Saturday, April 26, 2014

Living the Dream

I noticed when I wrote my last post that it was actually the 99th blog post that I've written. So guess what that makes this one...#100!

In honor of that, and my year of traveling coming to an end, I wanted to do some kind of a summary of my great year. While I was on the plane home (and was incredibly bored), I started making some picture collages of the things I've seen. It's really fun for me to see my pictures next to each other like this, because it's hard to take in everything I've gotten to see!

My first collages are of churches/other places of worship. I thought I could fit all of my coolest pictures into one collage, but it ended up being 4 haha. I had to divide the pictures into Middle East/Europe and inside/outside. In Israel, there's basically a church that commemorates every single event in the New Testament, so we visited a lot of them. In Turkey, we also saw some amazing mosques, and I have pictures from one of the synagogues I visited in Jerusalem.

Random mosque, Istanbul/ Bah'ai shrine, Haifa/St. Mary Magdalene, Mount of Olives/ Church of Pater Noster (where Lord's Prayer was given), Jerusalem/ St. Peter in Gallicantu (where the cock crowed), Jerusalem/ Dome of the Rock, Random mosque, Istanbul/ Church of the Redeemer, Jerusalem/ Church of the Annunciation, Nazareth/ Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem/ Church of the Transfiguration, Mt. Tabor/ Hurva Synagogue, Jerusalem/ Dormition Abbey (where Mary died), Jerusalem/ Blue Mosque, Istanbul/ Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Jesus' tomb), Jerusalem

Blue Mosque, Istanbul/ Hurva Synagogue, Jerusalem/ St. Savior, Jerusalem/ Church of All Nations, Garden of Gethsemane/ Ethiopian Church, Jerusalem/ Random mosque, Istanbul/ St. Peter in Gallicantu, Jerusalem/ Hagia Sophia, Istanbul/ Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem/ Augusta Victoria, Jerusalem/ Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem/ Shepherd's Field Church, Bethlehem

And now for what you've all been waiting for...the European churches! I saw some beautiful churches in the Holy Land, but nowhere was really a work of art in the same way that the great European cathedrals are.

Duomo, Florence/ Grossmunster, Zurich/ Notre Dame, Paris/ St. Epvre, Nancy/ Sacré Coeur, Paris/ St. Rémi, Reims/ Madeleine, Paris/ St. Peter's, Rome/ Random church, Rome/ Saints-Pierre-et-Paul, Obernai/ St. John, Lyon/ Notre Dame, Strasbourg/ St. Nicholas, Prague/ Duomo, Siena/ Pantheon, Rome/ Trinità dei Monti, Rome/ Notre Dame, Reims/ Duomo, Pisa/ Stephandom, Vienna/ San Giovanni, Rome

You know, I was going to put captions on these pictures but I'm too lazy. Maybe I'll add these in later, but a lot of these I can't do just from looking at them. They don't line up with the outside pictures, so don't bother trying to do that!

On a side note, I would like to award Italy with the prize of (by far) having the best churches to visit. Must be why the pope likes living there so much :)

I think the main reason I love visiting cathedrals is that they remind me of castles. So on that note, here's a collage of my favorite pictures from the castles and palaces that I visited this year.

Topkapi Palace, Istanbul/ Residenz Palace, Munich/ Palais de Rohan, Strasbourg/ Versailles/ Chateau de Vizille, Vizille/ Castel Sant'Angelo, Rome/ Neushwanstein, Bavaria/ Schönbrunn, Vienna/ Hofburg, Vienna/ Chateau de Lunéville, Lunéville/ Versailles/ Schönbrunn/ Royal Palace, Brussels/ Residenz/ Nimrod's Castle, Israel/ Hohenshwangau, Bavaria

Well, Italy has the best churches...and I think Germany has the best castles. France is a strong runner-up in both of those categories though. I don't know why I started picking winners for each category but it looks like that's happening now.

Now I'm going to change gears and show some things that aren't man-made. It's nature time! The top ten pictures are in the Middle East, and the bottom ten are Europe.

Wilderness between Jerusalem and Jericho/ Valley of Elah (David and Goliath battle location)/ Tel Arad, Negev Desert/ Masada, Dead Sea/ Machaerus, Jordan/ Mt. Nebo, Jordan/ Golan Heights, Israel/ Yad Vashem, Jerusalem/ Battle of the Bulge site, Luxembourg/ Lake Zurich/ Vizille, France/ Random Swiss mountains/ German Alps/ Vosges Mountains, Alsace/ French Alps/ Forest in Bavaria

I thought nature pictures would be a good way to show how much I've traveled this year, because you can really see how different everything looks. From seeing wild camels in 100+ degree weather in the Jordanian desert to freezing my butt off in the snowy German Alps...can't get much more opposite than that. Oh, and if I'm giving an award to country with the best nature, it's definitely Switzerland. But the Alps in Austria, France, and Germany are gorgeous too. Basically I like the Alps.

Along the theme of nature, over the last year I got to swim in or at least see lots of famous bodies of water. I didn't do any swimming in Europe because it wasn't warm and I didn't go to any beaches there...but I did a lot of swimming last summer!

Aegean Sea/ Dead Sea/ Seine River/ Jordan River/ Mediterranean/ Rhine River/ Red Sea/ Ill River, Strasbourg/ Sea of Galilee/ Bosporus Straits

When you're traveling constantly, it can start to get boring taking normal pictures all the time. I usually stick with my hand on the hip pose, but after only about a month of sightseeing I started taking some dance pictures to mix things up. So now I have this fun keepsake of me dancing all over the world!

Petra, Jordan/ Versailles/ Sea of Galilee/ Residenz, Munich/ Vizille/ Nimrod's Castle, Israel/ Palatine Hill, Rome/ Gamla, Golan Heights/ Gamla, Golan Heights/ Lyon/ Amman, Jordan/ Strasbourg/ Opera House, Paris/ Beth Shean, Israel/ Roman Forum/ Mareshah Cave, Israel

The last two collages are just some of my favorite pictures in general. It was kind of hard to choose, but this is what I've come up with.

Montmartre/ View from my window/ Strasbourg/ Geneva/ Rome/ Pergamon, Turkey/ French Alps/ Vatican/ Haifa/ Strasbourg/ Colosseum/ Strasbourg/ Grenoble/ Western Wall/ Paris

Turkey/ Haifa/ Dome of the Rock/ Sea of Galilee/ Amman/ Old City, Jerusalem/ Tiberias/ Soldier friends/ Blue Mosque, Istanbul/ Petra, Jordan/ Rome/ Brussels/ St. Peter's Square/ Vizille/ Paris/ Neuschwanstein/ Colosseum/ Paris/ Pisa/ Strasbourg

Well, I think my pictures kind of express how amazing this year was..but just in case I haven't expressed that enough already, THIS YEAR WAS AMAZING. I really got to live my dreams by traveling all over and seeing so many places that I've always dreamed of seeing. I'm definitely filled with contentment right now. And it's also really good to home!

If I'm giving out awards, I have to say that France is my favorite country to visit, closely followed by Israel. Getting to live in those countries really gave me a LOVE for those countries. 3 days from now will mark a year since I landed in Tel Aviv, and I can't wait to head back there in October!

I think I have a few more things to post on my blog from France (a stalker post about French fashion, anyone?)...but other than that you'll have to stay tuned until next fall. Unless I get bored this summer and think of more things to write, which could happen :)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Last glimpses of France

Hard to believe, but my time in France is officially over! In fact, right at this moment I’m somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean on my way home. 

During my last few weeks, I didn’t end up working very much due to school trips. Yeah, French kids get to go on extended field trips to England and Ireland. With my extra free time I saw a few new places. I had to make the most of every day I had in Europe!

One day a few weeks ago I took the train to Reims, which is about 2 hours west of Strasbourg in the Champagne region of France. I bet you didn’t guess that the word ‘Reims’ rhymes with the word ‘France’. Isn’t French fun?

The reason for the trip was the Notre Dame de Reims cathedral, which was where every king and queen of France was crowned. If you’ve ever looked at this blog before you know I can’t resist a good cathedral. And I’m also a fan of any kind of history to do with royalty, so I had to go.

There was some scaffolding on the outside, but you can still see how beautiful it is, so I wasn’t disappointed.

This cathedral is famous for the interesting angels on the facade. This smiling angel is I think supposed to be sweet and comforting, to be honest I'm a bit creeped out by it.

I also stopped inside another church in Reims, the Basilique St. Rémi. It was even older than Notre Dame de Reims, and almost as impressive.

After seeing the churches, I enjoyed walking around town. The architecture in Strasbourg is so German that it was fun to see a more traditional French city. The covered market was a highlight!

The last place I went to in Reims was somewhere that I didn’t know existed, even with my WWII obsession. Reims was where the Nazis surrendered to the Allies, and you can visit the room where it happened. 

The more ‘famous’ surrender was in Berlin, but this one took place the day before that, and this was the one presided over by Eisenhower. Apparently the Berlin ceremony only took place because Stalin was jealous that Eisenhower got to have all the fun and he wanted his own party.

I was able to find the place because you just don’t see the U.S.S.R. flag that much anymore. Of course, the wind didn’t cooperate in my picture, but the hammer and sickle flag was the first one I saw as I was walking.

That was my day trip to Reims! I had fun getting to stand where coronations took place and then where one of the most important surrenders of all time took place. It was a good history day.

A few days later, I went to a castle with my friend David in the region of Lorraine. It’s called the Château de Lunéville. I could probably visit a castle everyday and never get tired of visiting castles, so it’s nice I got to see one more while I was in Europe! 

The interior of the castle was small, but the best part was that it was a beautiful, warm spring day and we got to hang out in the gardens all day. I even got sunburned! I’m guessing that that wouldn’t be possible in Wisconsin quite yet. 

(Edited 4 years later: We've been married for a year and a half and this is where it all began.)

On my last day living in Strasbourg and working in Barr, I walked around for a while and took some last pictures.

It was so sad to say goodbye to these places, and especially my cathedral!! I will really miss that place. The whole region of Alsace is beautiful, and I'm thankful I got to live there.

I realized pretty last minute that there wasn’t a train early enough on Friday morning to get me there in time for my flight, so I ended up going to Paris a day early on Thursday and getting to spend a little time there.

But first...I have to document my struggles of getting all of my luggage all the way to Paris. I managed to drag approximately my weight in luggage to the train station (on cobblestones, and wearing heels, by the way), on and off the train, and across Charles de Gaulle airport to my hotel. Please just look at this picture and feel my pain. I think my arms are going to be hurting for a while.

So anyways, I only had a few hours to spend in Paris on Thursday afternoon. David met me there to hang out again, and it was fun because he is French, and I’m American...but guess who was the tour guide in Paris?? Moi! It was my 6th time in Paris, after all.

We walked around all of Paris’ most famous places...Notre Dame, the Louvre, Place de la Concorde, the Champs-Elysées, and the Eiffel Tower. It was the perfect way for me to say goodbye to France to be in my favorite city for one more day.

Leaving France was very bittersweet!! There are a LOT of things that I’ll miss about France (and Europe in general). However, I’m also very excited to be back in the U.S. Even though I keep leaving America, I promise I do like living there.

It helps me not be sad that this year of traveling is over because I have another adventure on the horizon next fall :)

Monday, April 7, 2014

Chez Moi

I had to write this soon...because this apartment won't be 'chez moi' for much longer! I leave France in less than 2 weeks, which is so strange to comprehend.

I have to start with the place where I start every work day and every travel day (so pretty much every day): the train station! My apartment is about a 10 minute walk from the station. It's nice to be fairly close because I basically live at this place. 

The Gare de Strasbourg is a fun glass bubble building. I've become so familiar with this place that it seems so stupid that it used to stress me out to come here and find my daily train. You just walk the screen that says your platform number...stamp your ticket...and then get on the train. I am no longer the poor confused American girl who's never taken public transportation. Now I would have zero fears jumping on a train and going anywhere in Europe alone.

So back to my's the street that I live off of. So this is where I'm walking around every day, going grocery shopping, picking up an occasional pâtisserie; the usual. 

I know I've mentioned this before, but I live on Strasbourg's Grande Ile- the center island- so it's the cute historical part of the city. I even have a view of my lovely cathedral from my street! I'm very happy that I got to live here, because it's great to step outside and immediately get a European vibe.

Now for my actual street. I live on a small side-street off of the one pictured above. I'm on the ground floor, so it's nice that's it's a very quiet street. Cars almost never drive down it, and people walking by never bother me.

Here's the building I stare at outside my window.

And more specifically- these guys haha. They're right at my eye level. I've written a fair amount of these blog entries sitting on my window sill looking at these heads. I'm a bit surprised I've never had some kind of nightmare about them.

I researched and found my apartment online before I got to Strasbourg. I knew I really wouldn't want the stress of apartment hunting when I arrived in a new country. That was definitely a good call, because I've never been more stressed in my life than when I first got here! Thankfully it all worked out and it's a nice place, because we paid for it before I moved in. 

I live in a student residence/dorm building in a studio apartment. So I have my own bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom...all combined into one little space. Honestly, to me it seems pretty big because I've never had this much space to myself before. And it can be even bigger when I fold up my bed and roll up the rug to make a dance studio. My first wooden floor=lots of dance parties with myself.

I took those pictures to send to my mom a while the interest of full disclosure it's not usually that clean :)

There have been positives and negatives to living alone. It's a million times better than being stuck with psycho roommates (trust me, I have experience in that department- you don't even want to know!!), but it's weird that it's so quiet all the time! I think I prefer having my own bedroom but still living with other people. There are so many times when I have something to say but no one to say it to. Thank goodness for texting and the internet! But honestly, with some of the roommate 'luck' I've had, it's for the best that I didn't risk living with random (foreign) strangers.

All in all, I'm very happy with where I've gotten to live! It's been the perfect base for traveling Europe. I will be sad to pack up and say goodbye. Ug. That reminds me. Packing. (shudder)