Author: kaceyrichards3

Saturday, May 20 – Monday, June 5

Saturday, May 20 – Monday, June 5

On Saturday, I did another excursion with the school to see Giverny, a village in northern France where Monet lived and painted. We took a bus from the school and first went to the Impressionism museum where they had a temporary exhibit of music in impressionism. They had paintings of violinists, guitarists, pianists, and dancers, so of course, I loved it. There were a lot of paintings by the painters we studied in art class.

Then, a few of us walked around some gardens just outside of the museum, wandered around the village, and walked in a couple of art galleries.

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We walked back to the bus to get our lunches and ate on the grass with some other students. We all met outside of the museum and then walked to Claude Monet’s house and gardens (Monet had designed the gardens, which have been maintained to look how they did when Monet lived there).

We walked through the gardens in the backyard with all the flowers first:

Then, we walked through the Japanese gardens:

It was fun taking pictures in the gardens. If only I knew how to paint…

On Monday, I gave the dreaded 20-minute presentation on how to fight against burn-out in my language class. At dinner, we were talking to our host parents about anglicisms and how French people use a lot of English words like “burn-out” or “DJ” (or “jet set”… I had never even heard that one in English before). I explained how Emily and I have trouble understanding them when they say English words because we try to find a French word in what they said, but it’s not French.

Wednesday was our last day of classes before exams. Emily and I ate lunch outside and some of the professors brought in food for the last class. After dinner, we left for our Barcelona trip.

When we came back on Sunday, Emily wanted to stop and buy a pastry on the walk home from the train station, so we went to a boulangerie and when she bought it, the man asked what color rose she wanted. She said she didn’t want one, but he handed her one anyway. On the way home, we were trying to figure out why they were passing out roses and I said it must be their Mother’s Day or something. When we got home, I checked online and saw that I was right, so Emily gave it to our host mom.

I had exams Monday through Thursday, so I took exams and studied most of Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, I took the art exam and then walked downtown to find the art on display. The city of Angers had people paint some buildings to bring art into the streets.

It was nice to see downtown in the summer with flowers:

I walked across the bridge and walked around town on the other side of the river since that was one of the parts of the city I hadn’t explored yet.

On Thursday, I had my last exam, which was an oral debate between another student and I. After getting groceries, I met Edmée and her husband at their apartment. Edmée showed me a map of where they have hiked in Europe. Over the course of three years, they had hiked 900 km across southern France and northern Spain. They did another 900 in northwestern Spain along the coast, and now they’re working on the coast of the Brittany region. She then brought out some desserts she made for me to try: a pudding-like cream and chocolate salami.

Friday was Emily’s last full day in Angers, so we went on a walk and stopped at McDonald’s to get ice cream. We came back and watched a French comedy movie.

I went to the train station with Emily on Saturday and then I finally went to the big market near the station that everyone told me about. It was a pretty big market with all kinds of food, clothes, and jewelry.

On Sunday, I ate breakfast as my host dad told me about the terrorist attack in London. I finished packing and then he drove me to the train station. I ran into another girl from CMU, who happened to be taking the same train to head home. We got off at the airport and I took a shuttle to a hotel. I flipped through some French TV channels for awhile and went to bed.

I flew back on Monday. It felt a little weird being back, but mostly felt like I was just there. Here’s a quick FAQ since everyone’s been asking me about my trip: Are you planning on living in France? No, but I definitely have a list of places to travel next in Europe. Did you learn a lot? Yes. I expected to pick up on more vocabulary, but it’s definitely a lot easier to speak and understand people. Are you fluent? I guess… I can hold a conversation and talk around words I don’t know, although there are still a lot of words I don’t know that a five-year-old French kid would know (doorknob, tile, bucket…). Favorite place you went? Cinque Terre. Favorite place in France? Nice. Do you feel like a changed person? I ate Italian gelato and my whole world changed.

It really was a great experience. When I look back through my pictures, I can’t believe all the places I went. Thanks for reading my blog, I hope you enjoyed it 🙂

Barcelona: Thursday, May 25 – Saturday, May 27

Barcelona: Thursday, May 25 – Saturday, May 27

For our last trip, Emily and I went to Barcelona. We took a train on Wednesday to the nearby city Nantes and spent the night since our plane left early the next morning. On Thursday, we arrived in Barcelona and took a shuttle over to a town square. We got lemon slushies and walked around to see some buildings with Gothic architecture.

We then walked to some other town squares and to the Mexican restaurant. We split nachos and chips with guacamole and we each got a mini taco. Mine had shredded chicken with a sweet sauce made with cinnamon. After lunch, we checked into the hostel and then walked to the port and went to the aquarium.

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After, we went to the sandy beach and bought a cup of fresh fruit to eat on the way. Then we went to dinner where we split tapas (appetizers): a chicken croquette, cheese platter, leeks, and a pizza.

At night, we went to a big fountain in front of a castle to watch it light up and on our way back, saw a group of street performers break dance.

We got up at 8 the next morning and walked to see the Arc de Triomf.

We went to the Parc de la Ciutadella and ate the breakfast we brought.

We went to the zoo in the back of the park and then walked around downtown.

We then went to the Picasso museum, which was cool because we had studied Picasso in our art class and the museum had art from all of his different styles, plus some sketches and pottery. After, we walked to the famous street La Rambla and went to a market and bought fruit for breakfast for the next day. For dinner, we shared a vegetable gratin paella.

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On Saturday, we got up and went to Park Guëll, designed by Gaudi.

Then, we walked to another little park and rested our feet. We walked to La Sagrada Familia, a basilica designed by Gaudi, which was probably my favorite building I’ve ever seen. The outside was filled with sculptures and a lot of detail and the inside was designed to look like a forest. The stained-glass windows were really bright and colorful as well. Apparently, they started building in 1882 and won’t finish until 2026!

After, we went to the beach and then had burgers for dinner and went back to the hostel to get some sleep before our early flight the next morning.

 

Saturday, April 22 – Friday, May 19

Saturday, April 22 – Friday, May 19

Okay, now that I’m done with exams, let me start to fill you in on all my non-travel stories since I got back from spring break.

It was weird being back in France and speaking French again, because although I heard other people speaking French while I was gone, Emily and I took a break from speaking it.

We’ve been constantly talking about politics in our classes since they just had their election for the new president. I asked a couple of French people when the inauguration would be because I knew the elections were May 7th, but I didn’t know if the new president would be inaugurated before I left France. They didn’t understand at first and told me they would know their new president the night of the 7th, but eventually they explained that they don’t have an inauguration day; the new president takes office a few days after election day. That seems super fast to me, but somehow they manage to transition that quickly.

On Friday (the 28th), I met Edmée (the retired French professor) and Yanhong (another international student) again and Yanhong and I talked about our breaks. She also went to Italy and Greece, but none of the same places.

Saturday afternoon, I went to a park to interview French people about politics for one of my classes. There were a lot of people at the park for a festival, probably since it was their Labor Day weekend. I wandered around for almost two hours and only got four responses. A lot of people refused to do the survey or refused once they asked what the survey was about, but the people who were willing to do the survey were all really nice and asked me where I was from and what I was studying.

Saturday night, Emily and I went to our classmate’s apartment to hang out and then go bowling with some other people from our language class.

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On Wednesday, May 10th, we were eating dinner with our host parents and Emily was explaining her allergy symptoms and asked me what the word for sneeze was. We both sat there trying to remember it and I was like “é….” but I couldn’t remember the rest of the word. Then finally, at the same time, we both had the idea to fake sneeze and then we looked at them for the word and Catherine said “éternuer.”

The next day, I went to get groceries. I forgot to weigh the tomatoes, so I had to run to the back of the store to weigh them. I just remembered as I wrote this that in the US, you weigh produce at the cash register instead of in the produce section. Anyway, I went to class and learned about the French healthcare system.

On Friday after class, Emily and I went downtown to the bank. We finally decided to go inside the Angers Cathedral. They were doing construction inside, but we still got to see most of it.

On Saturday, I went for a walk around Angers.

On Sunday, Emily and I finally went to the art museum in Angers. They had some Greek-looking sculptures and pots and then some rooms with Italian art, so I felt like I was back on spring break. They had everything from 17th century art to abstract art. We got to see two of the pieces we studied in our art class, which was cool, and some other pieces from the artists we studied.

I met Edmée and Yanhong again on Thursday and we exchanged recipes and Yanhong brought us homemade Korean sushi to try.

After class on Friday, I went to the train station to meet some friends in Paris. They have a piano for people to play at the station and I heard a few people play while I was waiting. When I got off the train, my friend texted me that they were at a crepe place, so I walked there and found out they were at the one by the Eiffel Tower and I was at the one by the Louvre. So, they walked 40 minutes to the Louvre, but before they got there, I walked over to the Jardin des Tuileries.

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[Not the Arc de Triomphe, just an archway in front of the park]
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We met and took pictures outside of the Louvre.

After, we went to the Notre Dame Cathedral.

We stopped in a souvenir shop and then had crepes since they didn’t get them earlier. We walked through the Jardin du Luxembourg and then I walked them to the Metro station.

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It was quick, but nice to see my friends again. I had an hour and a half until I had to be at the train station, so I walked back to the Jardin du Luxembourg to see some more of it. I walked past a group of men playing pétanque (a French game similar to bocce balls that I heard about in one of my classes). I walked around the city and bought a sandwich from a bakery for dinner and then took the train back to Angers.

 

Côte d’Azur: Friday, May 5 – Monday, May 8

Côte d’Azur: Friday, May 5 – Monday, May 8

We didn’t have school on Monday, so Emily and I took a weekend trip to Nice and Monaco. We took a train to Paris after our class on Friday and then flew into Nice. We walked from the airport along the Promenade des Anglais along the water to our hotel.

We went to the restaurant we had picked for dinner. It was a family-owned restaurant that served local olive oils. We tried bread with an olive oil from Nice and split a salad where he paired fresh diced avocado with granny smith apple. It was surprisingly a good combination. For the main dish, I tried rabbit.

It started to lightly rain when we left the restaurant. We walked around downtown and through a town square with statues and some sculptures of people that were lit up and changed colors.

Some cars drove by a couple times honking constantly and we realized it was a car parade for a couple who just got married.

Saturday morning, we saw some people dressed up for weddings or other events on our way to the port. We took a bus to Monaco from there. We got off the bus in the Monte Carlo area and walked by the famous casino and then walked along the shore.

We walked around in an old theater and fort on the way up the hill to the museum and palace we wanted to visit. We also stopped at a cathedral on the way. We got audio guides for our visit of the palace, the home of the Prince of Monaco. We couldn’t take pictures inside, though. After the palace, we walked back through a garden.

Next, we went to the oceanographic museum. The museum was huge and overlooked the water.

We headed to a garden, which looked like it was nearby on our map, but we realized it was all the way up a hill and we had to take roads zigzagging up the mountain. It started pouring, but we kept walking because the park was going to close soon. Finally, we found what we think was the entrance, but the door was closed. We turned around and walked around in downtown Monaco and then took the bus to Nice.

For dinner, I got an onion tart appetizer and sea bream fish with vegetables and rice. On our way back to the hotel, we got ice cream and walked by a big water fountain that was lit up in France’s colors.

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On Sunday, we walked to the Russian Orthodox Cathedral. It was closed off to visitors during the morning service, but we got to see it from the outside.

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We then walked around through some parks and town squares. I saw a poster advertising an art exposition at a hotel nearby, so we decided to check it out. They had the door open where you could walk on the terrace, so we got to see a great view of the city of Nice from there.

 

We then went over to the parc du château, where we climbed up a big hill to see the ruins of a cathedral, a park, some lookout points, and a waterfall.

We walked through another part of the old town that looks like Cinque Terre with the colorful buildings and narrow streets. We relaxed on a beach for a couple hours and walked in the water. We went back to our hotel and the receptionist asked us about what we did that day and where we were from. I think he just appreciated that we had learned French. We went to our room and changed and made a reservation for dinner. We went to a nice French restaurant. They brought us crackers and bread with an olive spread called tapenade. We split a smoked salmon appetizer and I tried duck with fruit and deep-fried corn. They also brought us mashed potatoes to share.

Emily had heard the couple next to us and said they sounded French Canadian, so she asked where they were from and they said Quebec. We talked for awhile after our meals about the differences between dialects and what we were studying and where we had traveled. It was nice to get to talk in French to other people besides my professors and host parents. We realized it was already 10pm by the time we finished talking to them, but we were determined to get crème brulée before the end of our trip, so we wandered around until we found a restaurant still open that served it.

We went back to our hotel and I went online to find that Macron won the French elections. We flew home on Monday morning.

Greece: Friday, April 14 – Friday, April 21

Greece: Friday, April 14 – Friday, April 21

SPRING BREAK: PART 2.

We flew from Florence to Athens on Friday and had a layover in Albania. We got to Athens Friday night and when we got off the metro, we could see the Acropolis lit up.

On Saturday, we saw Hadrian’s library, a church, and two people singing in Greek and playing guitar on the way up the hill to the Acropolis. There were a lot of street performers in Athens. We saw all the monuments at the Acropolis (Erechtheion, Parthenon, Athena’s temple, etc.) and walked through the ruins.

After, we went to the Acropolis Museum with ancient bowls, statues, and a model of the pulley system used to build the buildings on the Acropolis. They had glass floors where you could see ruins underneath. They had these all over the city, too. We had lunch in the museum restaurant. I got chickpeas with pork and rosemary and we split baklava for dessert with cinnamon ice cream. We walked through the National Garden park and then went to the Panathenaic stadium where the first modern Olympic games were held (the ancient stadium was restored in the 1880s for the 1896 games).

On Sunday, we went to Filopappou Hill and saw more monuments.

We went on a bus tour along the sea. For lunch, we got chicken souvlaki with pita bread and tzatziki. We saw a lot of people doing lamb roasts on the streets for Easter. We walked back to the main square and got frozen Greek yogurt and crepes. We went up to the roof of the hotel to eat the crepes. We saw some fireworks for Easter as well.

We got up early and went to the Kerameikos cemetery, archaeological site, and museum. The museum had ancient sculptures and vases and artifacts that went from earlier to later centuries (8th to 4th century BC) so you could see the development of detail and style.

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Kerameikos Cemetery

Then we went to the Temple of Haphaestus and walked around ancient ruins.

We then went to the Tower of Winds with more ruins surrounding it. We went to a Folk music museum with old Greek instruments. For lunch, I had Moussaka with eggplant, potatoes, and ground beef.

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A lot of museums were closed for Easter Monday, so we wandered around the city for awhile looking for the ones that were open.

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Byzantine Museum

We split a chicken gyros platter and tzatziki again for dinner. The waitress heard me say, “oh, they have saganaki. I wonder if they light it on fire in front of you here,” and she explained that it’s just fried cheese and they don’t light it on fire in front of people, that it’s something that started in the US and never made it to Greece. She asked if I was from Chicago, so it must be a regional thing.

Tuesday morning, we were off to our final destination: the Greek island of Milos. We took a plane, which was the smallest I’ve ever been on. There were 48 seats, but probably only 10-15 passengers. We got to see the coast of Greece and a bunch of the islands on our quick 30-minute flight. We got to Milos Airport and started walking along the water to our bed and breakfast place. It’s a very rural island (a tractor drove past us about two minutes after we started walking) and very hilly as well. We got to the bed and breakfast and no one was there, but a man pulled up five minutes later in his car. He didn’t speak much English, but enough to show us our room and explain about breakfast. Since it is not tourist season, the island was very quiet and we were the only ones staying at the bed and breakfast, so we got a sea-view room with a balcony.

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We went to a cute restaurant just across the street from a beach for lunch. We had bread and hard-boiled eggs dipped in beet juice for an appetizer. I got a salad with sweet sesame and honey dressing, local cheese, and orange peels. We split an orange chocolate pastry for dessert and then they gave both of us a little glass of water with a local white, thick sap that tasted really sweet.

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We sat at the beach across the street from the restaurant.

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We walked around the port city Adamantas and then went to dinner at another place across the street from the sea. She kept bringing us food! She gave us bread with sun-dried tomato paste, tzatziki, and olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette. Then, she brought out tomatoes, eggplant, and feta cheese. I ordered lamb and potatoes for dinner. She brought us a spice cake with strawberry sauce for dessert. It’s typical of Greek restaurants to provide a free dessert, but not three courses!

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On Wednesday, we had breakfast on a patio outside. They made a whole buffet for us! I tried their homemade strawberry jam, feta cheese with cucumber, and Greek yogurt. We hiked over to Sarakiniko beach.

We got to the beach before anyone else. It was made of white volcanic rock. We tanned on the beach and I actually swam for about two minutes. We had a picnic on the rocks and then walked around the beach and walked through some caves.

Next, we hiked to Firopotamos beach.

We walked back and had dinner at an outdoor restaurant along the water in the harbor town.

Thursday morning, we hiked to the catacombs, but took the wrong path that led to a dead end a couple times and walked on overgrown paths. We got a mini tour of the caves. Our guide said the catacombs were built in the 2nd-6th century AD when Christianity was forbidden. It was a place for tombs and worship and was 200 meters long.

We then saw an ancient theater and tried to go to a village called Klinos, but we reached another dead end in the path and decided to turn around.

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The village we cut through didn’t have any restaurants open, so we went back to the harbor town for lunch. We relaxed on our balcony and then went to dinner.

We headed home on Friday. We had a long layover in Athens, so we wandered around and found that they even had museum exhibits in their airport with more ancient vases and rings.

I can’t believe how much we fit in to this trip, how much walking I did, and how much food I ate! I’m so glad I was able to see two of the countries that were at the top of my bucket list.

Italy: Saturday, April 8 – Friday, April 14

Italy: Saturday, April 8 – Friday, April 14

SPRING BREAK: PART 1. Brace yourselves, this is gonna be a long one.

I woke up at 8 on Saturday and realized I had slept through both of my alarms. Thankfully, I still had enough time to get ready and make it to the train station on time. I lost track of time and forgot to check where car 7 was going to be, so the train got there and we started running around trying to find it. We ran a long way in the wrong direction and then finally asked someone who told us it was all the way at the other end. We ran and then decided to just get on another car so it wouldn’t leave without us. We made it to Paris and navigated the metro to the airport. We saw snow-capped mountains from the plane, which I think were the Swiss Alps!

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We landed in Pisa and headed to the leaning tower and stopped in the botanical gardens on the way. They had the biggest palm trees I had ever seen.

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The town of Pisa was much smaller than we were expecting, so we were surprised when we were talking and all of a sudden, we approached an intersection and I saw the tower peaking through. We walked through the cathedral and then around some town squares with markets. We went to dinner, where we split an octopus risotto appetizer and I got cod with zucchini in a creamy tomato sauce.

The next morning, we walked to a fortress/garden area and then walked to the train station and sat outside by the fountain. We took the train to Cinque Terre and got to see the countryside of Italy.

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Map of Cinque Terre (a group of five towns along the west coast of Italy) and where I traveled:

Cinque Terre Map

We arrived in Riomaggiore and went to the apartment we rented for the night. Just outside the apartment was a great view of the beach.

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We got fried seafood and vegetables in a cone for lunch and then got gelato. We walked uphill away from the busy town area and hiked up a narrow path of stairs along people’s gardens and vineyards. We walked back down and went over to a lookout tower. We tanned on the rocks on the beach for awhile and then went to dinner. It was a really nice place with a view of the town and the sunset on the sea. We split a caprese appetizer and fresh local spinach. I got a pesto pasta dish with green beans and pine nuts.

On Monday, we went to withdraw money since most places only accepted cash, but my cards wouldn’t work at that bank, so thankfully Emily was able to withdraw some cash. We had breakfast at an outside table downtown and had omelettes and a lemon crepe that was delicious! They grow their lemons here, so it was really sweet and tasted like lemonade. We took a train to Corniglia and walked through a church, went to a lookout point, got gelato, and then started our hike up the mountain. It took about 2 1/2 hours to get from Corniglia to Manarola. The hike led us on narrow stairways and through someone’s backyard. There were grapevines all the way up the mountain, but they weren’t in bloom yet. We walked through a town called Volastra and then walked down the mountain to Manarola.

We checked into the hostel and walked to an outdoor restaurant a little up on the mountain where you could see the town from the restaurant. It was an amazing view and great food: we got sandwiches and a cheese platter with 4 Italian cheeses. The restaurant had a pet stray cat named Filipo that kept eyeing my food.

 

Tuesday morning, we walked around Manarola and then took a ferry to Monterosso. It was a tropical-looking town with sandy beaches. It was more spread out along the water where the others were more zigzagging up a mountain. We found two churches right next to each other and walked through them. We then sat down on a beach for awhile.

We took the train back to Manarola and got lunch, then took the train to Florence and got there at night.

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view of the Arno river from our balcony

The next day, we went to the other side of the river and walked around Michaelangelo Plaza where an outdoor market was set up.

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view from Piazzale Michaelangelo

We walked through the Giardino delle Rose (rose garden) and then to the Abazzia di San Miniato al Monte, a large 3-story church, and then the cemetery surrounding it where many famous people from Florence were buried.

We walked back across the water on the famous Vecchio bridge made of buildings, which are apparently just jewelry shops. I learned later that they used to be butcher shops, but on top of the stores was a passageway for royal people to cross from government offices to a fortress, and they didn’t want to have to walk past butcher shops.

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view of Ponte Vecchio from where the government offices used to be

We got a pass to walk through the Giardino di Boboli, a 20th-century Italian women costume museum, and the Giardino Bardini.

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lilac archway in the Giardino Bardini

We walked over to some town squares and sat at a little park and then went to dinner. It was a fancier place, and I got veal ravioli in a tomato and creamy sauce and we each had a pistachio cream cannoli with strawberry sauce.

On Thursday, we walked to the Duomo cathedral. The line was too long to get in, but we walked around the outside to take pictures.

We found a Gothic church from the 15th century that we walked in instead.

 

We went on a tour through the Uffiza gallery, a big art museum with paintings and sculptures.

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For my last dinner in Italy, I got gnocchi with eggplant sauce, tomatoes, and ground beef.

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We walked back to the hotel and sat on our balcony at night just in time to watch the moon rise over the mountains.

Thursday, March 30 – Friday, April 7

Thursday, March 30 – Friday, April 7

On Thursday, Emily and I went to the mall in the morning to get food for dinner for the weekend. I walked through downtown to the theater to pick up tickets for a show. It was 74° and sunny, so I sat by the river and worked on homework. It’s crazy how many people are still wearing winter coats, scarves, and gloves.

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I walked to class, realizing the school was farther away than I thought, so I started walking faster and sweating more. I walked to the classroom and one of my classmates in the hallway told me there was a sign on the door saying the class was cancelled. I decided to walk to a nearby park to finish my homework. The park is right behind a college-level art school. It felt like I had gone back in time or was inside a movie because I didn’t see anyone on their phone—people were sitting in circles talking to each other, working on projects, or playing soccer. But it also felt like going back in time because of everyone smoking in public.

After dinner, Emily and I went to the theater for the show. I was expecting it to be more fast-paced, but it was really unique and interesting. There were some acrobatics, dancing, acting, and a little bit of singing, but aside from the singing, the six performers were silent.

On Friday (31st), we went to class and as we left the building, we saw a crowd of people looking at a bunch of caterpillars on the sidewalk. Our host dad had just told us about this, which they call a caterpillar processionary.

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We went with our host dad Saturday morning to pick up groceries for this week’s dinner since they went to Portugal for the week.

On Sunday, Emily and I went on a walk through the Parc de l’Arboretum.

On Monday, I walked with some friends to a bakery after our morning class and bought a sandwich for lunch. After the afternoon classes, Emily bought a mango caramel mousse cake from another bakery for my birthday. It was an interesting combination of flavors, but tasted pretty great.

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On Thursday, I walked to the Parc du Pin by the university. I was surprised to find a château in the middle. I walked around the building and then sat at a bench to do some homework before class.

Emily and I went to the Parc Saint Nicolas on Friday and walked around the river.

I keep thinking about how different the study abroad experience would have been before the internet and even before smartphones. This trip is so much easier since I have Google maps at my fingertips if I ever get lost or need to find a restaurant. When I talk to my host parents, if I don’t know a word, I can look it up and tell them (I usually try describing it first, but if they still don’t understand, I’ll find the word).

Talking to my classmates is interesting because they’re all international students studying French, but everyone’s studying it for a different reason. One guy is learning French because his girlfriend is French and they want to live in France together. Another man is a priest and wants to live in France. One girl is currently living in France because her dad is an ambassador. Some students want to be French teachers and others want to improve their French so they can study a different subject (sociology, culinary art…) at a university in France.