lundi 2 avril 2012


This weekend I had a freaking blast attending the Rotary-sponsored "Journées Rotariens de la Jeunesse" (Rotary Youth Days, loosely translated), a four day event which takes place every four years and unites all the Rotary exchange students in France.  This year it was in a town called Annecy, located in south eastern France and known as the "Venice of the North".  There were over 400 other exchange students there, representing 31 countries!  It was fantastic.  I got to see lots of old friends, including some people I met when I got my visa in San Francisco, and make lots of new friends.  In general an amazing time!

On the bus, hangin' with Dale, our new Australian.  He just arrived since they're upside down in Australia and arrive in January instead of August like normal people (please note that all jabs at Australia are meant quite fondly) 
Me and my sunglasses which were squashed the next evening by some wild dancers of various nationalities.  Oh well, their last few days were pretty scenic :)
We stopped on the way at a museum of old airplanes.  Posing with my buds from Germany and Canada.  
And spring is magical at a wine museum in Bourgogne!

mardi 28 février 2012


Over the vacations of February, I was invited by some family friends who live in The Hague to tag along for their ski trip in Switzerland.  I just got back, and for once I'm posting about an adventure within a month of said adventure actually happening.  I'll put up more photos later...For now I'm just putting up some photos taken by Ivy, the family's au paire, and stolen off facebook.  Right now I'm too lazy to get photos off my camera, and I guess some photos are better than nothing!  So, without further ado...A few pictures of the Switzerland portion of the trip!

Picture from the road...This is probably in France, Belgium, or Switzerland, because "Sortie" is Exit in French, but I'm not exactly sure.
Ivy wanted to see where I live.  This was at a Shell station somewhere near Strasbourg.
This guy was hitchhiking and asked us for a ride at a gas station.  We were too packed to take in another set of skis, let alone another person, but we enjoyed his outfit...I don't know if you can tell from the picture, but he's wearing a corduroy suit with bell bottoms! 
Picturesque houses from somewhere along the route.
Me and part of the family on the gondola up the mountain on the first day.
The chairlift I didn't go on...My insurance doesn't allow me on chairlifts, so it was all cross country skiing for me, which was awesome so I didn't mind respecting the perimeters of my insurance.
This is where we are staying...And yes, it really was that adorable.
Cute little historical exhibit thingy on the village main street, one of several.
And a view of my first pair of skis, although on Ivy's feet, and the cross country trail along the mountain where I experienced cross country skiing for the first time!

lundi 13 février 2012

My Noyon Photos

I've already posted a few pictures of the Noyon trip, but those were lazily taken from Facebook and I haven't yet bothered to post my own Noyon photos.  Until now. 

P.S.  From now on I'm going to focus less on organization and writing the post and stuff, and more on just getting up the photos.  Because I know that's what you all want to see.  The captions should explain enough, and then I can tell the stories behind the photos at length when I see you all at home :)

Nothing special, just a cool building :)  I'll photograph pretty much anything with a tower.

Memorial for the citizens of Noyon who died in WWI.  At the top of the doors it reads, "Noyon, for her children who died for France".  I'm not sure if "children" is meant metaphorically or not.  Maybe both.

The famous cathedral of Noyon, which according to Wikipedia is where Charlamagne was crowned, but not according to most other people I've asked.  So I don't know.

Pretty flower carvings.

The gates of the cathedral.

One remarkable thing about the cathedral of Noyon is that it had lots of really beautiful metal work, something I've never really seen in other cathedrals I've visited.

Podium for the priest to stand in the middle of the congregation, back in the days before microphone systems.

Painting, if my memory serves me well, of John the Baptist and someone. 

This was at the entrance of the cathedral, a little piece of evidence for the "Charlamagne-was-crowned-here" theory...

Mont Saint Michel Trip, Part 2

Approaching Mont Saint Michel...Remind you of anything?  I know I've said this to most people I know many times, but Mont Saint Michel was in fact the inspiration for Minas Tirith in the Lord of the Rings movies.  And you really get that feeling when you're there, it's very much like stepping back in time.  You can also see the back of Noah's head, for anyone interested, and Anita in profile, and the back of Gero's head.  And the bus.

Getting closer, craning neck to see up...This is at the very base of the walls.

And this is from the very base, only from the back.  I was surprised by the green hillside, since from the front Mont Saint Michel looks like a pile of grey stone towers in the middle of an expanse of grey sand.

This is the view looking towards the bay from the back of the Mont.  This other island played a role in the Hundred Year's War which you can look up if interested, but I'm not going into it here :)  Anyway, this is at the very start of our journey crossing the bay on foot.  I remember being thrilled to dunk my feet in salt water and sand again...As an island girl living in mainland Europe, I hadn't realized how much I'd missed the beach.

Pretty far out in the bay, a bunch of exchange students and the shadowing sillhouette of the Mont...

On our way across the bay the other direction, we got to see several horsepeople galloping across the sand, a really beautiful sight.  The sand here seems to go on forever, and being around Mont Saint Michel already feels like being in another time without galloping horsepeople, so it was just stunning when we saw them.

Climbing the Mont is a matter of navigating a zigzagging path of narrow streets and old stone stairways like this one. 

I was hanging out with a couple other students at this point, and our path ended up leading us through a cemetary next to a small chapel.  This flowers were growing near the enterance. 

This was taken pretty close to the top...My favorite part of French churches are, as I have mentioned before, the gargoyles.  Of course I couldn't get any kind of a close up of this ones, but you can still see them, sticking their lovely gothic necks off the roof of the cathedral.

I don't know what the exact meaning of this coat of arms is, but I know Mont Saint Michel was a huge pilgrimage destination for over a thousand years (Still is, in fact, only they started calling it tourism at the turn of the 20th century) and in the middle ages cockel shells like these were worn by pilrims and kept as souvenirs of their pilgrimage.

The inside of the Marveille, the grand cathedral at the very top of the Mount.  It's quite an architectural marvel, but again, I'll let you readers do that fascinating research on your own as it's quite a detailed story.

I think this was in a room in the monestary area, just off the main cathedral, called the Knight's room.  I don't remember why there was a ship, but there was a ship.

Courtyard with amazing carvings, of course, because here pretty much every inch of the place is covered with amazing carvings.

View of the beautiful perspective created by the rows and rows of collumns all around the perimeter of the courtyard, and of some very French hedges.

And finally, the view of the bay colored in pastels by an ancient stained glass window. 

dimanche 8 janvier 2012

Mont Saint Michel Trip, Part 1

You all know the story about how I left my camera in someone's backpack at Mont Saint Michel, but luckily that happened after I got the chance to take lots of pictures!  That trip happened over several days, so there are photos of many different places.  I'll try to put them in some sort of order, but please forgive me if it's a bit confusing...

The first day of the trip was spent stopping by various sites on the way to Mont Saint Michel itself.  One of the places we stopped was a circular cinema in Normandy where we saw a video made of various segments of period footage of D-day and other WWII history of this area.  It was quite eerie, because everything was in a circle, so you got a bit of an impression of being in the battlefield.  I remember once hearing shooting behind me and having to resist the immediate instinct to duck. 

This monument was just outside the cinema. 

 I don't have a picture of the top of this monument, but I think it was just a simple obelisk.  The inscription reads,

"This monument is commemorative of the centennial of the naval combat of Arromanches on the 7th and 8th September 1811 erected on the hill where the fort stood.  
The courage of our sailors and of our soldiers decided the victory. 
Honor to their bravery!  
 8th September 1911."

From the cinema, you could take a trail leading down the hill towards the beach.  About a quarter of the way down the hill we found this tank, which of course everyone had to climb on and wave their country's flag. 

Unfortunately we didn't have time to get all the way down to the beach.  This photo was taken from the tank, which was
the closest we got to the famous beach at Normandy.  Sorry Mr. Kramer. 
 The next place we went was the American Cemetery and Memorial in Normandy.  This was probably the most emotional place I've visited in France.  The sheer size of the place was hard to digest, when you thought about how each of those crosses represented a life that was never lived.  Looking at the birth and death dates, most of those men were in their late teens and early twenties.  They had their whole lives ahead of them, and those lives never happened.  That's what I really got from my visit there.  Another aspect that hit me hard was the fact that each cross had the state where that person came from written on it.  Something about that made it seem more personal.  

I didn't take any pictures here, because it didn't feel quite right- sort of disrespectful.  This photo is from Wikipedia.

And here I am with all the other Rotary students in the Paris area in front of the memorial.  This was taken by a Rotarian.
So that's the story of how we got there and all the interesting things seen on the way.  I'm going to break off here, and do Mont Saint Michel proper in another post, coming soon!