We caught a shuttle to the airport of 5:30 am Saturday morning Paris time (10:30 pm Friday night Texas time). It was a very long trip home, but I was met at the airport by my family and taken back to my grandparents’ house for a big family meal of chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, squash, mac n cheese, and sweet tea. After being up for over 25 hours, I went to sleep and woke up for church on Sunday morning. It was so good to be back at church, but slightly overwhelming with the amount of people saying hi to me. I struggled to stay awake all day to get myself back on a schedule, but I managed. And I was incredibly excited to be back home for the 4th of July (and my Pawpaw’s birthday)! We had a big party with almost 40 people, and a lot of BBQ. I am so glad to be home.
Yesterday, we took our calculus final, and now we’re free! To celebrate not having to think anymore, we went to see the Thinker.Katie and I wore our new scarves. We came home to relax for the afternoon. Abby, Katie, and I gave our landlord our thank you gift. Then we got to play with her dogs for a really long time. After we left her place, she came up and rang our doorbell so she could take a selfie with us. She also gave us her address so we could write to her. For dinner, we went back to our normal cafe one last time. We said bye to our waiter, who also took a picture with us. In the time we’ve been here, we’ve become “his Americans”. Those goodbyes were sad, but we’re all ready to be home. Today is a relaxing day. We have to pack and clean. In the morning, our shuttle will pick us up at 5:30 to take us to the airport, and we’ll be home in less than 48 hours!
Monday night, CEA took us to a going away dinner. We went to a couscous restaurant that served family style. We got unlimited couscous and vegetables, and got to order a meat. After the main course, we picked from two huge plates of desserts, and got a glass of hot mint tea.
There is a chocolate shop that I’ve been to a couple of times this week. The first time, I got a flower pot that had a combination of white, milk, and dark chocolates and also has some candies hidden under the “soil”. The second time, Katie and I got little Eiffel Towers and a chocolate block that says “Merci” to give to our landlord. Our landlord can’t speak English, but has been very kind and helpful to us while we’ve been here.
Today (Wednesday) for comms, our professor took us to the 104, which is basically just a big building for the arts and “la culture”. There was an art exhibition going on, a concert being set up, dancers practicing, a juggler, a bunch of chairs, some cafes, and many other things. My favorite part was the photo-booth. It was very old. We were
unprepared for the first few pictures, but eventually got the hang of it. This evening, we’ve spent hours studying for our calculus final. We take the final tomorrow, and are then free for a day and a half before we come home.
Today (Sunday) we went to Versailles. It took about an hour to get there, and then we waited in line for another hour to enter the castle. The castle was incredibly extravagant, but very crowded. It was hard to enjoy the art and decorations while having to maneuver through all of the people. The gardens were absolutely fantastic, though. When the gardens were made, the central idea was being able to control nature. Because of this, everything is perfectly trimmed and set up in straight lines. There are a bunch of beautiful fountains all over the gardens, some of which were part of a music show. In the middle, there is a large pond that we got to row around in. There are also a large number of restaurants and snack stands. The gardens were much more enjoyable than the castle, and we stayed there for a few hours before coming home to do homework. On the way home, Joseph made friends with an adorable old Australian Couple, and ended up helping them figure out the Metro stations and how to get to the Eiffel Tower.
Friday during our communications class, or professor took us on a walking tour from the Louvre down to Place de la Concorde. We used the opportunity to take some funny pictures. Our calculus textbook cover is a picture of the Louvre.
Saturday, we went to the catacombs. They were slightly creepy, and required a lot of walking. Afterwards, we went back to the guys’ apartment, cooked frozen hamburgers, and watched a scary movie about the catacombs, which freaked us out even more.
This afternoon (Thursday), we didn’t have class, so we decided to take advantage of our temporary freedom. We finally got to climb the Eiffel Tower! Only three of us went to the top- me, Jerry, and Viviano. The elevator was a little scary, but the absolutely stunning view of the city made it worth it.
Wednesday, CEA took us to Normandy. It was an educational trip, so we didn’t get to see the beaches. We toured the Total Refinery in the morning. Then, we went to a town called Honfluer. We ate lunch there at a crepe restaurant. Apparently, crepes originated from that area, and they did not disappoint. After lunch, we had some free time, so we walked around the town and eventually found a gorgeous park where we relaxed for a few minutes before heading back to the bus. Our afternoon activity was receiving a technical presentation of a bridge called the Pont de Normandie. At the time it was built, it was the longest of its kind. Again, none of us are civil engineers, but we still found it interesting.
Tuesday night, we were told that there was a city-wide music festival where bands would set up at locations all over the place and we could go around and listen to them for free. We found the first band near our apartment. We decided to go to the Montparnasse area, where there is a mall, because we assumed that would be a popular place for the bands to set up. We found two there, and decided the Eiffel Tower would be even better. When we got to the Eiffel Tower, we were searched and scanned many times. They’ve vamped up security because of the soccer games. We couldn’t find bands anywhere, so we just kept looking around. Eventually, a police officer told us that the festival had actually been cancelled. After that, we just found a cafe to hang out at and watch the games on TV. Even though it was cancelled, we still had fun walking around and seeing the Tower at night.
This weekend, Abby, Katie, Erik, and I went to London. We left Friday evening and traveled by train (underwater!). After we got off the train, we had to figure out how to get to our hotel. They have an underground system, and since we are familiar with Paris’s Metro, we decided to use that, It turned out to be way more expensive than we thought, but it seemed to be the best option. We arrived at our stop, and immediately saw the stereotypical phonebooth. For dinner, we went to a little Italian food restaurant near our hotel. It was a relief to be in a place where the first language was English. Saturday morning, we explored a grocery store, and I found Mountain Dew! For those of you who don’t know me very well, I used to drink at least one Mountain Dew a day. This was the first one I’ve had in a month. We went to breakfast at a local cafe. Unfortunately, the service there was terrible, and it took us two hours to order, receive our food, and eat. But now we can say we’ve had a “full English breakfast” with tea. Using advice from people at CEA, we decided to prebook a 24 hour hop-on/hop-off bus tour that would take us all around the city. We got on the bus around 11:30. I took a lot of pictures of random buildings that I thought just looked cool. The first stop we got off at was Baker Street, where we took pictures with the Sherlock Holmes statue. Our tour guide reminded everyone multiple times that he is a fictional character (apparently, people still write him letters). We also saw Madame Tussaud’s wax museum, and we went in a gift shop where I took a picture with a fake guard. At about 1, we got off at a stop that was supposed to take us on a Harry Potter walking tour. The tour didn’t start until 2, so we killed some time by walking around. After about 20 minutes, we realized that if we went on the tour, we wouldn’t have time to finish the bus route, so we went back to the bus stop. We were informed that because of West End Live, which was going on right next to the stop, the buses had been rerouted, and we were given very confusing directions on how to get to a different stop. We ended up getting slightly lost, and got to go on an adventure for about 40 minutes. We finally found a stop at St. Paul’s Cathedral. We were very relived to get back on the bus. We drove over the London Bridge, where we got a great view of the Tower Bridge, and then vise versa. We got off at the stop at the Tower of London, where we joined a boat tour along the Thames River. We got to pass by the Globe Theater, the Shard, Cleopatra’s Needle, and a bridge that was in Harry Potter! We got off at Westminster Pier, right by Big Ben and The London Eye. Of course, we took time for some photoshoots. We then got back on the bus, and rode to Buckingham Palace. Unfortunately, we were not able to take pictures with the guards there, but we took pictures with the palace, the gates, the fountain, and the park. Then, we got back on the bus, and it returned us to our hotel. For dinner, we had fish and chips, which was not as good as I thought it would be. Sunday morning, we ate a quick breakfast at Burger King (we had learned our lesson). I got some mini pancakes and a Belgian waffle. Apparently that is served with ice cream, so I had ice cream for breakfast. We then got back on the bus, and got off to see the horseguards. We ended up getting there right in time to see the changing of the guards! After that, we got on a different bus route that took us to Kings Cross Station. We of course took pictures at Platform 9 3/4 (from Harry Potter). We ate lunch at a Portuguese restaurant called Nando’s. I had a Portuguese barbecue chicken burger that was very good. After lunch, we had a few hours to kill with little options (because of the cost of transportation, and our 24 hour bus ticket had expired). We hung out in a Burger King for a while because they had wifi. Then we caught the train back, and immediately had to do our homework for today. I apologize for possible repeated pictures, it was very difficult to upload this many at once.
Wednesday, CEA took us to the Air and Space Museum. Our guide was very old and slow. His age combined with the French view on time (which is opposite of America’s rigid scheduling) meant we ended up staying at the museum for 45 minutes past closing time. The guys generally gravitated to some flight simulators in the different sections. While they were playing around, our guide let us get in one of the helicopters and move stuff around. He served in the French military, and was able to tell us which planes he had flown himself. It was interesting to hear his perspectives. Here are some pictures.