hostel. He then picked up two other couples, one couple from French Canada (so they spoke French fluently), and one couple from Australia. We then drove to the Champagne region of France. The closest town was Reims. We started out by inspecting the grapes themselves, we learned all about how much work is put into the grapes, like how the exact number of branches bearing grapes are counted (I believe you can only have ten for each wickety thing) and how pheromones are put near the grapes to distract the male butterflies (from what I don’t exactly remember…) and even how all the grapes are picked by hand, because a machine picker would be too hard on them.

Here is a photo overlooking all the grape fields. These fields included the brands of Dom Perignon, as well as Bollinger (the favorite champagne of James Bond).

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After this we headed into the little village nearby to go to the Vignon champagne facilities, and when I say facilities I mean the Vignon’s house, which had their champagne making equipment in the cellar, as well as in the side building. Now, the Vignon family operates a small facility, they only make 2,000 bottles of champagne a year. Compared to larger companies, 2,000 bottles is a smaller operation. Our guide of the facilities was Stefan Vignon, who is currently in charge of the Vignon operation. However, it is a whole family affair. When we showed up Stefan’s dad was going out to go rabbit hunting. These rabbits where then cooked by Stefan’s mom, who made lunch for all of them, including Stefan’s daughter, who comes home from school each day to have lunch with her family, as do almost all of the children in the area (I’m not sure if this is true for France as a whole, but I think it is). The culture is just so different. The lunch break is two hours, allowing three generations of the Vignon’s to eat lunch together, every day; while in the states, I’m used to my half hour lunch break between classes where I almost always end up eating a sandwich on the run. It’s very different, but different in a good way, a way that I really liked, as it endorses families spending time together.

On our tour (and tour is a strong term, it was more like a casual informative walk) we saw all the champagne making machines, which were quite interesting, as most things were done/operated by hand there. Stefan and his few workers, still rotate the champagne bottles by hand during the storage phase (done to dislodge any sediment which is later removed when the syrup is added). Everything else is done with the help of machines. Everything from the adding of syrup, to the corking, to the top that keeps the cork on the bottle, is all done by hand operated machines, so even these still require the human element. Once we saw all the champagne making equipment, we went inside for a champagne tasting, and by inside, I mean into the foyer of Stefan’s house. It was a very cool experience to be welcomed into his house after just meeting him. We tried three champagnes, a Brut, a Pink champagne (which is sweeter, and colored pink, and according to Stefan, is lower in quality, but is higher in demand, so he can sell it for more money – apparently it’s very desired in the fashion world), and a Reserve. I personally preferred the first, the Brut. The second one was a bit too sweet for me, and the third one while really good as well, just wasn’t as good as the first.

Here is a photo from the tasting.

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After our tasting we left the Vignon residence to go have lunch in Reims. On the way out Stefan pointed out the bullet marks, which were from WWI,  on the wooden gates to their courtyard. Again, just another example of all the history in Europe. Our lunch was absolutely amazing. It was a three course meal, which is fairly common for a lunch in France, as it is their biggest meal of the day. I had an appetizer of puff pastry with goat cheese, and then an entree of duck with lentils, and for dessert creme brûlée. It was  definitely the best meal I had in France.

From there, we went to look at the Cathedral of Reims, which in my opinion was more impressive than Notre Dame. Even though the Cathedral was being restored (evidenced by the scaffolding), it was still incredibly impressive. No matter how many grand European cathedrals I see, they never stop being impressive. One of the reasons they were built so large and grand was so that people going inside would pail in comparison to the cathedral, and thus would hopefully, be left feeling small in comparison to God as well; and having been in this cathedral, I can tell you I definitely felt small in comparison to the immense space within the cathedral.

Here is a photo of the Cathedral.

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Next we went to go on a tour of the Pommery champagne cellar. I’m glad we went to both, but I’ll say right now I preferred going to the Vignon’s champagne facilities. It was definitely the small establishment, versus the mass-produced one. Anyways, the feel was entirely different, the Pommery cellars entrance is huge, and entirely over the top, there is a statue of an elephant balancing on its trunk in the entrance that cost 7 million euro, and an original BMW car, altogether very different from the homey feel of the Vignon’s. The descent into the cellar (or cave might even be more appropriate, because the cellar was a giant cave network), was incredibly long, I  want to say it was around one hundred and something steps, I don’t entirely remember now as this was a while ago. We walked around the cellars and learned essentially what we already had, except there were subtle differences. Obviously the Pommery facility has so many more bottles of champagne that they aren’t rotated by hand, but instead are rotated by robotic arms. Which according to our tour guide does not affect the taste, and it also speeds up the process, allowing the bottles to be sold sooner. One cool thing about the facility was that all their little inlets were named after cities, like Monaco, London etc. This was something started when Pommery first was established, each time a new city started getting shipments, that city’s name was added to an inlet in the cellars. Other than that the tour wasn’t entirely memorable, though after we walked out we were greeted by another glass of champagne. The Pommery champagne was good, but I would preferred any Vignon champagne to the Pommery glass. Oh and the last difference between the massive Pommery establishment and the Vignon family facilities? Obviously it was the massive and incredibly expensive gift shop that you could enter as you exited the Pommery building. At this point, our day in Reims and the Champagne region of France was over, and Troung drove everyone back to Paris and to their hotels and us to our hostel.

Once back at our hostel we met up with another one of our Georgetown friends who is studying in Dublin with us, and who decided to spend the next few days in Paris with us. We all headed out to the Eiffel Tower to see it lit up at night! We even arrived near the top of the hour, when the Tower has blinking lights all over it for about a minute, which was spectacular.

Here is a photo of me and the tower.

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We then headed back to our hostel for some much needed rest. The next morning, we woke up and caught the train out to Versailles, where the Palace of the French Kings is. At the palace we met up with more of our friends who are studying at Trinity with us in Dublin. Versailles itself was located just about 30 mins. by train outside of Paris, so not that far at all. Now the Palace wasn’t used by all the French Kings, only the last eight kings really used it, from Louis the eighth onwards. Originally Louis the eighth used it for a hunting lodge, but it soon grew way beyond out that. Now, it’s hard to really describe the opulence of the palace, so again I’m going to rely on photos.

Here is the entrance to the palace, notice the use of gold on the roof. There was a ton of gold all over the palace, as well as many different colors of marble.

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Here is a photo of inside the palace, notice all the different colors of marble.

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After going through the palace, which included seeing the door where Marie Antoinette would have escaped through when the palace was stormed by the market women of France, we headed out to the gardens. Again, sorry I’m not writing much on it, but the Palace’s visual opulence is something that’s hard to describe, but is easier to look at. The gardens were my favorite part of Versailles, I mean the Palace was cool, but just walking around the Gardens was not only calming, but beautiful. Everything was in perfect fall form, and was stunning, which definitely made up for a lot of the gardens being closed, ie the fountains were off, most of the statues were covered up, and no flowers were left (I mean obviously…it was November). Oh, and in our walk around the Gardens we discovered another smaller residence, the Trianon Palace, built by the French kings as a summer residence, located only about 15 minutes by foot from the castle…Kind of ridiculous but hey, the French kings could do whatever they wanted so I mean, why not. Though, in the end, it didn’t turn out for them, for both Marie Antoinette and Louis the Sixteenth were executed by the National Assembly during the French Revolution. And of course this was done by guillotine, otherwise known at the time as the “National Razor”.

Here is a photo of the gardens.

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We left the palace in the afternoon to head back to Paris, and on the train there were some German middle school students who thought we were British. We all got a laugh out of this since our accents are clearly not British, but I guess if you’ve never really heard an American or a British accent you could confuse them. Once back in Paris we went and got some macaroons, which were delicious. I had never had them before, so I figured Paris was a good spot to try them. From there, we headed again to the Champs, though this time we decided to see the Arc de Triomphe, which is located at the end opposite the one we were at when we saw the Obelisk. Now the Arc was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 after his victory at Austerlitz, but it wasn’t finished until 1836, well after Napoleon had been defeated (and at this point well after his death). Underneath the Arc is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War One. All over the Arc itself are inscriptions commemorating those who died in the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, as well as inscriptions for more recent wars located on the ground under the Arc. It is a massive monument, entirely covered in historical inscriptions. Sooooo we naturally climbed it! The view from the top was amazing, we could not only look out over the champs, but we could also see the Eiffel Tower, which is really cool, no matter how many times you see it.

Here are some photos. First is me with the arc in the background. The Next is a photo from the top of the Arc overlooking the Champs, and the last is a photo of the Eiffel Tower taken again from the top of the Arc.

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We didn’t really do much after all this. The one notable thing that happened to us, was while walking back, we crossed the champs (with a crossing light of course, because the traffic there is crazy). I stopped in the middle to take a picture of the Arc all lit up at night, and when I turned to start walking, the crossing light had changed, so I was stuck on a barrier in the middle of the Champs, with cars passing me on both sides. Now the barrier was large enough for a few pedestrians, so I was in no imminent danger. But I definitely felt foolish…

That’s all for now, I should be able to finish writing about the last few days of our French Trip soon! As well as get to the other trips I’ve had.

Au revoir!

The French Riviera

So again, this post is quite a bit late (Have that whole school thing to deal with).

So November 2nd to November 11th my friend Greta from Georgetown and I, were fortunate enough to spend 10 days in France. Now, we did not miss school, in fact we had the week of November 4th off, because it was our “Reading Week”, which is a week where you don’t have classes. The point of this is that it gives students time to read books for classes, write papers and ultimately get work done for classes. However, since there is so much less busy work over here (I’m used to having 5 or 6 assignments per class, and with 5 classes that totals up to about 30 assignments per term, and over here I only have about 1 or 2 assignments per class per term, so I have way less busy work), every single American here for study abroad took this week off to travel. I had friends going to Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Germany, England etc. (really just all over Europe).

Now, from the very beginning Greta and I planned on going to France, mainly because she speaks French and because ever since I started watching the Tour de France, I have a slight obsession with France. Now, since we had 10 days, we decided we would go to Paris for a good amount of the trip, plus we would go to Reims (the Champagne region of France) and Normandy as day-trips from Paris. Then Greta suggested we start in Nice, in the south of France, and that we travel to the coastal cities for a couple of days. Given I didn’t have too much of a preference besides seeing Normandy and Paris, I agreed. So on Saturday the second we flew out to Nice.

We got into Nice that afternoon, and after dropping our bags off at our hostel, we just walked around the rest of the day. Which is basically what we did the whole time we were in the South of France, so this post is going to have way more photos than it will text.

Below is a picture of the beaches in Nice, none of them are sand, they are all rock.

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After walking around for a while (and of course getting some crepes for lunch) we proceeded to climb up to this vantage point overlooking the city. Once we got there we not only got to see a pretty cool waterfall built into the hill (and by that I mean a water feature that looked like a waterfall), but we also got to look out over Nice as the sun set. Below are photos pre sunset, and during the sunset.

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We then headed back to our hostel to get ready to go explore Antibes the next day! Antibes is located to the West of Nice, but is still along the coast. The weather could not have been more perfect, we had blue skies and temperatures in the low sixties (and given that only a few days ago we were both wearing our winter coats in Dublin, we couldn’t have been happier). We got to Antibes, albeit a bit later than we had hoped for, cause we went way too far on the bus, so we had to walk about 40 minutes to get back to Antibes…oops, but I can’t really complain since I didn’t bother to look up the bus info, and instead relied totally on Greta, soooooo, I really can’t complain. Plus it was a really pretty walk. Once in Antibes we were able to walk through the town’s market, checking out not only fruits and produce but also clothes and other little artsy things. After getting Lunch we headed to the Picaso Museum in town, which is there because Picaso used to come to Antibes to Paint, so the town has since got a number of his works and even dedicated a museum to him (all of course with the aid of private art dealers). The last part of our day, before heading back, was spent on a beach. We just went and hung out there for a while, I even was able to find about twenty or so pieces of beach glass, something our old neighbors (and current friends) do. I definitely stole the idea from them.

Below is a photo of me in Antibes.

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Here is a photo of me at the beach, obviously I had to try out the water, which was in fact quite cold. There were two people swimming in it, but I’m pretty sure they had wetsuits on…

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We soon caught the bus back to Nice to not only have dinner, but also to get ready to go to St. Paul de Vence and Monaco the next day. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t as good our second day, and by not as good I mean it was cold, rainy and gray outside. But that didn’t matter too much, because St. Paul de Vence is an amazing little town. It is located on a hilltop, overlooking the french countryside (it is inland, not a coastal town like Nice or Antibes), and did I mention it’s one of oldest medieval towns in the area? And it is entirely surrounded by medieval walls! It was pretty amazing, which even then doesn’t really do it justice. We didn’t really do much there, other than just walk around all the little roads in the town and peek into all the little shops in the area (most of the shops were art stores). One of the roads was even named “Breaking your neck street” – Don’t worry, it wasn’t really that steep.

Below is a photo of me with the view of the French countryside in the background. Taken from the edge of the city.

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Below is a photo of one of the streets in the city.

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After spending the morning in St. Paul de Vence, we caught the bus back to Nice. We got some warmer clothes from our hostel in Nice before catching the bus to Monaco, which is located to the East of Nice. By the time we got to Monaco it had stopped raining, but it was still overcast. From the bus stop we hiked up to the Palace overlooking the city, which was actually a pretty steep and long walk. We walked around a bit more after that, and eventually found our way to the Monte Carlo Casino. The Casino was beautiful inside, but unfortunately you couldn’t take photos inside. I also got to gamble a bit. I played one round of roulette betting on 13-18, unfortunately 8 came up so I didn’t win, but….. I was able to gamble in Monaco so that was pretty cool.

Below is a photo overlooking Monaco from the Palace, as you can tell it’s pretty crowded with buildings as well as yachts.

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Here is a photo outside the Monte Carlo Casino, you can tell by the cars outside that Monaco is definitely a place for the incredibly wealthy.

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We thought about getting Martinis while inside the casino, but one Martini was about $20, so we decided we didn’t need to act like James Bond that badly. We headed back to Nice that evening for one final dinner in the South of France, and to get ready for the next morning when we had to catch our train up to Paris. I’ll try and get to the rest of our French trip soon!

Journeys in Bavaria (Part 2/2)

Sooooo here is the second part to my Munich trip, I figured splitting the sections up would make it a more manageable read for everyone (Everyone implies a lot of people read the blog, but I’m pretty sure it’s just my family! Soooo, Hello family!)

On Monday, Katie and I went on a tour to Dachau Concentration camp. I decided it was best not to write about that experience for the blog because to me it trivializes the experience of those who lived through the horrors of that place. And in my opinion, whenever you are writing about the pain and suffering of hundreds of thousands of people, it is best to err on the side that respects their experience, rather than trivializing it by making it some form of cheap tourism that is further condensed into a blog.

After going to Dachau Katie and I headed to the English Gardens and walked around there. Before we got to the park itself though we got to walk down the Ludwigstrasse and see the arc at the end of it. The English Garden is one of the largest public parks in the world. It is so big in fact that in it there is a stream designed to create a wave, allowing the residents of Munich to try surfing. Which they were doing! There were easily about 20 surfers. Also located in the park is a Chinese Pagoda restaurant, and miles of paths. It was a very relaxing and beautiful place. A picture is below. (I stole this photo from Katie, because at this point my phone wasn’t working)Image

We then proceeded to go get dinner, and this time we opted for the open aired restaurant in the middle of Munich’s farmers market (the farmer’s market is open every day except Sunday, which is so cool!), located just a short distance from the Marienplatz. And the fun in this, was this was the first restaurant that didn’t have English menus! Soooooo Katie had to rely on my German skills to figure out what to eat. Hahaha just kidding, my German food vocabulary is awful, so we definitely had to ask the waitress what we should get.

The next day we decided to go to the Pinakotheken, a series of 4 museums, though we only went to the Alte Pinakothek, ie the Museum that had mainly renaissance artwork. I was hoping to go to the Neue Pinakothek, which had works by Van Gogh and other more recent artists, but it was closed on Tuesdays, so it didn’t work out. Anywas, the Alte Pinakothek was still amazing. Not only did we get to see Leonardo Da Vinci’s first painting ever, we also got to see countless masterpieces by Durer, Rembrandt, Rubens, and many other renaissance masters. It was a very cultural day. A photo of the museum is below.

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I then left a bit early to go get my souvenir shopping done, and then we headed out for the airport to get back home. And after four days of being in a hostel, it was grand getting back to my own bed in Dublin. Anyways that sums up the Munich trip! I also now realize how unbalanced these two posts are, mainly because this blogpost is sooooo much shorter. Oh well. Hopefully I’ll be able to write about France and Spain soon, the main thing right now is schoolwork and traveling.

Journeys in Bavaria (Part 1/2)

Sorry this post is so overdue, I have been quite busy with traveling and school lately, so I haven’t had much time to blog.

A while ago now, October 25-29th I was able to make it back to Munich with a friend of mine from Georgetown. Now, I know that some of you are probably thinking, “Why go back to Munich??? You already went there for Oktoberfest! And Oktoberfest is the only time someone should go to Munich! Plus there are so many other spots in Europe you could go see!” Welllllllll Yes I was there for Oktoberfest, but while I was there I kept thinking to myself and talking about how I wanted to stay longer, because I felt there was way more to see and do in the city itself, as well as in Bavaria. Sooooo I decided to go back, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

I flew in on Friday, and not long after I got to the city center, I had already found my friend Katie and we had headed to an Augustiner hall. I was happy to go back and have some good Munich beer, but after a couple hours on the plane, at this point I really just wanted some food. One interesting thing to point out is that a Munich beer hall (not sure about the rest of Germany) is different than bars in America, or even pubs in Dublin for that matter, because they only serve one brand of beer. So take for instance the hall on Friday, as an Augustiner hall, it only served beers brewed by the Augustiner brewery. It would be like going to a bar in America that only served Budweiser beers, or a bar that only served Coors. This may seem odd, but when you have beer as good as they do in Munich, it doesn’t really matter. Also, Augustiner is the beer most Munich locals prefer, and considering it competes with five other Munich breweries (Spaten, Lowenbrau, Hofbrau, Hacker-Pschorr and Paulaner) that is a big honor.

On Saturday my friend and I parted ways for our own separate day-trips. I went on a trip to Nuremberg while she went to Salzburg. My day started with a train ride that took about an hour and forty five minutes before we reached Nuremberg, and there is one beautiful thing I noticed about the trains in Germany: people helping people. I noticed this helpfulness when several times a person in a wheel chair was trying to get on the train, everyone (and I mean everyone) around the door, would either help that person on the train, either by offering them a hand or getting their wheelchair or helping in anyway possible. Plus there were other times when someone was trying to navigate a bike through the train (as we were in the bike section of the train) or a stroller, and people always helped out when possible. It was amazing to see how helpful and friendly people were, not because I expected Germany to be unfriendly, but because living in a city so much of the time I’m accustomed to people being either unfriendly or too busy to help.

After arriving and a brief break in the train station  we headed to the Nazi rally grounds, and it was incredibly eerie. It is hard to describe how creepy the place is. You can climb up to Hitler’s podium, after seeing the door he would have walked out of, and look around and see the deteriorating stands (which apparently are going to cost 70 million euro to rebuild – but I doubt that will happen, it’s doubtful any company, in particular any German company, will pay for this renovation). The current Nuremberg soccer stadium is close by, meaning whenever fans go to a game there, they always see the old rally grounds (which are now used as a concert venue). From the Rally Grounds we walked over to the unfinished Nazi Congress Hall, which would have been similar to the Rally Grounds, as it too would be a speaking venue for the Nazis, it just would be indoor. The Congress Hall is an incredibly massive building, and it is another testament to the massive buildings the Nazis liked to build.

After all this, our group caught the tram back into the city to head towards the Medieval part of Nuremberg. On our way there we passed a the Bavarian American Hotel, which was actually a building that American troops were living in during the trials and the Allied Occupation of Germany. Still visible on the building is the imprint of where the letters “US Army” used to be, further highlighting Nuremberg’s WWII history.

On our walk to the medieval town we came across the beginnings of Nuremberg’s Christmas Market. Considering how much many Christmas markets in Germany make, and that Nuremberg has one of the largest Christmas markets in Germany, it makes sense that some stalls were already out…in October. Anyways, after walking through these stalls, a farmers market, looking at some beautiful churches, checking out the medieval castle (which is located on a hill overlooking the whole of Nuremberg), and seeing the house of the famed painter Albrecht Durer, a couple from Georgetown DC (small world right?) our guide and I headed out to look at the Courthouse were the Nuremberg trials took place. The important thing to know about this is that the courtroom is still in use, so showing up their for a tour is tough, because if court is in session, you can’t see the courtroom (for obvious reasons). Anyways, the inside of the courtroom was equally eerie, as it has remained largely unchanged since the trials of top ranking nazi officials after the War. A picture of the courtroom is below.

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After all this we caught the train back to Munich, where I met up with Katie to go find some food. We decided to seek out the Hofbrauhaus, and given that Katie had already walked by it before I arrived the other day, we were pretty confident we would be able to find it. Turns out we were overconfident in our abilities, because it actually took us a bit of time to find it. We had to check some maps, and we even wandered in the wrong direction for a while. However, eventually we did find it. Another thing you should know about Munich beer hall’s is that you just walk in, and look for a spot, and if you see a spot you check to see if its free and then sit there. So typically you end up sitting next to a bunch of strangers. In a touristy spot like the Hofbrauhaus though, it’s not a big deal. We ended up sitting next to two Polish guys who each drank 6 liters worth of beer, costing them a total of 100 euros ($130) on alcohol alone. I think all the beer helps to explain why they were so funny. I made sure to take a picture just to prove that we made it there!

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The next morning we woke up and headed back to the train station to meet up with our group going to Füssen to see Neuschwanstein Castle, which some of you may know better as the castle that inspired Walt Disney’s castle. So now every time you see a Disney film and you see that little Disney castle logo, you can thank the Germans, specifically the Bavarians. Now, Neuschwanstein is located a ways up a mountain, so it’s quite a hike to get to the castle (even for me, we definitely took a break 2/3 of the way up to make the hike easier). But once we got to the Castle itself, it was entirely worth it. The view from Neuschwanstein is absolutely amazing. You look out on green Bavarian pastures, as well as another castle, Hohenschwangau Castle , and even a lake. It is quite simply, stunning. Now Hohenschwangau was the castle of the Bavarian King Maximillian II, Neuschwanstein was the castle started by Maximillian’s son, Ludwig II. The location makes sense, because Ludwig II spent most of his summers in Hohenschwangau, so he would be familiar with the area. Why he wanted to build another castle is beyond me, but he did, and under his rule, Neuschwanstein was his pet project. However, Neuschwanstein was never finished, in fact, only 1/3 of the rooms in the castle are complete. The reason for this was Ludwig II was quite the odd fellow, so much so that eventually his uncle got cops to seize him from his castle in the middle of the night, thus effectively removing him as King. Ludwig was then entrusted to a psychiatrist, and one day when the two were out on a walk, they were both murdered. It’s a mystery to this day exactly what happened.

But that’s enough for the history. Sorry, it’s hard to go to all these places without writing a bit about their history. So after our walk up to the castle we had a brief tour of the interior, it was only thirty minutes, not because it was rushed, but because like I mentioned earlier, most of the rooms in the castle are unfinished, and that is because once Ludwig II was no longer king, construction on the castle ended. The interior was incredibly ornate, and I would post photos, but we weren’t allowed to take any. After all this we proceeded to walk up and behind the castle, to a bridge located over a waterfall, to get a view of the castle. Again, the whole area is just unreal. Anyways, before long we had to head out, and we took the back way down, ie, the way that took us down a rocky ravine. Again, before long we found ourselves on the train back to Munich. A photo from the bridge over the waterfall looking at Neuschwanstein castle is below.

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In order to avoid having an outrageously long blogpost, the other two days of activities in Munich will be in the next blogpost.