Bon Voyage part deux

As this is my final conclusion, I see it fitting to revisit my first post so that I can remember what my hopes and aspirations for this semester were and see how they have changed and what has been accomplished.

Here is my original list of aspirations for the semester with commentary.
1. Study abroad long-term … check check and check! 4 months was not long enough, and I definitely would like to study abroad longer, get an internship abroad, or work abroad. Although I have family and friends to get back to now, I will not dismiss this for the future.
2. Become fluent in French .. I did not accomplish this goal entirely, but I tried my best given the circumstances of being surrounded by international students rather than French students, and I am infinitely better at French than when I came.
3. Find a church/fellowship of believers .. haha what a great experience this was, you should ask me about it sometime if I haven’t already told you.
4. Fall more in love with Christ and his word … I was curious to see how this would play out when I got here and realized how alone in this goal I was.  But, being isolated from my Christian fellowship back home really helped me grow and I will be able to take back a lot of good habits with me that I’ve developed here.
5. Learn how to cook French food authentically .. well I definitely enjoyed French cooking and became very knowledgeable about it … but without a working oven or cooking supplies, accomplishing this exact goal proved impossible.
6. Ski/Snowboard in the Alps .. didn’t know Switzerland was insanely expensive when I first created this goal, so I’ll have to wait to accomplish it until I’ve got some money in the bank haha.
7. Acquire a taste for wine … still like Porto or Kir better, but I have acquired a taste for white or rosé wine with dinner.
8. Shop at the Marche Aux Puces .. a lot different from what I expected (very pricey), but still an awesome experience at the world’s largest flea market. The flea market in Lisbon was still my favorite.
9. Stay at a hostel … didn’t realize I’d be staying at hostels almost more than in my own bed some months, so definitely accomplished this goal.
10. Find out if Audrey Hepburn influenced Paris as much as Paris influenced Audrey … found out she influenced London more than Paris after finding her memorabilia in every souvenir shop around London but rarely in souvenir shops of Paris.

I’ve gotten a lot of things crossed off my life to-do list (if getting engaged was on there it would now be crossed off as well!), but I’ve added many new things as well due to the endless inspirations surrounding me here.  I have also given myself some new goals, such as Germany before I’m 30 and back to Paris for one of the big wedding anniversaries in the future like 25th and/or even 50th.

After being home less than one day and it already feeling like the past 4 months never happened, I am so so glad I have my spring 2011 photo album on my computer with 684 pictures I can look at when I need proof to convince myself it wasn’t all just a dream.

Au revoir Europe et bonjour Oklahoma!

<3 Kate

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Au Revoir

As my days in France dwindle down to single digits, I am full of mixed emotions.  On one hand, I am undoubtedly sad to leave my European life behind.  On the other hand, I am super excited to return to Christian fellowship of my family, fiancé, and friends.

As this is my 15th week abroad, it is also my 15th blog post, which makes this all the more sentimental for me since 15 is my favorite number. In study abroad orientation, I was coached through the study abroad participant emotional and mental timeline, so I know that reverse culture shock will be waiting for me when I step off the plane in Tulsa. Heck, it has already started hitting now just thinking about having to leave.  I also know that I will have a hard time relating to old friends and they will have an even more difficult time relating to me.  I have been prepared that this would happen all along, but it doesn’t change the fact that it is going to be a very tough adjustment. Before I left, I was told that as soon as I got to Europe, I’d be labeled “the American” and spend my time defending everything American, but that as soon as I got back to America, I would no longer feel like I fit in with Americans and I’d suddenly find myself questioning and criticizing everything American that I ever defended.  I know it will be very difficult to find a new identity when I get back and readjust. I don’t want to forget anything I’ve learned during my stint abroad and I want to be able to celebrate how I’ve grown and changed.  But at the same time, I realize I’ll have to find that fine line between dwelling in the past and living in the present.

Things I will miss:

The three biggest things I’ll miss go hand-in-hand with the title of my blog and my three favorite things in life: adventures surrounding culture, languages, and food.  Like any good foodie, I will dearly miss the pace and appreciation of meals in France.  I love how each region has such distinct and celebrated dishes and drinks. I love how the waiter takes the time to say “bon appétit” and then gives you as much time to enjoy your meal as you wish without rushing you (they never bring you the check without being asked).  Funny anecdote to go along with this: a few mornings ago, I bought cereal and milk at the grocery store and the cashier actually told me “bon appétit”. It was like a blessing over my breakfast haha.  I also love how deeply food is engrained in the culture. Time stops for 2 hours each day for lunch, (businesses are closed and school is not in session during that time) and dinner is usually a 3 hour social event.  I will miss unprocessed, fresh foods as nearly all food is in France.  The diversity of this continent and being mesmerized on a daily basis by the languages I hear.  How classy everyone dresses here, even if it’s just neutrals and the same pea coat, scarf, and boots everyday. The friends I’ve made here. Easy accessibility to big adventures (big adventures are much less prevalent and harder to find in Oklahoma). Lastly, walking everywhere and taking public transportation when I can’t. Yes, I realize traffic and paying for gas is really going to suck when I get home.

Things I won’t miss:

Walking through plumes of cigarette smoke to get into school every day or getting trapped behind someone on the sidewalk who’s cigarette ashes are literally hitting my face.  Starving late at night and/or on Sundays since absolutely everything is closed and my pantry always seems to be empty by 8pm Saturday night so I have to wait until Monday to buy groceries.  The exchange rate, which makes it almost impossible to live on a budget here.  How small this school is (I really really miss college campus life).  Having to carry my week’s worth of water 10 minutes home and up 3 stories.  The drizzly and dreary winters of Dijon. Not always understanding what’s going on. Bureaucracy. Most importantly, not having an oven or baking utensils and therefore not being able to master the art of French cooking.

It’s hard to tell how the things I’ll miss and things I won’t miss balance out now, but I know even by May I will have forgotten all the bad and I’ll be missing many, many more things than I thought I would.  I hope my blog kept you entertained and I’d be happy if you each just learned one thing about culture, language, or food because that means I have done my job. I’ve been incredibly blessed with this opportunity and hope I’ve pleased God with the results. Lastly, thank you for all of your constant prayers while I have been abroad that have kept me safe and strong.

<3 Kate

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Où les rêves deviennent réalité

My last big adventure in France was to Disneyland Paris. The Disneyland experience is much better done than said, so I apologize ahead of time for the low quality of this post.

I’m pretty sure I was more excited this time than I was my first time to Disneyworld when I was 10.  I couldn’t stop smiling the entire time and I may have squeeled like a little kid a more than a few times that day. They did a really good job with the marketing because I really felt like I needed everything I saw, especially the Minnie Mouse ears. I decided I’ll have to come back to Disneyland some day with a bigger budget and more room in my suitcase.

I was still mesmerized by the Disney princesses, regardless of the fact that they are all my age now. I thought it would be frowned upon if I held up the line of 5 year old girls to get a Disney Princess’ autograph, so I settled for this creeper shot instead.  One of my favorite parts was the evening parade with all the princesses in their formal gowns singing atop a float while holding hands with their prince. A freaking double you.

This was a lot different from my Disneyworld experience and I actually like it better; it wasn’t hot, there were no long lines, and the food was better (crepes, gelato, and kettle corn were their version of fair/amusement park food). However, this poison apple was not yummy at all, which I guess is a good thing if you’re trying to teach your kids why they shouldn’t eat poison apples.

We rode two major rollercoasters: Indiana Jones and Space Mountain, but did a lot of other more themed rides such as Mad Hatter’s spinning tea cups, Flying Dumbo, and “Its a Small World Afterall” ride.  I thought I’d give myself s0me practice so I’m not so rusty when I get back to America, so I drove this cute little car at Autopia. I now think I’m ready to get on the open road back home since I didn’t have any wrecks at Autopia (disregard the fact that they are on a track).

Well, as this trip of a lifetime comes to an end, I guess I will only have time to update one or two more posts from France.

<3 Kate

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My Throne for A Cranberry Scone

Part 2: London.  This trip got off to an interesting start – after our plane from Paris landed in London (our exciting first flight together), we got on a bus that got in a wreck (also a first for us haha).  Luckily, we were both so ecstatic the whole week from finally getting to see each other that nothing could have put a damper on our epic adventures :).

On our first day, we took a train to Greenwich in search of the Prime Meridian that’s on my life to-do list. We wondered into beautiful Greenwich Park (the 2012 Olympic venue for Equestrian sports) and climbed up to the Royal Observatory where I was able to officially be on two halves of the world and two time zones at once.  After that, we stopped for British tea time and had a spot of tea and a scone, all the while talking in British accents to each other.  We continued to wonder through the massive and beautiful Greenwich Park, often finding ourselves in a park within a park after walking through random gates.  At one point, we even discovered what was entitled “The Secret Garden”, yes just like the movie.  On our way back towards the train station I saw lots of commotion going on in an alleyway so I dragged Tim in to explore. We ended up discovering an international food expo which is absolute paradise and very overwhelming for the two of us; we shared a bowl filled with 6 delicious Ethiopian specialty dishes.

We started off the next day by taking a train outside of London to Stratford, in search of the 2012 Olympic Park so that we could get an up close preview for what we’ll be seeing all over the media next year. Sounds like a good idea, right? Major fail. We asked a variety of people for directions to the Olympic Park, but just got blank stares or misinformation from everyone.  We wondered around in the bitter cold for about an hour before giving up and settling for pictures from afar; the closest we got was the construction entrances.  The next day, we stumbled upon this countdown clock, which made the previous day’s failures all turn out okay.

We stayed inside London for the remainder of our trip and did all the famous tourist things including Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Trafalgar Square, Abbey Road (think Beetles), Tower Bridge, Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, double decker bus ride, and red phonebooth picture. Tim reserved the London Eye “sunset experience” for us, which was amazing. I expected a glorified ferris wheel and was oh so wrong.  We first started out in a 4D movie room to watch a promo video; turns out you can even host birthday parties and weddings in the London Eye pods!  The pods are a lot bigger than I expected, fitting 20 comfortably, with lots of room to walk around and enjoy the views for the 30 minutes it takes to go one rotation.

Of course a 2011 trip to London wouldn’t be complete without mention of Kate and William’s Royal Wedding.  We went to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guards, which turned out to be a parade with grey-uniformed guards (not what we were expecting at all).  There were no guards in red, and most unfortunately no guards standing outside the gate being serious like all the movies portray.  We also visited Westminster Abbey and bought Royal Wedding Merchandise.

Our London trip ended similarly to how it began. It was our first exciting high-speed train ride together (an underwater train ride at that), but also our first train accident (something shattered the window right next to us as we were going over 150 mph).  I’m def still thankful that the Lord was watching over us and we made it out of both those accidents without a scratch!

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Paris, je t’aime

First of all, sorry for slacking these last few weeks and not updating as I should have. My original plan, up until the last day of Tim’s visit, was to update one new post immediately after he left about our backpacking adventure in London.  However, Tim thwarted these plans of mine on the last day of his visit and now the Paris part of our journey overshadows the London part (sorry London), so I feel it necessary to update a post about both.  Am I doing a good job of keeping you in suspense? Part 1: Paris.

I met Tim in Paris on the first Saturday of his spring break and spent the day being his tour/foodie guide.  We began our quick sweep of Paris at Notre Dame, where we stopped for a mid-morning snack of Orangina and pain au chocolats (French breakfast staple).  We then worked our way west along the Seine to the Louvre, Champs Elysee, and ultimately to the Eiffel Tower, where we stopped for a picturesque French picnic lunch on the grass beneath.  The line to get up to the top of the Eiffel Tower was about 2 hours long, so Tim suggested we go early the following Saturday.

Fast forward one week.  Tim and I successfully beat the lines at the Eiffel Tower and decided to take the stairs.  An exhausting 704 stairs later, we made it to the top.  I was of course hungry after all that exercise, so we grabbed some jambon baguettes after coming back down and made our way to the benches with a great view of the Eiffel Tower, which were still completely deserted due to some good timing and luck. After eating, Tim suggested that we take a self-timer photo.  I got up to pose and he set up the camera, which is protocal since the majority of our pics together are probably the product of a self-timer. After he pressed the button, he started walking slowly toward me instead of running quickly to get in the picture.  I immediately thought something was up .. I mean he surely knew he only had about 5 seconds to get over to me and pose before the pic took.  When he got right up in front of me, he reached in his pocket. As soon as he did this, I realized what was happening and that I’d been COMPLETELY caught off guard.  I love surprises so much so that I always ruin them for myself by figuring them out ahead of time.  Ironic, I know. This was the first time I can remember being legitimately surprised .. which is my defense for why I had such a strange reaction.  I grabbed Tim’s hand as he was reaching in his pocket and tried to stop him from pulling out the ring so that I’d have time to prepare myself and not be so surprised.

However, he luckily won the tug of war and got down on one knee …

… and I of course said yes! Now I am the proud owner of a large sparkly rock on my ring finger and most importantly the future wife of the man of my dreams!!! (haha that statement deserves even more exclamation marks than that). I honestly couldn’t have imagined a better proposal, and I feel like it is even more special to me since I am a resident of France and feel like more than just an American tourist in the city (after having been there about a dozen times).

I realize the rest of the day might seem anti-climactic after that life-changing event .. but I still had a full day planned for us in Paris. First stop, love padlocks! Tim and I had talked about doing that for a while, so I was happy when Tim brought a lock that he had engraved for us with him to Paris.  We found a good spot on the bridge, locked it up, and threw away the key to symbolize eternal love (perfectly fitting since we had just gotten engaged).

The part I was most excited for was finally venturing out to Montmartre, the hipster/artist district of Paris seen in the movie Amelie.  Exploring the largest flea market in the world was overwhelming at first, but I admit much better walking around with Nutella banana crepes in hand.

And of course a trip to Montmartre wouldn’t be complete without Sacre Couer.

That sums up Tim and Kate’s adventures in Paris.  As my friend Karly pointed out, Paris has got to be my favorite city on the planet now, after such a fairytale adventure, and I certainly can’t argue with that!  Almost two weeks later, it still hasn’t sunk in all the way and the smile on my face is still just as cheezy when my glistening ring catches my eye and makes me think about the exciting future God has blessed me with.  

<3 Kate

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Can You Tapas This?

Now for the second half of ma vacance — Barcelona, Spain.  Like with my Parisian excursion, I enjoyed exploring the city from a different perspective the second time: that of an almost 21 year-old independent, rather than a 14 year-old on a middle school trip.

 

As much as we tried to continue living the relaxing carefree lifestyle that we did in Portugal, there are just so many things to do in Barcelona it was hard not to find ourselves walking all day long going from tourist attraction to tourist attraction.  Don’t get me wrong, we did have our fair share of beach and sun time though (pictured above).  To put it briefly, we wandered for hours up and down Las Ramblas, the famous crowded streets lined with restaurants, stores, and of course lots and lots of souvenir shops.  We stopped in La Boqueria fresh food market.  We saw a Flamenco show.  We went to the Picasso Museum, where I was blown away at the sheer size of the museum and am still left wondering how one man can have enough talent to paint that many works of art.

Of course no trip to Barcelona is complete without seeing Antonio Gaudi’s modernist works.  We explored the enormous Parc Guell and marveled at Sagrada Familia, which doesn’t seem to have made any progress on construction in seven years.

And lastly, we spent an evening in the Montmuic district, which contains the Olympic Park from when Barcelona held the 1992 olympics, watching the sun set from a hilltop.  We came back after dinner to Montmuic to see the Magic Fountain which plays remarkable 30 minute shows coordinated to music and lights.

The culture was my favorite part. I enjoyed tapas, paella, and sangria all weekend long and am looking forward to cooking up some seafood paella (without eyeballs) this summer.

<3 Kate

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Lisboa

After a painstaking 25 hour journey by train, I arrived in my first spring break destination of Lisbon, Portugal.  This adventure was different from all the others I’ve been fortunate enough to go on because it was less about the monuments/tourist attractions, and more about the overall experience.  Going into the trip I honestly had no idea what to expect, since I don’t know anyone who has traveled to Portugal, I’ve never had Portuguese food, and I don’t think I’ve met any Portuguese people living in Oklahoma.  Even the language was very foreign to me.  Coming out of it, I can now add Portugal to one of my top destinations and share a little bit about my experiences to enlighten those of you who might be just as clueless as I was.

When we first arrived, we headed straight to the beach to relax in the beautiful sunshine.  Sunny, 60 degree weather felt perfectly warm to us and made this seem like a great idea after living in 30-40 degree overcast/drizzle for almost 2 months straight, but all the locals we passed on the way to the beach were bundled up in their winter coat and boots acting like it was snowing outside.

Lisbon Lounge, the hostel we stayed in, really made a huge impact  on my overall impression of Lisbon. Staying in one of the top 3 rated hostels in the entire world has its downsides (okay maybe just one downside): after that, nothing seems good enough anymore. It was hard not to compare everything about our hostel in Barcelona to our hostel in Lisbon and its hard to resist complaining and criticizing all the hostels I have stayed and will stay at since.

For 9 euros at 9pm every night, the hostel held a four course dinner. We were seated at a rectangular table in the kitchen with an average of 12 travelers from around the globe so that we could watch the chef prepare each course and share stories about our homes, travels, and experiences.  The food was absolutely amazing and had us coming back every night.  We started off with bread and red wine, then a vegetable puree soup (like broccoli cheese, zucchini squash, etc), a strawberry salad with fennel and balsamic vinegar, an entree (beer can chicken, pasta dishes, pork ribs), a dessert (chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, baked apple), and lastly an aperitif of Porto to finish off the two hour meal.

The free walking tour that the hostel provides is a must. It was off season so we got our own private tour with just the 5 of us. We  started off by taking the funicular (antique yellow trolley) up to the top of the intense hills, giving me the false impression that we wouldn’t be doing much uphill walking.  Wrong. We then spent the next 5.5 hours walking up and down hills and finally all the way down to our starting point. The tour included going to several lookout points on our way to a castle at the highest point in Lisbon with a panoramic view overlooking the city, a typical Portuguese lunch, a free Porto wine tasting, and a massive flea market.

The flea market was of course my favorite part, especially since the sellers were more than willing to let me bargain with them. We split up and got an hour and 15 minutes to search through the junk and find the hidden treasures.  For me, these treasures are handcrafted rings and woven bracelets, and an Edith Piaf record that I’m pretty excited about.  The far left picture is of the tiles broken off (or been broken off) the sides of houses (the right two pictures), which were for sale at the market. I included these pics because I think they really embody Lisbon, simple but yet beautiful.

<3 Kate

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