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24 February 2009

« Carte a confisquer »

I have always heard that you should keep a good eye on your bank cards while traveling. They could be stolen, lost, or dropped into a river. No one ever told me that they can also be eaten by the ATM machine and deactivated. True story. It's disheartening to find out that all of a sudden there's no way to access all your money from a foreign country. Such is my situation now in France. A bank glitch has caused my card to be cancelled and ultimately confiscated from me at the French bank that I go to.

Thanks to my superman father, a new card is on the way sometime soon. I must say, though, this has been quite a reality check for me. I really should have been better prepared with plan B in this situation! I'm really lucky it was only a machine and not a thief. Oh the lessons of traveling...

22 February 2009

Good ol' Lyon

I'm back in Lyon after a wonderful vacation around Europe. Traveling and seeing so much of other European cities made me realize how much Lyon has to offer, too! Upon my return, I became a tourist again in Lyon. I wandered the streets with a friend, window shopping and conversing with locals. We ended up at Parc de la Tête d'Or just in time to witness a beautiful French sunset over the lake. I also discovered where the UNESCO headquarters are in Lyon- right behind the park! I'll check that out another day.

In continuing my quest for culture in Lyon, I took advantage of free student admission at Le Musée des Beaux Arts on the Presqu'île. I've found a new appreciation for art since taking European Avant-Gardes and Surrealism art classes at the Université. I was ecstatic to recognize some of the pieces and French artist on display. It was amazing to see so many famous artists in one place, which means the Louvre, Orsay, and Pompidou museums will be a real treat when I go to Paris in March! There are plenty of other museums and streets to discover in Lyon. Although the weather here doesn't impress me, the city has plenty to offer!

21 February 2009

Geneva- The Peace Capital


Geneva, Switzerland is a beautiful city right on the border of France and Switzerland. It is located along the Rhine River where it meets Lake Geneva (in the picture above) and on a clear day you can see both the Alps and Jura Mountain ranges. Two swiss things were very obvious when I walked around Geneva: time and money. There was a bank on every corner and a visible clock on most streets.

I was reminded when I crossed the border that the Swiss money is not in Euros, as it has been all the other countries I've visited. The Swiss Franc was very puzzling to me, after just now comprehending the Euro conversion. So, to figure out how much money I was spending I had to convert the franc to euro and then to dollar. I realize how fortunate I am to be traveling Europe in the time of the Euro. It has prevented me from converting to all the different European  currencies from pre-1999. Despite the money change and coming from Holland and Belgium, I was happy to be back in a country where my French skills were useful again. 

Jolene and I spent the day walking around Geneva exploring both touristy and non-tourtisty things. We climbed 157 stairs to the top of the bell tower of Cathedral St. Pierre, which overlooks the whole city and lake. It was a beautiful view, but also very cold with the snowy mountains looking down on us. The old city was charming and well preserved with art and sculptures around each corner. Eventually we made our way toward the outskirts of the city to see the United Nations Office and explore the botanic gardens and walk on a path along the Rhine River and Lake Geneva. 

That night we met up with my friends Anaïs and Clémence who just moved to the Geneva from Lyon for an internship. All of us were tired from along day of travel and work so we watched a movie and fell asleep. It was great seeing some familiar faces in an unfamiliar city. I love how friendly everyone is here and I'm thankful for all of my friends who have hosted me.

19 February 2009

Discovering Belgium

Last week I was in the air and on the train tracks all over Europe. I had the most amazing time visiting some of the largest cities in Western Europe with my friends. I don't know where to begin to describe my travels but I want to mention some favorites from the places I went:


Regardless of what Americans call them, Frites (french fries) are Belgian and are best with a dollop of Andalouse sauce. In Ixelles, there's a frite stand called Antoine's in Place Jourdan where you can buy a large cone of steaming frites for 2,20 euros. The bars surrounding the square invite Antoine's customers in for free place to eat their frites and enjoy a cold Belgian beer. Ils sont parfaits ensemble- they are perfect together. 

Belgian beer deserves a separate paragraph. First of all, there are so many Belgian beer brands. A few that I remember or tasted are: Bush, Jupiler, Grimbergen, Karmeliet, Amstel, Chimay, Orval, Westmalle, Stella Artois, Belle Vue, etc etc... Then, there numerous brews or types of the beers. I saw blonde, noire, rouge, blanche, ambree, triple, double, and 6%-12%. The fun part about drinking Belgian beer in Belgium is the special glass that comes with each beer served at a bar. For example, if you order a Grimbergen Roussa, you will be served in a special Grimbergen glass. It is aesthetically pleasing to the eye and delicious for the taste buds! One night, Jon and Brian took Jolene and I to a bar called Delirium Café that serves over 2,000 beers. It was smokey and crowded with young people speaking numerous different languages but that only contributed to the experience of being in a real Belgian bar.

To follow up on my food/drink theme in Belgium, how about those Belgian Waffles?! You can pile just about anything you want on top- whipped creme, carmel, Belgian chocolate, bananas, nutella, strawberries, etc. But honestly, they taste perfect plain. I definitely recommend (from experience) only buying fresh waffles that are made on the spot. The Brussels metro waffles are perfectly délicieux!

I could continue talking about the amazing food, like Belgian chocolate, but I must continue onto the other wonderful things about Brussels and Belgium.

Downtown Brussels has so much to see and do. It is where the European Union headquarters are located, including a large EU information center. There are numerous monuments, churches, and parks, but watch out for dog poop. There's also the King Albert II's Palace (yes, Belgium has a king), and the Mannequin pis and Jeanneke Pis to search for. When the wet wintery weather isn't prime for outdoor sightseeing, there are plenty of museums and bars to explore.

BRUGES, BELGIUM

I've wanted to visit Brugge ever since seeing the movie In Bruges in 2008. Now I can vouch that the city is even more beautiful in person. This medieval town is beautifully preserved and carries a mysterious charm, which I also found in the movie. There are beautiful canals with swans and a large city square with buildings decorated in gold. Brugge is in the Flemish part of Belgium, so my French was useless but my ears enjoyed hearing the funny new sounds. Unfortunately all the big tourist sites in Brugge close early so I wasn't able to climb to the top of the bell tower or see the few drops of Jesus' blood. But just being in the city and walking around was well worth the trip!

That night in Brugge we stopped in Brugs Beerje, the bar that inspired the Good Beer Guide book. It was a great bar atmosphere with friendly bartenders and more than 300 beers on the menu, which was practically a book. I would definitely recommend this bar to any beer connoisseur or tourist in Belgium.

Overall, my favorite part of Belgium was seeing Jon in his new home. He has an awesome set up with his apartment and internship. I was able to go to work with him one morning and see inside the Reuters building where all the journalism magic happens. The big international/ EU stories he works on and the international journalists he works with give him such an interesting and exciting experience. 
On our last night in Brussles, Jon and his roommate threw a fun mexican food party for Jolene and I with the other exchange students. They were great hosts and awesome tour guides through the northern part of Europe. I'm so glad I got to spend my break with them!

10 February 2009

vingt et un à Lyon

Dinner Party

Barbarousse

Crêpe Party chez Anaïs Feb 5. Her and her friends sang happy birthday to me in French at midnight.


It was a cold and rainy weekend in Lyon but my friends brightened it up by visiting to celebrate my birthday! Jon, his roommate Brian, and two girls, Marissa and Patty, came in from Brussels. For my birthday dinner we enjoyed a delicious three course lyonnais meal at a Bouchon in Vieux Lyon. Afterwards we danced and hung out at a pirate bar called Barbarousse. It was really refreshing to see some familiar faces from Mizzou and it's always great to see my Jonny! Saturday was another rainy day but we kept dry in the Lumière Institute Museum. I'm a big film and photography lover, as is Jon, so it was fun seeing where our favorite industry began. The first movie camera, the Cinematograph, and other early models are preserved at the museum. 

We ended the evening with a fun dinner party chez moi. It was a little squished with 7 people in my tiny apartment, but it was a lot of fun hosting a large party. First, I served an array of red wines to go with Cousteron and Compté cheeses on whole wheat and flax baguette. I also had black olive tapenade and lyonnais saussison, which flew off the plate. For dinner, I made a vegetable and herbe de provence chicken tomato sauce served over pasta. And to top it all off, even though we were so full already, I made homemade applesauce with baked crumbs on top. It's amazing how much is possible on two hot plates and a toaster oven! C'était délicieux!

Sunday it was sad to see everyone leave, but first Jon and I took a stroll through the Quai Saône Marché for items to make a quick picnic before their train. This  is my favorite market so far with the best view of the city and lots of samples for tasting. We also went up to the snowy Fourviére hill to stroll through the rose garden and take in the view from the top of Lyon. 

That is my birthday weekend in a nutshell. Next to come is my first week break and my adventures through Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands! Stay tuned...

02 February 2009

Crêpe Day - La Chandeleur


February 2nd is Groundhog Day in the States but it is La Chandeleur (Candelmas) in France. Candelmas is a traditional Catholic holiday but also a great excuse to eat delicious French crêpes. The myth is if the cook can flip a crêpe with the left hand while holding a coin in the other, his/her family will be prosperous for the remainder of the year. 

I didn't attempt this trick on La Chadeleur this year, as it was my first time to make real crêpes. My first attempt at making crêpes was fun. It's a quick and easy recipe. Mine were not perfectly round the first time but with a little Nutella or confiture (jam) they tasted parfait! 

A few days ago, I attended to a pre-celebration of La Chandeleur with some French friends. We began the night with sparkling cider, pretzels, and peanuts. Then out came a pile of more than 50 steamy homemade crêpes. The menu included crêpe salés (salty) et sucrée (sugary). First, we filled the crêpes with ham or turkey and shredded fromage. It was equivalent to eating a melty sandwich. Then, we continued with sugary crêpes, filling them with Nutella, jam, or honey. A long night of eating delicious crêpes and conversing in French really wore me out!
I need to rest up and digest before another tasty French holiday presents itself!


01 February 2009

Skiing in the French Alps


When I heard of an amazing opportunity to go skiing in the French Alpes , I took full advantage of it. A camping store called Vieux Campeur takes a bus to the mountains every Sunday for a day of skiing. My friend, Clara, and I took a beautiful 2.5 hour bus ride from from Lyon to Beaufort, France. It is just south-east of Genève, overlooking Mont Blanc (the highest mountain in Western Europe). The Areches Beaufort ski town was small and charming. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to explore it because I spent the entire time skiing. The slopes were white with a fresh coat of powder from the morning snow. We ascended the alps on the lift and the pines seemed to evaporate as we surpassed the tree line. The view was pure white down every path. At times, the monochrome snow threw my depth-perception and direction. Lift after lift, I swear we reached heaven. 

I held my breath at times when flying down the level red and level blue slopes back to Earth. Clara and I paused frequently to marvel at our view and breathe in the fresh mountain air. 

There were many sights that I cannot explain with words and a picture does not do it justice. There's only one way to articulate the view from the top and that would be me suggesting that you see it for yourself.
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