Thursday, July 25, 2013

Day 28

July 24, 2013

I woke up early to meet my INB 300 group at 7:30 in the breakfast room of the hotel so we could finish up our assignment and e-mail it to our professor. We finished around 9:00, so I went back upstairs to study a bit more for French. I felt like I should be more concerned than I was, but I honestly wasn’t too worried. Molly and I had managed to have a 10-minute long French conversation (albeit a slow one with English thrown in occasionally), and I had forced myself to do so many verb conjugations that I felt prepared. The previous night Molly suggested that I add in a few sentences about working in television and my job as Director of TealTV during my conversation.

I caught the bus around 10:00 with my classmates and friends in the upper level French class. We also learned on the bus that the word for film director is “réalisateur.” Our exam started at 11:00 and consisted of a 45-minute written test with some easy questions from a text, verb conjugations, and a few sentences about what we like and don’t like. I realized later on that I’d had some grammar issues, but when in doubt I think “Je déteste Joffery Baratheon.” (from Game of Thrones) is always an acceptable answer. Afterwards we had our one-on-one speaking portion. Mine actually went pretty well. I talked about the things that I’d planned to and my professor asked me about TealTV, my favorite places to travel and how long I’d been taking French. He seemed disappointed that I didn’t plan on taking any more classes, but I tried to explain that I didn’t really have the time. Minus my grammar mistakes on the written part, I think I did pretty well.

I was so glad to be done with summer school! It was only about 1:00, so Molly, Morgan, Rachael and I went to Vieux Port to shop around a market there. Interact was taking a group to the Mucem later in the afternoon, so we planned to meet them there. I got some gifts for people, and we went to the Mucem to wait for everyone around 2:45. We didn’t go inside until nearly 4:00! I love the cool things that Interact plans for us, but sometimes I wish it ran a bit more smoothly. I got to see a Vernet painting, but it was really crowded and I didn’t see much else. My friends and I had planned to leave a bit early anyways to go to Cours Julien, which is like the hipster district of Marseille. It had some neat shops and fun graffiti, but only for 2 blocks or so. We went back to the hotel, out to dinner, and back to Vieux Port with everyone to celebrate classes being over. I didn’t stay for too long; one of my friends was feeling nauseous, so I walked her home.

We did a lot of neat things in one day on top of me having two exams! I’m getting sad that it’s nearing the end of our trip, but at the same time I’m about ready to come home. I’ve been getting e-mail updates from school about this and that, and it’s made me realize that I have a lot of work to do when I get back home. I wish I could’ve stayed here longer, but hopefully I’ll be back someday. 

Day 27

July 23, 2013

I only had to go to French class today. It wasn’t too hard, but I’m freaking out about our exam tomorrow. Our speaking portion is going to be a 5-7 minute long conversation with our professor. To help us prepare he had us write down a paragraph of things we could say during class time. Besides my name, age, and birthday I simply started writing about the different places I’d travelled. When I ran out of that I started listing the places I was pretty sure my parents had visited. I don’t really want to memorize the paragraph (and that’s not the point), but it should give me a good idea of how many topics I can talk about for 5-7 minutes in French.

We also went to Chateau d’If today with Interact. Molly and I have been wanting to go there since we came to Marseille, but decided to save money and go when Interact had planned to take us. I personally think it was poor planning to have a trip by boat the day before many people have final exams (my INB 300 group project is due tomorrow too), but we all wanted to go so we decided to take our notes with us. It was cool to see the place that had been an inspiration for The Count of Monte Cristo, but it was extremely hot. On one of the neighboring Frioul Islands to Chateau d’If we found a beach and I used my time to sunbathe and conjugate verbs in the present, past, and future.

We got back a little later in the evening and I spent the rest of my night doing group work for INB 300, studying my conjugations, and having practice conversations with Molly in French.

Day 26

July 22, 2013

The end is near. Today was my last day of International Business 300 (Cross-Cultural Communication), and second to last day of French. For our final exam in INB 300 we’re getting a case study about business negotiation and will have to get into groups to write up the answers to 3 questions about the case. It doesn’t seem too hard. I’d much rather have this than a final test. I’m a bit worried about French though. We have a written and oral part to the exam. I’m nervous about both. Hopefully with some studying everything will be ok.

We had a group dinner tonight at a pizzeria near Vieux Port. It was a fun outing, but the restaurant was extremely hot, and some of us (10 or more) were seated at a long booth across from our friends who were sitting in chairs, so for us it was difficult to get up if we needed to. Molly and Morgan have a French speaking exam tomorrow, so they’ve been studying for that while I attempted to work on French and succeeded in procrastinating.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Day 25

July 21, 2013

Compared to the rest of our weekend, today was quite uneventful. Molly and I woke up at 6:00 to check out of our hostel and get to the airport for our 8:45am flight back to Marseille. We would’ve liked to stay longer, but there’s only one direct flight from Barcelona to Marseille each day. We took the metro to Plaça de Catalunya and caught a bus from there to the airport. A lot of people from UNCW went to Barcelona this weekend, and we eventually met up with all of them on our flight back. We breezed through security, and our flight only lasted for an hour. We were back in Marseille before noon, but were pretty exhausted from our weekend adventure.

Once we were back at our hotel in Marseille I spent several hours uploading pictures of our trip to facebook, updating the blog, checking e-mail, doing laundry, and even took a nap. Molly did roughly the same and eventually went for a few hours to practice her violin. 

Day 24

July 20, 2013

Molly and I stayed in an 8-person room in a hostel in Barcelona because we couldn’t afford much else that was in walking distance to the metro. I believe we stayed with 2 Australians, 2 Germans, and 2 Californians. The 2 girls from California were studying abroad in Madrid, and the 4 boys were backpacking around Europe. I’d been a little nervous about staying in a hostel, but everyone was nice enough, and it could’ve been much worse. The hostel was clean, modern, and just a few blocks away from the nearest metro station. I think I’d still prefer to stay in a hotel next time, but as far as hostels go I’d say this one was really good for being so cheap.

Molly and I woke up at a decent hour, went by Starbucks, and then took the metro for a short distance to the Sagrada Familia! My mother made me watch a 60 Minutes episode about the church before I left for Europe, and I’m so glad she did. It was the main thing that I wanted to see in Barcelona, and I didn’t care how long I had to wait. There is a way to buy tickets ahead of time online, but as you could imagine, we had been a bit more concerned in the previous days with simply getting into the city. We waited in line for about an hour and fifteen minutes, then purchased tickets that included an audio guide. Despite my fear of heights, I’d been hoping to go into the towers, but it was a 2-hour wait! I cannot talk enough about how beautiful this basilica is! The wait in line was worth it; the nightmare of a time getting to Barcelona was worth it! My favorite part of the church was the different colors of stained glass that threw a rainbow of colors onto the walls and floor. The columns branch out like trees near the top to resemble a forest, and it truly did have a relaxing atmosphere about it – like you were in nature and not one of the world’s largest cities. Molly and I walked around with our audio guides, took pictures, and sat and admired for over an hour (maybe closer to two). My pictures don’t do it justice at all; it was truly amazing!

After seeing the Sagrada Familia, Molly and I took the metro to the closest stop to Parc Güell (also designed by Antoni Gaudí). It was quite a hike up to the park, but once again it was totally worth it. It’s probably the most whimsical looking park I’ve ever seen. I wish I hadn’t been so hungry and tired so I could’ve appreciated it a little more. Molly and I had a late lunch of a peanut butter sandwich and peanut butter crackers on a park bench. From one point in the park, you can see the vast expanse of Barcelona below. After a while we made the hike back down to the metro and back to our hostel. We’d thought about going to Casa Batlló (another structure by Gaudí), but were pretty tired and weren’t interested in paying the fee to go inside.

Instead we decided to take a leisurely stroll through the shopping district on La Rambla. We shopped at the local Zara, explored side streets, got gelato, and stumble upon the St. Joseph food market. We’d seen an indoor food market in Avignon, France, but this one was a bit bigger and was full of fresh fruit, spices, and seafood! I was especially happy to see all of the fresh fruit, a part of my diet that always needs improvement when I’m in Wilmington.

After shopping for a bit we took the metro to the beach. It’s probably been my favorite beach we’ve visited so far, simply because it had actual sand instead of small pebbles! The one thing that was rather unattractive about the beach was that there were small bits of trash washed up along the shore. I really wanted to help clean up the beach, but my hands were full and I didn’t even know if there was a trashcan nearby. I think I’ve been taking the beautiful beaches of North Carolina for granted all these years. I never realized how good we had it – sand, nice waves, little pollution.

We had dinner at a restaurant not far from the beach. They were having a nachos special (which I’ve been craving for quite awhile), but when push came to shove I decided to get the vegetarian paella instead. I can have all the nachos I want in a week’s time, but I don’t know many places back home that serve authentic paella. Dinner was delicious! I’ll have to look up some vegetarian paella recipes when I get back.

Even though we only had a day and a half in Barcelona, I think it’s been my favorite weekend trip! I definitely want to come back again someday to see all the things that I didn’t get to this time around. I’ve been thinking about it from time to time while in Marseille, but I think I’d like to try and get better at Spanish. Although I’m very out of practice, it comes back easy enough, and I wish I knew more vocabulary and grammar to better communicate with others. I liked Barcelona though because I was able to understand more of what other people were saying, but if I didn’t almost everyone we met spoke English too. My main concern with the language now is that I’m going to confuse Spanish and French on my French final this week. Hopefully with a bit of studying, everything will be ok.

Barcelona is one of the most amazingly beautiful and fun cities I've ever seen! If you ever have the chance to go to, you definitely should!

Day 23

July 19, 2013

When people say that study abroad teaches you about being independent, they were talking about days like today.

I woke up at 6:00 to print my bus tickets from the train station to the airport, and pack my bag. Around 7:00 Molly officially learned that Ryanair had not confirmed her flight from Marseille to Barcelona, but she could not receive a refund from Vueling for her return flight to Marseille. She was therefore forced to spend more money on a flight that was leaving for Barcelona 2 hours after mine. We were both understandably stressed and upset, but decided to take our flights and meet at our hostel in Barcelona. I was technically flying into the city of Reus (Gaudi’s birthplace) and would have to take an hour-long bus to Barcelona anyways.

I had a mini-breakdown at 7:55 when the hotel front desk repeatedly couldn’t print my bus tickets for the airport, but it was sorted and I left the hotel to catch the subway by myself at 8:05. I arrived at the train station at 8:20 and was on a bus to the airport by 8:25.

We arrived at the airport around 9:05 and I was through security at 9:20. By 9:40 I’d used the airport’s free 20 minutes of wifi to contact Molly via facebook and learned that her new flight ticket had been successfully printed.

My flight took off around 10:45 and landed an hour later in Reus, Spain – about 100 km southwest of Barcelona. I had a bit of trouble finding where to buy my bus ticket, but in the end only paid 15 Euros for the bus ride to Barcelona. The only downside was that the next bus was leaving at 1:15, so I had to wait for a little bit. I also realized how rusty my Spanish was and wished I’d refreshed my brain with some common phrases.

I was pretty sure Molly would now be in Barcelona before me and hoped she didn’t have to wait on me too long. It didn’t help much that the Reus airport didn’t have free wifi, so there was no way for me to contact Molly – I really was off the grid.

Because of traffic, the ride took a little bit longer than I’d expected. We didn’t get into Barcelona until 3:00 and were dropped off at the train station. I was so tired by this point that I’d decided to forego trying to figure out a new metro system for the time being and simply take a cab to the hostel. I found a cab by 3:25 and was at the hostel about 20 minutes later.

I started to check into the hostel when I arrived, asking if they’d seen Molly waiting for me, but no one had. As I began checking in, Molly walked through the door! She’d had to take a bus from the Barcelona airport to the train station, gotten onto the metro station there and ridden to the stop closest to the hostel, started walking to our street, got lost and had to turn around, before finally arriving at nearly the same time as me!

It was probably the most stressful day of my life, but we were both so proud of ourselves for successfully navigating to our hostel by ourselves in a foreign country.

We relaxed for a little bit, but then decided to visit the Parc de la Ciutadella that was close to the harbor. We took the metro the closest stop then decided to check out a small market we saw down by the harbor. I bought the most amazing friendship bracelet that was teal, yellow, and navy blue! Afterwards we started following the road that ran alongside the harbor, hoping it would lead us to the park. Instead we found ourselves at the beach and got some freshly made ice cream. We turned back around and eventually found our way to the park after asking for directions. The park was pretty and spacious, with lots of places to run, picnic, or play with your dog. We started walking around and began to hear music from “The Lion King.” We followed the music and found a free outdoor concert comprised of a wind ensemble of young teenagers. It was right beside a beautiful fountain too.

It doesn’t get dark until about 9:00, which is when it seems to be culturally acceptable to start finding a place for dinner. We decided to go to a location featured on our map that was down a side-street several blocks away from the park. We got homemade pasta, drinks, bread, and a dessert for just 6.60 Euros each!

Although our day started out pretty terrible, it ended quite well and we were glad that we’d been able to go to Barcelona, despite all the hassle.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Day 22

July 18, 2013

We got in a little late last night and I had to be up for another 8:30 class. Fortunately for me I only had one class today - International Business. Originally there had been a barbeque scheduled for today during the time our French class would’ve taken place, but it was cancelled, and we ended up just not having French.

In the afternoon we went with Interact to the Panier neighborhood of the city (the old part of the city). We finally got to go inside the Marseille Cathedral, but I hadn’t realized we’d be doing so much sight-seeing, so I didn’t bring my camera. It was fun to see a different neighborhood, and I finally caved and bought some authentic Marseille soap.

Molly and I also booked our hostel for Barcelona, though planning the trip has turned into a mini-nightmare. We had troubles printing off our tickets (mine finally worked, Molly’s still hasn’t), so we don’t even know if Molly has a seat on the plane tomorrow or not. We called half a dozen numbers, but they were all closed for the night. I miss our 24-hour call centers in America. Hopefully everything will work out and by this time tomorrow we’ll be in Barcelona.

P.S. The girl who got hurt cliff jumping a few days ago went home to the US yesterday.

Day 21

July 17, 2013

I had an 8:30 class again this morning. I really don’t like waking up that early. It’s even worse than a regular 8:00 class at school because you have to allow yourself about an hour for the bus ride to campus. The ride itself is supposedly 40 minutes, but the buses don’t always run on schedule, so we have to account for time to wait for a bus at the bus stop too.

I didn’t have a class during the second time slot today, so I spent my 2 ½ hour break in the library researching for Barcelona, Spain! Molly found some really cheap flights for about 126 Euros each roundtrip. Two of our friends might come along with us if it isn’t too expensive. We don’t have a hotel yet, but I’ve started looking at prices to visit the Sagrada Familia and looked into getting a 2-day city pass.

Unfortunately we’ll only have about 2 days in Barcelona because our flight back to Marseille would leave early on Sunday morning. Leaving later would be too expensive, and it might be for the best anyways because finals start next week!

Update: Our two friends ended up not being able to go to Barcelona, but Molly and I have booked our flights. It was slightly more expensive than we’d originally seen, but I’ve been wanting to go to Barcelona for a while and think even two days in Spain will be worth it. We still need to book our hotel though. I’m not too concerned because there are several cheaper options out there.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Day 20

July 16, 2013

Today we went to Avignon on a day trip with our UNCW group. I think Avignon is my new favorite town in France! We got a guided tour of the city for about an hour, then had a wine and food tasting, and then got to explore for a bit on our own.

Every July the city has a 3-week long theater festival that takes place all over the city. There are over 500 stages set up, and over 1,000 performances a day! Some performances take place in regular theaters, some in schools or other rented spaces, and some take place on the sidewalk. It was really cool to see the performers dressed in costumes as they went around singing and advertising their shows. There were also hundreds of posters plastered everywhere to advertise the different plays.

After our tasting, a group of friends and I went back to the Pope’s Palace to tour the inside. It was a neat medieval structure that had some fun things to see inside. The only downside was that it was an extremely hot day and there wasn’t air conditioning in the palace. We kept drinking water throughout the day, but I still got a little dehydrated.

After touring the palace we went by the marketplace where I managed to buy a few gifts. We also stopped for some inexpensive gelato and then went back outside the city walls to walk along the Pont d'Avignon bridge. It wasn’t a very long day, but we did manage to see a lot of neat things in the short amount of time that we had in Avignon. I’d definitely like to come back in the future, perhaps to stay for a bit and see some French plays that I wouldn’t understand.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Day 19

July 15, 2013

Today was much better than yesterday. I was supposed to have class from 11:00 – 3:15, but my second class ran until 5:00! Our International Business professor wanted to make up for the day that we lost a while back to watch the Tour de France. It was an interesting class with some group work, but I was so ready to leave school by the end of the day.

Despite the fact that I didn’t have the best Bastille Day, I was happy that I wasn’t hung-over like half of my classmates. I didn’t have an 8:30 class, but apparently a lot of people in the Finance class decided to skip and sleep instead. Our trip leader was also not happy with the events that took place on Bastille Day.

The first time I came to Europe was in 2010, with a group of high students lead by my AP European History teacher, Mr. Rothenberg. At the time Mr. Rothenberg made it clear that even though most of us (17 and 18 at the time) were legal in Europe, he didn’t want us to drink. He said that the point of going to Europe was to learn about the history and culture, not to drink. Despite the fact that I am legal in France (and will be soon in the US), I think about what he used to say all the time. Occasionally it feels like we’re on this trip with a bunch of immature, young teenagers who can’t get their priorities straight.

Because we weren’t able to go out for a nice dinner with Morgan yesterday, six of us went out for a nice dinner and ice cream with her tonight. We had a lot of fun hanging out. I’m glad I’ll get to see her a lot next year, especially because we’re in the same major. 

Day 18

July 14, 2013

Molly and I had a little time this morning to lie out by Lake Geneva before catching our train back to Marseille around 12:45. The train ride was about 4 hours and we got back to our hotel around 4:30.

Not only is July 14th Bastille Day in France, it’s also our friend Morgan’s birthday. This year she turned 21 and was excited for everyone to help her celebrate. Interact and Euromed had set up a boat ride for us to watch the Bastille Day fireworks, so we were supposed to meet up as a group at Vieuxport at 6:30. We had hoped to go out as a smaller group for dinner with Morgan beforehand, but realized we wouldn’t have enough time. Instead we got a quick bite from a food stand and eventually made our way to the boat with our big group.

There were two kinds of people from our group on Bastille Day – those who had a fabulous time and those who didn’t. Unfortunately, I was one of the ones who didn’t. The concept of getting on a boat to watch fireworks from the water was neat in theory, but was rather boring in reality. I was still quite tired from traveling back from Switzerland, and it didn’t help that many people were drinking way too much while I had decided not to drink at all. There were only 4 options of things to buy on the boat – beer, rosé wine, fruit punch with vodka, and hotdogs. I’m not a big fan of beer or rosé wine; I tried a sip of the punch, but was unfortunately allergic. I’ve also never eaten a hotdog and never plan to. I know I can be difficult at times (all the time) about my food and drinks, but the lack of options left me quite hungry which was not good considering how tired I was too.

The fireworks didn’t started until about 10:30, and our boat was supposed to be back at the dock by 11:00. The fireworks were ok, but I think we do them better in America. Right as the fireworks were finishing up one of the girls on the trip started to have a panic attack at the same time that another girl was having a drunken episode at the other end of the boat. We got back to shore around midnight, and I was starving. Instead of going to the bars with some other people, a very cranky Molly and Sarah went to the McDonald’s and then went home.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Day 17

July 13, 2013

Today was kind of a hodge-podge of sightseeing around Geneva. We started off the day with a fabulous continental breakfast. Molly and I finally figured out today why our charming, little hotel is so cheap – it’s technically in the red light district! We find it rather humorous. We’ve felt totally safe during our stay and only realized because we saw a few working girls during the daytime today. I’d still stay here again if I can back to Geneva and would recommend it to anyone else (especially those on a budget). It’s clean, has great wifi, and the staff is excellent.

As many of you could have guessed, I’ve been quite excited to visit the United Nations. We took a streetcar a few blocks down the main street and were able to get a good view of the main building. Unfortunately, we (and dozens of other tourists) couldn’t find anywhere to purchase the tickets for a tour. Molly and I searched the area for a good while, but no one was on duty at the gate we saw, the Refugee Center is closed on weekends, and there weren’t any signs to point tourist groups in the right direction. I was disappointed that we didn’t get to take the tour, but at least I’ve seen it. (We later found out from some hikers/UN workers that the tourist entrance is located on an obscure side entrance that can be found by traveling through a neighboring park. I think they need a COM major to help them make better signs.)

After giving up on seeing the inside of the UN, Molly and I came back to the hotel to get our hiking gear and go off toward Mt. Salève, one of the mountains just outside the city. We took a city bus to the Switzerland/France border and walked towards signs we saw for a cable car. No one checked our passports.

As I’ve mentioned earlier in this blog, I have acrophobia. I was determined to get some good shots of the city as we rode up to the top, but I had a minor vertigo spell halfway up. It wasn’t as bad as it was for that one Jimmy Stewart character, but it was worse than the symptoms I have when I fly. Nevertheless, I was fine when I reached the solid ground of the mountaintop.

We had a lot of fun hiking, watching paragliders, and getting to see Geneva from up above.

We were done hiking by late afternoon and had safely made it back down to France and then to Switzerland. We went back to the hotel to change, and then had planned to walk around shopping. In Marseille most of the stores close at 7:00, but here they close at 6:00!

With nothing to do we wandered around for a bit and ended up at a pizzeria for dinner. We were both so exhausted from our long day that we just came back to the hotel and decided to relax.

We’ll have another morning to hang out in Geneva before our train leaves tomorrow around 12:45pm. We’re heading back to France a bit early because tomorrow is Bastille Day and our friend’s 21st birthday. All things considered, we’ve had fun just going with the flow for a weekend in a new city.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Day 16

July 12, 2013


Why Switzerland? Well, when Corsica became too expensive of an option we started rushing to find somewhere in Italy that we could easily travel to after our day trip to Nice. However, the plane tickets were once again way too expensive, and the train rides were way too long. We started looking at places closer to Marseille and Nice, and soon found a great deal on tickets to Geneva! Molly and I each paid only 150 Euros roundtrip for our train tickets (way cheaper than anything else we’ve seen), and are each paying about 43 Euros per night for our hotel room which is close to the city center, has a continental breakfast, free wifi, and free city bus passes! Win, win, win! Besides the money factor, we wanted to travel somewhere that was distinctly different from Marseille and the other Mediterranean cities we’ve seen on this trip so far.

Our day started off quite early once again. We woke up at 5:00 and left our hotel in Marseille at 5:45 to take the subway directly to the train station. We arrived at the station around 6:05, got our tickets, and boarded our train to Lyon, France at 6:35. Our train car was empty except for a younger boy named Ben who was going to Lyon to visit his grandmother. Ben’s aunt asked us to make sure he was okay and got off at the right stop. Ben was fine, and he likely speaks better French than either one of us.

We arrived in Lyon at 8:25 and were scared of missing our connecting train to Geneva that was set to leave 10 minutes later. Lucky for us we found our next terminal with no trouble, and actually ended up leaving for Geneva a little later at 8:50.

Our train arrived in Geneva around 10:30. No one ever checked our passports. We stayed around the station until about 11:00 to buy a map and get a snack. We knew our hotel was a short walk away from the train station but still had a difficult time figuring out where exactly we were. We finally got to the hotel around 11:30, but our room wasn’t ready yet. We were pretty tired and we had all of our luggage with us, so we decided to sit in the lobby and take advantage of the free wifi until our room was clean. We ended up officially checking in at 12:25.

Our hotel is adorable! We even have a physical key to get into the room, not a card.

Molly and I weren’t exactly sure what we wanted to see today and what we wanted to leave for tomorrow and Sunday, so we walked down to Lake Geneva and decided we’d just go with the flow and see whatever sites we came across.

The first site we saw was the famous Jet d’Eau fountain. From there we set off to see the Flower Clock, the St. Pierre Cathedral, and the Reformation Wall on the other side of the river from our hotel. We got lost a couple of times, but we always found our way eventually.

The side streets of Geneva almost remind us of the cute winding roads in Florence. The only problem is that once you’re lost down a side street, it’s hard to see any tall landmarks to position yourself and find your way out. We really like Geneva so far though. Getting lost down side streets made our day a lot more interesting.

Although Geneva is a large city, it’s surprisingly quiet. It took Molly and I a few hours to realize that the Swiss don’t constantly honk their horns like the French do. The only downside to the city so far is that everything (food in particular) seems so extremely expensive. Switzerland actually uses a different currency than France; they use the Swiss Franc which is almost equivalent is the US dollar. I’d been warned that Switzerland was expensive, but had thought everyone was merely over-exaggerating. Molly and I actually brought our own bread, peanut butter, and nutella to Switzerland so we could easily pack a lunch for our train rides and for hiking, but I’m glad we have a little stash of food so we won’t have to spend so much money on snacks here.

After walking around the city we came back to the hotel around 4:30 to rest for a bit before going out for dinner.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Day 15

July 11, 2013

I miss Mexican food… This statement doesn’t have a whole lot to do with my day, but it does illustrate the fact that I am starting to miss some of the comforts of home (mainly nachos). I think the honeymoon phase of the trip has started to wear off for most of us here. In the past few days I’ve caught others and myself talking about Mexican food, macaroni and cheese, and simple Southern-style cooked vegetables. Surprisingly, no one has mentioned missing sweet tea. I still really love France, but I think I’m getting a little tired of bread and pasta (Yes, you did read that correctly).

We had a lovely little trip to Nice today. It was even more beautiful than Marseille! My pictures don’t do the city justice at all, but Nice is exactly how I’d pictured the “French Riviera” to look. The city has a definite Italian influence, especially with its architecture and bright colors.

It took us about two hours to get there by bus. Once we arrived we stayed on the bus for a tour of the city and got off at a park near the Matisse Museum. We got to walk by a monastery and see their gardens with a great view of the city below. Then we hopped back on the bus and were dropped off at the market for two hours of free time to get lunch and go shopping. Another comfort of home that I’m starting to miss is speedy service. I understand that time is viewed differently here, but we spent almost all of our free time at a restaurant getting lunch. Molly and I only had about 20 minutes left in Nice to visit a few touristy shops before we had to be back on the bus. It's definitely a city that I'd like to explore more some other time.

Many of our classmates are staying in Nice for the weekend or staying for the day and then leaving to go on weekend trips to Monaco or Italy. Molly and I are leaving for our weekend trip out of Marseille, so we got back on the bus with some other members of our group and went to the village of Grasse, France to tour a perfume factory. It was definitely the nicest smelling factory I’ve ever been to! I’ve never really been interested in perfumes or scents, but it was cool to see how much work goes into making a bottle of perfume.

After the tour we got back on the bus and came home to Marseille. We arrived at about 7:00 and have since been getting ready to travel tomorrow. We’re planning on waking up bright and early at 5:00 so we can get out of Marseille on time.

I’ve had a lot of fun being vague about our weekend travel plans so that I could surprise you all… I guess you’ll just have to wait until tomorrow to see where we end up going!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Day 14

July 10, 2013

We’ve gotten some sad news in the past 24 hours, but it hasn’t totally spoiled our day. Late last night Molly got word that one of her puppies had died unexpectedly. They think her two puppies must have gotten into some poisonous mushrooms, and although one of the dogs pulled through, it was still really sad to learn that one of them had died.

I didn’t mention the other sad incident in my blog post from yesterday because I wasn’t there to witness it and I didn’t know how severe it was until today. Yesterday afternoon students from Interact had planned a hike to the calanques behind Euromed. The hike is about 45 minutes down to the water and some of the students were planning on going cliff jumping. I had been at school for several hours and didn’t have the energy to go hiking afterwards. Molly had had an earlier class and decided to come back to school to go hiking/ cliff jumping with the group while I went home to rest.

As Molly explained it, there was a smaller cliff (about six feet high) and a higher cliff (2 to 3 stories high) of which students were jumping off. Our French professors had warned many of us not to jump off of the higher cliff because there had been several accidents in the past few years, but of course that didn’t stop people from wanting to do it.

As many people know, when jumping from somewhere that high you want to enter the water as straight as possible, though that’s easier said than done.

One of the UNCW girls was pretty badly injured from jumping off of the higher cliff, but no one truly knew how bad it was until today. Molly had said that it was obvious from the start that it was going to be a painful fall because you could see that she was going to hit the water slanted and not straight. The UNCW girl had developed bruises and had been walking slowly after the jump. She went to the hospital last night and they performed surgery on her lower back today. She'd fractured one of her vertebrae, but is expected to make a full recovery. Apparently it’s going to be up to her if she wants to stay in France for the remainder of the trip or go home early.

That being said, the rest of us are totally fine and I don’t want anyone to worry unnecessarily. My acrophobia keeps me from wanting to try things like cliff jumping, and the hiking and water sports that I do have minimal risks.

My classes weren’t too bad today. I had my classes back to back during the first two class periods. None of us liked getting up early, but it was nice to be done with classes before nearly 4:00 in the afternoon for a change.

Molly and I tried another new restaurant tonight with Forrest and a girl from the Florida group. Chateau Paradis (rouge) has definitely been my favorite wine so far. I’ve ordered it at least 3 or 4 times with various meals. I suppose I should try other wines, but this one is good and it’s usually one of the cheaper drinks on the menu.

I’m pretty tried from our “long week” of classes, but tomorrow we’re having a field trip to Nice, which should be fun. Molly and I will be traveling to our weekend destination on Friday. Our original plans had been to go to the French island of Corsica to enjoy the beach, go sailing, and try some other water sports. We seriously looked at plane tickets, hotels, and even some vacation rentals in Calvi, Corsica, but the cost was just too high for a weekend trip. Our new travel destination was quite cheap by comparison, though I’m determined to keep it a surprise until Friday.  ;)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Day 13

July 9, 2013

Today was rather uneventful. I had class from 8:30 to 10:45 and from 1:30 to 3:45. During the gap in between classes I mainly stayed in a room filled with beanbag chairs in the library. I wish we had a room like it at UNCW. I’m pretty sure it solely exists for students to take power naps in between classes. At Euromed each student is given an individual login and password for the wifi. I still hadn’t set up my wifi, so I just lounged around and listened to my ipod and reviewed a bit for French. I’m glad I’m not taking the finance class; they have an exam tomorrow. Although my classes are long, at least I don’t have much outside work for either one of them.

After school I researched a bit more for our weekend trip and caught up on some e-mails. Today was the first day that I really started missing TV. We have a TV in our room, but the only English channel is CNN. The one time we attempted to watch it a few days ago the only thing they were talking about was that really depressing plane crash in San Francisco. Netflix and Hulu don’t work here, and we can’t buy things off of Itunes either. YouTube still works here, so I’ve been able to watch some videos through that.

Molly and I had a pretty relaxing night. We had some rather interesting conversations about blood donation, favorite names, and even found out we went to the same camp for a year or two when we were little!

Tomorrow I have to get up bright and early once again for an 8:30 class. At least on Thursday we’ll be traveling as a group to Nice!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Day 12

July 8, 2013

Several decades ago, researchers asked a group of housewives what the greatest invention of the 20th century had been. The overwhelming, majority answer may surprise you. It wasn’t the microwave, the atomic bomb, or a spaceship that could fly to the moon – it was the washing machine. The washing machine was so vital to the lives of everyday people, women in particular, because it saved them hours upon hours of what had always been a tiring process of washing clothes by hand.

I think you can see where I’m going with this…today was my first day doing laundry in France. I only brought enough clothes for a little over a week and am surprised I’ve been able to go this long without washing anything. Unfortunately our laundry facilities in the hotel are rumored to be broken, and I don’t have the time or money to find a nearby laundry mat. When Forrest’s suitcase had been lost for a week, she’d been forced to wash the same clothes every night in her bathtub with shampoo and hang them on her balcony to dry over night. This has become the preferred method of washing clothes for many of my friends on this trip. I woke up this morning meaning to go to Monoprix to find a string and some clothes pins to make the process a bit easier, but I couldn’t find any and decided to use our patio table and some chairs as drying racks instead. Washing clothes actually wasn’t too hard. I used our bathtub for washing, the sink for rinsing, and the patio for drying. If a washer and dryer weren’t so readily available in my apartment at home (and my bathroom were cleaner), I might consider simply hand-washing everything had it not taken so much time. To wash my week long supply of clothes took me about 45 minutes, when it would’ve only taken about 5 to put the same amount of clothes in a load in the washing machine.

I had class today from 11:00 to 3:45. I'd forgotten how much I hated summer school when I did it for a session last summer. At least then only one of my classes met in person. It’s not that my classes are particularly hard, they’re just extremely long and I get bored in them easily. I also need to start studying my French. I know a few phrases, but for the most part I’ve been relying on Molly and others to translate the harder things for me. I’m certainly not going to be fluent by the end of this trip, but remembering the grammar I’m learning in class should probably come in handy at some point.

Our regular International Business professor is teaching in Canada this week, so we have a substitute for three days who is talking to us more about the meaning of culture. I preferred what she had to say about cross-cultural negotiation as opposed to the lecture we got last Thursday; I just wish the class only lasted for 50 minutes. I'm not really sure how we're going to be tested on all of this in three weeks, but everyone I've talked to from previous years has said it was an easy class.

Besides laundry and classes, not much else is new. One of our friends really wants to get dinner at a nearby Chinese restaurant tonight, so it’ll be interesting to see how similar or different this Chinese restaurant is to the ones I’ve been to in the US.

Lastly, it looks like our original plans for this weekend may not happen due to some cost issues. It would’ve been fun, but there are other neat places we can go. We may decide to stay in Nice or try to go to a new city in Italy (Molly and I have both been to Florence and Rome, and driving to my beloved Assisi is probably out of the question). We’re not entirely sure where we'll end up this weekend, but that’s part of the fun.

UPDATE (23:22 Central European Time/ 17:22 Eastern Standard Time): Molly and I have booked our tickets and hotel for this weekend and ended up spending much less money than we'd originally planned. The location wasn't our original choice, but we're both very excited to travel to some place new!!

Day 11

July 7, 2013

We’ve had a bit of a lazy day today. We slept in for a bit and then met some friends to head down to the beach. The streets were packed with people going to the beach, so we ended up walking the main stretch to the beach instead of waiting in a long line for the bus to drive us down the street.

It still amazes me how cold the water is here. My friend who is studying geography mentioned the other day that we’re at about the same latitude as Nova Scotia! The beach was fun, but crowded. We stayed for about two hours before making the trek back home.

Molly and I decided to try to find a pizzeria our professor had told us about near the coast with a great view, but upon further Internet research we found out that it was closed on Sunday nights and Mondays. Instead we decided to try a restaurant at Vieux Port with two of our other friends. They had great pesto pasta and red wine. One of my friends got the pesto gnocchi (which I tried) that was even better than the pasta. It was actually the first time that I’d gone to Vieux Port for a meal, and it’s been so nice to be able to eat outside at restaurants without the horrible humidity that I’m used to back home.

I also found out that one of my new friends is the President of the Communication Studies Society. I wasn’t expecting to become friends with other COM majors on this trip, but it’ll be nice to have a friend in that group next year.

Sunday, July 7, 2013


Day 10

July 6, 2013

For our Saturday stay in Marseille, Molly and I started off the day by heading to the market with two friends. I got a cute party dress for just 10 Euros and some other souvenirs. I like the dress so much that I’m considering going back another day to get one in a different color. Molly bought a cheap watch to replace the one she’d lost, and some of my friends even bought a rotisserie chicken from the food section. We walked around for an hour or so and then went back to the hotel for a few hours.

Molly practiced her violin, I caught up on the blog, other friends completed homework assignments, and eventually Molly and I started looking at prices for next week’s possible trip once again. (As I’ve told my parents, I’m pretty excited about where I want to go next weekend, but want to keep it a surprise.)

At 7:00 we met some friends to hike on a foot trail to Notre Dame de la Garde. Although we’d already seen the church, we thought it would be neat to hike to the top of the hill so we could watch the sunset from one of the best views in Marseille. The hike wasn’t too long or too steep. The trail itself was simply a couple of side streets that were already outlined on our map of the city. We took some snacks along and waited until about 9:20 to watch the sunset.

After our hike we came back to the hotel and decided to go downtown to the Vieux Port for a little bit. I got to wear my new party dress and had a fun time dancing with my friends. I liked going with a smaller group of people this time around; it was far less chaotic trying to keep up with everyone.

I hadn’t planned on doing so many outdoor activities in France, but I’ve been surprised with how much I’ve been interested in hiking and water sports since I’ve gotten here. I suppose I think it’s a bit more fun to say that I went kayaking in the Mediterranean or hiking in Marseille as opposed to saying that I simply saw the touristy sites that everyone else has seen. One of our French professors gave a group of students some great advice a few days. In regards to weekend traveling, she said that there’s no way you can possibly do everything in two or three days. If you’re caught between feeling stressed out about seeing everything or wanting to relax and have fun, always relax and enjoy the view.