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Apr. 10th, 2008

Ciao bella!

My Italy update has long been overdue.

I'll spare you with the boring details of my 11-hour door-to-door travel.
I arrived in Parma around 19h00, dropped my suitcase off at Jaime's house and met her host family sans dad, and then headed into the centre to meet up with Liv. The three of us had dinner at a Pizzaria. I ate pizza with tuna and onions. Yum. I was ready to make out with someone that night. Just kidding! And we shared a bottle of Lambrusco, a sparkling red wine. I could drink that wine every day!!! Afterwards we met up with a few other Pitzer students to go to a wine bar, since it was Peter's birthday that week. We shared a few bottles of wine and good conversation, and then around 1Am headed to a club called XXL. Jaime and I haven't really danced at all this semester, so it was nice to get out and have some girly fun. We got back home around 3:30AM and passed out cold!

We took it slow in the morning, woke up, showered, chilled, and then headed to the train station to meet Liv. The three of us got there around 11:30 to realize that our train didn't leave until 1:10PM, so Jaime and I sat in the train station café to drink capuccinos and eat Italian brioches while Liv double checked the address of our Hostel. It wasn't until around 16:30 that we arrived in Riomaggiore, since we missed a train and got off at the wrong train station... but once we got there... WOW! Cinque Terre (the region where Riomaggiore is) is the most beautiful place I have seen so far! Imagine little cities of 1000 residents built into the cliffs along the most turquoise stretch of the Mediterranean. We were at first extremely astonished by the beauty. Yet, once we arrived at our hostel, our "view of the ocean" ended up being the view of our neighbors wall, and our room was decorated in at least 5 different shades of pink, so it felt like we were living in a cupcake. We chilled there for a bit, and then headed back out. We bought a bottle of Prosecco and a basket of strawberries to have a pre-dinner snack on the beach as we watched the sun set. Catching sun rays at the beach with some of the most amazing people in the world was definitely worth all the traveling that I had done up to that point!!! And the sunset was incredible! Once it got a little chilly, we headed up the hill to have dinner. I had sea food pasta, which included scampi, and I wasn't quite sure how to unshell them, so I just let them be. We were pretty tired from the day, so after dinner we headed back to our hostel and went to bed.

This day was probably the most unproductive yet most amazing day I have had so far. We started everything off slow with a cup of cappucino and some sweets. We bought some fruit and chocolate cookies and headed back down to the beach where the rest of the day was spent! We all caught some amazing rays (=happiness), and also some amazing sunburns, which in my case is making my chest peal now. Yuk. Anyways, our day at the beach was quickly interrupted with a trip to a bar to have caipirinhas and mojitos, and then to get some gelato, only to take it back to the beach to eat it there. On the beach, we watched a group of 5-7 boys running around in their sneakers and tighty whities playing some battle game. They used rocks as guns. It was the cutest thing ever. Once it started getting a little chilly, we headed back "into town", but on our way back, we were stopped by some local who asked us if we wanted to get some drinks. We figured "Hey, why not, we're on vacation." This ended up to be an overall good decision, since we met him again later to go out to dinner with two of his friends and two other American girls that he had met the night before. It was definitely neat to hang out with a local and eat dinner with total strangers. Oh, and this time I ordered Scampi again, and one of the Italians taught me how to eat them. I was still a little unskilled at it, but at least I tried this time. The dinner was absolutely a feast and a lot of fun. Afterwards everyone went to a little bar in town, but again, the three of us were a little tired and decided to go back "home"

Woke up at 7:15 to have a 13-hour travel period from door-to-door. It was extremely exhausting. Everything that could have gone wrong almost went wrong but fortunately didn't, from losing my passport, my wallet, my $25 face cream, to almost missing my train from Paris-Nantes and getting squished in the train door... but I made it home safely with nothing missing. I even met an old couple who lives near my in Nantes, who ended up giving me their address. I'll stop by their house some time this weekend for un petit café.

Pictures can be found here:


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Granada pictures are up:


Mar. 31st, 2008

Grana', mi amor #2

I ended my last entry around 1:30AM, but somehow my life decided that I should stay up and hang out with people at the hostel until 3:30, so that's what I did.

On Saturday morning, Naguine met up with me again at the hostel. We went into town with two Brits who live in Granada (Jules and James) and with another exchange student from UDub (Rob) and ate chocolate con churros. You might think about the Mexican churros with cinnamon and sugar, and hot chocolate, but it's not quite the same. The churros weren't sweetened, so it was just fried dough, and the hot chocolate was more like hot chocolate pudding. Then you take the churros and dip them into the chocolate. It's quite delicious!

After chocolate con churros, Naguine wanted to show me this magic garden. I don't know if it has an official name, but magic garden seems to fit it perfectly, so that's what I'll call it. Jules and Rob had other things to do, so only James came with us. He's a really cool dude. Like almost everything in Granada, the magic garden is on top of a hill, so first we had to hike up a little. It had been cloudy in the morning, so we were well bundled up, but by the time we got to the top, we had warmed up a bit, and the clouds started to disappear. In the garden, there were many beautiful flowers, a cute little late with many geese/ducks and a black beautiful swan, and in orangier section were at least 4 peacocks. Now, I haven't seen a peacock since my zoo times as a kid, and I had forgotten about how beautiful they were! They're also completely full of themselves and an extremely incompetent bird, but beautiful nonetheless. We just sat in the garden for a long time and chatted.

3PM rolled around, meaning it was lunch time for Naguine and me! We tracked back through the city, and I bought lavender and Granada tea as a souvenir. Once at the hostel, Naguine and I made a feast with leftovers and fresh salad, and had rolled cigarettes and tea for desert. I must say, rolling cigarettes is a talent that I don't posses because mine ended up looking more like a failure... Oh well. 3PM turned into 8PM after a lot of chilling, talking, and siesta'ing, and then we realized that we should actually be making plans for the rest of our day/night. While at the hostel, I ran into a boy in the bathroom who ended up sitting next to me at the communal computers. He greeted me by saying "Hello, I met you in the toilet." It was funny, but I'm not allowed to laugh at foreigner's cute linguistic mistakes, since I'm sure I do the same when I speak French and Spanish. A little bit later, I peaked over to his screen and saw him image searching Jamie Lee Curtis. I told him to save himself the trouble, I get it all the time (especially from Europeans). Anyways, his name was Luka/Luca and he turned out to the a short cute little Sicilian. Once Naguine and I had plans, we invited him to come along since he had nothing else to do.

Our plans were to go back up to El Mirador de San Nicolas with Jules and the Italian to meet James there. We didn't stay there for too long, and then we headed to the nearest Tapas bar. Naguine was looking for this tapas bar that served couscous, but we couldn't find it. Some old guy who was taking out his trash saw us tourists in the street and tried to tell us to go to El Mirador, not knowing we had just come from there. Once he found out that we were in search for a specific tapas bar he told us to hold on because he had some special tapatitas for us. They turned out to be slices of cold cuts and sausages since he owns a carniceria. He talked to us for quite some time, but it was mostly Naguine and the Sicilian who talked back, since us others didn't speak that much Spanish. He also had the heaviest Andalusian accent, so it was a little hard for me to understand.

After our delightful encounter with our cardigan-wearing grandpa, we started out tapas tour. We went to about 3 different bars, and once 1PM rolled around and all the bars closed, we decided to go to this one night club. It was unbearably smoky and none of us could stand it, so we called it a night and went back to the hostel. There, we chilled until 4AM (which turned out to be 5AM because of DST) just eating apples and drinking tea.

On Sunday morning, Naguine picked me up at the hostel again, we went into town, bought some pastries and had a little breakfast picnic at El Parco del Triompho. THe one sad thing about Granada is that it doesnt have much grassy areas, so we just sat on a wall near a fountain, but it was still fun. After that, it was time for me to leave mis amores Naguine and Granada. I almost missed my train in Paris as my flight was delayed by an hour, but I ended up making it home safely.

Now it's back to the real life in Nantes. Life in Granada is super chill, so getting back into the French mentality is a little bit of a bummer. Especially since I have a paper to write for next week, and as I'm in Italy this coming weekend, I need to start on it NOW. I don't have the will to upload my photos yet, so I'll probably do it the same time as my Italy photos from this coming weekend.

Greetings from your weary traveler!


Mar. 29th, 2008

Grana', mi amor

My dear faithful readers,

I am currently sitting in my hostel in Granada. It's only my second night here, but it feels like I've been here for three days already. This town is just so impressive! I usually wait until I'm back in Nantes to update, but I really need to write about this city now, before I forget. The rest of my time here I'll just write about when I'm in France again.

I came into the city center around 8:30 last night. Naguine picked me up at the bus stop and took me to my hostel. It's actually a really nifty hostel, with free internet access, a complimentary drink at their own bar, and free breakfast: even though it's just toast, it satisfies a travelers hunger and budget. Naguine and I went out for Tapas and then called it a night pretty early, since I was tired from traveling and running around Nantes on Thursday morning.

Today, Naguine met me at my hostel at 11. We had planned on cooking lunch here together (since they also happen to have a fully equiped kitchen), but decided to walk around first. Naguine took me into town and showed me around a little, and we sat on a bench in the sun for a very long time. Maybe too long of a time, since I now currently suffer from a sunburn. Yet, me being me, it usually turns into a tan anyways. And, after having been in rainy cold France for the past 2 1/2 months, I'm proud of my sunburn because it means that I finally know what it's like to feel the heat again!!! After our midday walk, we came back to the hostel and made some delicious fresh pasta with grilled veggies, and topped that off with bread and olive oil. Yum. And we also drank some Alhambra beer. This being Spain, by the time we were done with lunch it was actually already 3PM (or maybe even later) and we decided to sit on the hostels roof top terrace and catch some more sun rays. It was great! It probably didn't help the fact that I was already half burned, but oh well.

During our lunch, we hung out with a French guy (whom I had met last night) and on the rooftop we met two more travelers: one from Birmingham UK and a quadrilingual girl from Latvia. Naguine and I had planned on going to El Mirador de San Nicolas, which gives you an amazing view of the Alhambra and of the city, and which is where all the hippies and gypsies hang out, and our new friends decided to join us. We went up there, watched the sun set (it was cloudy... sad day), and watched the Alhambra being lighted up. Then Naguine took us through Sacromonte, which is where houses are built into the hills and where the gypsies live in caves. And then... Tapas again!!! The great thing about Granada is that when you buy a drink, you get free Tapas. No other city in Spain does that! So you can buy a half pint for less than two euros, and get a snack with it too! So in other words, I had dinner. Our French and Latvian buddies left us after a while, since they had other plans, so we went on to another Tapas bar which served delicious baked potatoes instead of Tapas (depending on availabilty). After that, the Brit, Naguine and I sat on a random set of stairs in Granada and talked... for very, very long. We went into some heavy subjects concerning world politics, traveling... I don't even remember what else, until we realized that it was 12:30AM and we were freezing. So we headed back to the hostel, made some tea (also complimentary) and now we're just chatting. I seperated myself from the group for a bit to update.

I'm extremely pooped as it's 1:30AM and as I didn't get much sleep last night (I shared a room with two snorers and one sleep talker/laugher). Wish me better luck with roommates tonight!

Buenas noches.

Mar. 25th, 2008

I'm dreaming of a white... Easter?

Hey everyone!

Now that I'm back from my first weekend excursion in my pre-Paris trilogy, it's time for a update with plenty of pictures.

On Thursday, I woke up very early and went to the train station in Nantes. All the connections went smoothly. I had had a few doubts about switching between two of the train stations in Paris, but that ended up being a piece of cake. I had to wait at Gare de L'est for 2 hours for my train from Paris-Frankfurt, so I ended up being a little popsicle, but I survived. In the train from Paris to Frankfurt, I was lucky enough to be in the same coach as a group of German 14 year olds who had just spent 10 days in Paris on a student exchange. 4 hours with obnoxiously loud 14 year olds? How did I survive you ask? Well, for the first hour, I was deep in my book, but after a while I ended up talking to the girl next to me. She was a German girl who was doing an internship at a French-German kindergarten in Paris and she was going to Germany for the Easter weekend aswell. It turned out that we had a lot in common: We're both PK's (=preacher's kids), our parents drove the same color VW Passat station wagon, we listened to the same Christian kid songs, and now that I've found her on the German version of facebook, it even turns out that we have the same birthday. Strange, ey? Anyways, I'm planning on visiting her next time I'm in Paris. Once I arrived in Frankfurt, I hung out with my aunt for a little while and waited to my sister Katja and her friend Nazly to arrive. Once they came, we ate dinner: Grüne Soße with Potatoes. Grüne Soße is a type of yogurt sauce with 7 different herbs in it, and in my aunt's region, it's a tradition to eat it the Thursday before Easter. It's also a tradition to eat it at her house every time the Hildebrandts come to visit... We talked in the living room at night and went to bed relatively early, since all of us were weary from traveling.

On Friday, Katja, Nazly and I slept in and had a late breakfast. After, we drove to Heidelberg to visit the castle and the Altstadt there. The weather was a little sketchy and super rainy, but we still decided to venture out. You can't sit at home and look out the window the whole day when you're on vacation!!! It was very nice walking through the streets in Heidelberg, since my mom studied there, and I can well imagine how she felt when she was my age living there. Heidelberg also has an old castle ruin that you can visit, along with what might possibly be the largest wine barrel in the world! See pictures. After our trip to Heidelberg, Katja and Nazly drove back to Frankfurt and I took the train to Karlsruhe to meet up with my best friend Michi!! I haven't seen her since last summer, so it was great spending some time with her again. We went out to dinner at night, where I ate Schnitzel and Fries (maybe my most favorite German meal ever) and then talked until the wee hours of morning (and with wee hours I mean 1:30).

The next morning, we took it easy, sat down for breakfast for a long time, did some more talking, and then headed back into town. Katja and Nazly drove to Karlsruhe to meet up with a friend for lunch, and I met up with them at 2PM to head to our next destination: Loffenau. Loffenau is the little village in the Black Forest where I grew up. Let me remind you that the weather was far from pleasant when we were there, and I had already watched fat snowflakes fall during my breakfast with Michi, and once we headed into the Black Forest, we were greeted by pine trees covered in snow. The snow didn't stay on the streets (fortunately enough, since we were driving everywhere), but the landscape was gorgeous!!! We stopped on top of the hill going into Loffenau and had a little snowball fight and built a small snowman. Once in Loffenau, the three of us walked around the village for a little while, visited the house I grew up in, and then Katja dropped me off at my old neighbor's house while she went to eat some Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte with her friend Nazly. At my neighbor's house, I was of course fed and I had to talk a lot, but I love visiting there. I was at their house pretty much every day growing up, so visiting them is always important to me when I go back to Loffenau. Around 6PM, our visit in Loffenau ended and we headed back to Frankfurt. There, we had dinner with my aunt and went to bed after having a girly chatty night with my cousin Corinna. It snowed even more that night, and this time it didn't melt on the ground. So everything turned white and we ended up having a white Easter. Considering that Germany didn't have a white Christmas in 2007, everyone thought it a little weird. We even ended up saying "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Easter"!

On Sunday was Easter. The Easter bunny (=my aunt) had already granted me with a lot of chocolate in a little basket in my room, and Easter being a holiday, I naturally ate even more candy throughout the day! My cousin Frank and his very pregnant wife Katie came over for lunch, and we sat and talked for a long time. Lunch was sooo delicious and we had copious amounts of food on the table. Actually, in retrospect, I'd rather not think about all the food that I ate during that entire weekend! Also, Corinna's son David came home from his weekend at daddy's, so we had quite a full house. Having a three year old pretending to be a lion around was a little exhausting at times, but it was still nice to be together with a lot of my relatives! At night, Katja helped me with some school stuff, and then we went to bed.

On Monday, I stayed home (=at my aunt's) while Katja and Nazly ventured out to the Kronberg castle, since I had some school things to take care of. Since my train was leaving the Frankfurt station at 5PM, I had to leave me aunt's at 4PM, so overall, Monday was pretty uneventful. Right before I left, my other cousin Andrea came over with her husband and two children, so I was glad that I got to see them quickly. I got to hold their 11-month old son Tristan for a little while, and that made me happy. I like babies. They're delicious.

Now I'm back in Nantes. I should be working on an essay, but I thought updating my travel blog was a little bit more important. I've got many things to get done here though, before I leave again Thursday morning to go to Granada!!! Yay sunshine, here I come!!!

Pictures from my trip can be found under the public facebook link:

Mar. 13th, 2008

Excursion nantais

Yesterday I went to a Tunisian pot-luck sort of thing at the wood engineering school in Nantes. A friend of mine, Melek, who lives on my floor, studies there, and some of the Tunisian students that go there cooked a whole bunch of food for all the first years and their friends. Melek invited me to come with him, and David came along too.

Firstly, other than the 3 minute drive between the tram and the airport, I had never taken a bus in Nantes. Melek's school is somewhere in the north-east of Nantes, so there was no way to get there with the tram. The school itself is beautiful! It being a private (I think) wood engineering school, everything was made of wood and there were student projects standing around everywhere: dinosaurs, dresses, human-sized frogs... all made of just wood. Their lecture hall has the most amazing vaulted wood ceiling. I just kept on thinking about my dad the whole time I was there, because he would have loved it!

The Tunisian meal itself was yummy. And they gave us PLENTY of food. I'm not quite sure what exactly Tunisian food is like if I was to compare it to something else... they eat a lot of couscous with raisins in it, and they had a Greek-y tomato and cucumber salad. And then lots of other stuff. I'd rather not think about the caloric intake :-p They had baklava for desert and it was delicious!

During the dinner, David, Melek, Melek's friend "fill in name I forgot" and I sat together. Melek's friend spoke English fairly well, so he kept on speaking in English, since David doesn't speak French that well. But Melek's English sucks... so it was just hard keeping a balance of which language to speak. But since David is here to learn French and very eager about it, we spoke French for most of the night. And that was very nice. Melek's friend was even surprised that I had only studied French for about four years, so that made me feel good!

After the dinner, a classmate of Melek's drove David, Melek and me to our tram stop and then we went to Buck's for our tradition Wednesday night beer. It was a little weird being in a car, on a highway, in a part of Nantes I had never been in. I've only seen the things that are along my tram-line and whatever is in the city center, so I kind of geographically explored last night. And plus, I hadn't been in a car since I took a taxi in January in Paris, so it felt really weird! At Bucks, I ended up speaking a lot of French again, since Melek was still with us. Even though he wanted to practice his English for his English test today, that didn't work out too well since he has trouble understanding the American accent. So French it was.

So overall, last night, I did some Nantes exploring and lots of French speaking and it was fun!

Mar. 4th, 2008

My future.

Well, at least my near future:

Weekend of the 21st of March:
I booked train tickets to go to Frankfurt a long time ago. Flying was too expensive/inefficient, so I'm taking the train there. It'll be a long journey, but well worth it. It'll be nice to spend the Easter weekend with my relatives. I'll also get to see my best friend in Germany (Michi). And since it's a holiday, I can also spend Monday there. I'm really looking forward to it!

Weekend of the 28th of March:
I'm flying to Granada from Paris for Thur-Sun, since I have a friend who's doing a semester abroad there. I've been there before, on a day trip when I was 8 and while I was staying somewhere else in Andalucia. It'll be nice. I've got a direct flight from Paris to Granada, so I won't have to worry about taking a bus/train from Madrid to Granada. I'm really excited to (1) see Naguine, (2) go to Spain and try to speak Spanish (oh God, that'll be an adventure), and (3) go somewhere warm!!!

Weekend of the 4th of April:
I'm traveling to Parma (3rd-6th) to visit Jaime and Liv. I'm flying into Milan, and we might also spend some time in Verona, where we lay our scene. So maybe I'll be in Verona for the first night, and then in Parma for the other two. Dunno yet. I'm excited to go back to Italy, see something else cute, and see JAIME AND LIV!!!

Weekend of the 11th of April:
Any suggestions?

14th of April:
GIL'S COMING! We're spending a little time in Nantes. Then we're going to Paris to be cute and romantic. And then we're off to Germany to visit my relatives and Michi. He'll also see where I grew up. That'll be nice. He's leaving Frankfurt on the 24th and then

Weekend of the 25th of April:
Katja will be in Nantes Sat-Mon to visit me. Yay sisters!

And then the month of May will approach, and I will have finals to take and papers to write. I just hope I can get the final dates soon, so that I can start booking May trips.

Mar. 3rd, 2008

It's been a while

I haven't made any entries lately. Since half a month ago? That seems like so long ago. But that's just because I left Nantes 6 days after the last entry. Here's what's been going on.

On Friday the 22nd, I flew to London to meet up with Katja (my big sister). Since I saw most of the touristy things, I just spent a lot of the time hanging out with her and her friends (when she wasn't at work), and touring London on my own when she was busy with work. I like hanging out with her friends, they're fun. I took a few pictures, and a selected few are on facebook. So I was there from the 22. until the morning of the 29th, when we headed to Rome.

Photos of London: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2065378&l=8ce93&id=13307798

Roma, amore mio! It was a.m.a.z.i.n.g. Most of the pictures I took (of which there are 200+) don't even do the city/monuments justice. It's just something to see in person. It was overwhelming, especially since we started off with Saint Peter's Basilica. That church is incredible. Really. The architecture, art, grandeur... work and effort and faith put into that place. It literally almost brought me to tears. Photos from Rome: http://claremont.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2065379&l=ec044&id=13307798 . Since I arrived in Paris late last night, got 4 hours of sleep and took the 6:30 AM train back to Nantes, I'm kind of really pooped and dead tired. In other words, I'll leave my travel stories to my pictures.

Feb. 16th, 2008

La Rochelle

Yesterday I took a day trip to La Rochelle. It was a 2 hour train ride south of Nantes. It was good to finally get out of the city and see something new.

La Rochelle is a port city, so I finally got to see the ocean again! It's smaller than Nantes, will less things going on, but cute nonetheless. They had an aquarium there, with lots of fishies. Other than that, we didn't do much there.

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Feb. 3rd, 2008

Friends and language.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who's in this boat, or who has ever been in this boat, but going abroad and making new friends is extremely hard. Especially when you don't feel very secure in the foreign language.

Last week, I heard two girls speaking Spanish in the kitchen while I was washing my dishes. I started talking to them in Spanish. They're from Mexico. They ended up inviting me to go to the Museums with them today (Sunday), since they're free on the first Sunday every month. There ended up being about 15 people, two of which I had only met once, but I got to practice my French, and the one girl that has stayed in contact with me, Verónica, is very very nice. I took AJ along with me, since I thought it would be a group of Spanish speaking people, but it turned out that it was just a huge international group! We didn't stay too long because we were cold and tired, but at least I hung out with new people. And Verónica said that we should do something together again.

On Wednesday, at the international soirée at Buck Mulligan's (the pub we always go to), I met a German, qui s'appelle Nico. I ended up hanging out with him on Friday night, while all of his friends and my friends were out at a disco. It was weird speaking German, especially since I'm starting to suck at it, and am unable to speak it without throwing in an English word here or there, but it was still fun.

So in other words, things on the friend-making front are coming along!

So moving on to the language front:

Since I've been trying to find French speaking friends, that whole thing is coming along. I hear "horror" stories about kids who come here and just hang out with people that speak their native language and come back and don't know any French. I might aswell shoot myself or change my major to ship engineering if that happened to me, because why else am I here?

AJ and I saw the new Asterix and Obelix movie in the theatres yesterday. First of all, it was a great movie, guest starring Michael Schuhmacher and Zizou, so how could it get any better? And secondly, AJ and I understood a surprising amount of the jokes and dialogue, which I was scared about initially. We were both kind of proud, walking out of that theatre and not feeling like complete idiots. French movies without subtitles - here I come! I got a coupon for a 5E50 movie ticket (which usually costs 7E50 for students), so now I won't be scared to use it!

Ok, off to dinner!

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