Saturday, November 27, 2010

Eeeck, I waited too long to write this one...

Okay well, it looks like the last time I updated my blog was post Paris, and woah, that was a long time ago, so first things first.

IRELAND!!! The Thursday after fall break was over Eddie, Kelsey, Ryan (a guy Eddie met from church), and myself all went to Ireland. Eddie, Kelsey, and I traveled together and Ryan just met us in Dublin. The trip there went okay, we were flying into some really strong winds but the flight went fine, especially with a couple Dramamine in my system haha. When we got into Dublin it was 7:30 or so, and since we had a really early day the next day we went to the hostel to drop our bags off, walked around and then went to dinner. Dublin is a really nice city because it is very easy to walk and our hostel was in a really good location! A little after we got back to the hostel Ryan arrived and then we just hung out until sleeping. The next morning we headed off to Galway, its about a 3 hour train ride to get there, but it was great because we all got to see part of Ireland that we really wanted to, sheep and green! Galway was another cute city and again we had a really nice hostel. The first day we just walked around, went to the main pedestrian street in town and just saw different things, the river, museum, cathedral, it was nice. Saturday we went on a tour from Galway to the Cliffs of Moher, it was an all day tour and we had a super cute tourguide named Desmond. We had numerous stops throughout the day and we were lucky enough to actually make it to the cliffs at a moment when the sky was clear! After the tour we went to dinner and then back to the hostel, it had been a long day. Sunday was another bright and early morning in order to catch a train back to Dublin! We wanted to give ourselves as much time as we could in Dublin, and we got into town at 11 am or so. We split up for lunch, the boys to Burger King, and the girls to a restaurant for an Irish breakfast. We met up after eating and walked around to some of the touristy places by Grafton Street, the main pedestrian street in Dublin. Then we all split up again, Eddie and Kelsey needed to go back to the hostel and Ryan and I both wanted to see the city so Ryan went off and I did as well, I took a bus tour because I wanted to see as much of the city as I could in the couple hours I had, and it worked out really well. After our little split, which did include Starbucks for Kelsey and I, woohoo, we all met back up at the hostel and went out to dinner. Again, it was a pretty early night because we all had early flights back to Brussels Monday morning. Ireland was a great trip! The group got along really well and having 4 made it really easy when we couldn´t decide on something, we would just split up. The country was amazingly beautiful and the people were very nice, it was a dream come true to visit Ireland and I definitely would like to go back!

The week after Ireland was pretty relaxed, I had classes and one day at AGE before heading out on another trip. This time the WWI/WWII tour to Luxembourg and France.

I´m not sure how to really describe this weekend, it wasn´t fun, but it was really interesting and something I think everyone should at least learn about if not see for themselves. We started off by going to the American and German cemetaries in Luxembourg, they were both very different but did show just how devasting WWI was for the soldiers on both sides. After a stop at one of the many forts along the Western Front, where we rode a train inside to get around, we headed to Metz, France where we saw a bit of the city before having the night off. Saturday was the hard day, we started off with heading to Verdun, a WWI battlefield with terrible loses. We started by going to the museum and then to the Douaumont Ossuary, this was the worst part of the weekend. This building is the tomb of 130,000 German and French soldiers that died during the fighting at Douaumont/ Verdun, they know the names of the soldiers but were not able to identify the specific bodies of each man. The ossuary is has all of the bones in what I guess can be called a basement, and there are little windows in where you can see the bones, I´m not sure I would recommend it and in the inside are all of the names and a little chapel. The ossuary is also situated right across from a very large French cemetary, and the image in its entirity is just heartbreaking. After that difficult moment we went to the Douamont Fort, it was again not super uplifting but interesting to see another instance of how soldiers defended themselves, but how the men in charge of the fort would switch throughout the war. We then had lunch, and it was a much needed break from the really depressing day so far. After lunch we headed to Reims, France, along the way, and as was done most of the time in the bus we watched movies or documentaries on the war, mostly all on WWI. In Reims we had a champagne tasting, and that was a very nice way to bring up the day, I even bought a bottle :-) We had the night free and all did dinner in small groups. The next day was Sunday and with the hope of making it back to Brussels early, we headed off. We saw the cathedral in Reims, where kings of France had to be crowned to make it official, and then we headed off to another fort, but this time they were really just caves. The tourguide in the caves was fantastic, he had so much passion for what he was teaching us about and he knew so much, you could tell that he did his own research on the subject and he just made it incredible. After the caves and lunch we began our trek back to Brussels, with a quick stop at the train car where the Armistice was signed, and we also saw the room in Reims where the WWII peace treaty had been signed earlier that day. We made it back early and after a good dinner of Chinese I made it back to the house.

It was a long weekend but it really did show the horrors of what the first and second world war did for the world.

Since then I have been busy at homework, with my present computer problem, it has a virus and isn´t working, I have been at the school computers or on Eddie´s (he is very nice in letting me use it when I need to) in order to finish a paper that was due yesterday, and now i have 2 more due this coming week. Neither of these papers will be too much work luckily.

I am in shock that December is almost here, I honestly feel like I just arrived in Europe and happened to do a lot of traveling in the first week, the fact that I have been here for almost 4 months is crazy to me, and I am not ready for it to end. Going home will be amazing, and seeing everyone will be great but I am going to miss Brussels, my host family, roommate, and all my friends I have made here terribly. Well maybe I should get to working on my papers, or buying train tickets for when my mom gets here, I´m sure everyone can guess which one is going to happen. I am really excited for my mom to get here, and I can´t wait to show her the city I have grown to love!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Paris, why are you so amazing?

Okay so this is my post Paris blog! A lot has gone on since my last blog, not so much school stuff, but a TON of AGE related functions, and even more traveling!

First off, after the stressful return from London with the lack of knowing where Eddie was for a while I needed a good nights rest so when Monday morning came around and the need for me to wake up for class, I just decided my first skipping might need to occur. I missed a presentation over the conflict in Georgia, but loved the sleeping in part. After my little sleep in I went into AGE for what I was planning on being just a couple of hours of making folders for the conferences later in the week, but my boss wasn't in to tell me what to do. Instead, I just ended up working on some projects I have ongoing throughout the semester and once she arrived getting some things ready for the meetings that were later in the week. On Tuesday the entire trip to Ireland was planned! It felt and still feels so good to have everything that needs to be booked and to know what we are doing, at the same of the Ireland planning Eddie and I were still undecided about what to do after Paris, but that will be talked about more later.

Wednesday I had my morning Art class, and then Kelsey and I went to go buy scarves before I had my first big AGE event of the week. Wednesday's event was a conference on seniors using equity from their mortgages to offset any funds they weren't getting from their pensions. Just the subject was over my head, but it was still an interesting conference. The best part of it was getting to meet so many different AGE members and to see inside the European Commission building, it was a very hi-tech building and very cool. Thursday and Friday were AGE Council of Administration meetings. This meant 40 of the members of AGE that have been elected to work on the more administrative issues at AGE and the staff issues of the Brussels headquarters would come to Brussels and discuss the issues. It was really neat because I was able to go to both days events and to meet so many of the members. The members are from all across the European Union and have so many interesting things to say. They were long days filled with a lot of information that was completely new to me, but it was interesting to see just a piece of some of the bigger work that AGE does. After these meetings I came back to the house to pack for Paris!

Throughout the week Eddie and I had been trying to make plans for after Paris, and pretty much decided to take a 13 hour bus to Geneve, but it wasn't able to be booked so we were hoping to buy the tickets in Paris and just go from there.

We left for Paris early Saturday morning and started the trip the trip immediately. We saw a ton of things from the Louvre, the Conciergerie, Versailles (where we rode bikes around the gardens), Notre Dame, Musee d'Orsay, Les Invalides, Tomb of Napoleon, a Monet museum, any many more things. It was so strange though that visiting sites like the Eiffel Tower or Arc de Triumphe were not planned but instead were mentioned as possible options on our free nights. It was great though and seeing so many things with a professor that I swear could talk about any subject for two hours minimum. On our evenings off I was able to go see the Eiffel Tower and go to the stop, it was soooo pretty and just amazing to be at the top. We also went to the Arc de Triumphe, that was really cool too and it was neat to see the comparison between the height there compared to the Eiffel Tower.

After numerous hours spent trying to make plans and having continued issues with booking tickets or finding inexpensive options Eddie and I just decided to stay in Brussels for an extra night and then to take a bus back from Paris to Brussels. That plan worked out really well because we were able to see the Champs Elysees and the Arc de Triumphe and then the French countryside on the bus ride back. The funny thing was that the bus driver actually got lost or something on the drive back because we kept going back to this one gas station, it was very bizarre.

We finally made it back into Brussels and since then have just been haning out. Our host family left tonight for a trip to the sea, and they invited us last night but both Eddie and myself have papers due in the next couple weeks so we need to work on them and will hopefully see a bit more of the city. Upcoming trips include Ireland and the WWI and WWII trip with the art class, other than that it is just hanging out and hopefully and experiencing any other things that I can.