Its Christmastime in the city…

When I found out Adam was just half an hour outside of Paris by train, I knew we had to tack on a few days in Paris before jetting off to Berlin for Christmas. One reason: to see the Paris Christmas markets and the city all decked out for the holidays! Paris certainly did not disappoint. Everything was decorated for Christmas- from the train station to the restaurants to the sidewalks to the national monuments. I absolutely love holiday decorations and felt like I was whipping out my camera every five seconds (probably because I was!), but it really was that good. You can read more about the Christmas markets of Paris here.

Gare du Nord

Gare du Nord

As I mentioned during my October break, Galeries Lafayette is seriously underrated as a beautiful spot in Paris. Best part is: it gets even better for Christmas! Continue reading

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Une soirée de Noel

The teachers I work with at Lycée Arbez Carme have really been very welcoming- even the ones who I don`t work with, who don`t teach English! I`ve been invited out for lunch, dinner, had apéro at their homes, and been included in faculty-wide activities such as the annual Christmas dinner. One of my teachers even volunteered to cut my hair when I asked around for a hairdresser recommendation!

We all (about 30 teachers) descended on the banquet hall of the amazing restaurant/hotel Hotel au Moulin du Pont and had a blast! I got to meet some new teachers that I hadn`t had the chance to meet before, and have more in-depth conversations with the English teachers that I assist in class. It was an excellent way to practice my French- being the only anglophone in attendance!

In addition to the conversation, no Christmas dinner post would be complete without the FOOD! Continue reading

That time I was scared for my life ringing in the New Year

I`m 22 years old, and I`ve now had my 23rd New Years. I dont remember all those early ones, of course, but I do have lots of memories of saying goodbye to one year and hello to another- once I was old enough to stay up till midnight! I`ve gone to parties, stayed home with my family, stayed home with friends, had brunch, had Chinese food, etc. I like New Years, its a fun holiday.

However.

Never, in my 22 years have I had a New Years Eve celebration quite like the one I experienced in Bratislava ringing in 2016.

I`m from New York, okay? There are strict fireworks laws, and even though I know they`re legal for personal use in other states and countries, I kind of naively assumed that it would be sort of kind of safe.

That was not the case in Bratislava.

We should`ve known, honestly, since from the second we stepped off the bus to the city center at about 4 PM, people were already throwing firecrackers on random street corners and explosions went off every five minutes or so. Continue reading

Snapshots of Christmas break

Happy New Year! I recently-just this week, actually- got back from a 4 country trip for the Christmas holidays! With Adam, I got to visit the Paris Christmas markets, spend Christmas in Berlin, New Years in Bratislava, Slovakia, along with a much-too-short day trip to Vienna. I had an absolutely amazing time and wil have several blog posts up in the next few weeks, but here are some initial photos from my fantastic trip!

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one of the lock bridges in Paris

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Getting cultured at the Louvre

One of the best parts of spending lots of time near Paris is the ability to fully enjoy the attractions, rather than running from one sight to the next. Last time I was in Paris, I spent only a few hours at the Louvre, and so was really pumped for the chance to spend all day there! The Louvre is free for residents of the EU under 26, so all we had to do was show our passports and we were off to the races! I was glad to have Adam with me- I like art as much as the next person but he is much more familiar with artists and specific styles of art, so I learned a lot about Romanticism and Expressionism!

 

the famous glass pyramid

the famous glass pyramid

Some notable paintings Continue reading

Paris is always a good idea

 

Of course I had to go to Paris. 

I`ll be working in France for at least 8 months- how could I not go to Paris? The City of Light, the City of Love, etc.

Luckily, Adam lives literally a half hour train ride from Paris- a fact that we thoroughly took advantage of! We could avoid the high hostel prices in Paris and take day trips- of which we took 4 during our 2 week break. Paris is just that good.

As we had both been to Paris before and had seen most of the major sights, we didn`t have to run around like crazy trying to squeeze everything in- which was such a relief. Instead, we got to meet up with old friends, walk along the Seine (holding hands, how romantic! ), spend a full day at the Louvre,  and take our time.

First stop? The Paris Opera House

The Paris Opera, or the Palais Garnier was not the first attraction on our list- we just stumbled upon it! Built in the 1870s, the opera house is just one of those striking buildings of Paris- with gold statues of the figures of Harmony and Poetry on the roof, and imposing columns. We opted not to take a tour but enjoy our baguette sandwiches on the steps of the opera.

Paris Opera

Paris Opera

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J`adore Amiens

I admit, Amiens wasn`t really on my radar as a French city to visit until Adam chose it as his first choice of placement for TAPIF. After some Googling, I agreed that Amiens was certainly a beautiful city and once he was accepted I knew I would have to visit Amiens at some point! For some reason we left Amiens until our last day trip of the Toussaint vacation…and I fell in love.

Amiens is absolutely gorgeous.

Located in the région of Picardy and the capitol of the Somme départment , Amiens is just over an hour north of Paris on the train. This little-known city is a very doable day trip from Paris.

Amiens`main attraction is the Our Lady of Amiens cathedral- it is the tallest completed cathedral in France (Beauvais` isn`t finished!) and has the largest medieval interior in Western Europe. The cathedral towers over the main square and is really breathtaking, with incredibly intricate carvings.  The towers of the cathedral are open for tours- free for EU residents under 26!- but unfortunately the day we were there the tour guide was sick.  We still had a great time exploring the inside of the cathedral- even finding a small memorial to both American and Canadian troops who defended Amiens during World War One. Continue reading

Chateau #2: Versailles

During the Toussaint holidays, we took a day trip to the famous Palace of Versailles. The palace is a major tourist attraction of Paris, and is best known for its opulence and extragavant decorations. Built by King Louis XIII in the early 17th century, the palace expanded from a hunting lodge to the main royal home during  the reign of Louis XIV- or the Sun King! I was lucky enough to be able to meet up with an old family friend at Versailles, Sabine; who is a student nearby!

How to get there

The chateau is not located right in Paris, but about 20 km out, with easy connections on the Paris RER public transportation system! From the Paris Gare du Nord, its a straight shot on the metro line C- getting to the Chateau Rive Gauche station takes approximately 40 minutes on the RER. From the metro stop the palace is a 5 minute walk!

Perks of being an assistant

With my valid French visa and passport proving Im under 26, we qualified for free entrance to the chateau and avoided standing in the ticket line! However, as it was a gorgeous Saturday, we did have to stand for 40 minutes in the long entrance line. Continue reading

November 13 and a country in mourning

On Friday, November 13th, I was woken up by my tablet buzzing- with emails and Facebook messages all saying one thing: ¨Are you okay?!?!¨

I had no idea what was happening.

In a move very unlike me, I hadn`t checked social media before falling asleep early and so, at almost midnight French time, I scrolled through posts from fellow TAPIF assistants and other Americans in France all with the same message: I am safe. Don`t worry. 

Beginning to be afraid of what I would find out, I pulled up CNN to the headline Multiple attacks in Paris. And all the worried messages suddenly made sense: there had been a coordinated series of terrorist attacks across Paris.  Headlines kept updating with new information: restaurants, a concert, bars, a stadium…gunshots and explosions.

The death toll was at 28, and it only kept rising as I watched the news in horror. I frantically texted anyone I knew to be in or near Paris, including my boyfriend, a high school friend and family friends. I made sure my family and friends knew I was far from Paris and out of harm`s way. I was glued to the news, constantly hitting refresh. Continue reading