Monday, May 19, 2014

Au revoir, France!

Hello everyone!!

This day really snuck up on me.  I still can't fully comprehend that this is my last night in France.  I am sitting in my hotel room in the airport in Paris, and I thought this would be the perfect time to bring my journey here to an end.

This past week I finished my last class, Strategic Brand Management.  I was a little skeptical of it at first.  There was a lot of case studies, projects, and presentations, making it my most intensive course by far.  I also wasn't exactly a fan of one of our two teachers, but I loved the other one.  Surprisingly enough, I ended up loving this class!  It was a lot of work but I actually looked forward to going to class and I truly enjoyed the homework.  There was a big presentation that my group of four had to give, an hour and a half presentation!  Luckily, the other three people in my group were close friends of mine, so we worked well together and made it very enjoyable.  That presentation is my favorite one I have ever given! 

Since we had so much course work, our presentations counted as our final.  I don't like tests, so I was super happy we didn't have to take one at the end of the course!  Then just like that, I walked out of KEDGE for the last time.  My friend, Emilia, surprised me and pulled out her camera to capture that great moment.  I thought she had been kidding, until a giant camera appeared!  So there is me, in the picture above, leaving the school for the last time ever!  Au revoir, KEDGE!

The rest of the week was both really exciting and really sad.  It was filled with a lot of "last time evers," but I was getting so excited to go home!  I spent most of my time with my closest friends.  We went around the city and ate at all my favorite restaurants and went to my favorite places.  We went to the Sunday market, ate yummy food, and sat by the river for a while.  Also, we went to dinner parties and out to bars to meet up with other exchange students to say good bye.  There were a few other students that left this weekend also, but most exchange students are staying for the last sequence and will be done in three weeks.  The picture below is of my last night in Bordeaux.  We decided to celebrate at our favorite restaurant, L'Entrecote!  I will seriously miss that place, the food is delicious!  After we ate supper, we walked around the city for a while and ended up at one of my favorite spots, the cathedral at Hotel de Ville.  Ironically, it was the exact same place I sat at on my first night here, all the way back in September.  I realized that after we had been sitting for a while.  I smiled and just thought "how poetic."  

(Last night in Bordeaux, celebrating at L'Entrecote!)

I have spent the entire day looking back and reflecting on all the memories I now cherish.  There are just so many!  I am thrilled I have written this blog to both share my adventure with you, and to have documented a lot of my experiences in detail!  There are no adequate words to fully describe the last nine months of my life.  It has been truly incredible, amazing, filled with extraordinary experiences and wonderful people.  Things I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life.  It has also been the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.  If you want to grow up in a hurry and make yourself stronger than you ever imagined, move to a foreign country by yourself.  If that isn't good enough for you, move to one where you can't speak the language.  There were definitely days that I wondered what the hell I had gotten myself into.  I was scared, frustrated, full of fear, and pushed to so many limits I often thought I was going to break.  But I held myself together, I found out so much about who I am and what I am capable of.  When life got hard, I just pushed harder.  Through all the struggles, I have been blessed with so so so many beautiful memories, and I wouldn't trade a second of it for anything. 

When I was twelve years old, I told my mom for the first time that I was going to study abroad in Europe when I grew up.  I have been working on that dream ever since.  I can honestly say I am so proud of myself.  I have had this big dream for so long and I have worked my butt off for years to ensure that it would come true.  Well voila, I made it happen!!  I take pride in what I have all done to make this a reality, but I have to thank my parents just as much if not more!  They have supported me in everything I have ever done and have always been there for help, guidance, and love.  I could never have done this without them!  My parents have always pushed us to love life and live it to the fullest, and that is exactly what I intend on doing.  Thank you for everything mom and dad, I love you! 

(This is a picture of my evil wallet!)

Today started off as a good day.  I left my apartment for the last time and took my luggage to my friend Emilia's.  My purse was packed in my suitcase, so I put my wallet in her purse and we were off to the Sunday market with Denisse and Mariana.  It was gorgeous out, sunny and 75 degrees.  We got food and our favorite fresh juice, sat down and enjoyed our meal.  Then we walked through the rest of the market and then along the river for a while.  There was a large cruise ship that was docked there, so we sat in the shade where we could look at the ship and the river.  It was very relaxing.  We talked for a while and watched people along the boardwalk.  Then we went to get some very good ice cream tucked away in the old part of the city.  I said my emotional goodbyes to Mariana and Denisse, then Emilia and I got my luggage from her apartment and went to the train station.  When we arrived I realized that she had switched purses and my wallet was still in her apartment...on the other side of the city.  My heart just shattered and there were instant tears.  I knew I wasn't going to make my train, and that was the last train going to Paris that day.  I really needed to be on it because my flight leaves from Paris in the morning.  I started to panic, very very bad panic.  Emilia tried to keep me calm and started running around.  She discovered that there was in fact another train later that day, but it wasn't listed on the internet so we didn't see it earlier.  Relief started to flood back, but then we were told the train was completely full.  So then I was going to have to take a train to a different part of Paris and ride the metro to the airport.  Again, I started to panic at the thought of this.  I have been on the metro in Paris before, and doing it with a lot of heavy luggage was going to be a nightmare!  But that seemed to be my only option.  I stayed with my luggage and started to mentally prepare myself for what I was sure was going to be a very long and hard night.  As I waited, Emilia went back to her apartment to grab my wallet, then literally ran across the city in flip flops to get back to the train station.  When we went to actually switch my ticket, we had a different person helping us, and he discovered that it was in fact possible for me to get on the train I wanted in the first place, the one that would take me straight to the airport.  Again, relief flooded over me!  I can't thank her enough for helping me out!  I said an emotional goodbye to Emilia and then my train left Bordeaux.  Now here I am, safe and sound in my hotel room!  It definitely was not how I wanted to leave Bordeaux.  But hey, getting to Bordeaux was a nightmare, I should have assumed leaving it would be no different! haha : )

On my four hour train ride to Paris, I summarized my journey in numbers:

I have been on 17 flights
In 9 different airports
I have walked through an airport 33 times
Taken 1 overnight bus trip
Been on 42 train rides
Visited 7 countries
And explored 20 cities.

And there you have it.  Krysta's year abroad.  I can't thank everyone enough for all of their love, kindness, and support.  I truly appreciate everything everyone has done for me.  

So for the last time, thank you all for reading!
I can't wait to see everyone!!


"The earth has music for those who listen."
-William Shakespeare 

"A ship is safe in harbor, but that is not what ships are for."
-William G.T. Shedd

"Count your age by friends, not years. Count your life by smiles, not tears."
-John Lennon 

"Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle."
-Christian D. Larson   

Monday, May 5, 2014

Munich, Germany!

(New City Hall at Marienplatz)

Hello everyone!!

After Dublin, I was back in Bordeaux for a few days working on school work.  Then, on Friday the 18th, I flew to Munich, Germany.  I met my friend, Emilia, in the Munich airport (which does in fact have its own brewery...Germans don't mess around when it comes to their beer.)  I have always wanted to go to Germany, but I wasn't ever sure which part.  Munich wasn't at the top of my list, I guess because I never really knew anything about it.  When Emilia and I arrived in this city, we were definitely surprised!  We absolutely loved it there and the state of Bavaria is gorgeous!  It is very high on my list of favorite places I have been to!

We had arrived in the city in the late afternoon, so we checked into our hostel and left right away to go meet some people.  Ironically enough, Emilia's friend Katrina (from their hometown Ottawa, Canada) was also traveling in Munich with her three study abroad friends from their school in Prague.  Emilia and I walked through a rich residential neighborhood to meet the others at their hostel.  The walk was beautiful, but very creepy.  It was dark out, and a little rainy, and since it was Good Friday, there wasn't a single person in sight for the 20 minutes it took us to get there.  It was like a ghost town!  We went out for some burgers and good ole German beer, and then went to their hostel to have some drinks and hang out for the night.  

(About to go on our walking tour.)

The next morning, we met up with Katrina and Milena again to go on a free walking tour of Munich!  The tour started at Marienplatz.  This is Munich's main square.  For almost 1,000 years, people have gathered there for markets and tournaments.  On the New City Hall is one of the world's most famous glockenspiels, the Rathaus-Glockenspiel.  Every day at 11a.m. the bells chime and it reenacts two stories from the 16th century.  It is made of 43 bells and 32 life sized figures, all over 100 years old and still working.  Each day crowds form to watch the famous glockenspiel.  It is apparently the second most overrated tourist attraction in Europe.  Our tour guide told our group that and we all laughed, but it was still cool to see!     

(Random pictures while touring the streets of Munich)

Next, we toured the beautiful and charming streets of Munich.  Even on a cold, cloudy, Saturday morning, everything was so lively and fun...and of course there was beer...everywhere!  We stopped and toured the Frauenkirche, which is a church with an interesting story.  Legend has it that the builder made a deal with the devil: the devil would finance the building of the church as long as there wasn't a single window in it.  The devil would come and stand in the foyer and watch the progress.  The tricky builder, however, did build windows in the church, but none of them can be seen from the angle at which the foyer stands.  When the devil finally discovered he had been tricked, he couldn't enter the already consecrated church.  He was furious and stomped his foot on the ground with so much force, his footprint was embedded in the stone...where it can still be seen today!  I stepped on the devil's footprint.  The devil's feet are only a few sizes larger than a woman's 9 1/2, in case anyone was wondering. 

(May Pole in the beer garden)

The next place we stopped at was Viktualienmarkt, a market that had Munich's main beer garden and its May Pole.  This stop on our tour is a large reason why I love Germany so much! They are very serious when it comes to tradition, and they have so much fun!  First of all, Munich produces 6 beers.  These beers are served all around the city.  Beer houses, however, will only sell one of them.  Liking a Munich beer is similar to liking a professional sports team.  I, obviously, love the Packers.  This means you will never, ever, see me offering my support to a team over the Packers.  Beer houses are the same.  They will serve their favorite beer, and offer nothing else.  It is a fun battle.  We stopped at the main beer garden, which is literally a garden of trees in the middle of the city where you sit and drink beer from various stands.  This is usually neutral territory.  So the six Munich beers are served on rotation.  Beer #1 is offered at the beer garden, and is served until it literally runs out.  Then they move onto the same amount of beer #2 and so forth.  

In this beer garden was Munich's May Pole.  A May Pole is a strong tradition that dates back hundreds of years.  The pole is decorated to represent the city of which it stands for, much like a flag.  Most of the time, the poles are left up all year round, then decorated for the May Day festival on May 1st.  Traditionally, there are dances that take place around the May Pole.  In Bavaria, May Poles are an important part of their culture and history.  As May approached, towns would often sneak into rivaling villages at night and try to steal the May Pole.  If the town was successful in stealing the pole, the other town would have to host a party for them in order to get it back.  Awesomely enough, this still happens today.  People sign up to take shifts to guard the pole all night.  The last time one was stolen was 8 years ago.  To our great surprise it was Munich's airport May Pole that was stolen!  One day, the airport realized the pole was gone, and with no evidence of anyone stealing it.  In a great panic, they quickly called Munich's City police to get their help, but all the airport police heard on the phone was laughing.  The city police had actually stolen the airport's May Pole and changed out the security footage so they wouldn't see.  The airport ended up throwing a party for the city in order to get their pole back!

Next we went to the Hofbrauhaus!  This is the most famous beer house in the world!  It was very large and very cool looking!  Here we learned that in Munich beer houses it is possible to own a permanent table.  Locals do this by going to that same beer house 3 times a week for 15 years!!  If you pass that, then you get your own table with a plaque on it and a very special customized beer mug in a locked cabinet, ready for you at all times.  If you come in by yourself and there are 25 people at your table in the middle of their meal, you have the right to get them all to move because, hey...its your table! 

(In one of the dining halls in the beer house)

The two pictures above are going to be my little section about Nazis in Germany, its kind of like the big elephant in the room!  The picture on the left is where there was once a plaque for the Nazis.  Two guards would stand by it and make sure that everyone that passed it would acknowledge it and then do the Nazi salute.  If a person did not do this they would be badly beaten or arrested, most of the time it was both.  Many people did not want to salute the plaque so they started taking a side street in order to avoid it.  The guards started to notice the redirection of foot traffic.  It was odd that so many people were walking on that street when there were only two shops for people to go to.  The picture on the right has gold tiles that represent this alternative path.  The path stops halfway down the street because that is where a guard was placed and caught all of the people trying to use that street to escape the plaque.  Those people were also beaten and arrested.  There are hundreds of these unmarked memorials all over the city. 

A common misconception is that Adolf Hitler was German.  False.  He was actually born and raised in Austria, and his first dream was to be a painter, of all things.  Several times he was rejected from admission to an art school, and then was conscripted to the Austrian Army.  He didn't like their army, so he fled to Germany, the city of Munich to be exact.  He joined the German army for WWI.  After the war, when he was back in Munich, he joined a small political party called the German Workers Party.  He was excellent at giving speeches, and soon he gained the support of the members and became the leader of the party.  Hitler renamed the party to the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) which later became known as the Nazi Party.  

I, for one, had no idea that Munich was essentially the birth place of the Nazi Party.  One can imagine, the city has a lot of dark history.  It was definitely a weird feeling, being in a lot of the same places that possibly the most infamous person in the history of the world had been in.  One of his most famous speeches was in the Hofbrauhaus. (The beer house I just talked about visiting.)  An important thing I did learn was that the word "Nazi" isn't some dark forbidden word in Germany.  You won't be shunned or punched in the face for mentioning it.  Germans think it is very important to know.  They encourage their youth to learn about it.  They believe heavily in "The youth is the future.  The best way to prepare for the future is to learn about the past."  German children probably know more about WWII than most of us.  There is a law that requires all German students to visit at least two concentration camps in order to graduate.  Our tour guide ended on this note.  She thought it was important that tourists know that, but she also didn't want us to be stuck on all of the bad things that once happened here because it truly is a great city!  It was a very powerful and enlightening tour!

On the tour, we met Lori.  Lori is also a business student who is from New York.  She is studying abroad in Sweden and was traveling by herself for the Easter break.  After the tour, Lori, Emilia, and I went to the BMW Headquarters!  BMW (Bavarian Motor Works) is an automobile, motorcycle, and engine manufacturing company that was started in 1916.  It is one of the three best selling luxury automakers in the world.  The other two are Audi and Mercedes-Benz, both of these are also German.  

BMW also produces the brand of Mini cars and is the parent company for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.  We started by going to BMW World which has all of the brand new cars and technology on display.  Then we went over to the BMW museum and saw all of its cars and motorcycles throughout history.  It was very cool!

Right by BMW was the old Munich Olympic Stadium! 

(Lori, Emilia, and I)

One of the six breweries in Munich is the Augustiner Brau.  This brewery was established in 1328.  It is the favorite beer in Munich.  When looking for a beer house to eat at that night, we made sure to go to one that served Augustiner beer.  The locals weren't wrong about this beer, I loved it!!  

Pro beer drinker: naturally I drank it by the liter.  When in Germany...prost!! (Cheers in German)

Random side story: In 1810, King Ludwig I was married.  The citizens were invited to celebrate this wonderful occasion with the new royal couple.  They celebrated for days and had many festivities including horse races.  The next year, the citizens of Munich wanted to have a celebration once again, but obviously there wasn't anything to celebrate.  The people realized they could make money off of selling beer, and decided to have a festival anyways...who doesn't love a good party?!  (Especially one that great!)  This festival was held in the month none other than October.  This ladies and gentlemen, is where the world famous Oktoberfest was born.  

The food that we ate on this trip was nothing short of amazing!!!  We made sure to stick to the beer houses and really have traditional German meals.  The above pictures are of the meal that Lori, Emilia, and I had together.  We each ordered different plates, than split each up into 3 parts and shared all of our food.  What we ate that night:  pork roast, pork knuckle, bratwurst, gravy, potato dumplings, sauerkraut, and cabbage salad all washed down with a liter of beer.  The next night, Emilia and I had the exact same foods, but we added some duck and then apple strudel for desert.  It was all delicious! 

The next day was Easter Sunday!  We had booked reservations to tour one of the prettiest castles in the world: Neuschwanstein Castle!  This castle was built in the 19th century by King Ludwig II of Bavaria.  Neuschwanstein was the inspiration for Disney's Sleeping Beauty Castle.  To get there, we woke up nice and early and went to the main train station in Munich, Hauptbahnhof. We took a train to the town of Fussen, then a bus to the village of Hohenschwangau.  Lori had joined Emilia and I again for our adventure.  Apparently everyone else had the same plans for Easter, the train and bus were absolutely packed!!  We were lucky to find seats on the train.

The village of Hohenschwangau is at the base of the mountain that the castle sits on.  It is in the village that you can get tickets to tour the castle.  I am so grateful that we decided to get reservations the day before because we got to skip the insane line!  We went right to the front, got our tickets, and were on our way.  By the time that we got there early in the morning, people at the front of the line were already signing up for tours 6 hours later in the day because they were already full until that point!  Yikes!  So we then took a shuttle up the mountain, you can also hike but we didn't have time.  Once at the top of the mountain, there is a hiking trail for visitors to get to the actual castle, about a fifteen minute walk.  

Finally we made it in time for our tour!  King Ludwig II was obsessed with living in a fairy tale world of his own.  He used his own fortune to build extravagant castles such as this one.  Although he wasn't using the state's money for all of his opulent projects, the state was still in a financial fallout.  People thought he should use his family's money to help economize things, but instead he didn't hesitate to make more extravagant designs for himself.  Ministers of his rule felt that he was mentally unfit to be king any longer.  A panel of psychiatrists, led by Bernhard von Gudden, declared the king mentally insane and unable to rule for the rest of his life.  Keep in mind that none of the psychiatrists had ever actually examined him, and only one had met with him once 12 years earlier.  The next day on June 13th, 1886, the King and von Gudden decided to take a walk down by a lake...they never came back.  Both of their bodies were found in the lake,  shoulders and heads above the water. Autopsies showed that neither of them drowned as they did not have water in their lungs.  It is still a great mystery to this day, no one knows what happened and why.    

(The crowd trying to get on Mary's Bridge.)

At the time of the Kings death, the castle was still in the middle of construction.  Most of the exterior was finished, but only 12 of the nearly 200 rooms were completed.  The king only lived there for 172 days before his death.  Most of the castle has been untouched since 1886.  A short six weeks after Ludwig II died, the doors were already opened to paying visitors.  On the tour, we got to see the 12 finished rooms.  Although there were few, they were extraordinary!  They included the thrown room, servants living quarters, the king's apartments, a grand hall, the kitchen, and a grotto...yes, there was a random cave in the middle of the castle.  All of the designs and decorations looked like they literally came straight out of a fairy tale.  It was gorgeous.  Research the interior of this castle and you will understand what I am talking about!

After the tour, we hiked out to another mountain and went onto Mary's Bridge.  This bridge was named after the king's mother.  It offers an absolutely amazing view of the castle.  I am pretty sure everyone in the country was trying to get on that freaking bridge that day.  People were yelling, pushing, fighting.  There was a line up the mountain of people waiting, it was crazy!  But after all of the chaos, the view was completely worth it.  The day wasn't as sunny as we had hoped it would be.  Instead there was this weird creepy fog that just swirled around the mountains.  It almost looked better that way.  It made everything feel that much more magical and mythical.  It truly felt like another world up there!  When we were done, we got back to Munich and went out for another fantastic meal and beer, lots of beer! Liters of course! ;)

Munich was definitely an amazing trip, I just loved it there!  Maybe its because I come from a German background, my last name is Weinberger after all.  (By the way, people loved that name!  If they found out, they treated you like family!)  Wisconsin has a lot of German settlers, and a lot of our traditions and mannerisms are still very similar to that of the actual country, Oktoberfest is a case in point.  We still use some German words, even though I am pretty sure my family has made up a lot of them! hahaha We also eat a lot of German food still.  Going to Germany just felt so much like home.  The heritage and culture, the people, the scenery, it was all beautiful!  

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter!

Thank you all for reading!


"Strive for perfection in everything you do."
-Sir Henry Royce 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Dublin, Ireland!

(Tour of Dublin Castle)

Hello Everyone!!

I have been really busy lately!  I just finished my 7th class, and tomorrow I start my final sequence! How crazy!  I will be taking Strategic Brand Management.  Hopefully it will be a good class to finish with.  Starting on April 11th, we had our Easter Break here at KEDGE.  Early in the morning on Friday the 11th, I met my friends Mariana, Denisse, and Fiorella at the train station.  We took a train to the gorgeous town of Biarritz, France.  It is in the south of France, right on the Atlantic Ocean and very close to the border of Spain.  We then flew into Dublin, Ireland!

(Tour of the Guinness Brewery)

When we were in Dublin, it was a bit of a project getting to our hostel.  We had to take about an hour long bus ride to the city center, and then walk from there.  The first turn we were supposed to take was a right...naturally we took a left.  After a few circles and a lot of confusion, we finally found our hostel.  It ended up being really close to the bus stop, but apparently we thought it would be more fun to take a twenty minute scenic tour instead!  Our hostel was in an old convent school, which was kind of cool.  Old classrooms had been turned into sleeping rooms, and the main eating hall was the old church.  We were supposed to have a private room for the four of us, but our reservation got mixed up and we were put in an 8 person room.  They were nice and gave us a discount though.  After getting everything figured out, we left to walk around Dublin for a little bit and get a yummy supper! 

We were walking on the main street in Dublin, minding our own business, admiring all of the fun Irish pubs on that cold Friday night, when things got interesting.  Have you ever seen those ridiculous TV shows where messed up, drunk, trashy people stumble out of clubs randomly looking to pick a fight with the first person they see??  Well somehow we were the people who were picked to have a fight with.  Mariana and Denisse were walking together, and Fio and I were walking a few paces in front of them.  The street was really crowded and loud.  All of a sudden two girls came barreling down the side walk and Drunk #1 ran straight into Denisse and kept walking.  Drunk #2 was not happy about this and started screaming at Denisse to say say sorry to Drunk #1 that ran into her...and who was already 50 feet away...right.  Denisse refused and tried to keep walking.  Drunk #2 did not like this answer, and proceeded to start getting physical.  So Mariana put herself in the middle so Drunk #2 would stop pushing Denisse, then Drunk #1 came running back, so Fio and I went towards them to break it up and then Drunk #3 mysteriously appeared and started hitting.  Honestly, we still don't know where Drunk #3 even came from.  There was a lot of yelling, pushing, pulling, and hitting.  A crowd started to form around us and finally a security guard pulled the drunks off of Denisse and Mariana when one of them tried to hit Denisse in the head with a glass bottle of vodka.  Then Drunk #1,2,and 3 started to fight with the security guard and hit him and we just walked away.  I seriously don't think I have ever been more confused and embarrassed in my life! Whew, not a great first impression of Dublin!  For months before I left to come to Europe, everyone would jokingly say "Just don't go to jail, Krysta."  Right when the fight started, my very first thought was: "Oh my god, I am going to end up in jail tonight.  I am going to do the very thing everyone told me not to!"  Hahahaha, no worries, everything turned out fine!

(First professional Guinness Beer tasting)

The next day we got tickets for the Hop On - Hop Off Bus and toured the city.  We started by going to the Dublin Castle.  The foundation of a fortress was built from orders of King John of England in 1204.  A castle has been at this site ever since.  It was the seat of British rule in Ireland until the year 1922, when the Irish gained their independence.  After that we went to Saint Patrick's Cathedral and walked around the park that surrounded it.  Then we went to the Guinness Storehouse!

Guinness is a stout that originated from the brewery of Arthur Guinness in 1759.  Now, it is one of the most successful brands of beer in the world.  The Guinness Storehouse is seven stories of the beer's history.  We started by learning about the ingredients and brewery.  Then we learned about Arthur Guinness, the Guinness family, and the business for the last 250 years.  The center of the Storehouse is a 7 story atrium that is shaped like a glass.  We went to the top floor, which is the Gravity Bar.  It is a large round room made of only windows so you can drink some beer and look out over the city of Dublin.  Next we went down to the 4th floor to go to the Guinness Academy.  Here we learned how to craft the perfect pint of Guinness.  It takes just under two minutes to pour the perfect pint.  Every person gets a chance to pour from the taps.  Then you wait a little while and top it off.  After we all graduated, we got to drink our perfect pints in the bar and even got certificates!  That part was definitely a lot of fun!   Guinness was cool, but Heineken in Amsterdam is still a lot cooler! 

(East Wing of Kilmainham Jail)

Next we went to tour the Kilmainham Jail.  It was built in 1796, and was a prison until 1924.  Everything is original and left as it was a hundred years ago.  This building is a very important site in Irish history.  Many Irish rebellion leaders were imprisoned here and several were executed here as well.  We were able to see the cells of many famous Irish men, and we visited the East Wing.  In this wing, several movies including the original "The Italian Job" were filmed as well as a U2 music video and a BBC series.  This room is exactly what you picture when you think of an old jail.  After that we went out to the prison yard where executions used to take place, that was really eerie.  Visiting the jail was creepy, but definitely an interesting and (as twisted as it sounds) cool experience!

                                                               (Spire of Dublin)

Next we found the Dublin Disney Store and hung out in there for a while because, hey, who doesn't love Disney?!  We walked along O'Connell street (Dublin's main street and one of Europe's largest streets) and saw the Spire.  The Spire of Dublin is a pin like monument that stands 398 feet tall!  Also known as the Monument of Light, the Spire of Dublin stands where Nelson's Pillar once stood.  Nelson's Pillar was destroyed after being bombed in 1966 by former IRA members.  The Spire was built in 2001.  After all of our touring, we went out to eat and managed to not get into any fights!

The next day we went to Howth.  Howth is a fishing village on the Peninsula of Howth Head.  When we first arrived, we saw a seal in the harbor.  There are usually seals there and people feed them.  So we went and bought fish and came back to feed the seal.  It was so cute and excited to eat fish!

(Our little seal)

It was an incredibly windy day!  We went and walked around the market for a while, then we walked along the harbor.  The cliffs were really pretty!  We went out to a lighthouse and watched sailboat races.  There was a little restaurant that we went up to a window to order, then got our food in a basket and went to the park to eat.  We sat there for a few hours looking at the scenery, people watching, and talking with each other.  All of a sudden something was falling from the sky.  I looked at my sleeve, pants, and shoes.  I could not believe it.  A bird pooped on me again!!!! That is the second time in a month in two different countries...I think I should get some sort of prize for that! ;)

(Going to the lighthouse to look at the ocean and watch sailboats)

(The beds were really short and we kept hitting our heads!)

We got back to Dublin, went shopping, and then got something to eat.  When we went back to the hostel, we were able to move into a private room.  We hung out for the night and listened to music.  

The next day we flew back to Biarritz, France.  We had an extra hour before our train, so we went to the beach!  There were huge waves!  This place was gorgeous.  We sat watching the waves, surfers, and ate some ice cream.  Mariana wanted to go put her feet in the water.  She was walking around, letting the water only come up to her ankles.  She was out there for maybe two minutes when I decided I wanted to join her.  Just as I was about to take off my shoes, a huge wave came rolling in.  It was so sudden, Mariana didn't have time to run, she just braced herself.  The water came crashing in all the way up to her hips and completely soaked her!!  So I halted my process of taking my shoes off and we all tried really hard to not fall over from laughing as she made her way back to us!

Dublin was a great city, I am glad I was able to visit it, but it is not overly exciting.  I plan to go to Ireland again some day, but drive along the countryside and through small villages!  There are also some beautiful cliffs I want to see!

We got back to Bordeaux at night.  I had a few days to relax and work on homework and study for my final.  Then I left for Germany!! Stay tuned, that is my next blog!

Thank you all for reading!


"Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.  Nothing can be done without hope and confidence."
-Helen Keller

Monday, March 31, 2014

Seven Down, Two to Go!

Hello Everyone!!

This semester of school is just flying by!  When I got back from our big London/Paris trip, I went straight back to studying for my final.  Then March 5th rolled around, the most important day of the year!  It was my birthday!!!  My parents surprised me with a bouquet of flowers and my friends surprised me with another!  They were beautiful.  Also, I would like to say thank you for all of the wonderful messages I received on my birthday, it really made my day!!  Finals were the next day, just my luck, so I didn't have a big party but some of my close friends took me out for a lovely dinner!

We went to our favorite restaurant L'Entrecote.  It is very popular in Bordeaux.  It opens for a few hours for lunch, and then it opens again at 7:15 for supper.  Every single day, rain or shine, there is a line of people down the block waiting to get in.  The menu is brilliant because there isn't a menu at all.  They serve one meal only, it is delicious, and it is obviously working for them.  You start off with a simple vinegar salad, bread, and some drinks.  Of course we always get wine, lots of wine.  After all, this is Bordeaux.  For the meal, you get a plate filled with all you can eat fries and steak cooked to your preference.  The steak comes on a giant platter bathed in some sort of rich, creamy, buttery, garlic sauce.  This sauce is a secret recipe of the restaurant and it is to die for.  We pour it over our fries and usually clean the platter with some bread.  I don't even think about ketchup.  Again, coming from a Weinberger, that is a big deal.  I eat ketchup with everything.  After the meal, even though we were stuffed, we decided to each get a desert and share.  To my surprise, they got a waiter to put a birthday candle in my desert and they sang to me, very loudly, in front of the busy restaurant.  Oh I just love when that happens.  Not only were they really loud, but they sang to me in English, so everyone had to look.  It was adorable though and I loved it!

This was my 21st birthday, and even though I have been able to legally drink since I have been here, turning 21 is still a big deal for an American.  So we put off studying for a bit longer and went to a fair.  We walked around, listened to music, and bought a bunch of beer.  We walked over to the big fountain at the park and in true American fashion, I told them we were going to Shotgun our beers...classy.  That turned out to be a bigger project than I had ever imagined.  This was a new concept to them, so I explained it over and over and then Emilia and I went first.  I finished mine in a few seconds, Emilia took a bit longer but made it!  Then Denisse and Mariana tried it.  Denisse made it about two seconds before her beer exploded everywhere.  Mariana literally took 4 minutes.  I have never met a slower beer drinker in my life!  We laughed the whole night, and had a really good time.  We drank some more and then headed home to study for those darn finals!

On Saturday, March 8th, we went on an adventure to the Dune du Pyla by the ocean!  There were about twenty of us in 5 cars.  It took about an hour to get to the dune from Bordeaux.  Dune du Pyla is the highest sand dune in all of Europe.  It has a forest on one side, the ocean on the other side, and is 350 feet tall!  This thing is huge!  Climbing up 350 feet is one thing, climbing up 350 feet of sand is a whole other story.  The sand is all soft and mushy where everyone climbs up it, so the sand came up to the middle of my shins most of the time.  For every 3 feet we climbed, it felt like we sunk back down 2 1/2.  I was out of breath and thinking "People seriously do this for fun?!"  ; )

When we finally reached the top, I completely understood all the hype about this place.  It was gorgeous!!  The dune itself was incredible and felt like you were on a different planet.  For miles and miles you could see beautiful forests on one side, and ocean waves on the other side.  There were sailboats in the distance that we watched for a while.  We sat in the sand and soaked up some sun.  Most of the people that came on the trip with us were from my friends' church group, so I was able to meet a lot of new people and have wonderful conversations.  I met a guy named Laurent, who is from Paris and just got done studying abroad for a year at the University of Oregon.  His choices of schools came down to either Oregon or Marquette University in Milwaukee, so he knew a lot about Wisconsin.  He practiced talking with an American accent a lot while he was in the States, so at first, I thought he was American.  His English was perfect and he understood my humor, so we had fun talking!  After a few hours, we decided to head back.  Going down the giant pile of sand was definitely a lot more fun than going up it.  Every step I took I slid about 5 feet down.  It felt like we just skied down the hill.  We drove back to Bordeaux, went grocery shopping as a huge group, and then went to an apartment to have a party.  It was a great day!

Lately, I have just been focusing on school work and having fun in Bordeaux.  The class I just finished was Investment Banking Operations.  I liked the teacher and the material was pretty interesting!  We learned a lot about the major investment banks and their roles throughout history, stocks, bonds, brokers, traders, and all that fun stuff.  We focused a lot on the Great Depression, Black Monday on October 19th, 1987 when the stock market crashed, and the Subprime Crisis of 2008.  For obvious reasons, the material was a bit dark and depressing, but interesting nonetheless.  My next class is Globalization and Risk Management in the Supply Chain!

The weather has been great lately!  Last week it rained a lot, but other than that it has been in the 60s and sunny.  I was on a major margarita kick for a while, so we had to keep trying different bars until we found a place that made really good ones!  We have been going to a lot of movies lately also.  Yay for student discounts.  Recently we saw Monuments Men, Dallas Buyers Club, and this Saturday we saw Captain America 2!  I loved all of them!  A few Sundays ago, we went to an outdoor market and got some food, then sat by the river for a few hours.  We got some nice tans and had a very relaxing fun day!

Tomorrow is April already!!  I just can't get over how fast this year is going!  While I still love France and I am having a great time, I am inching my way towards being ready to just go home.  Trying to live two lives 4000 miles apart is really starting to get old.  This time of year is crazy for having to plan things.  I am trying to figure out a summer job, a job in the fall, where I will be living next year, classes I need to take next year, finishing requirements for graduation (holy cow), and a whole bunch of other fun stuff.  My only line of communication is email, which already takes long enough to get responses, but then there is a 7 hour time difference, so there is little time in the day to get things done.  It gets to be a bit much sometimes!

On an exciting note, I just bought my tickets to go to Dublin, Ireland in two weeks!!  My friend Emilia is coming over tonight to talk about another possible little trip, and there is a possible school trip in May to San Sebastian, Spain for a weekend.  Also, I received news of a possible visitor or two that might come over here when I am done with school, travel a little, and then help me move back home!!  No final plans yet though!

Try not to get fooled tomorrow on April Fool's Day!!

Thank you all for reading!


"Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present."
-Jim Rohn

"Nothing is impossible, the word itself says 'I'm possible'!"
-Audrey Hepburn

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