Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Paris Collection

Address: YWAM Paris Base (19th district)

Dear Map-readers,
I wish more of you decided to journey with me to Paris. Poor Danelle was stuck with the navigation segment of our trip. The rest of us couldn't make any sense of Parisian streets. We only made fools of ourselves a few times while jumping from bus to train to plane to train to metro. Thankfully, by a lucky correspondence with a YWAM base in Paris, we were able to have a place to stay for the night after being turned down by hostels with curfew times. I love how YWAM is like a huge family around the world. As part of their ministry, this particular base runs a restaurant that serves 3-course, phenomenal meals for only 16 euros (crazy cheap here). It was much better food than our first Paris cuisine (which was actually Thai food) which we inhaled after traveling all day. We were then stuck with the dilemma of figuring out how to pay/tip in this new country. Hopefully we didn't offend too many waiters during our weekend.

Already tired,

Address: Vintage Hostel (1st District)
Dear Cheese, Bread and Wine-Lovers.
Our first full day in Paris was spent wandering through the streets with no particular aim. This is not a good idea BTW. We did happen upon the highest point in Paris (Sacre Coeur) and were harassed by street vendors. It was a lovely day for meandering though, so we get a good taste of upper Paris. We have decided from this point on to take the metro as much as possible to save on map-reading and foot strength. Our first night in a hostel turned up some mixed up room situations and Michelle and I ended up sharing a single bed (nice and cozy), but other than that it wasn't too bad. We were given free croissants in the morning and we hoarded as many brochures and maps as possible. At the end of the day we visited the Louvre and took advantage of Friday night free entry (I do love free things). The Louvre is amazing. I wish I had a few days to peruse it.

A girl who cannot pronounce French to save her life

Address: St. Christopher's Hostel (19th District)

Dear Art and History Enthusiasts,
We packed a lot into our Saturday. Upon discovering a free walking tour of the city, we excitedly signed up. The tour was led by a hilarious guide (definitely easy on the eyes as well) who shared so many random stories that you would never read in history books. We stopped at all the famous touristy sites including: Notre Dame, Louvre, Jardin de T(something that I don't know how to spell), etc. We saw the great Eiffel Tower from afar, but didn't get close. After 4 hours of walking in the rain and FREEZING cold, we went back to our hostel (10x nicer than the last) and crashed for a few hours. Later, after eating, we decided to make a spontaneous trip to see Eiffel. While it was an unplanned visit, it was spectacular! Every hour, on the hour, the tower sparkles. So pretty!


PS. Did you know that the French have a "cultural ministry" building which simply serves to keep English words out of their language (i.e. computer or weekend)? They also tackle problems like what to do when statues' noses start to fall off...but it may take them 2 years to come to a decision (true story).

Address: Navigating Paris Transportation (multiple districts)
Dear Excitable People,
What happens when you get to visit places that you've always dreamed of seeing in real life? You go a little crazy that's what! On our last day, we decided to splurge a bit a pay to ascend the Eiffel Tower. Totally worth the money!! We did so at night so it was almost looking at the sky from above, all the tiny lights looked like stars on the ground. Beautiful. It was incredibly cold however, but we still loved it. Of course, that was the end of the day. The beginning was spent visiting Napoleon's tomb, taking lots of pictures, and eating authentic, French crepes (mmm). Finally, to wrap up the whole experience, we made another spontaneous stop at the Moulin Rouge because I love the movie and was singing the music all day. It was a must.

Perfectly Satisfied with this visit,

Ps. I don't think I've ever walked this much in one weekend!

Address: Plane over the English Channel

A last note,
Travelling back to our temporary home in England brought some stumbling blocks in the form of French pride. We still made our traveling times just fine, but it took a bit of annoyed eye rolls, broken English/French pleas, lots of running around airports, and a tiny bit of hair-pulling. But for the most part things went smoothly. We all decided that Paris would never be a place we could live because: A.) The city is way too confusing. B.) The people are kinda...well, French at times. C.) We couldn't put up with the street vendors any more than necessary. All things considered, we loved our time there, but it was nice to be back in the UK with a cup of tea, slippers, and our own room once again.

Home again, Home again,

PS. I don't think my foot will ever be the same.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Address: Oxford and Cotswold Villages

To all those closet nerds out there,
I got to visit Oxford last Saturday. This was exciting on two counts: #1. It was Oxford, land of the biggest library systems and areas of academia in (dare I say)the world. #2. My darling cousin, who happens to be studying abroad there, met up with us. I have missed her, and it's pretty awesome that even though I'm across the ocean she's still 40 min. away.
Anyway, Oxford is lovely. We didn't visit any of the actual campuses besides Christ's College (where Harry Potter was filmed), but we did get to visit the famous pub where Tolkien and CS Lewis used to meet. The grandeur and antiquity of everything in the city was just stunning. I took a few pics, but we weren't there very long so I will have to schedule another visit some time soon!


PS. I wish I was a student just so I could enter the forbidden sections of the library and read books that are chained to their shelves.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Address: London

Dear Readers,
Well I was mostly right about regretting the 3:30 am coach ticket to London. However, the trip was very enjoyable. There was something special in watching the capital slowly wake up (plus it provided perfect lighting for photo-ops).
We must have walked at least 10 miles all day, but we saw Westminster Abbey, several of the parks, Buckingham palace (and the changing of the guards), The National Gallery, King's Cross, Picadilly Square, the parliament houses, and part of the British Museum (though an alarm went off randomly and we had to evacuate after only 15 min.). We also enjoyed some solid London Pub food and browsed touristy shops.
By the end of our day (aka 6 pm) we were all starting to get a bit grumpy and very ready for bed...of course it started raining by this point. We boarded our bus right on time and settled in for the 2 1/2 hr. journey back...and that's when the trip turned a bit sour. We sat in London traffic for 4 hours, moving maybe 1/2 a mile in that whole time because (drum roll) a car hit a lampost and that post was blocking 3 lanes of traffic. The trip ended up taking 7 hours!! Needless to say, when we finally got home at 1 am we were all exhausted.
Not too bad of a trip overall, but I think we're taking the train next time...

The Girl Who Will Move Lightposts Herself Next Time

PS. I saw the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum and Van Gogh's "Sunflowers" at the National Gallery. How flippin cool is that?!?!?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Address: Under Covers in My Bed

Dear Americans,
Thanks for the rain. For the most part we've had lovely weather the whole time we've been here, then suddenly the West sends a monsoon our way. I'm not looking forward to walking 30 minutes to class in a few hours. Emily came back earlier soaked in every part that wasn't covered by her coat. Umbrellas are pointless here since it rains up and sideways.
I am currently fighting off a bit of the sniffles. I think it's the unreliable sleep schedule I've had. I slept 10 hours last night (which I never do) and feel better this morning, but tomorrow a group of us are leaving for London at 3:30 am...which could quite possibly be the dumbest idea we've ever had. Oh well, here's to experiences!! I can't wait to show you pictures of what London looks like at 6 am.
I think i'm going to go make some chamomile tea and drink it with digestive biscuits, PB, and nutella (my new favorite combo). Maybe that will perk up my mood before class.

Rainily Yours,
Amanda The Red-Nosed Sniffler

PS. I had my first choir rehearsal last night and discovered that all i've been told in voice lessons is true....singing with a British accent really does make the song sound smoother.