Two train anecdotes

That time the train took off in the opposite direction without telling anyone

I had the idea that when Adam arrived early in the afternoon, he could take the train straight to Lyon instead of Oyonnax and we could spend the afternoon sightseeing, as of course I was going to bring him there anyway! So there I was, waiting at the Lyon Perrache train station, seeing that his train would arrive any minute, when he called me and said that he thought his train was leaving Lyon. (There are 2 train stations, TGV passes through Part Dieu to get to Perrache where the tourist sites are).

“Um, what? Are you sure? What do you see?”

“Trees, Nathalie. I’m not in the city anymore.” Continue reading

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A quick jaunt to Geneva

When asked, I often describe the location of my TAPIF placement as halfway between Lyon and Geneva. These are, of course, two well-known cities that can give an approximate location of the lesser-known town of Oyonnax. However, I’m actually closer to Geneva than I am to Lyon- by 27 kilometers!

So of course I was going to pay a visit across the French-Swiss border, it was only a matter of time. When Adam came to visit for a week, and I had the Friday before Valentines Day off, it only made sense to take a romantic day trip to the French-speaking side of Switzerland, home of the European seat of the United Nations (because we are International Politics nerds, I guess).  Continue reading

The Venice of the Alps…Annecy

I first visited the stunning French town of Annecy in May 2014, just before I left Montpellier, with some family friends. I absolutely fell in love with the lake, the canals, and the food, and encouraged friends to take a daytrip there whenever I had the opportunity! Annecy is truly a must-see in France, and as its located in the same Rhone-Alpes region as Oyonnax, of course I had to take Adam! How romantic!

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On top of the world in Grenoble

Back in January, 3 of the other assistants in Oyonnax and I decided to spend a weekend in Grenoble! High on my list of places to visit in the Rhone-Alpes region during my TAPIF year, Grenoble is located at the foot of the French Alps and boasts stunning scenery of the mountains.

We stayed just one night- trained it out from Oyonnax early Saturday morning and returned Sunday evening. We were incredibly lucky weather-wise during our impromptu weekend- especially considering the main tourist attraction of Grenoble is the Bastille mountain fortifications with amazing hiking trails and views of the Alps. The Bastille is also home to the famous Grenoble cable cars- which were out of commission the weekend we were there. That was okay, as we planned on hiking regardless!

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the cable cars

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Snapshots of February break

I made it home yesterday- sick and exhausted- from a jam-packed 2 week long February vacation! It kicked off with a weeklong family trip to Portugal, where we stayed in Lisbon and Evora, with daytrips to nearby Sintra and Cascais. We had an absolutely wonderful time in Portugal- and it was so much fun to see my parents and sister! Portugal was beautiful, food was delicious!

After saying goodbye in the Lisbon airport, I headed back up to Paris for some time with Adam. However, while he had classes, I visited a friend from my study abroad year in Montpellier, up in Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg! Elisabeth showed me a great time in Luxembourg City and the Castle of Vianden. I finished off my vacation with 2 relaxing days in Paris with Adam. Stay tuned for my posts and here are some photos!

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Lisbon was super cool.

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To Portugal and beyond!

Finally, after being gone for 5 months and having my very first Christmas without my family, I will get to see 3 out of 4 members in a new country for all of us. My parents, sister and I will spend a week in Portugal- Lisbon and Evora, with daytrips planned!  This has really been the longest stretch of time I’ve gone without seeing them- since when I was in Montpellier for a year a family Christmas in Europe split up the time in two. I will miss my brother, who has to stay in Mississippi for school, and of course our dog, but looking forward to seeing my parents and sister outside of a Skype screen!

After our family trip to Portugal, I’ll head back up to Creil/Paris for the second week of my February vacation, to spend time with Adam while he works. I have a few days planned to visit an old study abroad friend Elisabeth of The Francophone Files, who is currently a Fulbright grantee in Luxembourg!

Stay tuned for posts and pictures about my February adventures!

An international day trip: Vienna

The two capitol cities of Slovakia and Austria are the closest together in all of Europe- and with only an hour trip by train, of course we had to visit Vienna! I would like to return some day and really explore the city, as we only had about 10 hours. Fortunately, Vienna’s Christmas markets stay open until the New Year, so we got to enjoy those as well.

Belvedere Palace

One of many palaces in Austria, the Belvedere was built by the reigning Hapsburg family during the 18th century, and today is located only a few minutes away from the train station! As we were on a tight schedule (and budget), we didn’t go inside and chose instead to wander around the grounds. They were beautiful even in late December, so I’m sure they’re stunning in the spring and summer! The gardens are a slightly higher ground than the rest of the city, offering a lovely view of Vienna!

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the palace

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Guest post on Alexandra Woodfin!

A fellow TAPIF assistant has been rounding up testimonials from current assistants about their experiences so far, and I jumped on board! Here’s an excerpt:

Hi! I’m Nathalie Grogan and I’m from New York (State, not the city), in the Albany area. I’m spending this year in the Académie de Lyon, but a little ways from Lyon in the small town of Bellignat. I work at Lycée Arbez Carme (in Bellignat) and Collège Louis Lumière (in the slightly larger and neighboring Oyonnax). Im 22 and fresh out of undergrad from SUNY Geneseo, where I studied French and History (but not French history, sadly).

I think I speak for the majority of TAPIF-ers when I say I chose my region based on its namesake city! I know they tell us not to, but I did. Oops. So although I fell in love with the city of Lyon when I studied abroad, I have been placed in the much, much smaller Bellignat.
You can read the rest on Alexandra’s blog here.

Bratislava, Slovakia

“Brati-what?” and “Where is that, anyway?” were just two of the most common responses when I laid out my travel plans for Christmas break. Understandable, as Bratislava isn’t exactly a major European tourist attraction. As Berlin was my #1 travel destination this year, Bratislava was Adam’s. His family is Slovak and so the ancestral homeland was on the list. Fortunately, Ryanair had a flash sale between the two capital cities so our itinerary was set.

Bratislava is an underrated city, and the Old Town was beautiful. However, it was clear from our arrival that the city was behind the Iron Curtain. Bratislava is not Prague, or Budapest, or even East Berlin. The Soviet influences are much stronger than in those tourist hubs, but to me it made the city have a realness to it and showed that its still developing, that Bratislava is not finished yet.  I could really tell this was Central Europe. Continue reading

Geeking out in Berlin

 

 I have been dying to go to Berlin for quite some time- it was on my list of places to visit before I left to study abroad in Montpellier! I didn`t make it there during my junior year abroad and placed it #1 on my travel list  when I found out I was accepted to TAPIF!  I majored in history in college, after all, and grew up with my dad teaching me episodes during the Cold War. Berlin just has so much to offer for me to learn about WWII and the Cold War, I couldn’t wait. Luckily, there was a flash sale on Ryanair linking Berlin and Adam’s #1 travel destination, Bratislava, so our Christmas trip was practically planned out for us!

There’s just so much to see in Berlin that I felt like I barely scratched the surface! 

All. The. Christmas. Markets.  Continue reading