Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A TALE OF THREE CITIES (AND THREE MUSEUMS!) 06/12/20130 Comments Picture by Katie Fair Vesalius, Belgium Bonjour! I have so much that I want to share with y'all about my last week or so! I have had the chance to explore some of the museums and exhibits here in Brussels last week. Then I spent my 3-day weekend in three different cities: The Hague, Antwerp, and Bruges. First up, the museums! While Brussels does have a ton of museums, I only visited two of them and one traveling exhibit. The first museum I visited was the BELvue, which is basically a museum dedicated to the more recent history of Belgium (from around the time of their independence in 1830 to present). Although pretty much all of the exhibits were in French or Dutch/Flemmish, I was still able to learn and to see many really cool historical artifacts. The second museum was the Musee de la Ville, which shows historical artifacts from the city of Brussels. One of the coolest rooms (and one of the sole reasons I went there) was for the costume gallery of Mannekin Pis. Unfortunately, cameras were not allowed, so I couldn't take pictures. Mannekin has hundreds of costumes, but they rotate which selection are shown in the room. I was fortunate enough to go at a time where they had the Elvis costume on display. That is a sight that I will never forget! Picture The traveling exhibition that I was able to go to was on Leonardo daVinci. While they did not have the original artwork available, they did have replicas available to view (including both the front *and* the back of the Mona Lisa). They also had journals of daVinci's. The exhibition included many re-created inventions of daVinci's from his notes in his journals! It was so amazing to see some of the things he came up with, and how similar some of them are to things we use nowadays! Friday I went on my first trip out of Belgium. I visited The Hague in the Netherlands on a solo day trip. I took a 3 hour (ish) train to the city. While there I was able to see some of the main city, but that was not my main focus. First I visited the World Forum area, where I saw the buildings for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Europol, and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Next, I went to the Peace Palace and did the short tour through their visitor center. While I did not get to see the International Criminal Court (but I get to go back to visit it in July), I did walk down a couple miles to see the beach! I had no idea there was a beach there, so I wasn't really prepared to get in the water. It was a lot of fun to visit, though. Saturday I went with Alina, Rachel, and Mollie to see Antwerp. We had originally planned to go to Amsterdam, but we hadn't planned far enough ahead which meant tickets were super expensive! Being the flexible travelers we are, we instead bought tickets for the next train to Antwerp. The city of Antwerp is very unique in its mix of old and new, often side-by-side. Most of the other areas I have seen have old sections of town and then newer, more modern sections in a different part of town. So that in and of itself was really cool to see. We had a great time walking around, and we had these huge "personal" pizzas. I'm using the quotation marks because I'm pretty sure that our personal pizzas were only a little smaller than some of the mediums back home. Anyway, it was a beautiful city, and it was both warm and sunny (which we don't tend to see too many of here in Belgium). Last, but certainly not least, I went with Alina and Rachel to Bruges on Sunday. Bruge is by far my most favorite city I have been to. Ever. US and Europe combined. Aside from the tourist shops and modern conveniences, the town could have stepped right out of history. I joked with my friends saying they could just go on back to Brussels without me. There were horse-drawn carriages, boats on the canals, beautiful bridges and buildings, and huge churches and cathedrals. All of this with no real "modernized" city in sight (ie sky scrapers, huge apartment buildings, etc). If I ever decide to one day live in Europe, Bruges is at the top of my list! Add Comment "I CAN TELL BY YOUR TEARS THAT YOU WILL REMEMBER IT ALL." 07/23/20120 Comments Picture Caitlin Campbell University de Savoie Wow. I don't even know where to begin. It seems impossible to sum up my experience here in a few words. There's no way to explain how much I loved France, the people, and how I'll always cherish the memories. Why do goodbyes have to be so hard? This last week flew by! On Monday I went canoeing, on Tuesday and Wednesday we went to the lake for the last time (we really loved the lake). On Wednesday evening, we had dinner on a boat! We went on the biggest, natural lake in all of France. It was a great opportunity to get pictures of everyone one last time. Friday, my friends Antoine and Marco hosted a cookout for me and my friends and after we went out. This last week was absolutely perfect. If I think about the initial goals and fears that I had before I came to France, I feel so accomplished. I was really nervous about making friends. Not only did I make friends, but I made best friends. It's remarkable how in six weeks you can meet people who you feel you've known forever. The best friends I made were Ivana (from Canada), Ariane (from New York), Katie (from Montana), Antoine (from France), and Marco (from France). I am literally so happy that I made real French friends. It was amazing to learn the real slang of France and not just what the teachers tell you. They helped us out so much by telling us where to go, what places are dangerous, what's happening in the city, and they helped Katie send her baggages to Rome. Maybe it's just because I'm in a good mood, but...I have faith in people. There are marvelous people out there in the world. I'm never going to forget the ones I met here. We've made promises to see each other again, and I believe it will happen. How can I not see people who were with me when my dreams came true? Goodbyes are so hard. They have always been hard for me, and always will be. It's hard leaving a place and people who have been such a big part of my life. Will I remember everything? I don't want to forget anything! Pictures can only do so much. I'm afraid this will all become a dream to me; it's too good to be true. On a brighter note, I can tell that I've changed. I feel that I'm a little more confident in myself now. Navigating airports and depending on public transportation is so stressful, but I think I can do it. It's nice to know that I can depend on myself and that if I need help, I can ask someone in French. I also think I've become more personable. Meeting people and conversations are so important. For me, I need to keep my eyes open to meeting as many people as possible. For example, when I get back to Maryville College, I want to become friends with as many International students as possible. It's easier now to see where they are in their lives and how to talk to them. We're all the same, and it's wonderful when we realize that. Add Comment "WE ARE JUST THE SAME" 07/17/20120 Comments Picture Caitlin Campbell University de Savoie One day when I was at the lake with my friends Katie and Morgan, this guy approached us. He said he heard us speaking English and he wanted to introduce himself. After a few words of greeting, he sat down right next to us and continued talking. Seeing as how I was in my bathing suit and not knowing who this guy was, I was a little unnerved and even a little annoyed to be honest. He surprised us by inviting us over to hang out with him and his friends later that day. Are people just nice over here or does he have some other intention? By trusting our instincts, we decided that he was a good guy. And indeed, he is. When we went over to his friends house, he introduced us to everyone, translated for us, and walked us home. From all the times that we've hung out with Antoine, I've come to know him as a funny, fun-loving young man. He loves to say, "Swag," "D-O-Double G", sing American pop songs, wear American brands, and listen to rap. He's has also actually taken care of me and my friends. Every time we hang out with him, he walks us home. He is persistant that we shouldn't walk home alone because the park that's very close to our apartments is very dangerous at night. And the other day we were going to go see fireworks, but he told us that the area that we planning to go to was the most dangerous in Chambery. And today, I'm going to a huge music festival where LMFAO, Blink-182, and Garbage are playing. I wouldn't have know about he festival if it wasn't for Antoine. He lets us know what's going on and where the best places are to visit. I'm glad we've made a good friend here. Two days ago Antoine took us to his friends' concert. While there, he introduced us to all his friends and bought me a drink. On the way home, I asked him, "Hey, do you think Americans are cool? Because we think French people are really cool." And he said, "Of course! Americans are great! The more I spend time with you, the more I think we are just the same." I was very happy that he said that because internally I have been thinking the same thing about people all over the world. I'm glad my persona doesn't scream, "I'M AN AMERICAN!" Antoine has also said he would make me a French culture list full of music, movies, songs, and sayings so that I can continue to learn French when I've returned. Add Comment LITTLE 'OL ME FINALLY WENT TO PARIS!

Caitlin Campbell 
University de Savoie
For my program, we were given a handout that listed the trips that were open to us. A while back, I "starred" the most important trips to me and visiting Paris was number one. When we walked off the train and I took my first few steps, I just couldn't believe I was finally in Paris. Paris - the place where Roland Garros tennis champions played, where the Mona Lisa is located, and where the most gorgeous building in the world was built.
    The first thing our group did was visit Pere Lachaise Cemetery. Instead of graves, this cemetery had what  seemed like tiny houses with one single room. In the single room there was usually one window made in the shape of a cross. Some rooms had chairs, branches, or other seemingly random things. But the more I thought about it, I came to realize that these little rooms are probably prayer rooms. The architecture of each grave was so different and each had a unique door. The size of this graveyard amazed me. It was so beautiful and creepy at the same time. It actually inspired me to image stories or photoshoots that would capture that certain beauty. This graveyard was also the place where I glimpsed the Eiffel Tower for the first time.
    In the morning, our group went to Roland Garros. This was my second place to see in Paris because my brother is a huge tennis fan/player. I pleaded with the guard to let me in, but he said that the facilities were being cleaned. I still can't believe that I was near the place where Roger Federer, Steffi Graff, Bjorn Borg, and so many other tennis players have been. I wish I could have traded places with my brother so he could have seen it with his own eyes.
    Next we went to the Champs-Elysées. I have to be honest - I didn't really know what was the big deal (haha). Yes, it was beautiful and there were plenty of beautiful, expensive stores, but that's pretty much it. In fact, the friends I was with at the time decided to go off onto one of the side streets to eat. There, we found this little pizza place called Flam's. I was rather shocked at Flam's because they gave us English menus and our server willingly spoke English to us. I had always heard that Parisians were not fond of tourists - let alone Americans. I guess generalizations aren't accurate anywhere.Of course, the only monumental thing on that street is the Arc de Triomphe. It was such an experience to see it with my real eyes. So much detail came in sight and I was able to appreciate the grand size of it. This was also the place of the greatest roundabout I have ever seen. Cars were driving and swerving all over the place while honking and slamming on breaks. 
    THE EIFFEL TOWER. The Eiffel Tower is where I went next, and my mind was blown. Pictures, movies, and postcards do it no justice at all. Upon walking under the Eiffel Tower, I started to cry. It's hard to explain how I felt at that time. It was like a big, seemingly-impossible dream finally came true. After having so many little replicas in my room, pictures plastered in lockers and walls, and necklaces with it, I was finally under the real tower. I am a little embarrassed to admit that over half of my pictures taken that day were of the Eiffel Tower. It seemed to look different from every angle and under different weather conditions. I might sound like a dork, but it seemed like a structure from out of this world. It's size is unbelievable. It creates shadows over everything else in the city around mid-day. Luckily, Ivana (my Canadian friend) and I went back the next day and actually went up to the second floor. If anyone has seen Disney's Pixar movie Ratatouille, they know was I'm talking about when I say that the view was spectacular. I have finally been on the most beautiful building in the world. Now, when I look at my little replicas, I'll be able to imagine me on the second level looking around.
   Next, our group went to Notre Dame where I tried to imagine Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame take place (I love Disney movies, by the way). The gargoyles were actually real! I wanted to go into the building and explore, but the line was too long and my friends wanted to move on. Again, actually seeing the real life building took my breath away. I decided to actually run up and touch it to see if it was real. Paris most definitely has the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen.
    The Moulin Rouge was next on our list. After leaving Sacre Coeur, the walk to Moulin Rouge turned from relaxing and beautiful to scary and strange rather quickly. We were warned ahead of time about the district that the Moulin Rouge was in, but that still didn't prepare me (haha). Let's just say that I'm not ever going there when it's dark. But the Moulin rouge itself made me smile. It had the red tower and the sign that I saw in the movie. It's hard to believe that one city contains all these monuments. 
   Now, my three friends and I literally saw everything that was on our list: Roland Garros, Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Notre Dame, Sacre Couer, Moulin Rouge, and the Eiffel Tower at night. But to do this, we had to descend into the depths of Mordor (at least it seemed that way to me) and travel on the Metro. Oh, the metro. At first, I was lost beyond all comprehension and  followed the others. But throughout the day, I became more comfortable. There were a few instances when musicians would hop on the metro and ask for money. There was one guy in particular who had an amp and was singing. That was actually really fun (haha). By day two, Ivana and I had mastered the metro and were able to spend time at the Eiffel Tower and eat our last Parisian crepe by the Seine before heading back to the hostel.