What I learned living abroad for 6 months

18 Dec

I can’t believe this 6-month adventure is finally coming to a close (leaving for the U.S. this Friday!) but that doesn’t mean that my life adventures will end! I still have another semester of school in Raleigh and I can go anywhere!

This whole trip has been an amazing experience and I want to share with you some of the things I’ve learned living abroad for 6 months.

1. It’s easy to practice learning a new language if you try. Native speakers love helping out beginners.
2. I get really excited when I hear American accents, and feel the need to start conversation.
3. When you feel like you’re on vacation, it’s hard to resist all the delicious food and try to eat healthy.
4. Per the above, it’s hard not to feel like you’re on vacation when you’re in a foreign country.
5. Living in Germany is much more like living in America than France is.
6. It never rains in the South of France and I love it!
7. Usually if you’re nice to people, they’re nice back.
8. I wish I had brought my dog with me. Dogs are allowed everywhere, even in restaurants.
9. Public transportation isn’t very fun.
10. Complaining about things you don’t like about the new country only makes you feel worse. Stay positive.

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Expats Blog Awards 2013

16 Dec

Hey guys! I’ve submitted an entry for the Expats Blog Awards 2013 with my blog post¬†6 Things You Should Know About the South of France if You Want to Blend in.

In the blog post I talk about things that are standard in Aix-en-Provence, France, that are good to know when visiting or moving there.

Check it out and please add a comment to help me win!

Expat Blog Awards 2013 Contest Entry

6 Things You Should Know About the South of France if You Want to Blend in

Arles, France – the city of Van Gogh

13 Nov

Right after Fall break, we were lucky enough to have a 4 day weekend! On Saturday we took a trip to Marseille to visit the lovely Starbucks and Monday we decided to go to a nearby town – Arles.

Arles is best known for being the subject of many of Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings such as Cafe de la Nuit (cafe of the night) and Le Jardin (the garden). The day we traveled also happened to be a French holiday so almost EVERYTHING was closed, but it was nice to walk on empty streets for once.

Here are the photos from Arles!

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Fall Break in Barcelona, Spain!

4 Nov

After a pretty intense first half of the semester in Aix en Provence, its finally my Fall break! Definitely well earned and much needed. My dad flew from the US to meet me for the week and since neither of us has been to Spain before we decided on Barcelona. In Barcelona you NEED a week to see the whole city because there is SO much to see!

I began writing a day-by-day scoop of what we did but it was getting WAY too long, so I decided to just break it up into bullets ūüôā You’re welcome!

what we did with our week in Barcelona:

  • saw the famous architect Gaudi’s works: Casa Batllo (went inside!), Park Guell, Casa Mila and the Sagrada Familia
  • took a day trip to the¬†monastery¬†at the top of Montserrat (a HUGE and really unique mountain with boulders)
  • walked & shopped at Port Vell – the manmade port of Barcelona
  • many walks down La Ramba – a main street with restaurants, shops and a million tourists
  • rode the cable car stretching above Port Vell
  • saw the whole city via double decker bus tour – definitely a great way to see the whole city
  • went on a tapas tour, which took us to some local places to try the Cataylan tapas
  • drank lots of Starbucks coffee (there’s like 15 of them in Barcelona!)
  • walked through the Cataylan Museum of History
  • went in 4 different Mango stores for shopping
  • watched people crowd in pubs to watch the Barcelona soccer team play Real Madrid

things we ate:

  • Paella – a traditional Spanish rice dish
  • Mexican food at the beach – so delicious!
  • Hard Rock Cafe (3 times!) – sorry but being in Europe for over 4 months, you can’t beat the taste of food from home¬†like a¬†¬†barbecue¬†sandwich, chicken tenders and mac and cheese!
  • Salmon and patatas¬†braves¬†in a cute square
  • More “bar food” at Dunne’s Irish Pub where I¬†found my new favorite sauce “HP’s.” It tastes like a mixture between A1 and¬†barbecue¬†sauce aka heaven!
  • Hot tapas outside the Sagrada Familia

highlights: 

  • Port Vell was probably my favorite place in Barcelona.¬†¬†The whole port from the bridge to the shopping mall has an awesome, modern design. We had a great time walking around, checking out the shopping mall and grabbing a Starbucks, of course. If I went again, I would try to get a¬†hotel near the port because its just a quick walk to La Rambla¬†and the beach.

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Gaudi’s architecture! There’s really nothing like it anywhere else. Going inside Casa Batllo and walking through Park Guell was awesome and totally worth it.
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Here’s all my pics! It was an amazing time – thanks Dad!

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48 hours in Paris – Sunday

26 Oct

On Sunday in Paris, we decided to not make any real touristic plans and just go with the flow. Again we took our time waking up and then headed to the Arc de Triumph where we would walk down the main shopping street, Champs √Člys√©e. The Arc de Triumph was huge! And the roundabout that goes around it has about 5 lanes of traffic but without any lines. I can’t imagine trying to drive in that.

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The Champs √Člys√©e was no let down. We started in a “drug store” that was not your average drug store. Let’s just say they sold Marc Jacobs and thousand dollar rings. We spent a good amount of time in there looking at everything.

We strolled down the street passing by¬†the grand Louis Vuitton building, Tiffany’s, Porsche, etc. There was even a Banana Republic which was a nice American surprise for me.

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With our feet (well, mine) already hurting after just an hour, we stopped at a restaurant on the Champs to get water, coffee and Gateau de Maison (house cake). Yeah with only those 3 things our bill was 20 euro.

After going through most of the shops on Champs √Člys√©e it was time to move on to the art district of Paris. Had it not been for a French friend recommending this area – La Marais – I would’ve never known about it! There were really cute side streets and a big main square with some sort of huge exhibition center where tons of people were lined up. There were so many cute boutiques but unfortunately I was starting to fade, as per usual, plus it was almost time to catch my flight, so we headed back to the hotel.

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Overall I feel like 2 days was not enough to explore Paris! I would love to live there for like a month so I could discover all the little things, and who knows, maybe I will someday. Paris, I’ll see you again soon.

48 hours in Paris – Saturday

22 Oct

I was lucky enough to be able to meet up with my mom this weekend in Paris! It was a dream come true but my arrival could’ve been a little smoother. I got a taxi to the hotel and turns out there are two exact addresses – one in Paris and one outside of Paris. So the taxi driver took me to the one outside of Paris, and I ended up having an hour cab ride and a 90 EUR fare (don’t worry – I only had to pay 50). But once I (finally) arrived, we were off to explore!

Of course the first stop on the trip was the Eiffel Tower, because DUH. We grabbed a drink at a restaurant with a view of the Eiffel Tower and said “sant√©” with a glass of du vin rouge and a glass of champagne. We went to bed at 1:30 am –¬†WAY after my bedtime.

On Saturday we took our time waking up and getting breakfast so we would be ready for the long day ahead of us. We walked past the Eiffel Tower to get to the Seine River where we walked along the water to get to our first stop – the Musee d’Orsay. The line to enter the Musee d’Orsay (famous art museum) was¬†huge but went pretty fast. Turns out the people in front of us in line were from Raleigh – small world! Inside was artwork from all the greats – Monet, Picasso, Cezanne, etc. Seeing Monet’s Garden was awesome! I even snuck in a pic.¬†After¬†the museum we made a stop to check Le Louvre.

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Then we went to a Frenchman’s choice of restaurant that not many tourists know about called Bouillon Chartier. It was tres¬†Parisien, serving all typical French food. It was so nice to finally rest our feet after all that walking. But¬†soon enough, it was time to move on to the next¬†locale – Shops at Lafayette.

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O M G is all I can say about the Shops at Lafayette. Pure craziness. Every designer brand you can think of, incredibly packed, and a different full floor for shoes, for purses and multiple floors for clothes. Honestly, I don’t know how people shop there because there was WAY too much to choose from. I got a little overwhelmed, but it was still really cool to experience.

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Then we went to Sacre Coeur,¬†the cathedral¬†up at the top of a mountain. The walk up there was very entertaining with shops lining the streets and a bunch of artists out in the¬†square. When we saw a Starbucks, of course we had to stop for one more rest and a little taste of¬†home. We also went in a chocolate shop, and I had to get a macaroon – what’s more French?! From Sacre Coeur you can see an amazing view of Paris.

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Can you believe we were still going after this? Well believe it. Because then we went back down to the Seine for a boat tour of Paris! It was so pretty to see the city at night from the water and to check out all the different bridges. I definitely recommend seeing Paris this way!

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On the way back to our hotel, we walked under the Eiffel Tower for the first time, where we saw a man propose to a woman!

1377402_1990527568479_1933749293_nSunday is to be continued …

9 things that happened Aix lately

11 Oct

I have been sick and SO busy, which is why I haven’t gone on any crazy adventures recently. But here’s some photo updates of what’s been happening in Aix lately!

1. Had a thunderstorm in Aix!

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2. Ate some delicious mint chocolate chip ice cream.

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3. Bought some seriously delectable cookies. 

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4. Enjoyed the scents of fresh bread baking in the nearby boulangerie (bakery)

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6. Appreciated the small things, like this cute shop.

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7. Watched Preljocaj contemporary ballet company perform outside at school.

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8. Cooked a roomie dinner (Thai food!).

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9. Marveled at old churches

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Americans in France

10 Oct

I wanted to write about what its been like being with 15 other Americans in France. During the time I was in Germany, I was alone, so I wasn’t sure how I would like being with a big group of other Americans. I’m glad to say it has been tr√®s fun thus far and actually made life pretty interesting. We’ve only been together a little over a month, but when you spend pretty much every single day ALL day with the same people, you get to know each other pretty fast. We have become kind of like a big family.¬†

Here are some of the ways we have been entertaining ourselves so far:

РMaking trips to Carrefour. 
Also referred to as Walmart on steroids. This place has EVERYTHING and food is cheaper than at the local supermarkets. Lugging all the stuff we buy home is another story, since we have to take a 20 minute bus ride and then walk back to our houses. We have been very innovative in the ways we carry stuff back. No amount of stuff is too much. Kind of like when cases of beer were 3 EUR so the guys decided to get 6 cases.

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– Speaking Franglish.
A mix of French and English that is. We took two weeks of French class when we first got here and have been picking up more and more useful sayings as we go along. Words like tr√®s, bon, beaucoup, ouai (a version of oui), bonjour, etc. have slipped into our daily vocab easily. And then there’s the little French sayings that we have made our own such as “pas du problem” (no problem) that we shorten to PDP. Chercher means “to look for” so we say stuff like “I was cherching for you.” Boxed wine is called “bag in box” so we refer to them as bibs. Merci is sometimes pronounced “mercy,” sounding as American as possible. We’re not making fun of the French language, just having fun with it. One of my favorite ways to tell people I have to go to the bathroom is to say “Je dois peepee,” aka “I must pee-pee.”¬†

-Pursuing a French boyfriend just for his car
Anytime we have to get outside of town, like to school or to Carrefour, we have to take a bus. And, the buses here suck. They drive like mad men, have really weird times, and just take forever. For me and my roommates it seems that the only solution to this problem is to get a French boyfriend to drive us everywhere ūüôā

-Taking advantage of the open carry law.
It’s legal in France to drink on the streets. We’re not sure if its entirely socially acceptable, but regardless we have taken advantage of this freedom. The guys in the group are big on carrying bibs (remember – bag in box, aka boxed wine) with them whenever we’re in for a long bus ride, or a long French class. Here’s a pic of some people “bibbing” on the bus ride to French class. Note: yes that is a box of wine being carried around in a suitcase-ish bag.¬†

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I’m sure this list will be doubled by the end of the trip!

I’m going to Paris!

6 Oct

I just booked my trip to Paris! I’ll be meeting my mom there while she’s traveling for work in a few weeks and I cannot WAIT! I’ve never been to Paris but it basically seems like a fairytale to me. Get excited for tons of pics!

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Avignon – The City of Popes

28 Sep

Last week we made a day trip to the city of popes – Avignon! It was an hour and a half away by bus. I’ve never taken so many buses in my life, but it’s the easiest way to travel here. I knew Avignon had some historical stuff to see, but I didn’t know how beautiful it was. It really took me by surprise in a good way. The palace of the popes was HUGE and a really cool structure. The pictures couldn’t even capture it in its entirety.¬†Too bad entrance was 15 euro. We had a lovely time just walking around and looking at everything, and taking lots of pictures. Also climbing on things was a common theme for us in Avignon.

We ate lunch at an Irish Pub after being turned away from two restaurants since it was 2:00pm. Most restaurants have a break between lunch and dinner where they don’t serve food. But food was pretty cheap and good at the Irish Pub so it worked out.

We went to catch our bus at 5:00 and it turned out we looked at the schedule wrong (didn’t see the “except Saturdays” next to the time) so we couldn’t get a bus home until 6:45. This 2 hr delay resulted in lots of random wandering, climbing on things, sitting around and petting dogs.

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