Cheerio!

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So I’m a little late getting around to this, since I went to London more than a month ago. Oops! I’m just thankful I wrote notes as I went, so this will be a lot easier! 

To start, I LOVED London. I arrived Thursday night, and met up with my friend Kristi from USC. It took forever to get through customs, but I finally arrived at our hostel around midnight, at which point we set out for food. I must say, it was much easier to find food after midnight in London than in Paris!

On Friday morning, we set out to explore the city and started with Trafalgar Square. They had a guy playing the Star Wars theme song on the bagpipes, which was pretty interesting! They also had some sort of protest (I think), because they had a bunch of people in all black just sitting in the middle of the square, and then TV crews came. I’m still not really sure what was going on. From there, we wondered over to Parliament and Westminster, which were both absolutely gorgeous buildings! After that, we went to Buckingham Palace (the Queen was in residence!) and Chipotle for lunch. I hadn’t even thought about how much I missed my American food until I got my burrito. Needless to say, that was not our only trip to Chipotle while in London! After that, we just wandered around the city and found some great shopping areas. I did make one (pretty funny) tourist mistake: that night, after getting a car to take us home, the driver asked me if I wanted to sit in the front. I of course agreed, and walked around to the right side of the car (see where this is going yet?) and tried to get into the driver’s seat. Oops. Thankfully, our driver assured me that I was far from the first person to do that, and even he had trouble remembering when he first arrived in London. 

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The next day, we were able to tour Wimbledon! We were able to see the grounds and even got to go into Centre Court! That might have been the highlight of my London experience. I even got to have my picture taken in the press room, and sample the famous strawberries and cream! 

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After going back into the city, we made it over to the Tower of London to see the Crown Jewels (which were every  bit as spectacular as I had hoped!) and the Tower Bridge. We then walked along the river  for a bit and got to see Shakespeare’s Globe and St. Paul’s, which was huge! Our trip to London would not have been complete without a trip to Harrod’s, so we spent some time wondering around there. 

On Sunday, we met up with Kate, another friend from USC who was studying abroad in London, and went to see the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham. We couldn’t see much due to the crazy crowds (I’m pretty sure every tourist in London had the same idea we did), but it was still a neat experience. From there we went to King’s Cross, where we got to take pictures at Platform 9 3/4! We were also able to go to Abbey Road, and recreate that infamous picture. It was a surprisingly busy intersection! If I lived in London, I would avoid it at all costs, because there were always people standing out in the middle of the street taking pictures. Oh well!

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That night, we went up on the London Eye right at sunset. The view was beautiful, and we were able to see the entire city lit up below us. We had an early night that night, because we were catching an early train to Paris the next morning! At the train station, I ordered a Duffin with raspberry filling (donut and muffin combo, and absolutely delicious!) before we boarded the train and went under the English Channel on the way back to Paris!

 

 

Chocolate, Cheese, and Skis: Welcome to Switzerland!

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I realized my urgency of writing this during the train to the airport to catch my flight to London. I needed to post this one before I had another adventure to write about!

In Switzerland, I met up with my friend Matt from USC. We’d been talking about this for a couple of months, but it was still a little crazy to think we were actually about to go skiing in the Swiss Alps! We both flew into Zurich Thursday night and, after finally figuring out how to get a train to Interlaken and the most expensive McDonalds ever, we finally made it to our hostel for the weekend around 1:30 in the morning. I passed out immediately, ready to it the slopes the next morning!

We woke up Friday an got our rentals and lift passes (conveniently just a 5 minute walk from the hostel, though it seemed more like 5 miles carrying everything back!) and headed up to the mountain! We took trains and a cable car to the top of the mountain, and had a great day of skiing in rather warm conditions. Having not skied for a couple of years, and starting on rather advanced slopes (due to a glaring lack of beginner slopes), I had a couple of spectacular wipeouts, though managed to avoid the slushy areas. I also got passed by 3 year olds on skis no bigger than my feet, which was wonderful for my confidence!

Matt did some research that night about the area, so we found a little easier area for Saturday. It was absolutely beautiful skiing weather, and it snowed for us the entire time! The slope we picked was REALLY long, but with incredible views of the valley below an some gorgeous parts through the trees. I thankfully had rediscovered my ski legs, so was able to just enjoy the panoramas and not think too much about my skiing. We also stopped for apple fritters at a lodge along the slope (ABSOLUTELY worth it!) before calling it a day.

I also discovered that one of the guys in our room at the hostel had grown up with a friend of mine from USC! It was definitely one of those small-world moments that went perfectly with our theme of the weekend that you never know what will happen next!

We went back into Zurich Sunday morning and wandered around the city. Everything is closed in Zurich on Sundays, but I still enjoyed seeing the buildings and the river! We also managed to get some Swiss chocolate before Matt left for Prague. I spent the night in Zurich and headed back to Paris Monday afternoon.

Skiing in the Alps was every bit as beautiful and challenging as I expected! It was also nice to get out of the city for a weekend, though I was happy to get back to the convenience of Paris, before heading to London!

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Trains, Planes, and Gondolas!

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I’ve finally made time to sit down and write about my week in Italy! And just in time, since I’m leaving for Switzerland tomorrow. I’ll be more prompt with that one, I promise!

I started out my week in Rome. The city feels like several different worlds, with the juxtaposition of the modern with the ancient, and the Vatican thrown in, too! I started exploring in the Vatican, and was absolutely amazed by St. Peter’s Basilica.

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The inside is spectacular, and the view from the top isn’t bad, either! It is a rather strenuous, but worth it. I also got to see he Vatican Museums, which were a lot larger than I expected, and, of course, the Sistine Chapel!

The next day I decided to go to the Colosseum, along with approximately 2 billion other people, and the Palatine Hill and Forum. Needless to say, it is definitely worth buying the tickets in advance!

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I also got to see the Pantheon, Spanish Steps, and Capitoline Hill.

I left for Florence the next day, but I was able to visit the Circus Maximus and the Aventine Hill, and one last visit to the Trevi Fountain, which was probably my favorite place in Rome.

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My first couple of days in Florence, I just wandered around the city. It’s a beautiful city, and very walkable. My friends said it was a 20 to 30 minute walk to pretty much anywhere, so I definitely got my exercise! One of my highlights from Florence was watching the sunset over the Arno every night across from the Ponte Vecchio!

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I also saw the Uffizi in Florence (and was introduced to pear ravioli – it’s mind-blowingly delicious) before taking a day trip to Venice.

Venice has got to be the most confusing city anywhere in the world. I’m pretty sure I found every dead end that place has, but I’ve never enjoyed not having a clue where I was than in Venice! I also happened to visit during Carnavale, so the city was packed with colorful characters.

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St. Mark’s and the Doge’s Palace seemed to contain about half of the worlds gold supply, and was a stunning reminder of the history of Venice. I also would have loved to visit a glass blowing factory, but couldn’t fit it in. I did, however, take an absolutely magical gondola ride! It wasn’t long, but it might have been the highlight of my entire trip.

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After Venice, I had one more day in Florence before returning to Paris to meet my family. The first thing I did was visit the real David, as opposed to the countless imitations scattered throughout the city. The Boboli Gardens are also fantastic, and rival those of Versailles.I ended my last day at the top of the Duomo for sunset!

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I absolutely loved my time in Italy – the land of the carbs and gelato! As much fun as it was, though, I was excited to get back to Paris. It feels like home, especially after I got to spend a week with my family. I’m looking forward to my next adventures!

Lisbon!

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Lisbon!

I guess it’s finally time to right about my weekend in Lisbon!
In short, Lisbon was absolutely incredible. When we landed at the airport, we were greeted with a rainbow, sunshine, and 65 degrees! I could not have asked for anything else. Coming from Paris, this was all especially appreciated, as whoever decided to call Paris the “City of Light” certainly did not mean sunshine. We were able to visit the beach, some incredible monuments, Belem, the Oceanarium, a castle, and some gorgeous overlooks of the city. I would highly recommend Lisbon! Compared to Paris, it seemed much more welcoming of English-speaking tourists.
Lisbon has, from my rather limited exposure, a pretty relaxed culture, again very different from what I have grown accustomed to in Paris. People actually take their time getting places! Lisbon is made up of hills, as my legs quickly learned, which can also make navigation a little tricky. However, I probably needed that exercise from all of the pastries I ate! I definitely took advantage of the cheaper prices and ate my heart out!
To me, Lisbon felt a little like an old-world Charleston. It is brimming with character from the different colored buildings to the winding streets to the mosaic sidewalks and squares, but it all contributed to a very charming atmosphere. That, plus the weather, proved to be exactly what I needed for my first excursion from Paris this semester!

First week of class, check!

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I survived! I’m still not entirely sure which classes I am going to take, but either way, I will have a four day weekend! 

Outside of class, I was able to actually visit the Orangerie! The museum was very manageable. We went through the entire thing in less than hour, but I could have spent the rest of my life in the Water Lilies room. Apparently, pictures are not allowed, but I was able to sneak a couple in before I was noticed! Image

I was also able to visit the Musee d’Orsay for an hour. Pictures are not allowed in there, either, and I’ve heard they are much more strict and may even make you delete your photo! I am  definitely going back, especially as I did not get a picture with Cocky, OUTSIDE of the museum. That one will be another semester-long project, to go with the Louvre! 

We were able to visit with Dr. Roth and Dr. Folks from the Darla Moore School of Business while they were in Europe. It was great to see some South Carolina faces!

I’m am moving into my new residence this week, and will start my “research” on stereotypes. I’m working on an intro right now, and it may be taking a slightly different direction than I had originally intended. 

We’ve had much more typical Parisian winter weather this past week (meaning cold, gray, and drizzly) so I have not been able to get out as much. I’m starting to think I’m solar powered, as this weather is just taking it out of me! I’m really hoping for some sunshine soon. 

I’ll end with a collage of some of my photos from the Orangerie! Enjoy!

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Fun in the Sun! In Paris!

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The past couple of days have been absolutely GORGEOUS, and I have certainly taken advantage of the wonderful weather! A brief recap:

The Louvre. I don’t even know where to begin! It is overwhelming and beautiful and HUGE. I knew that it was one of the largest museums in the world, but I don’t think anything could have prepared me for how big it is in person. The museum itself is a work of art. I’ve spent about 3 hours in it so far, and I have made it through one wing of one floor, with a side trip to La Jaconde, also known as the Mona Lisa. It’s a very good thing I’ll be here for a while! 

Notre Dame (during the day!) is even more breathtaking, especially from the top of the bell tower. We had incredible views of the entire city, and actually were at the top while the bells rang! 

While we couldn’t go to the very top (we think because of the wind), the Eiffel Tower was still quite an experience. I loved being able to see the entire city lit up at night, but I definitely want to go back during the day! We had a perfectly clear night, though breezy, and could see for miles. 

I was also able to go on a river boat party cruise, which turned out to be quite an experience! Hundreds of exchange students from several universities in Paris got together on a party barge for a quick trip down the Seine and music. 

I start classes on Wednesday, so I will have a little less time to be a “tourist.” Thankfully, I only have classes three days a week, though they each last for 3 hours! That will take some getting used to, but I’m willing to adjust to pretty much anything for my four-day weekend! I’m planning on taking some trips outside of Paris as soon as I get adjusted to my schedule and figure out how everything works. 

Here’s a compilation in pictures of my last couple of days! Until my next update, au revoir!

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