Monday, March 31, 2014

Climb Every Mountain

I named this post 'Climb Every Mountain' because that song is literally stuck in my head every time for the whole time I'm in the Alps. Not because I actually climbed a mountain. That would be ridiculous!

I wanted to visit Olimpia and see some of her city, Grenoble, before I left. And, I mean, it had been SEVERAL weeks since I’d last been to the Alps (darn it this year is making me so spoiled haha), so this was pretty necessary. So I made that trip happen this weekend! She works on Friday and I don’t, so I decided to make a stop in Geneva, Switzerland on my way to Grenoble.

The first place I went to was Lake Geneva. I didn’t need to edit these pictures at all because everything was bright, blue, and beautiful! It was a perfect sunshiney spring day, so I spent a long time walking along the lake.

I wandered over to this cool fountain.

You can actually walk right up to it, but I wasn’t in the mood to get soaking wet. I did get pretty close though!

I walked over to the old town next.

You know I had to stop in the churches! This first one, Notre Dame, was close to the train station.

This next one, St. Pierre, was on top of a hill looking over the city. As I was trying to find the road that went up to St. Pierre, I found this street and then correctly assumed that I was getting close. You know only a priest or someone would choose a name like that.

This church was unique because a few decades ago they excavated underneath it and found the remains of the 4th and 11th century churches that were on the same spot. So you can walk around underneath the church and see where the old walls used to be and everything. In my pictures you can see a baptismal font and some mosaics. Such a flashback to my time in Israel when we saw things like this every week!

After exploring Geneva a little more, I was off to Grenoble to meet up with Olimpia. The next day, we started off our sightseeing by taking a bus to the nearby town of Vizille. Olimpia had heard about how pretty this place was...and whoever told her that was right!

Even the bus ride was pretty. I love the Alps! It’s been a while since I’ve lived in Utah, so I’m not used to seeing mountains anymore.

There’s a castle in Vizille that we went to see, but the coolest part was probably the beautiful park next to the castle. You walk through the castle gates, and BAM, this view is waiting for you. 

Thankfully it was another lovely spring day, so we could enjoy hanging out outside for a while. It was all about the mountains, water, green, trees, a castle, and some swans. We were entertained by the swans. They make the weirdest sound when they fly. Also, I’m not positive that I knew swans could fly.

Yay, more castle stairs for me to pose on! It’s Schönbrunn 2.0.

I would say this is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. Good job, tour guide Olimpia!

When we got back to Grenoble, we went to see Grenoble’s most famous site- the Bastille. And the ‘boules’! The Bastille is the mountain fortress that overlooks the city, and ‘boules’ is French for ‘bubbles.’ That’s what they call the little glass balls that take you up the mountain.

So here’s my pictures waiting in line for the boule...

While inside the boule...

And on top of the mountain!

The 3 towers on the right were the Olympic Village for the Grenoble Olympics. Olimpia happens to like that they’re called the Olympia Towers.

I was a little afraid that I would be afraid of riding in a glass bubble up a mountain. Because I’m not a big fan of heights. It didn’t bother me a ton, though. It was enclosed so it wasn’t too bad! And obviously, the views were more than worth it.

When we made it back down the mountain Olimpia took me to...what do you know...another church that’s been excavated! I never knew something like this existed, and then I ended up seeing two combination modern/ancient churches in one weekend.

We wandered around looking around at options for dinner, and after looking at this places’s menu we had to eat here. It was my second American-themed restaurant in France!

I’ve never seen pancakes in France...only crè I was excited to eat pancakes. Unfortunately, they were less IHOP and more like crèpes that were a tiny bit thicker than normal. Still good, but I was still hungry after eating them. Good thing we also had giant milkshakes haha. Olimpia did a nice ‘America’ pose for this picture. Also, please look at how there’s a flag in her burger.

After dinner we did a little more wandering around Grenoble.

I stayed over one more night there and got to go to church with Olimpia on Sunday. Guess who gave an awesome talk EN FRANÇAIS! Hint: not me.

So this was my last European trip with Olimpia! This year we’ve traveled through 6 countries together. We applied for this program together back in January of 2013, and even though we were placed in different regions we were still able to hang out a lot and have a ton of fun with each other. And besides having a travel buddy, it’s nice to always have someone to talk English...about the things you love and hate about France. Culture shock is so much more fun when you can go through it with a friend :)  I’ll miss you, Olimpia!!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Alsace et Lorraine

I’ve kind of realized that throughout my travels this year, I haven’t really seen a lot of France! Yes, I’ve seen Italy, Luxembourg, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, and the Czech Republic. But not a lot of France. I’ve had a few trips to Paris, but I haven’t really seen any new parts of France besides where I’m living.

Over the last few weekends, I did visit two new French cities. My time’s almost up here, so I’m still trying to see as much as I can! One city, Colmar, is pretty close to Strasbourg, and is in the Alsace region. The other city, Nancy, is in the neighboring region of Lorraine. In history classes you always hear the term ‘Alsace-Lorraine,’ because those are the two regions that Germany was always coveting.

Colmar is supposed to be the quintessential Alsatian city with lots of cute German-looking, fairy-tale-looking buildings. So I couldn’t miss out on seeing that! 

The first thing I came across in Colmar were these flags. You know, it’s always exciting to see an American flag when you’re in another country.

Colmar is pretty small, so I just wandered around with no plan or map. Sometimes that’s the best way to see places. I liked seeing flowers!! Spring has least in France!

There was indeed lots of cute architecture. 

The river running through the town made it look even more similar to Strasbourg. 

I would have probably been more impressed by Colmar if I hadn’t been living in Strasbourg for the last six months. I thought Colmar was pretty much a cross between Strasbourg and Barr (the little town where I work). However, I think it was definitely still worth making the trip- it’s a nice place!

This was not very nice though. It’s called the “Restaurant House of Heads.” Yum.

I learned that Colmar is the hometown of Bartholdi, the sculptor of the Statue of Liberty. Here’s his house. Nbd.

Apparently there’s a replica of the Statue of Liberty in Colmar, but sadly it was too far for me to walk to. At least I already got a dose of America in this town when I saw the flag haha.

The week after this little trip to Colmar, I spent a day in Nancy. In Nancy, I had the privilege of a French tour guide to show me around! Merci à David!!

The main square in Nancy is called Place Stanislas. I liked it because it looked very classically French. I love how Alsace looks, but sometimes it’s hard to feel like you’re in France when everything looks like Germany. #firstworldproblem

I mean, these gates look like the ones at Versailles. How much more French can you get?

We stopped in a few pretty churches and little art museum before moving onto what I’ll call the ‘American’ portion of the day.

David is a lover of all things American, so he took me to one of the most American places I’ve ever seen in France.

Voilà. Yep. I felt pretty at home here. Buffalo, totem poles, even some Taylor Swift music playing wouldn’t think a place like this would exist in France!

We finished the day with some bowling and seeing the movie Monuments Men. Again, I didn’t even know that they really had bowling in France haha.

So my day in Nancy was a nice mix of France and America...kind of like myself, n’est-ce pas?

I only have 3 weekends left in France. This weekend I’m heading to Geneva and Grenoble for what will likely be my last overnight trip while I’m here. Hmmmm. Yep. I’m starting to get nostalgic about leaving Europe already :)