Mom & Dad, Part 1

I was so excited for my mom and dad to visit this spring. So excited, in fact, that I somehow gave them the wrong dates for my spring break. Instead of coming for a week and a half during my two week break, they came for half a week during my break and a week while I was working. At first I was so disappointed in myself, but then I just blamed the French bureaucracy for the problem, let it go, and made the most of my time with them here!

Last time my parents flew into Paris, I was also working (as an assistant at the time). They had to haul all of their luggage to the hotel, where I met them later that day. This time, I was off, and met them directly at the Paris airport. We even spotted each other through the glass between the arrival hall and the baggage claim.

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Crazy eyes for everyone! (Also, take a look at those gums!)
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Mom and Dad on the train into Paris from the airport

We booked two night in Paris in order to do some sightseeing while they were here. The first day, we took it easy: lunch near our hotel (croques and onion soup) and an elevator ride up the Eiffel tower.

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We had been there during their last visit, but we had never all gone up together. My dad had fun taking photos from the top with his 40x zoom lens on his camera.

The next day was our big outing to Versailles. My mom had wanted to go for a while; we tried to go last time they were here but everyone was ultimately too tired at the end of our stay in Paris. Therefore, we prioritised the trip this time and headed out to Versailles the second day of our time in Paris.

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We had absolutely beautiful weather so the 30+ minute wait to get inside was not a problem for us. Plus, I had grabbed a pair of 5€ sunglasses at the ticket shop on our way to the entrance line. The château was definitely worth the trip, even with the crowd from spring holidays. Mom and I especially enjoyed the gardens, where we goofed around and Mom did her mom duty of telling teenagers to get down from the garden walls (I mean really, those kids could fall at any moment! So dangerous! That’s just my teacher voice, right?).

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Peekaboo!

Once back from Versailles, we rested for a bit before heading to a pub style restaurant for well-deserved beer and food.

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Like father, like daughter.

Our final day in Paris was really only a half day, since we were taking the train into Cassel later that afternoon. Both Mom and Dad wanted to see the Arc de Triomphe, so of we went for a stroll down the Champs Elysées.

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Can you believe we gave our camera to a stranger to take a picture? So 2000s. I’m pretty sure we were part of the 10% of tourists that didn’t have a selfie stick.

That afternoon, we headed to northern France. After a train from Paris to Arras (I think), another train from Arras to Hazebrouck, and a final train from Hazebrouck to Cassel, we had gone from giant city to tiny village.

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Mom, the Luggage Queen.

Overall, our time in Paris was just as nice as the first time around in 2012. We saw new things together, enjoyed lots of pastries and coffee, and just enjoyed being reunited. Thankfully, the weather was much warmer this time around, being in the 50s instead of the 30s.

I was especially excited to show them our new house in Cassel. In 2012, I was working 12 hours a week as a high school language assistant and living with three other girls in an apartment attached to the high school. Now, I’m a full time certified high school teacher, and M and I live together in a real house in an adorable village with a dog and a rabbit and a backyard. We even have a guest bedroom, where Mom and Dad got to stay for the week. Oh, how times have changed!

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Brussels in a Day

The travel blues hit me hard Wednesday night. Therefore I bought tickets for the next day to and from Brussels, Belgium.

It’s a 34 minute, €28 TGV train ride from Lille, I had only spent half a day there before, I love how I never know if I should speak English or French, and I had a craving for waffles… so, why not?

After arriving at 9:45am, I grabbed a city map from the train station (seriously… I was slightly unprepared for this little day trip) and followed another guy who was holding a map out to the subway station in front of the train station. From there, I took the subway line 3 (or 4) towards Gare du Nord/Noordstation and got off at Bourse/Beurs, dropping me off just next to the main square. Once you step inside the square, you suddenly find yourself enveloped between huge, magnificent buildings, and you probably won’t know where to look – I spent a good 15 minutes just walking around and taking it all in!

The Broodhuis

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grant & matt in france: part 3

Since our Germany trip had fallen through due to the strike, I decided to take the boys over to Amiens for a little day trip.

Grant, we’re just at the wrong station… I’m not leaving you here!

Usually I buy my train tickets with my French card and the self-serve ticket machines. I have my ticket within 30 seconds and I am good to go. With the boys, I had to use my American card to pay for their stuff, which meant waiting in line, buying three tickets instead of one, and well… spending a lot more time on tickets than I am used to. Needless to say, we were running for the train to go to Lille the day before, and today, it was no different. I bought the tickets at the window, and the man told me he couldn’t sell me the return tickets or else I would miss the train. So, the boys and I sprinted down the stairs, down the underground passage, and up the stairs to our train. We hopped on and I realized within five minutes that we were going the wrong direction – toward Lille instead of toward Amiens. Really?! I have lived in France for a total of nearly nine months, and I still can’t get this train thing down sometimes. I asked some elderly folks sitting next to us to confirm that we were on the wrong train, and I decided to get off at the next stop where we would wait twenty minutes until a train came back through the other way… aka… the right way!

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to barcelona or not to barcelona? … that is the question.

Well, I have an answer for you all. Although most of you already know what it is, I’ll start at the beginning anyway.

With all of the strikes that have recently been going on France, I was a little worried. My mom and her best friend Natalie would be in Barcelona for a weekend before setting out on their week-long Mediterranean cruise, and I had round-trip train tickets to Barcelona for that very weekend to see them. My night-train to Spain was scheduled to leave on Thursday night from Paris, and then I would arrive just around the same time as them in Barcelona on Friday morning. When I got to the train station in Caen (which I once again had to walk to from my dorm due to manifestations going on downtown), trains were still going to Paris, so I figured I was in the clear. I hopped on the train to Paris and arrived without a problem around 4pm on Thursday. I easily took the metro from the Saint Lazare station over to the Austerlitz station, where my Spain train was supposed to be waiting for me. As soon as I arrived at the station, I was bombarded by a huge white sign in the middle of the station with a specific revised list of trains that were departing that day. I didn’t see Barcelona anywhere.

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rothenburg ob der tauber.

Sad to leave our beautiful castle hostel in Bacharach, we ate a quick breakfast downstairs (more lunchmeat, cheese, and bread… so strange!) and took a taxi to the train station. We were determined to make today’s transportation go more smoothly, so we made sure we were on time from the beginning. We got on the train in Bacharach with the goal of getting off in Mainz. Sleepy from the long day before, we both were knocked out for most of the ride. I woke up a few times to hear the announcements for the next stop, but when we both woke up at the same time to see that there was nobody left on the train, the train had stopped, and the lights were out, I freaked out a little bit. Jed and I both jumped up and tried to start opening the doors to the outside, but none of them would move. I looked out the window and saw a fence with barbed wire and noticed that our train was parked next to many others, almost like a train graveyard. Continue reading