Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Till Next Time

Who thinks 7 weeks is a long time? For me, it felt like I blinked and it was all over. My last few days in Europe visiting Travis went by so quickly, and it felt like I was completely ambushed by the fact that it was all over. I left London on Tuesday, and so now I am back in Atlanta, heading back to Athens in the morning. It is hard to comprehend that I am here, that now I actually have to find a job and that I have the daunting task of deciding where I can live when my lease ends in 25 days. No place to live, no job, and having a deep desire to go back to Europe- not the greatest combination.Besides all of these emotions and tasks that are being put in front of me at the moment, I learned so much while abroad. It has been an amazing experience for me, and one that has truly changed my perspective on life and how I should approach it. One of the greatest lessons I learned is that you should not put yourself into a situation where you will struggle. That doesn't mean to not take chances. The point I am making is that you need to enjoy the actual life that is put in front of you. Not the one on the TV screen or in front of the computer. Get out, do things, meet people, and soak in every moment you can. Take the time to learn about others, different cultures, and what you want for yourself. I know that I may be getting a little deep, but I really found out that I was being lazy with my life and not exposing myself to what personally affects me. I am completely guilty of sitting around my apartment all day. If I should sit anywhere, go to a park, read, and people watch. It is amazing how sitting out in the sun and grass can brighten your day and relax you in whole.
I did exactly that the Friday I got to London. Travis was at work, so after a failed attempt to find the park nearby, I sat along the Thames River while the tide was low. I sat out there for hours, with the breeze blowing and boats lined up against the bank. It was one of the most relaxing times I had. I didn't have to think or stress about my day, but just enjoy the place I was in. When Travis got back later that day, he cooked tuna filets for us and we listened to each others music choices all night. It was a great night in. We were planning on going to Windsor palace in the morning, so we didn't want to get too crazy. We headed out Saturday in the late morning. After a train ride, we started walking around the castle and grabbed some pictures. The entry to get into the Palace was pretty steep, so we decided to walk around the town and see what it offered. This included me finding a book store where I was directed to the children's section so I could buy the last 2 books of the Hunger Games trilogy. We ate at this great restaurant on the river, having calamari with fish and chips, and a few beers, before heading back to Putney. That night was my London club experience. We were out dancing till probably 4 am, and I was having such a great time! The dance and clothing choices were completely different for me, but the drunk girls around me got on my nerves just the same as any other place. Most of them cleared out earlier though, thank goodness. But they weren't even close to spoiling my night.

You know how I talked about learning to relax and just enjoy? Sunday was just that, and I guess so was Monday. Sunday we grabbed some food and took the Vespa to Richmond Park for a picnic and lazy Sunday. We found the perfect tree half way up a hill next to the horse trail and spent all day "resting our eyes", eating, and talking. I also kept gawking over all of the dogs that would walk by, especially the huge yellow lab with a tennis ball. That night we watched movies on his computer, including "The Prestige" and part of "Into the Wild". Monday I again was left to find entertainment for myself, and I did by finding the park I had previously missed in the area. I read most of the book "Into the Wild", which helped me understand the movie so much better when we finished watching it that night. It was hard knowing that in the morning I would be leaving, and no 8 hour bus ride was going to be able to bring me back easily. Coming back to London would involve a whole lot more.

A long day of travel was not made any easier by saying our goodbyes and knowing that I was leaving Europe, which I had somewhat considered my home for almost a full two months. The tasks ahead of me will be great, but I know everything will work in the way it is supposed to. I just hope that what I want now will be available to me in the future. Europe was nothing short of amazing, and I encourage anyone still reading this to take advantage of every travel opportunity they can. I hope that I will be able to write about more experiences like this one in the future, but for now I think this is a chapter at its end.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Au Revoir for now Paris

I am now writing to you from London. It is official. I have left Paris, and I have no where to go back to if wanted to return at the moment. It is a strange feeling, considering it was my home for the past 6 weeks. My final two days in Paris were spent touring a little more of the city with Taylor, doing errands to get ready for my leave, and walking everywhere to just soak in the enormity of where I was and where I had lived.

Tuesday was somewhat of a tourist fail on my part. Taylor and I got to the Arts et Metiers, which houses many old inventions in communication, transportation, etc... We saw some neat things like one of the first Apple computers, printing presses, and so on, but it turned out to be quite boring for both of our tastes. Taylor had seen it before, and although inventions are neat, the museum was hard to connect with since everything was in French and there was really no story I could follow behind the different objects. I think that I could grasp what great feats these objects were, I would have appreciated the museum much more. One thing that was neat was seeing the statue of liberty inside and outside the museum. It is such an American icon, that people forget the French were the ones who gifted it to the United States.

With the first attempt at fun for the day not panning out, we headed to Centre Georges Pompidou to visit the Musee National d'Art Moderne. This turned out to be the second problem of the day- it is closed on Tuesdays! After another wave of frustration, we both got a Gyro baguette with fries on it in St.Michel, ate in a park, and did a little bit of shopping before the rain began. It was later in the day, and I needed to head back to get ready for dinner and discussion at Dr.Cooney's apartment as a final class lecture alternative.

The 5 of us arrived in the small apartment area, with an elevator that could only fit 2 (which Wyatt and I took) and the most spectacular view of the Eiffel tower! Dr. and Mrs. Cooney were located on the 5th floor, and their balcony had a straight on view of the tower with terra cotta roofs and pipes atop classic parisian housing architecture sitting in the foreground. After a few glasses of wine, quiche, melon and prosciutto, brie, baguettes, and much more, we were all having great conversation and sharing some of our memories of Paris and future plans. For me, I can never answer the second part. I have no job, no place to live, and no idea of what I am doing when I get back to Atlanta. My life is completely up in the air right now, but I am excited to figure it all out and start living the post-grad lifestyle. We all said our goodbyes and headed out after hearing thunder rumbling outside. On our walk home it started to rain. Just a light, cool rain that soak us enough to not be uncomfortable, but actually a relief from the high heat Paris had been experiencing. Walking home in the rain in Paris was amazing. I didn't care about getting wet, or that people around me were dodging the bullets from above. It was beautiful and a perfect ending to my day.

Wednesday was my last full day in Paris. I met Taylor for lunch and got a Croque Madame, then headed off to do errands. It included buying things from Harley Davidson, a street vendor by Notre Dame, and something else at a Vintage store. I can't say what all I bought yet since they are presents for people back home. One final trip was planned for our group, and it was a boat ride on the Seine. We loaded up and headed out. We got to see all of the views of Paris that were along the river from a completely different perspective. I was so tired by the end of it though, and I still had all of my packing to do for leaving and my trip to London the next day. After about 4 hours, laundry loads, and some expert clothes shoving, I managed to fit 5 bottles of wine, 3 coffee mugs, 2 suitcases of clothes, multiple books, all of my electronics, and a good amount of shoes in 2 suitcases, a carry on, and a bookbag. What a feat!

Everyone left the next day. It was bitter sweet. Everyone was ready for it, but no one wanted to leave the little family we had formed. Jason and I were planning on taking a taxi to Galienni where the eurolines bus to London was, but poor planning ahead lead us to taking the metro across town to get there in under an hour. It was practically impossible, but somehow we made it. Getting onto the first metro, I actually got stuck in the doors as they were shutting, having one bag on, one bag off, and my body wedged between the two closing doors. It was so scary, but I managed to pry the doors open and throw my second bag on. Switching trains proved to be a whole other disaster. The metro has NO elevators or escalators, and I was dragging bags up and down who knows how many stairs, sprinting through the hallways, and having strangers help me since they saw I was struggling. We somehow made it with a minute to go before 12, our departure time.

After 8 hours and still not knowing how we got on the bus, we made it to London Victoria station. I met with Travis there, and again had a problem getting bags up and down stairs while taking the tube to his home. He wouldn't let me carry them, and I felt so bad since they were about 50 pounds a piece. But, he did it, and after a shower that made me feel like a new person, we ate at a great burger place GBK. I got the Jamaican and he got the Kiwi burger, which was loaded with pineapple, beets, and an egg. I had never seen anything like that! My burger was so good too, and very different from the completely carb based diet I had been on in Paris. Coat and Badge, a pub in Putney, was our last stop of the night. I ordered a Pimm's cup, which was a great cocktail that was semi mojito/fruity/Caipiroska in style, but a perfect summer drink.

So, I have all day in London by myself. I think I am going to head to a nearby park in shorts and a tank with my current book "The Season of Lillian Dawes", and soak in some of the sunny day. I still have no idea where the past 6 weeks have gone, and I hope the next few days in London fail to fly by so quickly.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Memory Loss and Sundress days

It has been such a long two days, so much so that I am forgetting most of what we have been doing (Taylor and me). Sunday was a little bit of a slow start after a long, fun night at Eiffel. Every Sunday, Rue Raspail has a market that goes for 3 or 4 blocks in the road median. Vendors that are selling fruits, vegetables, honey, meat, fish, cheese, bread, scarves, African masks, jewelry.. just about everything lined the open air market. After seeing the onion-cheese hashbrowns being made in front of us, we had to try! Eating our way down the rows, we scouted what to try next. I found a zucchini quiche that they warmed for me and Taylor got a cafe eclair. Yum! Everything in Paris involves the food. We then took the Metro to visit the Louvre (finally). The hallways were so large and maze-like, and the walls were stacked with paintings from floor to ceiling. After barreling over masses of tourists, we finally managed to grab a picture with Mona. It was insane the amounts of people that were pushing themselves toward the velvet ropes in order to get close. After hallways of sculptures and paintings and artifacts, we finally managed to find our way out of the gigantic museum. Our last stop of the day was the Jewish district for a Sunday falafel. I never noticed this, but the place I always go, the "world famous" one, is recommended by Lenny Kravitz. Hmm, guess it must be legit then. There is even a photo of him with the restaurant owners son. Eating our falafel, we headed past the Bastille area to Gare de Lyon, where Taylor is staying. I hopped a metro, and called it a day. It was one of the warmer days in Paris and involved a TON of walking.

Today was the second to last day of class! Almost done! After class, I bought two more camera memory cards since I have managed to fill both of them, and traveled to meet Taylor at the Opera. While waiting in the lobby, I spotted a girl wearing a Braves t-shirt. Of course I had to say something, and found out they were students from Georgia College & State. Taylor found her way, as usual, and we headed in. The house was completely decorated in gold and ornate designs. The amount of marble work used was phenomenal, and the view of the city was unlike any I had yet to see from above. As we were leaving, there was a small dance performance that was occurring right in the main stairwell. What a treat, and good timing on our part! We then walked to the Eglise de la Madeleine, where inside I saw the first kneeling benches in any of the French Catholic churches, which looked like a child's chair facing the normal ones. We then HAD to stop at Laduree, again the famous macaroon store. I ordered coconut, licorice, and orange blossom mini macaroons. The coconut and orange blossom were amazing, while the licorice didn't really seem quite right on the taste. I love black licorice too, even though everyone else on the trip seems to hate it.

After a little shopping at Sephora and H&M, I had to leave Taylor and quickly head back to St.John's to get ready for our group farewell dinner that was right next to the Arc de Triomphe on Champs Elysees. We all left to get to Chez Clement, one of the most beautiful and tasty restaurants I have been to in Paris. They had copper cookware as decor and "C"s woven on every place mat and printed on all of the china. Of course, I instantly loved the place thanks to their recognition of my favorite letter. I ordered the Salade côté jardin (Garden Salad), Travers de porc au miel et frites (Pork ribs with honey and fries), and finally, the best part of dinner, Crème brûlée à la cassonade (homemade creme brulee with brown sugar). Bellies full, our group left to grab pictures in front of the Arc de Triomphe then get back on the metro. The metro was hot, and I had already decided that I was going to take my 3rd shower of the day. It is 90+ degrees in Paris right now, and I am not one that does well with the heat. But the best part of the hot and humid ride was the man who jumped on our train and started singing via a karaoke machine to all of us. I can't believe I am going to leave this city in 2 days...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

We in The Red Light District!

Well, the Red Light District of Paris that is. Taylor and I visited the 18th district yesterday, known as Montmartre and home to struggling artists, the Moulin Rouge, the hills of Paris, and one of the most beautiful views of the top of the city. I started my day a little earlier than usual though. With training for the marathon, I had to get my long run of the week in. It included 7 miles of nothing but beautiful scenery that you can only imagine. Gardens, Notre Dame, cobblestone paths, the River Seine, and a handful of homeless. It was one of the longer runs I have taken here, but it didn't feel awful since I got to do a little more exploration around the city in the morning. This is also the time where other people are working out, which was different to see since Paris has seemed to me a place where people don't really focus on getting their sweat on. Then again, the city has completely changed within the past week. The amount of American voices I know hear has skyrocketed, and one of my French friends even told me "Paris in the summer is not my city". Tourist season has arrived.

Off to Montmartre we went and as we came out of the Abbesses metro stop, a huge group was marching through the area, playing whatever instrument they were carrying. It was a wake-up and change from the normally quiet streets have grown accustomed to. Seeing a marching band is not quite the norm. We then hiked up a cobblestone hill to arrive where the artists were all posted around outdoor cafes, doing original works or even portraits of those who want a painting of themselves in their home. Not quite my style. Taylor and I circled around, looking for something to purchase. We ended up making a loop and arriving back where we had started. They were small paintings, but so beautiful. The artist's name was Christine I later found out, so I knew that my purchase had been the right decision. My work had a scene of the Paris landscape against a blue background, including the Sacre Coure and the Eiffel Tower. She used a pearlized paint in some areas, making the scene look glowing. Taylor purchased one of the Moulin Rouge, with the famous red windmill standing out in the center of the painting.

We then headed to Sacre Coure, with the most beautiful view overlooking the city. There were street performers and men dressed as statues and bronze sculptures thanks to how touristy the area is. We also found the next John Mayer sitting outside with flocks of women seated on the grassy areas around him. After wandering through some of the streets in the area, we just happened to find a famous cabaret house called Au Lapin Agile and a well known pink cafe with green shutters called La Maison Rose. We decided that it would be good to get directions to our next stop, the Dali Museum. When you walk in there are black walls with sketches, paintings, and other mediums used hanging in clusters by the series. These included Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde, and Alice in Wonderland. There were also the iconic melting clock figures scattered throughout the museum. The museum was small, and I think more of his well known work is located in other exhibits, so if you are looking for these pieces, this museum will not be what you are expecting.

After a burger and fries near the artist market, it was off to find the Moulin Rouge. Walking through the area towards it was an experience in itself. There were porn stores and sex shops fitted into ever square inch of the stretch of buildings. Men were lining the sidewalks, and even not knowing French, you could tell they were staring a little too much and talking about who knows what to women passing by. After some uncomfortable moments, we finally found it. There were police standing in the area where people were taking photos of the famous cabaret, and I was so relieved to see them watching over all the Paris foreigners, including us. The weather finally started to seem darker, so Taylor and I both headed home until I figured out what would happen that night.

It turned out to be a relaxing Saturday night in one of the most famous spots in the world. We grabbed our bottles of wine from Carrefour and started walking towards the Eiffel Tower. Pretty much all of the girls that were still in town met at the landmark. We had blankets spread and got to enjoy watching the sun set behind the structure. After good conversation, some Bordeaux Rose wine, and passing around the licorice, the light show began. I don't think I could ever get bored of watching the Eiffel tower twinkling in the night, surrounded by people appreciating the same thing, and hearing music being played on guitars by those around. It was a perfect way to end my last weekend in Paris.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Taylor in town jour un

Finally Taylor made it to Paris and my days of being just a tourist have resumed. Fortunately, I'm a tourist who has gotten to know the city (somewhat), which makes everything a whole lot easier. Taylor arrived last night and she was able to find her way to Moose bar, a Canadian bar right behind Rue de St.Germain that many people still in town for the weekend had decided to go to. The girls on my Paris trip had met a group of Maryland boys (shout out to Ceebs- "Go Terps!") while in Nice, and they were passing through Paris. We all met at the bar with a Texas-born bartender, and were well into a game of thumper when Taylor found her way there. She has actually been to Paris before, and new a great deal about the city, which helped her manage her way around. The night turned into one that made our sides sore from laughing, and ended with me walking the streets of Paris back home. I had a great deal planned for Friday, and was anxious to start some heavy touring my last week in Paris.

Today, we started a little later in the day, but it was perfect weather outside! The sky was bright blue and the white puffy clouds were moving quickly behind the beautiful Parisian buildings. It finally felt wonderful outside, a big change from the recent rain and dark skies of the past week. We first met at the Obelisk, near the Jardin des Tuileries. There was a lot of machines and set up for an event that was apparently happening soon. We didn't really figure out what was going on, but Taylor had seen (and soon so would I) a huge ferris wheel and other "carnival-like" structures being set up in the garden. After a failed attempt at some pictures in front of the Obelisk, we strolled through the gardens. It was typical Paris, with the cream colored gravel, large sculptures, hedges, and a large fountain in the center. To the right, we saw the Musee de la Orangerie, and immediately headed to the home of Monet's Water Lilies. At first, we walked through a modern, white washed hallway with side rooms displaying the works of Matisse, Rousseau, Renoir, and Picasso in elegant gold frames that sharply contrasted the museum's modern-feeling walls. Then we headed to the area of Les Nymphéas, or water lilies. Two large oval rooms displayed the beautiful works. It was breathtaking to see the colors, figures, and oil strokes so well known and recognized.

After leaving the musee, we walked through the Jardin des Tuileries towards the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, passing a group of monks and the ferris wheel in the garden. Taylor informed me that Asian's were the best tourist photographers to ask for pictures, since they usually make sure to get the best shots possible (this is a compliment to all Asians!), and we quickly asked a bubbly group of Taiwanese girls to take a photo of us in front of the Louvre and the arc. We did the same for them, and tried to copy their "excited" photo, but I somewhat failed trying to have my "joy" come across in a photo. We decided to save going to the Louvre for Sunday, since it is free that day, but not until 6 on Fridays and we had other things on the "to do" list.

The next stop was la Conciergerie, the one palace turned prison that Marie Antoinette, former Queen of France, was held. Those who entered the building had two ways out- to be found innocent of the crime, or to be sent to the guillotine. I think we all know which of the two ways Marie got out of there. It was interesting to see that the prison also had a hierarchial setup. Those that were very poor slept on hay, while those that were famous or could "purchase" better living were given items such as beds, desks, and even writing materials.

Across the street, we walked into Shakespeare and Company again, thinking that I would be able to find the next two books in the "Hunger Games" series. They had sold out! Taylor was actually the one who recommended the books to me, and now my goal at every English book store has been to find the other two in the trilogy. I am beginning to lose hope, but luckily purchased two more books from Village Voice that may hold me over for a while. We had been walking for a while, and I finally found Amorino, where they scoop their gelato to look like flower petals. After heading back to St. John's and deciding that we were going to see "Midnight in Paris" in a few hours, we headed to Luxembourg Gardens for some wine and dinner. We found a bottle that was 2 euro. Perfect. Then we found a great patisserie where we both ordered a yummy croquet monsieur. It was much better than the one I had in Loire Valley, and I think I am ready to try the croque madame, which is the same but with an egg! After eating our sandwiches in the gardens, me failing at opening the wine and having to push the cork in, and enjoying my first chocolate religieuses, we headed to the movie theater. Luckily, the movie was in English with French sub-titles. The acting was not the best, but it was a great movie to see in Paris since it highlighted famous artists, eras, and places to see. The best past though was that Taylor and I had seen most of the places in the movie that day, and even our theater had a small part in the reel. The first day turned out really well, and I can't wait to tour Montmartre for the first time tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Street Dancing and Shoe Shopping

The past three days were so relaxing with being home again in Paris. It is weird that now when we visit other places for the weekend, we see our little dormitory hidden away down a secured walkway as "home". For one, the belongings in the room are not ours- the sheets, the beds, the desks and chairs. We are renting the area and really have not added any personal touches to it these past weeks. We still have our suitcases sitting out in plain view, soon to be packed full of everything we are going to manage to take back with us. We are also living in a country where we can barely communicate with many of the local people. I speak so little French, that I could not get by if it were not for the fact that many French know a decent amount of English. But anyways, Paris still feels like home, probably because it has become so familiar to all of us. We only have 8 more days in this lovely city. I can't believe the time has flown by so fast.

On Sunday, the girls and I made our first dinner reservation at a vegetarian spot near the conceptual arts museum. Spencer and Abby are both vegetarians, which is difficult since in Paris, a vegetarian is actually a pescatarian. Very different for them both, and also a bit more tricky. But luckily, this place followed their eating "qualifications", and wow was it yummy! I ordered a mushroom pate, a "burger" that was littered with vegetables and a mushroom sauce, and then a chocolate creme dessert. We all felt the normal feeling of our clothes seeming a bit tighter. I have also decided that I will never be more excited to start a diet than when I get back to the states. I have been the model subject of pure gluttony this whole time span in Paris and abroad, which I know will satisfy me for a long time to come. The food in America will not be comparable (except for my cooking of course!).

Monday turned out the be one of the hotter days in Paris. Maybe I am still getting over my sickness, but it was warmer than the looks of the weather eluded to. It has been dark, rainy, and cloudy here for a long amount of time, but it is nice when we open the window and fall asleep to the sound of rain on the window sill. Cliche, I know. My goal for the day was to find the Opera honey I really wanted to bring back for my brother. The Opera in Paris has multiple hives on its rooftop, and I heard that you were able to buy their product at a food specialty store that caddy-cornered the Eglise de la Madeleine. After walking completely around the Madeleine square, I ended up where I started and in front of Fauchon, the gourmet food shop. I found the "miel" section, but could not find the Opera honey. A gentleman that worked at the shop probably saw my face of confusion looking at the glass bottles, and asked me what I was looking for. I was informed that they used to sell it there, but of course not anymore. It was sold at the Opera, but I believe Monday was a French holiday, like every other day, and the Opera was closed, meaning no honey. Frustrated, I walked into the closest shoe store I could find and came out with a new pair of ballet flats. Much better light on the day!

La Fete de la Musique began later on Tuesday night. You just walk down the streets of Paris, jumping from crowd to crowd, street to street, checking out all of the different bands that are attempting to entertain. Some were successful, while others were only enjoyed by those under the influence of an illegal sort. We made our way around St. Michel and down St. Germain, finally happening upon a 50s diner with the same feel band playing outside, complete with slicked back hair, a retro microphone, and a white button up. I finished the huge Desperado (tequila-beer, think Corona with tequila, aka Coche Bomb), danced to some jazz and American rock, then headed home. I wanted to get some rest for the shopping that may happen today if the weather clears up. Before class this morning, I already bought an additional pair of ballet flats and am ready to find some heels! Paris has sales twice a year, and today was the start of one of them. Now all I need to do is fend off the Parisian women...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Chateaux de la Loire

Friday morning we finally made it to Loire Valley. This area of France, about 2 1/2 hours outside of Paris, is known for their wine and especially their chateaus. After managing to drag ourselves out of bed and onto the bus, we arrived at Chateau de Blois. There were three distinct sections of the chateau, and it became obvious that they were all built during different time periods. The elaborate decorations throughout the rooms became overwhelming, since the goal of every chateau decorator was the cover every square inch with some sort of painted pattern or hanging fabric. For the weekend, an Italian man joined our group as a guide, and he continued with us to our next adventure. It was one that everyone was looking forward to, even though it was supposed to be a "surprise." We pulled up in our huge charter bus to this tiny shop that seemed half way underground. The signs were in French, but it was obvious where we were from the grape vines decorating the outside. It was a winery, and everyone, tired and somewhat overwhelmed already, was ready to try what France had to offer. After being given a tour of the manufacturing process, we entered a room decorated and full with wine and another local product, goat cheese. The cheese may have not been my favorite, but the wine was fantastic. I ended up buying 3 bottles, including a fruity white, a medium bodied red (they didn't have a full bodied one unfortunately) and another dry white. The woman who owned the winery was so friendly and welcoming. She continued bringing our group bottles upon bottles of wine, then eventually letting us pop a few bottles of sparkling wine, not champagne (champagne is from Champagne, not the Loire Valley).

Carrying and loading our boxes onto the bus, we continued to the next stop, Chateau de Chenonceau. It was located in a beautiful area, which had an entrance of trees enclosing around you, a donkey farm to one side, and even a maze. We all snapped pictures quickly of the shrubbery and structures since there was a very dark cloud centered right above. As it started to pour, we finally made it into the smaller chateau and toured again. This one was interesting in that there was a bridge attached that had two purposes on each of its different floors. The first was used as a normal bridge, where servants could cross to and from. The second floor of the bridge however was a long room with checkerboard flooring and big glass windows that was used as a party room. By this point, everyone was ready for dinner. This meal had a lot to live up to after Normandy and the fun we had, but unfortunately it feel somewhat flat, but still eventful. After a small avocado salad, there was a thud next to me. I looked over and sprawled across the table was bits of brown dirt. Nicole was looking at the mess in shock. As we looked up, we saw the culprit. A bird's nest had been made in the rafters above, and some had fallen right onto Nicole place setting, wine, and food. The waitress did not seem very happy with us to begin with, and it was a bit of confusion trying to explain what had just happened. the main course that I had was a sliver of salmon with vegetables. Everyone else had a chicken drumstick and mashed potatoes. For all that we had done today, we were all left unsatisfied and craving Papa John's pizza. Our next stop was Chateau de Razay, our hotel for the night. We arrive to see llamas, dogs, horses, and a gigantic pot bellied pig lying on the steps. The chateau was beautiful, and our room reflected that.

After a long day, we passed out quickly, only to realize the morning and the next day came too soon. We were off to Chateau de Chambord, by far the biggest and most beautiful one we had visited. They had bike and boat rides that you could take to see the grounds. There was also a hunting convention taking place. This chateau was actually a "hunting cabin" of Francois I, which I found interesting since it contains 440 rooms, 365 fireplaces, and 84 staircases. Somewhat of a hunting cabin when you can light a different fire place every day of the year. After another tour by our Italian guide, we got to enjoy a cookie tasting at the bakery located in the area. I now know that I need to create a recipe for a cherry cookie and a chocolate chip with orange zest cookie. They will be fantastic, promise. I cannot wait to have a kitchen again so I can start baking! I have been missing creating my own baked goods recently. Paris has definitely given me some ideas on what to make next. After the cookie tasting and a long 2 days of tours, we headed back to Paris. I thought that it would be one of those nights that I just lay in my bed, relax, and have a refreshing sleep. It turned into something unexpected.

After using Asa's computer to change my flights for after the Paris program, I was convinced by Park to go out with them for the night. Still in my PJs and ready for bed, I agreed and quickly got ready, wine bottle in hand. The time finally hit 1:30 am, and after a few fallen soldiers, Asa, Park, Sean and I were off to the Montparnasse area. We arrived at a place called the Financier, and started off our night. I have no clue how I made it to 4:30 in the morning, but I think the dancing and lively scene around me kept me going. I am not used to those sort of late nights, as many of you know, but it was pure entertainment. I even managed to make friends with real French people from Paris, something that is suprisingly hard to come by. The only problem was the language barrier between all of us. Luckily Sean translated between me, Asa and our new friend Franck. On the way home, I managed my first ever "plank" on a bike rack and I cannot wait to see the pictures! It was another fun night, which seems to always be the case with the unexpected, and Paris.