These Minnesota college students get an A+ for adventure. Follow along as they explore the world while studying abroad.
On the next chapter of my adventure I arrive in Vienna by train. The ride here was quite pleasant; much more enjoyable than riding the trains in France. I find the hostel very easily using the emailed directions, and I am greeted at the front desk by a kind woman speaking fluent English. She checks me in, and I'm given the keycard for my room. It's a nifty little card that works on a radio frequency, so no need to insert it into the door. She says this also works for the locker in my room. It's cool to only have one thing to keep track of.
After a quick shower I crave some exploring. There is still plenty of light left in the day and I intend to use every second of it. I grab a map from the front desk and then walk out of the hostel and take a right turn. With no real destination I just walk in the direction that interests me at the time, and keep walking until another interests turns me.
The first place I come across is the Vienna Opera House. It is made from tan-colored stone and has a beautiful copper roof that has turned green over the years. I next pass a couple of wonderful parks that are filled with lush, green grass and plenty of picnickers. They look to be fantastic areas to spend a warm afternoon. Vienna seems to be filled with beautiful parks. Soon after I walk through the Hapsburg winter palace without even realizing it. The palace itself is so large that it seems to be just a normal city block of buildings. In truth though it is one large palace that the royal family used for living during the winter months. It amazes me that the Austrian monarchy was in power until the end of World War 1, and these wonderful old palaces are still kept in good condition. I continue walking, passing a couple of Gothic cathedrals, some wonderful buildings, and the town hall. At the town hall I stop for a while. An entire ice skating area has been set up outside the building, so I watch the skaters glide through the winding courses of ice. I notice they are selling tickets and rental skates, but I decide to pass this time. The sun is going down now, and I am so tired from the train rides and the walking. I make my way back to the hostel and immediately go to my room to fall asleep.
When I awake the next day I remember being told that Vienna has some excellent museums. After I eat breakfast I leave the hostel and head for the Natural History Museum. The admission is cheap, so I grab a site map and head in. The museum is laid out in a winding spiral from bottom to top, so it is very easy to make sure you have seen everything.
The exhibits start out with minerals and stones. I believe there is nearly every variety of mineral and stone in these first six halls. Once done with the mineral halls I move onto the fossils and bones section which I find much more interesting. They have ancient fossils and skeletons from present day animals as well as long extinct ones. The one bone that stood out to me the most was the portion they had of a blue whale. It was only one bone. Just half of the lower jaw. It was propped up in a corner, for good reason, and went from the floor to the ceiling. It must have been at least 25 feet long. I was really impressed by the size, and I wish I could see a whole skeleton. I walk through the rest of the exhibits that mainly contain stuffed versions of animals, extinct and present day, and make my way to the end of the museum. I grab my coat from the coat room, leave a couple of coins in the dish, and walk out and go back to the hostel. The museum was really worth the money, and I am happy as I took the time to enjoy it.
The following day I decide to visit another one of the iconic tourist attractions of Vienna, the Schönbrunn Palace of the Hapsburg family. It is very easy to get to and even has its own metro line station. When I get there I am astounded by this monstrosity of a palace. It must take up at least ten city blocks, and it's four stories high. The intricate details on the outer walls are beautiful. I pay my entrance fee and start my tour of the palace. The audio guide playing through my iPod headphones describes to me all of the different rooms that the tour goes through. All together the palace is amazing, but I also find it somewhat boring to look at gold and family treasures. I don't stay for long in any of the rooms and finish the tour. The real attraction for me here is the Vienna Zoo in the backyard of the palace.
Since I bought the winter ticket at the palace I was given access to the zoo for no additional charge. Lucky for me it was not very busy either. Also it was feeding time, so that meant plenty of opportunities to watch cute animals eat. I spend at least 30 minutes alone at the red panda exhibit watching the staff feed them pieces of apples and pears. Too bad you can't have one as a pet. The rest of the zoo is amazing. It is situated on the palace land. There are plenty of forests and hills containing different exhibits within the zoo as well. In the forest there is even a suspended walkway where I was able to walk from tree to tree and look down on the wildlife underneath. When I get to the end of the suspended bridge I find myself in front of the rainforest exhibit. As I walk in I am immediately stunned by the heat and humidity compared to the chill air outside. My glasses fog up completely and render me near blind. Once my vision returns to normal I follow the path in the exhibit and come across a vast assortment of really awesome animals. There is even a python exhibit that has the python's sleeping quarters situated, including a glass floor, right above the walkway so you can see it as you go by. This is quite freaky as it looks like there is an enormous snake that is going to drop on you if you look up. My favorite place though is the otter exhibit. There are two lively otters that have made their home here. Both seem very hungry, and when I come close to the barrier they run towards me thinking I have food. I grab a small leaf and toss it over the fence. They promptly grab it and wrestle with each other for a short while until they realize it isn't edible. Reluctantly I leave the otters and wander through the rest of the zoo. Nothing really tops the otters as far as entertainment goes though, and I leave the zoo soon after.
By this time I am getting pretty hungry. I've heard so many good stories about the food in Vienna, especially the schnitzel, so I must have some. After a quick search on the Internet I find out that there is a famous restaurant for serving schnitzel close by called Figi-Mueller's. They are supposed to be one of the first places to start selling the schnitzel, so they have to be good. The line is long when I get there, but with me only needing a table for one it doesn't take long to get seated. I order a schnitzel with a side of their potato salad and some white wine. The food arrives quickly, but I am still drooling at this point. The reviews were right. This is absolutely spectacular. The bread crumbs on the meat is wonderful. It has just the right amount of salt to add to the flavor of the meat. And the potato salad is downright delicious. They add a corn oil sauce to the potatoes that gives it just the right amount of flavor. Washed down with a sip of white wine, this is one of the best meals I've had in a while. It's really filling too!
After the meal, and with my stomach thoroughly stuffed, I walked back to the hostel. There I laid down and relaxed in the common area. I met one of the guys that I was sharing a room with named Unai. He was from Spain and traveling in the same way that I am. We had some good conversation about the differences between Spain and the States. Soon after my full stomach started taking its toll on me and my body was telling me to get some sleep to digest. I kindly obliged the commands and walked back to my room and climbed into bed. As I lay there waiting for sleep I played over in my head the things that I experienced these few days in Vienna. It put a smile on my face as I drifted off.
Each language class starts with one basic principle: conjugation. Verbs are the building blocks of a sentence, and in order to make any sense at all you must know how to conjugate them. I started taking Spanish in third grade and to this day I still have those six boxes that make up the basic conjugation table burned on my brain. You take notes, you learn, you memorize but then something happens in the third box down: the formal you. I’m sorry, the formal what? What is this nonsense?
The idea of formality in language is something I have been faced with more than once during my travels as I have struggled to switch through plenty of dialects including Dutch, Spanish, and Italian. Now, thinking of being polite is not a new concept to me being that I come from the very state that is known for its kindness, and have a Grandmother from Alabama who has ingrained manners in me since I was little. But then I encountered two separate situations that got me thinking.
Within the first month of living in Italy I had an awesome talk with the housing coordinator of my program about the differences between Italy and the United States, and she was quick to open discussion about formality. She mentioned how using the formal “tu” in Italian creates a space between you and the person you are talking to, which consequently makes it much more difficult for conflict to arise. Usually this form is used in the office or when a person is talking to an elder or professor. It all started as a way of maintaining a sense of social separation but it is now just considered poor manners if you pass an older woman by saying “scusa”(informal “excuse me”) instead of “scusi”(formal). I sat opposite from my housing director trying to think of an equivalent separation in English but could only come up with “sir” and “ma’am” which are rarely used in the mid-west. It was an interesting concept to me—can we establish this verbal separation in English? Or are we losing our formality?
A few weeks later I had the amazing privilege of staying with my friend at her aunt and uncle’s home in Utrecht, Holland. Our ultimate destination for the weekend was Amsterdam, but I gained so much in Utrecht just through simple dinner conversations with her family. The second night of our stay we got into a discussion on the formal you in Dutch—“u”. Once again I was faced with another exchange where my conversation partner was confused with how we convey politeness in English without a formal form. Having a bit more experience under my belt (and wine in my system) at this point I launched into a sermon about how my generation is losing its formality because of the internet. Now why am I openly admitting this on that very medium? Because my trip to Holland was a month ago and, as niave as it sounds, I have changed a lot since then.
So here I am again, pondering how we establish formality in English, and it clicked: it is through the structure of our sentences and the way in which we carry them out. Now stay with me, because though that sounds like a concept that is going to take me a while to explain, it is something we are all aware of. When you run into your friend after class you say: “oh hey girl, what’s up? That psych lecture was cray, am I right?” as you simultaneously stare down at your smartphone trying to think up a word loaded with points for your Words With Friends game (my apologies for assuming all of you are as annoying as I am). But this scene plays out much differently when you walk into your professor. You yank your headphones out of your ears, maintain eye-contact to the point of a staring contest, and formulate a sentence fit for a presentation: “Professor Smith, what a fascinating lecture on attachment and how integrated it is in family systems theory. I definitely want to read up more on Mary Ainsworth’s work—do you happen to have any of her books?”. Communication is 20% words, 80% body language and it is the combination of the two that separate the way in which you talk to all your bros that go by their last names from the astounding educators that populate college campuses like my own. But I have to admit, it is going to be hard to go back and address a professor after lecture without conjugating up as many formal verbs in my head as I can beforehand: "Professoressa--scusi, I mean scusa, I mean excuse me."
Part of the nature of traveling while studying abroad is that many of my vacations tend to be weekend trips, meaning that I am not normally longer in a foreign city for longer than three or four days—I mean, I have to go to school on occasion… Hence, when I am able to spend any longer amount of time in a city I absolutely love it. I love finding the less touristy restaurants and neighborhoods, I love escaping the massively crowded tourist attractions and finding any place off the beaten path because those are the places I will really remember.
If you’re going to have an extra few weeks to explore a city thoroughly, you just will not find a better place to do so than London. I was lucky enough to be staying with the most wonderful family who was willing to drag an
annoying picture taking tourist me around their home city for a week and a half, showing me some of their favorite places as well as the tourist attractions that I would not be able to find time to see in just a few days! Although I could talk about London for years, here are a few of my absolute favorites from this trip. Obviously you just won’t want to be in London without traveling the almost obligatory route of Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, etc. but if you ever have a spare day or two to explore a little further: this list is a good place to begin.
1. The Victoria and Albert Museum (the V&A): All of London’s awesome museums are FOR FREE so let’s give a big gold star to London for that, am I right? Your first inclinations will be to hit the British Museum and the National Gallery, but if you are in the least bit interested in anything regarding theatre, art, or design, you just cannot miss the V&A. Located by the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum, it is chock full of awesome jewelry, theatre, tapestry, fashion, and literary exhibits that will blow your mind. Make sure to check out the reading room (filled with original Charles Dickens manuscripts) and the cast courts from when the English were in a phase where they copied Roman monuments in plaster—useful? Not particularly, but still awesome.
2. Oxford University: If you are in the mood for a day trip, head up to Oxford for the day to check out a gorgeous, ancient town housing one of the oldest universities in England. Even if you cannot go into any of the colleges, it is still worth a wander around! I was lucky enough to have a see into Exeter College with a friend who is a current student; it is a little glimpse of history and prowess that will inspire you for months to come. The Oxford Tube runs from London straight to Oxford and is a comfortable, cost-efficient way to travel plus the bus has wifi…so…
3. Portobello Market: For an antique and vintage freak like me, Portobello Market in Notting Hill was HEAVEN. Not only is it in the gorgeous West London neighborhood, there are stands and stands filled with antique cameras, vintage jewelry, and cute restaurants. Take note of the Notting Hill bookstore, featured in the popular movie with Hugh Grant and Julia Robert and for a snack, try a crepe or a cupcake from the famous Hummingbird bakery. Some of my other favorite London markets are found in the winding alleys of Camden Town and the delicious fresh and international foods found at the Borough Market (the latter is open on weekends only).
4. Windsor Castle: If you’re all ‘been there, done that’ when you hear the words Buckingham Palace, take a few steps outside the city to see Queen Elizabeth’s weekend home and reportedly favorite residence. The chapel, holding the tombs of King Henry VIII and several of his wives was completely gorgeous and the room containing the elaborate royal doll-houses was also a standout. Make sure to have your ticket stamped at the end of your visit, as you can then come back for free anytime in the next year—not a bad deal!
If you have even more time, do stop by the National Portrait Gallery (just behind the National Gallery) for some really amazing artwork. And for relatively inexpensive and healthy meals, step into one of the numerous Pret a Mangers, marked by their trademark burgundy sign marking practically every block! I can’t wait to go back and explore even more.
Have a happy St. Patrick’s Day this Saturday! I’ll be sending the most Irish of wishes over the sea from Dublin.
A few weeks ago, there was an article written in the Star Tribune about the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. I was lucky enough to be able to hike the crossing this past weekend, and this is how it went.
On Friday, a group of us rented a car and drove up from school in Palmy to Tongariro National Park. The park is the oldest national park in New Zealand, and the fifth oldest national park in the world. Within the park are three active(barely) volcanoes: Mt. Ruapehu, a large snow covered mountain with a ski field for snow sports. Mt. Ngauruhoe, a smaller stratovolcano (and the mountain that was set as Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings triology), and finally Mt. Tongariro, a longer volcanoe with multiple craters.
We drove up and got supplies in the nearby town of Turangi, a tourist town geared towards fishing on nearby Lake Taupo (a great place for anyone who likes the north woods and all they have to offer). A friend of mine has a Holiday Home (cabin) in a township called Omori on the southern banks of Lake Taupo, and conveniently 30 minutes from the mountains. We settled in, and set our alarms for bright and early.
We got up the next morning and headed for the park. After struggling for about an hour to find the correct car park, we were finally on our way up the crossing. The crossing itself is a 19.4 km (about 12 mile) hike and is estimated to take between 6 and 7 hours.
As we ascended, the terrain quickly changed from flat plains to a slow ascension until we reached the base of the junction between Ngaurahoe and Tongariro. From there it became a twisted steep ascension around hardened lava flows and volcanic rocks. After 2 hours we reached the south crater, which gave us some level ground to walk on, as one of my friends pointed out, if you didn't know better it would've looked like we were on Mars.
From the south crater the path becomes rather intense. As an aside, we were originally told that this hike was of relatively low difficulty and other than bringing something to eat and a rain coat you really had nothing to worry about. Once we past the south crater, we began to seriously question the credability of these sources. The ascent quickly becomes verticle and loose. Gravel, ash and loose rocks make climbing less of a leisurely experience. However, the view can't be beat. We were lucky enough to reach Red Crater, the highest point on the crossing itself before clouds rolled in. We were able to see Mt. Taranaki (another volcano on the western side of the North Island) and most of the North Islands landscape as well. Past Red Crater, the next scenic stop is the Emerald Lakes, craters formed from quick rapid explosions and filled with water that has since leached it's color from the unique minerals found here.
Once we passed the lakes, we crossed the central crater to Blue Lake, again another crater (Tongariro has erupted a lot in its lifetime) filled with water. Once the crater was past there was a quick descent to the final car park. When I say quick descent, I mean we dropped altitude, fast. The actual majority of our hike didn't even begin until this point, and while it was incredibly beautiful and scenic, we had started to feel a little winded. Once we reached the bottom, we celebrated with what little energy we had left and headed back to Omori. Needless to say, we all slept like rocks that night.
I flew over the top of the world. Yes, I actually flew over the top! The route the plane took amazed me. It flew from Minnesota and up over Canada then Russia, and finally China. I was going to meet my boyfriend in Singapore before we went back to Australia. I sat on the plane and watched the television screen with the map and the little airplane showing where we were.
I found myself thinking back to 2010, when I studied abroad in Australia for 7-months. I remembered the moment that I met my boyfriend (Johan) and our first date. I had to go back to Minnesota State University of Moorhead so I could graduate in May. During the time that I was in the States, Johan and I experienced the journey that Hollywood likes to romanticize, "A Long Distance Relationship". That had been a crazy and lovely adventure. My memory bubble popped as soon as I started filling out the Customs form. It started making me think about the prescription medicine in my checked luggage. I started worrying about that, because the one thing I did know about Singapore was that they have a death penalty for drugs. So, during my last 2 hours on my 15 hour flight to Hong Kong, I couldn't stop thinking about it. I also wondered if I was going to get lost in Hong Kong, because my imagination had painted a picture of Chinese characters on the signs and not much English.I saw a clear picture of a "lost Devin"! I was very wrong, though - thank goodness.
I found my way to the boarding area for the Singapore flight, I had a 2 hour layover. On the floor a little ways away from me, I saw two little Chinese children playing with a gaming system. All of a sudden the older sister got up and hit her brother. His countenance was shocked as she ran away. He got up to run after her so that he could hit her back. It was funny, when I saw this because it got my mind off the worry that my medication would end in my death, because it made me think back to my childhood and my siblings. When traveling it's always nice to see things that remind you of home!
After the shorter flight from Hong Kong to Singapore, the customs was a breeze. The prescription medicine wasn't the death of me! :P I walked into the beautiful arrival area and I became introduced with the Changi International Airport. After freshening up I explored the beautiful arrival area of the airport for 5 hours before Johan arrived. I had a tea that is famous in Singapore. It was black tea with sweeten condensed milk. If you ever go to Singapore, make sure you have some! It was well worth it!
I was so happy when Johan walked into the arrival area. He saw me right away. After I spoke for a little bit, one of the first things he said with a little laugh was, "WOW! You sound very American!" (We hadn't skyped for about 1 month, because he had gone to South Africa to visit family for the Holidays. So, we hadn't seen each other or heard each other for quite a while! Only thing we had was Facebook chat... thank God, for it!)
Before going to Singapore, I hadn't known what to expect. I thought it was going to be dirty, but was I ever wrong. Well, they have steep fines for littering and also for drinking liquid or eating on the MRT train. (e.g. littering S$300, eating or drinking on the MRT train S$500) I definitely found out that is why it was clean. Everywhere was clean.
My mom has a high school friend (Tom) who works in Singapore. He lives there with his family now. One night he took Johan and I to the Chinese & Japanese Gardens. Which, they were beautiful!
Another day Tom took us to a local Singaporean food area. He took his two daughters with him to pick out all the foods that they wanted us to try. Some of it was quite different and strangely hot for a Scandinavians' tongue. :P One dish was Carrot Cake. Now, before you start salivating over the thought of the carrot cake that your grandma made you with the yummy glaze on top - let me burst your thought bubble and show you the reality. Okay, this carrot cake was made with a white turnip (it had a squishy texture) sausage, and eggs. I didn't really like it. (In the picture below it shows the Carrot Cake in the middle)
One of the other things that really surprised me was the desserts. I was really excited about the dessert, because of course desserts are good, right? I was thinking chocolate cake with vanilla ice-cream. Tom brought us a contained dessert. The see-through lid had me convinced that it was a colorful pudding with yummy ice cream and vanilla cake. When he removed the lid my craving bubble busted. It wasn't what I thought it was. Now, I have never liked snow cones, but this dessert was made with the fine ice that one can find in snow cones. There was a molasses syrup poured over it with salty green noodles sitting on top. When I lifted a spoon-full up to my mouth I bit down and tasted corn. I was thinking, "Corn? in Dessert?" I dug my spoon into the dessert again. It was indeed corn, there were beans as well! That made me stop in my tracks - I couldn't get myself to eat much more because beans and corn were not in my description of a dessert. According to Tom, it was a big thing to local Singaporeans. I am glad that they enjoy it. It just wasn't my cup of tea!
You are probably thinking, "Devin, it seems like you really didn't enjoy any of the food in Singapore?" Well, that isn't true! I promise, i did enjoy some of the noodle dishes. The spices are a different sort of hot & spicy compared to Mexican hot & spicy. I love Mexican hot & spicy - but some of the Asian hot & spicy spices are too much for me. But, yes, I did enjoy some of the food as well! That next morning I woke up thinking I had dreamt that I had eaten the food - I soon remembered it wasn't dream. I got up and looked down out the window into the town to see little people down below doing tai chi. It was so neat to see them all moving in sync with one another! It was a clear reminder that I was in Asia.:)
A few of the days Johan and I just walked around Singapore and looked at different parks and areas in the city.
This Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple was located in Little India. This was a big thing for a small town Minnesotan to see. It really told me that I definitely wasn't in Minnesota anymore. The little statues are of Hindu deities.
The Singaporeans were getting ready for the "Chinese New Year". This year's Chinese Zodiac was "The Year of the Dragon" I was all excited and had to get a picture with the dragon, because my Chinese zodiac was the Dragon!
One day Johan and I took a cruise for a few hours on a Ming Dynasty Dinner Cruise. It was a beautiful boat. We ate and then went out to look into the Singaporean bay. I saw so many ships. When it got dark we saw Singapore all lit up in lights and then we went to the other side of the boat and saw a floating city that was just about as bright! (floating city = all the ships!)
While in Singapore someone told me that the ships in the Singapore bay always fly a Singaporean flag in respect even if the ship isn't from Singapore. I also thought back to the guy who sat next to me on the flight from America to Hong Kong. He told me that there are Pirates in the body of water between Jakarta and Singapore. Isn't that crazy? As a writer it made my imagination go wild. :)
The last night in Singapore, Tom took us to a Night Safari where there were flame throwers and nocturnal animals.
This Night Safari was unlike any other zoo I've ever been to. There was a show where they introduced animals. The lights dimmed and all of a sudden i heard a very familiar eerie howl. The lights came back on to showcase a little wolf. They introduced the wolf as the American wolf from the far north. It made me laugh because this wolf was puny and coming from a State that is known for their big timber wolves it seemed ironic. A bit later there were the well known ring tailed bandits that liked to steal my cat's food at night - the Raccoon. It was just interesting that they were showing animals I was so familiar with!
The only thing I didn't enjoy that night was the bat cage. I've never had luck when it comes to flying living things, especially when they are flying above me. I was looking up at this bat and all of a sudden I felt a little drip land on my arm. I thought, "Oh, it's nothing, probably just condensation from the tree's leaves." and then there was another drop, I brought my boyfriends phone up to my arm to see that a bat had pooped on my arm. I ran out of the bat cage flapping my arms and probably squealing like a scared little girl.
Things to know about Singapore before traveling there:
•It's always HOT & HUMID so be sure to bring light clothing and suntan lotion
•Gum is illegal - leave it at home
•There is a death penalty for illegal drugs. If you must bring any sort of medication, be sure to have copies of the prescription with you so you are certain.
•Singapore is a small country/city and you can get almost everywhere from the MRT train system.
•There are different areas of Singapore that you must see (e.g. Little India, Chinatown, and Arab Street) All of them are different and unique in their own ways! (Be sure to try the Peach Fanta, while in Singapore... it was absolutely amazing!!!)
•Singapore is a safe city.
It was soooo hot there! I had decided that Singapore was a very nice place to visit and I will definitely go back there again someday. It was a nice introduction to Asia for me.
If you have happened to stumble upon my posts in the past, you may be experiencing déjà vu: yes, I was in Paris in December as well. I firmly believe, however, that it is just not possible to visit Paris too many times! So I was not about to pass up the chance to visit a dear friend of mine from (from Wayzata High School as well) during her own exciting abroad adventure in Paris. And I am ridiculously glad that I did.
How I Got There: I flew from Dublin into Paris Beauvais on the popular European budget airline, Ryanair. Since it was Ryanair, Paris Beauvais was an airport a little less actually in Paris then the name would lead you to believe…the shuttle from Beauvais to Porte Maillot, a metro stop in Paris, cost thirty euro round trip and took about 1h15. So if you’re willing to make your journey a bit longer, it’s not an awful way to save around a hundred euro that you might have paid to fly into Charles de Gaulle! If you enjoy convenient, easy, and non-stressful travel…Beauvais is a hundred percent not a place you will want to step foot in.
Things to Do, People to See: Luckily on my last Paris trip, I was able to do much of the sightseeing that was my priority so this trip was more to enjoy the city itself. On recommendation from a friend, I visited Laduree on the Champs-Elysees for macaroons and it was absolutely, fantastically, FABULOUS! The restaurant was closed, so we picked up our macaroons and ate them on a bench while people watching (which is hands down one of my favorite hobbies anywhere abroad). I also visited the Louvre for the second time, and found a few new areas I had missed previously- make sure to walk through Napoleon’s apartments. Especially if you won’t have time to visit Versailles, they are a perfect example of luxurious French opulence. Those chandeliers, man….
Chateau Thoiry: ALERT: ONCE IN A LIFETIME EXPERIENCE AHEAD. My friend Maari, currently abroad in Paris, was kind enough to invite me to visit her relatives at their family chateau, Chateau Thoiry (which is about a half-hour train ride from Paris Montparnasse). The chateau has been in their family since it was built in 1559, and currently houses a museum on the first floor and a zoo, opened in 1968, in the backyard. We were able to stay for a night and experience the absolute beauty and splendor of the castle, as well as the kindness of the current occupants! The chateau can only really be explained in photographs, so hopefully the images below will be able to show how absolutely amazing this place is. If you ever have a spare day in France, I absolutely encourage you to take a trip out to a true example of French history; the train ride to Thoiry is also through the rolling French countryside which is not a bad way to spend a half hour! The museum is completely gorgeous, and the zoo is a lovely and natural environment- like, the animals LOOKED HAPPY. It was an unreal experience, and I am so grateful to the family for allowing me to experience it.
Basics: The metro is extremely easy to use, so you won’t really need to worry about cabs or buses during your time there. Since I knew I’d be there for a few days, I bought a carnet of tickets (ten tickets for 6e35), and individual rides are 1e70. Eating out in Paris is EXPENSIVE, like Ireland expensive, but buying food in grocery stores is surprisingly cheap and they have a pretty large selection!
Why to Go: Paris is a beautiful place to be, even if you can only stay for a few days. I distinctly remember the moment when I was walking through the Tuileries, passing French men with long baguette loaves in their messenger bags, being able to see the top of the Eiffel Tower in the distance, and smelling the musty, fresh sod from the gardeners re-planting the lavender flowers. And those are the type of times I will remember about Europe- walking, soaking up culture through every pore, and living in the moment.
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