I’d be happy never riding a bus again Friday, Jul 17 2009 

Thursday morning the 4 of us woke up semi-early to check out of the hostel on time. We didn’t stick around for breakfast because we decided we wanted our last meal in Ireland to be a traditional Irish breakfast. After walking around for a little bit we found a pub nearby that was still serving and sat down to enjoy some food before Sarah had to catch her bus to Dublin to catch her flight to London. The breakfast was huge and delicious! We all agreed that we’d made a good decision in choosing breakfast out over toast at the hostel.

After breakfast it was good-bye to Sarah as she headed off to catch her bus; she still has 2 weeks in Europe thanks to a cruise with her family. Personally I’m ready to go home. Jaclyn, Katie and I still had about an hour to kill before we had to catch our bus so we wandered around Galway one last time soaking  it all in. After one last visit to the Oscar Wilde statue and the tourism center so Jaclyn could grab one last souvenir we got on our bus. The bus from Galway to Dublin took about 3.5 hours total and I’m not ashamed to say I slept most of the way. I just put on The Beatles on my iPod and conked out. It was wonderful.

We got to the airport in plenty of time and actually made it through customs and security just fine (mainly because we didn’t have to go through customs). The flight was delayed about 20 minutes but overall it wasn’t bad. We found out in the air what the cause of the delay was–bad weather. Flying into Paris we got some bad turbulence, worse than anything I’ve ever experience, and could see the sky light up with the lightning from a summer thunderstorm. When we got off the plane we were a little shocked by the heat and humidity, we’d gotten pretty used to the cooler weather in Prague and Galway.

From the plane it was onto another bus, this one to take us actually into Paris. I think it’s pretty cool that now we’ve flown in/out of all three airports in Paris: Charles de Gaulle, Orly and Beauvais. That bus ride was the worst because the driver was a moron and kept going in circles. I swear it must have taken twice as long as needed to get to our destination and the rain had nothing to do with it. Luckily for us though the drop off point was really close to the Chalufour’s apartment so we just walked home.

Once we got home it was a speed round of re-packing and last minute preparations for leaving tomorrow. Our flight home leaves at 1 pm so we have to be on the Metro headed to CDG by 9. I’m actually pretty excited about going home, even though this summer has been incredible! I still don’t think it’s fully sank in that I spent my summer studying/traveling around Europe. It was a dream come true and I will never forget this summer!

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Beware the sheep-cows Wednesday, Jul 15 2009 

Amazingly enough Tuesday morning, all 4 of us girls woke up and showered and got ready with plenty of time to spare before we had to meet the bus for our tour. We found a great deal where we could book two day tours for under 40 euro and see most of the country around Galway.

Our first tour was to the Cliffs of Moher and the surrounding countryside. Most of you may know the Cliffs of Moher as the “Cliffs of Insanity” from The Princess Bride because the movie was filmed here. The tour took us through the countryside towards the cliffs and the entire morning was just spent seeing the beauty of Ireland. We stopped at a few fairy dales but didn’t see any fairies and we saw a few old cemeteries with ancient celtic crosses. Again-just beautiful!

Fishermen in the river on the edge of Galway. I don't know what they were fishing for, there were no fish in that water.

Fishermen in the river on the edge of Galway. I don't know what they were fishing for, there were no fish in that water.

The city of Galway as seen from across the bay on our way to the Cliffs of Moher.

The city of Galway as seen from across the bay on our way to the Cliffs of Moher.The Irish countryside, complete with wandering horses.

It's no wonder the ancient Celts thought the land here held magic, just looking at it can put in you a trance with its beauty.

It's no wonder the ancient Celts thought the land here held magic, just looking at it can put in you a trance with its beauty.

The actual cliffs were after lunch and they were just breathtaking. I really wish I could put up my pictures to show you people but that’ll come soon enough. Just imagine black, slick cliff faces more than 700 feet high with the stormy, tempest-ridden Irish sky above and the deep blue and green Atlantic Ocean below. I never really thought of Ireland having beaches or mountains but that certainly is the case. It’s the most amazing juxtaposition of the two geographies I’ve ever seen. This part of the country is also still really rural so we could see all the little field full of horses and sheep and cattle, the other girls were very amused by the cattle and had to stop to take pictures. I guess that’s what happens when you grow up in the city and never see livestock up close.

Storms were rolling in all afternoon over the Ciffs of Moher.

Storms were rolling in all afternoon over the Ciffs of Moher.

The rolling hills around the Cliffs. You would never imagine that the Atlantic Ocean is less than 30 yards away.

The rolling hills around the Cliffs. You would never imagine that the Atlantic Ocean is less than 30 yards away.

The rolling barley along the Cliffs' edge.

The rolling barley along the Cliffs' edge.

The harsh weather made it all too obvious why so many deaths are reported each year at the Cliffs, strong winds and stormy seas claims the lives of those on dry land and on the water.

The harsh weather made it all too obvious why so many deaths are reported each year at the Cliffs, strong winds and stormy seas claims the lives of those on dry land and on the water.

This is not a beach for sunbathing.

This is not a beach for sunbathing.

Our tour guide was the most adorable little old Irishman named Desmond. He’s been guiding tours for 13 years now so he really knows his stuff and makes the trip fun. He was constantly joking with us, telling everyone to watchout for Ireland’s newest and most dangerous breed of cattle: the sheep-cow. These sheep-cows were mentioned a few times during the day but it wasn’t until we were halfway home that we saw one–it was a llama. Granted they are funny looking animals but a sheep-cow? Desmond also serenaded me on the bus. There was Irish music playing all day, including “Galway Girl” and I guess I just fit the description pretty well. The “Galway Girl” has black hair and bright blue eyes and that’s what gets the singer into trouble. I’m learning here that I apparently look quite a bit Irish.

When we came back from the tour we grabbed a quick, hot dinner of soup and then went back to the hostel to try to dry off before going out. It rained off and on all day and sometimes we just couldn’t escape it so we got soaked. Now we know why Ireland is so green. Desmond had told the whole tour about a tavern in Galway that had good prices and live Irish Set Dancing on Tuesday nights so we decided to give it a try.

Sarah wasn’t feeling well so Jaclyn, Katie and I went. We ordered our drinks and were just chatting until the music and the dancing started. None of us were quite sure what Set Dancing was but we soon found out. Its kind of like square-dancing meets swing meets two-stepping all to Irish folk music. We were watching for a while and having fun when an older man (most of the dancers were older) came up and asked if I’d like to dance. I figured why not so I went out on the floor with him. That was the best decision I’ve made this entire trip! It was soo much fun! I was worried my clumsiness would make me a horrible dancer and I’d crash into everyone but I didn’t, my partner was named John Walsh and he was a great teacher/leader. I danced 5 dances with him and loved every second of it. In our little chats along the way he asked me if I had any Irish blood in me and I said yes and he said he could tell walking up to me that I did and he just knew I’d be a good Irish dancer. I don’t know if all that’s true but it was fun and I hope to do it again sometime!!

After the dancing I was exhausted and we needed to come back to check on Sarah so we headed home. Our next day in Galway should be fun because we have another tour and we’re seeing the new Harry Potter movie! Get excited people!

5 people+3 umbrellas=a wet evening Thursday, Jul 9 2009 

Thursday the gang woke up… eventually to our first day in Prague. I guess the lack of sleep finally caught up with all of us and the super good blackout curtains in the apartment didn’t help, but we all slept into the afternoon. It was lovely.

When we finally all got up and got around we made our lunch in the apartment before heading out to explore the city. Our first stop was Old Town Square. There we saw Prague’s Astronomical Clock, a very elaborate contraption that can tell you the time of day along with about 30 other things, I’m pretty sure it could even take your temperature. Everywhere we looked we could see the beautiful, classic Czech architecture. I don’t think I could ever get tired of seeing these buildings that are centuries old.

One of the many ancient cathedrales in Prague. The city is full of architecutre just like this.

One of the many ancient cathedrales in Prague. The city is full of architecutre just like this.13th century architecture really made me realize just how young the States are and how new all our architecture is compared to everything in Europe.

While we were wandering around the Square we saw St. Nicholas’ Church and found out there was a concert starting in less than an hour. It was really cheap (like everything here) and it was a trio playing some very famous classical pieces, plus it was the only way to get in the church. We bought our tickets and couldn’t have been happier that we did. The group was amazing and the church was beautiful! Classical music is always impressive and these people really had talent. It was really great to hear the music in one of the oldest, most well-known musical cities in the world, the Mozart piece we heard was written right in Prague!

After our concert we wandered across the river to see what we could see. Somehow we wandered into an old garden and found some weird things. Right off the bat we saw an albino peacock, something I’ve only see pictures of. What really made it annoying was that it kept screaming, I hate when peacocks scream, that was the only bad part about staying the night at my grandparents’ when I was little, the neighbors’ screaming peacocks terrified me. The garden also had a really strange artificial dripstone wall. The king at the time (sorry, I don’t remember who exactly) wanted a wall that would be intimidating and terrifying. I think he succeeded a little.

The albino peacock in the gardens. I never would have imagined these birds could be just as beautiful without their colors.

The albino peacock in the gardens. I never would have imagined these birds could be just as beautiful without their colors.

The dripstone wall from the view of Prague Castle.

The dripstone wall from the view of Prague Castle.

Eventually though we were pretty hungry and it was starting to sprinkle so we set off in search of somewhere to eat. We remembered how to get to the restaurant Keegan took us to the night before so we got on the Metro and headed there. Like I said, it was sprinkling when we got on the Metro but when we got off it was POURING. We waited in the station for 20 minutes waiting for the rain to let up. It eventually did but we still got all wet because only Jaclyn, Sarah and I had umbrellas. Oops.

We found a great little Czech restaurant in the same neighborhood and had another wonderful meal. It’s so strange going from the pretty light, summery food in Paris to the heavy, stick-to-your-ribs Czech food. It’s wonderful but I don’t think I could eat it for a prolonged period of time. After our dinner we decided to head home because despite the late wake-up we were getting tired. I think we’ll be tired from this trip for the rest of our lives. Andres really wanted to take the trams so we gave it a try. We managed to take one to a good stop but from there we got confused so we hopped on the Metro instead. The Czech is starting to get to us because we really are walking around this city blind. It’ll be a strange feeling getting back to an English-speaking nation. Overall though I’d say Prague is pretty amazing and I’m really looking forward to the next few days!

Paris was so sad to see us go she cried…again Tuesday, Jul 7 2009 

Tuesday Jaclyn got up to go in to IES to take her last final and I got around to go in to the final picnic they were providing.

Lunch was a blast, it was a great way for everyone to chat and discuss plans for the last night in Paris. Afterwards we all did a little bit of last minute shopping and then we headed home to do last minute packing. Katie came over with her suitcase because she’s leaving it at our apartent while we travel because her family is going on vacation too.

The grand plan of the night was to have a final picnic at the Eiffel Tower with everyone but the weather did not cooperate. It rained off and on all afternoon/night so we decided to go to a nearby fondue restaurant instead. It was the best decision yet! The food was delicious and we all had a blast! There were 8 of us there and it was amazing! I was the only one that had been to a fondue place before (thanks Tom & Deb) so I guess that made me the resident expert. I tried not to screw it up too hard.

After the fondue place, the gang headed to the Bastille to meet Meaghan, Emma and Harrison for one last hoorah. We all went back to the Indian restaurant we visited a few weeks ago and had one last round of drinks and chats together before saying good-byes. It was a little difficult, I’m not going to lie. It’s going to be so strange not to see the same people all day every day for the rest of the summer. At least I’ve got an extra week of travel with some of them to help soften the blow.

On that note, the rest of the updates are going to be few and far between, if they happe at all. Katie, Andres, Jaclyn, Sarah and I leave bright and early in the morning to head to Prague and after that it’s on to Ireland. I’m hoping we’ll have computers with internet at the hostels so I can update the blog but if not I promise to do retrograde posts when I get back to the States. Thanks for following along with me through Paris and I hope everyone enjoyed reading this as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it!

All Venezuelan stories have sad endings Saturday, Jun 27 2009 

So Thursday was Katie’s birthday. We went to Contemporary France and I got her a pain au chocolat (remember-croissant with chocolate baked in) and Meaghan brought her a hot chocolate cake thing. That was fun to watch Katie eat because it was a too hot to pick up with her hands but she didn’t have a spoon so she had to use a small plastic cup. Not the best idea but it still tasted amazing so it was okay.

Impressionism had another excursion so again we had a lot of extra time between classes. I actually had to run home because I’d gotten roses from Ben for my birthday and they needed to be put in water. When I got back to IES (fasted Metro ride ever) Harrison, Andres, Meaghan, Katie and I got lunch at our favorite bakery and then just wandered around close to IES for a while. Us girls went in a few shops to look at the sales and Meaghan found some shoes while Katie and I found jackets for less than 20 euros, it was a good shopping excursion.

When the boys had to head to class, the three of us got on the Metro to head to the meeting point for our excursion. This time we went to the Rodin Gallery. It was pretty awesome. I’d never realized just how much his sculptures broke from the classical idea of sculpture. He rarely used marble and his figures were hardly ever the perfect, smooth, beautiful creations from the classical era. Instead he focused on movement and human form and left rough edges. His “Gate to Hell” was a very intresting piece that is based on Dante’s Inferno. Rodin did such an incredible job showing all the levels of hell and the anguish of the people stuck there.

After the museum I had to go home because Jaclyn and I had dinner with the Chalufours. I got home none to soon because just as I walked in the door it started pouring down rain. I’ve never seen such hard rain in Paris before, I felt like I was back home for a minute. This was bad news though because Katie had wanted to take some wine and maybe some desserts to the Eiffel Tower and sit outside and relax for her birthday.

When dinner was over Jaclyn and I called to find out what was going on. It turned out Katie had talked to a friend of ours from Mizzou who’s been studying in Paris since February. Stephanie had gone to dinner with Katie and some others that didn’t have family dinner and Stephanie said she had a friend with a big apartment where we could all hang out. Jaclyn and I met up with them at their cafe and off we went.

The apartment was the perfect size for a big group and Stephanie’s friend (also an MU student) and her French boyfriend were super nice. Everyone just hung out there and enjoyed some wine for quite a while. Eventually though, just when we thought things were winding down, Stephanie asked if we wanted to go out for a while because she knew a really great club with good dancing. Now there’s nothing Katie likes more than dancing so of course we went. At this point though, one of our new friends, Marissa, was feeling her wine. (Marissa and her younger sister Taylor are really fun and we hope to hang out with them more in the last week or so.) For some reason, Marissa was convinced she was Venezuelan like Andres and could speak “Venezuelan” as well. When we got to the club and got in she thought she needed a beer too and needed to be on the dance floor as well. That was a bad idea so Harrison and I kept her preoccupied by asking her to tell us a Venezuelan story. She told us one about a boy and his coconut that went out on the ocean in a boat and sank. All Venezuelan stories have sad endings she said.

Before too long the sisters went home. The rest of us stayed for a while longer. Katie, Jaclyn, Meaghan, Emma, Andres, Stephanie and her friend were having a blast dancing while Harrison and I held down the fort. Eventually though I was tired and we all decided to go home because we had to be up early the next morning. When we got outside we realized it was raining again…harder than before. It was a truly bonafide thunderstorm going on. We saw lighting and heard tons of thunder. Somehow we all managed to grab cabs and get home without being completely soaked, just 80% or so. Off to bed we went to sneak in about 3 hours before we had to be up for the IES excursion to Giverny!

Will we ever see the pyramids in the sun? Wednesday, Jun 10 2009 

Wednesday morning I went into class alone again. Jaclyn and I have both been having a hard time waking up so she’s been coming in after me because we’ve slept in so late we can’t both get ready to go before 8:30 and I have class and she doesn’t so I go and she comes later.

Contemporary France was interesting. We discussed the separation of Church and State, which over here is much stronger than in the States. Over here it’s so strict that students in public schools can’t even wear noticeable cross necklaces or the hijab. I think it’s a little ridiculous when all the religious holidays are taken into consideration and our professor agreed.

Between class we worked on Barcelona plans (still nothing definite yet) and ran over to the closest bakery to grab sandwiches to go with our lunch stuff from home. Today was super cold and really rainy again so we didn’t go far for long. Katie, Meaghan and I really want some scarves and the other girls told us about a market in the same area where I bought my art supplies, but it closes at 12:30 and we didn’t find out about it until 1:30 but maybe next week.

Art History had an excursion to the Opera Garnier so I got to go inside that beautiful building again. This time was nice because our professor gave us a tour so I learned more. Everything in the building is built for function as well as beauty, including the cleverly disguised tubes for the electrical wires! After that we went on a walking tour of the neighborhood to see the architecture and former art community buildings. It was beautiful but also a little sad because of all the modern changes–we saw two McDonald’s and several Starbucks and a big tacky cafe where Monet used to hang out. We also went in a pretty, old church named St. Eugene. It was built at the request of Napoleon III’s wife and is a perfect example of neo-gothic but it was built at the  same time as all the other buildings in the area so it sticks out like crazy. It’s also made all of metal, a very strange thing according to our professor, because everything in Franch (minus the Eiffel Tower) is made of stone or brick. In fact, the architect of the church had been a student of Gustave Eiffel.

The walking tour was cut short because it started raining again so our professor let us go. Katie, Meaghan and I headed towards the Louvre because Colleen told us she bought scarves over there for a really good deal. When we got off the Metro it was still raining but we headed towards the market stands anyway. It was on the walk past the Louvre that Katie and I realized we’d now seen the pyramids three times, and it’s been raining/threatening rain every time! I’d like to see a pretty, clear blue sky reflected in them sometime but maybe that’s just not meant to be.

Because of the rain none of the stands were open so we did not get to buy any scarves. Instead we all just hopped on the Metro and headed home. I got home and read the newspaper and did my homework and accidentally fell asleep. The rain on the roof right outside my window just made me nod right of. Mme. left dinner for Jaclyn and me in the fridge and I plan on waiting to eat until she gets home but it’s getting late now and Jaclyn’s still now home from her class excursion so I might just eat without her…

Well what do you know, someone can make decisions Monday, Jun 8 2009 

Lucky Jaclyn didn’t have her morning class today so I took the Metro to school alone. When I say I took the Metro alone, I mean I took it alone. I was the only person in my car for at least 4 stops. Very strange.

Classes were classes, nothing special happened during them today. Actually most of the day was pretty quiet. We all just ate lunch at IES because it was rainy and nasty and freezing outside so we didn’t want to go far.

After class we were standing around, as usual, talking about what to do. This time it was really bad because it was raining and cold yet we still just stood there. Finally Emma stepped up and made a decision. We were all really happy but I don’t think she realizes that she has now firmly established herself as the decision-maker.

We went to a cafe and all had some coffee. We just hung out for an hour or so drinking our coffee and chatting. I think the best chats are among friends over coffee.

After coffee we went our separate ways. Jaclyn and I got some food at the Monoprix so we can make our own meals this week and save a bit of money. We had dinner with the Chalufours and ate the most delicious coffee ice cream I’ve ever had in my life!

Now I can hear Gone with the Wind in French on in the other room so I think I’m going to go watch Clark Gable with a French accent. Heaven here I come!