MENU

Preparing for Paris

Preparing to go to Paris seemed fairly easy to me. I had read many blogs about what to pack (and more importantly, what not to pack) and how to get around the city, so I left thinking I was as prepared as I would ever be to begin this new adventure. I mean, I was only going to Europe, what could possibly be so very different here than in the US? But Life, being the funny thing that it is, loves to show me how very wrong I am most of the time, and this situation was no different. So, after my first week in Paris, I have some advice about what I didn’t expect about moving here, and how to avoid making the same mistakes as me.

  1. Cobblestone is so hard to walk on. Cobblestone, one of the many things that makes old cities look so magical, is very common in Paris. While it is beautiful and such a different sight from the nicely paved sidewalks in Kansas City, there are terrible if you are any sort of clumsy. I also would not recommend doing what I did and bringing brand new shoes to wear while you get accustomed to uneven ground.
  2. Free does not mean free. The French word for free is either gratuit or libre. A lot of signs and other things say stuff like “Free Wifi,” but the majority of the time, you will have to pay for it. If you can’t read French, then it can be tricky to realize that they are actually asking you to pay to use their service. If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.
  3. American straighteners will not work. Even if you buy a converter! ISA tried to warn me about this, but I thought I had bought the right converter for it. I turned it on one day and came back to a blown up converter and burnt-smelling room. Luckily I did not blow the outlet which would have been super expensive, but I did cause the breaker to flip and had to shamefully tell my host mom what I had done. Just spend the 20-30€ for a French one that will work just fine.
  4. Lights throughout Europe are dimmer. They also seem to flicker. In the US, we run our lights on 60 Hz instead of 50 Hz, which is what many other countries use. Because of this, lights will appear to flicker sometimes and will be all-around dimmer.
  5. Most shops are closed on Sundays. Unless it is a large tourist area, most places are closed on Sundays. The places that are open are also extremely busy because everywhere else is closed. Just don’t save your shopping for Sunday.
  6. The shower heads are not mounted. This is the one thing that really threw me for a loop. The shower heads are all attached to hoses. Some places have hooks to hang them up, but other times you will just have to hold the shower head over your body.

While these were some of the things that tripped me up about living in France, I could not be happier about my decision! As long as you stay open-minded and flexible, all of these little things will add up to nothing! This first week has been a whirlwind of an adventure, fitting as many sights as I can into a day, and I cannot wait for the weeks to come. School starts next week and then the real grind begins, but until then, relaxing in Paris is not a bad way to pass the time.

Taking time to Travel pt 1.

I’m sure just about everyone feels like they should make the most of a study abroad opportunity.  One way to do so is to plan mini excursions to see as much of the country your are in and/or those around you.  I feel the same way and I have tried to get as much of the French countryside in my travels as possible.

I arrived with 3 other students, three days before the program in order to adjust to the new time zone before school started and to explore Paris.  I think this was the best way to go.  We arrived at about 8 am France time and then had to keep ourselves awake until the evening so that we could sleep on France’s time schedule.  The first day we managed to see the Eiffel Tower, and Notre Dame.  NOTHING can prepare you for seeing these two monuments.  Not for their immensity, beauty, and grandeur.  For me, coming to France has been a dream for so long and the moment I came around a corner to see the Eiffel was so special.

First Glimps of Tour d'Eiffel
First Glimpse of Tour d’Eiffel
The girls and I
The girls and I

The second day in Paris, we were able to see The Arc de Triumphe and l’Opera.  Both were stunning.  The girls I traveled with decided to climb the stairs of the Arc while I stayed below.  I found a certain peace while sitting there…just steps from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  As people rushed around me, I sat their for almost an hour and just took it all in.  There is so much history, pride, and beauty in that one single location and it sums up the overall feeling you get while being in Paris.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Paris Travels Take Two

This was my first trip since getting back to Edinburgh. I had already gone to Paris last semester, but the trip was interrupted by unexpected and devastating events so I wasn’t able to experience everything that had been planned.IMG_7208

For the first time I went to Edinburgh airport by myself without my group of traveling buddies accompanying me. While lonely, going to the airport by myself at 5:00 in the morning it was also one of the only times that I made it to the airport before boarding time. Before when I was traveling with a group we would pre-book a taxi and split the cost which was easy and convenient, but since I was by myself I took the bus. The bus departs from Waverly station and takes approximately 30 minutes (same as the taxi). Taking the bus also saves money as its only 4.50GB per a person and provides free Wi-Fi. The bus was easy, comfortable, and affordable but it is better to take a taxi if you are traveling with heavy or great amount of luggage.IMG_7091 IMG_7231

This Paris trip was going to be short and sweet. I left Friday morning and would return Sunday. I had preplanned everything in advance. I mapped out all of my routes for walking and using the trains and I made reservations and printed out my tickets online.

My flight on Friday had quite a bit of turbulence and ended up having a late arrival. It was a good thing that I took the first flight in the morning because my plan for the day was touring Versailles and that would take a 80 minuet train ride and Versailles winter hours meant that it closed at 5pm. Since I went when it was off-season the queue to get in went by quickly and there were no backups or hindrances when I moved through the palace.

There was a special exhibit open on the Sun King’s funeral procession. In my opinion the most beautiful part inside the palace was the famous hall of mirrors, but my favorite part of going to Versailles was the gardens. Even in winter when nothing is in bloom the gardens are spectacular. To see Versailles you need an entire day, and after quickly moving through the palace I spent the rest of my time in Versailles wandering through the gardens. The gardens are expansive. They are almost like a maze, although designed to be symmetrical, there are so many turns and pathways it is easy to lose your sense of direction, but this also leads to surprises; for instance, when I took one pathway that led away from the main path, that is lined with fountains, I found an oasis. In the middle of this perfectly manicured garden there was a bit was wildness. There wasn’t symmetry here but instead the plants growing where they pleased, spouting in different directions. And where the rest of the rest of the garden was still hibernating for winter, here in this small part, the grass was bright green, leaves were still on the trees, and the flowers were in full bloom.IMG_7354 IMG_7366

Other parts of the gardens were just as enchanting. Marie Antoinette’s peasant village made me feel like I was in the opening scene of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (and I might have broken out into song at one point while walking though). This part might have actually have been my favorite just because of my Disney obsession. [This deserved its own paragraph]

After Versailles I grabbed a quick dinner and got back on the train to head to the hostel I was staying at with some friends I was meeting up with. This ended up leading to a few missteps, and “learning opportunities”.  Once I got into central Paris, my transfer line was closed and there was not another line that would get me closer. Unfortunately, I didn’t have Wi-Fi access and no way to know how to walk there. So I got a taxi. Unfortunately, my friend had all of the information for the hostel (all I knew was the name) so I had the driver drop me off at station I was supposed to have ended up at. Once I safely arrived I unfortunately couldn’t check in because my reservation was under my friend’s name and I needed her passport to be able to go to our room. After waiting around three hours I decided to book another room and go to bed because I had been up since 4am. I found out the next day that my friend had problems on her end with her train leaving late and not getting in until 1am. I think I made the right decision in getting another room. Thankfully the rest of the trip went much more smoothly.IMG_7129 IMG_7177

The next day was probably one of my favorite days I have spent abroad [once again due to my Disney obsession] because I was able to go to my third Disney park, Disneyland Paris, with one of my best friends who I met when I worked at Disney World. The classic rides were all there, like Pirates of the Caribbean, but they were a bit different from their American counter parts. For instance, the Space Mountain at Disneyland Paris is more trilling compared to the one at Disney World, but its theming was based around astrology instead of astronomy. Also there were no games or purposeful distractions in the queue to entertain guests. We were able to do everything in both parks thanks to there being only a small crowd in about 8 hours.

IMG_7469 IMG_7565

Somethings I liked that were different: there were a lot of great sales on main street, the castle was beautiful (I liked it better than the Sleeping Beauty castle in California), inside the castle you could walk upstairs and walk through the story of Sleeping Beauty,  the rides had a higher thrill factor, all the cast members were in character and everyone was friendly even the guests

 

Something I didn’t like as much that were different: The theming wasn’t done as well, The hot dogs at Casey’s Corner were bland and they only had a couple of topping choices, Star Tours was offered only in French and was not in 3D (although listening in French made C3PO more humors), there were no fillers in the queue to be offered as distractions

 

I really loved the park, but personally I don’t think any Disney Park can compare to Disney World, entering it was like coming home. After having spent five months of my life walking around Disney World while doing my internship, the layout of Disneyland Paris was like a smaller version of Magic Kingdom. It was easy to get around and navigate where to go and what to do next due to my previous experiences. It was nostalgic and now I can’t wait to have my reunion with all of my friends at Disney World.

IMG_7444 IMG_7496 IMG_7509

Helpful Hint: Always, always, always make sure you have access to all of the travel plans such as the confirmation to the hotel

Paris: From Dream to Reality

Everyone who knows me well would definitely say that I’ve been obsessed with Paris for as long as they can remember. In fifth grade, I started learning French (beginning with Rosetta Stone and then taking regular classes once they were offered in middle school) just so I could go to Paris and speak with Parisians. In seventh grade, I redecorated my room to include Eiffel tower wall stickers, Eiffel Tower posters, and a statue of the Eiffel Tower on which I hung my five different Eiffel tower necklaces. I have approximately twenty articles of clothing— including but not limited to sweaters, T-shirts, and dresses— with the word “Paris” scrawled across them in trendy, bright-colored fonts. My favorite book, a funny young adult romance novel titled Anna and the French Kiss, takes place in Paris. In every get-to-know-you game of Two Truths and a Lie that I had to play on the first day of classes, I would cleverly scribble down that I had been to Paris, which no one guessed as the lie.

IT’S NOT A LIE ANYMORE! This past weekend, my friend Dara and I took a two hour train ride and stayed in Paris for three nights. Our first stop when we arrived on Friday night was the Eiffel Tower, where I conquered my fear of heights and went all the way to the top— making my first view of Paris at night a truly spectacular one. We also watched a mesmerizing light show, putting all those sparkling Eiffel Tower pictures from Google images that I used to use as laptop backgrounds to shame.

eiffel tower1eiffeltower2

Saturday, we went to Fragonard, a French parfumerie and museum of classic French perfumes, as well as the famous Louvre Art museum, where we saw hundreds of classic French paintings and the original Greek statues of Aphrodite.

fragonardlouvrelouvre2
Sunday was the busiest— and perhaps the best— day of the weekend. We went to the Palace of Versailles, the cathedral of Notre Dame, and the Arc de Triomphe. Notre Dame has 422 steps and the Arc de Triomphe has 284 steps… traveling is truly the best exercise!

arcdetriomphenotredameversailles
One weekend in Paris was not enough time to explore everything, but now that I’ve achieved my original dream of going once, I know that my new goal will be to someday go back. Thank you for reading about this adventure, and here’s to the place that first inspired my fascination with France so many years ago! Paris, je t’adore!

eiffel tower3

Paris and Pickpocketing

 

The Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower

Paris was amazing! I went to several famous monuments such as Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Versailles, and the muse d’Orsay. These places were fantastic of course, but I also went to some less well known places that were just as interesting. I saw the play “Lucréce Borgia” at La Comédie Française Theater, I went up in a hot air balloon, I went to a gourmet chocolate shop, and took a “velo taxi”. I also went to this place called the dead poets society where people eat, drink, and recite French poetry. It is a fantastic city however there are some things to be cautious of.

I didn’t feel like Paris was too dangerous. When I told people I was going to France, many of them asked me if I had seen the movie Taken. Yes I have seen it but the girls in the movie weren’t being careful and that’s why they were abducted. If you go to Paris, I suggest following these guidelines: don’t tell strangers where you live, don’t be out alone (especially late at night), don’t get in a car with a stranger, and don’t drink too much. As long as you are careful and use common sense, you will be fine.

The things you are most likely to encounter are con artists and pickpockets. I encountered several people who were trying to get me to give them money or buy something from them. For example, when I went to the Louvre there was a women who carrying a sheet of paper. She came up to me and asked if I spoke English. I said yes and she asked me if I wanted to sign her petition to help inured kids. I said sure I’ll sign it. After I signed it she said you need to give a donation. So I took out my wallet and gave her some coins. She immediately looked in my wallet and said “why don’t you give me that 20€ you have in your wallet?” I started to suspect that it was a scam so I politely said “no I can’t afford to give you that much.” She continued to ask me about it so I just walked away.

 

I learned four important things from this experience. Firstly, keep your purse/bag in front of you at all times. Especially in crowed places like museums and the metro. There are people who wait in crowed areas for a tourist who isn’t paying attention to their stuff. Secondly, if someone is waiting outside a monument flagging down foreigners, they are probably trying to take advantage of tourists. It is possible that there are some people trying to get money for legitimate charities, but I would recommend doing your research before randomly giving money to people on the street. Thirdly, when you are approached by one of these people, don’t take out your wallet. The woman in front of the Louvre could have easily stolen my money when I took out my wallet. Lastly, it’s not a good idea to stop and talk to people who are trying to scam you. If you do feel the need to talk to a stranger who asks you a question, make sure that you hold on tightly to your purse/bag because it may be a distraction. It only takes a few seconds for someone to distract you and then take your wallet when you’re not paying attention. It may seem rude but the best thing to do is to just keep walking. And anyways it’s better safe than sorry.

Notre Dame
Notre Dame
L'arc de Triomphe
L’arc de Triomphe
The carrige of the "vélo taxi"
The carrige of the “vélo taxi”

 

the hot air balloon
the hot air balloon

toodles peanut butter…hello nutella!

In two days I will be on a private jet to Paris. And by private jet, I mean a plane with 376 seats. I’m not a huge fan of sitting for 8+ hours so I made sure to get a seat by the aisle so I can take frequent walks to the bathroom. I also have a small bladder:P But that’s enough about me… let’s get to the important stuff, such as why the name of my blog (slash soon-to-be novel on The New York Times best seller list) is “nutella abroad.
 
First question I’m sure you’re all wondering: “Are you like totally obsessed with Nutella?
 
Nooooooo……….. I’m just very, very fond of it. 
 
Yes, I am aware that the wonderful land of America has Nutella. I am also aware that Costco sells jars almost as big as my head! BUT, there is something about the Nutella in Europe that makes me giddy. It’s just better. Like the Coke. 
 
Accept my words and book a flight there so you can experience the best thing since sliced bread for yourself. 
(It goes great on sliced bread, by the way.)
 
For those Nutella virgins who have never tasted the mixture of hazelnut, skim milk, cocoa and many other ingredients I don’t have memorized, do you live under a rock with Patrick the Starfish? Probably.
 
Anyway, second question you’re probably wondering: “Are you really flying all the way to Paris just for Nutella?”
 
Great question, thanks for asking!
Kanye West flies to Belgium for wood so why can’t I fly to Europe for Nutella? Just kidding, I swear on my dead fish’s grave that I am going to get an education too!
 
RIP Henry.
Nutella and knowledge…what could be better? Nothing.
 
Aside from eating NutellaI am spending two days in Paris with my fabulous pal Isabel and then we are taking a two hour-long train ride to Lyon, France. We will spend six weeks in Lyon where we will live with a host family and study French. After the program, I will be backpacking around town with some friends. We will start in Paris and make our way to Amsterdam, Croatia, and Italy. In other words, wherever the wind takes us… as long as the wind follows our semi-tight itinerary since we already bought train tickets 😛 
 
My fellow backpackers, Isabel, Jake, Rebecca, and I have decided that our trip motto is #wingingit. I’d like to think we are the perfect combination of spontaneity and being overly prepared.
Example: Rebecca is bringing anti-wrinkle spray; I’m bringing a first-aid kit and oatmeal; Jake is bringing his MacBook; and I’m betting my right arm that Isabel is bringing cleaning supplies, shower shoes, and a mini vacuum.
Yet, we have found ourselves saying “oh,yeah…we’ll figure that out when we get there.”
hence…#wingingit.   
 
Well, I’m sorry to leave on such short notice but I just remembered that I have to go get a cavity filled (thanks Nutella). Stay tuned for (mostly appropriate) shenanigans, Nutella-utopia, and my French-y experiences. 
Peace. Love. Nutella.
 
Au revoir!
 P.S., if anyone knows where the French male models hang out, let me know.